The nine members of the California Water Commission have been tasked with deciding how to award the $2.7 billion in Prop 1 funds slated to pay for the public benefits of water storage projects, and competition is pretty fierce. Eleven storage projects have filed applications for the Water Storage Investment Program, requesting roughly $5.7 billion in funding, or more than twice what is available. However, it is likely that as Commission staff review the applications, they will be adjusting the public benefit calculations, thereby reducing the amount of funding the projects would be eligible to receive.
The method by which eligible projects will be awarded funding is a bit complex as a result of specific language legislators wrote into the proposition that set certain conditions for the funding of eligible projects. Funding can only be granted for water storage projects that improve the operation of the state water system, are cost effective, and provide a net improvement in ecosystem and water quality conditions. The statute further stipulates that the Commission can only provide funding for the public benefits provided by the projects; those benefits are specifically defined as ecosystem benefits, water quality, flood control, emergency response, and recreation. It is important to note that increasing water supply is not considered a public benefit that is eligible for funding under Prop 1.
The statute sets a limit on the state’s cost share to a maximum of half of the total project costs, and of the amount funded, half of the amount must be for ecosystem improvements. The statue requires that the project must also provide measurable ecosystem improvements to the Delta or tributary and be consistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
At the December meeting of the California Water Commission, proponents of the eleven projects presented their projects to the commissioners, and the public had a chance to weigh in. Nevada Irrigation District’s Centennial Dam project and Semitropic’s Tulare Lake storage project generated the most opposition at the meeting with mild opposition expressed for Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs. Contra Costa Water District’s Los Vaqueros expansion project, Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Pacheco Pass reservoir expansion project, Inland Empire Utility Agency’s Chino Basin project, and Regional San’s South Sacramento County project received the most favorable comments at the meeting. You can view the application information for all projects by clicking here, and the public comments received for all projects by clicking here.
Here’s a brief summary of the projects as presented.
- Location: West end of San Bernardino County, parts of LA County and Riverside County
- Project Proponent: Inland Empire Utilities Agency
- Type: Conjunctive Use
- Funding request: $480 million
- Total project cost: $480 million
The Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Water Storage and Exchange Program is a project that would utilize a multiple of local sources such as water from a contaminated groundwater basin, from wastewater treatment plants, and from new growth and use that to develop a water supply that can be stored and released on demand in a way that benefits Delta tributaries.
- Location: Kern County, Tulare Lake Hydrologic Region
- Project Proponents: Irvine Ranch Water District and the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District
- Type: Groundwater storage
- Funding request: $86 million
- Total project cost: $171 million
Irvine Ranch Water District and the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District have been partners in a water bank in Kern County for many years. This project would expand the size of the water bank by building a new turnout from the California Aqueduct with a 10 mile canal and three lift stations, as well as acquisition of 1500 acres of recharge basins. The project would have the ability to capture over 100,000 AF of water supplies.
- Location: Eastern Contra Costa County, San Francisco Bay Hydrologic Region
- Project Proponent: Contra Costa Water District
- Type: Expansion of existing reservoir
- Funding Request: $434 million
- Total Project Cost: $795 million
Los Vaqueros Reservoir is on off-stream surface storage project originally completed in 1998 that provides water quality benefits, drought supply, and emergency supply for the East Bay. The first phase of reservoir expansion was completed in 2012; Phase 2 expansion project would further raise the dam and expand the reservoir. Phase 2 would also provide water for the environment, increase water supply reliability, improve water quality, and enhance recreation.
- Location: Pacheco Pass near the San Luis Reservoir
- Project Proponent: Santa Clara Valley Water District, Pacheco Pass Water District
- Type: Reservoir Expansion
- Funding Request: $485.5 million
- Total Project Cost: $969 million
The project is located on the north fork of Pacheco Creek, a tributary of the Pajaro River. It is less than 5 miles of San Luis Reservoir and within 1 mile of the existing Pacheco Conduit, the major pipeline that conveys water from San Luis to the farms and businesses served by San Benito and Santa Clara Water Districts. This project will expand an existing 6,000 AF reservoir to 142,000 AF. This would add 136,000 acre-feet of new storage south of the Delta, plus free up additional storage at San Luis Reservoir. The project is uniquely positioned in close proximity to Central Valley Project facilities, State Water Project facilities, and other regional water facilities to yield ‘unparalleled systemwide operational flexibility,’ say project proponents.
- Location: San Diego County
- Project Proponent: City of San Diego, Public Utilities Department
- Type: Recycled Water/Surface Reservoir Augmentation
- Funding Request: $219 million
- Total Project Cost: $1.2 billion
The Pure Water project will construct a new pure water facility that will take wastewater currently being discharged to the ocean, treat to meet or exceed water quality standards, and then put the treated water into reservoirs to augment supply.
- Location: Colusa County, Sacramento River Hydrologic Region
- Project Proponent: Sites Authority JPA
- Type: Reservoir
- Funding Request: $1.6 billion
- Total Project Cost: $5.1 billion
The Sites Reservoir Project is a 1.8 MAF off-stream reservoir near the Sacramento River. The advantage of an off-stream reservoir is that it doesn’t block migration of aquatic species, and supplies are more reliable because spilling of an off-stream reservoir is much less frequent. The project is locally led project and has significant statewide support from local community leaders, residents, state managers, legislators, and agencies from Bay Area to Southern California.
South Sacramento County Agriculture and Habitat Lands Recycled Water, Groundwater Storage, and Conjunctive Use Program (South County Ag Program)
- Location: South Sacramento County
- Project Proponent: Sacramento County Regional Sanitation District
- Type: Recycled water/conjunctive use
- Funding Request: $304 million
- Total Project Cost: $373 million
This project would provide 50,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water to Southern Sacramento County, irrigating up to 16,000 acres of agricultural and habitat conservation lands. The water for this project will be available once Regional San has completed the upgrades to their treatment plant in 2030, which will produce tertiary-treated recycled water. This project can provide a drought-proof supply of water for beneficial uses in the region.
Location: Above Friant Dam in Fresno/Madera counties
Project Proponent: San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority
Funding Request: $1.3 billion
Total Project Cost: $2.6 billion
The Temperance Flat Reservoir would be a 665-foot dam on the San Joaquin River above the existing Friant Dam, creating a 1.3 MAF reservoir. The reservoir would be filled with San Joaquin River flood flows that exceed capacity of Millerton Lake management capacity and San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) flows; south of Delta supplies such as allocations and acquired water; and regional water supplies from other watersheds.
- Location: Kern County, Tulare Lake Basin
- Project Proponent: Semitropic Water Storage District
- Type: Conjunctive Use
- Funding Request: $452 million
- Total Project Cost: $603 million
The Semitropic Water Storage District is located in Kern County between I-5 and SR-99 in Tulare Lake basin. The District is 220,000 acres in total, of which 135,000 acres are irrigated agriculture; the District encompasses a large portion of Kern NWR and includes more than 5000 acres of managed wetlands. Semitropic receives water from the State Water Project through a contract with Kern County Water Agency and is located in both the state and federal water project’s place of use.
- Location: Antelope Valley, near Palmdale and Lancaster
- Project Proponent: Southern California Water Bank Authority
- Type: Conjunctive Use
- Funding Request: $306 million
- Total Project Cost: $343 million
The Willow Springs Water Bank is located in the Antelope Valley in Southern California near Lancaster and Palmdale in proximity to the California Aqueduct, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and the AVEK West Feeder. The land has excellent percolation, good water quality, and is located in an adjudicated basin. The Water Bank is owned by CalPERS and has been in operation since 2007. Other partners in the project are the San Diego County Water Authority, Rosamond Community Services District, and Homer LLC; they are in discussion with other potential partners.
- Location: On the Bear River in Nevada and Placer Counties
- Project Proponent: Nevada Irrigation District
- Type: Reservoir
- Funding Request: $11.95 million
- Total Project Cost: $324 million
The Nevada Irrigation District covers 287,000 acres, operating from Lincoln at 185 feet elevation up to 7000 feet in the Sierra Foothills. They provide irrigation water and treated water, hydropower, and recreation at 13 different recreation facilities in the Sierra.
WHAT’S NEXT …
California Water Commission staff continue to review the applications, and working to synthesize information from the multiple parties to formulate the overall public benefit ratio review. Executive Officer Joe Yun noted that it’s taking more time than initially anticipated.
“The key here for our staff is to produce a public benefit ratio review that is clear and will help applicants make an appeal, which is the next phase after we reveal our public benefit ratios,” he said. “Looking at the preliminary information that I have so far, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that it’s likely that all applicants will be appealing our reviews.”
Mr. Yun indicated he would be looking at how the schedule can be modified to allow adequate time for the appeals process; those schedule modifications will be discussed at the January Commission meeting. It is also anticipated that at the January meeting, Commission staff will be presenting their public benefits calculations.
After appeals are completed, the Commission will determine the final public benefit ratios, finalize component scores and rank projects with the decision on funding expected late spring or early summer of 2018.
FOR MORE INFORMATION …
- You can view the submitted applications for all the projects at the California Water Commission’s portal by clicking here.
- You can view all correspondence received on the projects by clicking here.
- For more information on the Water Storage Investment Program, click here.
- For the December agenda, meeting materials, and webcast, click here.
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