BLOG ROUND-UP: How reducing river flows harms SF Bay, Why instream flows should be law, Ag losses, Salmon wheel of misfortune, The beach that ate Silicon Valley; New plans for old dams?; and more …

blog-round-up-previous-editions “Windswept” by Alistair Nicol

New study reveals how reducing river flows harms San Francisco Bay and coastal waters:  “One  of the most difficult ideas to get state and federal officials to acknowledge is that fish and marine life in our bay and ocean waters need fresh water flows to thrive — and that diverting massive of quantities of water to corporate agribusiness has caused major ecosystem collapses on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River and San Francisco Bay.  A major new study by the Bay Institute, San Francisco Bay: The Freshwater – Starved Estuary, documents how “the ecological health of San Francisco Bay and the nearby ocean is at high risk because large-scale water diversion in the Bay’s watershed severely limits the amount of fresh water that reaches the Bay and alters the timing of that flow.”  ... ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here:  New study reveals how reducing river flows harms San Francisco Bay and coastal waters

Tunnels an ‘insurance policy’, economist says:  Alex Breitler writes, “Twin tunnels economist David Sunding, a consultant for the state, ventured into hostile territory (well, San Diego) on Thursday where he pitched the project as a prudent investment.  I say “hostile territory” because the San Diego County Water Authority and its wholesale provider, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, don’t get along. The Met supports the tunnels in principle, while the folks in San Diego are openly skeptical at best. … ”  Continue reading at Alex Breitler’s blog here:  Tunnels an ‘insurance policy’, economist says

Why instream flows should be law, not voluntary agreements:  On the Public Record writes, “Instream flows for Californian rivers should be State Water Resources Control Board decisions with the force of law rather than voluntary agreements for several reasons.  For this post, let’s posit that voluntary agreements would work as well to bring back salmon.  Even were that true, I list below several reasons the State Water Resources Control Board should still continue with their Draft Flow Objectives process and set instream flows as State law.  My top reasons:  1.  To (eventually) reduce conflict by reducing uncertainty.  As it stands, our cobbled together water rights system contains enough unresolved questions that most parties can put together a plausible argument for continuing to fight. … ”  Read more from On the Public Record here:  Why instream flows should be law, not voluntary agreements  See also: Side thoughts on why instream flow requirements should be law, not voluntary agreements.

California agriculture business losses equivalent to EBay being wiped out, and it could get worse:  Aubrey Bettencourt writes, “What if I told you California’s economy lost $9.6 billion in revenue last year? What if I told you the governor and the legislature didn’t care and didn’t think you would mind?  That’s exactly what happened.  The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced in October, “In 2015 California’s farms and ranches received approximately $47 billion for their output. This represents a decrease of nearly 17 percent compared to 2014.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said prior-year comparable receipts were $56.6 billion. That’s a revenue loss of $9.6 billion in a single year. ... ”  Read more from Fox and Hounds here:  California agriculture business losses equivalent to EBay being wiped out, and it could get worse

The horror of a salmon’s wheel of misfortune: It’s tough being a California salmon. There are many manmade and natural perils and predators, including humans, which want to eat you. Their life is like a horror movie! The story above is optimistic. The real world is far scarier, with each salmon egg having a 1 in 1,000 chance of returning to spawn. Numerous additional dangers, beyond those above, affect salmon at every life stage.  Salmon are particularly vulnerable during the fry/parr life stage due to their small size, an abundance of predators, and lack of food. The Nigiri Project study is quantifying the effects of floodplain habitat on salmon growth, to increase the likelihood that salmon will survive past the vulnerable fry/parr life stage. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  The horror of a salmon’s wheel of misfortune

When the rivers ran black with salmon:  The FishBio blog writes, “Talk to enough anglers in California, and you may hear at least one version of a story passed down for generations: how the rivers once ran black with salmon, and you could walk across their backs from shore to shore. Is this just a good fish story, or did this scale of abundance actually once exist, and if so, what happened? Yoshiyama et al. (1998) provides a compelling historical perspective on our state’s salmon populations. Prior to the arrival of California settlers in the mid 1800s and the subsequent transformation of the state’s rivers, Native American tribes relied on the salmon runs as a major food source. Early estimates of Chinook salmon populations for all runs combined were based on estimates of Native American harvest, and suggest that salmon runs exceeded 1 to 2 million wild adult Chinook salmon each year (Yoshiyama et al. 1998). Contrast this with a population of 171,175 adults recorded in 2015 that was largely composed of salmon from hatcheries. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  When the rivers ran black with salmon

The steadily dying Sierra Nevada:  Richard Frank writes, “Like over 600 other environmental lawyers, professors, law students and regulators, I attended the 25th annual Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite last weekend.  As always, the Conference–sponsored by the California State Bar’s Environmental Law Section–was a big success, filled with inspirational speakers and thought-provoking panels.  But the major topic of conversation–during the Conference proceedings, in hallway conversations and on outdoor hikes in Yosemite National Park–was not about the speakers or the Conference.  Rather, it focused on the alarming state of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada in general.  The pine forests of California are dying at an alarming rate. … ” Read more from the Legal Planet here:  The steadily dying Sierra Nevada

The beach that ate Silicon Valley:  Jennifer LaForce writes, “Silicon Valley, California. You can admire; you can hate it. Most of the world’s leading edge technology either comes from here or is made usable here. Tucked into the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay, you will find an old quai in the tiny towns of Alviso and Milpitas [now best seen at a local park]. Here the bay is shallow: 85 percent of the water is less than 30 feet deep. Circulation depends on strong tidal action, river inflow, winds and storms. From a wildlife perspective, the salt marshes are highly productive and very valuable. When the tide is high, many fish species forage for food along the shore. Once the tide goes out, water birds feast on those unfortunate enough to get stuck. … ”  Read more from the Life plus 2 meters blog:  The beach that ate Silicon Valley

Is Los Angeles finally going sustainable?  David Zetland writes, “In this editorial (via BK), the Los Angeles Times “gives up” Southern California’s claim on Northern California’s environmental water flows … I know that the LATimes was a booster of the Los Angeles Aqueduct (entered service in 1913) and probably was of aqueducts from the Colorado River (1941) and for the State Water Project (1972), but the LATimes is no longer “defending” water imports from Northern California. It wasn’t so long ago that I was making fun of LA’s useless policies (this 2011 editorial doesn’t exactly apologize for Los Angeles’ use of water), but the renounced claim on Mono Lake (and semi helpful “partially restore Owens Valley”) makes me think that Los Angeles has finally understood it needs to get along with its own, local water supplies.… ”  Read more from Aguanomics here:  Is Los Angeles finally going sustainable?

Water scarcity and climate change:  Peter Gleick writes, “The reality of climate change, driven by the fossil-fuel industrialization of the planet, is upon us. Scientists have known for decades of this risk and have, with increasing urgency, tried to alert the public and policy makers about the threat and the opportunities to reduce that threat, to little avail. And now, we must live with unavoidable consequences, even as we continue to work to reduce the emissions of climate-changing gases.  Among those unavoidable consequences are widespread impacts on freshwater – perhaps the most important resource for human and ecological well being, economic productivity, and global security. ... ”  Read more from Before the Flood here:  Water scarcity and climate change

Do native communities’ water rights extend to groundwater? John Fleck writes, “In the 1908 case, Winters v. United States, the court ruled Indian tribes are entitled to sufficient water supplies for their reservations. But the Supreme Court has never specified whether those so-called “Winters rights” apply to groundwater in addition to surface water.Ian James writes about a fascinating case now making its way through the California courts: … ”  Read more from the Inkstain Blog here:  Do native communities’ water rights extend to groundwater?

The unexpected history of Las Vegas and Hoover Dam:  John Fleck writes, “Folks in Nevada today are celebrating the 80th anniversary of Hoover Dam’s sort-of-semi-official power production.  Hoover Dam is such a dominant feature on the history of the west in the 20th century that it’s fun to contemplate what people thought about it before it happened. One of my fascinating side trips when I was researching my book was spent reading contemporary accounts from the vantage point of a nascent Las Vegas, a desert city built around some springs that was one of a hundred minor rail stops in the West until the 1920s: ... ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  The unexpected history of Las Vegas and Hoover Dam

New plans for old dams?  Reed Benson writes, “Rivers across the West are managed by large dams, many of them built and operated by federal agencies.  Most of those dams were built in the middle third of the 20th Century, during a period when Congress seemingly believed that the answer to nearly any water problem was a new dam.  By the time the “big dam era” came to an end around 1980, the government had built well over a thousand dams nationally.  Congress authorized each dam to serve particular purposes:  water supply (especially for irrigation) was the primary purpose of most Bureau of Reclamation dams, whereas flood control was the main mission of most Corps of Engineers dams.  Both agencies would eventually build many “multi-purpose” facilities, serving purposes such as hydropower generation, reservoir recreation, and downstream flow regulation. … ”  Read more from Western River Law here:  New plans for old dams?Daily emails

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About the Blog Round-up: The Blog Round-up is a weekly journey through the wild and varied tapestry of blog commentary, incorporating the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes just plain bizarre viewpoints existing on the internet. Viewpoints expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily my own; inclusion of items here does not imply my endorsement of their positions. Items are chosen to express a wide range of viewpoints, and are added at the editor’s discretion. While posts with obvious factual errors are excluded, please note that no attempt is made on my part to verify or fact check the information bloggers present, so caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

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