Sacramento County Gets Water To Grow
The Sacramento County Water Agency and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (MUD) broke ground on an historic water project in May. The Freeport Regional Water Project will provide water for growth in South Sacramento County, including the cities of Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, while East Bay MUD will be able to pump up to 133,000 acre-feet of water during drought years to supplement the district's reservoirs.
For three decades, East Bay MUD fought Sacramento interests over the district's attempt to take water from the lower American River. In 2000, the district reached an agreement with the Sacramento County agency, the City of Sacramento and the Bureau of Reclamation, an agreement that led to the Freeport project (see CP&DR Environment Watch, December 2001). Water agencies in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, which feared the project would threaten their supplies, sued over the project but lost.
Rather than pumping directly from the American River, East Bay MUD and the Sacramento County agency will divert water from the Sacramento River at Freeport, about 10 miles below the Sacramento River's confluence with the American. A pipeline will tie in with East Bay MUD's existing Mokelumne Aqueduct. The project will also provide water to the Cosumnes River during times of low flow in hopes of re-establishing a salmon fishery.
Among the areas that will be served by the Sacramento agency is the 20,000-unit Sunrise-Douglas community plan area in Rancho Cordova. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court rejected a water analysis for the project because it did not adequately describe long-term water sources and the impacts of using those sources (see CP&DR, March 2007). Although the ruling was a victory for environmentalists and a blow against the development, the Sacramento County Water Agency expects to start delivering water from the Freeport project to the community plan area within three years.
Flood safety improvements in Sacramento took two steps forward recently. In mail balloting, 81% of Sacramento-area landowners approved a property tax increase of about $35 for a typical house. The tax is expected to provide about $326 million over 30 years as a local match for state and federal flood control spending.
In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers in May filed a record of decision approving improvements to Folsom Dam. The $1.3 billion-project includes construction of a new spillway that is intended to improve flood safety. The project also makes a future 3-foot height increase of the dam possible.
Sacramento has the worst flood protection of any major American city, but planned projects such as the Folsom Dam improvements and levee upgrades would give Sacramento 200-year flood protection.
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a master plan for revitalizing the Los Angeles River. The plan calls for making a 32-mile stretch of the river into an environmental, recreational and aesthetic asset, rather than simply a concrete-lined flood control channel (see CP&DR Places, April 2007). However, plan implementation will cost an estimated $2 billion and the city has identified few solid funding sources.
Fresno County Supervisor Bob Waterston resigned from the Fresno County Local Agency Formation Commission two days after the Fresno Bee ran a story raising conflict of interest questions.
Waterston voted for six City of Sanger annexations to accommodate subdivisions proposed by RZR Enterprises, even though his pool-building business was doing work for the Orange County-based developer. Pools by Waterston built a pool and other amenities for model homes in one RZR subdivision on which the supervisor did not vote, according to the Bee. Waterston's company also built six pools in two other subdivisions for which he did cast votes in favor of annexation, and the company was listed as the exclusive pool builder for the subdivisions.
A county supervisor since 2001, Waterston was appointed to LAFCO in 2003 and was chairman when he quit. In a letter of resignation, he denied that his business interests influenced his vote, but he apologized "for my lapse in judgment creating the perception of a breach of trust."
A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Department of Energy failed to address radioactive and toxic waste at the closed Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the hills between Simi Valley and the San Fernando Valley, an area considered for residential development. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Samuel Conti ruled that the federal government's review of the site was inadequate under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and he barred a transfer of ownership until the government satisfies NEPA.
From the 1950s until 1996, the site was a center of nuclear research and test facilities. A 1959 partial meltdown of one of the reactors is considered the biggest nuclear accident in U.S. history, and there is believed to be widespread radioactive and chemical pollution on the 290-acre site. The site is encompassed in a 2,400-acre site now owned by Rocketdyne Propulsion, which built and tested engines there. The Department of Energy remains responsible for all environmental cleanup, however.
The case is NRDC v. Department of Energy, No. 04-04448.
Four water agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley have reached an agreement regarding the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by perchlorate, a chemical used in making rocket fuel and explosives. Whittaker-Bermite and Remediation Financial, Inc., will pay $100 million for replacement wells and pipelines and for a treatment plant to remove perchlorate from groundwater.
Perchlorate contamination has become a public health and water planning issue in the Santa Clarita Valley since the contaminant was first detected in wells seven years ago. Environmentalists have successfully sued over environmental impact reports and water plans that did not adequately account for the contamination (see CP&DR Environment Watch, June 2006; CP&DR Legal Digest, December 2005) and have a pending Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the Castaic Lake Water Agency over the agency's plans for addressing perchlorate.
The 1,000-acre Whittaker-Bermite site was used for the manufacture of munitions, flares and other explosive devices for at least 50 years until it closed in 1999.