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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!