Metropolitan’s Bay Delta Committee discusses California Water Fix and the state’s Delta smelt strategy

Metropolitan Seal sliderboxStaff also presents an overview of Metropolitan’s science efforts in the Delta

At the July meeting of Metropolitan’s Special Committee on the Bay-Delta, Committee members were briefed on the California Water Fix and the Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy, as well as an overview of Metropolitan’s science efforts.

Here’s a recap of what they discussed.

UPDATE ON CALIFORNIA WATER FIX

Steve Arakawa began the meeting with an update on the California Water Fix project.  In terms of milestones for this calendar year, the two key areas for completing the process are the Endangered Species Act authorizations and the finalization of the environmental documents, he said.

The biological assessment for the proposed project is pretty much getting to completion and they intend to submit that to the fishery agencies to start formal consultation on the project sometime by the end of this month, this will start the formal consultation process that will allow for completion of those permits by the end of this year, Mr. Arakawa said.

A lot of activity is focused on completing the final environmental documents, which includes the responses to comments, completion of all the text in the environmental document, the mitigation, and the monitoring and reporting system.  The Bureau of Reclamation and the Department anticipate also completing that process by the end of the year.

3a_Presentation_Page_2I show the Record of Decision and Notice of Determination right in the center of that line that starts 2017,” he said.  “It’s intended to show that a decision is to be made or intended to be made by the time we get to the closure of the federal administration.  That is not necessarily drawn to scale; that is just to show that there may be some final decision making that spills into January.”

The hearings for the project before the State Water Resources Control Board has begun; a final decision will likely be in 2018.   The first part of the hearing process is looking at the impacts to other legal water right holders.  The Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation will be providing testimony on the proposed project, and there will be policy statements made by both of those agencies today in terms of the need for the project.  There are other parties, including Metropolitan, that have filed an intent to deliver a policy statement; those will be heard the first week.  After the policy statements, there will next be the direct testimony of DWR and the Bureau on the proposed project.

In this process, it’s different than and administrative water quality process or proceeding in that there is sworn testimony under oath and then there’s cross examination by parties in order to establish the record,” he said.  “That’s the process that was used to define the water rights permits that the projects currently operate under, D-1641, and since this is a water rights issue with the additional points of diversion, that’s the purpose of these proceedings.  That will also be a quasi-judicial process with sworn testimony under oath and cross examination.”

Mr. Arakawa reminded that the first part of this process is to deal with other legal water right holders and any kind of protest from others regarding the project; the second part of the process will include impacts to environmental resources which will begin once the biological opinion and the environmental documents are finalized.  The Corps of Engineers permits under section 404 and Section 408 are both proceeding as well.

Mr. Arakawa then took questions from Committee members.

Director Steiner asks with the Record of Decision and Notice of Determination expected at the end of 2016, will they have the cost allocation at that time – at least amongst the federal and the state contractors, and amongst the state contractors?

That is the plan,” Mr. Arkawa replied. “Those discussions between the state contractors and the federal contractors is proceeding.  The plan is to have that allocation defined and the plan is also to have the allocation of how the state water project contractors would pay, so when the Board sees what kind of action it would be looking at and deliberating over and taking, they would have at what stage we are at with allocation and what is that approach, so that when they make a decision, that’s going to be part of the package.

Is the expectation that we will be making a decision around the time of the ROD and the NOD?  Is that the expectation?” asks Director Steiner.

Sometime thereafter – 30, 60, 90 days, but sometime in that time frame,” answers General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.

Are we going to have any kind of discussion, once we know the cost allocation, of how that allocation will be done amongst ourselves here as member agencies of Met?” asks Director Steiner.

We’ll present it to the board and the board is free to have any discussion it desires,” said Mr. Kightlinger.

I would actually request that we do some sort of policy discussion about that, because I think it’s going to affect all of us,” said Director Steiner.  “On the biological assessment … the timing is for the end of the year also?

Two things,” said Mr. Arakawa.  “The biological assessment is the description of the project that the Bureau and the Department have worked on; that goes to the fish agencies for their review and consideration under formal consultations, so that turns into a biological opinion when the fish agencies take an action.  The biological assessment describing the proposed project would be submitted, the target date is maybe within a week or so, and then that would lead to triggering the formal consultation process with the fish agencies that would stretch through sometime November-December.   The State Water Board is also going to be looking at how to set standards and requirements based on Cal Water Fix as it relates to impacts on environmental resources and they would start that proceeding following the finalization of the EIR and the biological opinion.”

Do we think the State Water Board is going to add additional water quality factors that we’ll then have to figure out what to do about those, which may cause additional delay here?” asks Director Steiner.

The State Water Board always reserves jurisdiction to set standards, and the key thing is they have an ongoing authority and responsibility to set water quality standards for the Delta through the water quality control plan and its water right decision related to that plan,” said Mr. Arakawa.  “At the last briefing I gave you, I distinguished the water quality control planning, which they reserved jurisdiction to do as part of the Clean Water Act delegated authorities.  This is on the proposed Cal Water Fix project, and this is how to permit the additional points of diversion.  Certainly it’s anticipated that parties will argue for additional flow requirements during these proceedings.  It’s yet to be seen how the State Water Board will address that issue, given that they also have the other process that they are going through with regard to updating the water quality control plan and the overall protections for the Delta.

Director Beard asks about the recent court victory regarding access to Delta properties to conduct geotechnical studies.  “Can you expand on the significance of what that was?

For a number of years, the Department of Water Resources in conducting its planning efforts has been looking to understand the geology and what kind of soil layers are underneath the Delta,” he said.  “If you’re going to construct a facility such as the tunnel project, you need also to get access for environmental surveys to be able to understand the baseline of environmental species and such.  I think the key controversial issue was the geotechnical borings that they were looking to do within the Delta and whether that was a property taking, which was an argument argued by the parties filing the complaint.  That made its way all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Department, under its authorities, does have the ability to gain that access with certain provisions and such to properly deal with these landowners.  It’s characterized as a victory because it was trudging through the legal process, it was unclear whether DWR would be able to carry out its abilities and so that was a step forward to begin the work that’s necessary to get the additional geotechnical borings that are needed to help design the project.

We’re going to be voting in and around the beginning of 2017 on the project, and yet the State Water Board perhaps midway through 2018 could impose a set of conditions that might change the benefits and costs of the project?” asks Director Wunderlich.  “Could that happen in a substantive way?  How do we vote – do we do it contingent upon what may come down the road in terms of the benefits and costs of the project?

There is a lot of parallel decision making that’s occurring, and not all of them timed at the same spot, and so the State Water Board decision to add these three points of diversion on the Sacramento River does lag in time out through what we are anticipating some time in 2018,” said Mr. Arakawa.  “With this project, as with the existing state project, we the water users that count on the State Water Project and even those that count on the Central Valley project continue to deal with the fact that regulations can change.  So not only does the State Board have the ability to make this decision, but they have the ability to make the bigger water quality control plan decision and the water right decision that goes along with that.  They have an ongoing reserve jurisdiction to deal with those regulations, as does the Endangered Species Act agencies when they issue a biological opinion; if things have a downturn, they can always go back and argue that there’s a need for reconsultation.”

I think the key here is completing the planning process as it relates to the environmental document, completing the permits under the Endangered Species Act, and continuing to better understand the science so when dealing with these additional regulatory processes, that all of the stakeholders that are directly involved, including those water contractors that are going to be paying for the project to add flexibility through the system to better manage for the environment and the water supply,” Mr. Arakawa continued.  “Any time these regulations are being considered, the best available science is being utilized so that the maximum flexibility as possible is being used through these facilities.”

The State Board does triennial reviews every three years which turn out to be longer than that, so that’s going to go on in the future, regardless,” added Roger Patterson, Assistant General Manager.  “The important thing here is that when the biological opinions are done, that will be the basis for the second phase of the State Board hearing, and at that point, we will have the two federal fish agencies and the state fish agency essentially saying here’s the criteria that we need for the project to move forward.  For this part of the proceeding, the state has to provide appropriate flow criteria with the project and they’ve done that; that’s included in the application, so at least from my perspective the key moving parts, at this point in time, for what the project looks like and how its intended to operate and what’s it going to cost and who is going to pay, we will have all of that in front of us.  Could that change going forward based on changed conditions and subsequent decisions by the State Board or the fishery agencies? They can; there are provisions to do that, but that’s how things work.  But I think once we get those biological opinions and the cost allocations, we’ll have good information.”

To make it clear as mud, I’ll weigh in with another wrinkle,” said Mr. Kightlinger.  “One way to look at this is that the project specific permits are the Endangered Species Act, the biological opinion, the Record of Decision, the Notice of Determination – they are specifically pointed at this project and how it operates.  The State Board’s water quality certifications are really looking at the overall Delta, and so they aren’t so much project specific.  The project itself doesn’t really have big impacts on water quality and is not likely to have big dynamic impacts on the project but perhaps on how the whole Delta is governed, which is much bigger than us and this project.”

The same is true with points of diversion; that is project specific, but moving points of diversion north, again not a huge impact on many things other than those directly in the zone of where you’re impacting,” continued Mr. Kightlinger.  “You have to look at what are the issues that are really project specific in making a decision about this project.  The broader outflow of the entire Delta really applies to all water users, and that process won’t be decided in this project, but it could impact this project but it will also likewise impact everyone else moving water or farming in Northern California.”

DELTA SMELT RESILIENCY STRATEGY

Next on the agenda was the Delta smelt resiliency strategy, a plan that both the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources are advancing for taking near-term actions to address the Delta smelt’s decline.  The briefing was given by Dr. Shawn Acuna, Senior Resource Specialist for the Metropolitan Water District.

The impetus for putting together the plan is that over the last two years, the Delta smelt surveys have been showing record low numbers.  “Under the records that we have, it’s quite alarming,” he said.  “Because of that, the Department of Water Resources has put together a resiliency strategy in order to look at near-term actions that could be implemented to protect the endangered species, and the hopes with these kind of things, that maybe we can have some sort of recovery for the species.”

3b_Presentation_Page_03He presented a slide showing the results of one of the surveys for Delta smelt, noting that this survey is one of the more accurate surveys.  “The Delta smelt is an annual species, which means it only lives for one year, and this is just from 2004 to 2016.  You can see the 2016 index for the survey distribution is 1.8; it’s the lowest they’ve ever had.  The record doesn’t go back too far but all the other surveys that they have had that have longer time periods, some back to the 70s, in the last two years are also at record lows.”

The resiliency strategy are near-term actions that the state can take.  “DWR put these items together based on the purview that it would have to be a state action, so if it required federal involvement, it was not added to this list,” he said.

The resiliency strategy was developed by the Department of Water Resources with consultation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and their technical staff; also with the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Division of Boating and Waterways, said Dr. Acuna.  “These groups have enormous interest in the Delta, and they have a lot of people on the ground and technical staff that have been leaned on to help develop this strategy.”

There are a lot of proposed actions that mostly revolve around a few key areas, he said.  There is control of invasive species.  “We know that the estuary is one of the most invaded estuaries in the world and a lot of these invasive species have caused systemic habitat degradation,” he said.  “There is a lot of predation problems with a lot of these invasives, and the function of the ecosystem has been greatly degraded because of this.”

The Division of Boating and Waterways, a division of the Parks and Recreation Department, is responsible for control of aquatic weeds.  “It’s pretty bad; it hasn’t been this bad in a long time,” he said.  “The NASA surveys found that there was over 10,000 acres of hyacinth in the Delta.  It’s actually blocking waterways.  The Port of Stockton actually had to shut down in order to address these things, and they’ve spent an enormous amount of money to remove hyacinth.  We know that hyacinth that is a species that is greatly altering the ecosystem, but what we don’t know is how it impacts native species.”

Water quality parameters have been declining over time, so some of these actions are to adjust that,” he said.  “The ecosystem itself is not as productive as it used to be.  The more you produce in food, the more fish you could have, but it’s not producing as much food as it used to.  There’s also a lot less habitat for fish, as well as there are actions for flow and other things such as the sediment supplementation.”

Other actions includes adjusting salvage, an idea that was promoted by DWR that during the summer.  “Native species aren’t generally salvaged during the summer, so perhaps adjusting this would target species that are probably not as impactful, so not the natives, but maybe the invasives, so we’ll target those more,” he said.

There are actions for stormwater discharge management, the Rio Vista Research Station, and then near-term Delta habitat restoration projects.

The process of this resiliency strategy was then pushed into CSAMP, the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program, a program established after litigation for many years.  “As a part of that litigation, a lot of the state and federal agencies plus the NGOs, water agencies, and other interested parties, came together in a collaborative mindset, to try and identify what are the areas of disagreement in the Delta, what can we do to rectify those agreements, and what science can we do to understand that,” he said.  “They were able to review it and find that this is something that they should probably pick up and identify certain projects that should be evaluated. They gave it to the Delta smelt scoping team, which specifically looks at species-specific issues. … I am part of the Delta smelt scoping team, so as part of that scoping team, I’ve reviewed the resiliency plan and we’ve identified certain things that we need to look at, such as the summer flow augmentation.”

And with that, Dr. Acuna’s presentation was concluded; he then took questions.

Director Larry McKenney asked, “You talked about the ecosystem itself producing relatively little food for fish, as I understood it.  I read recently an article that featured Moyle talking about fish in the Delta … his comment is the ecosystem is doing great, just not for the natives.  So is that different from what you are saying?

Dr. Acuna said it’s fairly similar.  “In the Delta, we have a lot of lake-like ecosystems out there.  Is that we wanted? Did we want a lake out in the middle of the Delta?  It’s probably not what we were hoping for. We were hoping for an estuary. That’s what we want.  And he’s right. That’s what he’s talking about.  As an ecosystem, it still functions.  But it does not function as an estuary.”

It’s not a matter of not having food; it’s not having the food for those species?” asked Director McKenney.

Dr. Acuna agrees.  “Actually hyacinth produces quite a bit of food, but we can’t seem to find that translating to more productivity of Delta smelt.”

In terms of activities to try to make the smelt more resilient and more likely to recover, do we have observable evidence that activities like this have had an effect in the past?” asked Director McKenney.  “Observable benefits from actions that have been taken of any of these types: weed control, outflow augmentation, sediment, and all these things?

We mostly have the counter to that,” answered Dr. Acuna.  “We’ve seen evidence of where by inaction, things that have occurred, or by a change in the ecosystem such as an invasion of clams, or other things like that where you see this sort of step decline in Delta smelt.  That’s driving a lot of these resiliency strategy actions, is because we can see the evidence that when the clams came in, we saw a marked decrease in the amount of food production in the Delta, especially in Suisun Bay …  it really shut down the system.  It is dramatic decline in the amount of phytoplankton that’s out there.  After that, we saw a marked decline in a lot of species.”

So we’ve seen the negatives but we haven’t really seen positive impacts from any of these actions,” he said.

3b_Presentation_Page_03As for the positive impacts, the only thing we allude to are some of the things that have happened in the past,” he said, returning to the survey results.  “The reason why the summer flow action is being promoted is if you look at this graph, 2011-12, since this is measured in the winter and the spring of 2012, it’s actually responding to what happened in 2011.  What happened in 2011 was it was a high water year.  All throughout the fall, winter, and then following spring, a lot of water happened during that time.  We found temperatures were doing good; there was a lot more water going through the system, a lot more flooding of the floodplain, productivity was higher, all these metrics that we find that have been helpful for Delta smelt, they were all better during that time.

We didn’t find that similar thing happening in 2006, which also was a high water year,” Dr. Acuna continued.  “So what was the difference between 2006 and 2012?  It was a lot cooler in 2012.  There was a lot more productivity.  There was better residence time and inundation of floodplains, so some of the actions that are in the resiliency strategy is designed towards taking advantage of that mechanism.  Inundate the floodplains by diverting water over the floodplains, allowing those to have time to incubate the food, and then transport it downstream, allowing for Delta smelt to benefit from that.  Unfortunately, there are not a lot of actions that show direct results because a lot of our actions haven’t been either strong enough or targeted enough to get those kind of relationships.”

You call for additional water and additional turbidity,” said Director Glen Peterson.  “Aren’t those kind of juxtaposed?  Doesn’t additional water push turbidity out of the system?

It can, as long as there’s nothing coming in with the flow,” Dr. Acuna said.  “If the flow is coming in with turbidity, that is actually driving more; so if you have a mass balance where your addition of turbidity coming in is greater than what is coming out, then you’ve increased the turbidity.  A lot of the flow from upstream under natural conditions brings turbidity downstream.  Under reservoir releases, that’s not the case, not as much. But under natural conditions, it actually has that runoff period where water is being drained out of the watershed, and that pulls a lot of turbidity into the system.”

So you’re not asking for additional flow outside of turbidity, you want it with turbidity,” said Director Peterson.

Generally, yes,” replied Dr. Acuna.  “The Delta smelt seem to like turbidity a lot more.  The clear water has not been found to be beneficial.”

OVERVIEW OF BAY DELTA SCIENCE ACTIVITIES

Steve Arakawa then gave a presentation on Metropolitan’s Bay-Delta science activities.  “Today we want to give you more of an overview of what kind of issues are we working on and capability do we have, because science is going to be key to informing both policy and management decisions,” he said.  “That’s the case either with the existing system or with the existing that’s been modernized as we’re talking about with Cal Water Fix; either way, science is really key.  I want to talk about the importance of Metropolitan being involved in the science process, and why we have a stake in doing so, and about the expertise that has evolved within Metropolitan to deal with these issues.”

It all comes down to our water supply reliability,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “When the conditions for fish are better, our reliability is hopefully going to be better.    As the conditions or the surveys have shown declines in fisheries, our water supply reliability has suffered, so for a number of years, we’ve had reduced capability, both in terms of supply but also in terms of flexibility of the water system to operate – the flexibility to operate in different months, to divert water in different months, and all of that really limits the ability to be reliable.  So the reason that science is key is the better we know what may be going on, what kind of factors might be important, and the more informed we are about the science, the better we will be at trying to define the appropriate measures, management actions and then policies and regulations that are actually protective.”

It also reduces uncertainty,” he said.  “We will likely never reduce all of the uncertainty to zero; there’s always going to be uncertainty, but trying to reduce uncertainty about what’s causing what in some very key areas so that more informed management decisions can be implemented.”

Metropolitan has been involved in science efforts since about 2011 to the issues with the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, but Metropolitan’s science capability has really developed more recently in the last year or two, he said. During the last fiscal year, Metropolitan spent about $2.5 million of internal costs split between outside consultants and labor.  Metropolitan is also participating in external science efforts with the State Water Contractors, and the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency, the JPA that was formed a few years ago whose focus has been science and the development of science and habitat; during the last fiscal year, Metropolitan contributed about $1.3 million to these outside efforts.

Metropolitan science staff works on regulatory processes, the California Water Fix, and the Endangered Species Act issues, but a lot of it is trying to understand the science behind different mechanisms and the effects of these mechanisms on the fisheries and the habitat conditions and the food web.

3c_Presentation_Page_06Metropolitan staff include:

  • Dr. Shawn Acuna, who has been focusing on Delta smelt and longfin smelt; he works with Delta fisheries and particularly the native fisheries and understanding the stressors that may be affecting these species.
  • Alison Collins is a senior resource specialist, formerly with NMFS.  She works with anadromous species, such as steelhead and salmon.
  • Dr. Dave Fullerton has been with Metropolitan over 20 years. He has been focusing on technical issues, database statistics and understanding data, and has a lot of understanding about the landscape of California water.
  • Dr. Paul Hutton has been working on Delta hydrology, runoff patterns, and what the term natural flow might mean.  His work on natural flow has been getting published, and he’s worked with others outside of Metropolitan in collaborating on that.
  • Dr. Cory Phillis came from NMFS; he has expertise in statistics and life cycle modeling.
  • Lynda Smith is a long time Metropolitan employee; she started in Metropolitan’s water quality division many, many years ago.  She is a water quality expert;  and she has really branched out to understand more of the fishery issues that relate to water quality.
  • Dr. Chuching Wang, also a longtime Metropolitan employee, is experienced with both water system operations modeling with the reservoirs, and with the modeling of the system in the Delta for both flows, water quality, as well as turbidity forecasting.

Metropolitan is involved in many different processes, he said; there’s not only the current hearings on California Water Fix currently underway, but the updating of the water quality control plan, and to the extent needed, any changes to the water rights permits.  They work on Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act issues, water project operations, water quality issues, modeling, and habitat.

3c_Presentation_Page_09A lot of Metropolitan’s effort has been focused on native fish distribution – understanding where are the fish, how much of the fish are in the Delta, working on understanding the fish trawl data, where that distribution shakes out, and understanding how the trends are for these different populations, he said.

We’re trying to help develop better techniques and collaborating with others because as the fish have declined, it’s becoming harder and harder to do studies, because each study where you sample fish requires a take limit or a take level.  You can only operate those studies within those limits and limits have been getting tighter and tighter because of the concern about the fish populations becoming so low, so better techniques to use things like a smelt cam and with devices, trying to steer the fish towards a certain area, being able to take the image of that fish, use software to recognize and identify what kind of fish it is, we’ve been involved in that.”

We’ve been looking at new tagging technologies,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “There are much more updated technologies include the ability to track fish, almost like a GPS system with radio waves and seeing where these fish are going, are they going into areas of predation or how much are they impacted by that.”

3c_Presentation_Page_10An emerging technology that we are collaborating with others on is what’s called eDNA,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “When fish swim through the water column, just as we all do, we shed DNA and that’s how people investigate things and they understand where people have been, the fish leave DNA behind.  Same with fish; so it’s trying to understand where the fish might have been.

Metropolitan staff have been working on longfin smelt to better understand them, understanding and improving the fish surveys, reducing mortality and predation, and issues related to habitat restoration.  Dr. Paul Hutton has been working characterizing the hydrology and natural conditions, as well as salinity trends under the historic record.

They’ve been looking at remote sensing capability with partnerships such as JPL to utilize satellite information, and how drones might be used to understand the environmental conditions of turbidity or other types of parameters that can be identified through remote sensing to understand how to manage the system, he said. Metropolitan is collaborating with others, such as the Bureau, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the USGS.

3c_Presentation_Page_11Some of the emerging benefits that we’ve seen is understanding how turbidity can be used, forecasting turbidity, and even managing turbidity to try to prevent Delta smelt from getting too close and spawning right in front of the south Delta pumps,” he said.  “Two or three years ago, some voluntary actions were taken right at the beginning before turbidity started to come through the Delta, trying to minimize the amount of turbidity that gets deep into the south Delta where the fish then spawn … so we try to keep the turbidity and the fish spawning farther west in the system and away from the pumps, and those kinds of efforts have had and would continue to prove beneficial to providing flexibility for the water project operations.”

They have also had success with the nutrient effects on the food web.  The Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant has made significant progress in dealing with discharges.  “There is on the ground, real construction activity to really accelerate how that plant can be upgraded to deal with nutrients.  … The Sacramento Regional agency is really stepping up the efforts to try to phase things as early as possible regarding nutrients, and the collaboration that’s been going on since all of that litigation, that collaboration has been really important and will continue to be important.”

More recently, they have been successful with trying to get more attention on the aquatic weeds and how to deal with them.  “You can remove aquatic weeds through mechanical means to harvest them and pull them out and remove them from the water column, or you can use herbicides and try to contain or control them but those kinds of things have unintended effects, so making sure that the right actions are taken to deal with what has become a nuisance situation where these weeds are growing either on the surface of the water with the water hyacinths or even deep below with the submerged aquatic vegetation and how that is changing the whole ecosystem.”

A lot of collaboration has occurred with a lot of different entities, he said.  There is ongoing collaboration with DWR, but also a growing collaboration with other entities like Oregon State University on surveys and trends;  JPL, USGS in the Yolo Bypass. And others.  “Really the key is better understanding through this collaboration, but also better use of our resources, better use of the human resources and the thinking power but also the money.”

3c_Presentation_Page_13When you look at the whole community of Delta science, the State and Federal Water Contractors Agency has been heavily involved in the science and Metropolitan has been a part of that, so that’s where we plug in, and we plug in separately from that in some situations,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “The Delta Stewardship Council has its Delta Science Program, which they perform peer reviews, and they have independent panels that look at science.  The Interagency Ecological Program does a lot of compliance work to make sure that the surveys go on and that’s part of compliance for understanding the fish trends, but they have special studies as well.  That interagency program is through the relationship of DWR, the Bureau and the fish agencies and a few others to work collectively on these science issues.

The Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program is the marrying of the science and then understanding what kind of management actions can be defined to improve how we manage the system, how we operate the system, that type of thing,” he said.   “That’s been going on voluntarily now, because it started as an order from the court, but the parties including the NGOs, the water agencies, and the fish and operating water entities like the Department and the Bureau have felt that this collaboration was so important that it needed to continue on, even though it was not now required by the court after all the litigation was done.”

So we feel that science is really going to be a key driver and Metropolitan’s efforts are looking to be a part of that development as we better understand and plug up some of the gaps,” said Mr. Arakawa.  “We have a vested interest, because the more we understand, the more you can define actions to better to deal with both the environment and water supply, and so I think that’s going to be critical.  Whatever our future is, whether it’s with a modernized system in the Delta, or whether it’s with the existing system, better understanding the science end gives you the better capability to manage both water supply and the environment.”

BAY-DELTA MANAGER’S REPORT

The last item on the agenda was Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson’s report on Bay Delta Operations.

He began by commending the state for the Delta Smelt Resiliency Plan.  “There are a lot of these ideas that they’ve been talking about and the state finally said we’re going to capture these things and we’re going to start taking action on them, and we’re going to use the collaborative science program to monitor how well we’re doing, and if it’s working, we’re going to invest more,” he said.  “The Governor had about $14 million in this budget that they preidentified to go directly to the smelt resiliency, so I think that’s good leadership on the part of the state.”

Mr. Patterson said that the submission of the final biological assessment should be occurring soon; this starts the formal consultation process.

Now that escrow has closed on the Delta Wetlands, staff will prepare a report on how the islands might be used.  “We’ve had a lot of neighbors that have contacted us and want to talk with Metropolitan about how we’re seeing use of the Delta wetlands properties, and how we can work in partnership with some of the other entities that have neighboring properties, such as the Nature Conservancy and others.  So we’ll very methodically have to figure out a way to move that forward and we’ll be bringing that to the board to keep them informed as to what we’re doing.”

Good progress is being made on the cost allocation, according to Mr. Patterson.  “I think we likely will have a methodology for how to split the costs between the two projects and a decision on that by DWR and the Bureau I think by September, so that’s moving along pretty well.”

The Central Valley Project is embroiled in day to day operations.  “The SWP has a 60% allocation this year, and we’ve been able to operate better than we have in the past.  The CVP, though, has allocated 5% to their Westside contractors and over the last two weeks, they’ve been really struggling with how to keep water flowing on the CVP side,” said Mr. Patterson. “In fact, Metropolitan shut down some of our deliveries out of San Luis for a five day period just to take the pressure off of San Luis.  There are two things there: it’s a 2 million acre-foot reservoir, it has 200,000 acre-feet in it, so 10% and 80% of the water in there belongs to the SWP, so that means that the CVP has very little water.  Santa Clara is off and using local supplies to get through these times.  Everybody is really pitching in; any of the contractors that can help navigate through this have been doing so.”

The primary driver that’s happening is even though the Central Valley main storage both Shasta and Folsom spilled this year, the cold water operation and the Delta management is really putting a strain on the CVP, and they are limited on how much storage they can bring out of Shasta Reservoir, and that’s sort of driving everything else down through the system and that’s why it’s running so close to the edge.”

Director Fern Steiner asked about the cost allocation.  “September for the federal-state, and then state water contractors allocation October November?  So in connection, about the same time as the Record of Decision and Notice of Determination?

We believe that we have to have all three; we have to have a cost split between the two projects, and we need to know certainly how the State Water Project will allocate the costs,” he said.  “I think that we would also like to see how the CVP is going to do their internal cost allocations, so I would anticipate all of those before the end of the year.  The Bureau has really ramped up the efforts through the hiring of Bill MacDonald; he’s been in Sacramento the last two weeks, he’s working on behalf of the Commissioner to really look at the various alternatives they have for allocating their costs and we’ll keep an eye on that.

Mr. Kightlinger added, “We’ll keep the Board and this Committee posted and apprised of it, but before I believe water agencies such as ours can make a decision, we’ll need all those pieces.  We’ll need all the cost shares and we’ll need the Record of Decision and the Notice of Determination and the new biological opinions to understand the operations so we can do a thorough analysis to the extent that one decision gets made 30, 40, or 60 days after another, to my mind it doesn’t really matter.  We won’t be bringing to the board to a decision point until all those pieces come together, and it may all come together right on the exact same day, or one may trail another, or not, but to my extent, you don’t have a complete package to analyze until all those pieces are done.

For more information …

Daily emailsSign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post!

Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: