Tuolumne eyes joining water plan

Union Democrat staff /

PUBLIC MEETING: Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, 9 a.m. Tuesday, 2 S. Green St., Sonora. View the agenda and meeting documents at www.co.tuolumne.ca.us.

The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to accept a regional water-use plan, known as the Tuolumne-Stanislaus Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, and join a consortium of agencies and organizations steering the plan.

The plan is meant to be a kind of long-term blueprint for water priorities in the Stanislaus and Tuolumne river watersheds that would be regularly updated. It's completion would give member agencies and utility districts better access to $5 billion in state grant money for water projects.

The plan now lists $3.6 million in projects proposed for the Tuolumne Utilities District, Tuolumne River Trust, U.S. Forest Service, Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, Murphys Sanitary District, Calaveras County Water District, Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District and Groveland Community Services District.

Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors members in October expressed concerns over the plan, specifically a lack of language about timber harvesting, and also the possibility that the plan could supercede the county's land-use decision-making authority. The board assigned it to the county's Natural Resources Committee for review.

The plan-development process is encouraged by the state as a way to work out problems or disagreements that could emerge between local interests over major water projects. If potential issues can be worked out ahead of time, it can prevent lawsuits down the line.

Most of the districts, municipalities and organizations in the Tuolumne and Stanislaus watersheds have been involved with the water planning group. Dozens of such groups have been formed in communities throughout California since state voters passed Proposition 84 - the Safe Drinking Water Bond Act -in 2006 to fund water projects.

If Tuolumne County doesn't sign off on the IRWMP, the plan would still move forward. The county, however, wouldn't be eligible to participate or receive grants through the program.

The county board has shown interest in becoming more involved in local water issues.

Early this year, the county reincarnated the Tuolumne County Water Agency with the hope of using the agency to help strengthen the county's water resources.

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The Union Democrat
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