NEWS WORTH NOTING: Reclamation awards $2.3M to four CA projects to improve water efficiency; Enviro orgs request increased protections for Mammoth Lakes’ drinking water; Elkhorn Slough named ‘Wetland of International Importance’

Bureau of Reclamation selects four projects to receive $2.3 million to improve water efficiency in Central California

Projects are part of a $26.5 million announcement of water and energy efficiency grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior that focus on projects that improve water management in the West

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that Reclamation has selected four projects in Central California to receive a total of $2.3 million through WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants. Combined with projects in Southern California, $7.5 million will be provided to water and energy efficiency projects in California. The projects funded with these grants include a regulating reservoir, water efficient landscaping, and automation.

“President Trump is dedicated to better water infrastructure for communities and farmers, and adequate and safe water supplies are fundamental to the health, economy, and security of the country,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “WaterSMART water and energy efficiency grants enable Interior, states, tribes, and local entities to work together to take action to increase available water supply through infrastructure investments.”

“Improving water efficiency is an important part of ensuring communities have a reliable water supply in the future,” Commissioner Burman said. “The projects we’ve selected today will help communities throughout the Western United States by providing them with tools they can use to better manage their water needs.”

Water and energy efficiency grants focus on projects that conserve and use water more efficiently. Projects may also lessen the risk of future water conflicts and provide other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability in the western United States. Other projects complement on-farm improvements that can be carried out with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to accomplish coordinated water conservation improvements.

Funding is provided in two groups. Funding Group I projects receive up to $300,000 and can be completed within two years. Funding Group II projects may receive up to $1 million for a phased project up to three years.

The projects selected in Central California are:

City of Bakersfield, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and Automation Project
Reclamation Funding: $743,300 Total Project Cost: $1,664,992

Contra Costa Water District, Lawn to Garden Rebate Program
Reclamation Funding: $300,000 Total Project Cost: $802,000

Merced Irrigation District, Bear Creek Water Regulating Reservoir
Reclamation Funding: $1,000,000 Total Project Cost: $4,194,849

North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, South Pump Station Automation Project: Reclamation Funding: $300,000 Total Project Cost: $746,700

The complete list of projects is available at https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg/.  Projects were selected through a competitive process and must provide a minimum of a 50 percent cost-share.

Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about the WaterSMART program.

Leading Environmental Organizations Request Increased Protections for Mammoth Lakes’ Drinking Water

Geothermal Contaminants Found in Mammoth Lakes’ Groundwater Wells

From Mammoth Community Water District:

Leading environmental organizations today announced the formation of a coalition established to advocate for commonsense regulations to protect Mammoth’s groundwater from geothermal contamination. To commence this effort, all coalition members – which include the Sierra Nevada Alliance, High Sierra Energy Foundation, Mountain Area Preservation, Wholly H2O and Clean Water Now – signed onto a letter urging local elected officials and the state regulator for water quality in the region to investigate and mitigate potential risks of geothermal energy production to the Mammoth Lakes community’s drinking water.

“The threat to Mammoth’s groundwater underscores the risks of geothermal energy production – but more importantly, it presents an opportunity for our elected and regulatory leaders to come together to set a precedent for how we manage these projects and mitigate the risks to our environment and communities in the future,” said Jenny Hatch, Executive Director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

The beloved mountain town of Mammoth Lakes depends on groundwater for drinking and daily use in its homes and businesses – a loss of this crucial supply would devastate the community. Mammoth’s groundwater basin sits next to a geothermal reservoir that is used to produce geothermal energy. Geothermal reservoirs contain toxic elements like arsenic and the production of geothermal energy can cause these toxins to infiltrate into the surrounding environment. Arsenic and other toxins found in geothermal fluids can cause significant harm to public health, wildlife habitat and water quality.

“As leaders in the stewardship of California’s environment, it is incumbent upon us to support immediate regulatory action to protect Mammoth’s water supply,” said Elizabeth Dougherty, Executive Director of Wholly H2O.

A scientific analysis of recent water quality data collected by the experts at the United States Geological Survey demonstrates that geothermal fluids are already present in a portion of Mammoth’s groundwater wells. The coalition is calling on the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Mono County Board of Supervisors and Mammoth Town Council, to use their authority to ensure all potential impacts are mitigated through a reasonable groundwater monitoring and response plan.

“We have thoroughly investigated the matter, including a detailed investigation into the professional, thorough analyses and summary conclusions reached in the independent analysis,” said Roger Butow, Founder and Executive Director of Clean Water Now. “We are in complete agreement with the concerns presented in the analysis and support the recommendations for addressing this groundwater-related issue.”

California contains the largest amount of geothermal electric generation capacity in the United States, providing a unique advantage to achieve 100% fossil-fuel free electricity by the year 2045.

Geothermal energy production is slated to expand in the region. If expanded production leads to greater geothermal intrusion in Mammoth Lakes’ groundwater aquifer, contaminated supplies could eventually become untreatable, leaving Mammoth with insufficient water supplies to serve the town’s basic needs.

“If geothermal energy is to play an integral role in helping California to meet our renewable energy goal to have 100% of our electricity generated by renewable energy sources by 2045, it is important that we set forth the regulatory framework now for how we want to see that energy infrastructure developed and operated in the future,” said Alexis Ollar, Executive Director of Mountain Area Preservation.

Developing renewable energy and protecting our environment should go hand-in-hand — it’s why we want to invest in renewables in the first place.

“The passage of Senate Bill 100 (SB 100) serves as a loud and clear signal to the rest of the nation and the world that California intends to remain a global leader in renewable energy development – to be true leaders in the field, we must charge forward responsibility,” said Pat Hayes, General Manager of the Mammoth Community Water District. “We are grateful that some of our state’s most reputable environmental organizations voiced support for a common-sense approach to support that development while protecting our community’s primary water supply.”

SB 100 sets forth an ambitious but achievable goal. While we still need to develop the energy infrastructure to get us there, we also must establish forward-thinking policies to protect public and environmental health as we develop and operate this new energy infrastructure – it’s a priority that often gets left out of the debate.

“We are advocates for energy efficiency and conservation as the first course of action, and are encouraged by the increase in the upward trend of renewable energy implementations,” said Pam Bold, Executive Director for the High Sierra Energy Foundation. “We do believe that all forms of energy generation have the potential to present some risk and those risks need to be fully evaluated, analyzed and mitigated, if necessary.”

For more information, please visit our website at www.mcwd.dst.ca.us/ormat.html or follow the Mammoth Deserves Safe Water Campaign on twitter @Ormat_WhyRiskIt.

Elkhorn Slough named ‘Wetland of International Importance’

Ceremony Oct. 5 to celebrate Ramsar designation

Elkhorn Slough has been named a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and a number of federal and state officials will attend a ceremony on Fri., Oct. 5 to celebrate the designation. Media opportunities and optional tours will follow the ceremony.

Elkhorn Slough will now join 38 other wetland sites in the United States and more than 2,330 sites worldwide in a network of globally important wetlands designated under the world’s oldest modern international environmental treaty. The convention was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, and almost 90 percent of U.N. member states have since adopted the treaty. The designation of

Elkhorn Slough was approved by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year.

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) administered by NOAA and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, nominated the estuary for Ramsar recognition. The NERR has created opportunities for conservation and enjoyment contributing to its health and vitality.

The designation ceremony will take place at the Elkhorn Slough NERR’s Hester Marsh, where a $6.5 million, 61-acre tidal wetland project is restoring drowning marshes to elevations needed to support tidal marsh habitat that will withstand changes in sea level over the next century.

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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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