Saturday, April 18, 2015


Los Angeles County is the local health department that is in charge of water monitoring in Avalon Bay. According to the State, the local health officer or the local department, may at his or its discretion close, post warning signs, or otherwise restrict use of said public beach or public water-contact sports area.

When results of the water quality tests exceed California State standards, beaches are posted with warning signs in the vicinity of the high indicator bacteria counts. These signs indicate that contact with water in the area may increase the risk of illness to a swimmer. If follow-up tests indicate bacteria levels below the State standards, the signs are removed. If the bacterial levels are still higher, the signs remain posted on the beaches until the next week of testing.

The warning sign most often seen on Avalon Bay beaches - white bordered by red and black stripes - is posted when bacteria exceedances occur in areas not adjacent to, or influenced by, storm drains. It is to advise the public of the potential risk associated with swimming in ocean water. The beach remains open, and people swim based on their own comfort level of risk. (City of Avalon)

Avalon Bay Water Quality


In 1999 the County of Los Angeles began testing Avalon Bay for fecal indicator bacteria in accordance with AB 411. These test results frequently exceeded California single-sample standards for fecal indicator bacteria in coastal bathing waters, and as a result beaches in Avalon have been frequently posted as unfit for swimming.

In 2001, the City received a $500,000 grant from the State of California’s Clean Beaches Initiative to further investigate the water quality problem in Avalon Bay, and pursue mitigation measures. This grant had three goals: 1) to determine the sources of fecal indicator bacteria in the Bay, 2) to conduct further microbial source tracking studies, and 3) to characterize circulation in Avalon Bay.

These studies, which were conducted by Professors Stanley Grant (UCI), Burt Jones (USC), and Jed Fuhrman (USC) between September and November 2001, concluded that:

  1. Fecal indicator bacteria in Avalon Bay appear to originate from several land-side sources, including contaminated shallow groundwater, bird and animal fecal droppings, broken plumbing under wharf structures, and run-off from street wash down activities.
  2. Within Avalon Bay, fecal indicator bacteria concentrations are highest in ankle depth water along the shoreline. 
  3. Microbial indicators of human fecal pollution (including the human-specific bacteria Bacteroides/Provetella and human enterovirus) were detected at several locations in Avalon Bay and in groundwater sampling pits, suggesting that human sewage may contribute to water quality impairment of Avalon Bay.
  4. The rates of diffusion within Avalon Bay is sufficient to disperse contaminants introduced to the Bay within an hour or so, provided that the source of contamination is not continuous.
  5. A significant fraction of the water in Avalon Bay is exchanged with the ocean over a single tide cycle.
  6. The region of the Bay impacted by the storm drain (near the beach site called “Channel”) does not appear to have a circulation problem. Within one hour, pollutants released into this area of the Bay are transported 80 to 100 m into the Bay and diluted by a factor of 100 or more.
Based on these study results, the City implemented the following mitigation measures:

a) Sewer mains and manholes in the first three blocks from the waterfront were slip-lined and sealed; this effort was completed in May, 2002.

b) Bird control measures were intensified; this ongoing effort was initiated in 2001.

c) Plumbing under the wharfs was repaired and a regular twice per year inspection program initiated.

d) Street wash down procedures were modified to prevent run-off.

e) Sewer laterals in the first three blocks from the waterfront were repaired and sealed; this effort was initiated in May 2005 and completed in November 2005.

Note: The City of Avalon is preparing to replace sewer valves and the City Council is considering a rate increase to pay for it at a meeting in April 2015.  See:

Rate Increases For Sewer & Saltwater Service Fees

(City of Avalon, City of Avalon Compliance Plan)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All Drinking Water Contaminants Detected Below Regulatory Levels

The water in the Catalina Island Water System is a blended supply, with fresh groundwater sources located in the interior of the island and seawater processed by the desalination system located at the Pebbly Beach Generating Station.  The primary sources for the groundwater wells are located in Middle Ranch.

SCE is required to test for a number of different contaminants in the Catalina Island Water System, with the timing of the sampling varying based on the state's requirements. In order to ensure that drinking water is safe to drink, USEPA and California DPH prescribe regulations that limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems.

Drinking water contaminants detected during tests in 2013 are listed in the table at the link above as well as an explanation of terms and abbreviations. Note that the presence of the listed contaminants in water does not necessarily mean that the water poses a health risk and that all contaminants detected are below regulatory levels established by the DPH. (SCE)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

State Water Resources Control Board

The purpose of the State Water Resources Control Board is to preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Water Boards regulate wastewater discharges to surface water (rivers, ocean, etc.) and to groundwater (via land). The Water Boards also regulate storm water discharges from construction, industrial, and municipal activities; discharges from irrigated agriculture; dredge and fill activities; the alteration of any federal water body under the 401 certification program; and several other activities with practices that could degrade water quality.

Responsibility for California's water system is spread among several agencies, including the California Department of Water Resources and the federal government.

Need A Permit?

If your activities, discharges, or proposed activities or discharges from your property or business could affect California's surface, coastal, or ground waters, in most cases you will need to apply for a permit from the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board. Discharges to community sewer systems are typically not regulated by Regional Water Quality Control Boards.
If you are discharging pollutants (or proposing to) into surface water you must file a complete National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application form(s) and appropriate application fee with the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Typical activities that affect water include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • discharge of process wastewater not discharging to a sewer (factories, cooling water, etc.)
  • confined animal facilities (e.g., dairies)
  • waste containments (landfills, waste ponds, etc.)
  • construction sites
  • boatyards
  • discharges of pumped groundwater and cleanup (underground tank cleanup, dewatering, spills)
  • material handling areas draining to storm drains
  • sewage treatment facilities
  • sanitary sewer overflows
  • filling of wetlands
  • dredging, filling and disposal of dredge wastes
  • commercial activities not discharging to a sewer (e.g., factory wastewater, storm drain)
  • waste to land
  • use of recycled water
For further questions, please contact the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rate Increases For Sewer & Saltwater Service Fees

The City Council of the City of Avalon is holding a Public Hearing on May 19, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. to consider adopting increases in the current rates for its sewer and saltwater service fees.

We support the rate increase proposal.

To learn more about this issue, go to the City Council NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING.

Customer Class
Current Rates
Proposed Rates
Effective July1, 2015
Annual Increase
Residential (per dwelling unit)
Public Shower (per shower)
Hotel (per room)
Laundries (per wash unit)
Take-out Restaurant
Bar/Restaurant (less than 100 seats)
Bar/Restaurant (more than 100 seats)

Customer Class
Current Rates
Proposed Rates Effective July 1, 2015
Annual Increase

CPUC Decision on SCE Rate Increase Application

Southern California Edison Company's Rate Increase for Santa Catalina Island Water Operations

A10-11-009 Application of Southern California Edison Company for Authority to, Among Other Things, Increase its Authorized Revenues for Santa Catalina Island Water Operations, and to Reflect that Increase in Rates.

PROPOSED OUTCOME:  Adopts all-party settlement agreement on revenue requirement and rate design for Southern California Edison Company’s (SCE) Santa Catalina Water operations. ® Closes the proceeding.

SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS: Allows SCE’s Catalina Water operations to continue to provide safe, reliable water at reasonable rates.

ESTIMATED COST: ® Average water users will see a 31.37% increase in their monthly rate from $74.04 to $97.27. Includes a $8.895 million rate base transfer to SCE’s electric customers and $2.485 million capital disallowance borne by SCE shareholders.  (CPUC, p. 24)

This proceeding is categorized as Ratesetting

[ALJ Proposed Decision]

Santa Catalina Water System General Rate Case


On November 15, 2010 Southern California Edison (Edison) requested the CPUC for a rate increase of $3.2 million or 80%, resulting in a total revenue requirement of $7.2 million, for its Santa Catalina Island Water System customers for upgrades to its aging water infrastructure. On April 23, 2012, the CPUC issued a proposed decision that

1) decreased the revenue requirement increase from Edison’s requested 80% to 45%

2) shifted costs to Edison’s electric customers, and

3) maintains service rates at present levels.

In April 2012, the CPUC issued a Proposed Decision decreasing Edison's revenue increase request and proposing that the upgrade costs for Santa Catalina's water system be shifted to Edison's electric ratepayers.

In August 2012, the CPUC issued a Ruling suspending the proceeding to allow parties to settle issues of dispute.

Division of Ratepayer Advocate's (DRA) Policy Position

On May 14, 2012, DRA submitted comments in response to the CPUC’s Proposed Decision stating that it:
  • Supports the PD’s decrease in revenue requirement increase.
  • Opposes the PD’s solution to shift costs to Edison’s electric customers who receive no benefit of improvements made to Catalina’s water service (additionally, Edison electric customers have received no appropriate notice of proposed rate increases as required by the CPUC).
  • Recommends the CPUC spread the rate increase over a 3-year period to mitigate rate shock to Catalina customers.
See DRA's May 16, 2011 preliminary testimony in response to Edison's revenue requirement request for the Catalina Island.

See DRA's December 17, 2010 protest to application.

Current Proceeding Status

In April 2012, Administrative Law Judge Barnett issued his Proposed Decision in the General Rate Case, which upheld Edison's alternative rate proposal, allowing it to collect $10.7 million from its state electric ratepayers instead of from Avalon ratepayers.

In reaching his decision to pass $10,700,000 of Edison's Rate Base to electric ratepayers, ALJ Barnett noted that the "water system primarily serves . . . visitors," that the effect on Edison's electric ratepayers would be "de minimis," and that Catalina ratepayers, who currently are paying the highest rates in California, facing a doubling or more of their current bills, "would welcome the relief, as was made clear at the public hearing."

The CPUC issued its final decision, basically taking the AJ's recommendations, on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
  • Notice of Name Change

    On September 26, 2013 the governor of California signed SB 96, which among other things, changed the name of DRA -- the Division of Ratepayer Advocates to “ORA - the Office of Ratepayer Advocates.”
  • ORA'S Mission
    DRA's statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.  In fulfilling this goal, ORA also advocates for customer and environmental protections. 
Note: The Consortium is trying to acquire the water company from Edison and turn it into a public owned water company.  The Consortium is composed of  the City of Avalon, the Catalina Island Conservancy, the Santa Catalina Island Company, the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce, the Hamilton Cove Homeowners Association, the campgrounds represented by Guided Discoveries and condo and apartment owners represented by the Conference of Catalina Condos and Apartments.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Von's Approval Delayed Until August 4, 2015

At the April 7 City Council meeting, the Vons appeal hearing date was pushed back to August 4 (on a 2 to 1 vote) from the scheduled April 21 date due in part to questions about the water allocation for the new Vons store.

The initial appeal hearing date was set for March 17, but due to public concerns over the environmental impact and the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) of the project, the appeal hearing was pushed back until April.  This delay offered Avalon a chance to revise the MND, re-circulate it for public comment and make further analysis on the project.

We oppose the delay(s).  These delaying tactics are commonly used to kill projects.  Delay it long enough and it will die. Concerns and questions have been asked and answered and this project should move forward with all deliberate speed.  Moreover, the water allocation transfer appears to be perfectly reasonable to us.  This delay of the appeal is supposed to allow the City Council to get more answers about the project and allow the council to schedule a hearing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in July.
Front view of new Von's store

A council member and three Avalon residents sent letters to the CPUC requesting an audit of Southern California Edison’s water allocation practices for the Vons project.  The CPUC forwarded their letters to the Department of Water and Audits (DWA), which conducted an investigation into Edison’s allocation practices and found that “there were no violations of SCE tariffs at the time the decision was made.” Despite the audit’s findings and response, one council member wasn’t ‘sold’ and he felt that further analysis of the situation was needed.

Initial water allocation estimates for the project were made when Avalon was in Stage 1 water rationing. Edison originally was going to allocate new water to the project from the existing fresh water supply.   Now, in Stage 2 rationing, Edison couldn’t honor that allocation and the project needed to find a source of water.

Currently, the project, as approved by Edison, is planning on transferring water from the Wilcox Nursery and the Golf Gardens, which are both owned by the Santa Catalina Island Company, to the new Vons location. The Golf Gardens will stay open but the Wilcox Nursery will be closing. The Island Company offered the water to Vons for the project.  The idea of transferring water from these locations was heavily opposed by a few residents in attendance, who voiced that it looked as though Vons was getting preferential treatment.  (The Catalina Islander, 4/10/2015, Avalon City Council Meeting, Tuesday, April 7, 2015, Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce)

New Von's Store: Why Beacon & Sumner

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In October, 1894, the Banning Brothers - William, Hancock and Joseph - incorporated the Santa Catalina Island Company, placed title to the Catalina Island land holdings they had acquired two years earlier into their newly-formed company, and then started building for the future. The Banning's planned to develop the island as a resort, and much of the initial development of Avalon took place during their ownership.
When William Wrigley Jr. acquired a majority interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company from the Banning's in 1919, the destiny of the Island began to change forever. This now-historic event cast the die for permanently preserving substantially all of Santa Catalina Island in its natural state. During the next 56 years, various conservation practices were initiated by the Wrigley-led Santa Catalina Island Company, including much-needed animal controls, protection of watersheds and reseeding of overgrazed areas.
The vision of the Santa Catalina Island Company is to be recognized as a leader in providing exceptional individual and group experiences to our guests and visitors, and be a respected business partner with our employees, suppliers and community.
The Santa Catalina Island Company uses their resources (human, physical, financial and natural) in a sustainable manner to implement the highest quality plans, design and developments that create properties of enduring value. Along with other stakeholders they are committed to preserving the natural beauty and unique character of Santa Catalina Island. In Avalon, Two Harbors and other holdings they will work to develop a master planned, quality island community which preserves the island's history, culture and authenticity.  (Santa Catalina Island Company)

Catalina Island Conservancy

The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.

Founded in 1972 as a non-profit organization, the Catalina Island Conservancy is one of the oldest private land trusts in Southern California. It protects 88 percent of Catalina Island, including more than 62 miles of unspoiled beaches and secluded coves—the longest publicly accessible stretch of undeveloped coastline left in Southern California. Catalina Island is home to more than 60 plant, animal and insect species found nowhere else in the world. It is visited by more than one million people annually. More than sixty thousand school children each year visit camps on Conservancy lands. (CIC)

Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

In October 1995, the University of Southern California received a grant from the Wrigley family to expand the scope of their USC Marine Science Center at Fisherman's Cove to include environmental sciences, hence the name change to the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. The lab was renovated in 1996 and the dorms in 1997.

The hyperbaric and decompression chamber is operational for emergencies (divers with the bends). Expanded educational programming includes classes for USC and California University students, the USC Sea Grant Program/Island Explorers which includes curriculum and an overnight visit for K-12 students, and Elderhostel. Postdoctoral fellows and other scientists are conducting ambitious new environmental research projects.  The mission of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies is to encourage responsible and creative decisions in society by providing an objective source of marine and environmental science and fostering an understanding of the natural world among people of all ages.

Our affiliated faculty conduct research in all aspects of the environment. Wrigley Institute scientists investigate biological adaptations to climate change, study interactions among humans and natural systems, and connect science to environmental policy. We also offer unique educational programming and work with foundations and the public to enhance environmental awareness. (USCWIES)

Catalina Island Water System

Water Sources on the Island SCE provides water through pipelines, reservoirs, wells and tanks to both the East End, which includes Avalon, and the West End, which includes Two Harbors. Communities at White’s Landing, Airport and Toyon/Gallaghers Cove are served locally by wells at each of these locations.

Avalon residents and visitors use roughly 400 acre feet of water annually (Approximately 130,000,000 gallons per year). The used water is a combination of both fresh water used in town and is derived via Southern California Edison from the alluvial wells connected to Thompson reservoir and saltwater via our saltwater toilet system. Used water is piped to the wastewater treatment facility near the Edison power plant and is processed to a degree where it is considered clean enough to pump out into the ocean along Pebbly Beach. In essence, Catalina throws away roughly 400 acre feet of water annually, a significant portion of which could instead be recycled and reused many times over for use in watering plants, rinsing off property and sidewalks, washing cars and flushing toilets.


Thompson Reservoir Thompson (Middle Ranch) Reservoir: The East End’s main source of fresh water comes from the Thompson Reservoir. It has capacity of about 1,149 acre feet (1 acre feet=325,851 gallons). Fresh ground water is drawn from the aquifer connected to the reservoir using three groundwater wells in Middle Ranch and sent to Pump Station 2. The water is aerated and chlorinated and then pumped to Wrigley Reservoir and the Baker Tanks for distribution to the city of Avalon and the rest of the island’s East End.

Desalination Plant Desalination Plant: Ocean water is pumped through sea water wells to the desalination plant, located at the Pebbly Beach Generating Station in Avalon. The desalination plant uses the reverse osmosis process to make the water fit for drinking. This water is used to augment the fresh water supply for the town. When operational, the plant’s maximum daily output is about 200,000 gallons. Water for the island’s West End is provided by ground water wells located at Cottonwood, Sweetwater and Howlands Landing.

(SCE, The Catalina Islander, 12/19/2014))

Monday, April 6, 2015

Poseidon Desalination: Carlsbad, Huntington Beach & Catalina

The Poseidon desalination project in Huntington Beach should be approved.
Poseidon should consider building a large desalination plant on Catalina Island next.
The energy-intensive desalination plant  would create 50 million gallons of fresh water per day.  Southern California is in the grip of a severe drought, with climatologists, water experts and even NASA scientists releasing alarming reports about the depletion of the region's groundwater supply. Poseidon is very close to getting a permit to break ground on the facility.
In January, the Orange County Water District (OCWD), one of the many municipal bodies helping to manage Orange County's water resources, told its staff to work with Poseidon to negotiate a rate sheet to buy all 56,000 acre-feet of water per year it would produce (one acre-foot is approximately 300,000 gallons, or enough water for three average California families of four to use for about a year). 
The site of Poseidon's proposed desalination project sits just across the Pacific Coast Highway from the sand and north of the Santa Ana River's outlet into the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. The facility would share the lot that houses the AES natural-gas-fired Huntington Beach Generating Station. The new plant would sit in the back of the lot, adjacent to a storm-water discharge channel and away from beach view.

One hundred million gallons of seawater would flow through Poseidon's pumps each day, first through screens and meshes to remove sand and other debris, and then put through a series of reverse-osmosis filters, removing the salt. Fifty million gallons of brine, twice as salty as intake seawater, would return to the ocean, as the other 50 million gallons of water would be added to Orange County's water system, enough to provide for approximately 7 percent of Orange County's water needs.
The plant's original 1998 design piggybacks on already-active seawater intake and outtake pipes used by the AES power plant to cool its steam generators. Critics say this will be bad for the environment because -they take in and kill more than 80 million fish eggs annually, according to a 2013 report by the California Coastal Commission (CCC).  This number is infinitesimal compared to the total number of fish eggs in that area of the ocean.

In 2010, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted a policy that would phase out these intakes for coastal power plants by 2020. And therein lies a major problem for Poseidon. If the desalination facility is constructed using current designs, those outdated intakes and outtakes would stay functioning for an additional 30 years, and the positive environmental impact that would be gained from the closing of the pipes would be lost.
The company has agreed to study the feasibility of proposed alternate intakes. The study is currently in the second phase and has identified two possible alternatives to the open water intake.
Water produced by the plant would be almost twice the price of water imported through the state water project, and the cost has only been climbing. In 2003, Poseidon estimated that its water would cost approximately $800 per acre-foot compared to $250 per acre-foot for other sources. That price has climbed to an estimated price of $1,850 per acre-foot in 2014, after accounting for a $250 per acre-foot financial incentive from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), with the possibility of a 25-year incentive of up to $340 per acre-foot from the MWD, according to a January 2014 report by OCWD. Current treated water imported by the MWD costs $840 per acre-foot, for comparison.
The Poseidon Carlsbad plant that is currently under construction would produce 50 million gallons per day, just like the Huntington Beach plant, but the water would cost between $2,014 and $2,257 per acre-foot, with a guaranteed return of between 9 percent and 13 percent built into the rate, depending on operation costs. Construction is expected to finish sometime in early 2016, with the first batches of desalinated water delivered soon after that.  (OC Weekly, 3/11/2015)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Catalina Water Quality & Mandatory Rationing

Since 1962, Southern California Edison has been providing water service to Catalina Island through water storage, wells, water treatment and distribution, and, more recently, a desalination plant.

Stage 2 Water Rationing Is In Effect

Mandatory water conservation and water rationing took effect on Catalina Island on August 11, 2014.
California is in a severe drought, and Catalina is among the areas in the state that have been greatly impacted.  Rainfall totals have been far short of normal the past two years. Due to the extreme drought conditions, everyone needs to cut back on water use even more to preserve our water resources.

Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation and Rationing requires a 25 percent reduction of previous water use. In other words, the monthly water allotment is 25 percent lower than the water used for the same month during the 12-month period before Stage 1 Mandatory Water Conservation was implemented in June, 2013.


Water Supply Status and Stage 2 Results

  • As of February 12, the Middle Ranch Reservoir water level was 277 acre feet.
  • In January 2015, water use declined 8.33 percent — 12.1 acre feet of water was used, compared to 13.2 acre feet a year ago.
  • Between August 2014 and January 2015, water use declined 34.08 percent even with a 25.11 percent increase in visitors to the island – 129.76 acre feet of water was used, compared to 196.86 acre feet during the same period in 2012 -2013 (baseline).
When does water rationing get implemented?

Mandatory water conservation goes into effect when water levels in the Middle Ranch Reservoir (“Reservoir”) fall below 600 acre-feet. Mandatory water rationing goes into effect when water levels in the Reservoir fall below 300 acre-feet.

Based on water levels in the Reservoir, mandatory water conservation and water rationing are already in effect.

How is water alloted during Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation and Rationing?

Part of the water rationing plan includes the use of monthly water allotments. SCE provides your individual monthly water allotments, which were calculated from your monthly water use from the 12-month period before Stage 1 Mandatory Water Conservation was implemented.
Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation and Rationing requires a 25 percent reduction from your baseline water use.

What is baseline water allocation? To determine your monthly baseline water allotment during Stage 2 Water Rationing, SCE takes your water usage from the same month during the 12-month period before Stage 1 Mandatory Water Conservation was implemented and reduce it by 25 percent. For example, if you used 100 gallons in September 2013, your baseline water allotment for September 2014 is 75 gallons. You will be responsible for monitoring your water use to ensure you do not exceed your monthly water allotments. The 25 percent water usage reduction will be strictly enforced.

What happens if you exceed my water allotment?

First offense: You will receive a written warning on your bill.

Second offense: SCE will install a flow-restricting device on your water service line. The device will be removed after a minimum 3-day period has passed and upon payment of a $200 fee.

Third offense: SCE will install a flow-restricting device on your water service line. The device will not be removed until water rationing is no longer in effect and upon payment of an additional $200 fee on top of the $200 fee charged with the second offense.

Any tampering with a flow-restricting device may result in fines or discontinuation of water use at our discretion.

Are there additional restrictions on water use?

Stage 2 Mandatory Water Conservation and Rationing requires certain prohibitions and restrictions on the use of fresh water, subject to future changes if directed by the California Public Utilities Commission.  (SCE, Frequently Asked Questions)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Million Gallon Tank

Southern California Edison officials have decided against shipping water from the Million Gallon Tank in Two Harbors to the Wrigley Reservoir that serves Avalon until a city-employed consultant has tested the water. Southern California Edison wants to relocate water from a tank in Two Harbors to the Avalon water supply.

After the Tuesday, March 3 Avalon City Council meeting, SCE decided not to transfer water from the Million Gallon Tank to the Wrigley Reservoir until after the city’s consultant gets test results showing the water doesn’t contain PCBs and is safe to drink. SCE’s consultant, Geosyntec, has been doing monthly sampling of drinking water leaving the tank for about a year, and all of the results show “non-detect” for PCBs. Geosyntec was brought in to test the consumption safety level before Edison Company moved the water to the Wrigley Reservoir.

City officials doubt the water is safe to drink. The Catalina City Council does not want any water delivered from the Million Gallon Tank to the homes of Avalon people until the testing is done.

It seems a bit odd to us here at the CIB that the City Council does not trust the company responsible for supplying safe drinking water to the city with supplying safe drinking water to the city. This sort of distrust breeds a negative relationship that is not necessarily good for the city. What motive would SCE have for providing Avalon residents with drinking water contaminated with PCBs?

Sample results show insignificant traces of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminants in the water currently sitting in the so-called Million Gallon Tank in Two Harbors, according to Southern California Edison. A company representative presented the test results to the City Council at the meeting.

City Hall

Avalon will conduct its own independent study prior to Edison continuing with its project. The council approved its own independent sampling and testing of the water in the tank but Avalon has no jurisdiction over stopping Southern California Edison from continuing its ongoing project. The only way to stop Southern California Edison is through a court order [the lawyers will be happy with this]. The council has not hired a specific company to test the water.

Edison has assured the council that the appropriate sampling and testing has been done and that PCB contaminant levels are far below federal and state mandated maximum contaminant levels if present at all.

PCBs have the potential, if consumed in large amounts over long periods of time, to “cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system,” according to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

The reason for the water transfer is because Edison Company wants to refurbish the Million Gallon Tank. The tank is in need of repair.

Part of the water supply system on Catalina uses the Million Gallon Tank that was constructed in 1967. The tank was constructed to meet the fire and drinking water needs of the University of Southern California (USC) Marine Biology Laboratory located in Fisherman's Cove, now known as the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (USC Wrigley Institute).  The tank was constructed to hold 900,000 gallons of fire water storage with an extra 100,000 gallons of storage capacity to provide water to residents and visitors of the Isthmus area.  (The Catalina Island, 3/6/2015, Vicki Rogers Notice)

Five-Part Water Series from the Catalina Island Conservancy

By John J. Mack

John J. Mack is the Catalina Island Conservancy’s chief conservation and education officer. For more information about the Conservancy, please visit  The Catalina Island Conservancy has been an active participant in the Catalina Island Consortium, a group of Island stakeholders that has sought to maintain an affordable and sustainable fresh water supply for the Catalina Island community.  The Consortium, working with SCE and CPUC, was recently successful in averting significant water rate increases on the Island.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Historic Fire in 2007

On May 10, 2007, a major fire started at Catalina Island, north of the city of Avalon near a radio transmission facility.

Over 4,750 acres were burned and the fire destroyed much of the electrical infrastructure that delivered power from SCE’s Pebbly Beach Generating Station to Catalina’s inland communities.

The cause of the fire was never truly isolated.

Firebreaks were carved into the mountainsides 

Catalina Island Statistics

Island Size
76 square miles
Annual Visitors
Total Island Population
Avalon City Population
City of Avalon Annual Budget
$15, 000,000
Two Harbors Population
Additional Population
U.S. Marine Center
Avalon Peak Visitor Day
Two Harbors Peak Visitor Day
Pebbly Beach Generating Station Worth
$11.217 million
Pebbly Beach Generating Station O&M
$5.38 million
Pebbly Beach Capital Expense Forecast
$24.085 million (from 2009)
Pebbly Beach Diesel Fuel Use
55,000 barrels
Pebbly Beach Diesel Fuel Cost (Annual)
$8,051,450 (@$146/barrel)
SCE Estimate for Gas & Water Business
$35 million
Island Stakeholders Estimate
$5 million
Number of Oil & Gas Ratepayers
PUC Authorized Gas Revenue Increase
$984,500 - - 06/07/08
Number of SCE Natural Gas Customer
Number of SCE Electricity Customers
Average Cost of Electricity
$.12 /kwh
Number of SCE Water Customers
Underground Gas Distribution System
6.5 miles
Miles of Coastline
48 miles
Capacity of Water Desalination Plant
132,000 gpd
Cost of Water
$6 per 1,000 gallons
Tier 1 (up to 2500 gallons):
Tier 2 (2501-10,000 gallons):
Tier 3 (over 10,000 gallons):
Capacity of Wastewater Treatment Plant
1.2 million gpd (Avalon)
Capacity of Wastewater Treatment Plant
57,000 gpd (Two Harbors)

* AF is an acre foot: An acre foot is the volume of one acre of surface area to a depth of one foot. Since the area of one acre is defined as 66 by 660 feet then the volume of an acre-foot is exactly 43,560 cubic feet. This is approximately 325,851 U.S. gallons.