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Proposed water district creating controversy

The Butte County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to support the formation of the Tuscan Water District to LAFCO or not.

Posted: Sep 27, 2021 10:46 PM
Updated: Sep 28, 2021 9:02 AM

BUTTE CO., Calif. - On Tuesday, the Butte County Board of Supervisors will make a big decision about a push to develop a special water district that could impact access to water.

Action News Now spoke with a hydrogeologist who said it is hard to measure this directly without conducting a model, but he said local pumping will affect local resources first.

"I started with zero orchards and I spent a whole lifetime building up to this and I don't want to see it go away,” Ed McLaughlin, a small farmer in the proposed Tuscan Water District boundaries.

McLaughlin has just 125 acres of land in Durham and a partnership of at least 450 acres in the drawn district lines.

Whether pumping more groundwater or hauling in surface water, Chico State hydrogeologist Jeffrey Davids said that it’s all connected.

"Groundwater sustainability is all about making sure that there is either enough precipitation to fill up the bank account that you have been using during the dry months, or you have good surface water infrastructure to bring in water to sort of fill up the bank accounts of water,” Davids told Action News Now.

McLaughlin said he believes that the Tuscan Water District will be able to provide that dependable source of water to harvest his walnuts not just today, but for future generations.

"It's not only going to protect agriculture, there's hundreds of domestic wells that are fairly shallow, so we are going to protect them too by not drawing down the water,” McLaughlin said.

Those against the district fear smaller landowners could lose access to water sources they've been using for years.

"When you move and recharge water that water becomes the possession of the recharger and the recharger can then do whatever they want and it becomes their property,” said Aimee Raymond, a Butte County Water Commissioner against the new district.

They think it should be left to the existing water districts to come up with a plan, or to have Butte County come up with their own district altogether.

"Nobody is saying we can't handle our projects and we need someone else to do the work,” Raymond told Action News Now.

Tuscan supporters said they will have the final say on the projects.

"The people that tell us what projects we can and cannot do will actually be the county and the districts that are already here,” said McLaughlin. “That's the way it should be."

"Actually our actions may be more important than voting against or for this Tuscan Water District," Davids said. “The way we behave will actually have a bigger impact on our water resources than through this proposed action."

LAFCO will be taking a look at whatever the county decides at its meeting tomorrow about the formation of the Tuscan Water District. The board will begin the discussion at 2:15 p.m.

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