Blog round-up: Bloggers on the DISB review of the BDCP EIR/EIS, recent court decisions, the drought, rice, and much more, plus a photographic tribute to Ansel Adams

Drops of spring

“Drops of Spring” by Steve Wall

Bits and pieces from the Delta ISB report on the BDCP EIR/EIS:  Alex Brietler writes: “Some nuggets from the Independent Science Board’s review of the twin tunnels plan, released today.  Best quote: “It is a bit like an orchestra playing a symphony without a conductor and with the sheets of music sometimes shuffled. The notes are all there and mostly well-played individually, but the experience is less than satisfying.” (This is a remark made specifically about the water-supply portion of the plan.) ... ”  Read more from Alex Brietler’s blog here: BDCP bits and pieces

California’s Misguided Water Policy – Latest Approach Attracts Troubling Bedfellows: Kate Poole at the NRDC Switchboard blog writes: ” … A sure sign that something is seriously amiss with California’s approach to water management is when states that are renowned for shooting wolves and fighting protections for polar bears cheer your endangered species policy.  Earlier this week, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) filed a request (DWR Petition for Rehearing.pdf) with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to override protections for threatened and endangered native fish to allow it to divert more water out of San Francisco’s Bay-Delta watershed for delivery to corporate agriculture and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and southern California.  There was no mandate that DWR file this request – the State could have chosen to abide by the recent decision of a panel of Ninth Circuit judges that upheld fisheries protections, and moved beyond this contentious litigation filed by water contractors that has fomented distrust and paralysis in California’s water community.  Indeed, DWR’s own sister agency in the Natural Resources Agency – the Department of Fish and Wildlife – has affirmed all of the fisheries protections that DWR is now attacking in court as scientifically justified and adopted the same protections under state law. … ”  Read more from Kate Poole at the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  California’s Misguided Water Policy – Latest Approach Attracts Troubling Bedfellows

The fight for more water continues: Damien Schiff at the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog writes: “Earlier this week, several parties in the Consolidated Smelt Cases (the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Contractors, and the Federal Water Contractors) filed petitions for rehearing before the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  (The court has already asked for a response from the federal agencies and their environmental group defenders).  Recall that in March, a panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld 2-1 the water cutbacks that have been imposed on the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California on account of the Endangered Species Act protections for the delta smelt.  The rehearing requests raise a number of issues, including the panel decision’s failure to account for the ESA’s requirement that environmental decisions be made on the basis of the best available scientific data. … ”  Read more from the Liberty Blog here: The fight for more water continues

Agency discretion, water, and endangered species:  New Mexico law professor Reed D. Benson, author of the Western River Law blog writes: “A month ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case that will help ensure that the Endangered Species Act remains applicable to federal agency actions affecting western rivers. The case involved the Bureau of Reclamation’s renewal of certain water supply contracts from the massive Central Valley Project (CVP) in California. A panel of three judges from the same court had earlier held that Reclamation could renew these contracts without engaging in ESA “consultation” to determine the impact of renewal on protected fish species. When environmental groups challenged that decision, the Ninth Circuit granted “en banc” review (before a larger panel of judges) and held in NRDC v. Jewell that consultation was required.   … ”  Read more from the Western River Law blog here: Agency discretion, water, & endangered species

Severe drought impacts to Central Valley agriculture forecast this year:  The California Water Blog writes: “This year’s drought will have severe impacts on irrigated agriculture in California’s Central Valley.  To estimate this impact, we updated and applied the Statewide Agricultural Production (SWAP) model for estimated cutbacks in surface water supplies (based on interviews with Valley water providers) — with limitations on groundwater pumping capacities (based on highest pumping estimates for 2006 – 2010).  Our analysis, released in a report today, was prepared at the request of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which co-funded the study with the University of California. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Severe drought impacts to Central Valley agriculture forecast this year

Rice as an environmentally inappropriate crop is a sentiment that is far from the truth: Tim Johnson writes:  “A colleague recently sent me a copy of a New York Times article “Paying Farmers to Welcome Birds”. The story was on a new and innovative program rolled out on a small scale this year by the Nature Conservancy in California ricelands whereby farmers bid to provide specific habitat for migrating shorebirds. The lowest bidders garner a small payment of about $45 per acre to cover their costs and the birds get habitat that is not currently available. The program is great and the article equally good. One would have thought the new program was a win for both birds and farmers. Reading the online comments, however, it was clear there are a lot of misconceptions about agriculture and especially rice. My favorite was the proclamation that rice was an environmentally inappropriate crop for California!  ... ”  Read more from the California Rice Commission blog here: “An Environmentally Inappropriate Crop” – Sentiment far from the truth

Agribusiness welfare is what makes water “scarce” in California: George A. Miller – not to be confused with Congressman George Miller – writes: “How would you like to have a 90-year, interest free mortgage, with no principle payments for the first 50 years? If you are fortunate enough to be one of more than 270 federal water contractors in California – that’s the deal.  It has become gospel truth: “Water is a scarce resource in California.” But the gospel is a deception sustained by years of governmental interference in the basic laws of supply and demand.  There’s no doubt the drought has been tough on Californians this year, with ongoing water shortages impacting people, farmers, fish and wildlife across the state. But relief will not come until we address the underlying cause of these shortages, which is not due just to the whims of Mother Nature or population growth. The real culprit is a sweetheart deal from the federal government to subsidize cheap water for irrigated crops. In fact, water in this State is not scarce at all – it is simply a grossly under-priced commodity. ... ”  Read more from the California Progress Report here: Agribusiness Welfare Makes Water “Scarce” In California

Feinstein attacks environmentalists on drought:On May 15, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., didn’t pull any punches about her recent attempt to push her drought bill through Congress.  She blasted environmentalists for having “never been helpful to me in producing good water policy. You can’t have a water infrastructure for 16 million people and say ‘Oh, it’s fine for 38 million people,’ when we’re losing the Sierra Nevada snowpack.”  A look at the above satellite photos from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comparing January 13, 2013 with the same date in 2014 reveals the stark reality that Feinstein and all of California are facing. ... ”  Read more from the Cal Watchdog blog here:  Feinstein attacks environmentalists on drought

Drought Watch: Improving Environmental Management: Jeff Mount and Ellen Hanak write: “In the previous Drought Watch we examined the need to modernize the way we track water supply and use to better manage droughts. California also needs to modernize how we manage water for the environment during droughts.  By reducing the quality and quantity of habitat, drought poses a broad ecological challenge to California’s fish and wildlife. The stress is particularly acute in watersheds where native species compete with the demands of cities, farms, and forestry for critical land and water supplies. In many watersheds, remaining habitat has become more suitable for invasive, non-native species, which also compete with native species in various ways. The net result can be significant reductions in populations of native species during severe droughts. Recovery can take years. … ”  Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Drought Watch: Improving Environmental Management

DWR hidden memo shows the BDCP’s critical Delta issues, says Burt Wilson:  “One of the papers released to RTD last week through the Public Records Act (PRA) was an inside DWR memo stating the “Critical Threshold Issues” facing the BDCP as it enters its final phase of finding funding and support for the dual Delta tunnels. The paper shows the Federal CVP contractors are already falling behind in payments and that the BDCP’s own chart shows funds will run out by July this year. The chart also shows that Westlands Water District is behind with its payments and the Kern County Water Agency has qualms about the cost of the tunnels. Neither thinks they can produce enough profits per acre to support the financing of the Delta tunnels. ... ” Read more from Burt Wilson here:  DWR hidden memo shows the BDCP’s critical Delta issues

U.S. Forest Service says man and nature cannot peacefully coexist in the Tahoe ForestTed Hadzi-Antich at the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Liberty Blog writes:  “The U. S. Forest Service summarily closed 90% of the lawful, user-created motorized routes in Tahoe National Forest, thereby constructing a virtual roadblock to keep all but the most able-bodied away from the forest’s aesthetic and recreational opportunities.  By its decision  denying access, the Forest Service showed its true colors and, in the process, violated the National Environmental Policy Act.  Representing individuals who enjoy the wild and scenic pleasures afforded by Tahoe National Forest, PLF challenged the Forest Service’s administrative action in federal district court.  Although the lower court ruled against us, we appealed, and today filed our opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the case of Friends of Tahoe Access v. U.S. Department of Agriculture. ... ”  Read more from the Liberty Blog here: U.S. Forest Service says man and nature cannot peacefully coexist

An Olympic dry: The Mono-Logue blog writes: “After three consecutive drought years and the warmest winter on record, the level of Mono Lake is telling.  From South Tufa and the west shore of the lake, where most visitors travel, new expanses of alkali flat and tufa have emerged. The walk to the shoreline is now a bit longer. The infamous Mono Lake mud, which strips footwear off of unsuspecting feet, grows in extent as the water recedes. Shallow stretches below Navy Beach test the patience of paddlers as they struggle to carry, drag, and scrape their craft over sand and shoals to reach navigable water. The tufa- and alkali-studded bathtub ring above the water’s edge grows and becomes a more frequent topic of conversation among visitors in the Information Center & Bookstore—”wow, the lake has sure dropped since I last saw it.” … ”  Continue reading from the Mono-Logue here: Olympic dry

Tentative court ruling on the Scott River connects groundwater and surface water, says the Energy Water Air blog: Journalist/columnist Kate Galbraith writes: When it comes to preparing for drought, one of the West’s greatest problems is that groundwater and surface water are regulated differently, even though they are interconnected.  A little-noticed court ruling this week could help spark change in California, where groundwater goes essentially unregulated by the state. A Sacramento Superior Court judge declared, in a tentative ruling yesterday, that rivers can be harmed by withdrawals from nearby groundwater wells, and that the local authority has a duty to consider this issue when it issues water well-drilling permits.  The case specifically concerns the Scott River in far northern California’s Siskiyou County which — just to keep things lively — is governed by officials who voted last year to secede from California. … ”  Read more from the Energy Water Air blog:  Surface Water and Groundwater: A Key California Ruling

It’s always endangered species day, says the Liberty Blog:  Tony Francois writes: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared today “Endangered Species Day.” The irony of dedicating one day on the calendar to species conservation is that every day is endangered species day if you operate an irrigation project; own a farm, ranch, or timberland in dedicated critical habitat; want to build homes for people to inhabit, or a road for them to travel.  Or take pictures of whales.  An endangered species awareness day is also a self-serving opportunity for the Fish and Wildlife Service to spin its accomplishments while ignoring its inability to implement the actual Endangered Species Act.  … ”  Read more from the Liberty Blog here:  It’s always endangered species day

TNC graphicWater Wired takes The Nature Conservancy to task: is 0.03% drinkable water really all there is?  Water Wired’s Michael Campana writes:  “I am taking The Nature Conservancy to task for promulgating misinformation. This is not an easy thing to do because I admire TNC and think it’s one of the best (along with IUCN) environmental/conservation organizations in the world. TNC brags about its stellar freshwater scientists, and they are right – I know and have worked with some of them. … A month or so ago I received the following graphic via Twitter:  It was retweeted by a number of people I follow on Twitter. It is part of TNC’s ‘Liquid Courage’ promotion (TNC made it easy to Tweet this graphic with a pop-up as you scrolled through the Liquid Courage site). Even Alexandra Cousteau, yes – the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau – retweeted it. ... ”  Continue reading at the Water Wired blog here: The Nature Conservancy: Is 0.03% ‘Drinkable and Accessible’ Water Really All There Is?

Using third-world water usage standards to set tiers for water rates: Kim Lefner at the Community Common Sense blog writes: “San Juan residents, hold onto your wallets. The City Council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor recently voted to proceed with the “Option 1 water rate study”. Considering that water rate “studies” typically result in rate increases (and in my opinion, are designed to justify rate increases), it’s safe to assume that the council majority is aiming to increase your water rates. The current option increases the basic “Tier 1” amount of water allowed by the City from its current 6ccf to 9 ccf (1 ccf is equal to 100 cubic feet of water or 748 gallons). Increasing the allocation sounds like a good thing, but this allocation is based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines*, a third-world standard for emergency indoor water use at 62 gallons per person per day. For a family of 4 this equals 7,440 gallons per month. In a modern country, 14,960 gallons per month for a family of 4 would be considered barely adequate for indoor use, even with water-saving appliances and no outdoor irrigation. ... ”  Continue reading at the Community Common Sense blog here:  More Water Rate Increases?

And lastly … A beautiful photographic tribute to Ansel Adams:  From the Boston Globe’s Big Picture Blog:  “Esteemed National Geographic contributing photographer Peter Essick revisited the Ansel Adams Wilderness 75 years after Adams’s photographs made it famous, to pay tribute to Ansel Adams and the California sierra Nevada wilderness area named in his honor. These images come from his new book, ‘The Ansel Adams Wilderness.’ From the books’ introduction: “Like Adams, I am a native Californian familiar with the High Sierra, and some of my first successful photos were of this wilderness area (located between Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes, and renamed for Adams following his death in 1984). For 25 years I have traveled throughout the world as a photographer for National Geographic magazine, but the High Sierra always has had a special place in my heart.” –Thea Breite … “  Check out the pictures here: The Ansel Adams Wilderness: A photographic tribute by Peter Essick

Photo credit:  Drops of spring by flickr photographer Steve Wall

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About the Blog Round-up:  The Blog Round-up is a trip through the wild and varied tapestry of internet blog commentary, incorporating the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes just plain bizarre viewpoints existing on the internet.  Please note that inclusion of items here does not imply my endorsement of their position; the viewpoints expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily my own. Items are chosen to express a wide range of viewpoints, and are included at the editor’s discretion. While posts with obvious factual errors are excluded, please note that no attempt is made on my part to verify or fact check the information bloggers present, so caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

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