By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Tuolumne Utilities District will add a $52,000 plant and wildlife survey to its Ditch Optimization Study.
The 4-0 vote came during last night's TUD board of directors meeting. Director Ralph Retherford abstained, saying he could not make up his mind.
At issue was a proposal to survey plants and wildlife as part of TUD's district-wide study of the county's historic mining ditches. Originally built in the 1800s, TUD's 56 miles of open ditches provide most of the county's drinking water.
The Ditch Optimization Study is to detail the best way to manage ditches while protecting drinking water, preserving wildlife habitat and maintaining recreation trails which parallel the waterways.
A Sacramento environmental consulting firm, EIP Associates, was contracted to perform the wildlife and plant study.
When the survey is complete, TUD directors and staff can use it when choosing sites for potential projects, said Tim McCullough, TUD General Manager. If project planners know where endangered species or other environmental hotspots are, they can choose new locations early on. Otherwise, time and money could be wasted by starting a project that might be shut down later for environmental reasons.
Although directors voted 3-2 last year not to fund the survey, McCullough brought the item back for reconsideration.
The Ditch Optimization Study, originally priced at about $450,000, could be labeled as worthless if it does not include a survey of plants and animals living along the ditch, McCullough said.
"We should make every effort to make sure they are counted in order to be an honest broker to the public," McCullough said.