Monday, September 09, 2013

Forest Service threatens water supply

The water supply for 250 residents of the Banning Bench and a century-old resource for the city of Banning are threatened by complex permitting issues involving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Forest Service. Federal commission staff will be in Banning for a conference on Thursday, Sept. 12, with people involved in different aspects of the regulatory dilemma. At issue is a 1913 flume that carries snow melt about 14 miles, from just above Raywood Flat in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National Forest southwest to a turnout where Banning Heights Mutual Water Co. has a reservoir. From there, water is piped uphill to shareholders and the excess percolates into ponds in the Banning Water Canyon for city use. Southern California Edison has a federal permit to operate hydroelectric facilities on the flume but no longer generates power and has filed a federal application to surrender its license. The city of Banning is seeking a federal permit to take over the flume operation and possibly pursue a hydroelectric project, said Duane Burk, city public works director. But about 1,100 feet of pipeline crosses San Bernardino National Forest land. The Forest Service has notified Edison that the manmade improvements must be removed by Jan. 1, 2014. Burk said the Forest Service determined that the flume facilities didn’t fit into the land management plan for the forest. Burk contends that hydroelectric facilities are allowed...more

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