DAILY DIGEST: State releases analysis of Oroville spillway cracks; UCI scientists unveil new satellite-based global drought severity index; California losing 2 million trees a month as drought-related plague drags on; Clean Water Act may offer ‘magic key’ for dam removal; and more …

In California water news today, State releases analysis of Oroville spillway cracks; UCI scientists unveil new satellite-based global drought severity index; California losing 2 million trees a month as drought-related plague drags on; Clean Water Act may offer ‘magic key' for dam removal; Placer County dam project raising concerns along the Bear River; and more …

On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

State releases analysis of Oroville spillway cracks:  “The California Department of Water Resources has released a technical memorandum laying out its detailed explanation for widespread cracking that has appeared in concrete placed this year during the Oroville Dam spillway rebuilding project.  The report, embedded below recounts measures taken to prevent cracking in the massive slabs intended to serve as the final, finished concrete surface in two large sections of the spillway. The document was compiled after an Oct. 2 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission letter asked DWR to explain the cracks and document their extent. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  State releases analysis of Oroville spillway cracks

Oroville Dam: Formerly classified memo describing spillway cracks now public:  “The previously secret state Department of Water Resources memorandum explaining the hairline cracks in the Oroville Dam spillway is now public.  The document provides more details on how Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor for spillway reconstruction, tried to reduce shrinkage, which leads to cracking in concrete. It also contains photos documenting the cracks. After initially being classified as Critical Energy Infrastructure Information, only one attachment in the 15-page report was redacted. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Oroville Dam: Formerly classified memo describing spillway cracks now public

UCI scientists unveil new satellite-based global drought severity index:  “Just in time for the holidays, researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions are rolling out a new satellite-based drought severity index for climate watchers worldwide.  Relying on data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission, the index adds terrestrial water storage (groundwater) to drought assessments, augmenting commonly used tools most often based on the amount of precipitation. … ” Read more from UCI here:  UCI scientists unveil new satellite-based global drought severity index

California losing 2 million trees a month as drought-related plague drags on:  “California’s forests are seeing a continued die-off of trees even a year after last year’s heavy rains ended the state’s crippling drought.  The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that 27 million trees died over the past 13 months after five dry years left them severely dehydrated and vulnerable to bark beetle attack.  The unprecedented casualties, which run rampant across the Sierra Nevada as well as parts of the coast, have turned patches of forest into a somber rust color for mile after mile. The mortality is so great in some places that foresters have closed roads and campgrounds for fear of the dried-out, lifeless trees falling on people. Tourists to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, meanwhile, have been stunned by the unexpectedly grim views. … ” Read more from SF Gate here:  California losing 2 million trees a month as drought-related plague drags on

Clean Water Act may offer ‘magic key' for dam removal:  “When environmentalists press for the removal of river-choking old dams, George Howard can smell the money.  Howard's company is tearing down the Milburnie Dam on the Neuse River outside Raleigh, N.C. The 15-foot impoundment stretches 625 feet across the river, blocking fish runs and creating a deadly hydraulic trap that's drowned 15 swimmers.  Milburnie is Howard's third North Carolina dam removal. As with the other two, he will turn a profit using a tool called mitigation banking.  American dams — symbols of the nation's 20th century might — are crumbling. E&E News examines efforts to avert disaster as pressure grows for a new era of dam building in the arid West. Click here to view the series.  “This could create a long-term mechanism that could slowly drive dam removals across the country that cannot be funded now,” he said in an interview. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Clean Water Act may offer ‘magic key’ for dam removal

In commentary today …

Pay to fix dams or pay more in a catastrophe, says the Merced Sun-Star:  They write, “California’s dam inspectors appear to be doing their jobs well. Unfortunately, too many dam operators aren’t, and could be placing the public at risk.  That’s the conclusion we reached after reading a report by The Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler. It’s also a part of life in California. As vast swaths of Southern California smolder from unusual December firestorms, people naturally are focusing less on potential flooding and dam safety.  But as the effects of climate change become more pronounced across California, we’ll be left with no choice except to invest in flood control and other water-related public works. ... ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  Pay to fix dams or pay more in a catastrophe

In regional news and commentary today …

Placer County dam project raising concerns along the Bear River:  “A controversial dam project has environmental activists up in arms and furious with the Nevada Irrigation District.  The district says building Centennial Dam will preserve water, but opponents say it’ll destroy the Bear River ecosystem.  “The plants, the animals, this beautiful living river is going to be gone,” said Shelly Covert, secretary for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe.  The Bear River runs throughout Placer and Nevada counties for 73 miles. The proposed Centennial Dam would go in about two miles from the Bear River Campgrounds and create a new reservoir. … ”  Read more from CBS 13 here:  Placer County dam project raising concerns along the Bear River

Sacramento Planning Commission approves Tsakopoulos' proposal to develop wetlands:  “The Sacramento County Planning Commission voted Monday to allow developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos to develop open space in Sacramento County’s Vineyard area that many residents believed would remain a protected wetland preserve.  The proposal must still be approved by the county Board of Supervisors.  The piece of land known as Silver Springs Lot P has remained under the ownership of Tsakopoulos, but residents believed the county in 1991 had enacted strong protections that would ensure the property just north of Elk Grove would remain a nature preserve. Many purchased the large homes, which approach $1 million in value, in part because they sit next to open space. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento Planning Commission approves Tsakopoulos’ proposal to develop wetlands

Don't leave buckets of water for wildlife fleeing Ventura, Los Angeles County fires:  “Despite the suggestions flooding Facebook and Twitter, leaving buckets of water for displaced wildlife during a forest fire is not a good idea, according to state and local wildlife agencies.  Hundreds of postings and retweets jammed social media this week, urging Southern California homeowners living in the path of the region’s devastating wildfires to “put out buckets of water” for thirsty critters escaping the blazes. ... ” Read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune here:  Don’t leave buckets of water for wildlife fleeing Ventura, Los Angeles County fires

To desalinate or not to desalinate: UCI debate over controversial proposed Huntington Beach desal plant:  “Academics, advocates and activists met for a panel discussion at UC Irvine to hash out the pros and cons of a proposal to build a desalination plant in Huntington Beach, with environmentalists once again warning it would damage marine environments and raise water bills.  “There is nothing simple about desalination,” said panelist Ray Hiemstra, associate director of Orange County Coastkeeper, an environmental organization focused on water quality. Coastkeeper went to court in November to challenge approval for the project granted in October by the State Lands Commission. Additional approvals still need to be secured for construction to begin. … ”  Read more from the Voice of the OC here:  To desalinate or not to desalinate: UCI debate over controversial proposed Huntington Beach desal plant

Along the Colorado River and elsewhere in the West …

Progress on new binational drought plan in Colorado basin going slow:  “States, federal and Mexican officials hailed a binational agreement this fall that they said could lead to a radical shift in how the region prepares for and responds to drought.  But three months later, they appear no closer to a drought contingency plan, as negotiations have pitted states and water districts against one another, as the U.S. tries to hammer out details of the plan.  The deal signed at the end of September extends guidelines that were set up under a 2012 agreement that was set to expire at the end of this year, and establishes new water sharing guidelines and binational water improvement projects. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  Progress on new binational drought plan in Colorado basin going slow

Why the Great Salt Lake is shrinking:  “In the second half of the 20th century, the Aral Sea – once the fourth largest lake in the world by surface area – began visibly shrinking as the rivers entering the central Asian saline lake, which straddles the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, were diverted to irrigate agriculture. Today, the Aral Sea is all but gone, in one of Earth’s most dramatic hydrological transformations of recent times.  Now the same thing may be happening to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. The inland sea, which in places is eight times saltier than the ocean, fell to its lowest level in recorded history in November 2016, and now contains just the half the water it did in 1847, according to an analysis published in October in the journal Nature Geoscience. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Why the Great Salt Lake is shrinking

Precipitation watch …

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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