State Water Resources Control Board
State Water Resources Control Board
News Article | April 27, 2017
SAN JOSE, CA--(Marketwired - Apr 27, 2017) - California Water Service Group ( : CWT) today announced net income of $1.1 million, or $0.02 diluted earnings per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2017, compared to a net loss of $0.8 million, or $0.02 net loss per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2016. The increase in net income was primarily a result of rate increases effective January 1, 2017 and decreases in operating expenses, notably a $1.8 million reduction in California drought program incremental costs. The implementation of allowance for equity funds used during construction and accounting changes for share-based payments, effective January 1, 2017, also increased net income. These increases were partially offset by a decrease in the accrual for unbilled revenue and increases in depreciation and interest expenses. Total revenue increased $0.3 million to $122.0 million for the first quarter of 2017 as compared to revenue of $121.7 million for the first quarter of 2016. Rate increases added $11.5 million, $2.4 million of which was related to water production cost increases. Revenue decoupling mechanisms and other balancing accounts reduced revenue $7.0 million due mostly to a decrease in water production during the first quarter of 2017. The difference between adopted and recorded water production costs are recorded as an offset to the WRAM mechanism. The accrual for unbilled revenue reduced revenue $3.3 million. According to President and Chief Executive Officer Martin A. Kropelnicki, "the quarterly operating results were in line with the Company's expectations and reflect the authorized rate increases that went into effect at the beginning of the year." "We are delighted by the wet weather we have had in California, which has brought an end to the drought crisis for most of the state. We now continue to work on implementing the Governor's long-term water use regulations while continuing to support our customers' day-to-day efforts to use water more efficiently. We also remain focused on making capital improvements to our water systems as part of our annual capital investment program adopted by the CPUC," said Kropelnicki. Total operating expenses decreased $1.5 million, or 1.3%, to $114.0 million for the first quarter of 2017 as compared to operating expenses of $115.5 million for the first quarter of 2016. Water production costs increased $1.0 million, or 2.4%, to $42.1 million for the first quarter of 2017 as compared to prior year water production costs of $41.1 million, due primarily to wholesale water supplier rate increases. As designed, the California revenue decoupling mechanisms record increases to revenue equal to the increases in California water production costs. Administrative and general and other operations expenses decreased $5.7 million, or 12.2%, to $41.4 million in the first quarter of 2017, as compared to $47.1 million in the first quarter of 2016. The decrease was mostly due to the deferral of $2.6 million of costs associated with deferred WRAM operating revenue and decreases in employee health care costs of $1.9 million, California drought program incremental costs of $1.8 million, on-going conservation program costs of $0.8 million, and outside service costs of $0.3 million. These cost decreases were partially offset by increases in employee wages of $0.9 million and uninsured loss costs of $0.3 million. Changes in employee pension and other postretirement benefit costs, water conservation program costs, and employee health care costs for regulated California operations generally do not affect earnings given the regulatory treatment that allows the Company to track these costs in balancing accounts for future recovery, which creates a corresponding change to operating revenue. Depreciation and amortization expense increased $3.2 million, or 19.7%, to $19.2 million in the first quarter of 2017, as compared to $16.0 million in the first quarter of 2016, due to 2016 capital additions. Income tax benefit remained consistent at $0.9 million in the first quarter of 2017 due primarily to an income tax benefit in the first quarter of 2017 associated with the implementation of accounting changes for share-based payments. Other income, net of income taxes, increased $1.0 million in 2017, mostly due to the implementation of allowance for equity funds used during construction. Company-funded and developer-funded capital expenditures for the first quarter of 2017 were $51.9 million, a decrease of $4.6 million, or 8.2%, compared to $56.5 million in the first quarter of 2016. The decrease was primarily due to construction project delays caused by major winter storms in California during the first quarter of 2017. The under-collected net water revenue adjustment mechanism (WRAM) and modified cost balancing account (MCBA) net receivable balance increased 29.3% or $10.9 million to $48.0 million as of March 31, 2017 from $37.1 million as of December 31, 2016. The increase was mostly due to a reduction in usage by customers due to winter storms during the first quarter of 2017. In addition, there were no drought surcharges recorded as an offset to the WRAM balance during the first quarter of 2017 as compared to $11.4 million recorded in the first quarter of 2016. Regulatory Update During the first quarter of 2017, Cal Water entered into a 50-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to acquire the water distribution assets of, and to provide water utility service to, the Travis Air Force Base beginning in 2018, subject to CPUC approval. Cal Water will also make initial capital improvements of about $12.7 million, with an anticipated capital investment of about $52.0 million over the 50-year term of the utility service contract. In March 2017, Cal Water submitted an advice letter to recover $25.8 million of 2016 net WRAM and MCBA account receivable balances mostly over 12 and 18 months. In April 2017, Cal Water, along with three other water utilities, filed an application to adopt a new cost of capital and capital structure for 2018. Cal Water requested a return on equity of 10.75% and a 53.4% equity capital structure as well as a water cost of capital adjustment mechanism similar to that last adopted for the company. The California Division of Ratepayer Advocates and other parties will submit testimony later in the year and may propose a different cost of capital and capital structure. The CPUC schedule for the application anticipates a decision on the matter by the end of 2017. In March 2017, Cal Water submitted an advice letter that established the School Lead Testing Memorandum Account (SLT MA), which gives Cal Water the opportunity to recover costs related to lead monitoring and testing required by the State Water Resources Control Board's Division of Drinking Water. The SLT MA will track all incremental expenses associated with lead testing conducted at the request of K-12 schools within Cal Water's service territory. Other Information All stockholders and interested investors are invited to listen to the first quarter of 2017 conference call on April 27, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. PDT (11:00 a.m. EDT) by dialing 1-866-719-0110 or 1-719-325-2104 and keying in ID # 6640105. A replay of the call will be available from 11:00 a.m. PDT (2:00 p.m. EDT) on April 27, 2017 through June 27, 2017, at 1-888-203-1112 or 1-719-457-0820, ID # 6640105. The replay will also be available under the investor relations tab at www.calwatergroup.com. Prior to the call, Cal Water will post a slide presentation on its website. The presentation can be found at www.calwatergroup.com/docs/2017q1slides.pdf after 6:00 a.m. PDT today. The call will be hosted by President and Chief Executive Officer Martin A. Kropelnicki, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Thomas F. Smegal III, and Vice President of Regulatory Matters and Corporate Development Paul G. Townsley. California Water Service Group is the parent company of California Water Service, Washington Water Service, New Mexico Water Service, Hawaii Water Service, CWS Utility Services, and HWS Utility Services. Together, these companies provide regulated and non-regulated water service to nearly 2 million people in California, Washington, New Mexico, and Hawaii. California Water Service was ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Water Utilities in the West" in 2016 by J.D. Power in its inaugural Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. California Water Service Group's common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "CWT." Additional information is available online at www.calwatergroup.com. This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning established by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("Act"). The forward-looking statements are intended to qualify under provisions of the federal securities laws for "safe harbor" treatment established by the Act. Forward-looking statements are based on currently available information, expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections, and management's judgment about the Company, the water utility industry and general economic conditions. Such words as would, expects, intends, plans, believes, estimates, assumes, anticipates, projects, predicts, forecasts or variations of such words or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance. They are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary materially from what is contained in a forward-looking statement. Factors that may cause a result different than expected or anticipated include, but are not limited to: governmental and regulatory commissions' decisions; consequences of eminent domain actions relating to our water systems; changes in regulatory commissions' policies and procedures; the timeliness of regulatory commissions' actions concerning rate relief; inability to renew leases to operate city water systems on beneficial terms; changes in California State Water Resources Control Board water quality standards; changes in environmental compliance and water quality requirements; electric power interruptions; changes in customer water use patterns and the effects of conservation; the impact of weather and climate on water availability, water sales and operating results; the unknown impact of contagious diseases, on the Company's operations; civil disturbances or terrorist threats or acts, or apprehension about the possible future occurrences of acts of this type; labor relations matters as we negotiate with the unions; restrictive covenants in or changes to the credit ratings on our current or future debt that could increase our financing costs or affect our ability to borrow, make payments on debt or pay dividends; and, other risks and unforeseen events. When considering forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the cautionary statements included in this paragraph, as well as the annual 10-K, Quarterly 10-Q, and other reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Company assumes no obligation to provide public updates of forward-looking statements.
News Article | May 22, 2017
HIGHLAND, CA--(Marketwired - May 22, 2017) - The Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC) today announced a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in its favor in a lawsuit filed by the City of San Bernardino against coordinating agencies San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District) and East Valley Water District. The lawsuit, which challenged the recycled water project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the toughest environmental law in the United States, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), was overthrown by the judge in SNRC's favor on all accounts. The positive ruling affirms the SNRC is in compliance with CEQA, and allows the project to advance with its plans of creating a state-of-the-art recycled water facility. "This ruling brings the San Bernardino Valley one step closer to building a project that will reduce the amount of water used only once locally and then sent down the Santa Ana River for Orange County to treat and reuse," said Valley District Board President Susan Longville. "The Sterling Natural Resource Center will treat up to 10 million gallons of wastewater every day that will be used to recharge our own local groundwater basin year after year." Recently, the State Water Resources Control Board authorized a 1211 permit to the SNRC, a crucial permit that will allow the project to move forward with its plans of recharging the Bunker Hill Basin with up to 10 million gallons of recycled water daily. It also received a Section 7 authorization, a positive affirmation of the project's EIR by federal agencies U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corp of Engineers, among others. The Sterling Natural Resource Center will bring hundreds of temporary construction jobs, directly and indirectly initiate nearly 1,400 jobs, offer job training and educational opportunities to local students and provide a community gathering space. Many local business owners and community members have spoken out in support of the project and all that it brings to our community. The City of San Bernardino cited public health, cost and environmental concerns in the lawsuit against the project's EIR, but the court found no evidence to prove any of its claims against the Sterling Natural Resource Center. "This is a major win for the residents of Highland and San Bernardino," said East Valley Water District Board Chairman Ron Coats. "This victory means that the Sterling Natural Resource Center will move forward with development and taxpayer dollars will no longer be spent on legal fees." About Sterling Natural Resource Center The Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC) is a state-of-the-art facility in Highland, Calif., that will provide a sustainable new water supply to boost the region's water independence. Capable of treating up to 10 million gallons a day, the SNRC recharges the local Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin and creates new opportunities for the surrounding community in the form of education and training, community space, neighborhood improvements, and new habitat for the Santa Ana Sucker fish. Located on North Del Rosa Drive between East Fifth and East Sixth Streets, SNRC is a project of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and treats wastewater generated within East Valley Water District's service area. For more information visit www.sterlingnrc.com and follow the project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. About San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District) was formed in 1954 to import supplemental water. As a regional water provider, they bring water into its service area through participation in the State Water Project (SWP) and manage groundwater storage within its boundaries. Valley District covers 353 square miles in southwestern San Bernardino County and serves a population of approximately 770,000. The District boundary spans the eastern two-thirds of the San Bernardino Valley, and the cities of San Bernardino, Colton, Loma Linda, Redlands, Rialto, Bloomington, Highland, Mentone, Grand Terrace, and Yucaipa. For more visit www.sbvmwd.com. About East Valley Water District East Valley Water District was formed in 1954 and provides water and wastewater collection services to more than 100,000 residents within the City of Highland and portions of both the City and County of San Bernardino. EVWD operates under the direction of a five-member elected Board. More information is available at www.eastvalley.org.
News Article | May 10, 2017
MONTEREY, CA--(Marketwired - May 10, 2017) - The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) today presented its 2017 Excellence in Water Leadership Award to Byron-Bethany Irrigation District for its bold actions in defending the water rights of the farming communities they serve. Byron-Bethany Irrigation District General Manager Rick Gilmore and the district's seven-member Board of Directors launched an effective legal effort to protect local water rights when the State Water Resources Control Board issued unprecedented curtailment orders at the height of the drought in 2015. BBID's legal team pressed their case and argued firmly that the state's analysis of available water was inaccurate. The district's arguments were so effective that the state dismissed its case against BBID in 2016, marking a victory for small districts and cementing the water rights that are the foundation for the community. "Byron-Bethany's district staff and elected officials understood what was at stake for their community," said ACWA President Kathleen Tiegs. "Their foresight, leadership and ability to build consensus in the face of extreme challenge kept water flowing for the residents, farmers, agricultural workers and families in their multi-county service area." The Excellence in Water Leadership Award -- Building a World of Difference® recognizes groups or individuals who have made a remarkable and visible contribution to California water. The award, sponsored by Black & Veatch Corporation, was presented at ACWA's 2017 Spring Conference & Exhibition, which continues through Friday in Monterey. ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose more than 430 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.
News Article | February 24, 2017
OROVILLE, CA--(Marketwired - Feb 23, 2017) - When recent storms and increased outflow from the Oroville Dam spillway raised the turbidity of the water at the Feather River Fish Hatchery, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) needed immediate assistance to save about 1 million steelhead eggs that could not be relocated. Local water utility California Water Service (Cal Water) partnered with the DFW and Cal Fire to ensure that the eggs, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, would survive the storms and water flow. Cal Water worked quickly with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) to ensure it would remain in compliance with environmental regulations while diverting water for the emergency protection of these species. Upon receiving State Board approval, Cal Water was able to begin flowing water from a fire hydrant and through Cal Fire's hose into the hatchery to protect the eggs from the more turbid water coming from the Oroville spillway and Feather River. "Part of our commitment is to be a responsible steward of the environment," said District Manager Toni Ruggle. "So, when the Department of Fish and Wildlife contacted us with this urgent need to save the threatened steelhead eggs at the hatchery, we didn't hesitate to do whatever we could to help." Cal Water worked with the hatchery to ensure the fresh water went through a granular-activated carbon filtration system to remove the chlorine before the water was routed to the steelhead eggs, some of which were already hatching. Water in Cal Water's distribution system is chlorinated to make it safe for human consumption; however, that chlorine can impact fish. Cal Water serves about 10,400 people through 3,600 service connections in Oroville and about 2 million people through 480,300 service connections in California. The company, which has provided water service in the area since 1927, was ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Water Utilities in the West" in 2016 by J.D. Power in its inaugural Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. Additional information may be obtained online at www.calwater.com.
News Article | February 8, 2017
Regulators with the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) announced in January that they plan to halt oil and gas wastewater injection in 475 oil wells in the Golden State — but also that they will continue to allow injections into federally protected aquifers at another 1,650 wells. According to the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action, the announcement appears to be in violation of DOGGR’s own compliance schedule, adopted by regulation in 2014, which requires all injection well operators that have not obtained an aquifer exemption from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cease injection by February 15, 2017. DOGGR’s decision covers illegal injection operations in aquifers in 29 oilfields, which will continue past the February 15 deadline while the oil companies responsible for them apply for an exemption from the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. California officials and the EPA must review the merits of each exemption application. There is no set timeline for this process and it could take months, Clean Water Action said. Keith Nakatani, Oil and Gas Program Manager for Clean Water Action, said that the group applauds DOGGR’s decision to shut down 475 illegal injection wells that are threatening drinking water sources. “But 1,650 other wells continue injecting in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act,” he added. “These wells should have never been permitted, and they continue to put potential drinking water sources at risk.” Don Drysdale, a spokesman for the California Department of Conservation, of which DOGGR is a sub-department, said that the February 15 deadline was established through discussions between the EPA, DOGGR, and the California State Water Resources Control Board. “All three parties were aware that the deadline was ambitious and have been in constant communication about the efforts to bring California into full compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Drysdale said. “U.S. EPA on January 26 transmitted a letter approving the State’s current approach.” Previously, over 20 injection wells were shut down by DOGGR (11 in 2014 and 12 in 2015) as the scale of the problem with the state’s Underground Injection Control Program was first coming to light. More recently, seven companies, including oil and gas behemoth Chevron, were forced to stop injecting wastewater into 11 California aquifers by December 31, 2016. Those 11 aquifers should have been protected by the state of California all along, but officials erroneously believed that the oil companies had obtained exemptions from Safe Drinking Water Act protections from the EPA. It only emerged in 2014, after the companies had been injecting wastewater into those aquifers for three decades, that the EPA had never granted any such exemptions. In March of 2015, as revelations were still emerging that regulators at DOGGR had improperly permitted thousands of wells to inject fluids from “enhanced oil recovery techniques,” such as acidization, cyclic steam injection, and fracking, into protected aquifers, California state legislators “called the agency’s historic practices corrupt, inept, and woefully mismanaged,” according to the LA Times. When asked how DOGGR had ensured that injection operations had ceased in all 11 of the aquifers “historically treated as exempt,” which were subject to the December 31 deadline, Drysdale responded: “Initially, there were 98 injection wells listed in the aquifers facing the December deadline; injection into 71 of those was idled in advance of the deadline. The operators were very aware of the deadline and either have made or are making arrangements to dispose of produced water into other exempted zones. The Division will spot-check injection activities in those fields in addition to confirming during annual inspections and closely reviewing mandatory injection reports.” DOGGR found that all but one of the 11 aquifers “historically treated as exempt” do not meet state and federal exemption criteria. Unauthorized injection can result in a $25,000-per-day civil penalty, Drysdale noted: “[T]hat should be an ample deterrent to unauthorized injection.” The one exception is an aquifer known as the Walker Formation, which underlies the Round Mountain Field and is the subject of an aquifer exemption proposal submitted to the EPA on November 30, 2016. In a letter to the EPA dated January 17, 2017, DOGGR wrote that it has received exemption proposals for another 42 fields in all, covering more than 2,000 wells. Some 13 of those fields, covering 460 wells, are subject to the February 15 deadline because the operators provided insufficient data to support their exemption proposal. Another 10 fields covering approximately 15 wells where injection was occurring in non-exempt aquifers will also be subject to the February 15 deadline because no data was provided to support an exemption. All told, DOGGR says in the letter, 155 wells that were found to be injecting into aquifers suitable for drinking water have already been “brought into compliance.” Spot-checks and record reviews will be used to ensure compliance by the companies with ongoing injection activities in those wells that are subject to the February 15 deadline, Drysdale said. “However,” he added, “DOGGR will inspect all the wells as quickly as resources allow. Again, operators have been made aware of the deadlines and the penalties that will result from non-compliance.” DOGGR says that it has received sufficient data to evaluate the 29 other aquifer exemption proposals it has received, which would affect the 1,650 injection wells that aren’t subject to the February 15 deadline, and deemed them to have sufficient merit to be fully developed and forwarded to the State Water Control Resources Board for review. Those wells “will not be shut down because the Division and the State Water Board either currently concur that the exemption proposal meets the State and federal criteria for exemption or agree that the proposal appears to have merit warranting ultimate submission to US EPA,” according to the letter. As of the date of the letter, the State Water Resources Control Board had preliminarily concurred on seven of the proposals, four of which were finalized and submitted to the EPA for approval. In the letter, DOGGR regulators add that they anticipate another nine aquifer exemption proposals will receive preliminary concurrence from the state, either in whole or part, by February 15, 2017. In other words, DOGGR and the State Water Board expect to have at least preliminary concurrence on 16 of the 29 exemption proposals by the February 15 deadline, which they are not required to comply with in any case. “We believe that this approach will bring the State into compliance and protect public health and the environment, while avoiding unnecessarily disrupting oil and gas production in instances where the State has already done an evaluation of a proposal and believes the aquifer exemption as submitted by the State (or anticipated to be submitted by the State) will receive US EPA approval,” according to the DOGGR letter. Clean Water Action’s Nakatani responded to DOGGR’s rationale for keeping more than 1,000 injection wells in operation, saying, “The state has had more than two years to address this problem and giving oil companies more time to illegally inject is unacceptable.” Main image: A pump jack in California is used to mechanically lift liquid out of the well if there is not enough bottom hole pressure for the liquid to flow all the way to the surface. Credit: Sanjay Acharya, CC BY–SA 3.0
News Article | March 15, 2016
After four years of catastrophic drought and nearly a year of mandatory water conservation measures, Williams is joining a growing chorus of consumers in the wetter parts of the state to call for an end to restrictions they see as overbearing. Their argument is even winning over some of the water utilities charged with implementing the rules. "This whole concept of using less and paying more is a very hard pill to swallow," said Williams, who is so angry he is considering running for the board of his local water district. "We have plenty of water." Although February was relatively dry this year, it rained so much in parts of California in December and January that engineers began releasing water from Folsom Lake near Williams' Granite Bay home for flood control reasons. March unleashed a series of deluges that filled far bigger reservoirs up to and above their normal levels. Yet consumers must still meet water conservation requirements or face fines of $500 per violation per day. State regulators say California's first mandatory conservation orders, which were extended in February to the fall, are necessary until it is clear that wet weather will continue and there will be enough water to last through the summer. This conflict shows the complexity of long-term water supply issues in a state with vastly different geographic regions and gets to the heart of why Californians have fought over this resource for decades. It also feeds the distrust many residents already have for government, particularly in areas such as the state's wet northern coast. "People are just disgusted with the way it doesn't make any sense," said David Hull, general manager of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District on the far northern coast. "I don’t have a good answer for them. The answer is because the state told us. And that’s not a good answer to people." The battle over water in California dates back more than century. In 1907, William Mulholland began a quest to reroute water from the Sierra Nevada, the highest and longest mountain range in the contiguous United States, culminating in the opening of the Los Angeles aqueduct in 1913. Mulholland's success set the stage for Los Angeles to grow into the second-largest U.S. metropolis, but it also came at the cost of precious water for farmers and residents to the north. Coping with the latest drought, Governor Jerry Brown ordered first-of-their-kind mandates to cut overall water use by 25 percent, with some regions required to trim it by as much as 36 percent. By the end of January, the state was 96 percent of the way toward achieving its goal; numbers from February are not yet available. As Californians refrained from turning on their spigots, Mother Nature turned on hers over the state this winter. Reservoirs remain full for this time of year along the northern coast, in much of suburban San Francisco, and in parts of the Sacramento Valley. Because only a portion of the state's watersheds are connected to the massive system of dams and reservoirs that ferry water south, much of the water saved cannot be sold, shipped elsewhere or stored for next year. That makes conservation a hard sell. "People are just outraged," said Pamela Tobin, board president of the San Juan Water District, which supplies Sacramento's eastern suburbs with water from Folsom Lake and elsewhere. "The lake is filling, but our people are still being told that they need to conserve by 36 percent." That wariness is exacerbating a distrust of government that has been building for decades, said Thomas Holyoke, a professor who studies water politics at California State University, Fresno. "When consumers see what appears to be needless government waste, especially when it comes to as precious a resource as water, they immediately see the worst," Holyoke said. "This is the same distrust playing into the Trump and to some degree Bernie Sanders campaigns." Several municipalities and water districts have asked the state to reduce conservation targets, including north coast areas that say their supplies are robust. Even the San Diego County Water Authority, in the drier southern part of the state, has requested relief, and there are signs the message may be getting through. Barraged with complaints after extending the mandates to October, state water regulators have agreed to reconsider some cutbacks next month. But if spring rains do not materialize, the wet winter's gains may be lost, said Felicia Marcus, who chairs the State Water Resources Control Board. "We're in the better-safe-than-sorry approach," Marcus said. "People need to take the long view."
News Article | November 18, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--An 18-acre wetland in Castroville was re-flooded today through a partnership between the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, Central Coast Wetlands Group (CCWG) at Moss Landing Marine Labs and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The restored wetland will provide an ecosystem that will be able to naturally clean 80,000 gallons of surface water for the community every day. “Wetlands provide important natural resources for our communities, create natural habitats for wildlife, native plants and clean water, remove pollution and help to combat the effects of climate change,” said CCWG Director Ross Clark. The wetland is part of the Moro Cojo Slough watershed. Water is being pumped from the Castroville Ditch, which drains approximately 600 acres of land farmed predominantly in artichokes and Brussels sprouts. The water is then gravity-fed through a channel that provides a habitat for wetland plants. These plants will remove nitrates, naturally filtering and cleaning the water. Coastal Conservation and Research grew and has planted 30,000 native wetland plants. Bridget Hoover, water quality protection program director for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said, “Wetlands are a natural filter that help to improve the quality of water that flows through watersheds by removing contaminants, such as nutrients, fecal bacteria, pesticides, and metals that pollute our ocean. This wetland will be a tremendous resource for the Monterey Bay.” The California State Water Resources Control Board provided Proposition 84 grant funding to construct the project. The land was provided by PG&E. In 1996, Moss Landing Marine Labs and PG&E partnered to restore an 11-acre wetland adjacent to this site. Earlier this year, PG&E Corporation contributed $250,000 to the successful Measure AA for a Clean and Healthy Bay campaign that will fund the restoration of 15,000 acres of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands. “PG&E is committed to continuing to protect California’s unique ecosystems, an important part of our strong and enduring commitment to the environment. This wetland will directly benefit our customers by providing this community with clean surface water and a restored ecosystem,” said PG&E Vice President of Safety, Health and Environment Andy Williams. After water flow is restored, additional native plants and seeds will be planted over the next two years. Scientists will monitor the downstream water to evaluate the success of the project, and later the site will be made available to train students and agricultural professionals. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) administers the Master of Science in marine science program for California State Universities in northern and central California, and is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in both education and research. CCWG is a wetland research group at Moss Landing Marine Labs serving the Central Coast of California. CCWG works closely with regional and state partners to expand wetland science and develop collaborative wetland enhancement opportunities among resource managers, policy makers and the agriculture industry. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and pge.com/news.
News Article | December 1, 2016
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - California water regulators on Wednesday recommended tighter oversight of agricultural irrigation and a permanent ban on over-watering urban lawns, a first step toward developing a long-term conservation plan amid ongoing drought. The proposal comes as nearly two-thirds of the state heads into a fifth year of severe drought despite a wet fall and heavy rains last winter that have ameliorated conditions in many areas. “The last few years provided the wake-up call of all wake-up calls that water is precious and not to be taken for granted,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, one of several state agencies that worked on the proposal. California has been in the grip of drought since 2013. It has cost billions to the state's agricultural economy, led a half-million acres of farmland to be fallowed and deprived some communities of reliable sources of drinking water. In January 2014, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown declared the drought an emergency and in 2015 he ordered urban areas to cut back their water use by 25 percent. Earlier this year, Brown ordered the state to develop a long-term conservation plan. "We learned during this drought that our planning efforts just weren't robust enough," said Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager for the water board. Going forward, the most populous U.S. state will need to provide water for yet more people while also facing warmer and drier weather associated with climate change, he said. Rain has returned to Northern California parts of the south over the past year, leading scientists at the U.S. Drought Monitor to declare about 25 percent of the state drought-free. Even so, 60 percent of California is still experiencing severe drought and it is not clear how long those conditions will persist. The draft proposal released Wednesday will now go through a period of public comment before it is finalized, likely early next year. The legislature must also sign on to parts of the plan. It calls for urban areas to submit annual water use budgets and plan for droughts of at least five years in length. Suppliers of agricultural water will be required to submit reports on water usage and show that they are working to increase efficiency. Water utilities must also report how much water they lose through leaks, and speed up repairs. Temporary requirements such as bans on over-watering lawns, hosing down sidewalks and washing cars with hoses that do not have a shut-off valve would become permanent under the plan.
News Article | April 6, 2016
In an effort to fight drought in California, residents and businesses were asked to cut water use by 25 percent. After nine months of water conservation efforts, the drought-stricken state narrowly missed its water saving goal. State regulators said urban residents were able to cut back their water usage by 23.9 percent from June 2015 to February 2016, just 1 percent short from Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's 25 percent goal stated on his April 1, 2015 executive order. The water saving equates to about 1.19 million acre-feet of water, about 96 percent of the 1.24 million acre-feet of goal set for February. Conservation efforts saved about 368 billion gallons of water, which can supply almost 6 million Californians for one year. "Twenty-four percent savings shows enormous effort and a recognition that everyone's efforts matters," said [pdf] State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman Felicia Marcus. "Californians rose to the occasion, reducing irrigation, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and saving our precious water resources in all sorts of ways." However, this is not enough reason to celebrate, as drought is far from over. "The drought is not over," said Max Gomberg, the water board's climate and conservation manager. "Conservation habits are still important heading into this summer." Even if the water conservation only missed the target by a small margin, non-compliant water suppliers would still be slapped with penalties. Residents and businesses only cut usage by 12 percent, which was the lowest monthly reduction since the mandate became effective in June. Statistics showed that Southern California residents only cut down usage by only 6.9 percent dragging the state's savings. A couple of water providers missed their monthly targets forcing regulators to slap them with penalties. Last fall, four suppliers were fined $61,000 for non-compliance. Coachella Valley Water District and Indio Water Authority promised to create environmental projects to reduce water usage. With the success of the cutback, officials are highly likely to propose regional water conservation efforts, which may relax drought orders in certain areas like in Northern California where some reservoirs are spilling already. Even if water cutback regulations were relaxed, Marcus still encourages Californians to continue conserving water because California is yet to recover from the exceptional drought that spanned four long years. The state regulators will conduct a public workshop later this month to tackle important steps for water conservation. Any new regulations would take effect in June. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change states that the four-year drought is the driest California has ever been in 500 years. Researchers found that the Sierra snowpack, which the state relies on, could be in its lowest levels in 3,000 years. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | January 28, 2016
More than 40 years ago, a bipartisan Congress enacted – and President Nixon signed into law – the Endangered Species Act. The Act effectively declares that human beings have a moral obligation not to so fundamentally alter the Earth that we drive other native species on our planet extinct, recognizing that what affects the web of life will inevitably affect us too. California enacted its own endangered species law in 1970. Together, these laws require that we take action to conserve and prevent the extinction of native fish and wildlife, and if necessary, they prohibit actions that would jeopardize the continued existence and recovery of these species. These acts protect animals both big and small: blue whales and bald eagles, grizzly bears – and the salmon they eat – and the small fish that salmon feed on. And by protecting California salmon, these acts protect the jobs of thousands of fishermen across the West Coast whose livelihoods depend on healthy salmon runs. Whether inspired by the Biblical instruction in Genesis or by more practical concerns about the economic and medicinal benefits of conserving our native species, the Endangered Species Act is our safety net when all else fails. Because once they are gone, they are gone forever. The Act has been extraordinarily successful in preventing the extinction of native species. But in California’s Bay-Delta, we’re not just watching the potential extinction of native fisheries in the wild. We are actively driving these species extinct. Today, species that have been on this planet for thousands or even millions of years teeter on the precipice of survival. And if we don’t change how we respond to drought, some of these species will likely disappear forever. As California wrestled with historic drought conditions going into its third and fourth years, state and federal agencies repeatedly weakened and waived state water quality standards protecting salmon and other native fisheries in California’s Bay-Delta estuary (euphemistically called “regulatory flexibility”). The drought put state and federal agency managers in an extraordinarily tough position – trying to balance competing uses of water in the driest calendar year in California’s history (2014) and the year with the lowest snowpack in recorded history (2015). And in the past two years, they’ve tipped the scales, weakening water quality standards in order to provide more than 1.35 million acre feet of additional water supply (more than 450,000 acre feet in 2014 and over 900,000 acre feet in 2015). Yet while this “regulatory flexibility” increased water supply, it has had devastating effects on our native fisheries. Continuing this way will likely have devastating effects on the thousands of fishing jobs that depend on California’s salmon runs – on fishermen like Mike Hudson and Larry Collins, Jackie Douglas (one of the first women to run a charter boat in San Francisco – beginning back in the 1960s and 70s!), Roger Thomas, or the thousands of other men and women who struggled mightily when the salmon fishery was closed in 2008 and 2009, costing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost income. Over the past two years, federal and state biologists have acknowledged that the combination of drought and regulatory flexibility has killed virtually every winter run Chinook salmon that spawned in the Sacramento River each of the past two years. It caused massive mortality of fall run Chinook salmon (the backbone of the salmon fishery) in the Sacramento River in 2014 and has caused other native species (like longfin smelt and Delta smelt, two species that were once some of the most abundant fish in the estuary) to be all but impossible to find in surveys as they decline to record low abundances. This future looks grim – not just for our endangered fish species and the fishermen that depend on them. If we continue on this path, the estuary faces a future of increased harmful algal blooms, like microcystis, making water unsafe to drink or even touch and thereby shutting down water supply for cities and thousands of farms. Microcystis is not just a problem in the Great Lakes, but actually has been showing up in the Delta during the drought – and the problem could get far worse in the future. But this future is not inevitable. It is a function of the choices that we, as a society, make. California stands at a crossroads in 2016. In the past two years, the protections required under the federal Endangered Species Act (called biological opinions, which are also required under California’s Endangered Species Act) have had very little impact on water supply, because there simply wasn’t enough water to pump and divert. Drought, not environmental laws, is the cause of low water supplies. Yet as rain and snow thankfully return this year, scientifically sound limits on pumping are necessary to prevent extinction. These restrictions on pumping have been upheld by the courts and underwent unprecedented levels of independent scientific reviews – including continued scientific reviews. Yet the political pressure to weaken these protections continues. The Endangered Species Act and these existing biological opinions already include some flexibility. But state and federal agencies have recognized that in 2016 they simply cannot exercise the same level of regulatory flexibility that they did in 2014 and 2015. Their 2016 Drought Contingency Plan acknowledges that: Similarly, the State Water Resources Control Board concluded in 2015 that “the status quo of the past two years is not sustainable for fish and wildlife and that changes to the drought planning and response process are needed to ensure that fish and wildlife are not unreasonably impacted in the future and to ensure various species do not go extinct.” “Regulatory flexibility” sounds innocuous, but the past two years have shown that it can be anything but. And regulatory flexibility can ultimately lead to reduced water supply, because the failure to implement more limited protections early in the season to proactively prevent problems can result in greater restrictions on water supply later in the year or in future years. This occurred a few years ago, when aggressive pumping operations in December 2012 led to excessive numbers of fish killed at the pumps when storms increased flow and turbidity in the Delta, ultimately causing even greater restrictions on pumping for several months. And we’ll likely see this for years to come, as the record low abundances of native species mean that greater – not weakened – protections are needed. Codifying that “regulatory flexibility” in a federal drought bill could make things even worse – not just under this Administration, which recognizes the need to limit flexibility after the disastrous past two years, but under the next Administration (since drought legislation could be in effect for several years, even after wetter conditions return to California). Another year of regulatory flexibility could be the last straw. And it won’t just be fish that are affected. It will be all of us that lose. And it will be because all of us have failed.