Oroville Mercury-Register

LAFCO gives an update on Tuscan Water District

- By Jake Hutchison jhutchison@chicoer.com

CHICO » The proposed Tuscan Water District once again found itself in the spotlight Thursday, though a smaller one than usual, as the Butte County The Local Agency Formation Commission heard a brief update on the matter.

During the update portion of the Zoom meeting, LAFCO Executive Officer Stephen Lucas said there was little new informatio­n to be shared.

Lucas said the Vina Groundwate­r Sustainabi­lity Agency, which discussed the Tuscan Water District during its Sept. 8 closed session, declined to share any informatio­n when asked.

“This has been on our agenda for some time as this project unfolds,” Lucas said.

Lukas said the Vina Groundwate­r Sustainabi­lity Agency could still be working on developing a sustainabi­lity plan and that is why there has yet to be a new comment or new informatio­n from that jurisdicti­on.

“Until it’s adopted, I don’t think they feel comfortabl­e with talking about the other issues,” Lucas said.

According to the related agenda report, petitioner­s promoting the proposed water district submitted their applicatio­n to LAFCO in June with potentiall­y sufficient support and said applicatio­n is being reviewed by the commission.

Unlike the last Butte County Board of Supervisor­s meeting, during which a large number of people spoke out on the subject, the LAFCO meeting only saw a small few looking to speak during the public comment period.

The county supported the district 4-1, provided the water controlled by the district stay within

the basin and not be shipped elsewhere.

When public comment opened, speakers aired concerns over the petition process.

“My concern is the petition,” said Amy Raymond. “You don’t have a copy of those petitions online, you have to go into your (LAFCO) office to get to see those. But when I viewed that petition, it was not compliant with the LAFCO approved notice of petition format. There are missing elements on this test.”

Because the item was an executive officer report rather than an agenda item, Lucas said it was the wrong time to have such discussion­s.

“I think that’s part of the concern that I’ve had all along is that so much of the discussion has occurred outside of the commission’s realm,” Lucas said. “And historical­ly, traditiona­lly, staff reports or the analysis we provide the commission provide the public a complete, comprehens­ive view of the project which I don’t think has occurred yet because we have not had the hearing yet. But nonetheles­s, I appreciate your comments.”

Raymond pushed on, asking about public input on the project going forward.

“When does the public get to weigh in on this?” Raymond asked. “If this is under your executive report, when does the public have a chance other than a three-minute comment at the public hearing?”

LAFCO legal counsel Marsha Burch responded to the concerns.

“There are multiple opportunit­ies for the public to participat­e,” Burch said. “They can submit written comments at any time, and those are considered by the agencies that are involved in the decision-making process.”

Supervisor Debra Lucero, who was the single no vote in supporting the district project during the last supervisor meeting, expressed her own take on the concerns in relation to previous discussion­s.

“I think the reason why people are so skeptical is because of the last two hearings that were held at the Water Commission and the Board of Supervisor­s,” Lucero said. “So they’re wondering if public comment really does have an effect or if it’s answered.”

As the discussion­s and reviews continue, it will ultimately be a LAFCO decided project if it makes it to that stage.

The next LAFCO meeting is scheduled for Nov. 4 and will be available to members of the public via a Zoom link on the digital agenda file.

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