News Worth Noting: NorCal House Democrats support efforts to get answers on ‘WaterFix’ tunnels funding; New report on groundwater management in adjudicated basins; L.A. Water Board files lawsuit against Army Corps; New roadmap for LA to scale up decentralized, alternate water supplies
Northern CA House Democrats Support Non-profits’ Efforts to Get Answers on ‘WaterFix’ Tunnels Funding
From Congressman Jerry McNerney’s office:
Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09), along with Northern California House Reps. Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Mike Thompson (CA-05), and John Garamendi (CA-03), sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in support of the efforts of four statewide non-profit organizations, looking for answers about the Bureau’s funding and federal assistance grants to the California Department of Water Resources to support Governor Jerry Brown’s “WaterFix” tunnels plan.
The non-profit organizations include: the Planning and Conservation League, the Southern California Watershed Alliance, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the California Water Impact Network. You can read their original letter to the Bureau of Reclamation here.
UC Santa Cruz researchers evaluate groundwater supply and management in adjudicated basins
From the University of California Santa Cruz:
Court adjudication of California’s groundwater basins is more often focused on resolving conflicts among water users and less on sustainable groundwater management, according to a UC Santa Cruz study commissioned by the State Water Resources Control Board.
The finding comes in “An Evaluation of California’s Adjudicated Groundwater Basins” scheduled for release today (Feb. 18).
The board contracted with Ruth Langridge, a UC Santa Cruz researcher with the Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, to review the history, development, overall condition and current management practices for all of California’s court-adjudicated groundwater basins.
The research team that created the report also includes UC Santa Cruz sociology Ph.D. students Abigail Brown and Kirsten Rudestam, and Esther Conrad, a recent Ph.D. graduate of UC Berkeley.
L.A. Regional Water Board Files Lawsuit Against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Clean Water Act Violations
From the State Water Resources Control Board:
After multiple violations of the federal Clean Water Act in the Los Angeles River and its tributaries, and a concern for future compliance, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Filing a citizen complaint, the Regional Water Board alleges the Army Corps failed to obtain the requisite water quality certification under the federal Clean Water Act (Section 401) and federal regulations before embarking on two dredge and fill operations in the Los Angeles River and its tributaries. The alleged violations took place between 2011 and 2012.
“The Los Angeles Regional Water Board has made every effort to work with the Army Corps of Engineers in seeking compliance with the Section 401 requirements of the Clean Water Act and federal regulations. Unfortunately, the Army Corps has consistently demonstrated a failure to comply,” said Charles Stringer, chair of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. “Their actions have forced the Regional Board to file suit in federal court to ensure compliance with laws that protect the water quality and environment of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries.”
The complaint addresses non-emergency projects, and the Regional Water Board will not ask the court to delay any emergency flood control projects that will ensure public safety in this El Niño year. Instead, the State’s water boards have worked with the Army Corps to use existing state water quality certifications to ensure that emergency work can go forward before anticipated heavy rains.
The first violation took place at the Verdugo Wash, which is a tributary of the L.A. River in Glendale, just north of downtown Los Angeles. This area of the L.A. River is known as the Glendale Narrows, and between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, 2011, the Army Corps dredged 6.5 acres in Verdugo Wash, including the confluence of the Wash and the L.A. River. The Army Corps failed to acquire the Congressionally-mandated state certification to do this work, and the Regional Water Board was not made aware of this project until Jan. 13, 2012.
On Dec. 29, 2012, the Regional Water Board learned the Army Corps committed another violation of the Clean Water Act and federal regulations by removing riparian vegetation along Haskell Creek, a tributary to the L.A. River located in the Sepulveda Basin in December 2012. The Army Corps also conducted dredge and fill operations in the L.A. River itself during this time period. The Basin is a 2,000-acre flood management basin and wildlife reserve located on the upper portion of the L.A. River in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.
In both instances the Army Corps used heavy equipment to remove vegetation, and it is alleged that during both dredge and fill operations little was done to mitigate the discharges of oil, grease and other pollutants into these waters of the United States. These two activities are also alleged to have discharged sediment into the L.A. River that could affect water quality and aquatic life and wildlife habitat. Excessive discharges of sediment can limit sunlight from entering the water and in turn inhibit the growth of aquatic plants and destroy spawning habitats for bottom-dwelling organisms and larval fish. Neither instance involved the Army Corps’ authority under the Clean Water Act or federal regulations to alleviate an immediate emergency through repair or protection activities, and the Regional Water Board is not alleging that the Army Corps misused or is misusing this authority.
If the Army Corps had complied with the Section 401 certification process in the Clean Water Act for both projects in Verdugo Wash and the Sepulveda Basin, the Regional Water Board could have imposed conditions on these operations to guard against potential water quality impacts.
The Regional Water Board alleges that these violations of federal requirements are just two examples in a long history of non-compliance by the Army Corps. The Regional Water Board asserts that these types of violations have and will continue to occur as the Army Corps operates six flood risk management facilities, and approximately 34 miles of flood control channels and levees within Los Angeles County. Regional Water Board staff contends the Army Corps will continue to violate Section 401 requirements if it engages in clearing activities with heavy machinery; removing debris and vegetation below the ordinary high water mark of the L.A. River; conduct channel bed and bank repair activities; and do in-water work on water diversion structures.
The Regional Water Board’s complaint seeks a court order declaring the Army Corps’ discharge activities without a Section 401 certification constitute violations of the Clean Water Act, and direct the Army Corps to comply with the Clean Water Act, including ceasing all dredge and fill operations and discharges of pollutants into the L.A. River and its tributaries unless it obtains a valid Section 401 certification for each operation, or demonstrates compliance with the Clean Water Act.
L.A. County, L.A. Cities and Environmental Groups Announce New Roadmap for Historic Scaling Up of Decentralized, Alternate Water Supplies
Indoor and Outdoor Non-Potable Water Uses Streamlined – Rainwater, Graywater, Stormwater, Blackwater
If the drought ended this year, Californians would be thrilled; but it wouldn’t change the need for what most now realize is a scaling up of, and innovative approaches to, different types of water sources. This morning, representatives from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, City of Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment, TreePeople, Heal the Bay, and Natural Resources Defense Council presented the new roadmap that, for the first time, gives municipalities, businesses and homeowners clear guidelines on how they can significantly contribute to L.A. County’s water management and planning through the use of non-potable water both outdoors and indoors.
These voluntary guidelines for non-potable water use are a first of their kind for L.A. County, and possibly across the state of California. With Southern California still importing 80% of its water, the release of the new multiagency approved roadmap for L.A. County, Guidelines for Alternate Water Sources –Indoor and Outdoor Non-Potable Uses (aka Matrix 2.0), is now a key piece of the puzzle in creating the next generation of a sustainable water supply that includes critical water reuse projects such as more decentralized water supply systems to promote water self sufficiency/sustainability, and to reduce potable water use.
Non-potable water is defined as water not intended for drinking. Sources for on-site nonpotable water include, but are not limited to, graywater, rainwater, stormwater, blackwater, cooling tower blow-down water, condensate, and foundation drainage.
“We are very excited about this next phase. One of our roles as the Dept. of Public Health is to ensure the safe use of alternate water sources (AWS) by ensuring that such systems are designed and operated in a manner to deliver appropriate water quality,” states Terri Williams, Acting Director of Environmental Health for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “With Matrix 2.0, we want to change the conversation from ‘Will you allow the use of AWS on this project?’ to ‘How can we safely use AWS on this project?’”
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.