Executive Summary for the
Carmel River Dam and Reservoir Project
Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report
Background--The California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) has applied to the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) for a permit to construct the Carmel River Dam and Reservoir Project (CRDRP), a new 24,000-acre-foot dam and reservoir that would be located downstream of the existing Los Padres Dam in the Cachagua area of Monterey County. The CRDRP would be physically identical to a previous dam and reservoir proposal called the New Los Padres (NLP) Project, but would have different goals, as described below.
The NLP was evaluated in the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project Environmental Impact Report and Statement (known as the NLP EIR) required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Final EIR/IS for that project, including an addendum, was certified in September 1994. In May 1995, MPWMD prepared Addendum-2 to the Final EIR, which involved evaluating more detailed geotechnical and engineering studies, a draft Engineer's Report, microclimate and viticulture issues, and several other items. In June and July 1995, MPWMD obtained a Section 404 permit under the federal Clean Water Act and a water rights permit from the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for the NLP project.
Also in July 1995, the SWRCB finalized Order WR 95-10, which determined that 10,730 acre-feet per year of water pumped from the Carmel River is being diverted unlawfully by Cal-Am. In the order, the SWRCB required Cal-Am to diligently implement one or more of the following actions to terminate its unlawful diversions from the Carmel River:
The CRDRP would
In August 1995, MPWMD recertified the NLP EIR along with an Update to Addendum-2, finalized the Engineer's Report, and set an election on a bond measure to fund the project. The 1995 certification was rescinded by the MPWMD Board of Directors in September 1997 based on rulings by the Superior and Appellate Courts. In November 1995, however, the electorate failed to authorize MPWMD to construct the NLP project. As a result of that election, the MPWMD Board of Directors directed its staff to reassess alternatives not related to dam construction while keeping the NLP permits viable.
in that it
provided in the
NLP EIR prepared
by MPWMD in 1994.
The CRDRP SEIR--This document is a "supplemental EIR" in that it supplements information provided in the NLP EIR prepared by MPWMD in 1994. In response to a lawsuit (Galante Vineyards v. MPWMD), the Superior Court of Monterey County, California, ruled in December 1995 that the certification of the 1994 Final EIR was legally inadequate with regard to the issue of viticulture; the court mandated that the certification be set aside and a focused supplemental EIR be prepared addressing this issue alone. (The case was appealed by MPWMD; in August 1997, the Sixth District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court's decision [Galante Vineyards v. MPWMD] and directed MPWMD to prepare a focused supplemental EIR.) The court also stated that the supplemental EIR could review any other issue that MPWMD deemed appropriate.
Because of this court decision, this SEIR is technically a companion document to the 10-volume NLP EIR, including addenda. Once it is certified, this SEIR and the NLP EIR will constitute the Final EIR for the CRDRP.
Under CEQA, MPWMD is the lead agency that will process Cal-Am's permit application to expand its water distribution system by constructing the CRDRP. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), acting as a responsible agency under CEQA, will review the SEIR. In accordance with its statutory requirements, the CPUC will decide whether to approve Cal-Am's application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to increase water rates to pay for the project.
The Monterey Peninsula is subject to water shortages caused by both physical (drought) and regulatory (water rights) conditions. Also, the environmental quality of the Carmel River, the primary source of the community's water supply, has been harmed as a result of water diversions. MPWMD, in cooperation with Cal-Am and other agencies, has taken various steps to address these problems. Measures include an aggressive water conservation program, better management of water resources to minimize environmental harm and maximize efficient use, development of new wells, and initiatives to pursue seawater desalination. To date, these measures have fallen short of providing a long-term solution. In light of this situation, the CRDRP proposed by Cal-Am has three basic purposes:
(1) Provide a lawful water supply for the community. In 1995, the SWRCB determined in Order WR 95-10 that more than 60% of the community's water supply (an estimated 10,730 acre-feet) was being diverted by Cal-Am from the Carmel River Basin without a legal right to the water. Along with interim conservation measures, the State ordered that Cal-Am correct this situation through one of the three means described above. As part of its permit application to MPWMD, Cal-Am requested use of MPWMD's federal and state permits for the NLP project, which were approved in 1995.
(2) Provide adequate streamflow to protect the Carmel River environment. The adverse impact of existing water diversions to meet community needs is well documented. The lower 6 miles of the river dry up nearly every year during the summer and fall because water diversions are greater than natural inflow. This results in harm to fish and other aquatic life as well as the streamside (riparian) vegetation and dependent wildlife. Two federally protected species-- steelhead trout and red-legged frog, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act--are present in the river and must be protected. The SWRCB permit requirements for the reservoir project require that stored water be released to provide year-round flow that meets the needs of fish and wildlife whenever this is possible.
(3) Provide adequate drought protection for existing Cal-Am customers. The Monterey Peninsula area is subject to multi-year droughts because of variations in climate and limited water storage capacity. Significant water supply shortages and mandatory rationing have occurred in the past two decades.
by Cal-Am has
three basic purposes:
The proposed CRDRP would improve drought protection for existing Cal-Am customers. It is notable that Cal-Am has proposed the CRDRP to serve only existing customers (that is, only those Cal-Am customers served by the existing annual limit of 17,641 acre-feet set by MPWMD). Cal-Am has not proposed that its reservoir project provide water for new construction and remodels. Thus, the CRDRP is defined by Cal-Am as a "no growth" project.
The proposed CRDRP would be a 282-foot-high dam and 24,000-acre-foot dam and reservoir that would be located about one-half mile downstream of the existing Los Padres Dam in the Cachagua area in upper Carmel Valley. As shown in Figure 1. the existing dam and its 55-acre reservoir would be covered by the new 266-acre lake because the new dam spillway would be 90 feet higher than the existing spillway. The new dam would stretch 1,600 feet across the canyon. Other components include multiple intakes for the outlet works to control water temperature, fish passage facilities to assist steelhead migration, new access roads, mitigation projects to restore nearby habitat, and a land exchange resulting in a net gain of about 120 acres in the Ventana Wilderness. The project operation would be guided by the SWRCB permit requirements, which strive to provide a streamflow regime similar to "natural" conditions (i.e., no human water diversions).
the CRDRP project
is expected to
by spring 2006.
Assuming all permits are issued early in the year 2000, the CRDRP project is expected to be operational by spring 2006. Milestones include approximately 2 years for final design and two construction seasons. The project capital cost is estimated at $107 million in 1998 dollars; the total project cost through project completion is estimated at $127.6 million (year 2005 dollars). Cal-Am estimates that the project would result in a $20-21 increase in the average monthly residential bill during the period from 2005 to 2011.
The SEIR consolidates earlier information about the NLP project with new information and highlights new developments since 1994. A partial list includes the following:
of project impacts
and mitigation measures:
The SEIR contains an extensive review of project impacts and mitigation measures. The following paragraphs provide a simplified, brief summary:
Water Supply--The proposed project would improve drought protection for existing Cal-Am customers because of the tenfold increase in storage capacity of the new reservoir and the ability to release stored water so that it percolates into underground water storage areas (aquifers) in Carmel Valley.
The CRDRP would meet 100% of community needs 93% of the time and would never require 20% mandatory rationing as determined by existing MPWMD criteria. Total water storage reserves would be much higher than under existing conditions, and riverflow would occur year round in most years. The legal requirements of SWRCB Order WR 95-10 would be completely met, with no fines.
Construction Impacts--Construction over an estimated 20-month period would result in unavoidable adverse impacts relating to traffic, air quality, noise, visual quality, and recreation, especially in the Cachagua area, despite a host of planned actions to reduce impacts on the community and promote public safety. Local vineyards would not be adversely affected.
Inundation Impacts--The new 266-acre reservoir would inundate fish and wildlife habitat, such as riparian vegetation and wetlands, and affect the threatened steelhead and red-legged frog. Mitigation measures for wildlife focus on providing improved streamflow for fish habitat downstream of the dam and restoring degraded habitat in other areas to compensate for the habitat loss. Specific plans are required by state and federal resource agencies for the steelhead resource; red-legged frog; valley oak woodland; and riparian, wetland, and other habitats.
Cultural resources important to Esselen Native American groups would also be lost or damaged. Suggested mitigation measures include detailed excavation of certain archaeological sites to recover important information, preservation of artifacts as possible, creation of a cultural center near the project area for educational and cultural purposes, special access for Esselen to continue traditional activities, and participation by Esselen in project planning and construction activities.
Local vineyard owners in the project vicinity have expressed concern about potential adverse effects associated with microclimate changes from the new reservoir. A specially commissioned study determined that adverse effects would not occur.
Operational Impacts--The increased flow from the reservoir project would improve the existing streamflow situation, especially in summer and fall months. These are considered beneficial effects for fish and wildlife compared to existing conditions. MPWMD employs a very high standard to assess fishery impacts; that is, the project should provide flows similar to the "natural" situation.
In certain drought years, the project cannot provide the desired flow. Additional habitat restoration, fish rescues, riparian irrigation, and other measures similar to those successfully being employed already would be needed in these situations.
Increased stability of riverbanks is a benefit associated with the more consistent streamflow (and vegetation growth) expected with the reservoir project. However, increased vegetation could lead to channel narrowing and result in a potential increase in flood elevation along certain reaches of the river, if not adequately maintained. The mitigation program calls for extensive monitoring of the river channel and remedial vegetation removal, if needed. Other hydrologic impacts relate to the potential adverse movement and deposition of river sediment if certain scenarios occur. Again, the mitigation program calls for extensive monitoring of the river channel and corrective action, such as removal of sandy sediment or placement of desired gravels in specific areas, if needed.
A relatively new field of study included in the SEIR involves how changes in riverflow may affect the composition of riverbed sediment, which in turn may affect aquatic insects that serve as food for steelhead. The SEIR determined that there is a potentially significant change in three river reaches that could result in less desirable food organisms being available for steelhead. The overall effect on the steelhead population is difficult to predict. The suggested mitigation is extensive monitoring of baseline conditions and postproject conditions, and remedial enhancement of sediment if adverse trends are observed.
Growth--As described above, the Cal-Am proposal would provide no water for "growth" (new construction and remodels). Thus, the project would result in no direct growth inducement. However, the SEIR determined that the CRDRP could indirectly result in release of an estimated 799 acre-feet by MPWMD for new water allocations (if MPWMD chose to take such action). This situation could arise because of higher Carmel River Basin diversion limits included in SWRCB Order WR 98-04, MPWMD's authority to set the Cal-Am production limit, and because the drought protection provided by the project could make available water currently set aside as a drought reserve. The 799 acre-feet of growth potential with the CRDRP is a smaller amount than recent estimates of water needs associated with specific types of legal lots of record and remodels, and less than 15% of previous estimates of "buildout" (maximum growth potential of the community).Cumulative Impacts--Cumulative impacts are the combined effect of similar types of projects on the environment. The SEIR evaluates the cumulative effects of the proposed seismic retrofit of San Clemente Dam required by the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams; MPWMD's potential injection/recovery project in the Seaside Basin; modification of existing Cal-Am facilities in Carmel Valley; and the CRDRP project. Because the seismic and other projects would be completed before construction of the CRDRP, short-term construction impacts such as noise, air quality, erosion, water quality degradation would be less than significant cumulatively. Construction traffic is considered a significant and unavoidable cumulative impact because of the protracted duration of construction traffic on Carmel Valley Road and Highway 1. Potential beneficial effects to the steelhead fishery would result from the presence of the two dam projects compared to existing conditions because of improved passage facilities and better management of sediment transport over San Clemente Dam. Loss of riparian and wetland habitats would be an adverse impact but could be mitigated to a less-than-significant level with the restoration plans required for each project.
An EIR must describe whether feasible alternatives exist that would avoid or substantially reduce adverse impacts associated with a project. To this end, the CRDRP SEIR includes a review of the feasibility of more than 70 water supply alternatives, including new dam/reservoir projects; desalination; dredging existing reservoirs; groundwater development; additional conservation and reclamation; water importation and marketing; and legal, regulatory, and other options. Based on this review, the most viable types of alternatives were combined in many configurations and evaluated by MPWMD's CVSIM computer model. These alternatives included:
The computer model was used to determine what individual or combination non-dam project would result in full compliance with SWRCB Order WR 95-10--that is, Cal-Am diversions from the Carmel River Basin no greater than 3,376 acre-feet per year, which is Cal-Am's water right as recognized by the SWRCB. After conducting more than 100 computer runs, four alternative options were chosen for more detailed evaluation:
The CRDRP SEIR
review of the
more than 70
the most viable
combined in many
Option 1: 10.5-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) desalination project in Marina or Moss Landing;
Option 2: 9.0-MGD desalination project plus injection/recovery in the Seaside Basin (with existing Cal-Am transfer facilities);
Option 3: 8.0-MGD desalination project, injection/recovery, and dredging Los Padres Reservoir to original capacity;
Option 4: 7.5-MGD desalination project, injection/recovery, dredging Los Padres Reservoir, and an 800-acre-foot permanent reduction in Cal-Am production resulting from additional conservation and reclamation.
Each option was assessed for impacts on critical life cycle stages of the steelhead and red-legged frog, riverflow and groundwater effects, and drought protection. Detailed cost estimates were developed for capital, operation and maintenance (O&M), net present value (used to assess long-term costs over 90 years), and water rates. An assessment of feasibility was also made, based on the factors described in the State CEQA Guidelines.
that 13 adverse
effects of the
CRDRP could be
reduced by the
the four options
types of adverse
The SEIR determined that 13 adverse effects of the CRDRP could be avoided and/or reduced by the four alternative options, particularly Options 1 and 2. However, the four options involve different types of adverse impacts to the environment, some of which may remain significant. The identified hydrologic, fishery, and vegetation impacts of the CRDRP could not be fully mitigated by any of the alternative options, but certain construction effects and cultural resources effects of the CRDRP would be fully mitigated by pursuing these options. The dredging component within Options 3 and 4 could result in similar or more severe construction impacts than those anticipated with the CRDRP, particularly those related to truck traffic. Growth inducing effects would be similar with Options 1-4 and the CRDRP.
Options 1-4 would involve potential impacts on ocean biota, coastal dune habitats and dependent species, wetland and slough environments, and energy use and related air quality impacts. This is because of the large desalination project that forms the basis of each option. The water supply reliability of Options 1-4 is of concern in an extended power outage because of the dependence on electricity. Assuming power can be produced reliably, Options 1-4 provide superior drought protection to the CRDRP, but at a much higher cost.
All four options are very expensive compared to the CRDRP. Capital costs would be about 8-25% higher; O&M costs would be 5-6 times higher; net present value would be an estimated 2.6-2.8 times that expected for the reservoir project. In the first 30 years of project operation, the average increase in the typical residential water bill would be $41-43 per month compared to about $19 per month with the CRDRP. Water bill increases with the alternative options (152-161% increase) would be more than twice that with the CRDRP (69% increase).
Despite their potential benefits, Options 1-4 are of questionable feasibility to the degree that these options may not be reasonably considered as feasible as defined by CEQA. This recommendation is based on the very high costs and impact on water bills, questionable site suitability for large desalination projects, lack of supporting infrastructure, noncompliance with regional air quality plans, location outside MPWMD or Cal-Am boundaries, and lack of property ownership with potential competition for desalination sites (and possibly well sites) from other agencies.
Copies of the two-volume SEIR for the reservoir project are available at area libraries and at the MPWMD office for review during business hours. Copies have also been distributed to regulatory agencies and local public interest groups. In addition, three sets of afternoon and evening workshops on the SEIR have been scheduled, as follows:
the SEIR have
December 2, 1998
1 p.m., Seaside City Hall, 440 Harcourt Avenue, Seaside
7 p.m., Martin Luther King Middle School, 1713 Broadway Ave., Seaside
December 3, 1998
3 p.m., Monterey Elks Lodge, 150 Mar Vista Drive, Monterey
7 p.m., Monterey Elks Lodge, 150 Mar Vista Drive, Monterey
December 10, 1998
3 p.m., Carmel Valley Community Youth Center, 25 Ford Road, Carmel Valley
7 p.m., Carmel Valley Community Youth Center, 25 Ford Road, Carmel Valley
The MPWMD Board of Directors will receive oral comments on the adequacy of the SEIR at a special meeting in early January [date to be set]. Written comments may be submitted until close of business on Friday, January 15, 1999.
If you have questions, please contact MPWMD at 831/649-4866. Information and excerpts from the SEIR can also be found on our website (http://www.mpwmd.dst.ca.us).