Wednesday’s edition of the Appeal proves how important the Yuba Water Agency has become to Yuba County. 

YWA was more than a little important before, of course, managing for flood control and irrigation needs.

But when the agency took over power generating facilities from Pacific Gas and Electric in 2016 (per an agreement made half a century before that, PGE had agreed to help finance the construction of New Bullards Bar Dam and generating facilities in exchange for control of power sales for 50 years, after which it converted to YWA). 

Now the revenue is rolling in. We haven’t experienced YWA managing this domain long enough to know fully what to expect from year to year off into the future, but it looks like that power-generating capacity is a real pay off, even though the agency is strictly limited, via the legislation that allowed for its creation, in what it can spend revenue on. Most generally, whatever the money is to be spent on has to somehow relate to water in Yuba County – storage, flood control, safety, etc. The agency wouldn’t be allowed to contribute funding for housing development, for instance, or for law enforcement, unless it was somehow related to public safety at agency facilities, etc.

But the agency is finding ways to make that big gamble county voters half a century ago took pay off, as well it should.

In the Wednesday edition alone:

– There was news that YWA approved a funding contribution of $2.1 million to Reclamation District 817 to build a setback levee along a stretch of the Bear River near Wheatland. It’s a stretch that’s been troubling officials for a long time – it was reported that it almost broke during the high-water events of 1986.

“We couldn’t have gotten this done without the agency,” said Joe Conant, chairman of Reclamation District 817. “Yuba Water has made a lot of these levee projects possible, and this little stretch of levee is one of the worst in the state of California. It’s made out of pure sand and is in a real steep section of the Bear River.”

Total cost for the project is estimated at $11 million and the state Department of Water Resources is providing 90 percent of that ... but it wouldn’t have been available had the county not been able to come up with the 10 percent match.

– It’s a loan, not technically “funding,” so YWA is able (after talking legislators to change the law a bit) to loan Yuba County $9 million dollars so it can contract out dozens of road improvement projects right away. The county is gaining a fair amount of funding through the state, but it would have been doled out slowly over a decade or so. With the loan, the county can get the road work done that it really needs to get done right away – and save money by making it possible for contractors to stay in the county working from one project to the next without waiting a year in between. It was reported that doing it this way saves $4 million. 

The county pays the low-interest loan from YWA back over time with the funds it receives from the state.

Those are just two instances. There has been a bunch of bequests made to help the local cause, ranging from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars.

They’ll have to avoid spending money just because they’ve got money to spend ... but we’re happy that the agency’s board of directors is looking for ways to use this boon for the good of the cause. 

Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal-Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.

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