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Water Rights And Long Term Strategies

Sonora, CA — Around 400 people came out to hear about water rights and challenges to getting water projects done in the state.

The Columbia College Foundation hosted the event, Focus on Foothill Water:
Beyond the Drought. The keynote speaker was John Mills, a member of the Association of California Water Agencies, who was recently appointed to the Governor’s Emergency Drought Relief Task Force. Mills is also a Tuolumne County native. He spoke about some of the tall mountains to climb, and what it would take, for Tuolumne County to go out and acquire water rights for additional permanent supply. He said it would be a 10-12 year endeavor, and cost well into seven figures. “The first challenge is the cost to file a water rights application, and doing the required environmental analysis,” he said. “There’s a presentation of evidence before the state board, and there’s agreements that have to be worked out with the owners of the reservoirs.”

Beyond water rights, he spoke about other measures that could help the overall supply, both locally, and across the state. “Water conservation and water efficiency is the first step, but we have to go beyond that, because we cannot conserve our way out of the water problem we’re in,” he said. “We need to treat storm water differently, as an asset, and not a liability. We need to look at the forest and make sure it produces water. We need to re-operate some of these reservoirs, to be more of a water supply project, and less of an energy generation project.”

The event also featured a panel discussion with several regional water leaders that focused on collaborative efforts to fund water projects that are mutually beneficial across the greater region.

The panel included retired attorney and environmental advocate Jerry Cadagan, T.U.D. General Manager Tom Scesa, Twain Harte Community Services District GM Tom Trott, Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District GM Lindsay Rae Mattos, Mountain Counties Water Resource Association President Don Stump, Tuolumne River Trust Acting Executive Director Patrick Koeple, and Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians Community and Resources Director Stephanie Suess. The event was moderated by Columbia College’s Dr. Tom Hofstra.