The Special Committee on the Bay Delta hears an update on the California Water Fix project, including the upcoming hearings, the facilities design, and the latest on the cost allocation discussions; Conflicting actions for winter-run Chinook and Delta smelt also discussed
At the June meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Special Committee on the Bay Delta, the presentations and discussions included a discussion of the upcoming hearings at the State Water Board, an update on the facilities design and cost estimates for the project, and the latest on the cost allocations discussions. Shasta reservoir operations and summertime flows for Delta smelt were also discussed.
UPDATE ON CALIFORNIA WATER FIX
The first presentation was given by Bay-Delta Initiatives Program Manager Steve Arakawa, who gave an update on the California Water Fix. He noted the key decisions this year for the project are the completion of the environmental review process, the biological opinions, and the permitting processes at the State Water Board and through the Army Corps of Engineers. In this update, Mr. Arakawa discussed the permitting processes.
Currently, the water is diverted in the south end of the Delta; The California Water Fix includes three new additional intakes along the Sacramento River, as well as the tunnels. The southern intakes would be operated in combination with the northern intakes to provide the best overall protection and reliability, he said.
“As a result of including those three new intakes, a water rights process is required to get approval from the State Water Board under its authority under water rights to deal with both the impacts to other water rights holders as well as the potential impacts to fish and wildlife, so those proceedings are part of the approval process for the state to move forward with implementation of the project,” he said.
The State Water Board will be overseeing the water rights process in hearings scheduled to being on July 26. “It’s a process that would be going on while they also deal with updating the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan,” Mr. Arakawa said. “The Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan is the State Water Board exercising their authorities and their responsibilities to look at all of the designated beneficial uses in the Delta, such as agriculture, M&I water use, and fish and wildlife; and to determine what kind of water quality and flow parameters are needed to protect those; and to review and update as deemed needed the water quality control plan objectives. Once they update the water quality control plan, then a significant part of how that is implemented is through a water rights decision.”
“These are two different processes,” he explained. “One is related to Cal Water Fix and it’s tied to the intakes on the Sacramento River; the other is the overall water quality control plan update and the State Water Board has been delegated authorities under the Clean Water Act to deal with these water quality parameters.”
Mr. Arakawa then discussed the California Water Fix petition and process at the State Water Board. “On July 26, they are starting the first part of the process, which deals with what kind of impacts or injuries there might be to other water right holders in the system,” he said. “The water rights holders were noticed and they had an opportunity to file petitions; those were received from the parties who would plan to participate in this proceeding.”
“The first part of this process is regarding whether there is any injury to water rights holders would be the state and federal government proposing Cal Water Fix, so there will be testimony by the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation related to the Cal Water Fix project,” he said. “There will also be policy statements that parties are able to make – so there will be policy statements by the agencies as well as by other interested agencies or parties. That’s all part of the process in addition to the technical testimony, so part A is the testimony by the Department and Reclamation. There would be opportunity for cross examination by other parties in that process, and then once that process is completed, then other parties have an opportunity to provide their testimony and then there would be associated cross-examination of that as well. So any of the parties feel that how their impacted needs to be considered by the board and needs to be on the record, that would be part of the testimony in Part 1B.”
Mr. Arakawa noted that there are numerous parties that have filed to be participating in this process, as well as a significant number of parties who will be presenting policy statements. “There will be policy statements made by the administration, including Secretary John Laird from the Resources Agency regarding the project need,” he said. “There will also be a supporting statement regarding Cal Water Fix from the Department of Interior, the specific person who will be providing that has not been designated as of yet. There are other parties in the state administration that will be presenting statements as well; Karla Nemeth will present on the collaborative process that has been used to develop the proposed project and how that will work moving into the future. The Department of Water Resources director Mark Cowin from DWR will be presenting the project description and project purposes at a higher level, and the Russ Stein, also a high level manager from the Department of Water Resources will provide a statement on Delta conditions.”
The state and federal agencies will be giving a lot of technical testimony: The project description, facilities description, and how the proposal was modeled using the range of operations. “Certainly with this proposed project, it’s anticipated that there would be adaptive management, so being able to demonstrate what the system might look like under a range of operations and then parties that are looking to determine how their impacted would be obviously looking at that range,” he said.
There will be a description of current and future water supply permits as far as what the project needs are in moving forward, testimony on engineering design that’s been completed to date; and the mitigation that’s been specified for the construction impacts, he said.
“There will also be an area of technical testimony on project operations, how the project would be operated under Cal Water Fix, and how they currently meet standards because in reality, there are measurements of salinity and flow that are made throughout the system, and they are constantly adjusting to take into account changing conditions, whether that’s changing flow conditions, changing wind conditions, or atmospheric conditions, so they have a whole approach to assuring that the project is able to meet standards on a regular basis,” he said.
The presentations will discuss the computer modeling and the methodology that was used to analyze this project, including the water quality results, the water level results and storage impacts as a result of operating the project under Cal Water Fix versus no project, he said.
“Part 2 looks at the impacts to fish and wildlife and other appropriate criteria that might be necessary,” he said. “This part will proceed after the EIR and biological opinions have been completed, so that’s a few months off. In the next few months, the focus will be on part 1.”
Metropolitan is continuing to work with the other public water agencies, including state water contractors and federal water contractors in preparing for the proceedings. “We will also be involved in attending the proceedings, providing a policy statement and being involved in determining what kind of cross examination might be necessary, depending upon how the process plays out and what the other parties testimonies are,” he said. “As this rolls out over the next few months, staff plans to keep the board and this committee updated as that continues.”
Director Keith Lewinger asked about the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan being declared invalid. “Can you please explain the relationship between the Delta Plan, which was declared invalid, and all of this that you just went over?”
“The Delta Reform legislation in 2009 was the basis for forming the Delta Stewardship Council; the charge the Council was given was to develop an overall plan and a vision for the Delta that goes beyond just water supply,” said Mr. Arakawa. “We’ve been focusing on water supply and how the environment is affected by water supply, but there are other land use issues. There’s flood control, there’s recreation, and all kinds of things that occur in the Delta that the state, through the Stewardship Council, is looking to coordinate and have some influence over through other agencies implementation actions. The Delta Plan also included 14 regulations that were a part of that plan, those were approved through the Office of Administrative Law, so they went through that whole process and the Council ended up adopting that plan.”
“Originally under the legislation, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was to be a habitat conservation plan, with water conveyance but a number of other conservation measures that would have provided different actions to help improve the environment, whether they are water quality, stressor related – those kinds of things,” Mr. Arakawa said. “In that original legislation, the intent was that if the BDCP was consistent with a state Natural Community Conservation Plan framework model, then it would be designated as sufficient to be part of the Delta Plan, but as you all know, the state has moved away from the habitat conservation plan to a Section 7 permitting process focusing on the water conveyance aspects and the operation of that conveyance.”
“Under the Delta Plan, any kind of proposed project that could be a covered action under those regulations would need approval from the Delta Stewardship Council, so in the coverage that you’re seeing in the media, different opinions are being provided as far as what this does to the Cal Water Fix project,” Mr. Arakawa continued. “I think the fair answer is it’s yet to be seen. We don’t know yet how the Stewardship Council will proceed. The Court is saying that there were significant problems with the Delta Plan, so with the Delta Plan not being in place, they will have to go back and fix those issues. In terms of how Cal Water Fix fits in and in the end, if it will be approved the Council or when that would actually happen is yet to be seen.”
“Generally I think the question would be, does an adopted plan Delta Plan by the Delta Stewardship Council needs to be in place before a Delta fix can be approved?” asked Director Lewinger.
“We’ll see,” answered General Manager Jeff Kightlinger. “We don’t really know at this time. We have some legislation out there, we’ll have to analyze that and compare it to what the ruling of the court is and go from there.”
UPDATE ON CALIFORNIA WATER FIX FACILITY DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Sergio Valles, Engineering Program Manager for Metropolitan, is currently on loan to the Department of Water Resources. He next gave a presentation on the engineering design of the California Water Fix project, discussing how changes have occurred over time to the facilities and the alignments, the components of the budget, and then the benchmarking and the research that the Design Construction Team has done to prepare for the next phase.
Mr. Valles began by presenting a slide with three maps: the east, the west, and the current alignment. “The east alignment was an all-canal option about 36 miles in length; it had surface impacts of about 19,400 acres – that included everything that’s above ground that people would actually see once the facilities are completely constructed. It includes not only the canal, but also the spill sites and borrow sites and anything that disrupts the surface,” he said. “The west alignment, the middle map, was half canal and about 17 miles of tunnel, and then the canal section down at the bottom. It had a significant number of acres of surface disruption at 13,600 acres.”
The current alignment is shown on the right. “We have it down to 4400 acres of surface disruption, and that includes about 2500 acres of reusable tunnel material. If you take that away, it leaves 1900 acres of surface disruption, which is about 10% versus the canal. A major change; everything is now below the surface. The reason for taking away the reusable tunnel material is that we’re going to use that material in the future for building levees or strengthening levees or to build habitat.”
The reason surface impacts are so much greater for a canal then for a tunnel is that a 1400-foot wide easement has to be acquired for the canal; it also involves 35 foot levees and a lot of earthwork for 46 miles, so there are a lot of impacts versus the tunnel which is buried 150 feet below the surface, he said.
He next presented a slide showing the progression of tunnel alignments. “In 2012, we started off with a pipeline tunnel alignment shown on the left; as you can see the alignment is relatively straight,” he said. “The problem with this alignment is that it involves a lot of private property, so we needed to modify that based on a lot of the comments we received from the public.” He noted that the arrows on the diagram indicate the direction of tunneling.
The modified pipeline tunnel option in the center is very close to the current one. “Here the intakes are in the north and the pumping plants are also in the north; we moved the alignment east to reduce the amount of private property that’s involved; it increased the amount of public property by tenfold, and reduced the private property by about one-third.”
On the right is California Water Fix as it is currently being proposed. The intakes are still located in the north, but the pumping plants are now located at the northeastern corner of Clifton Court in the south. “The benefit of having the pumps at the south is now we can design the tunnel segments in a more traditional manner where the segments in compression and they want to push against each other rather than being pulled apart by the internal pressure of the water. A much better option in the current option of California Water Fix. And also in this particular option, Staten Island used to have launch facilities there, we moved the launch facilities to Bouldin Island primarily to avoid sandhill crane habitat.”
Mr. Valles then went through some of the changes that have occurred at the different facilities. The design began with the pumping plants in the north with large sedimentation basins made of concrete. In 2014, the pumping plants were moved south, but there were still large concrete sedimentation basins. “In the current design, we’ve reduced the size of the outlet facility, and we also changed from concrete to earthen,” he said. “This eliminates a lot of construction activities at the intakes, and it changes the visual impact for the local community. So that changes the environmental impacts greatly.”
The intermediate forebay was initially designed to be 851 acres; it has been reduced by 90% to a 97-acre footprint. “This forebay is used as a regulating forebay; it takes the flow from the three intakes and spreads it evenly to the two main tunnels in the south,” he said.
When the pumping plants were in the north, the tunnel ended outside of Clifton Court, and there was a siphon underneath Italian Slough, with the water being pushed into Clifton Court. “With the California Water Fix, we have the pump plants at the south and that allows us the ability to design the tunnel segments in a more traditional manner under compression; a significant change there,” he said. “We also appropriately sized Clifton Court splitting into north versus south, with the northern portion of Clifton Court that brings the water from northern intakes and is in essence fish free; the southern portion still continues to operate the way it normally operates now. We didn’t have to expand Clifton Court to accommodate the operational requirements that are required, so the size will remain approximately the same.”
He then went through the current alignment of the tunnels and the various facilities and features. There are two main regional reaches of tunnels: In the north, there are two 28-foot diameter tunnels plus one 40-foot diameter tunnel; there’s about 13.5 miles of tunneling there, he said. The main tunnels are 40 feet in diameter and 30.1 miles in length, he said.
He next presented a graphic depiction of how water flows through the system. “Starting at the intakes 2, 3, and 5, it feeds into the sedimentation basins,” Mr. Valles said. “Each intake has a capacity of 3000 cfs; they feed into those north tunnels 2 28-foot tunnels and a 40-foot tunnel. … Intake number 5 takes the flow directly to the intermediate forebay. This is a regulating forebay to take the flows from the three intakes to distribute it into the two 40-foot diameter tunnels, and from there it takes it to the main pumping plant which is 9000 cfs, which basically lifts the water out of the tunnel and into Clifton Court, then through gravity, Clifton Court distributes into the Central Valley pumping plant Jones, and then finally into the State Water Project pumping plant, which is Banks.”
The basic design criteria for the three intakes is that each intake is to have a capacity of 3000 cfs; the overall maximum system capacity is 9000 cfs; the specific screen criteria is .20 feet per second approaching directly to the face of the screen, which is set by the fish agencies and is specific to Delta smelt criteria, he said.
Mr. Valles then presented a picture of the final current design. The intake structure has an intake screen that’s approximately 1667 feet at the longest at intake 2 and intake 5; and 1259 feet at intake number 3, he said. Each intake feeds into a sedimentation basin, and then the water goes and drops into a vertical outlet structure, basically a shaft where the water just drops directly into the tunnel. The tunnel is about 150 feet below the surface, and it fills in essence like a reservoir, all the way down to Clifton Court the tunnels have about 3800 acre-feet of water contained within them, he said. At the far end, the water wants to seek it own natural level, so it rises into Clifton Court.
“The long intake structures sit about 10 feet below the water surface, and the short intake structure is about 15 feet below the water surface, so about the height of this room is how much water is below at the bottom of the intake,” he said. “That water surface and the intake structure sit about 6 feet above where the current levees sit. Just in terms of a sense of dimension, from the front of the structure to the back to the center point of the outlet structure is about 1300 feet in length, and that site is about 100 acres in size.”
The tunnel is 150 feet below the surface; each tunnel is about 90 feet apart and each tunnel is 40 foot inside diameter; the walls are about 2 feet in thickness. Mr. Valles pointed out the picture of the Port of Miami tunnel boring machine, noting that it was only about one foot smaller than what they are looking at.
“In order to construct the tunnels, we need vertical shafts where we put in the tunnel boring machines, so we’ll need 11 long shafts, and we’ll need six shafts where we take out the tunnel boring machines,” he said. “For maintenance purposes, we’ll need 10 atmospheric shafts. These are shafts where if the tunnel boring machine needs to be maintained in atmospheric conditions, they can drive the machine to the inside of that and maintain the machine. In terms of sizes, the launch shafts are about 113 feet in diameter, the river retrieval shafts are approximately 100 feet in diameter, and those intervention shafts are about 70 feet in diameter.”
Mr. Valles explained that there are two types of tunnel boring machines for soft ground: a slurry machine and an earth-pressure balance machine. “They both apply pressure to the face of where the machine is boring; it equalizes the pressure against the earth, it just does it in two different manners,” he said. “The slurry machine uses slurry to apply a pressure to the ground surface while the earth pressure balance machine uses hydraulic rams to apply that pressure. With the slurry machine, it takes the cuttings away through that slurry, and then it gets separated in a treatment plant above ground, versus the earth pressure balance machine, it takes the cuttings away via a screw conveyer and then it drops the reusable tunnel material onto a conveyer and moves it out to the surface.”
He noted that the general consensus between the contractors, vendors, and tunnel boring machine manufacturers seems to be that using an earth pressure balance machine is the machine to use. “But we’re at 10% design and we don’t have a lot of geotechnical information, so the plan is to get about 1500 borings and CPTs to assess the geotech and that will tell us more precisely what type of machine we should use.”
Mr. Valles then played some videos which showed how the tunnel boring machine works. (Sorry, I can’t embed the video clip. Watch starting around 48:30 on the video here.)
He noted that in the construction of the tunnels, there are over 700,000 concrete segments, so having these manufacturing facilities build them to a great deal of precision is really critical for the overall project, and there isn’t any leakage – exfiltration or infiltration.
The intermediate forebay has a 97-acre footprint; it’s 40 acres inside and it distributes the flow from the north to the south, he said.
Clifton Court forebay will be split and the perimeter levees upgraded. There is a canal to that goes to the Central Valley Project’s Jones pumping plant, and another canal that goes to the State Water Project’s Banks pumping plant. “The two forebays operate hydraulically different,” he said. “The north takes the water that’s being pumped, maintains it at a certain level, about 9 feet above, as a water surface, the south operates naturally under the current state which is tidal flows, changes up and down; the radial gate that is right here to capture the water when it’s at high tide, and they close it and then pump it out with the pumps.”
Members of the design team have been meeting with project leads for other large projects to glean any lessons learned, such as the Bay Tunnel, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and the Port of Miami. The team also researched some case studies. “The Big Dig: many consider that a failure but in failures you learn a lot, and there’s a number of things that have been written about that project, and a lot of lessons learned about that,” he said. “Same thing with the Oakland Bay Bridge. There’s been legislative committees talking about this particular project and there are a number of lessons learned there.”
Mr. Valles noted that the media tends to focus their attention on projects that fail, go over budget or past their schedule, but there are also a lot of projects that are successful.
“Some of the lessons learned on some of these projects is to have a fully dedicated team, have issue resolution as part of your culture, and make sure that you have TPIs and key indicators to have different measures so you can make sure that you know where you are going. A number of these projects had real-time auditing, making sure the processes are being implemented the way that it was originally intended; we wanted to have real-time estimating; any time there is a change in design, we immediately estimate the cost, rather than wait for some time later in the game.”
Mr. Valles then lastly turned to the construction costs. “We’ve actually have done two separate bottoms up class 3 cost estimates for the construction costs done independently by two consultants. Class 3 is a very, very detailed cost estimate. They went out and got bid prices from vendors, from tunneling contractors, segment manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, and did quantity tick offs on the drawings, so these are very detailed estimates. If you look at each one of these estimates, it’s about 900 pages of estimating.”
“That numbers on the chart for the construction is the first cost estimator; the second cost estimator came in within 5% of that, so we’re fairly comfortable with that number,” he said. “The initial cost estimator recommended a 35% contingency because of the early level of design, and we’ve stuck with that number. In terms of the PMCM engineering or construction management engineering, we actually applied resources to the schedule and to the duration of time, and applied unit costs of labor with all the markups, and came up with that $1.9 billion.”
“Overall, $14.93 billion for the construction costs for the California Water Fix,” Mr. Valles concluded.
Director Larry Mc Kenney asked, “In your design parameters, you showed maximum system flow capacity of 9000 cfs. Is that the maximum flow capacity for every component that we’re designing?”
“It’s the maximum for the entire system,” replied Mr. Valles. “It’s constrained by the intakes, which we cannot exceed 3000 cfs, and it’s constrained by those pumping plants; they are fixed by the elevation of the impellers and the size of the pumps.”
“The tunnels could carry more, is that correct?,” Director Mr. McKenney.
“It’s possible, but it’s a system, that’s how the whole thing is designed,” said Mr. Valles. “You’d have to make serious modifications; if you want to carry more, you have to add more intakes.”
DELTA OPERATION ISSUES: DELTA SMELT AND WINTER-RUN SALMON
Bay Delta Initiatives Manager Steve Arakawa then returned to the podium to update the Committee members on Delta operations.
Mr. Arakawa said that now that’s it is June, they have come out of the period where the biological opinions for Delta smelt and winter-run salmon have been governing the operations. From late December partly into June, the biological opinions have been controlling operations and setting parameters for things such as Old and Middle River flow reversals, export limits, or the amount of flow down the San Joaquin River that could not be exported, he said. Those controls have been lifted because we’ve come out of the real sensitive time period for those species who are covered under the ESA.
Project operations are governed currently by the water right decision D 1641, and the underlying water quality control plan that the water rights decision is supporting or implementing.
“There are a couple of things that are in play here,” he said. “Right now the outflows in June are governed by a measure in D 1641 called the X2 requirement. Spring X2 is the position of the salinity line or the brackish water zone of 2 ppt salinity that is placed in a particular location. The feeling has been for quite a number of years going back to the Bay Delta Accord in 1994-95 that the placement of that salinity line through the combination of flow and tidal action was something that was important to fishery habitat.”
“Where we are today is that’s the flow and that salinity line is what’s really controlling operations,” he said. ““In July, we move into a different period where there’s a different flow requirement or mainly the agricultural standards in the Delta to protect the beneficial use of agriculture in the Delta, that starts to take more control of project operations.”
Mr. Arakawa then discussed the recent news about the National Marine Fisheries Service and their discussions with the Bureau of Reclamation about how to manage the reservoir storage in Shasta, and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s interest in summertime flows.
“Shasta storage is higher than it’s been in recent years because of some of the inflows we got this year, but there’s an interest by the NMFS to assure that the temperature downstream of Shasta Reservoir is protective of winter-run salmon, so the discussions between the Bureau and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been in play,” he said. “I’m going to talk about both of these because they both have long-term implications. At this point, neither of these issues are going to change our 60% water supply allocation on the State Water Project for 2016.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has put forward a proposal for how to increase summertime flow, which is something new. “We’ve talked to the Board about Fall X2 or fall flow, which is actually a provision in the Delta smelt biological opinion,” he said. “That was a pretty big topic in the federal litigation that occurred a few years ago regarding the biological opinions, but that was the fall time. This is spring time, and there’s an interest in how additional flow might be better for Delta smelt coming from the Fish and Wildlife Service. There is a proposal to increase flows this summer and then maybe the next couple of years.”
“For this year, they are proposing about 115,000 acre-feet which would be acquired through purchases, not through a regulatory action, so the Bureau of Reclamation is in the process of attempting to secure that water so that these flows could be provided this year,” Mr. Arakawa said. “Then in subsequent years, they would determine some kind of plan for meeting those flows in 2017 and 2018; and maybe that 115,000 acre-feet need that they are saying for this year, it maybe something different in the next two years, as it’s yet to be determined.”
One of the key things the water contracting agencies are focusing on is the science behind the summer flow. “There’s been nothing that’s been articulated in writing in a comprehensive nature describing the science that leads to this proposal as to what kind of function is this summertime flow providing or what types of changes do they expect to occur for Delta smelt as a result of taking this kind of action,” he said. “The water contracting agencies are following this very carefully because of the longer term implication of where such an action could show up in future regulations, whether it’s the biological opinions for the projects or whether it’s the State Water Resources Control Board setting standards and how Fish and Wildlife Service might be making proposals in future regulation proceedings.”
Mr. Arakawa noted that the purchases are being sought by the Bureau of Reclamation for 2016.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is feeling a need to do something because they got a record low survey of adult smelt just recently in the last month from the Kodiak Trawl, and the index was lower than it has ever been,” he said. “So there’s an increasing concern about the status of the species.”
The way this flow works is it’s about centering a salinity line of about 2 ppt at different locations, he said, noting that the X2 is measured in kilometers upstream of the Golden Gate Bridge. “In this case, the proposal is to place that 2 ppt about at where the location of Collinsville, which is 83 kilometers upstream of the Golden Gate Bridge. … Chipps Island is 74 kilometers upstream.”
He explained that Collinsville is a way of describing the location of the confluence of where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers come together which is the upstream boundary of that confluence area; Chipps Island might be considered the farther downstream location or the center of that confluence of those two river systems.
“There has been no clear indication of the science behind the flow proposal,” he said. “There have been discussions about turbidity, temperature, and salinity, but in many cases it’s mainly salinity that is affected by this flow. Whether turbidity or temperature can be affected by the flow is another question or maybe uncertain. Then it’s about with this additional flow, where do the fish go – do they stay in the Suisun Bay, do they go up into the channels into Suisun Marsh, farther up north? All of that is in question. The interest of the water contracting agencies is if this does proceed, is there a thought-out way of measuring the benefits of such proposed flows to monitor where do the fish go, what kind of results do we expect, and whether in fact those results did occur with such action. That’s for the Delta smelt.”
Another issue recently has been the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service discussion of operations on the Sacramento River and the amount of reservoir releases that are being made from Shasta Reservoir to benefit winter-run salmon. “The last couple of years, the National Marine Fisheries Service has had an increasing concern about the protection of that species because of temperature in the downstream reaches, the estimates from the agencies for winter run survival have been very low – a 5% survival of fish, of winter-run salmon coming out of that system,” said Mr. Arakawa. “A lot of that focus has been on whether those species are experiencing high mortality because of temperature along the upper reaches of the Sacramento River, so the nature of the discussions have been managing the level in Shasta Reservoir in order to preserve the cold water behind that reservoir, and to make those releases later in the period that’s important for winter-run salmon, rather than making releases that may be detrimental to that period.”
“In conflict, there’s the Bureau of Reclamation that’s delivering water to water users in the system, both upstream water users in the Sacramento Valley, but also water users in the San Joaquin Valley. There are the contractors on the west side such as Westlands, but then there are the exchange contractors – those contractors on the lower San Joaquin River that exchange their San Joaquin River water rights for exports from the Delta, and they have a high water rights priority. So how the Bureau is able to maintain those deliveries is in play here, and the amount of releases out of the reservoir is going to have an effect on how much water delivery they can make to these Sacramento River water users and to those export users.”
“One of the things that also comes into play is meeting the Delta standards, so the Bureau and the Department work jointly under the Coordinated Operations Agreement to make sufficient releases, not only to meet the needs of the water users in the basin but also to meet Delta standards and so to the degree that water is held up in the reservoir, that’s affected as well,” Mr. Arakawa said.
“So we’re seeing in this particular year, the building conflict between species of fish: how to protect winter run salmon and being able to hold water back, but at the same time, how to protect Delta smelt and whether there is science or not is yet to be determined for that flow requirement,” he said. “Making more releases can be in conflict with the need to protect winter run salmon upstream, so we’re seeing a real world example of how that conflict is really affecting the whole system.”
Mr. Arakawa said the implication is that these kinds of proposals will have possible have an effect down the road. “We have the National Marine Fisheries under the biological opinion looking to protect winter-run salmon and the collaboration or coordination between the Bureau and how they operate the system, and then you have the Delta smelt which is a flow proposal which is not part of regulation, but how that may enter into to future regulatory proceedings is still a question, and when that would occur.”
“The importance to us as a water contracting entity, is how these proposals fit together, how they are in conflict, and what kinds of implications do they have for future regulations,” he said. “At this point, I think we can see that the fishery agencies and the operating agencies, the DWR and the Bureau of Reclamation, are trying to deal with these operating situations in this particular year, and that will likely affect us in the next few years.”
“Purchasing the water rather than making it a regulatory requirement seems like a good option, but purchasing the water from whom?,” asked Director McKenney.
“The Bureau is looking to purchase water from parties along the American River and in the Sacramento Valley,” answered Mr. Arakawa. “I had mentioned 115,000 acre-feet as their target; I think that they are talking to entities on the American River to try to get 40,000 acre-feet of water there, and then maybe another 50,000 acre-feet from the Sacramento Valley from water users along the Sacramento River. It’s yet to be seen how successful they’ll be, but they are in the middle of that right now.”
UPDATE ON CALIFORNIA WATER FIX COST ALLOCATION DISCUSSIONS
Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson had progress to report on the discussions of the cost allocations among the various federal and state contractors. “I think the timeline is causing people to start dealing with these issues that have been hanging around for a while,” he said, noting that there are three components that have to be resolved in order to get to how the project will be funded and the costs allocated: how the costs will be split between the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, how the costs will be allocated amongst the State Water Project contractors, and how those costs will be allocated amongst the Central Valley Project contractors.
On the split between the two projects, a workgroup has been renewed that is looking at methodologies for splitting between the two projects; Mr. Patterson said he expects there will be a recommendation within a few months. “In general, we have always had the position that the metric is costs follow the water, so that means that over the life of the project, if you use 50% of the water, you should pay 50% of the cost. We haven’t quite landed that yet, but that’s the general metric that Metropolitan has proposed, and we’re working on that.”
The cost allocation amongst Central Valley Project contractors has always been lagging, but the Commissioner of Reclamation has committed to get a decision on that, said Mr. Patterson. “Last week he contracted with Bill McDonald, who was a former employee and Regional Director of the Pacific NW acting commissioner for a while. Bill is coming on board to assist the Commissioner and he’s out here this week to start forcing those discussions amongst the contractors, so there is some progress to report there.”