DAILY DIGEST: Tiny bubbles a possible culprit in Oroville Dam spillway failure; ‘Biggest storm of winter’ to unleash flooding rain at week’s end; The Endangered Species Act may be headed for the threatened list; and more …

In California water news today, Oroville Dam spillway releases being reduced; Tiny bubbles a possible culprit in Oroville Dam spillway failure; Oroville Dam: ‘The threat level – it is much, much lower’; ‘Biggest storm of winter’ to unleash flooding rain at week’s end; Erosion, high flows from storms benefit native species; Butte County petitions feds to order state to reimburse it over dam costs; Deadline extended on State Water Board’s climate change resolution; Betting on Trump and water; EPA Pyrethroid review vital for many reasons; The Endangered Species Act may be headed for the threatened list.  This hearing confirmed it; and more …

In dam news today …

Oroville Dam spillway releases being reduced:  “Water releases through the damaged main spillway at Oroville Dam were scaled back Thursday to allow crews to reach and remove a pile of debris that has built up at the bottom of that chute, officials said.  The reduction in the release rate from 100,000 cubic-feet per second to 80,000 cfs was done as the California Department of Water Resources has turned some of its focus to the Hyatt Powerplant, which has been out of operation but has the ability to move about 14,000 cfs of water when it’s online. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Oroville Dam spillway releases being reduced

Tiny bubbles a possible culprit in Oroville Dam spillway failure:  “How did a giant, gaping hole develop in Oroville Dam’s main concrete spillway last week, setting in motion the chain of events that could have led to a disastrous failure of a concrete wall that held back a huge wall of water?  Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles. The prospect is simple yet terrifying and has been the culprit in a number of near disasters at dams across the globe since engineers discovered it about 50 years ago. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Tiny bubbles a possible culprit in Oroville Dam spillway failure

Oroville Dam: ‘The threat level – it is much, much lower’:  “After four days of relentless pounding on Oroville Dam, its operators dialed back water releases on the heavily damaged main spillway Thursday, even as forecasts show another “atmospheric river” poised to strike the region early next week.  Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when operational. The plant was shut down last week after concrete and other debris from the spillway accumulated at the bottom of the dam, backing up water to the front door of the hydro facility. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville Dam: ‘The threat level – it is much, much lower’

Here’s the worst case scenario at Lake Oroville:  An interview with Peter Gleick: “Though the initial emergency at Lake Oroville seems to have passed, a new surge of rainfall is on the way — enough to threaten renewed concern at America’s tallest dam.  Residents were allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday, but serious danger remains. Crews at the beleaguered dam are working around the clock to stabilize and reinforce the emergency spillway in anticipation of up to a foot of additional rainfall that’s predicted over the next 10 days, likely to again boost lake levels. But the scale of action — truck after truck of giant boulders dumping 1,200 tons of rock per hour — was small in comparison to the immense scale of erosion that has already taken place. There’s a real risk that the lake could again overtop. … ”  Read more from PS Magazine here:  Here’s the worst case scenario at Lake Oroville:  An interview with Peter Gleick

Life below Oroville: Stoicism, faith … and cars poised for a fast getaway:  “To live beneath the Oroville Dam requires a certain measure of faith — faith in the engineers who designed the nation’s tallest dam and the construction workers who built it more than a half century ago, and faith in the government agencies that maintain and operate it.  Most often it is an unspoken faith, rarely challenged or even contemplated. The dam is simply a given, part of the landscape, like the powerful Feather River it holds back and then releases to run by the edge of town. This week was different.  Mayor Linda Dahlmeier was attending a business conference in Atlanta when she learned that the reservoir’s main spillway had begun to throw off chunks of concrete. The 59-year-old, second-term mayor called her contacts at the state Department of Water Resources, who assured her things were under control. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Life below Oroville: Stoicism, faith … and cars poised for a fast getaway

Why this Oroville Dam crisis affects Southern California:  “The events in Oroville could be a preview of more problems to come.  With overall climate patterns becoming more extreme…our water infrastructure is going to face a variety of new challenges.  Is it up to the task, or will we see more failures like the problems at Oroville in the future?  Mark Gold is UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor of Environment and Sustainability. He spoke with A Martinez about the role of climate change in the future of infrastructure. … ”  Read more KPCC here:  Why this Oroville Dam crisis affects Southern California

Will the crisis at Oroville Dam become a catalyst for change?:  “Jeffrey Mount, a leading expert on California water policy, remembers the last time a crisis at the Oroville Dam seemed likely to prompt reform. It was 1997 and the lake risked overflowing, while levees further downstream failed and several people died.  “If this doesn’t galvanize action, I don’t know what will,” Mount said he thought at the time. But spring came, the waters receded and no changes came to pass. Now another threat looms in Oroville, where deteriorating spillways forced widespread evacuations, and more heavy rain is around the corner. State officials have remained focused on quick fixes at the dam needed to prevent catastrophic flooding, but some are already thinking about how the crisis could spur long-term shifts in policy. … ” Read more from the LA Times here:  Will the crisis at Oroville Dam become a catalyst for change

Lawmaker misleads in claims about Oroville crisis:  “Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen recently claimed the Oroville Dam emergency in Northern California “was entirely avoidable.”  The Orange County lawmaker also blamed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for the crisis.  “The Oroville dam failure was entirely avoidable: California passed a $7.5 Billion water bond in 2014 but Jerry Brown didn’t spend $1 on new water storage or improvements to existing infrastructure like Oroville,” Allen said in a press release on Feb. 13, 2017.  Allen posted similar claims on Twitter and Facebook the same day.  The problems at the Oroville dam are complex. And so is Allen’s claim. We’ll break his statement into parts and assess its overall accuracy. … ”  Read more from PolitiFact here:  Lawmaker misleads in claims about Oroville crisis

In other water news today …

‘Biggest storm of winter’ to unleash flooding rain at week’s end:  “A new train of storms has arrived along the Pacific coast, and a potent one has begun to hit California hard with heavy rain, mountain snow and strong winds to end this week.  The first storm focused on areas from Northern California to Washington during Wednesday and Thursday.  The second storm in the series will focus most of its moisture on Central and Southern California through Saturday. … ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here:  ‘Biggest storm of winter’ to unleash flooding rain at week’s end

Erosion, high flows from storms benefit native species:  “Winter rain and flooding in California has meant heavy erosion off hillsides and into the state’s waterways.  The state’s rivers and streams are now chocolate-colored, heavy with dirt or sediment. While it might not look attractive, from an ecological standpoint it’s good news, especially for native salmon.  “When you have high flows like this, where the water is more turbid, it provides cover for the fish and we expect the predation from predatory fish to go down and their survival to be higher,” says Howard Brown with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Erosion, high flows from storms benefit native species

Butte County petitions feds to order state to reimburse it over dam costs:  “Saying the Department of Water Resources has a “lax attitude toward public safety,” Butte County again petitioned the federal government on Wednesday to order California to reimburse the county for its law enforcement costs related to Oroville Dam.  The county sought a similar order in 2009, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which licenses the dam, turned aside the county’s request.  “DWR is well aware that Butte County is obligated by law and moral duty to protect the citizens of the county from harm. DWR also knows that providing such protection and emergency services comes at great cost to the county, and yet DWR, unlike other hydropower dam owners, refuses to reimburse the county for such costs,” the county said in its motion with FERC. … ”  Read more from Appeal Democrat here:    Butte County petitions feds to order state to reimburse it over dam costs

Deadline extended on State Water Board’s climate change resolution:  “The State Water Resources Control Board announced today that it has extended the comment deadline to March 3 at noon for its draft resolution for a comprehensive response to climate change. A public hearing on the draft resolution has been moved to March 7.  The State Water Board will hold a public hearing and consider adoption of the proposed resolution at its regularly scheduled meeting on March 7.  The meeting agenda will be posted on the State Water Board website. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Deadline extended on State Water Board’s climate change resolution

Betting on Trump and water:  “Last May, Donald Trump stood in an arena full of farmers from California’s desiccated Central Valley and said words many yearned to hear: “If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water.”  The audience, waving FARMERS FOR TRUMP signs, hollered their approval.  “I just met with a lot of the farmers,” he said. “They have farms up here and they don’t get water. I said, ‘Oh, that’s too bad. Is it a drought?’ ‘No, we have plenty of water.’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Well, we shove it out to sea.’ And I said ‘Why?’”  “They’re trying to protect this three-inch fish!” Trump said incredulously.  At the mention of the three-inch fish, the audience booed. … ”  Read more from PBS Frontline here: Betting on Trump and water

EPA Pyrethroid review vital for many reasons:  “David Haviland is a UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor based in Kern County, and he’s focused on etymology. He spoke to California Ag Today about the current review by the EPA on the pyrethroid class of crop protection materials. He noted that the EPA is concerned about the material making its way to waterways.  “It’s a legitimate concern in that pyrethroids can bind to sediment, and if that sediment was just hypothetically say, worst case scenario, what if you sprayed a product into a orchard or a field right next to a river on the day before it rained?” Haviland asked. ... ”  Read more from California Ag Today here:  EPA Pyrethroid review vital for many reasons

The Endangered Species Act may be headed for the threatened list.  This hearing confirmed it.  “A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.  The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News. ... ” Read more from the Washington Post here:  The Endangered Species Act may be headed for the threatened list.  This hearing confirmed it.

In commentary today …

No disaster is an island in California, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “Californians know about disaster. Still, as 188,000 evacuees began blearily to return to their homes below Oroville Dam on Tuesday, it was with the sense that this one was new.  The half-century-old dam is said to be stabilized and at far less risk of overflowing. The incoming rain is said to be less threatening than the atmospheric river that inundated the region last month. And kudos, by the way, to the unsung heroes of the public sector – the scientists and engineers who toiled tirelessly to measure and model the gathering crisis, the hard hats who sandbagged and backfilled at the dam site, the first responders including Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, who made a gutsy call to protect lives. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  No disaster is an island in California

Dam manuals keep California’s water future in the past, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “The Oroville Dam crisis was about infrastructure. The scare this week stemmed from rickety spillways, not dam management.  But if other aspects seemed familiar, it may be because it again highlighted the gap between modern science and the antique flood-control manuals governing major dams in California. As The Bee’s Ryan Sabalow and Andy Furillo reported, the guiding document determining how full Lake Oroville can be in a rainy season hasn’t been updated since the Nixon administration, and is almost as old as the dam itself.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manual, they reported, was last revised in 1970, two years after Oroville Dam’s completion. A lot can change in 47 years. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Dam manuals keep California’s water future in the past

Oroville shows officials have focused on false choices over California’s water system:  “After six years of drought and a few months of flooding, California’s decades-long political commitment to ideology of being either for the environment or against progress has endangered the state’s water supply system and is threatening public safety, environmental health and economic stability.  Rather than upgrade California’s water collection and delivery systems, for 50 years state bureaucrats, political appointees and many elected officials focused their priorities on an onslaught of environmental standards, regulations, projects and programs committed to their rose-colored-glasses vision of California. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville shows officials have focused on false choices over California’s water system

The Bay-Delta estuary can be revived, says Peter Drekmeier:  He writes, “Starved of freshwater inflow from the Central Valley rivers that feed it, the San Francisco Bay-Delta is on the verge of collapse. This iconic estuary, which defines our region, has been neglected for too long.  Fortunately, the state Water Board is poised to provide relief by updating the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. Phase 1 of the plan calls for requiring 40 percent of unimpaired flow (what would occur in the absence of dams and diversions) between February and June on the lower San Joaquin River and its three major tributaries. This amounts to a mere 14 percent increase in unimpaired flow over the course of a year, but it’s a start. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  The Bay-Delta estuary can be revived

In regional news and commentary today …

Trial in 2001 Klamath Basin water shut-off adjourns:  “A federal trial involving water rights in the Klamath Basin in 2001 has adjourned, bringing an end to the trial.  The Herald and News reported that during the two-week trial in Washington, D.C., more than 20 irrigators testified of their losses in 2001 when water was shut off to benefit endangered fish downstream. If they win, the irrigators could be awarded up to $30 million. … ”  Read more from The Columbian here:  Trial in 2001 Klamath Basin water shut-off adjourns

Redding: Bureau of Reclamation says flood maps are a secret:  “Earlier this week Greg Boehle watched as the Sacramento River came into his yard and stopped just a few steps from his home.  Boehle said he has seen the river flow at 79,000 cubic feet per second — like it did this week — only two or three times in the past 20 years.   His house was spared this time, but Boehle worries that his home could be flooded if the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation kicks up the releases to 90,000 or 100,000 cfs.  So he asked bureau officials if he could get copies of maps showing the river elevations corresponding with dam releases. But agency officials told him they don’t make them available to the public. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Redding: Bureau of Reclamation says flood maps are a secret

Rep. Huffman promises he’s pushing for changes at Lake Mendocino:  “After years of drought, Mendocino County is finally getting its fair share (and then some) of rainfall this winter.  And since so much water is falling from the sky, many in the Ukiah Valley are wondering when, if ever, more of it might be stored in Lake Mendocino?  The reservoir is owned by the Sonoma County Water Agency, and for most of the past few years that agency has been in charge of the water releases, given that the water level was so low. But now that the water level is above the storage pool and into the “flood control pool,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Coyote Valley Dam, decides when and how much water will be released. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  Rep. Huffman promises he’s pushing for changes at Lake Mendocino

Lake Berryessa’s Glory Hole on verge of spilling for first time in 10 years:  “Glory, be!  Water is gently splashing into Lake Berryessa’s Glory Hole.  The unusual spillway that operates similarly to a bathtub drain wasn’t fully spilling over Thursday morning. But when a boat buzzed across the swollen lake, or a gust of wind blew over, waves send splatters into the mouth of the eight-foot-wide pipe that dumps excess water down a 200-foot-long pipe into Putah Creek. The last time the Glory Hole spilled over was 10 years ago in 2006, and the Bureau of Reclamation thinks it could happen again soon. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Lake Berryessa’s Glory Hole on verge of spilling for first time in 10 years

Crews repair new water seepage spot on Feather River levee:  “Construction started Thursday afternoon on a second levee-stabilization project near the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento rivers, an area seeing a surge in water flows because of heavy releases from the damaged Lake Oroville spillway.  Teichert Construction will build a 500-foot-long berm on the land side of a levee on the Feather River about 2 miles east of the Sacramento River, said Joe Henderson, general manager of Reclamation District 1001, which is responsible for levee maintenance on portions of the Feather and Sacramento. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Crews repair new water seepage spot on Feather River levee

Sacramento: Crews keep an eye on levees when rivers rise:  “Seepage through a levee while river levels are running high can be alarming – especially for a populace that has been more focused on conserving water than protecting against it in recent years.  But not all seepage is evidence of imminent levee failure, said Russ Eckman, superintendent for the Department of Water Resources Maintenance Area 9.  Because it has been almost 10 years since the Sacramento River has seen river levels as high as this year, newer residents in the Pocket neighborhood find the seepage alarming, but Eckman wants to set their fears at rest. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Sacramento: Crews keep an eye on levees when rivers rise

Tyler Island residents can return home, but must watch for evacuation orders:  “Tyler Island residents can return home, but should remain on alert for future evacuation notices, the Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services announced Wednesday.  Crews have been working around the clock to shore up a damaged levee on the Delta island south of Walnut Grove. Repairs appear to be working, but the true test will be the next storm, officials said in a press release.  On Tuesday, a crane was scooping stone from a barge to the inside of the levee, where workers on bulldozers were working to fill in the gap. Crews were planning to use two more barges of stone and two of dirt to finish the repairs, said Steve Mello, a trustee of the reclamation district serving Tyler Island. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Tyler Island residents can return home, but must watch for evacuation orders

Flooding concerns heightened in South Bay as Anderson Reservoir expected to overflow:  “Rising water filling up Santa Clara County’s Anderson Reservoir, which was 99.3 percent full as of Wednesday, is expected to flow over the dam’s spillway as a result of this week’s impending storms.  Unlike the potentially catastrophic situation with Lake Oroville’s emergency spillway, the Anderson Reservoir’s operational spillway is not at risk of failure, according to Santa Clara Valley Water District officials. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  Flooding concerns heightened in South Bay as Anderson Reservoir expected to overflow

Nervous eyes on full reservoir:  “Sixty miles southeast of Stockton, the state’s sixth-largest reservoir is 98 percent full, with a massive snowpack above it, a limited ability to safely dump water downstream, and potentially months of wet weather still ahead for waterlogged California.  In the wake of the near-disaster at Lake Oroville, flood-control officials along the lower San Joaquin River in the Lathrop and Stockton areas are increasingly worried about Don Pedro Reservoir.  “And they should be,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Nervous eyes on full reservoir

Greed: Is it a factor for river flows?  Jason Campbell writes,Is it all a cash grab gone terribly wrong?  As everybody living within the flood plain of the San Joaquin River waits on pins and needles for word about rising waters, I can’t help but ponder all the scenarios that led to this situation right now.   It’s all a bit too ironic.   Five years into the worst drought that the State of California has ever seen, we get a record-setting amount of rainfall and a historic snowpack and within less just over a month, reservoirs that were disastrously low are now full again.  But when you compare the two largest reservoirs on the San Joaquin River watershed – New Melones Reservoir and Don Pedro Reservoir – the amount of water in each of them is starkly different despite getting their water from a similar region in the Sierra.  … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Greed: Is it a factor for river flows?

A broken levee is flooding miles of Tulare County farmland:  “A broken levee in southern Tulare County near Alpaugh has flooded several square miles of farmland and two or three mobile homes are reportedly affected.  Alpaugh Irrigation District general manager Bruce Howarth said Poso channel broke Friday and developed a second break since then. About 13 to 14 square miles are covered in water, he said.  He said pistachio groves and open farmland are flooded, and two or three mobile homes are surrounded by water. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  A broken levee is flooding miles of Tulare County farmland

Precipitation watch …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

Sign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post …

Daily emailsSign up for free daily email service and you’ll get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. And with breaking news alerts, you’ll always be one of the first to know …


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.

 

(Visited 1,177 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply