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Water agency seeks pipe approval

August 28, 2007|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Hoping to reduce its dependence on water from Northern California, the Calleguas Municipal Water District is seeking approval for the next phase of a 32-mile "brine line" that will carry salt discharges from treatment plants in eastern Ventura County and thereby improve the quality of groundwater supplies used by farmers.

As part of the project's environmental impact study, the water district has scheduled a public meeting Wednesday about a section of the pipeline that would run along Hueneme Road in Oxnard from Edison Drive to the ocean. The pipe would turn south near the Port Hueneme Pier, tunnel under the ocean floor, reemerge below the surface and extend out 2,000 feet.

The brine line will transport salt extracted from groundwater, demineralization facilities and treatment plants in the eastern and southern parts of the county and reuse it for coastal wetlands restoration and to irrigate crops not sensitive to salt, such as sod. Excess water would be pumped to the ocean at the Hueneme terminus.

When completed in four to six years, the $100-million brine line project, formally known as the Calleguas Regional Salinity Management Program, will help reduce the high salt content within the Calleguas watershed, officials said. Currently, sensitive crops absorb the salt and dry out, causing agricultural production to drop.

"It's both about water supply and water quality," said Eric Bergh, manager of resources for the water district. "We have an area that's continuing to grow. . . . With that increased population comes rising water demands and continued uncertainty with imported water supplies."

Calleguas imports 100% of its water from the California Water Project and resells it to 23 public and private water agencies throughout the county, most of which mix it with groundwater. The blended water is delivered to about 575,000 customers in Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and surrounding unincorporated areas.

Federal standards ensure that any water that reaches the Pacific will not harm water quality, Bergh said. As planned, water pumped to the ocean would have 5,000 to 8,000 parts per million of chlorine, less than a quarter of the 35,000 ppm average for seawater.

There should be sufficient demand for water from the pipeline, Bergh said, given that county farmers have for years pumped groundwater to the point that seawater has flowed into the aquifer to replace it.

Public comments will be accepted until Sept. 10 on a draft environmental report prepared on the outfall portion of the project. The draft report, and more information about the project, may be viewed on the district website:

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