Lower Otay spilling, and are storage capacity figures accurate?

Discussion in 'Special Feature: Q&A with Jim Brown' started by Jim Brown, Mar 10, 2017.

  1. Jim Brown

    Jim Brown City Lakes Program Manager 1974-2003 (retired)
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    It turns out that I am a huge sucker for a few kind words. As a result of some offhand remarks by Roy Justice , Kahuna bass and mcfish in the Panfish Sub-forum and a follow up correspondence with Kellen, we have come up with an agreement that I hope will be of interest to SDFish members, beneficial to SDFish and motivational as well as enjoyable for me.

    As a native San Diegan of 70 years, an avid fisherman for 66 of them and something of a historical resource and communicator for a very long time, I hope to be able to provide you with stories of interest about the past, commentary about the present and future and maybe even answer some questions you've wondered about.

    I'm hoping to be able to take a two pronged approach to this endeavor with a straightforward Q&A column serving as one prong and Lake Boy serving as the other. Lake Boy is a memoir I have been working on and hope to eventually publish. The vignettes and commentary I provide for SDFish will be a little different, by virtue of the venue and the fact some stories might not be suitable here.

    While Lake Boy the memoir is organized chronologically and is primarily autobiographical, the version here will contain abbreviated and re-written versions intermingled with observations of contemporary issues pertinent to San Diego fishing.

    Following is one of those issues in the form of correspondence I sent February 28 to J. Harry Jones a San Diego Union Tribune writer. If you fish Morena, Barrett or Lower Otay, are a City of San Diego water ratepayer or merely someone who cares - I hope you will let me know if you find this of interest or concern to you:

    Mr. Jones -

    This evening I watched television news and was not surprised by the disinformation provided by a city Public Information Officer regarding the spill of Lower Otay Reservoir. Like many PIO's, I doubt she realized the mis-truth she was speaking as it has long been standard practice, particularly in the Water Department (now PUD) to supply the information repeated by PIO's.

    The real story is that water rate payers will soon be paying the cost of yet another mistake made by a department whose actions are being covered up. Lower Otay is not spilling because of this year's rains, it is spilling because of a miscalculation and gamble by departmental engineers and administrators.

    In short, they stored too much water in the reservoir in advance of the rainy season which was derived from two sources; water purchased from the MWD and locally produced water from the Cottonwood Creek system which had been stored at Morena and Barrett reservoirs.

    Approaching a rainy season, a "hole" needs to be left in a terminal reservoir such as Lower Otay to accommodate rainfall and runoff, but in this case the engineers failed miserably by the transfer of too much water from the Cottonwood Creek system as well as MWD purchases, and that precious and expensive water is now being unnecessarily lost/wasted as water flows through the floodgates of Savage Dam.

    Occasionally in our history, there have been years in which rainfall and runoff has exceeded the available capacity of reservoirs throughout the county even had they been empty, but this is not one of them.

    This same mistake has been made in decades past at Otay as well as San Vicente and El Capitan, but some lessons must be very hard to learn, as competent water management would have waited until after the rainy season to make the aforementioned water transfers or purchases.

    There is another element of departmental misinformation that you have been a victim of in reporting reservoir capacities. When the PUD provides you with reservoir capacity information in terms of volume as stated in gallons or acre feet, you, your readers and the city council are being hoodwinked.

    None of the city's reservoirs have the water capacity that is claimed. All have been subject to sedimentation over many decades and in some cases nearly a century! Lower Otay, San Vicente, El Capitan, Hodges and Sutherland - like all reservoirs fed by streams, rivers and surface runoff have experienced significant loss of volume as a result of sedimentation/deposition. In almost all cases, the lower ports of outlet towers have long been under this sediment. Miramar which is fed by aqueduct, has no tributaries and only one mile of watershed and is the only raw water reservoir in which the quoted volumes are even remotely accurate.

    All others are not even close and that fact is not disclosed nor reported because it is not in the best interest of PUD to do so, particularly with regard to Council requirements for emergency water storage.

    If you are at all interested in this story, you might find some answers by questioning:

    1. What was the original storage capacity of city reservoirs when built and what is it today when adjusted for sedimentation, and if not, why not?

    2. Lower Otay is spilling, what are the records including dates or the last water purchases as well as transfers from Barrett via the Dulzura Conduit which diverts water from the Cottonwood Creek/Tijuana River system to flow into Lower Otay?

    3. How much water has gone through the Savage Dam spillway at Lower Otay to date and what is the market price (purchased from MWD as well as the price to customers after treatment) of that water per acre foot?

    The search for the answers to these questions as well as the story they provide should open some eyes with regard to the Public Utilities Department and its operations.
     
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  2. Big Daddy TR21

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    Mr. Brown,

    First I want to thank you for all you have done to help protect our fishing resource in San Diego.

    I also want to thank you for taking time to help answer questions or provide knowledge to many missing facts like above that we the people just don't know about.

    I look forward to reading many more of your comments.
     
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  3. John345

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    I never realized how much sediment there was until this season. I was planning my trip to Lake Morena when I asked Kellen for some clarification. The numbers for Lake Morena were reporting that the lake was nearing 100 feet. However, when I talked to people at Morena the lake was only 45 feet at it's deepest point by the dam. Kellen gave me a good explanation on sediment and that the lake reading were only from the tower and not accurate. I just couldn't believe that there was that much sediment... That is 50 feet of sediment over the past 100+ years that the dam was made. Pretty crazy indeed. This was confirmed when I got to the lake and spoke to the staff in the office.
     
  4. biggbass

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    Great information Jim. I don't recall this being used in a UT Article. Maybe it might require some actual investigative journalism?
     
  5. Jim Brown

    Jim Brown City Lakes Program Manager 1974-2003 (retired)
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    To my knowledge, any reservoir with a watershed and tributaries is going to be subject to siltation/sedimentation resulting from sand/silt. One local exception to natural siltation/sedimentation is Miramar which has only about one mile of watershed, but it, along with any other reservoir that is part of an adjacent treatment plant is going to receive artificial sedimentation as a result of the plant's filters being backwashed as in the case of Joe's Hole at Miramar. Keep in mind that as big as it is, hydrologists have a date in mind when they believe Lake Powell will be marginal for water storage because of siltation from the Colorado River. Locally, the lower outlets on the towers of most if not all local reservoirs are under a layer of muck.
     
  6. mcfish

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    All government agency's funded by tax payers are run by stupidity and then secrecy.....to cover up the ridiculous actions and mistakes they have made with our money! Thank you Jim for bringing these problems to light, problems which I'm sure the politicians and water departments would rather have kept buried in the muck!
     
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