Sutter Pointe searching for water
Sutter Pointe remains only a spot on the south Sutter County map. But a disagreement already has developed over whether the county — or a private company — will slake the planned city's thirst.
State utility officials may settle the dispute between the county and Golden State Water Co., which claims the right to provide water service to the Sutter Pointe site in rural south county. The conflict turns on control of surface water deliveries, which Sutter Pointe's planners say will be needed to fully build out a town planned to eventually include as many as 17,500 homes.
Sutter Pointe's environmental impact report projected annual water demand at full buildout at 25,199 acre-feet. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons. A Golden State Water spokesman on Thursday downplayed any ill feelings but predicted company rather than county control of water service would let the community — and employment — grow as quickly as possible.
"This isn't adversarial," said Mitch Zak, spokesman for San Dimas-based Golden State Water. "This is a better way to help economic development and create jobs."
In letters to the county and filings with the state Public Utilities Commission, Golden State Water has said it can run water deliveries more cheaply than Sutter County. The firm plans to merge the future water network into its existing systems in Rancho Cordova and Arden, a web of about 16,000 customers it hopes will help lower construction and treatment costs.
Natomas Central Mutual Water Co. holds the rights to deliver agricultural water from the Sacramento River to the Sutter Pointe site, currently a spread of rice fields and orchards off Highway 99/70 and Riego Road.
Roland Tanner, a Golden State Water vice president, argued the district has the right to transfer water rights to the company while Sutter County can get them only by taking them through eminent domain. The transfer is part of a pact the companies made in March 2004, eight months before voters passed Measure M to approve the zoning for Sutter Pointe.
However, county officials recently have sought to reassert their control over water and other utilities in the future city.
"Our position is the Board of Supervisors will determine how the (surface) water is provided, to ensure future citizens have a water supply at reasonable costs," County Administrative Officer Larry Combs said in late June.
On Friday, Combs declined to lay out details of the county's claim but called negotiations with Golden State Water "fruitful."
The commission is expected to take at least a year to decide on the water rights.
Golden State Water plans to use the Natomas company's water rights to supply Sutter Pointe. The community, which also will include new retail and industrial districts, is expected to subsist on groundwater for about five years, then add surface water as more homes and industrial sites are built.
Golden State Water's local ambitions also extend to Robbins, a community of about 400 people near Yolo County. The firm has negotiated with the county to take over the failing Robbins water network from a county-supported district, where homeowners shot down a plan last November to raise monthly service rates as high as $100 to pay for repairs.
No construction at Sutter Pointe is expected until after 2011, when the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency is scheduled to finish upgrading local levees to 100-year flood protection levels.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune at 749-4708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.