DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Oroville Dam: A tour of two spillways, phase two; All wildfires are not alike, but the US is fighting them that way; Andrew Wheeler, EPA: “I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist”; Reverberations continue across Valley over Bay Delta Plan; and more …

The South Fork of the Eel River near Weott, California; Photo by nrg_crisis

In California water news this weekend, Oroville Dam: A tour of two spillways, phase two; Next battle in the water wars begins; California voters almost always says yes to bonds, but don’t always understand the trade-offs; All wildfires are not alike, but the US is fighting them that way; Drought and extreme heat fuel wildfires across the West; Andrew Wheeler, EPA: “I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist”; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Oroville Dam: A tour of two spillways, phase two:  “Phase two of construction on the Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways is speeding along, as the Oroville Mercury-Register got to see up close in a tour on Wednesday guided by state Department of Water Resources officials.  With half of the main spillway currently a work in progress, the department’s goal is to have the structure ready to use, if needed, by Nov. 1 — just under four months away.  This comes as the spillway split open on Feb. 7, 2017 and rapidly deteriorated, while DWR was forced to continue to use the damaged structure because of rising lake levels. A few days later, the reservoir reached its capacity of 901 feet and water flowed down the emergency spillway, then an entirely unlined hillside, for the first time in history. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Oroville Dam: A tour of two spillways, phase two

Next battle in the water wars begins:  “The state water board has fired the first volley in the long-anticipated battle over how much water farmers and cities can pump out of the San Joaquin River system compared to river flows reserved for fish.  The board, officially the California State Water Resources Control Board, announced last Friday that it has completed a final draft of a plan to increase flows in the rivers in order to “prevent an ecological crisis, including total collapse of fisheries.” … ”  Read more from the Tracy Press here:  Next battle in the water wars begins

California voters almost always says yes to bonds, but don’t always understand the trade-offs:  “Perhaps more than any state, Californians govern themselves through the ballot. Most of the attention goes to the laws they write, but voters also spend taxpayer money — a lot of it.  They do so through bonds, instructing government officials to borrow money for specific projects. It’s the closest thing to a sure bet that exists in statewide campaigns, with an approval rate hovering around 90%. Less clear is whether voters fully comprehend the implications of their ballot choice. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  California voters almost always says yes to bonds, but don’t always understand the trade-offs

All wildfires are not alike, but the US is fighting them that way:  “So far, the 2018 fire season has produced a handful of big fires in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado; conflagrations in Oklahoma and Kansas; and a fire bust in Alaska, along with garden-variety wildfires from Florida to Oregon. Some of those fires are in rural areas, some are in wildlands, and a few are in exurbs.  Even in a time of new normals, this looks pretty typical. Fire starts are a little below the 10-year running average, and the amount of burned area is running above that average. But no one can predict what may happen in the coming months. California thought it had dodged a bullet in 2017, until a swarm of wildfires in late fall blasted through Napa and Sonoma counties, followed by the Big One – the Thomas fire, California’s largest on record, in Ventura and Santa Barbara. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  All wildfires are not alike, but the US is fighting them that way

Drought and extreme heat fuel wildfires across the West:  “Severe to exceptional drought conditions in combination with above normal heat across the U.S. West are helping wildfires burn out of control across a dozen states.  2018 has already seen over 3.3 million acres of forested areas burn in the U.S., a value slightly lower than the one registered this time last year. Last year saw 10 million acres burn away, making it the second worst year on record. … ”  Read more from The Weather Network here:  Drought and extreme heat fuel wildfires across the West

Andrew Wheeler, EPA: “I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist”:  “Andrew Wheeler, who took over as acting EPA administrator Monday after Scott Pruitt resigned the top job last week, has sparred with environmentalists in his former roles as a coal lobbyist and a longtime staffer to Republican Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe.  But he’s quick to wear the label.  “I’ve always considered myself to be an environmentalist,” he told E&E News today in an interview in his third-floor office at EPA headquarters. “I go hiking, I go camping, I’ve always done that. My favorite job I’ve ever had in my life was being the nature conservation director at a Boy Scout summer camp when I was in college in Ohio.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Andrew Wheeler, EPA: “I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist”

In commentary this weekend …

If state is serious about our water, we won’t suffer, says Mike Dunbar:  He writes, “If state water regulators are sincere about improving the plight of salmon on our rivers, Assemblyman Adam Gray has a suggestion for them.  First acknowledge the people living here “can’t be net losers,” then ask for the water.  The state should explain how we’ll be able to give up twice as much water to environmental purposes without devastating local businesses. Tell us how the state will make good on the billions we’ve invested in water infrastructure that belongs to all the residents of Turlock, Modesto, Merced, Oakdale and Manteca. Assure us our factories, fields and homes won’t be devalued by the resulting economic losses. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  If state is serious about our water, we won’t suffer

Who is using our rivers and draining our aquifers?  It’s you, says Mike Dunbar:  He writes, “To Sylvia, I’m a whiner. She might have a point when it comes to mowing the lawn. But concerning the State Water Resources Control Board’s dishonest efforts to take more water out of our region, I’ve moved well beyond whining to raging.  “Farmers, agribusiness, and water districts need to stop whining about water rights and start changing farming practices and water use to meet the 21st century,” Syliva wrote in an email after reading my column, “We must fight the water grab, not just talk about it” (July 8, Page 1A).  Sylvia saw the story in The Sacramento Bee, where it appeared alongside one written by water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus offering the state’s supposed rationale for doubling or tripling the amount of water left in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Who is using our rivers and draining our aquifers?  It’s you

Grinding of water regulation is about to arrive from Manteca to Merced, says Leonard Van Elderen:  He writes, “The State Water Resources Control Board issued its first proposal to redirect water from our local rivers to the ocean nearly a decade ago. Now, the board is back with a final draft order that would dramatically reduce water that can be used for cities and farms to grow and thrive.  Water is the foundation of the San Joaquin Valley’s economy. Availability of water determines our farmers’ ability to borrow the money necessary to grow the crops and pay the bills. No water, no money, no crops. It’s that simple. The effects cascade through the economy from there. … ”  Read more the Modesto Bee here: Grinding of water regulation is about to arrive from Manteca to Merced

A way out of California’s water crisis:  Kerry Jackson writes,California’s chronic water problems were once again national news when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation establishing a code of water-use restrictions that would be more fitting for an undeveloped nation. As usual, policymakers chose the austerity of coercive public policy over the voluntary, cooperative agreements that markets use to efficiently and fairly allocate goods and services.  Aside from a few small enterprises, there are no comprehensive water markets in the state. More than 90 percent of the water that flows through California is under the control of a centralized government entity. A Ventura County pilot program under the authority of the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency, however, could change everything. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  A way out of California’s water crisis

Why understanding oceans is vital to economy, security:  Margaret Leinen writes,Meteorologists and oceanographers still love to talk about the 2015-16 El Niño that wasn’t.  It was the weather event that was meant to deliver California from the horrible drought that had afflicted the state for four years. Emergency officials braced for widespread flooding usually associated with El Niño as Eastern Pacific Ocean temperatures jumped nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the months leading up to that winter, just as they had during the great El Niños of the past. It was supposed to be, as one researcher predicted, the “Godzilla” El Niño. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here: Why understanding oceans is vital to economy, security

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Agency finds Petaluma groundwater clean and cheap:  “As Petaluma’s new groundwater regulatory agency turns one, there is good news for residents living in the Petaluma groundwater basin. Preliminary tests show the basin is relatively healthy, and residents likely won’t be asked to contribute funding for the new government body in the near future.  The Petaluma Groundwater Sustainability Agency was formed last June in response to state legislation that required a local management plan for all of California’s groundwater basins. It is a result of the recent multi-year drought that saw the groundwater table in several parts of the state sink to dangerously low levels. … ”  Read more from the Petaluma Argus Courier here:  Agency finds Petaluma groundwater clean and cheap

North San Joaquin Water Conservation District wants to sell 10,000 acre-feet to Southern California:  “In a move that sparked controversy, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District on June 5 filed a petition with the California State Water Resources Control Board proposing a one-time sale of 10,000 acre-feet of extra water from the Camanche Reservoir to Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District in Corcoran. … “NSJ can’t use the water this year because of the need to improve its facilities,” Jennifer Spaletta, NSJWCD general counsel said in an email. “The money from the sale would fund new delivery facilities in NSJ for future surface water deliveries.” ... ”  Read more from the Lodi Sentinel here:  North San Joaquin Water Conservation District wants to sell 10,000 acre-feet to Southern California

Porterville: Water mains in city limits may replace water tanks:  “The Porterville City Council will consider Tuesday giving authorization to advertise for bids for the removal of the Household Water Tanks Project. The council will also consider giving approval of staff’s recommended Plans and Project Manual for the project, which consists of the installation of new water mains within Porterville city limits where household tanks were installed and implanted by Tulare County via a mutual agreement with the city during the severe drought. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Porterville: Water mains in city limits may replace water tanks

Ridgecrest:  Indian Wells Valley Water District airs concerns:  “A hint of exasperation and modicum of frustration emanated from Indian Wells Valley Water District board members on Monday when discussing the upcoming IWV Groundwater Authority July 19 meeting.  When water district general manager Don Zdeba said an outline of the upcoming meeting should give a good idea of what will be discussed, board president Ron Kicinski was the first to voice frustration.  “I’m not sure there’s a whole for us to discuss,” Kicinski said, referencing the water district. “We’ve continued to ask for a finance committee, continued to ask that the preliminary fees for the plan implementation be reduced or eliminated if possible. I don’t know what to say anymore.” … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Water District airs concerns

Demonstrators protest Poseidon’s proposed desalination plant along PCH:  “A group of environmental activists demonstrated in Huntington Beach Saturday to protest Poseidon Water’s proposed ocean desalination plant.  Led by the Costa Mesa-based Orange County Coastkeeper, demonstrators participated in a beach clean up near Tower 2 at Huntington State Beach.  The event is ahead of the Orange County Water District meeting Wednesday where officials are expected to vote on updated terms for buying Poseidon’s water. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Demonstrators protest Poseidon’s proposed desalination plant along PCH

San Diego: Water agencies increase incentives to replace turf: “Residents in San Diego County now can receive $2.75 per square foot for replacing turf with sustainable landscaping features as part of a new Landscape Transformation Program launched this week across Southern California.  The new program includes a partnership by the San Diego County Water Authority and the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to boost the per-square-foot incentive amount available in the water authority’s service area and streamline the application process. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  Water agencies increase incentives to replace turf

Strawberry fields forever? Thirsty Baja turning to seawater to grow lucrative crop: For Americans, what probably matters most in this story are the strawberries. For most Mexicans in the northern Baja peninsula, what matters is the robust economy strawberries bring. For some, what matters most is the steady loss of the fresh groundwater that makes strawberries possible here.  The San Quintín valley, an arid region 180 miles south of Tijuana, is the crossroads where strawberries, economics, and groundwater meet. The average rainfall in northern Baja is less than three inches annually; there is a multi-year drought. For a century, groundwater irrigated local crops. But strawberries grown for export have become so valuable, farmers keep trying to grow more, and are allowed to use more groundwater than nature replenishes. … ”  Continue reading at & the West here: Strawberry fields forever? Thirsty Baja turning to seawater to grow lucrative crop

And lastly …

Winners and People’s Choice of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year: “After sifting through nearing 13,000 submissions National Geographic has announced the winners, honorable mentions, and people’s choice of their 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Contest (previously). … ”  Some really stunning photos!  View a gallery photos from the Colossal blog here:  Winners and People’s Choice of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year  You can also view all the winners by clicking here.

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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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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