News Worth Noting: State Water Board approves new deadline to end illegal water diversions from the Carmel River; More blue-green algae warnings for Northern California lakes; City of San Diego faces proposed penalty of $4.6M for lax construction site erosion control

State Water Board Approves New Deadline to End Illegal Water Diversions from the Carmel River

SWRCB logo water boardsThe State Water Resources Control Board today approved an extension of time for California American Water (Cal-Am) to comply with a Cease and Desist Order to stop the illegal diversion of water from the Carmel River.

The State Water Board in 1995 ordered Cal-Am, which supplies water to the Monterey Peninsula, to pursue alternate water sources after finding it was illegally diverting more than 10,000 acre feet per year from the river. The State Water Board issued a Cease and Desist Order against Cal-Am in 2009, after finding that the water company was still illegally diverting 7,602 acre-feet a year.

The 2009 order set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2016 to fully stop the illegal diversion. Cal-Am and Monterey Peninsula agencies have tried to develop alternate water sources, including new dams, a reservoir and desalination plants, all of which failed to materialize. Today’s action gives Cal-Am and Monterey Peninsula stakeholders until Dec. 31, 2021 to stop the unauthorized diversions.

“This action recognizes significant progress in collaborative projects to augment river flows and gives Cal-Am and the community organizations working on other large-scale alternative water projects time, while assuring that the illegal diversions from the Carmel River will stop by the end of 2021,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus.  “The milestone structure incentivizes continued cooperation in completing proposed new water supplies, and provides a measured, stair-step reduction in diversions should the projects encounter significant delays or fail. We understand the political difficulty of putting together large-scale water projects across multiple jurisdictions, but this problem was identified more than 20 years ago. It’s time to move forward and get it done.”

Cal-Am and the Monterey Peninsula stakeholders are working on new sources of water to reduce dependency on the river, including a new desalination plant and the Pure Water Monterey Project that will recycle water for reuse.  Completion of these will not meet the 2016 deadline.

The State Water Board extension of the deadline for compliance with the Cease and Desist Order includes changes to the 2009 order to further reduce unauthorized diversions from the river and to assure that alternative water sources come to fruition in a timely manner.

Details of the time extension approved today follow the structure, with some changes, of a recent proposal made by Cal-Am and co-applicants Monterey Peninsula Regional Water Authority, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the Pebble Beach Company, and the City of Pacific Grove.

The order adopting the time extension sets an annual effective diversion limit from the Carmel River of 8,310 acre feet per year.  The diversion limit is higher than actual Cal-Am diversions of recent years – including some drought and some non-drought years. But the resolution reduces the limit if sufficient progress is not made on the desalination and recycling projects.

The order includes a series of development milestones for new water sources.  If met, the milestones result in sufficient, reliable water supplies to end unlawful diversions from the Carmel River.  Missed milestones, on the other hand, will lead to stair-step reductions in the amount of water Cal-Am can take from the river.

The milestones and diversion reduction are designed so that Cal-Am’s unauthorized diversions from the Carmel River will end by Dec. 31, 2021, whether the alternative projects get built or not.

Details of the Cal-Am proposal and the State Water Board staff recommendation can be viewed here and here.

Blue-green Algae Warning Issued for North Coast Counties

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsEnvironmental health officials with the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Mendocino County Environmental Health (Mendocino EH), and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) are issuing a warning to recreational users of all bodies of fresh water to avoid contact with algae.

Typically, algae warnings come out between late July and early August, coinciding with low flows and sustained high temperatures in the inland areas. These factors, coupled with drought conditions, may cause blue-green algae to grow earlier than usual.

Human activities can have a big effect on nutrient and water flows in rivers, streams and lakes. Nutrients found in fertilizers, animal waste and human waste can stimulate blooms. Excessive water diversions can also increase water temperatures and reduce flows. People can take the following measures to prevent algal blooms in our waters:

  • Be conservative with the use of water, fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, garden or agricultural operation.
  • Avoid nutrient runoff by recycling any “spent” soil that has been used for intensive growing by tilling it back into gardens, or protect it from rainfall.
  • Create shade and filter out nutrients by planting or maintaining native plants around river banks.
  • Inspect and pump out septic systems every three to four years.
  • Prevent surface water runoff from agricultural and livestock areas.
  • Prevent erosion around construction and logging operations.

Blue-green algae can be present in any fresh water body. It looks like dark green, blue-green, orange or brown scum, foam or mats floating on the water. Most blue-green algae does not affect animals or people. However, warm water and abundant nutrients can cause blue-green algae to grow more rapidly than usual. These floating algal masses or “blooms” can produce natural toxins that are very potent. Dogs and children are most likely to be affected because of their smaller body size and tendency to stay in the water for longer periods of time.

While the presence of blue-green algae toxins has been previously confirmed in some water bodies within Humboldt and Mendocino counties including the South Fork Eel, Van Duzen and Trinity rivers, it is difficult to test and monitor the many miles of our local rivers with conditions that may vary. Most algal blooms in California contain harmless green algae, but it is important to stay safe and avoid contact.

To learn more about the occurrence and appearance of blue-green algae on the South Fork Eel River, see the Eel River Recovery Project Toxic Algae Factsheet:

DHHS, Mendocino EH, and NCRWQCB officials recommend the following guidelines for recreational users of freshwater areas:

  • Keep children, pets and livestock from swimming in or drinking water containing algal scums or mats.
  • Adults should also avoid wading and swimming in water containing algal blooms.
  • Try not to swallow or inhale water spray in an algal bloom area.
  • If no algal scums or mats are visible, you should still carefully watch young children and warn them not to swallow any water.
  • Fish should be consumed only after removing the guts and liver and rinsing fillets in tap water.
  • Never drink, cook with or wash dishes with water from rivers, streams or lakes.
  • Get medical attention immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins. Be sure to tell the doctor about possible contact with blue-green algae.
  • Join or support one of the many watershed and river organizations.

For more information or to report unusual blooms or conditions occurring within Humboldt County, contact Humboldt County Environmental Health at 707-445-6215 or 1-800-963-9241. Photos of suspected blooms can be emailed to

To report unusual blooms or conditions occurring within Mendocino County contact 707-234-6625.

More details about blue-green algae are available at the California Department of Public Health’s website at

Blue-green algae bloom in Lake Britton; Caution Urged in Water Contact

SWRCB logo water boardsDue to its potential health risks, federal, state and county agencies are urging swimmers, boaters and recreational users to avoid direct contact with or use of waters containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), which is now beginning to bloom in Lake Britton. Lake Britton is located in northern California in Shasta County.

Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board staff made visual observations of the beginning of a cyanobacteria bloom at both the Burney Creek Cove Marina Launch Ramp and the Jamo Point Boat Ramp. A water sample collected at the Burney Creek Cove Marina Launch Ramp in Lake Britton has confirmed the presence of at least three different types of cyanobacteria.

At this point in time, the blooms are located near the boat launch ramps but wind and currents may move the bloom throughout the lake.  The presence of toxins has not been confirmed as toxin testing is currently underway.  Until toxin testing results are completed, residents and recreational water users of Lake Britton are urged to use caution and avoid getting in the water or letting dogs swim in or near these bloom areas.

Blue-green algae can pose health risks, particularly to children and pets. We urge people to choose safe activities when visiting Lake Britton and recommend that people and their pets avoid contact with water in locations with blooms, and avoid swallowing or inhaling water spray in an algae bloom area.

The algae bloom can appear as blue-green, white or brown foam, scum or mats that can float on the water’s surface and accumulate along the shoreline and boat ramp areas.

Recreational exposure to toxic blue-green algae can cause eye irritation, allergic skin rash, mouth ulcers, vomiting, diarrhea, and cold and flu-like symptoms.  Liver failure, nerve damage and death have occurred in rare situations where large amounts of contaminated water were directly ingested.  Pets can be especially susceptible since they tend to drink the water and lick their fur after going in the water.

The Statewide Guidance on Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Blooms recommends the following for blue-green algae impacted waters:

  • Take care that pets and livestock do not drink the water, swim through algae, scums or mats, or lick their fur after going in the water.  Rinse pets in clean water to remove algae from fur.
  • Avoid wading, swimming, or jet or water skiing in water containing algae blooms or scums or mats.
  • Do not drink, cook or wash dishes with untreated surface water from these areas under any circumstances; common water purification techniques (e.g., camping filters, tablets and boiling) do not remove toxins.
  • People should not eat mussels or other bivalves collected from these areas.  Limit or avoid eating fish from these areas; if fish are consumed, remove guts and liver, and rinse filets in clean drinking water.
  • Get medical treatment immediately if you think that you, your pet, or livestock might have been poisoned by blue-green algae toxins.  Be sure to alert the medical professional to the possible contact with blue-green algae.

For more information, please visit:

City of San Diego Faces Proposed Penalty of $4.6 Million for Lax Construction Site Erosion Control

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsToday the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board proposed a $4.6 million penalty against the city of San Diego for failing to ensure construction sites within the city did not pollute local streams and lagoons from 2010 to 2015. The alleged violations affected waterbodies from Los Peñasquitos Lagoon in the north to the Tijuana River Estuary in the south.

“The San Diego Water Board put a lot of resources into collaborative, outcome-focused efforts to protect and restore areas like Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and Tijuana River Estuary,” said James Smith, San Diego Water Board assistant executive officer and prosecution team lead. “Enforcement like this is the result of a major deviation from the expectations we had for those partnerships.”

San Diego is alleged to have failed to take steps to conduct adequate site inspections, prevent sediment erosion and enforce its own water quality ordinances at private construction sites. The Water Board found the water quality ordinances the city council had adopted were not being applied in the field because inspectors were poorly trained in erosion control and unwilling, or unable, to take enforcement actions. It was also discovered that city departments could not coordinate basic activities to protect water quality.
The city’s ordinances outline requirements for erosion control at construction sites and specify enforcement actions for violations.

“The Water Board expects the city’s commitment to water quality ordinances to be embraced more broadly by all city staff — not just the planners who wrote them,” Smith said. Erosion from construction sites sends sediment downstream to local creeks and lagoons, where it can smother habitat, create excessive turbidity, transport toxic pollutants and clog natural drainage systems. Noting that state regulations have been in place for more than 20 years, Smith said the city’s failures are surprising given the essentially unchanged nature of the requirements, and the city’s leadership in many other areas.

During the alleged violation period, a San Diego team was crafting plans with the Water Board and other community partners for addressing sediment problems affecting salt marsh habitat in the environmentally-sensitive Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. Because of that collaboration, the Water Board adopted a unique, flexible regulatory approach for the lagoon that relied on commitments made by city negotiators.

However, the Water Board’s investigation found that at the same time and afterward, other city departments were allowing construction sites within the lagoon’s watershed to skirt erosion control requirements, leading to multiple instances of sediment pollution that could have easily been prevented.

A copy of the San Diego Water Board’s complaint is available for review on its website. The Water Board has scheduled a hearing to consider this complaint on Oct. 12, 2016. The city of San Diego can pay the penalty, propose a settlement or supplemental environmental project, or contest the penalty before the San Diego Water Board.

The San Diego Water Board’s mission is to preserve, enhance and restore California’s water resources and ensure their proper allocation and efficient use for the benefit of present and future generations. For more information on the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, construction storm water requirements, and information about drought resources, visit its website.

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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.

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