Lynn Sutton, a civil engineer who worked for Mountain House developer Trimark and for the Mountain House Community Services District from 1988 to 2003, comments on Sunday’s story about the master-planned community’s water problems:
“When the community of Mountain House was first contemplated in 1988, I advised the then project manager for Trimark that, among other items, an adequate water supply was very important. I directed him to meet with Tom Shephard who was an attorney specializing in water rights. At that meeting, Tom indicated that (Byron-Bethany Irrigation District) did have established pre-1914 water rights, which at that time was considered a very reliable source of water. So reliable that it satisfied state requirements for a secure water supply. I don’t recall ever that there was talk of a backup source of water. It was not considered necessary.
“It should be understood that a previous major development called “Diablo Grande” located in Stanislaus County was the actual ”poster child” on water supply. When the project was approved, there was no defined plan for providing water to the project. The state took notice of this, and from then on all proposed developments were required to demonstrate that a reliable source of water must be secured before the development was approved. Mountain House did comply by demonstrating that a secure and reliable source was available from BBID.
“One issue that came up was for Trimark to include a “dual water system” as part of the development. Trimark fought this idea mainly because of the cost of installing the system. The dual system basically would have taken treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plan and use it to irrigate parks and public open space. If Trimark would have been required to install such a system, the water demand on BBID would have been significantly less. It was this issue that brought a lot of complaints from state and local officials, not the fact that Mountain House did not have a backup water supply.
“When the project was approved by the Board of Supervisors on November 10, 1994, I believe there were six unresolved items that county staff and Trimark could not agree on. They were brought before the board for their final decision. I don’t recall an adequate water supply was one of those issues.
“Your quote of Ed Simas is fairly accurate. I feel that the state has fallen down in its responsibility in planning for the California’s future water needs. What we are experiencing today clearly indicates that more source of water and more storage reservoirs are needed.
“Typically water systems provide storage for (1) fire flow, (2) peak hourly demands, and (3) equalizing flows in the distribution system. Providing storage for “drought conditions” is simply not feasible.”