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Sunol Recapture Facility

Ensuring a proposed SFPUC water recapture facility in the Sunol Valley maintains stream flow benefits and fish passage for steelhead trout

The SFPUC is proposing a project to recapture stream flows that will be released from Calaveras Reservoir and bypassed around the Alameda Creek Diversion Dam as part of steelhead trout restoration and mitigations for the Calaveras Dam project. The recapture project has changed from a proposed rubber dam in the Sunol Valley to proposed construction of an infiltration gallery under Alameda Creek, to the current project: passive water recapture through a quarry pit in the Sunol Valley. The SFPUC intends to recapture an annual average of 9800 acre-feet of water that percolates into the Sunol Groundwater Basin, by pumping it out of quarry Pit-F2 into San Antonio Reservoir or the Sunol Water Treatment Plant, essentially mining the groundwater. The SFPUC proposes construction from 2017-2018.

While the project represents an improvement over previous project designs and avoids construction impacts to Alameda Creek, there are some concerns about potential project impacts on surface flows in Alameda Creek, and on fish passage and aquatic habitat in the Sunol Valley and Niles Canyon. The SFPUC proposes to operate the quarry pond as a reservoir, but the connection between groundwater in the Sunol Basin with surface flow in Alameda Creek is unclear. The SFPUC issued a Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report in June 2015. The Alameda Creek Alliance, Alameda County Water District and Save The Frogs submitted extensive scoping comments regarding these concerns.

August 2017 update:

Help Safeguard Minimum Flows for Alameda Creek Steelhead

Help us ensure that minimum flows in Alameda Creek intended to assist steelhead trout migration make it through lower Alameda Creek in dry years.

The SFPUC recently approved a water recapture project in the Sunol Valley. As part of steelhead trout restoration and mitigations for the Calaveras Dam project, the SFPUC will begin releasing cold water from Calaveras Reservoir once the dam is rebuilt, to provide cool summer and fall water for trout in upper Alameda Creek. The SFPUC will recapture an equivalent amount of water off-stream, by pumping groundwater out of old quarry pits in the Sunol Valley.

The problem is that the connection between groundwater in the Sunol Basin with surface flow in Alameda Creek is unclear, and there are concerns that pumping during dry years could reduce low flows and opportunities for fish passage through Alameda Creek.

The SFPUC and SF Planning Commission recently rushed to certify the project. But the Alameda County Water District, which intends to build two fish ladders in lower Alameda Creek, filed an appeal of the project approval due to concerns about the unknown effects on stream flows intended to support steelhead migration. Federal and state fisheries agencies agree that project operations could diminish steelhead migration opportunities in some years, and recommended more study.

Please take action: Tell the SF Board of Supervisors to direct the SFPUC and the SF Planning Commission to work with all watershed stakeholders on additional analysis of the relationship between ground water and surface water in the Sunol Valley, to determine whether the project has impacts on stream flows in Alameda Creek downstream of the project which could impede steelhead migration. Tell the Supervisors that San Francisco should only approve a recapture project that will adequately protect steelhead trout.

You can e-mail comments to Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org; or mail them to Board of Supervisors, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall, Room 244, San Francisco, CA 94102. Or come to the SF Board of Supervisors hearing on the appeal on Tuesday, September 5 to make comments in person.

You can learn more about the Alameda Creek Recapture Project here. You can read the ACWD appeal; and the Alameda Creek Alliance’s comments.