TUD eyes property for new storage reservoir

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

PUBLIC MEETING: Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 18885 Nugget Blvd., Sonora.

Tuolumne Utilities District is seeking approval to begin acquiring land owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the Twain Harte area that would serve as the future site of a 350 acre-foot water storage reservoir.

The TUD board Tuesday will consider authorizing District General Manager Tom Scesa to begin soliciting proposals from consultants to complete an environmental review in support of obtaining the 25-acre parcel from PG&E through eminent domain, which allows government agencies to force the sale of land for public benefit.

The value of the property, near the former Sierra Pines golf course, has been appraised at $140,000.

"We expect to do a full EIR (Environmental Impact Report) when we know more about the project, but first we have to do enough environmental review in order to even acquire the property," Scesa said.

The parcel was originally part of 140,000 acres of watershed lands around the state that PG&E was required to turn over for preservation as part of the company's 2001 bankruptcy settlement.

The district previously applied to receive the property from PG&E through the Pacific Forest and Watershed Land Stewardship Council, a private, nonprofit organization formed in 2004 to ensure the terms of the settlement are met.

However, TUD's request was denied because the proposed reservoir didn't meet the council's definition of "beneficial public values," such as recreation, agriculture and open space.

The council later agreed to not place a conservation easement on the property and allow TUD to acquire it through condemnation proceedings.

"The legal settlement specifically required that the land conservation commitment wouldn't adversely impact water rights and water uses," Ric Notini, director of the council's Land Conservation Program, said in a June interview.

For the complete story, see the Aug. 25, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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