DAILY DIGEST: Catastrophic engineering expert asks: Is Oroville Dam leaking?; The future of California cannabis depends on rain; Critics blast House Republicans’ California water grab; Friday flight over Oroville; and more …

In California water news today, Catastrophic engineering expert asks: Is Oroville Dam leaking?; Engineering expert blasts management failures at Oroville Dam; After 10 years of delays on dam relicensing, these groups want more time; The future of California cannabis depends on rain; The drought is over.  Why are Republicans fighting for more water for farmers?; Critics blast House Republicans’ California water grab; Will California democrats pay a price for Governor Brown’s latest victories?; The immense, eternal footprint humanity leaves on earth: Plastics; Friday flight over Oroville; and more …

In the news today …

Catastrophic engineering expert asks: Is Oroville Dam leaking? One of the country’s foremost experts on catastrophic engineering failures released a new report Thursday on the troubled Oroville Dam that asks a disturbing question: Is the country’s tallest dam leaking?  State dam managers have insisted for months that there’s no problem, and that persistent green wet spots near the top left abutment of the nearly 770-foot-tall earthen dam are nothing more than natural vegetation growth caused by rainfall.  In response to persistent questions about the wet spots since the February spillway crisis, the Department of Water Resources even has a section of its website devoted to the wet spots. The agency says they’re “caused by rainfall on the face of the dam, allowing vegetation to grow,” and that the spots have been there since before the reservoir was first filled in the late 1960s. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Catastrophic engineering expert asks: Is Oroville Dam leaking?

Engineering expert blasts management failures at Oroville Dam: “State water resources officials and federal regulators caused the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway in February by ignoring long-established guidelines and neglecting their duty to manage risks and detect flaws, a scathing report by a Berkeley engineering expert concluded Thursday.  Robert Bea, a professor emeritus of engineering at UC Berkeley, said in his analysis of the causes of the spillway failure at the nation’s tallest dam that the “progressive deterioration” of the chute could have been prevented if proper procedures had been followed. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Engineering expert blasts management failures at Oroville Dam

After 10 years of delays on dam relicensing, these groups want more time:  “More groups have signed on to an effort to delay the relicensing of the Oroville Dam project.  The Oroville Chamber of Commerce now has 16 entities that have signed its letter requesting the relicensing — already put off for 10 years — be further delayed because of the uncertainties following the Oroville Dam crisis. The office of Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, has also issued a letter requesting a delay.  The state Department of Water Resources needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue operating the Oroville project. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  After 10 years of delays on dam relicensing, these groups want more time

The future of California cannabis depends on rain:  “Water in California is a notoriously hot commodity. As a state that’s spent more time in a drought than out of it during the past five years, legalizing a new, water-intensive agricultural crop—especially when that crop has the historical baggage that cannabis does—is a complicated process.  Done carelessly, cannabis grows can have profoundly negative impacts on nature, polluting waterways with pesticides and clearing trees and shrubs that help support a healthy ecosystem. This is especially true of illegal cultivation, which has bled into national forests and other protected land in recent years. … ”  Read more from Leafy here:  The future of California cannabis depends on rain

The drought is over.  Why are Republicans fighting for more water for farmers?  “The drought may be over and Central Valley farmers are getting more water than they have in years, but that hasn’t stopped Congressional Republicans from resurrecting a bill that would strip environmental protections for fish so more water can be funneled to agriculture.  The bill is likely to meet the same fate as others before it, despite farmers having a new ally in the White House and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. After passing the House of Representatives last week, the bill faces near-certain death in the Senate, where California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris still have the power to kill it. President Donald Trump, who vowed during a Fresno campaign stop last year to “open up the water” for farmers at the expense of fish, is likely to never see the bill cross his desk. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  The drought is over.  Why are Republicans fighting for more water for farmers?

Critics blast House Republicans’ California water grab:  “A decades-old effort to restore water and salmon to California’s second largest river is on the chopping block under a proposal by House Republicans to speed up dam projects and increase diversions to farmers.  The legislation would override federal and state restoration projects on the San Joaquin River as well as allow for increased pumping of California’s vital water source, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.  It would limit safeguards for Chinook salmon and other species protected by the Environmental Species Act and diminish water deliveries to wildlife refuges during drought periods. … ”  Red more from Courthouse News here:  Critics blast House Republicans’ California water grab

Will California democrats pay a price for Governor Brown’s latest victories?  “Jerry Brown doesn’t want to talk about his legacy.  “First of all, I don’t have a legacy. I don’t know what a legacy is,” Brown, who previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983, told a TV reporter at a recent climate event. “That is a media construct that seems to be in the minds of certain media types as the central organizing principle of government activity. But it’s not my central organizing principle. I do what I’m doing because this is what I think is important work to do.”  Whether or not he wants to engage in the surrounding discussion, Brown’s legacy is now closely tied to two signature projects: his plan to build two massive water tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a high-speed rail system to shuttle passengers across California. … ”  Read more from McClatchy DC here:  Will California democrats pay a price for Governor Brown’s latest victories?

The immense, eternal footprint humanity leaves on earth: Plastics:  “If human civilization were to be destroyed and its cities wiped off the map, there would be an easy way for future intelligent life-forms to know when the mid-20th century began: plastic.  From the 1950s to today, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced, with around half of it made since 2004. And since plastic does not naturally degrade, the billions of tons sitting in landfills, floating in the oceans or piling up on city streets will provide a marker if later civilizations ever want to classify our era. Perhaps they will call this time on Earth the Plastocene Epoch. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  The immense, eternal footprint humanity leaves on earth: Plastics

In commentary today …

Column: HR 23: A bold water grab remarkable in its selfishness:  Michael Fitzgerald writes,Nothing is more tangible proof of government’s disregard for Stockton than the dirty, half-dead San Joaquin River. Still, it’s better than what Republicans have in mind.  House Republicans sent HR23 to the Senate last week. The bill, a bold water grab, is remarkable for how selfish, backward and destructive it is.  Destructive not only to the San Joaquin River, which it would kill, and to the San Joaquin Delta, but to some of the basic precepts that underlie just government. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  A bold water grab remarkable in its selfishness

In regional news and commentary today …

A mini gold rush has descended on Northern California:  “When asking seasoned miners about this year’s so-called gold rush in Northern California, it can be a challenge to obtain trustworthy information.   “People who are smart don’t advertise what they’ve found,” said Bob Van Camp, better known as “Digger Bob.” “If you’re finding nuggets in an area, you don’t tell anyone about it; I’ve made that mistake before.”  After all, if you’re a professional miner looking to make your fortune, it’s the nuggets you’re after. Flakes and dust are milquetoast – and altogether worthless – compared to heavy chunks of the shiny yellow stuff. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  A mini gold rush has descended on Northern California

San Francisco anglers warned of PCBs, mercury in some Lake Merced fish:  “Anglers are advised to avoid eating channel catfish and limit their consumption of black bass and rainbow trout caught in the north lake at San Francisco’s Lake Merced because of concerns about mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.  The guidelines about black bass and rainbow trout do not apply to Lake Merced’s south lake.  People from age 18 to their mid 40s can safely eat up to seven 8-ounce servings of rainbow trout from the lake per week, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  San Francisco anglers warned of PCBs, mercury in some Lake Merced fish

New dam could stop floods and save fish:  “In the wake of half a decade of drought and torrential rains last winter, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is proposing an $800 million dam that will make the Pacheco Reservoir 25 times bigger and ease droughts and floods, the district says.  The reservoir off Highway 152 near Casa de Fruta supplies water to Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This would be the county’s first big water project since it built Uvas Reservoir in 1957.  … ”  Read more from the Gilroy Dispatch here:  New dam could stop floods and save fish

Monterey: New maps show seawater has continued creeping inland, threatening water supply:  “Monterey County’s seawater intrusion maps can tell many stories, but when they show seawater advancing further into the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin, the stories share a theme: The basin is being overpumped, putting agricultural and municipal water supplies at risk.  In a July 11 meeting, hydrologists from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency presented the 2015 seawater intrusion maps to their board and the County Board of Supervisors. They found the results alarming. … ”  Read more from Monterey Now here: New maps show seawater has continued creeping inland, threatening water supply

Cambria CSD has 30 days to come up with brine pond plan:  “Cambria’s services district will have to remove all wastes from the brine pond on its property near San Simeon Creek. And it needs to submit a plan for doing so within 30 days.  That’s the finding of a cease-and-desist order adopted last week by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.  “The cease and desist order (CDO) adopted by the Regional Water Board last week requires the removal of all wastes from the surface impoundment,” Jon Rokke, water resources control engineer for the board, wrote in response to emailed questions Tuesday, July 18. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Cambria CSD has 30 days to come up with brine pond plan

Water board begins developing next version of ag order with public meetings:  “The program that regulates pollutants in agricultural irrigation runoff on the Central Coast is scheduled to expire in 2020, but officials are already starting work on the next version by asking for the public’s opinion of it in a series of scoping meetings.  Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board staff members want to hear about the public’s experience with the current Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands.  Three scoping meetings, including one in Santa Maria, are scheduled for the staff to receive the comments about the waiver, more commonly referred to as the Agricultural Order or Ag Order 3.0. … ”  Read more from the Santa Ynez Valley News here:  Water board begins developing next version of ag order with public meetings

Santa Barbara:  Well shamers prevail:  “Only in Montecito would one hear the term “well shaming” ​— ​the act of publicly accusing a neighbor’s private water well of sucking up the area’s groundwater supply.  The Santa Barbara County Supervisors took up this matter on Tuesday, albeit not just for Montecito estates, known for their lush grasslands. In a split vote, they imposed discretionary review for all water-well permits in areas served by a municipal water district, with an exception for agriculture use. Currently, most water wells are administratively approved. Drilling a well in the costal zone, however, is subject to county planners’ discretion. (During the drought, they denied five permits.) … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  Well shamers prevail

Camarillo: Consultant hired to seek funding for desalter plant:  “The City of Camarillo will pay a consultant $125,000 to help secure federal funding for a planned desalter plant that could save local residents big bucks on their water bills.  Group has 20 years of experience helping municipalities navigate federal red tape to secure money for local water, sanitation and transportation projects, according to the firm’s website and a city staff report. ... ” Read more from the Camarillo Acorn here:  Camarillo: Consultant hired to seek funding for desalter plant

LA restores historic water tunnel to turn Sierra snow runoff into drinkable water:  “Michael Grahek trudged through the murk of a historic Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water tunnel, his flashlight sweeping its century-old concrete walls.  His light then settled on some a strange outlines in the Sylmar shaft.  “Notice the footprints,” said Grahek, LADWP manager of southern aqueduct and Owens Lake Operations and maintenance, pausing inside the arched tunnel. “Somebody stepped in the wet cement almost 100 years ago.” ... ”  Read more from the Daily News here:  LA restores historic water tunnel to turn Sierra snow runoff into drinkable water

Why new infrastructure is a smart investment for the Colorado River:  Ted Kowalski writes, “The Colorado River flows 1,500 miles (2,400km) – through rises and rapids, valleys and deserts, all the way to Mexico.  But this river of critical importance to our country is facing incredible challenges.  The Colorado River provides water to almost 40 million Americans, but it is still reeling from the impacts of a 17-year drought that has drained most of Lake Mead and left Arizona and Nevada on the brink of imposed shortages. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Why new infrastructure is a smart investment for the Colorado River

Friday flight over Oroville …

From the Department of Water Resources:  “Recovery efforts continue on the Lake Oroville spillways project. Concrete is placed between the stay-forms on the lower chute of the main spillway with ongoing excavation and rock cleaning to prepare the spillway’s foundation.”

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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