Water treatment, oxygenation a step closer to reality

Pelicans photographed at the Jump Lagoon by Linda Hauser feast in the waters of Canyon Lake during their annual migration.

It's been several years since heavy rains turned Canyon Lake into a big cup of “chocolate milk” ? a nice way of describing the look of the water.

The drenching winter storms of 2004/05 caused contaminated sewer effluent from failing Quail Valley septic tanks to flow into the Lake, contributing to the runoff that caused that “chocolate milk” look for a few weeks and closed the Lake to bodily contact for several months.

That was but one episode (and fortunately the only episode of “chocolate milk”) in the recent history of the Lake that has kept local, county and state water officials busy working on solutions to improve water quality in the 750-mile Lake Elsinore San Jacinto Watershed, of which Canyon Lake is a part.

City Councilwoman Nancy Horton could fill (and probably has filled) a file cabinet with the projects, proposals, studies and grants that have been undertaken to improve the overall watershed. Since her election in 2008, Nancy has made Canyon Lake's lake water quality a top priority.

Getting those failing septic tanks in Quail Valley fixed is one important step in the process and her report at recent POA Board and City Council meetings provided some good news regarding that process, along with news about a $500,000 grant for alum water treatment and oxygenation for the Lake.

"I wanted the members of the Association and the citizens of Canyon Lake to know that a team of people have been working collaboratively for four years to get a sewer system for Quail Valley, which would end contamination of the Lake in heavy rain events," she says of her report. I get letters and e-mails asking me what I am doing to improve water quality and I try very hard to inform residents of the efforts made by the TMDL task force and LESJWA (Lake Elsinore San Jacinto Watershed Authority)."

Water update

By Nancy Horton

Canyon Lake City Councilwoman

Since March, 2009, Scott Mann, Ben Wicke and I have been working to build a coalition of stakeholders to get attention for the need for a sewer system in Quail Valley . . .

In 2009, a task force was formed through SAWPA (Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority) to address the strategic goals needed to get a sewer system for QV. The cities of Menifee, Canyon Lake, the two water districts: Eastern Municipal Water District and Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, and the county of Riverside joined the Task Force and raised $50,000 for a report that would give us clarity for future action. The report came out in December 2009.

The Quail Valley Environmental Coalition was formed to address the eight strategic goals identified by the Task Force. Representing EVMWD, Ben Wicke; EMWD, Ron Sullivan; the city of Menifee, Scott Mann, the area of Menifee on the city council, Tom Fuhrman; and the city of Canyon Lake, Nancy Horton. Three residents of QV were asked to join the board: Earl Magee, Janet Anderson and Rita Peters. At present, Scott Mann, newly elected mayor of Menifee, is the president, Tom Fuhrman is the vice-president and I am the secretary-treasurer.

In the spring of 2012, EMWD was informed when they went looking for grants and loans to continue their efforts to get the project funded, that QV would have to be a "Disadvantaged Community." EMWD set aside $15,000 for an independent survey of QV. The city of Menifee and EVMWD contributed $5,000 each to defray EMWD’s costs.

The report was finalized in September and the result was that QV is a severely disadvantaged community. It qualifies under SDWR (Secondary Drinking Water Regulations) for funding. EMWD submitted a grant application from Prop. 84 Ch. 2 for $4.3 million to start Phase One of Area 9, the section that borders Canyon Lake and contributes most to the bacterial pollution of Canyon Lake in heavy rain events.

EMWD defended the application on November 29 and Saturday, December 1, we found out that the steering panel voted to recommend funding $1,930,000.

That will allow EMWD to start the sewering of Area 9, the area nearest Canyon Lake. Vista Way and Casa Bonita Way, approximately 170 residences, will be sewered using a pipeline to Canyon Lake’s lift station. Once EMWD has the funds to build a lift station in QV, they will treat their own sewerage.

There are several hurdles left: a vote by SAWPA to ratify the recommendations of their committee, a more complete application to SAWPA in January, state approval, and funding next summer.

In November, we found out that LESJWA’s application for in-water treatment for Canyon Lake and the oxygenation system made it into Tier One of the OWOW (Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Waterways) list. We were told it was a very long shot. On Thanksgiving weekend, four of us (Jason Uhley, Ron Young, Mark Norton and myself) worked to prepare a presentation to make the case to the steering committee.

Ten cities sent representatives to the hearing to support Canyon Lake’s case, as well as EVMWD, CALTRANS, County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and WRCAC (Western Riverside County Agriculture Coalition of agriculture and dairy farms). We presented a compelling case.

Imagine our amazement to find on Saturday, December 1, that the panel recommended funding of $500,000. It follows the same procedure for ratification by SAWPA: a more complete application, and approval by the state before funding.

Of 136 applications, 22 were recommended for funding. Twenty-two applications were approved ? $2,430,000 of that will come to Canyon Lake. EMWD is the lead agency for the QV sewer system, and LESJWA is the lead agency for the water treatment and oxygenation of the Lake.

This month, the SAWPA board will vote to approve the recommendations. Each lead agency will submit a more complete application in January. That goes to the state for approval in the spring. Funding could come in the summer.

The TMDL Task Force, including 11 cities, CALTRANS, agriculture and dairy interests, Riverside County Flood Control and Conservation District and other stakeholders supported Canyon Lake’s application for in-lake treatment . . . We stressed the multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional, collaborative approach within the watershed. The agreements signed by these parties, recently signed to renew, made a compelling case for approval of the grant.

Without state and federal funding, we will not achieve the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) targets to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen and chorophyll A, and increase dissolved oxygen. The funding for in-lake treatment and the oxygenation system will help us get close to the TMDL targets by 2020.

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a regulatory term in the U.S. Clean Water Act, describing a value of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.