METROPOLITAN BAY DELTA COMMITTEE: Update on Governor’s water resilience portfolio and Delta conveyance planning efforts

At last week’s meeting of Metropolitan’s Special Committee on the Bay Delta, Bay Delta Initiatives Manager Steve Arakawa updated the committee on the Governor’s water resilience portfolio and the continuing planning efforts for Delta conveyance.

STATEWIDE WATER RESILIENCE PORTFOLIO DEVELOPMENT

The state administration is looking for input from different parts of the state on a water resilience portfolio, including water supply projects that can adapt to climate change and how Delta conveyance fits in, Mr. Arakawa said.

He began with some background on climate change.  To understand climate change resiliency, it’s important to understand how climate change will affect hydrology, water quality, water storage, and other elements, he said.

In the Central Valley, the Sacramento River system has about 13.5 MAF of storage capacity; the San Joaquin Valley has about 11 MAF; and the snowpack represents about 15 MAF of storage capacity.

It’s significant to the degree that climate affects that snowpack, as that has an effect on storage so that has to be factored into planning for water supply,” he said.  “It means planning for other types of ways of getting water into storage, so this is an important context to keep in mind when we talk about adapting to climate change.”

He presented a graphic of the California Water Plan that shows the forecasts for snowpack out to the end of the century.  On the left is the historical range from 1961 to 1990; the middle graphic is the snowpack projection for 2070 to 2099 under a lower warming scenario; and the right hand side is the snowpack projection for 2070 to 2099 under a higher warming scenario.

The bottom line is that the based on these pieces of information coming from the state’s report, snowpack is projected to decrease by 48 to 65% by the end of this century, so that’s another piece of information to take into account,” he said.

Sea level rise is also a factor; there has been a sea level rise trend in the last 100 years and there’s a trend that’s forecasted to accelerate in the next 100 years.  In the past, staff has discussed what this means in terms of salinity intrusion, risks to levees, and the export pumps at the south end of the Delta.  With previous planning efforts for Delta conveyance, they used a 55” projection for sea level rise at the Golden Gate by the year 2100.

However, the latest projections from the Ocean Protection Council that are recommended to be guidance, the high end estimate is about 2 times as much, or about 10 feet of sea level rise.  If there are areas or infrastructure that can adjust either physically or otherwise to the projected sea level rise, the guidance is to plan for 3 feet, but for infrastructure that is high risk and has little chance of adapting, the guidance is to use the guidance of 10 feet.

We think that the state will be looking at how to do these kinds of studies as its involved in Delta conveyance planning now,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “Staff will be very hooked in to how that will work, because we think that new studies for sea level rise given this guidance are necessities so it’s important to recognize that the Ocean Protection Council recommendations will inform these kinds of efforts and studies.”

There are a lot of potential water resource impacts to climate change:  river flow, snowpack, floods, drought, water quality, Delta levees, habitat, groundwater, and hydroelectric power, so these are the kinds of water resource impacts that the state will be taking into account when they look at a water resiliency approach, he said.

The USGS has recently updated their forecast for seismic risk in the Delta and surrounding areas, and they now predict a 72% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater in the next 30 years, Mr. Arakawa said.

He presented an animation that shows what the effect of an earthquake of that size could have on the Delta based on work done by the state around 2008.  The animation shows that up to 20 islands in the Delta could fail if it occurred July 1 through July 10, and what that would mean to salinity in the Delta; the animation shows that within 2 to 3 days, that salt water has made its way down to the export pumps in the south Delta.

With Delta conveyance, the key is to make sure that the intakes are located farther upstream on the Sacramento River, so if there was a major earthquake, you would have a diversion point that would be protected from that seawater intrusion,” he said.

Elements of a statewide water resilience portfolio

Mr. Arakawa then turned to the elements that would go into a statewide portfolio for water resilience, noting that the approach is similar to the approach Metropolitan has been using in its Integrated Regional Portfolio.

The Executive Order issued on April 29 was a policy directive to develop a water resilience portfolio working with different agencies to adapt to climate change, to meet the needs of California’s economy and environment through the 21st century, and to assess the current planning to modernize conveyance.  The principles that have been outlined include multi-benefit approaches that can meet multiple needs, utilizing natural infrastructure like floodplains and managing the watersheds and the forests.  It also includes embracing innovation and new technologies.

Another principle is emphasizing regional approaches, which in many ways, California has already been working over the last 30 years on regional approaches to allow for better water management.  Other principles include incorporating examples from other parts of the world that have been successful, integrating investments and policies across state government, and strengthening partnerships with local, federal, tribal governments, water agencies, and stakeholders.

The elements of a water portfolio would build on programs and policies and investments in place, which likely means recycling, water conservation, stormwater capture, groundwater recharge, and as well as Delta conveyance, he said.

The Governor’s communications have stated that modernizing the Delta conveyance is needed as part of an approach for California and he’s directed his team to take steps to advance a single tunnel approach, strategically designed and located to deliver water through the Delta,” Mr. Arakawa said.  “The Department of Water Resources is beginning to do a lot of work to pursue this, but the state has also made it pretty clear that it’s a state administration effort, so California Natural Resources Agency, Cal EPA, and California Department of Food and Agriculture are other agencies that are involved in all of this effort for both portfolio and how they would advance the Delta conveyance planning efforts.”

The state is currently soliciting input with a September 1st deadline, and Metropolitan will certainly be organizing and developing our comments on climate resilient water systems and providing that feedback to the state by the deadline.  The state is planning on having meetings throughout the state, and working with different entities, including universities, community organizations, and agencies to hold workshops and listening sessions, some of which have already occurred.

Metropolitan has pursued a portfolio approach since the 1990s.  The first Integrated Resources Plan was completed in 1996 which advanced a policy framework for how Metropolitan would help support and pursue different ways of developing water supply and water conservation.  It has been updated about every 5 years thereafter; the next update is due in 2020.

The 2015 IRP plan continues to build upon diversification to allow for development of local water supplies and to expand water conservation efforts.  “Our key objectives are to maintain the Colorado River supplies at about 900,000 acre-feet, counting on the programs that have been developed with our partners, the Imperial Irrigation District, Palo Verde and others,” he said.  “And on the State Water Project as we’ve talked about Water Fix in the past, and how that fits with the IRP, our objective has been to maintain a supply of 1.2 MAF which is about the capability of the system with the existing regulations, the State Water Board requirements, and the biological opinions. Our interest and objective has been to try to maintain that supply and to be able to manage water within that.

From 1990 to 2040, the existing approach of the IRP is to greatly increase the capability to count on local supplies.  In 1990, Metropolitan’s estimated reliance on local supplies was about 41%; the IRP approach moves to 65% local supplies by the year 2040.

DELTA CONVEYANCE PLANNING PROCESS

Mr. Arakawa began by presenting the slide of the estimated timeline for 2019 to 2022.  “We anticipate that negotiations on cost allocation will occur in the remaining part of this year, and the Notice of Preparation on the environmental process could occur in the fall or later part of the calendar year of 2019,” he said.  “Then we’d have about 2 to 3 years of environmental planning process to get to completion of the environmental document and permits for Delta conveyance.”

Mr. Arakawa noted that the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority had a contract with the state of California to design and construct the California Water Fix, but with California Water Fix no longer being pursued, there was a need to amend that joint exercise of powers agreement between the state and the JPA to allow for the support from the JPA for the engineering and other types of technical work that would help to inform the environmental document.  So at their June meeting, the Authority gave approval to the Executive Director the ability to finish that agreement with the state.

He also reminded that back in 2018, there were public negotiations that occurred between the State Water Project contractors and the Department of Water Resources on the cost allocation for Water Fix  and on provisions that would be added to the contract for water transfers and exchanges to provide more flexibility to enhance abilities to manage water between contractors; those negotiations were completed with an agreement in principle.

However, with the Cal Water Fix not being pursued, there was a public negotiation in May of this year to essentially take out the Cal Water Fix allocation part of that, and leave behind the Agreement in Principles regarding water transfers and exchanges, so those provisions will continue on, he said.  He noted that an environmental document has been developed and circulated, and there will be another circulation to complete that environmental document for water transfers and exchanges to complete that process now that Water Fix has been rescinded.

In 2019, the state has a goal of initiating negotiations on Delta conveyance and on cost allocation, so we anticipate those discussions could begin as early as July,” said Mr. Arakawa.  “It would be essentially to have public negotiations on a cost allocation approach.  Certainly the cost allocation approach and commitments from individual agencies would need to converge with what the specific project is, but negotiations, if it starts in July, would be about what’s the methodology and cost allocation approach with regard to how the cost of new Delta conveyance would be allocated between contractors and how that would work with a contract amendment between DWR and individual contractors.”

At the June meeting of the Delta Conceyance Design and Construction Authority, there was an action to authorize the execution of amendment between the state and the Joint Powers Authority to allow for that joint exercise of powers agreement to include in its scope the ability to provide technical support services for the environmental planning process.  It also approved a scope of services, an amendment to a contract with Jacobs Engineering; there was an existing Jacobs Engineering agreement, but that scope was amended to align with the new planning and environmental support services that are necessary for this environmental process.  They approved a budget of for the 2019-2020 budget year of $98 million, and they authorized the Executive Director to negotiate and execute a lease for office space in the downtown Sacramento area.  They authorized some amendments to the bylaws for some administrative management needs.”

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS

Director Lefevre notes that slide 5 shows the deterioration of the Sierra snowpack.  He noted that previously, staff has shown that with a 9,000 cfs conveyance, they would have been able to grab roughly 800,000 acre-feet more water than we could in 2013.  “My point is that we need to be sure that whatever we get for a conveyance, we need to have a significant sized conveyance, because otherwise we’re going to lose a lot of water in the out years, 2070-2099, and I’m just not sure that we’re paying enough attention to the grabbing of the water when we size the conveyance.”

What we’ve always known here, there’s good news and bad news with climate change,” said General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.  “The good news for California is that the models aren’t showing a significant loss of precipitation like they are in other parts of the world; certainly on the Colorado River, models are predicting a significant loss of precipitation.  The bad news is it is going from snow to rain which puts an incredible emphasis on the ability to capture and move it, and that’s really that conveyance.  The bottleneck in moving water is the Delta, and until we get some sort of conveyance solution of some preferred approach to it, there’s just simply isn’t the ability to move and capture that water.”

Director Brett Barbre asked what has been the sea level rise at the Golden Gate Bridge in the last 100 years?

About 6 ½ inches, I think,” answered Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson.

6 ½ inches and yet by law, we have to now plan for 10 feet of ocean rise? Ok,” said Director Barbre.  “On slide 14, it talks about stormwater capture, would surface storage qualify under that, because it seems to me 15 MAF is our snowpack, and if that’s going away, we need to replace that with surface storage? Does the Governor recognize that if these climate change predictions come true, that we are going to need to significantly increase our stormwater capture in surface storage, so we can then save it and put it in our groundwater basins.”

That is what DWR has talked about,” said Mr. Kightlinger.  “They are looking at the Prop 1 funding that was available, and they are looking at various sites, and they do have an emphasis on increasing surface storage as well as groundwater storage.”

How quickly?” said Director Barbre.  “We’ve been trying to finish the State Water Project for 50 years and we’re still not there.” He noted that Metropolitan build Diamond Valley Lake in ten years.

BAY DELTA MANAGER REPORT

Roger Patterson gave an update on the voluntary agreements, noting that the next date for an update was June 30.  (And look, here it is!)

Mr. Patterson also said the new biological opinions are due shortly.  There is an accompanying NEPA process, so an Environmental Impact Statement will also be released.  The tentative schedule is to finalize the EIS and have a Record of Decision in December.

Expect it to cause quite a stir, because everybody has been waiting for these and everyone has their theory on what they are going to look like,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Patterson noted that there is a parallel process going on at the state that will lead to a new permit from the Cal Fish and Wildlife by the end of the year as well.  “Our concern is that we make sure that these are synced up in the key areas where there is operating criteria because we operate under the congressionally-authorized coordinated operations agreement for the federal and state projects, and you cannot have a permit that says operate Old and Middle River reverse flows to 2000 in one permit and 5000 in the other,” he said.  “It doesn’t work.  The challenge will be to make sure that we can get coordinated on those primary issues where the two projects have to be together.  In some areas, habitat or some of the science elements could be a little bit different, but certain pieces of it are going to have to be coordinated and going to have to work together, so that will be fun to work on over next 6 months.

Mr. Patterson also noted that in the current smelt biological opinion, in a wet year such as this one, there is a requirement for increasing outflow in the fall.  It’s only been triggered one other time.  “There’s conversations going on amongst the fishery agencies and the operators about what we will be doing this fall on that,” he said.  “It will probably be a little bit of a difficult conversation before we ultimately get a plan, but we started about 2 months earlier than we did the last time, so we have a little bit more working time.”

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