DAILY DIGEST: Tunnels hearing lunges forward; California water agency told to speed up spending of Prop 1 storage funds; San Joaquin water users, cut off during drought, win round in court; DWR still expects feds to pay bulk of Oroville Dam spillway repairs; and more …

In California water news today, Tunnels hearing lunges forward; California water agency gets scolded: Speed up spending billions on new reservoirs; California Water Commission blasted for sitting on dam funds; Anti-dam activists rally in Sacramento to show opposition to NID’s Centennial Reservoir; San Joaquin water users, cut off during drought, win round in court; DWR still expects feds to pay bulk of Oroville Dam spillway repairs; Deeply Talks: Groundwater banking potential; Sacramento Valley left out of initial federal allocations; High and dry: Parched wet season leaves water mavens wary of the future; Salt marshes will vanish in less than a century if seas keep rising and California keeps building, study finds; California’s coastal marshes could disappear by the end of the century; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Delta Stewardship Council meets today at 9:00 am: Agenda items include an update on the ecosystem amendment, a presentation on the Paradise Cut project, a briefing on the recent accomplishments of the Delta Independent Science Boards and their upcoming projects, and a quarterly report from the Delta Watermaster.  Click here for full agendaClick here for the webcast link.
  • Brown Bag Seminar: The Ecological Flows Tool: Using a Multi-species Approach to Evaluate Water Management Operations on the Sacramento River and the Delta from 12pm to 12:30pm presented by Ryan Luster, The Nature Conservancy’s California Water Program.  Click here for more information and webcast link.
  • Delta Plan Ecosystem Amendment Open House from 5pm to 7pm at the Courtland Auditorium. (Note this is a different location than previously announced.) Click here for more information.

In the news today …

Tunnels hearing lunges forward:  “State officials declined again Wednesday to delay a hearing that could lead to the issuance of a critical permit to build the governor’s $17 billion Delta tunnels.  Opponents had tried to stop the process, arguing that the recent announcement that the tunnels might be built in phases over a longer period of time means the project has changed and requires additional review and scrutiny.  But the water agency that will make the final decision refused to stop the hearing, saying Wednesday that it’s not yet clear whether the tunnels will indeed be built in phases or concurrently, as first planned. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Tunnels hearing lunges forward

California water agency gets scolded: Speed up spending billions on new reservoirs:  “With California facing another potential drought, legislators demanded Wednesday that a state agency release $2.7 billion in bond funding for dams, reservoirs and other water storage projects.  Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle, pulling a child’s red wagon, arrived at a meeting of the California Water Commission with a stack of petitions with 4,000 signatures supporting the two largest reservoir projects seeking bond money: Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento and Temperance Flat in the San Joaquin Valley. “Farmers like myself are concerned about the shortage of water – we’re seeing another drought cycle,” he told the commission. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California water agency gets scolded: Speed up spending billions on new reservoirs

California Water Commission blasted for sitting on dam funds:  “With a $2.7 billion voter-approved bankroll ready to be spent on new dams and water projects, a California state agency is being accused of sitting on the funds.  The California Water Commission, tasked with dispersing Proposition 1 funds, faces a tidal wave of criticism and skepticism after its staff concluded earlier this month that no water projects proposed so far passed initial cost-benefit muster. The announcement roiled the water and farming districts vying for the state bonds, along with elected officials who helped craft the 2014 proposition. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  California Water Commission blasted for sitting on dam funds

Anti-dam activists rally in Sacramento to show opposition to NID’s Centennial Reservoir:  “The California Water Commission, which is evaluating the Nevada Irrigation District’s application in pursuit of state funding for the proposed Centennial dam, was greeted by a surprise group of visitors Wednesday.  Dressed in lifejackets and wielding kayak paddles, about 60 demonstrators stood outside the Commission’s monthly meeting in Sacramento Wednesday to show their opposition to the Centennial project on the Bear River. … ”  Read more from The Union here:  Anti-dam activists rally in Sacramento to show opposition to NID’s Centennial Reservoir

San Joaquin water users, cut off during drought, win round in court:  “Thousands of water-right holders who were told to cease diversions during the last drought were deprived of due process, a judge found Wednesday, raising questions about how the state will handle future shortages.  Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh ruled that the water users, including some mostly agricultural districts in the Delta, were not afforded “certain minimal protections” like formal hearings in which they might have challenged the state’s claim that there wasn’t enough water available.  Instead of having such an opportunity, the water users were warned to immediately cease diversions. One water district was threatened with a hefty fine, though the state ultimately backed down. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  San Joaquin water users, cut off during drought, win round in court

DWR still expects feds to pay bulk of Oroville Dam spillway repairs:  “The state Department of Water Resources is still expecting the federal government to pay the bulk of the cost of repairing the Lake Oroville spillways.  The estimated cost is up to $870 million, and north state congressmen had indicated the Federal Emergency Management Agency had some doubts whether it could reimburse costs for a redesigned structure.  But DWR spokeswoman Erin Mellon said during a media call Wednesday that FEMA has paid 75 percent of costs that have been submitted thus far, and the state has no indication that is going to change. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  DWR still expects feds to pay bulk of Oroville Dam spillway repairs

California lawmakers boost dam checks after near disaster:  “California will beef up dam inspections under legislation sent to Gov. Jerry Brown recently, a year after a near disaster prompted the evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents living downstream from the tallest U.S. dam.  The Assembly unanimously gave final approval to the bill requiring annual inspections for dams deemed to be high hazards.  The measure also sets standards for inspections, requires inspectors to consult with independent experts to update dam safety measures every 10 years and requires that inspection reports be available to the public with certain sensitive information withheld if it creates a security risk. … ”  Read more from the AP here:  California lawmakers boost dam checks after near disaster

Deeply Talks: Groundwater banking potential:  “In this episode of Deeply Talks, Tara Lohan, Water Deeply’s managing editor, speaks with Philip Bachand, a water engineer and founder of the environmental engineering firm, Bachand & Associates; Daniel Mountjoy, the director of resource stewardship at Sustainable Conservation; and Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch, about recharging groundwater and the crucial role that farms can play in this important effort. … ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Deeply Talks: Groundwater banking potential

Sacramento Valley left out of initial federal allocations:  “An initial allocation of water has been announced for some of the water users of the federal Central Valley Project, but those in the Sacramento Valley were not included.  In a press release Tuesday, the Bureau of Reclamation said the decision was delayed north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta due to low snowpack levels and uncertainty about whether Shasta Lake can provide enough cool water for endangered salmon species in the Sacramento River through summer and fall.  No allocation was made for American River or in-delta contractors either, due to the integrated operation of Shasta and Folsom lakes. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Sacramento Valley left out of initial federal allocations

Perdue sees farmers ‘making a difference’:  “To learn more about California agriculture and its successes and challenges, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Central California farms and agricultural businesses as part of a three-day trip to the state.  On his second day in California, during a farm tour organized by the California Farm Bureau Federation, Perdue said he was impressed by the variety and abundance of the state’s agriculture. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Perdue sees farmers ‘making a difference’

Snow today in the Sierra; more on the way:  “A winter storm is expected to drop several inches of new snow Thursday in the Sierra Nevada, and meteorologists with the National Weather Service are optimistic more systems will follow in the coming days.  Thursday’s storm, which could deliver 6 to 10 inches of snow in the higher elevations, comes on the heels of a system Monday that brought as much as 7 inches of fresh powder to Tahoe area ski resorts.  “The storm isn’t going to be a huge snowmaker,” said Alex Hoon, a meteorologist with the weather service in Reno. “We had such a big deficit as far as snowpack. We’re trying to make up for two months of lost snowpack. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Snow today in the Sierra; more on the way

High and dry: Parched wet season leaves water mavens wary of the future:  “When it comes to the question of “is California in a drought?” The answer depends on who you ask.  On Feb. 6, the U.S. Drought Monitor listed Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties as experiencing what it called “severe drought” conditions. The designation is the third in five total levels on the monitor’s scale—compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—with the worst and fifth being “exceptional.” A week later, the agency added San Luis Obispo, Kern, Tulare, and Kings counties to the severe drought level, citing a warm, arid winter and historically low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.  Eric Luebehusen, a USDA meteorologist and one of the authors of the Drought Monitor, told the Sun that federal scientists use a collaborative approach when compiling the monitor’s data. … ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Sun here:  High and dry: Parched wet season leaves water mavens wary of the future

Salt marshes will vanish in less than a century if seas keep rising and California keeps building, study finds: “On one side, there’s the rising ocean. On the other, rising buildings.  Squeezed between the two are California’s salt marshes — a unique ecosystem filled with pickleweed and cordgrass, shorebirds and many endangered species.  Coastal wetlands such as Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, the marshes along Morro Bay and the ecological preserve in Newport Beach can purify the air, cleanse urban runoff before it flows into the sea and reduce flooding by absorbing storm surges like a sponge. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Salt marshes will vanish in less than a century if seas keep rising and California keeps building, study finds

California’s coastal marshes could disappear by the end of the century:  “The prognosis for California’s coastal wetlands is not good — and that has broad implications for the state’s resilience against the impacts of climate change.  A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey and the UCLA indicate that by the end of the century coastal marshlands in the Golden State could effectively be gone as a result of rising seas.  The loss of marshes, which act as a sponge during storm surges, would leave cities, towns and roads in low-lying areas near the coast vulnerable to flooding. Wetlands also clean water as it flows from the land toward the sea, purify air and absorb carbon. They’re also, if healthy, incredibly rich in life, hosting fish, birds and are dominated by plants such as grasses, rushes and reeds. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  California’s coastal marshes could disappear by the end of the century

A new structure for the Interior Department takes shape“The Department of Interior employs around 70,000 people and oversees a broad array of federal programs, from land management agencies like the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service to relationships with tribal nations through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In his first address to employees last March, newly minted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told department workers that a major overhaul of the department was in the works. Now, the details of Zinke’s plans are coming into view as he prepares to pitch his plan to Congress. ... ”  Read more from High Country News here:  A new structure for the Interior Department takes shape

In regional news and commentary today …

Lessons from Oroville spillway helpful for next disaster:  “Until February 2017, the calls that came to Butte 2-1-1 ranged from quelling stress, and finding support organizations, to locating low-cost diapers.  But for a few weeks after the Oroville Dam spillway disaster, the calls were desperate, seeking evacuation routes, hunting for surviving relatives, and wondering when residents could return home.  Thirty minutes after Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea gave the evacuation order on Feb. 12, the staff of Butte 2-1-1 was in place in Chico. Over the next three days, there were roughly 790 calls. In the end, 1,200 calls came in over the incident, nd for each the caller heard a human at the other end. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Lessons from Oroville spillway helpful for next disaster

Corning: Problem discovered in groundwater contamination project:  “With a bit of a caveat, the Corning City Council approved on Feb. 13 the notice of substantial completion and ownership for the south Corning waterline project.  The purpose of the project was to fix a problem of contaminated groundwater caused by solvent spilled when the site, which is now owned and operated by Love’s at the intersection of Highway 99W and South Avenue, was owned by Dudley Petty Truckstop in the 1990s.  When Pilot/Flying J purchased the property in 2005 it inherited the groundwater contamination problem and agreed to fix the problem by installing a waterline extension of the Corning Municipal Water System to six adjacent water-well supplied residential properties impacted by the groundwater contamination. … ”  Read more from the Corning Observer here: Corning: Problem discovered in groundwater contamination project

Napa: As Yountville Reservoir drops, state studies supply – and possible purchases from Napa:  “Even with California’s lengthy drought in the rear-view mirror, the reservoir feeding Yountville and the Veterans Home of California is running low. Just how low may determine what the town – and state regulators – do to curb water use and boost supplies as the dryness of summer approaches.  New monitoring equipment at Rector Reservoir northeast of Yountville suggests water levels are falling at such a rate that the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which owns both the reservoir and the Veterans Home, should plan for a possible shortfall in the middle of August as a precaution, according to CalVet Secretary Vito Imbasciani. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  Napa: As Yountville Reservoir drops, state studies supply – and possible purchases from Napa

Tahoe ski resort develops plan to adapt to low-snow seasons:  “A Lake Tahoe ski resort is developing a plan to improve skiing during low-snow seasons by removing boulders and trees from several runs.  Heavenly Mountain Resort’s plan calls for widening a dozen trails and removing potentially hundreds or even thousands of trees.  The hope is to reduce skier and snowboard traffic bottlenecks on busy days at the South Lake Tahoe resort straddling the California-Nevada line. Low-snow seasons are expected to become more common due to climate change. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Tahoe ski resort develops plan to adapt to low-snow seasons

With only a trickle of water, Yosemite’s ‘Firefall’ puts on a show:  “Amid a year marked by low rainfall, there was some concern that Yosemite’s famous “firefall” would be running dry in February.  The natural marvel usually occurs during a two-week stretch in the early part of the month on the east side of El Capitan. When Horsetail Fall is flowing and the weather conditions are just right, the setting sun illuminates the ribbon of water and granite face with a fiery glow.  A week ago, the falls was as dry as a bone. But with the light snow flurries over the weekend, a trickle is now dripping down the face of Horsetail, treating onlookers to one of California’s favorite natural splendors. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here: With only a trickle of water, Yosemite’s ‘Firefall’ puts on a show

Exeter Public Works Director says the city’s static groundwater levels are concerning:  “Winter is quickly coming to a close with three quarters of February already past, and the lack of rainfall is becoming more and more concerning. During the Exeter City Council’s Feb. 13 meeting, public works director Daymon Qualls alerted council members of the difficult situation the city faces when it comes to groundwater.  “We are not seeing our static water level returning like it should and that’s very concerning,” Qualls said. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here:  Exeter Public Works Director says the city’s static groundwater levels are concerning

Fillmore: Groundwater Sustainability Agency opposes Sespe aquifer proposal: Last night, the Fillmore/Piru GSA Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the Sespe Aquifer Exemption proposal, and to send a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board, stating their position.  Director Glen Pace recused himself because he represents the Piru Pumpers, but he also spoke in support of the board opposing the exemption. … ”  Read more from The Fillmore Gazette here: Groundwater Sustainability Agency opposes Sespe aquifer proposal

Record water imports helping to recharge Inland Empire groundwater:  “The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District is taking advantage of last year’s record-setting storms and filling its three reservoirs.  “We import water through the State Water Project primary in wet years,” said Bob Tincher, deputy general manager of water resources for the Valley District.  The water district imported more than 71,000 acre feet of water, a record for them. “We put it into an underground storage basin so that we can use it in drought periods like this one,” said Tincher. ... ”  Read more from KABC here:  Record water imports helping to recharge Inland Empire groundwater

Water use surges in San Diego, parts of Southern California as drought conditions loom:  “As dry conditions persist in California, residents in San Diego County and around the state have started using water at levels not seen since before the state’s historic drought.  In Southern California, usage surpassed pre-drought levels — with some water districts seeing two- and three-fold increases in consumption for December over the same month the previous year, according to data released in February by state water officials. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Water use surges in San Diego, parts of Southern California as drought conditions loom

Precipitation watch …

Weak but cold winter storm moves through NorCal today, bringing low elevation snow and isolated showers and thunderstorms to the valley.

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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