Residents Fight to Save Water Canal in El Dorado County

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POLLOCK PINES -- Residents who live near an open water ditch that provides drinking water for El Dorado Irrigation District customers are fighting a plan to convert it into a closed pipeline.

While the district says it's a necessary upgrade to prevent water seepage and contamination, critics say it's overpriced and unnecessary.

"$9 (million) to $12 million for a three-mile pipe that goes to the same sanitation plant," said Chuck Vanderpool who is with the newly created Save Our Canal organization.

But the primary objection come from those who believe  the 160-year-old ditch built for hydro mining of gold is now an environmental asset.

It supports wildlife and native plants, and residents hike along its banks.

Some say the district is chasing state grant money and that the district's data on water loss and savings to ratepayers is flawed.

"It's not about water loss, it's about getting grants," said neighborhood resident Jeff Leddy whose house overlooks the canal.

But the district says an upgrade will help keep rates lower in the long run.

"Not only will the pipeline improve water quality, it will add resiliency to a system that will benefit many more people than live in the area," said district spokesperson Jesse Saich.

Two hundred people attended a recent meeting to hear about the plan. Opponents are asking people to go to savethecanal.info for more information. They have also created a GoFundMe account to raise money for a court challenge if necessary.

"They'll go ahead with it until they're absolutely stopped ... that's why we're going to file some lawsuits," said Leddy.

The district insists that a decision has not been made on whether to go forward, and there will be more chances for public input. But opponents don't believe it.

"It's been a frustrating process, we're not being heard," said Leddy.