City Council Meeting - FINAL

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Meeting Date: 09/01/2020  
Co-Submitter: Stacey Brechler-Knaggs From: Erin Young, Water Resources Manager

Consideration and Approval of Contract:  Independent Contract Agreement (ICA) with Salt River Project (SRP) to continue the Upper Lake Mary Watershed (ULM) Monitoring Project. 
  1. Approve the ICA with SRP for scope-of-work (schedule A) proposals for FY21-FY23, not-to-exceed $105,000 annually as has been approved by City Council in prior budget year. 
  2. Authorize the City Manager to execute the necessary documents.
Executive Summary:

This Agreement with SRP allows Water Services to continue monitoring how surface water runoff responds to watershed conditions in the Upper Lake Mary Watershed. Water Services began the monitoring work in 2015 in response to proposed forest thinning proposals by the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) and Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). Water services and SRP has an interest in collecting runoff data to monitor the watershed conditions in Upper Lake Mary. Staff believes documenting this runoff data will help inform and formulate forest management decisions in the future.

Financial Impact:

Water Services has an on-going budget of $105,000 per year for this project in Water Resources account number 202-08-304-1061-0-4290.

Policy Impact:
This project supports Water Services' ability to perform Water Policy B1: Maximizing the use of renewable water supplies is an important water management tool to minimize the long-term impacts of over-drafting a community’s groundwater resources.

Connection to PBB Key Community Priorities/Objectives & Regional Plan:

This item relates to the Council's Key Community Priority of having Sustainable, Innovative Infrastructure. Additionally, this effort supports the following goals and policies found in the Flagstaff Regional Plan 2030:

  • Goal WR.1. Maintain a sustainable water budget incorporating regional hydrology, ecosystem needs, and social and economic well-being. Policy WR.1.2. Seek regional opportunities to partner with resource land managers and adjacent landowners to improve water yield and hydrologic processes.
  • Goal WR.6. Protect, preserve, and improve the quality of surface water, groundwater, and reclaimed water in the region. Policy WR.6.3. Implement best management practices to protect, restore, and maintain surface waters and their contributing watersheds.
  • Goal E&C.3. Strengthen community and natural environment resiliency through climate adaptation efforts. Policy E&C.3.3. Invest in forest health and watershed protection measures.
  • Goal E&C.4. Integrate available science into policies governing the use and conservation of Flagstaff’s natural resources. Policy E&C.4.1. Assess the vulnerabilities and risks of Flagstaff’s natural resources.
  • Goal E&C.6. Protect, restore, and improve ecosystem health and maintain native plant and animal community diversity across all land ownerships in the Flagstaff region. Policy E&C.6.1. Encourage public awareness that the region’s ponderosa pine forest is a fire-dependent ecosystem and strive to restore more natural and sustainable forest composition, structure, and processes. Policy E&C.6.6. Support collaborative efforts for forest health initiatives or practices, such as the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), to support healthy forests and protect our water system.

Additionally, this work supports the following objectives of the Water Services Strategic Plan 2025:

  • Objective 1: Use standards and data to drive decision-making. The standard is to use data to enhance operational performance and decision-making.
  • Objective 3: Protect the water system from the wildfire threat. The standard is to ensure the water supply and system is resilient to the effects of climate change.
  • Objective 6: Ensure adequate water resources and plan for climate change. The standard is to ensure that the risk of a sustained water delivery shortage is extremely low and to continue to build resiliency in water supplies and infrastructure systems with specific attention to the forecasted effects of climate change.
Has There Been Previous Council Decision on This:
Council supported purchasing the six SRP Flowtography Stations on April 1, 2014, for $14,850 by authorizing the release of partner funds (City of Flagstaff, National Park Service, Coconino National Forest) with the National Park Foundation. Council approved the original ICA with SRP on April 5, 2016, authorizing Water Services to spend $67,860 in FY16 on the operation, maintenance, and data management costs for the six Flowtography sites, and purchase of two new Flowtography Stations. With cost savings from the FY16 budget, seven transducers were purchased for installation in FY17.

On December 20, 2016, Water Services requested the Council's authorization of Amendment One with SRP. This authorized the City to spend the Council's approved budget for FY17 of $142,000 for the ULM Watershed Monitoring Project, including a one-time ask of $32,000 for capital costs and $130,000 annually for operation, maintenance, and data management. The FWPP bond program (407-09-425-3277-1-4290) committed to $5,000 annually from FY16 through FY20.
Options and Alternatives:
1)  Approve the three-year contract with SRP. This action allows for three additional years of data collection and brings staff closer to understanding the rainfall-runoff relationship in different areas of the watershed.
2)  Do not approve the contract with SRP. The project has not collected enough data to calibrate rainfall-runoff models in the watershed. Data collected to date would be less meaningful.
In 2013, Northern Arizona University & the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) presented a Paired Watershed Study to the Lake Mary-Walnut Canyon Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC agreed the project was important to begin prior to FWPP and 4FRI thinning projects as useful baseline information. TAC agreed to purchase the flowtography equipment and funded a U.S. Geological Survey streamflow gauge and sediment sampler in Newman Canyon. The three parties (City of Flagstaff, Forest Service, Park Service) approved the recommended action and the equipment was purchased and installed. After one year, the plan for the Paired Watershed Study partners to take over the operation, maintenance, and data management for the flowtography equipment from SRP could not be fulfilled, which left the project at risk. One of the partners, RMRS, provided a letter on October 21, 2015, stating that while they were not successful in taking over the monitoring duties, they are in full support of Water Services proceeding with support.

At this time, seven sub-watersheds of the ULM watershed have sites instrumented with SRP Flowtography(TM) Stations and a pressure transducer and three of those subwatersheds are equipped with a precipitation and snow gauge. Each flowtography station captures a photo every 15 minutes focused on a graduated vertical stake of rebar placed in the center of the drainage. When runoff events occur, the photo captures the height of water against the graduated rebar. Each height corresponds to a table of estimated flow rates which provides an estimate of total volume per event. Streamflow and volume data are compared with precipitation data to establish a rainfall-runoff relationship. 

Staff anticipates this work will support a larger research effort that has been proposed by NAU Geology and RMRS, which is to study the hydrological response different forest thinning treatments and maintenance practices have on runoff and recharge. It will take years however before there is enough data and analyses to make recommendations regarding which maintenance practices promote surface water runoff to ULM and recharge to the C aquifer. It is essential that Water Services collect the necessary baseline monitoring information in order to contribute to future watershed management decisions. An additional benefit of the City partnering with SRP is the continuity of equipment and data management across all the watersheds monitored by SRP state-wide with the potential for broader project and study redundancy.
Key Considerations:
This project provides redundancy in watershed monitoring and in understanding rainfall-runoff relationships within ponderosa pine forests. The same monitoring equipment is installed in 12 other watersheds near Williams, AZ. The watersheds have similar size, elevation, and forest type which is a major benefit in partnering with SRP, maintaining continuity of data management across this entire area. Should one watershed burn we would still benefit from data collected in the other.
Expanded Financial Considerations:
The original cost proposed to the City earlier this year was near $130,000 annually. Given the recession that faces our agency staff worked to reduce the annual cost proposal to collect only the minimum amount of information that still allows staff the ability to meet the goals of the program. Schedule B of the attached scope of work includes a break down of annual charges for the three-year period. The annual cost totals below are only an estimate. Should an overage be proposed in FY23, the overage can either be denied or be covered by $10,000 ongoing dollars in 202-08-304-1061-0-4204 Appraisal Fees and Permits. As per the ICA, spending contingency dollars require staff approval. The Purchase Order will be for a not-to-exceed $105,000.
Annual Cost Estimate
  FY21 FY22 FY23
Operation & Maintenance $88,413 $91,065 $93,795
Contingency $13,262 $13,660 $14,070
Total $101,675 $104,725 $107,865
Community Benefits and Considerations:
In the early 1900s the Lower Lake Mary dam was constructed in Walnut Creek. When the lake did not impound the volume of water expected, due to leakage through sinkholes in the Kaibab Limestone, the Upper Lake Mary dam was constructed and began filling in 1941. Both dams altered natural flows through Walnut Canyon and through the National Monument. In recognizing this issue, the City of Flagstaff signed a water rights Stipulation with the Forest Service and National Park Service, sorting out water rights but also establishing a workgroup to manage studies or projects that may result in more frequent steamflow events through the National Monument. The City contributed $100,000 to a fund restricted with the National Park Foundation, and recommendations for use of the fund are made by the Lake Mary-Walnut Canyon Technical Advisory Committee and brought to the three respective agencies for approval. To date, the TAC has spent about half of the fund, including the total with interest. Council authorized disbursement of an additional $19,000 from the account on June 16, 2020, towards funding the USGS streamflow gauge at Newman Canyon.

All information collected under the Upper Lake Mary Watershed Monitoring Project from November 2015 forward is available to the public.
Community Involvement:


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