Daily Digest: Judge blasts feds for wet year water grab, Water conservation and snowpack dropping rapidly, Delta ‘Heritage’ legislation, Oil wells shut down, the impact of zero allocation, and more …

Yesterday in the High Sierra … photo courtesy of DWR
In California water news today, Judge blasts feds for wet year water grab, California water conservation weakening as drought worsens.  New restrictions on the way?, California snow levels reach historic lows, Third snow survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal, Water savings taper off, California shuts down oil wells to protect groundwater, Delta ‘Heritage’ designation sought for a third time, Central Valley Project ‘broken’, water managers say, Farmers describe impact of ‘zero’ CVP allocation, and more …

On the calendar today …

Revised TUCP order from State Water Board expected today:  The State Water Resources Control Board was originally scheduled to take up the state and federal water projects Temporary Urgency Change Petition, but decided instead that having heard the extensive public comment at their second February meeting, the Executive Director will instead be issuing an revised order at some point today.  When that order comes in, I will post it here, as well as send out an alert to readers on my daily email service.  Either check back later today, or click here to sign up for daily email service and receive not only a morning email with all new content posted, but also this and other breaking news alerts as they occur.

In the news today …

Judge blasts feds for wet year water grab:  ” The government broke the rules when it restricted pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for two weeks in June 2011 during “excess water conditions,” a federal judge ruled on Monday. California went through an extremely wet year in 2011 – in stark contrast to the drought the state is currently experiencing – which meant excess water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Staring on June 8, 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ordered reduced export pumping for a two-week period in order to meet certain environmental requirements, prompting the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and one of its member districts, Westlands Water District, to file a lawsuit. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Judge blasts feds for wet year water grab

California water conservation weakening as drought worsens.  New restrictions on the way?California is heading into the fourth summer of a historic drought, but when it comes to conserving water, its urban residents are going backward.  State officials are mulling tougher water restrictions, but critics say the new rules being considered don’t go nearly far enough and that the state risks severe water shortages if it doesn’t do more soon. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  California conservation weakening as drought worsens.  New restrictions on the way?

California snow levels reach historic lows:Snow levels in the Sierra Nevada are at or below what they were during the driest years in California’s recorded history, surveyors said Tuesday, dashing hopes that last weekend’s storm would begin to pull the state out of its increasingly frightful drought.  The water content of the snow statewide stands at 19 percent of the average for this time of year, according to the third snow survey of the season by the California Department of Water Resources.  That means California is neck and neck with 1977 and 1991 for the most parched winter since 1950, when the state began publishing measurements of the snowpack in the Sierra. California could set a new drought benchmark this year. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California snow levels reach historic lows

Third snow survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal:  “California received a double dose of bad drought news on Tuesday, with state officials saying the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is far below normal and that residents again aren’t coming close to meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a 20 percent cut in water use.  Snow supplies about a third of the state’s water and a higher winter snowpack translates to more water in California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall. Last weekend’s Sierra snowfall pleased skiers and snowboarders but wasn’t nearly enough to offset weeks of dry weather. ... ”  Read more from the AP via The Republic here:  Third snow survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal

Water savings taper off:One month after finally meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s 20 percent water conservation goal, Californians took a big step backward.  Water savings totaled just 9 percent in January, doubtless because that month was so warm and dry, officials said Tuesday. People might have been more inclined to turn on outdoor irrigation.  The disappointing news came the same day that state officials reported the Sierra snowpack is just 19 percent of normal, despite the relatively cold storm last weekend. Only in 1991 has the snowpack been in worse condition in early March. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Water savings taper off

California shuts down oil wells to protect groundwater:  “A dozen wells used to pump oil-and-gas in California’s Central Valley have been ordered to stop production to protect underground drinking-water from contamination, officials said Tuesday.  The operators of 10 oil wells in Kern County voluntarily stopped production, while two were issued cease-and-desist orders, said Steven Bohlen, head of oil, gas and geothermal resources for the California Department of Conservation. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  California shuts down oil wells to protect groundwater

Delta ‘Heritage’ designation sought for a third time:  “Another new Congress means another new effort to designate the Delta as California’s first “national heritage area.”  That idea has been discussed for at least five years, but efforts to make it official twice have fallen short in Congress.  On Tuesday, California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer launched a third effort by introducing legislation in the Senate. U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, also introduced a bill in the House. … ”  More from the Stockton Record here:  Delta ‘Heritage’ designation sought for a third time

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could get U.S. ‘heritage’ protection:  “The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, 700 square miles stretching from Vallejo on San Pablo Bay to Sacramento and Stockton, would get added federal protection for its historical and environmental assets under legislation introduced Tuesday by California’s two U.S. senators.As the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, albeit one entirely reshaped by humans, the delta would be designated a national heritage area. The category was created during the Reagan administration for “nationally important landscapes” that fall considerably short of the pristine conditions required for national parks or even recreation areas. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could get U.S. ‘heritage’ protection

Central Valley Project ‘broken’, water managers say: Federal delivery of zero water to the Central Valley this year threatens the “potential devastation (of) tens of thousands of acres,” state water authorities say. Water managers say the federal program designed to provide water to the Central Valley is broken. For the second straight year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Central Valley Project will not receive any federal water.  “Last year we had a zero allocation at Friant and scrambled to make some water available through some district programs, water purchases, groundwater banks and groundwater pumping, and we were able to keep most of the orchards alive,” Friant Water Authority General Manager Ronald Jacobsma told Courthouse News. … ”  Read more from Courthouse News here:  Central Valley Project ‘broken’, water managers say

Farmers describe impact of ‘zero’ CVP allocation: Facing another year with no surface water deliveries, farmers who buy water from the federal Central Valley Project expressed deep frustration with the lack of water supplies, and deep concern about what another year of water shortages will mean for their crops, employees and communities.  The CVP said last week it expects to deliver no water to most of its agricultural customers, after also allocating no water to those customers in 2014. … “The CVP announcement is both saddening and maddening,” Wenger said. “It’s saddening because the continued cutoff of water will prolong the impact of water shortages on farmers, their employees and rural communities. It’s maddening because there is still a struggle to manage water wisely and flexibly in California, especially in dry years.” … ”  Continue reading at the California Farm Bureau Federation website here:  Farmers describe impact of ‘zero’ CVP allocation

Parched California will get no relief from drought pain in 2015:Despite rains in the northern and southern portions of California over the last couple days, experts say the state’s severe drought is on track to cause an economic loss there of roughly $3 billion in 2015—up from about $2.2 billion last year.  “There’s going to be significantly more pain this year than there was last year,” said Richard Howitt, a University of California, Davis professor emeritus of agriculture and resource economics who co-authored a study last year on the anticipated effects of drought on California agriculture. “I would be very surprised if the economic impact was less than $3 billion.” … ”  Read more from NBC News here:  Parched California will get no relief from drought pain in 2015

Ag economist says water will matter more than ever in California:  “Tightening water supplies in California will reinforce its shift to almonds, walnuts and other high-value crops, an economist told a Modesto audience.  Farmers will make that decision as they face recurring droughts and limits on river supplies and groundwater, said Richard Howitt, professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis.  He spoke Monday to the Northern California chapter of the Appraisal Institute, which drew about 150 people to its annual conference at the DoubleTree Hotel. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Ag economist: Water will matter more than ever in California

Tale of two droughts: What California and Syria can teach about adaptation gap:  “At first glance, California and Syria appear to have little in common other than Mediterranean climates.  But two new studies – focusing on severe droughts in these places half a planet apart – highlight a yawning gap in the abilities of developed and many developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change.  Each study, appearing in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documents ways in which global warming is boosting the likelihood of additional droughts as severe and prolonged as those the two have experienced. ... ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor here:  Tale of two droughts: What California and Syria can teach about adaptation gap

U.S. clean water quandary begins on land: In March 2014, two United States agencies charged with stemming pollution in the nation’s waters proposed a 2-page rule change in federal clean water regulations, a change based on more than 1,000 scientific studies, that was meant to clear up years of legal muddiness in defining which small streams and wetlands fell under government regulation.  Eleven months later, the proposed change has spawned one of the most ferocious political clashes in the new Congress. The opposing sides are battling over whether to apply the 45-year-old Clean Water Act, the nation’s primary water pollution control statute, to countless small streams and tens of thousands of wetlands not currently under federal jurisdiction. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  U.S. clean water quandary begins on land

In commentary today …

Senator Boxer, there still is no water and there are lives at stake, says Don Peracchi:  He writes, “For the second year in a row, California farmers will not receive any water from the Central Valley Project. The announcement Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that more than 1 million acres of highly productive farmland will once again receive a zero allocation of water this year should make one thing abundantly clear.  The federal government’s Central Valley Project is broken. Its failure threatens the continued coordination of local, state and federal water agencies in operating the modern water system on which all of California depends. As a result, some of the most vital elements of the state’s economy are being allowed to wither and die. … ”  Read more at the Fresno Bee here:  Senator Boxer, there still is no water and there are lives at stake

If Delta salmon die, they could take orcas with them, says Chris Clarke: He writes: “As California enters its fourth consecutive drought year, the Central Valley farm industry will likely take aim once again at the Delta smelt, a tiny four-inch fish on the Endangered Species list that may be wiped out if too much water is diverted from its habitat. The smelt gets picked on by ag interests because it’s not very charismatic. It’s the 21st Century California version of the snail darter: a fish too rare to eat and too small to catch for sport, whose survival is threatened by a multi-billion dollar industry. A seemingly useless smelt versus a people that grow food? The PR spins itself.  But there are other species threatened by our diverting water from the Sacramento Delta that don’t lend themselves so well to pro-industry PR. ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  If Delta salmon die, they could take orcas with them

In regional news and commentary today …

Dry winter weather worries rice farmers:California rice farmers are worried that if doesn’t rain or snow soon they will have to fallow fields again this year. The rice crop was down nearly 25% in 2014. But, it’s not just the drought that’s hurting growers. Market competition from states like Louisiana and Arkansas is also increasing. Ryan Schohr is a sixth generation rice farmer in Butte County. Last year he fallowed more than half of his fields because of the drought. He worries about this year and next.  … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Dry weather worries rice farmers

Solano County Supervisors move ahead with flood planning effort:The Solano County Board of Supervisors moved ahead Tuesday in its role with a flood planning effort for the region.  By a vote of 4-0, with Supervisor Skip Thomson absent, the board adopted a resolution endorsing the Lower Sacramento/Delta North Region Corridor Management Framework and future work on a Yolo Bypass/Cache Slough Complex Management Plan. … ”  Read more from the Fairfield Daily Republic here:  Supervisors move ahead with flood planning effort

Santa Cruz looks at conservation, costs:  “City officials kicked off an effort on Tuesday to encourage water users to conserve water, going beyond the planned static water rate increases planned for the coming five years.  The Santa Cruz City Council and Water Commission held a joint meeting to discuss how to balance paying the city’s water costs with encouraging water use conservation efforts, two outcomes that at times can work at cross purposes. The better that customers conserve and are rewarded with lowered costs, the less revenue the water system receives to operate.  … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  Santa Cruz looks at conservation, costs

Bumper run of Mokelumne River salmon:  “One of the largest salmon runs in 74 years returned to the Mokelumne River last fall despite extreme drought conditions, the East Bay Municipal Utility District reported last week.  EBMUD operates several dams on the Mokelumne and pipes Mokelumne River water to serve about 1.3 million people in Oakland and nearby cities. Because of those dams, salmon that once swam at least as far east as the present Pardee Reservoir to spawn must now lay their eggs in sections of the river below Camanche Dam. ... ”  Read more from the Calaveras Enterprise here:  Bumper run of Mokelumne River salmon

Fish versus people frustration rages at Oakdale Irrigation District meeting:  “State and federal officials favoring fish habitat are to blame for the Oakdale Irrigation District’s tentative plan to drain Tulloch Lake this summer, OID leaders told dozens of anxious lake-area residents.  The OID board also delayed until April deciding whether to impose a drought surcharge on farmers this year, and said the board is likely to cancel plans to pay farmers who agree to sell water to out-of-county buyers.  All are reactions to the drought now entering its fourth year. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Fish versus people frustration rages at Oakdale Irrigation District meeting

Merced County takes first step towards groundwater ordinance:Merced County’s proposed groundwater ordinance is one step closer to becoming law.  The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance, setting a second reading and possible adoption for March 17. .… ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Merced County takes first step toward groundwater ordinance

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.

hard_working_on_computer_anim_150_clr_7364Maven’s Notebook
The diary of a confessed obsessive-compulsive California water news junkie

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