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Cosumnes River water is being used to fill Lake Calero in this file photo from November 2016.

The Community Services District has started the process of seeking to extend the water right permit that is Rancho Murieta’s lifeline.

The right allows water to be diverted from the Cosumnes River between November and May, provided flows are high enough, and stored in the three reservoirs, Calero, Chesbro and Clementia, for the community’s use the rest of the year. It’s our main source of water. The right extension has a state deadline of December 2020.

“Your existing water right permit doesn’t expire in December 2020. It’s more a question of that’s the deadline for you to put water to maximum beneficial use,” CSD legal counsel Dick Shanahan told the board at its Jan. 16 meeting. “So, if you did not extend that deadline, your water right would continue indefinitely, but it would be capped,” he explained. “You’re still very much in a buildout mode, so the maximum use that you’re currently undertaking in 2018-2019 is unlikely going to be the maximum use for full buildout as contemplated by the County of Sacramento general plan and special plan for this area.”

The county has approved plans already for more than 500 homes that haven’t yet been built – the Residences of Murieta Hills and Retreat subdivisions on the North, Lakeview and Riverview subdivisions on the South, and the residential component of the Murieta Gardens development south of Highway 16. In addition, about 800 homes are proposed for the North in a plan presented to the county by the development group longtime resident John Sullivan represents.

Shanahan said it was prudent to allow for continued buildout by extending the permit, as has been done in the past. General Manager Mark Martin said he enlisted Shanahan to research the process and present it to the board for discussion.

“This will be a significant effort for the district in the next year and a half or so,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan noted that “for decades, your water rights permit has been handled by a separate counsel,” and the first step in the extension process is to work with the district’s water rights counsel “and assemble the right team. ... It’s probably going to be prudent that you hire a separate water right engineer.”   

The district will also need to evaluate its water use in recent years and make “a forward-looking projection” for buildout needs, Shanahan said. “That’ll take some engineering and some water analysis.”

As a government agency, the CSD can assume the lead agency role for the environmental review that will be required, and hire a consultant to determine the environmental impact.  “Once you start the (California Environmental Quality Act) process, you would want to work in close consultation with not only the County of Sacramento staff, but also the (State Water Resources Control Board) staff,” Shanahan said.

The change petition for the water right extension should be filed with the state board by December 2020, he said. “You don’t want to file it too early, but you may not want to wait until the last minute either,” he advised.

After the petition is filed and the CEQA work is completed, the state board initiates a noticing process. During the public hearing process, “If nobody protests, then things go through relatively smoothly and quickly,” Shanahan said. “Odds are, in this day and age, with a change petition to take more water out of the Cosumnes River, somebody’s going to protest.” At Director John Merchant’s request, Shanahan identified “three groups of stakeholders” – the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, downstream diverters, and environmental groups – with the potential to lodge protests.

He advised, “Your best strategy is going to be to work with the staff and do your homework upfront, and present a compelling case that you’re a community in buildout and you’re using water reasonably and beneficially, and you’ve got a good system, and you’re not going to have any additional impacts on the environment, and here’s why.”

Shanahan said the state board has been “pretty good” about giving extensions of time to municipalities, although it’s a lengthy process.

As for the costs involved, Shanahan said, “It’s a big number, and it’s your future. You gotta do it right. ... This ought to be a big component, I would think, of your 2019-20 budget, and staff should be evaluating that.”

Martin provided a brief history of the district’s experiences with water right extensions in a memo included in the board meeting packet.  He writes that the original primary permit allowing diversion from the Cosumnes River was issued in 1975. A petition for extension of time to complete the construction of the diversion works was granted in 1982. This extended the deadline for construction to 1990, and the deadline to complete beneficial use to December 2000. The district filed a second petition in November 2000 to extend the time to complete construction and beneficial use by another 10 years. In September 2006, the district filed an amended petition that added 10 years to the time to complete beneficial use and dropped the request for a construction extension (presumably for new diversion or storage facilities). When the extension was granted, the time to complete beneficial use was extended to December 1, 2020, which represented 10 years for the original 2000 extension request and an additional 10 years for the amended petition, according to the memo.

At last week's board meeting, Merchant and developer John Sullivan, who was in attendance, supported the idea of additional water storage for the community.

In other business

  • The board approved a facilities extension and fee reimbursement agreement with developer John Sullivan, Cosumnes River Land LLC, for $299,377, to cover the cost of a Highway 16 bore and casing for future installation of a 12-inch recycled water line, and authorized General Manager Mark Martin to sign an encroachment permit with Caltrans for the project. Funding is to come from water augmentation reserves.
  • The board approved sharing costs with the developer for an emergency/interim repair of a sewer main by the Canova lift station and relocation of the line. A lengthy discussion in the Improvements Committee resulted in a recommendation to share the costs because the district’s plans didn’t show the proper alignment of the force main and the misalignment also impacted a newly installed manhole. The district committed to paying half the cost for repairs and relocating the pipe, for a total of $50,947.44. Funding is to come from sewer replacement reserves.
  • The 2017-18 audit report and Community Facilities District #2014-1 audit report were received and filed after auditor Larry Bain delivered a “clean and unqualified opinion” of the district’s financials. The reports are included in the meeting packet.
  • The board approved replacing two air compressors at the wastewater reclamation facility at a cost not to exceed $24,476. Another replacement expenditure for the wastewater reclamation plant, a dissolved air flotation saturation tank, was also approved at a cost not to exceed $33,415.55. Funding for all three is to come from sewer replacement reserves.

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