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Company's resources fund grant program administered by state
California American Water announced its recent delivery of a $1.1-million payment to the California Department of Fish and Game to fund National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries that benefit habitat for threatened steelhead trout in the Carmel River. The payment is the company's second annual contribution designed to fund what will ultimately be an $11.2-million environmental grant program administered by the California Department of Fish and Game.
"We're eager for local river and environmental protection groups to have the opportunity to access these funds and implement programs that will benefit the steelhead," said California American Water President Rob MacLean.
In 2006, California American Water reached an agreement with the NOAA to pay $10 million over seven years to protect the trout and their habitat. NOAA Fisheries struggled at that time to find a way to ensure the funds would be used solely for habitat improvements on the Carmel River rather than being diverted to other areas or subsumed by the federal government's general fund.
In 2009, the agency established an arrangement whereby the California Department of Fish and Game would administer the funding, ensuring the money remains local and provide an opportunity for agencies serving the Monterey Peninsula to seek support for programs that benefit the South-Central California Coast Steelhead.
Several local groups, including the Big Sur Land Trust, Carmel River Steelhead Association and Carmel River Watershed Conservancy, have worked to apply for the funding. However, no grants have been issued to date while the Department of Fish and Game evaluates proposals for mitigation projects.
The California Department of Fish and Game is responsible for selecting and prioritizing projects for protection of the steelhead trout with the dedicated funding. While that agency already offers grants for projects protecting anadromous fish populations statewide, the $11.2 million is to be dedicated solely to projects benefiting the South-Central California Coast Steelhead on the Carmel River. Government agencies and nonprofits are eligible to apply for grants.
California American Water has committed to pay $11.2 million between April 1, 2009, and July 1, 2016, although the company's agreement with NOAA Fisheries also states the payments will cease upon completion of the Monterey Bay Regional Water Project, which will replace approximately 10,000 acre-ft per year of pumping from the Carmel River. Company officials estimate the earliest a new water supply could be completed is 2014.