[env-trinity] Redding Record Searchlight 4 2 09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 2 14:24:59 PDT 2009
Officials worried that Fresno water district may want to shift Shasta County
water rights south
By Kimberly Ross <http://www.redding.com/staff/kimberly-ross/> (Contact
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Some Shasta County officials are worried that a Fresno-area water district
may ask to annex almost 3,000 acres it owns along the McCloud River - a
possible move to shift the water rights hundreds of miles south.
The issue will be discussed this morning at the Shasta Local Agency
Formation Commission (LAFCO) meeting.
So far, no annexation proposal has been filed by the Westlands Water
District, Shasta LAFCO Executive Officer Amy Mickelson said. Westlands, the
largest water district in the nation, includes farmland in western Fresno
County and Kings County.
But both she and LAFCO Commissioner Irwin Fust said they and others wonder
if annexation would enable Westlands to claim area-of-origin water rights
for its farmers hundreds of miles away.
"That is what some folks around here have put forth as a possible scenario,"
Fust said. "Why else would you spend $35 million for 3,000 acres of land if
you didn't want to get something substantial in return?"
Westlands spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said the district bought the Bollibokka
Land Co. property bordering 13 miles of the McCloud River in northern Shasta
County about two years ago.
By purchasing it, the district can ensure the land won't be developed, Woolf
said. If houses were built on it, they would drastically hinder a proposal
to raise Shasta Dam and increase California's water storage capacity - a
move the water district strongly supports, she said. The McCloud River
property would likely be under water if the dam is raised.
"So we've kept it in its natural state and intend to do so until there's a
decision on the dam," she said.
Woolf sidestepped a question about why Westlands might also be interested in
annexing that land into its water district, hundreds of miles to the south,
however. She stressed that no decision had been made.
"I honestly don't know if we would be pursuing that or not. It hasn't been
done at this point in time," she said of annexation.
Shasta LAFCO's Mickelson said she took a brief call in January from a
Westlands representative about possible annexation of the land, but like
hundreds of calls the district takes each year, nothing has come of it
since, nor does she think anything ever will develop.
"I truly think this was just a stab in the dark, (to ask) how easy would it
be?" she said of Westland's inquiry. "I think we're quite a ways from seeing
anything formally filed, if and when they opt to do that."
Mickelson mentioned the call in a staff report to Shasta's commissioners to
keep them informed, and she's watching Westland's agendas to see if the
water district takes further action, she said.
After its call to Shasta LAFCO, the water district called Fresno LAFCO to
see if it could decide an annexation request of the Shasta County land,
Mickelson said. Shasta's commission opposes that move and Mickelson has sent
an e-mail to the Fresno agency saying so, she said.
Woolf said Westlands' board hasn't discussed which LAFCO agency should
handle the annexation request, if it is ever brought, and said she wasn't
aware of calls made to either Shasta or Fresno LAFCOs.
Although the issue isn't settled, the law appears to indicate that if
Westlands sought annexation, the LAFCO board in which the district is based
would handle its request, Shasta LAFCO legal counsel Liz Johnson said. In
this case, that would be Fresno LAFCO.
"I think it's a long shot" for Shasta LAFCO to have jurisdiction, she said.
However, the Fresno agency could honor Shasta LAFCO's request to let it
decide the matter, she said.
Regardless of which agency would handle the land's potential annexation,
LAFCO agencies try to avoid creating "islands" of annexed land, Johnson
said. Granting such non-contiguous requests are rare, but not unheard of,
Johnson said. The Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles has annexed
land in Inyo County, and a Tahoe basin district had a similar annexation in
Truckee, she said.
Meanwhile, with no real action taken by Westlands, there's little else to do
unless an annexation proposal is filed, Mickelson said.
"The first question we (would) ask is what is the purpose of this
annexation, and because there isn't anything filed, I don't have an answer
to that," she said.
Fust disagrees, and requested the item be placed on today's Shasta LAFCO
agenda. He thinks the commission might decide to send a letter to Westlands
and Fresno LAFCO stating its position.
"Even though nothing has happened yet ... it would probably behoove us to
get a little proactive on this and decide whether we in Shasta County feel
that this is an ethical way to go, and what we can do at this stage to
telegraph our feelings to Westlands Water District and Fresno LAFCO," he
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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