DAILY DIGEST: Illegal meetings in tunnels case, opponents claim; State moves closer to downsizing tunnel project; Oroville suing DWR over spillway emergency; Why millions of dead trees in the Sierra may have helped save water during the drought; Can better technologies save endangered salmon?; and more …

In California water news today, Illegal meetings in tunnels case, opponents claim; State moves closer to downsizing tunnel project; Governor Brown’s troubled two-tunnel water plan may shrink to one; Oroville suing DWR over spillway emergency; Can better technologies save endangered salmon?; Why millions of dead trees in the Sierra may have helped save water during the drought; Mass tree die-offs lead to disaster, and a Cal Poly professor is looking for answers; Montecito homeowners sue utilities, alleging negligence before deadly mudslide; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

Illegal meetings in tunnels case, opponents claim:  “State officials whose agency is supposed to independently judge the merits of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed Delta tunnels met illegally with project proponents, critics allege in a pair of motions filed this week.  The State Water Resources Control Board on Thursday is scheduled to resume lengthy hearings that could result in issuing a permit that would allow the $17 billion project to move forward, theoretically.  But opponents say they have uncovered evidence that during earlier portions of the hearing, board staff conferred privately with representatives of the state Department of Water Resources (DWR), the agency leading the tunnels effort. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Illegal meetings in tunnels case, opponents claim

State moves closer to downsizing tunnel project:  “California officials have moved closer to scaling back the troubled Delta tunnels project, officially notifying potential construction contractors that they’re considering limiting the project to one tunnel.  In a memo to engineering firms and other contract bidders last Friday, the Department of Water Resources said it is considering building the tunnels project in phases, with the first phase consisting of “one main tunnel instead of two.”  Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has been floating the idea of a downsized tunnels proposal since October, when funding problems became increasingly evident.  … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  State moves closer to downsizing tunnel project

Governor Brown’s troubled two-tunnel water plan may shrink to one: “Gov. Jerry Brown is considering scaling back his controversial twin-tunnels plan to move water around the state, from two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to one.  In a Department of Water Resources memo sent Friday to potential contractors, state officials for the first time indicated that they are considering a single-tunnel plan. The memo also says the Department of Water Resources “is in the process of evaluating” other possible changes to the tunnels project, including constructing the project in stages. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Governor Brown’s troubled two-tunnel water plan may shrink to one

California says no decision on trimming Delta tunnels plan:  “California water officials say the state has not yet made any final decision on scaling back the size of a troubled water project.  State water officials filed papers Friday saying they were considering cutting immediate plans for a $16 billion project to carry Northern California southward from two tunnels to one, with the second tunnel postponed indefinitely. They asked state builders vying to build the project to submit proposals on the pared-down one-tunnel project. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  California says no decision on trimming Delta tunnels plan

Oroville suing DWR over spillway emergency:  “Signaling what could be a wave of lawsuits arising from last year’s spillway crisis, the city of Oroville is planning to file a complaint Wednesday against the state Department of Water Resources for damages it says it suffered during and after the emergency.  About 188,000 people were evacuated from communities along the Feather River after the failure of Oroville Dam’s main spillway last Feb. 7. Rapid erosion of the adjacent emergency spillway raised concerns about an uncontrolled release of water from the brim-full Lake Oroville. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Oroville suing DWR over spillway emergency

Can better technologies save endangered salmon?  “Up until the 1800s, salmon were so plentiful in California that these “bits of silver pulled out of the water” could be observed ascending the waterways, thousands at a time, each season. However, decades of logging, the construction of dams, and other human interventions have changed the waterways of the state so significantly that the range of the salmon has been permanently altered. Now, a team of scientists collaborating through the Interagency Ecological Program have developed a plan to improve salmon management and, hopefully, help save the species. ... ”  Read more from Environmental Monitor here:  Can better technologies save endangered salmon?

Why millions of dead trees in the Sierra may have helped save water during the drought:  “The millions of trees that died in the Sierra Nevada during California’s five-year drought may have actually helped the state’s water supply once the historic dry spell finally ended, according to a new study.  Scientists led by UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute examined how much water was being absorbed by plant life in 1 million acres of Sierra forest along the watershed that feeds into the Kings River east of Fresno. The study, published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, spanned the years before, during and after the drought, which officially ended last year. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Why millions of dead trees in the Sierra may have helped save water during the drought

Mass tree die-offs lead to disaster, and a Cal Poly professor is looking for answers:  “An international study published by a Cal Poly forestry professor found that trees around the globe are dying faster due to prolonged exposure to drought and heat — and those deaths are creating prime conditions for the kinds of devastating wildfires and mudslides California has seen this year.  Richard Cobb, who is in his first year teaching in Cal Poly’s natural resources management and environmental sciences department, led a collaboration of 20 researchers across 17 countries that aimed to address the potentially deadly and destructive conditions resulting from future forest die-offs with the hopes of spurring better forest management. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Mass tree die-offs lead to disaster, and a Cal Poly professor is looking for answers

Water Deeply Talks: Water Outlook 2018:  “In this episode of “Deeply Talks,” Tara Lohan, managing editor of Water Deeply, and a panel of experts discuss the water issues to keep an eye on in 2018. Tara is joined by Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, and Kimery WiltshireCEO and director of Carpe Diem West.  Recently, the Thomas Fire burned nearly 300,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara north of Los Angeles, incinerating vegetation that held the soil in place. When a major rainstorm hit the region on January 9, the water picked up dirt and debris as it rolled downhill toward the community of Montecito. The mudslide killed at least 20 people. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Water Deeply Talks: Water Outlook 2018

Seven ideas for fixing water in the US:  “The United States is facing a number of water issues: drought, wildfires, pollution and inequitable distribution. In fact, when it comes to water policy, the U.S. Water Alliance says that the nation is at a “crossroads” of short-term crises – like deadly storms and acute pollution problems – and long-term trends such as climate change and crumbling infrastructure.  To come up with ideas on how to address nationwide water issues, the Alliance launched a new campaign, called the One Water for America Listening Sessions. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Seven ideas for fixing water in the US

In regional news and commentary today …

Mudslides not part of Butte County storm outlook:  “Upcoming rainstorms are welcome in Butte County, but along with anticipation certainly comes hesitation as the world watches Santa Barbara County.  Emergency crews in Montecito are still cleaning up from deadly mudslides associated with heavy rain in wildfire areas.  For now, that looks like an unlikely threat for Butte County, according to County Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt, who oversees roads and slopes in Butte County. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Mudslides not part of Butte County storm outlook

Glendale pot project prompts drinking water contamination concerns:  “The governing board for Humboldt County’s main water supplier is set to decide Wednesday whether to appeal the construction of a Glendale cannabis edibles and concentrates manufacturing facility that would be located near one of its drinking water pumps on the Mad River.  Last week, several district representatives urged the county Planning Commission to reject the project and a proposed land use zoning change on the property because they have the potential of contaminating drinking water for about 88,000 county residents. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Glendale pot project prompts drinking water contamination concerns

San Francisco breaking ground on recycling plant: “The sprawling lawns of Golden Gate Park and two major San Francisco golf courses are very thirsty places, and in the coming years, recycled wastewater will satisfy that thirst, thanks to a new treatment plant being built by the city’s water agency.  On Wednesday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will begin construction on the plant that, when completed, will pump around 1.6 million gallons of treated wastewater each day to sprinklers dotting Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park Golf Course and the Presidio Golf Course. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: San Francisco breaking ground on recycling plant

The water at this San Mateo school is unsafe to drink – and has been for years:  “In hundreds of communities across the state, the water coming out of the tap is still not drinkable. Many of these places are small, rural, and economically disadvantaged — the bulk of them are located in the Central Valley. But the Bay Area isn’t immune, and the solutions aren’t easy.  Pescadero is a farmworker town, and the local high school is bordered by rows of vegetables that, on most days, end up on the plates of hungry teenagers.  This close proximity to brussels sprouts and kale means that students here have to go to a cooler to wash their lunch down, instead of sipping from the water fountains. ... ”  Read more from KALW here:  The water at this San Mateo school is unsafe to drink – and has been for years

“Westlands: A Water Story” takes an artistic look at Valley agriculture:  “California’s mammoth feats of water engineering in the 20th century turned the barren west side of the San Joaquin Valley into the most productive farmland in the world. But in the 21st century, as society’s appreciation of the environmental costs of these water diversions, many have questioned whether west side farms will last into the next century. Combined with the threats of drought, climate change, and increasing salinity, the question is fertile ground for photojournalist Randi Lynn Beach. … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  “Westlands: A Water Story” takes an artistic look at Valley agriculture

Paso Robles: Water district votes to ban export of water from Paso basin:  “At a regular meeting of the Estrella-El Pomar-Creston Water District, Directors voted 5 to 0 to publicly reaffirm the district’s position on export of water. District board members acknowledged they were aware of the potential of an initiative process to ban export of water from groundwater basins in San Luis Obispo County.  During the public comment period, members of the audience, many who are members or represent companies who are members of the EPC WD, expressed their support of banning all export of water from County groundwater basins.  … ”  Read more from Paso Robles Daily News here:  Paso Robles: Water district votes to ban export of water from Paso basin

Montecito homeowners sue utilities, alleging negligence before deadly mudslide:  “A group of Southern California homeowners charge that the rupture of a water main during last week’s mudslide released as much as 10 million gallons of water into the community of Montecito, overwhelming a flood control system already deluged with heavy rains.  The plaintiffs leveled claims of negligence against both the Montecito Water District and Southern California Edison, saying that the utility contributed to the wildfire that denuded hillsides by failing to properly maintain power poles, transformers and surrounding property. The result, the suit alleges, was the Thomas Fire, which burned a modern-day California record of 282,000 acres, obliterating ground cover that typically holds hills together in heavy rains. … ”  Read more from NBC News here:  Montecito homeowners sue utilities, alleging negligence before deadly mudslide

As Montecito mudslide cleanup continues, a search for where to dump thousands of tons of mud:  “For days, crews have filled dozens of dump trucks with tangled metal, tire tread, mud and tree branches they cleared from the mudslide wreckage in Montecito.  This week they discarded at least 3,500 tons — or about 7 million pounds — of the muck at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, where it will be stored temporarily until crews can sort through it.  But with the total haul increasing by the hour, officials are facing a daunting challenge: where to dump thousands of tons of debris. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  As Montecito mudslide cleanup continues, a search for where to dump thousands of tons of mud

E. coli in the Los Angeles River: How much is too much for recreational exposure?  “Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies have already answered this question by setting guidelines for E. coli limits in water used for recreational purposes, the question is again being debated in Los Angeles. This is because the city adopted a new protocol in October of 2017 that mandates closing the Los Angeles River to recreational users whenever E. coli levels are too high. … ”  Continue reading at Environmental Monitor here:  E. coli in the Los Angeles River: How much is too much for recreational exposure?

San Bernardino: Work begins on project to recharge groundwater with sediment-free water:  “Work has begun on a $15 million 700-foot-long, 140-foot-wide “sedimentation basin” just downstream from the Seven Oaks Dam to capture more storm water to refill local groundwater basins.  The project is designed to remove muddy particles that cloud the Santa Ana River before it percolates into the groundwater recharge basins. ... ”  Read more from the Highland Community News here:  San Bernardino: Work begins on project to recharge groundwater with sediment-free water

Internal documents reveal Camp Pendleton’s water woes predated summer inspection by EPA:  “For nearly four years before federal and state environmental watchdogs descended on Camp Pendleton during a late June inspection, contractors had warned military leaders about apparently persistent problems with the base’s water system, according to newly released documents.  Obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the records were generated between 2014 and mid-2017 by contractors hired to clean and inspect Camp Pendleton’s 34 water reservoirs. They buttress an Environmental Protection Agency summer survey of a much smaller portion of the sprawling base’s water system. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Internal documents reveal Camp Pendleton’s water woes predated summer inspection by EPA

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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