California county to use hydro to fund water project upgrade

The Monterey County, Calif., Board of Supervisors plans to use money from the sale of electricity by the 4.351-MW Nacimiento hydro plant to help repay $35 million in revenue bonds for the Salinas Valley Water Project.

The board of supervisors voted unanimously July 8 to approve financing for the Salinas Valley Water Project through issuance of the bonds. Morgan Stanley will issue the bonds, which Union Bank of California will manage.

The Monterey County Water Resources Agency is to repay the bonds over 30 years from estimated revenues of $750,000 a year from sales of electricity generated by Nacimiento (No. 6378). The water agency also expects to use $1.08 million a year in assessments and $226,000 a year in taxes it already receives. In addition, MCWRA plans to use any fees collected from annexation of property for the Salinas County Water Project area to repay construction debt.

The Salinas Valley Water Project is expected to stop the intrusion of seawater, avert a maximum flood event at Nacimiento Dam, and recharge the Salinas River Basin. It features two major components: modification of the spillway at Nacimiento Dam to improve seismic safety and flexibility for flood control; and installation of a rubber dam near Marina, which will divert Salinas River water during the non-rainy season for treatment and distribution to farms.

State and federal regulators require the 215-foot-tall, 1,630-foot-long earthfill dam be modified so the spillway can release enough water during a large flood to ensure flood protection and dam safety. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is involved in the dam safety program due to the hydro plant located at the base of the dam; MCWRA holds an exemption for the project from FERC.

California’s State Water Resources Control Board previously awarded a $5.5 million grant to MCWRA for project work. Construction work began in April. Modifications to the spillway are to be completed by Sept. 30, 2009.

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