Daily Digest: Alarm over fire danger as California tree die-off hits 66 million; Bill to aid water supply by restoring watersheds; East Porterville soon to have running water again; Some water agencies say no to mandated water cuts despite drought; and more …

In California water news today, Alarm over fire danger as California tree die-off hits 66 million; Drought killed 66 million trees in California; Bill to aid water supply by restoring watersheds; East Porterville gets help from state agencies; East Porterville soon to have running water again; Some water agencies say no to mandated water cuts despite drought; Creating more nimble water market explored in capitol forum; California drought's lessons for food security; Buckler Brouhaha; State Water Board hears comments on drinking water fees; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

Alarm over fire danger as California tree die-off hits 66 million:  “The California drought is carving an unprecedented path of ruin through Sierra forests, killing trees by the millions and setting the stage for a potentially devastating wildfire season that’s already burning homes and closing freeways in the southern half of the state.  Using aerial surveys that revealed stark bands of browning trees amid once-healthy green forests, the U.S. Forest Service estimated Wednesday that at least 26 million trees died between October and May, bringing the total statewide die-off to 66 million trees since 2010.  The vast stands of lifeless timber from the High Sierra to Mount Shasta are largely the result of severe water loss amid a fifth year of drought, amplified by rising temperatures and infestations of bark beetles that feast on the weakened trees. The carnage is not expected to let up soon. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Alarm over fire danger as California tree die-off hits 66 million

Drought killed 66 million trees in California:  “The number of trees in California's Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people's lives, officials said Wednesday.  Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the U.S. Forest Service said. … ”  Read more from US News and World Report here:  Drought killed 66 million trees in California

Bill to aid water supply by restoring watersheds:  “It has been estimated that more than 60 percent of California’s freshwater comes from mountain storm runoff and snowmelt. Yet these mountain watersheds have never been officially recognized for their role in delivering and filtering this enormous share of the state’s vital water supply.  That may change soon. A bill in the state Legislature, AB 2480 (authored by Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica), would officially recognize five critical Sierra Nevada and Cascade watersheds as important pieces of the state’s water infrastructure. It would enshrine in state policy the importance of restoring forests, meadows and streams in these watersheds, and make such projects eligible for state water-project grant funding. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Bill to aid water supply by restoring watersheds

East Porterville gets help from state agencies:  “Residents of East Porterville, described by state officials as “ground zero” of the current California drought, will connect to a new, yet-to-be-built distribution system that will link to a Porterville municipal well.  The multi-phased project, to be built by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board, will bring a reliable water source to East Porterville residents.  “Our hearts go out to the people affected by the drought,” said Eric Lamoreux, regional administrator for California Office of Emergency Services. “We can’t begin to appreciate what they have gone through.” … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  East Porterville gets help from state agencies

East Porterville soon to have running water again: Families in a poor farming community where hundreds of domestic wells have dried up during California’s historic drought will soon have clean water again flowing into their homes, officials said Wednesday.  The state announced plans to spend $10 million to begin connecting unincorporated East Porterville in Tulare County to the water system of neighboring Porterville.  With the news, Tomas Garcia, 51, said hope is returning to his neighborhood. The well his family of four depended on for decades ran dry two years ago. … ”  Read more from the AP via the Elkhart Truth here:  East Porterville soon to have running water again

Some water agencies say no to mandated water cuts despite drought:  “Municipal water agencies across California are required to report to state officials by midnight Wednesday on whether they have enough water to withstand three more years of drought. If they don't, a new state conservation plan requires them to calculate how much they need to start saving to meet anticipated demand.  Officials with the State Water Resources Control Board are calling it a “stress test.”  But what if many of the state's 400-plus local water agencies don't find much stress? … ” Read more from KPCC here:  Some water agencies say no to mandated water cuts despite drought

Creating more nimble water market explored in capitol forum: California needs a more nimble water market and water transfer process to meet both the state’s water supply needs and its comprehensive approach to water management.  That was the overarching opinion put forth by a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn, during panel discussions at the state Capitol today. ... ”  Read more from ACWA's Water News here:  Creating more nimble water market explored in capitol forum

California drought's lessons for food security:  “Despite the arrival of increased rain and snow from El Niño this winter, California enters the fifth straight year of its worst drought in 1,200 years. The drought has been especially acute in the state’s Central Valley, which ranges from extreme to exceptional drought.  With its fertile soil, moderate climate, and unparalleled irrigation system, the Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions on the planet, producing nearly all of America’s almonds, olives, walnuts, and pistachios; the vast majority of its grapes, strawberries, avocados, carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce; and $13.1 billion worth of milk and cattle. As a result of the drought, California’s 39 million residents are competing for fewer available water resources. Water prices have spiked, increasing tenfold in some areas. … ” Read more from Slate Magazine here:  California drought’s lessons for food security

Buckler Brouhaha: There’s a big dispute over a small island at the edge of the Suisun Marsh. John Sweeney, the current owner of Point Buckler Island via a limited liability corporation, faces enforcement action by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board for diking and draining a tidal wetland and dumping excavation spoils in Suisun Bay. The extensive work he did was subject to regulation by state and federal agencies, and no authorization for it was ever requested or granted.  The 39-acre island, shaped like a westbound tortoise, lies on the eastern side of Honker Bay, separated from its larger neighbor Rich Island by Annie Mason Slough (or, in some records, Andy Mason.) No one seems to know who Buckler or Mason were. Point Buckler’s history is also obscure. … ”  Continue reading at Estuary News here:  Buckler Brouhaha

State Water Board hears comments on drinking water fees: The State Water Resources Control Board held a public hearing Wednesday to receive public comment related to its draft Drinking Water Program fee regulations for Fiscal Year 2016-’17. While the State Water Board did not take action on the draft fee regulations, it could consider adoption of any final draft fee regulations at its Sept. 20 meeting.  During the workshop, ACWA Senior Regulatory Advocate Adam Robin expressed concerns that the draft regulations could increase annual public water system operating fees by more than 1,000% for some drinking water systems while reducing fees for others. … ” Read more from ACWA's Water News here:  State Water Board hears comments on drinking water fees

In news from around the west and the nation …

Federal scientists find that half the Colorado River's water starts underground:  “Federal scientists probing the Colorado River, the primary water source for the West, have found that, on average, 56 percent of the flow starts underground and seeps to the surface from below.  This U.S. Geological Survey conclusion, published last week, is expected to help city water supply managers who increasingly must anticipate future volumes as rising temperatures favor a shift from snow to rain.  A river basin fed mostly from underground could be less sensitive, at least in the short term, if the snowpack disappears. … ”  Read more from the Denver Post here:  Federal scientists find that half the Colorado River’s water starts underground

New Mexico sues Colorado over 2015 Animas River mine waste spill:  “New Mexico is suing the state of Colorado, saying its neighbor to the north should be held responsible for the contamination caused by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill as well as decades of toxic drainage from mines near the headwaters of the Animas River.  The New Mexico Attorney General's Office and the state Environment Department announced late Wednesday that they filed a complaint against Colorado with the U.S. Supreme Court.  It marks the second major legal salvo fired by New Mexico in the wake of the August 2015 spill, which fouled rivers in three western states with a bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.  New Mexico is also suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the owners of two mines. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  New Mexico sues Colorado over huge 2015 Animas River mine waste spill

U.S. water utilities not prepared for catastrophe:  “Cutting beneath the lower Mississippi River, the New Madrid fault is a T-shaped geological hazard that is primed for a fierce tremor. A magnitude 7.7 earthquake where the fault crosses the Missouri-Tennessee border would be devastating, snapping water distribution pipes and toppling power lines in seven states, as far as 200 miles from the epicenter. About 1.1 million homes would be without water and 2.6 million without electricity, for days, weeks or perhaps months. The shaking would weaken levees and dams, rupture sewage pipes, and isolate communities.  Such a “black sky” event — infrequent but debilitating — would be beyond the capacity of current emergency response, according to a National Infrastructure Advisory Council report on the U.S. water sector’s resilience to natural disaster and cyberattack. ... ” Read more from Circle of Blue here:  U.S. water utilities not prepared for catastrophe

In commentary today …

New water rules make sense, say Kathleen Tiegs and Brent Hastey:  They write, “After a year of heroic water conservation under state-mandated emergency rules, Californians will shift this summer to ongoing water-saving practices guided by local conditions.  Under new rules adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, California is transitioning from last year’s one-size-fits-all mandatory reductions in water use to a locally driven approach better suited to where we are today. It reflects improved water supplies in many areas and recognizes substantial investments that local communities have made in drought-resilient supplies. ... ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  New water rules make sense

California needs to conserve water like the drought is here to stay, says the LA Times:  They write, “The water level in Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, had plunged to less than a third of normal by the end of last year. Then came the El Niño rainfall, which by April had tripled the volume of water in the lake. The story is similar in Trinity Lake, part of the same network of federal projects in the far northern portion of the state that regulate the flow of water to the Sacramento River on its journey south toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay.  In the northern Sierra, water levels were also perilously low in the state’s second-largest reservoir, Lake Oroville on the Feather River. But snowmelt in that region has revived the lake and given some relief to the State Water Project, which also controls the water that eventually finds its way down the Sacramento River – and into the delta and the California Aqueduct, down the San Joaquin Valley, over the Tehachapi Mountains and into Southern California. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  California needs to conserve water like the drought is here to stay

Endangered Species Act: the status quo versus the case for reform: Ryan M. Yonk writes, “Environmental policy has not been a key issue in the 2016 election season, but state Attorney General Kamala Harris and candidate for the U.S. Senate, may have signaled that a change is coming. “We have to support the Endangered Species Act,” Harris recently told the Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee. “There’s just no question about that.”  Harris commented after being asked about California governor Jerry Brown’s plan to dig two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at a cost of at least $15 billion. Concern over the California water supply and drought have emerged as important issues in the electoral contest to fill Senator Barbara Boxer’s senate seat in November. Despite widespread agreement on the need to address water-supply issues, this and other plans to reform the water-supply system have prompted calls to protect the tiny Delta smelt which may face increased extinction pressures. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Endangered species act: the status quo versus the case for reform

In regional news today …

State Commission delays Marine Protection Area monitoring proposal: The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously this morning to delay its vote on the proposed Marine Protection Area Master Plan until its August 24 meeting.  The commission voted to delay the vote in order to allow Native American tribes more time to provide input on proposed inclusion of language that would integrate tribal ecological knowledge into the commission’s formal review of Marine Protection Area management and regulations.  The commission previously delayed the master plan vote for the same reasons at its April meeting in Santa Rosa. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  State Commission delays Marine Protection Area monitoring proposal

Yolo County: Groundwater recharge project to benefit farms and fish:  “Increased reliance on groundwater for crops and homes, along with new state regulations to manage the resource, are prompting creative approaches to ensure groundwater supply reliability and improve environmental conditions in the future.  The Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District explained to state officials, local agencies and farmers last week how their new strategy for recharging aquifers will help stabilize local surface water and groundwater supplies. Their efforts are part of a statewide emphasis on maintaining adequate groundwater levels as required by the 2014 Groundwater Management Act. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Groundwater recharge project to benefit farms and fish

EBMUD experiments with pipe replacement:  “On average, underground water distribution pipes can last about 100 years. The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) owns and maintains roughly 4,200 miles of them. And it replaces about ten miles per year.  At that rate it would take four centuries to replace the whole system: an approach one could charitably call unsustainable even if all the pipes were brand-new today. But parts of EBMUD’s system, cast-iron pipes inherited from forgotten, now-defunct water agencies, date to the late 1800s.  After EBMUD formed in 1923, it continued installing cast-iron pipes through the 1950s, then switched to predominately asbestos-cement for the next three decades. Newer pipes are made of plastic or steel. Today the agency’s oldest 2,400 miles of cast-iron and asbestos-cement pipes account for the vast majority of its leaks, which last year numbered 1,156, far surpassing an industry benchmark of 20 leaks per 100 miles per year.  “We have a lot of pipe. About half of it is old. And it’s leaking,” says district spokesperson Andrea Pook. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  EBMUD experiments with pipe replacement

San Bernardino water agencies work together to improve groundwater basin: One year after Gov. Brown ordered Inland Empire water agencies to impose mandatory cutbacks of 24 to 36 percent, the state has changed its approach and is is allowing suppliers to set their own water conservation targets.  The documentation that local agencies have to submit to the State Water Resources Control Board by June 22 must prove that their conservation approach will ensures they have enough water to meet customers’ needs for the next three years, assuming severe drought conditions like those of 2013 to 2015. ... ” Read more from the Highland Community News here:  San Bernardino water agencies work together to improve groundwater basin

Indian Wells Valley: Groundwater sustainability joint powers agreement finalized:  “The Indian Wells Valley is one step closer to establishment of a state-mandated groundwater authority district. On Friday, Groundwater Sustainablity Agency eligible group members said they would recommend their respective boards approve a Joint Powers Agreement to create the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority. Representatives from Kern and Inyo Counties as well as City of Ridgecrest, Indian Wells Valley Water District stated their support for the JPA at the meeting of eligible groups, while San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood submitted a letter of support. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Groundwater sustainability joint powers agreement finalized

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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