Water Data Advisory Council releases water data governance recommendations
The Water Data Advisory Council has released water data governance recommendations. These recommendations are independent from, but supportive of, the state’s Strategic Plan for Assembly Bill 1755, the Open and Transparent Water Data Act.
The Advisory Council, convened by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, met three times between November 2018 and February 2019 to recommend a governance structure and areas of focus for a Water Data Consortium. Two previous documents recommended creation of a non-profit organization referred to as a Water Data Consortium to complement state agency efforts to implement AB 1755.
The Water Foundation is coordinating a process, informed by these recommendations, to establish the Consortium. The formation process will provide opportunity to engage and provide feedback. Once the Consortium is operational, there will be ample opportunity for stakeholders to get involved according to their interests and expertise.
Jared Blumenfeld Confirmed as California Secretary of Environmental Protection
From Cal EPA:
“I’m honored to have been appointed as California’s Secretary of Environmental Protection by Governor Newsom and to have been confirmed by the Senate,” said Blumenfeld. “I look forward to equitably implementing CalEPA’s mission to ‘ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality.’ Through the effective use of science and the law, and by engaging communities transparently, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of Californians.”
As Secretary, Blumenfeld oversees the state’s efforts to fight climate change, protect air and water quality, regulate pesticides and toxic substances, achieve the state’s recycling and waste reduction goals, and advance environmental justice. As a member of Governor Newsom’s cabinet, he also advises the governor on environmental policy.
During a Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing earlier this month, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) praised Blumenfeld’s appointment. “I appreciate the experience, expertise and ability to engage that you bring to so many issues in California. We are very fortunate that the Governor was able to make this appointment.”
“Jared Blumenfeld is a great choice to lead California’s Environmental Protection Agency,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with him on several issues, including improving the clarity of Lake Tahoe and restoring San Francisco Bay. His previous experience and dedication to public service will make him a strong steward for our state’s environment.”
Blumenfeld brings to CalEPA more than 25 years of environmental policy and management experience at the local, national and international levels. From 2009 to 2016, he served under former President Barack Obama as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Pacific Southwest, a region that includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands and 148 tribal nations.
Previously, Blumenfeld was Director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment from 2001 to 2009, first under former Mayor Willie Brown and then under Gavin Newsom. He and Mayor Newsom worked effectively to make San Francisco “the most sustainable city in the nation” by developing a municipal Environment Code that includes mandatory recycling and composting, bans on Styrofoam and plastic bags, and a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Prior to government service, Blumenfeld led international campaigns for nongovernmental organizations. He led the habitat protection program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and was Executive Director for the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Earth Summit Watch from 1993 to 1995.
Blumenfeld graduated from Cambridge College of Arts and Technology and earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London and a Master of Laws from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
Prior to his appointment, Blumenfeld founded a private consulting firm to advise clean-tech companies on strategic planning and market development. He also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile route that stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to the U.S.-Canada border. He continues to host an award-winning podcast on environmental topics, called Podship Earth.
“We face many challenges — from the worst air quality in the nation, to more than one million people lacking access to safe and affordable drinking water, to the legacy of toxic contamination in nearly every community, to the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change — that all require urgent action,” Blumenfeld said.
“These seem like intractable problems. But if we listen to the voices of community members, adopt the innovative spirit of our business community, and work collaboratively across government agencies, we can make measurable progress.”
SYRCL to D.C. Circuit: Don’t let NID undermine the Clean Water Act
On February 19, 2019, Nevada Irrigation District (NID) asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to waive safe water quality legal requirements for their Yuba Bear hydroelectric project based on a recent federal court ruling (Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC) that removes water quality protections for hydroelectric projects.
NID’s request surprised stakeholders who have been involved in the Yuba Bear dam relicensing process for the past eight years, including Foothills Water Network (FWN), the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) as well as the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board).
SYRCL Executive Director Melinda Booth said, “NID is the first water district in the nation to try to circumvent the Clean Water Act and CEQA based on this court case. By doing so NID risks the health of the Yuba River watershed and jeopardizes years of stakeholder collaboration. Their course of action could set a precedent that may undermine environmental protections for waterways nationwide.”
FWN Coordinator Traci Sheehan also raised the concern in public comment at an NID Board Meeting, asking “since this could have impacts nationwide, we would like to understand if the NID Board was consulted on this matter before staff filed the letter.”
In a formal response, SYRCL and FWN filed a protest letter to FERC. They distinguished the Yuba Bear project from the Hoopa case, and asked the agency to not approve NID’s request and adhere to normal California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and Clean Water Act procedures to protect the Yuba and Bear watersheds. The Water Board also filed a similar letter, protesting NID’s request and asking FERC to “simply ignore [NID].”
SYRCL also protested this issue at the national level, joining fifteen states, numerous tribes and conservation groups in requesting the D.C. Circuit court to review the recent Hoopa decision.
American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, California Trout and the Hydropower Reform Coalition formally intervened in the Hoopa Valley Tribe case last week, asking the Court to reconsider their ruling. SYRCL, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe, American Whitewater, Friends of the River and California Outdoors then filed a separate amicus brief to support the petition, emphasizing their concern that the Hoopa ruling could “exempt dozens of hydropower dams that are currently undergoing FERC relicensing from compliance with state water quality standards for the next 30 to 50 years.”
NID has yet to formally respond to SYRCL’s and FWN’s concerns or address their FERC request in a public meeting.
The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) is the leading voice for the protection and restoration of the Yuba River watershed. Founded in 1983 through a rural, grassroots campaign to defend the South Yuba River from proposed hydropower dams, SYRCL has developed into a vibrant community organization with more than 3,500 members and volunteers. SYRCL envisions a future in which the Yuba River watershed thrives and is resilient in the face of climate change. It strives to be a vibrant, science-based community organization serving as a leader for environmental stewardship and activism in the Yuba River watershed—and one that inspires others to make a difference in their communities. See: www.yubariver.org.
Seven States Testify in Support of Colorado River Drought Plan as Chair Grijalva Announces Authorizing Bill Introduction Next Week
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) announced at today’s hearing on the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan that he will introduce legislation – expected early next week – to enact the Drought Contingency Plan into law and expedite its passage through the Committee. The plan will safeguard the water supply for the American Southwest and the 40 million people who live there through 2026. The announcement came as representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and from seven states in the Colorado River Basin voiced support for the plan in formal testimony.
The proposal is a result of years of negotiation between Colorado River Basin states to address historic drought conditions in the American Southwest. The Drought Contingency Plan requires congressional authorization for the Bureau of Reclamation to implement certain provisions.
Video of the hearing is available at http://bit.ly/2HGkbS6.
The Colorado River provides water for 5.5 million acres of irrigated agriculture and 40 million people across the West, including the residents of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Denver. For the past two decades, the Colorado River Basin has experienced historic drought conditions that have been exacerbated by climate change.
To address the near-term threat of water shortages and the increasingly rapid decline of water levels at the two primary reservoirs of the Colorado River – Lake Mead and Lake Powell – the Colorado River Basin states (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming) have worked over the past several years to develop the Drought Contingency Plan, a set of agreements outlining new water conservation measures in all seven Basin states and voluntary water contributions by Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!
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.