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TUD Schedules Special Water Rights Meeting

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) Board of Directors is hosting a virtual information meeting to update local board members and agencies about the proposed purchase of water infrastructure and water rights contracts.

As reported here in March last year, TUD and PG&E announced they were in exclusive negotiations about the potential transfer of the Phoenix Hydroelectric Project. The proposed agreement includes the Phoenix Powerhouse, the Main Tuolumne Canal, the pre and post 1914 water rights, the Lyons Dam and Reservoir, Strawberry Dam and Pinecrest Reservoir. TUD is also working with the US Bureau of Reclamation regarding New Melones Reservoir water to acquire water rights. To limit the spread of COVID-19 meetings were delayed last April.

The public is welcome to attend this virtual information meeting. TUD extended the invitation to attend to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, the Sonora City Council, the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and the Chicken Ranch Rancheria Band of Me-Wuk Indians of California.

The Phoenix Project dates back to the Gold Rush and is located on the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. It provides the majority of TUD’s water supply via the Main Tuolumne Canal, which was built in 1851 to support mining and irrigation needs. It generates 2 megawatts with water storage and supply rights that are pre-1914 water rights, the oldest water rights in California. Lyons Dam was built in 1929. Strawberry Dam was built in 1916, creating Pinecrest Lake. The Phoenix Powerhouse was constructed in 1898 and later rebuilt in 1940. PG&E says the Phoenix Project is not a cost-effective source of electric generation and calls TUD the natural owner of the powerhouse, water storage, and conveyance systems. TUD would become responsible for the future costs to operate and maintain the facilities. Under the proposal, PG&E would continue to own and operate other features of its Spring Gap-Stanislaus Project and would utilize water from Pinecrest to generate water at its Spring Gap Powerhouse.

The transfer is anticipated to take several years to complete and ultimately would require approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and the TUD Board of Directors.

Residents are encouraged to visit tuocoourwater.com, a website developed to provide updates on the potential acquisition, and detail the history of water in Tuolumne County.

The meeting will be held online on February 18, 2021 at 10 AM. Instructions for logging into the Zoom meeting will be posted here.

The Human Resources/External Relations Committee TUD meeting will be held via Zoom this Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.

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