GLENDALE (CBSLA.com) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed an emergency drought bill into law on Saturday – the same week record-setting rainfall hit in Southern California.
The state will now give $472 million in grant funding to help cities, towns and counties prepare and upgrade reservoirs and dams to catch more of the rain that falls before it races down rivers to the ocean.
KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports local officials are now working on water conservation and recycling projects they hope will receive some of that funding.
“System-wide we captured 18,000 acre-feet of water,” L.A. County Department of Public Works Public Affairs Manager Kerjon Lee said about the storms that swept through the region this weekend.
“That’s enough to supply the demands of 144,000 residents for an entire year,” he continued.
Lee then pointed to his department’s wishlist.
“This is actually a long list of projects that are shovel-ready between County Public Works and other water agencies in the region,” Lee said.
The difference in water levels at the Big Tujunga Reservoir in the Angles National Forest is now clearly visible. Before the storm on Febrary 19, there was a big gap between the thick white stripe along the dam wall and the top of the water. After the storm, the water level now sits just below the white stripe.
LACDPW officials say the capacity of the reservoir could be increased by 1.4 billion gallons if a sediment removal project gets federal and state funding from drought relief programs.
“We need to capture storm water in giant gulps when it comes. The system is primed and ready to do that. But we know that we have more work to do in the system. We have opportunities that exist along the L.A. River and the San Gabriel River and several locations to capture storm water when it comes,” Lee said.
Whenever it rains, a battle ensues over the rainwater. If the reservoir and wetlands don’t get it for human consumption and use, then it will flow out into the ocean, where it cannot be utilized for drinking, irrigation or any other useful purpose.
“Downstream the Big Tunjunga Dam and downstream some of our other facilities, we are looking at multi-benefit projects,” Lee said.
Nowhere is the battle more clearly delineated than along the Los Angeles River, which on rainy days the river either deposits its water into the Pacific Ocean, where it’s lost, or into the into the Dominguez Gap Wetlands Project, where it’s cleaned and deposited into the groundwater.
Now the county is asking for federal and state drought relief funds to make the Wetlands Gap work even more efficiently.
“The money that would go to that project would increase the amount of water that’s absorbed into the aquifers… instead of releasing it into the ocean,” Lee said
“The water that’s captured in the Dominguez Gap Wetlands would not go to the ocean. It would be conserved there on site and that would definitely benefit L.A. County Public Works,” he added.
In L.A. County alone, there are about 40 projects county officials would like to get drought relief funding for.
Officials from the LACDPW are in Washington this week working with an Army Corps of Engineers and encouraging them to approve some of the L.A. County projects.