NEWS WORTH NOTING: USBR DWR to restore floodplain habitat in the Yolo Bypass; C-WIN sues the city of Ventura over State Water Interconnection Pipeline; Pyramid Dam modernization project kicks off; Metropolitan to assess supply potential of stormwater capture; EPA updates Strategic Plan

Reclamation and DWR to restore floodplain habitat for endangered salmon in the Yolo Bypass

Increased habitat for juveniles improves passage for salmon, sturgeon

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the California Department of Water Resources, today announced its decision to move forward with a restoration project to improve fish passage and increase floodplain fisheries-rearing habitat in the Yolo Bypass.

“This is a major milestone for habitat restoration in the Central Valley and an important part of working toward improving conditions for salmon and sturgeon and water supply reliability in California,” said Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We appreciate the work of our local and state partners as we’ve moved toward this crucial goal. We look forward to coordination with landowners in the bypass.”

The project will reconnect the floodplain for fish during the winter season and improve connectivity within the bypass and to the Sacramento River by allowing up to 6,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow through new east side gates on the Fremont Weir. The project seeks to benefit juvenile salmon on their way out to the ocean and adults moving upstream to their spawning grounds. Juvenile salmon will be able to feed on the food-rich floodplains and grow. Improvements will also reduce stranding and migratory delays of adult salmon and sturgeon due to passage barriers.

The ROD was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act after completing thorough environmental review, public outreach and required permitting. The documents are available at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=30484.

To request a copy of the documents, contact Ben Nelson at 916-414-2424 (TTY 800-877-8339) or bcnelson@usbr.gov. Hard copies of the documents can be reviewed at the Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA. Call to make an appointment (916-414-2400).

For additional information on the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Project, visit https://www.usbr.gov/mp/bdo/yolo-bypass.html.

C-WIN Sues the City of Ventura over State Water Interconnection Pipeline

Project EIR fails to demonstrate water reliability, fails to evaluate the impacts of state water on the community and fails to evaluate alternatives.

From the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN):

On September 4, 2019 the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Challenge against the City of Ventura’s approval of the State Water Interconnection Pipeline project based on a faulty Environmental Impact Report. The city is acting as the lead agency for the project, which proposes a seven-mile pipeline connecting the water systems of Calleguas (via the Metropolitan Water District) and Ventura, seeking to facilitate local dependence on state water from the water-scarce California Delta flowing to the Casitas, United and Ventura water districts.

C-WIN challenges the project’s inability to meet its own water reliability objectives and the City’s refusal to study local alternatives and major project impacts—including the major costs and risks of state water—as required by CEQA.

The Interconnection Project is a major step backward from the growing recognition that local dependence on state water is a problem, not a solution, for water reliability and the environment. State water must be exported from the California Delta, from which the state has allocated 5.5 times more than is available. State water is so oversubscribed that the courts have identified more than half of its allocation as unreliable “paper water”. The Delta Reform Act of 2009 requires that regions south of the Delta reduce their dependence on the Delta watershed. The City knows that state water is unreliable and that deliveries of state water will be negligible in times of drought. In March 2019, Ventura published a draft EIR for its Ventura Water Supply Project, confirming that state water from the Interconnection Project would be unreliable. The findings were wrongly excluded from the Interconnection Project EIR.

The cost of state water will cripple Ventura’s ability to explore and develop sustainable regional solutions. Districts under contract with the State Water Project (SWP) pay based on their full allocation whether or not they receive any water. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) often sets and increases rates for state water without local input. As an example, when Santa Barbara County agreed to connect to the SWP in 1991, voters were told the cost would be $270 million with 97% reliability. The actual cost, including bond interest, has been $1.7 billion for, on average, 28% of their allocation. Once a district is dependent upon the state water system, they’re responsible for the costs of the maintenance and new infrastructure of the entire SWP conveyance system. Ratepayers have no direct input and no ability to opt out of these maintenance and infrastructural decisions. The stated Ventura pipeline project estimate of $50 million does not include the exorbitant additional costs and risks of state water.

The EIR for the Interconnection Project evaded assessing the major impacts of growth encouraged by the false perception of state water availability. When the SWP predictably fails to ensure reliable deliveries, demands on other depleted sources such as groundwater, the Ventura River and Lake Casitas will only increase when it is too late to plan for integrated improvements in local water resilience.

When it approved the State Water Interconnection Project, the Ventura City Council ignored an important event in the City’s earlier water history. In 1992, Ventura’s voters rejected connecting to the SWP and indicated they would prefer desalination to reliance on state water. There has not been a vote since. Moreover, the potential for conservation and other local water resilience options has only grown in the years since that vote, as have the compelling reasons for rejecting state water.

The California Water Impact Network is a state-wide organization that advocates for the equitable and sustainable use of California’s fresh water resources for all Californians. www.c-win.org

 

Pyramid Dam Modernization Project Kicks Off: DWR Assesses Spillways This Fall

From DWR:

Today, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) began assessment work on Pyramid Dam’s spillways in Los Angeles County as part of a statewide effort to reduce seismic and hydrologic risk to State Water Project (SWP) facilities spanning 705 miles throughout California.

“DWR initiated the Pyramid Modernization Program as part of its commitment to reduce risks and provide the intended benefit of this dam and other assets in the SWP portfolio,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR Director. “The work ahead will allow DWR to make informed decisions and design and implement improvements to ensure public safety and reliable operations at Pyramid Dam.”

DWR is assessing possible improvements to the spillways to mitigate impacts due to an extreme weather event or earthquake.

Work includes the use of investigative tools and construction equipment, including helicopters, heavy machinery and drill rigs for geologic investigations. Localized noise and increased activity at the site are expected. The assessment of the gated and emergency spillways at Pyramid Dam is planned for completion by 2022.

DWR routinely monitors and inspects the dam and implements preventative measures to ensure continued dam safety as conditions change over time. As a precaution, DWR has adjusted winter operations to avoid the use of the spillways while the assessments and evaluations are underway.

Pyramid Dam’s gated spillway is used approximately once per year to release water from the reservoir to increase reservoir capacity to absorb watershed inflows. The emergency spillway has never been used. Since it is an unlined spillway, the assessment will focus on whether work is needed to reinforce the spillway to prevent erosion if it were to ever be used.

Once the assessment is complete, DWR will develop and implement a plan to modernize the structures at Pyramid Dam. The Modernization Program is expected to take approximately 10 years to complete.

Pyramid Lake, completed in 1973 and located 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, provides regulatory storage for power generation, emergency water supply, flood protection along the Piru Creek, and a variety of recreational opportunities.

Metropolitan to assess supply potential of stormwater capture

Pilot program continues Metropolitan’s effort to diversify water supply portfolio

From the Metropolitan Water District:

With the goal of understanding the potential water supply benefits of local stormwater capture projects, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is launching a new pilot program that will provide vital data on the most efficient and cost effective methods to capture and use rainfall and stormwater runoff.

The $5 million pilot program, approved by Metropolitan’s board of directors today, will help fund the construction of new direct-use stormwater capture projects and the installation of monitoring equipment on existing projects. Information on the costs and volume of water produced by different types of projects will be collected over three years and will inform the possible funding of stormwater capture efforts in the future.

“A lot of hope has been placed in the potential of stormwater as a local water supply for Southern California. We want to better understand that potential, and its cost, as part of our commitment to developing local resources,” said Metropolitan Chairwoman Gloria Gray.
Metropolitan has for decades sought to diversify its water supply portfolio by investing in local water supply projects, as guided by its Integrated Water Resources Plan. It has provided more than $500 million in incentives to more than 100 groundwater recovery and recycled water projects through its Local Resource Program. But no local stormwater capture projects have been funded through the program, due in part to a lack of data on the volume of water actually produced by such projects.

“Stormwater capture projects have a lot of benefits – improving water quality, flood control, habitat creation, and water supply,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “But they are typically expensive to build. So as we explore opportunities to invest in these projects, in partnership with parties interested in their other benefits, we need to understand their water supply value.”

The pilot program is aimed at direct-use projects, like cisterns and permeable pavement with underground collection systems, that capture rainfall and stormwater and use it on-site for nonpotable needs such as irrigation (not for recharge). Projects can be located at public or private nonresidential sites, such as schools, parks, golf courses, commercial facilities and cemeteries.

To capture a diverse set of data, the pilot program will fund new and retrofitted projects in
three different climate zones across Southern California – coastal, mid and inland. Metropolitan will begin accepting applications Jan. 1, with projects accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

EPA Updates Strategic Plan to Emphasize Current Environmental and Policy Goals

From the US EPA:

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted an update to its FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. While the overall plan remains largely unchanged, the Agency has revised the language of the strategic goals in the plan to better reflect EPA’s environmental and policy goals.

“EPA’s strategic plan helps guide the Agency’s path forward as we fulfill our mission of protecting human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today’s update helps us more clearly articulate our goals and commitment to providing greater regulatory certainty to states, tribes, and local governments while ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment for all Americans.”

The updated goal statements are:

  • Goal 1: A Cleaner, Healthier Environment – Deliver a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment for all Americans and future generations by carrying out the Agency’s core mission.
    • Previously stated as:  Core Mission Deliver real results to provide Americans with clean air, land, and water, and ensure chemical safety.
  • Goal 2: More Effective Partnerships: Provide certainty to states, localities, tribal nations, and the regulated community in carrying out shared responsibilities and communicating results to all Americans.
    • Previously stated as: Cooperative FederalismRebalance the power between Washington and the states to create tangible environmental results for the American people.
  • Goal 3: Greater Certainty, Compliance, and Effectiveness – Increase certainty, compliance, and effectiveness by applying the rule of law to achieve more efficient and effective agency operations, service delivery, and regulatory relief.
    • Previously stated as: Rule of Law and Process Administer the law as Congress intended, to refocus the Agency on its statutory obligations under the law.

EPA’s FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan describes how the agency will accomplish its mission to protect human health and the environment, provide the measures we will use to evaluate our success, and communicate the Administrator’s priorities. The Agency uses the plan routinely as a management tool to guide the Agency’s path forward, tracking progress and assessing and addressing risks and challenges that could potentially interfere with EPA’s ability to accomplish its goals.

Background

EPA originally issued its FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan in February 2018. The previous version of the plan can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/archive.

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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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