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Groups Sue EBMUD Over Proposed Expansion of Pardee Reservoir
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Nov 19th, 2009 3:52 PM
"EBMUD is a municipal vampire that has drained the Mokelumne to the point it's on life support," said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings, adding, "Having spurned reasonable alternatives that would have assured its customers of a reliable water supply, it now demands more from a river that has no 'more' to give, if its going to survive. Enough is enough!
Groups Sue EBMUD Over Proposed Expansion of Pardee Reservoir

The Foothill Conservancy, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and Friends of the River will file suit on November 19, 2009 in Amador County Superior Court to protect the Mokelumne River from the proposed expansion of Pardee Reservoir. The expansion is included in the East Bay Municipal Utility District's 2040 water plan, which was approved by the EBMUD Board of Directors October 13.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the environmental impact report on which the water plan and reservoir expansion are based. The EIR included review of one expansion option that would flood the entire Middle Bar reach of the Mokelumne River and up to a mile of the Electra Run above Highway 49. The EBMUD board retained four alternatives for a new Pardee Dam, three of which would destroy the Middle Bar reach and historic 1912 Middle Bar Bridge. The threatened area is valued for its whitewater boating, fishing, scenery, wildlife and cultural and historic resources. The new dam also threatens crashing fisheries downstream in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

"The Mokelumne River is not the property of East Bay MUD, and they are not above the law," Foothill Conservancy Executive Director Chris Wright said in announcing the litigation. "Their program EIR doesn't comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, but EBMUD approved it anyway-just like they kept the reservoir expansion in their plan over the objections of so many people, organizations, agencies, elected officials and local governments.

"We won't let this big, powerful utility destroy more of the Mokelumne. We will do what it takes to protect this special river for communities, people, fish, and wildlife," Wright said.

The lawsuit notes that foothill residents "rely on the Mokelumne River and its watershed as a place of residence, business, recreation and spiritual renewal." The suit alleges that East Bay MUD violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to adequately analyze and mitigate the impacts on Amador and Calaveras counties from the new Pardee Dam.

The case also alleges that EBMUD inadequately responded to concerns raised by foothill communities, public interest groups, and government agencies dedicated to protecting foothill resources. EBMUD ignored the moving testimony of foothill citizens and public officials who spoke at EBMUD's public hearings in Sutter Creek, San Andreas and Oakland.

The case concludes that, "EBMUD's approval is uninformed and not supported by the type of analysis and findings necessary under CEQA before EBMUD may shift the harm of its future water supply program onto a crashing Delta ecosystem and onto Sierra foothill counties that have neither electoral nor legislative remedies at their disposal to ensure that the resources enjoyed by their local communities are protected." The suit asks the court to set aside EBMUD's approval of the 2040 water plan.

"EBMUD is a municipal vampire that has drained the Mokelumne to the point it's on life support," said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings, adding, "Having spurned reasonable alternatives that would have assured its customers of a reliable water supply, it now demands more from a river that has no 'more' to give, if its going to survive. Enough is enough!"

"We're grateful to the Conservancy, FOR and CSPA for pursuing this litigation," John Tinkl Co-Chair Community Action Project (CAP), Calaveras County said. "The proposed option for a new Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne River would be a disaster for the region's recreation, economy and scenic beauty. The building of a new dam flies in the face of other options that could meet potential water needs but not harm this beautiful Sierra region."

"This is only the second lawsuit Foothill Conservancy has filed in its 20-year history," Wright said. "But this is such an important issue, and people care so much about this river, we knew we had to do it. We hope that people who care about the Mokelumne will donate to help cover our legal expenses"

To contribute to the Foothill Conservancy's Mokelumne River Legal Defense Fund, go online to http://www.foothillconservancy.org or send a check to Foothill Conservancy, P.O. Box 1255, Pine Grove, CA 95665.

For more information, contact Chris Wright of the Foothill Conservancy at 209-295-4900 or chris [at] foothillconservancy.org.