OROVILLE — As part of an ongoing discussion, the Butte County Board of Supervisors received new information on the potential acquisition of the Miocene Canal and water rights.
In its last discussion related to the canal, the board asked three central questions of the staff to attain more information on options for getting the waterway flowing again to some capacity.
The questions came down to repair cost, time for repairs and whether the county could legally acquire and operate a hydroelectric power plant.
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Brian Ring returned Tuesday to answer those questions.
In September, PG&E held a stakeholders meeting during which time it was announced that new estimated repair costs for the Miocene come out to between $40 million and $60 million. PG&E estimates that the yearly cost for maintaining the Miocene Canal, should the repairs be made, would come out to between $1 million to 2 million, Ring said.
Repairs will likely take four to five years to complete and get the canal back to working order.
Ring said the county legally could take on a hydroelectric power plant along with water conveyance facilities though it probably wouldn’t be reasonable financially.
PG&E has claimed it is not required or obligated to spend the money for repair costs of the canal although Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he disagreed.
In the plea deal between the District Attorney’s Office and the power company, PG&E agreed to pay $15 million to support supplying water to those affected by the Camp Fire.
“PG&E has already spent $2.1 million on engineering/alternatives analysis, water deliveries to landowners and other costs,” according to the related agenda report. “There is an apparent disagreement between PG&E and the District Attorney on whether portions of the $2.1 million already spent is to be deducted from the $15 million plea bargain amount.”
Additionally, the DA’s office believes PG&E is obligated to pay the higher costs for repair.
The matter is historically complicated as the canal was not only used to send water down from its two connected reservoirs, but the leaks into other waterways have provided additional groundwater for well users and others adjacent to the canal.
Supervisor and Chair Bill Connelly opted for any proposed solution that could bring some level of water back to the canal.
“I want to see a solution where there is water back in there, even if it’s halfway down,” Connelly said.
Connelly added that the county still has the $15 million from the plea deal to work with which could go toward possibly getting water into the middle and lower parts of the canal as the upper canal is what saw the most damage.
Another option proposed by PG&E would be to create a pipe system in place of the canal to get the water to customers, though this would close off use from residents that have relied on leaks for wells as well as the wildlife that utilizes the canal.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 a.m. every second and third Tuesday of the month at its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. Meetings are free and open to the public. Those who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear a mask while in the building.