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Townsend Report

The current 2014 water bond, priced at $11.14 billion, has received much criticism due to the high cost and the amount of earmarks.  Both the Senate and Assembly have produced revised versions of the bond language and both measures address the issue of high cost by significantly scaling back the bond amount.

While SB 42 (Wolk) focuses more on the Delta and is favored by the Delta counties, AB 1331 (Rendon) contains more groundwater money and is favored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The criteria in AB 1331 could also allow for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) favored by many.  Both bills are set for their policy committees in January and will be voted on.  Any changes made to the existing bond will have to be passed by a 2/3 vote.  The deadline to get a revised bond on the November 2014 ballot will be the last week of June. (Click here to read more)

 

Lake Mead Pipeline Hits Another Delay

Since August, Southern Nevada Water Authority officials have been hinting about another delay in the completion of the new water intake under construction at Lake Mead. Now we know how much of a delay.Today, water authority board members will be asked to vote to extend the completion date for the third intake by about 13 months to July 4, 2015. (Click here to read more)

 

State-by-state look at wintry blast hitting US

From California to Ohio, a big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of wintry weather. Some areas are experiencing frigid temperatures. Some are seeing snow and ice. The conditions are making travel difficult, raising concerns about citrus crops and prompting the cancellation of fights, holiday festivities and football games. Even one outdoor ice rink in cold-accustomed South Dakota is shutting down.

 

Jim Silva: Coastal Commission obstruction must end

After serving in elected office at the local, county and state level for a quarter-century, I’ve seen the partisanship divide grow deeper, which has reduced the efficacy of our elected officials and put more control of government in the hands of the bureaucracy. This reality was on full display at the recent Coastal Commission meeting I attended, where dozens of local, state and federal elected officials from both sides of the aisle streamed to the podium, and, with the best interest of their constituents in mind, urged the commission to approve the proposed Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Facility.

 

 

USGS announces that part of Calif. is sinking

On Thursday Bay Area scientists announced that nearly 1200 square miles of California was sinking because people had pumped so much water out of the ground.

 

Studies warn of abrupt environmental effects of warming

One report says sudden climate shifts could appear in years or decades and calls for an early warning system. Another says a widely accepted emissions cap is too high. Scientists sounded alarms Tuesday with a pair of studies challenging the idea that climate change is occurring gradually over the century and that its worst effects can be avoided by keeping emissions below a critical threshold.

 

 

Federal inspection concludes Oroville Dam earthquake investigation warranted

California officials should conduct an earthquake safety assessment of a Northern California dam that is the linchpin of a major drinking water system in the state, according to a federal inspection obtained by a newspaper.

 

 

The BDCP and the Further Need for Statewide Water Solutions

MCWRA and North State Water Alliance (NSWA) Partners issued a statement to encourage Governor Brown to further develop an innovative and comprehensive California Water Action Plan (CWAP) that addresses water and related environmental challenges in all parts of the state and meets the Legislature’s over-arching goals to meet the water supplies for all of California. As part of this plan, California needs more water, not just improved sharing across regions.

 

Click here  for NSWA Statement: NSWAStatement

 

Restore Yosemite? It can be done.

Before the Hetch Hetchy dam, the park had two spectacular valleys.

One hundred years ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, which allowed San Francisco to build a dam in Yosemite National Park and convert the spectacular Hetch Hetchy Valley into a municipal reservoir

 

 

Looking Ahead to 2014 (Townsend Report)

The current 2014 water bond, priced at $11.14 billion, has received much criticism due to the high cost and the amount of earmarks.  Both the Senate and Assembly have produced revised versions of the bond language and both measures address the issue of high cost by significantly scaling back the bond amount.

While SB 42 (Wolk) focuses more on the Delta and is favored by the Delta counties, AB 1331 (Rendon) contains more groundwater money and is favored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The criteria in AB 1331 could also allow for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) favored by many.  Both bills are set for their policy committees in January and will be voted on.  Any changes made to the existing bond will have to be passed by a 2/3 vote.  The deadline to get a revised bond on the November 2014 ballot will be the last week of June.

 

 

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Due to the government shutdown, there is a delay in releasing the public review draft of the BDCP and the EIR/EIS.  It will now be released December 13, 2013, followed by a 120-day formal public comment period.  During that period, lead agencies will be holding a series of public meetings to accept the formal comments and provide information about the project.  Once the Final EIR/EIS is completed and approved, decisions on how to move forward on implementation will be made.

 

 

CEQA Reform

SB 731, Senate Prop Tem Darrell Steinberg’s attempt to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), has received much opposition by the CEQA Working Group, various environmental groups, and the Public Works Coalition.  There were widespread concerns that SB 731 would not streamline the CEQA process for water agencies, but rather cause compliance to be more cumbersome and difficult.  SB 731 was stalled at the end of the session, and has become a two year bill.  Senator Steinberg was successful in the passage of SB 743 which streamlines the environmental review for the proposed Sacramento King’s arena.  In a recent interview, Senator Steinberg told reporters that he was pleased with the CEQA changes that were pushed through the end of the year’s session.  He stated that at this point, he will not be carrying broader CEQA overhaul legislation next year, but that Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) will likely be taking the lead on CEQA reform as we move into next year.

 

 

Reorganization of State Drinking Water Program

In the first year of the two year session, the Legislature did not pass legislation that would transfer the state’s drinking water program from the California Department of Public Health to the State Water Resources Control Board.  AB 145 (Perea) remains in the Senate Appropriations Committee and will become a two year bill.  In September, Assemblyman Perea amended AB 1393 to include language that would transfer the administration of the state’s Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund to the State Water Resources Control Board.  This solution is believed by ACWA to be a more targeted solution.

Despite growing support of AB 1393 (Perea) by the Senate Democratic Leadership, there are indications the Brown Administration is not happy with the bill and may move forward with the reorganization through the fiscal year 2014/2015 budget process with any follow up legislation being done through trailer bills.  The Governor publicized his plan in his SB 322 (Hueso) signing message stating, “In an effort to enhance the use of recycled water, I have proposed the consolidation of the management of the drinking water program and all other water quality programs, including recycled water, under the State Water Board.”   The Administration has been holding taskforce meetings to hear from stakeholders about their thoughts on the reorganization and there are three more meetings scheduled between now and the end of December.  A draft transition plan will be developed from the taskforce meetings and a public hearing will take place at the end of January.  A plan will be submitted to the Governor in July 2014.  If the transition takes place via the budget process, the timeframe for implementation could still take some time.  Therefore, the two year bills still remain a vehicle for the reorganization should one pass through the legislative process in a timely manner.

 

 

Lake Mead Pipeline Hits another delay

 

Since August, Southern Nevada Water Authority officials have been hinting about another delay in the completion of the new water intake under construction at Lake Mead.

Now we know how much of a delay.

Today, water authority board members will be asked to vote to extend the completion date for the third intake by about 13 months to July 4, 2015.

“We trust this will get us to the end of the project,” said Marc Jensen, director of engineering for the water authority. “Unless we encounter more surprises.”

General contractor Vegas Tunnel Constructors needs more time because conditions underground have proved to be worse than expected, slowing progress on the three-mile-long intake tunnel and requiring major structural repairs to the giant digging machine specially built for the job.

The delay could put the community’s water supply at risk, though authority officials consider that it’s only a remote possibility they are “not terribly concerned about,” Jensen said.

Roughly 90 percent of the valley’s water arrives here by way of two intake pipes in Lake Mead.

One of those pipes could be forced to shut down if the reservoir keeps shrinking amid ongoing drought on the overdrawn Colorado River. If that happens before the third intake goes on line, the valley will be literally down to its last straw.

The latest federal projections call for enough water to flow down the Colorado through September 2015 to keep the surface of Lake Mead at least 23 feet above the level at which the valley would lose one of its intakes.

But the forecast could change with another unusually dry winter in the mountains that feed the river.

The current completion date of May 31, 2014, is the result of a previous change order approved in March 2011 that added 593 days and almost $40 million to the now $817 million project.

The new change order does not include any additional money for Vegas Tunnel Constructors, which is a subsidiary of the Italy-based construction giant Impregilo.

The third intake project has been called one of the most complicated tunneling operations in the world.

Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy has said the job is so complex and dangerous that it took her agency more than a year just to find someone willing to insure the work.

It involves digging a tunnel three miles long and large enough for a 20-foot diameter pipe beneath the bed of Lake Mead.

Construction began in 2008 with excavation of vertical shaft extending 600 feet into the ground at the lake’s Saddle Island. From there, the tunneling went horizontal, the start of a journey through solid rock to a pre-built intake structure already waiting in the cold, dark water at one of the lake’s deepest spots.

On June 11, 2012, a worker was killed in an accident underground. Some equipment was lost during a series of floods in 2010 and 2011 that filled tunnel with water and debris, forcing the contractor to abandon the site and dig in a new direction.

Things are going far more smoothly now. Jensen said the massive tunnel boring machine advanced more than 1,000 feet in September and more than 1,500 feet in October.

The machine and its crew have left the shoreline behind and are working directly beneath Lake Mead and its 4 trillion gallons of water.

Jensen said workers expect to encounter several more sections of troublesome rock like the fractured, water-filled mess the machine had to crawl its way through earlier in the project.

They should hit the next bad patch in a month or two, as the tunneling machine approaches and then crosses 50 feet beneath the channel carved by the old Las Vegas Wash back before Hoover Dam was built.

Before they enter that stretch, they plan to stop to conduct a full maintenance check of the machine.

As of now, the tunnel is a mile and a half long and growing at a breakneck pace of an inch or two a minute. Jensen said the machine is running wide open, halfway home.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.