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Water panel mulls name modification

PUBLIC MEETING: Utica Power Authority, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, agency headquarters, 1168 Booster Way, Angels Camp.

The Utica Power Authority may be no more after its meeting Tuesday night.

The joint agency that brings water to Angels Camp, Murphys and points in between is expected to be called by a new name that reflects its primary purpose.

Approved unanimously by the boards of directors of constituent agencies, the city of Angels Camp and Murphys-based Union Public Utility District, it is about to become the Utica Water and Power Authority. 

The UPA board, including Angels council members and UPUD directors, is set for a final vote Tuesday night ratifying the earlier results.

“The name UPA, when anyone hears that or sees it in print, you think of an organization that’s generating electric power,” said Jack Lynch, president of the UPA Board of Directors and vice mayor of Angels Camp. “The primary purpose of UPA is really bringing potable water and irrigation water to Murphys and Angels Camp … the addition of the word ‘Water’ describes it for everybody what the purpose is.”

“It’s just secondary,” UPA General Manager Vern Pyle said of the agency’s hydroelectric power generation. “Our primary function is to move the water … even if the power plant shut down, the water is still going to go through the system.”

Hydroelectric power generated by UPA is sold to offset the cost of maintaining the historic flume-and-ditch system which provides water from the Stanislaus River to the Highway 4 communities.

The UPA name seemed a logical choice when local governments purchased the system from Pacific Gas and Electric in 1996.

The change has been in the works for years but it is no small task. An amendment must be made to the joint powers agreement between Angels Camp and UPUD. Federal and state regulators, including the powerful dam-licensing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, had to be notified through proper channels, an ongoing process.

Changes will be made to the agency’s trucks, letterheads and website, with minimal costs associated, Pyle said.

“The stickers on the trucks wear out every year and have to be replaced anyway,” he said.

Lynch and Pyle each said the new name may reflect better upon the agency in the ongoing state water wars.

“Large hydroelectric power is not considered beneficial use of water by some authorities” and emphasis on “Power” in the name may create the wrong impressions, Lynch said.

The agency holds valuable pre-1914 water rights “and the way California is looking at water” right now, that may be important to emphasize, Pyle said.

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