Answers Provided by Paul Stein, Candidate for CCWD District 2
Why are you running for the CCWD Board?
As a member of the CCWD Board, it will be my goal to protect Calaveras’ valuable water rights, our environment, and bring strong fiscal certainty and accountability to the Board. I will work to ensure that a realistic and responsible infrastructure maintenance plan is created, so residents will never again face unexpected and skyrocketing water prices. I believe my vast experience in public policy and my career in aquaculture spanning over three decades makes me the most qualified candidate for this endeavor.
What are your qualifications?
After receiving a bachelors degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of San Francisco, I spent two decades developing and operating Kemoo Trout Farm on the Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River. I’ve lived on the river, raised a family, and been part of the West Point community for nearly forty years. A two-term Calaveras Supervisor of District 2, I represented the Board on each water related joint power authority. I was elected president of the Mountain County Water Resources Association (MCWRA); president of the Calaveras/Amador Mokelumne River Association (CAMRA); president of the Mokelumne River Association (MRA); and was a founding member of the Upper Mokelumne River Association (UMRA). Appointed Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, I served as a voting member of the Cal-Fed Bay Delta Authority.
I’ve attended virtually every CCWD board meeting over the past two years and am fully informed of the complex and vital water issues that must be addressed with experienced wisdom and foresight. I believe no other candidate has the breadth of experience, political contacts, or land use entitlement expertise relative to water that is essential for this position.
What, if anything, will you do to protect our water rights?
We must protect our vital water rights without compromise. In this critical moment, we have the perfect opportunity to solidify and perfect our water rights by developing infrastructure for the agricultural potential of Calaveras County. I know the intricacies of Calaveras’ bountiful water rights better than any other candidate. Calaveras is one of the 27 original counties formed when California became a state in 1850 and as such has been endowed with several hundred thousand acre feet of water on three main tributaries: Mokelumne, Calaveras, and Stanislaus. These water rights are reserved for use in the County by the State Water Resources Control Board. To utilize these rights the county must demonstrate a need for beneficial use; some of the ways to perfect water rights is through projected residential development in the General Plan, or through demonstrated agricultural product demands.
Do you support the wild and scenic designation of the Moke River?
While I will always support protecting the unique and valuable beauty of the Mokelumne River environment, I do not support SB 1199 because it has the potential to eliminate future water rights for Calaveras County. This bill, authored by Senator Loni Hancock, a Bay Area legislator working for the Foothill Conservancy and Friends of the River, would have made it virtually impossible to perfect and utilize the 27,000 acre feet of water from the Mokelumne River—20,000 acre feet of water by CCWD and 7,000 acre feet of water by Calaveras Public Utility District (CPUD)—that is held in reservation by the State Water Resources Control Board. While we must protect our environment, we must also be able to provide water at reasonable rates for CCWD and CPUD customers. The bill in its present form was stalled in the Appropriations Committee of the California Assembly and is no longer active.
What is your stand on fleet gas cards and accountability of CCWD vehicle use via GPS or other means?
I support accountability and fiscal conservatism throughout our government. One way to ensure accountability is through fleet cards. This practice can identify when water district vehicles are being driven for private use. When I oversaw the California Department of Fish and Wildlife every vehicle had a fleet gas card which worked to identify fraud and abuse. Other measures to ensure accountability is through stringent auditing of capital assets—computers, tools, handheld equipment etc.—that are routinely assigned to staff.
Will investigation into the alleged depletion and/or disappearance of the reserve funds be a priority? As a steward of public trust, I will always make an alleged depletion or disappearance of reserve funds a very high priority. I have been a fiscal conservative all my life. While serving on the Calaveras Board of Supervisors I only supported balanced budgets that maintained a prudent reserve, typically defined as three percent of the total budget.
What new programs/policies would you like to see implemented?
I have several new ideas that involve partnering with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to bring watershed restoration dollars back to the Mokelumne Watershed. For many years, the lack of prudent land management has allowed a dangerous accumulation of brush and ladder fuel that is choking our forest environment. This excessive brush is creating a dangerous fire hazard and hindering snowpack from seeping into the ground. Conscientious land management and watershed cleansing will allow more water to flow into our existing reservoirs for future use.
I am also keenly interested in the NCPA/CCWD North Fork Project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates this hydroelectric project, and the operating license will be up for renewal in the near future. This is potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to the District over the upcoming twenty year relicensing period. I will provide strong leadership in this negotiation in order to secure that more revenue from this resource is returned to the District, and back to ratepayers. I will be very outspoken about recovering lost revenue from the original agreement as well as recapturing a greater share of revenue for the prospective operation of the project. My background at the Department of Fish & Wildlife, my expertise in water resource management, and my political experience and contacts will be critical to these negotiations.
What do you feel is working within CCWD well and would leave alone?
I believe the water treatment and reclamation systems are working extremely well. The District has developed multiple agreements with several developers, golf courses, and private landowners for spray fields to disperse reclaimed wastewater. I am also impressed with CCWD maintenance staff that manages and operates the various water distribution and wastewater facilities. These personnel are well-trained and essential to the future prosperity of the District.
Will you or will you not, push for the completion of the sewer line on Little John Road? Why?
As Vice President of Land Planning for Castle & Cooke when the Copperopolis Town Square was developed, I was involved with the entitlement of this project and know well the reason why the sewer line was never completed. Castle and Cooke had every intention of building this sewer line but the CCWD District Engineer at the time insisted that with the relatively small amount of sewage piped five miles down Little John Road would turn septic and destabilize the Copperopolis treatment facility. It was agreed by both the County and CCWD that Castle & Cooke could use the pumping technique currently in place until there was sufficient flow from the Town Square to avoid damaging the sewer treatment system. I will certainly investigate if this flow regime has been achieved and, if so, push for Castle and Cooke to complete this sewer line project.
Do you support or oppose groundwater regulations?
Due to persistent droughts, groundwater regulations in California are coming whether we like it or not. But I don’t think people in Calaveras County need be alarmed. The regulations that will likely come through the State Water Resources Control Board will be enacted for large agriculture producers who are pumping millions of gallons of water from the aquifer for their Ag products. In all likelihood, private landowners who utilize wells for domestic use will be spared from this proposed regulation.
Please explain your understanding of the North Fork Stanislaus River Hydro Electric Development Project.
The creation of the partnership between CCWD and the NCPA is one of the saddest chapters in county history. CCWD still has development control of over 200,000 acre feet of water on the Stanislaus River. Unfortunately, CCWD partnered with NCPA to build the North Fork Hydroelectric project and CCWD received a paltry sum from NCPA for the rights to build and operate the project. The initial money received from this partnership (several million dollars) has been spent by previous boards on ill-conceived projects, community grants, and other wasteful uses. Currently the District receives about $200,000/year in revenue as its share of the power generated from this facility.
The good news about this project is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the North Fork Project and its operating license will be up for renewal in the near future. As stated above, strong negotiation skills are needed between FERC and NCPA/CCWD so more revenue is returned to the District and its ratepayers.
At this point you may add a prepared statement of no more than 300 words.
The fiscal challenges facing the Water District and the protection and development of available water resources demands a director with extensive water expertise, decades of public service, and a long record of conservative fiscal policies. As a Calaveras resident for 39 years, my breadth of knowledge and experience concerning water rights, watershed restoration, and the complexities of water development in California spans over three decades.
My opponent has not attended CCWD meetings and knows very little about public policy or water politics in California. An academic degree in aquatic biology or serving as the watershed coordinator for the Foothill Conservancy in Amador County does not adequately qualify him for the complex issues posed to CCWD Directors. Serious candidates must have familiarized themselves with the operation of the District and spent time thoroughly investigating the intricacies of the CCWD operation. Qualified candidates must have previous public policy experience, strong negotiation skills, served in positions of leadership on water committees and joint power authorities throughout the state, and have political contacts central to water politics in California. There is too much at stake for our future. I have these qualifications and am ready to begin tackling the daunting challenges facing the water district.
I am proud to have served Calaveras County as a public servant, and will continue to bring my expertise and experience to the Board for the best interests of its residents and our future. I will protect our valuable natural resources, our historic water rights, and ensure sound fiscal policy planning. I would be honored to serve as your District 2 Director for the Calaveras County Water District. I ask for your vote on November 4th. Thank you.
To learn more, please visit my website at www.Paul-Stein.com or call me at (209) 293-7940.