DAILY DIGEST: Sierra peaks an inch taller after CA drought, NASA finds; Oroville Dam crisis sparked $1.2B in claims. State hasn’t paid a dime; Q&A: How to get CA’s infrastructure ready for climate change; ‘I got railroaded,’ Los Banos dairyman says after admitting to illegal dumping; and more …

In California water news today, Sierra peaks an inch taller after California drought, NASA finds; Oroville Dam crisis sparked $1.2 billion in claims. State hasn’t paid a dime; Q&A: How to get California’s infrastructure ready for climate change; ‘I got railroaded,’ Los Banos dairyman says after admitting to illegal dumping; Report: What California learned from drinking water/wastewater challenges in 2017; Using the D-word: Is it too early?; Three reasons why California’s fires won’t dampen any time soon; Scientists warily look to geoengineering to stave off polar catastrophe; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

Sierra peaks an inch taller after California drought, NASA finds:  “California’s already towering Sierra Nevada summits rose to new heights during the drought, albeit by just a hair.  A study by NASA scientists published Wednesday found that the granite peaks of the 400-mile range were pushed nearly an inch upward between 2011 and 2015, a phenomenon linked not only to known tectonic forces but the expansion of the land as it dried out and shed water weight.  The findings suggest that a lot more water lies deep inside the rock of the Sierra than previously thought. The water is sneaking in and out through cracks in the ground, enough so that even the elevation of the biggest mountains are changing — including the lower 48 states’ tallest peak. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here:  Sierra peaks an inch taller after California drought, NASA finds

Study: Loss of water in drought caused Sierra Nevada to rise:  “Loss of water from rocks during drought caused California’s Sierra Nevada to rise nearly an inch (2.5 centimeters) in height from October 2011 to October 2015, according to a new NASA study made public Wednesday.  The study also found that in the following two years of increased snow and rain, the rocks in the range regained about half as much water as was lost during the drought and the return of the weight caused the height of the mountains to fall about half an inch (1.3 centimeters).  “This suggests that the solid Earth has a greater capacity to store water than previously thought,” study leader Donald Argus of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement Wednesday. ... ” Read more from ABC News here:  Study: Loss of water in drought caused Sierra Nevada to rise

Oroville Dam crisis sparked $1.2 billion in claims.  State hasn’t paid a dime:  “The near-disaster at Oroville Dam last February brought damage claims flooding into the state by the hundreds – shops and restaurants that lost business, farms that got overwhelmed by surges in water, cities and counties buried in evacuation expenses.  Most claims argue that the state is responsible for the emergency because it ignored warning signs about the condition of the dam’s spillway.  So far the state hasn’t paid a single claim. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville Dam crisis sparked $1.2 billion in claims.  State hasn’t paid a dime

Q&A: How to get California’s infrastructure ready for climate change:  “While researchers disagree on exactly how climate change will impact future precipitation in California, there is little doubt that it will change and that this will put increased pressure on the state’s water infrastructure. In fact, much of California’s infrastructure is not ready for the impacts of future climate change.  Earlier this year, increased rainfall almost collapsed a wall of Oroville Dam in Northern California. In February, rainfall also caused a landslide along the central California coast, which blocked roads and isolated a Big Sur community for months. In Southern California, the Thomas fire, brought on by especially dry conditions, has destroyed hundreds of homes. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Q&A: How to get California’s infrastructure ready for climate change

‘I got railroaded,’ Los Banos dairyman says after admitting to illegal dumping:  “Los Banos dairyman and school board trustee Dennis Areias pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor count of unlawful dumping of hazardous waste into state waterways.  As a result, Areias was placed on three years of informal probation and will need to pay a $3,500 fine, $19,000 enhanced fine and $2,161.73 in restitution. he also will need to complete 60 hours of community service.  A felony count of illegal dumping was dropped as a result of Areias’ admission. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  ‘I got railroaded,’ Los Banos dairyman says after admitting to illegal dumping

Report: What California learned from drinking water/wastewater challenges in 2017:  “In a new report on the state’s water priorities, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) offered the nation some guidance on how it might address issues that are burdening regions all over the country.  “This past year was a prime example of California’s highly variable climate — and a precursor of the types of extremes that are expected to become more common,” the report reads. “After five years of drought exacerbated by record heat, 2017’s record rain and snow brought more challenges — stressing dams and levees, causing landslides, and adding fuel to fire-prone landscapes.” … ”  Read more from Water Online here:  Report: What California learned from drinking water/wastewater challenges in 2017

Using the D-word: Is it too early? Is it too early to mention the dreaded D-word?  Maybe.  After five years of drought — Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to the drought last April — it’s almost unthinkable to imagine we could return to critically dry conditions so soon.  But where the heck is the rain?  OK, first the good news: Winter is still dead ahead, and it’s not uncommon to start off with a water deficit in December only to see a deluge in January and February. ... ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Using the D-word: Is it too early?

Three reasons why California’s fires won’t dampen any time soon:  “Wildfires in December are the new norm for California.  In the West, they are burning hotter and more intensely than ever due to climate change, and the situation is made worse by the explosion of development in fire prone areas and past firefighting decisions. Here are three reasons the fires are massive and likely won’t abate anytime soon. ... ”  Read more from NPR here:  Three reasons why California’s fires won’t dampen any time soon

Scientists warily look to geoengineering to stave off polar catastrophe:  “If the world is going to experience catastrophic sea-level rise – the kind of worst-case scenario spun out of climate models that would force humanity to flee from the world’s coasts – there’s a good chance it could all start with the collapse of Thwaites Glacier.  If Thwaites goes, it could trigger a chain of events that destabilizes the West Antarctic ice sheet, with a recent Rolling Stone feature dubbing it the “doomsday glacier.” The bad news is that Thwaites isn’t particularly stable itself. It is the poster child of what scientist Hans Weertman named “marine ice sheet instability” in the 1970s. The glacier’s grounding line – the place where it is attached to the Earth’s bedrock – lies below sea level, making it vulnerable not just to melting from warming air, but, more importantly, from below. Warm ocean water is slowly causing Thwaites’ grounding line to retreat. In 2014, two studies concluded this process is already occurring. … ”  Read more from Oceans Deeply here:  Scientists warily look to geoengineering to stave off polar catastrophe

In commentary today …

George Skelton: Gov. Jerry Brown warns climate change has us ‘on the road to hell.’ California’s wildfires show he’s on to something:  “When he’s lecturing about climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown sounds like a street-corner preacher shouting: “Repent. Change your ways. The end is near.”  I envision him in a sackcloth robe, arms flailing and chanting at the wind.   But it’s nearly Christmas and wicked wildfires are devastating California beauty. So Brown is obviously on to something.  This traditionally is the season for mudslides and flooding. Until now, no major wildfire has ever ravished California in December, at least since the state began keeping records in 1932. Our fire season has reliably been summer and early fall. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  George Skelton: Gov. Jerry Brown warns climate change has us ‘on the road to hell.’ California’s wildfires show he’s on to something

We’re gaining momentum with work at the Salton Sea, says V. Manuel Perez:  He writes, “Over the past few months, I have attended several Salton Sea community events. I’ve been impressed by both the public turnout and the excitement that was generated by the overall conversation.  A common theme: “When are we going to see something built? No more studies, we want to see action.”  After many years of garnering public dollars, we now have actual, real projects under way to focus on exposed playa and address air quality impacts as the sea recedes. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  We’re gaining momentum with work at the Salton Sea, says V. Manuel Perez

In regional news and commentary today …

In the North Bay fire zone, early tests show no post-fire water contamination:  “Samples taken from key Russian River tributaries downstream of the massive Tubbs fire scar have so far tested within the expected range for a suite of 30 toxins and other traits that might betray contamination related to ash, burned wreckage and recent firefighting efforts, according to North Coast water regulators.  The results are just the earliest in the long-term monitoring planned for the 1,500-square-mile river watershed. Scientists want to ensure that critical water supply and wildlife habitat aren’t exposed to heavy metals, excess sediment and other pollutants potentially leached from thousands of burned structures, vehicles and unknown materials incinerated in the October firestorm. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  In the North Bay fire zone, early tests show no post-fire water contamination

Spilling tap water into creeks nets EBMUD a huge fine:  “Add the right disinfectants to tap water and it’s safe to drink. Spill the same drinking water in a creek, however, and it’s murder on wild fish —and grounds for a big penalty.  The East Bay Municipal Utility District ran into that dilemma, agreeing recently to pay $893,000 in penalties and also to spend an additional $720,000 for pipeline leak detectors after three water main breaks in Danville, Walnut Creek and San Ramon spilled treated drinking water into creeks, state pollution regulators report. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Spilling tap water into creeks nets EBMUD a huge fine

What are those weird, pink ponds in San Francisco Bay? Passengers flying into Bay Area airports usually spot them out the window: huge, colorful ponds, hugging the shoreline of the bay. The patchwork of brown, green and pink looks like a bizarre quilt.  They’re known as the “salt ponds,” and Bay Curious listener Ann Vercoutere has wondered about them since her childhood in the South Bay.  “When you’d drive by on the old Bayshore Freeway, you’d see these big piles of salt,” she says. “So, my question is: what’s the process of how they go from dirty bay water into salt that comes out white from my salt shaker?” … ”  Read more from KQED here:  What are those weird, pink ponds in San Francisco Bay?

Local group working to convert Morro Bay power plant into desalination plant:  “The Morro Bay Ocean Fresh Water coalition (MBOFW), a group of Central Coast advocates, is working to reopen the Morro Bay energy plant as a desalination plant. The plant, owned by Dynergy headquartered in Houston, TX, was closed early in 2014 after 60 years of operation. When the plant closed, reports say the company was investigating the possibility of converting the plant to a wave energy farm that would transfer power to existing transmission lines at the plant and a small scale options for battery storage for solar energy. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here:  Local group working to convert Morro Bay power plant into desalination plant

Water bills expected to double in Turlock:  “Water prices likely will double for most families over the next five years, city leaders decided Tuesday after a lively hearing lasting nearly three hours.  Several people objected, citing pain in the pocketbook and the prospect of losing the great taste of Turlock well water as it’s mixed with Tuolumne River water. That’s the expensive long-term plan, as Turlock joins with Ceres to buy surface water from a $288 million Turlock Irrigation District treatment plant, to be built in a few years.  Most members of the City Council appeared to agonized over Tuesday’s decision, called by Mayor Gary Soiseth “one of the most consequential we’ll take.” … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Water bills expected to double in Turlock

Unprecedented cleanup of San Diego River to remove trash, homeless:  “The San Diego River is getting an unprecedented makeover — the largest effort perhaps in recent history to address the pollution that has for decades plagued watersheds throughout the region.  Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Wednesday that the city will remove trash and homeless encampments along the river twice a week through the end of March. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Unprecedented cleanup of San Diego River to remove trash, homeless

Along the Colorado River …

Is another Colorado River pipeline the answer to southern Utah’s booming economy?  “The economy is booming again in Southern Utah.  New homes and businesses are popping up all around St. George, Utah, some 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  So, Washington County officials are hoping a 30-year-old plan to build a 140-mile water pipeline from Lake Powell to their area will move forward.  The pipeline would cost more than $1 billion and would pump 77 million gallons a day from the lake.  ... ”  Read more from Nevada Public Radio here:  Is another Colorado River pipeline the answer to southern Utah’s booming economy?

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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