NEWS WORTH NOTING: Reclamation seeks input for Friant-Kern Canal fix; State Water Board adopts 2019 Ocean Plan review that ranks important water quality issues

Reclamation seeks input for Friant-Kern Canal fix

Proposed project would repair critical water delivery system for farms and cities

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input about its plan to restore a subsidence-impacted, 33-mile stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal (FKC) that has lost over half of its original designed and built capacity to subsidence – a sinking of the earth from groundwater extraction.

The canal, located in California’s eastern San Joaquin Valley, delivers water to over 1 million acres of highly productive farmland and over 250,000 residents. The reduced channel capacity has resulted in up to 300,000 acre-feet of reduced water deliveries in certain water years with effects most dramatic in the FKC middle reach (milepost 88 to milepost 121).

“From citrus to dairy and everything in between, the communities served by the Friant-Kern Canal are some of the most agriculturally-productive in the nation. However, after years of drought, subsidence along the canal has occurred, restricting its capacity to deliver water in Tulare and Kern Counties. Repairing the Friant-Kern Canal is a top priority of mine, and I want to commend Secretary Bernhardt, Commissioner Burman, and Director Conant for formally starting the NEPA process on this project,” said U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy.

“I also want to thank President Trump for listening to our needs in California and acting on them through his presidential memorandum that prioritized this and other water infrastructure projects in the West. Restoring full capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal along this stretch will significantly benefit residents along the eastside of the Central Valley and our agricultural community,” said McCarthy.

The Friant-Kern Canal Subsidence and Capacity Correction Project (Project) would restore capacity from the current estimated 1,900 cubic-feet-per-second to the original 4,000 cubic-feet-per-second in the most critical area near the Dear Creek Check Structure (milepost 103). The Friant Water Authority, the non-federal operating entity for the canal, is supporting the design and feasibility assessment of the proposed project and is working with Reclamation to meet state and federal environmental law requirements.

“Delivering water reliably and efficiently is key to supporting California’s environment and robust economy,” said Reclamation’s California Great Basin Regional Director Ernest Conant. “This project meets our commitment to repair infrastructure so we can optimize water deliveries, better use flood waters and protect the environment.”

A Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for the “Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project,” was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 3, 2019. Reclamation, the lead federal agency, is seeking comments for the next 30 days. A public scoping meeting is planned for Dec. 18, 2019 to solicit input and will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at U.S. Forest Service office, 1839 S. Newcomb St. Porterville, CA. As part of the scoping process, Reclamation will release an Environmental Assessment/Initial Study (EA/IS).

A copy of the NOI and the EA/IS may be found online at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=41341.

State Water Board adopts 2019 Ocean Plan review that ranks important water quality issues

In an ongoing effort to protect California beaches and coastal waters, the State Water Resources Control Board today adopted a report that prioritizes nearly two dozen topics for future projects and rule-making actions, from assessing health risks from harmful bacteria to understanding the impacts of ocean acifidication.

The report resulted from a review of the Water Quality Control Plan for Ocean Waters of California (Ocean Plan), the statewide plan that governs the protection of the state’s coastal waters by controlling the discharge of waste into the ocean. Discharges can include stormwater runoff, municipally treated sewage outflow and industrial flows regulated by regional and State Board permits.

“The health of California’s coastal waters and beaches are critical to the state’s population and economy,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.  “Climate change, ongoing pollution challenges, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other threats require our regulatory programs to adapt, learn, and utilize new technologies and science  to protect and preserve our coast.  Adoption of this review plan transparently sets out the scope and scale of possible future amendments to the Ocean Plan and areas of continued work by the State Board.”

Besides the potential health risks that poor water quality poses, beach closures harm the state economy. Millions of tourists and residents visit California’s beaches annually to swim, kayak, dive or surf, generating more than $10 billion per year. The beaches in southern San Diego County are particularly impacted because of the chronic sewage spills originating in Tijuana.

The review was conducted by State Water Board staff in coordination with the coastal water boards and with input gathered from four public meetings held earlier this year. Using this input, staff prepared the draft report and related work plan that lists and ranks 22 issues as potential future projects.

The five highest-ranked issues in the adopted review are:

  • Tribal Beneficial Uses: Some of the state’s Native American tribes use marine resources for sustenance and cultural ceremonies. Exploring potential definitions and designations of these uses would allow the State Water Board to protect and enhance these resources.
  • Bacteria Objectives for Water Contact Recreation: Continued study of bacterial water quality objectives would allow the State Water Board to utilize the most current science in assessing risks to the public from exposure to harmful pathogens while swimming or engaging in other water-contact ocean activities.
  • Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS): The Ocean Plan authorizes the State Water Board to make exceptions to a prohibition against the discharge of waste into Areas of Special Biological Significance, provided special conditions are met that protect natural water quality in these areas. In 2012, exceptions were granted to 27 dischargers who had difficulty implementing the special protections during the 2011-15 drought. This topic would allow the Board to consider clarifying revisions or additional requirements.
  • Desalination Implementation Provisions: Stakeholders and interested parties have requested clarification about Ocean Plan provisions that protect ocean waters against impacts associated with the construction and operation of seawater desalination facilities. This issue would review existing permitting requirements and consider options for streamlining the process.
  • Ocean Acidification, Hypoxia, and Climate Change Impacts: Climate change is driving shifts in the chemical properties of ocean waters. To better understand the impacts, the State Water Board would evaluate how to develop water quality objectives and improve the resilience of the coastal environment.

In recent years, the Water Boards, which have more than 200 scientists, engineers and geologists working to protect California’s coastal waters, have made significant progress, including the adoption of trash, desalination and bacteria amendments to the Ocean Plan.

The Water Boards also safeguard ocean water quality with programs and policies on ocean water use for power plant cooling, permitting of waste discharges, limitations on discharges of waste into areas of special biological significance, monitoring to notify beach users if beaches are safe for swimming and addressing polluted beaches.

To learn more, please visit the State Water Board Ocean Plan website or the fact sheet on the Ocean Plan.

 

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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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