The McMullin Project: The Justification and Process to bring On-Farm Flood Capture from Concept to Implementation
Bachand & Associates
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The McMullin Recharge Project, a $7 M project funded through a California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Flood Corridor grant, represents the first large-scale implementation of On-Farm Flood Capture as an approach to recharge aquifers and mitigate downstream flood risks. On-Farm Flood Capture leverages large areas of private farm lands for operation under dual purposes: farming and capture of available river flood flows. This concept was first funded through a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) feasibility study (2010 – 2012) that tested technical and logistical questions associated with implementing this new approach: i.e., what farm level infrastructure is required, how to integrate flood capture and farming BMPs, which crops are compatible, what infiltration rates are achievable, what are the water quality challenges, what are the costs? These questions were addressed and answered to varying degrees through the CIG grant which identified infrastructure needs, determined anticipated infiltration rates on farmlands, identified compatible crops, estimated costs, and recommended approaches to managing water quality challenges. The CIG project led to the DWR-funded McMullin Recharge Project. Since awarded to the Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) in 2012, and with matching funds from Terranova Ranch, progress has been made with implementing this large-scale On-Farm Flood Capture project with the completion of Hydraulic and Hydrologic (H&H) analyses showing positive economics strictly from flood mitigation benefits; the development of the 30% design identifying design elements for implementation; development of a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Initial Study to identify environmental impacts and recommended mitigation measures; development of a contractual framework for implementation and further expansion to neighboring farms; and beginning the permitting process. After completion of the McMullin Recharge Project Phase 1, the project will be able to divert up to 150 CFS of excess flood flows from the Kings River across over 5000 acres of farmland for monthly recharge total over 9000 ac-ft/month. Under full buildout in future phases, the project will cover over three times the acreage and be designed to capture about 30,000 ac-ft/month. This project ultimately seeks to provide a cost-effective means for agricultural communities to participate in creating more sustainable water supplies and for GSAs to comply with the SGMA; and to provide a template for future On-Farm Flood Capture projects, identifying and providing solutions to the technical and regulatory challenges associated with implementing this technology.