Adopt Resolution of Appreciation for the Carmel area wastewater district’s efforts to augment CARMEL RIVER lagoon water levels during summer 2004


Meeting Date:

October 18, 2004





David A. Berger,

General Manager


Line Item No:

2.5  Lagoon Mitigation Activities


Prepared By:


Joe Oliver/

Dave Dettman

Cost Estimate:



General Counsel Approval:  N/A

Committee Recommendation:  N/A

CEQA Compliance:  N/A


SUMMARY:  In response to unexpected low water level conditions at the Carmel River Lagoon (Lagoon) in July 2004, several federal, state and local agencies were in close contact with each other and with District staff to discuss potential causes and temporary solutions to increase water levels for the protection of threatened steelhead without adversely affecting a small population of threatened red-legged frogs.  Given the potential for significant adverse effects to these species due to the variable water levels and high salinity, the Carmel Area Wastewater District (CAWD) acted quickly and decisively to overcome technical and regulatory obstacles in order to raise Lagoon water levels.  Accordingly, CAWD officials should be recognized for their actions to augment and manage Lagoon water levels for the protection of threatened species and for their efforts and coordination to restore environmental conditions in and around the Lagoon.  A proposed resolution of appreciation for these efforts is included as Exhibit 4-A.


RECOMMENDATION:  The Board should consider adopting the proposed resolution of appreciation (Exhibit 4-A) for presentation to CAWD officials.


BACKGROUND:  District staff has been closely tracking Lagoon water levels since noting a distinct pattern of declining water levels in early July 2004 (Exhibit 4-B).  Declining Lagoon water levels are a normal occurrence for this time of the year, yet the levels observed in early July were at or near the record annual low for the dry season and were running about 14-21 days ahead of levels during other similar hydrologic years.  In addition to staff’s observations, which are based on the 13-year record from the District’s continuous Lagoon water level recorder located in the South Arm of the Lagoon, staff had received several reports of concern regarding low water levels from members of the Carmel River Steelhead Association (CRSA), based on anecdotal evidence from years of experience observing conditions in and around the Lagoon.  Because the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) began excavation activities in late June 2004 associated with a major project to expand the Lagoon to its former extent prior to agricultural development, there was concern that the excavation activities may have accelerated the observed decline in water levels. Notwithstanding the debate about probable causes of the low water levels, the MPWMD and state/federal resource agencies quickly formulated a list of potential sources of freshwater to temporarily augment the seepage of groundwater into the Lagoon, including pumping freshwater from an inactive CDPR well near Highway One, pumping water from the newly expanded south arm of the lagoon, and spreading of reclaimed wastewater from CAWD’s tertiary treatment plant.  In particular, CAWD investigated their options to provide highly treated wastewater and found that their permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board allowed them to discharge onto dry land as a beneficial use.  This determination, the availability of the treated wastewater and the dry nature of the Carmel River streambed meant that they could discharge wastewater into the Carmel River channel, near the treatment plant. Following a series of negotiations and decisions among affected agencies’ staff about the safe water levels to protect red-legged frogs, the CAWD operators have been able to discharge a total of 37.5 Acre-Feet of treated wastewater onto the wetlands surrounding the Lagoon. (Exhibit 4-C)  The benefits of providing this water were proximate and noticeable, as the Lagoon water surface elevation rose significantly with each application of wastewater.   For example, during the week of July 25-31 the water level rose from a minimum of 2.55 feet on July 26 to 3.42 feet on July 28 in direct association with the discharge of 12.8 AF of recycled water during the period from July 25-27, 2004 (Exhibit 4-D).



4-A      Resolution 2004–16   Resolution of Appreciation to the Carmel Area Wastewater District for Efforts to Augment Water Levels in the Carmel River Lagoon during Summer 2004

4-B      Water Surface Elevations in the Carmel River Lagoon, July 1 – September 1, 2004

4-C      Dates, Times, Duration and Quantity of tertiary treated recycled water discharged to Lagoon wetlands and Carmel River channel from the Carmel Area Wastewater District Treatment Plant, July – October 2004

4-D      Water Surface Elevations in the Carmel River Lagoon, July 25 – August 1, 2004