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San Luis Low Point Improvement Project Activities

Past project activities

On May 1, 2001, the district’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 2001-34, accepting a Proposition 13 grant from the State of California for the San Luis Bypass and Storage project (later to be renamed San Luis Low-Point Improvement Project); a letter agreement was signed and a district representative was designated to administer the project, whereby the district acted as the project Lead Agency.
From 2001 to 2003, through initial studies and public input, the district identified 75 initial conceptual alternatives to address the San Luis Reservoir low-point problem. Using a multi-level screening process, the list was narrowed down to the following 7 alternatives: 

  • Algae management (using algaecide application or harvesting) 
  • Water Treatment Alternatives (utilizing Dissolved Air Flotation) 
  • Construction of a Bypass pipeline 
  • Extending and lowering the San Felipe intake pipe 
  • Expanding Pacheco Creek Reservoir 
  • Combination Alternative (including modified operations of existing reservoirs, desalination and other water supply planning efforts) 
  • No action/no project

On Sept. 16 and 18, 2003, the district held informational meetings in Sunnyvale and Morgan Hill, respectively, regarding the 7 alternatives. The meetings helped to identify issues to consider during the environmental review process.

Some of the issues identified during the two September meetings included: 

  • Concern that all potential solutions to the low-point problem will result in San Luis Reservoir being drawn down more than in the past. Concern that this could adversely affect fish in San Luis Reservoir, especially striped bass. 
  • Concern that this could adversely affect recreation of all types in San Luis Reservoir. 
  • Concern that the adverse effects on recreation and fisheries could affect the economy of the region. 
  • Concern that alternatives could pose a threat to wildlife in the San Luis Reservoir area. 
  •  Increased conservation programs are needed to reduce the demand for water.

The district’s stakeholder committee included a diverse group of interested parties, including water and agricultural interests, state and federal agencies, environmental interests and the business community. The district also established a Fisheries Work Group to address the potential effects of Low-Point Improvement Project alternatives on fisheries in San Luis Reservoir.

In 2003, the district developed the Draft Alternatives Screening Report. The report documents the development and screening of the alternatives to address the low-point issue. The District’s work under the DWR grant focused on three objectives:

  1. Increase the operational flexibility of San Luis Reservoir by increasing effective storage; 
  2. Ensure that the San Felipe Division contractors are able to use their annual CVP contract allocation to meet their water supply and water quality commitments; 
  3. Provide opportunities for project-related environmental and other improvements

Project transition
In October 2004, prior to the environmental review process, federal legislation was signed reauthorizing studies and implementation for CALFED conveyance programs, including the San Luis Reservoir Low-Point Improvement Project. As a result of this action, the project Lead Agency transitioned from the district to Reclamation.

Appraisal report
In 2006, the final Appraisal Report was released by the Reclamation. The purpose of the Appraisal Study was to identify problems and potential solutions related to low water levels and other water resources issues associated with San Luis Reservoir and its operation, and to determine if there was Federal interest in participating in a feasibility study to resolve the identified problems.

A recommendation was made in the Appraisal Report that a feasibility-level study be conducted.

Initial Alternatives Information Report (IAIR)
After the Appraisal Study was completed, Reclamation worked with project partners and stakeholders to develop an Initial Alternatives Information Report; this report was built upon information from the district’s Draft Alternatives Screening Report.
In 2008, the Initial Alternatives Information Report was released. This report documented the beginning phases of the plan development for the SLLPIP. The IAIR identified 87 management measures that may help address the low point issue, and screened these measures based on technical viability, institutional viability, and the ability to meet the project objectives. The remaining measures were combined to form 26 initial alternatives designed to perform well relative to the three project objectives (see above). The IAIR documented the evaluation of these alternatives based on how well they addressed the Federal criteria (completeness, effectiveness, acceptability, and efficiency). This evaluation produced 17 action alternatives that moved forward into the Plan Formulation Phase; 14 of them were eventually screened out, resulting in three action alternatives for more detailed analysis.

Plan Formulation Phase
The initial alternatives that were carried forward from the IAIR and were reviewed in the Plan Formulation Phase using the four federal planning criteria were narrowed to the following alternatives:

  • Lower San Felipe Intake 
  • Pacheco Reservoir 
  • Combination Alternative 
  • “No Action” Alternative

Alternatives Development

Environmental Impact Report-Environmental Impact Statement and Public Scoping
In August of 2008, the publication of a Notice of Intent (NOI) and a Notice of Preparation (NOP) initiated the formal environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). RECLAMATION and the district held public scoping meetings in September 2008 in San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Banos to receive comments on SLLPIP. All three meetings were held in an open house forum with information displays and handouts describing the project, alternatives under consideration, and the environmental process. Recurring themes indicated that the public are interested in these topics:

  • Future public involvement opportunities; 
  •  An expanded range of alternatives; 
  •  More detailed alternative descriptions; 
  •  Effect on Steelhead trout in the lower Pacheco Creek and recreational fish in San Luis Reservoir; 
  •  Effects on critical habitat and sensitive species 
  •  Taste and odor issues associated with algae 
  •  Recreational opportunities at O’Neil Forebay, San Luis Reservoir, and a new reservoir on Pacheco Creek; and 
  • Alternative means on increasing water supply

Information from the public scoping meetings was captured in the Environmental Scoping Report.

Current project activities
The investigation process underway for the SLLPIP includes engineering, environmental, economic, and financial evaluations The three proposed project alternatives that are undergoing further evaluation are as follows:

Lower San Felipe Intake Alternative

The Lower San Felipe Intake Alternative includes construction of a new, lower San Felipe Intake to allow reservoir drawdown to its minimum operating level without algae reach the San Felipe Intake.

Pacheco Reservoir Alternative

The Pacheco Reservoir Alternative includes expansion of the existing Pacheco Reservoir to provide storage for San Felipe Division contractors. Pacheco Reservoir would function similarly as San Luis Reservoir and store water from the Delta-Mendota Canal and California Aqueduct during the winter for release during the summer. During the low-point months, San Felipe Division contractors would receive water deliveries from Pacheco Reservoir.

Combination Alternative

The Combination Alternative includes multiple structural components and management measures to maximize operational flexibility and supply reliability in the San Felipe Division to address low point generated water supply curtailments and reductions. The Combination Alternative would include increased groundwater aquifer recharge and recovery capacity, desalination, institutional measures, and the re-operations of the district’s raw and treated water systems.

“No Action” Alternative

This alternative is the “do nothing” alternative.

The three proposed project alternatives are undergoing further evaluation for the Draft EIS/EIR and Feasibility Report (FR) which are scheduled for release in late 2009.

Completion on the EIS/EIR and FR are anticipated for late 2010.

Upcoming project activities

Prior to the release of the Draft EIS/EIR there will be agency and stakeholder meetings (keep checking ‘Public meetings, Notices and Opportunities for Public Input’) held to provide information on the project’s status, findings, and to address key topics of interest. It is anticipated that meetings will be held sometime in the fall 2009.

Upon the release of the Draft EIS/EIR and FR formal public hearing will be held to receive comment on the draft documents.