Rubber Dam Repairs go to NOAA for Review
August 8, 2011
A month after the Monterey County Water Resources Agency board approved $250,000 of funding for emergency repairs to the Salinas River Diversion Facility or Rubber Dam, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been tasked with assessing potential impact to fish and wildlife.
The river bottom appears to be eroding, according to Brent Buche, Chief of Operations and Maintenance at MCWRA.
Devin Best, lead biologist with NOAA says he was notified of the issue on Aug. 5, and has 135 days to complete its analysis and submit an opinion to the Army Corps of Engineers, which then grants a federal permit for repairs. The MCWRA board unanimously voted to approve funding for emergency repairs on July 5.
"It is a true emergency for us. We need to get it together before the winter flows," Buche says. "We cannot have natural flows coming downstream and a damaged river bottom."
Best says to effectively take stock of the problem, the river would need to be drained, which isn't an option he'll sign off on. And any activity short of draining the river likely won't get to the root cause of the erosion problem. "This may be a sign of a much bigger problem that they’re going to be constantly be dealing with," Best says. "They’re treating a symptom. If we don’t know what causes it and we’re just going to go fill in a hole, that's where people are scratching their heads wondering if we’re just going to be doing this again and again."
Buche says NOAA, along with other regulatory agencies that have a say, including the California Division of Safety and Dams, Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Fish and Game, were all notified a month ago when the damage was first discovered.
The $40 million Rubber Dam project secures water, but would require a separate $25-30 million pipeline project to actually deliver water to Prunedale and Granite Ridge, which are uphill from the facility.
The facility first began diverting water in April 2010. "We are disappointed that there’s a problem here," Buche says, since the dam has been operating for barely more than a year.