DAILY DIGEST: San Francisco pitches plan for future of CA’s rivers; Asbestos found in Oroville spillway rock; dust controls increased; State’s $400M plan to slow the Salton Sea’s shrinkage; Farmers and enviros: Old enemies conserving water together; and more …

In California water news today, San Francisco pitches plan for future of California’s rivers; For farmers below the Oroville Reservoir, water still poses a threat; Asbestos found in spillway rock; dust controls increased; What happened at Oroville Dam and what could still go wrong; State unveils a 10-year plan to restore habitat and control toxic dust storms along the Salton Sea’s receding shoreline; California’s $400 million plan to slow the Salton Sea’s shrinkage; Farmers and environmentalists: Old enemies conserving water together; With snow melting, California gold prospectors hope to strike it rich; How California is preparing for a future full of extreme weather; President Trump declares disaster for California because of January storms; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Delta Independent Science Board will hold a meeting beginning at 9am.  Agenda items include a presentation on the SAIL project: Salmon and Sturgeon Assessment of Indicators by Life Stage; discussion of the Comprehensive Assessment of the Monitoring Enterprise Thematic Review – Draft Planning Prospectus; and status reports on the Delta as an Evolving Place Thematic Review and Water Quality Thematic Review.  Click here for more informationClick here for the webcast link.
  • Public Hearing on 2017 CVFPP Update and Draft Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report in Stockton at 10am: Click here for the agenda.

In the news today …

San Francisco pitches plan for future of California’s rivers:  “For decades, San Francisco has been blissfully removed from California’s water wars. The city’s pristine reservoirs in and around Yosemite National Park have been not only plentiful but also largely outside the reach of regulators.  But plans by the state to mandate an increase in the amount of water flowing down rivers between the Sierra and San Francisco Bay — a bid to prevent the collapse of some of California’s most precious wetlands — has drawn the city into the fray.  Worried about having to relinquish too much reservoir water and saddle Bay Area customers with restrictions on their taps, San Francisco officials plan to unveil a counterproposal Friday that they say restores river habitat and helps fish while maintaining water for cities and farms. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco pitches plan for future of California’s rivers

For farmers below the Oroville Reservoir, water still poses a threat:  “Marysville, Calif., farmer Brad Foster stood at the eroded edge of the Feather River recently and contemplated how he was going to pull his water pumps out of the soggy, collapsed river bank.  “We’ll have to recover them somehow,” said Foster, 58, who owns about 500 acres of walnut orchards in Yuba County. “Those are stationary pumps. They’ve been there 50 years.”  In all his years of farming, Foster said he’d never seen such severe and widespread erosion along the winding waterway.  “This is not normal,” he said. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  For farmers below the Oroville Reservoir, water still poses a threat

Asbestos found in spillway rock; dust controls increased:  “Naturally-occurring asbestos has been found in the rock formations and in the air near the damaged Oroville Dam main spillway, according to a press release.  Although California Department of Water Resources said risk to workers and the surrounding community is minimal, dust-control operations are being increased. Air quality will continue to be monitored at the work site and nearby neighborhoods.  Bob McLaughlin, Butte County Air Quality Management District assistant air pollution control officer, said because some air quality tests came back positive, the area is being treated like a contaminated site. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Asbestos found in spillway rock; dust controls increased

What happened at Oroville Dam and what could still go wrong:  “In the weeks and months to come, investigators will no-doubt probe many potential reasons for the near-catastrophic failures at Oroville Dam in February. Those will range from decisions made more than 50 years ago, to the truly extraordinary weather of 2017.  But for the moment, the emergency at Oroville Dam has largely passed. The 180,000 people who were evacuated from their homes last month have returned, and construction crews continue to put millions of tons of rocks and concrete across a badly eroded hillside under the emergency spillway. In the coming months, crews will begin to fix the main concrete spillway, which developed a gaping hole on Feb. 7. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  What happened at Oroville Dam and what could still go wrong

State unveils a 10-year plan to restore habitat and control toxic dust storms along the Salton Sea’s receding shoreline:  “Salton Sea advocates on Thursday cautiously celebrated the announcement of a 10-year state plan to complete projects designed to restore areas where migrating birds once proliferated and control toxic dust storms rising off expanses of smelly playa surrounding the shrinking salty lake.  The California Natural Resources Agency said the plan aims to resolve disputes with the state over delays in building the 7-year-old projects that have left local policymakers and conservationists frustrated and angry as air quality and environmental conditions steadily worsen at California’s largest and most troubled lake. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  State unveils a 10-year plan to restore habitat and control toxic dust storms along the Salton Sea’s receding shoreline   See also: Drought, drawdown, and death for the Salton Sea, from the LA Times

California’s $400 million plan to slow the Salton Sea’s shrinkage:  “California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration on Thursday proposed spending nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state’s largest lake just as it is expected to evaporate an accelerated pace.  The plan involves building ponds on the northern and southern ends of the Salton Sea, a salty, desert lake that has suffered a string of environmental setbacks since the late 1970s. During its heyday of international speed boat races, it drew more visitors than Yosemite National Park and celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and the Beach Boys. … ”  Read more from the AP via the Minneapolis Star here:  California’s $400 million plan to slow largest lake’s shrinkage

Farmers and environmentalists: Old enemies conserving water together:  “Farmers and environmentalists have often been at odds. Farmers, for instance, rarely want it known that their land might host an endangered species, for fear regulations could come crashing down. Environmentalists are fond of regulations to protect natural resources, but rarely do much to help farmers comply.  These old patterns are beginning to change as the two camps find they have more in common than stereotypes suggest. One group working along this path is Environmental Defense Fund, which is developing a new Western water strategy aimed at helping farmers cope with scarcity.  The new policy, still being developed, aims to help farmers and irrigation districts comply with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). EDF also plans to help create water markets, so farmers can sell or trade water when they have a surplus, rather than letting it go to waste. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Farmers and environmentalists: Old enemies conserving water together

With snow melting, California gold prospectors hope to strike it rich:  “All of the recent rain and snow in California is good news for farms and cities. The runoff flowing from the Sierra Nevada is so strong this year that’s it’s moving huge boulders and tons of earth down rivers. That means gold is on the move as well and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that has gold prospectors on alert.  Larry Riggs and his friends are hunting on a piece of private property near Oakhurst. There are no guns or fishing poles present. Just shovels, plastic bowls and buckets. ... ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  With snow melting, California gold prospectors hope to strike it rich

How California is preparing for a future full of extreme weather:  “Two straight months of heavy rainfall have effectively ended five straight years of drought in California. But with parts of the state reporting more than 100 inches of precipitation since last fall, the rain activity has also caused floods, road closures, infrastructure damage and evacuations in many areas.  As a result of the unpredictable nature of California’s climate, state officials have begun to prepare for what they expect to be continued extreme weather conditions. The Climate Prediction Center predicts lingering drought conditions will persist in parts of Southern California through June even after what it called a “phenomenal wet season.” State officials also expect variable weather patterns to continue in the future, which could extend droughts, increase flood risks and threaten the sustainability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. ... ”  Read more from the PBS News Hour here:  How California is preparing for a future full of extreme weather

President Trump declares disaster for California because of January storms:  “President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a major disaster for California because of damage caused by heavy rains that hit the state from Jan. 18 to Jan. 23, making available federal assistance to state and local agencies as well as some nonprofit groups.  Thursday’s announcement is the third presidential declaration received by the state this winter. Trump declared a presidential emergency during last month’s crisis at Oroville Dam and issued a disaster declaration for damage caused by heavy rains Jan. 3 through Jan. 12. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  President Trump declares disaster for California because of January storms

Farm Service Agency gears up to help flooded California farms:  “The USDA is accepting applications from farmers and ranchers in Northern and Central California seeking assistance after this winter’s flooding.  The Farm Service Agency is making available emergency low-interest loans to growers in counties included in President Donald Trump’s Feb. 14 declaration, which stretches through much of the state.  The loans are available to a producer who suffered at least a 30 percent loss of a primary crop or loss of income as a result of the disaster, according to the FSA website.  County FSA offices are also beginning to help growers access other aid programs that didn’t require the declaration, such as a tree replacement program for farms on which standing water damaged a young orchard or vineyard, said Jacque Johnson, the FSA’s acting state executive director. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Farm Service Agency gears up to help flooded California farms

Proposed budget for Commerce would cut funds for NOAA:  “Climate change and ocean research would suffer sharp cuts in the Trump budget proposal for the Commerce Department, which aims for a reduction of 16 percent, or $1.5 billion, much of that targeted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The Commerce cuts would eliminate $ 250 million in coastal research programs that prepare communities for rising seas and worsening storms, including the popular $73 million Sea Grant program, which works with universities in 33 states.  The Trump budget document asserts that these programs “primarily benefit industry and State and local stakeholders,” making them a “lower priority.” … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  Proposed budget for Commerce would cut funds for NOAA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeted for some of Trump’s most brutal cuts:  “President Trump’s budget envisions a rapid retreat from the aggressive federal environmental protection policies developed over the last four decades, to be replaced with hollowed-out enforcement and wholesale elimination of some signature federal conservation efforts.  The Environmental Protection Agency, which accounts for just a small percentage of federal spending, is targeted for some of Trump’s most brutal cuts. Its budget would be shrunk by nearly a third, and its workforce would drop from 15,000 to 12,000.  Communities looking for help cleaning up the national backlog of contaminated properties would find it considerably more difficult as the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account would be slashed by $330 million, a cut of roughly 30%. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeted for some of Trump’s most brutal cuts

‘Come West, California is hiring’: State recruits EPA climate scientists:  “Standing outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission and staff held signs with a clear message for embattled climate scientists: “Fight Climate Change. Work for California.”  Michael Picker, the CPUC president, made his appeal in the nation’s capital as President Trump released his budget proposal in which the EPA would face a 31 percent cut — from $8.2 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $5.7 billion in fiscal year 2018. It’s the largest cut among all Cabinet departments and major agencies. … ” Read more from KQED here:  ‘Come West, California is hiring’: State recruits EPA climate scientists

In commentary today …

Draining the Sierra Nevada headwaters John Kingsbury writes, “The State Water Resources Control Board (SWCRB) is developing regulations that will deprive northern Californian’s of our water supplies.  The proposed plan guarantees that Sierra water be dedicated to flow unimpaired to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). This flawed approach will drain Sierra Nevada headwaters and reservoirs while dedicating that water to fill a bathtub with a hole in it – the Delta.  Unimpaired flow, as interpreted by the SWRCB, “is the rate and volume of water flow that would be produced by the rain and snow accumulating in a watershed absent any diversion, storage, or use of water”. … ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here:  Draining the Sierra Nevada headwaters

A beneficial way to dispose of the Sierra’s lost trees: Use them for energy:  Jacques Leslie writes,When the Forest Service announced its calculation last November that the Sierra Nevada contained 102 million dead trees, it conveyed the immensity of a tragedy that is unprecedented in California’s history. It also challenged planners and innovators to find a beneficial use for at least some of the dead trees. As it turns out, there is one.  The direct cause of the die-off is an infestation of native bark beetles, but the beetle population would not have exploded without California’s five-year drought and a longstanding policy of fire suppression, which has crowded the forests with weak, sunlight-and-moisture-starved trees. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  A beneficial way to dispose of the Sierra’s lost trees: Use them for energy

In regional news and commentary today …

Ukiah officials report progress in forming groundwater agency:  “City officials who expressed concern about the formation of a new agency that will manage the valley’s groundwater announced this week that positive progress is being made.  The new agency will be a Joint Powers Agency tasked with sustaining the Ukiah Valley basin’s groundwater, and its creation was mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Last year, Mendocino County held several public meetings to discuss options for such a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which Sean White, the city’s director of water and sewer, attended. White said he had expected the formation of a local GSA to be a “real tussle,” and at first declared being pleasantly surprised at how the meetings were progressing, describing them last fall as “refreshingly cordial.” ... ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  Ukiah officials report progress in forming groundwater agency

Lake Tahoe expected to fill up with largest physical rise in recorded history:  “The depressing scene of boat docks sitting high and dry on wide beaches around Lake Tahoe will likely be a fleeting memory this summer.  Winter’s unrelenting storms built up a substantial Sierra snowpack and are expected to fill the lake for the first time in 11 years.  Many low-lying areas that were exposed when the lake level was declining during the drought will be inundated with water. The docks will be bobbing in crystal blue waters once again. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Lake Tahoe expected to fill up with largest physical rise in recorded history

Amid lawsuit, Vacaville officials say water is safe:  “Responding to media reports on a pending lawsuit about Chromium 6 in Vacaville’s drinking water, the city issued a statement on its website and social media platforms Thursday.  “We appreciate our residents’ concerns about their drinking water,” the statement read. “Our drinking water is safe. The State of California has certified our drinking water as safe. Our water is regularly tested to assure the safety of our drinking water supply.”  The level of chromium in Vacaville’s drinking water has always been below the current federal standard of 100 parts per billion, according to the city, and the previous California standard of 50 parts per billion. ... ”  Read more from the Vacaville Reporter here:  Amid lawsuit, Vacaville officials say water is safe

High water levels restrict Delta access:  “The San Joaquin Office of Emergency Services has restricted travel in large portions of the south Delta as a safety precaution in light of high water levels.  “The purpose of the closures is to keep recreational boating away from emergency crews that could be dealing with flooding or levee breaks,” said Michael Cockrell, director of the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services. “The closures are also meant to reduce wave action against levees, the risk of injury or death if levee breaches occur and interference if emergency crews are needed.” ... ”  Read more from The Press here:  High water levels restrict Delta access

Locals urged to take last-minute action against State Water Board proposal:  “After months of lengthy debate, Friday marks the last day that the community has to comment on a controversial State Water Resources Control Board document that proposes cutting water use for fish, wildlife and salinity control.  “The proposed Substitute Environmental Document, if adopted by the State Water Board, will cause devastating and long-lasting impacts to the Central Valley not only for growers but for everyone living and working here,” said Turlock Irrigation District spokesman Calvin Curtin. “We urge the Board to listen to the multitude of voices that testified at local public hearings throughout the region in opposition to this flawed and short-sighted proposal. We will continue to encourage the State Water Board to recognize the most recent, most focused, most collaborative science conducted by MID and TID on the Tuolumne River. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Locals urged to take last-minute action against State Water Board proposal

Stan State continues to be a leader on water conservation:  “Even in the midst of what officials are calling a historically wet year, Stanislaus State is still doing its part to make sure that not one drop of water goes to waste.  So far in 2017, the local university has collected approximately 30 million gallons of water through its water reclamation system, an amount that has already surpassed the total collected throughout the entirety of 2016 by several million gallons.  “During this year so far, we’ve received and pumped more water than the entire year last year, so there’s an idea of the difference between a wet year and a dry year,” said Chief Engineer Louie Oliveira. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Stan State continues to be a leader on water conservation

Rain, snowmelt have filled Tuolumne River with debris:  “Modesto and Turlock farmers are thankful that record storms have boosted to capacity Don Pedro Reservoir, which holds water needed for crops. But excessive rain and snowmelt also have washed huge amounts of debris into the Tuolumne River upstream from the reservoir.  Logs and branches covering from 3 to 5 acres typically end up in the river each spring. This year’s debris field is much worse – 30 to 35 acres, so far – because the extra runoff is bringing with it tons of gunk and trees killed in the giant Rim Fire of 2013, which ravaged about 40 percent of the Tuolumne’s mountain watershed.  “You don’t want that stuff making its way into the reservoir,” said Modesto Irrigation District board member Jake Wenger. While Don Pedro is an important source of recreation and farm water, some also is treated and sold to Modesto which mixes it with groundwater for the city’s drinking water. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Rain, snowmelt have filled Tuolumne River with debris

Merced: Water for 2017 irrigation system now available to deliver and order:  “Water for the 2017 irrigation system is now available and being delivered by the Merced Irrigation District, according to a statement.  The MID Board of Directors decided the district’s surface water supply meets all of the District’s Class I and Class II growers’ needs for the season, according to the statement. Surface water is priced at $33 per acre foot.  Surface water also is available for growers who usually rely on groundwater as the primary source of water and who are in the MID and Merced Water Basin’s sphere. Their surface water is priced at $75 per acre foot. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Merced: Water for 2017 irrigation system now available to deliver and order

Paso Robles: Groundwater basin residents – not the county – should pay management costs, says Phil Dirkx:  He writes, “I’ve been feeling victimized ever since Saturday when I read something troubling in The Tribune.  It said the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 last week to spend county tax money to plan and regulate portions of six groundwater basins in unincorporated areas that are not represented by other agencies.  That means all of us taxpayers in this county will soon be paying to regulate those six basins. And we’ll still have to pay our own regular water bills, which keep increasing. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Groundwater basin residents – not the county – should pay management costs

Arroyo Grande’s water fund lags, but mid-year budget stable:  “Drought isn’t just a drain on water — it also drains money.  Arroyo Grande’s mid-year budget review in general shows positive trends for the city’s finances, except in one notable area: water and sewer funds, where the city staff anticipates about $535,000 less in revenue than budgeted for the year.  Though the situation isn’t dire — the funds both have “strong reserves,” city staff said — it could herald some changes to how much water residents use in the future. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Arroyo Grande’s water fund lags, but mid-year budget stable

State agrees to Gregory Dam meeting:  “Questions about the status of Lake Gregory and why the lake has been lowered will be answered on March 24 when an informational community meeting with the state Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) will be held at San Moritz Lodge, starting at 4 p.m.  Organized by state Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-33rd) and the Crestline-Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce, representatives of the DSOD will be on hand to provide information about state regulations with possibly time at the end of the presentation to answer questions from the public. The meeting and parking at the San Moritz Lodge will be free of charge to the public.  The meeting is being organized in order to expedite the correct information directly to the community from state officials. ... ”  Read more from the Mountain News here:  State agrees to Gregory Dam meeting

Precipitation watch …

Wet weather returns next week:  From the National Weather Service:  “After a dry, mild weather pattern for our region, NorCal will return to an extended wet pattern starting late tonight into next week. Several storm waves will track across NorCal. The more significant storms are expected next week. This wet pattern will not be as strong as the Atmospheric Rivers we experienced in January and February.

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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