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Residents Raise Concerns About San Francisco’s Plan To Tap Extra Water From Tuolumne River

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Sonora, Ca — Approximately 100 were on hand at the Sonora Opera Hall Wednesday night for a public hearing hosted by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

In its $4.3 billion plan to upgrade and expand the Hetch Hetchy Water System, is a proposal to increase consumption from the Tuolumne River by 25 million gallons per day.

Over 20 spoke out against the proposal. “We´re concerned about agriculture and the viability of agriculture in Tuolumne County,” says Tuolumne County Farm Bureau President Stan Kellogg. “We are adamantly opposed to any drop of water leaving Tuolumne County. I don´t think we need to go above and beyond what our county has already committed to supply to other entities.”

The main purpose of Wednesday´s hearing was to dicsuss the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report. One individual with concerns about the report is Tuolumne Utilities District General Manager Pete Kampa.

“The P.E.I.R. (Impact Report) developed by San Francisco is completely contingent upon agreements to be reached in the future with the Modesto Irrigation and Turlock Irrigation Districts, as well as a water banking arrangement that conceivably takes water from the Stanislaus and moves it over to the Tuolumne,” says Kampa.

“Lacking those agreements, I don´t know how they can make the assumption that they can get through the environmental review and also through the courts and State Water Resources Control Board to get the water necessary to achieve what they intend to achieve with this project.”

Kampa notes that anytime water is taken out of a county, it can have consequences. “For our county, which relies completely on surface water, it is a real detriment,” notes Kampa. “It has a potential impact on our future ability to draw water, especially during drought years. Even though we don´t directly tap the Tuolumne, if there are transfers coming from the Stanislaus also, then that would definitely impact our ability to serve the community.”

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plans to accept comments until October 1st and then make a final decision. Representatives with the Commission declined comment following Wednesday´s meeting.

Written by BJ Hansen