DAILY DIGEST: Four things you should know about CA’s biggest reservoir; Supervisor prepares letter to stop DWR from lowering Lake Oroville; The Delta could get federal recognition; and more …

In California water news today, Four things you should know about California’s biggest reservoir; Former Keiwit civil engineer suggests second gated Oroville Dam spillway; Supervisor prepares letter to stop DWR from lowering Lake Oroville; 12 dead this season in torrential Sierra snowmelt; The heart of California’s water system could get federal recognition; Who pays for water infrastructure?; Trump budget would crush weather data program; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

Four things you should know about California’s biggest reservoir:  “1. It’s Probably Not the One You’re Thinking Of: Nope, not Shasta Lake. That’s California’s largest surface reservoir, which is currently bulging with more than 4 million acre-feet of water (Californians use about 40 million acre-feet in a year).  You’re not likely to find the biggest “reservoir” on a map—but you might be standing on it. It’s underground, in the vast aquifers that lie beneath sections of the state, the Central Valley in particular. … ”  Read more from KQED Science here:  Four things you should know about California’s biggest reservoir

Former Keiwit civil engineer suggests second gated Oroville Dam spillway:  “A civil engineer who formerly worked for the contractor doing the Oroville Dam spillway reconstruction has proposed a dual design spillway so the emergency spillway never has to be used again.  Henry Burke’s argument for a different design than what the state Department of Water Resources proposed, centers around the need for high-flow back ups.  Burke used to work for the contractor, the Kiewit Corporation, which is based in Omaha.  Erin Mellon, communications manager with the Natural Resources Agency, said his concept is being considered in the long term, though not by Nov. 1 this year. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here:  Former Keiwit civil engineer suggests second gated Oroville Dam spillway

Supervisor prepares letter to stop DWR from lowering Lake Oroville:  “At a board meeting Tuesday, District One Supervisor Bill Connelly will present a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The letter is requesting that FERC steps in and prohibits the Department of Water Resources from dropping Lake Oroville to an elevation lower than 800 feet.  “I can never predict what DWR will do,” said Connelly on why he isn’t just sending DWR the request. “First they try to drown us, the next they try to drain the lake.”  Connelly said he’s out to ensure that doesn’t happen. “We’re requesting that FERC send a strong message,” Connelly explained. “[One,] keep us safe and number two, let us recreate and we need FERC to do that because DWR has been undependable in the past.” … ”  Read more from KRCR here:  Supervisor prepares letter to stop DWR from lowering Lake Oroville

12 dead this season in torrential Sierra snowmelt:  “Massive waterfalls in Yosemite National Park and rivers raging in mountains throughout the western United States are thundering with greater force than they have for years — and proving deadly as warm weather melts the deepest mountain snowpack in recent memory.  Record snowfall on towering Western peaks this winter virtually eliminated California’s five-year drought and it is now melting rapidly. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  12 dead this season in torrential Sierra snowmelt

The heart of California’s water system could get federal recognition: California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a unique landscape: a maze of islands and rivers as big as Rhode Island, sprinkled with historic Gold Rush towns and teeming with wildlife amid some of the world’s most fertile farmland.  It also happens to be the heavily engineered heart of California’s water system. That labyrinth of islands within the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas also transports freshwater to 25 million people and some 3 million acres of farmland.  Yet the Delta is little-known even to most Californians, and it has no special government status as a destination. That would change under a proposal now before Congress to designate the Delta as a National Heritage Area. It would be established under the umbrella of the National Park Service, but would mean no new regulations or changes in land use. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here: The heart of California’s water system could get federal recognition

Who pays for water infrastructure? Private investment in public works isn’t a new idea: In 2014, former President Barack Obama launched an initiative focused on partnerships between public agencies and private companies to boost infrastructure financing and innovation. Now, President Donald Trump is calling for more such collaborations, and even outright privatization, in an attempt to shore up the nation’s aging highways and water systems.  Water infrastructure, for both drinking and irrigation, is especially in need of improvement in the arid West. Amid a wave of aging reservoirs, treatment plants and pipelines, and a Congress unwilling to pony up funding to fix them, the Bureau of Reclamation is considering private investment as a possible solution. While some municipalities in the U.S. have partnered with private companies on water projects, such deals are almost non-existent on the federal level. ... ”  Read more from High Country News here:  Who pays for water infrastructure?

Trump budget would crush weather data program:  “A trove of nationwide weather data that keeps wildland firefighters safe and helps farmers plant crops is in jeopardy under the budget proposed by President Donald Trump.  Regional Climate Centers, a little-known network of weather data gathering and processing centers, face an existential threat in the form of a recommended 82 percent budget cut in Trump’s proposed budget.  Centers manage weather information that helps fire managers battle wild land fires, helps farmers decide where and when to plant crops and helps engineers design dams and bridges that can stand up to extremes. ... ” Read more from the Reno Gazette Journal here:  Trump budget would crush weather data program

In commentary today …

Brown, California Democrats are approaching flood control all wrong, says James Gallagher:  He writes, “Monitor, patch, watch and then monitor. This is the fundamental problem with California’s failing water infrastructure.  Nearly 200,000 evacuees downstream of Oroville Dam witnessed how this failed government approach can impact their lives.  My review of inspection reports shows a pattern of monitoring, delayed action and patchwork maintenance at Oroville Dam, including painting cracks to track their growth. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Brown, California Democrats are approaching flood control all wrong

Drain the swamp, not the Sierra, says John Kinsgbury:  He writes, “The president of the United States wants to “Drain the Swamp”. Of course he is using this saying as a metaphor for mismanagement and government waste.  It seems to me that California, however, is hell bent to drain the Sierra Nevada – in the literal sense – as if this action was without consequence.   While I support “Draining the Swamp” of excess bureaucracy, I do not support and am opposed to California’s “Draining the Sierra” or taking water from one ecological region to meet the environmental needs of another. The Delta depends on the Sierra as the largest reservoir of banked water in all of California. Draining the Sierra will defeat the Delta Stewardship Council’s objective to coequally achieve water supply reliability and restore the Delta’s ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association here:  Drain the swamp, not the Sierra, says John Kinsgbury

In regional news and commentary today …

Along the North Coast, mixed news about the health of the undersea forest:  “Aerial surveys conducted each year to gauge abundance in the iconic kelp forests off the North Coast showed a slight improvement last fall, offering a glimmer of hope for the recovery of the coastal marine habitat, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has reported.  But conditions for the “bull kelp,” an annual type of seaweed — especially off Sonoma County — have become so bleak in recent years that even a reported doubling of the forest canopy during last year’s growing season has done little to bring the underwater habitat back to full strength, scientists said. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Along the North Coast, mixed news about the health of the undersea forest

Bay Point wetlands trail set for major improvements:  “It will be a different kind of elevation gain for the 1.1-mile Harrier Trail loop, as a planned $4 to $5 million improvement project will include literally raising the trail as much as five feet in some spots in the wetlands just west of the McAvoy Yacht Harbor marina.  “Right now, parts of that trail flood in the winter time; with the work, it will stay high and dry through 2080,” said Chris Barton, environmental programs manager for the East Bay Regional Park District. The idea, he said, is to make the entire trail — which resembles a gravel driveway in its best spots — as high as its southernmost section, west of McAvoy Road along the railroad tracks. The trail descends, Barton said, the closer it gets to the Suisun Bay waterfront. In those spots, it will be raised as much a five feet; other parts of the trail will see smaller height gains. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Bay Point wetlands trail set for major improvements

Monterey: CPUC may order new desal project hearings considering smaller plant: “State Public Utilities Commission officials are seeking input on whether to conduct new hearings on California American Water’s proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project to address a number of issues, potentially including an updated project demand forecast and desal plant sizing evaluation that could lead to a smaller initial plant that could be more easily expanded as demand grows in the future.  In a ruling issued Friday, CPUC judge Gary Weatherford called for parties to the desal project proceeding to identify any “remaining disputed issues of material fact” with regard to the desal project separate from the ongoing environmental review process that would need to be addressed before the commission considers a permit for the proposal. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here:  CPUC may order new desal project hearings considering smaller plant

Settlement offered in Madera County water theft case:  “With another court date looming in a water theft case involving the largest agricultural company in Madera County, prosecutors are seeking a resolution to spare those involved from a trial.  “I’m certainly hopeful that this case can be resolved without everyone spending significant money in trying it,” said Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn. “And if we can’t resolve it, we are prepared to go to preliminary hearing.”  According to Linn, his office has offered a resolution to Agriland Farming Company, Inc. and its CEO, James R. Maxwell, for restitution to the Madera Irrigation District (MID). Both Maxwell and his company were charged in February for the alleged siphoning of water from a canal belonging to the district. … ”  Read more from the Business Journal here:  Settlement offered in Madera County water theft case

San Luis Obispo County: Lopez and Whale Rock dams may have design flaws, state says as it orders assessments:  “Lopez and Whale Rock dams are among more than 50 dams statewide considered highly hazardous that may have a design flaw and are being required to undergo an assessment of their concrete spillways “as soon as possible.”  The state Division of Safety of Dams is ordering comprehensive assessments of spillways and structures that are similar to Oroville Dam — whose spillway crumbled four months ago, forcing downstream evacuations of thousands of people.  A letter received by the San Luis Obispo County Flood control District on Monday says that the state agency completed an assessment of the Lopez Dam and noted that the spillway “may have potential geologic, structural, or performance issues that could jeopardize its ability to safely pass a flood event.” ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Lopez and Whale Rock dams may have design flaws, state says as it orders assessments

Drinking water along the US -Mexico border threatened by global warming:  “Global warming looms large in the Southwest as rising temperatures threaten to diminish already scarce water supplies. A 2014 United Nations report suggests that globally, the burden of climate change will impact the poor the most. Some of the most marginalized communities in the United States are found along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Some people living along the border already live without access to running water. … ”  Read more from KPBS here:  Drinking water along the US -Mexico border threatened by global warming

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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