What the county wants—fairness

Butte County FERC Licensing Sub-Committee: Curt Josiassen, supervisor, Dist. 4; Bruce Alpert, county counsel; Paul McIntosh, chief administrative officer
Butte County has been deeply involved in the relicensing of the Lake Oroville Project from the beginning, keeping one primary goal in the process: to achieve a settlement that provides fairness and equity to Butte County and all of its citizens.

Lake Oroville (along with its surrounding operations) is the jewel of the State Water Project, which provides up to 4 million acre-feet of water each year for use primarily below the Delta, where it serves in excess of 20 million people. Billions of dollars are generated from this water delivery each year for development and other economic benefits in areas other than Butte County. The project also produces electricity worth in excess of $135 million per year to the Department of Water Resources.

Butte County wants nothing more than the mitigation of the adverse direct impacts of the project and some benefit for the use of Butte County’s resources in the generation and sale of water and power.

DWR’s offer has been touted as $440 million in recreation benefits. Of that a major portion, $310 million, is for operation and maintenance of the project over an expected 50-year license. DWR currently spends approximately $5 million annually on operation and maintenance for existing recreation facilities. Thus, DWR is proposing to increase its expenses for these facilities by only 16 percent over the license period, putting future facility enhancement at risk.

What are the real new recreation benefits offered by DWR? When you subtract out money for annual operation and maintenance, major maintenance costs for existing facilities and the $58 million for the Special Benefit Fund, there is only $48 million for new recreation facilities for the next 50 years, and $25 million of that is only a contingent obligation.

A DWR-commissioned economic study of the impacts the project has had on Butte County demonstrates $503,800 is lost annually by Butte County. What has DWR offered to mitigate these impacts? Nothing, even though the actual impacts could be at least three times the estimate of the study.

Butte County will pursue its rights through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), not the courts. This is an administrative process, not litigation. DWR must recognize and mitigate the adverse impacts and the lack of benefits from the project for all citizens of Butte County. Butte County has negotiated and will continue to negotiate in good faith with DWR to achieve fairness for the citizens of Butte County.

For more information, visit www.buttecounty.net.