State orders district to sever Mendocino water supply

Hopland, California (AP) 8-07
State health officials have ordered the public utility that provides water to this Mendocino County town to stop supplying new customers, including a reservation and a casino owned by the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians.

The California Department of Public Health this month imposed a moratorium on new water hookups by the Hopland Public Utility District after concluding the district pumped 24.1 million more gallons of water from the Russian River last year than to which it was entitled.

The Hopland district serves 320 homes, businesses and farms, and has capacity to serve another 220 connections within its service area, said General Manager Evert Jacobson. Tribal Chairwoman Wanda Balderama said the Pomo pays the district to truck water up to the reservation for use by about 300 households and the Sho-Ka-Wah casino.

But the state claims that because the Hopland rancheria is outside the district’s service area, the arrangement, which included plans to build a pipeline to get water to the reservation more efficiently, must be halted.

“The Department will not allow the Hopland Rancheria to be connected to the District until adequate rights that are applicable for this purpose have been obtained, and adequate water rights for the District’s existing customers have been met,” the district was notified in a letter sent Aug. 1.

In response, Jacobson said the district intends to apply for a permit to divert more water from the Russian River during wet winters and to store it for the reservation’s use during the summer.

Balderama said the tribe was accessing how it would get its water needs met in the meantime.