FAQ

Table of Contents

Why is a Rate Increase needed?

The Browns Valley Irrigation District has had the good fortune of being able to provide subsidized rates to our customers from extraordinary revenues such as conserved water transfers and power generation. In fact, to date our rates have been so heavily subsidized that they only cover approximately 58% of the District’s core operating expenses, and that doesn’t include any capital improvement projects or equipment purchases.

To address this, in 2016 the District hired a third party consultant, Bartle Wells Associates, to analyze the rates and provide a thorough assessment and recommendation toward maintaining financial solvency. It was a result of that study that determined a substantial rate increase was necessary.

As in any industry, the cost of doing business has and will continue to rise. To exacerbate rising costs across the board, the District’s primary concern, above all, is an expected decline in revenue in relation to the increasing cost of operations. Since 1993, the District rates have only risen $85 a year for one-unit customers, from $175 to $260. In that same 24 years, the overall value of a dollar has dropped 67%.

The District has not operated with a structurally balanced budget (balanced without the use of reserves), in over a decade. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The District has done very well in leveraging extraordinary revenues in creative ways to keep the rates very low.

While we are hopeful that extraordinary revenues such as the conserved water transfer and power production will continue to bring some degree of prosperity to the District, every year the future of those subsidizing revenues are increasingly uncertain for the following reasons:

  • The ability to transfer water due to hydrology, environmental regulations and limited capacity at the Delta. In 2016, the District was unable to transfer any water, and 2017 will likely be the same. In addition, in years when transfers are possible, there is a large variability of market values making budgeting for them increasingly difficult. Furthermore, the District’s environmental approval for the conserved water transfer is only valid until 2025, and beyond that there is no guarantee;
  • Less certainty of market values for the Yuba River Accord’s Groundwater Substitution Program, or the capacity to transfer that water across the Delta.
  • Historically low wholesale power prices and the impact of mainstream solar integration, and emerging battery technologies, that may further reduce the demand for hydropower;
  • Increased costs associated with the Yuba County Water Agency’s power production at Colgate and the impact it has on the District’s shared power production agreement;
  • Increasing cost of utilities to operate the District infrastructure (96% increase from 2011 to 2016);
  • Aging infrastructure and the increasing cost of materials to repair and replace;
  • Increasing cost of maintenance for equipment and vehicles, as well as upgrades due to emissions laws;
  • The increasing costs of professional services, including legal counsel, who defend the District’s interests, including water rights, in an increasingly confrontational environment;
  • The increasing regulations along California waterways to comply with environmental standards, including more permitting and environmental mitigation requirements.

It is also important to remember that beginning in 2013 the District stopped collecting any revenue from taxes. The absence of tax revenue still represents a substantial loss to the current budget cycles by way of over $200,000 per year.

Also, the previous power production agreement with PG&E, which is the agreement that paid the District for BVID’s water running through Colgate and Narrows, produced revenues that were greatly inflated due to a gross overestimation by PG&E of how the price of electricity was projected to trend from the 1980’s through 2016.   As a result, in the final year of the agreement, revenue from that element alone was around $1.2 million. Unfortunately, as the Yuba County Water Agency took full control of the operation in 2016, a new agreement was executed that was more in line with CAISO pricing. The new agreement will have much more variability, generating anywhere from an estimated $250,000 to $750,000 for BVID. Those figures will be tremendously difficult to predict and depend on a combination of YCWA’s operating costs, the year’s hydrology and most importantly, the CAISO day ahead pricing, which is projected to remain low for the foreseeable future. As you can see, that alone is between a $450,000 and $950,000 reduction.

In addition to the complexities listed above, given this year’s hydrology, a conserved water transfer seems unlikely for a second year in a row. As the District has come to rely on those revenues, the absence of a transfer for multiple consecutive years will result in an even greater drawdown of our reserves for not only the 2017 Budget, but will assuredly impact the 2018 budget as well. Also, even in the event the District is able to transfer water in 2017, with the snowpack at over 200% of the historical average in the San Joaquin watershed, the market values will likely be significantly less and produce well below the revenues realized over the past several years.

However, due to conservative management and several years of fortuitous water transfers, the District has built a healthy reserve to help weather the coming shortfall. Nevertheless, BVID strongly feels that it is in the District’s best interest to enact policies that will ensure continued financial solvency in the event our extraordinary revenue sources fail to materialize, or otherwise come up short.

As a result, the time to act is now while in the position where we can use our reserves to bridge the gap and insulate our customers from sudden, unendurable rate increases by adopting a more systematic approach. The primary objective is to position the District so that all essential, core operational expenses are eventually covered by rate revenue and that any extraordinary revenues go toward funding capital improvement projects. Below is a chart that illustrates the volatility of BVID’s biggest source of extraordinary revenues from 2011 to 2016 (note how rate revenue remains static and in years when there is no Conserved Water Transfer the O&M costs exceeds the total revenue):

revenue-vs-core-operations

Table 1 – The spike in total revenues in 2013, 2014 and 2015 resulted from extraordinarily high conserved water transfers. The District was able to contribute to reserves during these years.

The lack of meaningful increases over the past couple decades, combined with an increasing reliance on uncertain revenues, has led to this position. It is very clear that a need to correct the shortfall is inevitable, either now or in the future, otherwise the District will eventually face a financial crisis. Unfortunately, the longer the District waits to close the deficit, the more dramatic sudden increases will be for the customers as costs will continue to rise.

Despite expected protests, BVID’s approach is that to take steps to address this issue now is a much more palatable means of preserving the District’s financial health opposed to waiting until it’s too late. It is our number one priority to preserve the District’s fiscal health, as well as our storied history, while protecting our customers from increases as much as we can.

In short, what is being proposed is an incremental solution that uses foresight as an advantage toward preventing what will be astronomical rate increases in the future, and one that we are certain our successors will look back and thank us for. Back to top

What is an In-District vs. Out of District Customer?

Throughout the District’s 55,000 acres, there are some parcels that have never been annexed into BVID. Unlike “In-District” parcels, these “Out of District” parcels haven’t paid the same assessments toward the dam and delivery infrastructure.  As a result, the District charges more for water delivered to these parcels, as well as an additional $120 “infrastructure charge.”

In 2016, of the District’s 1,347 customers, only 20 are considered “Out of District.” Nevertheless, the District is currently undergoing an annexation process that will nearly eliminate these remaining parcels by bringing them into the District legally. In order to complete that process, each owner will pay $465 per acre, which is a result of the cost of the dam, calculated in 2014 dollars, divided by the total acreage in the District.    Because of the increased cost associated with out of District water as well as the District’s policy to not guarantee future deliveries out of District, most affected property owners have opined that the annexation cost is well worth it in the end.  It is important to know that these parcels are within BVID’s service area and very likely belong to one of your neighbors. Back to top

How is BVID working to keep our rates as low as possible?

BVID’s Board and staff alike are committed to providing the best customer service with the lowest rates possible. Living in Browns Valley or Loma Rica is a special way of life and we are all stakeholders in that. Nobody wants to see a rate increase, especially when all of your other costs are going up. Some of the things BVID is doing to help offset the increased costs of doing business are:

  • Responsible management of resources: Our staff is incredibly skilled at reusing and innovating pieces and parts reclaimed from other projects. In addition, many parts such as service connections and paddlewheels are manufactured in our shop in Browns Valley.
  • Reduction in staff: The District is choosing to not refill two job vacancies. In fact, we are doing more cross training to adopt a more “lean and mean” management style. In addition, in 2016 the District hired an objective third party salary consultant to conduct a comprehensive compensation study. The results of that study revealed that although BVID’s management staff is well below the mean for the region, the field crew is right in line. Having a correct salary actually helps save money in the long run by reducing attrition and turnover which leads to extensive training periods that are redundant and take away from productivity.
  • Fleet reduction: With less staff, the need for vehicle replacements lessen. In addition, as the District is short two fleet trucks, only one replacement will be identified in the 2017 budget and anytime vehicles or equipment are purchased they are subject to a strict bidding process.
  • The District is continually exploring energy saving measures, including the cost effectiveness of renewable energies such as solar.

The District aggressively applies for grant funding when available for many of its capital improvement projects. Back to top

Why doesn’t BVID offer a discount for paying my account in full each year?

As many of you may recall, several years ago BVID offered a discount for any account paid in full by April 30 of each season. Through 2012 customers realized a 5% discount, and in 2013 that 5% transitioned into a flat $8 per account before the District had to cease the program in 2014 due to interest rates.

During the years that BVID was able to offer the incentive, the District reinvested your annual payment with the bank and it yielded a return to pay for the savings. In essence, the District did not make a return, but instead passed it on to the customers as another mechanism to subsidize the rates to keep them as low as possible.  Unfortunately, over the past few years, interest rates have at historic lows and this benefit was no longer practical without running into a “gift of public funds” issue.  However, the District does continue to allow payments of the annual rate at no interest or additional fees (except when paying with a credit card, see below).Back to top

Why is there an additional fee when paying by credit card?

When paying by credit card, no matter who the merchant, public or private, there is a fee associated with the transaction. Most of the time the customer does not see the fee because it is typically absorbed by the merchant as a convenience for the customer doing business with them.

However, a public agency cannot absorb those fees because what is considered a convenience for those who pay by credit card would technically be funded by other rate payers and cannot be absorbed by the District. BVID is considered a “Special District,” which is a public agency and is subject to various laws and regulations that prevent a “gift of public funds.”  Nevertheless, BVID gladly offers the service as a flexible payment option so that payments can be made over the phone or via online bill pay if it’s easier for some customers.

Like all other government, education and public utility providers, the District uses Municipay as its electronic payment processing solution and the fee is currently 2.95% of each transaction (2017), or a minimum of $3.00 whichever is greater.

Unfortunately, that fee goes directly to Municipay and the District receives no portion of it.  If we did, we would certainly pass it on to you.Back to top

What is a Conserved Water Transfer?

In the late 1980’s, BVID developed what is known as the Upper Main Pipeline and in the process, abandoned the incredibly inefficient Upper Main Ditch that was used to deliver water to much of the District from the Yuba River.

At the same time, the District conducted a study to determine how much water was lost from leaks in the Upper Main Ditch by comparing surrounding vegetation before the ditch was abandoned to after. The vegetation die-off resulting from the abandonment translated into about 5,500 acre feet of water per year that was leaking from the ditch! From that 5,500 AF, it was determined that 3,100 AF was transferable and thus, the Conserved Water Transfer was born.

With the help of the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA), 3,100 AF is stored in New Bullards Bar every year available for transfer. BVID maintains a long term “first right of refusal” agreement with two large water districts south of the Delta and when a sale occurs, that revenue has historically gone to fund capital improvement projects, equipment purchases as well as to stabilize rates.

Unfortunately, the political environment in California is making transfers more difficult and legal battles over the Delta are not helping. While the District does foresee these transfers to continue, we are not certain when nor the price per acre foot. BVID was not able to transfer water in 2016 due to too little transfer capacity in the Delta, and 2017 will very likely be the same. In addition, BVID’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this transfer expires in 2025 and there is no guarantee of its future beyond that. To make matters worse, EIR’s can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Nevertheless, the District is planning on more transfers before 2025 and will use those funds to help finance projects, equipment as well as provide a buffer to our reserves as the rates catch up to the cost of operations over the next decade. Back to top

What is the Power Production Agreement with YCWA?

In 1960, BVID and PG&E developed an agreement to pay BVID $74,000 per year for its water to run through the Colgate and Narrows powerhouses on the Yuba River through 2013. Decades later, in 1990, as BVID abandoned the Upper Main ditch, the 5,500 acre feet that was now being left in the Yuba River would also be made available to produce electricity similar to the 1960 agreement and would supplement the 28,672 acre feet being used under the original agreement.

However, in contrast to the fixed amount in the 1960 agreement, BVID and PG&E negotiated what was a best estimate for wholesale power prices for that 5,500 AF through the end of the agreement in 2016. Fortunately for BVID, PG&E was optimistic and over the life of the agreement the District netted nearly 150% of actual wholesale prices which allowed BVID much flexibility in keeping rates low.

Also, concurrently, in 2014, once the 1960 agreement expired, an addendum was reestablished for the 28,672 AF to run through the powerhouses until the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) assumed full control of Colgate in 2016. From 2014 to 2016, BVID received revenue based on the actual price of wholesale power opposed to the $74,000.

Interestingly enough, PG&E had overestimated on the 1990 agreement so much, the 5,500 AF still generated more revenue than the 27,672 AF at real world pricing at the end of both agreements!

In the final year (2015) of the two BVID and PG&E agreements, BVID generated approximately $1.2 million.

In 2016, as YCWA took full ownership of the projects at New Bullards Bar and Narrows, BVID and YCWA sat down as partners to negotiate the terms of a new power production agreement. The final agreement was similar to the original agreements and they are largely based on the wholesale price of power and the amount generated through both powerhouses using BVID’s 47.2 CFS water right on the Yuba River.

Unfortunately, however, because YCWA is much smaller than PG&E and does not have the same capability to spread its losses, the cost of power production will likely be much higher. As a result, it is estimated that under the new agreement with YCWA, the District will generate anywhere between $250,000 and $750,000 per year.

Of course, the final amount depends on O&M costs to both the Colgate and Narrows powerhouses, as well as hydrology and the wholesale price pf power. It is clear, however, that the new agreement will yield much less than the $1 million plus the District had come to rely on in the final several years of the previous two agreements. Back to top

My PG&E bill keeps increasing, why is there not an increase to BVID’s revenue from power production accordingly?

First, BVID feels your pain. The cost of running the District’s pumps went from $94,817 in 2011 to $185,974 in 2016, or a 96% increase!

The best way to answer that question is to explain the difference between retail and wholesale power. Retail electricity is the electricity that we all write a check for every month, including the District, and encompasses PG&E’s entire operation including wholesale power cost, the cost to produce that power, the cost of the distribution system, as well as labor and other expenses.  And that is all before profit, because PG&E is a publicly traded “for profit” company with demanding shareholders.

Wholesale power on the other hand, at least how it applies in this context, is the daily market value of electricity produced at a specific site and what it can be sold for per megawatt hour.  This can be tracked in real time with California ISO’s (CAISO) market price maps at http://www.caiso.com/pages/pricemaps.aspx.

Unfortunately, due to the falling price of oil and natural gas, market prices have been at a record low for several years with no end in sight. This doesn’t take into account the cost to produce the electricity, which is again, not reflected in this amount.  It does not include any costs to produce the power, only what it is worth on the market. This figure is what companies like PG&E pay for the electricity before adding all of their costs to deliver it to you.

BVID’s largest source of power revenue comes from the power production agreement with the Yuba County Water Agency as explained in the previous section and strictly adheres to CAISO wholesale pricing (more specifically “Day Ahead Market Locational Marginal Price”) at “COLGATE_2_7_B1” near Dobbins.

BVID’s other source of power revenue comes from generation at the base of the Virginia Ranch Dam which is valued a little differently. BVID has the capability to produce just under 1,000 kilowatts (depending on the lake level and releases) and is currently halfway through a ten (10) year contract with PG&E that pays a fixed base rate per kilowatt hour with multipliers applied dependent on the month, day of the week and the time of day.

Base Rate per Kilowatt:

Year Base Rates Year Base Rates
2012 Baseload MPR 0.07688 2018 Baseload MPR 0.09831
2013 Baseload MPR 0.08103 2019 Baseload MPR 0.10186
2014 Baseload MPR 0.08454 2020 Baseload MPR 0.10550
2015 Baseload MPR 0.08804 2021 Baseload MPR 0.10916
2016 Baseload MPR 0.09156 2022 Baseload MPR 0.11299
2017 Baseload MPR 0.09488 2023 Baseload MPR 0.11691

Multipliers to the Base Rate per Period:

Monthly Period Super Peak Shoulder Night
June – September 2.38 1.12 0.59
October – February 1.10 0.94 0.66
March – May 1.22 0.90 0.61

Because of the figures in the above charts, the values remain generally fixed. Unfortunately, the costs to produce that power are not fixed and have become enormously variable.  In addition, as the lake level drops throughout the season, the generator is unable to produce the same amount of power due to decreased head pressure.

In addition, the District’s generator relies on 1950’s technology and is prone to major reliability concerns. Although BVID is working to modernize it in incremental steps each year, the District encounters several outages every season.

Furthermore, because the District generates power, the dam is subject to oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and many of their requirements are tremendously onerous and expensive. Nevertheless, despite the costs, the generator still does create some revenue and that of course is passed onto the customer to keep rates as low as possible.Back to top

Why does BVID not collect property taxes?

BVID’s final year of collecting property taxes was in 2012 because that is the year all the bonds for constructing the dam were paid in full. However, because of the District’s prudent financial management, the payment on the bonds was substantially less than the property tax revenue toward the end of the 50-year payoff, and those savings were applied toward critical District maintenance.  The absence of property taxes in 2013 created a deficit that was absorbed by extraordinary revenues including lucrative conserved water transfers.  A brief history of that process is explained as follows:

On September 13, 1960, BVID residents were asked to cast their vote on the Virginia Ranch Dam Project and approved an agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) for a 50 year, $5,000,000 loan agreement, 238 to 8. Studies conducted prior to the public vote considered the VRD project feasible based on property tax values, available water tolls and income from the generation of electricity by additional water that would become available on the Yuba River by the Virginia Ranch Dam project.

On September 20, 1960, the contract was signed that remained in effect until the final payment was made on August 1, 2012. The project’s completion marked the start date of the repayment period of the loan, which was essentially zero interest to the District.

Per the contract, the loan proceeds were made available for the “construction of the Virginia Ranch Dam and Reservoir (now named Collins Lake), a tunnel, new canals, a pumping plant and rehabilitation and enlargement of existing canals primarily for the purpose of delivering water for irrigation to lands within the District and incidentally for municipal water supply therein and for making water available for generation of power.”

Once completed, the contract required BVID to “care for, operate, and maintain the project works” during the term of the contract. It also provided that “The District will cause to be levied and collected all necessary taxes and assessments and will use all of the authority and resources of the District to meet its obligations hereunder, to make in full all payments to be made pursuant to this contract on or before the date such payments become due and to meet its other obligations under this contract. The District may use funds available to it from any source and require the payment of toll charges and/or levy assessments to meet its obligations hereunder.”

The tax rate, which was based on the value of bare land only, was set by the BVID Board of Directors every year. Originally BVID billed and collected the tax based on the Yuba County property tax appraisal, but that role was later fulfilled by the County itself through their yearly tax statement.

In 1988, the USBR advised BVID that they would be willing to accept a payoff of $850,000 for the outstanding loan balance of $2.9 million. In response, BVID sold $1,050,000 in refunding bonds to pay off the loan as well as to cover the cost of the bond sale.  Although the payoff and refunding in 1988 did not provide any immediate savings to the District because the yearly bond payment was near the same, the District did realize a net savings over the period of the loan of over 1.2 million by the refinance.

In 2002, to further save money by lowering the interest cost of the refunding bonds, of the remaining balance of $430,000, $330,000 of the bonds were paid off using proceeds from out of district water sales and a new $100,000 interest only bond was issued. From 2002 to 2012, the only yearly debt payment was the 5.5% interest owed on the $100,000 bond.   In addition, the Board set aside each $10,000 each year to pay off the bond when it came due in 2012.

Furthermore, because the contract required BVID to “care for, operate, and maintain the project works,” the savings generated through the refinancing of the loan, and subsequent bonds, was applied to offset water rate increases by its use toward District operations and maintenance.

As was planned, in 2012 BVID paid the remainder of the bond off after it had changed a number of times since the original loan in 1960. As a result, beginning in 2013, BVID no longer assessed a property tax to land owners within the District. Back to top

What are some of BVID’s Capital Improvement Projects?

BVID is always exploring ways to be more efficient and reduce wasted water while providing the best customer service as possible. One way to do that is to systematically replace ditches with pipe. Our pipeline projects are always evolving and several of our most notable pipeline projects include:

  • Peoria / Ellis Pipeline – This will eventually provide pressurized service to customers in the Sicard Flat area;
  • Sicard Ditch /Pipeline – This will eliminate several miles of leaking ditch and solve reliability issues in the Valley of the Eagles, Monument Trail and Too Handy subdivisions. More importantly, eliminating the leaks in the Sicard Ditch will save nearly five (5) feet of lake elevation each season!
  • Pumpline Canal Improvements – In 2015, the District hired an engineering firm to develop ways to get more water from the Yuba River to the end of the Pumpline Canal in the lower District. The District will leverage reserves and grants to remove several choke points identified in that study.
  • Tennessee Ditch Hydroelectric Project – This will create an additional source of revenue for the District by installing a small hydroelectric facility along Marysville Road.

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What is BVID’s Reserve Policy?

BVID has a conservative reserve policy in place to backstop any unforeseen expenses. However, until the rates neutralize the deficit between operating revenue and expenses, the District will be relying on reserves more now than ever.

The District Reserve Policy (subject to Board action) will invoke another Proposition 218 study and process if the District’s total reserves drop below one (1) year of total operating expenses or if the District’s O&M reserves drop below six (6) months of that year’s core O&M expenses, whichever comes first. Back to top

What is the yearly Administrative Charge?

It is the administrative fee that each parcel pays per year. It covers many of the operational expenses associated with managing the District, including the extensive work to maintain our water rights.

If you receive water for more than one adjacent parcel, you are only required to pay one service charge per year.Back to top

What is a “Unit”?

It is a rate of flow determined by an orifice plate inside your service box. A one-unit plate will allow 10 gallons per minute through your service box. Two units equals 20 gallons per minute and so on.

Because a “Miner’s Inch” can be a confusing method of measurement, and even differs in volume regionally, the Unit replaced the Miner’s Inch in 2012. Back to top

What is the purpose of the O’Brien Pipeline on Fruitland Road?

The O’Brien Pipeline was a drought project constructed in 2014 using revenues from a conserved water transfer. Generally, several large agricultural customers in Loma Rica purchase water from Collins Lake to irrigate their crops. In normal years, this is well tolerated by the capacity in Collins Lake. However, in dry years, the nearly 2,000 AF they purchase can really put a strain on supplies (about 2 feet of lake elevation). The O’Brien Pipeline, when activated, takes that water from the Yuba River via the Pumpline Canal and pumps it north to those fields, thereby saving the water in Collins Lake for use in the upper District. Back to top

What is the purpose of the Saddleback Lift Pump?

Similar to the O’Brien Pipeline, this is another drought project constructed in 2016 using revenues from a conserved water transfer.   The Saddleback Ranch has partially received water from the Yuba River for several years to conserve water in Collins Lake. Until 2016 however, it was pumped from the Pumpline Canal with a diesel powered pump, which was noisy and inefficient. That motor was replaced with a much quieter electric variable frequency drive to reduce noise and air pollution, as well as to reduce the need to have fuel delivered to the site. Back to top

What is the BVID/YCWA Water Supply Agreement and how is “project” water different from “water rights” water?

BVID’s water right on the Yuba River was established on March 21, 1890 and was 47.2 CFS, measured at Goodyear’s Bar in Sierra County. However, in the early 2000’s, the State Water Resources Control Board ruled in Decision RWD-1644 (Fisheries Resources and Water Right Issues of the Lower Yuba River) that the 47.2 CFS water right was in excess of BVID’s actual agricultural use year round and subsequently assigned the following constraints to the diversions per month:

bvids-water-right

In addition to BVID’s water right, the District also entered into an agreement to purchase 9,500 acre feet annually from the Yuba County Water Agency in the 1980’s. This became known as “project water.” This block of water served as a buffer to ensure the District would not exceed its diversion amounts as set by RWD-1644, and in the world of water, more is always better.

As that agreement, and its subsequent amendments in 1986 and 1992 came to a close in 2016, BVID again sat down as a partner with the Yuba County Water Agency to negotiate the terms of a new thirty (30) year agreement. In many respects, the agreement remains the same in that the District will continue to purchase 9,500 acre feet annually to protect its interests over future growth. However, there are several protections built in that weren’t in the previous agreement.

Most notably, the previous agreement had no provision to protect the District in the event our pre-1914 water right was curtailed (as nearly occurred in 2015), and under the new agreement, any curtailments will be supplied by YCWA from storage at New Bullards Bar. Back to top

What date does the water season start/stop?

There are no specific start/stop dates for the yearly irrigation season but rather, it is determined by the weather. In years with normal rainfall, the season begins when the spring rains have ended and the majority of our customers will benefit from irrigation water. The season continues until sometime in the fall when the fall rains begin. Generally speaking, these dates occur in late April and October, but can vary greatly due to the weather.

Because these start/stop dates are so arbitrary, we are unable to prorate irrigation bills.Back to top

What does BVID staff do during the wintertime?

Believe it or not, the wintertime can be as busy as the summertime for everyone at BVID. The office staff remains very engaged in managing projects, working with legal and consultant staff, working through very complex permitting processes as well as the daily cycle of budgeting and administration.

The field crew is equally hard at work doing a number of things that cannot be completed during the summer months while they are otherwise chasing leaks, breakages and installing pipelines:

  • Dam and powerhouse maintenance
  • Pump maintenance
  • Service installations, repairs and valve replacements
  • Clearing of brush and downed trees
  • Equipment repairs and maintenance
  • Pipeline projects (weather permitting)
  • Hardware fabrication (Our services, lock mechanisms and paddlewheels are constructed in house)
  • Ditch and spill board maintenance
  • Pesticide spraying on ditches and around infrastructure

Additionally, our crewmembers use most of their vacation time during the winter months, especially during inclement weather, due to the summer months having an exceptionally high workload. Back to top

How often does BVID purchase new equipment or vehicles?

BVID takes great pride in having a capable fleet of equipment to complete most, if not all construction and repair projects, without needing to hire outside services. Generally speaking, equipment is only purchased when absolutely necessary and by using funds from a Conserved Water Transfer.

The same philosophy applies to the District’s vehicles. Like any service provider, reliable transportation to get from jobsite to jobsite is critical.  Unfortunately, the diverse terrain in Browns Valley (ditch banks, etc.) can be punishing on pickups and the District begins looking at replacement after 100,000 miles, usually after 5-7 years. Typically, at that point, the repairs begin to outweigh the combined resale and the cost of purchasing a replacement vehicle.

When purchasing new vehicles, the District initiates a competitive bid process for base model trucks and spends many thousands less than “invoice” due to governmental fleet purchase incentives. In addition, the District typically recovers $3,000 to $4,000 per pickup on resale which actually makes the entire transaction cheaper when compared to repairing vehicles approaching the end of their functional life.  In addition to reduced costs over time, it also reduces downtime due to increased reliability from warrantied vehicles.

Fueling the District’s equipment and vehicles also comes at the largest cost savings possible. The District purchases its fuels and oils in bulk to avoid markups otherwise paid at a fill station.  In addition, BVID conducts a competitive bid process every couple years to ensure that the fuel delivered to the District is the cheapest in the area.  This process results in annual fuel costs that are thousands of dollars less than if we were to fill at local gas stations.Back to top

Why is the ditch overflowing during heavy rains?

BVID’s ditches were designed to accommodate irrigation supplies and often heavy rains can be overwhelmed, acting as rain gutters for the hillside. There are many spill boards throughout the District to relieve this overflow, but sometimes rain can be heavy enough to outpace the rate of spill and overflow the ditch banks. Because that water is from rainfall and not from releases, BVID is not responsible for water overflowing as a result of weather. Back to top

What part of the irrigation system maintenance belongs to BVID and what part belongs to the property owner?

The property owner is responsible for any issue after the service box on the property owner’s side. BVID only maintains the infrastructure to get water to your service box including the service box itself.Back to top

Does BVID work on weekends?

Yes, BVID has somebody available 7 days per week during the irrigation season (excluding holidays) at the Operations Office at (530) 742-6044.  If you encounter a problem, please call that number and if there is no answer, please leave a message because it is checked several times throughout the day on Saturdays and Sundays.  It is fairly normal that the phone is not answered as there are only one or two crewmembers on shift during the weekends (to save on overtime costs) and they are in and out of the shop in between work orders to check the voicemail regularly.Back to top

What if there is a major break or problem after hours?

If the BVID Operations Office is closed, please call the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department at (530) 749-7777 and they have a contact procedure for afterhours operations. Please only call afterhours if there is an issue that threatens damage to property, is a safety issue or is otherwise resulting in a significant loss of water. Otherwise, if it can wait until the following morning please consider that.Back to top

My water was off due to a break or repair. Do I get a refund for the day (s) I did not receive water?

No. As explained above, because of the arbitrary start/stop days of the irrigation season we are unable to prorate and therefore, cannot give refunds. Additionally, you are paying for water at a unit rate, which is a rate of flow not a total volume of water. Back to top

Can BVID water be used for household purposes such as drinking, bathing or cooking?

No. The Browns Valley Irrigation District only provides raw, untreated agricultural water for irrigation use only. While BVID tries to keep the ditches as clean as possible, they are open and subject to any natural contamination that occurs along the way.  Many miles of BVID’s ditches are located in pasture land and whatever is on the ground easily runs off into the waterways, including animals that are frequently encountered by our crews as they inspect the ditches.Back to top

Can BVID water leave my property under any circumstance?

No. The customer must take all reasonable measures to ensure that water does not leave their property through runoff, pond releases or otherwise.  Runoff is actually a violation of several State and local laws and with the drought still fresh in our minds, BVID strictly enforces prudent use.  In addition, all surface water in the District belongs to and is salable as tailwater by BVID so for a property owner to deliver and/or resell the water to another user is strictly prohibited.Back to top

How do I get a BVID pipeline in my area?

See the publication “Request for a New Pressure Pipeline” in our Forms & Publications section or contact the District office for more information. Back to top

How many miles of ditches and pipelines does BVID maintain?

BVID maintains 80 miles of open ditches and 124 miles of pipelines extending from those ditches. In the upper district, or areas generally served by Collins Lake, there are 60.5 miles of open ditches and 120.5 miles of sealed pipelines (not including individual services).  In the lower District, or the area generally served by the Yuba River, there are 18.7 miles of open ditches and 3.5 miles of sealed pipelines.Back to top

How does BVID pressurize its water?

The vast majority of the District’s pressurized services are maintained by gravity from Collins Lake and more specifically, where the ditches transition into sealed pipelines at a higher elevation than the property it is delivered. Several small areas of the District do receive help from booster pumps, and those customers are responsible for the pumping costs associated delivering to those specific areas.  To keep costs down, service to those areas is typically only available during what are considered “non-peak” hours through PG&E.

The one exception to those services is on and near Redhill Way (also White Oak and Mourning Dove), where additional pumping is required throughout the season. Unfortunately, those customers are also charged what is called the “Redhill East Infrastructure Charge” which funds the additional infrastructure to get water to those customers.  To save utility charges for those customers as much as the District can, BVID employs a gravity type pump that uses the energy of the water coming down the pipeline to push it up into the Redhill subdivision.Back to top

I think my neighbor is stealing (or misusing) water, what should I do?

Call the Operations Office (530-742-6044) and give us the address where you believe the offense is taking place. We will research the matter and take action to correct misuse, if any. Back to top

I need to do some digging around my property. How can I be sure not to hit a BVID line?

Call USA North at 1-800-227-2600 at no cost to you and at least 48 hours prior to digging. They will take your information and notify not only BVID but other possible utilities (PG&E, telephone co., etc.). If there is a BVID structure in the area that you specify, we will come to your property and mark our structure in blue paint. PLEASE NOTE: If you DO NOT call USA North and you damage a BVID structure while digging, you will be held financially responsible for the repair of the structure. Back to top

I just had a service box installed. What size connection is it?

Our outlets are 1 1/4” female pvc. Back to top