Daily Digest, weekend edition: A battle is brewing over whether cutting down trees will increase water supply; The zone of entrainment: can infrastructure be used to side-step environmental concerns?; When water is more valuable than crops; and more …

Sutter Slough

In California water news this weekend, Logging for water: A battle is brewing over whether cutting down trees will increase California’s water supply; The Zone of Entrainment: We know that environmental concerns have been used to block infrastructure projects. But can infrastructure be used to side-step environmental concerns?; When water is more valuable than crops, farms can’t compete with thirsty cities; The long arm of the drought; California Fish and Game Commission to weigh in on spotted owl, striped bass; California faulted for ignoring water during oil drilling frenzy; 7 cities transforming their rivers from blights to beauties; U. S. Coast at risk of hidden contamination; In Olympics opening ceremony, Brazil goes big on climate change; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Logging for water: A battle is brewing over whether cutting down trees will increase California’s water supply:  “The day after an unseasonal June rain swelled the streams of the northern Sierra Nevada, Marily Woodhouse steered her 2003 Dodge Dakota through 65 miles of winding mountain roads near Mount Lassen. Woodhouse first traversed the area on horseback shortly after moving here 25 years ago. Back then, the land was lush with life, and its towering conifer forests furnished refreshingly cool air on days that were blistering hot beyond the canopy’s shade.  Now, acre after acre of land of the Battle Creek Watershed is parched as far as the eye can see.  … ”  Read more from The Monthly here:  Logging for water: A battle is brewing over whether cutting down trees will increase California’s water supply

The Zone of Entrainment: We know that environmental concerns have been used to block infrastructure projects. But can infrastructure be used to side-step environmental concerns?In March 2016, federal wildlife officials faced a barrage of criticism from California politicians concerning the regulation of the state’s water system. Senator Dianne Feinstein and a group of Republican congressmen from the Central Valley each sent public letters to President Obama demanding that he order the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to relax its restrictions on water system operators in the San Francisco Bay-Delta.  The letters noted that recent storms in Northern California had markedly increased the flow of water from the Sacramento River into the delta, but that endangered species regulations sharply limited the amount of this water that could be shipped south. After four years of severe drought, Central and Southern California water contractors were livid that they would not be able to use this winter’s relative bounty of water to replenish their drained aquifers and reservoirs. … ”  Read more from LIMN here:  The Zone of Entrainment

When water is more valuable than crops, farms can’t compete with thirsty cities:  “Few things are more valuable to a farmer in the arid West than irrigation water. Without it, the land turns back into its natural state: dry, dusty plains. If a fast-growing city is your neighbor, then your water holds even more value.  Farm families in Western states like California and Colorado are increasingly under pressure to sell their water. It’s been coined “buy and dry,” as water is diverted from farm fields and instead used to fill pipes in condos and subdivisions.  Buy and dry deals are usually cut behind closed doors, in quiet, unassuming meetings. A city approaches a farmer, or a farmer approaches a city, and strikes a deal. But a recent public auction in Loveland, Colorado threw the doors wide open, bringing myriad bidders and interests into one room to duke it out. It gives a glimpse of the unique stresses and opportunities farmers face in parched portions of the West. … ”  Read more from NPR here:  When water is more valuable than crops, farms can’t compete with thirsty cities

The long arm of the drought: This past winter, most water agencies across California were counting on the strong El Niño to produce surplus water, helping to increase groundwater and make up for what’s been pumped out due to the severe drought.  Unfortunately, precipitation during the winter of 2015-16 was barely above the long-term average in the state, despite stormy weather in the northern part of California.    The drought was somewhat alleviated in Northern California, thanks to these rains. However, new evidence suggests that the groundwater level in California’s Central Valley will continue to decline this year. We examined about 55 years of data from nearly 500 wells, and also used estimated water storage from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  The long arm of the drought

California Fish and Game Commission to weigh in on spotted owl, striped bass: Should the northern spotted owl – whose federal conservation status in the 1990s hit the state’s timber industry – receive even more protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act?  And if anglers are allowed to take more non-native bass from in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, will more endangered fish survive?  The California Fish and Game Commission will consider those two questions later this month. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California Fish and Game Commission to weigh in on spotted owl, striped bass

California faulted for ignoring water during oil drilling frenzy: An environmental group says California regulators are too lax in protecting the state’s precious groundwater amid an historic drought and shouldn’t allow new oil and gas wells in San Luis Obispo County.  The Center for Biological Diversity sued two California departments in charge of regulating the oil and gas industry on Wednesday, saying the proposed exemption to allow Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas to drill new wells in San Luis Obispo County was done without proper environmental analysis. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  California faulted for ignoring water during oil drilling frenzy

7 cities transforming their rivers from blights to beauties: Los Angeles wants to rethink its river. Late last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Gruen Associates, Mia Lehrer + Associates, and Oyler Wu would be designing the last twelve miles of the Los Angeles River Valley Bikeway and Greenway. The scheme, encompassing a new bike, trail, and park network from Canoga Park, in the San Fernando Valley to Elysian Valley just outside Downtown, is the latest of several initiatives set to transform the former flood control channel into an actual river. The city, county, and federal government are reshaping the river and restoring ecosystems; several parks, trails, and amenities have already popped up; and development is following quickly behind. And LA isn’t the only metropolis looking to reclaim its once-mocked waterway. Cities around the world are realizing that water can be a cultural and recreational asset, not something to hide or pillage, and it seems no waterway will be wasted for long. … ”  Read more from Wired Magazine here:  7 cities transforming their rivers from blights to beauties

U. S. Coast at risk of hidden contamination: There’s a hidden underground battle going on between fresh water and seawater in the U.S., and for the first time scientists have pinpointed where each side is “winning.”  A new study in the journal Science found that one-fifth of the coastal United States is at risk of contamination between fresh and salt water.  Though huge quantities of the two types of water mix all the time as streams and rivers flow into the ocean, it’s the below-ground mixing that can be especially troublesome.  “It’s a two-way street of vulnerability,” said Ohio State University hydrogeologist Audrey Sawyer, lead author of the study. … ”  Read more from USA Today here:  U. S. Coast at risk of hidden contamination

In Olympics opening ceremony, Brazil goes big on climate change:  “Amid the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday, in between the fireworks and musical acts, the costumed performers and the camera shots of Gisele Bundchen dancing giddily alongside her fellow Brazilians in the crowd, came a more somber message.  In primetime, with the world watching, Brazil showed a video focused on the problem of global warming and climate change. The video, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Judi Dench, included maps and graphics showing how rapidly the earth’s temperature has spiked over time, how drastically the Antarctic ice sheet has wilted in recent decades and how steadily seas are rising around the globe. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  In Olympics opening ceremony, Brazil goes big on climate change

In commentary this weekend …

Why have we forsaken Kennedy’s vision for feeding the world? asks John Michelena:  He writes, “San Luis Reservoir is nine miles long and, when it’s full, can hold 660 billion gallons of water – or roughly enough to cover every inch of Stanislaus County 2 1/2 feet deep.  The problem is, San Luis Reservoir isn’t full. Not even close.  When ground was broken on Aug. 18, 1962 for the B.F. Sisk Dam that would create the reservoir, President John F. Kennedy came to make a speech. Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, Jerry’s father and the father of California’s State Water Project, was there, too. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Why have we forsaken Kennedy’s vision for feeding the world?

Legacy of ‘Cadillac Desert’ highlights severity of West’s water crisis, says Erik Skindrud:  He writes, “Around 1925, Los Angeles water baron William Mulholland badgered Yosemite National Park Superintendent Horace M. Albright with a proposal to dam Yosemite Valley. While the project would obliterate a natural marvel, Mulholland offered to mitigate the loss with a yearlong photo documentary project.  And then, as Albright related the story to Marc Reisner, Mulholland saw the dam and its waters rising, staunching “the goddamn waste” represented by a free-flowing Merced River. Reisner collected this anecdote while researching “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water” – which marks its 30th anniversary this summer. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Legacy of ‘Cadillac Desert’ highlights severity of West’s water crisis

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Toxic algae alert issued for the Russian River:  “Sonoma County public health officials are urging caution while swimming in or being near the Russian River after tests this week revealed the presence of a harmful toxin produced by blue-green algae near four public beaches.  Officials are not advising people to avoid swimming in the river — at least, not yet. But they are asking people to take precautions, especially with children and pets. Both are more susceptible to being harmed by the toxin. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Toxic algae alert issued for the Russian River

Chico:  Kids learn history of water at Patrick Ranch:  “Safe and somewhat sane water bottle rockets flew through the air Saturday at the Patrick Ranch Museum along the Midway.  Boys will be boys, and in this case the boys were in their retirement years. Jim Dawes and Bob Guzman are often the hands-on guys at the ranch, and Saturday was “water day.”  Children were invited to take part in special craft activities, based on the water theme. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Kids learn history of water at Patrick Ranch

Sacramento: Water district managers get pay hikes as rates increase, revenue drops:Independent water districts in the Sacramento area have increased pay for general managers by 14 percent over the last five years – a period when most raised customer rates and limited their use of water during the drought.  General managers at eight independent water districts in the area receive an average base salary of $168,000 annually, according to salary information obtained through the California Public Records Act. The Sacramento Bee surveyed public districts that only provide water and are not part of larger government entities, such as Sacramento County or the city of Sacramento. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Water district managers get pay hikes as rates increase, revenue drops

Avenal boxer Jose Rodriguez donates to effort for new water storage:  “Champion boxer Jose Ramirez donated $3,300 on Friday to the effort to develop new surface water storage facilities in California.  Ramirez, a native of Avenal, said the money will be used to help defray the cost of his hometown’s membership in the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority.  The authority, which includes representatives of area cities, counties and water agencies, is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to coordinate and complete the feasibility study for the Temperance Flat Dam and reservoir project. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Avenal boxer Jose Rodriguez donates to effort for new water storage

 

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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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