DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: State slashes benefit claims of projects seeking Prop 1 water storage money; New frontiers await groundwater recharge projects; SLO crews hiked 14 miles to fix Montecito’s water system; Water, water everywhere can’t quell a Western drought; and more …

In California water news this weekend, State slashes benefit claims of projects seeking Prop 1 water storage money; New frontiers await groundwater recharge projects; Mudslides took out Montecito’s water supply. SLO crews hiked 14 miles to fix it; Water, water everywhere can’t quell a Western drought; Bills would make it easier for states to fund infrastructure; Feds say Arizona’s CAP district illegally favoring development over tribes; and more …

In the news this weekend …

State slashes benefit claims of projects seeking Prop 1 water storage money:  “The California Water Commission Friday posted its staff evaluation of the public benefit of the 11 projects vying for Proposition 1 water storage bond money, and the numbers were far lower than the applicants had claimed.  For example the proponents of Sites Reservoir, the off-stream reservoir proposed west of Maxwell, had claimed each dollar of public money invested would result in $2.11 in public benefit. Water Commission staff said the actual benefit would be 40 cents on the dollar. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here:  State slashes benefit claims of projects seeking Prop 1 water storage money

Major water projects hit funding hurdles as California questions value:  “In a remote canyon tucked into the East Bay hills, the glassy waters of Los Vaqueros Reservoir were nearly brimming last week, a welcome sight in a winter that’s been desperately short on rain.  Several Bay Area communities say the lake could hold far more water. With memories of California’s drought still fresh, and concern growing of more dry times ahead, about a dozen water agencies are pushing to expand the Contra Costa County reservoir into a regional giant that would share its bounty with San Francisco and the South Bay. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Major water projects hit funding hurdles as California questions value

Big dam proposals score low in contest for state money:  “Backers of new dams and other water storage projects in California slammed into a roadblock Friday when their proposals scored badly in the first round of competition for a pot of state bond money.  Whether the roadblock is temporary or permanent remains to be seen. But the low scores for 11 different proposals are a reminder that the free flow of government money for big water projects is a thing of the past. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Big dam proposals score low in contest for state money

New frontiers await groundwater recharge projects:  “Now that researchers know they can make significant aquifer improvements with groundwater recharge projects, the next frontier will be determining where and when it can best be done.  Studies by the University of California and the Almond Board of California have found success in improving the health of water tables by flooding alfalfa fields and almond orchards during the winter.  But what’s still to be determined is how late in the season the intentional flooding can occur without hurting crops and yields, and where all the most optimum places are for undertaking such projects, researchers say. … ”  Read more from Capital Press here:  New frontiers await groundwater recharge projects

Mudslides took out Montecito’s water supply.  SLO crews hiked 14 miles to fix it:  “When a public works team from San Luis Obispo County was called to help Montecito with a broken water pipe just days after destructive mudslides tore down the mountainside and into town, they had no idea what they were getting into.  Montecito Water District was faced with overwhelming damage to the city’s water system, limiting water sources and soiling supply to thousands of residents. Among the damage, a view from a helicopter had shown that a 19-inch steel pipe that moves water from Jameson Lake in the Santa Ynez mountains to the city distribution system was broken. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Mudslides took out Montecito’s water supply.  SLO crews hiked 14 miles to fix it

Water, water everywhere can’t quell a Western drought:  “Many Western reservoirs are full, and downpours have triggered floods and deadly mudslides in parts of California. But all that water isn’t enough to save the West from another drought.  Most of the region has slipped back into the drought conditions that have plagued it on and off for the past two decades—alarming water managers across several states. The dry conditions are fueling wildfires, threatening agriculture and hurting ski resorts.  Drought already grips parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Southern California, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. … ”  Read more from the Wall Street Journal here:  Water, water everywhere can’t quell a Western drought

NATIONAL

Bills would make it easier for states to fund infrastructure:  “A group of lawmakers have introduced identical bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would authorize money for low-cost state revolving fund loans to increase investment in water infrastructure.  “This legislation rejects the fix-as-fail approach currently used to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and instead empowers states to invest in multiple water infrastructure projects,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., one of the sponsors of S. 2364, the Security Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN Act) on Tuesday. ... ”  Read more from Bond Buyer here:  Bills would make it easier for states to fund infrastructure

US drought at worst level in nearly 4 years: The dry times are back.  Drought has returned with a vengeance across much of the U.S., with the worst conditions across southern and western parts of the nation.  As of Thursday, 38.4% of the continental U.S. is in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That is the highest percentage since the 40% recorded in May 2014.  In California, which emerged from a brutal four-year drought last year, 44% of the state is now considered to be in a moderate drought. That’s a dramatic jump from just last week, when the figure was 13%. … ”  Read more from USA Today here:  US drought at worst level in nearly 4 years

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Putting the finishing touches on Feather River levee work:  “A project to deepen slurry walls is complete, but some finishing touches are being made to the Feather River levees in Yuba City.  Mike Inamine, executive director of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency, said workers are welding two large pipes that go over the levee from the Feather River side and connect to Gilsizer Slough on the land side near the Feather River Parkway. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:  Putting the finishing touches on Feather River levee work

E. coli levels in the lower American River are still unsafe.  Will this new testing help? The lower American River continues to be contaminated with potentially harmful levels of bacteria, water regulators said this week, and they are taking steps to pinpoint the sources in an effort to protect the waterway and the public.  Beginning this summer, staffers from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board will launch a yearlong study using sophisticated DNA testing to determine the sources of E. coli bacteria that have been found at levels higher than federal regulators recommend for safe recreational use of waterways. The sources of contamination are unknown, but likely include human waste from homeless camps, sewer overflows, wildlife and domestic dogs, officials said. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  E. coli levels in the lower American River are still unsafe.  Will this new testing help? 

‘Extraordinary’ river deserves protection, state says:  “With rapids crashing against house-sized boulders, under a backdrop of thick forest and rugged cliffs, the upper Mokelumne River is worthy of special designation as a wild and scenic river, state officials have concluded.  What’s more, they say it can be done without causing major problems for people.  The new report from the state’s Natural Resources Agency gives river advocates a stronger case with the Legislature to grant the river special protection under state law. A previous effort with lawmakers fell just short in 2014. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  ‘Extraordinary’ river deserves protection, state says

Elkhorn Slough: Restoration of tidal marshes underway:  “The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve has begun work to restore 61 acres of lost coastal salt marsh in the Elkhorn Slough.  The work, which started in January, adds soil from the Pajaro River flood control project to increase the elevation of drowned marshes. Organizers say the $3 million restoration project will help protect wetlands from sea level rise, provide healthy habitat for sea otters, and capture greenhouse gases. … ”  Read more from the Register-Pajaronian here:  Restoration of tidal marshes underway

Elkhorn Slough restoration bringing in tons of dirt:  “Trucks and excavators are dumping tons of dirt over the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve — and it might just save the salt marshes.  “So much of the restoration work that we do we do with shovels, and we have volunteers that are planting plants by hand,” said Monique Fountain, director of the reserve’s Tidal Wetland Program, looking over the towering equipment dumping dirt at the edge of the marshland. “To see something working on this scale, it’s going to accomplish something that we couldn’t do ourselves.” … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here:  Elkhorn Slough restoration bringing in tons of dirt

Cal Am’s proposed desal plant bad idea and bad for Marina, says Bruce Delgado:  He writes, “California American Water Company, a subsidiary of the national, for-profit water provider, American Water, is proposing a massive new desalination plant in the city of Marina. This project poses a substantial threat to our local groundwater supply and the coastal ecosystem, not just in Marina, but across much of the Monterey Peninsula. Cal Am has no legal rights to draw from the targeted water source, and the project itself is in direct conflict with the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This is not to mention the extraordinary cost of the project, which undoubtedly would be passed along to Cal Am customers. … ”  Read more from the Monterey County Herald here:  Cal Am’s proposed desal plant bad idea and bad for Marina, says Bruce Delgado

Ventura, Santa Barbara County crews still on overtime to prepare debris basins, creeks for storms:  “Even as cleanup continues in Southern Santa Barbara County from the deadly January 9th flooding, efforts to prepare for future storms remain in high gear on the South Coast. At the same time, a South Coast event will help property owners learn what they can do to protect themselves.  In the foothills near Ventura High School, crews are busy cleaning out and preparing a barranca so it can handle the next big storm which heads our way. Similar scenes are happening throughout the region. … ”  Read more from KCLU here:  Ventura, Santa Barbara County crews still on overtime to prepare debris basins, creeks for storms

Skyrocketing water bills in San Diego prompt internal city investigation:  “Its sounds like something out of a Kafka novel. You get an inexplicable bill from a government agency for thousands of dollars and no manner of protest or pleading will reverse it.  Instead, you’re told by the bureaucracy to pony up the money or face losing access to an essential resource — water.  That’s the situation being described by residents across the city of San Diego who say the Public Utilities Department is charging them for water they didn’t use.  Utility officials have downplayed the situation, saying that while the outcry is unusually vociferous, people protesting their bills is common. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Skyrocketing water bills in San Diego prompt internal city investigation

Along the Colorado River …

Feds say Arizona’s CAP district illegally favoring development over tribes: “The agency that runs the CAP is setting aside Colorado River water for new development that by all rights should go to the Tohono O’odham and other Indian tribes, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says.  In unusually strongly worded comments, the bureau accuses the Central Arizona Water Conservation District of defying a 2007 legal settlement giving the federal government the right to buy certain classes of Central Arizona Project water on behalf of tribes. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here:  Feds say CAP district illegally favoring development over tribes

Commentary: A new way of doing business on the water:  Scott Yates writes, “This year has given us a glimpse of our potential water future in the Colorado River Basin — and it’s not pretty. So far this winter, much of the Intermountain West is seeing below average snowpack in the mountains, where most of our water in the Upper Basin originates.  Even if we end up with a good snow year, the long-term trend is clear: drier and hotter and less predictable.  Left unaddressed, these trends could pose a perfect storm for both municipalities and agricultural producers who depend on healthy flows in our rivers. That’s why a few years ago, the Bureau of Reclamation, municipal utilities, conservationists and other river stakeholders banded together to launch an innovative, market-based program, called the System Conservation Pilot Program (SCPP). ... ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here:  Commentary: A new way of doing business on the water

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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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

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