Representatives from STCDA took the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) Water Tour April 16th, a community outreach program offered periodically by the CCWD free-of-charge.
STCDA Steering Committee members Roger DiFate, Jan McCleery, Mike Guzzardo, and Michael Broadsky.
We toured the CCWD water treatment plant, went to the site of the Old River pumps (see photos), enjoyed picnic lunch, nature lecture and boat trip at Los Vaqueros Reservoir, then toured the Los Vaqueros Dam site and environmental center. The tour guides and environmentalist lecturers were all knowledgeable and it was an educational and enjoyable day. I’d recommend anyone who is interested to take the tour when CCWD offers it again!
One thing that struck me was the difference in how the CCWD pumps were installed and operated versus the Tracy/Clifton Court Forebay pumps that send water south. First, the CCWD pumps on Old River are placed on the side of the river, parallel to the flow, enabling the majority of fish to pass by safely. Fish screens are in place. The operation has little impact on even small fish like Delta Smelt juveniles.
CCWD Old River Pumping Station
Contrast that with the Tracy pumps that are on the Clifton Forebay at the end of sloughs and constantly entrap fish and cause great harm. Of course, the amount of water being pumped is also a difference. The amount of water the Tracy pumps extract is so significant that it reverses the flow of Middle River when they are running, causing the river to run from north to south instead of towards the ocean. That confuses migrating fish, like salmon and smelt. They cannot get back to the ocean and they perish.
The other interesting facet is that when the Federal Judge closes down pumping due to environmental reasons, it isn’t just the Tracy pumps that are restricted from pumping, the CCWD and all other pumps on the Delta are also restricted, even though they are not entrapping smelt. Makes me think that the Judge realizes it isn’t just the fact that smelt get entrapped in the pumps that is the issue but rather the amount of water being exported, impacting water quality, that is a larger concern.
CCWD also operates pumps on Rock Slough near Oakley and are adding a new pumping station on Victoria Slough on Middle River because the water flowing south (up stream) in Middle River is much higher quality than Old River or Rock Slough because of the strong flow reversals caused by the Tracy pumps pulling the cleaner water from the Sacramento River.
The CCWD pumps pump water up to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir as a holding area. Water released from Los Vaqueros goes to the CCWD water treatment facility located in Brentwood and a new Brentwood Water Treatment plant. These supply water to Brentwood and west (Clayton, Clyde, Concord, Pacheco, Port Costa, and parts of Pleasant Hill, Martinez and Walnut Creek).
Antioch has their own pumping station and water treatment but struggle with the rise of salt water intruding up the Delta. The “X2 Line” is suppose to be at Pittsburg, that is as far up the Delta salt water is legally supposed to be allowed and should govern the amount of extracts according to guidelines that were established when the Tracy pumps were installed. Antioch and its pumping stations are above that line, but the X2 guidelines are not adhered to as more and more water is exported. Currently Antioch can only extract its drinking water during outbound tides and has issued complaints to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) about not maintaining the X2 line. Recently the CCWD pipeline was linked to Antioch’s to be able to provide backup water to Antioch in time of need.
None of the Los Vaqueros water flows east. Discovery Bay and Byron for example are on their own wells. There is talk that Discovery Bay may at some point need to switch to Delta water if the levels of chemicals in the wells is deemed unacceptable. Having taken the tour of the modern CCWD treatment facility, the steps required to treat Delta water, even from the reservoir, is complex and expensive.
Finding out more about these pumping stations and their impact makes me feel even more strongly that locating huge pumps north on the Sacramento River and a Peripheral Canal can’t be a good way to go. If anything, distributed pumping and a way to balance the water flow through the Delta is the optimum way to export excess water for other uses.