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PROJECT UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 2023 

September 22, 2023 - On September 20, 2023, BBARWA presented the Project to Mr. Courtney’s Honors Gov/Econ class at Big Bear High School.


The Project’s FAQ page was updated with additional questions from the Open House.

 

Stakeholder Coordination 
On September 5, 2023, the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) met with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to introduce the Project to new CDFW staff. On September 7, 2023, BBARWA met with the tribal archeologist from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to discuss mitigation measures to be included in the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Project Team is preparing to meet with the Colorado River Regional Board to discuss the permitting pathway.


Meetings are being scheduled with Project Partners, beneficiaries, and stakeholders to present updates and progress. Project Partners include CSD, DWP, and the Big Bear Municipal Water District (MWD). 

Environmental Review 
The draft EIR is being developed and is expected to be released in November. The public review period will be 45 days. The timeline for responses is dependent upon the extent of comments received. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will start the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review in parallel to expedite the NEPA review, with a target completion of Spring 2024.

 

Preliminary Engineering 
The pilot study is underway. The purpose of the pilot study is to demonstrate process performance for site-specific wastewater conditions to regulatory agencies, confirm the proposed treatment process as a viable design approach to meet the target treatment levels, and quantify total system recovery for product water. The pilot study consists of four processes:  nutrient removal, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, UV disinfection and an advanced oxidation process that will produce purified water that is higher than drinking water quality and meets all state and federal regulations. Brine minimization piloting will occur off-site; 20 totes were shipped to Israel on September 16, 2023. The results from the piloting study will be used in the final design of the Project facility.


The traditional Design-Bid-Build method was selected as the most appropriate procurement/delivery method given funding agency requirements. A request for proposal (RFP) is being developed for the final design of the Project facility.

 

Regulatory Analysis and Coordination 
A work plan to lay out the next steps and timeline for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process is underway. This permit is required in order to discharge Project water to Stanfield Marsh and Big Bear Lake. Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC), the water engineering consultant, continues to work on the Monitoring Plan to collect information from Big Bear Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. Samples were collected on July 20, 2023, September 14, 2023, and September 21, 2023. The preliminary results will assist WSC in its recommendation for the Monitoring Plan.


The Division area survey was completed for the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) permit.


The Project Team continues to work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER). 

 

Agreements and Contracts
Amendment No. 1 to the Replenish Big Bear Funding Letter of Intent (LOI) between BBARWA, DWP, and CSD was approved by BBARWA and CSD. The LOI was sent to DWP for consideration. The purpose of the LOI is to confirm the intent of the DWP and CSD to purchase an option based on the underlying value of Project Water. The LOI gives DWP and CSD the option to withdraw up to 380 AFY of Project Water from Big Bear Lake for groundwater recharge and in-lieu recharge of 120 AFY for irrigation of the Big Bear Mountain Golf Course. The LOI states that DWP will pay 68% of the current Option Value ($294,718.80) and CSD will pay 32% of the current Option Value ($138,691.20) to BBARWA, which reflects their relative benefit of the Project Water. Amendment No. 1 extends the LOI to September 27, 2024. Although there is no financial impact in signing the LOI, it is the first step in negotiating funding agreements for annual operations and maintenance (O&M) costs.

 

Amendment No. 5 to the Professional Services Agreements between BBARWA and WSC will be considered for approval at BBARWA's September 27, 2023 Governing Board meeting. Amendment No. 5 is needed for continued support for the Project which includes pursuing additional funding, conducting stakeholder coordination, providing regulatory support, and implementing the pilot plan. This amendment also includes work that was not anticipated in Amendment No. 4. More information can be found here.

Funding and Financing 
BBARWA adopted a five-year sewer user charge/fee schedule on March 22, 2023. These fees are to fund debt service and required reserves for the Project. Debt service includes interest only on the current bridge loan and future project funding, such as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. CSD adopted BBARWA's sewer user fees for fiscal year 2023-24, and the City of Big Bear Lake adopted BBARWA's sewer user fees through fiscal year 2027-28. The County of San Bernardino Service Area 53B absorbed the sewer user charge. More information on the sewer user charge can be read here.


Funding agreements with Project Partners (DWP, CSD, and MWD) for the annual O&M costs will be negotiated closer to construction. These funds will not be collected until the Project water is released into Stanfield Marsh, which is expected in 2027.

 

Additional funding is being pursued from key Big Bear Valley beneficiaries. Any additional grants or contributions from Project Partners or beneficiaries could reduce the Agency’s sewer user charge.


BBARWA is reviewing the proposed WIFIA loan closing schedule and responses to EPA questions. The WIFIA loan will be used for Construction Funding. 


On January 25, 2023, BBARWA's Governing Board authorized the execution of interim financing in the amount of $3,400,000 with a term of 3 years, an interest rate of 4.25%, and debt service requirements of interest only (no principal payments) with a lump-sum payment in the final year. This loan is expected to be refunded or paid prior to maturity with the Construction Funding (financing to repay this loan prior to maturity and to cover the costs of construction expected to begin in FY 2025).

 

Project revenues and expenses, grants awarded or recommended for funding, and grant applications outstanding are detailed further in BBARWA's General Manager's Report here.

 

IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 Grant – Progress Report #9 requesting reimbursement in the amount of $279,447.74 is pending review and approval by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA).


2021 & 2022 Title XVI Grant – The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) amended the grant agreement to include the 2022 Title XVI grant award of $8,267,112. The total grant award is $9,967,112. WSC confirmed with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) that the following expenses are eligible:


•    The project is eligible for reimbursement from 3/8/2019 - 5/14/2022 because Build America Buy America (BABA) requirements are not applicable.
•    The project is eligible for reimbursement from 7/13/2022 - 1/12/2023 because of the temporary BABA waiver.


WSC is confirming if eligible Project costs can be submitted for reimbursement since the Project is not in construction.


The BABA waiver must be completed before requesting funds subject to BABA requirements. The WaterReuse programmatic waiver is being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget. 


2022 and 2023 EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) –  No update. These two grants were originally submitted through Community Funding Requests and have both been assigned to the EPA STAG program. EPA confirmed that EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted. The application will be submitted once the EIR/EA is certified. 


2024 Community Funding Request –Congressman Obernolte requested $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2024 from the House Committee on Appropriations. Senator Padilla requested $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2024 from the Senate Committee on Appropriations - Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. We anticipate, if awarded, these grants will be awarded through the EPA STAG program.


2023 Title XVI – No update. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is anticipated to be released soon. The Project is eligible to apply again to receive additional grant funds up to 25% of the total.
 

Each month, BBARWA provides a Project update in its General Manager's Report. Join the mailing list here.

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PROJECT UPDATE, JULY 2023 

July 25, 2023 – The Project Team would like to thank the 244 members of the community, the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, the Big Bear City Community Services District, and the Big Bear Municipal Water District for their support and participation in the July 19, 2023 Replenish Big Bear Open House & Pilot Tour event.


Stakeholder Coordination (no update)
Stakeholder coordination is ongoing, with the Project Team meeting with various stakeholder groups. 


Environmental Review 
The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected to be published for review in the summer of 2023. An EIR is a document that is required to comply with the National Environmental Policy
Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), respectively. The purpose of these documents is to analyze and disclose a project’s potential effects on the
natural and human environment and identify mitigation measures and alternatives to avoid significant effects. Environmental document milestones can be found in the January 25, 2023 presentation material.


An assessment is needed to determine the impacts of using Project water stored in Big Bear Lake to recharge the Big Bear Valley groundwater basin through the Sand Canyon recharge area. The analysis will be limited to the numeric Basin Plan water quality objectives. More information about the Basin Plan can be found in the Bear Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan.


Preliminary Engineering 
The pilot study is underway. The purpose of the pilot study is to demonstrate process performance for site-specific wastewater conditions to regulatory agencies, confirm the proposed treatment process as a viable design approach to meet the target treatment levels, and quantify total system recovery for product water. The pilot facility is a mini version of the facility that will be constructed. The pilot study consists of four processes:  nutrient removal, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis (RO), UV disinfection and an advanced oxidation process that will produce purified water that is higher than drinking water quality and meets all state and federal regulations. Process descriptions and equipment images can be downloaded here.


The RO process produces a liquid brine concentrate that requires disposal. A desalter system will use an additional RO process to reduce the liquid brine volume and a pellet reactor that will produce solid pellets for disposal or reuse. The remaining brine will be evaporated onsite using solar evaporation ponds. The Project Team is coordinating the brine minimization portion of the pilot study with the first batch of totes being sent shortly for testing.


The traditional Design-Bid-Build method was selected as the most appropriate procurement/delivery method given funding agency requirements.


Regulatory Analysis and Coordination (no update)
A work plan to lay out the next steps and timeline for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process is underway. This permit is required in order to discharge Project water to Stanfield Marsh and Big Bear Lake. The draft work plan will be shared with the Regional Board and Division of Drinking Water (DDW).


Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC), the water engineering consultant, continues to work on the Monitoring Plan to collect information from Big Bear Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. The Monitoring Plan will be shared with the Regional Board and DDW before Lake sampling begins.


WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co., the groundwater consultant, will complete the work plan once the survey information is received. WSC will send the work plan to DDW and request a meeting to discuss. 


The Project Team continues to work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER). 


Agreements and Contracts
The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) continues to work with legal counsel and Project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of Project water and future monetary contributions to the Project. 


Funding and Financing 
The preliminary S&P Global Rating review has been completed and BBARWA is pleased to announce that it received a preliminary rating of A-. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) application was submitted on June 8, 2023. The Project Team met with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss additional information needed to complete the WIFIA application and is working on providing that information.


BBARWA's Governing Board adopted a five-year sewer user charge schedule on March 22, 2023, which is a requirement for the WIFIA Loan. The Big Bear City Community Services District and the City of Big Bear Lake held Prop 218 protest hearings. Both agencies adopted the new rate schedule. The County of San Bernardino CSA 53B did not hold a Prop 218 protest hearing and will absorb the rate increase at this time.

 

Grant Status 

IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 Grant –The next quarterly report is due on July 31, 2023. 


2021 Title XVI Grant – The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) toured the pilot facility on July 18, 2023.

 
2022 and 2023 EPA STAG Grants – No update. These two grants were originally submitted through Community Funding Requests and have both been assigned to the EPA STAG grant program. EPA confirmed that an EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted. The application will be submitted once the EIR/EA is certified. 


2022 Title XVI Grant – No update. The formal award from USBR in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.


2024 Community Funding Request - No update. The Project Team submitted applications to Senator Padilla, Senator Feinstein, and Congressman Obernolte in the amount of $2,500,000. We anticipate, if awarded, this grant will be awarded through the EPA STAG program.


2023 Title XVI - No update. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is anticipated to be released in the summer. The Project is eligible to apply again to receive additional grant funds up to 25% of the total.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Project, please contact us at (909) 584-4018 or email us.

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PROJECT UPDATE, MARCH 2023 

March 17, 2023 – 

Stakeholder Coordination
On March 6, 2023, BBARWA met with the Lucerne Valley farmer to discuss using excess Project water for growing grain in the winter, which will help BBARWA to maintain its Colorado River Basin waste discharge permit. On March 13, 2023, the Project Team met with the Mojave Water Agency (MWA) and Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association (LVEDA) to discuss the Project and responses to their Notice of Preparation (NOP) comments. The Project Team will have further discussions with MWA regarding additional uses of excess Project water that will not be utilized by the farmer that could provide a greater benefit to the Mojave basin. A meeting with Chuck Bell of the LVEDA regarding site restoration of BBARWA’s Lucerne Valley property is being scheduled. On March 16, 2023, the Project Team will meet with the East Valley Water District, Bear Valley Mutual, and the City of Redlands to discuss the Project overview and status, water quality, monitoring and pilot plans, regulatory pathway, and their NOP comments.

 

Coordination with key stakeholders for the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will continue. It is anticipated that the draft EIR will be ready for public review in April/May 2023.


Environmental Review
The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023. 

Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) is updating the water balance data (based on input from the Lucerne Valley farmer) to quantify the Lucerne Valley net change in recharge due to the Project. An assessment of groundwater levels to determine if effluent disposal contributes to surface/subsurface flows in the wash was completed with no connection based on groundwater levels. The 2017 Lucerne Valley Site Groundwater Report was updated and confirmed prior conclusions that effluent disposal is not the cause of groundwater quality issues. 


Preliminary Engineering
The denitrification filter from Nexom, Inc. is in operation. Negotiations with other pilot equipment vendors are complete and the Agency is preparing for final agreements. Brine minimization will likely occur off-site.


WSC is developing a framework to evaluate and support Agency decisions on delivery approaches for each Project component (i.e., Design Bid Build, Fixed Price Design Build, Progressive Design Build, etc.). 


Regulatory Analysis and Coordination
A work plan to lay out the next steps and timeline for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process is underway. The draft will be shared with the Regional Board and Division of Drinking Water (DDW).


WSC continues work on the Monitoring Plan to collect information from the Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. The Monitoring Plan will be shared with the Regional Board and DDW before Lake sampling begins.


WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co. will complete the work plan once they receive the survey information. WSC will send the work plan to DDW and request a meeting to discuss. 


The Project Team continues work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER). 


Agreements and Contracts

No updateThe Agency continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of Project water and future monetary contributions to the Project. 


Funding and Financing

No update. The short-term financing loan of $3.4 million closed in the beginning of February 2023. The Agency has engaged NHA Advisors, LLC (NHA) to assist with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan application and financial development plan for the Project. NHA will start the process to obtain the preliminary rating letter.  


The Agency was invited to apply for a loan under the WIFIA Program provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under this loan program, the Agency may borrow up to 80 percent of the total eligible project costs. An introductory meeting was held with the EPA on November 10, 2022, wherein the Agency’s team met with the EPA underwriter to discuss the application, underwriting, and loan close process.  The Agency expects to submit an application by June 2023 and if approved, close the loan by February 2024.

 

Grant Status

IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 Grant –Reimbursement for Invoice #4 in the amount of $59,842.47 was received in February. 


2021 Title XVI Grant – The agreement has been finalized. The Financial Capability Assessment and Build America, Buy America (BABA) waiver must be completed before requesting any funds. The WateReuse programmatic waiver is being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget. WSC recently provided updated wastewater rates for Southern California agencies, as requested.

 
2022 EPA STAG Grant – No update. EPA confirmed that EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted. The application will be submitted once EIR/EA is certified. 


2022 Title XVI Grant – No update. The formal award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.


2023 Community Funding Request – No update. The $1 million request was included in the Federal budget. We expect to receive information regarding the next steps in the next several months. 


2024 Community Funding Request - The Project Team submitted applications to Senator Padilla, Senator Feinstein, and Congressman Obernolte in the amount of $2,500,000.


2023 Title XVI - The Notice of Funding Opportunity is anticipated to be released in early summer. The Project is eligible to apply again to receive additional grant funds up to 25% of the total.

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PROJECT UPDATE, JANUARY 2023 

January 20, 2023 – BBARWA's General Manager and Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) presented the Project at the Upper Santa Ana River Division I Water Forum on January 19, 2023 at the request of Valley District. The discussion focused on the economic and community benefits of wastewater.

The Notice of Preparation and Project Description comment period ended on January 17, 2023. Questions and concerns will be incorporated into the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Coordination with key stakeholders for the draft EIR is scheduled to begin in early 2023 and it is anticipated that the draft EIR will be ready for public review in April/May 2023. Environmental documents can be found on the Documents page.

WSC is preparing maps showing the limits of ground disturbance for the Project pipeline and treatment plant upgrades in response to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ request.

The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023.

WSC continues development of the overall monitoring plan, which includes the pilot phase, to inform the next steps in response to the Regional Board comments. The Regional Board confirmed the Project does not meet the definition of a Surface Water Source Augmentation Project (SWSAP).

WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co. will complete the work plan once they receive the survey information. WSC will send the work plan to the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and request a meeting to discuss.

The Project Team continues work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER).

The Notice of Exemption for the Pilot Study was filed on December 14, 2022. The 35-day statute of limitations ended on January 18, 2023.

The Pilot Plan is under development. WSC is coordinating with vendors to confirm proposals. Equipment deliveries are expected to begin soon with full pilot startup in 2023.

WSC is developing a framework to evaluate and support decisions on delivery approaches for each Project component (i.e., Design Bid Build, Fixed Price Design Build, Progressive Design Build, etc.).

Big Bear Municipal Water District (BBMWD) is looking into detailed results of the prior Lake level modeling effort for comparison to Dr. Anderson’s model. The purpose is to support refinement of the Lake level benefit messaging in the short term and align with anticipated future tracking and reporting of project benefits after startup.

BBARWA continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project.

 

BBARWA received five proposals and more advantageous terms on the second RFP process for the interim financing.  Please refer to staff report for details of the interim financing

BBARWA was invited to apply for a loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under this loan program, BBARWA may borrow up to 80 percent of the total eligible project costs. An introductory meeting was held with the EPA on November 10, 2022 wherein the Agency’s team met with the EPA underwriter to discuss the application, underwriting and loan close process.  BBARWA expects to submit an application by June 2023 and if approved, close the loan by February 2024.

Invoice #5 for the IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 grant is due on January 31, 2023.

WateReuse met with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to discuss a programmatic Build America, Buy America (BABA) waiver for the 2021 Title XVI grant. USBR is getting closer to a programmatic waiver, but no timeframe has been provided. The Denver office is completing its review of the Financial Capability Assessment. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for the 2023 Title XVI is anticipated to be released in Spring 2023.

WSC and BBARWA staff participated in the EPA State and Tribal Assistance (STAG) grant training series webinars on December 6, 14, and 15, 2022.

The $1 million Community Funding Request was included in the Federal budget. We expect to receive information regarding the next steps in the next several months.

The formal award from USBR for the 2022 Title XVI grant in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.

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PROJECT UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2022 

November 30, 2022 – The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) has prepared a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Replenish Big Bear Program and has authorized the release of the NOP for public comment.

 

Project Description: Replenish Big Bear includes permitting, design, and construction of full advanced treatment facility upgrades at the existing BBARWA WWTP, more than 7 miles of pipeline for product water and RO brine minimization, three pump stations, a groundwater recharge facility, and up to four monitoring wells.

 

The Program is currently estimated to produce approximately 1,950 acre-feet per year (AFY) of high-quality purified water, and may produce up to 2,210 AFY by 2040 through operation of a high-recovery brine minimization technology.  Piloting will be conducted to confirm the feasibility of the higher yield estimates.  For the purposes of this document, 2,210 AFY is used to be conservative in evaluating environmental impacts. The Shay Pond discharge will replace potable water currently discharged to the water body to maintain the water flow through the pond. Up to 80 AFY of purified water will be sent to Shay Pond, and any remaining purified water will be sent to Stanfield Marsh Wildlife and Waterfowl Preserve (Stanfield Marsh), a tributary of Big Bear Lake (Lake). A more detailed project description can be found attached to the NOP electronically at the following web address: https://www.replenishbigbear.com/documents.

 

Comment Period: Pursuant to State CEQA Guidelines, any response and/or comments on the NOP must be submitted to the Lead Agency as soon as possible, but not later than forty-five (45) days after the date upon this Notice. The NOP comment period begins on November 30, 2022 and ends on January 17, 2023.  Please send your written responses, including any comments you may have on this project, by 5:00 PM on January 17, 2023 via regular mail or e-mail to: 

Bridgette Burton

Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency

121 Palomino Drive

P.O. Box 517

Big Bear City, CA 92314

Email: bburton@bbarwa.org

Telephone: 909-584-4524

 

Scoping Meeting: Two public scoping meetings will be held to receive verbal public comments and suggestions on the environmental issues associated with implementation of the Replenish Big Bear Program that will be addressed in the EIR. These meetings will be identical in nature and will enable two meetings for each of the community areas within which the Program would be installed. The scoping meetings will be open to the public and held at the following locations and at the following times:

 

City of Big Bear Lake, Department of Water and Power

41972 Garstin Dr., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

From 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM on January 5, 2023

 

Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency

121 Palomino Dr., Big Bear City, CA 92314

From 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM on January 10, 2023

Business Conference

PROJECT UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 2022 

September 23, 2022 – The Project Team received the formal response from the Regional Board regarding the NPDES permit and are developing a response with Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) and sub-consultants. More details will be discussed during Item 5.A. of the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency's (BBARWA) September 28, 2022 Governing Board meeting.

The Project Team provided comments to the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) for the well investigation work plan; WSC is coordinating the next steps.

The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023. The Project Team is reviewing the Project description and revamping the effort to complete the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment.

BBARWA continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project. The first Replenish Big Bear Funding Letter of Intent between BBARWA, the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, and the Big Bear City Community Services District was approved by BBARWA's Governing Board in August 2022. Separate Funding Letters of Intent with the City of Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Municipal Water District (BBMWD), and Big Bear Mountain Resort are being developed.

The Benefits MOU is pending signatures from the County of San Bernardino, BBMWD, Visit Big Bear, and the City of Big Bear Lake. The County Board of Supervisors will not consider this item until all other parties have signed.

BBARWA's legal counsel has reviewed the 1977 Judgment and concluded that Project Water will not be owned by Mutual if there is excess storage capacity in Big Bear Lake, and a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Bear Valley Mutual is not anticipated.

BBARWA continues working with Fieldman Rolapp & Associates, Inc. (FRA) for municipal financial advisory services related to the short and long-term financial needs of BBARWA.

BBARWA submitted the Letter of Interest for a loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) on September 6, 2022. A response from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected within 8-weeks. If approved, BBARWA will begin the application process (approximately a 1-year turnaround).

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) are in the process of amending their IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 grant agreement, in which BBARWA is a sub-grantee.

The Project Team submitted the Financial Capability Assessment and is developing the approach to the Build America Buy America (BABA) waiver, both of which must be completed prior to requesting any funds for the 2021 Title XVI grant.

CEQA guidelines for the 2022 EPA STAG grant are expected in Fall 2022. CEQA/NEPA processes must be completed prior to an award, even though the grant was included in the appropriations bill.

The formal award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) for the 2022 Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.

Congressman Obernolte recommended the Project’s $1 million Community Funding Request for funding, and we expect to receive notification after the federal budget approval process.

We encourage the public to join BBARWA's September 28, 2022 Governing Board meeting for a more detailed discussion.

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PROJECT UPDATE, JULY 2022 

July 22, 2022 –  On May 26, 2021, BBARWA's Governing Board directed staff to develop a benefits memorandum of understanding (Benefits MOU) that identified the beneficiaries and related benefits of the Replenish Big Bear Project (the Project). The goal of the Benefits MOU is to identify users of the Project water and any other parties that may receive value from the Project water (together, the “Beneficiaries”). It is anticipated that the Beneficiaries may contribute toward the costs of the Project water in a manner that is relative to the benefits or direct use of the Project water. BBARWA, the City of Big Bear Lake, DWP, and BBCCSD presented the draft Benefits MOU for consideration by their respective Governing Boards and Councils, with approval and execution in 2021. On July 13, 2022, the County of San Bernardino (County) provided edits to the Benefits MOU. While the edits are minor in nature, some are to the body of the Benefits MOU and outside of the County section. As a result, BBARWA's legal counsel advises all parties sign the same version. This will be presented to the BBARWA Governing Board on July 27, 2022 (Item 9.A.).

The Second Amended and Restated Memorandum of Understanding is pending signatures from MWD and the BVBGSA.

The Project Team is awaiting the formal response from the Regional Board regarding the Report of Waste Discharge (ROWD).

BBARWA is working with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project.

BBARWA is gathering information related to financing strategies for both short and long-term debt financing for the Project. A long-term, low-interest loan may be possible under the WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) Program. BBARWA is expected to make an application in September.

 

A grant status table has been developed for all awarded, received, and pending grant applications (Item 6.A.). The Project Team continues to aggressively pursue grants to offset Project costs.

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PROJECT UPDATE, MARCH 2022 

March 23, 2022 – The Second Amended and Restated Memorandum of Understanding is pending signatures from MWD and the BVBGSA.

On February 28, 2022, the Report of Waste Discharge (ROWD), Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Technical Memorandum and the Antidegradation Analysis were submitted to the Regional Board. As previously reported, we anticipate the Regional Board’s initial response within 30 days, which typically includes either a determination that the application is considered complete, or a request for additional information that will be required to complete the application and move forward in the permitting process. Once the Regional Board decides the application is complete, they will send it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has an additional 30 days to review and can also request additional information if needed.

On March 3, 2022, MWD’s Watermaster Committee met and discussed the possibility of an annual contribution of approximately $1.0 million dollars plus the cost of offsets (lake water treatment to remove nutrients resulting from RBB water discharged to the lake). This information will be presented to MWD’s Governing Board in the near future. Once approved, an agreement will be drafted and presented to both MWD and BBARWA’s Governing Boards for consideration.

As reported in the City of Big Bear Lake’s March 7, 2022 City Manager Comments Report, City Council previously expressed interest in identifying a reliable and meaningful funding stream for Replenish Big Bear. A potential valley-wide “TOT District” may be the most viable revenue source, generating approximately $1.0 - $1.6 million or more from a 1% TOT on overnight accommodations in the Big Bear Valley. Frank Rush, former City Manager, envisioned a potential ballot measure appearing on the November 2022 ballot (most likely a later date), that would provide funding for both Replenish Big Bear and the Big Bear Fire Authority if City Council and the County Board of Supervisors supported the effort. The Project Team will continue these discussions with Supervisor Dawn Rowe and the interim City Manager.

On March 11, 2022, President Biden signed the omnibus bill which included $960,000 for the Replenish Big Bear Project, authorized through the Environmental Protection Agency State and Tribal Assistance Grant (EPA STAG) Program. This is the appropriations request that Congressman Obernolte assisted with. These types of projects have not been funded in a long time, so we are not sure how quickly funds can and will be dispersed. We are in communication with Congressman Obernolte’s office regarding these funds as well as for future potential funding opportunities included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

On March 11, 2022, the 2022 WaterSMART: Title XVI WIIN Water Reclamation and Reuse Program grant application was submitted to the Bureau of Reclamation. The anticipated award date is September 30, 2022, with approximately 3 to 10 projects expected to be awarded, depending on the amount requested by each applicant. Reclamation expects to contact potential award recipients and unsuccessful applicants in the spring of 2022 (or later if necessary), subject to the timing of final FY 2022 appropriations.

The Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Proposition 1 Round 2 solicitation will make approximately $192 million (the remaining funds for Implementation grants) available for awards. On December 10, 2021, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the Draft Proposition 1 - Round 2 IRWM Implementation Grant Proposal Solicitation Package and 2022 IRWM Program Guidelines and opened a public comment period which ended on February 18, 2022. DWR anticipates releasing the final documents in April of 2022. Once the final documents are released, the Project Team will begin preparing the submission for the grant application.

The domestic wells investigation is underway with Tom Harder updating the wells database and identifying data gaps. The Project Team has also begun preparation for the Recycled Water Engineering Report (ER) and is coordinating with Dr. Anderson to determine the model analysis needed to support the ER.

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PROJECT UPDATE, DECEMBER 2021 

December 13, 2021 – The Project Team has begun preparation of the Report of Waste Discharge (ROWD), which is a key step in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application process for the proposed discharge to Big Bear Lake and Shay Pond.  The ROWD will include two supplemental studies to help demonstrate how the project will meet stringent water quality regulations for the Lake: an Antidegradation Analysis Report and a TMDL Approach Technical Memorandum.  Prior to the adoption of the NPDES permit, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must also be developed and submitted to the Regional Board.  We will also be starting a study that was requested by the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) to evaluate domestic wells within 200 feet of the Lake and demonstrate that the project meets all public health requirements related to these wells.  Subsequent work is expected to include any additional technical studies that may be requested by the Regional Board and DDW and negotiation meetings with the Regional Board regarding the draft permit conditions. The time to prepare and submit additional information needed to finalize the permit application depends on the extent of information requested by the Regional Board.

 

It is anticipated that the proposed discharge to Sand Canyon for groundwater recharge will be permitted under a separate permit. The Sand Canyon permitting and analysis scope of work is being developed.

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REP. OBERNOLTE SECURES $960,000 FOR REPLENISH BIG BEAR, JULY 2021 

July 30, 2021 - U.S. Congressman Jay Obernolte (CA-08) secured $11 million in funding for projects in California’s 8th District that passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of this week’s major appropriations package. This includes $960,000 for the Replenish Big Bear project aimed at providing a reliable and sustainable local water supply.

 

“As the drought in California continues to worsen, it is more important now than ever that projects like Replenish Big Bear receive the funding they need to secure reliable water resources for our community and protect our natural resources,” said Rep. Obernolte. “I am proud to fight for funding to support this project and to bolster efforts to recover and preserve our valuable water supply.”

 

“We appreciate Congressman Obernolte’s support and dedication to the Big Bear Valley. The Replenish Big Bear Project is a great opportunity to improve groundwater sustainability and enhance our natural ecosystem,” said Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency General Manager David Lawrence.

 

The $960,000 in funding will go to the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) to support the Replenish Big Bear Project, a recycled water project aimed at recovering local water resources currently discharged outside the Santa Ana Watershed to replenish the local water supply, protect the Big Bear Valley environment, and strengthen the tourism industry that drives Big Bear’s recreation-based economy. Currently, about 800 million gallons of water, or half of Big Bear Valley’s annual water supply, is disposed of each year. Replenish Big Bear will recapture and treat this lost water to drinking water standards and use it to enhance water levels in the local groundwater basin, in Big Bear Lake, and in other area water bodies.

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REGULATORY COORDINATION UPDATE, JULY 2021

Coordination with regulatory agencies to determine treatment requirements and obtain the necessary permits is the most critical task and has been the primary focus of project efforts over the last 2 years. The Replenish Big Bear team is coordinating closely with the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Division of Drinking Water (DDW), to ensure the project is designed to meet strict state and federal standards to protect the environment and public health. Since the launch of the project, the team has participated in eleven (11) meetings with the Regional Board, EPA and DDW to discuss potential permitting pathways, present the results of several technical analyses requested by the regulators, and confirm the treatment process that is needed to meet the water quality requirements for Big Bear Lake, which are among the strictest in the state. 

 

The regulatory process has been more complex and lengthier than expected and has extended the project schedule. At the most recent meetings in February and April 2021, the project team received clear feedback from the regulators on the path forward and is ready to take the next steps toward obtaining permits once the project funding mechanisms are established. The project is now expected to be complete by the end of 2025. 

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WEBSITE UPDATE, JULY 2021

The project website has been updated to reflect the current status and streamline access to key information. The project timeline on the About page has been updated and FAQs have been updated to respond to community questions and moved to a separate page under About for easier access. The new Events page will provide information on future public meetings and other opportunities for community members to get involved, as well as documents from a selection of previous meetings and presentations. Join the mailing list to receive future updates directly to your email.

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HOW WILL REPLENISH BIG BEAR BE FUNDED?

As Replenish Big Bear advances through planning stages, all potential funding options to minimize the cost to local residents, including state and federal grants, are being considered. Efforts are currently underway to pursue two sources of grant funding to help make Replenish Big Bear a reality: Title XVI, a federal program that provides funding specifically for water reuse projects in 17 western states including California, and Prop 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) funding, a state program that helps to fund projects that meet California’s long-term water needs. The first step toward pursuing Title XVI funding is to submit a Feasibility Study to the Bureau of Reclamation.


The Replenish Big Bear Title XVI Feasibility Study is nearly complete and will be submitted this week. Once approved, the project will become eligible to apply for grants that could fund up to 25 percent of the project. Preliminary applications for the Prop 1 IRWM funding are due to the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority on January 21, 2019, and the project team is currently working with other agencies in the region to assemble a highly competitive application package.  If selected to move forward in the process, final grant applications will be due in June 2019. 


Besides Title XVI and Prop 1 funding, other funding opportunities are also currently being explored.

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REPLENISH BIG BEAR WILL INCREASE LAKE LEVELS

The Replenish Big Bear project will send a consistent flow of clean water into Big Bear Lake and increase lake levels by up to five feet in dry years. The project will do this by retaining high quality treated water within Big Bear Valley. Since 1980, 32 billion gallons of water have been pumped from Big Bear Valley to irrigate Lucerne Valley crops. This amount is equal to 1 1/3 lakes, says BBARWA General Manager David Lawrence.
 

Replenish Big Bear is an innovative solution to record low lake levels. Big Bear Lake has had extremely low levels in the past 15 years, with lows of approximately 17 feet below full recorded in 2004, 2016, and in early 2018. As of the end of November 2018, the lake was 18’5” feet down from full, less than 40 percent full.

For current lake level information, visit: https://www.bbmwd.com/current-lake-stats

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PROJECT UPDATE, AUGUST 2023 

August 18, 2023 – Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) is nominating the Project Team for the California WateReuse Bahman Sheikh Award for Vision in Water Reuse.


Stakeholder Coordination (no update)
Stakeholder coordination is ongoing, with the Project Team meeting with various stakeholder groups. 


Environmental Review

The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected to be published for review in Summer 2023. The public hearing is tentatively scheduled for the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency's (BBARWA) October 2023 Governing Board meeting, with the final adoption target date at the December or January BBARWA Governing Board meeting. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will start the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review in parallel to expedite the NEPA review, with a target completion of Spring 2024.


The Big Bear Municipal Water District is collecting samples to assist in the completion of the Hydrology section.

Preliminary Engineering (no update)
The pilot study is underway. The purpose of the pilot study is to demonstrate process performance for site-specific wastewater conditions to regulatory agencies, confirm the proposed treatment process as a viable design approach to meet the target treatment levels, and quantify total system recovery for product water. The pilot facility is a mini version of the facility that will be constructed. The pilot study consists of four processes:  nutrient removal, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis (RO), UV disinfection and an advanced oxidation process that will produce purified water that is higher than drinking water quality and meets all state and federal regulations. Process descriptions and equipment images can be downloaded here.


The RO process produces a liquid brine concentrate that requires disposal. A desalter system will use an additional RO process to reduce the liquid brine volume and a pellet reactor that will produce solid pellets for disposal or reuse. The remaining brine will be evaporated onsite using solar evaporation ponds. The Project Team is coordinating the brine minimization portion of the pilot study with the first batch of totes being sent shortly for testing.


The traditional Design-Bid-Build method was selected as the most appropriate procurement/delivery method given funding agency requirements.


Regulatory Analysis and Coordination (no update)
A work plan to lay out the next steps and timeline for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process is underway. This permit is required in order to discharge Project water to Stanfield Marsh and Big Bear Lake. The draft work plan will be shared with the Regional Board and Division of Drinking Water (DDW).


WSC, the water engineering consultant, continues to work on the Monitoring Plan to collect information from Big Bear Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. The Monitoring Plan will be shared with the Regional Board and DDW before Lake sampling begins.


WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co., the groundwater consultant, will complete the work plan once the survey information is received. WSC will send the work plan to DDW and request a meeting to discuss. 


The Project Team continues to work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER). 


Agreements and Contracts

Amendment No. 1 to the Replenish Big Bear Funding Letter of Intent (LOI) between BBARWA, the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power (DWP), and the Big Bear City Community Services District (CSD) is being considered for approval by the BBARWA Governing Board (Item 10.A) and has been sent to DWP and CSD for consideration. The purpose of the LOI is to confirm the intent of the Project Funding Partners to purchase an option based on the underlying value of Project Water. The LOI gives the Project Funding Partners the option to withdraw up to 380 AFY of Project Water from Big Bear Lake for groundwater recharge and in-lieu recharge of 120 AFY for irrigation of the Big Bear Mountain Golf Course. The LOI states that DWP will pay 68% of the current Option Value ($294,718.80) and CSD will pay 32% of the current Option Value ($138,691.20) to BBARWA, which reflects their relative benefit of the Project Water. Amendment No. 1 proposes to extend the LOI for one year.


Funding and Financing 

The Project Team is providing the additional information needed to complete the WIFIA application.

 

Grant Status 

IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 Grant –The quarterly report was submitted by the deadline of July 31, 2023. 


2021 Title XVI Grant – WSC confirmed with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) that the following expenses are eligible:
•    The project is eligible for reimbursement from 3/8/2019-5/14/2022 because Build America Buy America (BABA) requirements are not applicable.
•    The project is eligible for reimbursement from 7/13/2022-1/12/2023 because of the temporary BABA waiver.

 
2022 and 2023 EPA STAG Grants – No update. These two grants were originally submitted through Community Funding Requests and have both been assigned to the EPA STAG grant program. EPA confirmed that an EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted. The application will be submitted once the EIR/EA is certified. 


2022 Title XVI Grant – USBR is in the process of amending the Title XVI grant agreement to include this award of $8,267,112.


2024 Community Funding Request - No update. The Project Team submitted applications to Senator Padilla, Senator Feinstein, and Congressman Obernolte in the amount of $2,500,000. We anticipate, if awarded, this grant will be awarded through the EPA STAG program.


2023 Title XVI - No update. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is anticipated to be released soon. The Project is eligible to apply again to receive additional grant funds up to 25% of the total.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Project, please contact us at (909) 584-4018 or email us.

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PROJECT UPDATE, APRIL 2023 

April 20, 2023 – The Project was presented to the Democratic Club of Big Bear Valley on April 6, 2023, to Mountain Mutual Aid on April 11, 2023, and an update was provided on April 13, 2023 to the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (GA-RTAC). Replenish Big Bear will have a booth at the Earth Day Expo on April 21, 2023 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 42020 Garstin Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315. 

Stakeholder Coordination

Stakeholder coordination is ongoing, with the Project Team meeting with various stakeholder groups. On March 16, 2023, the Project Team met with the East Valley Water District, Bear Valley Mutual, and the City of Redlands to discuss the Project overview and status, water quality, monitoring and pilot plans, regulatory pathway, and their Notice of Preparation (NOP) comments. 


The Project Team is preparing to meet with the Colorado River Regional Board, who permits wastewater discharge to the Lucerne Valley site, to discuss the permitting pathway. 
 

Environmental Review

Both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) define procedures for environmental review and impact analysis of projects that need approval by state, local, or federal agencies. The Project Team is reviewing comments received during the NOP public scoping meetings held in January 2023. The public scoping meeting videos can be seen here and here.

 

The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected to be published for review in summer 2023. Environmental document milestones can be found in the January 25, 2023 presentation material.


Preliminary Engineering

The purpose of the pilot study is to demonstrate process performance for site-specific wastewater conditions to regulatory agencies, confirm the proposed treatment process as a viable design approach to meet the target treatment levels, and quantify total system recovery for product water. The pilot study consists of four processes:  nutrient removal, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, UV disinfection and an advanced oxidation process that will produce purified water that is higher than drinking water quality and meets all state and federal regulations. The nutrient removal unit comprised of a denitrification filter and phosphorous mitigation from Nexom, Inc., the Memcor ultrafiltration unit from Dupont/FilmTec Corporation, and the reverse osmosis unit from IDE Americas, Inc. (photo below) are in operation. BBARWA is preparing the final agreement for the UV disinfection and advanced oxidation units, with delivery scheduled in May. Brine minimization will occur off-site, with material shipping to Israel. More information about the treatment process can be found on the Treatment page.


Regulatory Analysis and Coordination

A work plan to lay out the next steps and timeline for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process is underway. This permit is required in order to discharge Project water to Stanfield Marsh and Big Bear Lake. The draft work plan will be shared with the Regional Board and Division of Drinking Water (DDW).


Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC), the water engineering consultant, continues to work on the Monitoring Plan to collect information from Big Bear Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. The Monitoring Plan will be shared with the Regional Board and DDW before Lake sampling begins.


WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co., the groundwater consultant, will complete the work plan once the survey information is received. WSC will send the work plan to DDW and request a meeting to discuss. This work will resume as soon as the weather permits.


The Project Team continues work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER). 

Agreements and Contracts

No updateBBARWA continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of Project water and future monetary contributions to the Project. 


Funding and Financing

BBARWA has engaged NHA Advisors, LLC (NHA) to assist with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan application and financial development plan for the Project. NHA has started the process to obtain the preliminary rating letter. BBARWA expects to submit the WIFIA application by June 2023 and if approved, close the loan by February 2024. BBARWA is requesting up to $52 million, dependent upon additional funding sources such as grants.

The full Replenish Big Bear financing plan can be viewed here (starting at 56:56).


BBARWA’s Governing Board adopted a five-year sewer user charge schedule on March 22, 2023, which is a requirement for the WIFIA Loan. You can view the meeting video here (starting at 22:46).

 

Grant Status 

IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 Grant –The next quarterly report is due by April 28, 2023. 


2021 Title XVI Grant – The Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) requires that all iron, steel, manufactured products and construction materials used in federally funded projects must be produced in the United States. WateReuse continues to follow the BABA waiver process for the Bureau of Reclamation's (USBR) WaterSMART programs. The Administration is currently debating two options for a programmatic waiver for the Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Grants Program. Option 1 is issuing a one-year BABA compliance extension for Title XVI projects that have completed planning or design. Entities would have one year from the date of issuance to update their plans and designs to comply with BABA. Option two is a version of the initial suggestion waiving BABA requirements entirely for projects that completed feasibility studies prior to the May 2021 compliance date. The White House Office of Management and Budget is leaning strongly in the direction of option 1. The grant’s Financial Capability Assessment was completed and is in Policy Review. Once approved, BBARWA will be able to request reimbursement for up to 25 percent of eligible expenses not subject to BABA requirements.

 
2022 and 2023 EPA STAG Grants – These two grants were originally submitted through Community Funding Requests and have both been assigned to the EPA STAG grant program. EPA confirmed that EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted. The application will be submitted once the EIR/EA is certified. 


2022 Title XVI Grant – No update. The formal award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.


2024 Community Funding Request - No update. The Project Team submitted applications to Senator Padilla, Senator Feinstein, and Congressman Obernolte in the amount of $2,500,000. We anticipate, if awarded, this grant will be awarded through the EPA STAG program.


2023 Title XVI - No update. The Notice of Funding Opportunity is anticipated to be released in early summer. The Project is eligible to apply again to receive additional grant funds up to 25% of the total.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Project, please contact us at (909) 584-4018 or email us.

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PROJECT UPDATE, FEBRUARY 2023 

February 17, 2023 – The Project Team is reviewing and developing responses for comments submitted during the Notice of Preparation comment period. Coordination with key stakeholders for the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is scheduled to begin in early 2023 and it is anticipated that the draft EIR will be ready for public review in April/May 2023.

The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023.

Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) is working on a monitoring plan to collect information from the Lake and the final full advanced treated effluent to inform the next steps in response to Regional Board comments. The Monitoring Plan will be shared with the Regional Board and the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) before Lake sampling begins.

WSC has requested a quote to complete an aerial survey of Stanfield Marsh to update the contour information for the Division wells and to support the future outfall design. Tom Harder & Co. will complete the work plan once they receive the survey information. WSC will send the work plan to DDW and request a meeting to discuss.

The Project Team continues work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER).

Nexom Inc.’s Blue NITE process for denitrification and Blue PRO process for phosphorous mitigation was delivered to the treatment plant on February 1, 2023. WSC is coordinating with vendors for finalization of other pilot equipment agreements and delivery schedules. The first monitoring event is scheduled for late February.

WSC is developing a framework to evaluate and support decisions on delivery approaches for each Project component (i.e., Design Bid Build, Fixed Price Design Build, Progressive Design Build, etc.).

The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project.

The short-term financing loan of $3.4 million closed in the beginning of February 2023. BBARWA has engaged NHA Advisors, LLC to assist with the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan application and financial development plan for the Project.  

BBARWA was invited to apply for a loan under the WIFIA Program provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under this loan program, BBARWA may borrow up to 80 percent of the total eligible project costs. An introductory meeting was held with the EPA on November 10, 2022 wherein the BBARWA's team met with the EPA underwriter to discuss the application, underwriting and loan close process. BBARWA expects to submit an application by June 2023 and if approved, close the loan by February 2024.

Invoice #5 for the IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 grant was submitted on January 31, 2023 in the amount of $150,737.80.

WateReuse met with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to discuss a programmatic Build America, Buy America (BABA) waiver for the 2021 Title XVI grant. USBR is getting closer to a programmatic waiver, but no timeframe has been provided. The Denver office is completing its review of the Financial Capability Assessment. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for the 2023 Title XVI is anticipated to be released in Spring 2023.

The EPA confirmed that EIR/EA is required before an application can be submitted for the EPA State and Tribal Assistance (STAG) grant. The application will be submitted once EIR/EA is certified.

The $1 million Community Funding Request was included in the Federal budget. We expect to receive information regarding the next steps in the next several months.

The formal award from USBR for the 2022 Title XVI grant in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.

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PROJECT UPDATE, DECEMBER 2022 

December 9, 2022 – The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023.

Tom Dodson and Associates released the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and Project Description for comments on November 30, 2022. The comment period will end on January 17, 2023. Two scoping workshops are scheduled for January 2023 – one at the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power on January 5th at 6pm and the other at BBARWA on January 10th at 6 pm. The Notice of Preparation and a more detailed Project Description can be found electronically at: https://www.bbarwa.org/ceqa-documents and https://www.replenishbigbear.com/documents. It is anticipated that the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be ready for public review in April/May 2023. 

Coordination with key stakeholders for the draft EIR/EA is scheduled to begin in early 2023.

The Project Team submitted the formal response to the Regional Board regarding the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit on October 13, 2022. Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) is working on an overall monitoring plan, which includes the pilot phase, to inform the next steps in response to the Regional Board comments.

Tom Harder & Co. is addressing the work plan comments. WSC will send the work plan to the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and request a meeting to discuss.

The Project Team continues work on the Recycled Water Title 22 Engineering Report (ER).

The Pilot Plan is under development. WSC is coordinating with vendors to confirm proposals. Equipment deliveries are expected to begin in December 2022 with full pilot startup in 2023.

BBARWA continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project. Separate Funding Letters of Intent with the City of Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Municipal Water District (BBMWD), and Big Bear Mountain Resort are being developed.

The Benefits Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is pending signatures from the County of San Bernardino, BBMWD, Visit Big Bear, and the City of Big Bear Lake. The County Board of Supervisors will not consider this item until all other parties have signed.

The Environmental Services MOU to cost-share additional environmental work to address the potential impacts to the Unarmored Threespined Stickleback fish has been executed by BBARWA, the Big Bear City Community Services District, and the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power (DWP).

BBARWA recently received multiple proposals for a short-term loan to cover pre-construction activities associated with the Project. The recent loan proposals reflected the relatively high, interest-rate environment and as a result, BBARWA approached DWP to determine if an interagency loan at a more advantageous borrowing rate was a possibility. After much discussion and consideration, it was determined that BBARWA would need to continue with its initial course of action and seek financing from the public markets. After discussions with the BBARWA’s financial advisors and placement agent, BBARWA will reapproach the market and rebid the loan considering the recent downward move in interest rates.  Proposals are expected in early January.

BBARWA was invited to apply for a loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under this loan program, BBARWA may borrow up to 80 percent of the total eligible project costs. An introductory meeting was held with the EPA on November 10, 2022 wherein BBARWA’s team met with the EPA underwriter to discuss the application, underwriting and loan close process.  BBARWA expects to submit an application by June 2023 and if approved, close the loan by February 2024.

BBARWA conducted a progress presentation with the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on November 8, 2022. BBARWA received reimbursement #3 on October 27, 2022 for $98,515.66 and submitted invoice #4 on October 28, 2022.

The first semi-annual report for the 2021 Title XVI grant was submitted on October 28, 2022.

The EPA confirmed that the EIR/EA are required before an application for the 2022 EPA State and Tribal Assistance (STAG) grant can be submitted.

The formal award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) for the 2022 Title XVI grant in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.

Congressman Obernolte recommended the Project’s $1 million Community Funding Request for inclusion into the Federal budget, and we expect to receive notification after the federal budget approval process.

Detailed information can be found on BBARWA's General Manager's Report:  https://www.bbarwa.org/2022-12-13-governing-board-special-meeting

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PROJECT UPDATE, OCTOBER 2022 

October 26, 2022 – The Project Team submitted the formal response to the Regional Board regarding the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit on October 13, 2022.

The Project Team provided comments to the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) for the well investigation work plan; Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) is coordinating the next steps.

The target completion date for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes is the summer of 2023. The Project Team is reviewing the Project description and compiling a list of recipients for the Notice of Preparation.

The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) continues to work with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project.

 

Separate Funding Letters of Intent with the City of Big Bear Lake (CBBL), Big Bear Municipal Water District (BBMWD), and Big Bear Mountain Resort are being developed.

The Benefits Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is pending signatures from the County of San Bernardino, BBMWD, Visit Big Bear, and the CBBL. The County Board of Supervisors will not consider this item until all other parties have signed.

BBARWA amended and/or is in the process of amending its contracts with both WSC and Tom Dodson & Associates (TDA) to continue the engineering and environmental work for the Project. An MOU to cost-share additional environmental work to address the potential impacts to the Unarmored Threespined Stickleback fish is being developed and will provide for the cost-sharing of such services among BBARWA, the Big Bear City Community Services District, and the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power.

BBARWA is working with Fieldman Rolapp & Associates, Inc. to obtain terms and conditions for a short-term loan to cover pre-construction activities associated with the Project.   

BBARWA was notified on October 18, 2022 that the Project was selected to submit an application for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) amended their Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Prop 1 Round 1 grant agreement, in which BBARWA is a sub-grantee. The agreement provides an updated schedule.

The first semi-annual report for the 2021 Title XVI grant is due on October 31, 2022.

CEQA guidelines for the 2022 Environmental Protection Agency State and Tribal Assistance (EPA STAG) grant are expected in Fall 2022. CEQA/NEPA processes must be completed prior to an award, even though the grant was included in the appropriations bill. The Project Team submitted the EPA questionnaire on October 12, 2022, and will be scheduling a meeting to confirm the grant requirements.

The formal award from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) for the 2022 Title XVI grant in the amount of $8,267,112 is pending.

Congressman Obernolte recommended the Project’s $1 million Community Funding Request for inclusion into the Federal budget, and we expect to receive notification after the federal budget approval process.

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PROJECT UPDATE, AUGUST 2022 

August 19, 2022 – The Project Team is awaiting the formal response from the Regional Board regarding the NPDES permit and has provided comments to the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) for the well investigation work plan. 

The environmental review is pending comments from the Regional Board regarding the NPDES permit. The target completion date for CEQA/NEPA is the summer of 2023.

The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) is working with legal counsel and project beneficiaries to develop preliminary terms associated with the distribution of project water and future monetary contributions to the project. BBARWA will consider the Replenish Big Bear Funding Letter of Intent between BBARWA, the City of Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power (BBLDWP), and the Big Bear City Community Services District (BBCCSD) at its August 24, 2022 meeting (Item 10.A.). BBLDWP will consider this item at its August 30, 2022, meeting. BBCCSD will bring this item to its Water Committee prior to full board consideration. 

The Second Amended and Restated Memorandum of Understanding has been executed by all parties.

The Project Benefits Memorandum of Understanding (Benefits MOU) with the County of San Bernardino (County) revisions has been sent to the Project Team for consideration by their respective boards/councils. Both the BBLDWP and BBCCSD Boards have approved the Benefits MOU. The Benefits MOU is pending signatures from the Big Bear Municipal Water District, County, Visit Big Bear, and the City of Big Bear Lake. The County advised that the Board of Supervisors will not consider this item until all other parties have signed.

BBARWA has selected Fieldman Rolapp & Associates, Inc. (FRA) to provide municipal financial advisory services related to the short and long-term financial needs of the Agency. Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) and FRA are working with staff to complete a Letter of Interest (LOI) for a loan under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) with plans to submit by September 6, 2022. This is an excellent opportunity for BBARWA to receive long-term, low-interest financing for the Project. If invited to apply after the LOI submission (8-week turnaround), BBARWA will begin the application process (approximately a 1-year turnaround).

 

A grant status table has been developed for all awarded, received, and pending grant applications (Item 6.A.). The Project Team continues to aggressively pursue grants to offset Project costs.

Progress Report No. 5 was submitted for the IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 grant, requesting a reimbursement of $98,515.66 on July 28, 2022; total reimbursement requests to date are $533,589.35.

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) has completed its review of the 2021 Title XVI agreement and it has been finalized. WSC is following up on the remaining outstanding items that may impact reimbursements (i.e. Build America, Buy America or BABA waiver).

The Project Team has submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend the BABA waiver and align with the WIFIA waiver for the 2022 EPA STAG grant. EPA continues to develop guidelines for STAG grant dispersal.

USBR informed the Agency that our application for the 2022 Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program funding was among those receiving the highest ratings and is now being considered for award with funding available under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), P.L. 117-58. Reclamation anticipates awarding Federal funds in the amount of $8,267,112.

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PROJECT UPDATE, MAY 2022 

May 26, 2022 –  The Second Amended and Restated Memorandum of Understanding is pending signatures from MWD and the BVBGSA.

On March 28, 2022, Governor Newsome signed Executive Order No. N-7-22 which asked Californians to limit summertime water use, directed the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt emergency regulations, and included a call for advancing groundwater recharge projects and improved funding for those projects. The Project Team will continue to monitor this situation for additional funding opportunities.

On March 30, 2022, the General Manager met with interim City Manager Jeff Mathieu to discuss the project and the possibility of the City of Big Bear Lake pursuing a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) ballot measure for November 2022. On April 18, 2022, City Council discussed the TOT and directed staff to develop the measure language and associated information for possible inclusion on the November ballot to support a number of items, including Replenish Big Bear. On May 16, 2022, the City Council received a presentation from a representative of Columbia Capital Management, LLC, regarding the analysis of the TOT and a proposed increase in the City’s rate (agenda item 2.2). The Council meeting video can be viewed here. We remain in communication with Supervisor Rowe’s office for the San Bernardino County TOT opportunity.

On April 1, 2022, the Regional Board requested additional time to meet internally to finalize their review of the Report of Waste Discharge (ROWD) to determine future permitting requirements for Replenish Big Bear. On April 29, 2022, the Regional Board provided four comments regarding laboratory, pollutant, and proposed treatment process data, and requested additional time to formally review the ROWD and associated documents. Informally, the Regional Board proposed applying Surface Water Source Augmentation Project (SWSAP) equivalent regulations to protect the Lake’s MUN (municipal and domestic supply) beneficial use designation. The Project Team and the Regional Board are discussing the ramifications of applying this regulation and how to move the Project forward.

The Project Team received confirmation that the $1 million Community Project Funding Request was submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations by Congressman Obernolte on April 28, 2022. The IRWM Prop 1 Round 1 grant ($4.5 million) Progress Report No. 4 and the 2021 Title XVI grant ($1.7 million) agreement documents were submitted to the respective grant agencies for review on April 29, 2022. The IRWM Proposition 1 Round 2 grant program changed the project evaluation framework since Round 1. Due to those changes, there is a low expected probability of success; therefore, we will not be pursuing this grant opportunity. We will continue to investigate funding opportunities under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

BBARWA (Agency) discussed the project and potential funding needs of Replenish Big Bear with Doug Dove, President of Bartle Wells Associates, independent public finance advisors, whom the Agency has used for bond issuance and private placement in the past. The Agency plans to engage the firm to complete a funding plan for Replenish Big Bear, to include the current, short-term need for gap financing (to advance fund grant reimbursements) and longer-term financing to include funding programs (State Revolving Fund, funding under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), and iBank), and financing under a bond issuance or private placement. We expect the plan to be complete in approximately three months.

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PROJECT UPDATE, JANUARY 2022 

January 31, 2022 – Over the last two years, the Project Team has been working with the regulatory agencies to determine if the Project is feasible. Based on feedback from the regulators, Water System Consultants, Inc. has developed a project scope, is preparing a Report of Waste Discharge permit application for the State Water Resources Control Board and is scheduled to submit the permit application at the end of February. Tom Harder is evaluating water wells that are located within 200’ of Big Bear Lake's high-water level to determine if the Project will affect them, as well as compiling additional information regarding percolation along Sand Canyon. Both of Tom Harder’s additional tasks will address the Division of Drinking Water’s concerns with the Project. The Project Team estimates that by the end of June the Project will be well defined and the Project partners will have enough information to decide whether to go forward with piloting and the final Project design.

The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency presented its preliminary rate study at its January Governing Board meeting. The current rate study includes an assessment of rates (user charges), the connection fee, waste hauler fees (fees charged to dumpers to dump chemical toilet, holding tank, and septic tank waste), and a rate component for Replenish Big Bear (primarily pre-construction costs). The current rate study results are preliminary and are subject to change based on the finalization of the Agency’s FY 2023 draft budget, financial projections, and 20-year capital improvement plan, which are expected to be complete by early March. Both the presentation video and the presentation PDF are available to view.

The Replenish Big Bear slide presentation has been updated and added to the website. Prior meeting documents and reports can be found here.

The Project Benefit Memorandum of Understanding (Item 11.C.) is pending signatures from MWD, Visit Big Bear, and the County of San Bernardino. Supervisor Rowe’s Chief of Staff is still working with San Bernardino County leadership for the MOU approval. The Project Team will work with each agency to determine how and how much they can contribute towards the project. Each agency will pay their “Fair Share” of the O&M costs and possibly capital costs, which will reduce project costs for the general BBARWA customer. Grant funding opportunities are discussed below.

 

The Second Amended and Restated Memorandum of Understanding (Item 10.B.) was approved by the Big Bear City Community Services District and the City of Big Bear Lake, Department of Water and Power. It is expected that the other partner Governing Boards will be considering this item in the near future.

 

A summary of Project expenses and grant reimbursements was included in the City of Big Bear Lake, Department of Water and Power's January Board of Directors meeting agenda packet (Item 3.6).

The Project Team was notified on December 23, 2021, that Replenish Big Bear was not awarded grant funding in the first round of the California State Department of Water Resources Urban and Multi-benefit Drought Relief Grant Program. This has not slowed down our pursuit of grant funding!

 

An application for the Proposition 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Disadvantaged Communities Involvement Grant set-aside funding made available through the 2021 California State Department of Water Resources Urban and Multi-Benefit Drought Relief Program in the amount of $1,000,000 was recently submitted. The Project Team is preparing to submit applications for the IRWM Proposition 1 Round 2 Implementation Grant and the 2022 WaterSMART: Title XVI WIIN Act Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects Grant. A list of awarded grants and pending applications are included in the updated Replenish Big Bear slide presentation

 

Replenish Big Bear has been awarded a total of $7,723,338 in grant funds so far and we will continue to prioritize the pursuit of grant opportunities to increase affordability.

During a normal year, groundwater provides over 35 percent of Southern California's drinking water. Effective use of local groundwater basins is an important component of the region's water supply plan. Several agencies have partnered together to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the Bear Valley Basin in compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The GSP was completed and adopted in January 2022. Thank you to all the stakeholders within and surrounding the Basin who participated in its development.

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REPLENISH BIG BEAR RECOMMENDED FOR $1.7M UNDER THE WATERSMART:  TITLE XVI RECLAMATION AND REUSE PROGRAM 

August 5, 2021 – The Replenish Big Bear Project has been included in the list of projects recommended by the Bureau of Reclamation for funding under the 2021 WaterSMART:  Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program. Congress was informed of the recommendation on July 23, 2021. Note that Section 4009(c) of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act stipulates that funding can only be provided after appropriations legislation is enacted designating funding to the projects identified by Reclamation by name. Once this requirement is met, Reclamation anticipates awarding Federal funds in the amount of $1,700,000 for the Project.

 

To learn more about the Title XVI Program, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/title.

For more than 100 years, Reclamation and its partners have worked to develop a sustainable water and power future for the West. This program is part of the Department of the Interior's WaterSMART Program, which focuses on improving water conservation and reliability while helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. To find out more information about Reclamation's WaterSMART program, visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart.

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FUNDING UPDATE, JULY 2021 

On June 1, 2021, BBARWA fully executed a grant agreement with the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) on behalf of the Replenish Big Bear team for about $4.5 million grant through the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Proposition 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Implementation Grant Program. This grant will be used to cover costs for project administration, planning, design, environmental documentation, permitting, and construction implementation and can reimburse previous expenses incurred since June 2, 2020.

 

In April 2021, Replenish Big Bear applied for a $7 million grant through the United States Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Title XVI WIIN Water Reclamation and Reuse Projects grant program for the fiscal year 2021. If awarded, these funds could be used for project administration, planning, design, environmental documentation, permitting, and construction activities, and additional grant funds could be awarded in future rounds of funding.

In 2019, Replenish Big Bear was awarded a $500,000 grant from California’s Proposition 1 Disadvantaged Community Involvement (DCI) Program, which funded regulatory permitting efforts conducted between February 2019 and January 2021. The permitting process is on the critical path, and this grant provided the resources to complete several technical analyses needed to confirm the required level of treatment and move forward in the permitting process with the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and the Santa Ana Regional Water Control Board.

 

The project team continues to explore additional sources of outside funding to reduce the project cost while working in parallel to establish a funding mechanism for the remaining project costs, including operations and maintenance costs. On June 23, 2021, representatives of BBARWA, BBMWD, BBCCSD and BBLDWP held a public meeting to discuss the project status, benefits, cost and next steps. There was broad support for the project and benefits. The project team is now moving forward with the next step toward determining how to fund the project. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is now under development as a first step to identify project stakeholders and acknowledge how they each benefit from the project, which will lay the groundwork for future cooperative funding discussions and additional grant opportunities to increase affordability. 

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REPLENISH BIG BEAR RECEIVES 
$4.5M IRWM PROP 1 FUNDING AWARD 

Replenish Big Bear was awarded $4,563,338 from the State of California’s, Department of Water Resources (DWR), Proposition 1 Round 1 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Implementation Grant Program. This is the largest IRWM grant awarded in the Santa Ana River Watershed, a testament to the project’s significant community, regional value and broad stakeholder support.

 

In the face of a changing climate, DWR’s IRWM Grant Program is making $403 million in grant funds available for the planning and implementation of water resource projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and water resiliency across the state. This is the largest grant received toward Replenish Big Bear costs and is critical to support a new high-quality water source that will help meet Big Bear Valley’s current and future water needs.

 

Read the full press release here.

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REPLENISH BIG BEAR REACHES FUNDING MILESTONE

Replenish Big Bear, a recycled water project that will serve Big Bear Valley (Valley), accepted a $500,000 grant award from the State of California’s Proposition 1 Disadvantaged Community Involvement (DCI) Program this week.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) is serving as the program manager for the grant funds from DWR and will enter into a Sub-Grant Agreement with the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency (BBARWA) on behalf of the Replenish Big Bear project team to provide $500,000 for technical assistance on Replenish Big Bear.  Funds will be used to cover costs related to permitting incurred between February 2019 and December 2020. This is the first grant received by the project and is critical to support a new high-quality water source that will help meet Big Bear Valley’s current and future water needs.

 

Read the full press release here.

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SHARING THE REPLENISH BIG BEAR STORY

Over the past six months, the Replenish Big Bear story has been shared with more than 300 community members at local events and presentations! Students ranging from Big Bear Elementary, Middle, and High School have had the opportunity to learn about the project, and some have even toured the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency plant. The project has also been presented to other organizations such as the Senior’s Center and Bear Valley Contractor Association.
 

As we continue to share the Replenish Big Bear story, we are supporting a new legacy of water sustainability!

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