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August 17, 2022

PVWMA board advances College Lake Project

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA) Board of Directors unanimously approved the College Lake Integrated Resources Management Project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Addendum at its meeting on July 20.

As part of the action, the Board approved an updated version of the project that moves the College Lake Project pipeline to the east side of Watsonville (lessening traffic impacts during construction), and reduces other aspects of the project footprint decreasing environmental impacts.

The project, PVWMA said in a press release, is the agency’s highest priority endeavor within its community-developed and state-approved Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Alternative. The primary purposes of the College Lake Project are to help balance the groundwater basin, prevent further seawater intrusion and meet water supply needs in PVWMA’s service area by developing College Lake as a water storage and supply source.

The public process to review the College Lake Project has been extensive, beginning with the publication of a Notice of Preparation of the EIR that was published in November 2017, which initiated the public comment period. The approved Addendum acknowledges modifications PVWMA has made to the College Lake Project since the Final EIR for the project was certified by the Board in October 2019.

Since Board certified the College Lake Project EIR in 2019, the design has evolved to include the following four significant updates:

  • Weir Structure and Intake Pump Station. The configuration and dimensions of the weir structure and intake pump station have been refined since the approval of the project, for example, incorporate input from National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the design of the fishway passage.
  • Water Treatment Plant (WTP). The design for the WTP has been refined, resulting in a smaller permanent footprint compared to the previously approved Project, and the addition of potable water well.
  • College Lake Pipeline. To reduce disruption to streets within the City of Watsonville, PV Water is going with an alternative alignment for the College Lake pipeline that is closer to agricultural fields and generally east of city streets. The proposed pipeline is now approximately 6 miles long and 30 inches in diameter.
  • Project Construction. Construction is estimated to occur over approximately 22 months beginning in 2023.

Groundwater accounts for more than 90% of water demand in the Pajaro Valley Basin. Throughout much of the Pajaro Valley Groundwater Basin, groundwater levels have declined as a result of long-term groundwater overdraft. Overdraft conditions result in seawater intrusion, groundwater quality degradation and groundwater storage depletion.

The College Lake Project will add a significant and consistent source of water to PVWMA’s supplemental water supply network, which the agency developed to achieve sustainable groundwater resources in its critically overdrafted basin.

PVWMA will use water from College Lake to supplement existing water supplies, which will help reduce the annual groundwater deficit of approximately 12,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, or one foot of water covering an acre of land.) In addition to providing water, the College Lake Project will improve habitat and passage for Steelhead, an endangered species, and maintain habitat for waterfowl.

The EIR is available online at pvwater.org/college-lake-project.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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