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DAILY DIGEST: NorCal reservoirs approaching capacity with more snow in Sierra; An abandoned mine near Joshua Tree could host a massive hydropower project; Water rights dispute over Santa Margarita River ends after 70 years; EPA: Former chiefs say agency ‘ripe for oversight’; and more …

In California water news today, NorCal reservoirs approaching capacity with more snow in Sierra; An abandoned mine near Joshua Tree could host a massive hydropower project; Dodd plan to improve water management clears senate; California’s Unusually Wet Spring Is Delaying, Damaging Crops; Climate change and ag: Working together is recipe for success; EPA: Former chiefs say agency ‘ripe for oversight’; Can a drone reveal the murky secrets of San Francisco Bay?; Water-rights dispute between Fallbrook, Camp Pendleton ends after nearly 70 years; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Designing California’s Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms Monitoring Approach – what can we learn from other areas of the US? from 10am to 12pm.  Presented by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.  Click here for more information.
  • BROWN BAG SEMINAR/WEBINAR: The Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership: Sharing Three Decades of What’s Worked from 12pm to 1pm. This seminar will discuss water quality issues and governance around Chesapeake Bay. How can we use lessons learned from the Chesapeake Bay in the Bay-Delta system?  For more information, click here.
  • SoCal Water Dialogue: LA Mayor Garcetti’s Goal – LA to Recycle 100% of its Wastewater by 2035 from 12pm to 1pm.  Click here for more information.
  • Sonoma County Climate Change and Groundwater Workshop from 4pm to 6pm.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

NorCal reservoirs approaching capacity with more snow in Sierra:  “With more rain and snow in the forecast this week, managers continue to release water from Northern California reservoirs.  Most lakes in the northern half of the state are approaching capacity with significant runoff still pouring in from the snowcapped Sierra crest. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: NorCal reservoirs approaching capacity with more snow in Sierra

An abandoned mine near Joshua Tree could host a massive hydropower project:  “An abandoned iron mine on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National Park could be repurposed as a massive hydroelectric power plant under a bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature.  Senate Bill 772, which was approved by a panel of lawmakers last week with no dissenting votes, would require California to build energy projects that can store large amounts of power for long periods of time. It’s a type of technology the state is likely to need as utility companies buy more and more energy from solar and wind farms, which generate electricity only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  An abandoned mine near Joshua Tree could host a massive hydropower project

Dodd plan to improve water management clears senate:  “Legislation from State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would help the state manage its water, protecting the precious resource for people and the environment, cleared the full Senate Monday afternoon.  “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Sen. Dodd said. “Stream gages provide important information in this era of droughts and flooding, driven in part by climate change. This bill is an important step toward managing our water for the long run.” … ”  Read more from the Davis Enterprise here:  Dodd plan to improve water management clears senate

MAY RAINS

California’s Unusually Wet Spring Is Delaying, Damaging Crops:  “California growers are frustrated by an unusually wet spring that has delayed the planting of some crops like rice and damaged others including strawberries and wine grapes.  The state’s wet conditions come as much of the West is experiencing weird weather. Colorado and Wyoming got an unusually late dump of snow this week. Meanwhile temperatures in Phoenix have dropped 15 degrees below normal. Large swaths of California have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, the National Weather Service said. A series of storms soaked much of Colusa County where rice grower Kurt Richter was forced to wait weeks to seed his land. ... ”  Read more from KTLA here:  California’s Unusually Wet Spring Is Delaying, Damaging Crops

May is proving to be a wet blanket for California — and more rain is on the way:  “The calendar shows it’s almost Memorial Day — typically beach weather in Southern California — but gray skies are signaling that unusually chilly temperatures and rain will stick around a bit longer during a month that has already broken precipitation records.  The forecast this month has been a doozy in California with rain, hail and snow falling across much of the Golden State two months after the end of winter. Large swaths of the state, including parts of Los Angeles, have seen two to five times more precipitation than is normal for this point in May, according to the National Weather Service. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  May is proving to be a wet blanket for California — and more rain is on the way

The science behind why California has been soaked by storms this May:  “Blame it on the jet stream.  The high-altitude river of fast-moving air running from the Pacific across the United States is one of the key factors playing into California’s unusually wet and snowy May.  By late spring, the Pacific jet stream is typically rushing over the Northwest, but this year its trajectory never shifted to the north and remains over California, hurling storms from the Pacific Ocean onshore.  “It’s very unusual for all of California to be getting any rain at all this late in May,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”It’s because the jet stream has been very strong and moving west to east at lower latitudes. These storms are usually occurring further north in Washington and Oregon.” … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  The science behind why California has been soaked by storms this May

AGRICULTURE

Almond growers learn about their ‘largest challenge’: “Because trying to understand and comply with a multitude of water regulations takes up a greater proportion of farmers’ time and attention, the Almond Board of California invited farmers and water specialists to a Central Valley seminar intended to help clarify topics including groundwater sustainability, management of salts and nitrates, new flow requirements under the state’s bay-delta plan and the future of water in California.  The session, “Navigating the Waters,” drew a crowd of about 150 farmers to the International Agri-Center in Tulare last week, where attendees heard from water-agency leaders, state water officials, farmers and others on a range of topics with the goal of helping almond growers make informed water decisions. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Almond growers learn about their ‘largest challenge’

May rains hit cherries, threaten other crops:  “California was cruising for a bumper cherry crop this spring. Then the state’s latest atmospheric river showed up.  Growers in San Joaquin County said it’s too soon to know how much of a hit the crop will take. Rain can cause cherries to split down the side or along the stem, rendering them unsalable except for processing. As Ag Alert® reported earlier this month, California cherry farmers were expecting to ship an estimated 10.5 million boxes, according to Lodi grower-packer-shipper Rivermaid Trading Co.  “It’s kind of hard to say exactly what’s going to happen at this point,” cherry farmer Jake Samuel of Linden said, noting that some people are still picking early varieties, such as Corals and Tulares. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  May rains hit cherries, threaten other crops

Cow manure: An unexpected climate solution:  “Historically one of the most polluting industries in California, dairy farms are fixing how they contribute to climate change.  And they are doing it with manure.  California is the country’s dairy capital, pumping a fifth of America’s milk. Those dairies, however, also produce more than half of the state’s emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas. It comes in roughly equal amounts from both the front of cows — in burps — and the back — in manure. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Cow manure: An unexpected climate solution

Climate change and ag: Working together is recipe for success:  “Agriculture has an opportunity to lead on climate change, said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, during today’s hearing “Climate Change and the Agriculture Sector.”  The importance of agriculture to the overall U.S. economy can not be overstated, explained Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. The bounty produced by American agriculture engages 43 million people – 28% of the U.S. workforce works in agriculture and agricultural-related industries. Food security is a basic building block of national security. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Climate change and ag: Working together is recipe for success

How Cover Crops Can Help Farmers, Protect Drinking Water and Fight Climate Change:  “As farmers struggle with a plummeting farm economy in the wake of President Trump’s trade war, the administration is rushing to send a second round of cash payments – reportedly totaling $15 billion to $20 billion – to farmers across the nation.  Trump’s tariffs are hitting farmers as they are also struggling with floods, drought and other extreme weather conditions accelerated by climate change – the subject of a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Meanwhile, farm country is plagued by a public health crisis, as chemical runoff from croplands contaminates sources of drinking water for millions of Americans. … ”  Read more from Ag Mag here:  How Cover Crops Can Help Farmers, Protect Drinking Water and Fight Climate Change

NATIONAL

Can tribes sue the government over climate change? Over the years that Ray Fryberg Sr. has worked at the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department, he’s watched climate change subtly reshape the region. Located near the cool waters of Puget Sound in Washington state, the tribe is actively dealing with the already-apparent transformation of traditional territories: eroding shorelines, rising spring tides and warming waters that hurt salmon by pushing food sources north. “Climate change is an everyday topic in our office,” Fryberg says. “The tribes seem to be the last bit of a vanguard the environment has.”  Over the past several decades, tribal nations have fought on that environmental vanguard through the powerful mechanism of treaty rights. ... ”  Read more from Crosscut here:  Can tribes sue the government over climate change?

EPA: Former chiefs say agency ‘ripe for oversight’:  “Seven former EPA administrators have offered to help Congress with oversight of the agency.  In a letter obtained by E&E News, the ex-agency heads from Democratic and Republican administrations said they were ready to give guidance to lawmakers.  “We are united that there has never been a more important time for us to put aside our differences and advocate collectively for public health and the environment. Time is of the essence, and much is [at] stake,” they said in the April 8 letter, sent to House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the panel’s ranking member. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: EPA: Former chiefs say agency ‘ripe for oversight’

In commentary today …

What’s behind California’s lawsuit against Westlands, raising Shasta dam? Wayne Western, Jr. writes, “California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam.  The lawsuit names Westlands Water District and “Does 1-20.”  Plain and simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.  The suit alleges raising the dam 18.5 feet which would produce an additional 630,000 acre-feet of water would harm the environment and is against the law. … ”  Read more from The Sun here:  What’s behind California’s lawsuit against Westlands, raising Shasta dam?

Infrastructure funding should include irrigation modernization, a proven collaborative approach:  Dan Keppen and Laura Ziemer write, “As the focus on infrastructure retakes center stage in Washington, we hope lawmakers don’t overlook a prime opportunity to invest in Western water and irrigation systems. Here in the West, our dams, irrigation systems, canals and other infrastructure — much of it more than a century old — are past due for modernization.  This is low-hanging fruit for infrastructure repair — and it’s a bipartisan political winner, too.  The 2018 Farm Bill recognized this opportunity to help prepare producers and watersheds for drought in the West. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Infrastructure funding should include irrigation modernization, a proven collaborative approach

In regional news and commentary today …

Humboldt County eyes role in Potter Valley project:  “The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to investigate becoming a stakeholder in the Potter Valley project, a massive water development in the Eel and Russian river basins.  The county will inquire about joining a recently formed coalition of agencies championing a “two-basin solution” to the embattled water transfer system. The idea is to protect the Russian River’s water supply for Potter Valley residents while mitigating the effects of the Scott Dam on Eel River fish populations. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times Standard here:  Humboldt County eyes role in Potter Valley project

Can a drone reveal the murky secrets of San Francisco Bay? Environmental scientists can tell a lot about the health of rivers, bays, wetlands and other waterways by studying the flow of sediments suspended in the water, and from the mud that forms when these sediments settle to the bottom.  “Mud is not glamorous, but mud is where all the contaminants collect and stick,” said Oliver Fringer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.  Suspended sediments can trap toxic pollutants and prevent the formation of fish-killing red-tides, he explained. And measuring and predicting how sediment flows will form mud will help reveal how waterways will respond to rising sea levels and climate change. But until now, studying sediment flows — also known as measuring turbidity — has been slow, imprecise and labor-intensive, hampering efforts to better understand the health of waterways. … ”  Read more from Stanford University here:  Can a drone reveal the murky secrets of San Francisco Bay?

Cal Am teaches an old policy wonk new tricks in appealing desal plant permits:  “$1,750. That’s how much it costs to challenge a development permit approved by the Monterey County Planning Commission through an appeal to the Board of Supervisors. The fee is a long-established barrier to entry for prospective appellants.  It’s the amount the citizens’ group Public Water Now paid when it filed on May 16 with the board asking it to reconsider the development permit granted to California American Water for its proposed desalination plant on Charles Benson Road just outside Marina city limits. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here:  Cal Am teaches an old policy wonk new tricks in appealing desal plant permits

Central Coast Water Board identifies source of water contamination:  “After nearly four years, the Central Coast Water Board is preparing to treat the source of water contamination near the San Luis Obispo County Airport.  The Central Coast water Board conducted four investigations starting in 2016 to find the source of trichloroethylene, or TCE, pollution in groundwater in the Buckley Road area near the San Luis Obispo County Airport, and the airport property itself. … ”  Read more from KSBY here:  Central Coast Water Board identifies source of water contamination

Bakersfield: Activists speak out against fracking on federal land in California:  “Kern’s oil industry took a pass Tuesday on a public hearing focused on the environmental impacts of fracking, handing the day to dozens of anti-oil activists who convened in downtown Bakersfield to rail against the technique and the threat of climate change.  Unlike in past regulatory proceedings at the same venue — the chambers of the county Board of Supervisors, where hundreds of oil workers have shown their support, with some speaking up in support of industry practices — very few people representing the industry turned out Tuesday at the 6 p.m. hearing hosted by the federal Bureau of Land Management. ... ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here: Bakersfield: Activists speak out against fracking on federal land in California

Climate change could wipe out L.A.’s June Gloom. Losing it would be disastrous:  Usha Lee McFarling writes, “For many of us in Southern California, the marine layer is a lifesaver. Those low decks of clouds — you might know them as June Gloom or May Gray — roll in off cool, ocean waters, shading coastal regions and cooling beaches and West Side cities even as the Inland Empire scorches. Now, we may be losing them.  A new study by a Caltech climate scientist and two colleagues suggests those familiar low decks of stratus clouds could eventually become a casualty of the increasing CO2 emissions that are warming the planet. The loss of the clouds could, in turn, trigger a dangerous feedback loop: The fewer clouds there are to reflect solar radiation back to space, the warmer it would get on the Earth’s surface, leading to even fewer clouds, and to more warming. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Climate change could wipe out L.A.’s June Gloom. Losing it would be disastrous

Life and death on LA’s first water system:  “In 1903, William Mulholland presented an end-of-year report to Los Angeles’s newly formed Board of Water Commissioners. “The zanja system has made its usual poor showing for the year,” he wrote. “It would certainly be the greatest folly to spend any more money in new construction on this system.”  The commission took heed, and the next year the zanjas were officially abandoned. This closed a chapter in the city’s history that stretched from the founding of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula River) in 1781 to the turn of the 20th century. … ”  Read more from Curbed LA here:  Life and death on LA’s first water system

Dirt hauling has begun at Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena despite sighting of nesting rare birds:  “At a rate of one per minute, double-bottomed dump trucks loaded with 25 years’ worth of sediment washed down from the San Gabriel Mountains powered out of the sinking mud behind Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena on Tuesday, marking the start of an off-and-on, four-year mechanized march.  After almost a decade of planning, 100-plus community meetings, thousands of pages of environmental documents and two lawsuits, the first of tons of debris north of the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory — behind the county’s oldest dam — finally were trucked away. … ”  Read more from the Daily Bulletin here:  Dirt hauling has begun at Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena despite sighting of nesting rare birds

Huntington Beach water rates to increase for 5 years, despite protests from residents:  “The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday voted to increase local water rates for the next five years, despite receiving 691 protest letters from residents.  Under the plan taking effect July 1, most single-family households will pay $53.03 a month — 70 cents more than now — in the first year of five annual rate increases.  The increase is expected to raise $39 million in fiscal 2019-20. It’s unclear how much households would pay in the fifth year, 2024, because the city’s water rates are formulated using a variety of components. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Huntington Beach water rates to increase for 5 years, despite protests from residents

Long Beach: The Significance Of Pacific Visions On The National Stage:  “With the grand opening of its new wing, Pacific Visions, the Aquarium of the Pacific becomes unlike any other such institution in the United States. Integrating art, technology, live animals and entertainment, the new wing is designed to engage visitors with a combination of factors so that they leave with a deeper understanding of the world’s oceans, their impact on them and what they can do to create a sustainable future for all.  Daniel Ashe, president of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, said that while other Aquariums in the U.S. have begun focusing on this messaging, Pacific Visions is unique. … ”  Continue reading at the Long Beach Business Journal here:  Long Beach: The Significance Of Pacific Visions On The National Stage  Note:  The Long Beach Business Journal devoted an entire issue to Pacific Visions.  Access all stories by clicking here.

Water-rights dispute between Fallbrook, Camp Pendleton ends after nearly 70 years:  “After 68 years of litigation and more than a half-century of settlement talks, a dispute between the water district that serves Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton has officially ended.  The agreement settles a lawsuit filed in 1951 and lays out how the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton will share water rights to the Santa Margarita River.  A federal judge last month signed off on what is known as the Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project, which will capture locally available water that flows through the river and into the ocean. The settlement, agreed to by both sides in late 2017, creates a local supply that will reduce Fallbrook’s dependence on expensive imported water. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Water-rights dispute between Fallbrook, Camp Pendleton ends after nearly 70 years

Along the Colorado River …

Radio Show: Bureau of Reclamation Says New Drought Contingency Plan Takes Effect Immediately:  “Water leaders from seven western states met at the Hoover Dam Monday to sign the Drought Contingency Plan in response to ongoing drought and less water from the Colorado River, a deal six years in the making.  The plan would keep more water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river’s biggest reservoirs. States will also have more flexibility about how they can conserve water in Lake Mead.  Now the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has said the agreement goes into effect immediately, despite a lawsuit from California’s Imperial Irrigation District, the largest user of the river water.  In August, the bureau will determine whether there will be a water shortage next year.  Luke Runyon, a reporter with KUNC, joined The Show to discuss the plan which he calls a short-term fix.”  Read more from KJZZ here:  Bureau of Reclamation Says New Drought Contingency Plan Takes Effect Immediately

Three Arizona legislators move to ratify Hualapai water rights: “U.S. Arizona Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and U.S. Representative Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1) moved May 8 to solidify a comprehensive water settlement for the Hualapai Tribe.  The Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2019 would codify an agreement between Arizona and the U.S. government regarding the Tribe’s federally reserved water rights, including the Tribe’s right to receive 4,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River. … ”  Read more from Grand Canyon News here:  Three Arizona legislators move to ratify Hualapai water rights

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

ELLEN HANAK: Managing Drought in a Changing Climate: Four Essential Reforms

NEWS WORTH NOTING: New PPIC Fact Sheets: Water Use and Trading in California; Sonoma County and Sonoma Water Board approve contribution to offset groundwater fees

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback project, Yolo County, CA

 

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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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