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    Oct 01 2013

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    Blog-ish round-up: Bloggers and others on the BDCP, the water bond, leveraging infrastructure investments, Lake Powell releases, Rim Fire, Cadiz, Morris Dam and more … !

    Water Grid

    “Water grid” by flickr photographer Perfect Hexagon

    Today's blog round-up is more ‘blog-ish' because I've included a few items that are not blogs, just to add a little balance.  It's an action-packed and wide-ranging round-up, with so many different subjects I can't even list them all, so here we go:

    The Valley Economy blog on how regulatory assurances shift, not reduce, risk:  Noting the LA Times article last week about how the BDCP's costs might be allocated among participants, Dr. Jeffrey Michael says the Times article may have unearthed the meaning of the mysterious clause in Chapter 8:  ” … My initial interpretation of the “Note to Readers” was that it opened the door to taxpayers paying for the tunnels, but that appears to be the wrong interpretation. The response of Dr. Meral to questions in public meetings and this passage suggest that it means that taxpayers would agree to pay for even more habitat or water flows from upstream sources if needed to achieve BDCP recovery goals and comply with the ESA. This is due to the regulatory assurances in BDCP limiting additional contributions of water or money from the water contractors. …”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here:  An Illustration of How Regulatory Assurance Under the BDCP is Risk Shifting, Not Risk Reduction

    The BDCP shifts earthquake risks, too, says the Delta National Park blog:  If fracking is increased on the Monterey shale, that increases earthquake risk, says the blog:  ” … Remember that one of the arguments for the peripheral tunnels is that they will reduce the possibility of a Delta earthquake interrupting the flow of Delta water south and west.  But forgetting the potential contamination of groundwater by the mysterious, proprietary toxic brew of fracking liquids for a minute – what happens, from a strictly seismological perspective, when you inject millions upon millions of acre-feet of water and lubricant into a seismically unstable territory? … ”  Read more from the Delta National Park blog here:  Shifting earthquake risk

    “It is not “our” water, and it is not “their” water. It is California’s water,” says Daily News editorial:  Referencing the letter from Northern California legislators that was led by Congressman Garamendi, the editorial says Garamendi seems to have lost his statewide focus.  The letter takes us back to a North-South rivalry, says the editorial:  ” … The split has sometimes been so deep that an outsider could be forgiven for believing there were two Californias, as there are two Dakotas and two Carolinas.  But there are not. There is one California. Occasional semi-joking forays into splitsville politics aside, there will always be one California. And our representatives need to start reflecting that reality when it comes to the future of California.   It’s not an easy matter, this proposed massive water project aimed at both making supply more reliable statewide and conserving wildlife and other resources in the vast Delta inland from the Bay Area and south of Sacramento. It is, however, an important issue for the entire state to grapple with and accomplish — together. … ”  Read the editorial here:  Stop old California rivalries over water issues

    Jerry Meral says recent opinion piece in Contra Costa Times contained misstatements about the BDCP:  Meral says the piece incorrectly identified the BDCP's goals and requirements:  “… The plan is required to meet two coequal goals established by the Legislature in 2009. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan must help to enhance and protect the ecological health of the Delta and also improve the reliability of the water supply for the 25 million people and thousands of farms that depend upon Delta water.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan in technical terms is a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Natural Community Conservation Plan. This reflects a significant departure from the single-species approach already in use in the Delta to mitigate human impacts that pose a threat of extinction. … ”  Read more at the Contra Costa Times here:  Putting proposed Delta tunnels in better perspective

    Burt Wilson takes a look at the water code and the BDCP:  The Public Water News Service blog runs down the water code requirements:  ” … The Water Code requirements are very interesting and bear looking into to try to calculate if the BDCP is anywhere near fulfilling the specifications. Following are some specifics with a look at where the BDCP actually is: … ”  Read the water code and Burt's responses here: Released: Water Code requirements  to Get the BDCP into the Delta Plan.

    California Economic Summit takes a look at the two water bonds:  Legislators grappled with the challenges of funding the diverse water investment needs of the state at the hearing last week,  ” … Though much of the state’s attention remains on the governor’s $23 billion plan to build two 30-mile tunnels under the Delta to move water more efficiently from north to south, the relatively smaller water bond proposals, one authored by Asm. Rendon (AB 1331) and one by Sen. Lois Wolk (SB 42), could very well be the biggest steps the state takes in the next decade on water issues ranging from expanding wastewater treatment programs to restoring the Delta.  Early media reports have begun to portray the two bills, somewhat unfairly, as either focused on the Delta (Sen. Wolk, from Davis, has a more fully-developed mechanism for delivering funds to Delta projects in her bill) or on statewide water projects (Asm. Rendon, from Los Angeles, has focused more broadly on preparing the state’s infrastructure for the impacts of climate change).  … ”  The California Economic Summit delves more into the key issues behind the two water bonds here:  Water bonds, still in early stages, bob toward 2014 ballot

    Another option for infrastructure funding:  Leveraging:  The California Economic Summit says leveraging is a basic investing tool available to lawmakers that is used in at least 23 states and elsewhere around the world:  ” …  We have a serious backlog in funding needed infrastructure projects in California—many of which, the state’s water infrastructure, in particular, are paid for with user fees. …  Among the state’s greatest infrastructure needs is “clean water”, a term of art for wastewater treatment projects. Current conservative estimates indicate that California’s communities and residents need almost $30 billion in new and upgraded wastewater treatment facilities.  The problem is, the state doesn’t have that kind of money. By using leverage, though, we can begin closing that gap—without adding any additional liabilities to the state budget. … ”  Read more from the California Economic Summit here:  A new (old) way to pay for upgrades to California’s water system

    No going back on releases from Lake Powell, despite the rains:  All of that rain last month in Colorado put a lot of water into Lake Powell that nobody expected, which raises some fascinating questions, says the Inkstain blog:  ”  … In August, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that, for the first time ever it would curtail releases from Lake Powell on the Colorado River, reducing flows downstream through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead and thence to the fountains of Las Vegas and Phoenix and the alfalfa fields of the Imperial Valley. Now it’s rained a whole bunch, and Lake Powell has a lot more water in it than we expected – enough, under a more flexible policy, to erase the need for curtailment. But it appears there’s no going back. In water supply terms, the Upper Basin appears to be the winner in the execution of this forecast-policy-weather edge case. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Reduced releases from Lake Powell: no going back

    The surreal landscape of the Rim Fire:  Researchers from UC Davis hiked down to the confluence of the Tuolomne and Clavey Rivers, one month after the start of the Rim Fire:  ” … We had been anxiously awaiting US Forest Service permission to hike the Stanislaus National Forest’s Hamby Trail down into the Tuolumne River canyon. Researchers with the Center have been monitoring the river’s conditions for several years for a variety of studies. We wanted to retrieve data cards from our two battery-operated cameras that snapped pictures of the Tuolumne and Clavey river levels every hour. They were affixed to trees, not far from the fire’s start midway up Jawbone Ridge. Did our cameras survive the blaze?  … ”  Find out here from the California Water Blog:  Journey to the Bottom of the Rim Fire

    Environmentalists are fighting Cadiz on arcane law, delaying needed project, says the Flash Report:  The aquifer Cadiz wants to tap is as big as Lake Mead, and the proposal to move 50,000 acre-feet per year is sound, says Laer Pearce at the Flash Report: ” … But sadly, there seems to be no rush to use this water intelligently to increase the Southland’s water supply reliability.  Instead, there’s a new environmentalist-spurred idea that the project, already approved under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – the toughest such law in the nation – should undergo a federal review under the less stringent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). To do this, they are attacking a deal between Cadiz and the Arizona & California Railroad Co. that would allow Cadiz to put its water pipeline in the railroad’s right-of-way. That may seem a little arcane, but a more descriptive term for it is Machiavellian. … ”  Read more here: Buried Treasure in the Mojave – Water

    BOOM: A California Journal takes a look at the Los Angeles Aqueduct:  The Fall issue includes a feature-length story, Learning from the Aqueduct and an interview with DWP's Ron Nichols.  Read more here:  Boom: A California Journal

    Photo tour: Morris Dam upgrades aid in increased stormwater capture and conjunctive for Southern California:  Morris Dam, located in the San Gabriel Canyon above Asuza in Southern California, provides valuable flood protection to downstream residents.  Recently, the Los Angeles Department of Public Works completed a $10.6 million upgrade that will allow for greater flexibility in conjunctive use operations that will provide enough water for 1500 families per year.  Check it all out in this photoblog post:  Morris Dam: Flood control and stormwater capture for Los Angeles County

    Blog honorable mentions:  Wow, so many today!  Here are even more:  Environmental science students rise to storytelling challenge from the California Water Blog, Guinness: An Irish Water Rights Story from the Hydrowonk blog, and Peter Gleick answers the question, What does the 2013 IPCC Summary Say About Water?

    And lastly:  Here are some really interesting photo features to check out.  The Atlantic Cities website has a photo gallery of aerial shots of ‘man-made sites of interest' around the San Francisco Bay, including one shot of Point San Pedro in The Incredible History of San Francisco’s Coast, as Seen From the Air.  The Daily Mail has an incredible photo gallery of aerial shots around the world that reveal how we have reshaped the planet in Dusty deltas, roaring dams and alien landscapes: Stunning aerial photos reveal how humans have reshaped the Earth with our need for water, and the Tree Hugger blog checks out the alien planet of Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico.

    Photo credit:  Water grid, by flckr photographer Perfect Hexagon.  What is it, really?  Simply water drops in a screen door.

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      1 comment

      1. Robert Pyke

        Re the piece over Jerry Meral’s name in the Contra Costa Times:

        Jerry Meral, or rather Nancy Vogel or John Wark, whoever writes these things for him, insults the readers of the Contra Costa Times by stating “the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 63 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area by 2036. The Delta’s modern levee network has not been tested against such strong seismic activity and the stability of Delta levees is of concern because of the proximity of fault lines, loose and weak soils, and the potential for the “liquefaction” of levees.” This statement is just not true. The USGS has reasonably estimated that there is like a two-thirds chance of getting a large, approaching magnitude 7, earthquake in the Bay Area in the next thirty years, or by 2050, whatever, but the Delta is not the Bay Area. The closest, and likely the most active, long fault in the Bay Area is the Hayward fault and that is 30 miles from the western end of the Delta. The real probability of getting the kind of flooding due to earthquakes scenario that the DWR has studied and proponents of the twin tunnels talk glibly about, likely lies between 0.1 and 0.01 percent per year. The local earthquake sources within the Delta are not well understood but they are both much less active and unlikely to produce a large earthquake. Further, DWR’s own studies, as reported recently in the Sacramento Bee, indicate that the consequences of widespread levee failures have been greatly exaggerated. And, even if the scary scenarios were valid, which they aren’t, the economic benefit resulting from reduction of the alleged threat is really small, even as calculated by the BDCP’s tame economist Dave Sunding. Put simply, it is time to stop talking about the earthquake bogey and time to address the real issues of the Delta and California’s water distribution system.

        Robert Pyke Ph.D., G.E.

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