DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: PG&E abandoning water-power project in Mendocino County; The Corps approves major deviation for FIRO effort; Hoopa tribe wins lawsuit against the feds; The CO River equation, the drought plan, and why things have stopped adding up; and more …

The California Aqueduct bifurcation point, Antelope Valley

In California water news this weekend, PG&E abandoning water-power project in Mendocino County; The Corps approves major deviation for Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations effort; Fugro lands geotech investigation for Cal Water Fix; More salt in our water is creating scary new ‘chemical cocktails’; Penalties for polluters down drastically under Trump; Hoopa tribe wins lawsuit against the feds; The Colorado River equation, the drought plan, and why things have stopped adding up; and more …

In the news this weekend …

PG&E abandoning water-power project in Mendocino County:  “PG&E said Friday it’s dropping efforts to sell or seek relicensing for a remote Mendocino County hydropower project that plays an outsized role in providing water to cities, residents and ranchers from Ukiah south through much of Sonoma County and into northern Marin County.  Little known to many of the more than 600,000 customers and residents who get their water from the Russian River is the century-old Potter Valley Project’s contribution of 20 billion gallons of water that it diverts yearly from the Eel River.  PG&E, on the verge of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing expected next week in the face of $30 billion in potential liabilities related to the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, cited financial stress as a factor in the decision to scrap plans to renew a federal license for the hydropower operation or sell it to a new operator. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  PG&E abandoning water-power project in Mendocino County

As bankruptcy looms, PG&E will walk away from two dams it owns. What about the other 167?  “With bankruptcy looming, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is citing “challenging financial circumstances” as one of the reasons why it’s backing off from renewing its federal license for two of its hydroelectric dams. The move raises a fresh set of questions about how the company plans to maintain its aging network of 169 hydroelectric dams in California amid its financial crisis.  PG&E told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday that it would no longer try to renew the license for its Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project on the Eel River in Mendocino and Lake counties. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  As bankruptcy looms, PG&E will walk away from two dams it owns. What about the other 167?

Friends of the Eel River respond optimistically to PG&E’s announcement:  “Friends of the Eel River welcomes today’s announcement by PG&E that the utility is withdrawing its formal notice of intent to seek relicensing of the Potter Valley Project (PVP) before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and ceasing its efforts to sell off the two dams and associated diversion works. The two dams and diversion works of the Potter Valley Project divert water from the upper mainstem Eel River to the upper Russian River.  “This is by no means the end of the story,” said FOER Conservation Director Scott Greacen. “But this is the turning point. Removal of at least Scott Dam is now more likely than not.” … ”  Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here:  Friends of the Eel River respond optimistically to PG&E’s announcement

The Corps approves major deviation for Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations effort: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Pacific Division has approved a major deviation that allows for Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations-developed tools and concepts to be tested this winter at the pilot reservoir Lake Mendocino in the Russian River valley in northern California. This request will allow a maximum of 3.8 billion gallons of additional water, enough to supply approximately 97,000 people for a year, to be stored in Lake Mendocino during the winter rainy season to improve water supply reliability and environmental conditions in the Russian River while continuing to ensure flood management capacity of the reservoir. … ”  Read more from DVIDS here:  The Corps approves major deviation for Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations effort

Fugro lands geotech investigation for Cal Water Fix:  “It is leading a consortium carrying out investigations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region. The five-year contract for Fugro and its partners is valued at US$75m. The Fugro team for the contract includes five subconsultants as well as over 35 specialty sub-contractors. The California WaterFix (CWF) project is a comprehensive effort to improve water conveyance from the Delta area to Southern California. Jacobs won a key engineering role on the project earlier this week. … ”  Read more from The Construction Index here:  Fugro lands geotech investigation for Cal Water Fix

UC Davis–Delta Stewardship Council Journal Has Helped Inform California Water Policies for 15 Years: “When the peer-reviewed journal San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science launched fifteen years ago, the editors chose what was then a somewhat new model of scientific publication known as “open access.”  At that time, most academic journal publishers kept their content behind pay walls, accessible only with expensive subscriptions that were mostly paid by institutions like universities.  The sequestered academic content was a big problem when it came to research about the San Francisco Bay-Delta watershed, which includes not only the San Francisco Bay, but all the waters that feed into it — a combined area of more than 75,000 square miles. ... ”  Read more from UC Davis here: UC Davis–Delta Stewardship Council Journal Has Helped Inform California Water Policies for 15 Years

More salt in our water is creating scary new ‘chemical cocktails’: “Gene Likens has been studying forest and aquatic ecosystems for more than half a century. In that time he’s seen a change in the chemistry of our surface waters — including an increase in the alkalinity and salinity of waterways — something he and his colleagues have dubbed “freshwater salinization syndrome.”  Likens coauthored a report published last month that found that not only is salinity increasing in many surface waters, but when you add salt to the environment it can mobilize heavy metals, nutrient pollution and other contaminants that are combining to create new “chemical cocktails” in rivers, streams and reservoirs. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here:  More salt in our water is creating scary new ‘chemical cocktails’

Government shutdown maroons science:  “Thirty miles west of San Francisco, the partial government shutdown is having a big impact on scientists studying elephant seals around the Farallon Islands.  Since U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel are not around to help supply the researchers, volunteers clamber onto the craggy island hauling bottles of water for the scientists and jugs of diesel for the research station’s generator.  Besides impacting research in our local Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history is threatening research projects all across the country. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  Government shutdown maroons science

Penalties for polluters down drastically under Trump:  “Civil penalties for polluters under the Trump administration plummeted during the past fiscal year to the lowest average level since 1994, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.  In the two decades before President Donald Trump took office, EPA civil fines averaged more than $500 million a year, when adjusted for inflation. Last year’s $72 million in fines was 85 percent below that amount, according to the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance History Online database. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Penalties for polluters down drastically under Trump

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Crescent City: Dam removal group speaks to Harbor Board about sediment concerns:  “Proponents of a project that removes four dams on the Klamath River estimate that it’ll take 10 to 15 years for fish to fully colonize the upper basin once the project is completed.  Meanwhile, local fishermen say that the silt and sediment that is expected to wash downstream once the dams are gone could be good not only for the river itself but also for the Dungeness crab fishery.  The Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the nonprofit that is tasked with removing the dams, sought to give Crescent City Harbor commissioners and staff a better idea of how the project would affect the harbor. … ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here:  Dam removal group speaks to Harbor Board about sediment concerns

Hoopa tribe wins lawsuit against the feds:  “A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the removal of several Klamath River dams.  In order for PacifiCorp to operate the dams they own, they need a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But the last license they acquired expired in 2006. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Hoopa tribe wins lawsuit against the feds

Mad River Alliance works on weeds:  “The Mad River Alliance set their sights on removing invasive weeds at a site set for the construction of a bridge over Powers Creek in Blue Lake on Saturday morning.  The months-long initiative is part of a larger initiative to enhance the fish habitat and the environment around the Powers Creek. Caroline Hall, who works with the nonprofit, said the removal of invasive species is an important prerequisite to bridge construction.  “If we don’t pull it out, it’s just going to grow back and take over again which prevents passage for the fish,” she said. “The blackberry really overgrows and takes over the space. A few months ago you couldn’t even look down the creek.” … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Mad River Alliance works on weeds

Lathrop a step closer to state OK for river discharge:  “The City of Lathrop is one step closer to earning a permit that will allow for the discharge of treated wastewater straight into the San Joaquin River.  Last week the Lathrop City Council approved an agreement with environmental engineering firm Robertson-Bryan Inc. for $74,939 – funded by River Islands with the expectation that the costs will “eventually be split and reimbursed by the future benefitting parties” – to support the review necessary to receive a National Point Discharge Elimination System permit that will allow the city’s treated wastewater to be discharged rather than stored or sprayed. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Lathrop a step closer to state OK for river discharge

Sonoma County: Well owners looking at fees for their water usage:  “Water well owners in Sonoma County may get billed for their annual water usage under a proposed water-conservation plan up for discussion next week at a community meeting in Santa Rosa.  The Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is hosting the Jan. 30 meeting to hear feedback on its proposed “groundwater sustainability fee,” which would provide funding to support the new agency. … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here: Well owners looking at fees for their water usage

Lessees get a clean shot at LADWP leases:  “Locals with commercial leases from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power got a chance at input into the details of potential purchase of the land under their businesses earlier this month. Now, more details and a potential timeline are coming to the surface.  The process started with a meeting with Aqueduct Manager Clarence Martin, staff from the department’s real estate office and area lease holders. LADWP was looking for input from Inyo businesses as part of a second look at its divestiture procedure. Lease holders had until January 18 to get their suggestions back to the department.  While the specific properties are not yet identified, the number of parcels hovers around 50, according to Jessica Johnson with the department’s public information office. … ”  Read more from Sierra Wave here:  Lessees get a clean shot at LADWP leases

Along the Colorado River …

The Colorado River equation, the drought plan, and why things have stopped adding up:  “The National Park Service is preparing for the worst.  In November, the federal agency released its plan for how to operate Lake Mead marinas and launch ramps if the elevation of the Colorado River reservoir — the poster-child for prolonged drought in the Southwest — continues to decline because of overuse and climate change.  To the passerby visiting Lake Mead, it has been clear for some time that things on the Colorado River are not working the way they were intended to. Signs warn of closures to boat launches. Underwater ghost towns are now visible because of low lake levels. From the top of the Hoover Dam, visitors see a bathtub ring, a chalk-colored display of how far the waterline has dropped. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here:  The Colorado River equation, the drought plan, and why things have stopped adding up

Central Arizona Project supports draft legislation for drought contingency plan:  “The board of the Central Arizona Project on Thursday voted to support draft legislation for the state’s drought contingency plan, a major water savings deal in the Colorado River Basin.  Thing is, no formal bills have been sponsored in the Legislature, which faces a Jan. 31 deadline to act.  The draft legislation, released last week by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, would enact some of the parts of Arizona’s internal drought plan: … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  Central Arizona Project supports draft legislation for drought contingency plan

Lack of Arizona drought plan would mean chaos and uncertainty, water experts say:  “Horrible” and “chaos” are among the outcomes that water experts are predicting for Arizona if the Legislature fails to approve a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River.  Among the concerns raised by experts in academia and government about the potential failure to approve a drought plan: … ”  Continue reading at the Arizona Star here:  Lack of Arizona drought plan would mean chaos and uncertainty, water experts say

If we build Powell pipeline, will the water come? asks the Salt Lake Tribune:  They write, “The Colorado River is not meeting its obligations. Its Lake Powell bank account is in danger of running dry.  A 97-year-old agreement demands that the river deliver 5.2 trillion gallons of water to seven states and Mexico each year. That isn’t happening, and now — in the age of climate change — the chance of ever meeting that demand is fading.  As a result, Utah’s plan to take more of its Colorado River water — by building a pipeline from Lake Powell to St. George — may be fading, too. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here:  If we build Powell pipeline, will the water come? asks the Salt Lake Tribune

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

 

CALENDAR EVENTS: American Groundwater Trust Annual Conference; PPIC: Water and the future of the San Joaquin Valley; Urban Water Institute Spring Conference; Kern County Water Summit

THIS JUST IN … State Water Project Allocations Increased to 15 Percent

This weekend’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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

no weekends

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