DAILY DIGEST: Historic agreements may ensure more reliable water supply in the Valley; Auditor: CA utility regulators failed to properly oversee water suppliers; Lawsuits await after water board adopts flow plan; ‘Extremely dangerous’ waves crash into CA coast; and more …

In California water news today, Historic agreements may ensure more reliable water supply in the Valley; California utility regulators failed to properly oversee water suppliers, state audit finds; Lawsuits await after water board adopts flow plan; ‘Extremely dangerous’ waves crash into California coast; Brown Talks Legacy, Future of Politics in ‘Exit Interview’; New Clean Water rule aims for clarity, ignores stream science; Zinke leaves legacy of weakened environmental protections; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission meets at 9:30am.  Agenda items include a briefing on the California Water Plan Update and a briefing on climate change effects on the State Water Project.  For the full agenda and webcast link, click here.

In the news today …

Historic agreements may ensure more reliable water supply in the Valley: “A series of historic agreements signed last week by the state and federal governments, as well as water agencies and users, may be the first step in more reliable water flows for residents and farmers in eastern Tulare County.  On Dec. 12, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced the agreements to resolve water conflicts that have vexed the State for decades and to reaffirm the collaborative partnership between the Federal and State governments to develop long-term solutions to California’s major water problems. Friant Water Authority, which oversees operations of the Friant-Kern Canal serving several cities and 15,000 farmers on the Valley’s east side, described the agreements as historic. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here:  Historic agreements may ensure more reliable water supply in the Valley

California utility regulators failed to properly oversee water suppliers, state audit finds: “State utility regulators have not provided the public clear information about water-rate increases or made sure that suppliers notified customers about hearings related to those rate hikes, a new state audit has found.  The California Public Utilities Commission also failed to conduct audits of private water utilities as required by law, according to findings released Tuesday by the California State Auditor.  “The CPUC does not verify whether water utilities comply with regulations related to certain types of notifications to the public,” state auditors wrote. And, “without timely and effective audits, the CPUC lacks assurance that these water utilities are complying with applicable requirements, which could affect the rates and service that customers receive.” … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here:  California utility regulators failed to properly oversee water suppliers, state audit finds

Lawsuits await after water board adopts flow plan:  “Irrigation districts along three Central California rivers say they will be suing the state of California and—simultaneously, in some cases—negotiating with it, now that the State Water Resources Control Board has voted to redirect significant flows along the rivers in an effort to improve fish populations.  The state water board voted 4-1 last week to adopt the first phase of its disputed Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan, which requires districts along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to leave 30 to 50 percent of “unimpaired flows” in the San Joaquin River tributaries to help fish. Board member Dorene D’Adamo voted against the plan after offering amendments that were rejected by the full board. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Lawsuits await after water board adopts flow plan

‘Extremely dangerous’ waves crash into California coast:  “Massive waves are breaking along the coast of California, and the National Weather Service is warning of “potentially life-threatening conditions” and urging people to stay away from the beach.  Forecasters began warning of high waves over the weekend, saying a swell would strike Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, with the peak on Monday morning. The NWS warned of waves that could reach “50+ feet at favored breaks.”  As of Tuesday morning, the surf in Los Angeles was at 16 to 22 feet, the weather service says, while San Francisco was seeing breakers of 15 to 25 feet. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  ‘Extremely dangerous’ waves crash into California coast

Massive ‘king tides’ are on the way — and they’ll be even bigger than expected: “Gravitational forces exerted by the moon and sun create the timeless tides. This tugging produces a tidal “bulge,” or area of higher sea level on the ocean’s surface.  As the Earth rotates eastward on its axis, California moves into this bulge, which produces a flood tide, and eventually a high tide. As the Earth continues to spin, we move into an area of below-normal sea level, or nodes, which produces an ebb tide, eventually reaching low tide. The slack tide is when the sea is not coming in or going out. Typically, we experienced two low and high tides per day. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Massive ‘king tides’ are on the way — and they’ll be even bigger than expected

Brown Talks Legacy, Future of Politics in ‘Exit Interview’: “Outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown visited the Sacramento Press Club Tuesday, using the event to reflect on his five decades of public service, his accomplishments in the Golden State’s government, and the future of political discourse in the United States.  The event billed as Brown’s “exit interview” was held at Sacramento’s Masonic Temple and packed with reporters and public affairs officials who came to hear the veteran politician speak. Journalist and author Miriam Pawel, who recently wrote a biography on the Brown family, and former Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton interviewed the governor in front of hundreds for more than an hour, ending with a series of questions from journalists. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News here:  Brown Talks Legacy, Future of Politics in ‘Exit Interview’  See also:

New Clean Water rule aims for clarity:  “Intending to help farmers, ranchers and other landowners distinguish more easily what is and what isn’t a “water of the United States,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army have proposed a new Clean Water Act regulation to replace a controversial 2015 WOTUS rule.  Opponents, including many agricultural organizations, said the 2015 rule, proposed by the Obama administration, gave the agencies extensive authority to regulate routine farming activities. ... ” Read more from Ag Alert here:  New Clean Water rule aims for clarity

New rules limiting limiting clean water protections ignore stream science: “On Dec. 11, the Trump administration announced plans to cut back the number of wetlands and creeks protected under the Clean Water Act, which regulates water pollution in the U.S. The new rules would leave about half the nation’s wetlands and all of its ephemeral streams — those waterways, common in the West, that flow only after rainfall or snowmelt — without federal safeguards.  The proposed guidelines, which will almost certainly face years of lawsuits, are a stark departure from how previous administrations have interpreted the act — and a sharp divergence from research on how to protect clean water. … ”  Read more from the High Country News here:  New rules limiting limiting clean water protections ignore stream science

Farmers urged to support Trump rollback of water rules: “The Trump administration on Tuesday called on farmers to throw their support behind a proposal to withdraw federal protections for many of the country’s waterways and wetlands.  Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator Andrew Wheeler and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue on Tuesday traveled to middle Tennessee to drum up support among the state’s agricultural community in their pursuit to replace the Obama-era water protections.  “When Obama-EPA put forward these definitions, they claimed it was in the interest of water quality. But it was really about power, power in the hands of federal government over farmers, developers and land owners,” Wheeler told the several hundred person crowd in the small town of Lebanon. “We are here today to tell you that we’re putting an end of that power grab.” … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Farmers urged to support Trump rollback of water rules

Zinke leaves legacy of weakened environmental protections:  ” … Zinke has shadowed Trump in policy and style since the beginning—delighting Western Republicans and aggrieving conservationists who gave his nomination the benefit of the doubt. He offered industry a helping hand. He counterpunched critics. And he belittled investigations into his conduct, something that continued even in his farewell statement.  “It is better for the President and Interior to focus on accomplishments than fictitious allegations,” Zinke said.  Those accomplishments have put the United States on track to worsen global warming and crimp the government’s ability to prepare for it. Here’s how. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  Zinke leaves legacy of weakened environmental protections

Could Jeff Denham go from election loss to Trump’s cabinet?  “Outgoing Rep. Jeff Denham’s next job could be in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.  The White House and various other leaders have approached Denham, R-Turlock, as a potential candidate to succeed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, said Bret Manley, Denham’s chief of staff.  “People see it as a good fit,” Manley said, because of Denham’s strong advocacy on critical water issues. He hosted Zinke, in fact, on a July visit drawing attention to Valley opposition to a “water grab” by state officials, who last week approved a controversial plan favoring fish over farmers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. ... ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Could Jeff Denham go from election loss to Trump’s cabinet?

In commentary today …

So the flows plan has been approved – now what?  Justin Fredrickson writes,What happens the day after the worst has already happened? That might be what farmers, dairy operators, farm employees and communities along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers are wondering, now that the State Water Resources Control Board has voted to require unimpaired flows of 30 to 50 percent in the three rivers.  Irrigation districts, elected officials and residents of the affected communities spent many months, many meetings and much goodwill trying to show the board how its plan would harm their region without helping fish, and in developing and offering better solutions.  To wind up here, despite it all, stings. But thanks to epic work by negotiators for other state agencies and Central Valley water users during the month prior to last week’s vote, there is some hope. More on that in a minute—but, first, it’s important to understand what has happened, and what hasn’t yet happened. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  So the flows plan has been approved – now what?

How to protect Californians from wildfires:  Katherine Dwyer writes,The release of the U.S. Climate Science Special Report — with its warning of worsening U.S. natural disasters — has sparked a renewed cry for global efforts to fight climate change. In California, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown was quick to identify climate change (i.e., global warming) as the culprit behind the deadliest wildfire season the Golden State has seen. Because this past season did bring incredibly destructive fires, Californians deserve to know what created this perfect storm and what can be done to prevent it in the future. However, simply shouting “climate change” doesn’t offer the state’s citizens a thorough explanation, nor does it yield tangible solutions that we can begin to implement now. … ”  Read more from the Riverside Press-Enterprise here: How to protect Californians from wildfires

In regional news and commentary today …

Protestors picket Roseburg Forest Products’ Springfield headquarters over California water rights: “Several dozen Northern California and Lane County residents picketed outside Roseburg Forest Products’ Springfield headquarters Tuesday, protesting what they call a water grab and frivolous lawsuit by the wood products company.  About 50 people, some from the town of Weed, Calif., held signs and stood along Gateway Street outside the headquarters building late Tuesday morning, objecting to what Roseburg Forest Products considers its water rights to the Beaughan Springs, which provides the main source of drinking water for Weed.  Some residents of the roughly 3,000-population town north of Redding say a nearly century-old judgment guarantees a portion of Beaughan Springs water for public use. … ”  Read more from the Register-Guard here:  Protestors picket Roseburg Forest Products’ Springfield headquarters over California water rights

Weed, CA residents protest Springfield company’s actions:  “A group of people from Weed, California protested in front of Roseburg Forest Products headquarters in Springfield Tuesday. They’re asking the company to drop a lawsuit against them and not sell their water rights.  Roseburg Forest Products has sued the city of Weed and a group of citizens who protested its decision to sell water from Beaughan Spring to an international bottling company. ... ”  Read more from KLCC here:  Weed, CA residents protest Springfield company’s actions

ArtStart’s ‘Art on the Streets for Cleaner Creeks’ project project paints storm drains to save native fish: “With a stroke of a paintbrush, high school senior Mercy Ndegwa lays down the contrasting colors of a Sacramento Sucker, one of many native fish species that live in Santa Rosa’s elaborate 100-mile creek system. She paints with precision, making sure she captures the bright green and yellow stripes of the threatened species.  “This is my second time doing this,” she said. “I love learning how to make better art and how to help the creeks.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  ArtStart’s ‘Art on the Streets for Cleaner Creeks’ project project paints storm drains to save native fish

Like oil and water: The Arroyo Grande oil field and nearby domestic drinking wells:  “Voters in six California counties have passed measures banning fracking and placing limits on other types of oil extraction. This November, a citizen’s initiative in San Luis Obispo County sought to do the same. Oil companies funded an $8 million dollar campaign to defeat the measure, and a majority of voters rejected Measure G—54 to 46 percent.  The defeat removes one roadblock to a planned expansion of operations at the Arroyo Grande oil field near San Luis Obispo. … ”  Read more from KCBX here:  Like oil and water: The Arroyo Grande oil field and nearby domestic drinking wells

Ventura Pier to remain closed after giant waves cause damage; no timetable to reopen: “The Ventura Pier will remain closed indefinitely after it was damaged Monday by high surf, Ventura Fire Department officials said.  Assistant Chief Matt Brock said Tuesday that the pier was closed after at least one piling and support beams had been knocked down by high surf.  Waves are expected to die down Tuesday afternoon but until then, the National Weather Service said waves reached up to 15 feet at Ventura Harbor in the morning. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  Ventura Pier to remain closed after giant waves cause damage; no timetable to reopen

Small water systems in LA County struggle to provide clean water, report says:  “Small water systems in Los Angeles County often struggle to provide their customers with clean drinking water at an affordable rate due to groundwater contamination, financial management problems and other issues, according to a report from UCLA Law released Monday.  The report’s authors look at the challenges facing L.A.’s small water systems, which have fewer than 10,000 customers but are numerous in the county and service more than 250,000 customers. … ”  Read more from NBC 4 here:  Small water systems in LA County struggle to provide clean water, report says

Sewage spill temporarily closes all beaches in Long Beach:  “All beaches in Long Beach were temporarily closed on Tuesday, Dec. 18, due to a sewage spill, city officials announced.  The soonest the beaches could reopen is Wednesday, Dec. 19, Environmental Health Operations Officer Judeth Luong said. Long Beach collected water samples on Tuesday, which take 24 hours to test. If some samples show water quality that meets state standards, Luong said, Long Beach will reopen those areas. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here:  Sewage spill temporarily closes all beaches in Long Beach

Along the Colorado River …

The Southwest May Be Deep Into a Climate-Changed Mega-Drought: “Every so often, the American West seems to lurch into something called a “mega-drought.” The rains falter, the rivers wither, and the forests become tinder boxes waiting for a spark. Mega-droughts are notoriously hard to study—the last one happened in the 16th century—but what we do know is worrisome. In the 1540s, a few wet years in the middle of a mega-drought may have triggered one of the worst disease epidemics ever recorded. … ”  Read more from The Atlantic here:  The Southwest May Be Deep Into a Climate-Changed Mega-Drought

Precipitation watch …

From NWS Sacramento: High pressure will bring fair skies today with above normal temperatures. A few periods of light precipitation will impact the north state through the weekend but a stronger and colder system may impact holiday travel over the mountains on Christmas Eve.

For a more detailed forecast and a look at what’s ahead longer term from the California Weather Blog, go here: Recent widespread rain brings reprieve to the Golden State; relatively dry conditions may return in the near term

 

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Multiple perspectives on groundwater-surface water interactions under SGMA

NEWS WORTH NOTING: EPA awards California $187 million for drinking water and wastewater projects; California, Washington and British Columbia join forces on forest health and climate change

MOUNTAIN COUNTIES SYMPOSIUM: Delta Watermaster Michael George and Jason Peltier discuss moving forward in the Delta *UPDATED with comments from Restore the Delta*

Today’s announcements …

 

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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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