water_splash_png_by_starlaa1-d51fse4By Sharyn Cornelius

The Board of Directors for the Bella Vista Water District was surprised to see item number seven on the agenda for their meeting on November 23, 2015. It said “consider award of District shop remodel.” Board President Ted Bambino said, “I thought we did that last month.”

They did. The Board awarded the contract for the remodeling project to Shufelberger Construction, Inc. for $166,150, pending the Bureau of Reclamation’s approval since the District Office and accessory buildings sit on land owned by Reclamation.

“That’s true,” replied General Manager David Coxey. “The problem is that Reclamation can’t figure out whether the project violates the ‘freeze the footprint’ policy passed by Congress in 2013, so they haven’t approved it yet. We know the remodel does not violate the policy and we can prove it doesn’t with Google Earth photos, so we want to go ahead and start the project so we won’t have to go out to bid again. That’s what we’re asking the Board to approve tonight. We’ve learned that sometimes you have to start the work before you get Reclamation approval, like we did on the big project at Wintu awhile back.”

Coxey went on to say that he had invited the new Bureau of Reclamation chief and his team out for a tour of BVWD facilities and showed them the building the District plans to remodel to house its Distribution Department, which is currently working out of a very old portable building purchased from the City of Redding in the 1990s. Bureau officials admitted that their inventory of local federally owned property is way out of date and they had failed to update it when Congress passed the “freeze the footprint” law two years ago, but they still failed to give the nod to the remodel project.

Director Leimone Waite said she was uneasy about starting the project without Bureau approval and wondered if they could at least wait until the next Board meeting on Dec. 14 to make that decision. Coxey said that would be all right.

The General Manager also gave the Board a report on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. He said the Act requires all local agencies that pump groundwater to work together to form a plan to manage that resource in a responsible manner, so that they do not take out more water than can be recharged.

Some of the other local agencies involved are: Clear Creek Community Services District, the City of Redding, the City of Anderson, Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District (which recently dug two large water production wells), and Shasta County, which will represent the County Service Areas that have wells and all the individual well users living in unincorporated areas. The first task facing local water agencies is to decide whether to form a single Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) or to meet as separate entities and hammer out a plan they can all agree on. The management plan must be completed by 2020.

Coxey said that if local agencies fail to work together to form a plan, the Department of Water Resources will step in, impose a plan and charge fees to administer it, so there is strong motivation to prevent that from happening.