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City of Jackson to Sue Water Agency Over Pipeline

By Ray Estrada

The Jackson city attorney Thursday filed suit to halt Amador Water Agency´s proposed pipeline project after the City Council the night before voted 3-2 to fight the plan.

Following a closed session before a special council meeting Wednesday night, about a dozen residents spoke against a proposed pipeline collaborative agreement between the city and water agency “respecting water supply, wastewater treatment and disposal and other related resource issues.”

Instead of approving the agreement, the council voted to battle the pipeline in court after critics said the project could rob the Jackson Canal of its water. The proposed 32-mile pipeline would run from a water reservoir in Pine Grove to Sutter Creek to bring more water to different areas in Amador County. It would be built in the 130-year-old Amador Canal.

“When they put a pipeline in the ditch, it´s going to dry up our creeks,” said Councilwoman Marilyn Lewis. She made the motion to have the city attorney file suit in Amador County Superior Court just in time to meet this week´s deadline to oppose the project´s environmental impact report. “We can´t afford not to keep water in the creeks,” Lewis said.

Councilmen Alfred A. Nunes and Drew Stidger joined Lewis in voting for the legal action.

After voting against the suit with Vice Mayor Andrew Rodriguez, Mayor RosaLee Pryor Escamilla said, “I don´t think suing the water agency is the best balanced way to handle this.”

While not expressing total support for the pipeline, the mayor said, “Litigation is not the best course of action. She said it´s too soon to say how much the suit will cost the city.”

But Lewis said the city attorney has told the council that Jackson may have to pay about $150,000 for the suit.

Lewis also said the water agency agency offered to give Jackson $50,000 if the city signed the collaborative agreement. She said the water agency also wanted the city to approve a separate agreement not to sue.

“The citizens made the difference when they spoke up and let council know this was wrong,” Lewis said after the meeting. “We can´t tie the hands of the future councils by agreeing to this.”

Lewis said the city may have violated the state´s public meeting law by discussing the pipeline project and possible lawsuit in closed sessions this month. “We´ve been sitting on this for a month,” she said Thursday. “We´ve had three closed sessions in a month to talk about doing a lawsuit and I assumed we were going to have a copy.”

Jim Abercrombie, water agency general manager, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch.Com