All-American Canal Lining Project reaches critical milestone

April 30, 2009

The Imperial Irrigation District, San Diego County Water Authority, state Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation today celebrated…

The Imperial Irrigation District, San Diego County Water Authority, state Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation today celebrated the pending completion of the All-American Canal lining project, an innovative and collaborative effort that will play a key role in helping California conserve much-needed water supplies.

“This is a project whose time had clearly come,” said IID General Manager Brian Brady. “The era of limits on the Colorado River imposes new expectations – and responsibilities – on all water users.”

The dedication, held along the new concrete-lined canal in the eastern Imperial Valley desert, celebrated the completion of the concrete lining of the mainline canal structure, an important construction milestone. While paving of the transitional structures between the earthen All-American Canal and the new concrete-lined section will continue through March 2010, the construction is a year ahead of schedule and the projected water conservation has begun sooner than anticipated.

The canal-lining project will conserve an estimated 67,700 acre-feet of water per year. Water conservation from the project began in 2008, when two other segments of the project were completed, and an increased amount of conservation will occur this year. Full realization of the project’s ultimate water savings will occur in 2010.

The majority of water recovered through the lining project will be allocated to the Water Authority for a period of 110 years, with 11,500 acre-feet of the conserved water designated to the San Luis Rey Settlement Parties annually.

The new water supply will help the Water Authority enhance short-term and long-term water supply reliability for the San Diego region. This year, water from the project is being used to help reduce shortages caused by supply cutbacks from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta.

“This project is a critical component of the Water Authority’s diversification strategy,” said Water Authority General Manager Maureen Stapleton. “We are already realizing the benefits from this innovative partnership. It is helping us meet the challenge of providing a reliable supply of water to support our region’s 3 million residents and our $171 billion regional economy at a time when drought and regulatory restrictions are impacting other supplies.”

For IID, the AACLP helps the Imperial Valley water provider meet its goals as set forth in the Quantification Settlement Agreement, a 2003 pact that called on California to live within its Colorado River basic annual apportionment of 4.4 million acre-feet of water per year.

“The water that will be conserved as a result of this project will enable the Water Authority to meet its needs without impacting the available water supply in the Imperial Valley,” said IID Board President James Hanks.

For the state, the AACLP is protecting Colorado River Aqueduct supplies. As a result, it is extending California’s available water supply as drought and regulatory restrictions on pumping water from Northern California are causing significant water shortages in many parts of the state.

The AACLP also stands as a model as to what can be accomplished when local water agencies, the state and the federal government work collaboratively to conserve vital water supplies, according to both Hanks and Water Authority Board of Directors Vice Chairman Mark Watton.

“This project is a testament to the effectiveness of a truly cooperative government effort to protect such an important resource,” Watton said. “This is a project we can all take pride in.”

The All-American Canal has been a critical means of water conveyance into the Imperial and Coachella valleys for decades. It was authorized as part of the Boulder Canyon Act in 1928 and constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1938. The earthen canal extends approximately 82 miles from the Colorado River through the Imperial Valley.

The project to line portions of the canal was authorized by Congress in 1988 and a federal record of decision was issued in 1994 calling for a 23-mile section of the earthen canal to be replaced by a concrete-lined canal.

In 2003, IID, the Water Authority, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Coachella Valley Water District, along with the state of California and the U.S. Department of Interior completed a series of complex agreements – collectively known as the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement — to conserve and transfer water. One of those key agreements included the AACLP and a similar project, the Coachella Canal Lining Project; the latter was completed in 2006 and is providing 21,500 acre-feet of water annually to the Water Authority. All together, the canal lining projects are expected to provide nearly 80,000 acre-feet of water supply annually to the San Diego region.

As part of the AACLP, the state of California and the Water Authority share the nearly $300 million in construction costs while IID provides construction management and ongoing operation and maintenance of the canal. The Bureau of Reclamation maintains ownership of the canal. AACLP construction began in 2007. The project was divided into three reaches or segments “î Reaches 1, 2 and 3. The reaches were identified based on their proximity to IID’s hydroelectric energy generating facilities (Drops 1, 2 and 3) along the existing earthen canal. The new canal covers an area from the Algodones Sand Dunes in the Imperial Valley’s eastern desert to a point west of the canal’s Drop 3.

Ames-Coffman Joint Venture was awarded the contract for Reaches 2 and 3, which will conserve 18,080 acre-feet of water per year. Kiewit Pacific was the contractor for Reach 1, which will conserve the largest amount of water within the 23 miles of lined canal.

The project also entailed the building of an off-line storage reservoir “î built out of the original earthen canal “î that will be able to store approximately 1,200 acre-feet of water for IID’s use.

In addition, serious attention was given to the environmental impacts in the area. Mitigation efforts include the building of a wetlands area in the Imperial Valley and future sand dunes restoration.

As work continues toward its completion in 2010, the next critical step for the AACLP is the

Bureau of Reclamation secretarial determination. That will establish the total amount of water to be conserved annually by the concrete-lined canal. The secretarial determination is expected within the next few weeks.

Note: B-Roll footage of the project is available.

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  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

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