DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Obama signs water bill; what does it mean for the Delta?; In Stockton, leaders, farmers, residents plea against Delta water plan; Delayed Colorado River deal will likely fall to Trump Administration to finish; and more …

In California water news this weekend, Obama signs water bill; what does it mean for the Delta?; Obama signs water bill despite criticism from environmentalists; Stormier times for California’s water predicted under new law; How California’s water wars poisoned one of the closest friendships in Congress; Stockton: Leaders, farmers, residents plea against Delta water plan; Manteca: Fight over Stanislaus River water: Fish vs. cities and agriculture; Merced officials urge residents to speak out on Monday against the Bay Delta Plan; Local officials in California working to form groundwater sustainability agencies; Delta fixes a key requirement for Prop 1 reservoir funds; Rules set for applying for Prop 1 storage funding; In California’s forests, removing small trees leaves water for bigger trees and dwindling reservoirs; Northern California farmers see rains wash away drought’s effects; Storms swell reservoirs but provide mixed blessing in ski country; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Obama signs water bill; what does it mean for the Delta? President Barack Obama on Friday signed a massive infrastructure bill designed to control floods, fund dams and deliver more water to farmers in California’s drought-ravaged Central Valley.  Obama signed the $12 billion bill in a distinctly low-key act. Controversial provisions that critics fear could harm fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were wrapped inside a package stuffed with politically popular projects, ranging from Sacramento-area levees to clean-water aid for beleaguered Flint, Mich.  “It authorizes vital water projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve waterways and flood control, and improve drinking water infrastructure,” Obama stated, adding that “help for Flint is a priority for this administration.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Obama signs water bill; what does it mean for the Delta?  (See also:  Obama signs California’s massive water bill, but Trump will determine its future)

Obama signs water bill despite criticism from environmentalists:  “President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday authorizing water projects across the country, including $170 million to address lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California.  Obama said the bill advances vital projects across the country to restore watersheds, improve flood control and rebuild water infrastructure — including pipes in Flint, where residents have struggled with lead-tainted water for more than two years. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  Obama signs water bill despite criticism from environmentalists

Stormier times for California’s water predicted under new law: The first winter storm of 2017 to drop welcome rain over the rivers, pumps, pipes and canals that move California’s water north to south likely will open a new era of tension over how much water goes to fish or farms under a new U.S law.  Legislation signed Friday by President Barack Obama dictates that the federal portion of California’s heavily engineered water systems gives agricultural districts and other human users the biggest possible share of the most fought-over resource in a state with a six-year drought.  Water experts and conservationists expect that new mandate to conflict with state and federal laws and court orders meant to ensure enough water stays in Northern California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and delta for endangered native fish. … ”  Read more from ABC News here:  Stormier times for California’s water predicted under new law

How California’s water wars poisoned one of the closest friendships in Congress:  “A bill that stands to help farmers struggling through California’s epic drought sits on President Obama’s desk, awaiting a signature that would allow water in a river delta where fish stocks are depleted to be diverted for the state’s parched agriculture.  The story of how the legislation reached the White House reflects the drama of water wars that have pitted groups within California against one another in a fight to survive. The battle over the bill has also divided two of the closest friends and Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.  Their split made headlines this month, given their interwoven history: The pair entered the Senate together 24 years ago in the “Year of the Woman” advance that tripled the number of that chamber’s female members. Over the past quarter-century, even as they became two of the most powerful women on the Hill, Boxer and Feinstein have agreed on virtually every issue that came before them. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  How California’s water wars poisoned one of the closest friendships in Congress

Stockton: Leaders, farmers, residents plea against Delta water plan: San Joaquin County residents and public officials alike voiced opposition this week against a state plan to increase flows from the Stanislaus River as well as increase allowable salt in the southern San Joaquin Delta, stating the proposals could have significant negative impacts on the region’s agricultural viability.  The State Water Resources Control Board held its second of five public hearings to collect input on the substitute environmental document of its Water Quality Control Plan on Friday at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium.  The Water Quality Control Plan hasn’t been updated since 1995, and the board has said an update is needed because there has been a decline in native species such as salmon and steelhead on the lower portion of the San Joaquin River since 2008. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Stockton: Leaders, farmers, residents plea against Delta water plan

Manteca: Fight over Stanislaus River water: Fish vs. cities and agriculture:  “When it came to the California Water Resources Control Board’s draft of proposed changes that would impact flows into the San Joaquin River from its tributaries and rework the salinity requirements on the lower portion of the river, your perspective depends on which side you are on.   At least that was the case on Friday morning when hundreds of people packed the Stockton Civic Auditorium to tell the state’s water board what they thought about the proposed changes that are still a long way from being approved.  … ” Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Manteca: Fight over Stanislaus River water: Fish vs. cities and agriculture

Merced officials urge residents to speak out on Monday against the Bay Delta Plan: The Merced-area community will have one local opportunity to speak directly to officials from the State Water Resources Control Board about the controversial Bay-Delta plan, and that one chance will come Monday.  The Merced County Board of Supervisors, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, and other elected officials are urging residents to attend Monday’s meeting and speak out against the plan.  As proposed, the Bay-Delta plan would increase flows on the Merced River in an effort to revive declining salmon populations. Critics, however, say more water flowing into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would mean less for irrigation, forcing farmers to continue pumping groundwater, sending less to groundwater replenishment, impacting local drinking water and, ultimately, taking a huge toll on Merced County’s economy. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Merced officials urge residents to speak out on Monday against the Bay Delta Plan

Local officials in California working to form groundwater sustainability agencies: Local leaders around California are working to meet a July 1 deadline for setting up new groundwater management agencies as required by state law, officials said.  Counties and water districts in many areas are cooperating to form local agencies that will regulate pumping from aquifers through “groundwater sustainability plans” that must be completed by 2020 in the state’s 21 most critically overdrafted basins.  “It’s pretty early on still” in the planning process for many agencies, said Jessica Bean, an engineering geologist in the State Water Resources Control Board’s groundwater management program. “Most of the organizations are in that formation process. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Local officials in California working to form groundwater sustainability agencies

Delta fixes a key requirement for Prop 1 reservoir funds:  “Final ground rules for applying for Proposition 1 water bond funds for large storage projects place a big emphasis on how much they’ll help the beleaguered Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  The California Water Commission on Dec. 14 adopted regulations for handing out the $2.7 billion for reservoirs and other storage projects set aside in the $7.5 billion ballot measure approved by voters in 2014.  The commission made few changes from a final draft sent out for public comment in late November, assuring that projects will be graded largely on their role in improving flows and water quality in the Delta. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Delta fixes a key requirement for Prop 1 reservoir funds

Rules set for applying for Prop 1 storage funding:  “A milestone for future water projects in California was reached Wednesday: The State Water Commission determined the guidelines for groups seeking funds through Proposition 1 for new water storage.  In Northern California, this applies to Sites Reservoir, near Maxwell, a proposed project with investors already on board.  If the Sites Joint Powers Authority is successful in receiving Proposition 1 funds, money from the state would go toward the “public benefits” portion of the project.  Voters approved the Proposition 1 bond in November 2014. A total of $7.5 billion in bond money will go toward state water management, including $2.7 billion for water storage. What portion, if any, is directed toward Sites Reservoir is still up in the air. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Rules set for applying for Prop 1 storage funding

In California’s forests, removing small trees leaves water for bigger trees and dwindling reservoirs:  “In the early 1900s, an average forested acre in California supported fewer than 50 or so trees. After a century of efforts to fight wildfires, the average has risen to more than 300 (albeit mostly smaller) trees. Some might reckon such growth wonderful, but it is a problem far more serious than, say, the fact that horses can no longer trot through areas where they once could. The extra fuel turns today’s wildfires into infernos hot enough to devastate the landscape, torching even the big older trees that typically survived fires in the old days. Beyond this, the extra trees are worsening California’s driest ever drought.  “Like too many straws in a drink,” trees suck up groundwater before it can seep into streams that feed reservoirs, says David Edelson of The Nature Conservancy. … ”  Read more from The Economist here:  In California’s forests, removing small trees leaves water for bigger trees and dwindling reservoirs

Northern California farmers see rains wash away drought’s effects:  “While the strong storms over the last two weeks dumped rain on mainly empty fields, growers in the East Bay are still rejoicing at the deep cleanse.  The rainy season is still getting under way, but many areas are seeing precipitation totals ahead of schedule.  “The big picture is that we’re off to a good start in Northern California,” said Jeanine Jones, deputy drought manager with the Department of Water Resources. “This is only mid-December and on average, half of our statewide rainfall is in December, January and February. So we still have a ways to go in our wet season and Northern California is well above average.” … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Northern California farmers see rains wash away drought’s effects

Storms swell reservoirs but provide mixed blessing in ski country:  “The rains that soaked Northern California this week continued a wet early season and gave a much-needed boost to reservoir levels, but they were a wet blanket for some ski resorts around Lake Tahoe, thanks to relatively warm weather at lower elevations.  “Wet runs are going to give you the classic Sierra cement,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services. “These are not the kind of storms that are going to give you a lot of very good powder.”  It wasn’t all bad. Though the rain melted some snow, many of the runs above 7,000 feet were graced with powder. Mount Rose, the resort south of Reno, enjoyed 21 inches of new snow, according to the National Weather Service. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Storms swell reservoirs but provide mixed blessing in ski country

In commentary this weekend …

With so much less water, we all suffer, says the Merced Sun-Star:  They write, “The seats at the Merced Theatre are plush, nicely cushioned, quite comfortable. But no matter where members of State Water Resources Control Board sit, Monday’s meeting isn’t going to be comfortable. And their discomfort will have nothing to do with the chairs. The board is certain to hear some extremely difficult truths, likely in no uncertain terms.  We hope hundreds will be there to comment on the water board’s 3,100-page Substitute Environmental Document. Many here believe it is unfair, unworkable, wrongheaded and will destroy significant parts of our lives – mainly our jobs. Tens of thousands of people in Turlock, Oakdale, Modesto, Manteca and everywhere in between feel the same. ... ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  With so much less water, we all suffer

What will Trump’s impact be on California’s environment?  Matt Weiser writes,To understand how the incoming Trump administration could muck around with environmental issues in California, let’s turn the clock back to 2003. That’s when Julie MacDonald decided the Sacramento splittail should no longer be an endangered species.  MacDonald, then a deputy Interior secretary appointed by the George W. Bush administration, used her authority to rewrite scientific findings by Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, who concluded the splittail fish needed Endangered Species Act protection. But MacDonald – a civil engineer, not a biologist – feared that conclusion would affect money-making potential on the farm she and her husband owned in the Yolo Bypass. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  What will Trump’s impact be on California’s environment?

Hard work, smart science contribute to salmon’s success on the Cosumnes River, says Mark Eaton: He writes, “For a respite from holiday pressures – or the news – pause and take a moment to visualize large silver-pink fish dancing upstream against the current of a wild river toward their historic spawning gravels. The Cosumnes River, the natural jewel on Sacramento’s southern flank, is enjoying its best run of Chinook salmon in years.  The count so far is impressive, upward of a thousand. Their journey from the ocean toward the mountains is measured by a device mounted above a fish ladder that counts and photographs fish as they follow their ancient genetic drive.  This year’s Cosumnes salmon are a mix of fish bred in hatcheries and fish propagated in the wild. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Hard work, smart science contribute to salmon’s success on the Cosumnes River

California could soon be drinking recycled water, says Colin Sabol:  He writes, “Kale or quinoa? Free range chicken or seasonal veggie medley? Pellegrino or … recycled water?  Californians could soon start drinking purified wastewater. In response to a five-year drought, the state Water Resources Control Board recently informed legislators that regulating recycled, drinkable water is perfectly feasible. California would be the first state in the nation to implement such regulations.  Exploring water reuse is a smart move. Policymakers have long looked to science to address water shortages — and farmers and ranchers have long recognized the value of recycled water. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  California could soon be drinking recycled water

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Mathis shines light on East Porterville:  “Many residents of East Porterville may have felt abandoned by politicians in Sacramento during their time of need in the drought, but Assemblyman Devon Mathis wants to shed light on the lack of water available to the people of East Porterville by exposing the effects of the devastating drought.  “Unless [people] are able to see [the effects] at home in the comfort of their living rooms, they’re not going to get it.” Mathis said of residents outside the Central Valley. “We’re bringing these other news stations here to show them firsthand that this is what it’s really like. This is California, we have Third World conditions and you guys need to do something about it. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Mathis shines light on East Porterville

Trucked in water just part of life where toxic plume pollutes Ontario’s groundwater: Thank goodness summer is over.  That means the De Hoog family in south Ontario doesn’t have to take warm showers on very hot days.  Unlike most area residents, their water supply doesn’t get piped in from underground or pumped up from deep wells. It’s trucked in, stored in a tank that bakes in the sun and is then funneled through their houses.  Dairy farmers Martin and Liz De Hoog are among the approximately 37 households who are no longer using their wells to meet indoor water needs. … ” Read more from the Daily Breeze here:  Trucked in water just part of life where toxic plume pollutes Ontario’s groundwater

San Bernardino County ordered to lower Lake Gregory as part of reservoir retrofit plan:  “After years of study, San Bernardino County officials have been ordered to lower Lake Gregory to relieve pressure on its seismically unfit, nearly 80-year-old earthen dam.  The state Division of Safety of Dams, a unit of the California Department of Water Resources, has ordered the county to lower the dam level by 2 to 3 feet by Jan. 1.  The lowering is part of a larger plan to retrofit the dam, potentially protecting campers, hikers and county property, including roads, from a potential breach following a major earthquake in that area, state and county officials said. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here:  San Bernardino County ordered to lower Lake Gregory as part of reservoir retrofit plan

Along the Colorado River …

U.S. and Mexico push to extend accord on Colorado River:  “With the prospect of reduced Colorado River deliveries as early as 2018, U.S. and Mexican negotiators have been in a race against the clock to forge an agreement that involves sharing any future shortages — and are hoping for a signing before President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20th.  Water managers on both sides of the border say the accord will be crucial in spelling out how the United States and Mexico would take cuts when a shortage is declared on the river, a lifeline for some 40 million people in both countries.  The draft also contains provisions for continuing the restoration of wetlands in the Colorado River delta and extending agricultural water conservation programs in the Mexicali Valley, as well as allowing Mexico to continue storing water in Lake Mead. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  U.S. and Mexico push to extend accord on Colorado River

Delayed Colorado River deal will likely fall to Trump Administration to finish:  “Several months ago, managers of water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada were expressing optimism they could finalize a deal to use less water from the dwindling Colorado River before the end of the Obama administration.  Now that Jan. 20 deadline no longer seems achievable and parties to the talks acknowledge they likely won’t be able to finish an agreement until at least several months into President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.  With Lake Mead’s water level hovering near record low levels, representatives of the three states, water agencies and the federal government say they’ve made progress in negotiating the so-called Drought Contingency Plan, which would involve temporarily drawing less water from the reservoir near Las Vegas to avert a more severe shortage. The deal is being held up by complications, though, and one of the major sticking points is the Salton Sea. ... ” Read more from The Desert Sun here:  Delayed Colorado River deal will likely fall to Trump Administration to finish

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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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