Compiled by Signal staff
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency welcomed the news that the California Department of Water Resources has taken a major step forward to make the state’s water system more resilient to climate change and natural disasters while protecting and enhancing the environment in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, SCV Water announced in a news release.
DWR last week released the final environmental empact report for the Delta Conveyance Project – a critical climate adaptation strategy to modernize existing State Water Project infrastructure in the Delta.
The proposed project’s Bethany Alignment will help the State Water Project safely capture, move and store water amid the rapid swings between wet and dry conditions that have become California’s new normal as the state’s climate changes.
“Following intense evaluation by scientists and engineers over several years, it is clear that this project is necessary to provide increased water security for the 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland depending on it,” the SCV Water release said.
“It is important to recognize the essential role played by water sourced from the State Water Project in the overall supply portfolio that sustains our community. The State Water Project is a significant ongoing investment our community has made over decades,” SCV Water General Manager Matt Stone said in the release. “The Delta Conveyance Project further reinforces this lifeline, and in conjunction with water storage and banking investments offers critical support during dry periods in our valley.”
Stone added: “These vital initiatives ensure a reliable and resilient water supply, safeguarding our future and providing for the well-being of the people we serve in the Santa Clarita Valley. In the intricate dance of water management, these projects are the choreography that keeps our community flourishing and thriving.”
SCV Water continues to rely on the State Water Project to provide needed water supplies for the region. In an average year, about half of the SCV’s water is imported, primarily through the State Water Project.
“The agency is excited to see California reach this important milestone to modernize the state’s aging Delta infrastructure, accommodate new climate extremes and ensure reliable supplies are available for all SCV Water customers,” the release said. “The agency looks forward to seeing this final EIR certified so the modernization work can begin that will carry the State Water Project into the next century.”
The DWR announced in its news release about the EIR’s release that the project was redesigned following public input and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledge “of rightsizing the project to one tunnel to better support both environmental and water supply needs.”
By 2040, California is expected to lose 10% of its water supply due to hotter temperatures, the DWR release said. During January’s atmospheric rivers, the Delta Conveyance Project could’ve captured enough water for 2.3 million people’s yearly usage. Until this year, the state faced its three driest years on record.
Extreme weather whiplash will result in more intense swings between droughts and floods, the DWR release said, adding that California’s 60-year-old State Water Project infrastructure is not built for these climate effects.
The environmental review included a 142-day public comment period in which DWR received more than 700 letters and 7,000 individual comments. Outreach began in 2020 and has included a multitude of webinars, workshops, briefings, multi-language informational materials, email updates, videos, animations, tabling at local events, and a comprehensive Delta survey. The Final EIR responds to all substantive comments, the DWR release said.
“We worked hard to address local concerns and made considerable improvements to minimize terrestrial species effects, wetland impacts, noise, air quality impacts, traffic, power needs, boating and waterway effects, land disturbance, and overall project footprint,” Carrie Buckman, the project’s environmental program manager, said in the DWR release.
An EIR evaluates and discloses to public agency decision makers and the public the potential environmental impacts, and identifies feasible mitigation measures to avoid, minimize, or otherwise offset potentially significant impacts.
Proposed responses to comments, as well as the Final EIR and accompanying informational resources, can be accessed at www.deltaconveyanceproject.com. This action signifies the last step DWR is required to take under the California Environmental Quality Act prior to deciding whether to certify the EIR and approve the proposed project.
The final EIR was prepared by DWR as the lead agency to comply with the requirements of CEQA. The final EIR is presented in two volumes: 1) the contents of the entire draft EIR, as revised, and 2) all comments received on the draft EIR and responses to substantive comments.
At the conclusion of the CEQA process, DWR will determine if the final EIR has been completed in compliance with CEQA and whether to certify that the final EIR reflects DWR’s independent judgment and analysis. Following certification of the final EIR, DWR will then use the information in it to assist in determining whether to approve the proposed project, an alternative or no project.