NYWD seeks water transfer sales

·9 min read

Aug. 3—North Yuba Water District and its general manager sent a request to another regional water agency to help facilitate the transfer of as much as 15,000 acre-feet of water following a previous denial of water to its irrigation customers for the year.

In emails obtained by the Appeal, Jeff Maupin, general manager of North Yuba Water District, sent a transfer proposal dated July 15 to South Feather Water & Power Agency General Manager Rath Moseley. According to the letter sent by Maupin, North Yuba was informing Moseley and South Feather of the district's intent to "transfer up to 15,000 acre-feet (AF) of water currently stored in South Feather Water & Power Agency's (SFWPA) Little Grass Valley Reservoir and Sly Creek Reservoir under Permit 11518."

Maupin said at the time that North Yuba Water District was preparing to file a "Petition for Change Involving Water Transfers (Petition) to accomplish the transfer." Maupin said the district was proposing to transfer a total of 15,000 acre-feet of water this year with the conveyance of that transferred water to "occur through SFWPA's facilities."

In April, North Yuba Water District and Maupin announced there would be no 2022 irrigation season for customers, despite several water experts claiming that Yuba County has plenty of water and is not affected by current drought conditions to such a degree as other areas of California. Maupin previously said water issues that currently exist with the district are not a water supply problem, but a water conveyance problem.

Critics of Maupin and North Yuba Water District's Board of Directors have argued that Maupin and the district have been hesitant to properly maintain the Forbestown Ditch — the district's main conveyance system — because Maupin and the district want to install a pipe, a plan that has been a point of contention among irrigation customers and former officials.

Dr. Gretchen Flohr, a former director of the North Yuba Water District board who was elected to the Division 4 seat in 2019, said the recent proposal to transfer water to another district could bring upwards of $6 million to North Yuba Water District.

"It is a seller's market, they can price it however they like," Flohr, a vocal critic of the district, said. "... It is an outrage that NYWD (North Yuba Water District) plans to sell the community's water. NYWD has refused to provide water for fire protection, for irrigation, and continues to deliver unpalatable drinking water. NYWD cares nothing for its customers or its community and it is crystal clear to the entire community. The entire arrangement has been carried out in secret behind closed doors because the board and GM are well aware that no one in this community wants the water to leave the community. Keep the water here."

In his request to South Feather, Maupin said the district was looking to get the transfer approved quickly so it could make "water available to the Buyers later this year." Maupin also references the fact that South Feather also is "pursuing a similar reservoir reoperation transfer to Santa Clara Valley Water District in 2022." Under Maupin's plan, North Yuba could potentially transfer water to Westlands Water District, Eagle Fields Water District, Mercy Springs Water District, Pacheco Water District, Panoche Water District, San Luis Water District, and Byron-Bethany Irrigation District.

In response to Maupin's initial request on July 15, Moseley said the letter was first received via email on July 22 — after South Feather's agenda for its next board meeting had already been posted. As a result, Moseley said Maupin's proposal could not be agendized and discussed until the next scheduled meeting on Aug. 23.

Moseley, in his response, also listed 15 additional supporting informational items that were needed by South Feather from North Yuba. Some of those stipulations included: — A term sheet or purchase agreement with NYWD's proposed buyer(s). — NYWD's Board of Directors approval of the proposed 2022 water transfer, including any declaration of surplus water conditions. — An analysis of the financial implications, if any, of the proposed water transfer to ongoing hydroelectric generation of the Agency's South Fork Power Project. — An analysis of water currently available in Agency's storage facilities under permit 11518.

Moseley said in order for South Feather's staff and consultants to properly consider the proposal, Maupin and North Yuba would need to provide "comprehensive responses to each request" by Aug. 15.

In a letter dated July 28, Maupin responded. In it, Maupin said the agreement between "South Feather Water and Power Agency and Yuba County Water District (2005 Agreement) does not require NYWD to provide any specific information with respect to its proposed transfer, let alone the information you have requested."

To help "facilitate" South Feather's evaluation of the proposed transfer, Maupin provided responses to the 15 items listed by Moseley in his July 25 letter to Maupin and North Yuba Water District. The responses included the following: — Draft Purchase and Sale Agreements with Westlands Water District, Eagle Fields Water District, Mercy Springs Water District, Pacheco Water District, Panoche Water District, San Luis Water District, and Byron-Bethany Irrigation District will be provided once executed. These agreements contain a provision specifying that they are subject to SFWPA's consent to NYWD's proposed transfer. — NYWD's Board or Directors has not yet approved the proposed water transfer, but plans to do so in the near future. There is no need for NYWD's Board or Directors to make a finding of surplus water conditions. — SFWPA is best equipped to conduct an analysis of the implications, if any, of the proposed transfer to ongoing hydroelectric generation from the South Feather Power Project. NYWD assumes that SFWPA has already conducted a similar analysis for its water transfer to Santa Clara Valley Water District. — The 2005 Agreement requires SFWPA to deliver three blocks or water to NYWD. The first is 3,700 AF, the second is 4,500 AF (for use in the service area of Yuba City), and the third is 15,500 AF. NYWD plans to rely on the third block of water to implement this water transfer. Since the 2005 Agreement requires the SFWPA to deliver this third block in any year, and SFWPA has not delivered any of this third block to NYWD in 2022, 15,500 AF should be available for this water transfer, and it is unnecessary to analyze the water currently available in SFWPA's storage facilities under Permit 11518.

Maupin said because "time is of the essence" to "make water available before the close of the transfer window in November," he and the district requested that South Feather "schedule a special meeting" of the board as early as Monday.

"Given the manner in which water transfer revenue is distributed pursuant to the 2005 Agreement, NYWD believes that SFWPA has a financial interest in NYWD's proposed transfer sufficient to motivate SFWPA to help implement this transfer," Maupin said. "NYWD requests an opportunity to meet and confer on this proposed transfer this week."

In a letter dated Aug. 1, Moseley responded. In it, Moseley said answers provided by Maupin and the district were not sufficient.

"In its July 15, 2022 letter, South Feather Water & Power Agency (Agency) requested NYWD provide comprehensive responses to 15 requests for information so that the Agency may consider NYWD's proposed 2022 water transfer. On July 28, 2022 NYWD responded, but only satisfactorily provided information as to one (1) of the 15 requests (Request 4, NYWD's Petition for Change)," Moseley said. "As noted in the Agency's July 25th letter, comprehensive responses from NYWD and/or NYWD's proposed buyers are requested by August 15, 2022 to provide sufficient time to meet and confer, if necessary, and to agendize the matter for consideration by the Agency at its August 23, 2022 board meeting. NYWD may provide its responses on a rolling basis, but the Agency must have all requested information by August 15, 2022 for consideration by its Board of Directors in August. Please promptly provide comprehensive responses to the balance of the Agency's requests."

Moseley also warned Maupin and the district that responses made by North Yuba Water District "may trigger" additional requests for information or other action items by South Feather.

Dr. Israel Perla, who has lived in Oregon House since 1993, sent an email Monday night to Yuba County supervisors, Yuba Water Agency's Board of Directors and the Appeal about the proposed water transfer and issues that have plagued customers served by North Yuba Water District over the years that Maupin has been in control of the district.

"I trust that by now, you are aware that NYWD actually moved to sell our water to six water districts further south. I also trust that most of you do not like this, and would prefer to keep the water in Yuba County, support your constituents and maybe even back the creation of better infrastructure that would demonstrate your good leadership," Perla said. "Alas, it appears that there is little you can do. ... I want to thank you again for all the kindness you have shown towards our cause. I also want to ask you to check again, in case there is any rabbit left in your hats. You are all influential leaders with lots of powers and connections. Maybe there are things you could still do to prevent, or at least delay the sale of water outside the county.

"Do you have any idea why a local water district is so adamant to sell the water? Who is going to benefit from all the millions that will be paid? The 14 million that came to NYWD in the last 10 years from power revenue, and the several millions from tax revenue have hardly gone to significant improvement of infrastructure. (As they should have by law).

"I also want to point out the bad optics of the tail wagging the dog. The PR agency running the business of the water district and calling the shots. Isn't that absurd? Isn't it absurd that one man, with no relevant qualifications, is wagging three water agencies around his pipe? ... Please, with your support some of the vision in these studies can be actualized and change Yuba County in ways we can all be proud of."