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HomeMy WebLinkAbout11/15/2022 Item 7a, DonatiMMEM On behalf of the Edna Valley Growers Mutual Water Company, a non-profit public benefit mutual water company formed for the purpose of securing projects that augment the water supply for the Edna Valley Basin, we respectfully submit the following comments regarding the study session on recycled water maximization. We are pleased that this item is before you after many years of discussion. While the report Is a starting point for assessinv the Citill's interests, we believe that there is ��rior Council action that must be considered,—cL,�dfiL*in7*ixit-jr-Awt and clarcation for points addressed in the staff report. Since the start of the city's production of recycled water, the amount produced has exceeded the amount the City could use including the quantity required to be discharged in Son Luis Creek for environmental purposes, This excess recycled water has also been dumped into Son Luis Creek and sent to the Pacific Ocean. Over the years, the excess wasted to the ocean has averaged more than 1,000 AF annually, or total estimated at over 16,000 AF In 2009, agricultural interests in the Edna Valley initiated discussions with the City to redirect the excess recycled water going to the ocean to instead go to the Edna Valley to supplement water resources. The City and its residents nY ve long recognized the significance of the Valley as part of Greenbelt to the City, which includes most irrigated land in the Edna Va 11 ey. G oat 8.1 of the Conservation and Open Space Element notes that the city should "secure N 4" For this reason, City staff and prior City Councils have long recognized the value to maximize the use of this water, including for use outside of city limits. In 2014, in its grant application to the State to upgrade the Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF), the City supported its application In part by proposing to distribute recycled water to "the Edna Valley irrigation area." This 2017 Recycled Master Water Plan. On March 21, 2017, the City approved the.2017 Recycled Master Water Plan; and also passed a resolution to authorize staff to negotiate an agreement for the delivery of recycled water outside the city limits consistent with the policies and findings identified in the General Plan. The staff report noted that "agricultural interests had approached staff" for recycled water. Staff pointed out that such delivery outside the City limits was with the goal of enhancing the Greenbelt and with the City policy which limited the delivery of recycled water outside the City limits only if the following findings could be met under Land Use Element 1.13.2: ANon-potable/recycled water is necessary to support continued agricultural operations, BProvision of non-potable/recycled water will not be used to increase development potential of the property being served. C. Non-potable/recycled water will not be further treated to make it potable. D. Prior to provision of non-potable/recycled water, the property to be served will record a conservation, open space, Williamson Act, or other easement instrument to maintain the area being served in agriculture and open space while recycled water is being provided. Given the Council direction, discussions in earnest began between the growers and staff. In 2019, the growers submitted a written "no risk" offer in which the growers would install the pipeline to bring water to the Edna Valley at no cost to the City and would take water only when it exceeded the City's needs. The offer also proposed to cover all costs to move the water into the Edna Valley, Unfortunately, no progress on Council -directed negotiations have been made as the City needed to do the necesscry due diligence to study the issue. This coupled with the pandemic appears to have delayed the City from moving forward. All the while, water is wastefully being diverted out to the ocean, According to the 2020 Urban Water Plan, the WRRP produces 2.9 MGD, with approximately 1.2 MGD available for reuse (approximately 1,400 AFY) after accounting for the required discharge into San Luis Creek. In 2020, the City estimated that 245 AFY was being utilized within the City and the balance (the "excess") of over ],100 AFY was lost down Son Luis Creek into the ocean. Urgency for a plan has only increased. On AprilGovernor Newsom issued an emergency Executive Order N-7-22 which sought to eliminate any wasteful water practices, specifically directing the Water Board to "expand inspections to determine whether illegal diversions or wasteful or unreasonable use of water are occurring and bring enforcement actions against illegal diverters and those engaging in the wasteful and unreasonable use of water" The Edna basin could be an important beneficiary for short term – and long term - recycled water uses. In December 9021, the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) adopted its Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for submission to the State. The GSP estimated that the Edna basin had a 1,000 AF overdraft. One of the projects to help achieve sustomability listed in the GSP is delivery of City recycled water to Ednct Valley for ag irrigation. A key finding in the GSP is that the Edna basin has over 40,000 AF of unused storage capacity. This huge asset is available for a future Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) protect and the growers have offered to provide all the necessary easements to implement the IRR infrastructure. In addition, the growers funded a study by Tim Cleath (Cleath-Harris Geologists) that located the best imection sites and determined that an IPR project appeared feasible. thggp� nr,- hinir ritUir post Council actions, including the 2017 resolution that we believe is still in force to negotiate with the growers for use ►: excess recycled water, MZMHE��MMMMM=iMli (A) Policy Considerations We believe staff's policy considerations are based on a faulty analysis of the required findings for delivery of recycled water outside the City limits. I ) To direct delivery of recycled water Land Use Element Policy 1. 13.2 Sections (B) and (D) read together do not restrict the development of ag water on the receiving ag parcel—they only restrict non-ag development on the receiving ag property. Section (B) does not refer to other parcels. Significantly, Section (D) requires easements such as Williamson Act contracts which preserve ag use and prohibit non-og uses such as residential or commercial developments. Staff mistakenly reasons that "development potential" includes ag development—that recycled water cannot be used to enhance ag. No Williamson Act contracts restricts the use of water for ag. We believe that the clear intent of the City policies is to prevent the use of recycled water to convert ag land to the development of residential or commercial purpose& The GSA will regulate this water usage for ag parcels. 2) As to an IPR project based on taking advantage of the vast storage capacity in the Edna Valley. Here staff misconstrues Section (C), which forbids treatment of recycled water to potable water, to apply to City water. Again, the intent of Policy 1.13.2 is to prevent the conversion of ag to non-ag related development. Allowing an ag owner to convert non -potable to potable water would clearly have growth - inducing potential. But to apply Section (C) to prevent conversion to potable through IPR for the benefit of the City is illogical and beyond a fair reading of Section CC), especially when considered together with the other provisions of Policy 1. 13.2 that encourage the development of ag and the enhancement of the Green Belt. Any IPR in Edna Valley would involve a "leave back" percentage for use by ag. This portion is the "storage fee" for use of the Basin and the GSA would have control over this portion to make certain it is used for ag. Staff's approach undermines both the GSA and the County, Under SOMA, the GSA has authority over water use to achieve sustainability in the Basin. And the County has jurisdiction over land use in the County, which in fact is very restrictive on non-ag development on ag zoned parcels. For example, County ag zoning permits only two houses for each parcel that would receive recycled water. So rather than seemingly attempting to condition the delivery of recycled water to the Edna Valley on • policies that • based on misapplication of City policies, let's allow the GSA and the County to perform their respective roles. Discussion around pricing for outside -city sales requires Council direction. Since 2017, the agricultural community in the Edna Valley has had some discussions with staff and presented pricing proposals based on surveys of pricing by governmental agencies for recycled water to ag around the State. Staff has indicated such pricing ($250-$300 AF) is too low but has never countered. After several years of effort, even the current study does not provide guidance on the costs anticipated with the different proposals, Whatever option as listed, or other pricing options that may be considered, the suggestion of adding a profit is misplaced. Edna Valley ag has offered to monetize the surplus water otherwise going to the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, the City and its residents have long identified the economic and social benefit of enhancing the City's Greenbelt and have made significant investments to further the Greenbelt based on this prioritizotion. A sustainable Greenbelt that can thrive should be considered as sufficient benefit for City residents. (C) Funding Requests Staff seeks feedback on funding requests for both inside and outside City projects. As to the one outside City project that is identified in the GP—the delivery of recycled water to the Edna Valley for cig irrigation purposes—there is potentially $14,000,000 available for the Round 2 D grant program which has an application deadline of December 16, 2022. The County is seeking grant money for all the other water augmentation projects listed in the GSP and is willing and able to take the lead and work with City to apply for a grant to facilitate recycled water to the Edna Valley, This is a zero -match opportunity for the City to take advantage of grant dollars for critical study and implementation to diversify local supplies and improving resilience, We urge Council to consider this opportunity and direct staff to participate. In conclusion, we urge you to take action on the Council's 2017 action to negotiate recycled water sales to the Edna Valley basin. It's been nearly six years since this directive. We request that the City begin meaningfully collaborating with your neighbors to address the short-term needs (at least eight years) while designing the future that serves both residents and the City's Greenbelt. We appreciate your consideration and welcome further discussion. t. Sincerely, V George Don 'ad'-', Vice President Edna Valley Growers MWC