Creek concerns and aquifer angst |

Creek concerns and aquifer angst

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunPam Rocca, Squaw Valley resident, points to a spot on Squaw Creek that she suspects is going dry possibly due to pumping effects on the creek. The spot is near Well #5 seen in the background and close to the original creek channel.

The Squaw Valley Public Service District hosted a final public meeting Wednesday on the valley’s soon-to-be groundwater management plan, and some residents are still concerned the plan doesn’t directly address the impact of aquifer pumping on the flow of Squaw Creek.

“We were asking for a creek interaction study quantifying the effects of pumping; … [the groundwater management plan] wasn’t what we had asked for,” said Pam Rocca, Squaw Valley resident.

But district staff and board members are confident that the plan is a good one and just the first step in monitoring the valley’s long-standing water supply problems.

“[The plan] sets up a cooperative system where everyone can come to the table … and it’s not a plan to answer all questions today, but to start the process,” said Derrik Williams, president of consulting firm HydroMetrics.

Following California legislation to establish a groundwater management plan, the public service district prepared its plan with consulting firm HydroMetrics, LLC, along with input from environmental advocates, regulatory agencies and the public. The Olympic Valley Groundwater Management Plan identifies existing and potential management activities and outlines programs, projects and policies to implement the goals for maintaining the water supply.

The public service district began to formulate the plan one year ago and will likely adopt it at the next board meeting, Williams said.

A groundwater management plan will help ensure safe, reliable and affordable water supply, secure groundwater, protect the district’s ability to govern its own water supply and comply with state requirements in order to qualify for future funding opportunities, public service district manager Rick Lierman said in a previous interview.

“[The goal] is to develop a structure where all pumpers can come together and start managing the groundwater cooperatively,” said Williams.

The plan is essentially an agreement to set up a system for valley stakeholders to reach consensus in setting goals and objectives to maintain water supply, he said.

An advisory group composed of pumping well owners ” including the public service district, Mutual Water Company, PlumpJack, Resort at Squaw Creek, Squaw Valley Ski Corp. and the Poulsen Corporation ” will begin meeting to share data on water studies, said Williams.

The bottom line, Williams said, is the plan attempts to unify Squaw Valley’s approach to managing water.

Like Rocca, a civil engineer, long-time Squaw Valley resident and “friend” of Squaw Creek, Carl Gustafson wants to see a creek interaction study addressed immediately.

“That creek’s going to dry up this summer … and I don’t understand why you can’t make it better,” Gustafson told the board Wednesday.

Rocca said while the groundwater plan is very important, without addressing the correlation between the aquifer and the creek, it’s just not enough.

“We’re overdeveloped and we’re overdrafting the aquifer,” Rocca said. “Whatever it takes to preserve this valley, I’m determined to do it with my neighbors.”

But the board stands strong that the adoption and operation of this plan will lay the groundwork for future water studies and cooperation among various valley stakeholders.

“What we’re trying to do here is trying to put together a cooperative effort … and I think it’s going to be a real positive asset for the community,” said board Director Dale Cox.

Board Director Eric Poulsen agrees.

“The idea with the groundwater management plan is to minimize the impacts of pumping and to work together, and that’s the direction we’re headed; … It’s an important tool in the management of our basin,” he said.

Williams will address the remaining public comments and prepare a final groundwater management plan document, which will be in the office or online with the Squaw Valley Public Service District.

Following the plan’s adoption the advisory group will begin to meet.

“To get them started talking about what they’d like to see implemented early and how they’d like to fund it,” Williams said.

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