Casino water agreement detailed; concerns aired
PLACERVILLE – With a draft memorandum of understanding with the Shingle Springs Rancheria in hand, El Dorado Irrigation District (EID) officials are ironing out the details of an agreement that would provide the area with a maximum of 95 gallons per minute and a maximum daily delivery of 135,000 gallons per day.
The agreement also includes the eventuality that the Rancheria’s wastewater would be handled by EID.
EID Counsel Tom Cumpston said that in 2004, the tribe informed the district that it intended to initiate federal litigation against EID, its board members and the general manager over refusal to provide additional water service to the Rancheria. To forestall litigation, the parties entered into a tolling agreement.
“Pursuant to that tolling agreement, there have been confidential settlement discussions between the parties,” Cumpston said during a meeting at EID on Monday morning. “The discussions have progressed sufficiently to warrant the preparation of written documents. We have before you … a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your review, and likewise we expect the tribe’s representatives to be presenting it to their decision-makers for review.”
The MOU includes such items as limiting the single point of delivery, an existing 3-inch meter, to a maximum flow to 95 gallons per minute. The Rancheria would be charged the same rate for its water as any other commercial client. The tribe would pay a hook-up fee, premised upon the maximum of 135,000 gallons per day estimated at $3.7 million, and the Rancheria is not eligible to receive wastewater treatment and disposal service for EID because it is not annexed to the district for that purpose.
“On wastewater service, should we provide it, the tribe would be subject to all EID rules for service, no special treatment,” Cumpston said.
Directors raised questions about easements to EID water lines, asking if the district would be the one to explore the potential for a wastewater line to determine the appropriate easements.
“If easements were required, typically our process is to either acquire them ourselves or require the developer to acquire them and turn them over to us. Whichever way it’s done, it’s done at the developer’s expense,” Cumpston said.
Director Harry Norris wanted clarification about future water supplies if the Rancheria should need them.
“Their risk of not getting additional water is pretty minimal,” said Director Harry Norris. “Is that correct? They have the next five or six years.”
Cumpston agreed and said he did not see why in that time frame, the district would not have the water.
Cumpston then addressed some questions brought up by residents during an April 28 meeting. The issues included climate change and the extent to which EID has taken that into account in its analyses. Another question was raised about whether the district should provide additional service to the Rancheria before the district satisfied itself that there was enough water.
Cumpston also addressed a potential conflict of interest on the board.
“The district’s drought plan requires equal treatment of all customers,” Cumpston said. “Our drought plan does take climate change into account.”
He added water supply projections are based on historical data.
Cumpston also said the district simply does not reserve water for future uses. Unused water rights are subject to forfeiture. EID has the duty under state law to serve customers within its service area.
In 1989, the Shingle Springs Rancheria was annexed to EID for water service. The El Dorado County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) then imposed restrictions that set limits on the contract.
In the past, EID has abided by the LAFCO decision.
A recent analysis by the Solicitor General’s Office of the Department of the Interior to the Bureau of Indian Affairs states if LAFCO had intent to control the use of the land, it could be overridden by federal authority.
Paula Yost, attorney for the tribe, said the draft MOU has been circulated to the public. She also said the tribe has not received any special treatment.
John Thompson, an El Dorado Hills resident, said he was surprised by the controversy over furnishing water to one of the largest businesses in the county. He urged EID to do all it could to welcome the new business.
“One thing that struck me as I heard you speak about furnishing the water, the board and the staff seemed to be struggling with furnishing water for large entertainment facilities,” Thompson said. “I wondered what the best practices are in cities like Las Vegas or Reno that have large entertainment casinos. How do they help control the water? I welcome the business and think this can be a boon for the county.”
Director George Wheeldon pointed out that the casino would use no more water than the Cameron Park Golf Course. He said the casino’s water use would be equivalent to serving two mobile home parks.
“I think everything’s a little easier to deal with at the casino level,” Director Harry Norris said. “When the hotel comes on, I think we’ll have some conversations about that. I think we’ll be able to handle those issues.”
Since the discussion was in a workshop format, directors George Osborne, Wheeldon, Fraser, Norris and Bill George did not have to make a decision on the MOU. Negotiations are ongoing.