TUD might partner on dam

February 13, 2003 11:00 pm

By GENEVIEVE

BOOKWALTER

Tuolumne Utilities District has found a possible partner for building a new Lyons Dam.

Stockton East Water District is interested in helping TUD create a dam to hold back more than eight times the water held by the one in place now.

The announcement came in Tuesday night's TUD board meeting, after the board in December directed TUD staff to seek funding for the structure. In December, TUD General Manager Tim McCullough recommended partnering with an individual or agency to share the estimated $62 million construction cost.

After getting the board's go-ahead, McCullough knew just who to call.

"We've been talking with Stockton East on this for six or seven years," McCullough said.

The Central Valley city rests on a natural water aquifer, which McCullough said could work to TUD's advantage.

"What makes this marriage so beautiful is they have the ability to put water in the ground," he said.

In wetter years, Stockton could store excess water under its streets to use during droughts. In dry years, Stockton could rely on its underground source and TUD could draw down Lyons Reservoir without competing demand.

Kevin Kauffman, general manager for Stockton East Water District, said he looks forward to an agreement that will both hydrate Tuolumne County and replenish the aquifer — the Eastern San Joaquin County Basin.

The basin is a giant, underground, holding cell that stretches from the foothills of Calaveras County to the San Joaquin Delta, and from the Mokelumne River to the Stanislaus River, Kauffman said.

"We serve both agriculture and Stockton metropolitan area," Kauffman said. Farmers use the district's water on grapes, walnuts and cherries, he said.

That demand draws fresh water from the Basin, leaving caches so low that brackish water from the San Joaquin River and other sources pours in to refill the natural tank.