BLOG ROUND-UP: Wetlands at risk from federal rule change; 100% Wrong!; Discussion on Delta smelt; Extreme precipitation and water storage in California; Accounting for water in the San Joaquin Valley; and more …

Sutro Baths, photo by David Yu

Wetlands at risk from federal rule change:  “The federal government’s Clean Water Act includes dozens of regulations to reduce water pollution. But it doesn’t include a clear definition of what types of water systems it covers. The Trump administration recently ordered federal agencies to begin the formal process to repeal an Obama-era rule—called the Waters of the United States rule. We asked Richard Frank, an expert in California environmental law and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network, what President Trump’s executive order could mean for wetlands in California and beyond.  PPIC: What was the purpose of the Waters of the United States rule?  Richard Frank: It was intended to fix ambiguity in the Clean Water Act relating to federal jurisdiction over wetlands and water pollution control. … ”  Read more from the PPIC Blog here:  Wetlands at risk from federal rule change

100% Wrong!:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “It’s nice to see farmers are getting 100% of their water allocations for the first time since 2006, but the delay in making the decision is unacceptable.  As Ryan Jacobson, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau said, “That should have been a no-brainer – 100 percent allocation.  With one of the wettest winters in years, there shouldn’t have been a question mark … this is something we should have seen in February.”  When water records are being set all over California, the only decision that should have been questioned is whether farmers should get more than their 100%. ... ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here:  100% Wrong!

blog-round-up-previous-editionsDiscussion on Delta smelt:  “This past November’s science conference on the Bay-Delta included a discussion on Delta smelt. Some of the discussion points are presented in this post, with my comments.  “The Delta smelt is adapted to an ecosystem that no longer exists. Looking at the Delta smelt’s life history, their adaptations, their tolerances to different environmental conditions, and looking at the landscape of the Delta, that the state that the estuary is in now basically does not favor the continued existence of the species. Looking at its physiology or biology, it’s no longer adapted to this particular ecosystem, as we’ve progressively changed things through time.”  Comment: Delta smelt remain highly adapted to the Bay-Delta Estuary. However the habitats are so disturbed, especially during droughts, that little recruitment is possible, resulting in a long term decline in the adult spawning population that may not be reversible. Wet years and improved water management could possibly reverse this pattern and bring population recoveries, similar to those in 2010 and 2011. … ”  Continue reading at the California Fisheries Blog here:  Discussion on Delta smelt

Extreme precipitation and water storage in California:  “California’s recent drought was the worst in memory. However, in a relatively quick turnaround, this year the state’s water infrastructure is full and water managers are battling the wettest winter on record in quite some time. Now, by many accounts, the drought is over for much of the state.  The uniquely wet winter of 2016-2017 has highlighted a key issue surrounding our surface and ground water storage infrastructure: We could have stored this abundant water, not in new reservoirs, but right under our feet. The cycles of drought and flood will continue in California; in order to survive the droughts we have to move winter precipitation to groundwater storage in greater quantity and more efficiently. ... ”  Read more from The Confluence Blog here:  Extreme precipitation and water storage in California

Accounting for water in the San Joaquin Valley:  “Accounting for water supplies and uses is fundamental to good water management, but it is often difficult and controversial to implement. As with other types of accounting, this task is harder and costlier when information is not well organized.  Here we present a 30-year set of water balances for the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and home to more than half of the state’s irrigated acreage. The valley has multiple sources of surface water and is the largest user of groundwater in California. Of particular interest in this region is understanding the extent of long-term depletion of water stored in aquifers (overdraft). This practice will need to be curbed as water users implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Ending overdraft can be achieved by augmenting other water supplies and reducing net water use. …. ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Accounting for water in the San Joaquin Valley

Restoring California’s coastal ecosystems:  Dr. Karen Holl writes, “Over two-thirds of Californians live in coastal counties. Californians love their coastline for good reasons—the mild weather, recreational opportunities, and of course their iconic beauty and natural diversity. The California coastline hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from sand dunes to rolling grasslands to mixed evergreen forests. These ecosystems not only are beautiful and provide habitat to many species of plants and animals, they also provide important services to people. Coastal wetlands, for example, help to improve water quality, reduce shoreline erosion, and buffer against sea level rise.  But the millions of Californians who live near the coast have had significant impacts on these ecosystems. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists here:  Restoring California’s coastal ecosystems

The wise use of the floodplain in the Sacramento Valley:  The Northern California Water Association blog writes, “Dale Hall, the Chief Executive Officer of Ducks Unlimited and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, was in the Sacramento Valley this week, sharing his progressive thoughts on the wise use of the floodplain. His remarks were centered on water and he focused on a forward-looking approach where “tailored functional flows and non-flow measures serve multiple benefits (birds, fish and farms) and improve the health of the Delta, without pitting environmentally beneficial uses of water against one another.” In his view, these “functional flows” to spread and slow water out over the ground will better serve fish and birds in the long-term than a more simplistic “unimpaired flow” approach. He offered the following remarks and insights, which were previously shared with various state and federal agencies. … ”  Read more at the Northern California Water Association Blog here:  The wise use of the floodplain in the Sacramento Valley

Salmon habitat construction begins:  “We are excited to report that over the last couple of weeks, construction has been underway on our Salmon Rearing Habitat Structures!  David Vogel with Natural Resource Scientists, whose concept the structures are based on, met with Bret Ashford and his construction crew at Meyers Earthwork Inc. earlier this month to begin the process. … ”  Read more from the River Garden Farms blog here:  Salmon habitat construction begins

Sacramento River fall-run salmon: status and future:  Tom Cannon writes, “Have poor ocean and river conditions during the recent 2012-2015 drought contributed to a collapse of the Sacramento fall-run salmon population as they did during the 2007-2009 drought? Has trucking hatchery smolts to the Bay in the recent drought helped maintain the fall-run population?  I discussed these and related topics for the San Joaquin River fall-run salmon in a post on February 13. In this post, I turn to the Sacramento and its tributaries.  In a March 1 post on its daily blog, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife predicted poor salmon runs this year: … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries Blog here:  Sacramento River fall-run salmon: status and future

State double-feature is for the birds:  “Though it’s one of the most altered landscapes in the west, the northern San Joaquin Valley still retains remnants of its marvelous natural history. The most obvious are the winter flights of waterfowl, still numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  But many of the Valley’s natural treasures, even some of the most spectacular, are hidden from all but a select few Valley residents and visitors. These hidden gems include common but nonetheless spectacular birds like the Common Yellowthroat, White-tailed Kite, and Bonaparte’s Gull. While these birds are almost always present, they’re usually seen only by accident or by those few people who know where and when to look for them—and most of those people are birders. ... ”  Read more from The Valley Citizen here:  State double-feature is for the birds

Oroville’s impact on Lake Mead:  “Friday’s announcement of an 85 percent California State Water Project allocation was, tentatively at least, good news for Lake Mead.  When the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California gets a small supply from up north via the State Water Project, it needs more Colorado River water. Conversely, with a big State Water Project supply coming out of Oroville Dam and down the Sacramento River to the big south-of-delta pumps, Met can back off on its Colorado River Aqueduct supplies. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  Oroville’s impact on Lake Mead

Is there more to water than our use of it?  Faith Kearns writes, “One of my biggest challenges in working on California water is that it’s all about water use. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking supply or demand, efficiency or conservation, wastewater or infrastructure, above or under ground storage — it’s all about human use of water. The closest we get to joy or awe at the simple existence of water comes in around rain and snow, especially after many years of drought, but even those conversations become almost immediately about how much we need it and whether or not we are making good use of it.  Don’t get me wrong, water use is important. Clearly. There’s no danger that topic will really ever go away in California. … ”  Read more from the Science Unicorn here:  Is there more to water than our use of it?

Jerry Brown meets with Interior Secretary about Delta tunnels and water infrastructure:  “After meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown on April 13,  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke issued a statement saying he “appreciated the positive and productive conversation” with Brown.  The Trump administration official said he and the governor discussed “public lands, water infrastructure and projects throughout California” that are managed by the Department of Interior.  One of the topics they talked about was Governor Brown’s controversial plan to build the Delta Tunnels. Zinke has not yet taken a formal position on the California WaterFix project, but you can bet that Brown was doing everything he could to convince him to officially support it. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here:  Jerry Brown meets with Interior Secretary about Delta tunnels and water infrastructure

President Trump’s Infrastructure Plans – A Potential Boon to California’s Aging Water Network Faces Challenges:  Jeff Simonetti writes, “While all of the precipitation surely has alleviated the drought conditions and taken pressure off of tapped reservoirs and groundwater supplies, it has also put a clear focus on the challenges California’s aging water infrastructure faces. While the emergency at Lake Oroville received the most national media attention, there were instances of strained water and flood infrastructure across the state. On February 14th, President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration and granted FEMA assistance to 34 counties where flooding caused severe damage. At a press conference to announce the FEMA package, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of the Oroville Dam emergency, “The situation is a textbook example of why we need to pursue a major infrastructure package in Congress. Dams, bridges, roads and all ports around the country have fallen into disrepair. In order to prevent the next disaster, we will pursue the President’s vision for an overhaul of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.” … ”  Read more from the Hydrowonk Blog here:  President Trump’s Infrastructure Plans – A Potential Boon to California’s Aging Water Network Faces Challenges

The war on science continues:  “Trump’s anti-science views, on topics ranging from climate change to vaccines, got a lot of attention during the campaign.  His budget puts these attitudes into operational form, and he has also  left the White House science office empty, without replacing the presidential science advisor or other scientific staff. But he’s certainly not alone in his indifference to science, an attitude that is shared by key members of Congress and of his Administration.  Since this is the week before Earth Day and the science march, the topic is especially timely.  It’s not just a matter of political hot air — there are real threats to the ability of scientists to do their work. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet blog here:  The war on science continues

The paradoxes of irrigation efficiency:  John Fleck writes, “The University of New Mexico water posse had a great visit yesterday with Christopher Scott, the new director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona. Scott spoke a couple of times and met with students at our Community and Regional Planning program, who have been doing a lot of work on wastewater reuse (shoutout to Caroline Scruggs, who’s leading this effort, and who hosted Scott).  Scott talked about the work he’s been doing in this same area, which raises non-trivial questions with deep implications for what happens when you “conserve” water – the fact that the water you “save” was often doing something useful somewhere else, whether you meant it to our not. … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here:  The paradoxes of irrigation efficiencyDaily emails

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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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