Placer County Water Agency Prepares for Potential Watershed Problems

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AUBURN --

The Placer County Water Agency says it has a one year head start in dealing with watershed problems caused by recent wildfires in Northern California. It says local agencies near burned out areas have a lot of long-term challenges ahead.

The PCWA serves 39,000 customers in the foothills along with areas like Lincoln and Rocklin.

The 97,000-acre King Fire was extinguished over a year ago, but recent rains have caused the agency to keep an eye on burned out logs, mud and silt that have fouled the watershed that the agency relies on for water.

“With the rains we’ve been seeing the past month, we’re seeing a lot of those problems return," said agency spokesman Ross Branch.

Not only do logs threaten a hydroelectric plant that is a revenue producer for the water agency, mud and silt threaten to settle in reservoirs that the agency relies on for water.

"Sediment can actually build up in the reservoir, which means you can’t hold water," Branch said.

It would cost over $10 million to bring in heavy equipment to remove the sediment, something it avoided because there was relatively little rain and runoff last winter. But with an El Nino event and the rain it brings in the forecast, the agency has to keep a careful watch on the rain.

Mudslides have already plagued parts of California in recent days.

The agency says the ideal scenario would be for heavy snowfall this winter. That way water is retained in the snow pack and released slowly, avoiding large-scale erosion along the Rubicon River, where many of the utility's facilities are located.

Branch says the agency has planned ahead for added costs in its budget and any emergency measures should not affect water rates of its customers.