Restoration Advisory Board Meeting Minutes

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

September 18, 2013


These meeting minutes are a summary of the topics discussed at the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting, rather than a verbatim transcript. Only enough detail is provided to highlight topics discussed, concerns, actions items, and further agenda items.




Captain Dennis A. Lazar - Navy Co-Chair                 Peggy Shoaf – NAWS China Lake Public Affairs

Lee Sutton – RAB Community Co-Chair                  Michael Stoner – NAWS China Lake

Leroy Corlett – IWVWD                                                 Raymond Kelso – RAB Community Member

Mark Colsman - KCH                                                       Karen Gale – KCH

Michael Bloom – NAVFAC SW                                    Chandry Davis – NAVFAC SW

James McDonald – NAWS China Lake                     Kathy Monks - Tetra Tech EMI

Danny Domingo - DTSC                                                  Stan Rojtora – Member of the Public




Mr. Sutton called the meeting to order at 4:34 PM. All attendees gave their names and affiliations.




There were no administrative announcements.




Mr. Sutton did not review the old action items at the last meeting.  Mr. Sutton had one comment on the past minutes; in the minutes he and other members of the RAB are to be called “RAB community members”, whereas other community participants in the meetings are to be called “members of the public”.  Mr. Sutton approved the past minutes as drafted.  No further comments were noted, and the minutes were accepted as final.




Mr. Stoner presented an overview of the Indian Wells Valley (IWV) water availability issues and the planning process that has been initiated by Kern County for sustainable use of groundwater resources.  The following is a summary of the presentation and questions asked. 


In March 2013, Kern County met with the Navy, the Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD), and other local stakeholders regarding groundwater issues in IWV, including water conservation and land-use planning.  The County then hired Todd Engineers in June/July to prepare a status report on water resources and use, and to develop strategic goals and recommendations for future water resource management.  In August the firm started collecting data and input from stakeholders.  On August 28, 2013, Kern County had their first public meeting.  More than 100 people attended and there were many comments.  


Mr. Stoner presented a map showing current zoning and land use in the IWV.  Green shaded areas on the map indicated agricultural use, and it was apparent that more than half of the available land area is zoned for agriculture.  Most of the agricultural development is new and people are concerned that water use for agriculture is unrestricted.  The hope is that the County will respond with long-term goals to promote sustainability of groundwater. 


Todd Engineers is currently preparing a Water Availability and Conservation Report for the IWV.  This report will compile and review previous studies and existing hydrogeologic data, and will further evaluate stakeholder perceptions and concerns; lay the groundwork for consensus on technical issues; and propose strategic goals for groundwater sustainability.  The report will also recommend water resource management measures and identify next steps.  Mr. Stoner’s presentation provided a listing of key studies and data sources that Todd Engineers is using to prepare the report.


Mr. Stoner also discussed some initial findings of the Todd Engineers study concerning characteristics of the groundwater basin, and what the next steps are in the study.  Initial findings are that the IWV basin is in overdraft, that water levels continue to decline across the basin, and that downward hydraulic gradients may be present.  A public workshop is scheduled for October 11, 2013, and the draft Water Availability and Conservation Report will be released for public review and comment for 1 month.  In November 2013, the document will be finalized and in December 2013, the report will be sent to the County Board of Supervisors for consideration of recommendations. 


Mr. Stoner concluded with a discussion of new water management recommendations that are being considered as the report is being prepared.  These included:


·         Proposed treatment facility sites for brackish water.  Effluents or brines from brackish water treatment could conceivably be disposed in playa lakebeds.

·         Proposed areas for locations of new water production wells.  Such wells may produce lower quality or brackish water for treatment and/or blending.  Any new proposed well locations would be outside the shallow aquifer zone in the eastern IWV that will soon be de-designated from municipal use by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.  For example, new well areas could include deeper groundwater zones west of Armitage Field.

·         Proposed infrastructure to support aquifer storage and recovery projects associated with water reuse at the City of Ridgecrest’s wastewater treatment facility.  This facility is located on-base at NAWS China Lake.  Excess water could be piped from the treatment facility across the base for use.

·         Potential conservation easements along the perimeter of NAWS China Lake.

·         Potential sites to divert surface waters for detention/reclamation, such as after storms.  These storms can produce a large amount of water that could be collected and stored or utilized.


Mr. Kelso asked about the process Todd Engineers was using to make sure they obtain all available data, and whether the Navy has provided their major hydrogeologic data sets and reports for the area.  Mr. McDonald said the Navy is providing information whenever requested, and has provided the Basewide Hydrogeologic Characterization Report completed by the Navy in 2003.  Mr. McDonald also said the Navy may have some concerns regarding some of the proposed recommendations mentioned above, such as brine disposal. 


Captain Lazar asked if the report will estimate if and when there may be problematic or critical groundwater supply issues.  Mr. Stoner indicated that he believed the report will include such findings if indicated by the data reviewed. 


Captain Lazar asked for clarification on the downward gradient at China Lake.  Mr. Stoner indicated downward gradients may be more apparent now than in the past, given more limited evaporation in the basin.


Captain Lazar said he would like clarification on the conservation easement options.  Mr. Stoner responded that there are one or two areas in the southwestern IWV along the base boundary where joint easements might be shared for conservation.


Captain Lazar wondered whether brackish water might be used to support some agriculture instead of using higher quality water, and asked if the report study would address such options.  Mr. Stoner concurred that use of brackish water was possible for some crops (e.g., pistachios) and said the report should address these options. 


Mr. Kelso asked how far south the agricultural area goes.  Mr. Stoner showed the area on a map from the presentation (Slide 2), which indicated the IWV basin with a yellow outline.


Mr. Kelso asked what percent increase there has been in agriculture in the last 3 years.  Mr. Stoner said there has been an increase in agriculture of almost 2.5 times in the last 3 years. Eight new production wells have been constructed to support agricultural operations.


Captain Lazar asked Mr. Stoner if water consumption from agriculture use could be estimated or calculated.  Mr. Stoner responded that it should be possible to estimate consumption rates, e.g., for tree crops.  These estimates need to consider that young trees consume less water than mature trees.  




Mr. Bloom introduced Dr. Colsman and the Site Management Plan (SMP) presentation.  Mr. Bloom stated the SMP project was recently awarded.  Mr. Bloom indicated that there has been a kickoff meeting and the preliminary work has been started.  The information about the SMP is being presented so that the RAB will know what is being planned for and how it is presented in the document and to get the RAB involved early so that it can be useful for everyone.  A handout of the presentation slides was distributed.  The following is a summary of the presentation and questions asked.


Dr. Colsman summarized the three major technical tasks involved with the new project.  These tasks included not only the updated SMP, but also data collection activities for groundwater and soil, and inspections of covers installed at Sites 6 and 12.


Dr. Colsman explained how the SMP is a great resource for the installation restoration program at NAWS China Lake and that the last update of the SMP occurred in 2006.  A lot of environmental restoration work has occurred at the base since 2006 and this new work needs to be incorporated into the SMP.  Dr. Colsman discussed the current SMP and how the Navy is planning to reorganize and reformat the plan.  He discussed making the site summaries more detailed so they are as useful as possible. Each site summary is anticipated to include an introduction, clean-up status or stage under the CERCLA program, chemicals of concern, site background and history, previous investigations (with a list of reports), current operations and activities, and closure or exit strategy. 


The regulatory program sections of the SMP will include new discussions addressing groundwater beneficial use and the Federal Facility Site Remediation Agreement (FFSRA).  In addition to the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites already documented in the current SMP, the updated SMP will include additional sites managed under the Munitions Response Program (MRP; five sites), and the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program (nine sites).  Like the current SMP, the updated SMP will include up front, quick reference summary tables that concisely present essential information for all sites.


Dr. Colsman closed the SMP discussion by stating that currently the Navy is gathering data and graphics/maps for the SMP.  The document will be circulated to RAB for review early next year.


In addition to updating the SMP, Dr. Colsman went on to explain the general scope for the groundwater and soil data collection portion of the new project, which consists of collecting groundwater samples from six sites and soil samples from three areas of concern (AOCs).  He showed maps where the sites were located and gave a brief description of each site and AOC.  The objective, scope, and constituents of concern for each site and AOC were summarized and included in the presentation handout.  Dr. Colsman indicated that the work plan and sampling plan will be ready for the RAB to review early next year.  The intent is to collect data late next spring, with a data report to be prepared in the summer.


Dr. Colsman then discussed the third portion of the new project, which includes cover inspection and maintenance activities to be performed at Sites 6 and 12.  Initially, a post-closure maintenance plan (PCMP) will be developed for the inspection and maintenance of the Site 6 covers, in accordance with the Site 6 Record of Decision (ROD).  The PCMP will describe an annual inspection program to assess site access control, erosion and cracking, damage, slope stability, and subsidence/settlement.  The PCMP will further document maintenance, repair, and documentation protocols based on the inspection findings.  Although no similar PCMP is required at Site 12, the 2nd CERCLA 5-Year Review Report finalized in 2012 recommended additional annual cover inspections at Site 12.  Thus, after the Site 6 PCMP if finalized, annual cover inspections will then be performed for 2 years at both Site 6 and Site 12. Inspections and maintenance activities will be documented in letter inspection and construction reports.  Dr. Colsman then closed his presentation and asked for questions.


Mr. Kelso asked what percentage of Navy’s cleanup budget is involved in this task.  Mr. Bloom answered approximately 20 percent of this year’s budget.


Mr. Sutton asked about cover improvements that had already been performed at Site 6 during construction, as was noted in Dr. Colsman’s presentation.  These improvements had been performed in response to erosion from storms observed at the first covers constructed at the site (i.e., the covers at Areas 1 and 3 of Site 6).  Mr. Bloom and Dr. Colsman responded that storm water runoff from the covers had indeed caused erosion of the cover slopes on the downhill sides of the covers. This led to design changes for these covers as well as for a new cover that was being built at Area 2 around the same time as the erosion issues were noticed.  Dr. Colsman stated that the design changes included making the cover side slopes more gradual on the downhill sides of the covers (5:1 instead of 3:1) so the water runoff would not run so fast; using more granular soil on these slopes; and making the transition between the cover top and the side slopes more rounded rather than sharp.


Mr. Corlett asked that a list of acronyms be included in the SMP update.  Mr. Colsman said the acronym list would be included in the document.




Mr. Bloom provided an overview of the September 2013 RPM meeting held earlier in the day, and handed out copies of the document tracking schedule. The notes below will reflect any questions or comments made during this presentation.


In regards to the RPM Meeting, Mr. Bloom noted the upcoming revised draft Feasibility Study (FS) for the Michelson Lab/Public Works Operable Unit (OU).  The Navy has received the revised draft of the FS and is planning to release it to the agencies and the RAB in November.  Originally the ML/PW OU project was placed on hold in 2008 after the Navy produced a draft FS and received agency comments.  The Navy is now addressing the 2008 agency comments in the new revised draft.  The Navy is also planning additional groundwater monitoring at 19 existing wells, and is planning to install 3 more wells at Site 68, pending Water Board concurrence.  Any new data gathered from these wells will be included in the FS before it is finalized. 


For the Area R OU, the Navy originally produced a draft ROD in 2008.  The ROD was then delayed due to the groundwater de-designation process.  Now that the de-designation process is moving forward, the Navy is updating the draft version of the ROD and is planning to get the revised draft ROD out to the agencies and the RAB in January 2014.  Mr. Sutton surmised that this work was moving forward on presumption of success of the de-designation, which was confirmed by Mr. Bloom.


Mr. Bloom mentioned that the SMP presentation just given to the RAB was also discussed during the RPM meeting. 


Mr. Bloom also discussed a group of potential No Further Action sites.  The Navy believes they can close out some of these sites.  The Navy will be scheduling a meeting with the agencies to go through each of these sites and discuss the path forward to closure. 


Mr. Bloom then discussed the schedule and document tracking sheet.


·         The Site 22 FS is in the draft final stage.  The Navy has comments from the agencies that still need to be addressed, so the document has been pushed out a month to November.

·         The Site 43 FS is in the final stage. The Navy is waiting on concurrence or additional comments from the agencies before finalizing the report.

·         The Site 45 Remedial Action Completion Report (RACR) is in the draft stage and is still waiting on any Water Board and RAB comments.

·         The Michelson Lab/Public Works OU revised draft FS should be completed by November.

·         The draft ROD for the Propulsion Lab (PL) OU is planned for submittal to the agencies and RAB by the end of October, with additional draft remedial design documents to be submitted before the end of the year.

·         The Landfill OU draft work plan/sampling analysis plan will be submitted to the agencies in October.

·         The Navy is working with the Water Board and addressing Water Board comments for the Site 1 Soil Vapor Extraction and Site 44 Solar Power Skimmer work plan in order to optimize the system.


The RAB should have received the latest groundwater monitoring reports on September 6, 2013, and the Site Characterization and Penetrometer System (SCAPS) work plan the week before that.  Mr. Corlett indicated he did receive these documents.  Mr. Sutton indicated that he did not get to review the March 2013 groundwater reports.  Mr. McDonald stated that they were sent to four RAB members for review.  Mr. Corlett indicated he had received those reports. 


Mr. Bloom then discussed the Navy budget for the Environmental Restoration, Navy (ER,N) program. In fiscal year 2013 the ER,N program budget for NAWS China Lake was approximately $5.5 million.  In 2012 it was $6 million.  As of this meeting date, the planned ER,N budget for fiscal year 2014 for NAWS China Lake is $1.4 million.  The MRP program is funded under a separate budget, so the Navy will start doing projects within that program as well.  There is approximately $940K for NAWS Chins Lake in fiscal year 2014.  Mr. McDonald and Mr. Bloom stated that the large budget amounts during the past 2 years have already been awarded but some of the work has not yet been performed.  Mr. Bloom said the cost to complete (close out all remedial sites) in the ER,N program is estimated to be approximately $29 million and the cost to complete for the MRP program at NAWS China Lake is estimated to be approximately $6.5 million, which does not include the fiscal year 2013 money. 




Mr. Sutton went over old action items including the review of the April 17 and June 19 minutes.


April 17 Action Items


1.       Ms. Shoaf will prepare a storyboard narrative on the RAB recommendations on the PLOU Proposed Plan and ROD.  This action item was carried over and is still open.  Mr. McDonald will provide the outline to Ms. Shoaf.

2.       The Navy and RAB to develop a RAB factsheet to be sent to members of the community to find parties interested in joining the RAB.  Mr. Bloom provided Mr. McDonald with information for incorporation into the factsheet.  Mr. McDonald will meet with Ms. Shoaf to prepare the factsheet. This action item is currently still open.

3.       RAB to give comments to the Navy on the September 2012 Site 70 semiannual groundwater monitoring report by February 25, 2013. The Navy/RAB will also check if the September 2012 semiannual groundwater monitoring reports have been submitted for RAB review. This action item is now closed. 

4.       Ms. Sophia Merk to be added to the list of RAB reviewers for the Landfill OU.  The action item is now closed.

5.       Mr. McDonald will talk to Mr. Terry Rogers to see if he would like to continue being a RAB member.  Mr. Kelso mentioned that he had this discussion, and that Mr. Rogers will no longer be part of the RAB.  This action item is now closed.

6.       Mr. Bloom will organize a presentation on the CERCLA process to be presented to the RAB.  Mr. Bloom presented this topic at the June RAB meeting. This action item is now closed.


June 19 Action Items


1.       Ms. Merk and Mr. Kelso were added to the list of reviewers for the ML/PW OU and the Area R OU documents. This action item is now closed.

2.       Mr. Bloom provided copies of the Site 45 RACR to Ms. Merk and Mr. Kelso.  This action item is now closed.




No new business was discussed.




There were no new action items.


The meeting was adjourned at 6:35 PM.