SONORA, CA: The water distribution system of Tuolumne Utilities District (TUD) is essential to the District and is what is used to convey 95% of the water delivered to its customers. The intertwining 57 mile ditch system canals need constant maintenance to ensure that water remains flowing at all times. Most of the original TUD ditch system was
conceived and constructed by a group of energetic and resourceful miners in the early 1850’s to deliver water to the communities and miners in Sonora, Jamestown and Columbia.
The District is continuing its partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), Baseline Conservation Camp #30, as part of the Sierra Conservation Center. The District, for the past twenty years, has been assisted at times by the trained Baseline Camp. These camps are operated in conjunction with the California Department of Corrections (CDC) and the California Youth Authority (CYA). Through these cooperative efforts CDF is authorized to operate 198 fire crews year round. These crews are available to respond to all types of emergencies including wildfires, floods, search and rescues,
and earthquakes. When not responding to emergencies, the crews are busy with conservation and community service work projects for state, federal, and local government agencies.
TUD has benefited by using Baseline for ditch maintenance or special emergency circumstances such as the Columbia Ditch repair last winter. The Baseline Camp consists of low risk inmates that are trained for specialized duties to be called on for fighting fires throughout the state. There are currently 42 such Baseline type camps throughout the state. According to Baseline Captain, Brent Seideo, the Baseline crews go through a rigorous two week training and have to earn the right to serve as a member on the
Baseline Camp. They also have to pass a physical fitness course to see if they can handle the physical requirements needed to serve on Baseline.
For the past three weeks Baseline Camp #30 has been working on cleaning TUD’s Algerine Ditch which is located off of Algerine Road in the Jamestown area. As one of the oldest sections of ditch, constructed in 1852 by the Tuolumne Hydraulic Company, it is one of the longest sections to maintain stretching over 13 miles. “Their work here on the Ditch system is essential to clear out any debris and it is difficult to do without them,” states Ty Day, Ditch Tender for TUD. Day is one of the three District Ditch Tenders that walk and work the 57 mile ditch system.
“We try to use the Baseline resources as much as possible and always keep them in mind if there is a project where we can call them in,” states Leonard Mauro, Operations Manager. Having the 15 member Baseline crew cleaning up the Algerine Ditch has saved the District over $12,000 in just one week. It costs an estimated $1,000 a week for the Baseline crew compared to bringing in a part-time temporary crew that would cost the District over $13,000.
“Using Baseline is just an opportunity for the District to reduce costs where we can. They have been a valuable resource for us to stay connected with and we will continue to use them in the future when the opportunity arises,” states Pete Kampa, District General Manager.
The Tuolumne Utilities District currently serves over 44,000 Tuolumne County residents. The District currently owns and operates 15 water treatment plants, 81 treated water storage tanks, two wastewater treatment plants, approximately 57 miles of open ditches and 330 miles of treated water pipeline.