DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: After years of drama, farmers win big in California water bill; Battle lines in California water wars are redrawn in the Trump era; How California plans to make conservation a way of life; and more …

In California water news this weekend, After years of drama, farmers win big in California water bill; Boxer ends career with a filibuster over surprise rider in water bill; Congress approves bill on California drought, Flint water; The big water bill and what you need to know about it; Battle lines in California water wars are redrawn in the Trump era; How California plans to make conservation a way of life; Redding: Local and state agencies hope new project replenishes dwindling salmon population; Underwater photographer captures clarity of Lake Tahoe; PG&E warns of possible dam spilling in Nevada County; Sacramento:  $130 million bond issuance to go toward water meters; and more …

In the news this weekend …

After years of drama, farmers win big in California water bill:  “The California water bill now ready for the president’s signature dramatically shifts 25 years of federal policy and culminates a long and fractious campaign born in the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley.  A rough five years in the making, the $558 million bill approved by the Senate early Saturday morning steers more water to farmers, eases dam construction, and funds desalination and recycling projects. Its rocky road to the White House also proved a costly master class in political persistence and adroit maneuvering.  “I believe these provisions are both necessary, and will help our state,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. … ”  Read more from McClatchy DC here:  After years of drama, farmers win big in California water bill

Boxer ends career with a filibuster over surprise rider in water bill:  “California Democrat Barbara Boxer capped her 24-year Senate career with a blistering filibuster Friday against what she called a “sneak attack” by her colleague Dianne Feinstein and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy against the Endangered Species Act that would devastate the state’s native salmon.  Displaying the verbal fire for which she’s famous, Boxer said Feinstein, D-Calif., and McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, were attempting the very thing that leads the public to despise Congress by dropping a “midnight rider” into a popular water infrastructure bill — that Boxer co-authored — to help a special interest, in this case agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley. ... ” Read more from SF Gate here:  Boxer ends career with a filibuster over surprise rider in water bill

Congress approves bill on California drought, Flint water: Congress has approved a wide-ranging bill to authorize water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water and $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California.  The Senate approved the $10 billion bill, 78-21, early Saturday, despite complaints from some Democrats that the drought measure was a giveaway to California farmers and businesses. The vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama.  The extended drought has devastated California’s abundant farmland and forced families to cut back on water consumption. In the past two years, 35,000 people have lost jobs, 1 million acres of farm land have gone fallow and 2,400 private water wells have gone dry, while more than 100 million trees on federal land have died. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here:  Congress approves bill on California drought, Flint water

The big water bill and what you need to know about it: By now you’ve heard that California’s two longtime U.S. senators are seriously at odds over legislation to address the drought.  Who’s right? The dust devil is in the details.  Here are six themes from Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill, and why they matter. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  The big water bill and what you need to know about it

Battle lines in California water wars are redrawn in the Trump era:  “Water wars in California have pitted a tiny fish against corporate agribusiness in a battle the river-dweller appears set to lose this week, an early sign of how environmental issues are expected to be downgraded in the Trump era. Republicans emboldened by Donald Trump’s victory advanced legislation in Congress this week to divert water from aquatic habitats to mega-farms producing oranges and almonds, a feat achieved, crucially, by splitting Democrats.  Barack Obama’s presidency was marked by an emphasis on environmental protection above all else, but Mr Trump’s economic populism is prompting a rethink of priorities among some Democrats desperate to win back middle America. … ”  Read more from the Financial Times here:  Battle lines in California water wars are redrawn in the Trump era

How California plans to make conservation a way of life:  “California is working to put into place a framework that will help the state deal with its current water shortage, as well as future droughts that are likely to be more severe with a changing climate. “Making Water Conservation a Way of Life,” a draft report released last week, is the collective effort of five state agencies to fulfill Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-37-16, signed in May 2016.  Following the 1976-77 drought in California, the state has taken a series of progressive steps to increase drought resilience, as well as conservation and efficiency measures. More recently, the state passed SB X7‐7 in 2009, which mandates that, by 2020, California achieve a 20 percent reduction in per capita urban water use. And in the spring of 2015, Gov. Brown took the unprecedented step of issuing a statewide mandate on water conservation for the more than 400 urban water suppliers to reduce water use by 25 percent. Between June 2015 and March 2016 water consumption fell 23.9 percent, nearly hitting the governor’s ambitious goal. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  How California plans to make conservation a way of life

In commentary this weekend …

As Boxer retires, Feinstein sells out the Delta, says the Mercury News: Selling out to Central Valley water interests, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is pushing legislation that would gut environmental protections and have devastating long-term effects on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystem.  California’s other senator, Barbara Boxer, in one of her final acts before retirement, is trying to round up votes to block the bill, which is expected to come to a vote within days. If she fails, President Barack Obama should veto the legislation. ... ”  Continue reading at the Mercury News here:  As Boxer retires, Feinstein sells out the Delta

Feinstein is right; this is a good water deal, says the Modesto Bee:  They write, “In California, water has a way of washing away political labels and even old friendships. Nothing demonstrates that better than the rift between California’s two illustrious senators – Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.  At the end of her 24-year tenure, Boxer was proud of the Water Resources and Development Act she authored. The first significant water-related legislation from Congress in a generation, it is dedicated to rebuilding America’s infrastructure while recognizing the necessity to protect the environment. It is a capstone achievement. But now Boxer is working hard for its defeat. … ”  Read more from the Modesto bee here:  Feinstein is right; this is a good water deal

A water deal that’s bad for the environment, says the LA Times:  They write, “There is much for Southern Californians to like in departing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s final bill  — to authorize federal water projects — including funding to restore the Los Angeles River and to pay for various water storage and groundwater efforts.  And then there are the provisions Boxer’s colleague and fellow California Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, negotiated with Republicans and their supporters in San Joaquin Valley’s agriculture industry to squeeze more usable water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for farmers in drought years. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  A water deal that’s bad for the environment

Is half a water fix better than none? asks the San Francisco Chronicle:  They write, “California’s drought — now in its sixth year — and climate change that promises to reduce water supplies in years to come have transformed the state’s water woes from an occasional crisis to an emergency. In response, as detailed in this week’s Insight, the state is stepping up efforts to replumb the state’s water system to balance what supply there is among cities, farms and the environment. The governor’s plan to build twin tunnels to take a “big gulp” of high-quality water from the north end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta when water flows are high and transport it south in little sips is nearing the end of the required environmental studies. Yet, despite support from Southern California and some Bay Area water and business groups, the twin tunnel project seems dead in the water. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Is half a water fix better than none?

San Francisco should help the state devise plan to share California’s water, says Felicia Marcus:  She writes, “San Francisco prides itself on many things — natural beauty, tolerance and open-mindedness, and the environmental values it espouses in its political and social discourse. It also prides itself on innovation and creativity, a spirit of disrupting the status quo, and the ability to rise to the occasion.  We are at a moment where these values will be put to the test, because the San Francisco Bay-delta ecosystem is in trouble and San Francisco is both part of the problem and essential to the solution. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco should help the state devise plan to share California’s water

Why the Bay Area should care about Central Valley water, says Mike Wade:  He writes, “The State Water Resources Control Board has released its most recent version of a Water Quality Control Plan for the San Joaquin River, and the public comment period has opened.  That may seem obscure, far away and not worth the attention of Bay Area residents, but if you like having water come out of your tap and using it to wash fresh vegetables to serve your family, it affects you. The final plan will have wide-ranging impacts on the availability and quality of your water, as well as our ability to provide locally grown food instead of having to import more and more from places that do not have the same exacting food safety standards as California. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Why the Bay Area should care about Central Valley water

Too little water for salmon in state board’s proposal, says Paul Johnson:  He writes, “I’ve been selling wild king salmon to some of the Bay Area’s most noted restaurants and home cooks for almost 40 years — when our local king (chinook) salmon are in season, my clients clamor for it. So I was happily surprised when, in mid-September, the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft water quality control plan it claimed would help restore wild salmon populations.  The draft plan proposed to protect some of the San Joaquin River’s flow during the winter and spring, when juvenile salmon are rearing in the river and migrating to the ocean. Speaking to the need for this change, the state water board’s chairperson, Felicia Marcus, acknowledged: “We’ve simply diverted too much water for fish to be able to survive.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Too little water for salmon in state board’s proposal

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Redding: Local and state agencies hope new project replenishes dwindling salmon population: Several local and state agencies are hoping a new project along the Sacramento River in Redding will help young, endangered species of salmon better survive in the wild.  The Bureau of Reclamation, the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, the California Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife collaborated to construct a favorable habitat where endangered juvenile salmon can successfully mature before heading down stream, thus increasing their odds of survival. … ”  Read more from Action News Now here:  Local and state agencies hope new project replenishes dwindling salmon population

Underwater photographer captures clarity of Lake Tahoe: Journalist and photographer Dylan Silver slips into a 9 mm-thick wetsuit, booties and gloves before diving into Lake Tahoe on a winter day, underwater camera in hand.  Below the surface it’s quiet — no boats churning up the water, decreasing the lake’s famous clarity, or other swimmers disturbing his solitude. The water temperature is around 40 degrees, after all, and there’s snow in the mountains.  “I’ve been swimming and snorkeling in Lake Tahoe since I was eight when my family lived in Gardnerville,” said Silver. “My mom would bring me up, and I would motor around on my little rubber raft, jump in and swim down into the depths.” … ”  Read more and view pictures at the Nevada Appeal here:  Underwater photographer captures clarity of Lake Tahoe

PG&E warns of possible dam spilling in Nevada County: Pacific Gas and Electric says the Lake Spaulding reservoir in Nevada County could fill and the dam could begin spilling as soon as Saturday.  If that happens, flows on the South Yuba River would be above the normal season flows for this time of year. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  PG&E warns of possible dam spilling in Nevada County

Sacramento:  $130 million bond issuance to go toward water meters: The Sacramento City Council has voted to approve the sale of $130 million in bonds to help pay for the city’s water-meter installation project.  “In the next four years, we are going to be spending about $260 million on water-related capital improvements. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  $130 million bond issuance to go toward water meters

For some, Morada water rate hike hurts more:  “Since losing her job six years ago, Katherine Bittner has lived a modest life in the Morada home she has owned for close to half a century, relying on Social Security checks to make ends meet.  But it’s getting harder. While Bittner’s income is fixed, everything around her has gotten more expensive. And that’s what makes a proposal to raise her water rate from $285 per year to $1,035 per year – a 263 percent increase – so difficult to accept.  “I’m not complaining – I’m better off than a lot of people,” said Bittner, 73. “But if these guys with the government … would stop gouging me, I’d be fine. Medical insurance goes up, car insurance, everything goes up, but your income doesn’t. After the first of the year, I’m going to look for a job.” … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  For some, Morada water rate hike hurts more

Paso Robles:  Parrish Family Vineyards begins restoring Adelaida Creek: Project will re-charge aquifer with rainfall that would otherwise overrun sewer drains.  While surveying his recently-purchased vineyard in the Adelaida AVA, Winemaker David Parrish noticed a faint, curving linear pattern at the bottom of a slope. So, Parrish called a local biologist to come out and take a look. The biologist, armed with topography maps, confirmed Parrish’s initial hunch. The pattern at the bottom of his vineyard, was, in fact, part of the Adelaida Creek, yet so unrecognizable that past surveyors and owners failed to record it. ... ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here:  Parrish Family Vineyards begins restoring Adelaida Creek

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves filing for GSA status:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board voted unanimously to file to become the Groundwater Sustainability Agency for the Indian Wells Valley Basin. The vote took place during the board’s public meeting at Ridgecrest City Hall on Thursday.  Members of the newly formed GSA will be the City of Ridgecrest, Indian Wells Valley Water District, Inyo County, Kern County, San Bernardino County, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, US Bureau of Land Management. China Lake and BLM will be non-voting members of the GSA. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves filing for GSA status

Two Malibu property owners fined $5.1 million for blocking access to public beach:  “For decades, some Malibu property owners have made it hard for the public to reach public beaches.  On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission fined two of those property owners more than $5.1 million for denying surfers, sand castle builders, kite flyers, sun bathers, yoga enthusiasts and other beachgoers access to the sand that is theirs by state law. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Two Malibu property owners fined $5.1 million for blocking access to public beach

Massive $450 million turf rebate program plagued by poor planning and oversight, audit finds:  “The Metropolitan Water District’s massive $450-million turf rebate program — which helped thousands of Southern Californians rip out their lawns in favor of drought-tolerant landscaping — was plagued by poor planning and oversight by the agency, a new audit found.  The rebate program was a key element of California’s drought response, and officials say it helped residents conserve water. But the audit found that the MWD did a “less than satisfactory” job administrating the program due to “inadequate planning, execution, and follow-up.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Massive $450 million turf rebate program plagued by poor planning and oversight, audit finds

Resilient Las Vegas? Las Vegas has often been viewed as an urbanist’s nightmare, a sprawling offense to nature. From a population of just 16,000 in 1940, it has grown to over 2 million people today, a more than hundred-fold growth in the driest major metropolitan area in the United States.  Fake waterfalls and lush foliage around the casinos of Las Vegas’s famed gambling strip mask a desert heart.  In the early 1990s, Las Vegas seemed headed for a crash, with some 50,000 new residents arriving each year and a water supply that appeared about to run out. But in the decades since, the Nevada metropolitan area has remade its water management institutions and reframed the community’s attitudes toward the scarce resource in a way that offers lessons for cities facing the challenges of resilience in the 21st century. ... ”  Read more from The Urbanist here:  Resilient Las Vegas?

And lastly …

Mapping three decades of global water change:  “Rivers meander. Lakes grow and shrink. Engineers build dams and farmers flood fields.  In the 30-year animation* above, Bangladesh’s Brahmaputra River sweeps unpredictably across the landscape. Much of the world’s water is in constant motion.  Scientists with the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, working with Google engineers, have used millions of satellite images to illustrate how rivers, lakes and other bodies of water have changed over three decades. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  Mapping three decades of global water change

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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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