DAILY DIGEST: Damage at Clifton Court Forebay halts pumping; What Will Happen to the Delta under Trump?; Why CalPERS is pouring millions into SoCal water deal; Wet winter fails to solve state’s forest problems; and more …

In California water news today, Damage at Clifton Court Forebay halts pumping; Just weeks after Oroville dam crisis, damage found at Clifton Court Forebay; The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump?; Why CalPERS is pouring millions into Southern California water deal; Wet winter fails to solve state’s forest problems; Sacramento tomato tycoon beats state water pollution regulators; With some chinook in trouble, California faces a ‘pathetic scrap’ of a salmon season; Private levees need fixing but the money isn’t there; California’s desert blooms as drought comes to an end; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission will meet this morning at 9:30 am. Agenda items include briefings on State Water Project operations, Water Available for Replenishment Report, and pending Delta Plan amendments, as well as an update on the Water Storage Investment Program.  Click here for the full agenda and webcast link.

In the news today …

Damage at Clifton Court Forebay halts pumping:  “The extraordinary volume of water pouring through California’s rivers and reservoirs this winter appears to be behind more damage to the state’s water infrastructure.  State officials said Tuesday that an intake structure at Clifton Court Forebay, a 2½ mile-wide reservoir in eastern Contra Costa County, would be shut down because it needs repairs after heavy inflows.  Although officials did not disclose the exact nature of the problem, they said the fix would mean temporarily halting the pumps that send delta water to Silicon Valley and across much of Southern California. The disruption, though, will not be felt in these areas because water can be delivered from other sources, the state Department of Water Resources said. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Damage at Clifton Court Forebay halts pumping

Just weeks after Oroville dam crisis, damage found at Clifton Court Forebay:  “California water officials, still struggling with fixes at Oroville Dam, will have to temporarily shut down the pumping station that delivers water to much of Southern California and Silicon Valley after discovering damage at another key state reservoir.  The state Department of Water Resources confirmed Tuesday that operators discovered damage to the intake structure at the Clifton Court Forebay, a nearly two-mile-wide reservoir that stores water for the State Water Project pumping plant in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta near Tracy. Repairs will begin Wednesday. It’s not clear how long they will last.  However, state officials said State Water Project customers won’t lose any water deliveries. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Just weeks after Oroville dam crisis, damage found at Clifton Court Forebay

The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump?:  “The Bay-Delta, comprised of San Francisco Bay and the shared delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, is the largest estuary on the west coast of the continental United States. It sustains valuable salmon and Dungeness crab fisheries, supports hundreds of family farmers who work the rich peat soils of its reclaimed islands, serves as a recreational relief valve for millions of Bay Area urbanites and the main source of drinking water for around 25 million Californians.  It’s also in dire straits, beleaguered by water transfers to Southern California, development, and pollution that includes urban run-off, sewage, agricultural chemicals and fertilizers. The great runs of salmon have dwindled. … ”  Read more from California Magazine here:  The SF Bay-Delta Is Invaluable. What Will Happen to It Under Trump?

Why CalPERS is pouring millions into Southern California water deal:  “On the edge of the Mojave Desert, beneath 1,800 acres of scrubland and tumbleweeds, California’s giant public pension fund is trying to make a killing in the water business.  CalPERS is the primary owner of the Willow Springs Water Bank, an underground reservoir that could hold as much water as Folsom Lake when fully developed. Its customers, mainly a collection of Los Angeles-area water agencies, pay fees to store water beneath the Kern County soil to bolster their supplies during dry periods.  The water bank, one of several in this part of the state, operates on a simple concept: Agencies that get water from the California Aqueduct divert it about 8 miles east via pipeline to Willow Springs, where it percolates into the natural aquifer below. When they need it back, they extract it through a pumping station, which returns it to the aqueduct. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Why CalPERS is pouring millions into Southern California water deal

Wet winter fails to solve state’s forest problems:  “Despite the wet winter and far-above-average Sierra Nevada snowpack, California forests remain at risk from tree mortality, bark beetle infestations and overgrown landscapes, according to presentations at the 2017 California Farm Bureau Federation Leaders Conference.  During the event, foresters and forest landowners discussed all those issues and communicated concerns directly to Randy Moore, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest regional forester, who participated as a guest speaker.  Shaun Crook, a timber operator and president of the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau, emphasized to Moore the need for effective forest management and that it be included in the agency’s updated forest plans, to reverse the damage happening in the national forests. The Forest Service is currently working on forest plans to serve as the land management framework for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra national forests, which are expected to serve as blueprints for other forests in the Sierra and across the country. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Wet winter fails to solve state’s forest problems

Sacramento tomato tycoon beats state water pollution regulators:  “Chris Rufer, a Sacramento-area tomato tycoon who loves battling government, has won his fight with California regulators over a major water pollution fine.  The state Regional Water Quality Control Board has rescinded its $1.5 million fine against Rufer’s company, Morning Star Packing Co. of Woodland, for expanding the wastewater discharge ponds at its plant in Colusa County without getting permission. Morning Star produced evidence that it had notified the water board’s staff of the changes beforehand.  “We didn’t go around anybody’s back,” Rufer said Tuesday. “We didn’t cheat anybody.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento tomato tycoon beats state water pollution regulators

With some chinook in trouble, California faces a ‘pathetic scrap’ of a salmon season:  “California’s chinook salmon — or some of them — are in trouble again. And under a set of proposed rules approved Monday, that’s likely to mean a very restricted salmon season for both commercial fishers and recreational anglers alike.  The Pacific Marine Fishery Council, the agency responsible for setting ocean fishing regulations for California, Oregon and Washington, on Monday adopted a set of proposals that would shut down the commercial and recreational catch of chinook salmon on the state’s northernmost coast and off central and southern Oregon. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  With some chinook in trouble, California faces a ‘pathetic scrap’ of a salmon season

Private levees need fixing but the money isn’t there:  “Serious winter flooding caused devastation in the Central Valley.  January and February’s high flows along the Cosumnes, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers caused erosion on levees, millions in damages.  Many of these rural towns want to know who is fitting the bill now that the water levels are lower. One of the larger farms in South Elk Grove, back up against the Cosumnes River is Kautz Farms. Tim Chappell manages the vineyard on the property and the private levee.  Along the the levee you can see erosion and the massive risk posed after the floods.  ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Private levees need fixing but the money isn’t there

California’s desert blooms as drought comes to an end:  “Southern California’s deserts and hillsides are ablaze with color after a wet winter spurred what scientists say is the biggest wildflower bloom in years.  Golden California poppies, the state’s flower, blanket hillsides along busy high-desert roads and freeways around Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, the desert blooms with purple Canterbury Bells, red Monkey Flower, white Desert Lily and more poppies.  “Plentiful rains in December, January and February have encouraged the development of a spectacular showing of annual plants in the flower fields north of town, along trails in western canyons, and even in the badlands,” naturalists wrote on Anza-Borrego’s website. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here:  California’s desert blooms as drought comes to an end

Should the US Government restrict fertilizer use to improve water quality? Fertilizers have been used in agriculture since the beginning of domestication when animal manure was used to enrich the organic matter in soils. In the modern day, farmers use artificially produced fertilizer such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to increase growth and yield of their plants. Fertilizers can provide a benefit, but they can also contaminate freshwater and damage an area’s ecosystems. Nitrogen is a key element in fertilizer and provides necessary nutrients that encourage plant growth and increase yields. However, high concentrations contaminate surface and groundwater supplies. Phosphorus is naturally found in mineral deposits, but overuse causes an imbalance and creates water pollution. These three elements are also responsible for eutrophication in bodies of water. … ”  Continue reading at KQED here:  Should the US Government restrict fertilizer use to improve water quality? 

In commentary today …

Western Delta intakes proposes a possible solution to Delta ecosystem, groundwater storage, says Robert Pyke:  He writes, “Although it’s a bit of a surprise that precipitation in the Sacramento River watershed is running more than 200 percent of average, the fact that we have returned to wetter than average years after a run of drier than average years is not. This has been the pattern in California for over 150 years, and this pattern is unlikely to change in the next 150.  But the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project were not designed to accommodate this climate variability. Rather they were designed primarily to store water during the winter and the spring snowmelt, both to prevent flooding and to provide water for Central Valley farms and Southern California cities. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Western Delta intakes proposes a possible solution to Delta ecosystem, groundwater storage

In regional news and commentary today …

Fight over Mt. Shasta water bottling plant gets political:  “A multiyear fight over a proposed water bottling plant in Northern California has taken a new turn.  California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has launched an investigation into alleged violations of campaign finance rules by Crystal Geyser Water Company and the Committee for a Strong Siskiyou Economy, No on Measure H. Galena West, chief of the commission’s enforcement division, announced the probe on March 2.  Crystal Geyser has been bottling and selling Northern California water since 1977. In 2013 it bought an idled Coca-Cola plant in the city of Mt. Shasta, which it hopes to open. But local residents have pushed back, most recently by launching Measure H last year, a citizen-driven ballot initiative that would have required permits for Crystal Geyser and all other companies pumping water and selling it outside Siskiyou County. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Fight over Mt. Shasta water bottling plant gets political

Dropping Sacramento River level strands fish:  “Crews are out this week rescuing hundreds of fish stranded in pools and sloughs after the Sacramento River receded from last month’s high water flows.  On Tuesday, a crew of fisheries officials dragged large nets through Antelope Slough to catch fish that washed into the area when the river ran high in February.  Their main target was endangered winter-run chinook salmon, but their net captured a fair number of three-spined stickleback and mosquito fish. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record-Searchlight here:  Dropping Sacramento River level strands fish

Congressional look at marine sanctuaries could impact Sonoma County:  “Rep. Jared Huffman and environmentalists are concerned that a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill marks the beginning of a Republican assault on a national marine sanctuary system that protects 350 miles of California’s coast from offshore oil development and pumps millions of dollars into local economies, including Sonoma County.  The House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing is likely a precursor to legislation that would gut federal laws that foster protection of natural resources and habitats nationwide in a system encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters, said Huffman, D-San Rafael, the subcommittee’s ranking minority member. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rose Press Democrat here:  Congressional look at marine sanctuaries could impact Sonoma County

County shelves plan to truck Occidental sewage to Guerneville:  “After two months of relentless community opposition, the plan to truck the town of Occidental’s sewage to Guerneville for treatment and disposal has been shelved, county officials have announced.  “Guerneville is off the table, period,” said Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who notified neighbors last week in the Guernewood Park area where Occidental’s sewage would have been delivered to a Russian River Sanitation District lift station.  The next destination for Occidental’s sewage may be Graton, where the town treatment plant has sufficient capacity and the Graton Community Services District has tentatively reached out to make a deal, said Hopkins. … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here:  County shelves plan to truck Occidental sewage to Guerneville

Chromium 6 contamination bedevils Vacaville:  “For more than 15 years the city of Vacaville has known that nearly half of its groundwater wells contain high levels of a naturally occurring carcinogen that inspired the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.” The city has three more years to bring its water up to state standards.  California in 2014 enacted the nation’s first drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6. Now with Vacaville, in Solano County 55 miles northeast of San Francisco, plotting the final pieces of a multimillion-dollar chromium 6 removal plan, environmentalists are demanding that the city stop telling its 92,000 residents that their water is safe.  In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, California River Watch claims that Vacaville violates federal hazardous waste laws by delivering hexavalent chromium through its water pipes to residents’ taps. ... ”  Read more from Courthouse News Service here:  Chromium 6 contamination bedevils Vacaville

Vacaville sued over ‘Erin Brockovich’ contaminant in water supply:  “The city of Vacaville is facing pressure to clean up its water supplies after an environmental group sued this week over the amount of chromium-6 in groundwater.  In a federal lawsuit filed Monday at the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, California River Watch is demanding that the Solano County city purge its water of chromium-6, the naturally occurring carcinogen that famously sickened Southern California residents as depicted in the movie “Erin Brockovich.”  The environmental advocacy group also wants Vacaville leaders to give residents more notice of potential health problems associated with the contaminant as well as provide bottled water or another clean source to seniors and children. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Vacaville sued over ‘Erin Brockovich’ contaminant in water supply

South San Joaquin Irrigation District board OKs bountiful water for farmers:  “To the surprise of no one, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District approved a full water allotment Tuesday.  Its board voted unanimously to have no cap thanks to abundant rain and snow in the Stanislaus River watershed for the farmers around Ripon, Manteca and Escalon. The drought in 2015 forced the first-ever limit in SSJID’s century-plus history.  SSJID tentatively plans to launch irrigation season Tuesday, but that could be delayed because of a forecast for wet weather, General Manager Peter Rietkerk said. District crews also are still working on storm damage to the canals. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  South San Joaquin Irrigation District board OKs bountiful water for farmers

These before and after images show storm’s impact on Valley reservoirs:  “For a while, it seemed as though California’s five-year drought would never lift. But thanks to the winter’s deluge of rain and a record-setting snowpack, the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs and lakes are brimming with water.  It may seem hard to imagine, but it was just three years ago that the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County reached its lowest point in years. The sides of the man-made lake were dry and etched like rings in a bathtub. It was, perhaps, one of the most visible reminders of how little water there was. Fast forward to now and the San Luis Reservoir is swollen with water. It has reached 99 percent of its 2.4 million-acre-foot capacity. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  These before and after images show storm’s impact on Valley reservoirs

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

Santa Barbara moves up a notch in drought designation:  “After five thirsty years, Santa Barbara County moved Monday from a “severe” to “moderate” drought level, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which began keeping track of the statewide situation in December 2011.  The county didn’t officially fall into drought until the eighth week of 2012, when it hit the monitor’s chart at “abnormally dry.” It then dropped two additional levels until about September 2013, when along with San Luis Obispo and parts of Kern counties it became the first area in the state to reach “extreme drought.”  In February of 2014, the county reached “exceptional drought,” the worst level on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s rating system, and there it remained, even as other parts of the state recovered and gradually left the “drought” label behind. ... ”  Read more from the Lompoc Record here:  Santa Barbara moves up a notch in drought designation

San Bernardino area water basins still hovering at record low levels, managers say:  “While this winter’s precipitation was good news for Northern California, that story doesn’t translate to much of the Inland Empire, area water managers said Tuesday.  “The precipitation that refills our underground storage basins is actually below average, so far,” said Bob Tincher, manager of water resources for San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. “So if it were to stop raining today, even with the wet year in Northern California, our groundwater storage levels could actually decrease again this year.” ... ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here:  San Bernardino area water basins still hovering at record low levels, managers say

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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