The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday not to support the Mokelumne Watershed Interregional Sustainability Evaluation Program because most supervisors believe the program does not adequately represent the county’s water interests.
MokeWISE is an intra-agency program, established as part of a state bond measure to fund projects intended to protect the water quality of the Mokelumne River watershed.
MokeWISE member entities include the East Bay Municipal Utilities District, the cities of Stockton and Lodi, Foothill Conservancy, MyValleySprings.com and the Amador Water Agency. The Calaveras County Water District voted to join the program during its Aug. 28 board meeting.
The resolution to approve the MokeWISE program
was first brought before the Board of Supervisors during its Aug. 25 meeting. The matter was tabled to Tuesday’s meeting so that the supervisors could learn more about the program and its potential benefits for Calaveras County.
Dennis Mills, a CCWD director who voted against that agency joining MokeWISE, told supervisors the majority of projects described in the program’s project list disproportionally benefit entities such as EBMUD and the Foothill Conservancy.
Mills, who spoke during the public comment period, also said that only nine of the 27 participating groups are water purveyors. Of those, he said, only two, the CCWD and Calaveras Public Utility District, were from Calaveras County.
“Where is the water for Calaveras residents?” said Mills. “It isn’t part of this thing at all.”
Supervisors Steve Kearney and Cliff Edson, who had previously attended MokeWISE meetings, agreed with Mills’ concerns.
“I would look for something that would bring water to faucets,” Kearney said.
Edson said that the project list also involves habitat protection of the Mokelumne River, and referred to the plan to reintroduce Chinook salmon to the river. He acknowledged that although environmental concerns such as these are important, their collective duty as supervisors is to the county.
“I think they’re important too, but my priority is that we, in this county, can take care of us and our needs,” said Edson.
Edson described his experience at MokeWISE meetings in which he felt he was dismissed when raising certain issues. In particular, Edson described how he was interrupted and asked to finish when giving a presentation on a watershed management program at a meeting of the Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority, a MokeWISE participant. Edson also said that while attending a MokeWISE meeting he was told he could not use his phone to record meetings, when in fact he was checking his messages.
“That’s the kind of collaborative effort that I experienced,” said Edson
A motion to support MokeWISE was defeated by a vote of 2-3, with Supervisors Debbie Ponte and Chris Wright voting in favor of joining.
In other business Tuesday, the board held the final hearing for the 2015-2016 budget and voted to include two new patrol cars for the Sheriff’s Office for $41,848.
The board also voted to include dues to the Calaveras-Amador Mokelumne River Authority at $8,658.
The inclusion of the two requests reduced the county’s contingency fund to 2.9 percent of the budget, which is inconsistent with the board’s goal of keeping a 3 percent contingency fund.
“The Sheriff’s Office needs these two patrol cars. I’m in favor of it,” Supervisor Michael Oliveira said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to make this happen.”
The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct staff to return on its Sept. 22 meeting with a resolution to approve the final budget.