DAILY DIGEST: Trump pressure on CA water plan excludes public, rushes science, emails show; Sacto River Settlement Contractors successfully defend challenge to renewal of water contracts; Meet CA’s new environment czar; Water seeping down reconstructed Oroville Dam spillway; and more …

In California water news today, Trump Pressure on California Water Plan Excludes Public, Rushes Science, Emails Show; Sacramento River Settlement Contractors Successfully Defend Challenge Under the Endangered Species Act to Renewal of Water Contracts; Despite California’s long drought, trillions of gallons of rainwater wastefully flowing into sea; Skiing in July? Squaw Valley extends season amid record snowfall near Tahoe; Meet California’s new environment czar, who walked the state to ‘reset’; After local outcry, a Harvard-owned vineyard project faces environmental review; Water seeping down reconstructed Oroville Dam spillway; Timeline for Success Dam widening project released; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • “The Yolo Bypass: A Key Link in the State’s Water and Flood Picture” is the presentation tonight’s Flyway Nights speaker series at the Yolo Wildlife Area Headquarters beginning at 7pm.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

Trump Pressure on California Water Plan Excludes Public, Rushes Science, Emails Show:  “The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science and cuts the public out of the process.  The decisions will control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.  Federal biologists will set these rules after completing an intricate scientific analysis, and they are the final word on how much and when water can be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Trump Pressure on California Water Plan Excludes Public, Rushes Science, Emails Show

Sacramento River Settlement Contractors Successfully Defend Challenge Under the Endangered Species Act to Renewal of Water Contracts:  “On February 26, 2019, the Eastern District Court of California issued a 67-page decision and order on a motion for summary judgment regarding two claims brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental interest groups (collectively, NRDC) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) challenging the 2005 renewals of certain long-term water supply contacts between the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, the Delta-Mendota Canal Contractors, and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) related to the Central Valley Project (CVP). Specifically, NRDC challenged the adequacy of the required ESA section 7 consultation by and between Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding alleged effects to delta smelt resulting from the renewal of such contracts. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  Sacramento River Settlement Contractors Successfully Defend Challenge Under the Endangered Species Act to Renewal of Water Contracts

Water seeping down reconstructed Oroville Dam spillway:  “Water is starting to seep down the rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway.  State officials said Wednesday morning that this is common and will not affect the operation of the dam’s gates, which are not watertight.  “Once the lake reaches or exceeds the elevation of the entrance gates (813 feet) a small amount of water is expected to seep through the gates as they are not watertight,” Erin Mellon of the state Department of Water Resources said. “This is common and does not affect the operation of the gates nor the spillway.” ... ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Water seeping down reconstructed Oroville Dam spillway

Rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway appears to be nearing 1st test:  “Two years after the crisis in Oroville, the dam’s reconstructed spillway may be nearing its first test.  Assuming mother nature keeps putting down a lot of precip and snowpack, there’s a chance the season, certainly,” said Erin Mellon, a spokesperson with the California Department of Water Resources.  With Lake Oroville finally creeping back towards capacity, DWR is again watching the math that flows down the Feather River. That’s the rain and snowmelt moving into the lake, and the water can can be moved out of it. … ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco here:  Rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway appears to be nearing 1st test

Despite California’s long drought, trillions of gallons of rainwater wastefully flowing into sea:California’s rainy season could be the wettest in 40 years, but experts say the state is missing a major opportunity by failing to collect the trillions of gallons of storm runoff that currently flows wastefully into the ocean.  “We will never capture it all, but we need to do a better job of capturing what we can,” said Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute.  In February alone, an estimated 18 trillion gallons of water fell on the state. In urban areas and coastal cities, 80 percent ends up diverted into the ocean, as Los Angeles and other cities built long concrete channels for flood control. … ”  Read more from Fox News here:  Despite California’s long drought, trillions of gallons of rainwater wastefully flowing into sea

Skiing in July? Squaw Valley extends season amid record snowfall near Tahoe:  “Ready to hit the slopes in Tahoe? You’ve got plenty of time.  Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has announced it will extend its ski season through July 7 this year due to record-setting snow totals. As of Wednesday, the resort had seen 596 inches on the season, with 315 falling in February alone, according to a news release.  As late as July 7 may sound, it’s not a record for Squaw Valley. Just two years earlier, the resort stayed open until July 15, which remains the Alpine Meadows record. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Skiing in July? Squaw Valley extends season amid record snowfall near Tahoe

Meet California’s new environment czar, who walked the state to ‘reset’:What better way to decompress from a stressful federal government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico to Canada?  That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and sparkling coastline. Turns out the dust on his boots afforded him just the perspective he needed to take on the job Gov. Gavin Newsom gave him in January. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Meet California’s new environment czar, who walked the state to ‘reset’

Federal efforts to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet spark conversations about environmental impacts: “Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and environmental groups alike.  Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River is run by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which has been evaluating its potential raise for more than 20 years. After a 2015 feasibility report and environmental impact statement, the bureau determined that an 18.5-foot raise would cost about $1.3 billion. ... ”  Read  more from the Daily Californian here: Federal efforts to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet spark conversations about environmental impacts

Dried out:  Big ag threatens clean water in rural California:  “One day in 1979, Nettie Morrison, then 44 and living near Bakersfield, California, announced she was moving to a tiny, rural town called Allensworth, 40 miles north. Hardly anyone had even heard of it, and those who had thought she was crazy. “People said, ‘Why would you want to move out there?’” recalls her daughter, Denise Kadara. “‘There’s nothing for you up there.’ But she knew it was a historically black town and wanted to be a part of it.” … But when Morrison arrived, all that remained of Allensworth’s vision was a nostalgic new state park, established in 1976 to commemorate the fallen town, and a tumbledown village of mostly Latino migrant workers and a few African American families, grinding out a spare existence on the now-parched land. … ”  Read more from the Guardian here:  Dried out:  Big ag threatens clean water in rural California

After local outcry, a Harvard-owned vineyard project faces environmental review: “California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama Valley used to be.  The valley, located in California’s Central Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife. Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing wildflower show,” according to Kelly.  These days, however, the land has been taken over by large commercial farms and vineyards, Kelly said. ... ”  Read more from the Harvard Crimson here:  After local outcry, a Harvard-owned vineyard project faces environmental review

California wildfires: Report names priority projects for thinning vegetation:  “Gov. Gavin Newsom should immediately allow the thinning of vegetation on almost 94,000 acres of state land in a bid to keep more than 200 communities safe, California fire officials said Tuesday as they released a list of the state’s 35 most critical fuel-reduction projects.  The priority projects include areas near Orinda, Aptos, Woodside and Los Gatos. To narrow the list, state experts not only assessed fire risk but such factors as whether residents of areas were older or more disabled on average, and whether their communities featured good escape routes in case of emergency. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California wildfires: Report names priority projects for thinning vegetation

Flow equalization saves:  “A $2-billion expansion to Regional San’s wastewater treatment plant called the EchoWater Project plans to improve the quality of water discharged to the Sacramento River and expand opportunities for recycled water use. Regional San serves 1.4 million residents and is required to comply with new water quality requirements imposed by the state of California in 2010. Funding for the project was obtained by the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and will be repaid by users and client partners over several decades. Regional San expects that with the completion of the EchoWater Project in 2023, nearly all of the plant’s wastewater will meet recycled water standards and be available for irrigation and power plant projects in the region with the intent to sustain regional water supplies and enhance the environment. … ”  Read more from Water & Waste Digest here:  Flow equalization saves

As Relicensing Looms, Aging Dams Face a Reckoning:  “More than a century ago, the people of Mendocino County in California needed electricity to fit into the industrialized world. So engineers generated power by building two dams and reconfiguring two rivers. For decades thereafter, people fashioned steadily improving lives around the new landscapes. At the same time, beset by environmental insults, the annual runs of salmonids in the Eel River withered.  Inevitably, priorities changed. As building the dams and creating the 9.2-megawatt Potter Valley project solved the need for electricity, a new need developed: irrigation. Tens of thousands of acre-feet of Eel River water were diverted to supply the power station at the headwaters of the Russian River’s East Branch. Then it flowed on, supplying cities and farmers and nurturing Mendocino and Sonoma County’s expanding agriculture – once pears and hops, now dominated by wine grapes. ... ”  Read more from the Stanford … & the West blog here:  As Relicensing Looms, Aging Dams Face a Reckoning

What Happens When Water Becomes Scarce?:  “Isn’t it ironic to find that, though our Earth is covered with 70% of water, there is still no accessibility of enough clean water?  Yes, that’s true as there are millions of people across the globe that don’t have access to water, and even if they do, the water is not pure. … We rely on it for a multitude of other applications. But, have you ever thought of a situation where Earth runs out of water? What will happen? ... ”  Read more from Interesting Engineering here:  What Happens When Water Becomes Scarce?

Lawmakers: High costs slowing action on contaminant in water:  “Cleaning up and protecting U.S. drinking water from a class of toxic chemicals used in many household items could cost in the tens of billions of dollars nationally, including $2 billion for the Department of Defense alone, witnesses testified Wednesday before a House panel urging the federal government to move more quickly on the cleanup.  Rep. Harley Rouda, the California Democrat chairing the House Oversight and Reform environment subcommittee, told reporters after the hearing “it’s clear” the high costs were slowing any federal efforts to regulate and clean up the toxic chemicals, which are found in a range of goods, including nonstick pans, stain-resistant clothing, dental floss and food containers. They also are in firefighting foam used by the military to battle jet-fuel fires. ... ”  Read more from the AP here: Lawmakers: High costs slowing action on contaminant in water

In commentary today …

David Bernhardt’s Interior nomination threatens salmon, says Noah Oppenheim:  He writes, “When you experience the delight of California’s amazing king salmon, all other cares disappear. Maybe you caught one of these three-foot-long fish on a rod and reel, or maybe you took your first bite of a juicy grilled filet. Maybe you pulled that first highly valuable fish of the season over the side of your boat.  We, as California salmon lovers, live for those moments. But the truth is that each of those moments is under significant threat right now, and salmon lovers of all stripes should care deeply. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  David Bernhardt’s Interior nomination threatens salmon

In regional news and commentary today …

Russian River flooding, as seen from space:  “As another round of severe rainstorms doused California in late February 2019, the Russian River approached record levels and brought catastrophic flooding. More than 2,000 businesses and homes in Sonoma County were flooded and the river valley towns of Guerneville and Monte Rio were turned into islands, temporarily cut off from all land transportation.  ... ”  More from NASA’s Earth Observatory here:  Russian River flooding, as seen from space

Fast-Flowing Russian River Left Huge Piles Of Debris On California Coast: “The floodwaters that crested in Russian River towns like El Nido, Guerneville, and Monte Rio have also altered the Sonoma County coastline.  Beaches have been reshaped, debris has been left behind, and the same mud that covered streets and homes can been seen in the Pacific.  “Yeah, it’s amazing,” said Cindy Lombard as she watched from the Goat Rock Beach. “When you come down you can see the line where that river meets; all that energy, all that muck.” … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area here:  Fast-Flowing Russian River Left Huge Piles Of Debris On California Coast

Storm soaks Bay Area overnight, but relief may be ahead:  “As another “atmospheric river” rolled inland and began to break up Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service hinted at four words that not too long ago were unthinkable.  Rain, rain, go away?  “Yes,” meteorologist Scott Rowe of the National Weather Service said when asked if a break from the soaking skies may come in the days ahead. “I’m saying there’s a chance.” ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Storm soaks Bay Area overnight, but relief may be ahead

Stanford removes dam, giving endangered fish room to roam:  “Water is now flowing freely along a 480-foot stretch of San Francisquito Creek after Stanford University removed the aged Lagunita Diversion Dam.  The 120-year-old dam was located north of the east end of Happy Hollow Lane near Alpine Road and near the Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood. The latter is in unincorporated Menlo Park. Removing the 8-foot-high structure now allows water to flow freely downstream to support endangered-fish-species habitat in the creek. San Francisquito is home to a population of the Central California Coast Distinct Population Segment of steelhead. … ”  Read more from Palo Alto Online here:  Stanford removes dam, giving endangered fish room to roam

Santa Cruz: Live Oak site prioritized for new water purification plan: “The Soquel Creek Water District board members on Tuesday said they were convinced the planned Pure Water Soquel plant should be split into two sites — partly in the city of Santa Cruz and partly in Live Oak.  When approving the Pure Water Soquel project in December, board members prioritized building a final-stage purification plant at a lot at the corner of Chanticleer Avenue and Soquel Drive and an initial “tertiary” treatment facility at the city of Santa Cruz’s Wastewater Treatment Facility on California Street. At the same time, the board told district staff to undertake a parallel investigation of building a two-story full purification and tertiary treatment plant at the wastewater facility — so long as the effort did not delay the overall project. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  Santa Cruz: Live Oak site prioritized for new water purification plan

Valley water agencies say they’re prepared to handle this year’s high rainfall:  “Our above-average rainfall is a concern for several water agencies in the Central Valley.  While the high rainfall totals are a good thing, there is the task of how to manage and store all that water.  The California Water Institute at Fresno State does just that. They say a valuable lesson was learned during the wet year of 2017. ... ”  Read more from ABC 30 here:  Valley water agencies say they’re prepared to handle this year’s high rainfall

Turlock Irrigation District busy fighting water grab, re-licensing:  “Lawsuits, re-licensing and settlements surrounding the local water supply are moving along at a swift pace, and on Feb. 26, the Turlock Irrigation District board invited the community to its meeting for an update on the topics.  TID Director of Water Resources and Regulatory Affairs Steve Boyd provided farmers and other water stakeholders in attendance with a report that brought them up to speed on the final license application for Don Pedro, which first began eight years ago, and the ongoing legal battle surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision to implement 40 percent unimpaired flows along the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for the betterment of fish. He also explained how the two processes are intertwined and now beginning to come together. ... ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here:  Turlock Irrigation District busy fighting water grab, re-licensing

Madera County growers tackle water issues:  “Local growers and others met last week for a triple tour of Madera County water users Friday and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop Wednesday.  What we’re trying to do is get different types of beneficial users together so that they can listen to each other’s successes and challenges,” said county Water and Natural Resources Department director Stephanie Anagnoson about the tours.  Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. The stops were part of a special meeting of the Advisory Committee for area groundwater sustainability agencies. ... ”  Read more from the Madera Tribune here:  Madera County growers tackle water issues

Timeline for Success Dam widening project released:  “The Success Dam Enlargement Project, headed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, has been working its way towards construction since October 2018. After a public meeting took place at the Veterans Memorial building back in February, the project’s leads have been hard at work to produce a timeline for the widening project.  On Tuesday morning the timeline was published, and it reveals that construction on the Success Dam Enlargement Project will begin in mid 2020. Until then, plenty of work is scheduled to happen before construction starts. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Timeline for Success Dam widening project released

Ventura County hasn’t broken any rainfall records yet this year. It just feels like it.:  “Ventura County has had a few wet months, but rainfall totals still are far from breaking records.  At least, for now.  By Wednesday, rainfall totaled above what’s considered normal for an entire season in some spots.   That’s not so different from just two years ago. But it might have felt like a wetter year to some, because there have been more rainy days. The rain year runs from October through September. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  Ventura County hasn’t broken any rainfall records yet this year. It just feels like it.

Latest downpour brings record rainfall to downtown LA:  “With rain still coming down, a record amount had fallen in downtown Los Angeles by Wednesday afternoon as a powerful storm rolled through Southern California.  Around 1.24 inches of rain was recorded downtown by 5:45 p.m., breaking the previous record for March 6 of .88 inches set in 1884, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service.  Continued showers throughout the evening were likely to push the total a bit higher, the agency said. The highest amount of rainfall ever recorded in downtown L.A. is 5.88 inches on March 2, 1938, NWS meteorologist Kristen Stewart said. ... ”  Read more from KTLA here:  Latest downpour brings record rainfall to downtown LA

As one storm moves out of Southern California, two more are moving in:  “This week’s storm, which drew added moisture from an atmospheric river out of Hawaii, doused L.A. County valley areas early Thursday but is on its way out of the region, forecasters said.  “After the spectacular lightning show early Wednesday morning and the periods of heavy rain that lingered into Wednesday afternoon, the weather across Southwestern California has quieted down quite a bit in most areas,” noted an NWS statement. ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here: As one storm moves out of Southern California, two more are moving in

In Borrego Springs Tourism, Farming Industries Face Uncertainty With Looming Water Cuts:  “Although part of San Diego County, Borrego Springs is definitely off the beaten path. The small community is a two-hour drive from downtown San Diego.  “The remoteness of ourselves — there’s no freeway coming here,” said Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Sampson, who is also general manager of the La Casa Del Zorro resort. “If you’re going to Borrego Springs — you’re coming to Borrego Springs.” ... ”  Read more from KPBS here:  In Borrego Springs Tourism, Farming Industries Face Uncertainty With Looming Water Cuts

Precipitation watch …

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

Fishing and river groups weigh in on the Voluntary Agreements

BAY DELTA SCIENCE CONFERENCE: Dark Carbon and a Return to Abundance: How Detrital Floodplain Food Webs Can Help Recover Endangered Fish

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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