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Conaway hands over land for water project

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Signing the property transfer agreement Tuesday afternoon are, from left, Woodland Mayor Skip Davies; Bob Thomas of Reclamation District 235; Angelo Tsakopoulos, managing partner of the Conaway Preservation Group; Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, president and CEO of the Conaway Preservation Group; and Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | December 04, 2013 |

Local, state and federal officials gathered on the shores of the Sacramento River on Tuesday to witness an important step on the road to construction of the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency surface water project.

With pen in hand at the ceremonial event, Angelo Tsakopoulos, managing partner of the Conaway Preservation Group, signed over the deed to the riverfront property where the water agency, in partnership with Reclamation District 2035, plans to build the intake facility that will pump a new source of drinking water for both Davis and Woodland.

“This has been a great example of government working at its best,” said Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, president of Conaway Ranch. “Working with the people that finds a solution that meets all of our considerations, again, the environment and clean water for our people.”

The cost of the easement was included in the deal for the Sacramento River water rights that the cities of Davis and Woodland made with Conaway in 2010.

Under that deal, the cities will pay Conaway $2.6 million starting in 2016, with a 2 percent increase annually for the next 24 years, at which point the cities will own the rights permanently. The deal guarantees Davis and Woodland 10,000 acre-feet of water every year.

But the facility won’t pump only drinking water. It also will provide a reliable water supply to the region’s agricultural industry. Further, it will add what environmentalists say is a much-needed fish screen on the Sacramento River.

In fact, it’s largely for those mutual benefits that the water agency and RD 2035 will be able to pay for the $42 million intake facility, which will be constructed in West Sacramento off of County Road 177.

It took a partnership between municipal, agricultural, state and federal stakeholders to devise a project that could provide those benefits, said Woodland Councilman Bill Marble, and that partnership, which so far has been successful in its mission to build this intake facility, should be celebrated.

“Where else in the western United States, perhaps in the entire United States, would you see an agricultural and a municipal intake being joined into one environmentally friendly facility?” he asked. “I challenge you to find that.”

For the past few years, water agency leaders have promised that the funding for the intake would come almost entirely from state and federal sources — agencies that would want to support a project that improves water quality and wildlife habitat.

Because the 100-year-old plant currently operating on the site is the largest unscreened water intake facility north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and because of the improved water quality, state and federal agencies pegged the project as a top candidate to receive funding, agency officials have said.

“The environment’s going to benefit, salmon are going to benefit, and tens of thousands of people in the communities of Woodland and Davis are going to benefit from the reliable surface water that’s going to be provided,” said Pablo Arroyave, regional deputy director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has promised $16.7 million to the project, half of which it allocated in September 2012. The state is expected to match that total through its Central Valley Project Restoration Fund, which allocates funds to projects that restore habitats for fish and other wildlife.

The state Senate Budget Committee approved $10 million of that overall $16.7 million commitment earlier this year.

“It’ll be one of those things that, over time, people will say: ‘Well what was the controversy about?’ because it will be clean water for many years,” said John Laird, the state’s secretary for natural resources.

State and federal agencies still allocate a total of about $14 million for the intake, otherwise the cities of Davis and Woodland would be on the hook for the remaining cost. Davis and Woodland already must split an $8 million share of the project.

The surface water project as a whole, which will cost Davis $106 million, largely will replace both Davis and Woodland’s ground well drinking water supplies once the system is built and on line in early 2017. The costs of building this new drinking water infrastructure will force water rates in Davis to triple over the next five years.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

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Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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