Sonoma County Water Agency Structure

The Sonoma County Water Agency provides a functioning infrastructure and financial organization for regional water supply, wastewater management and flood control. Water agencies are also created to provide regulatory efficiency. The Agency controls or directs actions in the areas of Surface Water Development and Distribution, Ground Water Development, Storm and Flood Control, Sanitation, Recreation, Conservation and Land Use Monitoring. The Agency has the potential to have the greatest local influence on the health of the Russian River and its watershed. The Agency is administered as a part of the authority of the County of Sonoma. The General Manager of the Agency reports directly to the Board of Supervisors. There is no single, overall management authority to carry out daily direction and overall coordination. This function is in the hands of the Board of Supervisors, with assistance from the County Administrator, when so directed by the Board. The Agency, unlike any other in county government, is exempt from being required to respond to recommendations and questions raised by a Grand Jury. The Agency is an inter-county organization and this makes its spending immune to the California constitution provision that limits the amount of debt that a county can run up to a certain percent of its income.

The budget of the Agency is administered by the Office of County Administrator of the County of Sonoma. In 1991, Sonoma County had six elected department officials, 35 appointed agency and department heads and several contractual employees appointed by various agencies and had approximately 4,000 employees. The 1994-95 grand total of all county administered budgets was $606 million. The Agency administration department anticipated expenditures of $67.4 million with a net fund balance of $24.7 million. In addition the Agency administration or staffing and operations support anticipated expenditures of $20 million with a net fund balance of $6.6 million.

To better understand the Agency, there needs to be a discussion of its primary purpose which is as a Water District. Water Districts are local management users' cooperatives which are concerned, chiefly, with the collection, distribution, use and contracting for surface and ground water. Sonoma County's largest local water district is the Sonoma County Water Agency. The Agency is the wholesale supplier of water for eight retail contractors, including the City of Santa Rosa, City of Petaluma, North Marin Water District, Valley of the Moon Water District, City of Sonoma, City of Cotati, Forestville County Water District, and the City of Rohnert Park. The agency supplies other users including Ya-Ka-Ama, Santa Rosa Jr. College Agriculture Farm, Sonoma County Probation Department, Sonoma County Airport, Redwood Fibre Glass, Sis-Q Flying Service, California Division of Forestry, Nation Flight Service, Inc., Redwood Aviation Enterprises, Larkfield Water Company, County of Sonoma, Victor S & Mark H. Trione, Lawndate Mutual Water Company, Kenwood Village Water Company, Sonoma State Hospital, Penngrove Water Company, Feather Knoll Farm, Marvin Malacredi and C. H. Christensen.

The Agency provides domestic water to 280,000 residents of Sonoma County, 225,000 residents of Northern Marin County and 35,000 Mendocino County residents for a total of 540,000 domestic water users. It is a special district formed by Chapter 994 of the State Statues of 1949 and operates under the direction of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors acting as the Agency's Board of Directors. In 1961, the Board of Directors were given all rights to sell bonds without the vote of the public.

Bob Beach, consultant to SCWA estimates that for Russian River Water demands by 2010, the urban demand is to be 141,716 afa and the agricultural demand is to be 47,030 afa. The SCWA holds water rights permits to divert Russian River flows and redivert water stored and released from the Coyote Valley Dam (Lake Mendocino) and the Warm Springs Dam (Lake Sonoma). Mendocino County interests have a right to approximately 39,000 acre feet, and Sonoma County interests have rights to about 72,800 acre feet and Marin County rights are for 30,500 acre feet. The North Marin Water District, serving the City of Novato and the surrounding area, depends on the Russian River for its water demand. The Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), which supplies the southern Marin County area, depends on 15,000, out of its 40,000 water demands on the Russian River water. It has implemented an 1 8 year capital expenditure program to build facilities to deliver Russian River water including $55.3 million for a new facility and $30 million for expanded SCWA facilities.

The Agency is not restricted to expanding the water supply to its present customers nor is it restricted to using the bond money for supplying only Sonoma County. It can build an aqueduct for any City, County or developer or group of developers who will sign a contract and guarantee repayment of the bond money. Since the Agency is a water wholesaler, it has very little control over the end use of the water it supplies.

Flood Control consists of monitoring and managing stream flows in the Russian River and major tributaries. The Agency plans, constructs and maintains p, system of flood control, drainage and waterway facilities. Land use encompasses cooperation with the County Planning Department, whereby it develops and manages a program to monitor and regulate gravel extraction from the Russian River and its major tributaries. Working in cooperation with the various soil conservation districts, the Agency develops and administers programs for erosion control, and the protection and restoration of riparian corridors. The Agency reviews, inspects and approves plans and designs of land development projects for adequate drainage control and erosion control.

Sanitation was included as an Agency function in an Ordinance passed in late 1994, that gave the Agency as of January 1, 1995 the right to adopt uniform practices governing the use of sanitation facilities of the Agency; the construction of sanitation facilities; an industrial waste program; a grease, oil and sand interceptor program and an enforcement program, plus any administration procedures related to the above. As of early 1995, the Agency employees became a part of the County redesign effort. Agency employees became a part of the Permit and Resource Management) Department. The Engineering/Design of Treatment Plants and Collector systems staff of the County in turn moved to the Agency. The move meant that the Agency employees now fall under Civil Service Guidelines, the same as other County agencies' employees.

Under its Charter (Act 7757), the SCWA has the power to sue and be sued in all courts, to adopt a seal, to obtain real, personal and mixed property, to acquire by condemnation or purchase property of every kind within or without the district, and to have and exercise the right of eminent domain. It has the right to construct levees, dams, channels, tunnels and railroads, to incur indebtedness and to issue bonds, to levy assessments, appoint and employ, to transfer money from general funds of the district to any special funds, to control floods, to acquire surface waters and water rights, collect rates for services and impose penalties, to divert and transport water, to produce and sell surface and ground water, and operate recreation facilities.