DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Twin Tunnels project is dead. What’s next?; State killed thousands of salmon, anglers report, feds want answers; Feds dodge claims of violating CA water law; House bill boosts EPA funding amid infrastructure plan fallout; and more …

View looking South along White Slough, in the foreground is Terminous Tract, part of the Delta in San Joaquin County.  Photo by Ken James / DWR

In California water news this weekend, Twin Tunnels Project Is Dead. What’s Next?; State killed thousands of salmon, anglers report. Now the Trump administration wants answers; Feds Dodge Claims of Violating California Water Law; Feds declare emergency as gray whale deaths reach highest level in nearly 20 years; House bill boosts EPA funding amid infrastructure plan fallout; Los Angeles County sues Bayer’s Monsanto over PCB contamination; Bill to help Eagle Mountain hydroelectric storage project outside Joshua Tree derailed; and more …

In the news this weekend …

California’s Twin Tunnels Water Project Is Dead. What’s Next?:  “This past February, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his decision to downscale California’s Delta tunnels project from two tunnels to one. In May, the Department of Water Resources withdrew the permit application it had previously submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board, officially killing the project, and gave notice that it would start planning for a single tunnel. The decisions were generally welcomed within the environmental community. The configuration of the Delta tunnels has long been controversial. ... ”  Read more from Earth Island Journal here:  California’s Twin Tunnels Water Project Is Dead. What’s Next?

State killed thousands of salmon, anglers report. Now the Trump administration wants answers:  “It was a big milestone for the state officials who manage Oroville Dam: For several days in early April, they sent water down the dam’s flood control spillway, showing that the concrete chute was finally functional after a two-year, $1.1 billion repair job.  But downstream from the dam, fishing guides on the Feather River say they found thousands of baby salmon that turned up dead after the state Department of Water Resources reduced flows down the spillway and water levels on the river abruptly receded. They provided The Sacramento Bee with photos of dead and dying fish on the riverbanks to back up their allegations. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: State killed thousands of salmon, anglers report. Now the Trump administration wants answers

Feds Dodge Claims of Violating California Water Law:  “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Friday successfully dodged claims its management of a California dam violates state law and threatens the survival of endangered steelhead trout, but the legal battle is far from over.  U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejected a move by conservationists to add the United States as a “necessary party” to a state court action involving disputed rights to water from the Twitchell Dam and Reservoir in San Luis Obispo County.  San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper and Los Padres ForestWatch challenged a 2005 stipulated judgment in a state court case as inconsistent with California Fish and Game Code Section 5937, which requires dam owners release enough water “to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Feds Dodge Claims of Violating California Water Law

Feds declare emergency as gray whale deaths reach highest level in nearly 20 years:  “Alarmed by the high number of gray whales that have been washing up dead on West Coast beaches this spring, the federal government on Friday declared the troubling trend a wildlife emergency.  The declaration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — technically, the agency dubbed the deaths an “unusual mortality event” — kicks in a provision of federal law that provides funding for scientists to figure out the cause when such die-offs of marine mammals occur, from whales and dolphins in the Pacific or Atlantic to manatees off Florida. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Feds declare emergency as gray whale deaths reach highest level in nearly 20 years

FERC Order Retroactively Extends Commencement of Construction Deadlines under AWIA; New Requests Made to FERC to Find CWA Section 401 Water Quality Certification Waived:  “On May 7, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order which retroactively extended the deadlines to commence and complete construction of the Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project No. 13123. … As previously reported, in the wake of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC (Hoopa Valley) holding that the repeated withdrawal and resubmission of water quality certification requests under Section 401 of the CWA constitutes a waiver of certification by the state, several license applicants have received from, or have pending requests for, a determination from FERC that the state has waived certification with regard to specific new license applications. … ”  Read the article at the National Law Review here:  Hydro Newsletter

After exceptionally wet May, typical early summer weather gradually returns to California:  “Nearly the entire State of California experienced remarkably wet and cool conditions during May. Some regions saw precipitation in excess of 400% of average for the 30-day period, and the onslaught of late-season precipitation dramatically slowed the rate of net melting of the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is now far above average for the date. (It is worth noting that these enormous “percent of average” anomalies are largely due to the low climatological average precipitation this time of year; seeing this much precipitation during the heart of the winter rainy season would be fairly routine).  This “Mayuary” pattern has been largely beneficial to the region, delaying the start of wildfire season and topping up reservoirs (and, more importantly, snowpack). … ”  Continue reading at the California Weather Blog here: After exceptionally wet May, typical early summer weather gradually returns to California

As it heats up, rivers become more inviting. Here’s why the danger is real:  “Rivers in the central San Joaquin Valley are beginning to rise as temperatures heat up and snow begins to melt, sending menacing currents downstream.  Authorities are warning the public against leaping into rivers with strong or high currents after some waterways have already showed flood potential and after a 16-year-old fell into the Tule River earlier this month.  Another person was rescued Thursday from the St. Johns River in Visalia after becoming stuck in a low-head dam. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: As it heats up, rivers become more inviting. Here’s why the danger is real

What causes wildfires? People cause the vast majority of California wildfires, whether it’s an arsonist lighting up a hillside or a driver’s tractor releasing a spark that turns into an inferno. Networks of power lines built into wildland are also behind some of the worst blazes.  Yet, in many cases, the cause simply can’t be determined.  As fire season ramps up, state officials are warning that heavier-than-usual rain and snow in recent months have knocked down trees and led to an overgrowth of grass and shrubs that will soon dry out and become ready-made fuel for 2019 wildfires. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  What causes wildfires? 

NATIONAL

House bill boosts EPA funding amid infrastructure plan fallout:  “The House Appropriations Committee passed its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Interior & Environment Appropriations bill in May, which funds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and included a significant increase for key EPA programs. This occurred on the same day President Trump broke off discussions with Congressional leaders on a comprehensive infrastructure package.  The FY20 House bill, which passed the Committee on a party-line vote and now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote in June, includes a large increase for the EPA. ... ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: House bill boosts EPA funding amid infrastructure plan fallout

EPA rushes overhaul of cancer testing:  “EPA plans to quickly revamp its guidelines for evaluating whether environmental contaminants can cause cancer or other ailments, a move Trump administration critics fear is part of a broader effort to weaken the basis for regulating a wide range of pollutants.  At issue is a fundamental responsibility of the agency: How to determine whether potentially harmful substances pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.  The outcomes of such risk reviews can then be used by EPA’s regulatory offices and other agencies to, for example, limit the types of pesticides that farmers can apply to their crops or the amount of hazardous air pollutants oil and gas refineries can emit. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  EPA rushes overhaul of cancer testing

Federal judge rules against WOTUS:  “A federal judge in Texas this week invalidated the Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. final rule, sending it back to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.  U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. in the Southern District of Texas said the final rule violated the notice-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Federal judge rules against WOTUS

Trump was briefed on plan to review climate science:  “A White House initiative to scrutinize climate science appears to be making headway.  Will Happer, the senior director for emerging technologies at the National Security Council, met with President Trump earlier this month to brief him on the plan, according to two sources. The initiative is expected to highlight uncertainties in climate research and downplay the threat of global warming to national security.  Happer, an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University, has said that the world is experiencing a carbon dioxide “drought” and that the planet would benefit from burning more fossil fuels. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Trump was briefed on plan to review climate science

In commentary this weekend …

‘Moving the rain,’ creating California:  Mark Arax writes, ““What compelled you to write a book that weighs 2.2 pounds?” the radio interviewer asks me before we go live.  “Madness,” I reply, with a chuckle. “My own madness and the madness of California.”  Her show was beamed out of Boston and reached across the nation, and so I began to tell the story, the invention of California, first as myth and then as a real place. I explained how that invention necessitated the invention of the grandest water-moving system in the history of man. It was a system magnificently built, and it allowed us to erect two if not three world-class cities and the most intensive farming region in the world. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: ‘Moving the rain,’ creating California

Sunday podcasts …

A conversation with Mike Wade: Capitol Farm Connection writes, “Mike Wade is the Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition.  We discuss the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), Unimpaired Flows and Voluntary Agreements, and various efforts around the state to improve surface water management and supply.  Today’s discussion is a high-level overview of these very complex topics, and to learn more about them and the coalition, feel free to visit their website at https://www.farmwater.org.


Conjunctive Use: Steve Baker writes:”California isn’t the only state that is creating  water strategies that marry surface water with groundwater supplies. One strategy is called conjunctive use and it really helps us optimize the presence of water for us humans and the environment. Mary Saxton, former Director of the Montana Department of  Natural Resources and Conservation, uses the conjunctive use approach to process permits for the state. Water that is used from one resource during one time of year can then be augmented by replenishing extracted water from another resource that is connected to the same hydrologic system during another time of year. In the end, a city may receive its water for drinking that used to be used to grow food on a nearby farm. It’s a zero sum game! Listen up. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”

Stephen J. Baker, Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems; Operation Unite®; stevebaker@operationunite.co


In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Yuba County: Crews busy improving area levees:  “A number of projects to improve the levees along the Yuba and Feather rivers are currently underway or are planned for 2020.  Included is work on the Marysville Ring Levee. Since the first phase was completed in 2013, approximately $84 million has been spent on the project, which, once completed, is expected to provide the city with a greater than 200-year level of flood protection. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here: Yuba County: Crews busy improving area levees

Local Group Sues to Stop El Dorado Irrigation District Water Quality and Conservation Project: “A Pollock Pines-based group has recently filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit seeking to prevent El Dorado Irrigation District from piping a section of its vital raw water conveyance system.  The unlined Upper Main Ditch conveys raw water approximately three miles from Forebay Reservoir in Pollock Pines to EID’s Reservoir 1 Water Treatment Plant.  The water that travels through the Main Ditch is used to serve a significant portion of EID’s more than 41,000 water service accounts (representing more than 100,000 people) from Pollock Pines all the way to Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills. Water sold to the City of Placerville also travels through the ditch. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association here: Local Group Sues to Stop El Dorado Irrigation District Water Quality and Conservation Project

Sonoma County Water Agency Re-Inflating Rubber Dam On Russian River:  “The Sonoma County Water Agency is inflating the rubber dam over the Russian River near Forestville again after unexpected heavy rain in May caused it to be deflated.  The dam was inflated May 6 as river levels dropped and demand for water increased. The dam was lowered on May 16 to protect it from high river flows that could damage its structure. The Water Agency started re-inflating the dam Wednesday and it should be fully inflated in 3-5 days, spokesman Barry Dugan said. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Sonoma County Water Agency Re-Inflating Rubber Dam On Russian River

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency celebrates 10-year anniversary of recycled water:  “In the decade since its inception, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency has delivered 14 billion gallons of water to the agriculture industry.  The agency began delivering recycled water in 2009, which helped reduce groundwater pumping and the resultant overdraft.  The agency celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Thursday. … ”  Read more from the Register-Pajorian here:  Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency celebrates 10-year anniversary of recycled water

Heads up, salmon lovers: Epic catch brings tons of fresh fish to the Central Coast:  “Salmon are running in epic numbers this year off the Central Coast, and that means lots of fresh fish for commercial fishermen and hungry customers.  This year’s salmon season, which started commercially on May 1, is the best local fishermen have seen in 20 years.  The state Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates an increase of more than 150,000 Chinook salmon in California coastal waters this year compared to last, originating from Sacramento River fall-run stocks, many of which have made their way to the Morro Bay coast. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: Heads up, salmon lovers: Epic catch brings tons of fresh fish to the Central Coast

Homeowners near San Joaquin River fear rising water levels:  “Parts of the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers are closed to recreation.  But the high water levels don’t just mean people’s vacations are getting cut short.  In Tulare County, the Kings River is entirely closed to recreation.  The Sheriff’s Office put signs out warning people to stay away. … ”  Read more from KFSN here: Homeowners near San Joaquin River fear rising water levels

Large Hydroelectric Dam Proposal Draws Concern In Bishop:  “A new hydroelectric dam project could be built within the next few years near Bishop. While many see it as a form of clean energy, some locals are concerned about the effects it could have on the wilderness area. Kurtis Alexander is an environmental reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. KUNR’s Bree Zender spoke with him about his reporting. ... ”  Listen/read at KUNR here:  Large Hydroelectric Dam Proposal Draws Concern In Bishop

Los Angeles County sues Bayer’s Monsanto over PCB contamination:  “Los Angeles County sued Monsanto Co on Thursday, seeking to force the unit of Germany’s Bayer AG to help pay for reducing PCB contamination in dozens of bodies of water.  The most populous U.S. county, which has about 10.1 million people, said the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in products sold by Monsanto many decades ago has caused widespread environmental contamination, forcing it to spend money to retrofit its stormwater systems and prevent further damage. … ”  Read more from Reuters here: Los Angeles County sues Bayer’s Monsanto over PCB contamination

Long Beach: Draft climate change plan suggests electrified air travel, vegetation on roofs and stronger seawalls:  “In the next 10 years, Long Beach will restore its dunes, incentivize reflective roofs and streets, and take sea level rise into account when approving new laws and negotiating new leases.  In the next 30 years, the city may begin relocating critical infrastructure and raising levees. And by the end of this century, the city will strengthen seawalls, elevate storm surge barriers and find ways to get homes and businesses out of flood-prone areas permanently.  That rough timeline is laid out in a draft of the city’s first Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, a document required by the state that officials hope to have approved by this fall. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post here:  Long Beach: Draft climate change plan suggests electrified air travel, vegetation on roofs and stronger seawalls

Bill to help Eagle Mountain hydroelectric storage project outside Joshua Tree derailed:  “Despite the efforts of a handful of Riverside County lawmakers, a controversial bill that would pave the way for a massive hydroelectric energy storage project on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park has been shelved for now, leaving the Eagle Mountain project still without a clear path forward. The project would use abandoned iron mining pits to store billions of gallons of groundwater, pumped from the Chuckwalla Valley aquifer. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here:  Bill to help Eagle Mountain hydroelectric storage project outside Joshua Tree derailed

San Diego County: Naturalists say changing water levels at Lake Hodges are disrupting nesting:  “A coalition of wildlife and conservation groups has contacted the City of San Diego with concerns about sudden changes in water levels at Lake Hodges that are destroying spring nesting sites for Western and Clark’s grebes.  Lake Hodges is a city-owned water storage facility that has become a prime nesting location for the large aquatic birds.  Spring nesting season attracts birders from all over to monitor and observe the courting, nesting and rearing of chicks. Grebes build their nests on partially submerged sticks and branches at water level. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here: San Diego County: Naturalists say changing water levels at Lake Hodges are disrupting nesting

Along the Colorado River …

Biologists blitz Lake Powell, study wildlife restoration as water recedes:  “What Glen Canyon once was is slowly starting to come back. At Lake Powell’s high water mark, which hasn’t been under water in over 20 years, dozens of plants, insects and wildlife have been gradually settling back in.  “Because of continued demand for water, for Colorado River water, and climate change as well, we’ve had a two-decade-long shortage on the river system,” Eric Balken, director of the Glen Canyon Institute, explained. “These canyons that were once filled by the reservoir, they’re now out of water, and there’s a big question as to how those canyons are restoring.” … ”  Read more from KSL here: Biologists blitz Lake Powell, study wildlife restoration as water recedes

Sunday videos …

See the incredible beauty and birds as Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area reopens after flooding.  Video by Jim Morris, California Rice Commission

See the high water levels on the San Joaquin River during peak spring runoff, video via the Fresno Bee

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

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