February 20, 2019 – To safeguard a primary water delivery system to local communities, the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) are teaming up to study the long-term feasibility of jointly taking over ownership and/or operation of Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) extensive Drum-Spaulding Project.
After PG&E filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 29, both water agencies have become concerned that one of the possible outcomes from the bankruptcy proceedings will be the transfer of PG&E’s Drum-Spaulding Project to a third party, which could have unfavorable impacts on the water supply reliability for both agencies and the communities of Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties.
The Drum-Spaulding Project provides a vital supply to NID’s water conveyance system. The PG&E Drum-Spaulding Project and the NID Yuba-Bear Project operate under a Coordinated Operations Agreement in a highly organized, coordinated system. Both NID and PCWA are reliant on the continued operation of the Drum-Spaulding Project, which supplies the water needs of more than 250,000 residential, agricultural and industry customers in our care.
NID Directors approved a Joint Powers Agreement with PCWA during their meeting on Feb. 13 to establish an NID-PCWA Water Supply Reliability Study Team.
“After discussion with PCWA management, we both agree that it would be in our mutual best interest to begin working together in preparation for the possibility that an outcome of the PG&E bankruptcy proceedings will be the divestiture of the Drum-Spaulding Project,” said Rem Scherzinger, General Manager of NID.
The Drum-Spaulding Project developed in the late 1800s by Placer and Nevada County residents on the South Yuba River. Spaulding Reservoir, originally built by John Spaulding and the South Yuba Water Company to serve mining efforts, evolved to deliver irrigation water to downstream farms and ranches. Many of the features of the early water projects and original water rights are still in service today.
Together, the Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Project and the Drum-Spaulding Hydroelectric Project have a combined clean power generation capacity of 270 MW, and consist of more than 40 interconnected reservoirs, 13 open-channel water conveyances and 16 powerhouses in the Yuba, Bear and American River watersheds.
“The Yuba-Bear project and the Drum-Spaulding project are intricately intertwined and cannot operate without one another. The projects are a highly organized system and an interruption would cause significant hardship on both agencies, and ultimately their customers,” Scherzinger said.
Representatives on the team will study the possibility of pursuing joint and equal ownership/operation of the Drum-Spaulding Project in order to continue to generate hydroelectric power and ensure local water supply reliability historically provided by the Project. The cost to fund this feasibility study is $50,000 each.