NEWS WORTH NOTING: State agencies track five years of progress on CA Water Action Plan; Yuba Water Agency reaches significant milestone in relicensing its facilities

State Agencies Track Five Years of Progress on California Water Action Plan

Implementation Report Outlines Advances in Sustainable Water Management

The California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture today released a California Water Action Plan implementation report outlining five years of progress toward sustainable management of California’s water resources.

Issued at the direction of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in January 2014 and updated in 2016, the California Water Action Plan set forth 10 priority actions that guide the state’s effort to create more resilient, reliable water systems and to restore critical ecosystems. The actions are:

  1. Make conservation a California way of life;
  2. Increase regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government;
  3. Achieve the co-equal goals for the Delta;
  4. Protect and restore important ecosystems;
  5. Manage and prepare for dry periods;
  6. Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management;
  7. Provide safe water for all communities;
  8. Increase flood protection;
  9. Increase operational and regulatory efficiency;
  10. Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.

“California has embraced an all-of-the-above portfolio of actions to combat our most urgent water supply challenges while building a more resilient future,” California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said. “Using the Water Action Plan as a blueprint, we have coordinated efforts and made strategic investments to move the needle on sustainable water management.”

“The California Water Action Plan has guided our water conservation efforts for five years, including during the worst drought in modern California history,” said Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection. “The plan continues to be relevant today and provides necessary direction and policy guidance as we strive to improve our water storage alternatives in the face of climate change, while also working collaboratively to balance the needs of water users and the environment in areas like the fragile Bay-Delta ecosystem.”

“California’s farmers and ranchers have been strong partners in the push for water sustainability,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “From participating in water-saving programs through California Climate Investments to embracing the essential nature of groundwater management, agriculture is once again showing its commitment to collaboration and innovation.”

The implementation report released today shows significant progress toward reaching the broad objectives of the Water Action Plan, including taking major steps to bolster water supply resiliency and prepare the state for a changing climate. Even as the state careened from five years of severe drought to record-breaking rainfall and flood emergencies, advances were made on all 10 priority actions.

Highlights include:

  • Investing in more than 1,100 projects through voter-approved Proposition 1 of 2014, including conditionally awarding nearly $2.7 billion in water storage projects that would boost California’s water storage capacity by 4.3 million acre-feet. In total, $6.6 billion in Proposition 1 funding has been appropriated and committed to various projects as of December 2018.
  • Weathering the deepest drought in modern history while providing emergency drinking water supplies in critical areas and funding water recycling, safe drinking water and other projects to create resiliency needed for future droughts and climate change.
  • Working with stakeholders to create a framework for eliminating water waste, improving water use efficiency and drought-proofing local and regional water supply portfolios.
  • Advancing a critical upgrade to the state’s water infrastructure through California WaterFix, which marked several key implementation milestones.
  • Accelerating habitat restoration and enhancement in the Delta by breaking ground on numerous projects on the way to restoring at least 30,000 acres by 2020 through the California EcoRestore initiative.
  • Implementing the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 and meeting key milestones in helping local agencies strengthen groundwater management and meet new sustainability goals.
  • Investing $1.5 billion in urban flood risk reduction projects, enhancing flood protection for 1.2 million people, more than $100 billion in assets and more than 560,00 acres of property.

More information on the California Water Action Plan is available at http://resources.ca.gov/california_water_action_plan/.

Yuba Water Agency reaches significant milestone in relicensing its facilities

From the Yuba Water Agency:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement for relicensing the Yuba River Development Project, which is owned and operated by Yuba Water Agency. FERC has regulatory authority over most hydroelectric projects in the U.S.

This milestone represents FERC’s final independent environmental analysis of the impacts associated with issuing a new license to operate Yuba Water’s facilities for the next 40-50 years. Those facilities include Our House and Log Cabin diversion dams, New Colgate and Narrows 2 powerhouses, and New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir.

Through this environmental document, FERC staff largely supports Yuba Water Agency’s proposed conditions (from the amended final license application) for the projects’ future operation. For example, instream fisheries flows based on the Yuba Accord form the basis of the flow requirements proposed for the new license, with some small previously negotiated changes. Other key license conditions proposed include:

  • Construction of a new secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam to enhance Yuba Water’s ability to manage large storm flows, significantly reducing flood risk for the communities of Yuba and Sutter counties and enhancing dam safety
  • Construction of a new tailwater depression system at New Colgate Powerhouse, to enhance power generation capability
  • Enhancement of existing recreational facilities around New Bullards Bar Reservoir and at Our House Dam
  • Development of new plans to plant riparian vegetation and to place large woody material along the lower Yuba River to benefit fish and wildlife

This is a major milestone in the relicensing process for the agency. Next steps include working with the State Water Resources Control Board on compliance with the Clean Water Act, and FERC completing consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the Yuba River’s fish species. Once these two major processes are finalized, FERC can issue a new operating license to Yuba Water Agency, which may differ from this document. This process may take several years to complete.

“This has been a time-consuming, highly-technical and expensive process,” said Curt Aikens, Yuba Water Agency general manager. “But now, it seems as if all the time, effort and money expended to fulfill the requirements of the relicensing process are paying off. We feel that this final environmental statement sets us on a successful relicensing path for the long-term operation of this incredible asset that provides so much benefit for the people of Yuba County.”

Yuba Waters’ facilities benefit the people of Yuba County. Collectively, these facilities generate over 400 MW of clean renewable hydropower for homes and businesses throughout California, supply water for nearly 80,000 acres of productive Yuba County farmland, reduce the risk of flooding for residents in Yuba and Sutter counties, and offer numerous recreational amenities including boating, fishing, camping and swimming.

The environmental impact statement is available for public review on FERC’s website, as well as the Yuba Water Agency website.

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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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