DAILY DIGEST: Santa Clara set to vote on Delta tunnels project, Governor Brown accused of behind-the-scenes manipulation; Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species; Residents still getting water from temporary tanks fear cutoff; and more …

In California water news today, $650 million vote set on Delta tunnels project: Are taxpayers protected?; Governor Brown accused of behind-the-scenes manipulation in vote on water tunnel project; Is WaterFix another megaproject gone awry?; Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene; ‘The drought is not over’: Residents still getting water from temporary tanks fear cutoff; California considers charge on utility bills to create safe water fund; Oroville Dam: FEMA still deciding whether to reimburse DWR for major repairs; State has ‘Miracle March’ for water conservation; Sites Reservoir official: Commission ‘undervalues’ project’s public benefits; Disappointment for Temperance Flat Reservoir Project; Democrats warn against potential ESA change for threatened species; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife will hold an oversight hearing on the Salton Sea Management Plan beginning at 9am.  Webcast link here.
  • Santa Clara Valley Water District votes on Cal Water Fix project; meeting starts at 9:30am.  Click here to watch on webcast.
  • Public meeting on the California Water Fix amendment to SWP contracts from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the downtown Sacramento Holiday Inn, 300 J Street, Sacramento.
  • Fire and the Future of California Forests from 3:30 to 5:00pm in Sacramento; presented by Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.  Click here to register.

In the news today …

$650 million vote set on Delta tunnels project: Are taxpayers protected?:  “In a vote that could give Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion Delta tunnels plan new momentum, Silicon Valley’s largest water agency on Tuesday will consider changing course and endorsing the controversial project to make it easier to move water to the south.  At a packed meeting last Wednesday, several board members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District — who voted 7-0 six months ago to reject the twin tunnels project — said they are considering reversing that vote now and contributing up to $650 million because the powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, based in Los Angeles, committed $10.8 billion last month toward the plan. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: $650 million vote set on Delta tunnels project

Governor Brown accused of behind-the-scenes manipulation in vote on water tunnel project:  “Two nonprofit groups are accusing Gov. Jerry Brown of improperly working with Metropolitan Water District board directors behind the scenes to put pressure on a key vote for a massive water tunnel project.  The groups claim board members violated open meeting laws as they pressed for a yes on a massive project to move water from tunnels under the Sacramento Bay Delta. The accusations potentially call , call into question a recent vote moving the project forward.  That vote by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California authorized spending up to $11 billion to build two tunnels. … ”  Read more from KPCC here:  Governor Brown accused of behind-the-scenes manipulation in vote on water tunnel project

Is WaterFix another megaproject gone awry?  “The 20 th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities. LA traffic essentially exists in a state of permanent gridlock, and the State Water Project (SWP) and its federal counterpart, the Central Valley Project (CVP), have proven woefully inadequate in slaking the state’s thirst, as demonstrated by the recent drought.  … ”  Read more from California Magazine here:  Is WaterFix another megaproject gone awry?

Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene:  “For 40 years, Leaf Hillman, a ceremonial leader of California’s Karuk Tribe, has danced on the banks of the Klamath River. Following the tradition of his ancestors, he implores the salmon that have long sustained his tribe to return from the sea.  Chinook, or king, salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) arrive in two waves, in spring and fall, to spawn in freshwater. But the Karuk hold the spring arrivals in “special esteem,” Hillman says. The fish leave saltwater in March, having packed enough fat onto their meter-long bodies to sustain them for months, until they mature and spawn far up the river. Fall Chinook spawn lower down in the watershed and mature in the ocean before heading upstream, so they don’t carry as much fat.  The spring runs were historically larger, but dams built on the Klamath between 1912 and 1964 denied these so-called springers access to hundreds of kilometers of spawning habitat in the uppermost tributaries. … ”  Read more from Science Magazine here:  Salmon spawn fierce debate over protecting endangered species, thanks to a single gene

‘The drought is not over’: Residents still getting water from temporary tanks fear cutoff:  “For Fresno County resident Anne Schmidtgall the California drought never ended.  Two years ago, the well on her property east of Del Rey went dry when the casing caved in. Gettingon her property east of Del Rey went dry when the casing caved in. Getting it fixed will cost $19,000, money she doesn’t have.  So Schmidtgall began filling 25-gallon jugs at a friend’s house about three times a week. That went on for a year. … ”  Read it from the Fresno Bee here:  ‘The drought is not over’: Residents still getting water from temporary tanks fear cutoff

California considers charge on utility bills to create safe water fund:  “Gaps in funding for water treatment are a major problem in California. Water providers operate independently, relying virtually entirely on customer fees to cover costs. For agencies with scale, money and access to quality water sources, this model works well. But absent those resources, contamination persists for years without resolution.  Around half a million people in the state receive water from a system that is out of compliance with safe drinking water standards, according to a November analysis by PPIC Water Center. Most of those failing systems are small – serving just a few thousand or a even a few hundred residents. While state bonds and grants can help systems build treatment facilities, there’s no state source of funding to subsidize ongoing operation costs for water providers that can’t afford them. ... ”  Read more from Water Deeply here:  California considers charge on utility bills to create safe water fund

Oroville Dam: FEMA still deciding whether to reimburse DWR for major repairs:  “The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently told north state congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi that the agency is still reviewing whether the state Department of Water Resources is eligible for further reimbursement to fix the Oroville Dam spillway.  The letter from FEMA came in response to one from LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who sent a series of questions in February about DWR’s eligibility for further reimbursement for the bulk of repairs to Oroville Dam. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Oroville Dam: FEMA still deciding whether to reimburse DWR for major repairs

State has ‘Miracle March’ for water conservation:  “There may not have been a “March Miracle” when it came to the snowpack in the state, but there was sure one when it came to water conservation.  The State Water Resources Control reported that in March urban Californians used 24.8 percent less water than in March 2013, the benchmark year considered to be before the drought.  That’s a dramatic turnaround from conservation numbers that have been dropping fairly steadily since June 2016, culminating in February with the state using more water than during the same month in 2013. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  State has ‘Miracle March’ for water conservation

Sites Reservoir official: Commission ‘undervalues’ project’s public benefits:  “One billion dollars isn’t enough, Sites Reservoir supporters say.  Despite being eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds from the state, a top official with the group spearheading Sites Reservoir said the state is failing to see the big picture in terms of the benefits the project would provide California, namely its endangered salmon.  “Although the Sites Project Authority appreciates the increase in eligible state funding, we remain firm in our belief that the state is missing a significant opportunity to flexibly manage water for the benefit of endangered salmon,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority, in a press release. “We are disappointed that the process was not more collaborative and resulted in an undervaluing of the benefits Sites provides to struggling salmon populations.” ... ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here:  Sites Reservoir official: Commission ‘undervalues’ project’s public benefits

Disappointment for Temperance Flat Reservoir Project:  “Action by the California Water Commission has left proponents of the massive Temperance Flat Reservoir Project searching for remaining options while wondering if the state agency’s crucial decision has made further project pursuit even feasible.  “This is a sad day in our Valley’s history,” Steve Worthley, Tulare County Board of Supervisors chairman and San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority president, said of the Water Commission’s determination of public benefits and eligible funding amounts for 11 proposed water storage projects. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Disappointment for Temperance Flat Reservoir Project

Democrats warn against potential ESA change for threatened species: “Senior Democratic lawmakers are launching a peremptory strike against a potential Fish and Wildlife Service change in how threatened species are protected.  The revisions to what insiders know as the “blanket 4(d) rule” are still in draft form and might never formally surface. The very idea, though, spooks some on Capitol Hill, and that, in turn, opens another front in the perpetual Endangered Species Act dust-up.  “We fear FWS’ intention is actually not to better address the needs of threatened species, but rather to cater exclusively and completely to oil, gas and agricultural industries that must currently avoid harming species and their habitats,” two Democrats wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Friday. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Democrats warn against potential ESA change for threatened species

In commentary today …

Hold water district board accountable for Delta water tunnels vote, says the San Jose Mercury News:  They write, “It’s ludicrous for the Santa Clara Valley Water District board to believe it can steer Gov. Jerry Brown’s $16 billion Delta twin tunnels project by committing to help fund it. The board should stand up to pressure from the state and reject the project when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and instead work with California’s next governor on a plan to truly secure a reliable source of water for Silicon Valley while protecting the environmental health of the Delta.  Board members who approve this misguided and costly plan should be held accountable by voters when they come up for re-election. The district board was right in October when it nixed participation. Its sudden decision last week to reconsider with little public notice is unconscionable. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Hold water district board accountable for Delta water tunnels vote

In regional news and commentary today …

Locals need to fight for a voice on Lake Oroville, says the Chico Enterprise-Record:  They write, “While the state and federal government chart the future of the Lake Oroville project, we received another reminder last week about why the process to give the state a new license needs to start over.  The biggest reason is a simple one: A lot has changed in the last 15 months.  The license settlement agreement was signed in 2006 by 51 government agencies and groups that wanted something out of the State Water Project. Most of them wanted money, water or hydroelectric power. … ”  Continue reading at the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Locals need to fight for a voice on Lake Oroville

Lake Tahoe’s shores would change, including more piers, under proposal:  “The way people play along Lake Tahoe’s 72 miles of shoreline could change this year.  The latest iteration of the Tahoe Shoreline Plan comes out Tuesday. The proposal would add 138 piers, of which 10 are public.  “We’ve been trying to come up with a plan that can be broadly supported by environmental groups at a Lake Tahoe, but also the recreation folks, the people who want to get out on the lake,” said Tom Lotshaw, with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA, which is behind the sixth version of the proposal. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Lake Tahoe’s shores would change, including more piers, under proposal

Along the Colorado River …

Arizona’s water fight earned it a black eye; can we rebuild our reputation? asks Arizona Central.  They write, “A bruising battle pitting the two biggest players in Arizona water came to a pause late last week as the agencies announced a truce and promised to work together.  On Thursday, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Water Conservancy District dropped their swords and published a joint statement of cooperation.  While certainly a positive development, it is only the first step in healing a relationship that was badly gashed in a dispute over how to best approach the looming critical shortages in the Colorado River system. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here:  Arizona’s water fight earned it a black eye; can we rebuild our reputation?

The water war that will decide the fate of one in eight Americans:  “Lake Mead is the country’s biggest reservoir of water. Think of it as the savings account for the entire Southwest. Right now, that savings account is nearly overdrawn.  For generations, we’ve been using too much of the Colorado River, the 300-foot-wide ribbon of water that carved the Grand Canyon, supplies Lake Mead, and serves as the main water source for much of the American West.  The river sustains one in eight Americans — about 40 million people — and millions of acres of farmland. In the next 40 years, the region is expected to add at least 10 million more people, as the region’s rainfall becomes more erratic. … ”  Read more from the Huffington Post here:  The water war that will decide the fate of one in eight Americans

As Rocky Mountain snow starts to melt, Colorado River forecast worsens:  “2018 wasn’t the worst winter on record for the southern Rocky Mountain region, but it was close to it.  “It was an extreme year on the dry side, widespread across the Colorado River Basin,” says Greg Smith, a hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City.  The river supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states and to the country of Mexico. ... ”  Read more from KUNC here:  As Rocky Mountain snow starts to melt, Colorado River forecast worsens

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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