Peninsula Water Supply Project
The draft Environmental Impact Report was issued in December 2016 by the California Public Utilities Commission. In addition to the Executive Summary, chapters asess impacts to groundwater, surface waters, marine resources, land use, air quality, agriculture, and energy. Public comments on the draft document were due to the CPUC by March 29, 2017. Read the letter submitted by Monterey County Farm Bureau and the Salinas Valley Water Coalition here.
California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) submitted a Settlement Agreement in regards to their proposed water supply project for the Monterey Peninsula to the PUC on July 31, 2013. Sixteen interveners signed the Settlement Agreement, including Monterey County Farm Bureau and Salinas Valley Water Coalition. The settlement document includes specific requirements of Cal-Am to meet relating to required testing in the area of the source water intakes, including the test well proposed for drilling this winter. At a hearing on the Settlement documents held on December 2nd, 2013, the Administrative Law Judge took testimony from various panels of interveners to gather further information on plant sizing related to water demand, tourism bounce-back estimates, lots of record, cost caps and financing, and the ground water recharge component.
The proposed project includes drilling wells along the northern coast of the Salinas Valley and transporting that ‘source’ water to a desal plant, also located at the northern end of the Salinas Valley. The SVWC and MCFB have fought hard from the beginning against much of what Cal-Am originally proposed, in order to protect the Salinas River Groundwater Basin (SRGB) and its water users. We believe the Settlement Agreement does that.
In the Settlement Agreement, the intervenors (all 16) agree that Cal-Am and SVWC’s hydrologists and technical teams will work together to develop a work plan for the Project’s proposed source water intake. This ‘plan’ will include details of what hydrogeologic studies and tests need to be completed and evaluated so an analysis can be made as to any potential harm to the SRGB and its water users.
The Agreement further requires the Technical Team to evaluate the Study data and results, and prepare a report with findings. Cal-Am has agreed to focus its production of water from the ‘shallow aquifer’ (the “Sand Dunes Aquifer”) with the intent to pump seawater, as identified in the Agreement. Cal-Am has agreed to pursue a source water intake solution for its project consistent with the Technical Report and its recommendations. The draft technical report is due to be issued during Summer 2014.
The SVWC is the only organization who has retained a hydrologist and/or a hydrogeologist to assist in presenting and arguing for those things necessary to protect the SRGB—the Farm Bureau has worked with the SVWC in making these arguments and supported the need to have the completed hydogeologic investigation and analysis before the PUC can move forward in making a decision on the project. We believe the Agreement does this.
The Agreement is also consistent with the just released recommendations from the State Water Resources Control Board, which says, “additional information is needed to accurately determine MPWSP impacts on current and future conditions of the Basin (SRGB)”.
The SVWC and MCFB have agreed to support the Cal-Am’ proposed project based upon the completion of the various items described within the Agreement – which we believe require Cal-Am to show their project will not cause injury (harm) to other water users in the SRGB. If they are not able to show that we have the right to challenge any production of water from the SRGB and/or the Sand Dunes Aquifer (shallow aquifer) by Cal-Am, in any forum.
We believe the Agreement provides protection for the SRGB and its users and that this settlement requires Cal-Am to prove their project will not harm them.
In August 2014, CPUC announced a delay in the issuance of the draft environmental impact report until January 2015, in part due to the lack of information from a test well, but also to include preliminary information from the bore hole drillings done at the primary and secondary source water intake sites. Without information provided by the test well drilling and operation, the environmental assessment will be incomplete as the model developed from the bore hole drillings will remain unconfirmed.
Cal-Am received approval in November 2014 from the California Coastal Commission to drill the test well on the CEMEX site. Construction was completed in March 2015 with results posted at the project website.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held the project evidentiary hearing for the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project (PWSP) during April 2013. At this hearing, interveners in this process were able to cross-examine witnesses who have previously submitted 'expert' testimony about the various aspects of the project, from proposed user rates to design and construction, and to the public benefits. Both Monterey County Farm Bureau (MCFB) and Salinas Valley Water Coaltion (SVWC) are interveners and participated in this hearing, (conducted similarly to a courtroom trial). Much to our surprise, through cross-examiniaton it came out that most of the water experts are not aware of the extent of the Salinas Valley aquifer, its boundaries, and that alternative source water sites are also within the boundaries of the groundwater basin. We have been successful in demonstrating a need for five additional studies needed to characterize the groundwater basin, in addition to the studies gained from the source water test well.
The CA Public Utilities Commission held a workshop on the Groundwater Replenishment portion of the PWSP project, supported by Monterey Regional Polution Control Agency, on June 12th, 2013, in San Francisco. Interveners discussed the various issues of waste water use for recharge, including public health permitting requirements. What was not discussed was the need for additional water sources, as currently all reclaimed water coming from the PCA treatment plant is committed to other uses.
After months of meetings, a tentative agreement on terms (memorandum of understanding) was reached regarding source water for the groundwater replenishment project, along with other water rights issues. Participating in this MOU document were Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA), Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA), Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD), Marina Coast Water District (MCWD), and the City of Salinas. This document then went before all the agency Boards for approval and received this during the early weeks of October 2014. The next step will be to draft lanaguge for a definitive agreement, due in March 2015, that will formalize the provisions of the memorandum of understanding. Read the memorandum of understanding document here.
There are still many details that need to be worked out in the definitive agreement; the memorandum of understanding provides for several 'offramps' should the exact provisions not be fulfilled.