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Saddle Creek CSD has a Role in Local Water

February 27, 2015

Although your Saddle Creek Community Services District (CSD) does not deliver the water to your tap, we are responsible for management of much of the water that is all around us in ponds, wetlands, storm drains and creeks.  The Saddle Creek Community was developed using a very complex system of environmental water treatment processes to ensure that any runoff from our community is clean and safe before it reaches Little John Creek; which runs directly into the San Joaquin/Sacramento/Bay Delta.  Before any dirt was moved in building the Saddle Creek roads and other infrastructure, areas were identified where wetlands, wildlife habitat and migration corridors, creeks and drainages existed in the project area.

The land development company that built the Saddle Creek Community had to design mitigation systems so that local waters would not be negatively impacted by the building and operation of the new golf course, roads, home lots, irrigation and storm drain systems.  In the development plan, they set aside contiguous properties to provide for wildlife habitat and migration; as well as many open space properties called “park parcels”.  Existing wetlands were enhanced and a series of water treatment ponds built in drainage areas. A federal wetlands permit (Army Corps of Engineers) requires the proper operation of this environmental system to prohibit runoff containing fertilizers, pesticides and hydrocarbons (oil/grease) from entering local waterways.  Many years of studies and documentation were conducted in the early years of the development to make sure the pond and wetland system survived and functioned as designed; which it did.  These studies resulted in specific wetland pond operating criteria such as minimum depth of water, amount and type of aquatic and bank vegetation to be maintained, access restrictions as well as maintenance Best Management Practices.

The CSD is a local government agency formed to provide an array of public services; including management of the wetlands and ponds under the Army Corps permit.  This is very serious responsibility in that permit compliance is complex and mandatory; with significant fines and penalties for noncompliance.  This four year drought and the Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) water conservation restrictions created serious water conflicts during the summer of 2014.  Specifically, the Army Corps permit requires that the wetland ponds stay full to a specified level, or no golf course irrigation can occur.  The golf course irrigation system is used to fill the CSD wetland ponds.  Many hundreds of acre feet of water are used annually by the ponds through evaporation, uptake by plants, and percolation; which is the design of the system.

The restricted amount of CCWD water made available to the golf course and subsequently the CSD wetland ponds, made permit compliance nearly impossible all last summer even with the full time efforts of many golf course and CSD employees. We expect the water restrictions to continue, and we are prepared once again to keep the system functioning as designed.  If the water restrictions worsen in 2015, or if Lake Tulloch is truly drained to provide water for downstream farms and fish, it is highly likely that CCWD could significantly reduce the amount of water available to the golf course, creating a “Catch 22” in that the CSD ponds must be full for the golf course to irrigate, and keeping the ponds full may leave no water left for golf course irrigation!

The CSD is working very closely with Castle & Cooke, the golf course and CCWD management to evaluate all water supply options and move forward with a course of action that secures our collective water future.  Robust discussions of our community water supply as it relates to CSD and golf course operations are conducted at the CSD Board meetings, held on the third Tuesday of every month, 2:00 PM at the Member’s Lounge; Saddle Creek Lodge.   All meetings are open to the public and you are very much encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion.  Informed communities make for knowledge-based decisions!    –Peter J. Kampa, General Manager-

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