L.A. to buy water from Placer County | TheUnion.com

L.A. to buy water from Placer County

Facing a huge cutback Wednesday in Colorado River water, Los Angeles is eyeing Northern California water supplies to make up the difference.

For example, the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is negotiating to buy $20 million worth of water from Sacramento Valley rice farmers. The farmers could make more money by selling water to Los Angeles than by farming and would let their fields lie fallow.

But it doesn’t look like any water from Nevada County will soon head to Southern California.

The Nevada Irrigation District doesn’t have any water to sell to Los Angeles, said Les Nicholson, NID’s hydro manager.

“There’s no water for Southern California from us that I know of,” Nicholson said.

However, the Placer County Water Agency is expected on Friday to approve an agreement to sell 20,000 acre feet of American River water – enough water to fill four Lake Wildwoods – to Los Angeles for $2 million. If Los Angeles doesn’t wind up needing the water, it will still pay $200,000 just for reserving it.

The water would come from French Meadows and Hell Hole reservoirs on the middle fork of the American River, said Einar Maisch, director of strategic affairs for the Placer County agency.

This is the first time Placer County has sold water to Los Angeles, he said.

But the water agency has water to spare and has regularly sold water in the past, including to San Francisco, Maisch said.

“It doesn’t result in any reduction of (water) deliveries to any of our customers,” Maisch said.

Up to 185,000 acre feet of Yuba River water – enough water to fill 37 Lake Wildwoods – may be sold this year.

But the water won’t go to Los Angeles.

The Yuba County Water Agency signed an agreement to sell up to that much Yuba River water for roughly $1.4 million to the Environmental Water Account, a program of Calfed, the federal and state Bay Delta restoration effort.

The Yuba River water will go to the Bay Delta to improve its water quality, said Curt Aikens, Yuba County Water Agency engineer administrator.

This fall, Las Angeles offered to buy the Yuba River water from the Yuba County Water Agency for even more money – close to $2 million.

But Yuba County Water Agency officials officials decided against it. For one thing, they felt that selling water to the Bay Delta restoration – something the Yuba County agency has done for the past several years – was a sure bet, Aikens said. It’s still not certain that Los Angeles will lose its Colorado River allotment and have to follow through with its plans to buy Northern California water to make up for the loss.

The money that Yuba County will make by selling Yuba River water to Calfed will get used for flood control projects, such as modifying Bullards Bar reservoir to better control major floods and setting levees farther back from rivers.

California has been taking more than its allotted share of Colorado River water for years. Federal officials on Wednesday are poised to cut off 800,000 acre feet of Colorado River water to Southern California.

An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, enough water to meet the household needs of eight people for a year. Lake Wildwood holds about 5,000 acre feet of water. Folsom Lake holds 1 million acre feet of water.

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