DAILY DIGEST: Wine country wildfire costs now top $9 billion; costliest in California history; Northern Californians blast DWR over dam repairs; Why 2017’s record wildfire season is getting worse; Sinking land results in issues along Friant-Kern canal; and more …

In California water news today, Wine country wildfire costs now top $9 billion; costliest in California history; Northern Californians blast DWR over dam repairs; Assemblyman Adam Gray: Need real changes for water future; Groundwater pumping fees are not taxes, California court says; Hundreds turn out to speak up about controversial water project; Why 2017’s record wildfire season is getting worse; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: 2018 Early Outlook briefing by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center from 11am to 12:30 pm.  The focus of this Early Outlook Briefing will be a review of the fall weather, early season snowpack, and soil moisture conditions heading into the winter season. Register here
  • The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board meets today and tomorrow.  Click here for the agenda.

In the news today …

Wine country wildfire costs now top $9 billion; costliest in California history:  “October’s wine country wildfires are now the costliest in California history, with insurance claims pegged at $9.4 billion.  The latest estimate Wednesday from the state Insurance Department means the wine country fires have vaulted past the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 as the most expensive in California fire history. Oakland Hills generated about $2.8 billion in claims, when adjusted for inflation.  The estimate was released as wildfires continued to burn in Southern California, including a new blaze that erupted early Wednesday in the posh Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, and almost 200 homes have been destroyed. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Wine country wildfire costs now top $9 billion; costliest in California history

Northern Californians blast DWR over dam repairs:  “Northern California residents living in the shadow of the nation’s tallest dam vented decades of frustration with state water managers Wednesday, telling officials they have no credibility when they say hairline cracks in a newly rebuilt spillway are nothing to worry about.  In February, nearly 200,000 people had to evacuate because of catastrophic damage to the spillways at Oroville Dam. The crisis was averted, but concern lingers as the rainy winter season begins and officials prepare the partially rebuilt spillway for potential use.  California Department of Water Resources officials got an earful from residents wanting to know about the safety of the dam in a town-hall meeting. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:  Northern Californians blast DWR over dam repairs

Assemblyman Adam Gray:  Need real changes for water future:  “Now is the time to unite and plan California’s water infrastructure. That’s what Adam Gray told California Ag Today recently. Gray is the California State Assembly representing the 21st Assembly District, Merced and Stanislaus Counties. He said there is an urgent need for unification in regards to California’s water and the need for real changes to be made for future generations.  “It’s that famous quote, ‘Water’s for fighting. Whiskey’s for drinking.’ All we do is spend our time fighting, and we cannot continue to divide the pie. We have to grow the pie. That means targeted, intelligent investments in storage, projects like Temperance Flat, projects like Sites Reservoir,” Gray explained. … ”  Read more from California Ag Today here:  Assemblyman Adam Gray:  Need real changes for water future

Groundwater pumping fees are not taxes, California court says:  “A decision by California’s highest court could give a boost to local water agencies grappling with how to implement the state’s landmark groundwater management law.  The California Supreme Court ruled that the charges Ventura, Calif., must pay to a local water district for groundwater conservation activities aren’t taxes or fees that require approval by property owners or voters.  Because the United Water Conservation District’s charges aren’t for property-related services, they don’t require approval either by property owners or two-thirds of area voters, the court said, affirming a 2015 lower court ruling. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg BNA here:  Groundwater pumping fees are not taxes, California court says

Hundreds turn out to speak up about controversial water project:  “A recent town hall meeting on the controversial WaterFix project, hosted in the heart of the Delta, gave those whose lives and livelihoods are most dependent upon the Delta a chance to make their voices heard – and they did not hold back.  The meeting, attended by more than 200 people, was held in the Jean Harvey Community Center in Walnut Grove, and co-hosted by Assemblymember Jim Frazier and California State Senator Bill Dodd, who are members of the Delta Caucus.  After nearly two hours of presentations by politicians, economists and government agencies, the floor was opened to public comment. ... ”  Read more from The Press here:  Hundreds turn out to speak up about controversial water project

Why 2017’s record wildfire season is getting worse:  “Even before the dramatic Southern California wildfires began their harrowing path this week, California was already experiencing its deadliest and most destructive fire season ever.  And it’s only getting worse.  In Ventura and Los Angeles counties, four fires driven by the Santa Ana winds are raging just two weeks before the start of winter. By Wednesday, at least 150 homes had burned, including at least four in the star-studded enclave of Bel-Air. The flames reportedly damaged structures on media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s estate and threatened the homes of other celebrities, including Tesla’s Elon Musk. The Skirball Fire closed Interstate 405 for a time on Wednesday, shuttered the landmark Getty Museum, and shut down classes at UCLA and the production of several TV series, including HBO’s Westworld. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Why 2017’s record wildfire season is getting worse

4 questions on the California wildfires and climate change:  “The deadly fires that swept through California’s wine country this fall made one of the state’s most destructive fire seasons on record even worse, and the fierce Santa Ana winds now whipping up fast-moving blazes in the hills near Los Angeles are adding to the year’s damage. As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists say the risk of extreme fire seasons is rising across the West.  Wildfires are hugely complex events, complicated by human activity, including rampant development and decades of fire suppression strategies that left too much dry timber and underbrush for fires to burn.  Add the effects of climate change to the mix, and California’s already fire-prone landscape grows increasingly combustible. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here:  4 questions on the California wildfires and climate change

In commentary today …

Rural America wants water protections, says Alfonzo Abeyta:  He writes, “For almost a half century, the Clean Water Act has protected many of America’s rivers, lakes and bays from harmful pollution. But still too many of our nation’s waters remain at risk. That’s why, a few years ago, through an extensive public process involving rural communities and industry, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new rule, the Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule), to further protect precious sources of drinking water.  My family has lived in Colorado’s San Luis Valley for five generations. My livelihood, my family’s health and my children’s future depend on national public health protections – especially for critical sources of upstream drinking water, like those protected by the Clean Water Rule. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Rural America wants water protections

In regional news and commentary today …

Residents tell DWR they want dam access, more answers at community meeting:  “Residents showed lingering distrust Wednesday night as they voiced concern about loss of access to recreation and questions about hairline cracks in the reconstructed spillway.  Joel Ledesma, State Water Project deputy director, addressed the cracks early in his presentation, reiterating that the department and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, determined it was a normal part of the curing process and the integrity of the structure should not be threatened. He also said there was a study of sediment in the Feather River underway, anticipating two big talking points for residents throughout the evening … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Residents tell DWR they want dam access, more answers at community meeting

Viability of Squaw Creek, aquifer being studied:  “Those tasked with managing water in Olympic Valley, in particular Squaw Creek and the surrounding aquifer, are taking a more methodical approach to studying trends and potential impacts.  The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is one of the regulators of this body of water between Tahoe City and Truckee and had requested a workshop on the item; which occurred at the last meeting.  “The state board years ago when they approved our water quality restoration plan for Squaw Creek, which focused on reducing sediment coming from primarily the ski resort, and also the county roads and development in the valley, asked us to also look at the effects of groundwater pumping in the valley,” Lauri Kemper with Lahontan told Lake Tahoe News. … ”  Read more from Lake Tahoe News here:  Viability of Squaw Creek, aquifer being studied

Centennial Dam and reservoir: What is the cost and who pays? asks Peter Van Zant:  He writes, “In 2009 the Brown administration proposed the Twin Tunnel ‘Water Fix’ project to ship water from Northern California watersheds to Southern California water districts at a price tag of some $17 billion dollars. It included a financing plan: the project would be paid for by water districts and their customers getting the water. Water districts are now deciding whether to commit and many are not.  In 2014 the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) floated the Centennial Dam project. It would be between Rollins and Combie reservoirs, on the last publicly accessible free running section of the Bear River. They published the basic project statistics: 110,000 acre-feet capacity behind a 275 foot high dam and a new 1000 foot long bridge over the reservoir in the Dog Bar Road area. But it did not include a financing plan. ... ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Centennial Dam and reservoir: What is the cost and who pays?

Solano County Water Agency approves study of Cache Slough complex:  “The Solano County Water Agency Board of Directors (SCWA) has approved a $1.2 million dollar contract with the University of California, Davis for the three-year Cache Slough Complex Water Quality, Productivity and Fisheries Study.  This study will extend and expand the work that UC Davis has done under a state contract that is ending and will provide much needed information for future water management decisions … ” Read more from the Daily Reporter here:  Solano County Water Agency approves study of Cache Slough complex

Final desal slant well report gets thumbs up from Peninsula water authority committee:  “A Monterey Peninsula mayors water authority advisory committee unanimously accepted the findings of a report that slant wells at the Cemex sand mining plant site could provide an adequate feeder water source for the proposed California American Water desalination plant.  The committee’s review Monday came with a state Public Utilities Commission judge calling for testimony due this week on the project’s financial “apportionment of risk” if production from any major part of the Cal Am desal project, particularly the proposed slant wells system, is insufficient during the life of the project. ... ” Read more from the Monterey County Herald here:  Final desal slant well report gets thumbs up from Peninsula water authority committee

Sinking land results in issues along Friant-Kern canal:  “It’s called subsidence and it’s an issue that’s been brought back to the attention of the valley after years of drought.  “Due to overdraft of groundwater pumping the Friant-Kern Canal is sinking some, and land subsidence is causing restrictions of flow on the canal.” says Douglas DeFlitch, Chief Operating Officer of the Friant Water Authority.  “The Friant-Kern Canal runs 152 miles from Friant Dam down to the Ken River.” … ”  Read more from KSEE here:  Sinking land results in issues along Friant-Kern canal

Subsidence on Friant-Kern canal reduces conveyance capacity by 60% near Ave. 96 between Terra Bella and Pixley:  “California’s historic drought officially came to an end last year, but it has left significant problems in its wake. The most concerning of which is subsidence.  Land subsidence is the gradual sinking of an area of land which occurs more dramatically in the region when groundwater is over drafted. Water that is removed from very fine clay-like pore space in the subsurface no longer has its internal strength and over time compresses and the surface of the land drops. During the drought when surface water supplies were limited or unavailable, regional farmers, cities and others turned to groundwater. The resulting subsidence forced cuts in water deliveries to parts of the canal system during critical times this past summer. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here:  Subsidence on Friant-Kern canal reduces conveyance capacity by 60% near Ave. 96 between Terra Bella and Pixley

Santa Barbara hits its seventh year of drought:  “Santa Barbara is now entering the seventh year of drought conditions, a circumstance City of Santa Barbara Public Works czar Rebecca Bjork called “unprecedented.” Bjork’s remarks ​— ​it’s been seven years since Lake Cachuma has spilled ​— ​came as she gave the City Council its monthly update on drought and water supply issues. The good news is that city residents are using less water now than they have anytime since 1985. They used 35 percent less in the month of October than they consume during a so-called “normal” month. Annualized, the numbers are even more dramatic: 40 percent less. … ”  Read more from the Independent here:  Santa Barbara hits its seventh year of drought

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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