DAILY DIGEST: House Republicans want to ‘repeal and replace’ the Endangered Species Act; Climatologist predicts a wet winter, but warns the drought isn’t over; Pigment marks used to ID, track smelt; Water releases from Shasta Dam doubled; and more …

In California water news today, House Republicans want to ‘repeal and replace’ the Endangered Species Act; Climatologist predicts a wet winter, but warns the drought isn’t over; Disappointing snowpack and predicted rains in SoCal send mixed messages for 2017; Are giant Sequoia trees succumbing to drought?; Pigment marks used to ID, track smelt; Water releases from Shasta Dam doubled; Eel River Recovery Project seeks funding for toxic algae study; Butte Environmental Council named top-rated non-profit; Diesel fuel spill into Dry Creek at Roseville train yard triggers clean up; In the U.S. Senate, Boxer is out and Harris is in – what does that mean for the Valley?; Meeting to highlight Tulare Lake storage project; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • Webinar: Good Data: Exploring Quality Assurance for Open Environmental Data from 12:00-12:30pm:  The State Water Board has recently joined a nation-wide effort to bring transparency and increased accessibility of government information through an Open Data Initiative. The success of Open Data is dependent on ensuring that the data collected and shared is of high quality. This webinar will provide an overview of the elements required for high quality open data and detail the considerations and steps that can be followed to support this goal for environmental monitoring data.   Join online for free: GlobalMeet 1-877-820-7831 Guess Passcode: 378390 or attend in person at Cal EPA Headquarters, Training Room 2, 1001 I Street, Sacramento.

In the news today …

House Republicans want to ‘repeal and replace’ the Endangered Species Act:  “The delta smelt, a tiny, silvery-blue fish hanging on for survival in California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, is notorious among opponents of the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to help the smelt have contributed to farm closures, and water reductions for households and businesses, letting more water flow towards the smelt’s habitat. And yet since 1993, when the fish was listed as threatened, the smelt has only slid further toward extinction, making it an oft-cited example of how the ESA doesn’t work for people or fish, wildlife and plants. Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is one of the House Republicans who has backed a bill to increase water storage in California and weaken protections for the smelt — prioritizing “people over ideology,” Bishop wrote last year. … ”  Read more from the High Country News here:  House Republicans want to ‘repeal and replace’ the Endangered Species Act

Climatologist predicts a wet winter, but warns the drought isn’t over: Los Angeles received about five times the amount of rain this December than it did during the same month last year.  William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has attributed our wetter weather to several changes, including a dissipated “blob” and an absent La Niña condition. Though this is good news, Patzert said it’ll take more than a single rainy season to quench California’s drought.  Guest host Patt Morrison speaks with Patzert and Daniel Swain to find out more about what’s in store for Southern California’s weather forecast.”  Listen to the show here:  Climatologist predicts a wet winter, but warns the drought isn’t over

Disappointing snowpack and predicted rains in SoCal send mixed messages for 2017: Below-average snowpack in the Sierra combined with predictions of a wet winter in Southern California are creating mixed messages about drought prospects in 2017, state officials report.  The California Department of Water Resources yesterday announced that electronic readings of the Sierra Nevada snowpack taken Dec. 27 show its statewide water equivalent at 10.5 inches, which is 72% of average for that date. The snowpack is better than it has been in recent years, but it remains unclear whether the snowpack will be strong enough to make a dent in the state’s ongoing drought. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Disappointing snowpack and predicted rains in SoCal send mixed messages for 2017

Are giant Sequoia trees succumbing to drought?  “By the time John Muir and his trusty mule Brownie splashed across the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River in the fall of 1875, the Scottish-born naturalist had already seen his fair share of California grandiosity: Yosemite Valley; the high Sierra; Mariposa Grove. Muir had a thirst for exploration and a talent for storytelling. He founded the Sierra Club and dubbed its eponymous mountains the “Range of Light.” When Muir sauntered upon a montane plateau in what is now known as Sequoia National Park on that autumn day, he found a very large stand of very large trees. Drawing his poetry from the obvious he named it, quite simply, the Giant Forest. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  Are giant Sequoia trees succumbing to drought?

Pigment marks used to ID, track smelt:  “Scientists are using the distinctive markings on Delta Smelt in hopes of tracking the fish and learning more about their behavior – especially their travels.  The researchers from the Lodi office of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are studying two groups. The first is a captive population held at the UC Davis Conservation and Culture Lab. The other are individuals trapped, then released in the wild during February. ... ”  Read more from the Fairfield Daily Republic here:  Pigment marks used to ID, track smelt

In commentary today …

How Scott Pruitt may impact air and water regulations as head of EPA: Donald Trump’s election has jolted environmentalists and voters who care about conservation. Trump has called for abolishing or greatly shrinking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), declared climate change a Chinese hoax and promised to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement.  Though Trump appears to have backed off his pledge to “get rid of [EPA] in almost every form,” his choice of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the agency set off alarms in the environmental community.  Environmentalists were quick to denounce Pruitt, calling him an opponent of EPA who built his reputation by doing the bidding of fossil fuel industries. Is his appointment really like putting “an arsonist in charge of fighting fires,” as the Sierra Club argues? … ” Continue reading at Water Deeply here:  How Scott Pruitt may impact air and water regulations as head of EPA

State should piggyback off federal efforts to ease water woes, says Mark Joffe:  He writes, “Over the objections of California Sen. Barbara Boxer, this month the U.S. Senate passed a new water infrastructure bill that will open the tap of federal money for projects that increase California’s water supply. It’s a good start, but it won’t be enough to solve the Golden State’s water woes.  Critics have focused on the bill’s impact on Northern California salmon, the Delta smelt and other endangered species fisheries — impacts that the bill’s supporters strongly reject. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with Republicans to support the bill because it provides funds to build and expand reservoirs, recycle wastewater and desalinate seawater and brackish inland water sources. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey County Herald here:  State should piggyback off federal efforts to ease water woes

In regional news and commentary today …

Water releases from Shasta Dam doubled:  “Hikers out on the Sacramento River Trail in Redding or boaters should be seeing about twice the normal amount of water flowing down the Sacramento River for this time of year.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has doubled the amount of water coming from Shasta and Keswick dams to make room for more water expected to flow into Lake Shasta during coming storms. ... ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Water releases from Shasta Dam doubled

Eel River Recovery Project seeks funding for toxic algae study:  “The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), a volunteer group that’s taken responsibility for looking after the Eel River watershed, is seeking funding for a study of cyanotoxins, commonly known as blue-green algae, in the river.  The ERRP is asking for $5,000 in donations through Experiment.com, a crowdfunding platform that encourages accountability. The site’s team must approve a project before it can be posted, and the results must be shared with all donors. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Eel River Recovery Project seeks funding for toxic algae study

Occidental eyes inexpensive wastewater treatment plan: Twenty years of headaches over handling wastewater from the tiny west county community of Occidental appear to be nearing an end with a relatively inexpensive, although admittedly inelegant solution: Truck it down the road for treatment in Guerneville.  After scrapping plans to upgrade the Occidental treatment plant and pipe the effluent to a storage pond on a nearby vineyard at a price tag of up to $6 million, county officials settled instead on a $1.4 million project that depends on existing facilities and a pair of 5,000-gallon water trucks. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Occidental eyes inexpensive wastewater treatment plan

Butte Environmental Council named top-rated non-profit:  “Butte Environmental Council has been named one of the year’s top nonprofits by a user review provider.  GreatNonprofits gives the awards based on the rating and reviews received by volunteers, donors, aid recipients and clients. People share stories about personal experiences with more than 1.2 million charities and nonprofits on its website.  “BEC is a great example of a nonprofit making a real difference in their community,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, in a press release. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Butte Environmental Council named top-rated non-profit

Diesel fuel spill into Dry Creek at Roseville train yard triggers clean up:  “Railroad officials are investigating the cause of a diesel fuel spill into a creek at a Roseville railyard.  Union Pacific Railroad officials said that about noon Tuesday they learned of the diesel fuel spill from railroad company property into Dry Creek next to UP’s J.R. Davis Yard. About 98 percent of Northern California’s UP rail traffic moves through the 915-acre yard northeast of Sacramento. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Diesel fuel spill into Dry Creek at Roseville train yard triggers clean up

In the U.S. Senate, Boxer is out and Harris is in – what does that mean for the Valley?  “Sen. Barbara Boxer was almost out the door of the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago when she broke ranks with Dianne Feinstein, her fellow Democrat and Capitol Hill colleague, on a massive water-projects bill that included key provisions for California.  Boxer echoed environmental groups and backed Bay Area interests in opposing the bill, calling it a “last-minute backroom deal” that would destroy the Endangered Species Act and benefit “big agribusiness.” She lost the battle. The $558 million bill, which steers more water to farmers, eases dam construction and funds desalination and recycling projects, was approved by the Senate and has been signed by President Barack Obama. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  In the U.S. Senate, Boxer is out and Harris is in – what does that mean for the Valley? 

Meeting to highlight Tulare Lake storage project:  “The Semitropic Water Storage District will hold a public scoping meeting to outline plans for a new water storage reservoir and conveyance facilities to be built in the Tulare Lake area. The meeting will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at Bravo Farms in Kettleman City and invites public comments.  The district says the reservoir would be designed to store floodwater and excess water from stream tributaries to Tulare Lake, which include the Kings, Kaweah and Tule rivers and other waters that may become available for storage and management such as State Water Project flows. ... ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Meeting to highlight Tulare Lake storage project

Along the Colorado River …

After slow start, snow is catching up in Western mountains:  “After a dry autumn, snowfall is rebounding to normal levels at Western ski areas and in the mountains that feed the vital Colorado River.  Snow totals were encouraging across most of the region Wednesday, especially in Oregon, eastern Nevada and Utah, where it stood as high as 176 percent of average.  “I don’t want to wave ‘mission accomplished’ banners here, but it looks pretty good,” said Klaus Wolter, a climate scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, Colorado. “Certainly the near term looks good.” … ”  Read more from the Pueblo Chieftain here:  After slow start, snow is catching up in Western mountains

Precipitation watch …

Renewed Arctic outbreak across American West; possible low elevation snow in California: As we near the end of 2016, just how has California fared over the past several months in the midst of a deeply entrenched, multi-year drought? The answer: pretty well, especially in the Northern Sierra. Season-to-date precipitation as of late December remains well above average in far northern reaches of the state–including many of the watersheds that contribute the lion’s share of California’s water supply. Further south, conditions have not been nearly as wet. The Bay Area has seen slightly above average precipitation, and much of Southern California is still below average to date (although recent and unexpectedly significant precipitation courtesy of a cutoff low have bolstered totals near Los Angeles and San Diego). … ”  Read more from Weather West here:  Renewed Arctic outbreak across American West; possible low elevation snow in California

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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