NEWS WORTH NOTING: Comment deadline extended for draft San Joaquin River flow objectives; SoCal Edison to pay $3M for water quality violations; Water Replenishment District approves master plan to expand groundwater supplies; LADWP to begin enforcement of unreasonable water use ordinance

Deadline extended for submitting comments on the draft San Joaquin River flow objectives

From the State Water Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsThe period for submitting written comments on the draft revised Substitute Environmental Document (SED) has been extended to noon on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.  In addition, as indicated on the revised notice, the State Water Board may be scheduling additional public hearing dates.  The notice will be further revised to provide notice of any additional hearing dates.  Click here for the revised notice.

A link to electronic copies of the SED and proposed Plan Amendment is available on the State Water Board’s website at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/DeltaWQCP-Phase1.

Additional information on the public hearing can be found at the State Water Board’s website at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/calendar.

Southern California Edison to Pay $3 Million for Clean Water Act, Fish and Game Violations at Shaver Lake Dam Project

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

SWRCB logo water boardsToday the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board), along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), reached a settlement agreement with public utility company Southern California Edison for $3 million related to alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and California Fish and Game Code. The alleged violations stem from a repair project at Shaver Lake Dam, which caused the discharge of highly turbid, sediment-laden water resulting in thousands of fish being killed and irreparable impairment of downstream aquatic habitat.

Shaver Lake and the dam are part of Southern California Edison’s Big Creek hydroelectric system, which features lakes, tunnels and hydroelectric plants to produce power and deliver water for beneficial use.

The alleged violations took place when Southern California Edison was performing work to install a geomembrane liner to the upstream side of Shaver Lake Dam in Fresno County. This project was being done to prevent leaks within the dam and to shore up its structural integrity. Part of the work required water to be completely drained from the base of the dam and sediment needed to be temporarily excavated.

On Dec. 6, 2011, after the lake was dewatered to levels where work could be done to install the membrane, turbidity levels (cloudiness in the water due to suspended sediment) above acceptable levels were reported downstream of the dam. On Dec. 7, 2011, CDFW staff reported seeing highly turbid water in Stevenson Creek, a downstream tributary of Shaver Lake, and noticed a large number of dead fish. CDFW staff, along with Southern California Edison, agreed that the fish kill was a result of high turbidity due to the release of sediment from behind the dam during the Shaver Lake drawdown to complete dam work. CDFW staff allege thousands of fish died because the high turbidity.

High levels of turbidity in waterways can be detrimental to aquatic life as excess levels of sediment can cloud water, blocking sunlight from entering and making it difficult for fish and other aquatic lifeforms to survive.

As part of the settlement, Southern California Edison agrees to pay $2,077,053 to the Central Valley Water Board for the alleged Water Code violations, and $922,947 to CDFW to resolve alleged Fish and Game Code violations. Of the $2,077,053 paid to the Central Valley Water Board, $1,038,553 will be paid to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Cleanup and Abatement Account; the remaining amount will be split equally to fund a suite of environmental projects implemented by the Rose Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation benefitting communities in Kern, Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties. These environmental projects will address water quality issues and habitat restoration.

“Protecting the state’s waterways and the ecosystems that live in and around them is a high priority of the Central Valley Water Board. Which is why when incidents such as this take place, it’s necessary for the board to bring enforcement,” said Pamela Creedon, executive officer for the Central Valley Water Board. “This Administrative Civil Liability and settlement agreement will go toward making sure incidents such as these are stopped, and help clean up other waterways that may face environmental challenges.”

For more information on the settlement agreement and the Administrative Civil Liability, see the Central Valley Water Board’s enforcement webpage.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board is a California state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of water quality. For more information on the Central Valley Water Board, visit its website.

Water Replenishment District of Southern California Board Approves Landmark Master Plan To Expand Groundwater Supplies

Multi-agency effort identifies projects and strategies to increase use of recycled water and stormwater
WRD logo (PRNewsFoto/WRD)

WRD logo (PRNewsFoto/WRD)

On Thursday, the Board of Directors of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) took a monumental step toward enhancing future groundwater supplies for two of the nation's most utilized urban groundwater basins by certifying the Groundwater Basins Master Plan (GBMP).

The GBMP establishes a long term vision and framework to enhance groundwater replenishment in the Central and West Coast basins by increasing the reliability of groundwater supplies, improving and protecting groundwater quality, and accommodating growing potable water demands.

“If fully implemented, the Groundwater Basin Master Plan could conceivably produce enough locally developed water to meet the total water demands of WRD's entire service area of 43 cities, eliminating our region's demand for water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River,” said WRD Director Rob Katherman, Chair of the Water Resources Committee and member of the Groundwater Quality Committee.

WRD developed the GBMP to provide a single reference document for regional water providers that rely on the Central and West Coast groundwater basins. The GBMP identifies and evaluates specific projects and strategies that will increase replenishment and the beneficial use of recycled water and captured storm water. Increased replenishment will require increased use of existing percolation ponds, injection wells, and recovery facilities, expanded or upgraded recycled water treatment facilities, and the installation of new water infrastructure, including injection and extraction wells, conveyance pipelines, and pump stations.

“Just two weeks ago, WRD broke ground on one of the region's most important water projects, the Groundwater Reliability Improvement Project (GRIP), which will eliminate our need to import water to supplement existing groundwater replenishment,” stated WRD Director Albert Robles, Chair of the Finance/Audit and Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Committees. “Already, we are working to transform this region of Los Angeles County, where over ten percent of the state's population resides, into one that will lead California into an entirely new level of water sustainability.”

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California is the regional groundwater management agency that protects and preserves the quantity and quality of groundwater for two of the most utilized urban basins in the State of California. The service area is home to over ten percent of California's population residing in 43 cities in southern Los Angeles County. WRD is governed by a publicly elected Board of Directors which includes Willard H. Murray, Jr., Robert Katherman, John D. S. Allen, Sergio Calderon, and Albert Robles.

LADWP to Begin Enforcement of Unreasonable Water Use Ordinance On City’s Top Water Users

From the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power:

LADWP-LogoThe Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved rules and procedures for enforcement of the Unreasonable Water Use Amendment to the City’s Mandatory Water Conservation Ordinance Tuesday. Under the rules adopted by the Board, LADWP will begin evaluating customers that use water at the highest rate, Tier 4, for possible unreasonable water use. As part of a multi-step process, customers that are identified as potentially using water unreasonably will be contacted by LADWP’s Water Conservation Response Unit to conduct an Onsite Water Use Analysis and develop a property-specific water budget.

All customers receiving an Onsite Water Use Analysis will be provided a Customer Conservation Plan that summarizes the onsite visit, provides recommendations for improving water use, and includes a monthly budget. If the Onsite Water Use Analysis determines that a property violates the Ordinance’s Unreasonable Use of Water prohibitions, the Customer Conservation Plan will identify actions that need to be taken to reduce water use and comply with the monthly water budget. Failure to comply with the Customer Conservation Plan’s monthly water budget will result in a penalty.

Penalties for customers who receive a property-specific water budget and do not comply with their Conservation Plan will begin at $1000 per month under the current Phase 2 water use restrictions in place through the City’s Mandatory Water Conservation Ordinance.  Continued non-compliance will result in penalties up to $4000 per month. Penalties also increase if the City enters a higher phase of its water conservation ordinance and can top out at $40,000 per month for non-compliance under severe water use restrictions in Phase 5 of the ordinance.

With two full billing cycles completed under the new four-tier structure that went into effect on April 15, 2016, LADWP has sufficient data on hand to enforce the ordinance and compel the highest users to conserve or face stiff financial penalties.

Per the Ordinance, any single-family customer reaching Tier 4 pricing may be contacted by LADWP for an Onsite Water Use Analysis to investigate unreasonable use of water. Customers with water use that reaches Tier 4, as indicated on their bill should take steps to limit their water use.  Rebates on household water saving appliances as well as outdoor water saving tips and rebates can be found at www.myladwp.com.

Prior to the unreasonable use of water amendment, LADWP had contacted the City’s top one percent of water users by mailing two letters notifying them of their high usage. From that outreach, LADWP began to see results. One resident embarrassed by being within the top one percent, contacted the Department about replacing a substantial amount of turf, while another was able to reduce water use by 35 percent after being notified.

While the monetary penalties under the enforcement program will prod some customers who have resisted calls to conserve, the main goal is to eliminate water waste by working directly with customers to reduce their use. The program is similar to the approach used by the Water Conservation Response Unit, which first provides information to customers caught violating the water conservation ordinance and then a warning, before using fines

“We find that education is a lot more effective than a penalty,” LADWP Interim COO and Senior Assistant General Manager of Water System Marty Adams said. “This ordinance allows us to utilize both a carrot and a stick when combatting water overuse. By educating our top users on ways they can save water, we hope they will change their behaviors long term – if not, the penalties kick in. With the passage of these procedures today, we can work with the City’s highest water users who are using excessive amounts of water and work with them to reduce their use.”

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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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