Second white paper focuses on project operations, water reliability, and regulations
At the Metropolitan Water District’s joint committee meeting of the Special Committee on the Bay Delta and the Water Planning and Stewardship Committee, committee members heard a presentation on the white paper, Modernizing the System: California Water Fix Operations. The white paper is the second in a series of three that are being prepared by staff to inform board members prior to making a decision on participation in the California Water Fix project, now anticipated to occur towards the end of September.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
But first, there were several members of the public present to address the Committee members. All but one spoke in opposition to the tunnels, with many citing the cost as a concern. A handful requested the committee invite a presentation from Dr. Jeffrey Michael on the costs of the project. Several asked for the Committee to delay the vote on the tunnels until they had more information.
BARBARA BARRIGAN PARILLA, Restore the Delta: “I’m here today to make a couple of requests. One is as you are evaluating your second paper today and looking at the baseline for water deliveries, I think it’s very important that you request of staff a full detailed listed analysis of all scheduled and potential water sustainability projects for Southern California, with a detailed cost analysis, and potential water yield, so that you can compare those numbers to what you will be presented as the costs for Cal Water Fix over the next month.”
“The second piece of information I wanted to share with you is that last week I attended a meeting at the Westlands Water District with a Goldman Sachs presentation, and at the Goldman Sachs presentation, as they were looking at options for financing, their anticipated additional yield for water to make the project financeable is 1 MAF of water. That’s not a lot of water for four major water districts. Their baseline numbers I think pretty much match up with what I’ve seen, looking through the white paper. We will be sending in this week more detailed comments on this second white paper regarding water yield.”
“What was really interesting was that Goldman Sachs actually suggested than an option for water districts would be the potential to refinance loans to pay for the Delta tunnels, extending the debt out for 50-75 years. Considering that UCLA just let out a report that the Delta watershed is going to decline by 30% over the next 100 years, and USGS sees runoff for the Delta watershed declining by 38% over the next 40 years, there is a real potential for the Delta tunnels to become a stranded asset before this project is paid for.”
“You have a responsibility to your ratepayers. Please look at the alternatives fully. Delay the vote. Vet all the data. There’s no rush. If you find you are still going to be ready to do this a year from now and you think that the numbers bear out, than that will be your option. But you’re rushing a vote right now without having all the facts.”
ANGELINA JIMENEZ., speaking through interpreter: “She wants to let you know that she’s not in favor of the tunnels because in the long run, she’ll end up deciding whether to pay for water or to buy food and eat. She’s on her way to retirement, folks that will struggle in the future paying for water.”
LEAH GARLAND, Los Angeles: ” ... Obviously with the Sierra taps diminishing, we can’t rely on the importation of water continually. We have to protect our local water supplies, and if you spend that many dollars on these tunnels, how are you going to pay for local water supply? I’m really touched by that woman who just said she’s worried about having to pay for water or paying for food. If you haven’t been in that position, I’d like you to imagine it, because it sucks. I ask you for one thing. Dr. Jeffrey Michaels to present on the real cost of the tunnels, because I really care about people being able to pay for water. Allow for a documented comparison of all self-sufficiency projects for water versus the tunnels. Know what you’re voting for. Please, delay the vote until we have the answers. Do your due diligence. … ”
ESCUARDO, Los Angeles resident: ” … We need to rethink this project. It’s not going to bring down any water, it’s going to be all distributed to agriculture. Whatever benefit is produced with this project will stay with the 1%. Right now, we’re at a place where we need to protect out natural resources, protect them in a way that does benefit the greater good. This project would harm the environment. It would harm a very precious space we have here in the Delta. … We need to analyze and figure out what is the best options on the table. … I want to make sure that California has a good plan to manage its water that doesn’t include making the rich people in this country richer … ”
TOM WILLIAMS: ” … I remember the old peripheral canal. I call this the peripheral tunnels, it’s not much different. And we stopped it before and we’ll stop this one again. You have basic problem. You don’t know what you’re going to get. Pig in the poke, pipe in the ground. What’s it going to cost? … If you have an earthquake, you’re going to have separation at the shaft tunnel connections and you’re going to have to rebuild the whole bloody thing. If the levees can’t take earthquake activity, how can the tunnels? … ”
CHARLES WILSON, Director and CEO of the Southern California Water Committee: “The Southern California Water Committee is a non-profit non-partisan public education partnership dedicated to informing Southern Californians. … The organization actually began some 35 years ago around very much this same issue and the need to educate Southern Californians about where their water comes from and the reliability needs into the future.”
“Last week we commissioned and released a poll and I wanted to be able to share with you that from that, the California Water Fix project has the support of nearly 2/3rds of Southern California voters, according to the results last week. And I’m talking about every demographic, every county, every constituency group, all contained 2/3rds majority supported what we’re trying to do here in providing reliability to Southern California through the modernization of the state’s infrastructure to provide water for Southern California, Central California, and the Bay Area. Interestingly this poll also tracks very succinctly with the recent PPIC poll which showed over 70% of state voters also supporting this particular concept.”
“While I’d like to say I’m surprised, I’m not, but I am wholeheartedly pleased at the poll results. It confirms what we’ve been hearing from our members and our constituency and our regional leaders for many, many years. This is strong support for California Water Fix, this is a smart, modern solution to help secure high quality water supply for 27+ billion people going forward into the future. Let me be clear. All of the alternatives talked about, whether it’s stormwater, recycling, groundwater recovery – all of the various local options including desalination, all our predicated on a baseload supply of water reliability for Southern California. Absent that reliability, none of those projects make sense, and none of them can make up for the water that would be lost when, not if the Bay Delta collapses. We believe it is now time for decision makers like yourselves and various stakeholders to listen to their constituents, pick up the torch, take the necessary steps, as you’re walking through your evaluation over the next month or so, and lead California to a prosperous future.”
GISELLE MATA, Whittier: “I am a member of the community group ACE which represents 10,000 low to moderate income families. … When we look at the statistics on constituents, let’s just say 65% of those voters don’t understand what they are voting for. California Water Fix. That’s a great marketing plan. It doesn’t fix anything, though. And if voters knew what this did, which is one, takes away water resources that would service our current system, it takes away those monies and really depletes improving our water system locally. This money is going to put us in debt for many years out with no real new water for our area. … ”
BRENNA NORTON, Food and Water Watch: “Let’s just break this down. This is insane that the Metropolitan Water Board of Directors is considering a $17 billion infrastructure investment when you have no guarantees of any increased water or any increased benefit. Because that’s what this is. Billions for ratepayers and you have no guarantees of a single drop of anymore water or any reliability. 11 years of talking about this project … ”
Other commenters speaking in opposition to the California Water Fix included Armando, Cindy Koch, Darrell Gail, Veronica Wilson, Ryan Booms with LA Waterkeeper, Sarah Yang, Sheila Goldner, Bruce Campbell, and Bill P..
With the public comment thus concluded, Brandon Goshi, Unit Manager, gave the presentation on the second paper on the California Water Fix. The third white paper on the financial aspects of the project will be presented at a third joint committee meeting on August 14th. That will be followed by a workshop, and then a board meeting to take action, currently scheduled for September 26th.
Mr. Goshi said his presentation will focus on the operations of the project, and more specifically, the regulations and the environmental restrictions that govern the operations of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, and how the California Water Fix will operate within that world.
He said the white paper could be distilled down to four questions:
- How do regulations in the Delta affect current project operations?
- How does California Water Fix operate under those current and future regulations that are projected to govern Delta operations?
- What then would the benefits and uncertainties surrounding the California Water Fix operations?
- How does the California Water Fix consider Delta communities and the environment?
He then spoke to each of those questions.
1. HOW DO REGULATIONS AFFECT CURRENT PROJECT OPERATIONS?
The current State Water Project and Central Valley Project facilities for diversion and export of water from the Delta are essentially a single point of diversion, Mr. Goshi began, noting that he used the word ‘essentially’ because both of the pumps and diversion facilities fro both projects are located in the south Delta region. The regulations that govern the water operations for both the projects are laid out in the State Water Resources Control Board Decision D-1641, which governs beneficial uses and water quality within the Delta region.
The 2008-2009 biological opinions for the Delta smelt and salmon has regulations that control the reverse flows in Old and Middle River. “The concept with this regulation is to control the amount of water that is pulled toward the single point of diversion pumps from the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project facilities in the south Delta,” he said. “But there are other classes of regulations that also govern the operations of the existing system. Some of these are habitat protection outflows, such as X2, which is outflow to control salinity as it intrudes into the Delta. Cross channel gate operations which control how much water gets into the Central Delta; export-inflow ratios which balance the amount of water that can be exported from the current project, based on the amount of water that’s flowing into the Delta from its rivers and tributaries, and regulations governing San Joaquin inflows. These are the kinds of classifications that come under the D1641 and 2008-2009 biological opinions.”
Mr. Goshi noted that the three regulations that the California Water Fix and the dual conveyance system will address are the Old and Middle River reverse flows, the inflow-export ratio from the San Joaquin, and the Cross Channel Gate operations.
“The regulatory approach for protecting water quality and the fisheries has reduced the flexibility of the existing project with the southern pumps to effectively export water,” Mr. Goshi said. “The current project is restricted for most parts of the year basically for these three species: salmon, Delta smelt, and longfin smelt. You can see that there’s a three month window where there’s no restrictions on the pumping except for the capacity.”
He then presented a graph depicting how regulations have impacted exports from the projects over time. “Back in the 1980s when there were essentially no regulations to pumping, the amount of water export capability was roughly 8 MAF for both projects at that time,” he said. “Then there was the introduction of regulations with the National Marine Fisheries Service 1991 biological opinion that started to address smelt and salmon. This reduced the export capability by imposing those regulations and affecting the southern diversions. The CVPIA in 1992 and then the 1994 Bay Delta Accord, which essentially became the rules and regulations under decision D-1641 came in in that time frame.”
“Reduced flows or flow requirements on the Trinity River and the San Joaquin River posed further challenges to export capability, and then in 2008 and 2009, the smelt and salmon biological opinions reduced that even further,” he continued. “So this graphic basically shows that the regulations over time have challenged the projects and will likely continue to challenge the projects on a going forward basis. And that’s one of the unknowns of the future, and one of the things that California Water Fix may help address.”
2. HOW DOES CALIFORNIA WATER FIX OPERATE UNDER FUTURE REGULATIONS?
The California Water Fix adds a dual conveyance system which, in addition to the south Delta diversions, it adds diversions points in the North Delta along the Sacramento River that’s joined to the export facilities in the south by the twin tunnels. “It brings enhanced operational flexibility,” Mr. Goshi said. “In the infrastructure presentation and white paper, you heard about the facilities of the intake structures themselves and the modern intake structure that allows fish to bypass without taking those endangered species; that point of diversion then allows for water diversions without impacts to the fisheries, whereas the southern diversions would only continue to impact that.”
“The capacity and the location of the northern diversions also help provide flexibility to divert excess flood flows and reduce fishery impacts during low flow periods,” he continued. “And so the ability to have north and south is important. What that does for the south Delta is reduce the reliance upon the south Delta pumps and then allows for reduced reverse flows in the river, less water being pulled towards the pumps which is an area of primary concern with the current regulations. That results in less fish salvage at the pumps, and thus more protection for those endangered species that are being impacted.”
Mr. Goshi noted that the California Water Fix would also be subject to regulations to protect water quality and species: diversions would be limited during fish migration and low river flows; there would be mandated bypass flows for how much flow the Sacramento River would have to carry and that the tunnels and the diversion structures couldn’t divert all that flow; and additional spring outflow regulations has a significant impact on exports.
“In the south Delta, it’s expected there would be more restrictive limits in the Old and Middle Rivers as times goes forward,” he said. “The installation and use of operable gates to help with fish migration issues, so these additional protections have been identified as part of the operating criteria that would go along with the project.”
Additional elements of the California Water Fix are the Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program, the ability to perform real-time operations adjustments to help operate the project from both diversion points to address both fishery needs and water supply; and environmental commitments beyond just the construction impacts of the project to restore habitat and the ecosystem.
3. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND UNCERTAINTIES SURROUNDING CALIFORNIA WATER FIX?
In 2007, the Metropolitan Board of Directors established criteria or benchmarks for a Delta solution; those benchmarks are: provide water supply reliability, improve water quality, allow flexible operations in a dynamic fishery environment, reduce the risk of climate change, reduce the seismic risk to that supply, and enhance ecosystem habitat throughout the Delta. Mr. Goshi then went through the criteria, giving examples to show how the California Water Fix compares to the criteria and what the benefits are.
Water supply reliability
“This is actually a complex issue,” Mr. Goshi said. “What is water supply reliability? You’ve heard and read that the project doesn’t do anything in terms of water supply. I think a lot of that has to do with what does the operating conditions of the Delta look like in the future versus today, and so in order to do that, we have to know what the operating conditions are going to be in the future, or at least know the range. So what we do have documented in the EIR is an initial set of operating criteria under which the project and the California Water Fix will be operated. In addition, there is the adaptive management program, and the ability to respond real-time to conditions.”
“The important takeaway out of what I’m about to show you is that the regulations were looked at through an extensive modeling process to see how sensitive or what the response of the project both with and without the new facilities would be under a range of regulations, because we don’t know exactly what the regulations will be in the future, but we feel that there’s a good handle on the range of regulations and how they may be implemented,” said Mr. Goshi.
“The EIR itself has an evaluation of the proposed project under the initial operating criteria or regulations that the project would be operated under,” he said. “Think of this as a continuum in terms of analysis. As Delta outflow requirements increase, water project diversions and reliability should decrease; there’s more water being dedicated to outflow uses.”
“The draft EIR and the recirculated EIR looked at a range of flow requirements around the initial operating criteria,” he continued. “The two modeling runs, called 4A H3 and 4A H4, show the sensitivity of the proposed project to different outflow requirements within the Delta. So lower outflow requirements, higher outflow requirements. As part of the State Water Resources Control Board proceedings, a wider range of variable operations was also considered, which is shown as Boundary 1 and Boundary 2; it is here to just show that a wider range than besides just the outflow requirement was looked at in terms of what potential operations could be.”
“The important takeaway here is that this whole range was examined so that we know what the risk of different implementation is,” said Mr. Goshi. “This was all done as part of the overall EIS, which considered various dual conveyance alternatives, all the way from alternative 1 to alternative 8, and so a comprehensive review of both facilities and regulations that could govern those facilities was done. So with those modeling runs, we can make an estimate of what the reliability or additional water supplies associated with the project are.”
Mr. Goshi then presented a graph showing average delivery capability. The first bar represents existing conditions – this is not what’s happening today, but the regulations that the project operates under today with the current facilities in place today, but out in the 2025 time frame, he explained, noting that climate change impacts are incorporated into the 4.7 MAF number. “So in the future, with climate change included, the project under existing regulations and existing configuration would deliver roughly 4.7 MAF on average,” he said.
Next, to determine what would the future look like with additional regulations, Mr. Goshi said to establish the number for the future without California Water Fix, they looked at the future operating regulations but without the facilities associated with the California Water Fix, which is why it is a range of 3.5 to 3.9 MAF. “As future regulations like increased OMR regulations or increased flow requirements occur, we’d see a decrease in the amount of water that could be exported with the current system,” he said.
“Then by including the facilities associated with the California Water Fix, and operating under those same regulations that we see in the future without California Water Fix, we would see a range of 4.7 to 5.3 MAF,” he said. “That result is solely the implementation of the facilities of the California Water Fix, operated and meeting all of the regulations for water quality and fishery protection that the 3.5 to 3.9 would be. So you can see that as the range of improvement for water.”
That range of improvement is consistent with what was examined in the IRP, he said. “The IRP does a good job of examining what balanced investments need to be made across the range of water supply resources in order to meet demands out into the future,” he said. “What this graphic shows is that the State Water Project is a piece of the comprehensive strategy to meet water supply reliability for Southern California. Local resources and conservation form the majority of the pyramid, along with the State Water Project and the Colorado River. Near the top of the pyramid is the State Water Project. In the IRP, to achieve reliability was looking at 1.2 MAF of supplies, and so the question is, is the 4.7 to 5.3 MAF is that consistent with the 1.213, which is the State Water Project portion for Metropolitan? Is that consistent with what we looked at in the IRP, and the answer to that is yes.”
“The IRP target looked at having a system on the State Water Project would increase reliability by managing flow and export regulations through collaborative science-based approaches, and to pursue a Delta solution through a continued participation in California Water Fix and California Eco Restore, and I think that’s what we’re bringing before you today,” he said. “This table shows our expectation of water supplies from the State Water Project, and this is consistent for the model findings for the range of supplies that would be available under the different regulations.”
Another way where the flexibility from the dual conveyance system helps to provide water supply reliability is in the capacity to capture excess storm flows, he said, presenting a graph for the winter of 2012-2013, a dry year that resulted in an overall State Water Project actual allocation of 35%. “You can see that even in a dry year, there were two major storm events, one in December and one in January, that over a 14-day period ranged between 880,000 acre-feet and 1.1 MAF of river flow that would have passed by the northern intake diversion points,” he said.
The green on the graph shows the actual State Water Project and Central Valley Project exports during that year, and the white line shows the exports that would have been available if the California Water Fix facilities were in place and operated to meet all of the existing regulations and future regulations for water quality and fishery protection, he said. “So really what you should focus on is the blue area below the white line; that is the additional amount of water that could be exported safely in a situation like this excess storm flow.”
Mr. Goshi then made a clarification. “With regard to the numbers that I showed you previously, this would not be additive to those; this merely shows that this is how the increase in reliability of water supplies happens – by having the existing capacities increase and in the flexibility of the system, but also it may be able to provide additional flexibility in potentially exports during those types of storm events which will continue to happen out into the future.”
A second way that California Water Fix improves water supply reliability is through water transfer capability, he said, presenting a graphic showing the probability or percent of time that there would be additional capacity to be able to move voluntary water transfers across the Delta. “In the past 10 years when we’ve had water supply challenges, your board has had discussions about entering into agreements to execute water transfers, and one of the key pieces of information that always came back is what is the amount of capacity to move water across the Delta, and in a lot of those cases, that amount of capacity was challenged under the current system.”
“This analysis shows that in drier years, you can see large increases as there is more capacity available to move north of Delta to south of Delta transfers,” he continued. “That decreases in the wetter years, but on average you can also see that somewhere between 1.1 MAF of additional transfer capacity would be available at the 50% exceedance with this project.”
Mr. Goshi clarified that this is additional transfer capacity, meaning the ability to do something. “Actual water transfers aren’t part of this project, and those would be negotiated and regulated as future water supply transfers and regulations as they are done today.”
Improve water quality
Mr. Goshi then turned to the water quality benefits of the project. “There has been a lot of discussion about in-Delta water quality and whether or not the presence of this project degrades in-Delta water quality, and I think it’s important to think about this in this way: There’s really no way that this project can degrade in-Delta water quality and here’s why,” he said. “The regulations for water quality and for the fisheries protections occur first, and they govern the operations of the project, not the other way around. So, this project, merely by having it in place, the entire project will still be required and will still meet compliance with D-1641 flow and salinity standards or new flow and salinity standards that are brought up in the future. The projects will be operated to meet those regulations and the dual conveyance merely gives flexibility to operate the project within those regulatory bounds.”
In terms of export water quality, improved export water quality is expected because of the location of those export facilities, he said. “Export water quality does two things for us. It protects human health in that the export water quality is better, but it also has a secondary benefit which is it enhances local water management programs, and I’m talking specifically about water recycling. We’ve developed a great deal of water recycling down in California and are looking to develop more as part of the IRP. Source water of lower salinity is crucial to making that piece of the portfolio work.”
The table shows measures of salinity plus other water quality constituents. “You can see the range of improvement modeled by having the dual conveyance system for EC, which is a measure of salinity. 18-22% improvement by having the dual diversion capability; bromides, 31-34%; Dissolved Organic Carbon, 2-11% improvement, and nitrates 5-27% improvement in export water quality so that’s a significant export water quality improvement that we would see from this project.”
Allowing pumping operations within a dynamic fishery environment
“We’ve learned over the last 10 or 20 years that in fact the dynamic fishery environment in the Delta does exist with the endangered species and the protection of those,” he said. “There are two things that are really important with regard to dynamic pumping operations: the first is the ability to do real-time operations. The dual diversion facilities plus the capacity of those facilities allows you to trade off between the two diversion points to export water while meeting the regulations that are governing the project operations.”
“In addition to that, bypass flow criteria, which is the amount of water that’s required to go by the northern intakes with … paying attention to the migration periods of juvenile salmon and the flows and downstream water quality – all of these things help govern those regulations and allow for pumping operations,” he said.
Mr. Goshi then gave an example of how real-time operations would work. “Today’s regulations are essentially time based. During a certain period of time, there are restrictions on the amount of pumping that can take place to protect say Delta smelt or migrating salmon. That’s what happens today with the southern diversion,” he said. “What real-time operations will do is allow monitoring and locations of smelt populations as they move and if they are in certain locations, the southern diversions would be curtailed or lessened. With the introduction of the northern diversions, this means that project operations can still continue away from the smelt and allow for protection of the fishery while still maintaining some operations.”
The same thing would happen with regard to migrating salmon, he said. “If the migrating salmon are in the Sacramento River near the northern diversions, the northern diversions can be curtailed while the southern diversions can pick up the operations, and make for resilient real-time operations in response to those environmental conditions.”
Mr. Goshi then presented a slide depicting the north Delta bypass criteria. “Remember, water that goes by the northern diversions points of the California Water Fix as opposed to being diverted, has all of the benefits of protecting flows, water quality, and the fisheries in-Delta, so there’s a great deal of concern about the amount that these tunnels would divert out of the Sacramento River flow,” he said. “This graphic shows you a series of total Sacramento River flows and the amount of bypass that would have to take place and the amount then allowable diversions out of the 9,000 cfs facilities on the Sacramento River.”
Mr. Goshi noted that if the Sacramento River is flowing at 5,000 cfs, no diversions are allowed, and only at flows that are greater than 35,000 cfs would the full capacity of the northern diversions be allowed to operate, he noted. “Even though there’s capability, there’s no intention to take the flow of river; rather the flow bypass criteria would govern the operations of the pumps and what would occur there,” he said.
Reduce climate change risks
With regards to climate change risks, Mr. Goshi said there are four effects that can affect the northern watersheds: sea level rise, which will push salinity further into the interior Delta; reduced snowpack will reduce the amount of natural reservoir storage and essentially increase the amount of river flow that occurs as compared to today; changing precipitation patterns with more rain and less snow would with spikier or flashier rain storm or rain events would again serve to increase the river flows within the Sacramento River; and changing in runoff timing and intensity.
“With all of those things, the system is better off and more resilient by having a dual conveyance system with the additional capacity afforded by the northern intakes because that’s done in combination with the southern intakes,” he said.
He then presented a slide depicting showing how salinity is projected to move into the Delta in 2025, 2060, and 2100. “You can see that the salinity moves further up the Delta as sea level rises, this on average, and that can tend to push salinity into the interior Delta and towards the southern pumps,” he said. “So as sea level rise occurs, the export water quality and interior water quality would be challenged by that increased salinity. This would be worsened in drought conditions.”
He noted that the northern diversions are out of the way of the salinity influence zone, both in mileage distance away from that salinity zone, and in terms of elevation. “There’s a ten foot elevation difference between the current location of the pumps and the proposed locations of the California Water Fix intakes, so those would serve in a climate changed world with rising sea levels to help protect the supplies from an export water quality perspective.”
Reduce seismic risks
“With respect to reducing seismic risks, the Bay Delta area is fraught with faults,” he said. “There was a Delta Risk Management Study that was done that looked at the probability of earthquakes out into the future with a 63% probability of an earthquake greater than 6.5 magnitude by 2032, so the risk of seismic activity that significant is high in the Delta. The California Water Fix would help reduce the seismic risk and when I say seismic risk, it doesn’t reduce the risk of something occurring, but it increases the resilience of the project to continue to provide water supplies in events like this. This is a modernized system being built to seismic standards that is more likely to hold up during an earthquake than the existing system.”
“Second, a 6.5 earthquake had been projected to result in 50 levee breaks in the Delta,” he continued. “That will result in water being pulled into the Delta from those basically sunken islands being filled, so as 20 islands flood from the result of 50 levee breaks, salinity gets into the interior Delta. Having a resilient system that can divert some water supplies form the northern Delta and deliver it to the southern pumps would protect that water supply in a seismic event.”
Enhanced ecosystem fishery habitat throughout the Delta
Mr. Goshi said that there are a couple of different ways that the California Water Fix helps to enhance the fishery habitat throughout the Delta. “The first one is in improved flow patterns,” he said. “One of the primary concerns is reverse flow in Old and Middle River flows that occur with the current system and the southern diversion points. The southern Delta pumps increase the risk of fish entrainment and salvage because of the way that they are built and their location. So those two things would be improved by having the northern diversion points and the dual conveyance system.”
The California Water Fix also has physical habitat actions that address some of the ecosystem restoration and habitat concerns within the Delta now, he said. He then presented a table listing the all the environmental commitments that are in included in the project in addition to the mitigation that would take place for mitigating the construction aspects of building the California Water Fix, which are described in the EIR as the footprint mitigation.
These additional actions include protection of physical habitat, such as valley and foothill riparian habitat, grassland, vernal pool, and alkali seasonal wetland complex, grass and cultivated lands; they also include restoration of tidal, channel margin, riparian, grassland, vernal pool, and non-tidal marsh habitat. “It’s a significant amount of ecosystem restoration that comes along with the implementation of this project and the future operations of this project,” he said. “This does all go to help protect us against the risk of future regulation because as the species recover, as their habitats are better, the protection of those from flow related reasons presumably can become lessened.”
In addition, the recently-issued biological opinions also allocate over 1000 acres of additional ecosystem restoration, and both of those areas are also in addition to the state’s commitments to restore critical habitat in the Bay Delta region, he said. “The first area of state commitment is California Eco Restore, the companion piece to the California Water Fix. California Eco Restore would include 30,000 acres of habitat restoration and again, that’s not the same habitat that I just talked about.”
“The second piece of state commitments is the Sacramento Valley salmon resiliency strategy and the Delta smelt resiliency strategy,” he said. “These are mitigation and habitat efforts to specifically target those species for improved ecosystem health.”
4. HOW DOES CALIFORNIA WATER FIX CONSIDER DELTA COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
The current configuration of the California Water Fix has been reconfigured through the development process from a larger size project to what is being contemplated today, he said. The list includes reduced visual impacts, increased use of state owned property, no pumping plant facilities at the new intakes which eliminates the visuals of power lines and reduces power requirements, and eliminating facilities on Staten Island that now helps protect wildlife habitat and birdwatching activities.
“The California Water Fix at 9000 cfs is sized to protect that Delta environment,” Mr. Goshi said. “And again, to reiterate, the operations of the dual conveyance system is designed to protect and maintain in-Delta agriculture and municipal water quality.”
In the first paper and presentation, there was a discussion about the uncertainties of construction and the ability to construct the physical project. Mr. Goshi said what he will be discussing managing the uncertainties of the water supply benefits, the water quality benefits, and the ecosystem benefits. What about those uncertainties and how do they affect the future project?
“The project itself, by adding that dual conveyance system, is one of the risk management strategies to future regulation with regard to the current project,” he said. “But the second piece that I want to highlight is the adaptive management program that goes along with the implementation of the future regulations. There’s an agreement to have an Interagency Implementation and Coordination Group known as the IICG, and basically the group has an agreed upon process that is responsible for coordinating and implementing the adaptive management program. The adaptive management program is how those initial operating criteria and future operating regulations to protect the fisheries will be evaluated and implemented in the future.”
The group is comprised of the five agencies responsible for implementing the regulations which are the Department of Water Resources, Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; in addition, there’s one seat available for the State Water Contractors, and one seat for Central Valley Project contractors. “This group will help to inform the future implementation decisions that can be made and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the initial operating criteria or future regulations; this is the center hub of where those discussions can take place.”
“The adaptive management program includes a collaborative science program, and that’s really important because nobody knows for sure what the future holds in terms of how these regulations are going to effectively or not effectively protect the fisheries that they purport to protect,” Mr. Goshi said. “So a collaborative science program will help to inform that so that decisions can be made in a way that’s informed by that best science. It would guide development and implementation of scientific investigations and monitoring, and result in developing more effective management actions in implementation of future criteria.”
As part of its own risk management, Metropolitan would also continue its own independent science efforts that have contributed to the state of the science in the Bay Delta. “Our interests in the project are going to be protected by our ability or our efforts to reduce scientific uncertainty, to add to the science to drive better management and operating decisions, and to foster more effective policies and regulations for this project,” he said.
IN SUMMARY …
“So in summary, for the operations piece, I say that the California Water Fix provides modernization and more important flexibility to better operate under uncertain but future conditions that the projects will have to operate under,” said Mr. Goshi. “The California Water Fix clearly meets the board-adopted criteria that was set in 2007 for looking at a project. It enhances environmental commitments and addresses issues within the Delta communities, and I want to close with the adaptive management program again. The main uncertainties as to what this project will be worth in terms of benefits is heavily protected by the makeup and the process involved in the adaptive management program that I described.”
“That concludes my presentation.”
Director McKenney asks Mr. Goshi to expand on the governance component of the project, and the Interagency Implementation Coordination Group. How is it going to make decisions?
Mr. Goshi said that it’s been agreed to, but not implemented yet, that the method of representation would be the five agencies plus two contractor seats. He deferred to Assistant Manager Roger Patterson to discuss the decision making process.
“There’s a pretty well-developed collaborative science program that has taken flight here in the last 2 or 3 years, and this is essentially providing a little bit more structure to that,” said Roger Patterson. “Our participation will only be through being able to influence the kind of science efforts that may be undertaken. We don’t have any decision making authority for what changes in criteria get to be made. That in fact will rest with the regulatory agency that’s been given that statutory responsibility.”
“But what we’re seeing through collaborative science is that you get the parties together, and you’re willing to test different hypotheses, whether they work for or against your interest, you’re getting informed and you’re being able to narrow the field of uncertainty,” Mr. Patterson continued. “That’s really what adaptive management is. It’s taking action in a very structured way in the face of uncertainty, so this is a more sophisticated way of looking at collaborative science and decision making than what we have now, although we have a lot of the parts out there on the ground now as a result of the previous conflicts that we’ve had.”
Director Robert Wunderlich said, “One of the criticisms we hear of the project is that some people say that it’s resulting in no additional water supply. Is that because when people reach that conclusion, what they are doing is comparing existing conditions with water that will be available if the tunnels would be in effect, but what they are not doing is comparing water with the tunnels versus water without the tunnels? In other words, that the available water would decrease if we were not to do anything. I think in one of your slides, I believe that the lower end of the project with the tunnels is about the same as existing conditions, but that actually is a significant increase above where it would be if we had the tunnels. Is that the origin of that criticism?”
“Yes,” said Mr. Goshi. “I think one way to think about that is to keep in mind that those two bars, the system is being operated to a consistent set of future regulations. So those future regulations would be impacting the current project without the California Water Fix associated with it, and so the increase that you see is due solely to the ability of the California Water Fix to address the issues reliability-wise that arise from those regulations.”
“In my mind, that certainly is compelling that it is not a proper comparison to compare the project to what would be existing,” said Director Wunderlich. “You really should do two comparisons in the future with the tunnels and without the tunnels. That comparison is a key one because it also feeds into the economics of the project. People talk about this being expensive water – of course it’s the dollars of the project divided by additional amount of water you would get, so you’re not allowing for a reasonable comparison to get at the additional water from the project. You’re concluding that the project is more expensive that it really is for the water that you get.”
Director Wunderlich continued: “Another criticism that you hear is that especially with climate change and with declining snowpack, why are we building these tunnels? Again, in my mind, that the snowpack acts as a moderating reservoir; that it gives us a better ability to be able to capture the water when it becomes available. That the declining snowpack is a reason to have the tunnels, because with a declining snowpack, it’s going to be more difficult without the tunnels to be able to capture the water, and so the declining snowpack is a reason for having the tunnels, not a reason for not having the tunnels, is that also true?”
“That is correct,” said Mr. Goshi.
“You showed the graph of the additional water that was captured during storm events, and just to make sure I’m understanding this correctly, that that’s a benefit that we get even with existing regulations,” said Director Wunderlich. “That even with existing regulations, additional ability when water flows in the river are high, when a lot of water would just be going out to the ocean, it just gives us that additional ability to capture the water, which even in past years of drought, would have amounted just for Metropolitan, for a few hundred thousand acre-feet per year.”
“Yes, that’s correct,” said Mr. Goshi.
“I hope that the public appreciates all that point when they hear the give and take about this tunnels project,” said Director Wunderlich.
“On the risks, when you talk about additional regulatory, are you also talking about the issue of meeting the permits?,” asked Director Steiner. “Is that somewhere in your risk calculation here? Because we would need permits for the intakes, we need permits for the fish gate on Old River, we’ll need permits for the actual operation, so are you including that in the term regulatory or is that separate?”
“That is separate,” said Mr. Goshi. “What I am talking about is given those permits and given the regulations that would be in place, the risks of having regulations imposed, that you could be permitted for operations but not – that would affect the benefits that I showed you, that is the risk I am talking about and the approach again would be to have a seat at the table and to look at the adaptive management to respond to those risks.”
“There are a number of permits that are necessary to move the project ahead,” said Roger Patterson. “The critical permits are the fishery permits under the federal and state endangered species acts. We have the federal permits, we expect the state permits within a couple of weeks, but that isn’t all of them. … We do have the permits for building the facility at the head of Old River, that’s included in the NMFS. You’ll have some on-site permits that are probably fairly straight forward but there is always risks that some of these subsequent permits could jigger things one way or another a little bit. Probably the biggest one out there is a year or so away, and that’s the State Board decision on actually adding, so I think it’s fair to say that not all the permits are in hand, but I think from our standpoint, responding to the guidance we’ve gotten from the board is let’s get these critical permits first, the endangered species permits, and those are the ones we do have, and they will be the primary driver.”
“On the chart that appears on page 12, you have the comparison of the water without the additional investments and then with the California Water Fix,” said Director Steiner. “In looking at that chart, there appears to be this drop to the 837,000 acre-feet, which is referenced here and as well as in the paper, from the 1.2 MAF in 2020, but there’s also a drop with the California Water Fix and the difference in that drop looks like we have 147,000 acre-feet drop versus 75,000 acre-feet drop. Is that the number that you’re using to build that 4.7 pyramid that you’re using on slide 20? You have the slide with the 4.7 to 5.3 with the California Water Fix. Is that coming from these numbers that appear on page 21?”
“The 1.2 is the estimate of the State Water Project supplies in 2040 with the California Water Fix and it’s piece in the total portfolio of resources that would take place there,” said Mr. Goshi. “In the table that you’re referring to, the difference between the two figures is the difference between the outflow scenarios that I talked about with regard to how we examine the different impacts of the regulations so the lower outflow scenario versus the higher outflow scenario. In the IRP, that was tied to with a project in the future, that collaborative science and adaptive management would take place more likely than without that, and to estimate what the value of that was in the short term without the project. We used the difference between the outflow scenarios and documented it as such.”
“But you do have an initial drop in both from 2016-2020 and then from 2020-2025 … ?” said Director Steiner.
“The 2016-2020 drop had to do with the implementation of say a revisit of the biological opinions that would be in place in 2020 that wasn’t in place in 2016, so that first drop was the start of more stringent regulations,” said Mr. Goshi. “And then in the two scenarios was differentiated by the outflow scenarios.”
“But they are both under Section 7, so whatever regulations you’re going to have, the issue then will be where the your intakes are, you’re saying that’s what the change is, because the regulations will be the same under Section 7 with or without … “ said Director Steiner.
“In the long-term,” said Mr. Goshi. “With the facilities in place in the long-term, yes.”
Director Mark Gold had a question regarding the slide on bypass flows. He noted that the category for 20,000 cfs stood out in particular because up to 7,000 cfs could actually be diverted of that 20,000, which is a much higher percentage than all the other flow categories. “I’m just wondering why would that middle flow category allows such a large proportion of that flow, over 1/3 of the entire flow, to get diverted, and is there flexibility in that? I’m just not sure with the scope of what we received in the white paper, what the derivation was and how those five tiers were really arrived at.”
“It’s based on the flow bypass criteria,” said Mr. Goshi. “There is flexibility, I should have presented those figures as ‘up to’ figures. I think you bring up a good point there, and I think I would have to get back to you about the specifics of the 7,000 with regards to the 20,000.”
Roger Patterson added that it’s a bit of a cartoon to try to represent that you can’t divert anything at 5,000 and when you get above 35,000 cfs, you’re okay at capacity. “There’s basically a curve that works its way through there based on bypass criteria and so I think we need to look at that curve to say what if you had 20,000 in the river under these conditions … “
“One of the other questions related to this, being very familiar with the work that Alex Hall did at UCLA, is that it basically shifts the flow regime by 2 months earlier,” said Director Gold. “So we may end up having more times of year where we have peak flows earlier in the season, and who knows, maybe we’ll have more moderate to smaller flows for longer periods of time during the year – I’m not really sure. We do see in all the modeling this huge shift and so that condition of the moderate to small flows actually could be really critical from the standpoint of species protection. Because this is new work and obviously the complexity of this issue is unparalleled in the state’s history for managing and ecosystem of this importance, just how that’s going to actually be conserved is obviously a big issue.”
“This is a pet peeve because I worked at Metropolitan a decade ago, but you talk about water recycling in Southern California, the water quality benefits,” said Director Richard Atwater. “I remember the Executive Officer of the State Water Board in 2000 said the most important water quality issue in California is salinity, and without this, the salinity in the Delta continues to go up, so whether you live in San Jose or LA or San Diego, the salinity from the Delta will make it very expensive and much harder to recycle water. I think we need to remind ourselves that we’ve done a lot of studies here at Metropolitan and statewide. The regional boards require us to adopt salt and nutrient management plans, and so whether you’re in LA county or Orange County or in San Diego, that’s a big impact on your ability to manage our stormwater and our recycled water supplies.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION …
- Click here for agenda, meeting materials, and webcast for this meeting.
- Click here for the first white paper from Metropolitan on the California Water Fix infrastructure.
- Click here for coverage of the presentation of the first white paper from Metropolitan on the California Water Fix infrastructure.
FOR ANOTHER VIEWPOINT …
- Restore the Delta responds to white paper #2 here: Restore the Delta Debunks Operations Myths in MWD White Paper #2
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!