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DAILY DIGEST: Wasted opportunity? Farmers frustrated as water from recent rains released; California grapples with pivot from drought rules to long-term strategy; Glen-Colusa Irrigation District sues feds for $10M over fish screen project; and more …

In California water news today, Wasted opportunity? Farmers frustrated as water from recent rains released; California grapples with pivot from drought rules to long-term strategy; Glen-Colusa Irrigation District sues feds for $10M over fish screen project; Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions; Study questions Stanislaus releases for salmon in fall; Effects of extreme drought can take years to surface in a forest; California storms spur treacherous travel, rockslides; State increases estimate of amount of water it will deliver from Oroville; Photos Then & Now: Lake Oroville one year later; It’s not in your head; The weather is weirder, and climate change is the reason why; and more …

In the news today …

Wasted opportunity? Farmers frustrated as water from recent rains released:  “It’s a powerful picture: All the gates up at the Nimbus Dam, sending stored water gushing downstream.  The released water won’t be part of California’s drought solution.  “A wasted opportunity,” California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said.  Wenger says with climatologists predicting longer drought periods in California, more reservoirs should be built to store more storm water when we do get it. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Wasted opportunity? Farmers frustrated as water from recent rains released

California grapples with pivot from drought rules to long-term strategy:  “With storms drenching much of California and snow blanketing the Sierra Nevada, the state’s top water regulators are grappling with how to shift from conservation rules devised during more than five years of drought to a long-term strategy for using water more sustainably.  The State Water Resources Control Board plans to decide in February whether to extend the current drought regulations, which require local water districts to report on monthly water use and include measures such as prohibiting outdoor watering for 48 hours after rainstorms. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  California grapples with pivot from drought rules to long-term strategy

Glen-Colusa Irrigation District sues feds for $10M over fish screen project:  “The Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District sued the federal government for more than $10 million on Thursday, alleging a portion of the district’s Sacramento River fish screen project is flawed.  GCID filed its suit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento about a month after a similar case in the Court of Federal Claims was dismissed.  The district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the primary defendant in the Sacramento federal court action, have been at odds since 2000 over the gradient facility constructed as part of the $65 million fish screen. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Glen-Colusa Irrigation District sues feds for $10M over fish screen project

Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions:  “The rains came, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got to work.  Whether it was to release more than a half-million steelhead, making sure rotary screw collection traps on the upper Sacramento River were preserved, or monitoring for Delta smelt, a little inclement weather wasn’t stopping the Service from crucial daily activities.  The very welcome wet opening to 2017 didn’t slow down the Coleman National Fish Hatchery’s scheduled week-long efforts to release 600,000 year-old steelhead into a Sacramento River location near Red Bluff. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Rain or shine, Service biologists work through some tough weather conditions

Study questions Stanislaus releases for salmon in fall:  “A new study concludes that salmon have not benefited much from autumn water releases into the lower Stanislaus River.  The research by the Fishbio consulting firm backs up claims by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts that the October releases are wasting water from New Melones Reservoir.  The “pulse flows” are done on San Joaquin River tributaries with the aim of getting adult salmon to spawning areas after a few years in the Pacific Ocean. They are not directly related to the current state proposal to boost flows even more from February through June to help the young fish out to sea. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Study questions Stanislaus releases for salmon in fall

Effects of extreme drought can take years to surface in a forest:  “Why do some trees die in a drought and others don’t? And how can we predict where trees are most likely to die in future droughts?  Scientists from UC Davis and colleagues examined those questions in a study published in the journal Ecology Letters.  Using climate data and aerial tree mortality surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service during four years (2012-15) of extreme drought in California, they found that when a drought hits the region, trees growing in areas that are already dry are most susceptible. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Effects of extreme drought can take years to surface in a forest

California storms spur treacherous travel, rockslides:  “The first of a series of storms moving into California is bringing flooding rain and feet of mountain snow to the state.  “Flash flooding is a concern across all coastal cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and may lead to significant travel delays,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Edwards said.  Motorists should be on alert for not only flooded roadways through Friday but also mudslides and avalanches that may force some roadways to be closed for several hours. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here:  California storms spur treacherous travel, rockslides

State increases estimate of amount of water it will deliver from Oroville:  “State Water Project contractors will get 60 percent of the water they want this year due to the storms that have filled Lake Oroville and buffered the snowpack in the hills above.  The Department of Water Resources announced the increase Wednesday, which was up from 45 percent in December and 20 percent before that.  Lake Oroville is the primary source of water for the 29 agencies that contract to provide water for 25 million residents and irrigate 750,000 acres. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  State increases estimate of amount of water it will deliver from Oroville

Photos Then & Now: Lake Oroville one year later:  Click here for the photo gallery from the LA Times.

It’s not in your head; The weather is weirder, and climate change is the reason why: If it seems like you’re reading about devastating floods, droughts, and storms way more often than you used to, it’s because these extreme events are actually happening more frequently.  But this should come as no surprise. Climate scientists predicted that this would happen as more greenhouse gases accumulated in Earth’s atmosphere. Certain extreme weather events have long been anticipated, just like the pronounced warming in the Arctic. “Climate models have predicted amplified warming at high latitudes and increasing intensity of precipitation and flooding,” says Ken Davis, who studies Earth’s weather and atmosphere at Penn State University. In fact, says Davis, these extreme events have been predicted for decades. ... ”  Read more from Popular Science here:  It’s not in your head; The weather is weirder, and climate change is the reason why

In commentary today …

Study: Salmon don’t want too much water, says the Modesto Bee:  They write, “Salmon don’t read memos or get emails from the state Department of Water Resources, nor do they consult U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instruction manuals. So how can they possibly know when it’s time to spawn?  Over hundreds of thousands of years, salmon have learned to “read” signals that nature provides and only they truly understand. Those signals tell them when it’s time to swim upstream.  A group of FishBio scientists working on the Stanislaus River have crunched 11 years of meticulously kept data to better understand those signals. FishBio concluded that, using “adaptive management” techniques, government regulators often sent the wrong signals. In fact, their efforts were sometimes counterproductive in helping salmon populations recover. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Study: Salmon don’t want too much water

Maximum flows not achieving maximum benefits for Stanislaus salmon, say Bob Holmes and Steve Webb:  “The study released this week by FishBio on the impact of fall pulse flows on salmon in the Stanislaus River should be mandatory reading for the men and women at the state water board. It uses scientific data gathered over 11 years to burst the myth that “more water equals more fish.”  As our districts have been saying for decades, the right amount of water, released at the right time, combined with other environmental improvements and fishery strategies can truly accomplishment the goal we all share – to increase the number of salmon that are born and return to spawn in the river.  Today, we have maximum flows without maximum benefit. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Maximum flows not achieving maximum benefits for Stanislaus salmon

What Mother Nature gives, she can take away, reminds the Capital Press:  They write, “Big storms over the past few weeks have dumped enough snow and rain on California to end drought conditions in 40 percent of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Mother Nature is fickle. What she takes away she can restore with a fury.  As of Jan. 13, California’s snow-water content had vaulted to 163 percent of normal statewide after being just 70 percent of normal two weeks earlier.  As of Jan. 13, the snow water equivalent in the Northern Sierra was 132 percent of normal, 163 percent in the Central Sierra and 197 percent in the South. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  What Mother Nature gives, she can take away

In regional news and commentary today …

Siskiyou County to apply to be groundwater agency for three basins:  “The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the formation of groundwater sustainability agencies for the Shasta, Scott and Butte valley basins was discussed at Tuesday’s Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting. The board convened in their capacity as the Flood Control and Water Conservation District to address the topic.  SGMA establishes requirements for how groundwater basins in California must be managed; it dictates that a groundwater sustainability agency be formed for basins categorized as medium and high priority by the Department of Water Resources. Each GSA must then put forth a groundwater sustainability plan for their basin.  Each basin’s GSA must be formed or have submitted their intent to the California Department of Water Resources by June 30 or the State Water Board will intervene and manage groundwater extraction activities. ... ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Siskiyou County to apply to be groundwater agency for three basins

Siskiyou supervisors continue to shape Klamath dam input:  “On Tuesday, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors addressed two agenda items related to the State Water Board’s Draft Environmental Impact Report for the potential removal of four dams on the Klamath River. The EIR must address possible impacts to water quality and other resources if the dams are removed.  The State Water Resources Control Board has opened a public comment period to gather input on what should be evaluated in the EIR. A scoping meeting for that purpose in Yreka has been rescheduled and will take place Jan. 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Miner’s Inn Convention Center in Yreka. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Siskiyou supervisors continue to shape Klamath dam input

Watsonville: Officials tour levee repairs:  “City, county and state officials gathered in Watsonville Tuesday to discuss the impact the recent storm had on the Pajaro River watershed.  Due to heavy rains early last week, the water level in the Pajaro River came within two feet of brimming over the levee, said Watsonville Public Works Director Steve Palmisano.  “We would have had a major, major disaster in our community,” he said, citing a break of the levee in 1995 that flooded Pajaro and caused roughly $95 million in damages. … ”  Read more from the Register Pajaronian here:  Watsonville: Officials tour levee repairs

Rescue raccoons from flooded bypass?  No need, experts say:  “After spotting clusters of raccoons huddled in trees above the flooded Yolo Bypass after the recent heavy rains, Heather Jorgensen took to Facebook and tried to organize a rescue mission.  She contacted an animal welfare group, which agreed to try to snare the animals. But the California Department of Fish and Wildlife nixed the effort, arguing it would be dangerous to both the raccoons and their rescuers.  Raccoons, a wildlife specialist with the agency said, are perfectly adapted to their riparian habitat, and are doing what comes naturally to them. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Rescue raccoons from flooded bypass?  No need, experts say

San Joaquin River six feet below flood stage through Lathrop:  “The San Joaquin River is currently six feet below the flood monitoring stage, and while rain is expected throughout the weekend, isn’t expected to eclipse that mark.  But that doesn’t mean that some elected officials in Lathrop don’t realize that the deluge of rain and snow that has pounded the Northern San Joaquin Valley – and most of the north state – for the last week is an opportunity to shine a light on the aging and stressed levees that protect thousands of homeowners and ranchers from the devastating effects of a flood. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  San Joaquin River six feet below flood stage through Lathrop

Sneaky tactics claimed in Oakdale Irrigation District fallowing trial:  “A judge will rule soon whether Oakdale water leaders skirted state law in last year’s fallowing proposal, the judge said Wednesday at the end of a short civil trial that could affect future fallow-for-money programs.  Also Wednesday, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne declined to slap the district with a $1,000 fine, saying the OID did not violate a related court order.  The OID broke state environmental law by failing to study whether shipping river water elsewhere might harm groundwater levels here, Sacramento attorney Osha Meserve said in the one-day trial. Nor did the district study how its fallowing proposal might affect air quality and wild critters, essentially ignoring the California Environmental Quality Act, she said. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Irrigation District here:  Sneaky tactics claimed in Oakdale Irrigation District fallowing trial

Gustine:  Heavy rains push creeks, rivers over banks:  “The aftermath of several days of rain hit home last week on the West Side, where a number of creeks overflowed their banks early Wednesday morning, Jan. 11, and a rising San Joaquin River had low-lying campgrounds on alert by the weekend.  Flooding concerns persisted this week, with another series of storms expected to move into California starting yesterday (Wednesday).  While waters from the smaller creeks south of Gustine which flooded last Wednesday had receded, roads crossing Orestimba Creek north of Newman remained closed this week due to the flowing water and campground operators along the San Joaquin were closely monitoring river levels. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect here:  Heavy rains push creeks, rivers over banks

LA eyes Mono lake levels:  “There’s no place in California quite like Mono Lake as the salt-water body just east of Yosemite National Park features other-worldly rock formations. 
After being depleted by the drought, Mono Lake has started filling up again, which means great news for the lake’s own eco-system and the city of Los Angeles.  A visible difference can be spotted at Mono Lake following record-low water levels thanks in part to the recent surge in rain and snow this winter. … ”  Read more from ABC 7 here:  LA eyes Mono lake levels

Santa Clarita: Water officials seek public comment on new sustainability agency:  “The experts are still uncertain what the agency would be responsible for, what it would cost to run or how ratepayers would finance the group; however, leaders will seek input on everything at a meeting next week.  The public is invited to participate in a forum to learn about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and provide input regarding the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, or GSA, for the Santa Clara River Valley East Subbasin, which underlies most of the Santa Clarita Valley. … ”  Read more from KHTS here:  Water officials seek public comment on new sustainability agency

Mountain snow that feeds Colorado River looks good so far:  “Snowpack in the mountains that feeds the Colorado River is slightly above the long-term average this winter — welcome news in the drought-stricken Southwest.  But water and weather experts said Tuesday it’s too early to predict how deep the snow will get or how much of it will make its way into the river and on to Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona, one of two major reservoirs on the Colorado. The other major reservoir is Lake Mead, which receives a share of Lake Powell’s water as part of the Colorado River Compact.  “We are cautiously optimistic, but nature has a way of doing what it wants,” said Chris Watt, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the water in Lake Powell. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here:  Mountain snow that feeds Colorado River looks good so far

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.

 

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