DAILY DIGEST: Is it a “March Miracle?” Atmospheric river heads for Sacramento area; Palo Verde Irrigation District drops lawsuit against Met; Valley groups divided on support for major drinking water bill; Little-known CA lawsuit complicates drought plan for Lake Mead; and more …

In California water news today, Is it a “March Miracle?” Atmospheric river heads for Sacramento area; What is an atmospheric river? Here are five things to know; Palo Verde Irrigation District drops lawsuit against Metropolitan; Valley groups divided on support for major drinking water bill; Relicensing hydro projects face hurdles from agencies; The politics of why congressional Democrats scuttled Shasta Dam expansion; Climate’s day in court: maybe not the great debate but still a ‘big deal’; Understanding the effects of climate change on California watersheds; Little-known California lawsuit complicates drought plan for Lake Mead; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission meets at 9:30am at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building, 914 Capitol Mall.  Agenda items include a briefing on water rights, a briefing on Article 21 water, a discussion of the draft 2017 State Water Project review, and an update on the Water Storage Investment Program.  Click here for the full agenda and webcast link.
  • A Public meeting for the California WaterFix Contract Amendment for State Water Project contractors from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Sacramento Courtyard Marriott, 4422 Y Street, Sacramento.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

Is it a “March Miracle?” Atmospheric river heads for Sacramento area:  “Three weeks ago, California was staring at a disastrously dry winter that had conjured up fears of another drought. Now, with yet another major round of rain and snow starting Tuesday, the state’s rain gauges are starting to look a bit closer to normal.  “We are definitely getting a pretty wet month,” said Michelle Mead, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Is it a “March Miracle?” Atmospheric river heads for Sacramento area

What is an atmospheric river? Here are five things to know:  “An atmospheric river is sending rain Sacramento’s way this week, dropping as much as 4 feet of snow in the Sierra and giving a little bit of relief to Californians concerned about another drought.  A wet March so far has aided the Sacramento Valley in inching closer to the average totals for the water year.  The atmospheric river will no doubt help, but you’re probably wondering: What is an atmospheric river, anyway? … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  What is an atmospheric river? Here are five things to know

Palo Verde Irrigation District drops lawsuit against Metropolitan, seeking to settle dispute:  “Last year, farmers who lead the irrigation district in Blythe sued the biggest urban water district in the country to challenge what they called a “water grab.”  Now the Palo Verde Irrigation District has dropped that lawsuit, looking to smooth the way toward a possible settlement with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  It’s a dispute over Colorado River water, and it began after Metropolitan spent more than $250 million buying up pieces of farmland across the Palo Verde Valley – and then started renting the land to growers under leases that impose water-saving limits and charge higher rents if farmers fail to cut back. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  California farm district drops water lawsuit, seeking to settle dispute

Valley groups divided on support for major drinking water bill:  “More than 300 California communities lack access to clean drinking water. A disproportionately high number of those communities lie in the San Joaquin Valley, as we reported in our 2017 series Contaminated. Last fall, a bill with a proposed solution passed the state senate but has since remained in limbo, receiving both broad support and opposition—even in the San Joaquin Valley.  Last Wednesday, over a hundred Valley residents traveled to Sacramento carrying bottles of water. Bottles that were contaminated with bacteria and chemicals—just like the water that comes out of their taps. ... ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Valley groups divided on support for major drinking water bill

Relicensing hydro projects face hurdles from agencies:  “The multipurpose aspect of many reservoir projects adds an extra layer of regulation to those projects–and gives government agencies and advocacy organizations additional opportunities to seek more water and other concessions from reservoir operators. That scenario is playing out in attempts to relicense California hydroelectric projects that also provide water supplies to farms, ranches and cities.  For hydroelectric generation facilities to operate, owner-operators such as water districts and utility companies must periodically renew project licenses—a years-long process through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Relicensing hydro projects face hurdles from agencies

The politics of why congressional Democrats scuttled Shasta Dam expansion: ” … Leaders in Congress are rushing to pass an omnibus funding bill by the Friday deadline. If they fail, we will see a repeat of the February government shutdown.  Among the sticking points in the bill are the myriad riders attached to pursue specific policies or allocate funds to local projects, like the controversial New York-New Jersey tunnel or disaster relief to Puerto Rico. … So, it was with quiet optimism that California Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R- Bakersfield), introduced the Shasta Dam expansion as a rider. ... ” Read more from GVWire here:  The politics of why congressional Democrats scuttled Shasta Dam expansion

Climate’s day in court: maybe not the great debate but still a ‘big deal’:  “The spotlight will be on a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday, when climate science finally gets its day in court.  The cities of Oakland and San Francisco are suing several oil companies for the costs of adapting to climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels that threaten to flood critical infrastructure. Judge William Alsup has taken the unusual step of asking both sides to present their views on the state of climate science. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Climate’s day in court: maybe not the great debate but still a ‘big deal’

Understanding the effects of climate change on California watersheds:  “California relies on the Sierra Nevada snowpack for a significant portion of its water needs, yet scientists understand very little about how future changes in snowpack volume and timing will influence surface water and groundwater. Now researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are developing an advanced hydrologic model to study how climate change might affect California watersheds.  The new collaborative study, with $3.7 million in funding from the UC Laboratory Fees Research Program, will improve the projection of water resources under a range of future scenarios. The goal of the project is to provide information that can be used to optimize water storage, water quality, and groundwater sustainability as precipitation varies, temperatures warm, and population grows. … ”  Read more from EurekAlert here:  Understanding the effects of climate change on California watersheds

How California’s giant sequoias tell the story of American’s conflicted relationship with nature:  “In the winter of 1852, while chasing a wounded grizzly bear in the mountains of eastern California, a hunter named Augustus T. Dowd encountered a very large tree. It had red-orange bark and clouds of sea-green needles, and it would’ve taken more than a dozen men with outstretched arms to encircle it. When Dowd told his campmates what he’d found, they laughed. Then he took them to see the tree.  … ”  Read more from Smithsonian Magazine here:  How California’s giant sequoias tell the story of American’s conflicted relationship with nature

Designing marine protected areas in a changing climate:  “Climate change is throwing a wrench into conservation. In the ocean, water is warming and becoming more acidic. At the poles, sea ice is melting. And across the globe, currents are changing pace or direction.  Combined, the effects of climate change are “putting ocean life through a blender,” says Malin Pinsky, an ecologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It’s rearranging where the species are, rearranging which species are found together, changing food webs, changing ecosystems.”  Climate change is making the standard method of protecting vulnerable species—closing their critical habitat to destructive human activities such as fishing or oil drilling—much more complicated. ... ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Designing marine protected areas in a changing climate

In commentary today …

Atmospheric river or not, California must be ready for the next drought, says the Sacramento Bee:  They write, “How much are Californians willing to pay and sacrifice for a more sustainable state?  It takes a lot of commitment and persistence – and that’s something of a question mark with the latest developments on water conservation and recycling.  Local water districts are rebelling against permanent statewide rules to ban wasteful practices such as hosing down driveways and watering lawns soon after rainfall, The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow report. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Atmospheric river or not, California must be ready for the next drought

Coastal Commission must return to its original intent, says Taylor Roschen:  She writes, ““Is this what was intended when this law passed?” It’s a question staff people at regulatory agencies often fail to ask themselves before starting to impose new rules and restrictions on citizens. It’s also a question California farmers and ranchers are tired of asking themselves, as they struggle with those rules and restrictions.  The state Legislature passes hundreds of new laws every year, and each one reflects an agreement made. The Constitution requires that “legislative intent” be the guiding principle in implementing the law. It serves as a reminder that the body of law should stand firmly rooted, and not be subject to a regulator’s political whims. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Coastal Commission must return to its original intent

When California needs to flush its stormwater out to sea – and when it doesn’tThe LA Times writes, “As the March rains loosen more Southern California mud and fill more Northern California reservoirs, the state still flirts with drought and we still run short of water. Los Angeles is engineered to hustle filthy storm water to sea as quickly as possible, as if it were the evil fluid of the primordial abyss, yet we spend millions to import precious snowmelt from the Sierras. It’s all just water. Meanwhile, the Trump administration proposes to raise Shasta Dam in the far north of the state to capture more rainwater to send south, but Democrats resist. Does any of it make any sense?  It does, but it requires some time contemplating a map of California. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  When California needs to flush its stormwater out to sea – and when it doesn’t

In regional news and commentary today …

Inland Klamath users challenge injunction protecting salmon:  “Inland water users along the Klamath River are asking a federal court to modify an injunction last year that authorized water releases from dams along the river to reduce the effects of parasitic worms on salmon. The injunction was the result of a case the Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes brought against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Klamath Water Users Association, Sunnyside Irrigation District, Tulelake, California farmer Ben Duval, the Klamath Drainage District and the Klamath Irrigation District. ... ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here:  Inland Klamath users challenge injunction protecting salmon

No start date for Klamath Basin irrigators:  “There has been no start date solidified for Klamath Basin irrigators, but Bureau of Reclamation officials said irrigation could start at the earliest by May 1 or as late as June 15.  About 100 Klamath Basin irrigators gathered at the Klamath County Fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon to learn more about what to expect and how to prepare for the upcoming water year. Klamath Basin Area Office area manager Jeffrey Nettleton said the May 1 date is dependent on a document the Bureau is filing in court on Friday. Nettleton said he couldn’t comment on the contents of the document to be filed because of ongoing litigation. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  No start date for Klamath Basin irrigators

Oroville Dam: Senator Jim Nielsen’s bill would establish citizens advisory commission:  “A bill introduced by Sen. Jim Nielsen that would create a citizens advisory commission for the Oroville Dam was amended in the Senate last week.  This comes as the Oroville Dam Coalition has been lobbying over the past year for more community involvement, including through a citizens oversight committee, as a reaction to the spillway crisis in February 2017. The crisis culminated in the evacuation of 188,000 downstream residents. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register here:  Oroville Dam: Senator Jim Nielsen’s bill would establish citizens advisory commission

Public weighs in on expansion of Humboldt County cannabis industry:  “Today’s discussion on the future of Humboldt County’s marijuana industry drew a diverse crowd of cannabis farmers, environmentalists, education officials, tribal representatives, regulators and concerned citizens alike to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors chambers for a chance to weigh in.  The ordinance that went before the board today is the first major expansion of the local cannabis industry since the county’s landmark cannabis industry rules were passed in January 2016. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Public weighs in on expansion of cannabis industry

Lake Tahoe snowpack doubles in March – and more is on the way:  “As the Tahoe Basin prepares for another winter storm, this month appears to have the makings of a “Miracle March.”  On March 1, snowpack in the Tahoe Basin was around 28 percent of the median water content, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  After weathering several storms — including one last week that brought more than 4 feet of snow in 48 hours to some Lake Tahoe ski resorts — the percentage has jumped to 63 percent of the median as of March 20. ... ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here:  Lake Tahoe snowpack doubles in March – and more is on the way

Sacramento ready to move forward on McKinley Park water vault:  “Sacramento is set to approve engineering services for a water vault in a popular city park to help prevent nearby flooding. The plan has some wanting to flush the whole project.  … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here:  Sacramento ready to move forward on McKinley Park water vault

Novato’s Bel Marin Keys restoration plan moves forward:  “Plans for the California State Coastal Conservancy to restore and enhance 68 acres of seasonal coastal wetlands at Bel Marin Keys are moving forward.  The work would be the first phase of a larger effort to restore wetlands that are key for animal species as well as to keep rising seas at bay.  In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave its blessing for the work, then the following month the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board gave its approval. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and state Department of Fish and Wildlife approvals are expected soon. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Novato’s Bel Marin Keys restoration plan moves forward

Zone 7 board to consider hiring new general manager:  “The Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors is set to consider a proposed contract with the top candidate recommended to become the agency’s new general manager Wednesday night.  The proposed candidate, Santa Clarita water official Valerie Pryor, would replace Jill Duerig, who announced her upcoming retirement from the general manager position last October. Duerig is set to leave at the end of the month, and, if appointed, Pryor’s employment will begin April 22. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly here: Zone 7 board to consider hiring new general manager

Kern County: Water diversion raises questions:  “The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District unveiled their plan to divert water from the Onyx and Smith Ranches and deliver it to their service area in the San Joaquin Valley during a recent public meeting attended by approximately 90 South Fork area residents.  The purpose of the March 6 meeting was to provide attendees with an overview of the project as outlined in the Initial Study, the first environmental document prepared for the project. District representatives also reviewed the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process, a process that will provide opportunities for the public and interested agencies to comment on the project. … ”  Read more from the Kern Valley Sun here:  Water diversion raises questions

Battered by fires and floods, beleaguered Montecito braces for more potential destruction: “It started four months ago, when the largest fire on record in California history besieged this upscale coastal enclave.  Soon after, heavy rains sent tons of mud, boulders and debris crashing into Montecito neighborhoods — killing 21 people in what was the state’s deadliest flooding in decades.  Now, forecasters are predicting more trouble for the beleaguered town. The most powerful rainstorm of the year is expected to deliver a direct hit to areas burned in the Thomas fire, bringing with it fears of new destructive mudslides. Authorities have ordered about 21,000 residents in Santa Barbara County to flee, marking the sixth evacuation since December for some. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Battered by fires and floods, beleaguered Montecito braces for more potential destruction

Along the Colorado River …

Little-known California lawsuit complicates drought plan for Lake Mead:  “For years, Colorado River states have been negotiating a plan to avoid the worst – a shortage in Lake Mead so bad it could trigger unprecedented cutbacks. With the region experiencing drought conditions since 2000, even California, which has senior rights, came to the negotiating table. State officials said they were willing to voluntarily reduce Colorado River allocations to keep water levels in Lake Mead – the reservoir that holds water behind Hoover Dam for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico – from slipping below a critical threshold.  The primary obstacle to a deal, known as the Drought Contingency Plan, has been an internal power struggle in Arizona about conservation and which agency gets to make decisions about using the state’s Colorado River water. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  Little-known California lawsuit complicates drought plan for Lake Mead

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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