EBMUD takes one step forward and - next step in fall
So far, East Bay water plan headed in better direction
The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has taken an important - but still tentative - step towards a more sustainable water-supply future. The Club activists and Yodeler readers who wrote letters and spoke up about EBMUD's 2040 Water Plan made all the difference, and our ongoing participation will be essential for making sure the EBMUD follows through.
On June 24 the EBMUD Board took its first major step towards adopting a plan by approving its "preferred portfolio" for the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Club activists overwhelmed the speaking sessions at the public hearings and sent in over 750 postcards to EBMUD this spring, insisting on maximum conservation, recycling, and rationing, and opposing any new or expanded water-storage facilities or water transfers across the Delta. This set of positions was expressed as a whole new "green alternative", which Club leader Helen Burke formally asked the EBMUD Board to analyze as a viable alternative in the Draft EIR.
This public input helped to produce several positive decisions. For its preferred portfolio the EBMUD Board unanimously adopted the maximum level of water recycling being proposed - a big victory for the Club. The Board also adopted by a 4 - 3 vote a strong level of water conservation (though not the maximum possible), while the proposal to build a new dam and reservoir in Buckhorn Canyon was soundly defeated - though it is still being analyzed as an additional alternative in the Draft EIR.
On other plan elements, Board actions were less hopeful. EBMUD adopted (4 - 3) a rationing level of 10%, well below the 20% level that the Club supports. (By planning for a higher rationing level in the most-severe drought years, we can limit the need for expanded supply.) The preferred portfolio also includes a significant expansion of Pardee Reservoir in the Sierra, which would bring inundation of sensitive habitats and critical riparian areas. The preferred portfolio also includes desalination facilities and water transfers, possibly across the Delta.
Beyond the choice of a portfolio of actions for the Water Plan itself, the preferred portfolio will require an additional 10 - 13% in rate increases over 30 years. The Board voted not to include pricing in the plan as a conservation measure, but during this year's drought it would make sense to apply the increased costs more to higher-use customers. This discussion will occur after the plan is completed.
The Draft EIR is expected to be released for public review in early November. The Club intends to continue urging the Board of Directors to improve the plan elements that we oppose - but also to support EBMUD in its good decisions.
To get more information and updates about future hearings, contact Chapter legislative coordinator or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 316