NEWS WORTH NOTING: Repairs underway on California Aqueduct; Reclamation begins emergency dilution flows in Klamath River; Appeal urges water board to halt oil-waste dumping into polluting pits in Kern County

Repairs underway on California Aqueduct

From the Department of Water Resources:

Repairs to a portion of the California Aqueduct near Gustine in Merced County have been temporarily delayed due to a rupture in a water-filled cofferdam that was used to divert water for construction activities. As a result, water re-entered the aqueduct.

DWR has contacted the manufacturer of the water-filled cofferdam and an investigation is underway. In its place, DWR will be installing rock-filled cofferdams.

Once the new cofferdams are installed, DWR will dewater the site to resume construction as soon as is safely possible. There are no expected impacts to water deliveries. DWR had expected to complete the repairs by the end of the May, but now expects to finish in late June. Work continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The work will permanently stabilize the embankment and replace the aqueduct concrete liner at mile 62. During the most recent condition assessment of the aqueduct, DWR staff identified a nearby portion of the aqueduct at mile 65 that could benefit from similar repairs. DWR is taking advantage of the construction window to complete both repairs.

Maintenance repairs along the aqueduct are necessary to maintain water supply reliability.

The 444-mile-long California Aqueduct is the primary water conveyance structure for the State Water Project (SWP), which draws water from the Sierra Nevada and transports it to approximately 27 million Californians and about 750,000 acres of farmland. Built from 1963 to 1973, the aqueduct begins at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ends in Southern California, with additional canals and pipes that supply SWP water to the Bay Area and coastal communities. In 2017, the SWP transported more than 3.7 million acre feet of water throughout the state.

Reclamation begins emergency dilution flows in Klamath River

Water releases from Iron Gate Dam will continue through May 21; public urged to take safety precautions

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation increased flows below Iron Gate Dam early Monday morning, May 7, to address disease concerns in salmon in the Klamath River.

Releases from Upper Klamath Lake via Link River Dam started early this morning, with flows anticipated to reach 3,000 cubic feet per second below Iron Gate Dam by mid-day. Subsequent flows below Iron Gate Dam could reach up to 4,000 cfs during the event. The higher flows will continue for 14 days, through May 21.

The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the river while flows are high.

A March 2017 Court Order from the U.S. District Court Northern District of California requires Reclamation to release water as part of its operation of the Klamath Project to mitigate and address disease concerns impacting coho salmon in the Klamath River. For the 2018 water year, Reclamation is required to implement winter-spring surface flushing flows and emergency dilution flows. Reclamation implemented surface flushing flows in April 2018.Disease thresholds for implementing additional emergency dilution flows were exceeded on May 3. The emergency dilution flows will utilize approximately 50,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake.

The increased flow event is consistent with the 2017 Order and the 2013 Biological Opinion on operations of the Klamath Project to ensure protection of endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake. It was implemented in coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, and Klamath Tribes, Klamath Project water users and PacifiCorp.

Flows will ramp down after 14 days and return to levels required by the 2013 Biological Opinion.

“The 2018 water year is one of the most challenging and complex water years Reclamation has had to manage,” said Jeff Nettleton, manager of the Klamath Basin Area Office. “We will continue to closely coordinate with Project water users, Tribes, and our partner agencies to operate the Klamath Project consistent with the requirements of the Order and the 2013 Biological Opinion, while providing as much water as possible to the Klamath Project irrigators during this extremely dry water year.”

For more information about the dilution flow, contact Reclamation Public Affairs Specialist Laura Williams at 541-880-2581 (TTY 800-877-8339) or ljwilliams@usbr.gov.

Appeal Urges Water Board to Halt Oil-waste Dumping Into Polluting Pits in Kern County

Chemicals From Unlined Pits Already Contaminating Groundwater

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

The Center for Biological Diversity filed an appeal today challenging the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s decision to allow continued dumping of toxic oil-waste fluid into 83 unlined pits near Buttonwillow, Calif. The board’s staff confirmed that harmful chemicals discharged into these pits have migrated to groundwater and contaminated multiple aquifers in Kern County.

“The regional board has utterly failed in its duty to protect California’s groundwater from chemicals that make us sick,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center. “The community shouldn’t have to sacrifice its precious water resources just so the oil industry can save a few bucks on wastewater disposal.”

Valley Water Management Company dumps an average of 2.8 million gallons of chemical-laden wastewater per day into its McKittrick 1 and 1-3 pit facilities near Buttonwillow. The contamination has spread underground for at least 2.2 miles, but the full extent of the damage is still unknown.

At its meeting on April 5, the regional board rejected calls to stop Valley Water’s discharges into the pits, allowing the dumping to continue indefinitely. Today’s appeal calls upon the State Water Resources Control Board to rescind the regional board’s decision and order an immediate halt to the discharges.

The regional board’s staff report confirms that wastewater has reached multiple groundwater sources below, including those connected to active water-supply wells. It also confirms that the discharged wastewater contains hazardous chemicals, including dangerous levels of cancer-causing benzene.

As a result of the contamination, groundwater that had been suitable for municipal and agricultural use is now unsuitable for both.

California is one of the only states in the country that allows disposal into unlined pits. There are hundreds of active pits around the state. In 2015 an independent scientific panel recommended that California phase out the use of unlined pits, citing their danger to groundwater.

“For the sake of the Central Valley’s health and economy, the state board must step in and halt the dangerous discharges at this facility now,” Lakewood said. “Every day the water boards refuse to act, the contamination will get worse.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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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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