Daily Digest: BDCP, drought declarations, and lower flows for the Eel; plus local reaction & commentary to BDCP

News and commentary from the mainstream press, plus weather, webcasts, events and more …
Everything you need to know about what’s going on in the world of water today!

Daily DigestIn the news today …

  • Is Jerry Brown’s tunnels plan repeating the same errors as high-speed rail?  Paul Rodgers at the Mercury News follows up on yesterday’s big announcement:  “Ever since he took office three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to build two landmark public works projects to reshape California: a $68 billion high-speed rail system and a $25 billion overhaul of the state’s water system, including two massive tunnels under the Delta.  Both have been debated separately so far, with most public attention going to the bullet train plan.  But on Monday, as state officials released a 25,000-page environmental study of the water tunnels plan, critics began to make comparisons between the two, noting that the administration is steaming ahead with both projects, even though neither has anywhere near the funding in place to complete the job.  … ”  Red more here:  Is Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels plan repeating the errors of high-speed rail?
  • Northern Californians react to tunnel plan:  The Chico Enterprise Record’s Heather Hacking follows up with local reaction:  “The environmental reports for plans for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan were released Monday, beginning a new flurry of debate.  The $24.7 billion plan, seven years in the making, includes Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for 35 miles of tunnels that would move water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, rather than through a system of pumps in the south Delta that are known to harm fish.  Opinions about the plan began flooding email boxes Monday morning, followed by notes from coalitions and a proposal for an alternative bond measure … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Locals react to Bay Delta Conservation Plan
  • Yolo County officals express concern over BDCP:  “The habitat restoration proposals are of particular significance for Yolo County, which include a proposal to create many thousands of acres of seasonal floodplain habitat in the Yolo Bypass. According to a release from Yolo County, “This proposal, described as “Conservation Measure 2,” targets rich farmland and waterfowl habitat in the Yolo Bypass for increased flooding that could extend as late as April or May in some years. The measure seeks to create safe passage for salmon through the Yolo Bypass as mitigation for the main component of the BDCP; three massive new water intakes on the Sacramento River that feed an underground tunnel system carrying water to pumps in the south Delta.”  Congressman John Garamendi and State Senator Lois Wolk both spoke out against the plan.  “Thus far every analysis of the proposed twin tunnels and disruptive habitat restoration projects in the BDCP has shown the proposal fails to achieve the legally required goals of environmental restoration and reliable water,” Congressman Garamendi said in a statement. “Since there has been no substantive change in the purpose or fundamental design of the BDCP, it is hard to imagine how these documents change the fundamental fact that the whole BDCP is a $25 billion boondoggle that will lead to the destruction of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Western Hemisphere.” … ”  Read more from the Davis Vanguard here:  Yolo Public Officials Speak Out Against the Bay Delta Plan

  • Lawmakers call for drought declaration:  “With another dry winter looming, California lawmakers called on Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama to declare a drought emergency and federal disaster in the state.  In a letter sent Monday, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Democratic Rep. Jim Costa urged the governor to take immediate action. A separate letter signed by dozens of other California lawmakers called for the same declaration.  The lawmakers cited the California Department of Water Resources’ announcement of low water deliveries for Central Valley agriculture due to light rainfall projections. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Lawmakers call for drought declaration
  • PG&E is preparing to as FERC for a variance to reduce flows in the Eel River:  The variance would allow the amount of water released into the Eel River at Cape Horn Dam to be reduced. ” … Protocols, which establish when and how much water must be released into the Eel instead of being diverted to PG&E’s Potter Valley hydroelectric plant and then into the East Branch of the Russian River, require release of 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) beginning Dec. 1 to aid salmon migration.  But Lake Pillsbury, the much larger reservoir 12 miles upstream from Cape Horn Dam, which impounds water from the upper reaches of the Eel, is at critically low levels because of a dry spring followed by what is likely to be the driest fall on record in Northern California. … PG&E plans to meet with several regulatory agencies, most importantly the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), to hammer out an agreement about how much they can reduce releases into the Eel and still maintain enough flow for upmigrating salmon and steelhead. ... ”  Read more from the Redwood Times here:  PG&E seeks reduction in releases to Eel River due to drought
  • Kettleman City resident uneasy about clean water plan:  ” …Mares Alatorre is the leader of a community group called People for Clean Air and Water that has spent decades fighting for health and environmental justice in Kettleman City. In recent years, they’ve focused on halting the planned expansion of the nearby hazardous waste landfill, which is already the largest in the western U.S. The battle became a national story around 2009, when a cluster of birth defects was discovered in the town.  A 2010 state investigation eventually ruled out possible causes for the birth defects: It wasn’t the contaminated groundwater, and it wasn’t the dump at the Kettleman Hills Facility. In fact, the report found no common cause for the children’s health problems.  But Mares Alatorre questions that conclusion.  “What’s killing the babies of Kettleman City?” she wonders, as she reads aloud a sign in her backyard that’s left over from and Earth Day event. “We still don’t know. Is it the water? Could be. Is it Chem Waste? Could be. Is it a combination of everything? Maybe, we just don’t know.” … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Kettleman City Resident Uneasy With Landfill’s Connection To Clean Water Plan

In commentary today …

  • Trust is a two-street, says Assemblyman Roger Dickinson:  For years Sacramento battled with EBMUD over diversions from the American River, until they finally sat down and worked out a deal.  It only worked because participants took the time to understand the views and interests of each side and to build trust among themselves, Assemblyman Dickinson writes in today’s Sacramento Bee:  “A similarly collaborative approach should be undertaken with regard to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Unfortunately, however, the parties pushing this project have displayed scant interest in working with Northern California to develop a plan that would serve the needs and requirements of all Californians. Monday’s release of more than 30,000 pages of an environmental impact report that purports to justify the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan project only underscores the need for statewide collaboration. … The desire of south San Joaquin Valley agricultural interests and Southern California water contractors to have an assured and massive source of water to satisfy their customers is manifest. Indeed, the demands of the State Water Contractors are so great that they completely unbalance California’s legislatively declared coequal goals of ecological restoration and preservation of the Delta and a reliable supply of water for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. … ”  Read the full commentary here:  When it comes to re-plumbing the Delta, trust is a two-way street
  • New technology can’t replace water on the farm, say Charles Wilson and Mike Wade:  Over the past years, California farmers have employed technology, boosting their productivity and while becoming more water efficient, write Charles Wilson (SCWC) and Mike Wade (CFWC) in the Daily Breeze, noting that from 1967 to 2007 the volume of crop production increased 85 percent while the amount of on-farm applied water declined by 14.5 percent.  ” … Consumers in the United States pay just 6.2 percent of their disposable income per year (2010) on food and non-alcoholic beverages. That’s compared to a rate of 10.2 percent in 28 other high-income countries. At the same 10.2 percent rate, it would cost Americans an additional $3,820 per year to feed their families, a huge savings.  Agriculture is among the top 10 contributors to California’s GDP. The value of farm products sold in 2012 totaled $44.7 billion. According to the University of California, more than 1.3 million jobs are created by farming, including ripple effects, such as transportation, processing, ports, and warehousing. The economic activity generated by farming is worth more than $112 billion per year to California’s economy.  But the real benefit of California farms is that families throughout the state have access to a huge variety of affordable, locally grown produce. … ”  The commentary goes on to argue for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  Read the full commentary here:  New farming technology can’t replace need for water: Guest commentary
  • Governor’s Water Action Plan and State Water Board at odds, says Steve Knell, General Manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District:  “The Brown administration recently released a draft California Water Action Plan, the purpose of which is to outline and address the state’s water challenges and provide sustainable management goals for our water resources. The action plan includes a suite of recommendations that, if implemented, would provide sound water policy guidance.  Unfortunately, there are those in Sacramento whose agenda differs from that of the governor.  The State Water Resources Control Board is in the process of establishing a contrarian vision to the world of water for California. The state water board is reviewing water quality objectives on the San Joaquin River under its Phase 1 review of the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco-Sacramento Bay Delta Estuary. In this Phase I review, the board is proposing actions that directly conflict with the governor’s action plan and that will directly impact our water and our livelihood to our long-term detriment. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto bee here: Steve Knell: Governor’s plan and state water board plan at odds

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Articles are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. Articles behind paywalls are not included, because if I can’t see them, I figure you can’t, so I don’t want to waste your time. (If I send you to something you cannot access, please do let me know! Email Maven)

The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

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