DAILY DIGEST: Lawmakers quiz water officials on spillway repair, key players given homework by senators; The dried up heart of California’s water dilemma; New study: California drought increased electric bills and air pollution; Conservation bills clear Assembly Committee; and more …

In California water news today, What went wrong at Oroville Dam?  Analysis points to drainage, problematic soils; Fixed before the next big rains? Lawmakers quiz water officials on spillway repair; Experts: Oroville Dam’s crippled spillways can’t be fully repaired this year; State’s water chief: Despite crisis, Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway ‘worked’; Key players in Oroville Spillway incident given homework by senators; The dried up heart of California’s water dilemma; New study: California drought increased electric bills and air pollution; Drought is over, but we’re still toting up the costs; Rice farmer expresses confidence in Sites Reservoir; Conservation bills clear Assembly Committee; Discussions to continue; Delta levee and ratepayer protection bills pass first hurdle; Climate change is making algal blooms worse; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Delta Conservancy Board meets at 9am.   The agenda includes a request for approval of staff recommendations for the second solicitation cycle of the Proposition 1 Grant Program and a request for approval to post the public draft of the Conservancy’s 2017 Strategic Plan. The agenda and board materials are available here.

In the news today …

What went wrong at Oroville Dam?  Analysis points to drainage, problematic soils:  “The spillway failure at Oroville Dam likely was caused by problems with its underlying drainage system and the soils beneath the concrete chute, according to an internal analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The April 7 report marks the first time the Army Corps, which sets rules governing reservoir operations, has attempted to pinpoint the causes behind the Oroville spillway crisis, which led to the two-day evacuation of 188,000 residents in February.  The Army Corps’ report, conducted by its risk management center, generally dovetails with other analyses about what caused the spillway to split in two Feb. 7. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  What went wrong at Oroville Dam?  Analysis points to drainage, problematic soils

Fixed before the next big rains? Lawmakers quiz water officials on spillway repair:  “California lawmakers pressed state officials Tuesday on the repair effort at Oroville Dam, demanding to see contract details to make sure the bulk of the work will be completed in time for the next rainy season.  Members of the state Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, at an hourlong oversight hearing on the Oroville crisis, questioned Secretary John Laird, the head of the Department of Water Resources and Natural Resources, on the specifications of the $275 million contract awarded earlier this month to Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Neb., to fix the dam’s two damaged spillways.  “Is it written in a way that we’re protected?” asked committee Chairman Robert Hertzberg, questioning whether Kiewit would be assessed penalties if work isn’t completed on time. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Fixed before the next big rains? Lawmakers quiz water officials on spillway repair

Experts: Oroville Dam’s crippled spillways can’t be fully repaired this year:  “A pair of crippled spillways at Oroville Dam can be repaired in part by November, but a good deal of the work will probably have to be done after the next rainy season, according to reports by an independent panel of experts.  The five-member panel, hired by the California Department of Water Resources, found during three reviews in March that reconstruction of the spillways at the nation’s tallest dam — the badly mangled main chute and the eroded emergency spillway — will likely take more time than is available this year.  But there is at least enough time, the panel said, to make fixes that ensure Lake Oroville doesn’t spill over and flood the region. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Experts: Oroville Dam’s crippled spillways can’t be fully repaired this year

State’s water chief: Despite crisis, Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway ‘worked’:  “The head of California’s water agency on Tuesday repeated his assertion that an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam worked, drawing an incredulous response from a state lawmaker who represents tens of thousands of people ordered to evacuate when it was feared erosion at the spillway could lead to catastrophic flooding.  Bill Croyle, acting director of the Department of Water Resources, faced lawmakers for the first time since the evacuations in February. Authorities feared a concrete wall at the top of the emergency spillway was on the verge of collapsing and sending a wall of water rushing uncontrolled through downstream communities. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  State’s water chief: Despite crisis, Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway ‘worked’

Key players in Oroville Spillway incident given homework by senators:  “For the first time since the Lake Oroville spillway crisis began, members of the state Legislature peppered key water leaders with questions about what happened, what will happen next and what can be learned from it all.  Despite the first legislative grilling, not much new was shared or learned.  Members of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee also invited Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) and Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) to the dais to ask additional questions for people in their districts. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Key players in Oroville Spillway incident given homework by senators

The dried up heart of California’s water dilemma:  “California’s Tulare Lake was once the largest body of freshwater west of the Mississippi. It was shallow, and it varied in size from year to year and season to season. But it was home to lots of salmon, turtles, otters and even, in the latter half of the 19th century, a few schooners and steamboats. It was also at the heart of a 400,000-acre network of lakes and wetlands (“the river of the lakes,” the painter and naturalist John W. Audubon — John J.’s son — called it in 1849) that in wet years overflowed into the San Joaquin River to the north, making it possible to travel by boat from Bakersfield to San Francisco. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg View here:  The dried up heart of California’s water dilemma

New study: California drought increased electric bills and air pollution:  “California’s brutal five-year drought did more than lead to water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and greenhouse gases, according to a new study released Wednesday.  Why? A big drop-off in hydroelectric power. With little rain or snow between 2012 and 2016, cheap, clean power from dozens of large dams around California was scarce, and cities and utilities had to use more electricity from natural-gas-fired power plants, which is more expensive and pollutes more. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  New study: California drought increased electric bills and air pollution

Drought is over, but we’re still toting up the costs:  “Californians paid for the drought in many ways. Homeowners saw their water rates rise. Farmers sacrificed revenue when they idled fields.  And practically everyone spent more on electricity.  Californians’ electricity costs jumped by a combined $2.45 billion from 2012 to 2016 because of severe shortages of cheap hydroelectricity, according to an estimate released Wednesday by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy think tank. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Drought is over, but we’re still toting up the costs

Rice farmer expresses confidence in Sites Reservoir:  “The long-proposed Sites Reservoir in Northern California is “going to get built” but it will be a challenge, according to Woodland-based rice farmer Fritz Durst.  Durst was speaking to the Woodland Chamber of Commerce Water Committee Tuesday morning and while he remains confident the Maxwell-area reservoir will one day be completed, he said there are challenges.  And, interestingly, the primary challenges are centered around involvement by the federal government — which is exactly the direction in which action is progressing. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Rice farmer expresses confidence in Sites Reservoir

Conservation bills clear Assembly Committee; Discussions to continue:  “A raft of bills aimed at enhancing long-term water-use efficiency and drought planning cleared the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday as the authors pledged to continue working with stakeholders to address competing approaches to achieve the goal.  The committee approved two bills actively supported by ACWA and the water community, AB 968 (Rubio) and AB 1654 (Rubio). The bills are based on concepts developed by the water community to establish new water efficiency targets for urban retail water suppliers and enhance water supply shortage planning and response. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Conservation bills clear Assembly Committee; Discussions to continue

Delta levee and ratepayer protection bills pass first hurdle:  “Two bills that would protect Delta levees and ratepayers were passed in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday.  Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s two bills — AB 732 and AB 791 — passed through their first hurdle. AB 732, which extends reimbursements for levee maintenance, passed on a 10-to-4 vote. AB 791, which requires Delta project leads to provide anticipated rate information, passed 8 to 6.  Currently, 75 percent of maintenance costs for levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is reimbursed through the Delta Levees Subvention Program. That reimbursement is set to drop down to 50 percent in 2018. AB 732 will extend that 75 percent reimbursement indefinitely. The bill passed through committee by a 10-to-4 vote. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Delta levee and ratepayer protection bills pass first hurdle

Climate change is making algal blooms worse:  “Researchers have long suggested that climate change could mean more damage from algal blooms — runaway growths of algae that can strangle marine ecosystems and devastate coastal economies. Now, a study has unpicked how warming ocean temperatures have already driven an intensification of blooms around North America — the first time this link has been established at an ocean scale1.  Harmful algal blooms can occur when changes in water conditions lead to a huge growth in the number of a particular species of algae. The blooms can produce toxins, become so large that they kill marine life, and even turn water a different colour. … ”  Read more from Nature.com here:  Climate change is making algal blooms worse

In commentary today …

California could have stored abundant water underground, says Mohammad Safeeq:  He writes, 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 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 water and groundwater 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 Water Deeply here:  California could have stored abundant water underground

Nature’s drought is over, but not the real drought, says Dennis Wyatt:  He writes,  “Take a drive out to Stewart Road.  It’s the main entrance to River Islands at Lathrop.  Look to your right. What you see is not simply high water levels in the San Joaquin River. It is California’s future going down the drain or, more precisely, flowing out to the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, it is still raining and snowing in the Golden State. And, yes, the drought as defined by what nature releases from the heavens is over.  The drought — or more precisely — the scarcity of water to support 39.8 million people as well as grow over a third of the nation’s vegetables and more than two thirds of our country’s fruits and nuts is still on. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Nature’s drought is over, but not the real drought

In regional news and commentary today …

Ukiah Valley groundwater basin formed to oversee Ukiah basin:  “All four governing districts involved in Ukiah basin groundwater have approved a joint powers agreement, or JPA, to form the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which will oversee the area’s water resources.  Directors appointed by each of the four districts, the Upper Russian River Water Agency, the Russian River Flood Control District, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and the City of Ukiah, form a single board that will maintain local control in carrying out the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014. The board has the authority to acquire property, contract services, apply for grants and invest money, according to the JPA. … ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  Ukiah Valley groundwater basin formed to oversee Ukiah basin

State hits Visalia dairy with fines, but owner won’t pay:  “State regulators have told a recalcitrant dairyman in Visalia to stop playing games with them over a required annual report about water quality or potentially be prosecuted for failing to cooperate.  The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board said it fined Sweeney Dairy of Visalia $75,600 for failing to file its 2015 annual report about the impacts of the dairy on water quality.  The board upped the ante by also issuing a cease and desist order. If the dairy owner does not file the report, the board could refer the case to the attorney general’s office for prosecution, said water quality board spokesman Doug Patteson. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  State hits Visalia dairy with fines, but owner won’t pay

Lois Henry: Pollution plumes stopped by drought but how much longer for cleanup?  “The good news is that more than 40 million pounds of petroleum hydrocarbons have been sucked — literally — out of the ground around the former Shell Oil (now Alon) refinery on Rosedale Highway.  And the really good news is that toxic plume, which had been creeping toward the Kern River bed and several drinking-water wells, was stopped, largely due to the drought, so the crud is contained.  In fact, the plume is shrinking. So, yay drought! … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Lois Henry: Pollution plumes stopped by drought but how much longer for cleanup?

Santa Clarita: Knight’s legislation would clean contaminated water:  “In an effort to recycle contaminated water in the Santa Clarita Valley, Congressman Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) introduced a bill Tuesday to treat areas contaminated by perchlorate.  Under the House of Representatives Bill 2116, known as the Perchlorate Reclamation and Water Replenishment Act, the Secretary of the Interior would develop projects with local water agencies to capture, treat and distribute recycled water affected by perchlorate. … ”  Read more from the Santa Clarita Signal here:  Santa Clarita: Knight’s legislation would clean contaminated water

DWP customers could be soaked again by new groundwater agencies, says Susan Shelley:  She writes, “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ran two ads in this newspaper recently with lots of small print under the headline, “Notice of City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Public Hearing.”  Maybe we all had the same thought when we saw it: “NOW, what?” It’s not another rate hike, yet. It’s a public notice about the pending creation of new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, one to govern groundwater in an area of the San Fernando Valley, and one for the groundwater under Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Culver City. … ”  Read more from the Daily Breeze here: DWP customers could be soaked again by new groundwater agencies

Water flowing into Silver Lake Reservoir again:  “Water began flowing Tuesday into the Silver Lake Reservoir, two years after the scenic urban pond was drained and a month earlier than expected thanks to drought-busting storms.  Members of the Los Angeles City Council and Department of Water and Power officials were on hand as a valve was opened to start the process of refilling Ivanhoe Reservoir, a smaller pond that is separated by a spillway from the larger Silver Lake Reservoir.  “Here it is again — enjoy it forever,” Richard Harasick of the Department of Water and Power said before officials walked out onto a gangway and cranked a handle that permitted the water to flow, first in a trickle and then a gush. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Water flowing into Silver Lake Reservoir again

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

Sign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post …

Daily emailsSign up for free daily email service and you’ll get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. And with breaking news alerts, you’ll always be one of the first to know …


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.

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: