In March 2008, the City of Santa Cruz installed and began operation of a pilot desalination treatment plant on a portion of property owned by the University of California Santa Cruz at its Marine Science Campus. The purpose of this "pilot project" is to gather sufficient information to establish the optimal design and operating parameters for the most cost effective treatment process in terms of treated water quality, operational reliability, and cost for the future construction and operation of a 2.5 mgd seawater desalination plant as proposed in the City's adopted Integrated Water Plan and Urban Water Management Plan.
The proposed project is exempt under Section 15306, Information Collection. The geophysical scope of work includes 1) characterization of sub-bottom material and 2) confirmation soil sampling to aid in the interpretations of the subsurface stratifications. The information gathered in this study is needed to determine the viability of subsurface wells and if viable, provide data for the future design of a subsurface intake for a full-scale seawater desalination plant. The entrainment study scope of work includes 1) characterization of larva fish, fish eggs, and target invertebrate species and 2) assessment of the operational effectiveness and impacts of the proposed narrow-slot cylindrical wedgewire screen intake. The information gathered in this study is needed for the future design of an open-ocean intake for a full-scale seawater desalination plant. Pursuant to Section 15306, the proposed studies include data collection and analysis for informational purposes that will lead to design considerations for the full-scale desalination plant. The data collection for both studies would not result in a major disturbance to marine resources. The full-scale desalination plant has not yet been approved, and will require completion of a project-level EIR.
None of the exceptions to the exemptions under 15300.2 of the CEQA Guidelines apply to the proposed project. The surveys, data collection and research would not result in permanent physical impacts. Given the small size and temporary nature of the technical studies, the project would not result in impacts or contribute to significant cumulative impacts. The proposed project would not result in impacts on a resource of critical concern. Collection of marine samples is regulated via existing research permits from the California Department of Fish and Game to the research team members. The project site is not located adjacent to a scenic highway, and the project would not damage scenic resources. No historical resources would be affected by the project, and the site is not a hazardous waste site.