DAILY DIGEST: Top leader at the Department on Interior pushes a policy favoring his former client; Transition watch: Water board shake-up?; 18 million trees died in California in 2018; Snow melt? Warm winter storm taking aim at Sierra Nevada; and more …

In California water news today, Top leader at the Department on Interior pushes a policy favoring his former client; Transition watch: Water board shake-up?; 18 million trees died in California in 2018; Snow melt? Warm winter storm taking aim at Sierra Nevada; Government Can Waive Environmental Laws To Build Border Wall Prototypes, Court Rules; Massive bird die-off at the Salton Sea raises environmental concerns; and more …

In the news today …

Top leader at the Department on Interior pushes a policy favoring his former client:  “As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta smelt, to gain access to irrigation water.  As a top official since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the farmers had hired him to oppose.  Last week President Trump said he would nominate Mr. Bernhardt to lead the Interior Department, making him the latest in a line of officials now regulating industries that once paid them to work as lobbyists. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  Top leader at the Department on Interior pushes a policy favoring his former client

Transition watch: Water board shake-up?: “Facing pressure from farm interests, Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared poised Monday to replace Felicia Marcus as chair of the  State Water Resources Control Board.  ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: The border, the next wildfire, oil and water

18 million trees died in California in 2018:  “A total of 18 million trees died in California last year, the US Department of Agriculture said Monday.  “Years of drought and a bark beetle epidemic have caused one of the largest tree die-offs in state history,” said Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources secretary. California’s drought began in 2010 and bark beetles are insects that reproduce under the bark of trees, the USDA said in a news release.  Despite the large number, the rate of tree mortality actually slowed in 2018, according to Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. … ”  Read more from CNN here:  18 million trees died in California in 2018

Report: California’s tree die-off reaches 147 million, boosting fire threat:  “Two years after California’s historic drought came to an end, the sweeping die-off of the state’s forests has slowed, yet vast tracts of dry, browning trees continue to amplify the threat of wildfire, federal officials reported Monday.  About 18.6 million trees died in 2018, mainly the result of dehydration and beetle infestation, according to new estimates from the U.S. Forest Service. That pushes the total number of dead since 2010, shortly before the five-year drought began, to 147 million. It’s a toll not seen in modern times. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Report: California’s tree die-off reaches 147 million, boosting fire threat

18 million trees died in California last year; officials say that’s an improvement:  “Another 18 million trees in California died over the last year, a grim toll that nonetheless officials see as a sign the epic forest die-off in the state’s mountains is finally slowing.  A study by state and federal forest officials released Monday noted that the 18 million dead trees since the fall of 2017 marks a major decline from the last study in 2016, which detected 62 million dead trees, and 2017, which found 27 million dead trees. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: 18 million trees died in California last year; officials say that’s an improvement

Snow melt? Warm winter storm taking aim at Sierra Nevada:  “A river of tropical moisture stretching all the way to the Hawaiian Islands will collide with a cold front on the West Coast and slam into the Sierra Nevada mountain range late Tuesday.  With this so-called atmospheric river, temperatures will rise rapidly into the 30s on Wednesday, and snow levels will jump up to 6,000-7,000 feet elevation. Winds are also expected to kick up. ... ”  Read  more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Snow melt? Warm winter storm taking aim at Sierra Nevada

Midweek California storm to bury Sierra Nevada under yards of snow, bring flooding risk:  “One of the more potent storms of the winter will hit California with heavy rain, excessive mountain snow and gusty winds from Tuesday night into Thursday.  The worst of the storm is forecast to focus on Central and Northern California with a heightened threat of flooding, mudslides, erosion, power outages and avalanches and road-closing snowfall in the mountains. ... ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here:  Midweek California storm to bury Sierra Nevada under yards of snow, bring flooding risk

New study explores opportunities for business to contribute to California’s water sustainability challenge: “At the 2016 California Economic Summit in Sacramento, participants asked a simple question, “How could the business community contribute to the One Million Acre-feet Challenge?”  From there, four organizations partnered to explore how regions could align programs for watershed sustainability: The Pacific Institute, a global leader in water resources research and policy; The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, a statewide leader in integrated water management; The CEO Water Mandate, a United Nations Global Compact commitment platform that mobilizes business leaders to address global water challenges through corporate water stewardship; and CA Fwd and its team supporting the Summit’s One Million Acre-feet Challenge.  Last week, the partners released a report on the opportunities to capture and conserve water on commercial and industrial properties in the Santa Ana Watershed. ... ”  Read more from California Economic Summit here:  New study explores opportunities for business to contribute to California’s water sustainability challenge

Government Can Waive Environmental Laws To Build Border Wall Prototypes, Court Rules: “The Trump administration was within its rights to waive dozens of environmental laws to fast track some border construction projects in southern California, a federal appeals court has ruled.  The Department of Homeland Security said in 2017 it would bypass various environmental regulations — including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act — to quickly construct barriers and roads near the U.S.-Mexico border, NPR reported. ... ”  Read more from KLCC here: Government Can Waive Environmental Laws To Build Border Wall Prototypes, Court Rules

Climate Research Feel Lingering Aftermath of Shutdown“Scientific monitoring in the Pacific Ocean, using buoys to take seawater temperatures, screeched to a halt when the government recently shut down for 35 days.  But those efforts to monitor El Nino, the warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that affects global weather patterns, are just some of the shutdown’s impacts on science that Kevin Trenberth describes. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg BNA here:  Climate Research Feel Lingering Aftermath of Shutdown

In commentary today …

Newsom can confront climate change by restoring what we once had:  Julie Retner writes, “Close to the geographic heart of California, a California Conservation Corps crew experienced climate change ground zero last July.  The crew was working on the largest floodplain restoration project underway in the state, at Dos Rios Ranch in Stanislaus County, planting thousands of native trees, shrubs and grass, under direction of our nonprofit group, River Partners.  The restored floodplain will provide flood security, habitat for endangered species, and many other climate-protection benefits. … ”  Read more from CalMatters here:  Newsom can confront climate change by restoring what we once had

In regional news and commentary today …

Klamath dam removal meeting to be webcast Friday:  “The last of four public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license will be webcast Friday from Sacramento, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board.  The license surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.  The meeting will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in the CalEPA Building, Sierra Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, Second Floor, Sacramento. ... ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Klamath dam removal meeting to be webcast Friday

Humboldt Bay: Fish-farming company to lease Samoa pulp mill property:  “A Norwegian-based company promising to become a West Coast hub of land-based fish supply will lease about 30 acres of property at the site of the former Samoa pulp mill.  The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District today approved the lease agreement, which will last 30 years after an initial 3-year period set aside for vetting and permitting the company. Between the two periods, the company, Nordic Aquafarms, will have the option of either ducking out of the lease or staying on board. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Fish-farming company to lease Samoa pulp mill property

Oroville Dam: Two years after the mass evacuation, here’s where we are:  “Two years ago today, about 188,000 people were ordered to evacuate for fear the damaged Oroville Dam spillway would fail.  While the worst fears never materialized, the incident had impacts still felt in the community. It also spawned new legislation related to dam safety, a modern rebuild of the spillway, and many lawsuits against the state Department of Water Resources. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Oroville Dam: Two years after the mass evacuation, here’s where we are

American Canyon keeps Sites Reservoir in its sights:  “American Canyon will continue looking to the proposed, massive Sites reservoir in Colusa County to someday help slake its thirst.  The city of about 20,000 residents is the only Napa County city without a local reservoir. It depends on the state’s North Bay Aqueduct that pumps water out of Barker Slough, a dead-end slough in the Solano County portion of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  American Canyon keeps Sites Reservoir in its sights

As atmospheric river storm approaches, Bay Area rivers, creeks expected to rise rapidly:  “As a powerful “atmospheric river” storm continues to march toward the California coast Tuesday morning, meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Monterey are warning about “rapid and large rises” on many of the Bay Area’s rivers and creeks.  With satellite images showing massive plumes of moisture over the Pacific taking aim at Northern California, the weather service said coastal hills and mountains in the Bay Area “will see prolific rain totals” likely exceeding 8 inches by the end of the storm. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: As atmospheric river storm approaches, Bay Area rivers, creeks expected to rise rapidly

Big win for coastal activists: Judge blocks deal limiting access to Hollister Ranch beaches:  “In a major victory for coastal advocates, a Santa Barbara judge refused to approve a controversial deal that would have allowed access to Hollister Ranch’s coastline only to landowners, their guests, visitors with guides, and those who could boat or paddle in from two miles away.  The settlement agreement, struck between the ranch and coastal officials behind closed doors, sparked public outrage last year after The Times published the terms of the deal. The outcry became a flashpoint in the mounting pressure on state officials to ensure that California’s beaches are open to everyone — not just to those fortunate enough to own oceanfront property. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Big win for coastal activists: Judge blocks deal limiting access to Hollister Ranch beaches

Hey Beacher, Leave Those Fish Alone: Grunion, little fish that mate on beaches from California to Mexico, face a lot of obstacles to maintaining a healthy population. And the most pernicious may be drunk beachgoers:  “On a moonless summery night in Malibu, California, the beach is mostly quiet. The surfers and sunbathers left hours ago and only a handful of people amble near the pier, talking quietly and watching the waves roll in.  Another small group approaches the shoreline. They turn away from the others, away from the dry sand and the pier, and toward the lagoon where the high tide washes over the beach and no humans are in sight. The four of them—Karen Martin, a marine biologist, her husband Doug Martin, and student researchers Olivia Le Sage and Danilo Martinez—are on a mission, and they don’t want to be disturbed. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Hey Beacher, Leave Those Fish Alone

LA headed for above-average rainfall with more storms in the forecast: “A second consecutive month of above-average rainfall may be in store for Los Angeles, where more than 3 inches of rain have already fallen in February.  The region will get another soaking later this week, with up to 2 inches of rain expected Wednesday and Thursday, according to a National Weather Service forecast. Southern California’s already snow-capped peaks could get even more precipitation—between 2 and 4 inches—than coastal areas, the forecast says. ... ”  Read more from LA Curbed here:  LA headed for above-average rainfall with more storms in the forecast

Massive bird die-off at the Salton Sea raises environmental concerns:  “Thousands of birds were discovered dead at the Salton Sea last month, raising new concerns about the lake’s declining health.  California Department of Fish and Wildlife workers cleaned up the carcasses at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge after hunters initially reported the gruesome bird die-off. More than 400 species of birds use the Salton Sea’s wetlands as a stop along the Pacific flyway for migratory birds. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Massive bird die-off at the Salton Sea raises environmental concerns

San Diego:  Massive response after San Bernardo Creek turns purple:  “Connie Bakken opened her bedroom window Sunday morning and didn’t quite believe her eyes.  “I called my husband and said, ‘Why is the stream purple?” she says.  Bakken lives in a Rancho Bernardo home that overlooks a creek just west of Matinal Circle. What she saw – the creek where she loves to watch turtles and crabs live naturally turn into a deep, unnatural purple.  “It didn’t look like water,” Bakken says. “It actually looked like purple paint.” … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here:  Massive response after San Bernardo Creek turns purple

San Diego: Costs for Pure Water Project Are Rising – by Billions:  “It’s hard to pin down how many billions of dollars the city is planning to spend on a new water recycling system, but it’s clear costs are rising – by billions of dollars.  Back in 2015, the city of San Diego expected it would get about a third of its drinking water from recycled sewage within 20 years and could do so for about $3 billion in construction costs.  Now, the city is looking to spend no less than $4.8 billion and perhaps as much as $9 billion on the project, according to city financial documents, including previously undisclosed internal estimates from the Public Utilities Department. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here: San Diego: Costs for Pure Water Project Are Rising – by Billions

Precipitation watch …

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Changing pumping rules, Farmer applies Brown Act as water torture; Roaches of California; 21st century water management; and more …

CA WEATHER BLOG: Strong but complex storm sequence this week will bring rain, wind, and flood concerns to California

THIS JUST IN … DWR Finalizes Groundwater Basin Boundary Modifications under SGMA

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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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