More water for the Inland Empire
The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Muni) and Western Municipal Water District have joined to get rights to water impounded behind Seven Oaks Dam.
The state has given the two districts temporary permission to capture up to 42,000 acre feet of water that would otherwise be released downstream.
The application had been contested by the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, but the Conservation District dropped its opposition and in return was guaranteed first rights to the 10,000 acre feet it had before the new water rights agreement. Bear Valley Water District also retained its rights to the water, which goes to the East Valley Water District.
After those rights are satisfied, the remainder will be captured and either percolated into the underground basin in settling ponds, or allowed to percolate into the basin downstream between Seven Oaks Dam and the Waterman Avenue Bridge.
The announcement of the agreement came Wednesday, March 5, at the regular meeting of the Muni Board of Directors.
Deputy General Manager Douglas Headrick reported 8,000 acre feet of water behind the dam now, adding after the meeting that about 75 to 80 acre feet a day are being added to that supply.
That's still a long way from 42,000 acre feet, but Headrick said the district will take whatever it can get and store it for future use.
East Valley Water District already takes water from the Santa Ana River upstream from Seven Oaks Dam, capturing it from lines used by Southern California Edison for its hydroelectric plants. That supply is not stored behind the dam.
In the past, the water behind Seven Oaks Dam has been found unacceptable for either treatment or percolation because of its high silt content.
"It's still pretty turbid," said Headrick, "but it's better now and we believe we can use it."
"This is a great day for Southern California," said Muni Board President Patrick Milligan. "We're going to stop some water that has never been stopped before. It has basically been nuisance water over all these years and now we're going to make that water available."
The temporary permit allows the capture from now until August, but there are still two more hurdles:
The state wants metering devices installed to measure the flow, and
The San Bernardino County Flood Control District must sign off on releasing water from the dam at a rate that is compatible with percolation.
County Public Works spokeswoman Roni Edis said that department has received the proposal and has put it out for public comment until March 22. A decision will be made after that, but she anticipated no opposition as far as the Flood Control District is concerned.
The dam was originally built only for flood protection. The proposal for water storage and release for conservation is a new addition.