DAILY DIGEST: Obama says full speed ahead on Delta tunnels project; Water savings in urban California slip a bit in November; Massive weekend storm threatens treacherous flooding from Russian River to Yosemite; and more …

In California water news today, Obama says full speed ahead on Delta tunnels project; Obama Administration aids state water project; Obama looks to speed Governor Brown’s Delta tunnels plan; Water savings in urban California slip a bit in November; Massive weekend storm threatens treacherous flooding from Russian River to Yosemite; MIT scientists: Monster storms will triple in California by 2100;Valadao introduces major water bill; Valley farmers have high hopes about first storm after Congress signs new water bill into law; Does California need more water infrastructure?; With Trump as president, will Temperance Flat become a reality? ; River flow critics question fish data; Turlock mayor makes final plea to water board; Water board extends comment period for flow proposal; and more …

In the news today …

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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Obama says full speed ahead on Delta tunnels project: Two weeks before President Barack Obama leaves office, his administration vowed to move full speed ahead on California’s controversial Delta tunnels project, calling it essential for the state’s water supply as well as its environment.  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued an order Wednesday directing federal officials to complete a preliminary environmental review this month of the massive twin tunnels proposed for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. She also ordered them to work with California officials on related projects aimed at restoring water quality and habitat for Delta smelt and other endangered fish species in Central Valley river basins that have been pushed to the brink of extinction in recent years. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Obama says full speed ahead on Delta tunnels project

Obama Administration aids state water project:  “The outgoing Obama administration on Wednesday tried to nudge forward Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build two giant north-south water tunnels for California.  In an executive order, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell directed federal wildlife officials on Wednesday to release by Jan. 17 a preliminary environmental opinion that directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to assist as the $15.7 billion project seeks state and federal permits and other approvals.  Brown welcomed Jewell’s move, saying in a statement “it commits the federal government to a timely review” of the proposed tunnels. ... ”  Read more from the AP via the Ventura County Star here:  Obama Administration aids state water project

Obama looks to speed Governor Brown’s Delta tunnels plan:  “The Obama administration called Wednesday for an expedited review of Gov. Jerry Brown’s $15.7 billion delta tunnels project, a show of support for the long-disputed plan to shore up California’s water supplies.  An order issued by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell directs federal officials to complete their preliminary environmental assessment of the water project this month, potentially removing a major barrier before President Obama leaves office Jan. 20.  While final federal review of the project won’t come until April, when Donald Trump is president and the government’s priorities will undoubtedly have changed, state officials believe the stepped-up proceedings by the Obama administration will give the delta plan a sense of inevitability. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Obama looks to speed Governor Brown’s Delta tunnels plan

Water savings in urban California slip a bit in November:  “Urban Californians showed some slippage against state-mandated water conservation goals, with 18.8 percent savings in November compared to water use three years earlier.  Data showed “a mixed picture of performance by agencies across the state,” according to a news release from the State Water Resources Control Board. Savings in October were 19.6 percent and, in November 2015, 20.2 percent.  Last May, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered permanent water-use targets for the nearly 400 urban suppliers in California. The state is in the midst of a historic, multiyear drought. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Water savings in urban California slip a bit in November

Massive weekend storm threatens treacherous flooding from Russian River to Yosemite:  “The already soggy Bay Area will be hit by a powerful storm this weekend that could deliver some of the worst flooding in years to California, especially at Yosemite National Park, where the Merced River is expected to surge to dangerous and potentially record-breaking levels.  In the Bay Area, the storm should dump up to 5 inches of rain starting Friday evening, and more than twice that amount in the Santa Cruz Mountains, wreaking havoc on the region’s roads and infrastructure, according to weather forecasters.  “This system over the weekend will be like a water hose from the Pacific Ocean,” said meteorologist Brian Mejia of the National Weather Service. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Massive weekend storm threatens treacherous flooding from Russian River to Yosemite

MIT scientists: Monster storms will triple in California by 2100:  “As forecasters predicted 12 inches or more of rain in parts of Northern California over the next week, MIT released a new study that warned that the state could expect the frequency of extreme storms to triple by the end of the century.  Using a new technique, MIT researchers can now predict the frequency of local, extreme rainfall events by identifying telltale large-scale patterns in atmospheric data.  An example of an “extreme storm” is the Dec. 11, 2014, “Pineapple Express” soaker that dumped 3 inches of rain on the Bay Area in one hour, causing flooding, power outages and mudslides. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  MIT scientists: Monster storms will triple in California by 2100

Valadao introduces major water bill:  “Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has introduced a major new water bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that could increase the flow of Northern California water to Kings County.  Valadao announced the legislation Tuesday.  “This Western drought has had devastating consequences on my constituents in California’s Central Valley,” Valadao said in a written statement. “My bill … will enact policies to expand our water infrastructure and allow for more water conveyance while protecting the rights of water users across the state.” … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Valadao introduces major water bill

Valley farmers have high hopes about first storm after Congress signs new water bill into law:  “Keith Neilmeier is a fourth generation citrus farmer and he knows better than anyone how rain can be both a friend and an enemy.  “The dull side of that double edged sword is that it kind of messes us up with our cultural practices. We were supposed to start picking oranges tomorrow; we’re not going to be able to do that.”  Tuesday’s storm is the beginning of a days-long downpour– delaying when Neilmeier can prune and spray his 250 acre farm. But at the same time, the moisture warmed temperatures fending off frost and will hopefully fill depleted recharge basins. ... ”  Read more from ABC Channel 30 here:  Valley farmers have high hopes about first storm after Congress signs new water bill into law

Does California need more water infrastructure? As the The Valley is slammed with rain and storms, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is coming in under average for snow fall totals, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of drinking water for all Californian.  The under average conditions brings up the question, does California need more water infrastructure? ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Does California need more water infrastructure? 

With Trump as president, will Temperance Flat become a reality?  “Plans for a new dam on the San Joaquin River above Millerton Lake are on a collision course with a new proposal from the Bureau of Land Management to designate a portion of the area as a “Wild and Scenic River.” Conservationists say it would save some rare land values while improving public access, but supporters of the dam say the designation would essentially kill the project. What does the incoming Trump administration mean for the reservoir? FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports. ... ”  Read more or listen to radio show from Valley Public Radio here:  With Trump as president, will Temperance Flat become a reality? 

River flow critics question fish data:  “The final hearing on the state’s river flow plan Tuesday dealt in part with how long salmon stay in the streams each year.  The State Water Resources Control Board proposes to roughly double, from February through June, the volume of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Opponents said almost all of the young salmon have headed out to sea by May.  “Why waste that block of water on something that’s not there?” said Larry Byrd, a board member and former employee with the Modesto Irrigation District. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  River flow critics question fish data

Turlock mayor makes final plea to water board: Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth attended the last State Water Resources Control Board public hearing in Sacramento Tuesday in an attempt to convince Board members to rethink a controversial proposal that aims to cut water use for fish, wildlife and salinity control.  “I am here today not only as the Mayor of Turlock and an employee of Modesto Irrigation District, but — most importantly — as a proud third generation almond farmer,” said Soiseth. “One of the reasons I chose to speak here in Sacramento was because it can be easy to forget the faces of those you met in Stockton, Modesto and Merced that will be impacted by your decisions.” ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Turlock mayor makes final plea to water board

Water board extends comment period for flow proposal:  “The community has two extra months to comment on a controversial State Water Resources Control Board document that proposes cutting water use after Board chair Felicia Marcus sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown last week, effectively extending the public comment period into March.  This extension comes just two days after the State Water Board held its second-to-last public hearing on Dec. 20 in Modesto, which at its peak was standing-room only.  “While the State Water Board has already provided an extensive 120-day public comment period, earlier today my staff provided notice of a further two-month extension of the public comment period on the Lower San Joaquin proposal,” wrote Marcus in a letter to Brown on Dec. 22. ... ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here:  Water board extends comment period for flow proposal

In commentary today …

Don’t let California’s water tier pricing fall, says the LA Times:  They write, “Municipal water agencies deny that the sole purpose of tiered pricing — in which users pay more per gallon as they use more gallons — is to encourage conservation, but such rate structures just happen to provide fair and sensible incentives for Californians to use their most precious public resource wisely and with respect for its scarcity. That’s especially important during a time of drought. Tiered pricing is an imperfect but useful tool that attempts to reconcile the state’s irreconcilable philosophies about what water is, who owns it, and how much it ought to cost.  But tiered pricing may run counter to another California phenomenon: the tax revolt. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Don’t let California’s water tier pricing fall

We told State Water Board there’s a better way; help make it listen:  Casey Hashimoto writes, “On behalf of the Turlock Irrigation District, I would like to sincerely thank all who attended the State Water Resources Control Board’s public hearings in Stockton, Merced and Modesto regarding the state’s harmful unimpaired-flow proposal.  After several hours of public comment from concerned citizens, numerous presentations from local organizations and bold words from elected officials, the state water board surely knows our region is passionate about water.  Perhaps more important, the state water board heard that local water agencies have legitimate solutions to solve the problems the state water board wants to address. They heard with repetition that there’s a better way to manage rivers that does not recklessly focus on flows alone. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  We told State Water Board there’s a better way; help make it listen

California farmers offer us more than food, says Rory Crowley:  He writes,  “In 2014, San Francisco-based Mother Jones published an article that fueled outrage against the California almond industry.  The shock factor was alive and well in the title: “It Takes How Much Water to Grow an Almond?!”  Soon after the article was published, national news began covering the story. Consequently, almond farmers were inseparably tied to California’s drought as if they caused it.  Articles like this fail to note almond trees use no more water than most fruit and nut trees. In fact, the California almond industry has improved water efficiency by 33 percent since 1994. Almonds annually contribute $21 billion of gross revenue to the California economy. The almond industry employs 104,000 people and adds about $11 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. Almond farmers provide us with a nutrient-dense, healthy — and for us in California — local food. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  California farmers offer us more than food

Cadiz water project would hurt new national monument, says Sant Khalsa:  She writes, “About the time the first Cadiz project came to a screeching halt in the early 2000s, I embarked on a new photographic project that continued my focus and research on water issues in the American West. For the project titled, “Western Waters,” I made numerous road trips across the southwestern United States to approximately two hundred retail water stores to create photographs highlighting the importance, use and abuse of this public resource.  My work addressed a growing crisis and my growing awareness about the commodification of nature, especially the idea of water as a consumer product, and our never ending thirst for additional water resources. These phenomena have been accentuated since that time and the revitalization of the Cadiz project is really ground zero for thinking deeply about how, when and to what end we utilize the California desert’s water — our “liquid gold”.  ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  Cadiz water project would hurt new national monument

In regional news and commentary today …

Mendocino County property owners fined for polluting Eel River:  “The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board fined two people who own property near the Upper Main Eel River for an unauthorized discharge of sediment-laden water.  Polly Franklin, listed as trustee, and her son Daniel Franklin were allegedly storing water for fire protection in a 50,000 gallon fuel bladder that burst, according to a press release. At least 50,000 gallons of water flowed 2,000 feet downstream, reportedly tearing out plants, stripping away soil, rocks and boulders, and entered a small water channel into the river. ... ”  Read more from the Record Bee here:  Mendocino County property owners fined for polluting Eel River

Story of the year: Water, Part 3: Sites Reservoir is front and center:  “The idea to construct Sites Reservoir is nothing new, but actions over the past couple of years by the project’s Joint Powers Authority demonstrate a real desire to finally build the storage facility.  Jim Watson, general manager for Sites JPA, said the idea for the reservoir was conceived as early as the 1930s but wasn’t officially announced until a California Department of Water Resources bulletin appeared in 1957.  In early years, Sites Reservoir was predicated around its local benefits. As time went on, the focus expanded and the facility was considered to have the capacity to help meet statewide and regional needs. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:  Story of the year: Water, Part 3: Sites Reservoir is front and center

San Francisco Airport sinkhole ’emergency’ as flight volume soars: San Francisco is legend for environmental hypocrisy, such as flooding the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley in the Sierras to obtain its own cheap water supply, and paving over a huge piece of the fragile San Francisco Bay to build SFO, the nation’s seventh busiest airport.  SFO serviced over 50 million passengers last year, including about 11.3 million international travelers. That was up 9 percent from the prior year. To support the boom, SFO is on a $5.7 billion borrowing spree to fund a new air-traffic control tower, major terminal renovations, new hotel, another long-term parking garage, security upgrades and energy-efficiency improvements. … ”  Read more from Breitbart News here:  San Francisco Airport sinkhole ’emergency’ as flight volume soars

Work continues on Terminus Dam: Tulare County is seeing more water than usual and it’s not just coming from the skies.  The Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversees Lake Kaweah and Kaweah Terminus Dam, began releasing water last week and will continue into next week.  The lake can hold 185,000 acre-feet of water and is releasing of 900 cubic feet of water per second in order to allow repairs to be made to the Terminus Dam tower, which flooded in April 2016. ... ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  Work continues on Terminus Dam

Yosemite National Park may close under threat of heavy rains, flooding: Yosemite National Park is making emergency preparations for a possible closure of the national park amid weather forecasts for significant rain and flooding through the weekend.  Predictions for heavy rains could push the Merced River well above flood stage and prompt the park closure, according to a release from the National Park Service on Wednesday, January 4. Park officials will monitor forecasts and decide within the next day or two whether the park can safely accommodate visitors and employees. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Yosemite National Park may close under threat of heavy rains, flooding

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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