ITEM:

PUBLIC HEARINGS

12.

RECEIVE ORAL COMMENT ON DRAFT EIR FOR MPWMD PHASE 1 AQUIFER STORAGE AND RECOVERY PROJECT

Meeting Date:

From:

David A. Berger,

Program/

N/A

General Manager

Line Item No.:

Prepared By:

Henrietta Stern

Cost Estimate:

N/A

Committee Recommendation:N/A

CEQA Compliance:  Part of CEQA process

SUMMARY:  On March 23, 2006, the District issued the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Assessment (EA) on the MPWMD Phase 1 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Project.  The EIR/EA is a combined document that meets California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.  The District is the lead agency under CEQA; the U.S. Army is the lead agency under NEPA.  District action only addresses the CEQA EIR component.

CEQA requires a minimum 45-day period for written comments on a Draft EIR.  The comment period ends on May 8, 2006.  A public hearing to receive oral or written comments is also encouraged, and was set for the April 17, 2006 regular Board meeting.   The notice shown in Exhibit 12-A has been provided to several dozen entities regarding the availability of the EIR/EA and the comment deadlines.  News articles have also highlighted the availability of the document.  This information, along with the Executive Summary of the EIR/EA and a detailed impact table, is also on the District website:  http://www.mpwmd.dst.ca.us/asr/EIREA_NOCmailer_031706.htm.

Printed copies of the EIR/EA are available at local libraries and the District office for review.  MPWMD Board members received printed copies of the EIR/EA on March 31, 2006.  Many public agencies have received courtesy CD copies of the EIR/EA.  Individual copies may be purchased for the cost of reproduction ($100 for paper or$5 for CD).

RECOMMENDATION:  The Board should hold a public hearing to receive oral or written comments on the EIR.  No action is needed.  The comments will be summarized and consolidated with other written comments received through May 8, 2006.  District consultants and staff will then prepare a Final EIR, including required Responses to Comments, Mitigation and Monitoring Plan, and CEQA Findings.  Certification of the Final EIR is expected to occur at the June 19, 2006 Board meeting if comments are minimal and few revisions are needed.  Certification would occur in July 2006 or later if comments are more voluminous and/or raise more complex substantive issues.

BACKGROUND:  In September 2004, the Board directed staff to initiate preparation of an EIR on the District’s ASR project.  Contract amendments with Jones & Stokes Associates (JSA) and Padre Associates were approved in October 2004.  A Notice of Preparation (NOP) of an EIR was issued on December 13, 2004, and public hearings to receive oral comments on the NOP were held on January 12, 2005.  At its February 24, 2005 meeting, the Board received a formal Scoping Report summarizing the NOP comments.   At its March 21, 2005 meeting, the Board provided direction to staff on the ASR project description and revised scope of work for the EIR, in light of the NOP comments and several coordination meetings with local agencies and Cal-Am.  Please see the Board packet materials for February 24, March 21, and April 18, 2005 for detailed information.  This information is also on the District website: www.mpwmd.dst.ca.us.

The December 2004 NOP originally envisioned environmental review of three phases, with emphasis on a smaller Phase 1 project to be implemented within one year of project approval.  Based on public comments and Board direction in March 2005, the EIR narrowed its focus to Phase 1 (one additional well at existing test site within the next 1-2 years).  Future EIRs will address Phases 2 and 3, once more information is known about regional water project, infrastructure, and land use plans. Also, the environmental document became a combined EIR/EA as suggested by the U.S. Army.

The MPWMD Phase 1 project is focused on better management of existing water resources to help reduce current impacts to the Carmel River and Seaside Basins.  The project is viewed as being complementary to other larger, long-term water augmentation projects that are currently being explored by various entities.  The project entails a maximum diversion of 2,400 acre-feet per year (AFY) from the Carmel River for injection, a maximum extraction of 2,000 AFY from the ASR wells in the Seaside Basin, and an average yield of about 1,050 AFY.  The proposed operation of the Phase 1 ASR Project would result in reduced pumping of the Carmel River in the Summer/Fall and increased storage in the Seaside Basin, which are considered to be environmentally beneficial.

Administrative draft versions of the EIR/EA were completed in Fall 2005.  The Army requested two time extensions for review and provided its comments on December 6, 2005.  In mid-December 2005, District consultants addressed the Army comments, revised and expanded the cumulative impacts section to include other projects known to exist or are planned in the ASR project area, including a temporary pipeline under construction by Cal-Am, and incorporated information provided by the Army regarding hazardous materials and biology.

In Fall 2004, Cal-Am requested District assistance to obtain federal approvals to construct a temporary pipeline along General Jim Moore Boulevard.  District staff filed for an easement with the U.S. Army on Cal-Am’s behalf and helped Cal-Am obtain an encroachment  agreement for the pipeline from the City of Seaside.   The pipeline is important because it will foster operational flexibility to enable water delivery to and extraction of recharged water from the existing MPWMD ASR test well without affecting other nearby components of the Cal-Am system, and will help maximize the performance of the proposed Phase 1 ASR well.

On December 22, 2005, a meeting between the staffs of the U.S. Army, MPWMD and Cal-Am was held to: (1) confirm from the Army that the EIR/EA document for Phase 1 ASR was ready for public review; and (2) clarify and distinguish permit process for Cal-Am temporary pipeline from the Phase 1 ASR project.  At the meeting, the Army staff confirmed that the MPWMD document addressed their comments and was ready for release.  However, the Army also indicated that a permit (easement) for the Phase 1 ASR project could not be issued until an Environmental Assessment (rather than a simple exemption) was prepared for the Cal-Am temporary pipeline pursuant to NEPA.   The Army position in December 2005 was a significant, substantial change from previous direction to both MPWMD and Cal-Am in consultations conducted in early 2005, and resulted in several months of delay.  The Army recommended that the Cal-Am temporary pipeline information be incorporated into the chapters of the MPWMD Phase 1 ASR project as the most efficient way to facilitate issuance of two separate permits – one to MPWMD for the ASP Project and one to Cal-Am for the temporary pipeline.   Cal-Am agreed in January 2006 to separately pay Jones & Stokes to add the pipeline information into the District’s EIR.  The new information was incorporated, then reviewed by MPWMD, Cal-Am and the Army prior to formal release for public review on March 23, 2006.

IMPACT ON STAFF/RESOURCES: Current contracts with District consultants include time to read, consolidate and address comments on the Draft EIR.  Contract amendments could be required if unanticipated substantive issues are raised.  It is hoped that the likelihood of such comments is low given the high level of review of several versions of the administrative draft EIR/EA.

EXHIBITS

Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment, and Notice of Public Hearing for MPWMD Phase 1 Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project

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H. STERN 4/11/06 with DAB edits