In February, when state and local water officials gathered to celebrate the completion of the East Branch Extension of the State Water Project at the Citrus Reservoir in Mentone, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Doug Headrick was asked if it would be stocked with bass.
He chuckled and shook his head no. The reservoir, which was completed in April 2017 and went into use in March, is generally not open to the public. If there are fish, there will be birds, which is a problem for the Redlands Municipal Airport less than a mile way. Birds and planes don’t mix.
“We had 600 geese here last week,” Headrick said on Feb. 22.
On Tuesday, district directors voted to spend $1.82 million to solve the problem. It will cover the 17.25-acre surface with plastic balls to deter birds from landing or nesting.
The reservoir was completed in April 2017 by the California Department of Water Resources to help extend delivery of water imported from Northern California to the San Gorgonio Pass. Pumps started operating in March. It’s not open to the public.
The eastern expansion included a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, which requires the Valley District to control migratory birds, according to a staff report.
Valley District Senior Project Manager Mike Esquer said small birds are not a problem, except that they may attract predatory birds such hawks or falcons. The main problem is large migratory birds, mainly geese.
The district is responsible for daily bird observations and biological monitoring. Airport Manager Will Hamilton has seen a large number of waterfowl periodically landing on the reservoir over the past year, the report says.
Biologists from Jericho Systems of Redlands have confirmed that birds rest there on their way to and from their summer nesting homes.
The staff considered paint ball projectiles, remote-control aircraft or boats, posed birds and noisemakers — but those techniques just send the birds back into the sky. The staff recommends the Rhombo Hexoshield floating cover system.
“The floating ball system has been proven to be an effective wildlife deterrent,” the report said. “When entirely covered, the body of water becomes unattractive to waterfowl and other wildlife.”
Contrary to solid covers, the floating ball system does not represent an obstacle to dipping fire suppression equipment. The elements can be easily pushed aside.
Esquer said that although they are generally referred to as floating balls, they’re 12-sided cubes that stack together. Balls tend to cluster, especially in the wind.
“That makes those stable in wind up to 130 mph,” he told the board. “They will provide almost 100 percent cover of the reservoir, not allowing light, which will reduce the potential for algae growth because they need sunlight as one of the nutrients.”
The system also helps prevent evaporation. Headrick estimated the system will save about 75 acre-feet that would otherwise be lost to evaporation, saving money.
(An acre-foot would fill a football field a foot deep, enough to satisfy the needs of the average family for one to two years.)
The San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency will provide $433,000 in funding, 23.8 percent of the project.
The board awarded the contract to Coastal Netting Systems of Bakersfield, whose bid was more than $7,000 lower that the bid by AWTT Inc., which manufactures the cubes.