Daily Digest: Groundwater management legislation, BDCP documents, Klamath salmon, groundwater pumping and the “Big One”, and more …

Daily DigestIn California water news today, Senate passes groundwater management legislation, Bay Delta Conservation Plan documents to be recirculated, Judge won’t stop water for Klamath salmon, out of control groundwater pumping won’t cause the “big one”, drought brings on a downpour of pseudoscience, drought could impact bird habitats and rice prices, environmentalists debate the good and bad of the water bond, and more news and commentary … 

In the news today …

  • Senate passes groundwater management legislation (Fresno Bee):  “Amid a third year of drought, state lawmakers began pushing legislation Wednesday that would begin to regulate groundwater for the first time in California history.  The Senate passed AB1739 on a 26-11 vote, returning it to the Assembly. The bill by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, is part of a sweeping legislative package that would require some local governments to start managing wells and authorizes the state to step in under certain situations if they don’t. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Lawmakers approve groundwater management bill
  • Senate passes groundwater reform legislation (Circle of Blue):  “After clearing the first of two legislative chambers, groundwater reform is one step closer in California.  By a vote of 26 to 11, the state Senate passed AB 1739, a bill that will require areas that use the most groundwater and have the largest populations to submit plans for managing the resource and to set goals for balancing groundwater supply and demand.  The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday, as well as on a companion bill sponsored in the Senate. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  California Senate passes groundwater reform legislation
  • Bay Delta Conservation Plan documents delayed due to public comments:  “Plans for two huge water diversion tunnels in the Delta are being delayed, state officials announced Wednesday, because the plans need more work.  Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources, said the delay in the $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan was triggered by public comments submitted on the draft environmental impact report. The comments revealed that certain areas of the plan need additional study, although she could not yet say specifically what areas. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Delta water tunnel studies delayed due to public comments
  • State extends review of $25B BDCP; 30,000 pages not enough:  “Apparently 30,000 pages of environmental reviews and draft plans are not enough when it comes to the proposal to build two massive water tunnels in Northern California.  State officials announced Wednesday that more work is needed, signaling another delay in the biggest water supply project proposed in California in decades.  Backed by major urban and agricultural water districts, the project would change the way some Northern California supplies are sent south to the San Joaquin Valley and the Southland. … ”  Read more from the Los Angeles Times here:  State extends review of $25 billion Delta Plan
  • Judge won’t stop water for Klamath salmon:  “A federal judge Wednesday denied a request by irrigation suppliers in California’s Central Valley to stop emergency water releases intended to help salmon hundreds of miles away in the Klamath Basin survive the drought.  U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill in Fresno, California, denied the temporary injunction sought by Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. Westlands is the nation’s largest supplier of water for agricultural use. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Judge won’t stop water for Klamath salmon
  • Napa earthquake: No, out of control groundwater pumping won’t cause the “Big One”: Californians have enough to worry about these days, what with the historic drought. Are they also unwittingly ice-bucket-challenging their way to an earthquake disaster? Probably not.  Sunday’s magnitude 6.0 earthquake was the Bay Area’s largest since 1989, when a magnitude 6.9 famously hit during the World Series. … Although this weekend’s quake wasn’t the “Big One,” its location along an extension of the San Andreas fault system and timing amid the drought is raising exaggerated fears about a connection between big earthquakes and excessive groundwater pumping. … ” Read more from Slate here: No, out of control groundwater pumping won’t cause the “Big One”
  • Drought brings on a downpour of pseudoscience: Across drought-stricken California, farmers, vintners, and plenty of others are desperate for water. So, many of them are calling dowsers. These ‘water witches’, draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to “find” water. The professional variety do so for a fee (sometimes a ‘suggested donation’). And business is booming. … ” Read more from Motherboard here:  Drought brings on a downpour of pseudoscience
  • Drought could impact bird habitats, rice prices: Rice is one of California’s top crops, but the historic drought is forcing farmers to make tough decisions in the field — and that likely will have a ripple effect on consumers and migratory birds.  “I’ve never seen one like this,” he said. ... ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here:  Drought could impact bird habitats, rice prices
  • Environmentalists debate the good and bad of the water bond: The water bond approved earlier this month for the November ballot has drawn applause from Democrats and Republicans as just what California needs in a time of persistent drought.  But the $7.5 billion package contains subtle language that environmental groups warn could be a handout to water-hungry farmers, facilitate the construction of dams, and even grease the way for Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels in the Delta. … ”  Read more from Chico News & Review here:  Weighing in on the water bond

In regional news today …

  • Outflow from Lake Mendocino reduced:Less water is now leaving Lake Mendocino as a combined request by the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District and the Sonoma County Water Agency to reduce flows in the Russian River was granted Monday.  Sean White, general manager of the RRFC&WCID, said Tuesday that the minimum flows between Coyote Valley Dam and Healdsburg were reduced from 75 cubic feet per second to 50 cfs, meaning more water will remain in the lake. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  Outflow from Lake Mendocino reduced
  • Sonoma County stream protection rules back for debate:  “For decades, property owners, environmentalists and policymakers in Sonoma County have been split over how to protect 3,200 miles of streams and creeks outside city boundaries.  The ongoing debate, which some landowners view as a direct threat to their property rights, took a turn in 1989, when the county drafted a new general plan that mandated protections for year-round and seasonal creeks and rivers. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  County stream protection rules back for debate
  • Stanislaus County farmers agree to pay for groundwater study to settle environmental lawsuit:  Environmental activists and a group of Stanislaus County farmers settled a lawsuit Wednesday over the drilling of groundwater wells to irrigate orchards.  The farmers – who predominately grow almonds in northern and eastern Stanislaus – agreed to contribute $190,000 toward the study of groundwater conditions in the county, plus cover assorted attorney fees and court costs.  “I view this as a win-win interim outcome of this litigation,” said Jerry Cadagan, a retired lawyer and Sonora resident who filed lawsuits this year against farmers and Stanislaus County leaders over well drilling. “I will not personally profit 1 cent from this agreement.” … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Stanislaus County farmers agree to pay for groundwater study to settle environmental lawsuit
  • Drought looms over San Joaquin Valley House race:  “California’s Central Valley is in the midst of a drought of near-biblical proportions — and Rep. David Valadao (R) is praying his response to the crisis can keep him in office this fall.  The freshman Republican has been campaigning hard on water issues in this agriculture-heavy swing district, trumpeting his work on a water bill that passed the House earlier this year that he says would go a long way to helping the region. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Drought looms over California House race
  • Thirsty Montecitans truck in water during drought:  “Montecito Water District executive Tom Mosby has been forced to seek refuge from the ongoing drought in grim humor. “If it rains this winter, we won’t have any water sales,” he observed. “If it doesn’t rain, we won’t have any water to sell.” In the meantime, Montecito’s notoriously profligate water customers dramatically reduced their usage this July, compared to the previous year, by 48 percent.  … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: Thirsty Montecitans Trucking in Water During Drought
  • San Gabriel works to coordinate drought response: With five water companies serving the small city, it can be confusing and difficult for residents to make sense of the water situation in San Gabriel.  In an effort to coordinate conservation efforts, representatives from four of the five agencies, as well as the region’s water supplier Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, sat down with city staff Tuesday.  “It’s a big issue statewide and we are kind of sitting on the sidelines,” Public Works Director and City Engineer Daren Grilley said. … ”  Read more from the Pasadena Star-News here:  San Gabriel works to coordinate drought response
  • San Bernardino water conference addresses drought concerns:  “Business leaders, policy makers and scientists gathered at Cal State San Bernardino Aug. 22 for the eighth annual San Bernardino County Water Conference hosted by the Building Industry Association of Southern California. The main topic discussed was California’s historic drought.   “The drought is a quality of life issue,” said Janice Rutherford, chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors during opening remarks at the conference. She explained the drought presents challenges for lawmakers trying to deliver on a lifestyle that residents have come to expect. … ”  Read more from the Big Bear Grizzly here:  San Bernardino water conference addresses drought concerns
  • San Diego: Helix water district settles lawsuit: The Helix Water District has ended its six-year litigation with a business partnership that claimed the water district obstructed plans for a wildlife habitat and water recharge basin in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley. The five-member Helix Water Board agreed last week by a 4-1 vote, with Joel Scalzitti dissenting, to settle for the sale of the property to El Capitan Golf Club for $9 million.  … ”  Read more from U-T San Diego here:  Helix water settles lawsuit

In commentary today …

  • California seeks to take farm water rights, says Senator Nielsen:  He writes: “For more than a century, farmers across our state have depended on land and water passed between generations to produce everything from the meat, fruits and vegetables we eat, to the wine and milk that we drink. In recent years, many Californians have poured their life savings into small plots of land to follow their own dreams of becoming farmers. The most vital commodity these farmers possess is the water under their property. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California seeks to take farm water rights
  • Groundwater management key to California’s prosperity, say Jim Wunderman and Maurice Hall:  They write:  “Imagine a checking account that allowed you to pull out as much money as you want, for as long as you want, without ever having to worry about deposits or overdrafts. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It is.  It’s also how we use groundwater in California: If you can drill it, you can withdraw it — as much as you can, whenever you can — and nobody is responsible for making deposits. If we don’t change course, sooner or later the pumps will hit bedrock and the checks will bounce. Should that happen, it would be disastrous for California’s environment and economy. ... ”  Read more from the Contra Costa Times here:  Groundwater management key to California’s prosperity
  • Groundwater reform more important than the water bond, say Jay Lund and Thomas Harter:  They write: “California lawmakers recently found extraordinary consensus in approving a $7.5 billion water bond for the November election ballot. If the measure wins, however, future generations will not necessarily reap many of the promised water supply benefits without additional actions.  To significantly improve its resilience to drought, California must quickly get a grip on the runaway depletion of its dwindling groundwater resources. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Groundwater reform more important than the water bond
  • Dennis Wyatt: Why rats like dark tunnels like the twin tunnels: He writes: “The emperor has no clothes.  Or more precisely, the Twin Tunnels have no water.  As bizarre as it may sound, self-proclaimed state water gurus are seven years and some $300 million of your tax dollars into planning for arguably the largest environmental modification project ever undertaken in California involving water and they have yet to secure a key commitment from the Bureau of Reclamation.  The Bureau is not a minor player in California’s water wars.  They are the biggest. … ”  More from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Why rats like dark tunnels like the twin tunnels
  • Water bond shows how government should be run, says Senator Cannella:  He writes: “Water – it’s easy to take it for granted. We take our showers, use it to make our cup of coffee, wash our hands, water our lawns, and of course, drink it.  What’s more, our state depends on water for economics, with our agricultural communities creating thousands of jobs for our friends and neighbors, creating millions of dollars in revenues and producing food resources not only for California, but our nation and the world.  Bottom-line, we expect and need water to be available at all times and when we don’t have it, the realization hits that we really do, in fact, depend on it. … ”  Read more from the Selma Enterprise here:  Water bond shows how government should be run

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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