County supervisors endorse new water district Tuscan Water District creates water oligarchy, critics say

photo by Karen Laslo
Supervisor Tod Kimmelshue: “I believe we should use all of our county resources, including surface water.”

by Leslie Layton

The Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to endorse the formation of a new, landowner-run water district in which members will get one vote per acre of land they own. Members may also have to pay a hefty fee to belong to the governing body that will have authority to implement projects affecting the region’s aquifer.

The proposed Tuscan Water District (TWD) was endorsed by board Chair Bill Connelly and supervisors Tod Kimmelshue and Doug Teeter after hearing more than two hours of impassioned testimony from dozens of members of the public. (District 2 Supervisor Debra Lucero cast the lone vote in opposition and District 3 Supervisor Tami Ritter left the meeting early because of a personal emergency.) read more

Lucero: Public discourse on Tuscan Water District comes — but late "The public had not been part of the formation process"

photo by Karen Laslo
District 2 Supervisor Debra Lucero

by Debra Lucero
guest commentary

The Tuscan Water District story is unfolding in Butte County. This isn’t the first time large landowners have joined together to try to “preserve their way of life and heritage.” It has happened all over the state and more recently, in San Luis Obispo where the proposition to form a new, powerful California Water District failed.

So, how did this current effort in Butte County get birthed?

The former Butte County Water Conservation & Resource Department director, Paul Gosselin, (now the State of California’s deputy director of SGMA – Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) and a former longtime Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission executive officer, John O’Farrell, came up with another idea — one that could circumvent the arduous San Luis Obispo process and even the Board of Supervisors. read more

ChicoSol journalists capture 5 state awards Waddell honored for police shooting, Sites stories

photo courtesy of Sites Project Authority
A conceptual rendering of the Sites reservoir west of Maxwell. Dave Waddell’s first-place story was supported by an Ethnic Media Services fellowship.

ChicoSol contributor Dave Waddell has won four honors, including two first-place awards, and ChicoSol Editor Leslie Layton was named a second-place winner in the 2019 California Journalism Awards competition.

The results were announced Tuesday by the sponsoring California News Publishers Association, which cancelled its planned spring awards gala because of coronavirus risks.

Waddell captured top honors in the in-depth reporting category for a series of stories on law enforcement killings in Butte County. He also placed first in land-use reporting for an extensive story on the proposed Sites reservoir. read more

Would Sites reservoir become a ‘biological wasteland’? Foes say $5 billion project to severely degrade water quality

photo courtesy of Sites Project Authority
A conceptual rendering of the Sites reservoir west of Maxwell.

by Dave Waddell

James Murphy’s ranchland, which he’s owned for 35 years, would be under water if the long-discussed Sites reservoir becomes a reality.

If the Sites Project Authority seeks to acquire Murphy’s property to build the reservoir, he’s going to make it as difficult for them as possible.

“I don’t want to sell my land; there’s no reason for me to sell,” said Murphy, a retired rancher who leases his 1,600 Sites-area acres for cattle grazing. “If they condemn it, they’ll have to tear it out of my hands.” read more

Camp Fire’s toxin runoff a threat to prized salmon While spring-run ‘vulnerable,’ wildlife to benefit long-term

photo courtesy of Friends of Butte Creek
2008 Butte Creek salmon run.

by Dave Waddell

Beyond the staggering human losses in last month’s devastating Camp Fire, another potential loser from the inferno’s toxic runoff are Butte Creek’s highly valued Chinook salmon during a particularly vulnerable time in their lifecycle.

Whether and to what extent that spring-run salmon population is poisoned by a potential witches’ brew of toxins flowing from the extremely hot wildfire won’t truly be known for about three years. That’s when most of the surviving salmon that today are juveniles are due to return from the Pacific Ocean to spawn and die in Butte Creek. read more

AquAlliance, Winnemem blast bid to raise Shasta Dam Environmental group says raising dam would swamp thousands of acres

photo courtesy of California Department of Water Resources

Hillside erosion around Lake Shasta in a drought year

by Dave Waddell

A decades-old plan to raise Shasta Dam – resuscitated by the Trump administration — would not only flood what little remain of the Winnemem Wintu’s sacred tribal lands but more broadly denude “thousands of acres” of forested watershed above Lake Shasta.

The estimate of forest area to be inundated is from AquAlliance, a Chico-based environmental group. AquAlliance contends that a higher dam would drown riparian plant and animal life around Lake Shasta, leaving more hillsides naked and more sediment eroding to the bottom of the reservoir. read more