NEWS WORTH NOTING: La Malfa requests delay in Oroville Dam relicensing; New video explains carbon farming in the Delta; Feinstein to CA Senators: Protect the desert from Cadiz; San Diego County Water Authority wins ASCE award

La Malfa requests delay in Oroville Dam relicensing

From the website of Congressman Doug LaMalfa:

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after sending a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur requesting a delay in the relicensing of the Oroville Dam due to ongoing safety concerns following February’s spillway incident.

LaMalfa said: “I have always been a strong supporter of Oroville Dam’s relicensing effort. After waiting for many years to finalize the relicensing agreement, waiting a couple more months for the independent forensic report promised for September is a reasonable request. The citizens of Oroville, Butte County and Northern California are counting on a proper and independent review that is completed, analyzed, and made available to the public. We can’t let the Federal and State entities rush away from the table with a final 50 year agreement before the concerns of our constituents are met.”

The letter asks Acting Chairman LaFleur to delay relicensing until the following milestones are met:

  1. The independent board of consultant’s final forensic report is delivered to FERC.
  2. FERC takes adequate time to fully analyze and consider the findings of the forensic report.
  3. FERC issues direction to the DWR providing detailed instructions, implementation plans, and compliance requirements to address any findings of the report impacting dam operations and maintenance, safety, or structural improvements.
  4. The license includes adequate annual compensation for the City of Oroville and the County of Butte for the services these local governments provide to the State Water Project by hosting a facility of this magnitude, including but not limited to law enforcement efforts to secure the dam, search and rescue responsibilities on Lake Oroville, operation and maintenance of associated recreation facilities, and other impacts.
  5. A complete analysis and report determining the condition and adequacy of all recreational facilities within the parameters of the project.  Required upgrades to facilities or new additional recreational opportunities must be clearly defined and supported with design and implementation plans.

New video explains how a plan to farm carbon in the Delta could work with the State’s cap-and-trade program to make the region more self-sustaining

From the Delta Stewardship Council:

Carbon Farming is a way for farmers to earn additional revenue for activities that help combat climate change and better manage land, water, plants and animals.

In this new video, Campbell Ingram, executive officer of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, and Dr. Steve Deverel, a principal hydrologist with the firm Hydro Focus, explain how they have been developing a “carbon methodology.”

The methodology is a set of rules that will allow Delta landowners to quantify greenhouse gas emissions in the region and provide them with a monetary incentive to convert land they currently use for traditional crops, like corn or alfalfa, to wetlands or rice cultivation – items known to absorb carbon from the air.

The landowners could then participate in the voluntary carbon markets by selling “carbon offsets.” In addition, the conversion of their crops will help stop land subsidence in the Delta. In the case of wetlands or rice, it could reverse the effects of subsidence because the plants will add to the peat soils already being lost through traditional farming methods.

Feinstein to California Senators: Protect the desert from Cadiz

From Senator Feinstein’s office:

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on the California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee to support Assembly Bill 1000, the California Desert Protection Act. The legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), would protect the ecologically fragile Mojave Desert from harmful projects like the Cadiz water extraction project.

“In light of recent rollbacks of federal protections for public lands, and reviews of national monument designations, including Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow in the California desert, state protections for the desert are needed more than ever,” Senator Feinstein wrote. “AB-1000 would require designated state agencies to ensure there would be no adverse impacts to the desert’s most vital resource—water.”

Full text of the letter follows:

July 10, 2017

The Honorable Robert Hertzberg
Chair, Committee on Natural Resources and Water
1020 N Street, Room 5046
Sacramento, California 95814

Re: AB-1000 (Friedman) – STRONG SUPPORT

Dear Chair Hertzberg,

I strongly support AB-1000 – California Desert Protection: Groundwater Transfers, which is before your committee on July 11, 2017.

The Cadiz water extraction project proposal illustrates why state protections of desert groundwater basins are critical. Cadiz, Inc., a private company that owns 45,000 acres in the Mojave Desert, wants to exploit the Fenner, Cadiz and Bristol Valley aquifers underneath the land they own and the adjacent desert. They propose to extract these limited water resources to sell to southern California at withdrawal rates that would decimate the desert. I have attached a United States Geological Survey map that shows the location of the Cadiz, Fenner, and Bristol Valleys within the Mojave Desert.

Now, with support within the current federal Administration, Cadiz is trying to push their project forward. Efforts have already begun to dismantle the regulatory framework created by the Bureau of Land Management that would require Cadiz to seek federal environmental reviews for their project.

I met with Cadiz about their project in 1999 and had serious concerns of its projects’ impact on the desert. With Cadiz’s knowledge, I requested the United States Geological Survey, an independent scientific agency, to provide an objective assessment of the natural recharge rate of the project’s targeted groundwater basins—the Fenner, Bristol, and Cadiz aquifers. The objective assessment would help to determine if there was a way for their project to proceed without depleting the aquifers and destroying the desert.

I have attached letters from the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service dating back to 2002 explaining their scientific assessments of the groundwater recharge potential of the region and summarized their findings below:

  • The U.S. Geological Survey has stated since 2002 that they believe the recharge rate in the basins is between 2,000 and 10,000 acre feet per year.
  • The U.S. Geological Survey reaffirmed their findings in May 2017 stating, “We are not aware of new information that would change our recharge estimates.”
  • Additionally, the National Park Service believes the groundwater recharge in the basin ranges from 4,650 to 7,750 acre feet per year “at best.”
  • In its 2012 comments on the Cadiz project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report, the National Park Service concluded that Cadiz’s estimated annual recharge rates “are not reasonable and should not even be considered” and are “3 to 16 times too high.”
  • National Park Service described the U.S. Geological Survey study as “computed by a scientific agency with no financial stake in the proposed project, peer-reviewed and made available to the public, provide a reasonable range of recharge estimates for the Project area.”

Cadiz chose to disregard these objective scientific analyses from the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service about how devastating their proposal would be to the desert and its wildlife, as well as local communities and industries.

Instead, Cadiz continues to assert that the recharge rate for the aquifer is 32,000 acre feet per year and proposes to export an average of 50,000 acre feet of groundwater from the region each year over a 50-year period. Even their most recent project proposal does not account for the objective assessments by the neutral federal agencies. Withdrawing water from these fragile aquifers at Cadiz’s proposed rate of 50,000 acre feet per year would decimate the desert, including the neighboring Mojave Trails National Monument.

This aquifer serves to refresh the desert and provide food for the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep as well as the magnificent plants and flowers found only in this desert. A healthy and vibrant desert also supports communities of tribes, municipalities, ranchers, salt miners, recreationists, tourists and local industries.

AB-1000 is key to ensuring desert groundwater basins are not harmfully exploited and creates a commonsense state review process that safeguards California’s fragile desert lands and groundwater basins.

California water issues are some of the most challenging issues for our state and passing a water bill for California last year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The bill authorizes $515 million in water infrastructure investments to improve our state’s water supply, including recycling, desalination, and storage projects. While I strongly support water infrastructure investments, we need to focus on smart uses of resources and sustainable, and efficient projects.

Supporting projects like Cadiz is not supporting smart water infrastructure or sound science. It’s putting private profit over public lands that belong to all Californians. Project proponents argue job creation and their infrastructure project should outweigh any other concerns. However, the national parks that the Cadiz project would irreparably damage generated over $155 million of visitor spending alone in 2016 and supports more than 2,100 local, permanent jobs.

For the past 24 years, I have fought to protect and restore the unique landscape of the Mojave Desert. The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 permanently protected more than 7.5 million acres of pristine desert land in national parks and preserves, and I worked closely with President Obama to designate three new desert national monuments last year that protected a further 1.8 million acres.

In light of recent rollbacks of federal protections for public lands, and reviews of national monument designations, including Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow in the California desert, state protections for the desert are needed more than ever. AB-1000 would require designated state agencies to ensure there would be no adverse impacts to the desert’s most vital resource—water.

Projects like Cadiz would irrevocably destroy our iconic desert, and the local communities and businesses that depend on it. This is why I strongly support AB-1000 and bolstering state level reviews of projects that threaten fragile California desert groundwater resources.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

American Society of Civil Engineers President Honors Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project

From the San Diego County Water Authority:

Today the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, along with dozens of local water leaders and stakeholders, celebrated the San Diego County Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project winning ASCE’s top international engineering award with a plaque presentation ceremony at Olivenhain Dam near Escondido.

ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei presented the plaque for winning ASCE’s 2017 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award to the Water Authority’s leadership, including Board Chair Mark Muir and General Manager Maureen Stapleton. Mattei saluted the Water Authority and its member agencies for having the foresight and dedication to build the Emergency & Carryover Storage Project, a $1.5 billion system of dams, reservoirs, pump stations, pipelines and tunnels, to help protect the region’s 3.3 million people and $222 billion economy from extended dry periods or emergencies that could disrupt imported water deliveries.

“The Water Authority planned for the future, making an investment that ensures the public’s health, safety, and welfare in case of disaster through this project,” Mattei said. “We stand here today because the San Diego County Water Authority, and all 24 member agencies that are part of it, were willing to make the investment because they saw the value and had the vision to put plans in motion.”

Begun in 1992, the project is designed to ensure up to six months of local water supplies are available and can be moved around the region after an emergency, such as an earthquake that damages the large-scale pipelines delivering imported water into the region. The project also added capacity for more than 105,000 acre-feet of local “carryover” storage – water stored during wet years to help meet demands in dry years. Overall, it added more than 200,000 acre-feet of locally available water storage capacity. Major construction of the projects was completed in 2014. (Note: An acre-foot is approximately 325,900 gallons, enough to supply two single-family households of four for a year.)

“The Emergency & Carryover Storage Project is a testament to the vision and drive of the Water Authority’s Board, management, and staff to ensure water supply reliability for our region,” Muir said. “We are proud to receive this distinguished recognition, and to have ASCE’s president personally present this plaque further honors the hard work put in by everyone at the Water Authority and its project partners to make this project a success.”

Major elements of the Emergency & Carryover Storage Project include:

  • Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir, Pipeline and Pump Station. The project included construction of a 318-foot-tall dam that added 24,000 acre-feet of emergency water storage. (Completed in 2003) The ASCE plaque will be permanently affixed at a site on the top of the dam.
  • Lake Hodges Pipeline and Pump Station. The pipeline connected Olivenhain Reservoir to Lake Hodges, providing access to 20,000 acre-feet of emergency water in Lake Hodges. The pump station generates power and moves water between the reservoirs. (Pipeline completed in 2007; pump station completed and operational in 2012)
  • San Vicente Pipeline and Pump Station. The 11-mile, 12-foot-diameter tunnel and 8.5-foot-diameter pipeline connected San Vicente Reservoir to the Water Authority’s Second Aqueduct, and the pump station moves the water from the reservoir to the aqueduct. (Pump station completed in 2010; pipeline completed in 2011)
  • San Vicente Dam Raise. This project, the tallest dam raise in the nation, raised the dam by 117 feet, creating 52,100 acre-feet of emergency water storage capacity and approximately 105,600 acre-feet of carryover storage capacity. (Completed in 2014)

The Water Authority already has used the additional storage capacity to enhance the reliability of the region’s water supply, storing more than 100,000 acre-feet of water conserved during the recent drought in San Vicente Reservoir. (The reservoir is owned and managed by the City of San Diego.)  These supplies, along with supplies from the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, helped the region pass the state’s stringent water supply “stress test” in 2016, eliminating emergency state-mandated water-use reductions for the region.

The Water Authority project earned ASCE’s top annual engineering award this spring. Other finalists included: One World Trade Center in New York City; Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 in Mumbai, India; Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, Conn.; and the Union Station to Oak Cliff Dallas Streetcar Project in Dallas, Texas.

For more information on the ASCE award, go to http://news.asce.org/emergency-and-carryover-storage-project-earns-ocea/.  More information on the Emergency & Carryover Storage Project is at http://www.sdcwa.org/emergency-carryover-storage-project.

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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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