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Daily Digest: Lawsuit filed over Metropolitan’s Delta land purchase; NorCal lawmakers question Westlands deal; Sea-level rise study calls Delta tunnels into doubt; Salmon season cuts planned; and more …

In California water news today, Striking back on Delta land buy; Delta islands: Opponents sue to stop sale; Democratic reps call for probe of deal over toxic-runoff cleanup; Northern California lawmakers question huge Westlands Water District deal; New sea-level rise study calls Delta tunnels into doubt; California salmon season cuts planned to protect struggling fish; Goodbye, El Nino; hello La Nina, the ‘diva of drought’; Drought poll: Most Californians see water shortage despite rains; Poll finds drought still on Californians’ minds; Emergency conservation mandate no longer warranted, says ACWA in a comment letter; Why some farmers get little water despite rain; and more …

In the news today …

Striking back on Delta land buy:  “Declaring that the Delta “will not be the next Owens Valley,” San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties — along with farmers and environmental groups — sued Thursday to block a Southern California water district from buying more than 20,000 acres of farmland in the heart of the estuary.  The lawsuit, filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, charges that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California violated the law when it determined that the $175 million land buy is exempt from environmental study.  “The political leaders, residents, and landowners of the Delta decisively dispute this claim and hereby declare that we will not be the next Owens Valley,” Stockton attorney Brett Jolley wrote in a letter accompanying Thursday’s lawsuit. Jolley was referring to Los Angeles’ quiet acquisition of water rights and subsequent draining of the Owens Valley more than a century ago. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Striking back on Delta land buy

Delta islands: Opponents sue to stop sale: Two counties and several environmental groups on Thursday sued to challenge the giant Metropolitan Water District’s pending purchase of five Delta islands and tracts along or near the route of the state’s proposed twin water tunnels estimated at $15.5 billion.  Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties filed the suit in San Joaquin County Superior Court along with four other organizations, saying the Los-Angeles based water district erred in claiming that its $175 million purchase is exempt from a state law requiring an analysis of the acquisition’s potential effect on the environment.  Litigants want the court to prevent the water district from buying the property until it completes the review that the California Environmental Quality Act requires. ... ” Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Delta islands: Opponents sue to stop sale

Democratic reps call for probe of deal over toxic-runoff cleanup: Northern California Democrats called for an investigation Thursday into a settlement agreement between the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District that would end a long-running dispute over toxic irrigation runoff that led to an environmental disaster at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in 1983.  The agreement relieves the federal government of its obligation to provide an estimated $2.7 billion to drain selenium-polluted runoff from Westlands, a farmer-controlled quasi-public agency that waters 600,000 acres of cropland on the arid west side of the San Joaquin Valley. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Democratic reps call for probe of deal over toxic-runoff cleanup

Northern California lawmakers question huge Westlands Water District deal:  “Northern California lawmakers are turning up the heat on the Westlands Water District, with coordinated calls for congressional hearings and tougher Obama administration scrutiny.  Citing recent enforcement action by the Securities and Exchange Commission, House Democrats from outside the San Joaquin Valley on Thursday initiated what one lawmaker termed “an investigation” into the district and its proposed irrigation drainage deal with the administration.  “The Westlands Water District plays by its own rules, and trusting them with an agreement of this magnitude should give every member of Congress serious pause,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Northern California lawmakers question huge Westlands Water District deal

New sea-level rise study calls Delta tunnels into doubt:  “California homeowners will know the feeling. You shell out a huge amount of money for a place, and then suddenly you find yourself “underwater” — owing more than the property’s worth.  But it isn’t just that metaphorical fiscal water Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix project may find itself under. The at-least-$17-billion public works project, intended to divert Sacramento River water around the Delta to the giant pumps that send that water south to farms and cities, may well find its proposed tunnel intakes under three or four feet of seawater by the end of the century.   That’s according to a study published in late March in the journal Nature. The study suggested that the West Antarctic ice sheet, which is melting faster than anticipated, will likely cause a meter of sea level rise by the end of the 21st Century. When you add that to other factors causing sea levels to rise, that means California’s Bay and Delta may well see sea levels two meters higher in 2100 than they are now — about six and a half feet of average sea level increase. And that may well push saltwater well past the planned intakes for the California Water Fix’s tunnels. ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  New sea-level rise study calls Delta tunnels into doubt

California salmon season cuts planned to protect struggling fish: Responding to profound threats to California’s quintessential catch, federal fishery regulators laid out new restrictions Thursday for the state’s commercial salmon fishing season, scheduled to begin next month, as well as to the sport season, which started April 2.  The move, designed to protect fish hurt by drought-depleted rivers and warming ocean waters, will cut fishing opportunities by as much as half compared with last year, anglers say. It’s bad news for seafood lovers hoping to get their hands — and mouths — on the beloved filets, at least at a decent price.  “Salmon is scarce, and we got people eager for it,” said Dave Bitts, a Northern California trawler who serves as an adviser to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the agency that drafted the fishing rules. “I suspect salmon is going to be harder to get, and it will probably be more expensive. But it’s hard to say how much.” … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  California salmon season cuts planned to protect struggling fish

Goodbye, El Nino; hello La Nina, the ‘diva of drought’:  “As if drought-stricken Southern California’s El Niño bust wasn’t bad enough, now the experts say we’re headed for a bona fide period of bone-dry weather.  La Niña beckons.  “La Niña is the diva of drought, which is not what we want to see,” said Bill Patzert, climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “We got a little relief, but we’re still in a drought. And we don’t want to go deeper into this drought.” … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here:  Goodbye, El Nino; hello La Nina, the ‘diva of drought’

Drought poll: Most Californians see water shortage despite rains:  “Despite the wettest winter in five years, an overwhelming majority of Californians believe that the state faces an extremely serious water shortage and plan to continue conserving water, according to a poll released Thursday.  The poll, carried out by the Field Research Corporation, sampled 800 registered voters across the state. It’s the fifth such survey that’s been carried out since April 2014, tracking Californians’ changing attitudes as the historic drought dragged on. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Drought poll: Most Californians see water shortage despite rains

Poll finds drought still on Californians’ minds:  “With California’s major reservoirs rising thanks to a stream of potent El Nino storms, residents remain worried about the state’s historic drought and are dedicated to cutting water use.  A majority of California registered voters are concerned about potential water shortages with 62 percent viewing the state’s water situation as “extremely serious” according to a Field Poll released Thursday. Recent wet weather may have changed some voters’ position, since 76 percent viewed the drought as extremely serious in an October 2015 poll.  In the wake of an El Nino-driven winter that brought healthy amounts of rain and snow to Northern California for the first time in five years, Californians still feel it is vital to continue letting lawns turn brown and slashing indoor water use even after the drought is over. … ” Read more from Courthouse News Service here:  Poll finds drought still on Californians’ minds

Emergency conservation mandate no longer warranted, says ACWA in a comment letter:  “Citing significantly improved water supply conditions, ACWA is recommending that the State Water Resources Control Board rescind its emergency conservation regulation in favor of continued voluntary water use reductions statewide.  In comments submitted to the State Water Board on April 14, ACWA noted that improved snowpack conditions, reservoir storage and projected surface water deliveries for much of the state no longer warrant extraordinary emergency conservation mandates statewide. Diverse and extensive water supply investments by local water agencies also are contributing to improved water supply availability. … ” Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Emergency conservation mandate no longer warranted, says ACWA in a comment letter

Why some farmers get little water despite rain:  “For many farmers in the state, the drought seems over, at least for a while. The skies finally broke open, and since November several feet of rain have fallen on the hills that slope into Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville. Now, the state’s two largest reservoirs are nearly filled and the high mountains are coated with snowpack that is still getting thicker.  In the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, farmers will have all the water they need. … This year their allocation is at 100 percent. That’s 825,000 acre-feet (1 billion cubic meters) of Sacramento River water, most of which will go to the region’s expansive rice fields.  But for some farmers, especially south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, 2016 is looking like yet another panic year.  … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Why some farmers get little water despite rain

Fiscal year 2017 appropriations process begins with energy and water bill:  “This week, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate began work on the Energy and Water Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which provide funding for the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as well as other federal agencies. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Fiscal year 2017 appropriations process begins with energy and water bill

In commentary today …

Dams and groundwater storage go hand in hand, says Buddy Mendes:  He writes:  “Californians are becoming more attuned to the crucial need to develop additional water storage. California’s historic drought, now possibly stretching into a fifth straight year, has made clear that we need to capture and store much more of the high runoff flows from the mountains in big water years for use in dry years.  Unfortunately, a significant number of environmental advocates are supporting only half the water-storage solution. They either misunderstand or just hate the idea of new dams and reservoirs, maybe both. Evidence of this was found in a recent Fresno Bee column. It encouraged additional groundwater storage development but slammed, most inaccurately, Temperance Flat and other new California surface storage projects under consideration. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Dams and groundwater storage go hand in hand

California’s water injustice:  Allysia Finley writes, “El Niño has doused northern California, but farmers in the state’s Central Valley won’t see much benefit. The Obama Administration is again indulging its progressive friends at the expense of low-income communities.  The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that Central Valley Project agricultural water contractors south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would receive a mere 5% of their contractual allocation this year despite brimming reservoirs in the North. Lake Shasta is at 90% capacity, and billions of gallons of water were released from Lake Folsom this winter to avert flooding.  Meantime, wildlife refuges and farmers north of the Delta—those in Democratic Reps. Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi’s districts—will get 100% of the water they’re owed. The liberal gentry in the Bay Area, which pipes its pristine water directly from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, also won’t be affected by this government water rationing. … ”  Read more from the Wall Street Journal here:  California’s water injustice

In regional news and commentary today …

Solano County enters into Yolo-Cache planning pact with state, feds:  “The Solano County Board of Supervisors this week finalized a memorandum of understanding to participate in flood control and other planning issues in the Yolo Bypass and Cache Slough Region with state, federal and a number of regional agencies.  “The Yolo Bypass and Cache Slough Region is the focus of several interagency planning efforts . . . aimed at improving flood conveyance, fisheries and wildlife habitat, water supply and water quality, agricultural land preservation, economic development and recreation,” the document states. … ”  Read more from the Fairfield Daily Republic here:  Solano County enters into Yolo-Cache planning pact with state, feds

Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC) celebrates 25 years of advocacy:  “Staff at the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte this month are celebrating 25 years as a non-profit conservation organization.  The group, also known as CSERC, is touting its efforts to protect water, wildlife, and wild places across 2 million acres of Northern Yosemite region in the Central Sierra Nevada.  Embraced by outdoors and nature people and respected by agencies including the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, CSERC has also been criticized by some ranchers, loggers, miners, snowmobilers and other motorsports enthusiasts, who have seen their livelihoods and recreation pursuits restricted by environmental rules and regulations. … ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here:  CSERC celebrates 25 years of advocacy

Modesto Irrigation District accused of overcharging customers:  “A lawsuit filed against the Modesto Irrigation District accuses the district of overcharging some customers for electricity.  MID serves most of Stanislaus County with 113,000 water and electric customers.  Dave Thomas is suing MID and hoping to add other plaintiffs to the lawsuit. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Modesto Irrigation District accused of overcharging customers

Turlock: City’s goal of attaining reliable drinking water closer to reality: The City of Turlock is one step closer to securing an alternative source of drinking water after the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority awarded a $2 million contract on Wednesday to West Yost Associates to develop the Regional Surface Water Supply Project.  “Wednesday’s vote was the most critical vote I’ve made since I became mayor,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth, who is the vice chair of the SRWA. “I made a goal of providing clean, safe and reliable drinking water to Turlock’s residents and now we are well on our way to making that goal a reality.” … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  City’s goal of attaining reliable drinking water closer to reality

Fresno: Chairman Buddy Mendes bellows at speaker at public meeting over water rates:  “Buddy Mendes, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and a farmer known for his colorful language during meetings, rattled the supervisors’ chambers Tuesday by loudly accusing an environmental advocate of lying about water prices charged to low-income farmworker communities.  The issue arose as a handful of residents of the small farming community of El Porvenir voted on a $5 rate increase for their monthly water bill, which already exceeds $100 per month. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Chairman Buddy Mendes bellows at speaker at public meeting over water rates

Bay Foundation successfully addressing troubled coastal waters:  “With Tom Ford at the helm of The Bay Foundation, Los Angeles has made great progress in restoring its coastal ecosystemsprogress that Ford argues could benefit the urban population as much as the environment. Forda longtime researcher and advocate of the Santa Monica Bayexplains how wastewater emptying into it could instead become a resource, as well as updating TPR on efforts to restore the Ballona Wetlands.  TPR: You recently wrote an opinion piece in the LA Times with the headline: “Our coastal waters are in trouble. Here’s how we can help save them and fight the drought.” Does the headline offer insight into your priorities at The Bay Foundation?  Tom Ford: We are stridently working to eliminate sources of pollution and impacts to our coastal waters, as well as trying to increase the habitat values and socioeconomic benefits that Santa Monica Bay represents. ... ” Read more from The Planning Report here:  Bay Foundation successfully addressing troubled coastal waters

San Diego: State bill would bolster Sycuan’s water supply – and possibly a new hotel: About half the Sycuan Indian tribe relies heavily on a single groundwater well for water.  The whole tribe now wants access to the same water most San Diegans enjoy – Colorado River water, Northern California water and desalinated Pacific Ocean water.  Most of San Diego’s state legislative delegation is pushing a bill that could make it happen. The water could secure the tribe’s supply and perhaps fuel future development, including a new 300-room hotel and possible casino expansion. ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  State bill would bolster Sycuan’s water supply – and possibly a new hotel

San Diego County Water Authority files lawsuit against MWD:  “The San Diego County Water Authority on Wednesday announced the filing of another lawsuit over rates charged by the Metropolitan Water District, a Los Angeles-based water wholesaler.  In its complaint filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles, the water authority contends that the rate structure approved Tuesday by the MWD board for 2017 and 2018 used the same methodology as costs from 2011-14 that were previously ruled illegal by a Superior Court judge. ... ”  Read more from KPBS here:  San Diego County Water Authority files lawsuit against MWD

ICYMI: Yesterday’s breaking news alerts …

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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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