Metropolitan Special Committee on the Bay-Delta: Brief update on California Water Fix timeline and Delta drought operations

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Timeline for California Water Fix extends well into 2017; separate presentation looks at Delta flows and exports

At the March meeting of Metropolitan’s Special Committee on the Bay Delta, Bay Delta Initiatives Manager Steve Arakawa updated the committee members on the timeline, permitting actions, and environmental review actions that need to occur to complete the California Water Fix planning process.  Next, Randall Neudeck briefly updated the committee members on Delta operations.


Bay Delta Initiatives Manager Steve Arakawa began by listing the needed permitting and authorizations:

Environmental Documents: The Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation are the lead agencies for the EIR-EIS.  Public drafts were released in 2013 and 2015 for extensive period of time.  “What needs to happen from here on out is the state is preparing their responses to comments on those documents and developing the final EIR EIS that would allow them to make a decision on the environmental review portion and issue a record of decision and notice of determination for both the state action and the federal action,” he said.

Endangered species act compliance (federal): The US FWS and the NMFS have jurisdiction, depending on the particular specie: The US FWS has jurisdiction over the Delta smelt; the National Marine Fisheries Service has jurisdiction over winter-run salmon.  In order for the project to get permitted, a biological opinion is required, in which the agencies determine that the proposed project avoids jeopardy to the species.  This allows for take of threatened and endangered species under the federal act, he said.

Endangered species act compliance (state):  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife issues a Section 2081b permit for the state-listed species that aren’t covered by the federal biological opinion.

State Water Resources Control Board: Change in point of diversion permit:   Under their water rights authority, the State Water Board must approve any change in the point of diversion.  “With regard to the Cal Water Fix project, because of the three new diversion points along the Sacramento River, it requires an approval by the State Board that’s of a water rights nature in order for the project to move forward,” he explained.

State Water Resources Control Board: Water quality certification:  The State Water Board under its water quality authority issues a Section 401 certification that confirms that the project would meet all existing state water quality requirements that conform with the federal Clean Water Act.

Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 certification:  The Army Corps also has responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and issues a Section 404 permit that is related to the placement of any dredge or fill materials into waters of the US.  “That could be anything related to the channels, for example the intake area, it could be Clifton Court Forebay or it could be certain wetland areas that are deemed the waters of the US – anything related to the project that could have that kind of an effect, the Corps of Engineers would be determining under Section 404 that the project can be approved,” Mr. Arakawa explained.  “When they actually make that approval, they take into account the Section 401 certification, so the two kind of coincide together.”

Delta Stewardship Council: Consistency Determination:  Under the Delta Reform Act, the Delta Stewardship Council has the authority and responsibility to develop the Delta Plan; that plan was  completed a few years ago.  “It has both policy regulations as well as recommendations,” explained Mr. Arakawa.  “DWR would be developing what is called a consistency determination that the proposed project is consistent with the adopted Delta Plan to contribute and meet the coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration, and that it’s consistent with the various policies that were included in that plan.”

He further explained that the Delta Reform Act included a provision that if the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was approved as a Natural Community Conservation Plan, it would be included in the Delta Plan and would be consistent with the Delta Plan.  “If the state moves forward with the preferred action which is California Water Fix, the Department of Water Resources would need to make a consistency determination and submit that to the Delta Stewardship Council, deeming that they have substantial evidence to justify that it is consistent with the Delta Plan that was approved,” he said.

3a_Presentation-1_Page_4He then presented a timeline to visualize how the different processes fit together.  He noted that the top timeline are the Endangered Species Act authorizations; the next section is the environmental documentation; followed by the water rights and water quality processes at the State Water Board; and lastly the Army Corps permit process.

The schedule that we have today is targeting the completion of the biological opinions and the 2081b by the state by the fall, so the September-October time frame,” he said.  “The decision making by the federal government on the ESA and then the state would follow probably a few weeks later, and along with that, around the same time period, the schedule is anticipating that there would be a decision on the Environmental Impact Report and the Environmental Impact Statement.  Those are really key milestones to moving forward with the planning.  Nothing else really proceeds unless we can move forward with those two key things.”

The expected time frame for the State Water Board process for the additional points of diversion is the latter half of 2017; the State Board’s Clean Water Act Section 401 and the Army Corps 404 permit the second quarter of 2017, maybe April or May of 2017.   “The key things are finishing up the Endangered Species Act permits and the environmental documentation in this year in the fall time frame,” he said.  “The State Board proceeding with its process on adding the points of diversion is currently scheduled to start on May 5; that would go for several weeks.  The first portion of the process deals with how the project would affect other legal water right holders and then the second part of the process which would occur after the Record of Decision deals with how the proposed project would affect fish and wildlife.”


Randall Neudeck, Bay-Delta Imported Water Supply Program Manager, then gave an update on some of the recent Delta operations.  He began with the key points:  “The current mindset of the regulators is very conservative, expressly due to some of the low numbers in the fish salvages and the seasonal salvages this year,” he said. “Despite the low fish salvage at both the SWP and the CVP – in fact there’s only been three Delta smelt caught this year – they are still continuing export restrictions, and were the California Water Fix proposed new intakes in place on the Sacramento River, that would have yielded a significant additional storage improvements.”

3b_Presentation_Page_03Mr. Neudeck explained that the projects are dependent on the Old and Middle rivers, highlighted in yellow, to bring stored water from the reservoirs up north – Shasta, Oroville, and Folsom as well as additional flood flows or excess flows that are in the system to the pumps.  “Under the biological opinions, those rivers are restricted due to the low smelt numbers and restricted due to number of fish that you salvage and the turbidity in the system and other components,” he said.

3b_Presentation_Page_04He then displayed a graph showing the flows in the Sacramento River for January through March, noting that the vertical axis is the flow of the Sacramento River in cubic feet per second.  “It doesn’t include the San Joaquin River, it doesn’t include the eastside streams, but you can see that there’s a couple of storms that came during that period, top storm was about 50,000 cfs,” he said.  “The green line represents the pumping that the State Water Project is doing right now; If you added on the Central Valley Project, it would be a little bit more, but that number comes out to be about 1500 to 2000 cfs.”

The yellow dots represent the three Delta smelt that were caught at the pumps; one caught on the 21st at the Central Valley Project facilities, one caught on February 18th at the State Water Project, and another one caught again at the Central Valley Project.  “In the record, you’ll actually see those three fish account in the record for four fish because they only monitor 15 minutes out of every hour, so they multiply everything by four assuming that you’re going to get another four fish during that hour, so that represents 12 total fish,” he explained.

3b_Presentation_Page_05He presented another slide of a 21-day sample, showing that the outflow was about 1.6 MAF and the pumping for State Water Project was about 78,000 AF.  If you added in the CVP pumping, that’d be another 78,000 as well, he said.

With the recent storm that we saw this month come through the system, the dash line represents forecasted by flows over the next week or so,” he said.  “If you add in the flows that were going down the Yolo Bypass, it gets up to about 145,000 AF … I think there was 60,000 cfs going down the bypass this year.  If you just did a sample of 21 day analysis, you can see 2.4 MAF came down the Sacramento River. If you add on the bypass, that’s about another half a million acre-feet, and again the pumping at the State Water Project was about 120,000 AF total during that period.”

Pumping is fairly low, and the outflow standard is about 11,000 cfs, so the rest is excess flows going out the system, Mr. Neudeck said.

3b_Presentation_Page_06He presented a slide showing the impact of some of these regulations under the biological opinions over the last 9 years for both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.  “It totals about 5.2 MAF; that’s on average a little less than 600,000 AF a year,” he said.

3b_Presentation_Page_07With the California Water Fix project with the new modern system with more fish friendly intakes, the state of California, calculates that from January 1st through March 3rd, we could have put about another 486,00 AF in storage – enough for 3.6 million people, he said.

3b_Presentation_Page_08Mr. Neudeck then presented a chart showing how much water could have been put into regional storage had the project been in place since 2008.  “Right now going in to 2016, you could have had another 1.43 MAF of storage, so bringing that from about a 1.2 MAF total all the way to a 2.2 or 2.6 MAF of storage,” he said.

On the water that we could take into storage here in Metropolitan, would there be any issue in getting that water some as a result of any put restrictions, or does this water show what we would have absolutely gotten?” asked Director Steiner.

This is an attempt to show the water,” replied Randall Neudeck.  “I don’t think it was done at that level of analysis as far as put restrictions; it’s more general number, taking into account the general restrictions and the potential that we could have gotten, but we didn’t include put restrictions in these calculations.”

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