Meeting Date:

August 17, 2015





David J. Stoldt


Operations Modeling


General Manager

Line Item No.:      1-1-2




Prepared By:

Larry Hampson

Cost Estimate:

$600,000 for FY 2015-16 (reimbursable)


General Counsel Approval:  N/A

Committee Recommendation:  The Water Supply Planning Committee reviewed this item on August 4, 2015 and recommended approval with a vote of 3 to 0. 

CEQA Compliance:  N/A


SUMMARY: California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Decision D.15-04-007 in the 2015-17 General Rate Case (GRC) includes approval for California American Water (Cal-Am) to co-fund up to $1 million over the three-year GRC period for the District to complete a detailed feasibility study to determine the ultimate fate of Los Padres Dam.  The proposed scope of work would include studies focused on: 1) the feasibility of constructing adult steelhead upstream passage improvements; 2) future Cal-Am Carmel River operations and flow availability; 3) potential changes in steelhead habitat; 4) sediment management options and potential downstream effects of an increased sediment load.  The primary question Cal-Am wants to answer is whether the Carmel River and the steelhead fishery are better off with or without Los Padres Dam and Reservoir. 


A draft reimbursement agreement between the District and Cal-Am is attached as Exhibit 17-A.  Cal-Am supports the District in moving forward with the scope of work; however, a legal review of the agreement by Cal-Am has not been completed.  Work on this project is proposed for Fiscal Years 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18.  Requested funding for FY 2015-16 is $600,000.  Additional funding in Fiscal Years 2016-17 and 2017-18 would be requested as part of the District’s annual budget development.  District expenses for work under this agreement would be 100% reimbursable and would include a portion of staff costs for administering consultant contracts.


RECOMMENDATION:  If this item is approved, the Board will authorize the General Manager to enter into an agreement for California American Water to co-fund up to $1 million over three years for studies to evaluate long-term options for the future of Los Padres Dam and Reservoir.  The General Manager would be authorized to make non-substantive changes to the draft agreement.


DISCUSSION:  In April 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provided the following direction to California American Water (Cal-Am):

“As a first step towards protecting S-CCC steelhead, NMFS strongly encourages CAW to resolve the fish passage and other potential take issues at LPD by completing a thorough feasibility study on the merits of either: 1) entirely removing the dam and restoring the reservoir area to its original environs; or 2) improving the dam with appropriate permanent fish passage modifications that allow for unimpeded, safe and effective, upstream and downstream migration of all life stages of S-CCC steelhead.”


Subsequently, Cal-Am filed two requests with the CPUC in its 2015-17 General Rate Case to address these issues.  The CPUC approved $4.2 million to construct downstream steelhead passage improvements at Los Padres Dam and directed Cal-Am to co-fund with MWPMD a detailed feasibility study on the long-term fate of the dam.  The downstream steelhead passage improvements are scheduled for construction during the summer of 2015. In addition to work described in the GRC, if the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) accepts the proposal to modify Cease and Desist Order 2009-0060, Cal-Am would conduct a study of the existing trap and truck operation for adult steelhead at the base of Los Padres Dam to determine if short-term improvements can be made for upstream migration; however, resolving steelhead passage issues for all life stages is complicated by the height of the lift (about 120 feet) as well as the need to pass fish through the existing dam.  Cal-Am has requested that work authorized in the 2015-17 GRC to study fish passage improvements and the question of dam removal be accelerated into the initial year of the project.  The proposed studies will provide a scientific basis to address these concerns. 


The Water Supply Planning Committee reviewed the proposal for long term studies on August 4, 2015 and suggested the following about the dam and reservoir:



GRC Studies


1.                  Upstream Volitional Steelhead Passage – All Life Stages. At 120 feet in height, Los Padres Dam is comparable to several dams in the Pacific Northwest that have working fish ladders; however, a complicating factor at Los Padres Dam is the relatively wide range of reservoir elevations that can occur.  This study would focus on gathering existing topographic and hydrologic data; analyzing feasible alternatives to provide passage; developing a preliminary cost estimate; and establishing Division of Safety of Dams requirements.  If construction of a fish ladder is found to be feasible, Cal-Am could include a request to carry out improvements in a future general rate case application.


2.                  Water Availability Analyses – This study consists of using the proposed GSFLOW model for the Carmel Valley (a linked surface water and groundwater computer model currently under development) to simulate Carmel River flows under different assumptions about surface storage at Los Padres Reservoir and future Cal-Am operations.  It is anticipated that several scenarios would be evaluated that range from no surface storage (i.e., the dam removal alternative) to enlargement of surface storage at the site.  Analyses would include future Cal-Am operations along the Carmel River with new water supply projects to replace existing unauthorized diversions.  The focus would be on generating daily flow data at several points along the river between LP Dam and Highway 1 and comparing the number of days that the river flows (and the flow level) at each point under different assumptions about surface storage and Cal-Am operations.  The effect of varying levels of surface storage on flow availability for Aquifer Storage and Recovery and water supply could also be evaluated.


3.                  Analysis of Carmel River Flow and Steelhead Habitat – This study would complement the water availability analysis by using the output data from that study to compare steelhead habitat conditions under different assumed surface storage volumes and operations scenarios.  The District’s Instream Flow Incremental Method study (currently under development) would be used to evaluate changes in habitat value due to different assumptions about surface storage, releases to the river, and Cal-Am operations.


4.         Analysis of the Geomorphic Effects of Sediment Releases – The effect of sediment releases (e.g., from maintenance dredging or dam removal) to the downstream reaches would be qualitatively evaluated.  Such effects as erosion, flooding, river meandering and braiding, and habitat change would be considered.  A pilot dredging study to determine particle sizes and constraints to dredging may be carried out.  The timing, magnitude, and extent of these effects may be key factors in determining whether an increase in sediment load may be feasible.


Additional Studies


Although not explicitly described in the GRC proposal, the long-term liability associated with various alternatives for Los Padres Dam should be evaluated and included when considering a decision about the future of Los Padres Dam.  All alternatives for Los Padres Dam, including “do nothing”, dam modification, and dam removal pose significant legal questions and there are varying levels of both benefits and potential liabilities associated with downstream sediment impacts, changes in water quality, changes in water supply, and compliance with various laws including the Endangered Species Act.  An effort to quantify liabilities and describe methods to reduce risk would be conducted by District staff and provided to the Board as a separate item.



17-A    Draft Implementation Agreement for Los Padres Dam Long-Term Plan Project (I15-400101) Covering Calendar Years 2015 - 2017