Daily Digest, weekend edition: ESA hits middle age, drought, Assm. Rendon, earthquakes and reservoirs, and more

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 this weekend …

  • Endangered Species Act hits middle age:  Yes, the ESA turned 40 yesterday:  ” … Considered the world’s most powerful law protecting plants and animals from extinction, including several in Solano County, it was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on Dec. 28, 1973.  “This landmark law has been the catalyst for fully recovering 31 species,” including the bald eagle, eastern population of Steller sea lion, American alligator, Lake Erie water snake and the Virginia northern flying squirrel, Gavin Shire, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C., said in a press release.  “It continues to work today to protect and recover more than 2,100 animals and plants in the U.S. and around the world,” he added. … ”  Read more from the Vacaville Reporter here:  Endangered Species Act turns 40  Here’s coverage from KQED:  The Endangered Species Act Turns 40
  • Mandatory water conservation comes to the Sacramento region:  With Folsom Lake levels very low, the City of Folsom was the first to enact 20% mandatory reductions, with other areas following or soon to be considering their own mandatory measures.  “…“It’s the kind of year we all worry about,” said Tom Gohring, executive director of Sacramento’s Water Forum, a coalition of local water agencies and environmental groups. “Every time we get together and talk about this, we say ‘Thank God we haven’t had to deal with a 1977.’ Unfortunately, it’s shaping up that way.”  Much of the tension in the Sacramento region involves managing the water that remains in Folsom Lake. Storage in the reservoir dropped below 200,000 acre-feet last week – 20 percent of its capacity – a historic low for December. Because about 500,000 people in Folsom, Fair Oaks, Roseville and other communities depend on that stored water, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Jan. 1 plans to reduce water releases from the dam into the American River.  That will help communities struggling to stretch their water supplies. But it won’t help salmon and steelhead downstream in the river. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Drought brings water rationing orders
  • “As dry as a box of popcorn in the desert” is how Bill Patzert describes the dry conditions:  He blames the Pacific Decadal Oscillation:  ” … This longterm fluctuation of Pacific Ocean water surface temperature is believed to cause cyclical changes in climate, Patzert said. In the Southwest, the 1980s and 1990s were marked by numerous wet, “El Niño” winters, during which the Central Pacific is warmer than usual.  Since then, Patzert said, the PDO has entered new phase, with cooler ocean water, producing more “La Niña” winters.  “The West and Southwest are in the throes of 13 years of a drought,” said Patzert, adding it may be the 2020s before the PDO phase reverses back. … ”  Read more from Bill Patzert at NBC LA here:  No Rain in Sight as Los Angeles Nears Its Record for Driest Year Ever  More drought news:  Drought could cost Palo Alto $5.46 million to replace lost hydropower, and Folsom Lake is near record low levels.
  • Assemblyman Anthony Rendon ‘one to watch’ says Fresno Bee article:  Assemblyman Rendon dismisses talk of his taking a leadership role once the current speaker’s term expires, instead saying his attention is elsewhere:  ” … “The water bond will be the No. 1 priority of this office moving forward into 2014,” Rendon said. “Water is the big thing here.”  The Legislature has twice deferred an $11.1 billion water bond from a statewide vote since first voting in 2009 to place the measure on the ballot. The consensus among lawmakers seems to be that the bond is dead in the water – too large and too many questions around how it came together for voters to get on board. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Californians to watch in 2014: Anthony Rendon poised to wade into California water issues
  • San Luis Reservoir Project about more than just water supply:  Most of the talk about this project has been about the extra water that would be able to be stored behind the dam if it were raised, but there’s another important element to this project: making the dam more resilient to an earthquake.  Officials in recent years have determined that the dam is vulnerable to a magnitude of 6.75 or higher on the fault which crosses underneath the reservoir.  ” … A quake of that size could cause the dam to slump, perhaps allowing water to pour over the top or through cracks in the embankment, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation documents.  The resulting flood would roll over lowland farms and ultimately dump into the San Joaquin River. About 40 hours after the breach, the surge of water would hit Stockton, threatening to spill over levees here.  About 165,000 people in San Joaquin County could be affected, according to county Office of Emergency Services documents. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Reservoir proposal would fortify dam
  • Water a unifying force in Washington, DC:  The House and the Senate have each passed their own water resources bill, and negotiations are currently underway:  ”  …Negotiators are confident they can merge the two and pass the package for President Barack Obama’s signature early in 2014.  Unlike a farm policy-food stamp bill also the subject of ongoing House-Senate negotiations, the differences in the two houses’ water project bills are modest and the acrimony is less.  Negotiators say the roughly $4 billion gap between the two bills is more about how they are written than substantive policy or political differences.  “The important thing is that we all care about reform,” said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  For divided Congress, water projects are a unifier
  • A new ecoystem of our own making: the ‘plastisphere’: Researchers are studying a new ocean ecosystem of our own making, the ‘plastisphere’:  ”  …This biological community starts with particles of degraded plastic no bigger than grains of salt. Bacteria take up residence on those tiny pieces of trash. Then single-celled animals feed on the bacteria, and larger predators feed on them.  “We’ve created a new man-made ecosystem of plastic debris,” said Lopez, a graduate student at the University of San Diego, during the recent expedition.  The plastisphere was six decades in the making. It’s a product of the discarded plastic — flip-flops, margarine tubs, toys, toothbrushes — that gets swept from urban sewer systems and river channels into the sea. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:   An ecosystem of our own making could pose a threat

In commentary this weekend …

  • Peter Moyle reminisces about the history of the Endangered Species Act:  ” ...I wish I could say that once the Endangered Species Act kicked in, everything got better for California fishes. But it hasn’t. In fact, I have been recording a statewide decline of most native fishes, largely as the result of dams, diversions, water export pumps in the Delta and other manipulations of our water system. Meanwhile, climate change is warming the rivers and accelerating the declines of already depleted fish populations.  On the positive side, the ESA has prevented more extinctions of our native fishes and generated a lot of valuable information about them. We know better than ever their plight, causes of their decline and potential remedies. … ”  Read the full commentary at the Sacramento Bee here:  40-year-old Endangered Species Act sets a high standard in forbidding extinction
  • Is it a drought?  What’s the state doing about it?  DWR’s Jeannine Jones answers: She says we have to wait a bit more to see what will happen this year:  ” …  It is still too early, however, to call this water year, and Mother Nature may surprise us. About half of the years with similarly dry first quarters in the historical record of northern Sierra precipitation, for example, caught up to average by the end of the season.  Defining drought is a function of impacts to water users. Drought conditions and impacts vary greatly across a state the size of California. Ranchers grazing livestock on nonirrigated pasture will have a different perspective on drought than municipalities with reliable groundwater supplies or stored surface water. The site-specific nature of drought impacts is readily seen in agriculture. Impacts are normally felt earliest by those relying on unmanaged water supplies—businesses carrying out dryland grazing and nonirrigated crop production. Impacts to irrigated agriculture depend on the source and nature of the irrigation water supply—local groundwater, local surface water or imported surface water—and any water rights or contractual provisions that may be associated with the source. … ”  Read the full commentary from Ag Alert here:  Commentary: Is it a drought and what is the state doing about it?
  • BDCP would provide water for fracking, says commentary:  ” … According to the plan, fracking is a “reasonable, beneficial use” of water.  While New York state imposed a moratorium on fracking (at least to 2015), Gov. Jerry Brown — applauded by the Western States Petroleum Association — signed legislation that facilitates the fracking boom in California. Brown has already received $2.5 million from oil and gas interests, like Exxon and Occidental Petroleum, in the state.  Is it really possible to reconcile conservation and fracking? You’ve got to be kidding. … ”  Read the full commentary here:  Fracking: The Bay Delta Conservation Plan would provide water for mining

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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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