Minutes from June 26, 2018 Open Board Meeting-CA WaterFix Update

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Open Board of Directors Meeting

Norton Event Center
1601 E. Third St., Suite 138
San Bernardino, CA 92408



Present:   Patti Arlt, Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Tom Brickley, Rashelle Bussell, Mark Cloud, Ken Coate, Adam Eventov, Louis Goodwin, P.T. McEwen, John Mirau, Dan Murphy, Keven Porter, Kevin Pulliam, Brian Reider, Michael Rivera, Daniel Roberts, Kristine Scott, Paul Shimoff, David VanVoorhis and Ray Wolfe.

Guests: Chris Carrillo, David Foate and Boris Medzhibovsky. 

Announcements: 1) Last week the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency Board voted 22-0 to approve Express Lane contracts.  Appreciation was expressed to the Inland Action members who appeared at the Board meeting.  Additionally, the state awarded $30M to the agency to bring zero emission trains for the Passenger Rail to Redlands project.  2)  Brickley Environment has resigned their membership effective June 30, 2018 as representative Tom Brickley is retiring.  We thank them for their active participation.

M/S/P: Minutes from June 19, 2018

Patti Arlt introduced Doug Headrick, General Manager, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

Local water supplies and water conservation are not enough to meet demands.  Southern California relies on water from northern California that is captured and then transported from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta (Delta) through the State Water Project to the California Aqueduct.

Numerous plans have been considered and revised over more than ten years (studied for approx. 40 years) as the Delta is increasingly vulnerable and is at risk of being reclaimed by the Pacific Ocean.  The California WaterFix finishes the State Water Project by moving the water intake north of the Delta directly to the Orville Dam.  The WaterFix is a 35-mile gravity base two tunnel system that will be 150 feet underground.  At a proposed outside diameter of 45-feet, the tunnels are large, but well within the size range of other recent large diameter tunnel boring machine projects located around the world (Seattle at 57.5 and Italy at 58 ft.). These larger existing tunnels are like the Delta area as they share the same soil types and utilized the same tunnel boring machines.  Moving the intake and building the tunnels will address the many needed solutions to the problems of pumping through the Delta.  They will provide water supply reliability, enhance the ecosystem habitat throughout the Delta (eliminating current environmental impacts), allow for flexible operations in dynamic fishery environments, improve water quality and reduce seismic risks.

The U.S. Geological Survey has indicated that there is a 66% probability of a 7.0 earthquake in the next 25 years.  Predictions for what they call the “Big Gulp” indicate that in the first few days 1million acre feet of salt water will flow into the Delta.  Recovery for this disaster is expected to take 9 months effecting 25 million people in southern and central CA at a cost $40B.  The WaterFix tunnels will not cross any fault lines and will rest on sand sediment soil that flexes and is resilient during an earthquake.
The Delta has been experiencing a natural downward spiral due to their un-engineered 1,100 miles of levees.  Created as far back as 1860, the levees were intended to reduce flooding and reclaim land for agriculture.   The Delta is currently 30 feet below sea level and experiencing ongoing subsidence (up to 1” per year) behind the levees which reduces levee stability and threatens to degrade water quality.  Additionally, the current pumps are extremely powerful, causing harmful reverse flows, trapping migrating and endangered fish, leading to declines in native fish populations.

Regulatory pumping restrictions have increased and are in effect most of the year due to endangered species (Delta Smelt, Salmon, and Longfin Smelt).  Ironically the unrestricted times of July, August and September are the driest months of the year which has reduced flexibility. The current system is inefficient and cannot adequately capture and store water when it’s available. We are leaving behind fresh water from big storms that could be used by farms, businesses and communities.  Today some 76% of Delta water flows back to the Pacific, 6% goes to agriculture and 18% is pumped to supply central and southern California.

Although we have a contractual agreement for the amount of water we receive, EPA regulations (endangered species) have over the years reduced that amount in half.  The tunnels will eliminate those reductions and contracts will be honored in full allowing the region to go back to receiving their full contracted amount.

Earlier this year the Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors voted 61 percent to 39 percent to provide additional financing necessary to allow for the construction of the full California WaterFix project. The estimated cost is $16.7B and is expected to take 16-18 years to complete.  The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board of Directors voted to bank funds they received from the now defunct CA Redevelopment.  The agency which has a small 1.7% of the project will be able to use those funds to pay cash (250M) rather than use general obligation bonds or other funding.

Based on a 50-year delivery, household impacts are expected to be $2.00 per month if financed by cash vs $3-5.00 per month with debt financing.

California cities that receive water from the Delta produce hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods and services each year. A functioning water delivery system – one that can withstand the impacts of climate change and earthquakes – is critical to business growth and job creation.

A Q & A period followed.

Meeting adjourned 8:30 a.m.