BLOG ROUND-UP: Bloggers on the National Geographic film, post-drought groundwater, State Water Board flow mandates, Delta Tunnels, San Luis Dam, Sites Reservoir, and more …

Above Lyons Dam by Bodie Marcoccia

blog-round-up-previous-editionsNational Geography documentary distorts California's water history:  Tim Quinn writes, “There is no easy narrative when it comes to California water, but the producers of National Geographic’s newly released documentary on our state’s water system seem to think there is. The filmmakers relied on a Hollywood trope to tell the complicated story of California’s water history and water rights. Any idea what that trope might be? You guessed it – the film Chinatown. Yes, really.  The film’s title Water and Power: A California Heist should give you an inkling as to its perspective. But before I get into the film’s distortions, I’d like to explain why I agreed to be interviewed for the project.  I believe this generation of water managers has lots to be proud of. Over the past 20 years we’ve transferred a large bulk of responsibility for water supply to local and regional governments.  Once heavily dependent on imports, these areas now rely largely on local resources, which is good for water supply and the environment. … ”  Read more from the Voices on Water blog here:  National Geography documentary distorts California’s water history

New film shows that clean water is not a guarantee for many in California:  Ana Lucia Garcia Briones writes, “National Geographic’s new film, “Water & Power: A California Heist,” explores the impacts of California’s drought and the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater crisis, and highlights issues surrounding the state’s water rights and the powerful interests that sometimes control them.  The film, which uses beautiful cinematography and testimonials from lawyers, water managers and residents, offers a stark contrast between those who have continued to profit during California’s drought and those who have struggled to meet even their most basic water needs. … ”  Read more from the Growing Returns blog here:  New film shows that clean water is not a guarantee for many in California

Post-drought groundwater in California: Like the economy after a deep recession, recovery will be slow:  Thomas Harter writes, “The 2012-2016 drought has made many of us keenly aware of how “empty” our groundwater “reservoirs” have become. As the recent series of atmospheric rivers have left us with a massive snowpack, full surface water reservoirs (with some exceptions in southern California), and soggy soils, some questions are frequently asked:  Is the drought over, even for groundwater – if not, when will well owners see full recovery of their water table?  And could the massive amounts of runoff be captured to accelerate replenishment of our depleted groundwater aquifers? … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Post-drought groundwater in California: Like the economy after a deep recession, recovery will be slow

Scientific study contradicts basis for State Water Board's river flow mandates:  Aubrey Bettencourt writes, “A new environmental study, published in in the prestigious North American Journal of Fisheries Management, reveals that Governor Jerry Brown’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) imposed so-called pulse-flow release requirements on water rights holders affecting several California rivers, operating from unproven beliefs the study now shows were without sufficient scientific basis. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02755947.2016.1240120)  Pulse flows, as ordered by the SWRCB, are short-term increases in outflow releases from California’s numerous dams. These flows have cut water deliveries to millions of Californians, forced some to drink foul-smelling water and required hundreds of thousands of acres of food-producing farmland to remain empty and unplanted. … ”  Read more from Fox and Hounds here:  Scientific study contradicts basis for State Water Board’s river flow mandates

Federal scientists find Delta tunnels plan will devastate salmon:  Dan Bacher writes, “Governor Jerry Brown and administration officials claim that the California WaterFix, a controversial plan to build two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is based on “science.”  “The best scientific thinking says California needs the project,” Governor Brown told Dan Morain, Sacramento Bee editorial page editor in a interview in December of 2016. (www.sacbee.com/…)  However, federal scientists strongly disagree with Brown’s claim that “best scientific thinking” supports the construction of the tunnels. In fact, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has released a draft biological opinion documenting the harm the tunnels would cause to salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, other fish and wildlife species, and water quality. ... ” Read more at the Daily Kos here:  Federal scientists find Delta tunnels plan will devastate salmon

Full San Luis Dam endangers 200,000 people:  Diedre Des Jardins writes, “San Luis Dam, also known as B.F. Sisk Dam, is 382 feet tall and 18,600 feet long, and impounds up to 2 million acre-feet of water. It is the largest offstream dam in the United States.  Pursuant to the 1960 San Luis Act, San Luis Dam was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation, and is still owned by the Bureau. The Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources entered into a Joint Use Agreement for San Luis in December 1961, which provides that the State of California operates and maintains the San Luis facilities. Because the dam is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, it is not subject to oversight by DWR’s Division of Safety of Dams, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Division of Dam Safety and Inspections. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Research blog here:  Full San Luis Dam endangers 200,000 people

There's good reason to end the agriculture versus the environment fight:  Suzy Friedman writes, “On paper, I appear to be the picture perfect stereotype of an east coast liberal: I’ve been working at environmental nonprofits for over 20 years, I’m an Ivy League grad, and I live in the “bluest” county in Virginia. When it comes to first impressions in the world of agriculture, I’ve been met countless times with skepticism and even contempt.  The reality is that I spend nearly every waking hour of my career collaborating with farmers – exploring ways to implement on-the-ground practices that help producers save money and protect yields while also reducing impacts to water and air. After years of building relationships, I’m proud of the diverse and unlikely partnerships I’ve formed. Many of my closest friends and allies would be labeled as “big ag.” ... ”  Read more from the Growing Returns blog here:  There’s good reason to end the agriculture versus the environment fight

Risk study: $21.8 billion in property in Oroville inundation path:  Diedre Des Jardins writes, “Risk Management Solutions, a leading catastrophic risk modeling company headquartered in Silicon Valley, did a “what if?” modeling of a breach of the Oroville Dam. Risk Management Solutions estimated there is $21.8 billion in damageable property in the Oroville Dam inundation path. See RMS, What If The Oroville Dam Had Collapsed Completely? March 3, 2017.  Dam inundation is not covered by standard insurance policies. Only NFIP flood insurance covers flooding. … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Research blog here: Risk study: $21.8 billion in property in Oroville inundation path

Saving water for the future: California needs Sites Reservoir:  The Northern California Water Association writes, “With the Sacramento Valley in flood stage early this year, the California Department of Water Resources has estimated that by mid-February Sites Reservoir could have stored over 1 million acre-feet of water (over 325 billion gallons) this water year.  The Sites Reservoir—a modern off-stream reservoir in Northern California—captures and stores runoff supplies for use in dry and critical years, allows other reservoirs to hold more water into the summer months, provides water for fish, birds, farms and cities, increases flood management opportunities and supports groundwater recharge. ... ”  Read more from the NCWA blog here:  Saving water for the future: California needs Sites Reservoir

A big boost this year for Lake Mead:  “The Bureau of Reclamation’s monthly forecast, out this morning (pdf), contains some very good news for Lake Mead and its water users in California, Nevada, and Arizona. But there is a huge caveat. The Good News:  As it stood in early March, the snowpack in the Rockies was enough to send a big slug of extra water into Lake Powell during the spring-summer runoff. That would push Powell high enough to send a big slug of bonus water downstream, the result of operating rules intended to try to keep the reservoirs roughly in balance. If the forecast holds, Mead would rise 27 feet this year. The huge caveat: Note those weasel words … ”  Continue reading at the Inkstain blog here:  A big boost this year for Lake Mead  See also, Don’t let the dry March overshadow the good news for Lake Mead

How should one measure the Endangered Species Act's success?  Damien M. Shiff writes, “Property rights and other groups that seek reform of the Endangered Species Act oftentimes note that only a tiny fraction of the species that have been listed under the Act have recovered. Environmentalists typically respond that a recovery metric is not a good way to measure the Act’s performance. A good example of this defense, in adumbrated form, was recently made by Professor Eric Biber at LegalPlanet. Many species, he explains, are listed when they are on the verge of extinction. Yet the threats that have led to their imminent disappearance usually will take some time to mitigate. Hence, the Act may very well be “working” but we haven’t given it enough time to show its stuff.  In my view, there are at least three significant problems with this defense. … ” Read more from the Liberty Blog here:  How should one measure the Endangered Species Act’s success?

Trump's proposed budget would increase water pollution:  Jon Devine writes, “President Trump announced his proposed budget on Thursday. If it were to be adopted by Congress, it would threaten public health and our natural resources enormously. Although this budget is so radical that it has no chance of enactment, it still bears close examination for a couple reasons. First, it provides a window into the values that the Trump administration holds (or, based on this document, lacks). Second, we need to be on guard for attempts to cast the president’s budget as the starting point for discussing the ultimate funding levels, such that Congress seems reasonable by providing more funding than the president would for environmental programs, but cutting them below already-insufficient current levels.  This post examines President Trump’s budget with respect to water programs. ... ”  Read more from the NRDC Switchboard blog here:  Trump’s proposed budget would increase water pollution

Climate change is the new he-who-must-not-be-named:  Sarah Duffy writes, “Last week, after saying that he did not believe that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of climate change, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reminded me for the second time since he took office of someone I met at age fifteen: Dolores Umbridge. Yes, that Dolores Umbridge, the one that functions as the main villain of the fifth Harry Potter book, at times eclipsing even Voldemort in her evilness. Now before you dismiss this as hyperbolic, let me make my case.  For those of you who have not read the books (in which case, drop everything and go read them) and for those who read them a long time ago, let me introduce you to Dolores Umbridge. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here:  Climate change is the new he-who-must-not-be-named

Gorsuch and the environment: A closer look:  Dan Farber writes, “What could we expect from Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice in environmental and energy cases?   After reading all the opinions I could find, I’d say the best news is this: He doesn’t seem to have any particular agenda in the area.  That distinguishes him from some past appointees such as Clarence Thomas, who had made his hostility to environmental protection clear as a court of appeals judge. He also doesn’t give the impression of being particularly pro-industry.  Perhaps of particular relevance, given the current situation, he seems sympathetic to pro-environmental state laws. Of course, it’s possible that the small number of environmental cases to date are misleading and that he’ll campaign against environmental regulation as a Justice.  But his record to date doesn’t really show that.  I’ve broken down the opinions into a few groups. … ”  Read more at the Legal Planet here:  Gorsuch and the environment: A closer look

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About the Blog Round-up: The Blog Round-up is a weekly journey through the wild and varied tapestry of blog commentary, incorporating the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes just plain bizarre viewpoints existing on the internet. Viewpoints expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily my own; inclusion of items here does not imply my endorsement of their positions. Items are chosen to express a wide range of viewpoints, and are added at the editor’s discretion. While posts with obvious factual errors are excluded, please note that no attempt is made on my part to verify or fact check the information bloggers present, so caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

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