Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Rising Cost of Using Delta Water In Santa Clara Valley Water District


Santa Teresa Water Treatment Plant Sedimentation Basin in Almaden Valley
Photo Note: That green tint in the water is actually the algae that grows due to the high-nutrient discharge of farm runoff into the Delta and then concentrated in San Luis Reservoir. When the depth gets low enough, as it is now, the light penetration causes the reservoir to bloom. In order to avoid objectionable taste and odors in our drinking water, we must remove the algae at our local treatment plants, using expensive carbon filters. Think a 100 million gallon per day Brita filter.

Our first taste of imported water in Santa Clara County was almost free to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Since investor-owned water companies, like San Jose Water Company, were blocked by federal legislation from purchasing water from San Francisco's Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct, cities along the South Bay's shore formed municipal water departments and contracted directly with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commision to buy water. Today, those contracts supply 15% of the county's water, although the cost of that supply will rise 400% to pay for the $4 Billion in bonds sold by SF to rebuild most of the 90-year-old system. 

This situation would present a problem for the Santa Clara Valley Water District if those municipal water departments began pumping cheaper groundwater into their service areas to avoid paying the higher costs for Hetch Hetchy supply. However, the price gap will be short-lived as the price for the Water District's supply will be increasing at a similar rate over the next decade or two, and billions of dollars are expended both inside and outside the county to continue to obtain another 40% of our water supply from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

While Proposition 1 was passed last November by the State's voters, allowing sale of $7.5 billion of bonds to pay for adding more storage and building local options for water to address future water needs, other infrastructure projects in the Delta were not included in the recent bond measure. These facilities will be part of a fifty-year permit issued as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for Delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) recently released a 30,000-page environmental impact document detailing the baseline as it exists today and plans for fixing this broken ecosystem and mitigating the interwoven stressors, which have caused a half dozen native fish species to be listed on the Endangered Species Act. Biological opinions filed by State and Federal Fish and Wildlife agencies caused the pumping by the State and Federal water projects in the southern Delta to be severely curtailed.

The present value estimates for the BDCP program, including new conveyance facilities is $15.4 billion plus $2.3 billion in operating and maintenance costs over 50 years. Santa Clara County will be responsible for about 4% of those costs as their proportional share of the contract entitlements for the water pumped by the State Water Project and the Federal Central Valley Project, as Santa Clara Valley Water District is the only water agency in the state to have contracts with both systems. The Water District estimates that we will spend $228 million locally over the next 10 years to increase reliability of our Delta water supplies.

Santa Clara Valley Water District contracts for water deliveries through both major water diversion projects exporting water from the southern Delta, near Tracy. The South Bay Aqueduct pumps water over the Diablo Range, through Livermore and Pleasanton and terminates near Alum Rock Park in San Jose.

The other aqueduct is called the San Felipe Aqueduct and is a recent (1987) addition to the Federal Central Valley project. Delta water is conveyed to the jointly-owned State-Federal San Luis Reservoir through both the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal and pumped into the 2 million ac-ft off-stream storage facility.

Once Delta water arrives in Santa Clara County, it requires treatment in state-of-the-art treatment plants to remove a broad array of chemical contaminants to bring the quality up to State and Federal drinking water standards. The Santa Clara Valley Water District owns three such plants: a 40-million-gallons per day (MGD) plant named Penetencia in the east foothills near Alum Rock Park, an 80-MGD plant named Rinconada, adjacent to the Los Gatos Golf Club of the same name, and the newest Santa Teresa Water Treatment Plant in Almaden Valley capable of treating 100 MGD.

The combined costs of importing and treating Delta water, delivered by two aqueducts, is currently over $100 million per year. Capital improvement projects planned by the SCVWD will add considerably to this annual cost. 
Source: SCVWD 2012 Water Supply and Infrastructure Master Plan 

The expansion of the Rinconada Water Treatment plant to 100 MGD
is currently under environmental review and is expected to cost around $200 million. 


                Existing Rinconada Water Treatment Facility 


Recently the twelve 2000 hp pumps at the Pacheco Pumping Plant on the west end of San Luis Reservoir had to be replaced after 25 years of service at a cost of $13 million. 

The Water District's surplus Delta water stored in Kern County's groundwater basin will be recovered at an additional cost of $12 million to reverse the flow of the California Aqueduct for about 100 miles, more than tripling the cost of remote water banking from $165/acre-ft. to $565/ac.-ft. That's in addition to the $40 million per year contract costs of the two aqueducts that were suppose to deliver water directly to SCVWD. 

Depending on the amount of water delivered annually, the unit costs for using these two conveyance systems ranges from $160 for 250,000 ac-ft to $1,000 if and when only 40,000 ac-ft were available. In 2014, 70,000 ac-ft of Delta water plus 35,000 ac-ft of recovered Semitropic Bank water withdrawal were conveyed through the two aqueducts, for a unit cost of $380 per ac-ft. 

With the reverse flow project added to the contract costs, Delta water from the Semitropic Water Bank will cost the SCVWD over $945 per ac-ft. or more if imported water deliveries fall below 100,000 ac-ft.

As the cost of the Water District’s imported water continues to rise, local reliability projects like water use efficiency and water recycling become the obviously preferable alternative. However, due to what I call "asset inertia" projects intended to increase the reliability of Delta water continue to be funded by the Board of Directors, who seem oblivious to the response to both State and other local agencies who realize it's time to rely less, not more, on Delta water deliveries. After sixty years of a growing reliance on water from remote watersheds, a sensible revision of our local water policy would be to shift immediately to increasing locally controlled supplies.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Silicon Valley's Roots Return As "Urban Agriculture"

With the passage of AB 551, the State of California has blessed the concept and is encouraging local land use agencies to designate Urban Agricultural Incentive Zones. In this drought year especially, this is a signal that cities throughout California should be re-thinking their land use policies to foster more local food production, while reducing their dependance on industrial agriculture. In San Jose, we can leverage this new legislation to both increase our local food security and protect our local groundwater.

One of my greatest pleasures is growing my own vegetables and fruit both at home and in a nearby community garden, which holds the honor of being the first in this state permitted to use recycled water from our wasted-water treatment plant. This drought proof water source adds to a diverse water supply portfolio, which includes local surface and groundwater and three aqueducts that have dubious reliability and higher energy demands than our local supply options.

 Silicon Valley, also still known as Santa Clara Valley,  evolved from a major food production and processing economy to economies that function, in part, from the use of silicon-based microchips.

The mild Mediterranean climate and fertile soil of the valley remains above and below the engineered hardscape of nearly 400 square miles of urban development.

In addition, San Jose possesses another piece of natural capital that was essential to this valley  becoming both of these successive great economic centers: two adjacent groundwater basins capable of supplying up to 250 million gallons of water per day. The geology of the area blessed us with sand and gravel sediments that carry surface water into depths below a 200-foot cap of  fine silts, deposited in flooded wetlands over thousands of years of rising sea levels.

This geologic process  of layering sediment creates a special concern for how we use the land in the Coyote Valley. This upper region acts as a kind of a forebay for the groundwater basin in the northern part of the county, which serves the 13 cities that now comprise much of Silicon Valley.  As sediment eroded from the eastern mountain range into the valleys below, the gravels and larger materials settle out mostly at the top of the alluvial fans. These gravel deposits are often mined for aggregate for concrete and asphalt.

The high porosity of this gravel-filled narrow valley makes it extremely vulnerable to contamination from any pollutants that are discharged onto the land or into Coyote and Fisher Creeks that traverse the 10 mile length of the Coyote Valley.

Pollutants, once reaching the usually high groundwater table of the Coyote Valley, move quickly down-gradient toward the thousands of private and municipal wells serving nearly 2 million residents and workers in the urban areas to the north.

The Coyote Valley has been designated in the City of San Jose's General Plan as an urban reserve with a third of the land at the southern end designated for permanent green belt. Triggers are also described for under what conditions a transit-oriented Specific Plan would be allowed.

Under this new legislation, the City of San Jose could propose to designate this 7,000-acre Coyote Valley ALL as an Urban Agricultural Incentive Zone. Because of the potential for groundwater contamination, the area should also be restricted to organic agriculture only.

Here, it's good to mention a little wisdom from former New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman,  who also served as Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush: "Some watershed land simply must not be developed. Its natural value in buffering, storing, filtering and recharging far exceeds whatever commercial value it may hold." (Cover letter from "Protecting the Source" Trust For Public Land, copyright 1998)

This could be a plank in a mayoral candidate's platform for a creating a sustainable San Jose, addressing both food security and water quality protection. It could also be an excellent joint powers project of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD). 

 There are other reasons that the Coyote Valley should be preserved as permanent open space:

     Laguna Seca should be preserved and re-established as a vernal wetland, creating habitat and reducing potential flooding in downtown San Jose

     A wildlife corridor across Coyote Valley should be established between the Diablo and Santa Cruz ranges

     Buffer setbacks from Coyote and Fisher Creeks should be preserved to protect the ecosystem of the riparian corridor

A Joint Powers Authority with Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority could be formed as a financing option for the Coyote Valley acquisition. The rationale for this is based on SCVWD’s water supply goal to aggressively protect groundwater from the threat of contamination. SCVWD also has a water resources stewardship goal to promote the protection of creeks, bays and other aquatic ecosystems from threats of pollution and degradation.

This partnership would give access to existing and future State and local water bonds as a significant funding source. The current Open Space Credit, applied to subsidized commercial agricultural pumping rates of $6.5 million per year, is enough to service the debt on $65 million in revenue bonds, providing funds for acquisition of conservation easements on 6500 acres @$10,000/acre.

This may well be the biggest pollution prevention project ever funded by the District, but one that will benefit future generations with a clean, safe and reliable groundwater supply in perpetuity.

I am also campaigning to extend that previously mentioned farm water subsidy to urban community agriculture, including larger commercial ventures like Veggielution in San Jose and Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale. I’ve asked Senator Jim Beall to consider a bill to remove the “commercial” restrictions for receiving the subsidy so all community gardens in the county could receive irrigation water at the lower rate. 

 After all, the Valley of Heart’s Delight still exists; it’s just hidden beneath our feet.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Butterflies Are NOT Free, Especially When They're Butterfly Valves Connected to Delta Pumps

Control valve for one of the six pumps at the Central Valley Project's Jones Pumping Plant at the southern end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Last Friday, I spent 10 hours with my old friends at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Forty members of various District advisory committees were given a one-day tour of our newest water importation system, the San Felipe Division of the Federal Central Valley Project. For a more complete history of this project click here.

The purpose of the tour was to educate the committee members and let them engage with the District staff and two Board members (Nai Hsueh and Linda LeZotte) about the water pumping, storage and conveyance infrastructure in place to obtain this imported water. More importantly it also showed us what's needed to maintain the continuance of supply tapped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. I was invited as a retired Director, although lately I've been advertising Being Unretired. During self-introductions, I said I was with the tour to also discuss how the SCVWD can rely LESS on the Delta imports and more on locally produced recycled water. I also said that we need to protect the quality of our valuable local groundwater basin by creating a Coyote Valley Organic Farming Preserve.

My seat mate on the tour bus was Mark Turner, President of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, who was brand new to the job and eager to learn more about our valley's water resources management. Sitting next to Professor Ferraro and right behind the staff and Board members, he was in a great place to do just that.

Our first stop was at the US Bureau of Reclamation's visitors center on Highway 152,  overlooking the Los Banos Grande Dam and 2 million ac-ft capacity reservoir. Today, the reservoir sits at 15% of its capacity and has been the poster child for agriculture's wrath for the fish-protection restrictions on the Delta pumping. This reservoir receives water pumped by both the Federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. President Kennedy joined Governor Pat Brown in 1961 for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Both aqueducts deliver water into the O'Neil Forebay, from which a battery of pumps lifts the Delta water into this enormous off-stream  reservoir. These same pumps spin backwards to generate electricity as water is later released to farmers throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This year, through ecosystem collapse mitigation measures, pumping from the South Delta was curtailed and a million ac-ft of water was instead released through the Delta to avoid further harm to endangered fish species.

The San Felipe Aqueduct draws water from Los Banos Grande Reservoir by a 300 ft lift station at the west end of the reservoir. Twelve- 2,000 HP pumps push the water up to a terminal tank, which feeds the tunnels,. The tunnels were drilled by a Federal contractor through the Gabilan Mountains, between 1978 and 1987. Pipelines take the water south to San Benito County Water District and north to Santa Clara Valley Water District, terminating at a 12,000 HP pump station at the base of Andersen Dam in Morgan Hill.

The primary reason for this tour became clearer as our second stop was on the banks of the Sacramento River near the town of Hood, about 10 miles south of California's Capitol City of Sacramento. Visiting this site gives me the same feeling I had after walking through a Civil War battlefield. It was here that the Peripheral Canal would have diverted water from the Sacramento River, if a 1982 referendum had not stopped its construction. In many ways this was a Civil War in the Bear Republic of California. While the pumping from the Delta had been ongoing for decades, Delta and Northern California interests were calling the Peripheral Canal a water grab by Southern California. The referendum campaign demonized San Joaquin farmers and other water contractors south of the Delta as extravagant water wasters, undeserving of this precious water supply they had grown used to over the past decades.

Thirty-some years later, Governor Jerry Brown's Administration 2.0 is again trying to fix the Delta ecosystems and make water deliveries south of the Delta more reliable. This time, knowing both the opposition and the future impacts of sea level rise, the proposed water bypass is a pair of twin tunnels to deliver cleaner water to the pumps in the South Delta. The co-equal goal with water delivery reliability is ecosystem restoration. Returning 140,000 acres of farmland to aquatic habitat will enable fisheries to re-establish healthy and sustainable communities in the greatly human-modified environment of today's Delta.

The tour stopped for lunch at an East Bay Regional Park named Big Break Visitor Center at the Delta in Oakley and adjacent to a now-flooded island, which was ironically already called "Big Break." The most fascinating feature in the park was a walkable 2500 sq ft. relief map of the Delta and surrounding area, from Mt. Diablo to Sacramento.

After lunch, we watched some incredible animation of a simulation of multiple levee failures, which are likely to happen during a severe earthquake. The presenter, former DWR employee and Metropolitan Water District consultant Curt Schmutte, outlined the key threats to the Delta levees as well as the stressors to the aquatic ecosystem.

Similar discussions are going on in every water-related venue and gathering. Ellen Hanak of PPIC created this slide:

These realities are difficult to overcome but the same conversation is again taking place as the State and its many Delta water users propose to address the problems. The Delta farmers lead the pack of oppositional sectors. They simply want to maintain the status quo, and continue to have the state fix their levees so the water quality will be protected and the Delta remain an artificially-maintained fresh water pool.

The Delta farmers align themselves with fishing groups, recreational boating interests, and some, but not all, environmental groups. While some NGO's have been deeply involved in developing today's proposed solutions, others won't risk their reputation (and their donor base) to try to educate the public on this very complex problem and the range of solutions being suggested to fix California's biggest water management headache.

Our final stop on the Delta tour was what all this discussion was leading to- keeping the pumps already built in the South Delta running. We toured the Jones Pumping Plant, built by the US Bureau of Reclamation around 1950,  to pump Delta water into a canal which flows upstream in the San Joaquin Valley to the Mendota Pool. This makes 3 million acres of desert bloom with billions of dollars worth of crops.

During our tour, only three of the six pumps were operating, delivering only 5,000 ac-ft of water per day into the Delta-Mendota Canal. Here's a short video of what one pump sounds like:

       C.W. Bill Jones Pumping Plant lies at the terminus of the Delta Cross Channel and moves water into the Delta-Mendota Canal.
       The plant has six separate pumps, built from 1947 to 1951.
       Each pump, powered by a 22,250 hp motor, lifts up to 767 cfs of water 197 ft into three 15 ft-diameter pipes that lead to the Delta-Mendota Canal, for a combined capacity of 4,602 cfs (9,200 ac-ft/day)
       The Delta-Mendota Canal carries water 117 miles upstream through the San Joaquin Valley, terminating at the Mendota Pool, a reservoir on the San Joaquin River.

Nearby, a second set of pumps built for the State Water Project was built in 1960 to deliver water to Kern County farmers, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and, through the South Bay Aqueduct, the South Bay water agencies (Zone 7, Alameda County Water District and Santa Clara Valley Water District.)

SCVWD's costs for being the only water agency contracting with both the SWP and CVP is currently about $40 million per year. The estimated cost for the the BDCP facilities is estimated to be $580/ac-ft on top of our existing costs. Our contractual entitlements total 250,000 ac-ft of of the 6 million ac-ft of total export contracts, or about 4% of the total. The District currently estimates wholesale water rates in the North County to rise from $680/ac-ft to $1344/ac-ft in ten years.

As the title of this post suggests, the additional cost to keep the Delta pumps and their butterfly valves operating will be a very long way from free.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Being Unretired

Being Un-retired
As a Former Director, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Written for Association of Retired District Employees, June 19, 2013

After 23 years of service, in 1995, I resigned my elected seat on the SCVWD Board of Directors and took on the responsibility of leading a newly-formed non-profit organization named The Silicon Valley Pollution Prevention Center whose mission was to identify sources of water pollution in our local watersheds and convince polluters to change behavior to eliminate their emissions so the water would not require so much costly end-of-pipe treatment. The board of directors of this organization were themselves executives of industry, government and the NGO’s that had filed the Clean Water Act lawsuit against the South Bay dischargers who were then in violation of their discharge permits. Board discussions served as ongoing mediation to determine pragmatic solutions to preventing water pollution and avoid further litigation.

Through numerous educational symposia, we worked with our stakeholders to identify activities and sources, which produced degradation of local water quality.  We worked closely with municipal and industry officials and started with “low hanging fruit” like used oil filter collection/recycling, and began the long process of replacing plastic shopping bags with canvas totes.  We worked hard to get manufacturers to recycle high-quality deionized rinse water and reduce their water demand and sewer discharge by 80%. Harder issues like land use and extended producer responsibility of electronic products generated by many Silicon Valley companies were a tougher nut to crack and eventually made the industrial members lose interest in continuing the dialogue. The Board voted in 2003 to close the organization after eight years and not renew my employment contract.

This timing coincided with my medical leave to get bi-lateral hip replacement, giving me back the mobility that I had suddenly lost earlier in the year. The next few years were the closest I came to being retired. My wife, Cari, was happy to have me home to complete many of my long-deferred maintenance projects on our creek-side home. I sold the last of the moving vans I owned, as I knew those days were certainly behind me. (Many ARDE members were former clients of Ferraro Van Lines.) I used the money from selling the truck to install 36 100-watt solar voltaic panels on my roof plus a solar water heater.

My desire to return to teaching to give back what I had learned during my unconventional engineering career took several years to materialize. I had applied to teach at both San Jose State and De Anza College soon after retiring from SCVWD. I had taught courses at Santa Clara University and Evergreen College during the mid 1970s, and in 1986 I taught a course at SJSU on Groundwater Remediation as a way to better understand the cleanup technologies and our precious groundwater basin.

In 2009, the SJSU Environmental Studies Department needed a lecturer, on very short notice, to teach Water Policy and Water Management to non-engineers in the College of Social Sciences. Since I already had prepared a syllabus for one of these courses when I had applied earlier, I was able to “hit the ground running” and was hired and have been on the faculty since then, enjoying the role of professor and resident “water guru,” as my department chair calls me. I’m also planning on applying to teach similar courses at Santa Clara University and give back to the Jesuit teaching syndicate that educated me at Loyola (Marymount) University in Los Angeles.

In May of 2013, I decided to get back into politics by applying for a vacant seat on the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (OSA) Board of Directors to fill out the term of the director in my electoral district, who resigned when his family relocated.  This position also required someone who could “hit the ground running” so the OSA Board chose a candidate who had held the seat before the current incumbent.

However, when I interviewed for the OSA position I addressed the board in a way that would educate the agency and promote my passion for protecting water quality. Knowing the high porosity of the Coyote Valley alluvium and other ecosystem values it contained, I summarized all the reasons that the Coyote Valley should be preserved as permanent open space:
       Laguna Seca should be preserved and re-established as a vernal wetlands, creating habitat and reducing potential flooding in downtown San Jose
       A wildlife corridor across Coyote Valley should be established between Diablo and Santa Cruz range
       Buffer setbacks from main stem of Coyote and Fisher Creek should be preserved to protect the ecosystem of the riparian corridor.
       Remaining lands should be preserved as organic farming to minimize adverse impact to aquifer water quality

Finally I proposed a financing option for the Coyote Valley acquisition:
A Joint Powers Authority with Santa Clara Valley Water District. The rationale for this is based on SCVWD’s Water Supply goal in its ends governance policies to aggressively protect groundwater from the threat of contamination. SCVWD also has a Water Resources Stewardship goal to promote the protection of creeks, bays and other aquatic ecosystems from threats of pollution and degradation.

This partnership would give access to existing and future State and local water bonds as a significant funding source. The current Open Space Credit, applied to subsidize agricultural pumping rates, of $6.5 million per year is enough to service the debt on $65 million in revenue bonds, providing funds for acquisition of 6500 acres @$10,000/acre.

I followed this effort with discussions with four of the seven sitting directors of the SCVWD Board and received favorable responses.

In June 2013, I attended a SCVWD stakeholder meeting reviewing the Open Space Credit currently applied to commercial agricultural water rates and presented this proposal for their consideration as well.

This may well be the biggest pollution prevention project ever funded by the District, but one that will benefit future generations with a clean, safe and reliable groundwater supply in perpetuity.

After that, maybe I can really retire. What that will look like would involve continuing to raise fruit and vegetables at home and in the Guadalupe Community Garden, the first one in California permitted to use recycled water. It would also include continuing my campaign to extend that previously mentioned farm water subsidy to urban community agriculture, including larger commercial ventures like Veggielution in San Jose and Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale. I’ve asked Senator Jim Beall to consider a bill to remove the “commercial” restrictions for receiving the subsidy so all community gardens in the county could receive irrigation water at the lower rate. After all, the Valley of Heart’s Delight still exists; it’s just hidden beneath our feet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Solstice 2010

Due to my commitment to lecturing at San Jose State University for the past 10 months, this blog has been reduced, for the time being, to a semi-annual salute to Earth's position in its annual cycle around the sun - the midway points of extreme posture toward our life-giving sun, days we call the Solstice. On this Solstice, in the northern hemisphere of the planet, the days are the longest, in the southern half of the Earth, the nights are the longest. On these days, Earthlings everywhere gather, as we complement each other with the same honoring ceremonies across the planet. It's a good time to remember and honor our Mother planet, who holds all our ancestors before us. We also celebrate the commonality of all peoples and all life on the planet.

These ceremonies predate what we call civilization, as people studied the stars for at least a millennium before science ever began to evolve in human consciousness and give us understanding of planetary physics and celestial movement. Today we can enjoy visualizing the entire universe through YouTube or any medium available for watching spectacular graphics and knowledge packaged by the best videographers available.

That wouldn't be me, with my 10-year old Olympus digital camera, but I will share some of the Summer Solstice ceremony in which I had the honor to attend, hosted and produced by Sergio Martinez and Angelica del Gato this past Sunday. They live along Coyote Creek also, about 300 feet upstream, on the bank next to the William St. bridge. Their home is the farmhouse where the Ferrari family lived and tended the orchard, which was here before becoming 8 duplexes. I'm in great awe and appreciate the great deal of work to organize and prepare their yard and the food for all the celebrants lucky enough to join them in this celebration of life at this significant place on our planet's journey around the sun.

The shaman for part of the ceremony spoke of the Aztec calendar and counting system based on 2o instead of 10, as most of the modern world uses for metrics of time and space, except for astrophysicists, who use light-years. My reading of Mayan and Aztec culture's had informed me that these cultures used 20 instead of 10 for the simple reason that we have 20 fingers AND toes, and they're what we first used to count with. And coincidentally, this year in the world's business calendar, it happens to be the year we call 2010. Sounds like a perfect year to bring together the old mezzo-American calendar and the modern world we are living in today.

For a great ride through time and space. I recommend viewing a segment of the series from the National Geographic Channel called Birth of the Universe We are truly star dust in awe of stardust.
Blessed Be!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rounding Out the Circle of the Solar Trip we call 2009

Hello my fellow Earthship mates.

I have been so absent from blogger land these past four months because I can only do so much key board time until repetitive motion cripples my upper right side. All I need is a good voice command typing program under my solstice bush.

But I have been on my keyboard a great deal during the last four months in order to create 27 seventy-five minute multimedia presentations for the class I taught last semester at San Jose State University. The course was titled Water Policy in The Western United States and was taught in the Environmental Studies Department and known through the SJSU catalog as EnvS 129. All the lecture notes, course syllabus (called greensheets, even though they're not when they are printed on paper), quizzes & the final exam are published in this google-powered web site for the world to use as it will: http://sites.google.com/site/envs129/

I have received much encouragement from friends, colleagues and the students themselves in regard to my teaching this past semester. I am also honored and challenged to teach a second course in the Spring 2010 semester on the more numeric side of water resources called MANAGEMENT. This course is listed as EnvS 128 and requires prerequisites of Statistics and basic Chemistry. I consider that the students will arrive with brains exposed to the type of discipline required in those courses.The web site for EnvS 128 is now "under construction" with as minimal of a footprint that I can MANAGE

But I am not there to teach students to be engineers. There is another college a few feet (and clicks) away which trains minds to conduct water engineering work. Most of the students come to the these courses in the College of Social Science to learn how they can help in building a sustainable future, but they certainly won't be ALL part of an engineering team to physically build parts of a water system.

Every student does, however, participate in using and paying for the water infrastructure components that are proposed and built by engineers and marketed and funded with the great influence of business and government. What they need to know is the language of the engineers, so they can engage in critical thinking and PARTICIPATE competently during the public review process, where many powerful self-interests are often poised and ready to override the public good and public trust of the environment and build some public (WATER) work that is going to have serious negative impacts and , in the long run, threaten our species and the sustainability of the ecosystem, which weaves together all our species.

My deepest ethics about water resources are succinctly expressed in this seven-minute student video, titled Rain Dance The film maker is named Amanda Levensohn and she certainly would have received an A+ if she were doing this work in one of my classes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Seven Elected Water Board Bill Passes State Senate

The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board was successful in bulldozing its way through the legislature and managed a nearly unanimous vote on AB 466(Cot0), with Senator Simitian of Palo Alto being the only No vote.

Lobbying against the bottomless bank accounts of the Golden Spigot (as Scott Herhold of the SJ Mercury likes to call it) would have been a wasted effort to appear at the hearings in Sacramento to try to stop this effort. But I continued to post a better alternative in my blog and posted a link to Senator Simitian web site to send him comments. At least one of the County's Sacramento delegation is awake and understands bad politics when he sees it.

For the record, the following is the Legislative Analyst's description of the impact of the new bill and the record of votes in the Assembly and the Senate:

Bill No: AB 466
Author: Coto (D)
Amended: 6/30/09 in Senate
Vote: 21

AYES: Wiggins, Cox, Aanestad, Kehoe, Wolk


ASSEMBLY FLOOR : 73-0, 5/14/09 - See last page for vote

SUBJECT : Santa Clara Valley Water District

SOURCE : Santa Clara Valley Water District

This bill changes the composition and
representation of the Santa Clara Valley Water District
Board effective December 3, 2010, expands a district
exemption from special fees, and makes other governance

Senate Floor Amendments of 6/30/09 clarify when District
directors' terms start.


I. Board of Directors . A seven-member board of
directors governs the Santa Clara Valley Water District
(District), reflecting a compromise that combined the
former Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation District,
the former Santa Clara County Flood Control and Water
Conservation District, and two other water districts.
The former Santa Clara Valley Water Conservation
District had an elected five-member board. The Santa
Clara County Board of Supervisors was the ex officio
board of the former Santa Clara County Flood Control
and Water Conservation district. The two other water
districts had their own elected boards. The District's
current seven-member board has five elected members;
one from each supervisorial district. The county
supervisors appoint the two other directors who must be
voters within the two former water districts. When the
District wants to reduce the board to five elected
members, the Legislature eliminated the appointed
members of the District's board of directors effective
on January 1, 2010, by enacting AB 2435 (Coto), Chapter
279, Statutes of 2006.

This bill repeals the statutes which will reduce the
size of the District's existing seven-member board of
directors to five elected directors on January 1, 2010.

This bill enacts a new governance scheme:

1. Until December 3, 2020, the board consists of:

A. The two appointed directors who served on
the board on December 31, 2008.

B. The five elected directors. The two
directors who were elected in 2006 serve until
December 5, 2010. The three directors who were
elected in 2008 serve until December 7, 2012.

2. Starting December 3, 2010, the board of
directors consists of seven elected directors.

This bill requires the board of directors to adopt by
June 30, 2010, a resolution that creates the seven
electoral districts. Voters elect directors by these
electoral divisions to four-year terms for four
designated seats in November 2010 and the three other
seats in November 2012. The District's elections and
the directors' terms must follow the Uniform District
Elections Law. The board must reapportion the
electoral districts by November 1 of the year following
each decennial census. The bill renumbers the current
provisions for filling board vacancies and recalling

II. Compensation . The District's directors receive $100
for each day's service, but not more than $600 a month,
plus actual and necessary expenses. State law requires
local governments to adopt reimbursement policies and
disclose payments (AB 1234 [Salinas], Chapter 700,
Statutes of 2005). This bill requires the District to
place quarterly expense reimbursement reports on the
board's agenda and to determine if the reimbursements
comply with the board's policies. This bill prohibits
a member of the District's board of directors from
seeking or accepting compensated employment with the
District while a director, and for one year after the
director's term of office.

III. Governance . This bill requires the District's board
by July 1, 2010, to adopt lobbying regulations that
include registration, reporting, and disclosure
requirements. This bill prohibits directors from
contacting the District's staff on behalf of contract
bidders. This bill prohibits the District's board from
authorizing severance pay when an appointed employee
leaves voluntarily. This bill requires the District
board's minutes to include a public report of actions
taken in closed sessions under the Brown Act.

IV. Reports. The Ralph M. Brown Act requires local
governments to post their agendas, including brief
general descriptions of each item, at least 72 hours
before their regular meeting. The Brown Act provides
that writings which are distributed to a majority of
the legislative body are public records and must be
made available upon request without delay. With five
specific exceptions, this bill requires that reports
prepared by the District's staff that recommended
action by the board at a regular public meeting or
public hearing must be available to the public at least
six days before the meeting or hearing. This bill
declares that this requirement does not require public
release of documents that the California Public Records
Act exempts from disclosure. If a staff report's
recommendation changes because of direction from a
director, the report must disclose that revision.

V. Special Taxes . When the District levies special taxes
that are subject to a 2/3-voter approval, it may charge
minimum uniform rates based on land use category and
size. When levying these special taxes, the District
can exempt residential parcels that are owned and
occupied by taxpayers who are 65 years or older (AB 88
[Alquist], Chapter 63, Statutes of 2001). This bill
also allows the District to exempt residential parcels
that are owned and occupied by taxpayers who qualify as
totally disabled under the federal Social Security Act.

VI. District Budgets . By June 15, the District's board
must meet to consider its proposed budget and hear
public comments. At the same meeting, this bill
requires the board to review its financial reserves and
its reserve management policy.


More than 40 years after the district took over the
County's flood control duties, local officials continue to
discuss how the District should operate. Since the
enactment of AB 2435 (Coto), local officials have continued
to debate the District's governance. This bill is the
result of the latest round of discussions about how to
improve the District's accountability, transparency, and

FISCAL EFFECT : Appropriation: No; Fiscal Com.: Yes Local: Yes

SUPPORT : (Verified 7/1/09)

Santa Clara Valley Water District (source)
Association of California Water Agencies
California Special Districts Association
Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce
San Jose/Silicon Valley Branch of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People

AYES: Adams, Anderson, Arambula, Beall, Bill Berryhill,
Tom Berryhill, Blakeslee, Block, Blumenfield, Brownley,
Buchanan, Caballero, Charles Calderon, Carter, Chesbro,
Conway, Cook, Coto, Davis, De La Torre, De Leon, DeVore,
Duvall, Emmerson, Eng, Evans, Feuer, Fletcher, Fong,
Fuller, Furutani, Galgiani, Gilmore, Hagman, Hall,
Harkey, Hayashi, Hernandez, Hill, Huber, Huffman,
Jeffries, Jones, Knight, Krekorian, Lieu, Logue, Bonnie
Lowenthal, Ma, Mendoza, Miller, Monning, Nava, Nestande,
Niello, Nielsen, John A. Perez, V. Manuel Perez,
Portantino, Price, Ruskin, Salas, Silva, Skinner,
Solorio, Audra Strickland, Swanson, Torlakson, Torres,
Torrico, Tran, Villines, Yamada
NO VOTE RECORDED: Ammiano, Fuentes, Gaines, Garrick,
Saldana, Smyth, Bass

AGB:cm 7/1/09 Senate Floor Analyses

TOPIC: Santa Clara Valley Water District.
DATE: 08/27/2009
MOTION: Assembly 3rd Reading AB466 Coto By Maldonado
(AYES 32. NOES 1.) (PASS)


Aanestad Alquist Ashburn Benoit
Cogdill Corbett Correa Cox
Denham Ducheny Dutton Florez
Hancock Harman Hollingsworth Huff
Kehoe Leno Liu Lowenthal
Maldonado Negrete McLeod Pavley Romero
Steinberg Strickland Walters Wiggins
Wolk Wright Wyland Yee




Calderon Cedillo DeSaulnier Oropeza
Padilla Price Runner

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