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DAILY DIGEST: Mandatory evacuations lifted for residents downstream of Oroville dam; Temperature management plan could cut yield from Shasta Lake; Audit finds oil companies illegally allowed to inject wastewater in protected waters; and more …

In California water news today, Mandatory evacuations lifted for residents downstream of Oroville dam; Spillway repairs not only project underway at Oroville Dam; Cracks may offer clues to California’s dam troubles; An ‘aggressive, proactive attack’ to prevent disaster at Oroville dam; A closer look at what to expect with upcoming storm; Oroville Dam: Evacuation order disrupts farming in affected area; Broken California dam is a sign of emergencies to come; Trump Administration approves federal aid for storm, Oroville Dam relief; Oroville Dam isn’t the only piece of California flood infrastructure under strain; Oroville Dam drags California’s $65 billion infrastructure price tag out into the open; Temperature management plan could cut yield from Shasta Lake; California illegally allowed oil companies to inject wastewater in protected waters, audit finds; Column: In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers deal with a new threat: Trump; Despite dam danger, California is still in a drought; California megaflood: Lessons from a forgotten catastrophe; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission will meet this morning at 9:30am. Agenda items include a briefing of DWR’s water loss regulation, an update on the Water Storage Investment Program, presentation of the 2017 Water Commission workplan, a briefing on the operations of the State Water Project during recent storms, and consideration of the approval of the 2016 State Water Project review.  Click here for the agenda and webcast link.
  • Brown Bag Seminar: Chemistry at the Edge: The Importance of Processes at the Land-Water Interface to Aquatic Ecosystems at 12 noon: This Brown Bag seminar is one of a series showcasing the work of candidates for the Delta Lead Scientist position.  The seminar will be presented by Dr. Adina Paytan, Ph.D., Research Professor, Institute of Marine Sciences, U.C. Santa Cruz. Dr. Paytan’s primary research interests include biogeochemistry, chemical oceanography, and paleoceanography. The goal of her research is to use chemical and isotopic records to study present and past biogeochemical processes.  For more information including Webex, click here.
  • “Farming for Birds: California’s Central Valley Bounty” at 7:30pm in Davis:  Meghan Hertel of Audubon California will present a program at the Yolo Audubon monthly meeting.  For more information, click here.

In dam news today …

Mandatory evacuations lifted for residents downstream of Oroville dam:  “Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea on Tuesday lifted a mandatory evacuation order for residents of Oroville, Gridley and other areas downstream of the damaged spillways at Oroville Dam.  At a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Oroville, Honea said the threat of a concrete wall collapsing at the head of the emergency spillway has been minimized. He said residents could return home and businesses could reopen.  An evacuation warning remained in effect, which the sheriff said considers the possibility that future inclement weather or problems associated with existing damage to the spillways may cause another round of “immediate” evacuations. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Mandatory evacuations lifted for residents downstream of Oroville dam

Spillway repairs not only project underway at Oroville Dam:  “Although stabilizing the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam has been the first priority of the Department of Water Resources, several other initiatives are underway.  DWR is actively removing a debris bar that built up at the base of the main spillway in an effort to get the Hyatt Powerhouse under the dam back in operation. That will allow release of another 13,000 cubic-feet of water per second from the lake.  ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enteprise-Record here:  Spillway repairs not only project underway at Oroville Dam

Cracks may offer clues to California’s dam troubles:  “Six months before rushing water ripped a huge hole in a channel that drains a Northern California reservoir, state inspectors said the concrete spillway was sound. As officials puzzle through how to repair Oroville Dam spillway, federal regulators have ordered the state to figure out what went wrong.  Earlier inspection reports offer potential clues, including cracks on the spillway surface that if not properly repaired could let water tear through the concrete. In recent years, construction crews patched cracks – including in the area where water burrowed a huge pit last week. ... ”  Read more from the Associated Press here:  Cracks may offer clues to California’s dam troubles

An ‘aggressive, proactive attack’ to prevent disaster at Oroville dam:  “With both spillways badly damaged and a new storm approaching, America’s tallest dam on Tuesday became the site of a desperate operation to fortify the massive structures before they face another major test.  A swarm of trucks and helicopters dumped 1,200 tons of material per hour onto the eroded hillside that formed the dam’s emergency spillway. One quarry worked around the clock to mine boulders as heavy as 6 tons. An army of workers mixed concrete slurry to help seal the rocks in place. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  An ‘aggressive, proactive attack’ to prevent disaster at Oroville dam

A closer look at what to expect with upcoming storm:  “While our smartphones all show rain dominating the next 10 days, the troubled Oroville Dam’s two spillways may not be tested as heavily as previously feared, according to data reviewed by this newspaper and a meteorologist.  Let’s dive into the hard data and forecasts:  The Feather River basin over the next 10 days is expected to receive 7.5 inches of rain, far less than the 13.6 inches that fell from Feb. 5 to 11 that precipitated a sinkhole in the main spillway and the near-failure of the emergency spillway. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  A closer look at what to expect with upcoming storm

Oroville Dam: Evacuation order disrupts farming in affected area:  “Evacuation of a large swath of land downstream from Oroville Dam during the weekend caused logistical headaches for farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses within the affected area, while Department of Water Resources crews worked to head off a feared failure of the emergency spillway at the dam. … Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation first vice president who grows olives near Oroville, said local officials acted quickly.  “You kind of see the power of the water behind the dam should there be a catastrophic failure as they were describing it (Sunday) around 5 o’clock,” he said. “I can’t tell you how important local officials become.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Oroville Dam: Evacuation order disrupts farming in affected area

Broken California dam is a sign of emergencies to come:  “A deluge of repeated rainstorms set the stage for the near-disaster at the Oroville Dam in California, a crisis that foreshadows what the Golden State can expect more of with climate change, several experts said.  The situation at Oroville — in Butte County, Calif., northeast of Sacramento — happened after both an infrastructure failure and a weather event, said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA. A series of storms powered by a phenomenon known as the atmospheric river hit Northern California this winter. Those filled Oroville, prompting the release of water onto its spillway. Then that structure suffered a sinkhole that became apparent last week. … ” Read more from Scientific American here:  Broken California dam is a sign of emergencies to come

Trump Administration approves federal aid for storm, Oroville Dam relief:  “The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that President Trump has made federal money available for the Oroville Dam flooding issue and for counties affected by winter storms that occurred Jan. 3 through 12.  The announcement ensures at least 75 percent of the costs of debris removal and life-saving measures will be covered in the Oroville Dam incident and others that are storm-related.  The same percentage would be covered for hazard mitigation as well as for public roads, bridges, schools and recreation areas. … ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Trump Administration approves federal aid for storm, Oroville Dam relief

Photos: Oroville Spillway Problems, Evacuees and Flooding, from KQED

In the news today …

Oroville Dam isn’t the only piece of California flood infrastructure under strain:  “All eyes have been on the crisis at Oroville Dam, but weeks of wet weather have put pressure elsewhere on the network of levees and dams protecting cities and farms in California’s vast Central Valley flood plain.  Almost all of the major reservoirs that ring the Valley have filled to the point that officials have cranked up releases to catch water from a storm building up off California’s coast that’s expected to hit Wednesday night.  Most of the river flows below the dams haven’t exceeded the capacity of the levees that line their channels, and independent experts say California’s flood-control network has endured the exceptionally wet winter rather well. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville Dam isn’t the only piece of California flood infrastructure under strain

Oroville Dam drags California’s $65 billion infrastructure price tag out into the open:  “Shock over the emergency evacuation downriver from the Oroville Dam has given way to serious questions about how California is coping with its aging infrastructure — which the American Society of Civil Engineers says would cost the state a staggering $65 billion per year to fix and maintain after years of neglect.  “The idea that we have to evacuate 200,000 residents in this day and age is just a shame,” said Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, pointing to a Bay Area News Group story this week that revealed how state and federal officials in 2005 ignored warnings about the dam’s emergency spillway. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Oroville Dam drags California’s $65 billion infrastructure price tag out into the open

Temperature management plan could cut yield from Shasta Lake:  “Even as storage in Shasta Lake has risen to more than 135 percent of average, a fishery agency’s recommendation could require more water to be held behind the dam through the spring and summer—effectively reducing the amount available for downstream human and environmental uses.  A draft proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service recommends changing temperature-management guidelines for the reservoir, requiring the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to keep more water in it to ensure sufficient cold water for federally protected winter-run chinook salmon. The suggested change, part of a larger effort by fisheries agencies to benefit the salmon, is expected to impact those who depend on water from Shasta Lake—including the federal Central Valley Project. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here:  Temperature management plan could cut yield from Shasta Lake

California illegally allowed oil companies to inject wastewater in protected waters, audit finds:  “Hundreds of oilfield wastewater wells across California must shut down Wednesday, after a federal audit found the state illegally allowed oil companies to inject contaminated fluids into protected water supplies.  But that’s not stopping the state from backing yet another oil company’s request to inject wastewater into a protected underground water source right here in the Bay Area.  You’d never know it but in the shadow of the windmills that surround the Livermore Valley there’s an active oilfield. … ”  Read more from CBS here:  California illegally allowed oil companies to inject wastewater in protected waters, audit finds

Column: In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers deal with a new threat: Trump:  Robin Abcarian writes, “It’s almost impossible to get a rise from my favorite farmer, Joe Del Bosque, who grows almonds, melons and asparagus here on the perpetually water-challenged west side of the San Joaquin Valley.  After years of drought, suddenly everything is green. It’s raining like crazy, the infamous pumps of the Sacramento Delta are working overtime to fill reservoirs to the south and all over the state, dry fields have become muddy lakes.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Column: In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers deal with a new threat: Trump

Despite dam danger, California is still in a drought:  “As large amounts of rain and snow soaked California last week, all eyes turned toward the threat of a dam failure at Lake Oroville, a reservoir that supplies much of the state’s drinking water. But what’s getting less attention is the fact that despite the easing of drought conditions in California, the situation below ground is still dry.  Thus far, approximately 188,000 people who live near Lake Oroville remain under evacuation orders put in place when the lake’s water levels began to rise, reports the Sacramento Bee. The earthen dam, which holds 3.5 million acre-feet of water, is the tallest in the United States. But when heavy storms hit the Sierra Nevadas, the reservoir filled to its highest level ever. Such excess forced officials to use an emergency spillway that has started to erode, creating the possibility of a collapse. … ” Read more from Smithsonian Magazine here:  Despite dam danger, California is still in a drought

California megaflood: Lessons from a forgotten catastrophe:  “Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California every 100 to 200 years. Such floods are likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of kilometers.  The atmospheric river storms featured in a January 2013 article in Scientific American that I co-wrote with Michael Dettinger, The Coming Megafloods, are responsible for most of the largest historical floods in many western states. The only megaflood to strike the American West in recent history occurred during the winter of 1861-62. California bore the brunt of the damage. This disaster turned enormous regions of the state into inland seas for months, and took thousands of human lives. The costs were devastating: one quarter of California’s economy was destroyed, forcing the state into bankruptcy. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  California megaflood: Lessons from a forgotten catastrophe

In commentary today …

Would more dams help with all this water?  The Modesto Bee writes, “Sometimes, you must pick your crisis. No, we’re not in danger of massive flooding, not yet.  New Melones is only half full, so no worries along the Stanislaus. But the water flowing into Don Pedro and McClure reservoirs deserves a careful eye.  Monday’s outflow from Don Pedro on the Tuolumne River was 9,800 cubic feet per second (a cubic foot is a basketball-size drop of water), or about 800 cfs higher than normal maximum flows. Because Don Pedro was 98 percent full, and more rain and runoff are expected this week, authorities have authorized river flows up to 11,000 cfs. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Would more dams help with all this water?

Missed opportunity: Twin tunnels prevent genuine water solutions, say This winter and spring may forever be known — like many fishermen would say — as “the one that got away.”  Over the past two months, California has experienced a series of severe storms, which caused numerous cities and counties to declare states of emergency. Rather than having the necessary storage capacity in place to collect and store storm water runoff for future use, massive amounts of rainwater from our bountifully wet winter flowed down swollen creeks and rivers, through the Delta and out San Francisco Bay to the ocean.  It’s water that we desperately need during drought conditions, like those we’ve experienced for much of the last decade.  And this spring we will watch it happen again as the Sierra snowpack melts. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Missed opportunity: Twin tunnels prevent genuine water solutions, say

The Oroville dam disaster is yet another example of California’s decline:  Victor David Hansen writes, “A year ago, politicians and experts were predicting a near-permanent statewide drought, a “new normal” desert climate. The most vivid example of how wrong they were is that California’s majestic Oroville Dam is currently in danger of spillway failure in a season of record snow and rainfall. That could spell catastrophe for thousands who live below it and for the state of California at large that depends on its stored water.  The poor condition of the dam is almost too good a metaphor for the condition of the state as a whole; its possible failure is a reflection of California’s civic decline. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  The Oroville dam disaster is yet another example of California’s decline

What California’s dam crisis says about the changing climate:  Noah Diffenbaugh writes, “After five years of record-setting drought, much of California is being pummeled by an extremely wet winter. The disaster unfolding at Oroville, where precipitation is more than double the average, is the latest reminder that the United States needs a climate-smart upgrade of our water management systems.  In the West, much of our water infrastructure is old. Oroville Dam, north of Sacramento, was completed in 1968, nearly a half a century ago. Other major components of our water system are generations older, and maintenance has not been a priority. The damage to Oroville Dam, where the primary spillway developed a giant gash and the emergency spillway threatened to erode, illustrates the hazard of relying on aging infrastructure to protect us from extreme weather. ... ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  What California’s dam crisis says about the changing climate

As we fix California water system, also fix data system:  “Few people realize how outdated our systems for water information are. Because of data limitations, real-time, transparent decisions about drought management, flood response and groundwater protection have eluded the state for the past century. Without basic numbers on where, when and how much water is available and being used, we can’t improve how we manage our most precious water and natural resources.  A proposed new law, the Open and Transparent Water Data Act – Assembly Bill 1755 – could coordinate and integrate existing data. Paired with the vision of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, AB1755 could foster entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery. But the long-term opportunity is even greater: AB1755 could help move water and natural resource management in California from sticky notes and push pins to the smart data tools of the 21st century. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  As we fix California water system, also fix data system

Conservation and sustainable management of groundwater in the desert is worthy of support, says Courteney Degener:  She writes, “Over the last two decades, California has grappled with systemic challenges to its traditional water supplies. Climatic extremes and more regular dry years are the new normal. The availability of reliable water to meet all of the state’s demands is a persistent public policy issue. It is a bedrock social justice issue. We need water for our people, our environment and to sustain our way of life.  Some would have us embrace permanent austerity to address our changing needs, but this strategy is often blind to the cost borne by real people every day who depend on access to reliable water. … ”  Read more from KCET here:  Conservation and sustainable management of groundwater in the desert is worthy of support

In regional news and commentary today …

Redding:  More rain could spell more trouble:  “Expect those high flows on the Sacramento River to continue for the next few weeks.  The Bureau of Reclamation said on Tuesday that it plans to keep flows out of Keswick Dam at 79,000 cubic feet per second for the next couple of weeks to remove 1 million acre feet from the lake to make room for more rainfall.  Don Bader, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, said Tuesday the increased water releases have dropped Lake Shasta to 9 feet from the top of Shasta Dam. It had been 6 feet from the top. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Redding:  More rain could spell more trouble

Wet winter banishes Northern California drought, fills North Bay reservoirs:  “Rain storms this winter have swelled water in Lake Sonoma to near-record levels, submerging once-dry boat ramps, repeatedly flooding the dockside marina and banishing the bath tub rings that for years were a telltale sign of the state’s prolonged and withering drought.  … The bountiful supply is more than twice the volume of water held in the lake in November 2014, amid the five-year drought that forced conservation of drinking water and cut into recreational opportunities for boaters and others.  The outlook now could hardly be more different. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Wet winter banishes Northern California drought, fills North Bay reservoirs

Crews shoring up 870 feet of levee in south Sutter County:  “Crews were working non-stop to shore up a section of levee along the Sacramento River in Verona on Tuesday.  Bulldozers and multiple tractor-trailers lined up and added an aggregate material to the land side of the levee along an orchard in the south Sutter County town.  Crews from the Department of Water Resources, Teichert Construction and MBK Engineers were collaborating on the project along Garden Highway north of Riego Road. … ” Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:Crews shoring up 870 feet of levee in south Sutter County 

Despite problems with Oroville spillway, officials say flood risk in Sacramento is negligible:  “The instability of the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam is now drawing concerns about our flood system as a whole: Is it operating as designed? And with all this water in the system making its way downstream, is Sacramento at risk?  Joseph Countryman – a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board – says with five years of drought and all the rain we’ve gotten, our flood system is actually behaving well.  “We have a problem with one of our reservoirs, but the system overall is operating properly,” said Countryman. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Despite problems with Oroville spillway, officials say flood risk in Sacramento is negligible

San Francisco Bay turns brown after non-stop rains: Have you noticed?  The dark emerald green waters of San Francisco Bay have turned a murky brown.  The Bay resembles the muddy Mississippi, and the paddle wheeler “San Francisco Belle” docked on the Embarcadero is looking more and more at home.  The tawny color is the result of fine sediment washed by back-to-back storms from the slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the soils of the Central Valley and into rivers.  These rivers are swollen and roaring from the heavy rains and their high flows whisk along the fine particles that are heavier than water.  … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco Bay turns brown after non-stop rains

Tyler levee holds; San Joaquin River rises:  “While crews kept up emergency levee repairs on Tyler Island on Tuesday, the San Joaquin River woke up and stretched her arms, finally reaching flood stage after languishing for several years as a weed-choked, drought-diminished trickle.  In Lathrop, at Mossdale Crossing Regional Park, the San Joaquin was running higher than any time since Jan. 9, 1997. One low-lying ramp had been dunked, though the river remained at a monitoring stage only and well within its banks. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Tyler levee holds; San Joaquin River rises

Keeping an eye on Don Pedro:  “There is 10,887 cubic feet of water per second flowing into Don Pedro Reservoir. And there is 10,887 cubic of water per second flowing out of it. The reservoir on the Tuolumne River that travelers heading to Yosemite Valley on Highway 120 cross is at capacity. A three-day storm is expected to arrive Thursday – the last day of which is expected to raise the snow level to around 8,000 feet. That means the amount of water flowing into Don Pedro is expected to increase significantly with those releases ultimately finding their way to the San Joaquin River which is already in flood stage at Vernalis and up against the levees south of Manteca. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Keeping an eye on Don Pedro

Modesto, irrigation districts, county, other cities form agency to manage groundwater:  “Stanislaus County leaders on Tuesday approved a groundwater management agency for the Modesto and Oakdale area in a territory that’s been ground zero for debates over pumping and dry residential wells.  The big water players, the Modesto and Oakdale irrigation districts, are joining with Modesto, Riverbank, Oakdale, Waterford and the county in forming a “groundwater sustainability agency” to comply with state law. The new agency has quite a long name: The Stanislaus and Tuolumne Rivers Groundwater Basin Association Groundwater Sustainability Agency. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Modesto, irrigation districts, county, other cities form agency to manage groundwater

Water creates a high stakes game on San Joaquin Tuolumne, and other Northern California rivers:  Jeff Jardine writes, “The stakes are high for Santiago Damien – seriously high, and real stakes.  When the floodwaters of the San Joaquin River threatened his home in 2006, he placed a fence stake in the ground to show the high-water mark, and left it there. It fell a couple of vertical feet shy of reaching the home.  When the river again overflowed its channel several hundred yards away last Friday, he placed a second stake in the ground where the water stopped. It’s about 4 feet from the other. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Water creates a high stakes game on San Joaquin Tuolumne, and other Northern California rivers

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater to meet on Thursday:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater meets Thursday, Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. at Ridgecrest City Hall, and one of its first listed items is regarding potential litigation.  According to the agenda, the groundwater authority will go into closed session to speak with legal counsel regarding anticipated litigation based on “facts and circumstances that might result in litigation against the IWGGA but which are not yet known to a potential plaintiff or plaintiffs, which facts and circumstances need not be disclosed.  The board will also discuss in closed session possible appointment of a board attorney. Currently, each of the five member agencies — the city of Ridgecrest, the Indian Wells Valley Water District, and the counties of Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo— all have their respective attorneys. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater to meet on Thursday

Endangered, threatened species could benefit from congressional Redlands bill:  “Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a bill reintroduced in the U.S. Senate Monday, Feb. 13, would show some love to local endangered species, restoring mining-degraded habitat in the Upper Santa Ana River Wash in Redlands.  The bill proposes a land swap that would move mining operations to protect plants and animals where the wash joins Mill Creek.  Those include three endangered species – the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, slender-horned spineflower and Santa Ana woolly-star; the threatened California gnatcatcher; and the cactus wren. ... ” Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here:  Endangered, threatened species could benefit from congressional Redlands bill

Precipitation watch …

From the National Weather Service:  “Rain will return to the region by later tonight and continue into Thursday as the first in another series of storms moves into NorCal.”

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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