DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: The battle over CEQA, the state’s iconic environmental law; Mark Arax on chasing stories for his book: The Dreamt Land; Legislators want safe drinking water but can’t agree on how to fund it; Is it too late for the Salton Sea?; and more …

Salinas River, May 2019

In California water news this weekend, Weakling Or Bully? The Battle Over CEQA, The State’s Iconic Environmental Law; Radio show: Mark Arax On Chasing The Stories For His Fourth Book: The Dreamt Land; California Legislators Want Safe Drinking Water. They Haven’t Agreed On How To Fund It.; More storms eye California, western US into Memorial Day weekend; Oroville Dam is fine, despite what the internet says, says the Oroville Mercury Register; Siren songs of the Salton Sea: Ideas abound to fix state’s largest lake. But some say it’s too late; and more …

In the news this weekend …

Weakling Or Bully? The Battle Over CEQA, The State’s Iconic Environmental Law:  “In the rugged hills to the east of the Napa Valley, chainsaws and bulldozers converted a steep hillside of scrubby oak woodland and rockpiles into another vineyard.  “That was an incredible rock-hopping wonderland, with frothing, amazing, waterfalling cascades every time it rained—I mean, it should have been a park,” said nearby resident Kellie Anderson of what is now a plot of grapevines at Bremer Family Winery, in the small community of Deer Park.  Napa County’s Board of Supervisors in 2012 approved that project with a permit to remove more than 1,000 trees and import truckloads of soil to make the craggy landscape arable, without requiring an environmental impact report. These reports—involving expert inspections and assessments, detailed mitigation plans, and opportunity for public comment—are a key feature of the state’s signature environmental law: the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (see-kwa). ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Weakling Or Bully? The Battle Over CEQA, The State’s Iconic Environmental Law

Radio show: Mark Arax On Chasing The Stories For His Fourth Book: The Dreamt Land: “Today in our studio, the writer and journalist Mark Arax reads from “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California.” He also talks about the writer’s process and the magic and plunder, the defiance of the natural world, that shape water politics and agriculture in the state.”  Listen to radio show from Valley Public Radio here: Radio show: Mark Arax On Chasing The Stories For His Fourth Book: The Dreamt Land

California Legislators Want Safe Drinking Water. They Haven’t Agreed On How To Fund It.:  “A state senate committee is set to vote on a bill today that would address safe and affordable drinking water throughout California, a goal Governor Gavin Newsom has also prioritized in his proposed budget. Still to be decided is how to fund it.  Newsom has proposed taxing residential water users a dollar a month, and establishing “Safe Drinking Water Fees” for dairies, fertilizer users, and other animal farmers. Some water contaminants can be traced to agriculture and pesticide use, like nitrates and 1,2,3-TCP. But some contaminants are naturally occurring, like arsenic. … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  California Legislators Want Safe Drinking Water. They Haven’t Agreed On How To Fund It.

Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees Take Action on SB 669, Other Priority Water Bills:  “With a May 17 deadline for fiscal committees to meet and report to the floor bills introduced in their house, the Senate and Assembly Appropriations committees today took action on a number of priority bills that were on each committee’s suspense file.  The following summary provides an update on some of the bills that were acted upon today that are important to ACWA member agencies ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here:  Senate and Assembly Appropriations Committees Take Action on SB 669, Other Priority Water Bills

More storms eye California, western US into Memorial Day weekend:  “Additional storms bearing rain, locally gusty thunderstorms and high-elevation snow will take aim at California and the balance of the western United States into the Memorial Day weekend.  “A block in the jet stream is forcing storms to take a much more southern route onshore of western North America than usual for the latter part of May,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here:  More storms eye California, western US into Memorial Day weekend

Trump signs disaster declaration for flooded Northern California counties:  “President Trump signed a disaster declaration Saturday for 17 Northern California counties that endured battering rains and landslides this year, making them eligible for federal relief.  The move followed three emergency proclamations this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who directed Caltrans to seek federal assistance for a string of brutal February storms that doused rural areas across the state, damaging roads and bridges. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here:  Trump signs disaster declaration for flooded Northern California counties

Bernhardt On BLM Move West: ‘That’s Going To Happen’:  “Interior Secretary David Bernhardt expressed increasing certainty that potentially multiple agencies under his administration would see significant staff, if not entire the entire headquarters, moved west, out of Washington, D.C.  Bernhardt testified Wednesday before the Democratically-controlled House Natural Resources committee.  In discussing broader questions about the ongoing plans for reorganizing the Interior Department, Bernhardt told the committee that moving at least some staff from the Bureau of Land Management and possibly the U.S. Geological Survey was “going to happen.” ... ”  Read more from the Fairfield Sun Times here:  Bernhardt On BLM Move West: ‘That’s Going To Happen’

In commentary this weekend …

Oroville Dam is fine, despite what the internet says, says the Oroville Mercury Register:  They write, “Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably believe the next scare to come down the information highway.  So it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam spillway. The lake is close to full and another storm is rolling in, yet the reconstructed spillway isn’t being used. ... ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here:  Oroville Dam is fine, despite what the internet says

Experts: SGMA begins to affect land valuesTodd Fitchette writes,By now one would suspect that the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is “old news,” something that is firmly ensconced in the minds of farmers and real estate investors as the first of several deadlines loom.  Nevertheless, I understand from rural appraisers attending the recent Outlook Conference – the annual meeting of the California chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers – that SGMA was apparently not on the minds of everyone considering a farm real estate transaction last year. ... ” Continue reading at the Western Farm Press here:  Experts: SGMA begins to affect land values

Sunday podcast …

The Perspective from an Eye in the Sky: Steven Baker writes, “When you can see the impacts of pumping too much water from the cosmos, you know you have a developing problem. I met Jay Famiglietti, former Director of the Earth System Science in University of California, Irvine. We crossed paths soon after the Central Valley experienced severe drops in surface water allocations during the most recent California extended drought. Jay stated that scientists are now viewing groundwater from the outer limits of our planet’s atmosphere through the eyes of satellites.  And the results; well, they are truly frightening.  Jay can see groundwater depletion all over the world and this is a concern because it suggests a potential for the development of conflicts from the lack of available water. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”

Stephen J. Baker, producer of Operation Unite’s Living Water® radio series, “Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing”.  Operation Unite®; Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems; stevebaker@operationunite.co; 530-263-1007

In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Caltrout Gets Big State Grant to Return 950 Acres of Cannibal Island to Marshland:  “The North Coast regional office of statewide nonprofit conservation organization California Trout (CalTrout) has been awarded a grant of $802,886 to plan restoration of 950 acres of the Eel River estuary at Cannibal Island. The grant, awarded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and announced Monday, May 13, is part of $48.5 million awarded to 38 projects statewide for multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects under Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant programs. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here:  Caltrout Gets Big State Grant to Return 950 Acres of Cannibal Island to Marshland

Sacramento Valley: Almond, walnut, rice farmers face problems with persistent rain: With more upcoming storms this weekend and more rain into next week, local agriculture officials are in unison saying “rain rain go away.”  As the end of May nears, Butte County’s main agricultural drivers — almonds, walnuts and rice — will likely face some setbacks as more showers cause more precautions taken by farmers for the county’s multi-million dollar industry crops. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Almond, walnut, rice farmers face problems with persistent rain

Health of Napa County watersheds take center stage:  “Napa County’s latest watershed symposium came at a time when tensions are high over how to protect trees and reservoirs in the area’s mountains.  Close to 200 people from various backgrounds came to Copia on Thursday for an A-to-Z look at what’s happening in the watersheds. Scientists, elected officials, wine industry members and citizen activists all attended.  “We’re here to learn how to do better and do the best that we can,” county Board of Supervisors Chair Ryan Gregory told the group. … ”  Read more from the American Canyon Eagle here:  Health of Napa County watersheds take center stage

Russian River’s seasonal dam coming down again amid heavy rain, runoff:  “Two days of above-average spring rainfall in the North Bay have forced Sonoma County officials to begin deflating the seasonal dam across the Russian River, an about-face that comes less than a week after the rubber dam was fully inflated to serve the region’s drinking water system.  The move was made in anticipation of a spike in river flows over the weekend amid runoff from the latest storm system set to last through Sunday. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Russian River’s seasonal dam coming down again amid heavy rain, runoff

Marin water district nixes phase-in of controversial fee:  “The Marin Municipal Water District Board of Directors decided to stick to its original plan by choosing not to phase-in a controversial new fee it’s proposing for ratepayers.  The proposed “capital maintenance fee” would cost most ratepayers an extra $163 or $409 on their property tax bills each year and would be used to pay for replacing aging water pipes, pumps, treatment plants and tanks. The fixed fee, which would be based on water meter size, would also switch the district from using borrowed money to pay for repair and replacement projects — and passing along interest costs to ratepayers — to a cash-based system. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Marin water district nixes phase-in of controversial fee

Dow’s Pittsburg plant breaking environmental laws, groups say:  “Environmental groups are threatening to sue Dow Chemical Co., which they say is endangering residents near its manufacturing plant in Pittsburg by violating hazardous waste laws.  The groups — Communities for a Better Environment, the Environmental Integrity Project and Environmental Advocates — on Wednesday sent Dow a notice of intent to sue. They allege the manufacturing plant is burning hazardous materials and operating a wastewater treatment system without the proper permits. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Dow’s Pittsburg plant breaking environmental laws, groups say

Wastewater Treatment Plants in SF Bay Causing Problems:  “The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board updated its regulations on nutrient discharges into the San Francisco Bay watershed recently to protect the watershed from harmful effects of discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants and other sources.  Although San Francisco Bay is not impaired by nutrients, it is a nutrient-enriched estuary with higher nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations than most estuaries in the world. Too much nitrogen and phosphorous can lead to harmful algal blooms, which can release toxins to the Bay. Harmful algal blooms can also result in low dissolved oxygen or insufficient oxygen in the water to support aquatic life. ... ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today here:  Wastewater Treatment Plants in Delta Causing Problems

East Bay tech company wants to siphon, discharge San Francisco Bay waterA data storage company wants to siphon water from the bay here to cool its equipment, a process it says is greener and more sustainable than using traditional air cooling.  But the idea is not winning over some environmentalists, because the water will warm slightly by the time it’s returned to the bay and they say that could potentially damage marine wildlife.  Earlier this month, Nautilus Data Technologies of Pleasanton presented its idea for the project to the Alameda City Council, which must sign off on the innovative project. Nautilus wants to lease three buildings at the former U.S. Navy base and run about a mile of pipeline. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  East Bay tech company wants to siphon, discharge San Francisco Bay water

Pacific Grove set to sell $6.3 million in water credits, thanks to recycled water project.:  “In December 2016, Pacific Grove officials struck the ground with ceremonial gold shovels to mark the beginning of the city’s water recycling plant on Point Pinos. Even since, the promise of bringing water to town has been a constant goal.  Actually, the hope goes back several years when the plan to build the recycling plant was first proposed. It took planning and lots of negotiation with the California State Water Resources Board and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. The city used $2.5 million in state grants and $5.2 million in state loans to build the plant, which opened in December 2017. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here:  Pacific Grove set to sell $6.3 million in water credits, thanks to recycled water project.

Indian Wells Valley: Growth and program updates at Groundwater Authority meeting:  “The continued talk of growth in the Indian Wells Valley gained some traction at Thursday’s Groundwater Authority board meeting when its water resources manager provided an update on a grant program.  Steve Johnson, president of Stetson Engineers and the water resources manager, noted that two requests for proposals for Severely Disadvantaged Communities Act grant programs have garnered some potential bids.  According to Heather Steele with Stetson Engineers, there are two components to the SDAC grant the Groundwater Authority received along with its Prop. 1 grant to help develop a groundwater sustainability plan. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley: Growth and program updates at Groundwater Authority meeting

Los Angeles: A ‘culture of noncompliance’:  “The agency charged with monitoring water quality standards throughout the Greater Los Angeles region found that local cities have committed more than 2,000 water quality violations within a five-year period, but the violators suffered little if any consequences.  The lack of enforcement by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, according to Santa Monica-based environmental advocacy nonprofit the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), helped contribute to more than 100 million gallons of contaminated runoff spilling into the ocean.  The NRDC found in excess of 400 violations of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit at Santa Monica Pier, 78 violations at the Pico-Kanter stormwater station in Santa Monica, and 139 at Ballona Creek in Del Rey and Culver City. ... ”  Read more from the Argonaut here:  A ‘culture of noncompliance’

Water released from Seven Oaks Dam:  “On Saturday, May 11, the Santa Ana River was flowing fuller than usual when the Orange County Flood Control increased the amount of water released from Seven Oaks Dam from 120 cubic feet per second to 700 cubic feet per second.  Initially the six-day water release was scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 9, but it was postponed due to rain. ... ”  Read more from the Highland Community News here:  Water released from Seven Oaks Dam

Lawmakers advance bill to increase oversight on Cadiz’s Mojave Desert Water Project:  “A bill that could block a Los Angeles-based water supply company from pumping water out of a Mojave Desert aquifer passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, extending the years-long fight over whether the environmental impact of groundwater extraction merits additional scrutiny.  The entire State Senate will vote on S.B. 307 later in the legislative session and, if it passes, it will need to also be approved by the State Assembly and signed by the governor. ... ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here:  Lawmakers advance bill to increase oversight on Cadiz’s Mojave Desert Water Project

Siren songs of the Salton Sea: Ideas abound to fix state’s largest lake. But some say it’s too late:  “Wade Crowfoot, California’s new Secretary of Natural Resources, remembers the first time he saw the Salton Sea. He was in his early 30’s, headed south to visit his cousin in El Centro, when he saw “this huge body of water next to this stunning, stark landscape, with great mountains to the west. It captivated me.”  Jeff Geraci’s impressions of California’s largest inland water body are quite different. For 14 years, as the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s senior environmental scientist, he’s coordinated Salton Sea inspections. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Siren songs of the Salton Sea: Ideas abound to fix state’s largest lake. But some say it’s too late

Along the Colorado River …

Beer makers teaming up to protect Arizona’s water supply:  “The next time you grab a nice, cold beer, you may want to ask the brewer what work went into that glass.  There is a unique partnership happening in Arizona between farmers, those involved in the malting process, and brewers that is saving thousands of gallons of water from being taken from the Verde River.  One of those taking part in this water-conservation effort is farmer Kevin Hauser in Camp Verde. ... ”  Read more from ABC Channel 15 here:  Beer makers teaming up to protect Arizona’s water supply

Sunday video …

Precipitation watch …

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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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.

Maven’s Notebook
where California water news never goes home for the weekend

no weekends

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