The Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians formally announced Tuesday it will buy water from the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to help Tuolumne County through the drought.
Under the landmark agreement, the small Jamestown-area tribe will buy 2,400 acre-feet of water, which will be drawn from New Melones Reservoir.
The water would be delivered to Tuolumne Utilities District customers in Columbia, Sonora and Jamestown.
TUD, which serves 44,000 customers throughout the county, is in bad shape waterwise - faced with a drought of historic proportions and a lack of access to water, both because of a barebones Sierra snowpack and a lack of water rights in the Stanislaus River watershed.
The county has declared a drought emergency and TUD has implemented strict Stage 3 water mandatory conservation measures.
The district estimates it could run out of water within 150 days.
Tuesday's announcement marked the resolution of weeks' worth of talks between the district and the tribe's consultants.
"Our Tribal Council was in a position to arrange for this purchase and to help the people and communities of Tuolumne County," said Chicken Ranch Tribal Chairwoman Melissa Powell. "We're just glad we could help the people who are our friends, family and neighbors."
For the full story, see the March 5 edition of The Union Democrat.