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Plans For Future Development

East Branch Extension

The East Branch Extension is a cooperative effort between DWR, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency to deliver SWP water to the east side of SBVMWD's service area and SGPWA's service area. The project conveys water from the Devil Canyon Powerplant Afterbay to Cherry Valley through a series of existing and new facilities, and will be constructed in two phases.

Phase 1 delivers one-half of the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency's contracted water for recharging groundwater in Cherry Valley. The facilities consist of approximately 14 miles of pipeline and two pump stations.

Phase 2 will add facilities that bypass a segment of Phase 1 and provide additional pumping capacity to convey the full contracted amount of SWP water (17,300 acre-feet) to the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency. Phase 2 construction will be scheduled when there is sufficient demand for additional water in the service area.

South Delta Improvements Program

In the 1960s, DWR began installing a barrier at the head of Old River in the fall to assist salmon migrating up the San Joaquin River to spawn. In the late 1980s, barriers were installed in other south Delta channels to raise water levels and improve circulation for local irrigators. Installation of a spring fish barrier began in 1992 at the same location as the fall barrier to protect young salmon migrating down the San Joaquin River from swimming toward the CVP and SWP water export facilities where they are subject to entrainment. Today, all of these barriers are installed as part of the South Delta Temporary Barriers. The barriers are rock structures that contain operable culverts to pass flow upstream or downstream of the barriers as needed.

In the 1980s, DWR and the Bureau of Reclamation began formulating a permanent program. It included permanent, fully operable gates to replace the temporary structures of south Delta improvements.

DWR and the Bureau originally planned for this program to be implemented in advance of the long-term solutions to be developed by the CALFED Bay-Delta Program. However, to avoid any incompatibility between the permanent south Delta program and the long-term CALFED process and to advance the other actions proposed by CALFED for early implementation, the South Delta Improvements Program was adopted as a part of the CALFED process.

In addition to the permanent operable gates, the program proposes to increase the allowable diversion limit for Clifton Court Forebay. The objectives of the SDIP are to reduce the movement of salmon migrating down the San Joaquin River into the south Delta via Old River; maintain adequate water levels and quality for south Delta agricultural diversions; and increase SWP operational flexibility, deliveries to SWP and CVP contractors, and opportunities for exporting water for fish and wildlife purposes.

The SDIP has a two-stage decision-making process. The installation and operation of the permanent operable gates and other related actions will be decided first. Increasing the allowed diversion limit into Clifton Court Forebay to 8,500 cfs has been deferred due to the decline in populations of Delta fish.

The final EIR/S was certified in December 2006. The related decision documents addressing the permanent operable gates are expected at the end of 2008, upon receipt of permits involving the federal and State Endangered Species Act. Given this schedule, the gates would be installed and operable in 2012.

Oroville Facilities Relicensing

With the nation's tallest dam at 770 feet, 762 MW of hydropower capacity, and a 3.5 million acre-foot reservoir, the Oroville Facilities are frequently referred to as the heart of the State Water Project. The major features of the Oroville Facilities --Oroville Dam, Lake Oroville, Oroville Wildlife Area, Hyatt Powerplant, Thermalito Diversion Powerplant, Thermalito Forebay and AfterBay and Thermalito Pumping Generating Plant -- are located near the City of Oroville in Northern California on the Feather River. The facilities generate economical hydropower and provide storage to help deliver water to areas of need and keep fresh water affordable throughout California. DWR also manages the facilities to provide tremendous recreation, flood control, cultural resource, water quality, and environmental benefits both regionally and state wide.

An important part of DWR's management responsibilities is to operate and maintain the facilities to minimize associated adverse impacts. DWR is guided by applicable state and federal regulations and its own management objective to enhance the human and natural environments while balancing the multitude of benefits and their impacts.

New License Jurisdiction
The Federal Regulatory Energy Commission imposes operating conditions on most non-federal dams located on navigable waterways or federal lands, or connected to an interstate transmission grid. Falling within that jurisdiction, the Oroville Facilities received, prior to construction in 1957, an initial 50-year hydropower license (FERC Project No. 2100) from the Federal Power Commission, predecessor to FERC.

When issuing a new license, FERC considers how to balance different resource values and address the direct and indirect impacts of operating a licensed hydropower project through appropriate operating conditions. This federal action requires an environmental analysis of proposed license conditions and alternatives pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. In addition, the federal Clean Water Act requires that a Water Quality Certificate must be obtained from a certification board before FERC can issue a new license. In California, this requires an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act of the proposed project and alternatives that allows the State Water Resources Control Board to issue a WQ Certificate with appropriate conditions. Other participating agencies with license conditioning authority specific to their impacted resource responsibilities, and independent from FERC authority, include the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service.

FERC also solicits recommendations on new license conditions from the public and federally recognized Indian tribes in the proximity of the project and state and federal agencies with land management and resource responsibilities.

Process
DWR launched a collaborative process in 2000 to guide the development of a new license application with supporting environmental documentation that would be submitted to FERC two years prior to initial license expiration, as required by regulations. Over the next six years, DWR worked alongside Department of Fish and Game, Department of Parks and Recreation, State Water Resources Control Board, State Water Contractors, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Forest Service, Oroville-area Indian tribes, the City of Oroville, the Town of Paradise, Butte County, and other local governmental agencies as well as numerous private citizens and non-governmental organizations.

This diverse group scoped issues, designed a $27 million suite of studies, reviewed reports, proposed measures, and discussed potential solutions for project impacts relating to instream flows, beneficial uses, water temperature, recreational facilities, cultural resources, fish hatchery operations, water quality, watershed management, endangered species, and more. Using relevant information from this effort, DWR filed a timely new license application with supporting environmental documentation on January 26, 2005. Even with the timely filing of an application proposal that met all FERC requirements, DWR and the stakeholders continued to pursue a Settlement Agreement that would enhance DWR's application proposal and garner widespread support for a new license based on a broadly supported Settlement Agreement.

On March 26, 2006, after months of additional hard work, DWR and an overwhelming majority of stakeholders successfully concluded negotiations and signed a Settlement Agreement that has been estimated to provide approximately $1 billion in environmental, recreational, cultural, and other benefits over a proposed 50 year new license term. This momentous event was celebrated at a signing ceremony attended by executive managers and elected officials representing the signatories. A video of the ceremony highlights can be seen at http://www.water.ca.gov/orovillerelicensing/settlement_agreement.cfm.

The Settlement Agreement was quickly submitted as DWR's new preferred alternative and became the focus of FERC's ongoing NEPA environmental analysis. DWR, as lead agency under CEQA, followed with a draft environmental analysis with the Settlement Agreement as the preferred project.

Annual License
Recognizing that the required environmental documentation process would not be complete by the initial license expiration date of January 31, 2007, FERC authorized continued operation for one year of the Oroville Facilities under terms and conditions of the expired initial license. Additional annual licenses will automatically be issued in the future until a new license is issued, or FERC decides otherwise.

Remaining Process
DWR and the signatories to the Settlement Agreement were encouraged when FERC staff recently issued a final environmental impact statement with a recommended alternative that accepted most of the Settlement Agreement proposals. The US Forest Service, while not signing the Settlement Agreement, also issued final conditions to be included in a new license that are consistent with the Settlement Agreement. In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a terrestrial Biological Opinion that relied on scientific information developed during the relicensing process. Among the few remaining process steps are issuance of a fisheries Biological Opinion, and release of a final environmental impact report leading to a WQ Certification for a new license. DWR anticipates that all required steps will be completed by mid 2008, leading to a new license order issued by FERC in that timeframe.

Interim Activities
While the majority of proposed actions in the Settlement Agreement await the issuance of a new license, DWR agreed to undertake several actions prior to license issuance. Using input from signatories, DWR has:

  • Performed an informational reconnaissance study of potential new license water temperature control alternatives.
  • Initiated a report on regional whitewater boating opportunities.
  • Dispersed initial funds for the Project Supplemental Benefits Funds.
  • Helped rescind a boating speed restriction on part of the Thermalito AfterBay.
  • Upgraded contractual funding for management of the Oroville Wildlife Area.
  • Negotiated contracts with agencies and PG&E for regional habitat expansion to benefit endangered salmon and trout.
  • Established a License Coordination Unit in Oroville as a focal point for pre- license and new license activity.
  • Immediately implemented select measures under a new terrestrial Biological Opinion associated with the proposed new license

Additional information on the progress associated with obtaining a new license can be obtained by emailing: orovillep2100@water.ca.gov