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DAILY DIGEST: Water Board faces lawsuit over new wetlands rules; Drought left CA with ‘zombie trees’; IID board calls for plan to pull out of Coachella Valley; From emerging to emerged: What these contaminants mean for water sector; and more …

In California water news today, Water Board Faces Lawsuit Over New Wetlands Rules; Fire destroys Sierra Nevada cabin where CA measures snowpack; Drought left California with ‘zombie trees’; Westlands drainage deal sinks into doldrums; Imperial Irrigation District board calls for plan to pull out of Coachella Valley; From Emerging To Emerged: What These ‘Here Now’ Contaminants Mean For The Water Sector; In tree rings, signs that climate change started boosting drought risk long ago; The secret sauce of environmental problem solving; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

California Water Board Faces Lawsuit Over New Wetlands Rules: With the Trump administration trudging ahead and re-writing another Obama-era environmental law, wary California regulators last month approved new protections for wetlands in the Golden State. The decision by the State Water Resources Control Board came after 11 years of debate between the board, cities, farmers and environmentalists over how to best define and protect the state’s nearly vanished wetlands streams from being paved into extinction. … Hoping to freeze the new wetlands rules, a coalition consisting of several California water suppliers and the city of San Francisco sued the water board late Wednesday in state court. … ” Read more from Courthouse News Service here:  California Water Board Faces Lawsuit Over New Wetlands Rules

‘Lot of history.’ Fire destroys Sierra Nevada cabin where California measures snowpack:  “Carol Pearson’s backyard in the Sierra Nevada has witnessed more than its share of California history: It’s been a cattle ranch, stagecoach stop and post office.  The property, a peaceful meadow sitting at 6,820 feet elevation near Echo Summit, is also home to the state Department of Water Resources’ closely-watched Sierra Nevada snowpack survey — a monthly event that attracts hordes of reporters and photographers who tromp through the property on snowshoes. When then-Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to start conserving water during the epic drought, he made the announcement in Pearson’s yard. Pearson would usually watch the proceedings from the window of the small cabin, built in 1938, where she’s lived the past 20 years. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  ‘Lot of history.’ Fire destroys Sierra Nevada cabin where California measures snowpack

Drought left California with ‘zombie trees.’ Here’s how to spot them ­­– and help them:  ““Zombie trees” sound straight out of science fiction, but don’t worry: Your trees aren’t going to bite you. They’re just thirsty.  Although seven years of drought in California finally relented this March, high heat and lack of water have caused a severe decline in the health of some trees, with many now essentially suspended between life and death, Sacramento-area arborist Matt Morgan said.  “The whole zombie tree issue came about after years of drought stress,” Morgan, assistant district manager with The Davey Tree Expert Co., said. “They structurally declined and the health decreased to a point where the trees are just there right now.” ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Drought left California with ‘zombie trees.’ Here’s how to spot them ­­– and help them

Forecast calls for busy fire season along West Coast:  “Most of the country can expect a normal wildfire season but residents along the West Coast of the United States should be ready for another busy season, the National Interagency Fire Center said Wednesday.  California experienced its deadliest and largest wildfires in the past two years, including a fire in the northern part of the state last year that destroyed the town of Paradise, killing more than 80 people. It was the nation’s worst death toll from a wildfire in a century. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Forecast calls for busy fire season along West Coast

Westlands drainage deal sinks into doldrums:  “An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money with no relief in sight.  Though nearly four years have passed since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be measured in inches. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Westlands drainage deal sinks into doldrums

SAVE Water Resources Act floated by Harder:  “Representative Josh Harder has announced the Securing Access for the Central Valley and Enhancing (SAVE) Water Resources Act. The bill provides a wraparound approach to addressing water issues facing the Central Valley by increasing storage opportunities, spurring innovation, and making long-overdue investments in aging water infrastructure. Although water politics are often adversarial, Harder has spent months sourcing water ideas directly from a wide array of local stakeholders and experts to ensure the final bill attends to the needs of a diverse set of interests. The bill has broad bipartisan support from over a dozen local organizations and elected officials. ... ”  Read more from the Oakdale Leader here:  SAVE Water Resources Act floated by Harder

From Emerging To Emerged: What These ‘Here Now’ Contaminants Mean For The Water Sector:  “Emerging pollutants such as perfluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, nanomaterials, and microplastics are showing up in our wastewater, drinking water, food products, and even polar bear tissues. These compounds originate from a variety of sources that are part of daily human life, such as household products, solvents, food packaging materials, clothing treatments, and firefighting foams (Figure 1). While these emerging contaminants are typically present in drinking water at concentrations on the order of parts-per-billion or parts-per-trillion, improvements in monitoring and analytical chemistry methods that provide quantification of these pollutants at extremely low levels have brought attention to their prevalence … ”  Continue reading at Water Online here:  From Emerging To Emerged: What These ‘Here Now’ Contaminants Mean For The Water Sector

Not Justiciable: Federal District Judge Rules in Favor of Water Agencies on Latest Issues in the Agua Caliente Litigation:  “Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a decision in “Phase #2” of Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District et al., United States District Court for the Central District of California (District Court), Case No. 5:13-cv-00883-JGB-SP, finding that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Agua Caliente or Tribe) lacked standing to seek adjudication of its claim to quantification of its reserved groundwater right and its claim regarding groundwater quality.  A copy of the District Court decision is available here.  Although the Tribe may seek review in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the District Court decision is a victory for the local water agencies. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  Not Justiciable: Federal District Judge Rules in Favor of Water Agencies on Latest Issues in the Agua Caliente Litigation

CLIMATE CHANGE

California’s Latest Weapon Against Climate Change Is Low-Tech Farm Soil: “Electric cars and solar panels are the most visible signs of California’s ambitious climate change policies. But now the state is setting its sights on a lower-tech way to cut carbon emissions: soil.  It’s spending millions of dollars to help farmers grow plants, which absorb carbon and help move it into the soil where it can be stored long-term. This makes California home to some of the first official “carbon farmers” in the country.  Not that almond grower Jose Robles thinks of himself that way. … ”  Read more from NPR here: California’s Latest Weapon Against Climate Change Is Low-Tech Farm Soil

Climate change has contributed to droughts since 1900—and may get worse:  “Using studies of tree rings going back centuries, scientists have unearthed clear evidence that the rise of human-generated greenhouse gases was having an effect on global drought conditions as early as 1900.  A new, first-of-its-kind study by scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, largely confirms what climate models have shown. In the absence of strong historic data on precipitation, those computer models forecast not only future scenarios, but shed light on historical trends. ... ”  Read more from National Geographic here:  Climate change has contributed to droughts since 1900—and may get worse

In tree rings, signs that climate change started boosting drought risk long ago:  “Each spring, hikers flock to Figueroa Mountain, 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, to revel in the colorful displays of California poppies and purple lupine. But it’s the gnarled oaks of the rolling foothills that draw scientists.  Blue oaks can live for centuries, recording the history of the local climate in their wood. Now these trees and thousands of others around the world are helping researchers answer a difficult question: Has climate change amplified the risk of drought? … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  In tree rings, signs that climate change started boosting drought risk long ago

Burning Fossil Fuels Worsens Drought:  “California’s governor declared the end of the state’s 5-year drought emergency in April 2017, and the dry spell that at times covered more than half the state left many wondering whether climate change was to blame.  But scientists looking to answer that question often face a troubling conundrum: The earliest measurements of drought conditions were taken long after climate change had already begun reshaping the landscape.  “In order to know if something is unusual [in the present day], you generally have to rely on climate models to estimate preindustrial variability,” said climate scientist Kate Marvel at NASA and Columbia University. “I was interested in finding a way around that.” … ”  Read more at EOS here:  Burning Fossil Fuels Worsens Drought

In commentary today …

George Skelton: Newsom says he has a fresh approach to California’s longtime water woes:  “At first blush, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest action on water seems fanciful and naive. But it has logic and conceivably could work.  Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water warriors.  That’s a noble idea, but it seems highly unrealistic. Since statehood, water has historically been California’s most contentious issue — as it has been throughout the West. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  George Skelton: Newsom says he has a fresh approach to California’s longtime water woes

It’s OK to stop, take a deep breath on water policy, says the Modesto Bee:  They write, “Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts.  As with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the sides have mutually exclusive goals ... ”  Read more at the Modesto Bee here:  It’s OK to stop, take a deep breath on water policy

Congress needs to permanently fund land and water program to conserve public places, says Mary Creasman:  She writes, “Have you visited Woodward Park recently? The 300-acre park in Northeast Fresno is beloved by neighbors and visitors from all over the county who come to connect with nature and watch people connect with each other. Runners and cyclists traverse scenic trails along the San Joaquin River, as couples relax and enjoy the warm weather. Kids climb on playgrounds, pups run and play at the dog park, and families throw picnics and BBQs to celebrate special occasions.  The benefits of this special park exist thanks to a little known, but important federal program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was started 50 years ago with a simple yet brilliant goal: take money from oil and gas drilling and put it toward the conservation of America’s public lands, parks and other outdoor places. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Congress needs to permanently fund land and water program to conserve public places

Water is an economic issue, not just an environmental issue, say Glenn Hamer and Derek Miller:  They write, “Congress recently passed landmark, bipartisan legislation to protect the Colorado River system and the nearly one in eight Americans who rely on it for their drinking water and livelihoods. The Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) provides crucial stability for a river system that spans seven states, two countries and supports thousands of American companies, communities and ecosystems across the West.  The region has been buffeted by 20 years of persistent drought. Winter snows this year bring some relief, but the two main reservoirs on the Colorado River are less than half full. Continuing drought would trigger mandatory delivery cuts and could lead to a “shortage” declaration with impacts to our water use and supplies. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Water is an economic issue, not just an environmental issue

The secret sauce of environmental problem solving:  David Wilkie writes, ““Enough! Cut it with the prima donna nonsense. There is no ‘I’ in TEAM!”  I can still see Mr. Stephensen railing at me and my rugby squad as we stood shivering in the rain and covered in mud, after being beaten by a school we should have trounced. “It’s teamwork, collaboration that makes us mighty, better than the sum of our parts. We can always do better when we do it together.”  That is true in rugby, but is it true in science? My earliest heroes were Gregor Mendel, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, E.O. Wilson, Rachel Carson and Margaret Mead. All seemed to be loners, solitary strivers, mulling and solving life’s hardest problems, and doing so largely by themselves.  What would they think of the growing calls for more collaborative science? … ”  Read more from Cool Green Science here:  The secret sauce of environmental problem solving

In regional news and commentary today …

Klamath Dam removal opponents keep up their fight:  “As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.  KRRC said they have contracted with Fairfield’s Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. for the design and implementation of dam removal, which they admit is “contingent on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of a license transfer and license surrender, as well as other regulatory permits.” … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Klamath Dam removal opponents keep up their fight

Mt. Shasta location has most precip in the state:  “In a weather anomaly for the season, Stouts Meadow, located near the headwaters of the McCloud River at 5,400 feet, took over first place this week for the highest precipitation in California.  The certified weather station at Stouts Meadow has recorded 111.58 inches of precipitation this season, reported the US Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the station. ... ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Mt. Shasta location has most precip in the state

Paradise residents urged not to use water after tests found high levels of cancer-causing contaminants:  “Robin Giusti expects to live through wildfires. It’s something that comes with living in a heavily forested area like Paradise, Calif. What she did not expect is the conditions in which she would be living six months after her house was left untouched by the Camp Fire.  Giusti and the hundreds of people still living in Paradise (around 26,000 people lived there before the Camp Fire, according to census data), are now dealing with a clean water issue after contaminants were found in testing. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here:  Paradise residents urged not to use water after tests found high levels of cancer-causing contaminants

Yuba Water Agency approves $2.1 million for levee:  “A stretch of levee along the Bear River near Wheatland, which almost broke during high-water events in 1986, has been in need of repair ever since.  The Yuba Water Agency recently approved $2.1 million in funding to help Reclamation District 817 build a setback levee, which will further reduce flood risk and improve habitat along the river. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Yuba Water Agency approves $2.1 million for levee

Fish reported to be using Fremont Weir again:  “Yes, some fish died — including endangered Chinook salmon — but overall rebuilding the Fremont Weir has done its job and saved hundred of others.  That was the response of Allen Young, public information officer for the California Department of Water Resources, after reports surfaced last week that at least 13 Chinook salmon and other fish couldn’t make it through the weir designed to get them safely into the Sacramento River and died. ... ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Fish reported to be using Fremont Weir again

Solano ag tour covers 20,000 years of soil, water, land-use changes:  “The story of Solano County’s evolution can be found in its soils – from the top of Dixon Ridge to the Delta basin.  Four dozen area officials and residents took a tour of that history, a geographical narrative that has been influenced and edited by water, land uses and policy decisions that will take the county into the future.  “When we talk about soils, we are not only talking about the last 20, 30 years . . . but the last 20,000 years,” said David Kelley, a soil scientist and arborist, who served as one of the guides of the bus tour that left the Solano County Water Agency offices at 8:20 a.m. Tuesday. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here:  Solano ag tour covers 20,000 years of soil, water, land-use changes

Corte Madera launches climate change planning process:  “As the intensity and frequency of fires, floods and other environmental disasters continues statewide, Corte Madera officials are creating a blueprint for how the town will respond, and they’re asking for help.  The first community workshops for Corte Madera’s “Climate Adaptation Plan” are scheduled for next week. But those forums, which will give residents a chance to interface with town officials about their concerns and ideas, are just the beginning of an 18-month planning process.  “A plan like this, which looks far into the future and involves the residents, business owners and other community stakeholders, takes some time to develop,” said Peter Brown, director of the town’s public works department. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Corte Madera launches climate change planning process

Even after all that rain, San Francisco barely broke even for the winter: “It’s May 1, which means that even though there’s a system in the Pacific brewing at the moment, most of California is statistically unlikely to get much more rain until the fall. And what a rainy winter, right?  Not really.  Technically, the water year runs from Oct. 1-Sept. 30, which can skew the figures a bit. But as of April 30, Downtown San Francisco had received 23.78 inches of rain since July 1, 2018 — which represents 104 percent of the usual 22.79 inches we typically receive during that time period and 101 percent of the 23.65 inches the city typically receives during the wet season. ... ”  Read more from SF Weekly here:  Even after all that rain, San Francisco barely broke even for the winter

Blueprint to battle Bay Area sea-level rise focuses on natural solutions:  “A blueprint outlining how San Francisco Bay communities should combat sea-level rise was released early Thursday by ecosystem scientists and urban planners who envision a ring of man-made reefs, rocky beaches and graded marshlands around the largest estuary on the Pacific coast.  The carefully designed features, outlined in the 255-page San Francisco Bay Shoreline Adaptation Atlas, would in many cases replace or bury seawalls, rip rap, culverts and other crude fortifications that experts say won’t hold up as the climate warms and water rises. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Blueprint to battle Bay Area sea-level rise focuses on natural solutions

Monterey County board backs small water system treatment rules on temporary basis:  “County supervisors backed an ordinance that would regulate alternative water treatment options for contaminated small water systems on a trial basis amid public concerns regarding the potential cost and complexity of the proposed rules.  The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to move forward with an 18-month pilot program aimed at implementing the proposed ordinance governing point-of-use and point-of-entry treatment systems, and gauging its impact on the community. The board also postponed adoption of the ordinance until June 18, to allow for more public outreach  to address concerns expressed by several speakers during Tuesday’s public hearing. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here:  Monterey County board backs small water system treatment rules on temporary basis

Santa Maria residents asked to reduce usage of water softeners:  “Santa Maria residents are being asked by the city to cut down on the amount of water softeners used through the end of the year.  City officials say the city will begin delivering better-quality municipal water with a lower mineral content.  Using water softeners in addition to this new municipal water could be damaging to pipes and fixtures. ... ”  Read more from KEYT here:  Santa Maria residents asked to reduce usage of water softeners

Owens Valley:  A spring ritual: Groundwater discussions underway:  “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking off a series of events that historically has ended with a volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions will be used in the valley for irrigation, enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.  Total water export to Los Angeles, based on an estimate of 137-percent of normal, is 374,300 acre-feet supplying 66-percent of the City’s water needs.  The next step, Inyo County’s Water Department releases its comments on the plan. That happened yesterday. And, true to form, Inyo recommended a volume less than LADWP’s maximum. ... ”  Read more from Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley:  A spring ritual: Groundwater discussions underway

Hopes higher, but skepticism remains at Devil’s Gate safety meeting:  “When concerned La Cañada residents attended a meeting in December to learn about the county’s plans to remove more than 2.8 million tons of sediment from nearby Devil’s Gate Dam starting this spring, fear and anxiety predominated.  Many hadn’t heard about the project and didn’t know diesel trucks would haul sediment loads near schools and recreation areas in hundreds of daily trips eight months out of the year for up to four years.  By contrast, at a second meeting at La Cañada High School Tuesday, community members seemed somewhat bolstered by recent local efforts to monitor project emissions, keep a watchful eye on hauler trucks and raise the red flag at the first sign of warning. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Hopes higher, but skepticism remains at Devil’s Gate safety meeting

Years Into Tijuana Sewage Crisis, California Senators Call for Federal Help:  “A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the Tijuana River, which then flows into the Pacific Ocean.  California Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Susan Davis, D-San Diego, and Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, co-signed the letter addressed to the directors of the U.S. Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees bodies of water that traverse the U.S.-Mexico border. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego here:  Years Into Tijuana Sewage Crisis, California Senators Call for Federal Help

Along the Colorado River …

Imperial Irrigation District board calls for plan to pull out of Coachella Valley:  “Imperial Irrigation District Board President Erik Ortega proposed withdrawing electricity services from the Coachella Valley at a Tuesday board meeting following debates over how the region’s ratepayers are represented on the district’s board. … In addition to providing the region electricity, IID also manages the Imperial Valley’s Colorado River water, which it sells both internally as well as to the Coachella Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  Imperial Irrigation District board calls for plan to pull out of Coachella Valley

Can Arizona fix its water problems? Here’s what (and who) will answer that:  Joanna Allhands writes, “The drought contingency plan is in the can (well, mostly), and an unusually wet winter means we’ll likely avoid the water shortage declaration everyone was expecting in 2020.  If this were the past, we’d take a few months off to revel in our success.  But thank goodness we’re not living in the past.  Arizona’s water leaders know that the drought plan didn’t solve anything. It simply bought us time to complete even more difficult work. And they’re already rolling up their sleeves. ... ”  Read more from Arizona Central here:  Can Arizona fix its water problems? Here’s what (and who) will answer that

And lastly …

West Lawn man used magnets to steal 63 million gallons of water in Reading, police say:  “A West Lawn developer has been charged after investigators said he stole millions of gallons of water, worth about $800,000, from the Reading Area Water Authority by manipulating meters in his buildings with magnets.  Bruce Becker, 62, of the 100 block of Grande Boulevard was charged Thursday with a felony charge of theft of services and a misdemeanor count of possessing an instrument of a crime, according to court documents. … ”  Read more from the Reading Eagle here:  West Lawn man used magnets to steal 63 million gallons of water in Reading, police say

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

SCIENCE NEWS: Trucking is mucking up chinook salmon diversity; USFWS joins partnership to restore native habitat after Thomas fire; Natural landscapes? Scientists call for a paradigm shift in restoration projects; The secret sauce of environmental problem solving; and more …

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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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