A group of 18 organizations representing high Sierra communities and environmentalists has asked a Superior Court judge in San Francisco to halt diversions of water by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the El Dorado Irrigation District from Caples, Silver, and Aloha Lakes and the South Fork of the American River between Lake Tahoe and Placerville. The plaintiffs are represented by Stephan Volker of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. Further, the groups have asked the court to block the sale by PG&E to the EID of the canal, plus the dams, pipes, and other facilities that capture the water and direct it to the canal.
The El Dorado canal has been out of service since the winter of 1996-97, when it was damaged by flooding.
"The El Dorado Irrigation District and PG&E have been illegally diverting water from the river for 70 years," Volker said. "The diversions wreck fisheries and destroy recreation opportunities in the river, and in the lakes the water originally comes from. It is time to halt this environmental catastrophe."
"To make matters worse, PG&E sells the water to the irrigation district for $3 an acre foot and EID turns around and sells it for an average price of more than $300 an acre-foot. By selling water for a tiny fraction of its cost, PG&E induces explosive urban growth in El Dorado County. This huge subsidy takes millions of dollars out of the pockets of PG&E's ratepayers. And, as if that weren't enough, now PG&E proposes to sell the canal and the $50 million waterworks to EID for one dollar, and then kick in $17 million ostensibly to pay for repairs to the system. It's outrageous."
The lawsuit argues that the canal is not necessary, that the water can be taken from Sly Park Reservoir or Folsom Reservoir downstream. The suit claims that the diversion of water and the transfer of ownership of the canal and waterworks violate the California Environmental Quality Act and several other state laws.
Plaintiffs in the suit are League to Save Sierra Lakes, Alpine County, Greater Yosemite Council of the Boy Scouts of America, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Plasse's Homestead Homeowners' Association, Northern Sierra Summer Homeowners' Association, East Silver Lake Improvement Association, South Silver Lake Homeowners' Association, Caples Lake Homeowners Association, Lake Kirkwood Association, Plasse's Resort, Kit Carson Lodge, Caples Lake Resort, Sorensen's Resort, Kirkwood Meadows Public Utilities District, Environmental Planning and Information Council of Western El Dorado County, Sierra Club, The Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, and El Dorado County Taxpayers for Quality Growth.