STATE SAYS S.J. FAILED TO ACT ON WATER REQUEST
San Joaquin County's half-century hunt for water from the American River may end with a proverbial death in the desert.
State officials have rejected the county's request to divert water from that river up north. The state says San Joaquin has dragged its feet, failed to complete reports on time and did not resolve protests filed by outside parties.
The county will formally ask the State Water Resources Control Board to reconsider, one official said last week. The water is needed to help fill the proposed Duck Creek Reservoir northeast of Linden, and reverse a chronic decline in groundwater.
"Personally, I think there's a lot of things we've been doing, and been doing right," said Mel Lytle, the county's water resources coordinator.
It's not that San Joaquin County lacks rivers. We have four of them draining from the east. But much of the water is already accounted for - or diverted - to other areas. The Mokelumne River, for example, is piped to residents in the East Bay.
To make up for this, the county was told by state and federal officials decades ago to seek flows from the American, a watershed outside the region.
The Folsom South Canal was supposed to bring American River water south. But the canal was never finished. And San Joaquin was left in the lurch.
The county hoped to get water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation if the long-debated Auburn Dam was built. But that project, too, has been killed by the state after years of inaction by the bureau.
San Joaquin filed its own request to take American River flows in 1990, later saying it would take the water further downstream - from the Sacramento River near Freeport - where the East Bay Municipal Utilities District has already built a diversion. But now that San Joaquin request, too, has been denied.
The county estimates that 44,000 acre-feet of American River water could be available on a yearly basis. That's a lot of water - enough to serve three-quarters of Stockton for one year.
But environmentalists want more, not less, water flowing through the polluted Delta. And those who export water from the Delta, such as Westlands Water District, oppose more water being taken upstream.
Money has been spent on the American River plan over the years, including $800,000 on a 2008 feasibility study, Lytle said.
"We've tried to put forth as much effort as we have resources," he said.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/breitlerblog.