DAILY DIGEST: A Little-known company is quietly making massive water deals; Many large NorCal reservoirs nearly full, still lots of snow to play in; In Trump vs. CA, the state is winning nearly all of its environmental cases; and more …

In California water news today, A Little-Known Company is Quietly Making Massive Water Deals; Many large Northern California reservoirs nearly full; There’s still lots of snow to play in at Lake Tahoe. Here’s where to find it; A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley; Radio Show: It’s Official: Gov. Newsom Pulls Permits for Brown’s Twin Tunnels Project; USDA report calls for more tech in U.S. farms; In Trump vs. California, the state is winning nearly all of its environmental cases; There’s Dust In Colorado’s Record-Setting Winter Snowpack; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The State Board of Food and Ag meets this morning beginning at 10am.  The Board will be discussing water impacts to the San Joaquin Valley and innovations in floodplain reactivation, among other items.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

A Little-Known Company is Quietly Making Massive Water Deals:  “In 2011, Harvard University and a small private company began buying up rights to the West’s most important water source: the Colorado River.  Within a year, they owned nearly 13,000 acres near the small Riverside County farming community of Blythe.  Farmers in Blythe and the surrounding Palo Verde Valley are supposed to keep getting water even after nearly everyone else in the Southwestern United States runs dry. That’s thanks to a complex and bizarre system of water rights that California, six other states and Mexico use to share the Colorado.  Harvard’s partner in the deal was Los Angeles-based Renewable Resources Group, a quiet but increasingly important developer of water, energy and farming projects. Renewable has found ways to speculate on and make lots of money from land deals that involve water. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  A Little-Known Company is Quietly Making Massive Water Deals

Many large Northern California reservoirs nearly full: “We’ve made it through most of the prime water season and have had a few blockbuster winter storms. For many large reservoirs in California the mission for reservoirs switches from flood control to water storage and there isn’t much room left for storage.  All major Northern California Reservoirs are more than 90 percent full and many will reach capacity in a month or so.  … ”  Read more from ABC Channel 10 here: Many large Northern California reservoirs nearly full

There’s still lots of snow to play in at Lake Tahoe. Here’s where to find it:  “With snow plows gone and shovels safely stored, Sierra Nevada locals are sharing a “Thank goodness that’s over” sigh and celebrating all that’s left: Great conditions for just about every mountain sport you can imagine.  The season’s final snowpack tally on Thursday at Phillips Station south of Lake Tahoe – 47 inches, and 188 percent of average – proves there’s still enough time to turn one day in the mountains into a year’s worth of adventures.  … ” Read more from the Mercury News here:  There’s still lots of snow to play in at Lake Tahoe. Here’s where to find it

A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley:  “A small Cessna soared high above the Mojave Desert recently, its engine growling in the choppy morning air. As the aircraft skirted the mountains on the edge of Death Valley National Park, a clutch of passengers and environmentalists peered intently at a broiling salt flat thousands of feet below.  The desolate beauty of the Panamint Valley has long drawn all manner of naturalists, adventurers and social outcasts — including Charles Manson — off-road vehicle riders and top gun fighter pilots who blast overhead in simulated dogfights. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley

Radio Show: It’s Official: Gov. Newsom Pulls Permits for Brown’s Twin Tunnels Project:  “The Newsom administration has withdrawn permit applications for former Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Earlier this year, Gov. Newsom signaled his support for a smaller, one-tunnel plan, which is now in the beginning stages of environmental review. We’ll get the latest on the project and how the change from two tunnels to one will affect the Delta estuary and water access across the state.”  Paul Rogers joins Michael Krasny on Forum.  Listen here:  It’s Official: Gov. Newsom Pulls Permits for Brown’s Twin Tunnels Project

Update on Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project:  “The Department of Water Resources (DWR) in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and in coordination with California Department of Fish and Wildlife has begun launching a new, first-of-its kind structure for California that aims to address a long-standing conflict between infrastructure and ecosystems.  The Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project provides a new channel to minimize fish stranding. … ”  Read more from the Department of Water Resources here:  Update on Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project

Hundreds Of California Species At Risk Of Extinction, United Nations Report Says — In Addition To Millions Globally:  “More than a million species are at risk of extinction globally, including hundreds in California. That’s what the United Nations revealed on Monday.  “The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history,” the authors wrote in a summary of the report, which compiled of thousands of scientific papers.  In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346 species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Hundreds Of California Species At Risk Of Extinction, United Nations Report Says — In Addition To Millions Globally

AGRICULTURE

USDA report calls for more tech in U.S. farms:  “The United States Department of Agriculture this week released a report that touts major potential benefits to the nation’s agricultural economy through bringing fast broadband internet to more farms in the U.S.  The USDA report, released Tuesday, finds that between $47 billion and $65 billion could be added to the U.S. agricultural economy annually if infrastructure for what the report calls “precision agriculture”—a term for farming practices that emphasize digitally-based data collection and e-connectivity (often via broadband)—is deployed in rural agricultural economies on a large scale. Financial estimates were not provided in the report for state or county economies. … ”  Read more from the Lake County Record-Bee here:  USDA report calls for more tech in U.S. farms

Is vertical farming a solution for feeding our growing cities? With the world’s population estimated to reach 9.8 million people by 2050, is vertical farming a viable option for feeding our rapidly growing cities while keeping us from committing climate suicide?  City life is in demand. According to the United Nations, 3 million people all over the world are moving to cities every week, and this number is expected to keep increasing. The UN predicts that, in 15 to 30 years, two-thirds of the world will be living in cities.  The U.S. is no different — we love our cities too. Today, 82% of Americans live in medium or large-sized cities, and this percentage is expected to spike in the future as well. Where we get our food to feed these growing cities will play a major role in whether we achieve our climate goals under the Paris Agreement or not. ... ”  Read more from The Aggie here:  Is vertical farming a solution for feeding our growing cities? 

There is social and financial value in farmland preservation practices:  “The multiplicity of benefits associated with conservation practices are numerous. From the beginnings of human civilization, farmers have been stewards of the land and quite often served as its most steadfast guardian. But in addition to the social values ascribed good stewardship, the federal government also offers a number of payment-driven programs that encourage farmers and landowners to offer the ground a relief.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are a diverse series of offerings that partner cash-incentives with ecological stewardship for the purpose of improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and increasing habitats for endangered and threatened species. ... ”  Read more from Ag Daily here:  There is social and financial value in farmland preservation practices

NATIONAL/GENERAL INTEREST

In Trump vs. California, the state is winning nearly all of its environmental cases:  “More than two years into the Trump presidency, California has embraced its role as chief antagonist — already suing the administration more times than Texas took President Obama to court during eight years in office.  It’s having an effect.  California’s lawsuits have targeted the administration’s policies on immigration, healthcare and education. But nowhere has the legal battle had a greater impact than on Trump’s agenda of dismantling Obama-era environmental and public health regulations. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  In Trump vs. California, the state is winning nearly all of its environmental cases:

Legal Corner: The Good and Bad News about EPA’s Proposed WOTUS Rule:The U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers issued the long awaited proposed waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule on Feb. 14, 2019. Settling the WOTUS question is a major priority for the Trump administration. The Proposed Rule has sweeping implications and affects all promulgated Clean Water Act (CWA) regulatory provisions including EPA rules at 40 CFR Parts 110, 112, 116, 117, 122, 230, 232, 300, 302, and 401 and Corps rules at 33 CFR Part 328. These rules address everything from spills, releases and reporting to permitting and enforcement, and affect the jurisdictional status of every water feature in the United States. ... ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: Legal Corner: The Good and Bad News about EPA’s Proposed WOTUS Rule

After 3 Years in the Ocean, These Supposedly Biodegradable Bags Are Still Intact:  “The average person uses a typical plastic bag for as short a time as 12 minutes before throwing it away, never thinking of where it may end up.  Yet once consigned to a landfill, that standard grocery store tote takes hundreds or thousands of years to break down — much more than a human lifetime. Bags make up an alarming amount of the plastic found in whale stomachs or bird nests, and it’s no wonder — globally, we use between 1 and 5 trillion plastic bags each year. ... ”  Read more from KQED here: After 3 Years in the Ocean, These Supposedly Biodegradable Bags Are Still Intact

Weighing water from space:  “Imagine the sea on a still day, calmer than you have ever seen it, with no wind to stir its surface, and no currents or tides to disturb its depths. Now imagine that the sea has risen to cover the whole face of the planet, submerging the continents and even the highest mountain peaks. What you are seeing approximates the “geoid” – a surface that joins all of the points on the Earth where the strength of gravity is the same. The geoid is the level that a hypothetical global ocean would attain in the absence of forces such as tides, winds and currents, influenced only by gravity and the rotation of the Earth. … ”  Read more from Physics World here:  Weighing water from space

Climate impacts:  Record floods worsened by warming and levees. ‘How idiotic’“Is climate change exacerbating record flooding along the Mississippi River that’s ravaging parts of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri?  Yes, it is, experts say.  A snow-slogged and rainy springtime in the Midwest has helped drive the river to heights not seen since the Great Flood of 1993. But the exact role that rising temperatures are having on this year’s flooding is an open question.  “There’s no question in my mind that there’s something going on,” Gerald Galloway, a civil engineering professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Disaster Resilience and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Mississippi River’s hydrology, said in a telephone interview. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Climate impacts:  Record floods worsened by warming and levees. ‘How idiotic

In commentary today …

From the twin tunnels to an only child:  Ry Rivard writes, “Southern California water officials and members of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration worried last year that the next governor would kill their $17 billion plan to build two tunnels to carry water south from Northern California.  Rightly so.  Gov. Gavin Newsom officially killed the twin tunnels plan last week. He’d announced that decision in February during his State of the State address, but his administration on Thursday withdrew the proposed permits, killing the project.  His administration said in a press release that it “will” build one tunnel, instead of two.  The “will” is a word to watch. The safest bet about what will happen with this project is nothing. ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  From the twin tunnels to an only child

In regional news and commentary today …

North Coast rail legal settlement to protect health of Eel and Russian River watersheds, advance Great Redwood Trail Project:  “The North Coast Rail Authority agreed in late April to a legal settlement with non-profit organizations Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics that ended an eight-year legal battle that included issues brought before both the California and U.S. Supreme Courts.  The NCRA Board of Directors voted unanimously on April 10 to accept the settlement agreement that was then approved by the Marin County Superior Court on April 22.  The settlement that brought this protracted legal battle to a close will protect the fragile Eel River Canyon, conserve native fish habitat and bring economic benefits to five North Coast counties. ... ”  Read more from the Lake County News here:  North Coast rail legal settlement to protect health of Eel and Russian River watersheds, advance Great Redwood Trail Project

The Napa-Sonoma marshes are teaming with wildlife:  “Once one of most extensive wetland areas in North America, the edges of the San Francisco Bay have become covered with farms, industry, and urban areas, squeezing out the marches and their animal and plant occupants.  But at the lower end of the Napa River, a remarkable effort is underway to undo a century and half of damage to the once-thriving marshes.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, has been gradually increasing the size of the tidal marshes with planned, deliberate restoration and flooding. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  The Napa-Sonoma marshes are teaming with wildlife

Yuba County: Breach in Forbestown Ditch stops water from flowing into treatment pond: “A breach in the Forbestown Ditch last week stopped water from flowing into the treatment pond, but hasn’t yet stopped water from getting to about 2,500 customers, according to a press release from the North Yuba Water District.  The breach, located north of the district’s water treatment plant stopped flow into the pond that serves the residents of Forbestown, Brownsville, Challenge and Rackerby, but there is ample stored water to cover until repairs are competed. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here:  Breach in Forbestown Ditch stops water from flowing into treatment pond

Cosumnes River Preserve: Unique partnership preserves unique California ecosystem:  “Before California’s Central Valley became known as an agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North America. Vast forests of valley oaks covered the river systems and large expanses of freshwater wetlands covered the valley floor, which was an important stopover for migratory birds.  Much of that landscape has been transformed into farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide resources for a variety of wildlife. … ”  Read more from The Wildlife Society here:  Cosumnes River Preserve: Unique partnership preserves unique California ecosystem

Mark Twain’s Celebrated Red-Legged Frogs Staging a Comeback in Yosemite Valley: “Red-legged frogs made famous by Mark Twain are once again roaming around Yosemite Valley after a half-century absence.  Ecologists this spring found clusters of eggs in meadows and ponds, proof of the first breeding by the frogs in Yosemite since 2017, when adult red-legged frogs were reintroduced after a 50-year absence, Yosemite National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds said Monday.  “It’s unusual to find eggs in any location and to find them this soon is a strong indication that red-legged frogs are adapting successfully to the riparian areas where we reintroduced them,” Reynolds said. …”  Read more from KQED here:  Mark Twain’s Celebrated Red-Legged Frogs Staging a Comeback in Yosemite Valley

Kern River Fish Hatchery to focus on native trout strain:  “California wildlife authorities say new facilities built at the state’s Kern River Hatchery will allow breeding of Kern River rainbow trout that will be planted throughout the Kern River Basin.  The program will allow the territory to be stocked with its native fish rather than domesticated strains.  “The goal is to not only provide fishing opportunity but help with the restocking of a native strain of rainbow trout to native watersheds,” hatchery manager Tony Holland said in a Department of Fish and Wildlife statement. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Kern River Fish Hatchery to focus on native trout strain

Pasadena: The End of California’s Drought Shouldn’t Mean the Importance of Water is Forgotten, City Officials Say:  “Pasadena Water and Power is partnering with the City’s Department of Public Health in celebrating the month of May as Water Awareness Month, and Wednesday, May 8, as Rethink Your Drink Day.  PWP General Manager Gurcharan Bawa said the utility plans to engage with community organizations in Pasadena during the entire month in an effort to educate people about the importance of water as a precious resource.  Water Awareness Month was established in 1989 to encourage conservation and highlight the value of reliable, high-quality water. ... ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here:  Pasadena: The End of California’s Drought Shouldn’t Mean the Importance of Water is Forgotten, City Officials Say

Southern California: NRDC accuses regional regulators of lax enforcement:  “A new report is accusing the regional board that regulates the quality of Los Angeles’s water of not taking enough action against cities and industrial facilities that pollute coastal waters and inland watersheds.  When it rains in a city like Los Angeles that is largely paved over, the water passes over streets and sidewalks, collecting bacteria, trash, metals, herbicide and other pollutants, eventually draining into rivers and the ocean. Santa Monica State Beach has historically been heavily polluted from stormwater runoff and has the highest levels of bacteria of any beach in the area. Such elevated levels of bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illnesses in humans and hurt the aquatic ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the NRDC here:  Southern California: NRDC accuses regional regulators of lax enforcement

IID Controversy: Assembly Member Garcia Proposes Negotiations: “State Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia says he wants to “facilitate” negotiations more than a decade early on a 99-year compromise between the Imperial Irrigation District and a Coachella water agency that spells out how IID provides electric power to Coachella Valley.  IID President Erik Ortega, however, said he is not “comfortable” with Garcia’s sudden urgency to reopen talks on the 1934 compact with the Coachella Valley Water District. He told this newspaper on May 3 he believes Garcia is motivated by seeing some level of Riverside County representation on the IID’s board. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: IID Controversy: Assembly Member Garcia Proposes Negotiations

Along the Colorado River …

There’s Dust In Colorado’s Record-Setting Winter Snowpack:  “Snowpack in every part of Colorado’s high country is sporting layers of dust, according to a new statewide survey of the state’s winter accumulation.  “This is a low frequency dust season,” wrote Jeff Derry, head of the Colorado Dust on Snow Program, in a post about the survey results. “But may be a high consequence snowmelt season.”  Dust is darker than snow. Just like a black T-shirt on a sunny day, it absorbs more sunlight, causing what’s underneath it to heat up more rapidly. … ”  Read more from KUNC here:  There’s Dust In Colorado’s Record-Setting Winter Snowpack

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

BLOG ROUND-UP: The California Water Model: Resilience through Failure; Cal Water Fix is dead, what’s next?; Groundwater recharge in the SGMA era; Lawns are the No. 1 irrigated ‘crop’ in America, they need to die; 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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