Water is an important topic here in Mendocino County for farmers, ranchers, wildlife, residents and businesses. Farmers and ranchers in Mendocino County are very aware of the importance of a long-term, reliable water supply and good water quality for everyone. Mendocino County Farm Bureau works directly with farmers and ranchers in the various watersheds to consider critically important water issues. Farm Bureau’s Water Committee reaches out to collaborate with multiple stakeholder groups and seeks to build partnerships that allow us to do even more for our members.
In my opinion, the benefits realized from the small amount of money we pay for the membership, by far outweighs the cost. If I had to go to a Water Rights Specialist alone, I would be talking about hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
January 2019 Water Committee News
Submitted by Frost Pauli, Water Committee Chair
Potter Valley Project Update
The auction process for the Potter Valley Project (Project) started on September 6, 2018 with the release of the non-confidential summary of information on the Project. Interested parties signed the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which provided access to a virtual data room concerning the project. PG&E stated that twenty individuals and entities signed the NDA, but more specific information was not provided.
Interested parties that signed the NDA are now in the process of considering whether or not to submit a letter of intent and an indicative proposal to purchase the Project to PG&E by February 1, 2019. PG&E will evaluate and screen the proposals and there will be a second round of non-disclosure requirements to gain access to additional information on the project. The interested parties that are selected to progress at this point will then be required to submit a more specific proposal. This will most likely narrow down the involvement to one or two parties that will then start a negotiation phase with PG&E. The entire auction process is anticipated to take 18 months.
Price will be part of the auction, but ultimately the ability to comply with the regulatory needs, prove that an entity can operate and maintain the project and other qualifications are considered.
In order to preserve this essential water supply through local management, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission (MCIWPC) formally entered into the auction process with PG&E in September. MCIWPC is a Joint Powers Authority whose five-member agencies currently include the Mendocino County Water Agency, the City of Ukiah, the Potter Valley Irrigation District, the Redwood Valley County Water District and the Mendocino County Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District. An elected board member from each of these county agencies sits as the Commissioners for MCIWPC.
It is unknown at this time how many other entities, local or not, will move forward with the auction process. MCIWPC is willing to work with other local entities as needed to preserve local control of the project. More information on the Mendocino IWPC can be found here: https://www.mendoiwpc.com/
Operation Modeling Updates
At the November 9, 2018 Eel Russian River Commission meeting in Santa Rosa, Sonoma Water (formerly Sonoma County Water Agency) staff presented an update on the computer modeling efforts that they have been assisting with as part of the Project FERC re-licensing study process and the separate Ad Hoc committee that was organized by Congressman Jared Huffman.
Data points related to the Project from 1911-2017 were included in the model. From this data, three modeling scenarios were developed and four others were considered. The three models that were developed included: 1) current operations of the Project, 2) decommissioning the entire Project and 3) run of the river.
In the model that analyzed the current operations of the Project, it was shown that the current operations are mimicking the natural system fairly closely. Based on decades of adjustments that have been made on the operation of the Project to improve the timing of water releases on both the Upper Main Stem Eel River and East Fork Russian River related to the Project, it was positive to see that the model agreed that the on the ground operation actions for the Project are working to mimic natural river conditions.
The decommissioning model is just that, the data analysis of the full decommissioning and removal of all of the Project related infrastructure. In the re-licensing process, PG&E has stated on multiple occasions that decommissioning is not being considered. However, as part of Congressman Huffman’s Ad Hoc committee, this model alternative was analyzed. The decommissioning model showed that if the Project was completely removed and the water was no longer diverted into the East Fork of the Russian River, then Lake Mendocino would go dry on a regular basis (60 out of the 107 years that were modeled) and there would be times where there would be zero river flow as far north as Healdsburg (10% of modeled period). Potter Valley would also be significantly impacted by the elimination of water provided to the Potter Valley Irrigation District. This model reiterates the importance of the Project to the water supply on the Russian River and the severe impacts that could result if the Project would cease to operate.
The run of the river model includes the analysis of the removal of Scott Dam/Lake Pillsbury and only diverting water through the remaining Project infrastructure into the East Fork Russian River during high flow conditions on the Upper Main Stem Eel River. The data included in this model showed that theoretically enough water could be diverted ONLY during high flow conditions on the Upper Main Stem Eel River to maintain an adequate water supply in Lake Mendocino for interests on the Russian River. However, Potter Valley residents would no longer have a year round water supply and water would somehow have to be pumped back into Potter Valley with a large expense for pumping equipment installation and maintenance. One issue is that this model did not consider the limitations on the ability to actually divert water during high flows due to sediment and debris load that frequently occurs on the Upper Main Stem Eel River. The risk of impacting the debris rake, Archimedes’ screw fish screen, diversion infrastructure and related electric turbines currently causes PG&E to shut down the diversion during high flows. Also, an additional data analysis based on climate futures has yet to be incorporated into this model to make assumptions on potential future impact to water supply on the Eel and Russian rivers due to climate change. The run of the river model is being supported by a number of entities that would like to see Scott Dam removed and this proposal needs to be followed as further analysis is completed.
All of these modeling scenarios are dependent on available data input and assumptions. It is hard to fully believe a computer that tells you that physically removing a dam and a year round water supply for both the Upper Main Stem Eel River and a significant portion of the Russian River will end up being OK. Once a dam is gone, it is not going to be rebuilt.
For more information on the Congressman’s Ad Hoc Committee process, please visit: http://pottervalleyproject.org/
MCFB encourages all of our members that depend on the water supply in the Russian River that is provided by the Project (Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, Calpella, Talmage, Ukiah, Hopland and south) to talk to your neighbors and friends so that they understand where their water comes from and the very real threat that exists from any consideration to alter the Project that would potentially reduce our critically important water supply.
SGMA: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
At the November 8th SGMA Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) meeting, Larry Walker and Associates (the consultant hired to work on the development of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan/GSP) provided a presentation on the proposed timeline for moving forward with the GSP process.
A few key take-aways from the meeting were 1). It will be important for Farm Bureau and the agricultural community to participate in the Technical Advisory Committee meetings as well as the GSA meetings as this process moves forward and 2) in terms of the modeling and shared modeling concepts, it will be important to understand how the data is used and who it is shared with. Better data inputted into the model will assist in developing a better model, but ensuring that individual diverter data is secured is important.
For those that are interested, the next GSA meeting is scheduled for February 14th from 1:30-3:30 PM at the Board of Supervisors chambers in Ukiah.
Navarro River Basin Instream Flow Needs Assessment
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) held the third public meeting to discuss the development of a Study Plan for the Navarro River Basin Instream Flow Needs Assessment (Study). The study is being designed to assess flow needs to support beneficial uses in the Navarro River Basin.
At the meeting, Bryan McFadin of the Regional Water Board provided an introductory presentation and Paul DeVries of R2 Resource Consultants gave a presentation discussing approaches to the Navarro River watershed study reach designation, hydrologic analysis, habitat analysis, habitat suitability criteria and hydraulic habitat modeling study plans.
MCFB staff have been in attendance at these meetings and have distributed the meeting information to our members in the Navarro River watershed to encourage them to attend and participate. MCFB is in the process of reviewing the draft study plans to submit comment.