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Daily Digest: Project aims to feed Delta smelt – ‘They’re starving to death’; Experts weigh in on California’s biggest water priorities; Donald Trump visits Tulare looking for cash and talking water; California is running out of time to save the Salton Sea; and more …

In California water news today, Project aims to feed Delta smelt – ‘They’re starving to death’; Experts weigh in on California’s biggest water priorities; Donald Trump visits Tulare looking for cash and talking water; California is running out of time to save the Salton Sea; Subterranean caves hold clues to past droughts; Cattlemen’s group urges ranchers to stay engaged on water regs; With water in short supply, farmers grow their feed indoors; Water guzzlers could face higher bills, exposure; Brown signs bill to fine water-wasting Californians; Like tens of millions of matchsticks, California’s dead trees stand ready to burn; and more …

In the news today …

Project aims to feed Delta smelt – ‘They’re starving to death’:The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem was once a very different place.  Before levees and dams, the rivers and streams that flowed through the Central Valley into the San Francisco Bay swelled and shrank with the seasons. Huge, shallow floodplains warmed by the sun mingled with icy mountain snowmelt to create a habitat rich with microscopic plankton, the base of the aquatic food chain.  Now, nearly all the waterways that feed the Delta are channelized for shipping, farming and flood control, none more so than the Sacramento River. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Project aims to feed Delta smelt – ‘They’re starving to death’

Experts weigh in on California’s biggest water priorities:  “Five years into a drought, California is facing essential decisions about its water future. It’s implementing new groundwater law, weighing the pros and cons of a large infrastructure project for water supply and beefing up its data collection.  But there’s more to do.  Water Deeply asked four experts who work in different arenas of California water issues what they think should be California’s biggest policy priority to address in the next year. Here’s what they had to say. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Experts weigh in on California’s biggest water priorities

Donald Trump visits Tulare looking for cash and talking water:Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump swept through the central San Joaquin Valley in a few hours Tuesday, scooping up a record amount of money at a Tulare fundraiser and briefly talking water with a largely agricultural crowd who paid between $2,700 and $25,000 per person to attend.  For all its speed, Trump’s visit left Rep. Devin Nunes impressed with the candidate’s grasp of the water issue’s importance to the Valley and its agriculturally based economy.  “It was good. It went well. I thought he did a great job,” Nunes said, reviewing an event that was closed to the public and press. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Donald Trump visits Tulare looking for cash and talking water

California is running out of time to save the Salton Sea:  “Located in Riverside and Imperial counties, about 150 miles (240km) southeast of Los Angeles in the desert, the Salton Sea is a 360-square-mile (930-square-km) lake, the largest by area in California. But that status is under threat, as the lake has been shrinking for years, exposing the dry lakebed and creating dust that has hurt the air quality for local residents, while taking away critical wetland habitat for thousands of birds.  Now conditions are expected to deteriorate at a rapid clip when it stops receiving Colorado River water as part of an earlier agreement. California made plans to compensate for the impacts with major mitigation measures, but aside from a couple of small projects that finally got funding approval this June, little progress has been made. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  California is running out of time to save the Salton Sea

Subterranean caves hold clues to past droughts: To better understand the past and future of California drought, some scientists are heading underground.  Jessica Oster, a geochemist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., wants to create a high-resolution profile of the western United States’ climate, including precipitation and temperature data, throughout the Holocene to better understand the region’s history of megadroughts—droughts that last decades to centuries.  “There is evidence of a period of megadroughts in the paleoclimatic record of the western U.S., but the atmospheric drivers that caused them are a puzzle,” Oster said. … ”  Read more from EOS here:  Subterranean caves hold clues to past droughts

Cattlemen’s group urges ranchers to stay engaged on water regs: Leaders of a statewide cattlemen’s group are urging ranchers to stay engaged as details about new water-diversion reporting requirements emerge in the next few weeks.  Kirk Wilbur, the California Cattlemen’s Association’s director of government affairs, said ranchers seeking extensions of time or alternative methods of complying should make their requests quickly when the forms become available, probably by the middle of September.  He noted the law “puts the onus on you” to describe “how you’re going to comply” and warned that since requests for alternative compliance will be public records, environmental groups will be looking at them. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Cattlemen’s group urges ranchers to stay engaged on water regs

With water in short supply, farmers grow their feed indoors:  “The extended drought in California has farmers looking for ways to use less water. Among them: growing feed indoors using hydroponics. The new diet is making some Central Valley sheep very happy.  On Golden Valley Farm an hour north of Fresno, Mario Daccarett’s employees milk 500 sheep every day, in rounds of 12. This creamy milk eventually is turned into cheese and sold at places like Whole Foods.  “They tell me that our Golden Ewe cheese is the best for grilled cheese sandwich ever,” Daccarett says. (I bought some and it was really tasty.) … ”  Read more from NPR here:  With water in short supply, farmers grow their feed indoors

Water guzzlers could face higher bills, exposure:  “California’s top water guzzlers — the people who use tens of thousands of gallons more than their neighbors to keep lawns bright green during the depths of serious droughts — could soon be hit with higher water bills, and their names made public, if the drought continues.  A new law signed late Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown requires retail urban water suppliers, including cities, water districts and private water companies with more than 3,000 customers to put in place rules that define “excessive water use” and impose them during drought emergencies.  The water agencies have two choices. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Water guzzlers could face higher bills, exposure

Brown signs bill to fine water-wasting Californians: California water suppliers can begin warning and fining residential users for excessive water use during drought emergencies under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.  California’s more than 400 urban water suppliers will be tasked with creating a scheme that identifies water-guzzling water homeowners drought emergencies as well as implementing a system to hand out warnings and potential fines.  Senate Bill 814 takes effect Jan. 1 and gives suppliers the authority to create new rate structures for high-volume water offenders. The law also authorizes fines of $500 per each 748 gallons used above the district’s maximum threshold. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Brown signs bill to fine water-wasting Californians

Like tens of millions of matchsticks, California’s dead trees stand ready to burn: At the height of California’s fierce wildfire season, the Sierra Nevada and North Coast forests are choked with tens of millions of dead and dying trees, from gnarly oaks to elegant pines that are turning leafy chapels into tinderboxes of highly combustible debris.  Ground crews wielding chain saws, axes and wood chippers are braving the intense summer heat in the Sierra’s lower elevations, where most of the pine trees have died. The devastation and danger are greatest in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, where the estimated number of dead trees since 2010 is a staggering 66 million. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  Like tens of millions of matchsticks, California’s dead trees stand ready to burn

In regional news and commentary today …

UC test projects help Scott Valley rancher save water:  “Farming in the Scott Valley on the northern edge of California, Jim Morris understands the importance of saving water.  Morris, a cattle, sheep and hay producer whose farm, now the Bryan-Morris Ranch, has been in his wife’s family since 1856, is working with University of California researchers on a couple of water-conservation projects.  In one, he hangs micro-sprinklers from a section of his standard center-pivot irrigation system and compares how his alfalfa field responds to the two types of watering. So far, the section with the micro-sprinklers is showing better yields while wasting less water, he said. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  UC test projects help Scott Valley rancher save water

Humboldt County spared from kelp decline: Bull kelp forests on Northern California’s coastline are disappearing at an alarming rate, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with many marine animals now showing signs of starvation as a result.  The Department of Fish and Wildlife states bull kelp forests have declined “dramatically” since 2014 and are now 93 percent smaller than years past due to a combination of abnormally warm waters and a population explosion of its herbivorous predators.  However, Humboldt County’s coastline seems to have been relatively spared from these large losses compared with its southern neighbors in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, mainly because there is less kelp. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Humboldt County spared from kelp decline

$825,000 contract awarded for work on Marysville ring levee: An $824,764 contract for the next phase of improvements for the ring levee surrounding Marysville was awarded last week to Patterson Taber General Engineering Inc., the Army Corps of Engineers said.  Expected to begin later this year, the next phase is within the Union Pacific Railroad track diamond at Binney Junction on the north side of Marysville and involves construction of about 500 feet of stability berm.  Two previous construction phases strengthened portions of the ring levee on the northeastern side of the city. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here: $825,000 contract awarded for work on Marysville ring levee

Petaluma: New water regulations to impact well users:  “Petaluma resident Ray Peterson put the stakes in stark terms last week during a meeting over new regulations for well users in the Petaluma Valley basin.  “I don’t know if you’ve lived where that’s the only thing you’ve got, but it’s quite different,” said Peterson, whose Peterson’s Farm off Gossage Avenue relies on well water. “You can’t just turn on the tap.”  With the deadline less than a year away, water and land use authorities are soliciting another round of public feedback before finalizing the governance structure that will implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in the Petaluma Valley, part of a statewide mandate to manage underground water supplies across California. … ”  Read more from the Argus Courier here:  New water regulations to impact well users

Annual Lake Tahoe summit puts spotlight on water quality:  “President Barack Obama will shine a national spotlight on environmental issues facing Lake Tahoe at the 20th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit.  The 20th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit brings together federal, state and local officials to highlight work done to protect and preserve the lake.  Jesse Patterson with the League to Save Lake Tahoe is about to launch his boat at the Tahoe Keys Marina in South Lake Tahoe. We’re going to get an in-depth look at some of the lake’s biggest environmental problems. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Annual Lake Tahoe summit puts spotlight on water quality

Folsom Lake’s low water reveals a piece of gold mining history:  “The receding water level at Folsom Lake has revealed a glimpse once again of what once was but is no more.  This past weekend, the water dropped low enough at Folsom Lake that a Placer County sheriff’s deputy noticed the Old Salmon Falls Bridge, which is typically submerged. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here:  Folsom Lake’s low water reveals a piece of gold mining history

Paradise Cut widening:  “Paradise Cut — a normally dry area that serves to takes pressure off the San Joaquin River when it nears flood stage — is targeted for widening.
River Island has applied for the permits to increase the area of Paradise Cut by a third going from 600 to 800 acres.   Cambay Group was told it would take 18 months to get federal and state approval when they applied for the permits to do the work. That was in 2002. Now 14 years later officials are hopeful that River Islands’ permits will be approved by 2018.  “There were only two comments from two agencies,” noted River islands Project Manager Susan Dell’Osso. “The government agencies we have been dealing with have been very workable. The big problem is how regulations have changed.” … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Paradise Cut widening

Madera County:  ‘Welcome to ground zero’; Foresters celebrate 100 years in the center of Mountain Area tree mortality: As the nation celebrated the Centennial of the National Park Service last week, the California Society of American Foresters was celebrating its own 100-year anniversary, but with a more somber tone.  Instead of outdoor concerts or joyous historical presentations, the foresters spent two days surrounded by dead trees in Eastern Madera County.  “Welcome to ground zero,” Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler told the crowd of around 90 as he waved towards all the dead trees around Bass Lake’s Wishon Point Campground. “This is it. It’s absolutely devastating to all of us, and you can see for yourself how huge of a problem it is.” ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Sun here:  ‘Welcome to ground zero’; Foresters celebrate 100 years in the center of Mountain Area tree mortality

The Carlsbad desalination plant is finished but the debate over it isn’t:  “The country’s largest desalination plant is in the ground at Carlsbad and its water is in our pipes, but the debate over whether it was a wise or economical investment continues.  The ability to turn salty ocean water into drinking water creates a dependable water supply for 3 million people in San Diego County. Even without a drought continuing across California, the ability to constantly sip from the ocean seems like an obvious plus.  There are downsides, though ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  The Carlsbad desalination plant is finished but the debate over it isn’t

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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