EIR notice fleshes out groundwater replenishment project details

By Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald, 12/18/14

Marina — A year and a half after environmental review began, the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Agency has released a more detailed description of the proposed Pure Water Monterey Groundwater Replenishment Project for public review.

Designed to convert wastewater into highly treated potable water for storage and later use on the Monterey Peninsula, the recycled water project has been fleshed out as a result of engineering and technical studies, as well as a preliminary source water agreement for the project between five parties since the environmental review process began in mid-2013.

That prompted release of a supplemental notice of preparation for the project’s environmental impact report that spells out the additional detail involving the project’s use of various wastewater sources, a drought reserve plan, and a revised facilities plan.

Water Pollution Control Agency general manager Keith Israel said the document was released to avoid any delay as a result of legal challenge to the project’s environmental review process. He added the release won’t affect the project schedule calling for the draft environmental impact report to be released in March.

“The last thing we wanted was to get slowed down,” Israel said.

The supplemental notice is available for public review at the agency offices, 5 Harris Court, Building D, in Monterey’s Ryan Ranch, and online at www.purewatermonterey.org, as well as at public libraries in Monterey, Carmel, Carmel Valley, Seaside, Marina, Salinas and Castroville.

Public comments are being accepted through Jan. 8.

A definitive source water agreement consisting of a series of bi-lateral agreements between the five parties is under negotiation and is still expected to be finished by March, according to Israel. Others close to the talks have suggested a final conclusion may stretch into April or later.

In addition to the agency and Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the Monterey County water resources agency, the Marina Coast Water District, and the city of Salinas are all parties to the preliminary agreement and the ongoing talks.

The project proposal calls for producing 3,500 acre-feet of the highly treated water per year for injection into the Seaside basin as a supplement to the Peninsula water supply project led by California American Water’s desalination project. It would also produce up to 5,292 acre-feet of water per year for farmland irrigation as part of the broad agreement to allow the use of Peninsula municipal wastewater and urban stormwater runoff, agricultural produce wash water, and contaminated surface water from the Salinas-area Reclamation Ditch and Blanco Drain for the project.

Key updates to the project description include:

  • Specific volume of treated water for farmland irrigation as part of the project’s source water pact, allowing an evaluation of the cumulative impact of tapping various wastewater sources.
  • A new drought reserve, which would provide for depositing an additional 200 acre-feet of the treated potable water into the Seaside basin during wet years up to a total of 1,000 acre-feet. The water would be used to supplement Cal Am’s potable water needs during dry years, avoiding the need to tap source water designated for farmland irrigation.
  • Project-specific facilities upgrades and operational changes involving the Salinas Valley Reclamation Project treatment plant capacity, the Tembladero Slough (Rec Ditch) diversion location, the method of conveying ag produce wash water from the Salinas city treatment facility, the location of injection into the Seaside basin, and inclusion of Cal Am’s proposed new water distribution pipelines.

Meanwhile, Israel announced last week that he plans to retire in June, about when the final project EIR is due to be released, after 26 years with the agency.