DAILY DIGEST: Legislature votes to keep Oroville Dam safety records secret; Butte Creek salmon success celebrated; Winnemem Wintu push for salmon restoration; Trump’s plan to gut EPA gets cool reception on Capitol Hill; and more …

In California water news today, California Legislature votes to keep Oroville Dam safety records secret; Salmon salvation: How farmers, water districts and the federal government worked together to bring Butte Creek salmon back from the brink; Winnemem Wintu: If you won't return the salmon for us, do it for yourselves; Something you probably didn't expect from all of that snow: Earthquakes; Trump's plan to gut EPA gets cool reception on Capitol Hill; How Trumps' EPA chief got caught up in farm fight in Sacramento; and more …

In the news today …

California Legislature votes to keep Oroville Dam safety records secret:  “Fresh off the Oroville Dam crisis, California lawmakers on Thursday voted to make dam-safety plans secret through language that was quietly inserted into a budget-related bill.  The legislation, which requires Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature before becoming law, says emergency action plans at dams would be kept confidential to “protect public safety.”  Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, said slipping the language into a budget-related bill, Senate Bill 92, without debate was “kind of insulting, really” to the 188,000 evacuees such as him who were forced to flee their homes for two days after the near-failure of Oroville’s emergency spillway. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California Legislature votes to keep Oroville Dam safety records secret

Salmon salvation: How farmers, water districts and the federal government worked together to bring Butte Creek salmon back from the brink:From hundreds of fish annually to nearly 9,000 per year, Butte Creek salmon are thriving, thanks to a project begun 20 years ago.  That project was celebrated Thursday at Gorrill Ranch on the Midway.  At the spot where Ralph Gorrill first pulled water from Butte Creek to grow his crops 100 years ago, 101 people stood or sat on hay bales as eight of the project’s leaders talked about getting water districts to work with government agencies, farmers, conservationists and public utilities to save the largest population of wild naturally-spawned spring-run chinook salmon in California. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  Salmon salvation: How farmers, water districts and the federal government worked together to bring Butte Creek salmon back from the brink

Winnemem Wintu: If you won't return the salmon for us, do it for yourselves:For years, the Winnemem Wintu tribe has lobbied to bring salmon to the McCloud River from New Zealand, where the descendants of local fish have been living since hatchery workers exported them to the southern hemisphere a century ago.  These salmon are an integral part of Wintu culture — tribe members believe it was the fish who gave their ancestors voices when they were born, so they owe the fish a voice in return.  But so far, pleas to the government to bring the salmon back haven’t worked. Now, the tribe is coming at the issue with a new approach: convincing biologists of the long-held Wintu belief that healthy salmon populations don’t just stand to benefit the tribe — they support local ecosystems that ultimately dictate life for everyone. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Winnemem Wintu: If you won’t return the salmon for us, do it for yourselves

Something you probably didn't expect from all of that snow: Earthquakes:  “The importance of the mountain snowpack to California’s water supply is legendary. But according to a new study, its impact reaches far below the Earth’s surface to the state’s tectonic foundations. And that impact can be measured and to some degree, even predicted.  Scientists at the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory have made some new revelations about the link between snowfall and earthquakes in California. But it’s not the snow itself that triggers earthquakes, it’s what happens when that snow melts away. The result is a bit like compressing a spring and then letting it go. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Something you probably didn’t expect from all of that snow: Earthquakes

Trump's plan to gut EPA gets cool reception on Capitol Hill:  “Lawmakers concerned about curbing pollution and a warming planet gave a cool reception to President Donald Trump's environmental chief on Thursday as he defended the administration's proposal to sharply reduce the budget of his own agency.  Scott Pruitt, the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, appeared before a House Appropriations subcommittee as it weighs Trump's budget, which seeks to slash funding at the agency by nearly one-third while eliminating more than 3,800 jobs.  Pruitt pitched the president's spending plan as part of his agenda to take EPA “back to basics.” He promised new levels of bureaucratic efficiency and engagement with states. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Trump’s plan to gut EPA gets cool reception on Capitol Hill

How Trumps' EPA chief got caught up in farm fight in Sacramento:  “California farmer John Duarte, facing a hefty fine over water-law violations for plowing a field, wants to call in a big gun in his high-profile court case in Sacramento: Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Duarte has listed Pruitt as a potential witness in his case, in which he’s fighting a $2.8 million fine he received for harming wetlands while planting a wheat crop in Tehama County five years ago. Pruitt briefly mentioned the Duarte case during his Senate confirmation hearing in January as an example of what he described as the government wrongly punishing farmers for doing their jobs. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  How Trumps’ EPA chief got caught up in farm fight in Sacramento

In commentary today …

Chinook salmon will become extinct if Californians don't take these steps, says John Laird:  He writes, “A University of California and California Trout study last month indicated that some species of salmon are in danger of going extinct by the end of this century. Their persistence in modern California is practically miraculous, given the profound alteration of rivers and streams.  To ensure these fish endure, with the added dimension of a changing climate, we must take strong steps. Salmon need help in the stream gravel where they hatch, the pools and floodplains where they grow, the Delta channels that carry them to the ocean, and the rivers they power up in order to spawn and die in the same gravel from which they emerged. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Chinook salmon will become extinct if Californians don’t take these steps

Replenishing California's largest reservoir:  The Santa Rosa Press Democrat writes,California’s largest reservoir isn’t Lake Shasta or the Sierra snowpack.  Ten times as much water is stored in cracks and crevices beneath the ground. In a typical year, almost 40 percent of the water used in California comes from underground wells. In dry years, that figure increases to 60 percent or more.  Think of it as drought insurance. But it exists only as long as groundwater basins are regularly replenished.  For far too long, California hasn’t kept up its premiums. Use of surface water has been regulated for more than 100 years, but landowners and public agencies are mostly free to pump as much groundwater as they want. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Replenishing California’s largest reservoir

The Eel River could save wild salmon – if we can save the river itself, says Jane Braxton Little:  “The Eel River is on the brink of disaster, its ocean-going fish species threatened with extinction, its nurturing estuary diked, drained and diminishing.  At the same time, this massive watershed in California’s northwest corner offers the state’s best hope of ensuring a future abundance of wild anadromous fish.  This paradox of the Eel, California’s third largest river system, is driving an urgency to save it while there’s still time. For the Eel’s diverse and often adversarial stakeholders, this is a rare and fleeting opportunity to set aside differences out of a common commitment to what they share. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  The Eel River could save wild salmon – if we can save the river itself

Don't blame water markets for trouble with Western rivers:  Mark Squillace writes,As Western states grapple with the best way to allocate dwindling water resources to meet multiple needs, water markets have emerged as one tool. But the idea is not without critics, such as Gary Wockner, who wrote a recent op-ed for Water Deeply about his skepticism that water markets will protect Western rivers.  Wockner raises three concerns with water markets: They commodify nature, there’s a lack of information about how much water they can really save and they skew funding to larger advocacy groups at the expense of others.  I see things differently. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Don’t blame water markets for trouble with Western rivers

In regional news and commentary today …

Silicon Valley's toxic past haunts Sunnyvale neighborhood:  “Sunnyvale’s San Miguel neighborhood, with its leafy trees and modest houses, is home to hundreds of families and four schools for young children. Underneath these quiet streets lies a shadow of Silicon Valley’s past: groundwater contaminated with a solvent once used to make computer chips, and known to cause cancer and birth defects.  That chemical, known as trichloroethylene or TCE, was as crucial to chipmakers in the 1960s and 1970s as yeast is to a bakery. TCE is a powerful solvent used to clean silicon wafers before the chip design is etched onto them. And it’s responsible for nearly half the federal Superfund sites in Santa Clara County. These are areas the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates as the nation’s most toxic. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Silicon Valley’s toxic past haunts Sunnyvale neighborhood

Paso Robles: County Supervisor can vote on SGMA subsidies despite land ownership:  “Despite owning property over the Atascadero Groundwater Basin, 1st District SLO County Supervisor John Peschong is free to vote on groundwater management funding decisions that affect his land, officials at the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) indicated.  Peschong owns a 19-acre parcel overlying an unincorporated area of the Atascadero basin, one of six water basins that the Board of Supervisors recently voted to subsidize management for—at $2 million per year—under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), rather than seek funding from affected property owners. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  County Supervisor can vote on SGMA subsidies despite land ownership

Southern California bummer: Report card says some beaches might make you sick:  “Heavy rains last winter poured billions of gallons of polluted runoff into the ocean, significantly increasing health risks at many Southern California beaches, according to Heal the Bay’s annual beach report card.  “The reassuring news,” said Sarah Sikich, the environmental group’s vice president, “is that if you swim at an open-ocean beach in the summer away from storm drains and creek mouths, you statistically have very little risk of getting ill.”  No local beaches received failing marks from April to October 2016, the summer reporting period. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Bummer: Report card says some beaches might make you sick

San Diego: County water panel sued over closed-door meetings:  “Closed-door meetings conducted by the San Diego County Water Authority deprive the public of its right to monitor the agency and must be opened up to ratepayers and others, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in San Diego County Superior Court.  The suit, brought by public-interest attorney Cory Briggs, demands an end to private, unnoticed and unrecorded gatherings long held by the agency’s appointed delegates to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, or MWD, a regional agency based in Los Angeles. ... ” Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  San Diego: County water panel sued over closed-door meetings

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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