DAILY DIGEST: Fact check: Feinstein way off the mark on number of CA farmers going bankrupt; Six experts to watch on the economics of CA water; Ninth circuit court favors feds in CA water fight; and more …

In California water news today, Fact check: Feinstein way off the mark when she said ‘tens of thousands’ of California farmers going bankrupt; The drought-busting bill Congress just passed might screw the Endangered Species Act; Warm winter storms melting Sierra snowpack; Six experts to watch on the economics of California water; Ninth circuit court favors feds in California water fight; Study:  California should leave national flood insurance program; EPA fracking report offers few answers on drinking water; U. S. dam safety improves but faces evolving risks; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission meets at 9:30am:  The Water Storage Investment Program is the focus of the meeting, with the Commission scheduled to decide to adopt the draft regulations, as well as a look at activities of the program for 2017 and 2018.  Click here for the agenda and webcast link.

In the news today …

Fact check: Feinstein way off the mark when she said ‘tens of thousands’ of California farmers going bankrupt: “Urging her fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that would send more of California’s water to the arid farm fields of the San Joaquin Valley, Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave an impassioned speech Friday about the threat facing family farmers.  “These water supplies are not for big corporate agriculture, as some would have you think,” said Feinstein, a California Democrat. “This water is for the tens of thousands of small farms that have gone bankrupt, like a melon farmer who sat in my office with tears in his eyes and told me how he lost a farm that he had struggled to pay for and that had been part of his family for generations.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Fact check: Feinstein way off the mark when she said ‘tens of thousands’ of California farmers going bankrupt

The drought-busting bill Congress just passed might screw the Endangered Species Act: This summer, Donald Trump visited the Central Valley and promised voters he would prioritize agricultural development in California. In his speech, the president-elect blamed the environmental laws protecting a “certain three-inch fish“—the Delta smelt—for the prolonged drought. He promised, if elected, to place the needs of farmers over fish.  But it looks like his promise is coming ahead of schedule. On Saturday, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, a huge bill that protects safe drinking water, provides upgrades to infrastructure like ports, and provides $558 million dollars in drought relief for California. And most of that stuff is uncontroversial. … ”  Read more from WIRED Magazine here:  The drought-busting bill Congress just passed might screw the Endangered Species Act

Warm winter storms melting Sierra snowpack: Warm storms at high altitude are washing away snow in the Sierras and the runoff is filling up reservoirs throughout the northern part of California.  The heavy rains are also impacting the slopes.  “It’s slippery and hard to stop,” said one snowboarder at Boreal Mountain. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Warm winter storms melting Sierra snowpack

Six experts to watch on the economics of California water: The economic impacts of five years of drought have been felt across California, from urban water agencies to the agriculture sector. As the state plans to increase conservation and efficiency efforts, pricing mechanisms may need to be changed for some water suppliers. Plans for new infrastructure – from big projects like desalination or water conveyance – to smaller recycled water and green infrastructure projects, will also have varying economic impacts.  Meet six of the top experts in the field of California water economics that are helping our editors and contributors understand the issue better. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Six experts to watch on the economics of California water

Ninth circuit court favors feds in California water fight: Two of three judges on a Ninth Circuit panel Monday indicated they believe the federal government had the authority to release 355 million gallons of water from California’s Trinity Reservoir to prevent a salmon die-off, despite water districts’ claims to the contrary.  San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Westlands Water District sued the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation in 2013 after the government ordered them to release the water to prevent a salmon die-off in the lower Klamath River, rather than deliver the water to cities and farmers during the state’s searing drought. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Ninth circuit court favors fed in California water fight

California’s small water systems struggle with safety:  “Californians relying on small water utilities to bring drinking water into their homes, or who work or go to school in places providing their own water, are far more likely to be exposed to lead, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data by The Desert Sun and USA TODAY.  Small public water systems across the state made up the vast majority of systems found to have high levels of lead in their drinking water or testing violations since 2010, the analysis found. These systems typically exist in rural areas and serve less than a few thousand people. Some serve only a few hundred or even a few dozen people, sometimes at a single school or business. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  California’s small water systems struggle with safety

Study:  California should leave national flood insurance program:  “A new UC Davis study finds that California is not benefiting from participating in the National Flood Insurance Program and that the state may be better off running its own program.  California has received only a small fraction of economic benefits from participating in the National Flood Insurance Program compared to the premiums it has paid. Scientists at UC Davis examined NFIP databases and found that since 1994, damage payouts have totaled just 14 percent of premiums collected. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Study:  California should leave national flood insurance program

EPA fracking report offers few answers on drinking water:  “Is hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — safe, as the oil and gas industry claims? Or does the controversial drilling technique that has spurred a domestic energy boom contaminate drinking water, as environmental groups and other critics charge?  After six years and more than $29 million, the Environmental Protection Agency says it doesn’t know.  A new report issued Tuesday said fracking poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but a lack of information precludes a definitive statement on how severe the risk is. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  EPA fracking report offers few answers on drinking water

Former Navy Seal Zinke tapped to lead Interior Department:  “Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana made no secret of his ambitions to join a Donald Trump Cabinet, and yet his nomination as interior secretary is in some ways an unlikely fit for the retired U.S. Navy SEAL.  Zinke, 55, was an early supporter of the president-elect and publicly expressed his interest in a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May.  … As with several other Trump Cabinet nominees, Zinke has advocated for increased energy drilling and mining on those lands and expressed skepticism about the urgency of climate change. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here:  Former Navy Seal Zinke tapped to lead Interior Department

U. S. dam safety improves but faces evolving risks:  “All was quiet at the Fehring house before the flood came. It was before dawn on March 14, 2006. The family was asleep, unaware of trouble upstream. The Ka Loko Dam, strained by six weeks of heavy tropical rain, was coming unhinged. Before daybreak the 116-year-old earthen barrier collapsed. Four hundred million gallons of water poured out of the reservoir on the north end of Kauai, a Hawaiian island. Seven people who were sleeping in houses on the Fehring property — including Aurora Fehring, her husband Alan Dingwall, and their two-year-old son Rowan — died in the deluge.  The Ka Loko tragedy was the most recent fatal dam failure in the United States. That no one has died in the decade since because of a collapsed dam is partly a matter of luck, experts say. A presentation in 2012 from a Maryland dam safety official was titled “Dodging the Bullet.” … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  U. S. dam safety improves but faces evolving risks

In commentary today …

Thanks for nothing, DiFi, says the Stockton Record:  They write, “For those who truly care about the San Joaquin Delta and the future of the vital estuary, one thing is abundantly clear: The wrong longtime U.S. senator from California is retiring.  Barbara Boxer, who has served in the upper house since 1993 and is retiring in January, has the backs of conservationists and others who value the Delta and view it with long-term concern and hope.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who also has been served since the early 1990s, chose to play sleight of hand in attaching a rider to a $558 million bill that would, among other things, give more water to farmers, slow the potential construction of dams and pour more money into desalination and recycling projects. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Thanks for nothing, DiFi

Drought bill coverage reflects regional differences, says Dave Kranz:  He writes, “The parallels are striking: Significant California water legislation is folded into a larger bill, passed by Congress over the objections of one of its senators and sent to a president near the end of his term.  In 2016, the legislation is the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which gained final approval from Congress late last week despite a filibuster threat and “no” vote from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Provisions intended for California drought relief were inserted into a larger water-infrastructure bill that passed both houses of Congress by wide margins, to be sent to President Obama in the final weeks of his term. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Drought bill coverage reflects regional differences

California must now take the lead on environmental protections for salmon, says the San Francisco Chronicle:  They write, “Legislation containing a rider destructive to the already struggling West Coast salmon fishery is almost certain to become federal law, thanks to a 69-30 Senate vote late Friday approving the $11 billion act that authorizes water projects nationwide. California, as with so many other issues now, will need to take the lead on environmental protection policies.  Retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was forced to filibuster her own bipartisan bill at the 11th hour after our state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, added a 90-page-plus drought rider to the bill that maximizes pumping at federal water projects on California rivers to benefit agribusiness. Despite Feinstein’s insistence that the rider protects endangered species and includes more than 30 mentions that the new water policies would not override environmental laws, the fishing community disagrees because it changes the rules under which pumping is allowed.  … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California must now take the lead on environmental protections for salmon

How California’s water conservation strategy is falling short:  Ben Chou and Tracy Quinn write, “Just six months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown declared that he wanted to make water conservation a “way of life” in California. His executive order laid out a framework for water suppliers to make conservation permanent and ensure that Californians continue to use this precious resource efficiently.  Today, the likelihood of that vision becoming a reality is uncertain.  This month, the agencies in charge of California’s water – the same ones that recently gave suppliers free rein to set their own conservation targets and have given more water to corporate agriculture, pushing the state’s salmon fishery to the brink of collapse – released a draft of their permanent conservation regulations.  The draft falls drastically short of Brown’s goal and threatens progress toward a water-secure future. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  How California’s water conservation strategy is falling short

Temperance Flat Dam distracts from real water solutions, say Eric Wesselman and Anita Lodge:  They write, “The Fresno Bee editorial “Temperance Flat is linchpin of Valley’s water future” omitted critical facts about this project, including how much water it will reliably produce, who will actually benefit from that water, and how much it will really cost.  The reality is that this dam will never produce as much water as promised and it will only be built if state and federal taxpayers are saddled with the lion’s share of its multibillion-dollar price tag.  Worse yet, spending billions on this dam will suck limited public resources away from more innovative water solutions that increase agricultural productivity while protecting what remains of free-flowing rivers in California. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Temperance Flat Dam distracts from real water solutions

Desalination plant anniversary bodes well for California: Mark Muir writes, “When the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant started commercial production last December, it was a historic victory for San Diego County and an entire drought-weary state.  One year later, the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant has produced nearly 15 billion gallons (57bn liters) of drinking water, representing the best of our collective efforts in California to solve complex and sometimes confounding water challenges. Consider ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Desalination plant anniversary bodes well for California

In regional news and commentary today …

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approves Eel River groundwater plan: A study led by Humboldt County this year has shown the Eel River Valley groundwater basin is being used at a sustainable level, even in drought years. But the state will ultimately decide whether the county needs to take further, more costly actions.  In a presentation at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ final meeting of 2016 on Tuesday, county Deputy Public Works Director Hank Seemann said an average of five percent of the groundwater that is recharged into the 73,700-acre basin each year is used on an annual basis. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approves Eel River groundwater plan

8 billion gallons of water fill Lake Tahoe in 2 days:  “Lake Tahoe could reach its natural rim by the end of the week.  The storms that blew through Dec. 9-10 brought 8,690,131,707 gallons of water to the lake. That is 26,669 acre-feet. … ”  Read more from Lake Tahoe News here:  8 billion gallons of water fill Lake Tahoe in 2 days

Rainbow Lodge withstands high waters, test of time:  “A mix of melted snow and rain caused currents in the Yuba River to swell. Homes and businesses filled with water in the foothills. As the waters rose, a historic fishing lodge found itself between a rock and a hard place.  Long time Soda Springs resident Sean Nickels fought to save his home and a legacy.  “Been coming here since I was 6. This was my first job,” Nickels said. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Rainbow Lodge withstands high waters, test of time

Wet weather rapidly filling Folsom Lake:  “The latest series of winter storms is having an impact in California, and it’s starting to show.  Bureau of Reclamation officials report as of December 1, Folsom Lake has risen 19 feet.  Luis Moore, a Bureau of Reclamation spokesman, said while the amount of water is good, this time of year is also known as being a flood season. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Wet weather rapidly filling Folsom Lake

Folsom Lake releases contribute to rising American River: Water releases out of Folsom Lake were doubled Tuesday morning after weekend rains increased the inflows into the lake, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.  The outflows via Folsom Dam were increased from 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 6,000 cfs, with the flows expected to sprawl downstream into the low-lying areas, as opposed to the American River rising, the bureau said. The initial plan was to increase the outflow by up to 8,000 cfs by Thursday, but it may increase to as high at 15,000 cfs. ... ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here:   Folsom Lake releases contribute to rising American River

King Tides Could Reach 7 Feet in the Bay Area This Week:  “Some of the year’s highest tides will hit California shorelines this week and they’re predicted to reach 7 feet in some areas.  Strong winter high tides, known as king tides, happen annually in certain coastal and low-lying areas like Highway 101 near Lucky Drive in Marin County and the Embarcadero in San Francisco.  King tides occur when the moon, sun and Earth are so close together they create a strong gravitational pull that produces the greatest tidal effects of the year. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  King Tides Could Reach 7 Feet in the Bay Area This Week

Zone 7 water rate increase sparks protest:  “The Pleasanton City Council got quite an earful from three residents last week on a consent calendar item that was favorable to residents’ wallets.  Three residents verbally ripped Zone 7 for its rate increases that the agency attributed to the drought. Pleasanton residents did an excellent job of conserving water, at the cost of landscaping in many cases, and were frustrated because Zone 7 raised rates. Rates will go up 18.7 percent on Jan. 1.  … ” Read more from Pleasanton Weekly here:  Zone 7 water rate increase sparks protest

Destroying the 209 to save salmon:  Dennis Wyatt writes:  “The strategy of the “regulatory-environmental perfectionist-Los Angeles water complex” is clear: Hammer the Northern San Joaquin Valley back into the Stone Age in order to save salmon.  The $70 million joke — 3,500 pages that took regulators populating desks in bureaucratic bunkers in Sacramento 10 years to fashion when they were directed to do it in half that time — known as the State Water Control Board plan is being trotted out Friday during a public meeting at 9 a.m. at the Stockton Civic Center.  To illustrate the level of contempt water bureaucrats have for the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley they originally were not going to vet outside of Sacramento what is arguably the most significant state edict ever proposed impacting the 209 region in its entirety. … ”  Continue reading at the Manteca Bulletin here:   Destroying the 209 to save salmon

Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District ready to combat State Water Board proposal at hearing: It is hard to go anywhere in Stanislaus County or Merced County without seeing one of Worth Your Fight’s yard signs posted in front of a business, staked in the yard of a residence or tethered to a fence — and with less than a week until the State Water Resources Control Board’s highly anticipated public hearing in Modesto, that is exactly what the joint Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District campaign wants.  Nearly 10,000 of these Worth Your Fight signs can be seen sprinkled across the region thanks to the irrigation districts’ awareness campaign, which aims to inform customers about the potential negative impacts associated with a controversial State Water Board document that proposes to allocate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River for fish and wildlife. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District ready to combat State Water Board proposal at hearing

Stanislaus River fish on the upswing on hearing’s eve: Two miles downstream from the City of Riverbank there is an underwater fence in the Stanislaus River.  Boaters passing over it may not realize it is there. But fish — and other creatures such as frogs that swim upstream — are forced to swim around it and through a tank that takes photos.  The technology is accurate and far superior to state sampling techniques used to estimate fish populations such as the Delta Smelt. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Stanislaus River fish on the upswing on hearing’s eve

Tuolumne Utilities District wins $496K grant to remove trees near flumes and ditches:The Sierra Nevada Conservancy awarded $496,000 last week to Tuolumne Utilities District to cut down and remove dead trees next to fire-prone Pacific Gas and Electric Tuolumne Main Canal flumes and ditches in the overgrown South Fork Stanislaus watershed, staff with the state agency and TUD said.  They hope forest thinning and fuel reduction treatments on about 200 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest will reduce fire hazards, allow remaining trees to better withstand ongoing drought and bark beetle attacks, and protect adjacent communities and aging flumes and dtiches that are the primary drinking water delivery system for TUD and 90 percent of Tuolumne County residents. ... ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here:  Tuolumne Utilities District wins $496K grant to remove trees near flumes and ditches

Santa Barbara: State Water Report Card: $575M Aqueduct Branch Bails Out the South Coast – For an Extra $14M:  “After five years of the worst drought on record in Santa Barbara County, the only waterfall for miles around is the one gushing out of a pipe at Lake Cachuma, cascading over a mud terrace that used to be underwater.  The waterfall arrived here via the California Aqueduct, and it’s virtually the only supply left anymore in Cachuma, the main reservoir for the county’s South Coast.  The lake last spilled in April 2011 and has dropped now to historical lows. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  Santa Barbara: State Water Report Card: $575M Aqueduct Branch Bails Out the South Coast – For an Extra $14M

$4-million settlement will fund stormwater projects and a ‘green street’ for Watts:  “A South Los Angeles street will get an environmentally friendly face-lift, and new rain gardens and cisterns soon will appear at homes across Los Angeles County thanks to a $4-million settlement reached late last month. The agreement comes more than eight years after a pair of environmental advocacy organizations sued Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Flood Control District over high levels of pollution in stormwater that flowed into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  $4-million settlement will fund stormwater projects and a ‘green street’ for Watts

Congress OKs Pechanga water rights settlement: At long last, there is water rights peace in the Temecula Valley.  Congress has approved a settlement agreement with the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians that protects the tribe’s access to groundwater in the region and provides the tribe with more than $30 million in federal funding to pay for water storage projects. ... ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  Congress OKs Pechanga water rights settlement

Ambitious plan would restore Escondido Creek:A concrete channel that cuts through a large chunk of Escondido may get a makeover, as conservationists begin planning to restore Escondido Creek to its natural state.  The nonprofit Escondido Creek Conservancy is seeking $355,000 through a regional water grant to begin designing the restoration project — a first step toward transforming the urban culvert from a polluted canal to a picturesque waterway, officials said.  “We would love to see it be a much more natural channel, and a public amenity for the community..,” said Ann Van Leer, executive director of the conservancy. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Ambitious plan would restore Escondido Creek

The desert is made of water: The California Desert includes some of the driest, hottest places on the planet. There are parts of the California desert where entire years have been recorded with no rainfall. Those places are notable mainly because someone was keeping records. Across the tens of thousands of square miles of diverse ecosystems that make up the California desert, there are entire valleys, entire mountain ranges that get just a trace of rain in a typical year.  And yet there are few places in the desert that are not almost entirely shaped by water. ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  The desert is made of water

Precipitation watch …

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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