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Water Management Plan - The District

III. The District


The District was established by the California State Legislature on July 1, 1951, under the provisions of General Law 9307, Statutes of 1951, Chapter 1657, as amended.

The District, which includes approximately 190,000 acres, or nearly 40 percent of the valley lands in Yolo County, is governed by a five-member Board of Directors appointed by the County Board of supervisors to serve four-year terms. Presented on Map 1 are the District's boundaries in relation to other districts within Yolo County.

The District's General Manager is responsible for planning for the District's long-term water needs and oversees the activities carried out under the Construction, Flood Control, and Irrigation Divisions of the District. In addition to the General Manager, the District's normal work force includes 15 employees, including two dam tenders and power plant operators, seven irrigation workers, three field and equipment supervisors, and three office staff members. All operations and maintenance services are provided by District personnel, including water delivery, billings, accounting, construction, and facility and equipment repair and replacement.


Under the District Act, the District has broad authority to plan, develop, and manage surface water and groundwater resources. The District's General Manager is responsible for carrying out policies and directions of the Board of Directors relative to long-term water needs and oversees the construction, operation, and maintenance of irrigation, drainage, and flood control facilities and power plants. Specific authorities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Construct, maintain, repair, and operate levees, canals, reservoirs, and drains.
  • Provide for the control and disposition of storm and flood waters.
  • Levy and collect a groundwater charge for the production of water from the groundwater supplies on lands within the District.
  • Acquire the rights to store water in any reservoirs or to carry water through any canal, ditch, or conduit not owned or controlled by the District.
  • Make available water that is surplus to the needs of the lands and inhabitants within the District for beneficial use inside Yolo County.
  • Establish and fix the boundaries of zones of benefit.
  • Enter into contracts: (1) for loans to finance planning, acquisition, construction, operation, or maintenance of projects and lands, easements, and rights-of-way; and (2) for grants for recreational or fish and wildlife enhancement benefits projects.


A wide variety of activities and skills are involved in managing and protecting the District's water resources to provide a reliable water supply at the lowest feasible cost. Set forth below is a partial list of District activities and accomplishments with respect to water resources, management, preservation, and stewardship.

1.  Purchase of the Clear Lake Water Company, 1967

On August 1, 1967, voters in the District authorized the issuance of revenue bond indebtedness of $2,095,000 for the purpose of acquiring the Clear Lake Water Company. The District began operating the enterprise, which included Clear Lake on Cache Creek in Lake County, with an active storage of 320,000 acre-feet natural flow on Cache Creek in Yolo County, and an extensive irrigation and drainage system. The system now includes over 175 miles of canals, laterals, and drains. These revenue bonds were retired in 1985. The District owns water rights having a priority of May 28, 1912, that cover the storage of water in Clear Lake and its release for irrigation and other beneficial uses. The appropriated water right on Cache Creek in Yolo County has a priority of December 4, 1855. Through Permit No. 19162, issued by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board), the District also has the right to utilize water from Clear Lake for hydroelectric power generation.

2.  Construction of Indian Valley Dam and Reservoir, 1976

On September 29, 1970, voters in Zone No. 4 of the District, authorized general obligation bond indebtedness of $3,200,000, and on September 26, 1972, voters authorized general obligation bond indebtedness of $4,500,000, all for funding the Indian Valley Project on the North Fork of Cache Creek. Additionally, the District also contracted with the U.S. Department of Interior for a project loan of $2,123,900, and a grant of $4,176,700, under Public Law 984. Project construction began in 1972, and was completed in 1976. The District purchased the Public Law 984 Loan Contract at a discount from the Department of the Interior during 1988, with a loan from its enterprise fund. In 1998, nearly 18 years early, the District retired all Indian Valley debt. It made the final bond payment, repaid the enterprise fund, and waived the outstanding loan balance. The District holds Water Right Permits No. 12848 and No. 12849, issued by the State Board for the Indian Valley Project. These permits allow for storage and diversion of water from the North Fork of Cache Creek and Cache Creek for irrigation, flood control, power generation, recreation, and domestic purposes. Also, the District holds Permit No. 18295, which allows the diversion of water through the outlet works for hydroelectric power generation.

The flood control aspects of the project have been significant, particularly in 1995, in preventing Cache Creek from flowing out of bank.

3.  Construction of Chapman Reservoir, 1978

The District coordinated with Caltrans during construction of Interstate 505 to excavate material for construction of the highway at the Chapman Reservoir site. Chapman Reservoir has a nominal capacity of 200-acre feet and provides operational flexibility for the District's irrigation system and attenuation of storm runoff.

4.  Established the Moore Wildlife Sanctuary, 1979

In 1979, the District formally dedicated 30 acres of riparian property near the old Moore diversion dam as a wildlife sanctuary. The secluded site is principally used as a safe haven for assorted wildlife but has been improved by the installation and maintenance of water sources, nesting sites for various birds and bats, and plantings of various beneficial plants. It is also made available for low-impact educational projects.

When the area was ravaged by an accidental electrical fire in 1990, PG&E acknowledged the value of the site and assisted the District in the restoration, which involved replacing telephone poles for nesting sites; revegetating the area with over 300 oak trees; planting hundreds of shrubs, bushes, and native grasses; and replacing the quail guzzler.

In 1998, the District acquired 13 acres of a mined gravel pit adjacent to and upstream of the sanctuary. The property provides a buffer to protect the sanctuary. No plan for use of the 13 acres has been developed at this time.

5.  Construction of Indian Valley Dam Hydroelectric Project, 1983

When the development of alternative energy sources was in its infancy, the District executed agreements for one of the first public/private partnerships in California, to design, finance, construct, and operate a hydroelectric project. The Indian Valley Dam Hydroelectric Project was retrofitted to the outlet works of Indian Valley Dam, and has a rated capacity of 3100 kW. The operation of the power plant is incidental to the District's operation of its facilities for water supply and flood control.

6.  Yolo County Water Plan, 1984, and Water Plan Update, 1992

The communication and interaction between water purveyors that exists in Yolo County today was slow to evolve. Recognizing that Yolo County could benefit over the long term if water purveyors worked together in areas where it was appropriate, the District, in cooperation with Yolo County, shared the costs of preparing the first County Water Plan. The effort took three years, not because of technical difficulties, but because of the time to attain concurrence on language in the plan document. In 1986, the District initiated the first meeting of the Plan's recommended Interagency Water Management Coordinating Committee with staff level participation. A number of years later, the committee recommended an update of the Water Plan and the involvement of agency representatives having fiscal authority. The Water Plan was updated in 1992, and from it evolved the existing Water Resources Association of Yolo County (WRA). The WRA' Board of Directors is comprised of members representing the councils of the cities of Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland, and Winters, the Board of Directors of the Dunnigan Water District and the District, and representatives of the University of California at Davis (UCD) and the County.

7.  Construction of Cache Creek Dam Hydroelectric Project, 1986

Using its own resources, the District planned and constructed the hydroelectric project below Clear Lake. This project has a rated capacity of 1750 kW. The operation of the power plant, like Indian Valley, is incidental to the District's operation of its facilities for water supply. In 1998, the District lowered the tailrace from the project and installed an inflatable spillway gate on the dam to facilitate removing debris. This resulted in an increase in energy production.

8.  Stopped Dredging of Clear Lake Outlet Channel, 1988

In 1988, the District filed a lawsuit against Lake County in response to dredging of the Clear Lake Outlet Channel and to protect the integrity of the Bemmerly Decree, which was originally filed to protect Yolo County riparian lands from additional erosion caused by increased flows from Clear Lake. The District subsequently developed and executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Lake County governing the extent of work that is allowed on the Clear Lake Outlet Channel under the Bemmerly Decree.

9.  Challenged EIR for Discharge of Effluent into Cache Creek, 1989

In 1985, the District sent a letter of support to the California Department of Clean Water Grants requesting the extension of grant deadlines for the Clearlake Oaks County Water District (COCWD) to meet study requirements for the California Department of Fish and Game and still be able to qualify for approved grant funding to fix the inflow and infiltration problems that were responsible for the "Cease and Desist" placed upon its old and failing sewage system. However, when the COCWD subsequently proposed to discharge its treated effluent into a tributary of the Cache Creek watershed rather than fix the cause of the problem, the District took a strong position in opposition. In 1989, the District, Yolo County, and the Yolo Grange successfully challenged the adequacy of the COCWD's EIR for the proposed discharge project. Subsequently, the District and others prevailed on the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB) not to renew the COCWD's discharge permit for the discharge project.

During this same time, other sanitary systems in Lake County were also experiencing problems with the disposal of effluent and proposing similar discharges into other tributaries to the Cache Creek watershed. The District took a proactive position. While supporting an alternative project to pipe effluent to the Geysers for recharge to enhance steam production, the District was also working with the CRWQCB to have the Basin Plan modified to recognize and preserve all beneficial uses of Cache Creek.

Still trying to facilitate an alternate method of effluent disposal, in 1994, the District negotiated a modification to the Solano Decree with Lake County, which was submitted to the court for approval. The modification allowed the District to provide up to 7,500 acre-feet of water to Lake County without negatively impacting the quantity of water available to the District for downstream diversion. The District would provide water from Clear Lake that is needed in excess of the available effluent to facilitate the piping of Lake County's effluent to the Geysers for disposal. As Lake County continues to grow, the quantity of water required from the District for this purpose will become smaller. This approach resulted in an economic incentive for Lake County to discharge effluent to the Geysers rather than the Cache Creek system.

The COCWD has recently announced its plan to connect to the Geysers pipeline and add treated effluent to the effluent exported to the Geysers.

10.   Negotiated Highway 113 Under Crossings for Future Drainage, 1990

During the proposed construction of Highway 113 from Davis to Woodland, the District met with Caltrans to discuss Caltrans' under crossing required to accommodate the District's Farmers Central Canal south of the City of Woodland. The District prevailed upon Caltrans to size the under crossing to accommodate the required capacity of the facility if it were to be required to provide surface drainage for the City of Woodland as it expands into the surrounding agricultural lands.

11.  Department of Water Resources Drought Water Bank, 1992

In 1991, the Department of Water Resources (DWR), through its newly-created Drought Water Bank, proposed to transfer large amounts of water from eastern Yolo County. This was being proposed without consideration of adequate safeguards for Yolo County. To protect the County's interests, the District, drafted a water transfer agreement that set forth conditions for water transfers, including financial compensation and establishing and implementing an extensive groundwater and subsidence monitoring program to assess impacts from the water transfers. The agreement was subsequently modified to facilitate implementation by Yolo County.

12.  Habitat Alliance and Wildlife Keepers (H.A.W.K.), 1992

In 1992, a joint project of the District and the Yolo County Office of Education created a unique learning program for "at risk" students called Project H.A.W.K. (Habitat Alliance and Wildlife Keepers). The H.A.W.K. motto: "To learn, to serve and to teach: One acre and one student at a time," describes a program that has grown to include youth of all abilities, including special needs students, from throughout Yolo County. The program challenges youth to apply classroom academics in concert with creative energies toward the solution of environmental and community issues in the "habitats" of school, community, and environment.

The District originally provided access to, and assistance on, approximately 20 acres of riparian land as a site for "hands on" learning for students. In the last five years, the H.A.W.K. students have established an environmental learning site on the 20 acres with a long range master plan (approximately 4,000 youth have visited and worked at the site), which is used by Woodland, Davis, River City, and Fairfield high schools in addition to the Cache Creek Continuation High School and Woodland Midtown School.

The students also built a 3-acre H.A.W.K. Garden Learning Center in Woodland. The H.A.W.K. Center serves approximately 700 elementary youth from throughout Yolo County annually. The combined efforts of Cache Creek, Midtown, and the Woodland FFA have initiated the Spring and Fall Festivals in the Garden, built a network of five elementary school gardens and two childcare centers for teen parents, and worked to demonstrate that students of all backgrounds and abilities can learn, serve, and teach together when joined in a common purpose.

A summer school class based at the District serves a model for School-to-Career and Service Learning. The program is now funded through the California Department of Education to train teachers in technology, project-based learning and the application of Federal and State education standards to student learning outside the traditional school setting. In 1999, the program was a finalist for the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Claire-Hill Award for excellence in public education on water issues.

13.  Capay Diversion Dam Modification, 1994

To enhance the management of its water resources and water delivery for irrigation, in 1994, the District retrofitted a 474-foot-long by 5-foot-high inflatable dam on its Capay diversion structure, which was constructed in 1914. At the time, the project was completed, the inflatable dam was the longest single bladder dam in the world.

This work represents an innovative approach to addressing several water management and conservation items.

The diversion structure, with the inflatable dam, accomplishes the following:

Conserves water by making it possible to raise the upstream pool earlier in the season to facilitate the diversion of water for irrigation that previously would not have been recoverable.

Removes the safety risk associated with setting steel stanchions and flashboards on the crest of the 15-foot-high diversion structure.

Conserves groundwater in years when surface water is available by allowing the District to make water deliveries earlier than was previously possible.

Facilitates implementing the District's proposed groundwater recharge/ recovery project by allowing the District to divert water during winter months without the risk of flooding upstream lands during high runoff, as the dam can be lowered and subsequently raised in approximately 30 minutes.

14.  Guidelines for Reviewing Water Transfers in Yolo County, 1994

Working with the Water Resources Committee of the WRA, the District helped develop a draft model of Guidelines for Reviewing Proposed Water Transfers. The guidelines were submitted to the WRA for each WRA member agency to consider for modification and adoption. In 1994, the District reviewed the draft guidelines and adopted a modified version for its use. The District is the only agency comprising the WRA that has taken action to adopt the guidelines.

15.  Sacramento River Water Appropriation Application, 1994

In 1993, the District initiated an investigation of supplemental water supplies involving the cities of Davis, Woodland, and Winters; UCD; the Yolo-Zamora Water District; and the Solano Water Authority. Following completion of this investigation, the District filed an application to appropriate water from the Sacramento River. This application was filed on behalf of the cities of Woodland and Davis and UCD, each of which are within the boundaries of the District. This application was filed under provisions of the Watershed Protection Act to establish a priority for the respective entities. Applications to appropriate water from the Sacramento River were filed subsequently by the County of Sacramento and the Solano County Water Agency.

The District has resolved the protests which were submitted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), the State Water Contractors, and the City of Sacramento, and has the appropriate signed dismissal agreements.

The District is working with the cities of Woodland and Davis and UCD to process the application.

16.  Cache Creek Water Appropriation Application, 1994

Following completion of the investigation referenced in Item 14. above, the District filed an application to appropriate water from Cache Creek to implement the District's proposed groundwater recharge/recovery project. The concept of the project was introduced to Yolo County in 1990, with the hope of having its features incorporated into pending gravel mining reclamation plans to assist in implementing the project. Unfortunately, project features are not incorporated in any of the current reclamation plans. This application and the application noted in Item 14. above were filed under a planning policy that water from the Sacramento River would be for municipal purposes within the District, and water from Cache Creek would be for agricultural purposes within the District. In preparing to evaluate the impact of the proposed groundwater recharge/recovery project, the District prepared the initial framework of a groundwater model. The groundwater model was prepared by the District but made available to other entities in the County for refinement to address their particular needs.

17.  Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Project, 1995, 1998

As the result of the damages caused by the winters of 1995 and 1998, a number of local landowners needed to use the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program to repair and/or prevent further damage to their properties. At the suggestion of NRCS, those people requested the District act as the required public agency sponsor for the NRCS program and the District agreed to do so.

18.  Streamflow and Weather Monitoring, 1996/1997

Due to state budget cuts, some of the programs eliminated included resource monitoring stations. The stream gage on Bear Creek, was eliminated and the same fate was planned for the stream gage on Cache Creek at Yolo. The District initiated a campaign with other entities in the County and was successful in having the DWR preserve the gage at Yolo. The District, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), reestablished the stream gage on Bear Creek.

Also, the District participated with the City of Woodland and the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to establish and maintain a weather station at the OES office in Woodland.

19.  Groundwater Export Ordinance Amendment, 1997

In 1996, Yolo County adopted a Groundwater Export Ordinance to address concerns regarding the export of Yolo County's groundwater. The District worked with County staff in drafting the ordinance. Years later, the District recognized a potential problem and provided amending language to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors for consideration to address the situation of indirect groundwater transfers -- wherein surface water is transferred and the use of groundwater substituted for the surface water supply. The amendment was adopted in September 1997.

20.  Elevated Crest of Indian Valley Dam, 1998

In 1998, the District elevated the crest of the Indian Valley Dam by three feet. This change, although not required, was the District's response to the reassessment of long-term hydrologic conditions of the area and statewide by the State Division of Safety of Dams. The additional height provides more freeboard, a larger margin of safety.

21.  Bay-Delta Hearings, 1998

The District has been actively participating in the Bay-Delta hearing process. The District was able to negotiate a stipulation with DWR and the California Urban Water Agency/Ag(CUWA/Ag) that: (1) acknowledges that Cache Creek is not in hydraulic continuity with the Delta during balanced conditions, and (2) supports the District's request that the State Water Resources Control Board determine that the District has no obligation to provide or bypass water under its Cache Creek water rights to implement Bay-Delta standards.

22.  Tamarisk and Arundo Removal

In 1992, the District cleared Tamarisk and other vegetation, as allowed by the California Department of Fish and Game from the floodway of Cache Creek to create capacity for winter flows within the creek. The District's continued concern regarding Tamarisk and Arundo was reflected in its 1997 activities regarding two grant requests and actual work done in 1998 and 1999.

23.  Modification of Cache Creek Dam, 1998

In 1998, the District modified the spillway at the Cache Creek Dam by replacing the flashboard-type facility with a spill gate (metal plate) that could be raised and lowered using an inflatable rubber bladder. The modification improved the operation of the spillway making it safer and more efficient not only for controlling upstream water levels, but also for removing floating debris from the upstream side of the dam.

24.  Emergency Stabilization of Guinda Bridge, 1998

In 1998, the District provided personnel and heavy equipment to provide emergency repairs to the banks of Cache Creek upstream of Guinda Bridge. The District placed rock for two days to protect the bridge abutments that were being threatened by erosion of the creek until Yolo County was able to bring a contractor in to assume the project.

25.  Resource Conservation District (RCD), Water Conservation Program, 1998, 1999

The District participates with the RCD in its Model Farm Program by providing in-kind services to assist landowners in constructing tailwater recovery systems to conserve water and minimize the amount of sediment leaving the farm.

26.  Indian Valley Hydroelectric Project Acquisition, 1999

In 1999, the District purchased the Indian Valley Hydroelectric Project.

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