DAILY DIGEST: How next week’s expected State Water Board vote could trigger a flood of lawsuits; Oroville Dam repairs aren’t enough, feds warn; Will an edge on water give Republican Rep. Denham a boost?; Future of Water Fix debated in public hearings; and more …

In California water news today, How next week’s expected State Water Board vote could trigger a flood of lawsuits; Oroville Dam repairs aren’t enough, feds warn. Should state be forced to plan for a mega-flood?; In this California House race, water is ‘lifeblood.’ Will an edge on the issue give Republican Rep. Denham a boost?; Future of Water Fix debated in public hearings; Communication key to California’s water future; Snorkeling With The Salmon In A Northern California River; US Interior Department sets July 1 goal for reorganization; Zinke’s heir apparent ready to step in; and more …

In the news today …

How next week’s expected State Water Board vote could trigger a flood of lawsuits: “Most signs point to the State Water Board approving a much-disputed river flow plan next week that will mean less water for farms and cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.  The board, also known as the State Water Resources Control Board, is set to vote Wednesday to require irrigation districts to leave more water in the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers in an effort to restore salmon.  Local irrigation districts and county and city leaders have promised a prolonged battle over the water board’s final plan released in July, saying it will devastate the region’s economy and won’t help the fish. … ” Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  How next week’s expected State Water Board vote could trigger a flood of lawsuits

Oroville Dam repairs aren’t enough, feds warn. Should state be forced to plan for a mega-flood?  “Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a mega-flood.  Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in the federal warning is far greater than anything ever experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly repercussions for California. The public agencies that store water in Lake Oroville may be forced to spend millions of dollars upgrading the dam. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Oroville Dam repairs aren’t enough, feds warn. Should state be forced to plan for a mega-flood?

In this California House race, water is ‘lifeblood.’ Will an edge on the issue give Republican Rep. Denham a boost?:  “Jake Wenger grows walnuts on land where early settlers arrived in search of gold and instead found rich soil. His orchards just west of Modesto stretch 700 acres and supply a nut company that has remained in his family for four generations.  Like other farmers in this congressional district at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, Wenger, 34, said he fears his livelihood is under siege by a state plan to reduce the waters diverted from Northern California rivers for irrigation. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: In this California House race, water is ‘lifeblood.’ Will an edge on the issue give Republican Rep. Denham a boost?

Future of Water Fix debated in public hearings:  “Last week opponents and proponents of the California WaterFix Project squared off against one another again, this time during three days of hearings and public comments as the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) attempted to determine if WaterFix, aka the Delta tunnels project, is consistent with the Delta Plan.  By the end of the hearings, WaterFix opponents delineated a number of perceived shortcomings in the plan while proponents argued that it’s based on proven science and economics and is necessary to secure reliable water for a significant portion of the state’s population. ... ”  Read more from The Press here:  Future of Water Fix debated in public hearings

Communication key to California’s water future:  “UC scientists, students and water agency professionals took a critical look inwards and a radical look outwards when they gathered in Sacramento in October to reimagine California water.  The event was the fourth annual gathering sponsored by UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources and the University of California Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative, UC Water.  While science is the hallmark of a research-oriented institution like UC, the participants were asked to recognize their important role not just as scientists but also communicators. ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Communication key to California’s water future

Snorkeling With The Salmon In A Northern California River: “It’s a rare person who would look at a wicked stretch of whitewater rapids and think: “Man, that’d make for some killer snorkeling.”  But that’s exactly what’s attracts nearly a hundred people to the Salmon River in Northwestern California every year.  The Salmon River Fish Dive is organized by the Salmon River Restoration Council and the U.S. Forest Service. Volunteers and professional biologists spend the day snorkeling the entire length of the Salmon River and its tributaries — more than 80 miles of river in all. Their goal is to count every single Spring Chinook salmon and Steelhead adult fish. … ”  Read more from KUOW here:  Snorkeling With The Salmon In A Northern California River

It’s time for diners to give opah a try:  “Eat the whole fish. Or at least try something other than the fillet. Also, tuna is not the only fish in the sea.  That’s essentially the message local seafood company Catalina Offshore was just granted $139,700 to get across. Specifically, they’ve been given the money by the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program to spread the gospel of opah, aka moonfish.  Why? Because the US needs fish like opah. We’ve got a chronic shrimp, tuna, and salmon habit. Twenty-eight thousand species of fish in the world, and American consumers largely refuse to eat more than a handful. That creates a huge demand for these “comfort fish.” To meet that demand, the US has to import seafood from overseas, often from boats fishing unsustainably or illegally. … ”  Read more from San Diego Magazine here: It’s time for diners to give opah a try

A Scientist Found a Kelp on a Worm in a Hole in the Mud on the Bottom of the Sea: “In the summer of 2011, Matthew Bracken was on vacation, touring the coastline of southeastern Alaska with his father. They would hop in a boat, poke around the shoreline, and anchor in coves. One morning, the pair pulled into a cove and found themselves surrounded by a lush kelp bed. “And I said, wait a minute, this isn’t supposed to happen,” recalls Bracken, an ecologist at the University of California, Irvine. “You’re not supposed to find kelp growing on a mudflat.”  Kelp needs an anchor, a hard substrate at the bottom of the sea to grasp. Typically, that means a rocky seafloor. Without a strong anchoring point, kelp is quickly washed away by the surging power of coastal waves. The soft, muddy cove Bracken was exploring with his dad was wholly unsuitable for kelp—at least according to what he was taught as a student.  Then he took a closer look. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  A Scientist Found a Kelp on a Worm in a Hole in the Mud on the Bottom of the Sea

US Interior Department sets July 1 goal for reorganization:  “The U.S. Interior Department said Thursday it wants to have its newly reorganized regions up and running by July 1.  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan calls for realigning the department into 12 unified regions and relocating many decision-makers from Washington to field offices.  The department has nine major sub-agencies and multiple regional boundaries, many following state borders. The new unified boundaries are based on rivers and ecosystems rather than state borders. … ”  Read more from the AP here:  US Interior Department sets July 1 goal for reorganization

Zinke’s heir apparent ready to step in:  “Like Scott Pruitt before him, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has an experienced deputy steeped in the world of bureaucratic infighting waiting on deck if scandal drives him from office.  Zinke has long been expected to join a post-election exodus from the Trump administration, even before this week’s reports that Interior’s internal watchdog had referred at least one investigation into the secretary’s ethical problems to the Justice Department. And he already has an heir apparent: Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a longtime lobbyist for the oil and gas and water industries, who would be well placed to execute President Donald Trump’s pro-fossil fuel, anti-regulatory policies. … ”  Read more from Politco here:  Zinke’s heir apparent ready to step in

Zinke headlines scream scandal.  Some of them are off base.  “Brutally simplified storylines now swirl around Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, clouding his future even while some stretch the known facts.  ‘Zinke “is the subject” of more than a dozen investigations.’ Not quite.  ‘Zinke tried to fire the inspector general.’ No, though it’s still a bizarre episode.  ‘Zinke compared Martin Luther King Jr. to Robert E. Lee. Well, it’s rather complicated.  ‘Zinke is “embattled”?’ That is undeniable, however unfair it might seem to the former Navy SEAL and his lieutenants.  In the wake of reports that Interior’s Office of Inspector General has referred an unspecified Zinke-related investigation to the Justice Department, Zinke’s post-election job prospects have come under question as never before. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: Zinke headlines scream scandal.  Some of them are off base.

In commentary today …

State’s water grab includes stunning groundwater restrictions:  Daron McDaniel writes, “The State Water Resources Control Board will vote Wednesday on a proposal to send more of our river water out to the Delta – a move that would decimate the Central Valley’s economy, water quality and quality of life.  The water board claims this is to save some fish. But many believe there are ulterior motives.  In October 2016, water board staff spoke to the Merced board of supervisors for the first time about the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update and its impacts on our disadvantaged communities. This plan will send significant amounts of surface water – up to 50 percent of unimpaired flows – out into the ocean from the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. … ” Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here:  State’s water grab includes stunning groundwater restrictions

Presidential water memo will bring welcome change for Valley ag interests:  Jason Phillips writes, “Imagine walking into an AT&T or Verizon store to buy a new phone in 2018 and being offered your pick of the latest technology circa 2005. Would you like a Palm Pilot or a flip phone? Most likely, you’d react negatively.   Surely, this isn’t the best they can do.  The simple truth is that for many years federal and state regulatory actions that determine the availability of our water supply have been made based on outdated scientific information from the flip-phone era.   Well-meaning, but ill-informed, decisions about water supply have for years been directing water away from our valley to be sent out the ocean in the name of protecting the environment. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here:  Presidential water memo will bring welcome change for Valley ag interests

In regional news and commentary today …

Klamath Basin: Tense water year comes to a close:  “The 2018 water year in the Klamath Basin was as wild as a rollercoaster ride by some accounts, with a collective sigh of relief coming at the end of the season by many in the Ag community.  While water orders continue through November for Tulelake Irrigation District, water in the Klamath Project was turned off on Oct. 15, bringing possibly the most disruptive water year since 2001 to a close. (In 2001 water was shut off to the Basin, prompting protests and federal action to restore it). ... ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Tense water year comes to a close

Mendocino: Board hears auditors’ advice, talks groundwater: The Mendocino City Community Services District board approved an audit of the past year’s financial statements, approved a contract to evaluate the town’s groundwater situation, and extended a Stage 1 Water Shortage at their meeting Monday night.  The board also heard a general assessment of the town’s water supply. With rainfall now decidedly below normal — about an inch for the month of October when average October rainfall is 2.4 inches — groundwater levels are dropping, though not nearly to the levels experienced in the 2012-14 drought years. The “depth to water” measurement — distance from the surface of the ground to the surface of the water table — that the district uses to assess the town’s groundwater supply was 19.48 feet on Oct. 17; 18.12 feet a month earlier. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here:  Mendocino: Board hears auditors’ advice, talks groundwater

Marysville: Preventing the next big flood:  “Marysville is one step closer to being the most protected city in the Central Valley from flooding, experts say, with the recent completion of a stretch of slurry wall in part of the ring levee project.  Last week, crews completed a portion of the Marysville Ring Levee project – Phase 2A North – located between the 10th Street and Fifth Street bridges. The project started in June and saw crews place approximately 1,000 feet of slurry wall – costing an estimated $5 million to construct.  “It was nice to knock a section off, but until we fix the whole project there are still weaknesses left,” said Thomas Engler, a supervising engineer with MBK Engineers and ring levee project manager for the Marysville Levee District. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here: Marysville: Preventing the next big flood

Forest resilience bond to help fund $4.6 million restoration project to mitigate wildfire risk in Tahoe National Forest:This summer, California experienced its largest fire in state history—the latest disaster in a growing trend towards hotter, larger, and more destructive fires. Without urgent action, wildfires will be even deadlier and costlier in years to come. The Forest Resilience Bond (FRB), developed by Blue Forest Conservation (BFC) in partnership with World Resources Institute (WRI), raises private capital to finance forest restoration today, to reduce the risk of severe fire tomorrow. With financing secured from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Calvert Impact Capital, and CSAA Insurance Group, private capital will now fund the upfront costs of forest restoration, while multiple beneficiaries share in the cost of reimbursing investors over time. This marks the progression of the FRB from an innovative idea to a tangible solution for scaling investment in forest health and mitigating wildfire risk. ... ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Forest resilience bond to help fund $4.6 million restoration project to mitigate wildfire risk in Tahoe National Forest

Paso Robles: Halter Ranch Vineyard owner will donate $1 billion to conserve land around the world: “The owner of Halter Ranch Vineyard announced Thursday he intends to donate $1 billion to help local conservation efforts around the world.  Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss entrepreneur, purchased the 2,000-acre west Paso Robles vineyard in 2000. Wyss is one of the richest men in the world, with a net worth of $5.8 billion, according to Forbes.  In 2012, he sold Synthes Inc. — his medical device company — to Johnson & Johnson for more than $20 billion, according to a Tribune story. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Paso Robles: Halter Ranch Vineyard owner will donate $1 billion to conserve land around the world

Montecito Nonprofit Applies for Debris Nets Ahead of Winter: “The nonprofit Partnership for Resilient Communities has filed its application to install a series of steel-wire ring nets across the upper reaches of several Montecito canyons.  The heavily anchored net systems are designed to stop or slow debris flows should a rainstorm of high intensity cause a flood of mud, boulders, and uprooted trees similar to the natural disaster that occured on January 9, killing 23 Montecito residents and damaging or destroying more than 500 homes. … ”  Read  more from the Independent here:  Montecito Nonprofit Applies for Debris Nets Ahead of Winter

In a first, California abolishes Compton’s water district board after years of dirty-water allegations: “State officials on Wednesday removed the elected board and general manager of a water district that for years has been accused of serving brown, smelly water to its customers in Compton.  With a 22-page decree, the State Water Resources Control Board abolished Sativa Los Angeles County Water District’s five-member board of directors and ousted its manager. In their place, the state appointed the county’s Department of Public Works to temporarily run the district while officials seek to merge the small district, which delivers water to about 1,600 homes, with a larger provider. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  In a first, California abolishes Compton’s water district board after years of dirty-water allegations

New hope for Southern California’s besieged wetlands: “Under stress from development, pollution and a climate change-driven rise in sea level, California’s coastal wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. In fact, a UCLA study in February found that many large coastal wetlands, or salt marshes, could disappear entirely by the end of the century.  Now, a new study has revealed a flicker of hope for the future of coastal wetlands in Southern California­. We could actually end up with more wetlands than we have now — but only if swift action is taken. … ”  Read more from UCLA News here:  New hope for Southern California’s besieged wetlands

San Diego: Conceptual plans released for Mission Bay wetlands restoration:  “ReWild Mission Bay – a project of San Diego Audubon and its partners to enhance and restore wetlands in the north east corner of Mission Bay – recently released the final conceptual plans for how wetlands can be feasibly restored to protect wildlife and our communities. The three plans include expanded public access and habitat restoration options, as well as cost estimates and sea-level rise modeling.  “What is so exciting about this effort is how involved the community has been from the beginning, helping our consultant team develop the restoration plans from the ground up,” said Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg, project manager for ReWild Mission Bay. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Community News here:  Conceptual plans released for Mission Bay wetlands restoration

Creeping natural disaster in Imperial Valley Threatens Train Tracks, State Highway: “The county declared an emergency this summer, the Los Angeles Times reported, to speed up efforts to prevent the geyser from reaching Union Pacific’s tracks, a stretch of State Route 111, a petroleum pipeline, and fiber optic telecommunications lines.  The geyser, also called a mud pot or mud spring, has been in existence near Niland, California, since 1953, an Imperial County fact sheet says. It has moved slowly for the past 11 years, but recently, that movement has accelerated. ... ”  Read more from the Weather Channel here:  Creeping natural disaster in Imperial Valley Threatens Train Tracks, State Highway

Along the Colorado River …

As Shortages Loom in the Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Seek to Secure Their Water Rights: “As the Colorado River Basin becomes drier and shortage conditions loom, one great variable remains: How much of the river’s water belongs to Native American tribes? Increasingly, tribes are pressing to have the importance of their water rights recognized and seeking the means to use them. An impending tribal water study should shed light on the issue as questions are raised about how to sustainably share water in an already overallocated Colorado River Basin. ... ”  Read more from Western Water here:  As Shortages Loom in the Colorado River Basin, Indian Tribes Seek to Secure Their Water Rights

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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