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LandWatch Comments on Coastal Water Project DEIR

Meeting existing and projected water needs on the Monterey Peninsula and in the Salinas Valley remains an on-going challenge. Currently, the focus is on developing alternatives to pumping from the Carmel River and further over-drafting the Seaside Groundwater Basin - the two major water sources for the Monterey Peninsula.

Cal-Am developed the Coastal Water Project to address these water issues. The California Public Utilities Commission is the lead agency for the Cal-Am projects and recently issued a draft environmental impact report (DEIR) on the project and a possible alternative referred to as the Regional Project.

Cal-Am proposes a desalination plant either at Moss Landing or in North Marina. The plants would produce 10,000 to 11,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) of desalinated water for the Monterey Peninsula. Cal-Am's proposal also includes water from the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project developed in conjunction with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District for a total yield of 1,300 AFY.

The Regional Project includes a desalination plant in North Marina at 10,000 AFY with water from the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin (SVGB) and the ocean; ASR at 1300 AFY; recycled water for irrigation at 1,000 AFY; diversion of Salinas River water at 2,980 AFY; and water from the Sand City desalination plant at 300 AFY. The project would yield 15,580 AFY with water for Marina, Fort Ord and the Monterey Peninsula.

Some issues related to the various alternatives include:

1. Limitation on transporting water out of the SVGB

2. Private ownership of desalination plants

3. Institutional issues related to managing water on the Monterey

4. Peninsula and public participation in rate setting

LandWatch's comments on the DEIR follow:


April 15, 2009

Andrew Barnsdale
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

Subject: DEIR for Coastal Water Project

Dear Mr. Barnsdale:

LandWatch Monterey County appreciates the effort of the Ratepayers of the PUC to encourage development of a regional approach to water supply projects for Monterey County. As initially conceived, the Water for Monterey County Regional Project was to be a sustainable water supply alternative focusing on use of reclaimed water, treatment of stormwater runoff, water conservation, aquifer storage and recovery and improved operation and maintenance. These efforts were to be supplemented by desalinated water.

However, the Regional Program described in the DEIR turns the effort on its head, instead focusing on desalination supplemented by the other efforts. The desalination plant for Phase 1 of the Regional Project is proposed to deliver 10,000 AFY, the same size as the Cal-Am Moss Landing project and only slightly smaller than the Cal-Am North Marina project. It further diminishes the other non-desalination efforts by relying on water diversions from the Salinas River, an effort that is problematic and uncertain based on delay in constructing the diversion facility and uncertainty of its effectiveness.

Our specific comments on the DEIR follow:

1. ES-12. The Executive Summary states that the impacts of growth have been analyzed and addressed in environmental documents prepared for the general plans in the service area. The County General Plan dating from 1982 no longer adequately evaluates or addresses growth. For example, as discussed below, the growth in irrigated acreage and agricultural water use is not accounted for in the 1982 General Plan (or in the Salinas Valley Water Project (SVWP) EIR.
     
2. P. ES-14. Unresolved issues identified in the DEIR include relationships and working agreements between agencies involved in the Regional Project and the future of once through cooling at Moss Landing Power Plant. The following additional issues are unresolved and should be added to the FEIR:

Uncertainty of Action by MCWRA to Approve the Regional Project and Delay in Implementing the Regional Project. Approval of the desalination project may be problematic since it would be subject to litigation by Salinas Valley property owners with groundwater rights and approval of the Monterey County Water Resources Board (MCWRA). While the Board dropped its opposition to the Regional Project at its March 23, 2009 meeting, the Board’s attorney in a Prehearing Conference statement before the PUC on March 2, 2009 stated,

“These [authorities] include the power to “[p]revent interference with, or diminution of, or declare rights in, the natural flow of any stream or surface or subterranean supply of waters used or useful for any purpose of the Agency or of common benefit to the lands within the Agency or to its inhabitants. . . ”, to “[p]revent unlawful exportation of water from theAgency . . .”, and to “[p]revent the export of groundwater from the Salinas River GroundwaterBasin, . . .” subject to certain exceptions not applicable here.7…The SVGB is in overdraft and must be protected, and the Agency is not the only public agency with such an interest. Among others, the State Water Resources Control Board considers solving the issue of seawater intrusion resulting from overdraft to be a high priority.”

The statement continues, “The Agency urges the Commission to be cautious in determining which, if any, project to approve. The parties with an interest in the SVGB have, for over 50 years, through judicious use of agreements and cooperation, avoided the need for a judicial adjudication of the rights in the SVGB. Any approval of a project that threatens that delicate balance could lead to such an adjudication. Such an adjudication in turn could delay the implementation of any approved Cal-Am project until the adjudication is complete. Such adjudications historically take many, many years. Similarly, any project which contemplates use of surface water from the Salinas River could lead to litigation over water rights in Salinas River water, with the same result of delaying implementation of an approved Cal-Am project. Neither reliance on SVGB or Salinas River water, nor taking actions that would spur water litigation, are acts in the public convenience and necessity.”

Considering the MCWRA Board’s inconsistent positions on the Regional Project, considering the MCWRA’s legal authority to prohibit extractions from the SVGB, and considering that current boards are legally prohibited from limiting decisions of future board, what guarantee exists than an agreement to export Salinas Basin water many not be reversed in the future? Resolution of these uncertainties is critical to addressing water supplies needed to meet regulatory requirements on the Monterey Peninsula.

Regulatory Authority of Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD). The DEIR addresses at some length the authority of the MCWRA to prohibit export of water from the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin. However, the DEIR fails to address in similar detail authority and responsibility of the MPWMD, the agency with the primary responsibility for managing water on the Monterey Peninsula and the responsibility for approving importation of water into the District. Why was this information regarding the MPWMD omitted? We recommend the FEIR address the feasibility of MPWMD being a co-lead agency for development of the Regional Project desalination plant to address this issue.       

     
3. P. 2-3 to 2-9. The DEIR identifies the amount of water to meet regulatory requirements. Historic water pumped from the Carmel River is 14,106 AFY, with Cal-Am having legal rights to 3,376 AFY. Therefore, Cal-Am must reduce water use by 10,730 AFY. Table 2-2 identifies current pumping at 11,015 AFY (1996 -06). Since this number reflects conservation which is part of all the proposed projects, pumping from the Carmel River would only have to be reduced by 7,636 AFY. Table 2-2 identifies 1,000 AFY needed to address adjudication requirements of the Seaside Basin. Thus, replacement needs total 8,636 AFY. However, the water demand estimates were adjusted upward by 7.8% to account for weather variations. These adjusted numbers increase overall replacement needs by 3,579 AFY. What provision is there to assure that the 3,579 AFY intended for drought protection is reserved for that purpose and not used for growth? If there is no provision, why wasn’t an analysis of the growth inducing potential of the 3,579 AFY addressed in the DEIR?
     
4. P 2-11. In projecting future Cal-Am service area demand, the DEIR adds a 20% contingency to future demand to reflect relaxation of the current conservation restrictions required to comply with Order 95-10 when additional water is available. Why should these restrictions be relaxed if they are working and will serve to help avoid some of the impacts of supplying additional water? If 20% conservation is possible, why is the 743 AFY it represents (Table 2-4) not identified as the first source of additional water supply? Has this existing level of conservation (20%) been used in calculating new water use? If not, why not? Since continuing 20% conservation would reduce the need for other sources of water, wouldn’t doing so be a superior project alternative? What criteria and regulation would be used to prohibit water purveyors from enforcing 20% conservation, while simultaneously using that conserved water to support 20% growth? What are the growth inducing impacts of such a scenario?
     
5. P. 5-6. The Regional Project would provide 5,900 AFY additional water to North Monterey County. However, the Salinas Valley Water Project EIR states (p. 7-9), “With the project, water would not be a constraint to the projected regional population increase between 1995 and 2030, with the expectation of the population to growth from 188,949 to 355,829.” Since the Salinas Valley Water Project would provide enough water to meet current and future needs (to 2030) for North Monterey County, why does the Regional Plan include new water for this area? Does this mean the SVWP is of no benefit to Zone 2C in North Monterey County?
     
6.

P 5-21. The DEIR states that the environmental impacts of an expanded Salinas River Diversion Facility were analyzed in the SVWP EIR. The SVWP DEIR did not evaluate expansion of the delivery system or increased diversions because the discussion was merely “conceptual” and consideration of environmental impacts was expressly deferred to later analyses. Further, the NOAA 2007 Biological Opinion was expressly limited to the assumption that only 9,700 AFY would be diverted.

The DEIR for the Salinas Valley Water Project (SVWP) relies on the assumption that the SVWP can be expanded from the 9,700 acre-feet per year (AFY) permitted by NOAA. The environmental consequences of increased diversions to steelhead have not been addressed. As discussed below, the limitation of NOAA’s Biological Opinion to a diversion rate of 9,700 AFY provide substantial evidence that these consequences will be significant.

Modeling undertaken by the MCWRA for the SVWP indicates that by 2030 seawater intrusion will be reduced to 2,300 AF with surface water deliveries only to the Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project or CSIP. However, if an additional 14,300 AF of SVWP water is delivered outside the CSIP, modeling indicates that seawater intrusion would be halted (Monterey County Water Resources Agency 2001a).

The SVWP DEIR, section 3.2.4. assumes, with no environmental analysis, that “diversion from the Salinas River would be increased from an average of 9,700 to 18,300 AFY” in order to provide additional water for delivery outside the CSIP delivery area. In addition, that section states that the delivery system expansion would cost $40.8 million.

It is clear that the “expanded delivery system” is not just an unfunded $40.8 million pipeline project but also an increase in diversions from the Salinas River. This increased diversion would clearly affect steelhead and other aquatic resources, yet the DEIR presents no evidence that the SVWP diversions can be increased to 18,300 AFY with no environmental consequences.

It is clear that the SVWP EIR did not evaluate the environmental effects of the Expanded Delivery System – either the effects of the additional pipeline project or the effects of additional diversions. The entire discussion of the Expanded Delivery System in the SVWP DEIR is as follows:

Potential Expanded Delivery System

While the Salinas Valley Integrated Ground and Surface Water Model (SVIGSM) indicates that seawater intrusion will be halted by the project (in conjunction with the CSIP deliveries) based on current (1995) demands, with a projected increase in water demands (primarily associated with urban development) in the north valley area in the future, seawater intrusion may not be fully halted based on year 2030 projections.

For the year 2030, modeling indicates seawater intrusion may be 2,200 AFY with surface water deliveries only to the CSIP area. This is substantially less than the 10,500 AFY of intrusion that would occur without the project. It is important to note that, given the dynamics of the hydrologic system, the uncertainties of whether future demands will occur as projected, and the limitations of any modeling effort, it is not known if this level of seawater intrusion will occur. The project could potentially fully halt intrusion in 2030 with deliveries only within the CSIP system. As discussed in Section 3.2.7, a monitoring program will be implemented to determine the success of the project.

Given that the SVIGSM is used by MCWRA as a planning tool, it is prudent to consider the potential that additional deliveries may be needed in 2030. However, given the uncertainties expressed above, it is only appropriate to conceptually consider and environmentally evaluate potential future delivery systems. If needed in the future, more precise planning and environmental analysis will be required. However, SVIGSM modeling does demonstrate that delivery of an average 18,300 AFY of SVWP water in combination with recycled water to CSIP and agricultural uses outside of the CSIP area would fully halt seawater intrusion.

Diversion from the Salinas River would be increased from an average of 9,700 AFY to 18,300 AFY. Of this total diversion, 14,300 AFY would be delivered outside the CSIP delivery area. CSIP deliveries would shift in their composition. An average of 4,000 AFY would be provided by Salinas River diversions. Recycled water deliveries would increase to 16,000 AFY. [2] Supplemental pumping of groundwater wells up to 2,800 AFY would provide the balance of water needed to meet water use demands (approximately 23,000 AFY) in the CSIP area.

In order to deliver the additional water to areas outside of CSIP, a pipeline parallel to the existing CSIP pipeline would need to be constructed from the diversion dam to a new distribution area adjacent to the CSIP distribution area. For purposes of analysis, it is assumed that deliveries would occur to the southeast of the CSIP service area, as this is the area nearest the diversion dam that is not within the CSIP area. A 42-inch diameter new pipeline would be required, along with a distribution system to deliver diverted water to agricultural users in the expanded service area. A general route of a delivery pipeline is depicted on Figure 3-3. Specific alignment of the expanded distribution system would be developed to deliver agricultural water to turnouts for each affected property.

Construction & Cost

Use of the existing CSIP distribution pipeline would not require construction, and no additional expense is anticipated.

If expanded delivery is required in the future, costs would be determined at the time it is needed. For purposes of this analysis, it is assumed that 5 miles of transmission pipeline would be needed, at an estimated cost on the order of $10.6 million. A distribution system from the transmission line would also be needed, at an estimated cost of $30.2 million. The total estimated cost of the expanded distribution system is $40.8 million. SVWP DEIR, section 3.2.4.

As noted, the SVWP EIR’s discussion is merely “conceptual” and does not in fact consider any environmental effects of either the increased diversions or the additional pipeline construction.

In 2007, NOAA issued its Final Biological Opinion for the SVWP related to effects on the endangered steelhead. The Biological Opinion is expressly limited to the assumption that only 9,700 AFY will be diverted, and explicitly provides for reinitiating consultation if diversion is increased beyond this limit.
(National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Region, Biological Opinion, SWR/2003/2080. Admin. No.: 151422SWR2003SR8711, June 21, 2007, p. 66.)

The Biological Opinion makes it clear that the flow prescription based on 9,700 AFY was intended to minimize project impacts and benefit steelhead:

“The SRDF will operate seasonally from April 1 through October 31, if enough surface water is available. As currently proposed, maximum rate of diversion will be 85 cubic feet per second (cfs). The diversion facility will be built to support future expansion to a diversion rate of 135 cfs. Future diversion rates above 85 cfs were not considered by NMFS in this opinion, because the flow prescription to minimize project impacts and benefit steelhead was jointly developed by MCWRA and NMFS based on an assumed maximum diversion rate of 85 cfs. With this assumption, the average diversion of the SRDF will be about 9,700 AF per year (AFY).” Ibid., p. 8, emphasis added.

Increasing diversions to support the Expanded Distribution System in addition to the 9,700 AF NOAA has permitted would require changes to the river flow regime that is supposed to protect steelhead and would require NOAA to change the project’s permit. The express limitation of the Biological Opinion to diversions of 9,700 AFY evidences the potential for increased diversions to harm steelhead.

     
7.

P. 6.2-12. The DEIR analyzes the Regional Project’s impacts on the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin (SVGB) and concludes that water extractions from the Basin would not have significant impacts.

The DEIR and appendices (which purportedly model groundwater impacts of desalination wells in the pressure zone) are hopelessly convoluted, contradictory, badly written, badly organized and filled with undefined and unexplained technical jargon. This frustrates one of the primary purposes of CEQA, which protects not only the environment but also protects informed self-government. It is virtually impossible for the average citizen – who will be paying for and living with one or more of the water projects included in the DEIR – to comment coherently on this incoherent document.

For example, appendices E, L and P reference each other regarding modeling results, but each one presents different extraction well configurations. Appendix P, page 2, directs readers to Appendix E if they want well flow and pumping rate details. The problem for the reader is that Appendix P provides information for a well field consisting of 5 wells in one row parallel to the coast; while Appendix E provides information for a well field consisting of 10 wells – 5 located in a line approximately 1000 ft away from and parallel to the coast and 5 located 2600 feet inland. There is no explanation of why the data for one configuration can be applied, without modification, to a completely different configuration. Please explain this seeming contradiction.

Please also explain why there is no discussion or explanation as to why the same modeling results apply to different types of wells. Appendix P applies to 5 vertical wells extracting water from the 180 foot aquifer. Appendix E applies to 5 slant wells which extract water from under the sea bed just off shore (Phase 1) in combination with 5 vertical wells inland which extract brackish water from the 180 foot aquifer (Phase 2).

More fundamentally, the DEIR and appendices fail to adequately explain how increasing near-shore pumping of the 180-foot aquifer creates a “barrier” to seawater intrusion. This is counter-intuitive, especially given the efforts to decrease coastal groundwater pumping as a strategy to halt seawater intrusion into the Salinas Basin.

The well locations identified in the DEIR differ from the recent Regional Project proposal (Attachment I). Does the DEIR’s analysis reflect the revised well locations proposed by the Regional Project?

Does this analysis consider that not only is the SVGB seriously overdrafted, the Salinas Valley Water Project is already over-sold?

     
  a.

The Salinas Valley Water Project (SVWP) EIR (pp. 7-4 &7-5) estimated that urban acreage would replace agricultural acreage, resulting in decreased water use in the Salinas basin. The SVWP EIR is internally inconsistent in projecting agricultural water use. It states at page 3-22, Section 3.2.4, “Agricultural needs, which make up a far greater share of water use, are projected to decrease by approximately 51,700 AFY.” However, this statistic is contradicted at page 7-5, Section 7.2.1. Here, the SVWP DEIR states that agricultural water use “would result in a net reduction of 60,000 acre-feet per year (AFY) by 2030.” The SVWP DEIR states that a 60,000 AFY reduction in agricultural water use would be countered by an increase in urban water use of 40,000 AFY. The projected result would be a reduction in overall water demand in the Salinas Basin of 20,000 AFY (4%). However, if that same demand were calculated using the earlier 51,700 AFY figure, overall demand in the Basin would only decline by 11,700 AFY.

Furthermore, it is clear that the SVWP EIR did not make assumptions about the continuing growth of farming. The SVWP draft EIR states that agricultural land use will remain unchanged:

“Agricultural land uses would shift, with a large increase in relative acreage devoted to vineyards (a 25% increase between 1995 and 2030 was assumed), and a decrease to all other uses (truck crops, field crops, pasture, and orchards). Conversion of agricultural acreage to urban uses is also assumed to occur, but would be generally replaced by land not currently in agricultural use. Net agricultural acreage would remain effectively unchanged.” SVWP DEIR, § 7.2.1, emphasis added.

The DEIR for the 2007 Monterey County General Plan Update (GPU5) also concludes that water use for agriculture will “remain relatively stable, with a small decline.” GPU5 DEIR, p. 4.3-115. Thus, the GPU5 DEIR includes no new water demand from agriculture in Table 4.3-9.

The GPU5 DEIR’s conclusions regarding agricultural water use were based on the fact that AMBAG did not project an increase in agricultural employment and that the SVWP EIR forecast a slight decline for agricultural water use in the Salinas Valley. DEIR, p. 4.3-114. However, there is no evidence that the AMBAG agricultural employment forecast was based on assumptions consistent with GPU5, including assumptions that the County would create substantial incentives for wineries and grape production and that conversion of previously uncultivated land to farmland would continue to add farmland.

Indeed, the GPU5 DEIR projects that at least 450 acres of previously uncultivated land will be converted to agriculture annually. DEIR, pp. 4.9-45, 95. Over the next 22 years, this would add 9,900 acres of irrigated farmland. The GPU5 DEIR states that only 2,571 acres of existing agricultural land will be converted to urban uses by GPU5. DEIR, p. 4.2-11. Thus, the DEIR projects a net increase of 7,329 acres of irrigated farmland through 2030. The DEIR’s projection of at least 7,329 acres of new irrigated farmland is simply inconsistent with the assumption in the SVWP DEIR that agricultural acreage would remain unchanged.

It is evident that the SVWP EIR substantially under-predicted vineyard conversion activity based on data that has already been reported. As cited above, the SVWP EIR assumed “a large increase in relative acreage devoted to vineyards,” noting parenthetically that “a 25% increase between 1995 and 2030 was assumed.” In 1995, Monterey County vineyard acreage was 30,483. Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association official website, Monterey Wine Country, Table: Monterey County Premium Wine Grape Production. A 25% increase would produce vineyard acreage totaling 38,104 acres. However, as the 2007 crop report reveals, current vineyard acreage has already reached 42,764. Thus, acreage in 2007 already exceeded the SVWP EIR projected 2030 vineyard acreage by almost 5,000 acres. And as discussed below, the DEIR projects that agricultural conversions will continue at a rate of at least 450 acres annually; and a more reasonable projection would be at least 820 acres annually. These ongoing conversions after 2007 render the SVWP EIR’s forecast even more out of touch.

Furthermore, the winery capacity in GPU5’s Agriculture and Winery Corridor Plan (AWCP) will create substantial incentives for additional grape production. If all of the wineries permitted within the corridor operate at full capacity, they would be able to process grapes harvested from 62,411 acres. Since the 2007 Monterey Crop Report shows total grape acres at 42,764, winery capacity within the winery corridor alone could accommodate an additional 20,000 acres of wine grapes in Monterey County. The AWCP policies do not prohibit winery development outside the corridor, which could add further capacity and provide additional incentive to convert additional acreage to vineyard.

And there is no reason to assume that 100% of the grapes grown in Monterey County will be processed locally. It has been profitable for growers to export 70% to 80% outside the County for processing especially as out-of-County wineries compete for Monterey County wine grapes. The wineries in the winery corridor will have the capacity to process grapes harvested from 62,411 acres. If the wine grape exports remain profitable, and there is no reason to suppose that they will not, the new winery capacity could create demand for 62,411 acres of new vineyards.

These data suggest that acreage conversion to vineyards and other agriculture should be evaluated at a rate of at least 820 acres per year – a conversion rate representative of the most recent 10-year trend. With a conversion rate of 820 acres per year, there would be an additional 18,040 acres of new agricultural land by 2030. Assuming that 2,571 acres of existing land is lost to urban uses, the net increase in agricultural land would be 15,469 acres. We can assume that that 40% is for vineyards requiring 1 acre-foot per year and 60% is for row crops requiring 2 acre-feet per year.

The SVWP EIR projected a slight decline in net water use based on the assumption that urban land uses would replace agricultural uses and that lost agricultural land would be replaced by vineyards. However, as discussed above, the SVWP EIR grossly underestimated the amount of new agricultural land conversions.

Furthermore, other assumptions have changed since the SVWP EIR was completed and certified in 2001. Monterey County ordinance prohibits new cultivation on slopes of 25% or greater. “Conversion of uncultivated land to cropland shall not be permitted on slopes over 25%” Monterey County code, § 21.66.030 C-1. Under GPU5, this prohibition would be eliminated for slopes of any steepness by Policy OS-3.5(2). It states, “The County shall develop and implement an Agricultural Permit process for the conversion for agricultural purposes, of previously uncultivated lands on slopes in excess of 25-percent (25%).” There are 496,432 acres of land with intact natural vegetation designated to permit agriculture (farmland, rural grazing, permanent grazing, or resource conservation) on slopes exceeding 25% in the County. TNC, Analysis of Slope and Vegetation by Planning Area for Land Permitting Agriculture Under the 2007 Monterey County General Plan. The SVWP EIR had no way to evaluate this “bonanza” of potentially cultivated acreage that would be made available by the proposed change in slope development policy that would add thousands of acres of potential farmland to the County.

The SVWP EIR assumed that new acreage will be devoted exclusively to wine grape production. However, other high-profit crops must also be considered for cultivation on slopes that will become available under the new slope policy – strawberries, for example. According to the 2007 Monterey County Crop Report, in the decade from 1997 to 2007 the value of Monterey County’s strawberry crop almost tripled, galloping from $209,000,000 to $605,000,000. As the crop report shows, strawberry acreage continues to expand, as does the acreage for many other high-value crops – citrus, raspberries, walnuts, tomatoes, etc. Many of these crops use much more water than wine grapes. There is no reason to assume wine grapes will be the only crop taking advantage of the new acreage available, especially since GPU5 policies regarding Routine and Ongoing Agricultural Activities apply to all growers.

     
  b. The cumulative general plan build-out for the County and Salinas Valley cities far exceeds water supplies available from the SVWP. Cal-Water, the major purveyor in the City of Salinas, recently testified before the Monterey County Planning Commission that the level of growth included in GPU5 would endanger CalWater’s ability to provide water to its customers.
     
  c. The DEIR for GPU5 (p. 4.3-35) states the SVWP would not halt seawater intrusion into the basin by 2030. To do so, according to the DEIR, would require increased diversion. This is prohibited under the NOAA permit for the diversion facility. According to NOAA, increased diversions would unacceptably lower stream flows below levels necessary to protect endangered steelhead.
     
  d. 

The SVWP has not been completed, so it is untested. To deliver water during the growing season, there needs to be enough water in the reservoirs. In late February 2009, one reservoir was at 35% capacity and the other at 55%. What is the minimum reservoir level at which water can be delivered to the Salinas River Diversion Facility to fully implement the Salinas Valley Water Project? Please provide the data and analysis of the impacts on reservoir water levels of prolonged drought and/or climate change? Please provide the data and analysis of prolonged drought and/or climate change on water demand within the Salinas Basin. Please provide the analysis of how these potential changes could impact how much Salinas Basin water is available to meet the regulatory requirements faced by the Monterey Peninsula. What would be the impact to the Monterey Peninsula of interruptions caused by any of these occurrences in the Salinas Basin?

It may take several years for sub-areas to recover through sub-surface recharge. This is especially critical to all water users in subareas north of Chualar. Surface recharge in those areas is “virtually nil”, according to the Department of Water Resources (Source: California’s Water Bulletin 118 – Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin, 2/27/04). “Instead, recharge is from underflow originating in upper valley areas.” Because so many of the water users in those subareas depend on private and mutual wells, recovery must occur before those water users will benefit from the SVWP.

The creation of a curtain of fresh water pressure near the coast to prevent further seawater intrusion may not work. Such a curtain might work if it is located just behind the leading edge of the seawater intrusion, but placing it far back of the leading edge, near the coast as proposed, could force existing seawater intrusion further inland.

The SVWP EIR assumed the project would use the entire capacity of the regional wastewater treatment plant (p. 1-7, Table 1-2 including footnote 2 and p. 3-24 including footnote 1). The Regional Plan would use part of that capacity, reducing the total amount of water delivered to coastal farmers and undermining the effectiveness of the SVWP. Please address the impacts of this change to the SVWP.

The SVWP EIR did not consider impacts of climate change on water use, rainfall or rising sea levels. All of these could have significant impacts on recharge and seawater intrusion.

     
8.

P. 6.2-16. The DEIR concludes that water levels within the Northern SVGB would improve with implementation of the Regional Plan. Is this analysis based on the revised project description of the Regional Plan? If not, please describe the impacts of the revised project.

Where in this analysis are the impacts of cumulative overdraft of SVGB considered and analyzed? (See Attachment II, Comments to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors by Andrew Fisher, UCSC , November 20, 2007). According to Fisher, water inputs must be greater than outputs sustained over many years for the Pajaro Basin to recover. Since the Salinas Basin, like the Pajaro Basin, “is extremely well-connected to the ocean,” wouldn’t inputs exceeding ouputs need to be sustained over many years in the Salinas Basin before the Salinas Basin could recover? At what rate sustained over how many years would inputs need to exceed outputs for the Salinas Basin to recover? What would the cumulative impacts be in the interim?

According to the North Monterey County Hydrogeologic Study Critical Issues Report and Interim Management Plan, page 3, “Storage depletion is resulting in falling water levels and seawater intrusion. The ground water within the area is tributary to the Pajaro Valley to the north and the Salinas Valley to the south.” The report further states, “The subareas, while displaying distinctive differences, are hydraulically connected with each other and the adjacent Pajaro and Salinas Valley areas. Because of this connection between these areas, ground water conditions with the subareas and connected areas are interdependent.” Since North Monterey County’s aquifers within Zone 2C of the SVWP are interconnected and up-gradient from the Salinas Basin, since North Monterey County’s aquifers are recharged through sub-surface flow and since groundwater conditions in North County and Salinas Basin are “interdependent,” what are the cumulative impacts of overdraft in North Monterey County? At what rate, sustained over how many years, would inputs need to exceed outputs for the Salinas Basin to recover sufficiently to push water up-gradient into North Monterey County’s aquifers? What impacts will occur in the interim?

     
9.

P. 6.2-14. The DEIR states, “The fraction of water extracted from the SVGB is unknown but it would be brackish and therefore of low quality. Although the potential exists that SVGB water would be extracted under Phase 1 Regional Program, it would not likely contribute to an imbalance of recharge and extraction in the SVGB.” What data and information were used to substantiate this conclusion? Do the data and information support statements by Regional Program proponents that 15% of the water would be from the SVGB and 85% from Monterey Bay? Explain how the source of the water (SVGP or Ocean water) is relevant to the extraction of water from an intruded aquifer? Would this same analysis be appropriate for wells further inland?

According to Andrew Fisher, in a coastal ground water basin, “which is extremely well-connected to the ocean, sea water intrusion does not require that water levels in the aquifer drop below seal level. Because sea water is heavier than fresh water, sea water moves in when ground water levels in the basin decline, even if they remain above sea level.” In light of this statement, please explain how the extraction of any water from the Salinas Basin for the Regional Plan can be justified.

     
10.  Impact of Toxic Plume. A toxic plume may be migrating towards the Armstrong Ranch which is the location of wells for the Regional Project. If this is the case, please address potential impacts of treating water polluted by toxic chemicals, including impacts on air quality.
     
11.

P. 6.6-1. The diversion and treatment of 2,980 AFY of Salinas River water at the SVWP diversion facility is proposed in Phase 1 of the Regional Project. The Regional Project’s diversion would occur during winter months. The DEIR states the project would involve operation of a partially-inflated Salinas River Diversion Facility (rubber dam). Does the SVWP provide for a partially-inflated rubber dam during winter months? If not, please describe the impacts of this requirement, if any. Please describe the permit requirements necessary for use of a partially-inflated rubber dam during the winter months. How much time would it take to obtain these permits and comply with permit conditions? How would this affect the Regional Project’s ability to comply with order 95-10. What would the interim impacts be?

Since the sub-surface recharge benefits of the Salinas Valley Water Project may not have reached North Monterey County by the time the Regional Project is implemented, north county water users may demand that this water be diverted for their use. Please describe the impacts to north county water users if water is diverted to the Regional Project before they benefit from the Salinas Valley Water Project. Please describe the impacts to Monterey Peninsula water users if north county water users demand that this water be diverted for their use.

     
12. P. 6.4-13. The DEIR states that the potential effects to adult migration resulting from the diversion have not been analyzed in detail and that an accurate bypass flow requirement cannot be determined at this time. A mitigation measure would require consultation with NMFS to determine minimum flow requirements. Implementation of this deferred mitigation could affect the timing and effectiveness of surface water delivery to urban users and substantially delay delivery of sufficient water to meet the Monterey Peninsula’s regulatory requirements.
     
13. Sea Level Rise The DEIR relies on 2007 data. The analysis should be updated to include data from the Pacific Institute report of March 2009.

Thank you for the opportunity to review the document.

Sincerely,
/s/
Amy L. White
Interim Executive Director

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Posted 04.24.09


 
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