In 2009 CRSA was instrumental in the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issuing Water Order 2009-0060 ordering Cal Am to stop pumping water illegally from the Carmel River by December 31, 2016. Because of that order Cal Am started seriously working on a new water source for the Monterey Peninsula. That source was to be a new desal plant.
Because of numerous reasons that will not to be discussed here, in late 2014 it became apparent the new desal plant would not be ready by December 31, 2016. Cal Am organized a group of stakeholders to meet with the SWRCB to start discussions about extending Water Order 2009-0060.
CRSA was part of that stakeholder group and took the position that the best thing for steelhead would be to stop all illegal pumping and the excessive pumping to maintain water rights. Realizing that it is socially, economically and politically unrealistic for that to happen without a replacement water source, and realizing that even if Cal Am reduced pumping significantly the river would still have problems, the second best thing would be additional mitigation to help the fish during the extension and to help set the stage for recovery when water was no longer over-pumped from the river.
CRSA lobbied and took the lead in advocating for significant additional mitigations. Cal Am agreed to spend up to $2.5 million for additional mitigation if the Cease and Desist Order was extended. Working with Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and Cal Am, CRSA put together a list of mitigation items needed on the Carmel River. With input from National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and Cal Am, we determined which projects could obtain a permit and could be completed during the time the extension was to run. Cal Am agreed to the following list of mitigation items and approximate costs:
- Additional spawning gravel injections below Los Padres reservoir ($0.2 million).
- Improvements to the existing upstream fish passage ladder and trap at Los Padres Dam ($0.2 million).
- Installation of a fish screen at the lower outlet pipe on Los Padres Dam ($0.8 million).
- A pit tagging program ($0.8 million).
- A through-reservoir survival study for Los Padres Reservoir ($0.5 million).
Cal Am agreed to a total of $2.5 million. These projects will be done in the order listed and, if some take more money than expected, the last on the list will either be shortened or eliminated.
CRSA believes that when the listed mitigations are implemented, steelhead will be in a better position to recover once water is restored to the river.