Control valve for one of the six pumps at the Central Valley Project's Jones Pumping Plant at the southern end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The purpose of the tour was to educate the committee members and let them engage with the District staff and two Board members (Nai Hsueh and Linda LeZotte) about the water pumping, storage and conveyance infrastructure in place to obtain this imported water. More importantly it also showed us what's needed to maintain the continuance of supply tapped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I was invited as a retired Director, although lately I've been advertising Being Unretired. During self-introductions, I said I was with the tour to also discuss how the SCVWD can rely LESS on the Delta imports and more on locally produced recycled water. I also said that we need to protect the quality of our valuable local groundwater basin by creating a Coyote Valley Organic Farming Preserve.
My seat mate on the tour bus was Mark Turner, President of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, who was brand new to the job and eager to learn more about our valley's water resources management. Sitting next to Professor Ferraro and right behind the staff and Board members, he was in a great place to do just that.
The San Felipe Aqueduct draws water from Los Banos Grande Reservoir by a 300 ft lift station at the west end of the reservoir. Twelve- 2,000 HP pumps push the water up to a terminal tank, which feeds the tunnels,. The tunnels were drilled by a Federal contractor through the Gabilan Mountains, between 1978 and 1987. Pipelines take the water south to San Benito County Water District and north to Santa Clara Valley Water District, terminating at a 12,000 HP pump station at the base of Andersen Dam in Morgan Hill.
The primary reason for this tour became clearer as our second stop was on the banks of the Sacramento River near the town of Hood, about 10 miles south of California's Capitol City of Sacramento. Visiting this site gives me the same feeling I had after walking through a Civil War battlefield. It was here that the Peripheral Canal would have diverted water from the Sacramento River, if a 1982 referendum had not stopped its construction. In many ways this was a Civil War in the Bear Republic of California. While the pumping from the Delta had been ongoing for decades, Delta and Northern California interests were calling the Peripheral Canal a water grab by Southern California. The referendum campaign demonized San Joaquin farmers and other water contractors south of the Delta as extravagant water wasters, undeserving of this precious water supply they had grown used to over the past decades.
Thirty-some years later, Governor Jerry Brown's Administration 2.0 is again trying to fix the Delta ecosystems and make water deliveries south of the Delta more reliable. This time, knowing both the opposition and the future impacts of sea level rise, the proposed water bypass is a pair of twin tunnels to deliver cleaner water to the pumps in the South Delta. The co-equal goal with water delivery reliability is ecosystem restoration. Returning 140,000 acres of farmland to aquatic habitat will enable fisheries to re-establish healthy and sustainable communities in the greatly human-modified environment of today's Delta.
The tour stopped for lunch at an East Bay Regional Park named Big Break Visitor Center at the Delta in Oakley and adjacent to a now-flooded island, which was ironically already called "Big Break." The most fascinating feature in the park was a walkable 2500 sq ft. relief map of the Delta and surrounding area, from Mt. Diablo to Sacramento.
After lunch, we watched some incredible animation of a simulation of multiple levee failures, which are likely to happen during a severe earthquake. The presenter, former DWR employee and Metropolitan Water District consultant Curt Schmutte, outlined the key threats to the Delta levees as well as the stressors to the aquatic ecosystem.
Similar discussions are going on in every water-related venue and gathering. Ellen Hanak of PPIC created this slide:
These realities are difficult to overcome but the same conversation is again taking place as the State and its many Delta water users propose to address the problems. The Delta farmers lead the pack of oppositional sectors. They simply want to maintain the status quo, and continue to have the state fix their levees so the water quality will be protected and the Delta remain an artificially-maintained fresh water pool.
The Delta farmers align themselves with fishing groups, recreational boating interests, and some, but not all, environmental groups. While some NGO's have been deeply involved in developing today's proposed solutions, others won't risk their reputation (and their donor base) to try to educate the public on this very complex problem and the range of solutions being suggested to fix California's biggest water management headache.
Our final stop on the Delta tour was what all this discussion was leading to- keeping the pumps already built in the South Delta running. We toured the Jones Pumping Plant, built by the US Bureau of Reclamation around 1950, to pump Delta water into a canal which flows upstream in the San Joaquin Valley to the Mendota Pool. This makes 3 million acres of desert bloom with billions of dollars worth of crops.
During our tour, only three of the six pumps were operating, delivering only 5,000 ac-ft of water into the Delta-Mendota Canal. Here's a short video of what one pump sounds like:
• C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant lies at the terminus of the Delta Cross Channel and moves water into the Delta-Mendota Canal.
• The plant has six separate pumps, built from 1947 to 1951.
• Each pump, powered by a 22,250 hp motor, lifts up to 767 cfs of water 197 ft into three 15 ft-diameter pipes that lead to the Delta-Mendota Canal, for a combined capacity of 4,602 cfs (9,200 ac-ft/day)
• The Delta-Mendota Canal carries water 117 miles upstream through the San Joaquin Valley, terminating at the Mendota Pool, a reservoir on the San Joaquin River.
SCVWD's costs for being the only water agency contracting with both the SWP and CVP is currently about $40 million per year. The estimated cost for the the BCDC facilities is estimated to be $580/ac-ft on top of our existing costs. Our contractual entitlements total 250,000 ac-ft of of the 6 million ac-ft of total export contracts, or about 4% of the total. The District currently estimates wholesale water rates in the North County to rise from $680/ac-ft to $1344/ac-ft in ten years.
As the title of this post suggests, the additional cost to keep the Delta pumps and their butterfly valves operating will be a very long way from free.