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SLV Water District Letter to PG&E Regarding Wildfire Mitigation

On May 7, 2020, the Board of Directors, staff, and members of the public of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District wrote a letter to Pacific Gas & Electric stating their concerns regarding PG& E’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

Read PG&E’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan:

The content of the SLV Water District letter reads as follows:

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District supplies drinking water to 7,900 customers in the San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley communities. About half of our drinking water is obtained from surface water tributaries and springs that empty into the San Lorenzo River. These surface water sources are located on approximately 1300 acres of critical bio-diverse watershed property on Ben Lomond Mountain which the District has protected for decades to ensure high water quality and minimal environmental impacts.

We recognize that PG&E has a vital interest in maintaining the power lines that cross District property, from Boulder Creek to Empire Grade. Over the past several years, District staff have collaborated with PG&E’s contractors regarding vegetation and tree removal activities on District property, in particular the hardwood trees that have a greater potential than redwood trees to fall and damage power lines.

The District understands the State of California’s concerns regarding increased wildfire risk and the need for public safety. While our District is committed to its collaboration with PG&E, we want to make it clear that we do not support a process that ultimately results in a zero vegetation situation. We believe this could trigger a cascading effect, even if unintentional, that will (a) significantly increase the potential of greater erosion, which (b) has a high potential to significantly impact our District’s water collection and treatment facilities at a high cost to our customers (for example, if turbidity levels due to increased erosion exceed 30 Nephelometric Turbidity Units), and which (c) could cause significant damage to downstream fish habitat in the San Lorenzo River watershed-habitat that is finally seeing the beginnings of Steelhead trout and Coho salmon rejuvenation after years of effort on the part of many stakeholders. Ultimately, we do not believe that such outcomes are in anyone’s best interests.

Our District supports PG&E’s consideration of taking a different approach using current and future power industry best practices and technologies. We urgently request PG&E prioritize hardening its power infrastructure in environmentally sensitive areas like the District’s. We believe that accelerated overall upgrades to PG&E infrastructure will help avoid PSPS shutoffs which also affect water delivery. And we request that PG&E and its contractors continue to collaborate with District staff prior to tree removal activities on this sensitive property. We believe that this approach will result in better outcomes for the environment, will enhance public protection against wildfires, and will minimize impacts to the overall watershed and, specifically, District facilities. Thank you for continuing to work with our District on this vital public policy issue.

Steve Swan
Board President,
San Lorenzo Valley Water District

13060 Hwy 9
Boulder Creek, CA 95006

Photo credit: SLV Steve

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