By Ryan Olson
PARADISE — For years, the Paradise Irrigation District has been in talks about partnering with its neighbor, Del Oro Water Co., to share water from a proposed regional pipeline.
This week, PID officials announced they’re looking at an alternative — acquiring Del Oro’s two districts covering Lime Saddle and Old Magalia.
Officials at the privately owned Del Oro maintain its districts aren’t for sale.
If PID decides to press forward, a cursory glance at the process shows it could involve annexations, court hearings and the public water district exercising eminent domain to purchase Del Oro’s infrastructure and water rights in the area.
PID District Manager George Barber said there are potential advantages to acquisition, including utilizing Butte County’s unused water allocation from Lake Oroville. He said owning the two districts could simplify how the water district delivers water to customers.
He said current PID customers would benefit from having an additional water supply, especially during a drought.
“It will serve them mostly because the district will be taking the lead in moving forward with improving our water supply with the Lake Oroville option,” Barber said.
For now, PID is starting a required environmental review. Barber said the district’s elected board hasn’t made a decision. He welcomed the public to comment on the proposal.
“Before we move any further, we need to consider the environmental impact of those alternatives,” Barber said.
Kristin Aguiar, Del Oro’s community relations director, said the company hadn’t heard about PID’s specific acquisition proposals until this week. The company responded by reiterating that its districts aren’t for sale.
Aguiar said Del Oro is committed to pursuing the intertie pipeline, which is pending approval from the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Although PID is exploring this option, it will in no way deter us or stop us from pursuing this project,” Aguiar said.
The regional intertie project is geared to guarantee a reliable supply of treated water from Lake Oroville to Del Oro’s ridge customers. Del Oro is looking at spending about $5.1 million for the intertie’s first phase to make needed infrastructure improvements and to build a pipeline.
If PID annexes Del Oro’s two districts, it could take over the company’s regional intertie project. Barber said it could better balance PID’s water distribution and the district could bring water up the ridge from the lake during off-peak hours when rates are cheaper.
Adding Old Magalia to PID would also allow the district to add a backup pipe to its customers from its water treatment plant.
If PID presses ahead with the acquisition process, it will have to seek approval from the Butte County Local Agency Formation Commission. Residents in the affected districts would also have to petition to be annexed into the Paradise district, a process that may include an election.
A CPUC employee said the process would also include a stop in court to address the eminent domain issue.
Currently, Del Oro operates four districts on the ridge — Lime Saddle, Magalia, Paradise Pines and Stirling Bluffs. The Magalia district covers the older section of the community.
Del Oro currently has a total of 5,551 connections — 631 in the Lime Saddle and Magalia districts. The intertie project would also allow Del Oro to add up to 600 additional customers in the Lime Saddle area who previously didn’t have service.
PID has more than 10,000 customers, nearly all within Paradise town limits.
While PID is exploring this new option, both service providers are continuing to work on their respective projects to enhance their water supplies.
PID is working to increase water storage and to take full advantage of its water rights.
On Wednesday, the district awarded a contract worth about $2.2 million to Livermore-based Mountain Cascade Inc. to build a pipeline to bypass the Magalia Reservoir. Barber said the 7,000-foot pipe will run from the creek north of the reservoir directly to the district’s treatment plant.
The project provides a backup in case an accident contaminates the Magalia Reservoir, and it saves money from reduced pumping costs.
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