Blog round-up: Drought, BDCP, unhappy anniversary for Hetch Hetchy, following the money from Denver to CA, and what happens when you put an engineer in charge of your holiday desert …

Snow Curls, by Neil Hunt

Snow Curls, by Neil Hunt

When in drought, corporate agribusiness attacks Bay-Delta protections, says Doug Obegi:  “As California begins what appears to be a third consecutive dry year, corporate agribusinesses and politicians in the San Joaquin Valley have begun calling for the State and federal government to waive environmental rules governing the Bay-Delta estuary – the same environmental rules that not only protect salmon and other wildlife in the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, but also protect thousands of fishing jobs and water quality for Delta farmers.  Ironically, at the same time that these special interests are seeking to waive State and federal environmental rules, the State of California and these same agribusinesses are asking Delta farmers, fishermen, conservation groups, and the public to trust that the massive new intakes proposed as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will be operated according to strict environmental rules, which would limit diversions in dry years like this one.  Which begs the obvious question: what’s to prevent these same interests from waiving the rules in the future, after the tunnels are built??  These attempts to blame – and waive – environmental laws threatens the fragile potential for the State to build any new conveyance infrastructure in the Delta. … ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  When in Drought, Corporate Agribusiness Attacks Bay-Delta Environmental Protections

Linking a modernized statewide water system with robust local supplies:  Richard Atwater from the Southern California Water Committee blogs that while Southern California has made great progress on projects that expand local supplies, we can’t ignore our State Water Project supplies:  ” … The water flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and is currently only protected by 100-year-old dirt levees. These levees usher through the water supplies for 25 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland and are susceptible to failure in the event of a major earthquake – an earthquake the U.S. Geological Survey says is 63 percent likely to occur in the next 30 years. If these levees were to crumble, saltwater from the San Francisco Bay would rush in and contaminate this fresh water supply. Such an event could interrupt water deliveries for up to a year and while we have great local supply projects in place, we don’t have nearly enough to make up for such an outage.  That is why the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is so important. This plan is designed to modernize our state’s water supply system so the fresh water from the Sierras is transported by two tunnels underneath, instead of through, the fragile Delta. … ”  Read more from the Southern California Water Committee blog here:  Linking a Modern Statewide Water System with a Robust Local Supply Program

State Water Contractors say Californians for a Fair Water Policy press release overstates costs to LA residents:  “The information in Californians for a Fair Water Policy’s press release that ratepayers in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service area would see their monthly bills increase by $7-15 per month is incorrect. In fact, LADWP ratepayers would see a much lower increase of $3 per month on their water bills—it would have no impact on property taxes. To say that bills would rise as much as $4,500 over the course of the project, or up to $15 a month, is simply not true. … ”  Read the full Delta Doozy here:  Delta Doozy

Habitat restoration not as advertised on the Trinity River, says Restore the Delta:  “In their effort to secure a right to keep taking the water they want from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) advocates are going around talking about the benefits of habitat restoration for recovering endangered fish and other species. BDCP includes restoration of tidal and nontidal marsh, channel margins, and riparian and grassland natural communities. We already know that prime agricultural land will be sacrificed for some of this questionable habitat. Now we’re hearing from scientists that nine key species may be hurt rather than helped by BDCP: three runs of Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, green and white sturgeon, steelhead, and greater sandhill cranes.  So we were interested to hear about another government project that was supposed to help fish by restoring habitat. It doesn’t seem to be working for the fish, and it isn’t doing the rest of the community much good, either. This project is on the Trinity River. … ”  Read more from Restore the Delta here:  Delta Flows: December 19, 2013

Unhappy Anniversary for Hetch Hetchy:  Over at the Legal Planet blog, Richard Frank writes: “December 19th marks a sad event in American environmental history.  It was 100 years ago today that President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, authorizing the City of San Francisco to build a dam that would flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park in order to deliver water supplies to San Francisco.  Contemporary accounts–including those of John Muir–attest to the stunning beauty of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. (Muir wrote: “Hetch Hetchy Valley is a grand landscape garden, one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”)  In its natural state, Hetch Hetchy was considered an ecological twin of the world-renown Yosemite Valley that lies, relatively undisturbed, a few miles to the south. … ” Read more from the Legal Planet blog here:  Unhappy Anniversay for Hetch Hetchy

A tale of two developments:  “Madera County is a case study of how water policy is impacting a lot more than agriculture in the state of California.  In the first story below Lois Henry of the Bakersfield Californian tells the convoluted story of how water from Kern County by way of Tulare is going to Madera for a project approved by the Madera Board of Supervisors.  To build in Madera County you have to be able to prove you have water, which is a good thing, and Castle and Cooke went out and found the water for their project.  Lois Henry suspects the use of the water violates water policy law, and we’ll stay out of that argument for now and let the bureaucrats figure it out.  But if it turns out she is correct, then Madera County Supervisors have approved a project  that is questionable at best. … ”  Continue reading from Families Protecting the Valley here:  A Tale of Two Developments

Climate change and the west: Utahns are trying to use water to block the NSA’s construction of a data mining facility in Bluffdale, Utah: ” … According to a December 4th edition of Time Magazine, opponents of the NSA’s surveillance program have formed a coalition called OffNow to urge lawmakers in the state and the local water district to rescind their agreement with the NSA to supply the project with water. Beyond the civil rights controversy that the NSA programs bring up, OffNow takes exception to the fact that this facility will receive below-market rate water prices in order to help spur economic development and construction in the surrounding areas. Why do I bring this story up? Water is an absolutely crucial component to the economic development of any economy, and some recent studies suggest that areas of the country like Salt Lake City may face reduced water supplies in the years to come. As in this situation, state and local governments will have to face the reality of finding a balance between the need for economic development and long-term water conservation. In this piece, I will address the current water supply trends in the State of Utah, and how the state can better plan for its future water needs.. ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk blog here: The Implications of Climate Change on Water Supply in Utah: A Sign of Things to Come in the Western United States?

Follow the money from Denver to Westlands:  “In every American city there is at least one, and usually more than one, power elite group which wields great influence and power over civic, economic and political affairs.  There are at least two types of individuals in those power elites: People who inherit or marry into great wealth, and self-made multi-millionaires or billionaires.   In Fresno, that elite is centered around dynastic agribusiness clans and real estate developers, who have no problem plowing up productive orchards and vineyards to make way for cookie cutter subdivisions. In Denver, one power elite is centered around the oil and gas industries, which features both inherited wealth and rags-to-riches entrepreneurs. At the center of one powerful group of friends and business associates is Norman Brownstein, who proudly wears the mantle of America’s “101st Senator.” What do Denver power brokers have to do with the California water issues I often write about? Plenty. ... ”  Read more here from the Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood blog here:  Daddy’s Money

New water fountain in San Diego shows that San Diego apparently didn’t get the water shortage memo, says the Western Farm Press blog:A new 830-foot-long water fountain is part of San Diego’s 15-acre Waterfront Park project, which includes a massive county government complex. A video provides an update on the fountain project.  The video shows crews running tests on a working mock-up of the fountain, which is not the real fountain, but an expensive research project that will serve as a dry run for the actual fountain that is planned. Once the research is complete on the practice fountain, the real one will be built and the practice one torn down.  I’d like to have the money they wasted on that boondoggle! … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press blog here:  San Diego apparently did not receive the water memo

The trouble with water and the Endangered Species Act:  “One of the most important ”river law” topics is the application of the Endangered Species Act to water management and use.  The ESA is a crucial law for western rivers because it has been far more influential than anything else in making the environment a relevant factor in water management, especially in the operation of federal water projects.  And federal river restoration efforts are overwhelmingly driven by ESA considerations. The ESA is vital in this context, but the absence of other environmental laws with a similar impact on water management presents certain problems.  … ”  Read more from the Western River Law blog here:  The trouble(s) with water and the Endangered Species Act

And lastly … here’s what happens when you put an engineer in charge of the holiday desert … Would you eat this?

Photo credit: “Snow curls” by flickr photographer Neil Hunt.

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