DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Why Oroville Dam woes could cut into California water supplies; Melting snowpack and sinking land threaten valley communities with flooding; Joint letter pledges to develop the Temperance Flat Reservoir project; and more …

In California water news this weekend, Why Oroville Dam woes could cut into California water supplies; Oroville Dam documents kept secret by the state, federal officials; A view from the other side of Oroville Dam, now closed to boaters; Melting snowpack and sinking land threaten valley communities with flooding; The big melt:  Here it comes, most reservoirs will be fine; Joint letter pledges to develop the Temperance Flat Reservoir project; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Why Oroville Dam woes could cut into California water supplies: The fractured spillway at Oroville Dam has forced the state to spend tens of millions of dollars on emergency repairs, with millions more to come.  Here’s another potential cost: a slice of California’s water supply.  Dam operators are expected to run Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, at lower-than-usual water levels this summer as they wrestle with the complicated and lengthy task of fixing the dam’s broken spillway. Despite one of the rainiest winters on record, that will mean less water held in storage – and less available for delivery later this year to Southern California, Silicon Valley and portions of the San Joaquin Valley. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Why Oroville Dam woes could cut into California water supplies

Oroville Dam documents kept secret by the state, federal officials:  “Citing potential security risks, state and federal officials are blocking the public’s ability to review documents that could shed light on repair plans and safety issues at crippled Oroville Dam.  One of the secret reports is a memo from an independent panel of experts brought in to guide state officials’ repair plans. Another confidential document is labeled a “Project Safety Compliance Report.”  The secrecy on the part of state dam operators prompted state Sen. Jim Nielsen to call for an immediate oversight hearing. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville Dam documents kept secret by the state, federal officials

A view from the other side of Oroville Dam, now closed to boaters:  “As a State Parks ranger, Bryan Taylor gets a close look at Lake Oroville almost every day.  Feb. 11, however, was a once-in-a-lifetime view.  At the time, it was fascinating and fun to see, he recalled on Saturday.  The lake was literally filled to the brim, with water slowly rolling over the lip of the emergency spillway. It look like an infinity pool, Taylor said, with water fully covering the “bathtub rings” of the lake and submerging all but the top of the lakeside trees. Water was over the historic old Bidwell Bar Bridge and the nearby boat ramp. The spillway boat launch parking lot was also completely flooded. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  A view from the other side of Oroville Dam, now closed to boaters

Melting snowpack and sinking land threaten valley communities with flooding:  “It’s a race against time this spring as water roars out of Central California’s dams and rumbles its way to the lowest-lying areas of the western San Joaquin Valley, communities where land is collapsing and water channels are growing more unstable.  State engineers are generating new maps to understand where water is stagnating in spots it once flowed freely, and to learn which communities are in the most danger of flooding. Old solutions no longer apply, water officials say, because topography is altered by what’s occurring underground.  With a hefty Sierra snowpack heading toward the months when it will melt, both Pine Flat and Millerton lakes are expected to empty and refill several times this year. Managing water flow to avoid floods is critical. High water is expected into the early summer, officials say. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Melting snowpack and sinking land threaten valley communities with flooding

The big melt:  Here it comes, most reservoirs will be fine:  “Reservoirs are no longer so frighteningly full, rivers are no longer flowing so fiercely, and it appears the threat of serious flooding has diminished in low-lying San Joaquin County.  But that snowpack.  All eyes are on the Sierra Nevada now, where the snowpack typically peaks about this time each year and begins melting and draining into foothill reservoirs.  Are we ready? … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  The big melt:  Here it comes, most reservoirs will be fine

Joint letter pledges to develop the Temperance Flat Reservoir project:  “A joint letter pledging collaboration to develop the Temperance Flat Reservoir project was signed by four agencies representing water users in the San Joaquin Valley at Fresno City Hall on Friday.  Friant Water Authority, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, and San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority signed the letter during a news conference hosted by Fresno Mayor Lee Brand.  The letter was addressed to California Water Commission Acting Executive Officer Taryn Ravazzini and talked about working with the United States Bureau of Reclamation and wanting to have staff equality, funding and support. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Joint letter pledges to develop the Temperance Flat Reservoir project

In commentary this weekend …

California greets a bleak salmon season:  The Santa Rosa Press Democrat writes,This week’s news included warnings about potential flooding as temperatures rise and the Sierra’s mammoth snowpack begins to melt.  So it may seem a bit odd to be reading about the lingering effects of California’s drought.  But one of the most troubling consequences is coming into focus as sport salmon fishing season begins today amid renewed concerns about the long-term survival of an iconic species.  Salmon are anadromous fish, hatching in freshwater streams, migrating to the ocean and returning home to spawn in a lifecycle of about three years. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  California greets a bleak salmon season

Phoenix is doing what the West needs to do for water, says the Arizona Republic:  They write, “Securing reliable water supplies is a Western problem, and Arizona is in the middle of that existential challenge.  States that rely on Colorado River water have to continue working together for that sake of mutual survival. That’s a given.  So is the need for creativity and long-term planning.  An agreement among the Gila River Indian Community and the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the City of Phoenix and the Walton Family Foundation is an example of the cooperation and foresight that’s been typical of Arizona’s approach.  The agreement is an excellent model for how to move ahead, and a timely reminder that the need for long-term conservation efforts is not negated by one wet winter. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here: Phoenix is doing what the West needs to do for water

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

The end of Delta asparagus?  “In the old days, standing on the floor of the Kings Crown packing shed in the southern Delta, you couldn’t have a basic conversation.  The trucks delivering freshly cut asparagus, the conveyors sending the spears along for washing, sorting and packaging, and the hustle of 200 employees would have drowned out your words.  Today, everything third-generation farmer Joe Ratto says on the floor of the mostly empty building sounds perfectly clear.  “Today, we’re down to 32 employees,” he said Friday. “Thirty-two. It makes me sick.” … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  The end of Delta asparagus?

San Jose: Environmentalists criticize Alamden Lake cleanup plan:  “A cleanup project meant to help Almaden Lake’s wildlife could actually do more harm than good to fish if alternatives aren’t sought, according to an environmental group.  Members of the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition were disappointed when a Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors committee last month declined to consider modifying the cleanup proposal.  For several years, the district has been working to clean up and alter Almaden Lake. District officials plan to separate the lake, which has been closed to public swimming for several years because of high bacteria levels, from Los Alamitos Creek by building a small levee-like structure and a flow-through system to either circulate the lake water or refresh it with new water. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Environmentalists criticize Alamden Lake cleanup plan

Corcoran prepares for possible flood when Tulare Lake fills with snowmelt:  “Sales of flood insurance are booming here because of fears that the old Tulare Lake will fill when snowmelt comes crashing down the Kaweah, Kings and Tule rivers and pools in the lowest point in the San Joaquin Valley.  Although a levee protects Corcoran, local officials started to worry about flooding when a survey in February showed that it had sunk two feet in two years due to land subsidence.  In a worst-case scenario, a fast snowmelt would overfill the lake and flood Corcoran, said Dustin Fuller, general manager of the Cross Creek Flood Control District. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Corcoran prepares for possible flood when Tulare Lake fills with snowmelt

Who should pay to manage groundwater?  San Luis Obispo supervisors will revisit the question:  “As creeks ran dry and parched earth cracked in the midst of the drought, Californians became keenly aware that underground aquifers were not unlimited resources for drinking and irrigation water.  Well levels around San Luis Obispo County dropped; some became tainted with seawater as more groundwater was pumped out than was going into local aquifers. The most visible impact of declining water tables was in the Central Valley, where overdraft in those basins caused land to sink.  The state responded by enacting legislation to do something it had never done before: regulate groundwater to create “a sustainable regime of pumping and recharge.” It’s been 15 months since the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act took effect, and its first major deadline is June 30. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Who should pay to manage groundwater?  San Luis Obispo supervisors will revisit the question

San Luis Obispo County Supervisors should stay the course, says the SLO Tribune: Now is not the time to change water policy:  They write, “The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is about to take a second look at who should pay for state-mandated management plans for groundwater basins threatened by overpumping. Should it be the affected property owners who actually use the water, or all county taxpayers?  If the board decides the county should cover that cost — estimated at $6.1 million — that would reverse the position it took back in November, when it agreed to act as lead agency for areas required to do groundwater planning, but only if property owners agreed to cover the costs.  Otherwise, control would revert to the state, which would then impose fees on landowners. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  San Luis Obispo County Supervisors should stay the course

How much rain has Southern California received?  A lot. Today is March 31st, which means we’re halfway through what’s known as the water year. That means it’s the end of the period from October through March when Southern California receives nearly all of its precipitation.  So, just how much rain have we gotten? A lot. In just six months, we’ve seen 120 percent of what we normally get in a typical full year.  That’s according to data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which shows this year’s precipitation outpacing normal totals. By this point in the median year, Southern California has received 86 percent of what it will eventually get in the year.  … ”  Read more from KPCC here:  How much rain has Southern California received?  A lot.

Coachella Valley: A $22 million plan to reverse groundwater declines in Palm Desert:  “Over decades, as subdivisions, golf courses and farms have expanded across the desert, the aquifer has declined beneath much of the Coachella Valley. Water agencies have combated the problem by importing water from the Colorado River to replenish the aquifer at three sites: near Palm Springs, near Desert Hot Springs and in south La Quinta.  The largest declines in the aquifer have occurred away from those groundwater replenishment ponds in the middle of the valley. In parts of Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage, records show water levels in wells have declined by 90-100 feet or more since the 1950s and 60s. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Coachella Valley: A $22 million plan to reverse groundwater declines in Palm Desert

Precipitation watch …

From the National Weather Service:  “Here’s a look at the storm timeline for this week. Breezy winds Sunday and Monday with an Atmospheric River pattern impacting interior NorCal Thursday into the weekend with the brunt of the storm Friday into Saturday with occasionally heavy mountain snow.”

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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