The solution to Mendocino’s water shortage might involve a very old train

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 2021

“Because of the drought, dozens of wells in town are producing limited water, or none at all. The nearby city that was providing backup supplies doesn’t have enough to share anymore. And now, as the community, which relies solely on groundwater, struggles to get by on what remains in the wells, residents and water officials are pinning their hopes on a handful of uncertain, even unusual, ideas.

“One of the most peculiar is to get water by hauling it in nearly 40 miles on a storied logging railroad that today carries a tourist train. The Skunk Train, as it is known, may also turn out to be the best option.

“Under a proposal by Robert Pinoli, president of the Skunk Train’s parent company, Mendocino Railway, diesel locomotives could pull eight tanker cars, each carrying 25,000 gallons of water daily from Willits to the outskirts of Fort Bragg. The water would then be trucked to Mendocino …

“[Mendocino County Supervisor John Haschak] noted that even if an emergency fix is agreed upon, which remains a big if, there are still questions about the long-term viability of Mendocino’s water supply.

“Mendocino residents now have to truck in water from other places, including the smaller rural communities of Elk and Westport. They have less to give than Fort Bragg, and costs are higher because of longer drive times.

“Many want the town to pursue a new source of water to complement its diminishing wells, plus add a centralized delivery system so supplies can be shared. With so few households to cover the cost of new infrastructure, however, the community’s options are limited.

Read the full article here(~6 min.)

Related: Mary Callahan in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported on August 10 how Russian River diversions have been halted as water supplies from Lake Mendocino dwindle, curtailing water for grape growers, ranchers, and residents Mendocino and northern Sonoma counties. Read that story here. (~ 4 min.)

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