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DAILY DIGEST: Officials say Oroville Dam not damaged but are preparing for the worst; State may curb pumping near California Aqueduct to halt subsidence-related damage; California’s drought debate intensifies between lawmakers, officials; and much more …

In California water news today, Officials say Oroville Dam not damaged but are preparing for the worst; Uncharted territory as Lake Oroville rises; Emergency release of water from Oroville Dam escalates from possible to likely, DWR says; San Joaquin Valley continues to sink because of groundwater pumping, NASA says; State may curb pumping near California Aqueduct to halt subsidence-related damage; How land subsidence could reduce surface water deliveries in California; State seeks federal funding for $100 billion in priority infrastructure projects needed statewide; Clean water advocates have a solution that involves your water bill; For the first time in years, more than half the state is out of drought, figures show; California’s drought debate intensifies between lawmakers, officials; Drought in pictures: A decade of chasing scarcity across California; and more …

In the news today …

Officials say Oroville Dam not damaged but are preparing for the worst:  “Even as authorities in Oroville tell people the dam isn’t compromised, they are preparing for the worst.  Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the press Thursday afternoon that the Sheriff’s Office and Cal Fire-Butte County are preparing in case parts of Oroville and the surrounding area have to be evacuated because of the Lake Oroville spillway erosion.  Although he doesn’t anticipate having to evacuate, Honea said protecting the public means being prepared for the worst. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Officials say Oroville Dam not damaged but are preparing for the worst

Uncharted territory as Lake Oroville rises:  “As water Thursday night rose toward the brim of the reservoir behind the damaged spillway of Oroville Dam, state officials braced for the unprecedented: having to open the emergency outlet of the tallest dam in the United States, which could have untold ecological consequences.  The trouble started Tuesday in the midst of relentless rainstorms, as a section of the concrete spillway that later grew to more than 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep collapsed, frothing the Feather River below like chocolate syrup, so thick with mud and debris that those toiling to save millions of salmon at the hatchery below could hardly see two inches beneath the surface. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Uncharted territory as Lake Oroville rises

Emergency release of water from Oroville Dam escalates from possible to likely, DWR says: With stormwater and snowmelt pouring into the reservoir faster than expected, the operator of the crippled Oroville Dam said it was likely water would have to be released from the facility’s emergency spillway as soon as Saturday – a last-ditch alternative that officials had been hoping to avoid.  William Croyle, director of the state Department of Water Resources, told reporters Thursday evening that water levels in Lake Oroville could reach the brim sometime Saturday, forcing activation of the emergency spillway. The emergency system, which has never been used, would dump water onto an exposed hillside, dislodging trees and earthen debris into the Feather River and potentially affect communities downstream.  If the emergency spillway has to be used, “you’re going to get a lot of debris and erosion,” Croyle said. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Emergency release of water from Oroville Dam escalates from possible to likely, DWR says

Oroville Dam emergency spillway may be used for the first time ever:  “Water could pour over an emergency spillway at Lake Oroville for the first time ever Saturday if the California Department of Water Resources does not ramp up discharges through the rapidly eroding main spillway, officials said Thursday.  A cavity opened in the main spillway Tuesday as 55,000 cubic feet per second of water coursed down it into the Feather River. Flows were halted so that engineers could assess the damage and determine how much the spillway could handle going forward.  Following tests of 20,000 cubic feet per second, discharges were ramped up to 35,000 cubic feet per second. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Oroville Dam emergency spillway may be used for the first time ever

California’s second largest reservoir is damaged; these water releases just made it worse: “As storm runoff poured into fast rising Lake Oroville Thursday, the state resumed releases down the reservoir’s damaged spillway, creating dramatic scenes of muddy torrents gushing over the concrete chute.   The releases tore a larger hole in the spillway and jumped over the structure, creating an instant waterfall.  “These pictures are dramatic and they will continue to change and be dramatic,” William Croyle, acting director of the state Department of Water Resources, said at an evening news briefing.  “As we upped the flows … that’s further eroding around the lower part of the spillway and the spillway itself. That’s not a surprise to us,” he added. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  California’s second largest reservoir is damaged; these water releases just made it worse

San Joaquin Valley continues to sink because of groundwater pumping, NASA says:  “California’s San Joaquin Valley continues to sink at an alarming rate because of groundwater pumping and irrigation, according to a new study by NASA.  Ground levels in some areas have dropped 1 to 2 feet in the last two years, creating deeper and wider “bowls” that continue to threaten the vital network of channels that transport water across Southern California, researchers say.  The findings underscore the fact that even as record rain and snow have brought much of California out of severe drought, some parts of the state will probably struggle with water problems for years to come.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  San Joaquin Valley continues to sink because of groundwater pumping, NASA says

State may curb pumping near California Aqueduct to halt subsidence-related damage:  “Water regulators are considering restricting groundwater pumping in the San Joaquin Valley near the California Aqueduct and other man-made canals because of subsidence.  State Department of Water Resources officials say they’re considering legal options for preventing facility damage in light of a new National Aeronautics and Space Administration report on subsidence — the sinking of land because of a drawing down of the water table.  The Feb. 8 report asserts that two main “subsidence bowls” covering hundreds of square miles grew wider and deeper between spring 2015 and fall 2016 and that a seven-mile area in Fresno County has settled up to 20 inches.  Scientists say subsidence threatens flows in the Aqueduct, which supplies nearly 25 million Californians and nearly 1 million acres of farmland. The canal has dropped more than 2 feet in one area of Kings County, losing 20 percent of its carrying capacity, the report said. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  State may curb pumping near California Aqueduct to halt subsidence-related damage

How land subsidence could reduce surface water deliveries in California:  “Two major California canals – the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal – have been significantly impacted by subsidence which the state says is caused by groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.  Land subsidence happens, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, when large amounts of groundwater have been withdrawn from certain kinds of rocks, such as fine-grained sediments. The water is partially responsible for holding the ground up. With the absence of that water the ground sinks. One of the concerns of this phenomenon is that once an aquifer collapses in upon itself it can no longer refill. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  How land subsidence could reduce surface water deliveries in California

State seeks federal funding for $100 billion in priority infrastructure projects needed statewide:  “Hoping to receive a portion of the $1 trillion in federal infrastructure investment funding promised by President Donald Trump, Gov. Jerry Brown’s office Wednesday submitted a list of priority infrastructure projects needed throughout the state.  The project list represents a total of $100 billion of targeted investments identified by the California State Transportation Agency and the California Natural Resources Agency.  Projects include investments in roads, levees, bridges, ports, train and public transit systems, water storage and recycling, and energy project and energy, military, veterans and emergency operations facilities and services. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  State seeks federal funding for $100 billion in priority infrastructure projects needed statewide

Clean water advocates have a solution that involves your water bill:  “The problem of contaminated drinking water in small communities such as Seville in Tulare County can be solved if the state establishes a safe drinking water fund similar to the Lifeline program for basic phone service, an advocacy group with roots in the Valley said Tuesday.  Like Flint, Mich., where lead contamination made headlines, “a drinking water crisis” in California also exists involving tap water contaminated with nitrates, arsenic and disinfection byproducts, said Laurel Firestone, co-director of the Community Water Center, which began in Visalia and has an office in Sacramento. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Clean water advocates have a solution that involves your water bill

For the first time in years, more than half the state is out of drought, figures show:  “Snow and rain keep putting the hurt on California’s weakening drought, which now encompasses less than half the state for the first time in four years.  This week, 53 percent of the state is out of drought and only 11 percent remains in “severe” to “extreme” conditions — with more rain and snow expected in the region today and Saturday.  “Extreme” drought conditions linger in a sliver of northwest Los Angeles County and parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  For the first time in years, more than half the state is out of drought, figures show

California’s drought debate intensifies between lawmakers, officials:  “Is California still in a drought? It depends on who you ask.  A group of legislators and water district officials at the northern end of the state say the winter’s deluges and heavy snowpack prove the drought is over, and they want Gov. Jerry Brown to declare it so.  “Our reservoirs are filled or are filling, and our groundwater is replenished,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, one of the handful of officials asking Brown to end his more than 3-year-old state of emergency.  The governor’s executive orders mandating continued, long-term water savings were appropriate, “but this power should not be abused,” Nielsen said. “This drought is over.”  Not so fast, state officials argue. There are still about two months left in the current rainy season, and even if it continues to be wet, eight of the last 10 years in California have been dry, they contend. … ” Read more from the Capital Press here:  California’s drought debate intensifies between lawmakers, officials

Drought in pictures: A decade of chasing scarcity across California:  “What does drought look like? After five years of water scarcity in California, what images will people remember that may help avoid the next drought, or at least encourage better water management as new living habits?  These are the questions photographers have pondered as they have worked to document the drought. One of them is Nathan Weyland, a freelance photographer based in Oakland. Since 2008, Weyland has devoted his spare time and money to roaming the state in search of drought images.  Some of Weyland’s pictures have been published by the New York Times, Comstock’s Magazine and others. But he’s compiling most of them into an online gallery he calls Managing Scarcity – nearly 600 images from across the state so far. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Drought in pictures: A decade of chasing scarcity across California

In commentary today …

Huge Oroville Dam hole makes clear California’s bill comes due, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “On the day the massive hole in the Oroville Dam spillway was discovered, the California Department of Water Resources issued a report detailing a separate and very real threat to the state’s vital water delivery system.  Because of overpumping to irrigate crops during the drought, large swaths of the Central Valley in and around Chowchilla, Corcoran and the Fresno County town of Tranquility subsided rapidly in 2015 and 2016.  Land subsidence in the Central Valley and the gaping hole that appeared in the spillway at Oroville Dam are not connected in any direct way. But they are of a piece. California’s plumbing system, largely built five decades ago, is outdated and in distress. We will face a reckoning sooner rather than later. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Huge Oroville Dam hole makes clear California’s bill comes due

In regional news and commentary today …

Small timber town taking on lumber giant for right to local water:  “For 107 years, residents of Weed, California, a picturesque hamlet nestled against the flanks of snow-capped Mt. Shasta, have been drinking water from nearby Beaughan Spring. The water is so pure it flows straight to their faucets; no treatment is necessary. Locals take gallon jugs of it with them when they leave town.  But Roseburg Forest Products (RFP), the Oregon-based timber giant that owns the land around the spring, has other uses for that pure water. Crystal Geyser already bottles Beaughan Spring water in Weed, and residents believe Roseburg wants to sell them even more. The timber company has told the 2,700 folks who call Weed home to find their water elsewhere. … ”  Read more from the Earth Island Journal here:  Small timber town taking on lumber giant for right to local water

Winter storms send sewage overflows into Russian River, Sonoma Valley creeks:  “Heavy downpours in the North Bay this winter have once again triggered significant sewage overflows into creeks and rivers, including an estimated 200,000 gallons of untreated wastewater that flowed this week into Sonoma Valley tributaries feeding San Pablo Bay, according to water officials.  Wastewater also overflowed into the Russian River this week at Guernewood Park, near Vacation Beach, where the Russian River County Sanitation District operates a lift or pumping station.  Brad Sherwood, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency, said Thursday the agency is still determining how much wastewater made its way into the river. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Winter storms send sewage overflows into Russian River, Sonoma Valley creeks

Storms slam North Bay; Russian River set to flood on Friday:  “Swollen rivers and brisk showers may remain Friday, but by the weekend the North Bay should start drying out after two formidable storms passed through the region this week.  Thursday’s storm left emergency officials dealing with new mudslides and road closures, while an afternoon power outage that might be weather-related closed most of the main campus of Santa Rosa Junior College. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Storms slam North Bay; Russian River set to flood on Friday

Beale deals with two dams showing weaknesses:  “Beale Air Force Base officials dealt with their own dam problems on Thursday.  Two earthen dams — Miller and Upper Blackwelder — showed signs of weakness, the base said on Twitter. The 9th Civil Engineer Squadron and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked to repair the problems.  The base said Upper Blackwelder was “leaking around its overflow culvert.”  Repairs were working, the base said, but “heavy rains could overwhelm the repairs and lead to increased leakage and eventual failure of the dam.”  A few hours later, the base issued a second tweet about Miller Dam, saying it was “also stressed and facing the possibility of failure.” … ” Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Beale deals with two dams showing weaknesses

Placerville: Storm prompts release of partially treated wastewater into Hangtown Creek:  “The volume of sewage and storm water flowing into Placerville’s wastewater treatment plant led the city Thursday to begin pumping partially treated wastewater into Hangtown Creek.  The circumstances are similar to the event on Jan. 10 in which the amount of effluent entering the plant exceeded its capacity, according to a city news release. On Thursday, the plant’s emergency overflow basin also had exceeded its capacity.  “In order to maintain the integrity of the basin, the city has been in communication with the state Water Resources Control Board, and we have begun pumping partially treated wastewater into Hangtown Creek,” according to a statement issued by City Manager Cleve Morris. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Storm prompts release of partially treated wastewater into Hangtown Creek

High water levels prompt closure of American River access points:  “As runoff gushes into Folsom and Shasta lakes, officials have increased flows down the American and Sacramento rivers, prompting safety warnings for those using the waterways for recreation.  As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the amount of water from Folsom Dam was at 70,000 cubic feet of water per second, according to the bureau. That’s the highest rate of water released this season, based on state data.  High river levels prompted the closure Thursday of all American River Parkway vehicle access points, according to county spokeswoman Kim Nava. Pedestrian access points will close Friday as well, and it remains to be seen when they will reopen. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  High water levels prompt closure of American River access points

Woodbridge Winery works to control spill into the Mokelumne River:  “Woodbridge Winery is working together with the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board and other state agencies after the company began releasing more than 500,000 gallons of storm water with wastewater from the wine-making process into the Mokelumne River.  According to a state report from the Office of Emergency Services, the winery had released approximately 540,000 gallons of processed wastewater into the river from a wastewater pond on the property off of Woodbridge Road east of Highway 99. ... ”  Read more from the Lodi News-Sentinel here:  Woodbridge Winery works to control spill into the Mokelumne River

Water rich Oakdale Irrigation District debates method for selling surplus:  “Selling extra river water clearly will continue as an important income source for the Oakdale Irrigation District. How it’s sold, however, remains a subject for debate.  Board member Linda Santos on Tuesday questioned the wisdom of abandoning water at New Melones Dam for buyers to pick up downstream, a tactic used in recent years by OID and its partner on the Stanislaus River, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. Abandoning water may enable the agencies to skirt environmental review, Santos said, but weakens the districts’ moral argument for retaining water rights coveted by others.  “Abandoning is jeopardizing our long-term water rights,” Santos said. “When we abandon, there is no record to protect us. Why take a chance with abandonment rather than a transfer?” … ” Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Water rich Oakdale Irrigation District debates method for selling surplus

Inyo County:  LADWP to spread the water wealth:  “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Inyo Supervisors, Water Commissioners and water watchers seem to all be on the same page: spread “a substantial” amount of this year’s epic run-off on the East Side.  In response to a query, LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta provided this e-mail statement:  “Due to the large amount of snowfall we are experiencing in the Eastern Sierra this winter, there will be significant runoff water for uses both in the Owens Valley and for export to Los Angeles. LADWP will be providing a substantial amount of water to maximize spreading in Long Valley and throughout the Owens Valley that will benefit vegetation and recharge the groundwater basin. All spreading locations will be utilized to the fullest extent possible. Aqueduct flows will also be maximized. After the April 1 snow survey, we will know how much water we plan on spreading in Owens and Long Valley and how much water will be exported to Los Angeles.” ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here:  Inyo County:  LADWP to spread the water wealth

San Luis Obispo County goes from exceptional drought to moderate drought in just six weeks:  “The drought isn’t over yet, but much of San Luis Obispo County has been downgraded from exceptional drought to moderate drought thanks to the deluge of rain over the past six weeks, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey tweeted a picture of the current drought map next to the state map from last February, with the caption, “What a difference one year makes!”  Locally, the bulk of the change can be credited to 2017’s wet start. As recently as Dec. 27, much of SLO County remained in exceptional drought. But no longer. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  San Luis Obispo County goes from exceptional drought to moderate drought in just six weeks

Two water districts will help preserve the Paso Robles basin, says Phil Dirkx:  He writes, ” … we must find better ways to capture, store and use the water that nature provides. That may be why last Sunday’s Tribune featured efforts to conserve the water that nature brings to the Paso Robles groundwater basin.  But we have trouble deciding how to use that basin’s water without depleting it. So it was front-page news that two groups of Paso Robles Basin landowners are now working to form two districts in the basin to help manage that precious water source. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Two water districts will help preserve the Paso Robles basin

Greener, damper Ventura County still in drought:  “Trailing much of the state, Ventura County continues to linger under extreme drought conditions, federal officials say.  That’s according to the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center.  This week’s map shows less than 1 percent of California in extreme drought. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  Greener, damper Ventura County still in drought

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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