NEWS WORTH NOTING: Assemblyman Frazier to Sen. Feinstein, Gov. Brown: End reckless support for Delta water theft; Lawsuit filed: Salamander threatened by plans to raise Shasta Dam; New report: Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century – Addressing Grand Challenges

Frazier to Sen. Feinstein, Gov. Brown: End Reckless Support for Delta Water Theft

From Assemblyman Jim Frazier:

Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s proposed extensions to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act):

“As Co-Chair of the California Legislative Delta Caucus, I urge Senator Feinstein, Governor Brown, and Representative McCarthy to end their support for the misguided and harmful WIIN Act extensions currently under consideration in Congress. By pursuing this power grab, they are sending a clear message of support for billionaire agribusiness and contractors at the expense of local fishermen, farmers, and the water quality of an entire region. Instead of giving water away to billionaires, I ask that they stand up for the Delta that we call home, and the millions of Californians who believe that small businesses and the Delta’s precious environment should have a fair chance to thrive.”

The WIIN Act, passed in 2016, enacted temporary changes to protect both water supply reliability and the ecological health of the Delta in the aftermath of a historic drought in California. The proposed extensions would prolong those short-term emergency provisions until 2028, without regard to actual drought conditions or Delta water quality.

“As I stated in a letter to Senator Feinstein, extending short-term provisions of the act until 2028 is a federal assault on the ecology and water quality of our rivers and overrides the urgent need to protect the health and economy of all Californians, especially small, disadvantaged communities in the Delta,” Frazier said. “The proposed extension of the WIIN Act also delivers unwelcome support for Governor Brown’s destructive tunnels proposal. The Governor is resorting to desperate measures to try and rescue his dangerous tunnels project, which is currently on the ropes. However, harming one part of California’s economy to benefit another is the wrong decision for the state and for the Delta – we must support our local ecosystem and Delta economy.”

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Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Failure to Protect California’s Shasta Salamanders From Extinction

Salamander Imminently Threatened by Plans to Raise Shasta Dam

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to act on a 2012 petition to protect Shasta salamanders under the Endangered Species Act.

Since the petition was filed, the species was split into three distinct species, each of which is rare and imperiled.

The salamanders are imminently threatened by plans to raise the height of Northern California’s Shasta Dam, which would result in extensive flooding of their habitat.

“These unique salamanders, like so many in California, are careening toward extinction and need immediate protection to survive,” said Jenny Loda, a Center biologist and attorney who works to protect vulnerable amphibians and reptiles. “It’s shameful the Trump administration is dragging its feet on protections for these salamanders while plans to raise the dam and flood their habitat are moving forward.”

Work to raise Shasta Dam had stalled in recent years. But after Trump was elected, he appointed former Westlands Water District lobbyist David Bernhardt as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Westlands has long supported raising the dam to provide more water for agricultural operations. At Interior Bernhardt oversees both the Fish and Wildlife Service, which will decide the fate of the salamander, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for the Shasta Dam project. The dam project now appears to have new life.

This past spring Congress allocated $20 million in the 2018 federal omnibus bill to the project and pre-construction work started shortly after. The Bureau of Reclamation plans to award a construction contract in December 2019. Construction to raise the height of the dam would begin sometime in late spring or summer of 2020.

The Fish and Wildlife Service does not plan to review whether the Shasta salamander requires protection through a 12-month finding until 2022 — 10 years after the petition was filed and two years after construction is slated to begin. Such a delayed decision would clearly come too late for these salamanders.

“There can’t be a clearer case of the fox guarding the henhouse than having David Bernhardt deciding whether or not this salamander gets protection,” said Loda. “This dam is on a fast track, while plans to save the salamander are in limbo.”

Long delays in protecting species under the Endangered Species Act have been a persistent problem for decades. At least 42 species have gone extinct waiting for protection.

“If we’re going to save the Shasta salamanders, there’s no time to waste,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “With a near-perfect record at saving the species it protects from extinction, the Endangered Species Act is our best hope for keeping these rare creatures in the world.”

Background
When the 2012 petition was filed, the salamander was known as only one species: the Shasta salamander. But new research published in April revealed that the Shasta salamander in California is actually three species — each more endangered than previously thought. All three live in the vicinity of Shasta Lake.

Shasta salamanders are 4 inches long and dark reddish-brown. Their restricted range, coupled with ongoing threats of habitat destruction and degradation, leaves them extremely vulnerable to extinction.

The recently described Samwel Shasta salamander was named for its original discovery site, Samwel Cave, and the Wintu Shasta salamander is named for the original habitants of the region, the Winnemem Wintu tribe. All three species are found within a range of about 330 square miles in the vicinity of Shasta Lake.

Now Available: Report on Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century – Addressing Grand Challenges

From the Delta Stewardship Council:

In coordination with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Delta Stewardship Council (Council) invites you to participate in the public release of a new report, Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges.

Committee members will present the findings of the report followed by a Q&A on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 from 1:00-2:00 PST. To register to attend the event via webcast, please click here.

Council participation in the grand challenges effort stemmed from the vision of former Lead Scientist Dr. Peter Goodwin, who felt strongly that California faces many grand challenges in environmental engineering and science, and that California should be an important player in the national dialogue.

As a result, the Council is proud to help sponsor this report, which was developed by experts from a wide range of fields who, with input from the scientific community, identify the biggest global challenges over the next several decades for which the expertise of environmental engineers will be needed. The study also describes how the environmental engineering field—and colleges and universities—might evolve to better address those challenges. The study is modeled, in part, on the NAE Grand Challenges in Engineering.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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