Com­mu­nity avoids wa­ter sup­ply cut­off

Moun­tain House, in San Joaquin County, will pay any fines on ir­ri­ga­tion agency.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Matt Stevens matt. stevens@ latimes. com Twit­ter:@ By­MattStevens

Wa­ter will con­tinue to flow from taps in the homes of a San Joaquin County master- planned com­mu­nity af­ter lo­cal of­fi­cials reached an agree­ment that will con­tinue sup­plies to about 15,000 res­i­dents.

Moun­tain House pur­chases all its wa­ter from a sin­gle ru­ral ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict, which­was cov­ered by a re­cent state or­der lim­it­ing wa­ter di­ver­sion for some rights hold­ers who have held them for more than a cen­tury.

Un­der an agree­ment reached in prin­ci­ple Mon­day, the com­mu­nity will con­tinue re­ceiv­ing wa­ter from the By­ron Bethany Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict and will ac­cept fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for any fines or penal­ties as­so­ci­ated with its de­liv­ery, a state­ment from the wa­ter sup­plier’s gen­eral man­ager said.

Moun­tain House, an up­scale com­mu­nity near Tracy, learned of its pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion this month when the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board is­sued a no­tice or­der­ing the dis­trict to “im­me­di­ately stop di­vert­ing wa­ter.”

The board can fine a wa­ter user $ 1,000 to $ 10,000 per day for vi­o­lat­ing the “se­nior rights” cur­tail­ment or­der or sub­se­quent “cease and de­sist” or­ders is­sued by reg­u­la­tors. It gave the dis­trict un­til Mon­day to sub­mit a com­pli­ance form.

News of the cur­tail­ment sparked fear in the com­mu­nity that the taps could run dry if of­fi­cials failed to find another wa­ter source. The ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict had been sched­uled to shut off wa­ter to Moun­tain House on Tues­day.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether the state wa­ter board would ac­cept the agree­ment be­tween Moun­tain House and the ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict.

In its let­ter to the ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict, the board ac­knowl­edged that “some wa­ter users must com­ply with di­rec­tives … to pro­vide con­tin­ued wa­ter ser­vice to meet min­i­mum health and safety stan­dards.” The board prom­ises to “care­fully an­a­lyze” wa­ter de­liv­er­ies for that pur­pose “on a case- by­case ba­sis.”

Ge­orge Kostyrko, a spokesman for the state wa­ter­board, said last week that state reg­u­la­tors didn’t have enough in­for­ma­tion about Moun­tain House to spec­u­late about how of­fi­cials might deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion to Moun­tain House, about 160 farm­ers are af­fected by the cur­tail­ment or­der, wa­ter dis­trict of­fi­cials said.

“While the agree­ment al­lows [ the wa­ter dis­trict] to meet Moun­tain House’s im­me­di­ate needs, farm­ers in the re­gion and the com­mu­ni­ties that de­pend upon them still face un­prece­dented po­ten­tial im­pacts to their liveli­hood as a re­sult of cur­tail­ment,” By­ron Bethany Gen­eral Man­ager Rick Gil­more said in the state­ment.

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