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Water Concerns Raised With Jackson Hills Project

By Stan Oklobdzija

A study prepared by Pacific Municipal Consultants on behalf of the city of Jackson raised many concerns about the feasibility of the proposed Jackson Hills subdivision unless major changes are made to the city´s water supply.

The study comes two weeks before the release of a Revised Draft EIR on the project.

According to the study, a major issue at hand is the city of Jackson´s current agreement with the Amador Water Agency. Currently, the agency is the city of Jackson´s sole source of water. In 1985, an agreement was made between the two entities requesting the city notify the agency of proposed increases in supply prior to the first 30 days of the year. This stipulation came in section 9b of the agreement.

However, city records indicate that such a request was only made in 1986 and subsequent to that, increases were simply granted to the city without any formal requests being made, according to a memorandum written by Jackson City Manager Michael Daly. Since 1996, the amount of water delivered to the city of Jackson has increased by over 60 million gallons. However, another section of the agreement allows the city to request additional water any time during the year, a clause that the city of Jackson has yet to invoke. Part of the 1985 agreement also stipulates that increases in demand that spring from new development are up to the developer to fulfill by means of a “will-serve” letter directly to the Amador Water Agency, according to the same memorandum.

On March 14, the city received a letter from Amador Water Agency General Manager Jim Abercrombie stating that the agency will be enforcing section 9b and thus freezing Jackson´s consumption limits at their 2004 levels.

“The Amador Canal, the Agency´s principal water conveyance facility for the Amador Water System … is reaching its delivery capacity,” wrote Abercrombie.

Plans were laid out to build a pipeline that would deliver water more efficiently from Lake Tabeaud, the AWA´s main water source, to the Tanner Water Treatment Plant approximately four years ago. However, a lawsuit filed by Protect Historic Amador Waterways forced the AWA to revise their EIR. The agency released this revised version in late 2004.

In addition to the delivery issues, the AWA´s treatment plants are currently operating very near peak capacity, according to a March 15 staff report.

The Water Supply Assessment spells out in no uncertain terms that without the pipeline, there “may be an effect on the AWA´s ability to supply adequate water to customers, including the city of Jackson water district.”

Without the pipeline, “a defect of between -1,302 acre-feet per year and -4,433 acre-feet per year is expected, depending on actual population growth in the Amador Water System service area,” according to the report.

According to Daly, without a pipeline, the Jackson Hills project has very limited options.

“There´s no other source of water in the city,” he said, adding that development is “dependent on the capacity of what the water agency can provide.”

Daly added that a request for additional delivery, pursuant to the 1985 agreement, will be sent out later this week. In addition, the city is planning to meet with the water agency “for long term planning issues,” he said.

Abercrombie is hopeful that a revised EIR will be available for public view in April and that the document will be ready for recertification by the board of supervisors in May.

“Currently we are complying with court order to provide additional information,” he said.

According to Abercrombie, development in Jackson could continue “on a very limited basis” in the absence of the pipeline.

“The old canal is on its last legs,” he said, “it needs significant amounts of money to improve it.”

Abercrombie also brought up renegotiations of the service agreement with the city of Jackson Water District, which he´d like to see happen in the near future.

“We´ve proposed a number of times that they really need to begin renegotiations of that contract,” he said.

Ultimately though, “we need to get the water down there,” he said. “We need a pipeline.”

Martin Tuttle, vice president of New Faze Development, the creators of the Jackson Hills Golf Community, shares this sentiment.

“It´s my sense that we´d likely need a pipeline,” he said. “I don´t think that our project is the cause of a crisis. The city needs a long-term supply and sewage treatment whether or not Jackson Hills is there or not.”

According to Tuttle, the Jackson Hills Golf Community “could be a partner in the solution” to Jackson´s water problem.

“The golf course could use recycled water for irrigation and enable the city not to dump sewage into Jackson creek,” he said.

The project´s golf course would require the construction of a tertiary water treatment facility, something Tuttle says “would be part of our negotiations with the city.”

“We´d definitely pay for our fair share of the solution,” said Tuttle, indicating the project would be willing to partially fund the plant´s construction.

Though the project currently is not involved in the process of constructing the pipeline, Tuttle said the Jackson Hills Golf Community would do its part to conserve water.

“We´re going to minimize water usage in terms of using drought tolerant plants and implementing water conservation in our project to the highest level,” said Tuttle.

Ultimately though, “this project does not bring on a water supply crisis to the city,” said Tuttle. “The city already has one.”

Reprinted with permission Amador Ledger Dispatch