Editor’s note: One in a series.
Leading up to the Nov. 8 general election, the Appeal-Democrat will be running a series of candidate profiles that will allow each person running for a significant contested office in the Yuba-Sutter area the chance to either introduce themselves to the voting public or remind those who they are and where they stand.
The Appeal-Democrat sent five simple questions to candidates. Each candidate who is running has been given the opportunity to respond. Profiles will run in the Appeal in the order in which they are received.
The following are answers provided by Alton Wright, who is running for the North Yuba Water District Division 1 seat. Wright is facing off against Douglas J. Neilson and Renee Wood.
Q: What can North Yuba Water District do to ensure everyone has access to water, including during wildfires?
A: First, have a “customer and community first” attitude to do so! With the right leadership and vision, implementing simple, cost-effective solutions to North Yuba Water District’s most pressing problems will ensure water access for everyone. For example, there are already low/no-cost, quick-to-implement offers by South Feather Water & Power and the Yuba Water Agency to dig out and repair the neglected Forbestown Ditch and irrigation canals, as well as to test their capacities afterward. Then, we can consider intelligent improvements to the infrastructure that fit our community’s needs and pocketbooks. One proposal that I’d like to see become a reality is rather than selling water, store it here in a system of tanks, cisterns, and ponds, scattered throughout the area, to help with wildfire suppression needs.
Q: Do you support the piping of the Forbestown Ditch (please explain your answer)?
A: A 10-mile, undersized, above-ground plastic pipe at a $25 million-plus price tag is not the way to go. I believe a far less costly, mixed-engineering model (i.e., deeper, lined ditches and some large piping in the most troublesome areas) will be the best solution, and the proposed tests will support this. South Feather and Yuba Water, each with more expertise than North Yuba Water District (NYWD), already believe a mixed-engineering solution is best. The Ditch has been around since the 1860s and is now a fixed part of the local geography. There are fire-reducing green belts along its perimeter, and aquatic systems, like the Walden Pond area, that will disappear should all the water be trapped in a pipe. Also, access to the open Ditch is critical in fire suppression. The open Forbestown Ditch helped save our area from the 2020 North Complex Fire. Many tenders can be filled up from an open Ditch rather than waiting in line at a few hydrants on the proposed pipe. And let’s not forget that if one blazing tree fell onto the plastic pipe, melting it open, available water “downpipe” would be reduced, perhaps even unavailable.
Q: Do you think North Yuba Water District should be selling water to other water districts (please explain your answer)?
A: I will never vote to sell our water elsewhere until every effort has been made to serve the needs of our Foothills community first. Approximately 1,400 parcels within NYWD’s footprint have paid NYWD taxes since the 1950s and don’t receive one drop of water. Either we work to deliver them water or stop ripping them off! We have farmers and ranchers in Dobbins/Oregon House who have long suffered. We must serve them consistently and never let what’s occurred over the last decade be repeated. Visionary leadership at NYWD will create opportunities to keep the water for wildfire storage solutions, drought back-up, communal senior housing dreams, or new homespun business or farming opportunities. Keep the water here!
Q: Is there anything North Yuba Water District can do to improve the wellbeing of farmers and irrigation users within the district?
A: Absolutely! Again, applying a “customer and community-first” attitude means we never let what’s occurred over the last decade be repeated. In addition to the work mentioned above on the Forbestown Ditch, keep the irrigation canals dug out and deepened. Pipe and line a few troublesome areas. Begin the seasonal canal maintenance earlier. And as the drought continues, and if the water supply is strained, use a rotation schedule for customer usage. An idea I’d like to realize is to provide water usage assessments, perhaps partnering with county ag experts, to help D/OH farmers make the best use of the precious water they are provided. This would create a healthy partnership between NYWD and the farmers and go far to save and better utilize irrigation water.
Q: Why should voters choose you for the North Yuba Water District board?
A: Because I’m in this for the people, the community, and our shared future, I proved this in 2015 when I led the winning effort to defeat the unfair NYWD rate hike. I believe the people know what’s best, and I will be an advocate of what THEY want. Right now, I know the vast majority want our water to stay in our backyard, protecting from drought and wildfires, growing livelihoods and farms, and making dreams come real. The people want improvement on the domestic and fire hydrant system. The people must have a consistent, improved, and expanded irrigation system. The people demand frugal and wise spending of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ hard-earned money. The people seek transparency and oversight over all NYWD’s activities. NYWD is not taken care of properly. Its image is broken, and its efforts are misguided. It’s lost its way, and we need to get back on track. The people know that NYWD will find its way with the right leadership. Let’s find it together!