Daily Digest, weekend edition: Unusual water deals struck, federal judge won’t stop water transfers, big operation at Lake Oroville to prepare for cold water release, hydropower production suffering and much more news and commentary

San Joaquin River.  Photo by Chris Austin.  All Rights Reserved.
The San Joaquin River
In California water news this weekend, unusual water deals struck during drought in dry Central Valley ag country, federal judge denies move to stop water transfers, big operation at Lake Oroville to prepare for cold water release, hydroelectric power production suffering from drought, California braces as drought sparks early fire season, drought closes restrooms at some California parks, a strong El Nino is needed to relieve drought, why there’s no Almond Joy for U.S. farmers, some profit from state’s drought as water prices soar, groundwater management plans needed, fracking regulations delayed, and House passes Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
In regional news, a trip down the northern Sacramento is a riparian adventure, Drakes Bay Oyster Company to shut down this month per federal order, San Francisco concerned about fines for using water to clean streets, drought drives hungry bears to Lake Tahoe, Inspectors at Lake Tahoe intercept invasive mussels, El Dorado wineries grow on despite drought, Auxiliary Dam topped off at Folsom, Turlock applies for drought project grant, Turlock Irrigation District to talk water transfer changes, Huntington Lake summer fun drying up California drought, Paso Robles residents and officials alarmed at evolving water district bill, LA County to spend $4 million on copper study for marina, Inland Empire water agencies step up campaign urging water conservation, and is it time for Southern California golf courses to just dry up?
In commentary this weekend, Peter Gleick, Kate Poole and Robert Wilkinson respond to the recent drought myths commentary by Jay Lund, Jeffrey Mount and Ellen Hanak,  Richard Stapler of the Natural Resources Agency says tunnels would protect water from rising seas while the Lodi News-Sentinel says San Joaquin County must speak out against the tunnels; California needs a realistic strategy to use less water, San Joaquin RIver’s hard-won restoration under threat, and water wars. 

In the news this weekend …

  • Unusual water deals struck during drought in dry Central Valley ag country:  “In drought-scarred farm country, coffee shop talk turns obsessively to water and its cost — which several months ago hit a shocking $1,000 per acre-foot and then climbed to more than $2,000.  But it’s far too simple to say drought-buster deals in the San Joaquin Valley are all about making a pile of money. A sale in the last week featured a compassionate offer of San Joaquin River water at only $250 per acre-foot. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Unusual water deals struck during drought in dry Central Valley ag country
  • Federal judge denies move to stop water transfers: “A federal judge in Fresno on Friday rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction against irrigation water transfers from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Federal judge denies move to stop water transfers  Blogger Dan Bacher has more information as well as the court documents here:  Federal judge denies motion to block water transfers
  • Big operation at Lake Oroville to prepare for cold water release:  “Eric Ward went to one of his regular fishing spots near the Oroville Dam Friday morning, and the scene was far from serene.  Numerous boats were in the area and yellow rubber tubing was spread across the water. Workers were at the shore with bags of absorbent material.  Ward snapped some photos and posted them to a Facebook page dedicated to local fishing. He wanted to know what was going on ... ”  Continue reading at the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Big operation along Lake Oroville this week to prepare for cold water release
  • Hydroelectric power production suffering from drought:Agriculture, residents and businesses are not the only ones feeling a heavy toll from this third year of a severe drought. Electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE) is feeling a heavy strain as well.  “Every aspect of Edison’s facilities are affected by the drought,” said Cal Rossi of SCE. He said the utility is now producing “roughly 35 percent” of the amount of hydroelectric power it produces in a typical year.  A lot of the energy SCE produces comes from hydroelectric facilities, which use water sources to generate energy. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Hydroelectric suffering from drought
  • California braces as drought sparks early fire season:  “In recent months, as California officials started to calculate the fire danger posed by the state’s prolonged and historic drought, they tucked an extra $23 million into the Cal Fire emergency wildfire budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, bringing its total to $209 million.  By July 6 – just days into the fiscal year – the agency already had spent $13.9 million battling two major blazes, and is now bracing for one of the longest and most difficult fire seasons in memory. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California braces as drought sparks early fire season
  • Drought closes restrooms at some California parks:  “California’s drought is beginning to dry up the water supplies for some state parks, including some of the system’s most popular places.  Restrooms with flush toilets have been closed at D.L. Bliss State Park at Lake Tahoe, the Hearst Castle Visitor Center and Hearst San Simeon State Park, replaced with portable toilets. The showers at D.L. Bliss, San Simeon and Portola Redwoods State Park also are shut down.  Each park relies on a local water supply, and in some cases, that’s a creek or spring. D.L. Bliss, which gets more than 12,000 campers a year, relies on a spring that dropped noticeably just before the Fourth of July weekend. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Drought closes restrooms at some California parks
  • To relieve drought, a strong El Nino is needed: Fifteen percent of historic El Niños would have been wet enough to lift California out of its current drought:  “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday said again that El Niño, a warming of temperatures in the Pacific, is 80 percent likely to strike this winter—though how intense it could get is still unclear.  That uncertainty leaves a critical question unanswered: Could El Niño bring to America the same heavy rainfall this year that it has in the past? … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here:  To relieve drought, a strong El Nino is needed
  • Why there’s no Almond Joy for U.S. Farmers: From Bloomberg TV:
  • California Report: As water prices soar, some profit from state’s drought:  “The drought is putting a lot of California’s farmers in crisis this year. But for those who have water, it can be a windfall. Prices for water are soaring, and some growers are pumping out their groundwater and selling it. Some call it “groundwater mining” — and fights are breaking out over concerns that it might threaten California’s already stressed aquifers.”  Listen to the radio show here:  As water prices soar, some profit from state’s drought
  • Groundwater management plans needed across California: Communities across California are sorely lacking in strategies to sustain their groundwater, and many don’t even have any plans in place.  That’s according to Andrew Fahlund, deputy director of the California Water Foundation, as he discussed the Sacramento-based nonprofit’s release on Thursday of its “Recommendations for Sustainable Groundwater Management” report. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: Groundwater management plans needed across California
  • California Fracking Regulations Delayed Half a Year:  “California’s new regulations for hydraulic fracturing will be delayed by six months, after state legislators approved a bill in late June authorizing the change.  The wide-reaching regulations were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. Now, the regulations will begin on July 1, 2015, though the Department of Conservation must still finalize them by the end of this year. … ”  Read more from KQED Science here: California’s New Fracking Regulations Delayed Half a Year
  • House Passes Energy and Water Appropriations Bill:  “The House, on Thursday, passed its energy and water appropriations bill for FY 2015 by a vote of 253-170. The bill, which funds the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Reclamation, is funded at a level of $34 billion, a $50 million reduction from FY 2014. That amounts to $5.5 billion for the Corps, the same level at which it was funded the previous year, and $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, a $100 million reduction from the previous year. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  House Passes Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

In regional news this weekend …

  • The northern Sacramento River: A riparian adventure:Our canoe had barely been afloat for five minutes when we spotted our first bald eagle. He perched atop a bare sycamore snag and watched with regal disdain as we drifted by below.  Andrew Fulks turned from the bow and said, “I sense we’ll have a lot of wildlife viewing opportunities on this trip. Think we could get jaded?”  Fulks is assistant director of the arboretum and public garden at the University of California, Davis, as well as founder and president of Tuleyome, a Coast Range conservation group.  He was right on the first score. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  The northern Sacramento River: A riparian adventure
  • Drakes Bay Oyster Company to shut down this month per federal order:  “The Drakes Bay Oyster Co. will be out of business by the end of the month under order of the federal government.  The oyster farm plans on shutting down its cannery and shack in Inverness by July 31, owner Kevin Lunny said Thursday.  “That’s what the park service is telling us to do, and we will abide by the law, we always have,” he said. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to shut down this month per federal order
  • San Francisco concerned about fines for using water to clean streets: “San Francisco officials say something smells funny about a state proposal to rein in water hogs.  The new regulations, expected to be adopted Tuesday, include a statewide ban on washing streets and sidewalks, which could put a damper on a critical municipal chore: sending out city trucks to spray away the heaps of filth downtown. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco concerned about fines for using water to clean streets
  • Drought drives hungry bears to Lake Tahoe:  “Long accustomed to dealing with bad news “garbage” bears that become hooked on improperly stored trash at homes and businesses around Lake Tahoe, Nevada wildlife officials say they’re increasingly responding to a new kind of troublemaker they’ve started calling “drought” bears.  Experts have been predicting for months the lingering drought will lead to significantly more bear problems throughout the Sierra Nevada this summer. … ”  Read more from KQED Science here:  Drought drives hungry bears to Lake Tahoe
  • Inspectors at Lake Tahoe intercept invasive mussels:  “Recently Tahoe watercraft inspectors found the highly invasive quagga mussel on a boat coming from quagga-infested Lake Mead. They were able to decontaminate the boat and stop the species from entering the lake. Inspector say this discovery emphasizes the importance of mandatory boat inspections for boaters wishing to launch their vessels into Lake Tahoe.  ‘We have to keep our environment pristine in order for people to enjoy this beautiful resource.’  “Our economy depends on tourism. We have to keep our environment pristine in order for people to enjoy this beautiful resource” says Julie Regan of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Inspectors at Lake Tahoe Intercept Invasive Mussels
  • El Dorado wineries grow on despite drought:  “Despite facing one of the most severe droughts on record in California, the El Dorado wine region is enjoying a fruitful start to the growing season and is expected to harvest another quality crop of grapes this year. Furthermore, local wineries are leading the way with proactive water conservation measures to ensure they and other grape-growing areas can cope with the ongoing drought. … ”  Read more at Rocklin Today here: El Dorado Wineries Grow On Amidst Drought
  • Auxiliary Dam topped off at Folsom:  “Even in a drought, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is getting ready for the next flood threat on the American river.  Construction workers poured the last bit of concrete to top off the Auxiliary Dam  at Folsom Lake this morning. … ”  Read more and check out the pictures from Capital Public Radio here: Auxiliary Dam Topped At Folsom
  • Turlock applies for drought project grant:  “The City of Turlock could be receiving funds to develop drought resistant measures in facilities around the town after the Council unanimously approved an action to submit an application for funds from the State Department of Water Resources.  In 2006 Gov. Jerry Brown authorized the use of $5.3 billion in general obligation bonds to fund water conservation and safe drinking water efforts through the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006, or Proposition 84. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: City applies for drought project grant
  • Turlock Irrigation District to talk water transfer changes:  “The Turlock Irrigation District is hoping to change the way the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, which is comprised of the cities of Turlock, Ceres and Modesto, manages its water resources.  In its first night meeting on Tuesday, the TID Board of Trustees will consider a resolution that imposes conditions for the transfer of Tuolumne River water by TID to the Authority. TID’s main concerns: the City of Turlock’s export of recycled water out of the Turlock basin to the Del Puerto Water District and the ever dwindling water supply. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  TID to talk water transfer changes at first night meeting
  • Huntington Lake summer fun drying up in California drought: The water dropped another 2 feet the week of Don Winters’ vacation.  Huntington Lake was at about a third of its normal level.  An island in the middle of the lake — a mini-hilltop of wildflowers that in other summers he’d paddled to in a canoe — was connected to shore by a bridge of land. It was a quick stroll from the new shoreline, now in the middle of where there used to be water.  But Winters, 65, never considered canceling his High Sierra vacation because of three years of California drought.  “This is the Golden Pond of my youth,” said the retired history teacher. “I used to come here with my grandfather.” ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Huntington Lake summer fun drying up in California drought  
  • Paso Robles residents, officials alarmed by evolving water district bill: Residents and elected officials of the Paso Robles groundwater basin reacted with alarm and confusion last week when they learned that a bill in the state Legislature to form a water district to manage the basin had grown from its original simple three pages to a complex 17-page document.  The confusion was so profound that it caused the two North County groups that had originally proposed forming the district to withdraw their support for the bill and rendered the county Board of Supervisors incapable of reaching agreement on their position on the bill after originally supporting it. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Paso Robles residents, officials alarmed by evolving water district bill
  • LA County to spend $4 million on copper study for marina:  “How much copper is too much copper? That’s a question county authorities are about to spend $4 million to find out.  Back in February, the state-appointed Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board voted unanimously to require an 85% decrease in copper toxicity in Marina del Rey over the next decade. … ”  Read more from the LA Business Journal here: County to spend $4 million on pollution study in marina
  • Inland Empire water agencies step up campaign urging water conservation: “Water agencies throughout the Inland Empire are uniting to promote the need for greater conservation as the state contends with its worst drought in decades.  “By collaborating, we are able to reach more people with the message that they are a vital part of the solution,” said Bob Tincher, manager of water resources for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. “It is time for the IE to show the rest of the state that we take water conservation seriously.” … ”  Read more from Valley News here:  Agencies step up campaign urging water conservation
  • Is it Time for Southern California Golf Courses to Just Dry Up?  “With drought into its third year, California farmers are pulling up orchards and fields are lying fallow. Bu, when President Obama came West to talk about water, he played golf in the desert of Coachella Valley—home to 124 well-watered courses. One environmentalist says some of LA’s municipal courses could qualify as wetlands, and he knows—because he plays. Does a major Southland recreational pastime have a future?” Listen to the episode of Which Way LA here:  Is it Time for Southern California Golf Courses to Just Dry Up?

In commentary this weekend …

  • Another view: Busting water conservation myths: Peter Gleick, Kate Poole, and Robert Wilkinson write: “As a solution for California’s complex water challenges, conserving water to get more from every drop stands out for its great potential and the misconceptions around it.  A recent op-ed column, “Putting two myths about the state’s drought to rest” (Viewpoints, July 6), repeated three misstatements about conservation that are often used to delay implementing strategies for more efficient water use. Until these misunderstandings are corrected, common-sense improvements will continue to be underfunded and inadequately pursued. The failure to use proven and cost-effective efficiency programs can be seen in the limited attention to conservation in the state water bond proposals and only modest efforts of some water agencies. … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Another view: Busting water conservation myths
  • Tunnels would protect water from rising seas, says Richard Stapler:  “The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) expressly includes assumptions about future conditions due to climate change, including sea level rise. Indeed, the anticipated hydrologic changes due to climate change will constrain and challenge future water management practices across the state, with or without the project. The BDCP seeks to avoid water supply disruption and protect water quality by modernizing California’s aging water delivery facilities to ensure 21st century seismic safety standards and climate change adaptation.  … ”  Continue reading at the Manteca Bulletin here:  Tunnels will protect LA bound water from rising sea
  • San Joaquin County must speak out against the tunnels:  “Lodi’s San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel joined the rest of the board in opposing construction of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, known as the twin tunnels.  This massive project, designed to bring high quality water from the Sacramento River around the Delta and send it south, will lead to abandonment of 140,000 acres of agricultural land, according to Vogel.  That is a swath 5.5 miles wide running 37 miles from South Sacramento to Tracy. Imagine that vast swath of rich farm land lying idle. … ”  Read more from the Lodi News-Sentinel here: Editorial: San Joaquin County must speak out against Delta twin tunnels
  • California needs a realistic strategy to use less water, says commentary:  Joe Guzzardi writes:  “Thirty years have passed since the Academy Award winning movie “Chinatown” revisited California’s infamous Water Wars between Los Angeles and farmers in the state’s eastern Owens Valley. To this day, water and how to use it remains a controversial but critical debate, which the current three-year-long drought has exacerbated.  As Californians enjoy the summer months, how to manage water in face of its increasing scarcity amidst growing population and less rain fall is essential. … ”  Continue reading at the Lodi News-Sentinel here: Joe Guzzardi: California needs a realistic strategy to use less water
  • San Joaquin River’s hard-won restoration under threat, says author Tim Palmer: “Since 2009, the San Joaquin River has been celebrated as a path-breaking example of restoration. But this year, Central California’s largest river has the dubious distinction of being on the conservation group American Rivers’ “most endangered” list because it’s so overtapped.  A panicked response to the drought could worsen the situation. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  San Joaquin River’s hard-won restoration under threat
  • Water Wars: John McDowell writes:  “In-N-Out and Chipotle have just raised their prices due in part to the California drought. That’s right; our lack of rain is making Double-Doubles and Burrito Bowls more expensive. It just got real, didn’t it?  The fact is, our water crisis has been building for a long time. Most of the state’s water storage and transportation system was built in the 1950s and ’60s, back when the population was around 16 million. Now the state has over 37 million residents and climbing. Outdated infrastructure means that our water resources are not managed correctly or delivered efficiently.  Fundamentally, there simply isn’t enough water for our current and future uses ... ”  Read more from the San Mateo Daily Journal here:  Water Wars

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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. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.

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