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East Branch Extension completion celebrated by local water districts, Department of Water Resources
More than 100 people gathered at the Redlands site of the East Branch Extension (EBX) of the State Water Project’s (SWP) Aqueduct yesterday to celebrate the project’s completion and the foresight of the region’s forefathers.
Doug Headrick, general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD), said prior to the day’s planned program that the completion of the EBX is a “testament to the people who came before us. They kept it moving forward. We kept our promise to build the pipes and pumps needed to bring Northern California water to this region.”
Headrick noted that in the 1960s the region’s water planners “struggled to find enough water” and turned to the SWP to aid in the process. Thursday’s celebration of the completion of the EBX brought together the projects partners – the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), SBVMWD and San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency (SGPWA) – as well as representatives from neighboring water agencies to showcase the engineering feat.
In his opening comments Headrick saluted what would become the day’s themes – perseverance, partnerships and promises kept “by those before us” and those attending the event. His comments were followed by those of Joel Ledesma, deputy director, SWP, California DWR, who said, “I’m glad this is a promise kept – to continue to add to the flexibility of the local water system.
Ledesma continued saying, “Whatever we do in the future must be a flexible partnership and it did take a partnership to get to this point. The region must continue to diversify their water portfolio moving into the 21st century…to be more resilient in times of drought…and to have more tools in the toolbox, especially for storing groundwater.”
The EBX allows local water managers to not only diversify their water portfolios, but makes them more resilient and better able to meet the challenges of a variable and changing climate. The EBX was constructed in multiple phases over the course of almost 20 years. The initial phase, began in 1999, completed construction of three pipeline reaches, the Crafton Hills Dam and Reservoir, as well as the Foothill, Greenspot and Crafton Hills pump stations. Phase II includes the new Citrus Reservoir and pump station – showcased at Thursday’s event – as well as the enlargement of the Crafton Hills Dam and additional pipelines. Planners and engineers conducted extensive studies to assess the necessary combination of facilities, appurtenances, and alignments that would best meet the needs of the communities served by the project extension.
In addition to San Bernardino, the East Branch Extension provides a reliable water supply to Mentone, Redlands, Cherry Valley, Beaumont, and San Gorgonio communities including 13 water agencies. The EBX carries water from the Antelope Valley and through the San Bernardino Mountains, terminating at Lake Perris. Northern California water is carried from the Tehachapi Afterbay, through the Pearblossom Pumping Plant, under the Mojave Riverbed and the Las Flores Valley floor before entering Silverwood Lake. Water then passes through the Bernardino Tunnel to two penstocks into Devil Canyon Powerplant. Water discharged from the powerplant is then sent to the EBX. In addition to use in the local communities EBX water is also sent to local groundwater spreading basins thereby reducing demand on local aquifers and making local water supplies more sustainable and resilient.
Susan Longville, president of the board of directors for the SBVMWD, cheered the EBX completion saying, “(It is) more important now than when it was proposed. They rightly saw we would need water from Northern California…especially in drought years. We’re here because our ancestors saw the need. We can now receive the water we need.”
David Fenn, president of the board of directors for the SGPWA brought the project’s completion to a more personal level. “This is an investment in the future of the region,” he said “…due to a desire for a home and a bit of land in this area.” Fenn called on local elected officials to also continue to make recycled water facilities available and “to protect our groundwater so we don’t become a dust bowl.”
“Every decision that was made was done with the taxpayers in mind,” said Jeff Davis, general manager of the SGPWA. He cited some of the many decisions made in bringing the EBX to completion including property acquisition, environmental issues and pumping decisions.
“But we got it done in time for the wet year of 2017,” said Fenn, “to do what it (EBX) was intended to do and to capture the water available to us.”