DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: California’s coastal ecosystem in the grip of a huge disruption; Are October rains making a difference?; These 10 reservoirs have shrunk dramatically since 2001; and more …

San Joaquin River, South Delta

In California water news this weekend, California’s coastal ecosystem — and the fisheries that depend on it — are in the grip of a huge disruption; Are October rains making a difference?; Sacramento eyes third wettest October on record, snow to fall on the Sierra; California Sudden Oak Death reaches catastrophic levels; Before and after: These 10 reservoirs have shrunk dramatically since 2001; Farmer’s measure takes on Jerry Brown’s legacy; California officials team with White House for water data challenge; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Seafood’s new normal: California’s coastal ecosystem — and the fisheries that depend on it — are in the grip of a huge disruption:In the shallow waters off Elk, in Mendocino County, a crew from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife dived recently to survey the area’s urchin and abalone populations. Instead of slipping beneath a canopy of leafy bull kelp, which normally darkens the ocean floor like a forest, they found a barren landscape like something out of “The Lorax.”  A single large abalone scaled a bare kelp stalk, hunting a scrap to eat, while urchins clustered atop stark gray stone that is normally striped in colorful seaweed.  “When the urchins are starving and are desperate, they will the leave the reef as bare rock,” said Cynthia Catton, an environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Seafood’s new normal: California’s coastal ecosystem — and the fisheries that depend on it — are in the grip of a huge disruption

Are October rains making a difference?  “As California enters the sixth year of its historic drought, something unusual is happening: It’s raining.  And raining.  Rainfall is expected across much of the Bay Area again Sunday, with another storm coming Halloween night. Marin, Sonoma and other North Bay counties should get the biggest soaking.  Meteorologists stress that’s it’s only the very beginning of California’s rainy season, so there are no guarantees that a wet October will bring a wet November, December, January or February. So far, though, October has been surprisingly wet across the northern part of the state, raising the hopes of drought-weary Californians. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Are October rains making a difference?

Sacramento eyes third wettest October on record: Snow to fall on the Sierra:  “A wild weather day is headed to Sacramento and the Sierra on Sunday.  There’s a good chance of thunderstorms and hail in the Valley, with wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour. Up to half an inch of rain is in the forecast, adding to a monthly total that has made this the fourth-wettest October on record in Sacramento.  The rain over the next few days could push this month into the No. 3 spot for wettest Octobers on record. After receiving .79 inches of rain on Friday, downtown Sacramento now has recorded 3.73 inches of rain this month. The third-wettest October occurred way back in 1899, when the city saw 4.46 inches of rain. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento eyes third wettest October on record: Snow to fall on the Sierra

California Sudden Oak Death reaches catastrophic levels:  “Head into California’s Sierra foothills and you might think the colorful views are seasonal. But what may look like attractive fall foliage is actually evidence of an ugly reality.  “It’s not like the fall colors that you have on the east coast. These are trees that are dying, and trees that are dead,” explained Sheri Smith, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service.  Smith and her team are deep in the Stanislaus National Forest, on the trail of a killer no larger than a grain of rice. ... ”  Read more from KPIX Channel 5 here:  California Sudden Oak Death reaches catastrophic levels

Before and after: These 10 reservoirs have shrunk dramatically since 2001:  “During the past five years of drought, shocking photographs showing California’s dwindling reservoirs have circulated all over news sites and social media. Images of exposed lake beds with parched, cracked earth have become symbols of the Golden State’s water crisis.  Last winter brought some hope when a series of storms walloped the state and the Sierra Nevada, as reported previously in SFGATE. The El Niño wasn’t the “Godzilla” many experts predicted, but it did bring above-average rain fall to the state overall, building up the snow pack and dumping billions of gallons of water into the state’s network of over 1,300 reservoirs. In Northern California some even spilled over gloriously with water.  … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Before and after: These 10 reservoirs have shrunk dramatically since 2001

Farmer’s measure takes on Jerry Brown’s legacy:  “Wealthy farmer Dino Cortopassi has a lot in common with Gov. Jerry Brown.  Both are in their late 70s. Both are opinionated. Both are Democrats. And both have a lot riding on Proposition 53, which would force state leaders to get voters’ approval before undertaking massive state building projects needing $2 billion or more in revenue bonds.  Cortopassi, a 79-year-old Central Valley farmer and food processor, is pouring his money into passing the ballot measure, which could upend two legacy projects for Brown: $15.7 billion to build giant water tunnels to carry Northern California water southward, and $64 billion for a high-speed rail system. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Farmer’s measure takes on Jerry Brown’s legacy

California officials team with White House for water data challenge:  “California state agencies today announced they are teaming with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to launch the California Water Data Challenge, a competition to develop innovative, data-based tools to help California address its ongoing drought and build a reliable, sustainable water system for the future.  The California Water Data Challenge invites individuals and teams to develop apps, websites, data visualizations and other tools that leverage publicly available datasets to support creative solutions to California’s water challenges. The solutions should follow the principles outlined in the Brown Administration’s California Water Action Plan. The deadline for entries is Monday, Dec. 5. Awards will be announced on Friday, Dec. 9. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  California officials team with White House for water data challenge

In commentary this weekend …

Unity needed for statewide solutions, says Mark Cowin:  He writes, “San Diego County’s reliance on imported water is among the highest in California. Despite previous and planned local investments in desalination and recycling, most of this region’s water will continue to come from distant watersheds for decades to come as far as any water planner today can see. In fact, by 2040 the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) estimates 80 percent of their supply will be imported even with water efficiency savings and increased local supplies. Nearly half of that water will come from Metropolitan Water District which gets its supply from the Colorado River and Sierra Nevada. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Unity needed for statewide solutions, says Mark Cowin

Forum: What will it take to make San Joaquin River system healthy again?  Matt Weiser writes,In 1877, an early explorer of the Yosemite backcountry descended from the mountains and opted to take what was, then, an expedient route back to the Bay Area: He built a raft out of wood and floated home.  He launched his craft on the lower reaches of the Merced River and then entered the San Joaquin River, which carried him all the way through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The man was John Muir. He was 39 years old.  “The amount of water in the river – a dry year – is about a current ten feet wide 2 feet deep flowing 3 miles per hour,” Muir wrote in his journal from the trip. ... ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here:  Forum: What will it take to make San Joaquin River system healthy again?

‘Twilight Zone’: The State Water Resources Control Board and saving fish, says Dennis Wyatt:  He writes, “The lunacy of California water regulations and how the Sacramento burecarcy functions in a Twilight Zone that would turn Rod Sterling’s hair white with fright can be found in the 3,500 page, $70 million report 10 years in the making that was issued by the State Water Control Board.  The report — supposedly an end all examination of how to increase the combined steelhead count on the Stanislaus, Tuloumne, and Merced rivers by 1,000 a year — contains a solution for farmers and cities that will be victimized by substantially increasing unimpaired flows in the three rivers between February and June to 40 percent. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  ‘Twilight Zone’: The State Water Resources Control Board and saving fish

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Bibliofile: Photographs preserve the history of communities before Oroville Dam:  “The photograph shows Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown about to press a button that would “set off the first dynamite blast for the construction of Oroville Dam on October 21, 1961.” With him are students from the community of Las Plumas which would be covered by the waters of Lake Oroville. One of them, Robyn (Foster) Payne, later wrote that “it was the beginning of the end of a way of life for me.”  As memories dim of the small communities covered by the waters, local writers Larry R. Matthews (author of “The Building Of The Oroville Dam”) and Scott C. Roberts have published more than a hundred black and white photographs, many from residents of those towns. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Bibliofile: Photographs preserve the history of communities before Oroville Dam

Pinole Creek project frees steelhead to reach spawning grounds:  “Steelhead trout disappeared or dwindled from most Bay Area creeks over decades of humans straightening, cementing in and building structures in the channels to prevent floods.  The work spared the floods but spoiled the big ocean-going trout.  On Monday, a group of natural resource agencies unveiled a $1 million creek fish passage improvement on Pinole Creek that performs much like a fish ladder to get Central California Coast steelhead past a Caltrans culvert under Interstate 80 to reach spawning grounds. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Pinole Creek project frees steelhead to reach spawning grounds

Solano County defends arsenic response efforts: A Solano County employee relations official defended the county’s response to the arsenic discovery in well water at the Cordelia Road Complex, stating that workers have been given full testing results and expert review of the potential risks.  The county said by all accounts it is unlikely employees should have any ill-effects from their use of the water.  David Pak, with the county Human Resources Department, refuted claims made by a union official that the county has not been fully transparent and responsive to the workers’ needs. He said the county has provided all information it has to the employees, and has done so in a timely manner. … ”  Read more from the Fairfield Daily Republic here:  Solano County defends arsenic response efforts

What’s wrong with northeast Fresno water? Virginia Tech tests underway seek answers:A university professor in Virginia is conducting tests on pipe and water samples from Fresno in search of solutions to discoloration and lead contamination issues in tap water in northeast Fresno.  Two employees from the city’s water division are heading to Blacksburg, Va., to meet Monday with Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards, one of the nation’s leading experts into corrosion in municipal water systems. Edwards, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, is consulting on the city’s investigation into residents’ complaints about red- and brown-tinged water coming from their faucets in the area served by Fresno’s Northeast Surface Water Treatment Plant. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  What’s wrong with northeast Fresno water? Virginia Tech tests underway seek answers

Project could add surface water in Terra Bella:A project which could deliver more surface water for irrigation along the southern end of the Friant-Kern Canal has been given approval by the governor.  Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) announced recently Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 935 which allows for increased hydropower investments on the Friant-Kern Canal. The project proposed for funding in AB 935 ranked fourth of 21 projects identified as ready-to-implement. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Project could add surface water in Terra Bella

Santa Barbara County vote could dry up possible drought buffer: Central Coast water officials are anxiously awaiting the next Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting to learn if they can pursue more than 4 billion gallons of water that technically already belongs to county water purveyors.  On Tuesday, the supervisors will vote on whether to support the Central Coast Water Authority’s effort to acquire more than 13,000 acre-feet of suspended Table A state water. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons of water.  “It’s a little bit frustrating,” Central Coast Water Authority Chairman and Santa Maria City Councilman Jack Boysen told his fellow council members describing the county’s decision to table a vote to endorse the effort earlier this month. … ”  Read more from the Lompoc Record here:  Santa Barbara County vote could dry up possible drought buffer

San Diego: Some North County residents pay less for water than its worth: It’s a good deal if you can get it: Some North County water customers are paying less for their water than it’s worth.  The Vallecitos Water District – which provides water to 97,000 people in and around San Marcos – has kept rates so low it’s now selling water at a loss.  The shenanigans within the small district offer a window into the lengths some California water officials will go to avoid raising rates. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  Some North County residents pay less for water than its worth

News from the Colorado River …

The history of Colorado River carbon, as told by dead clams:  “The terminus the Colorado River, its delta, once supported a great expanse of grassland, marshes and cottonwood stands. Today, the land is mostly dry with few signs of life. It’s been dammed to death.  What happens to the carbon stored and transported by a river and its delta as it becomes choked off? A team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Cornell University have been following a trail of dead clams in search of clues.  The Colorado River delta was once rich in clams. Today, their shells litter the dry, brittle ground. They fan out across the landscape like sand dunes. The alluvial clam dunes are called cheniers. … ”  Read more from UPI here:  The history of Colorado River carbon, as told by dead clams

Colorado River Indian Tribes sign water deal to alleviate drought:  “A deal between a coalition of tribes and the Lower Colorado Region of the Bureau of Reclamation aims to address concerns over drought and water levels in the nation’s largest reservoir. The deal is also an economic boost for the tribes.  The Colorado River Indian Tribes, also known as CRIT, have approved an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to fallow land on its reservation and make the conserved water available for storage in Lake Mead.  The lake is the nation’s largest reservoir and water levels are at their lowest in decades. … ”  Read more from KAWC here:  Colorado River Indian Tribes sign water deal to alleviate drought

Environmentalists dismayed by Glen Canyon Dam management plan:  “Environmental groups are criticizing the final draft of a plan released by the Bureau of Reclamation Friday to manage the operations of Glen Canyon Dam for the next 20 years.  The plan calls for a more even monthly water release pattern from the dam and a continuation of the high-flow releases aimed at washing sand from tributaries into the mainstem of the Colorado River to build up sandbars.  It also allows for the mechanical removal of trout near the Little Colorado River confluence and experimentation with various water release patterns aimed at limiting juvenile trout populations, improving aquatic insect production and creating warmer waters downstream to benefit native chub. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Sun here:  Environmentalists dismayed by Glen Canyon Dam management plan

Precipitation watch …

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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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