Regional Water Management Group Releases Disadvantaged Community Plan for Drinking Water and Wastewater

On November 8, 2017, the Regional Water Management Group voted to approve the Integrated Plan to Address Drinking Water and Wastewater Needs of Disadvantaged Communities in the Salinas Valley and Greater Monterey County IRWM Region. The full plan is available for download here.

Background: In October 2014, the Regional Water Management Group for the Greater Monterey County IRWM Region received $500,000 in grant funds from the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) to develop an integrated plan to address drinking water and wastewater needs of disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. The funds were appropriated by the California Legislature through Assembly Bill (AB) 1630 (Alejo), from fines and penalties from the Waste Discharge Permit Fund. In 2017, the Regional Water Management Group was provided an additional $200,000 in grant funds from the State Water Board to enable the Project Team to expand community engagement and evaluation of long-term solutions. The following objectives, and associated tasks, were identified for the planning effort:

  1. Identify disadvantaged communities within the planning region, with a focus on small disadvantaged communities in unincorporated areas.
  2. Identify drinking water and wastewater problems.
  3. Develop a comprehensive inventory and database and create maps.
  4. Identify potential solutions for (at minimum) each “high priority” community.
  5. Work with each community to determine preferred solution(s).
  6. Develop conceptual project descriptions and cost estimates for the “high priority” communities.
  7. Identify potential funding sources for the proposed projects and for broader regional solutions.

Focus of Plan: The plan focuses on small disadvantaged communities, and communities suspected to be disadvantaged, in unincorporated areas that are served by state small water systems (5-14 connections), local small water systems (2-4 connections), and private domestic wells. Common problems of small rural disadvantaged communities include, for example:

  • Unreliable or inadequate infrastructure
  • Inability to achieve economies of scale
  • Inability to recover costs
  • Lack of technical, managerial, and financial capacity
  • No existing legal entity to manage water system
  • Dependence on a single source of water
  • Lack of redundancy of system
  • Geographic isolation
  • Low revenues and high delinquency rates
  • Small or nonexistent reserve funds

Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) staff conducted extensive outreach to small communities in unincorporated areas of the region, using a questionnaire survey. EJCW surveyed a total of 153 households in 25 communities, covering 19 census block groups. Six of these communities were identified as disadvantaged and 15 were identified as suspected disadvantaged communities (“disadvantaged community” status was later proven for many of the suspected disadvantaged communities by means of median household income [MHI] surveys conducted over the course of the project). The Project Team prioritized the communities according to need, and selected seven communities with the goal of identifying specific solutions for each. These communities were:

  1. Johnson Road, located in North Monterey County approximately 1.5 miles southeast of Las Lomas
  2. Walnut Avenue, located about a half mile west of the City of Greenfield
  3. Apple Avenue Water System #3, located within the City of Greenfield limits
  4. Santa Teresa Village, located approximately 0.8 miles north of the City of Soledad
  5. Hudson Landing Road, located approximately one mile west of Las Lomas
  6. Middlefield Road, located approximately seven miles northeast of downtown Salinas
  7. Schoch Road, located just north of Salinas

The Project Team worked in partnership with the Community Engineering Corps (CECorps), an alliance of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Water Works Association, and Engineers Without Borders-USA, to identify and evaluate solutions for each of the seven selected high priority disadvantaged communities. The plan describes the water problems and alternative long-term options for each community, recommended solution(s), potential barriers, community preference (if any), and next steps.

Outreach to the following larger disadvantaged communities was also conducted to assess needs and potential capacity to provide services to nearby small communities: Boronda CDP, Castroville CDP, Greenfield, Gonzales, King City, Moss Landing CDP, San Ardo CDP, and San Lucas CDP. The following water districts/utilities were contacted to assess available resources for potential consolidation or extension of service: City of Soledad, Pajaro Sunny Mesa Community Services District, Castroville Community Services District, City of Gonzales, California American Water (CalAm), Alco Water Service, and California Water Service (Cal Water).

Recommendations: The Project Team offered the following recommendations based on their work over the three-year project period:

Recommendation 1. Funding Needs: Most of the Project Team’s recommendations begin with a need for increased funding support. While numerous federal and state funding opportunities exist for disadvantaged communities, the Project Team noted certain funding “gaps” and recommended that federal, state, and regional government entities consider increasing funding in the following areas:

  1. Guaranteed set-aside funds for small disadvantaged community water systems, particularly to see the “high priority” communities through to an implementable solution.
  2. Increased support for community engagement, particularly to support outreach to communities in the four geographic focus areas identified for future work, and for pre-project development and project development activities for all high priority projects.
  3. Ongoing assessment of needs: Since MHI data changes every year, resources are needed to enable re-assessment of disadvantaged community status and of their drinking water and wastewater needs on an annual basis; importantly, funds are needed to support ongoing updates and maintenance for the Greater Monterey County Community Water Tool database and map viewer, as well as continued hosting costs.
  4. Focused MHI surveys to prove “disadvantaged” status of “suspected disadvantaged” communities in order for those communities to qualify for special grants and loans.
  5. Guaranteed funding for bottled water programs and other interim solutions to ensure that immediate drinking water and wastewater needs are addressed for however long it takes a community to implement a permanent solution.
  6. More intensive outreach to private domestic well owners, along with systematic water quality testing.
  7. Wastewater education, including distributing written materials, hosting informative community workshops, and providing door-to-door outreach.

Recommendation 2. Grant Funding Process: The following recommendations are targeted primarily toward state funding agencies (in particular, the State Water Board) and Monterey County to help make the grant funding process more effective and efficient:

  1. Project sponsorship: The difficulty in finding qualified sponsors for drinking water projects for small disadvantaged communities is, statewide, a frequent and significant barrier to implementing solutions. The Project Team recommends that State funding agencies make grant requirements for disadvantaged community drinking water projects easier and more affordable for qualified entities to sponsor projects. Other ideas are for State or local governments to take a leadership role in sponsoring projects, or for the development of a legal entity, such as a regional Joint Powers Agency (JPA), to act as project sponsor for rural communities, private domestic wells, and small systems where consolidation is not feasible.
  2. Lateral costs: While most funding sources cover infrastructure costs, lateral costs are typically not covered; as a result, a solution that may appear low cost may wind up being an unaffordable option. The Project Team recommends that State funding agencies allow for grant coverage of lateral costs for disadvantaged communities.
  3. More efficient reimbursement from State grants: Short vs. long reimbursement periods can make the difference between small communities being able or not being able to implement long-term solutions. Beginning with Proposition 1 IRWM funds, the Department of Water Resources has instituted a policy to pay disadvantaged communities and nonprofit organizations 50 percent of their grant award upfront. The Project Team urges other State agencies to consider similar reimbursement policies for disadvantaged communities.
  4. Need for increased certainty in identifying costs: Community members repeatedly state that their interest to participate in a long-term water or wastewater project depends on cost. The Project Team recommends that the State Water Board and other funding agencies implement a “pre-approval” process to clarify the costs to property owners of future water or wastewater projects. A pre-approval process, and clear schedule of deadlines for application requirements, would provide community members the information they need to decide whether to join a water project.

Recommendation 3. Monterey County Health Department Coordination: Given the depth of experience and knowledge that County staff have regarding small communities in unincorporated areas of the region, the Project Team encourages increased input from County staff on project evaluations for disadvantaged communities as this work continues into the future.

Now Accepting Projects for the IRWM Plan

The Greater Monterey County Regional Water Management Group is now accepting applications from any interested stakeholder who wishes to have project(s) included in the Greater Monterey County Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Plan. This project solicitation is also a “preliminary call for projects” for the Greater Monterey County Storm Water Resource Plan (SWRP; the SWRP is still under development).

To be eligible for inclusion in the Plan, projects:

  • must be located within the geographic boundaries of the Greater Monterey County IRWM Region (see Region Description on our homepage);
  • must address water resource management issues in the Greater Monterey County Region, including water supply, water quality, flood management, and/or natural resource enhancement; and
  • must be consistent with the Region’s goals and objectives.

This is an open solicitation. The project application deadline is TBD (anticipated to be early Spring 2018). Application forms for both implementation projects and concept proposals are available for download at http://www.greatermontereyirwmp.org/documents/solicitation/.

If you have a storm water management project, your project will potentially be eligible for both Proposition 1 IRWM Implementation Grant funds (administered by the Department of Water Resources) and Proposition 1 Storm Water Implementation Grants funds (administered by the State Water Resources Control Board). This is your opportunity to have your project included in both plans. If you would like to be eligible for the next IRWM Implementation Grant, you must submit your project now. If you are only interested in the Storm Water Implementation Grant, you will have another opportunity to submit your project to the SWRP at a later date.

Important notice to stakeholders who currently have projects in the IRWM Plan: With this project solicitation, we will be starting an entirely new Project List for the IRWM Plan. All existing projects in the Plan will get removed, and we will create a new Project List from scratch. If you want to keep your project in the Plan, you must submit a new proposal now.

What happens next:

For the IRWM Implementation Grant:

We anticipate that the Department of Water Resources will be releasing the draft Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP) for Round 1 of Prop 1 IRWM funds in early Spring 2018. Any project proponent who has submitted their project to the IRWM Plan by that time, and who wishes to apply for Round 1 IRWM Implementation Grant funds, will be invited to submit a second (more detailed) application for consideration by the Regional Water Management Group. The Regional Water Management Group will use the information in that application to determine which projects to put forward in the Region’s application for State grant funds. We expect the final application to the State will be due in Summer 2018.

Note that the Regional Water Management Group has recently updated its project review process for the IRWM Plan. Click here to download a summary of the revised process, including the new project ranking criteria.

For the Storm Water Implementation Grant:

The SWRP timeline is slightly different from that of the IRWM Plan. We are uncertain as to when the State Water Board will be issuing their PSP for Storm Water Implementation Grant projects – it could be as early as this Fall, but may be several months later. We will keep you posted. There will be a separate project review and ranking process for projects included in the SWRP.

If you have any questions about the application, the project ranking process, or about the IRWM program, please contact Susan Robinson, IRWM Program Director, at srobinsongs@frontier.com or (802) 279-4615. If you have questions specific to the SWRP planning process, please contact John Hunt at jwhunt@ucdavis.edu or (831) 684-1203.

Greater Salinas Area Storm Water Resource Plan

In February 2017, the City of Salinas and Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency completed a Storm Water Resource Plan (SWRP) for a targeted planning area surrounding the City of Salinas. The plan was developed by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants and completed in February 2017. The Greater Salinas Area SWRP was approved by the Greater Monterey County Regional Water Management Group at a Regional Water Management Group meeting on February 15, 2017, and is incorporated into the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan as an appendix. Click here to download the complete plan.

The Greater Salinas Area SWRP is just the first step in storm water planning for the Greater Monterey County IRWM region. The Regional Water Management Group is currently in the process of developing a SWRP for the entire Greater Monterey County IRWM region, with plan completion expected by May 2018. The larger plan will encompass the Greater Salinas Area SWRP planning area and extend out to the entire geographic IRWM region, and will incorporate aspects of the Greater Salinas Area plan (as appropriate).

For more information, see the news article below!

Greater Monterey County Storm Water Resource Plan

The Greater Monterey County IRWM Region was recently awarded $469,305 in Proposition 1 Storm Water Planning Grant funds from the State Water Resources Control Board to develop a Storm Water Resource Plan for the IRWM Region. The project will provide $477,244 in matching funds.

In November 2014, prior to the passage of Proposition 1, the California Legislature adopted SB 985, the Stormwater Resource Planning Act. SB 985 requires the development of a Storm Water Resource Plan (SWRP) as a condition of receiving funds for storm water and dry weather runoff capture projects from any bond approved by voters after January 2014. The plan must be watershed-based. Upon development of a SWRP, the plan must be incorporated into an IRWM Plan in order for the projects to be eligible for storm water grant funds.

Storm water planning and management on a watershed basis involves collaboration of local governments, utilities, and other stakeholder groups to analyze the hydrology, storm drain/runoff conveyances systems, opportunity sites, and other habitat or community needs within sub-watersheds. The Stormwater Management Planning Act focuses on diverting runoff from existing storm drains, channels, or conveyance structures to sites (particularly publicly owned sites) that can clean, store, infiltrate and/or use the runoff.

Efforts are currently underway to produce a SWRP for the Greater Monterey County IRWM region, with plan completion expected by May 2018. Click here to download the Work Plan.

If you would like to stay informed about the Greater Monterey County SWRP or participate in the planning effort, contact:

Susan Robinson
Greater Monterey County IRWM Program Director
srobinsongs@frontier.com

2017 IRWM Plan Updates

The Greater Monterey County IRWM Region has been awarded $76,935 in Prop 1 IRWM Planning Grant funds to update the IRWM Plan to meet the 2016 IRWM Program Guidelines standards. The plan update began in February 2017 and will conclude by October 2018. Major tasks include:

1. Developing a plan to address arsenic, nitrate, perchlorate, and chromium-VI in communities impacted by these contaminants in the region.

2. Updates to the following sections of the IRWM Plan:

  • Objectives
  • Resource Management Strategies
  • Project Review Process
  • Relation to Local Water Planning
  • Relation to Local Land Use Planning
  • Climate Change

3. Outreach to disadvantaged communities

If you are interested in participating in this planning effort, please contact Susan Robinson at srobinsongs@frontier.com.

Regional Water Management Group Formally Adopts the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan

The IRWM Plan for the Greater Monterey County region was completed in November 2012. According to the Proposition 84 IRWM Guidelines, each entity that is part of a Regional Water Management Group, as well as each project proponent named in an IRWM Grant application, must formally adopt the Plan. After the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan was completed, the governing board of each RWMG entity signed a resolution to adopt the IRWM Plan; and at the April 17, 2013 RWMG meeting, the RWMG as an entity voted to formally adopt the IRWM Plan.

Click here to download the IRWM Plan [http://www.greatermontereyirwmp.org/documents/plan/] (the Plan can be downloaded either by chapter or in a single low-resolution PDF file).

The development of the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan has truly been a collaborative effort. The Greater Monterey County RWMG is a unique RWMG – a diverse, creative, and enthusiastic group of individuals who have worked hard, and are continuing to work hard, to develop local integrated water management solutions to water management problems in the Greater Monterey County region. We can all be proud of the cooperative and collaborative spirit with which this Plan has been written!

If you have questions about the IRWM Plan or about the IRWM planning process in general, contact Susan Robinson, the IRWM Plan Coordinator, at srobinsongs@frontier.com or at (802) 279-4615.