Water Resources Development Act to address harmful algae blooms in California’s Sacramento Delta

  • Published on July 21st, 2020

On July 15, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, reported that he secured key provisions in the “Water Resources Development Act of 2020” (H.R.7575) for the California Delta and Central Valley. The legislation passed the committee unanimously and now heads to the House floor for a vote at the end of July and is expected to become law this year.

Water Resources Development Act to address harmful algae blooms in California's Sacramento Delta

By Dan Bacher

“This critical legislation supports levee projects throughout the Sacramento Valley, which provides critical flood protection and makes local communities more resilient to climate change,” Garamendi, whose district includes 200 miles of the Sacramento River and is adjacent to several major ports, said in a press release.  “I secured provisions in this bill to authorize and expedite construction of flood protection and aquatic ecosystem restoration projects, address harmful algal blooms in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and give local agencies greater flexibility in using federal Army Corps funds to meet local needs. This is a strong piece of legislation, and I will work tirelessly to ensure it becomes law.”

The legislation will create a new Delta “Focus Area” for the new Army Corps of Engineers Harmful Algae Bloom Demonstration Program “to determine the causes of, and implement measures to effectively detect, prevent, treat, and eliminate, harmful algal blooms associated with Army Corps Dredging and flood control projects. This will help protect the Delta’s precious ecosystem from toxic algal blooms.”

In a statement, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, responded: “We want to thank Congressman John Garamendi for his leadership on legislated funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to study and mitigate the Harmful Algal Bloom problem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, including Delta urban waterways.

We also thank Congressman Jerry McNerney for his efforts supporting the passage of this rider.”

In the Delta Flows: Harmful Algal Blooms in the Delta are a Pandemic, published on July 13, Restore the Delta reported, “Today, our fear is that this year’s harmful algal bloom crisis seems bigger than anything we have seen in previous years. The Water Boards are marshaling the limited resources that they do have and moving to collect data, but they do not have the full resources they need to track the HABs problem in the Delta. The Department of Water Resources has a much greater budget and capacity to assist with HABs monitoring in the Delta, but it doesn’t. It collects data about Delta water quality conditions and HABs and does not share the data willingly or in real time (last year’s data required a public records act request for release in December). This behind-the-scenes process leaves the public at risk – but allows for their effort to sell the public on the benefits of the voluntary agreements and the tunnel…”

Congressman Garamendi said he secured the following provisions in the “Water Resources Development Act of 2020” (H.R.7575):

Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration: Garamendi secured Congressional authorization for the Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration Project, at the request of the Yuba Water Agency. This project will restore approximately 178 acres of aquatic and riparian habitat along the lower Yuba River, between Englebright Dam and the confluence of the Yuba and Feather rivers, downstream of the City of Marysville.

Yolo Bypass System Improvement: Working with Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06), Garamendi included the “Yolo Bypass System Improvement Act,” to develop a coordinated planning and review process for all restoration projects and federal permitting in the Yolo Bypass.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Islands and Levees: Working with Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Garamendi secured Congressional authorization for the Delta Islands and Levees Ecosystem Restoration Project, at the request of California’s Department of Water Resources. This project will restore the interior Delta’s ecosystem and provide vital flood control.

Sacramento Riverbed Gradient Restoration Facility: Garamendi transferred control of the riverbed gradient restoration facility in the Sacramento River to the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. These riverbed gradient restoration structures were constructed along miles 205 and 206 of the Sacramento River Flood Control Project, as part of fish screen improvement projects for the Hamilton City Pumping Plant.

Western Pacific Interceptor Canal: Garamendi transferred control of a portion of the Western Pacific Interceptor Canal to the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority–removing this canal section from unnecessary inspection, and operation, maintenance by the Army Corps as it no longer serves a purpose.

San Francisco Bay to Stockton Navigation Improvement: Working with Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Garamendi expedited completion of the Army Corps feasibility study for the “San Francisco Bay to Stockton Navigation Improvement Project.” This feasibility study would examine deepening the John F. Baldwin and Stockton Deepwater Ship Channels from their existing depths of -35 feet mean lower low water to -40 feet and beneficially reusing dredged sediment for marsh restoration of subsided islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Delta “Focus Area” for New Army Corps Harmful Algal Bloom Program: Working with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Garamendi included all 5 California Delta counties (Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo) as a “focus area” for the new proposed Army Corps Harmful Algal Bloom Demonstration Program to determine the causes of, and implement measures to effectively detect, prevent, treat, and eliminate, harmful algal blooms associated with Army Corps Dredging and flood control projects. This will help protect the Delta’s precious ecosystem from toxic algal blooms.

City of Woodland and Lower Cache Creek Flood Risk Management: Garamendi expedited completion of the feasibility study for the Army Corps’ Lower Cache Creek Flood Risk Management Project with the City of Woodland, Central Valley Flood Protection Board, and California Department of Water Resources to reduce flood risk and lower  the cost of flood insurance for property owners.

Sacramento Regional Water Bank: Working with Reps. Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06) and Ami Bera (CA-07), expanded the Army Corps’ environmental infrastructure assistance to the Sacramento Area to include all of Sacramento County and increase from $35 million to $45 million the authorized federal funding to support the development of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority’s proposed groundwater bank.

As I receive more comments on this legislation, I will post them here.

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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