Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Dr. Mel Lytle

Dr. C. Mel Lytle
Water Resource Coordinator
San Joaquin County

On behalf of
San Joaquin County, California and the
Mokelumne River Water and Power Authority

Testimony
Before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water and Power
United States Senate

Hearing on H.R. 3812, feasibility study with respect to the
Mokelumne River


March 30, 2006
H.R. 3812
To Authorize the Secretary of the Interior to Prepare a Feasibility Study with Respect to the Mokelumne River in California

Local and Regional Water Resource Issues
San Joaquin County is located in the heart of the vibrant agricultural communities of the Central Valley of California.  It is uniquely situated at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, the Bay-Delta, the source of water for two-thirds of California’s population, and several eastside rivers flowing from the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Figure 1).  Grape production, dairy products and other crops are the major agricultural commodities that come from fields surrounding the burgeoning Cities of Stockton, Tracy, Lodi, Manteca, Lathrop, Mountain House and Escalon.  In all, approximately 700,000 residents call the County home.  Of late, population trends are dramatically increasing and are expected to double by 2040 due principally to migration from the San Francisco Bay Area and other areas of the State.

Currently, the necessary water supplies to sustain the County’s diverse population, the $1.5 billion agricultural economy, other industry, and sensitive habitats in the Delta are not adequate. Opportunities to develop new water supplies are heavily constrained by current uses and availability including water that has been developed for use out of the Region by either the Central Valley or State Water Projects.  The County is currently dependent on groundwater for 60% of its supply.  This dependency has impacted the vital groundwater basin, which is seriously over drafted by 200,000 acre-feet per year.  The California State Department of Water Resources has designated the Eastern San Joaquin Basin a critically over drafted basin (DWR Bulletin 118). This has placed the groundwater basin and the City of Stockton’s drinking water supply in jeopardy due to intrusion of saline groundwater underlying the San Joaquin River Delta.  Within the Delta, water quantity and quality is often inadequate for agricultural and urban users, limiting the types of crops that can be grown and lowering crop yields of those that are grown.  In addition to local threats to water supplies, the County has been adversely affected by changes in State and Federal policies, which continue to erode existing supplies and have upset longstanding plans to develop new supplies.  As a result, new water supply is vital to help sustain social, economic and environmental viability in the County and surrounding Region.

Regional Water Supply Planning
Independently, county water districts and cities have found it difficult to wield the political and financial power necessary to implement large scale water supply projects to mitigate the conditions of groundwater basin overdraft.  Recognizing the need for a regional approach to water supply planning and implementation and with the aide of local, State and Federal representatives and a well represented stakeholder group consisting of over 25 agencies, the County in 2002 adopted the San Joaquin County Water Management Plan (WMP).  The purpose of the WMP was to define the extent of groundwater overdraft and identify possible solutions and strategies necessary to secure supplemental water supplies using a consensus-based collaborative process. 

In addition, the Northeastern San Joaquin County Groundwater Banking Authority (GBA) was organized to employ a consensus-based approach in solving this problem and with its goal to develop “…locally supported groundwater banking and recharge projects that improve water supply reliability in San Joaquin County….”  Collaboration amongst the GBA member agencies has strengthened the potential for broad public support for conjunctive management activities, allowed members to speak with one regional voice as well as increased their ability to obtain local, state, and federal funding.  Table 1 lists the member agencies of the GBA.
In 2004, the GBA adopted the East San Joaquin Basin Groundwater Management Plan (GWMP) to enhance and coordinate existing groundwater management policies and programs and to develop new policies and programs to ensure the long-term sustainability of groundwater resources in San Joaquin County.  The GWMP establishes four basin management objectives (BMO) that relate to groundwater levels, groundwater quality, surface water quality and flow, and inelastic land subsidence.  To meet the established BMO’s, the GBA member agencies have defined the Eastern Basin Integrated Conjunctive Use Program including possible new supply from the Delta, Calaveras, Stanislaus, American and Mokelumne Rivers together with Stockton East Water District and the US Army Corps of Engineers - Farmington Groundwater Recharge Program, in order to develop new and affordable surface water supplies for beneficial use and groundwater recharge of the underlying groundwater basin. 


City of Stockton
City of Lodi
Woodbridge Irrigation District
North San Joaquin Water Conservation District
Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District
Stockton East Water District
Central Delta Water Agency
South Delta Water Agency
San Joaquin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
California Water Service Company
San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

The Mokelumne River Regional Water Storage and Conjunctive Use Project (MORE WATER) is a major new supply component of both the WMP and the GWMP development efforts.  Fundamentally, conjunctive use and groundwater recharge is the major focus of the MORE WATER Project. Under a proposed project alternative, the Project could develop a new off-stream storage facility to capture flood waters from the Mokelumne River and regulate those flows to an integrated system of groundwater banking and recharge projects to help meet San Joaquin County water demands (Figure 2).  In addition, there is a potential for MORE WATER to provide substantial regional benefits because of its strategic proximity to the Delta and East Bay Municipal Utility (EBMUD) facilities.  This conjunctive use program could be utilized to provide critical year flows to enhance water supply reliability, fisheries and maintain water quality standards to help meet CALFED Bay-Delta Program objectives. 

MORE WATER Project Background
In 1990, San Joaquin County acting as the Mokelumne River Water and Power Authority (MRWPA) filed a water right application with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for unappropriated wet year flows (flood waters) on the Mokelumne River.  The application cited three project concepts including a reservoir at Middle Bar, an off-stream reservoir at Duck Creek or direct diversions off the lower Mokelumne River between Camanche Reservoir and Interstate 5.  In addition, the MRWPA obtained a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Preliminary Permit for the proposed Duck Creek Reservoir, which allows the Authority to study the power generation potential at the proposed project site.
Initial Studies - in 2003, the MRWPA conducted an initial review of historic project concepts together with several other project alternatives that included a wide array of ideas ranging from a new on-stream reservoir, to desalinization, conservation and wastewater recycling.  Additionally, the Authority began work to devise a regulatory strategy that would satisfy the requirements of the SWRCB, CEQA, NEPA, and all applicable permits to develop a preferred project alternative.  By capturing flood flows, studies have shown that substantial supplies could be made available from the Mokelumne River.
Thus far, efforts to complete the initial project investigations have been accomplished through local cost-sharing agreements between the Authority and the Cities of Stockton and Lodi.  Other local and regional support for the MORE WATER Project has come from the GBA member agencies and others. 

Next Steps - at present, Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region (Bureau) is nearing completion of the initial MORE WATER Appraisal Study. The MRWPA welcomes the Bureau’s involvement in the development of the preferred MORE WATER alternative that will help meet the needs of the Region while being sensitive to the rights of other water users and ensuring that the Mokelumne River will provide a source of pride and joy for years to come.  The principal goal of feasibility analysis for MORE WATER will be to identify opportunities to capture flood flows from the Mokelumne River for groundwater storage and beneficial use consistent with objectives identified in the WMP, GWMP and the requirements developed for the Department of the Interior. On a parallel track to the feasibility analysis, the MRWPA in association with the Groundwater Banking Authority will complete a programmatic environmental impact report (EIR) to support the East Basin Conjunctive Use Program. Subsequently, a project specific EIR and environmental impact statement (EIS) will be prepared for the MORE WATER preferred alternative.  The approach is indicative of the MRWPA’s commitment to satisfying the California Environmental Quality Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Clean Water Act.
 
Regional Cooperation
MORE WATER has gained considerable regional attention and was foundational in the formation of the Mokelumne River Forum, a collaborative effort comprised of 16 stakeholder agencies that reach from the River’s headwaters in Alpine County downstream to San Joaquin County and the greater East Bay Area.  The stakeholders have elected to participate in this collaborative process to develop mutually beneficial and regionally focused projects to meet water supply and related needs from the Mokelumne River.  Stakeholder input is genuinely welcomed in all phases of MORE WATER and is the backbone of regional planning efforts undertaken in San Joaquin County.

MORE WATER Benefits
MORE WATER will provide water to decrease groundwater overdraft, prevent saline groundwater intrusion, and to improve water supply reliability and environmental protection for the Region.  MORE WATER is an integral component to the Eastern Basin Integrated Conjunctive Use Program as a supply and groundwater recharge element.

Consistency with CALFED and Department of the Interior’s Water 2025 Program Objectives - while not a component of the CALFED Program, MORE WATER is consistent with CALFED objectives and will provide information important to water resource and environmental protection efforts being conducted under the CALFED aegis.  The CALFED Record of Decision outlines a myriad of program elements intended to implement the goals and objectives of the CALFED Program.  MORE WATER is consistent with the following Program elements:

• Water Storage – Conjunctive use programs hinge on the ability for entities to capture surface water when available for direct use and groundwater recharge.  Groundwater recharge is an integral part of the success of MORE WATER.
• Ecosystem Restoration –The Mokelumne River system is a source of pride for the San Joaquin County Community.  Stakeholder led efforts such as the Lower Mokelumne Restoration Project to replace the aging Woodbridge Irrigation District Diversion Dam with anadromous fish friendly fish screens and ladders and the completion of a new fish hatchery at Camanche Reservoir by EBMUD and the California Department of Fish and Game are major successes for the Region.  MORE WATER will be developed to maximize enhance or create ecosystem restoration benefits like these examples where feasible.
• Watershed Management – The Mokelumne River Watershed is represented by water agencies, irrigation districts, grass roots organizations, interest groups, and authorities such as the Mokelumne River Forum and the Mokelumne River Authority.  The MRWPA will continue to promote MORE WATER to these groups and will coordinate formal consultation with federal and State fisheries and resources agencies and other non-governmental organizations.
• Water Transfers – Groundwater banking in San Joaquin County has the potential to provide regional and statewide agencies the ability to store excess water in the underlying basin.  San Joaquin County’s proximity to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would facilitate water transfers and exchanges of banked water to areas served by the East Bay, State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.  Banked groundwater could also be used for fisheries needs under the CALFED Environmental Water Account.  The underground storage potential of Eastern San Joaquin County is estimated at approximately 1.5 to 2 million acre-feet, enough to supply 12 million people for one year.  MORE WATER would provide the necessary infrastructure and improvements necessary to utilize a portion of this resource.
• Flood Control – The capture of flood flows is a major objective of MORE WATER.  Through the use of a new off-stream reservoir on Duck Creek, the effects of flooding locally and in the Delta could be lessened during periods of high water.

Under the Department of the Interior's Water 2025 Program, MORE WATER could be a new standard of success for the "forward-looking focus" in water deficient areas of the Western United States.  MORE WATER is consistent with the following Program Key Tools:

• Removal of Institutional Barriers and Inter Agency Cooperation – MORE WATER is a high priority project for the Region.  Extensive public outreach is a major component to the success of MORE WATER.  Thus far, MRWPA staff has met with numerous State and Federal regulatory agencies and are also participants in numerous stakeholder led watershed group efforts like the Mokelumne River Forum to resolve differences and find mutual benefit in the Mokelumne River watershed.
• Conservation, Efficiency, and Markets – MORE WATER is currently being developed as part of a regional conjunctive use project to enhance urban, agricultural, and environmental water supplies.  MORE WATER will use affordable approaches to capture, use, and recharge water as part of the Eastern Basin Integrated Conjunctive Use Program.  MORE WATER infrastructure and improvements will help the Region to secure more reliable water supplies through the restoration of the underlying basin and potentially the establishment of a regional groundwater bank that is accessible to water markets throughout the State and in particular The East Bay and South of Delta Water Users.
• Collaboration – MORE WATER and other regional planning efforts undertaken by San Joaquin County employ a consensus-based approach to water supply planning and development.  Recently, successful collaborative efforts in the County include the Water Management Plan and the Groundwater Management Plan that involved over 40 local, State and Federal agencies.  Stakeholder input is welcome during all phases of the MORE WATER process.
• Improved Technology – MORE WATER and other similar conjunctive use projects will require extensive knowledge of the underlying Basin.  San Joaquin County is committed to establishing a science program for Basin research and monitoring.  Groundwater Banking Authority stakeholders are currently working together with the California Department of Water Resources and the US Geological Survey on a $2.5 million, 5-year joint study to determine the source and extent of saline intrusion in the Basin.

Should the Senate support the passage of H.R. 3812, the MRWPA would work with the Department of the Interior to complete feasibility studies together with the necessary environmental documentation and permitting support documents for the MORE WATER Project.