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ACWA Files Comments in PG&E Settlement Proceedings
Citing growing demands for water and the impacts of climate change, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is urging the California Public Utilities Commission to keep open the option of expanding water storage capacity on key watersheds in the state.
In comments filed August 28 in bankruptcy settlement proceedings for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), ACWA called on the CPUC to leave open the possibility of increasing water storage capacity at existing facilities owned by PG&E. The CPUC is reviewing a proposed settlement agreement in which PG&E would maintain ownership of its hydroelectric facilities, but provide conservation easements for 140,000 acres of land in important watersheds around the facilities.
The land also could be donated to public agencies or non-profit resource conservation districts. In a show of solidarity surrounding this issue, ACWA has teamed up with the environmental group California Hydropower Reform Coalition and the Regional Council of Rural Counties to submit joint comments, which emphasize the need for protection of watershed lands.
Noting that most of the surface water in Northern and Central California flows through PG&E facilities, ACWA said any decision regarding their operation could affect water users throughout California. "What happens to these projects, and these lands, could have significant impacts on water quality and quantity in the state," ACWA said in its written comments. With state officials predicting future water shortages and potential changes in rainfall patterns due to global warming, ACWA called for any land transfers or easements to "expressly reserve the ability to increase or otherwise modify the water storage capacities of existing licensed facilities."
The bottom line for water agencies, ACWA said, is that "watershed lands not be so constrained as to prevent potential increases in storage at existing facilities." The Association also recommended that a representative from the water supply community be appointed to the governing board of the new non-profit corporation that would oversee the affected land and any environmental enhancements. The settlement agreement calls for PG&E to establish the corporation and provide $70 million for its operation over a 10-year period. "Water agencies (and their customers) have the most to directly lose if the watershed lands are not managed and maintained properly," ACWA wrote in making the recommendation.