DAILY DIGEST: More on the Trump Administration’s rollback of the ESA; Westlands strikes back at AG Becerra over studying Shasta Dam raise; Interconnected groundwater and the public trust; Salmon repatriation; Earthquakes shake up groundwater systems; and more …

In California water news today, More on the Trump Administration’s rollback of the ESA; Westlands strikes back at AG Becerra over studying Shasta Dam raise; Maps, Models, and Mystery: Interconnected Groundwater and the Public Trust; Remarkable California Lands and Rivers Would Gain Protection Under US Bill; Salmon Repatriation: One Tribe’s Battle to Maintain Its Culture and Spiritual Connection to Place; Secretary Crowfoot: Reactivating Natural Floodplains in Central Valley is a Win-Win; Fighting fire with fire? That strategy falling woefully short of California’s goals; California’s planet-warming emissions declined in 2017, even as its biggest pollution source keeps rising; Earthquakes Shake Up Groundwater Systems; and more …

On the calendar today …

In the news today …

SPECIAL SECTION: ROLLBACK OF ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act:  “The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, significantly weakening the nation’s bedrock conservation law credited with rescuing the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and the American alligator from extinction.  The changes will make it harder to consider the effects of climate change on wildlife when deciding whether a given species warrants protection. They would most likely shrink critical habitats and, for the first time, would allow economic assessments to be conducted when making determinations. ... ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species: Trump admin rolls out rule changes to limit law’s reach:  “The Trump administration announced changes to Endangered Species Act rules today that complicate efforts to protect at-risk animals and plants by requiring higher standards for government action.  The new rules will apply only to future listing decisions. Plants and animals with existing protections won’t be affected unless their status changes.  Administration officials hailed the reforms as balancing conservation with economic interests. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Endangered Species: Trump admin rolls out rule changes to limit law’s reach

California Attorney General Promises Suit Over Endangered Species Rollback:  “Within hours of the Trump administration’s announcement that it is rolling back enforcement of the landmark Endangered Species Act, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to mount a rigorous legal challenge.  During a hastily organized call with reporters, Becerra said the rollbacks put California’s threatened species at greater risk of extinction and promised to sue.  “We don’t look to pick a fight every time this administration decides to take an action,” he said. “But we challenge these actions by this administration because it is necessary.” … ”  Read more from KQED here: California Attorney General Promises Suit Over Endangered Species Rollback

Trump weakens Endangered Species Act; California promises to put up a fight:  “The Trump administration on Monday extended rollbacks of the nation’s environmental laws to the Endangered Species Act, a cardinal conservation program that’s helped keep wolves, whales and condors, among scores of other critters, flourishing across the West.  The plan put forth by the Interior Department changes the way the nearly half-century-old law is administered, potentially making it harder to win new protections for struggling plants and animals and maintain safeguards for already protected wildlife. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Trump weakens Endangered Species Act; California promises to put up a fight

‘We’re ready to fight’: Wildlife activists vow to protect Endangered Species Act from Trump:  “Wildlife advocacy groups and two state attorneys general vowed to fight the Trump administration’s proposed regulatory change to the Endangered Species Act, arguing that it could threaten species ranging from the California condor to the monarch butterfly and the northern spotted owl.  Under the new regulations, species will be added to the threatened or endangered list “based solely on the best available scientific and commercial information,” which is a much more stringent interpretation of the law than current practice. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: ‘We’re ready to fight’: Wildlife activists vow to protect Endangered Species Act from Trump

Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections:  “Democrats and environmentalists on Monday vowed to sue the Trump administration over a new regulation they say illegally dismantles the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Interior Department announced Monday morning a series of changes to the law that would allow economic factors to be considered when listing a species while barring analysis of how climate change impacts plant and animal life.  … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections

Editorial: Trump guts the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears and bald eagles, take notice, says the LA Times:  They write, “The Trump administration announced reckless and potentially devastating new rules Monday that will weaken the Endangered Species Act, which currently bestows a mantle of protection over 1,663 species of animals and plants. Of those, 1,275 are considered endangered and close to extinction. Another 388 are listed as threatened — the polar bear is one — and at risk of becoming endangered.  In the 46 years since it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act has protected imperiled wildlife and brought many species back from the brink of extinction. The law is credited with saving such species as the bald eagle (which recovered sufficiently to be delisted), as well as the California condor and the grizzly bear, both of which are still considered endangered. So are the right whale, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the rusty patched bumblebee. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Editorial: Trump guts the Endangered Species Act. Polar bears and bald eagles, take notice

OTHER STATEWIDE NEWS

Westlands strikes back at AG Becerra over studying Shasta Dam raise:  “Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta Dam, or at least exploring the possibility of raising it. The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate the trial court’s injunction.  Westlands was seeking to prepare an environmental impact report on raising the Dam by up to 18.5 feet in an effort as part of procedure to determine if the district would contribute its own funds to the Federal project. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Sun here: Westlands strikes back at AG Becerra over studying Shasta Dam raise

Maps, Models, and Mystery: Interconnected Groundwater and the Public Trust:  “Walk into the office of any water law practitioner, anywhere, and you might think you made a wrong turn and walked into the office of your local cartographer. We are a profession that depends on, and you might even say reveres, a good map. Rights to water flowing in surface streams are fundamentally defined by geography, and maps have long been a requirement of appropriation and essential evidence of riparian ownership. In turn, injury to a surface water right is determined by physics, as the topography of the land establishes the linear relation of impacts from other diversions, whether it be upstream (cause), or downstream (affected). In homage to these principles, some hydrologists will orient their maps top-to-bottom as upstream to downstream, rather than north to south. In our practice, gravity is our compass. … ”  Continue reading at the American Bar Association here: Maps, Models, and Mystery: Interconnected Groundwater and the Public Trust

Remarkable California Lands and Rivers Would Gain Protection Under US Bill:  “On California’s Central Coast, the area between Los Angeles and San Francisco, grassland, semidesert, and redwood forest intersect, supporting 468 animal and more than 1,200 plant species. Twenty-six of these flora and fauna species are threatened with extinction, including the San Joaquin kit fox, California condor, Indian Knob mountain balm, Southern California steelhead, California jewel flower, yellow-billed cuckoo, Arroyo toad, and San Luis Obispo fountain thistle.  In the southern half of the Central Coast the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument attract visitors from around the globe, and are important to the region’s tourism industry. … ”  Read more from the PEW Trust here: Remarkable California Lands and Rivers Would Gain Protection Under US Bill

Salmon Repatriation: One Tribe’s Battle to Maintain Its Culture and Spiritual Connection to Place:  “The Winnemem Wintu Tribe (Winnemem or Tribe) has a historic and ongoing connection with the McCloud River watershed. The Tribe’s displacement from the McCloud River resulted from development of the Central Valley Project (CVP) in California. The CVP not only displaced the Winnemem, but also blocked salmon from returning each year to spawn in the waters above the Shasta rim dam. This article details the displacement of the Winnemem, the impact of the Shasta Dam on the salmon, and the reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) set out in the June 4, 2009, Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Long-Term Operation of the CVP (2009 BO), prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  … ”  Read more from the American Bar Association here: Salmon Repatriation: One Tribe’s Battle to Maintain Its Culture and Spiritual Connection to Place

Secretary Crowfoot: Reactivating Natural Floodplains in Central Valley is a Win-Win:  “At his inaugural Speaker Series on July 15, California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot led a discussion on restoring local wildlife species and habitats by reactivating floodplains.  The Secretary’s Speaker Series provides a public discussion on emerging ideas and priorities in the natural resources arena. It is an opportunity for Secretary Crowfoot and a diverse panel of experts to inform the public on plans to improve the environment through science and policy. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Secretary Crowfoot: Reactivating Natural Floodplains in Central Valley is a Win-Win

Valley Democrats Declare War on Invasive Swamp Rats:  “Rep. Josh Harder of Turlock put on waders and traipsed through the water in search of swamp rats recently.  The goal: Publicizing a bill that he and three other California Democrats have introduced targeting nutria, an invasive species from South America creating havoc with irrigation canals and levees.  “It sounds ridiculous, but these swamp rats are actually a major problem for our water infrastructure,” Harder said in a news release. “My bill would revive a program that helped successfully get rid of the pests in Maryland and bring millions of dollars in federal help to the Central Valley.” … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Valley Democrats Declare War on Invasive Swamp Rats

Fighting fire with fire? That strategy falling woefully short of California’s goals:  “The thick scent of smoke hung in the midday air when a trail along the Kings River opened up to an ominous scene: flames in the trees and thick gray smoke shrouding canyon walls. Firefighters were on the job. In fact, they had started the blaze that chewed through thick ferns, blackened downed trees and charred the forest floor. The prescribed burn — a low-intensity, closely managed fire — was intended to clear out undergrowth and protect the heart of Kings Canyon National Park from future wildfires that are growing larger and more frequent amid climate change. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Fighting fire with fire? That strategy falling woefully short of California’s goals

California’s planet-warming emissions declined in 2017, even as its biggest pollution source keeps rising:  “California’s greenhouse gas emissions declined by about 1% in 2017, with a continued shift toward renewable electricity keeping the state ahead of schedule in meeting its 2020 climate target, according to a report released Monday by air quality regulators.  The state Air Resources Board inventory found 2017 was the first year since the state began tracking planet-warming emissions that electricity generated from solar, wind, hydroelectric and other renewable sources surpassed what was generated by fossil fuels. Clean power provided 52% of the electricity California used in 2017, according to the report. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California’s planet-warming emissions declined in 2017, even as its biggest pollution source keeps rising

The fish tube is more than a meme. It could help save ecosystems.:  “Humans everywhere were captivated over the weekend by a viral video of salmon being transported from one estuary to another through a giant overland pneumatic tube — a.k.a. the “fish tube.”  The jaunty video, which shows fish shooting through the sky like checks in a bank drive-thru, chronicles the work of a bioengineering company called — wait for it — Whooshh Innovations. The footage originated in a tweet from live stream news platform Cheddar, which quickly went viral ... ”  Read more from Vox here: The fish tube is more than a meme. It could help save ecosystems.

Rising Sea Levels Leave Coastal Cities With Hard Choices:  “In this summer of alarming international climate news, it’s clear that California must adapt to its own growing threats. Not only is the state becoming more susceptible to catastrophic wildfires and crop-killing drought, its coast is at risk of erosion. Earlier this month in Encinitas, on a popular surf beach north of San Diego, tons of sandstone crashed down on three beachgoers below, killing them. It wasn’t the first cliff collapse in the region, but experts say it could be a more common occurrence as California’s coast slowly disappears due to the effects of climate change. ... ”  Read more from Capital & Main here: Rising Sea Levels Leave Coastal Cities With Hard Choices

Earthquakes Shake Up Groundwater Systems:  “After an earthquake, regional stream flows will sometimes increase because of an influx of groundwater being released from aquifers. This phenomenon is well documented, but the details of the underlying mechanisms remain somewhat mysterious.  A new study looking at the effect of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan on groundwater systems in China is shedding some light on how Earth’s subsurface can be affected by large earthquakes. ... ”  Read more from EOS here:  Earthquakes Shake Up Groundwater Systems

What is habitat? The Endangered Species Act (ESA, the Act) establishes several related programs for protecting species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have identified as threatened or endangered. One of the more controversial of these is known as “critical habitat.” Section 4 of the ESA requires FWS and NMFS to designate “critical habitat” for such species, defined to include areas occupied by the species that are “essential to the conservation of the species” and “specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed . . . , upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(5)(A). Section 7 of the Act establishes an “interagency cooperation” program under which federal agencies must ensure, by consulting with FWS and NMFS, that actions they carry out, fund, or authorize do not “result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species which is determined by the Secretary, after consultation as appropriate with affected States, to be critical.” 16 U.S.C. § 1536(a)(2).  … ”  Read more from the American Bar Association here:  What is habitat?

In commentary today …

Column: Right-wingers again demonize the tiny delta smelt to protect Big Agriculture:  “We’ve written before that among the most dangerous natural predators of the delta smelt are conservatives blaming the tiny freshwater fish for a host of ills befalling California’s agricultural Central Valley.  They’ve blamed the unassuming fish for putting farmers out of business across California’s breadbasket, forcing the fallowing of vast acres of arable land, creating double-digit unemployment in agricultural counties, even clouding the judgment of scientists and judges.  Now, with the state Legislature returning to Sacramento with an environmental protection bill tops on its agenda, they’re at it again. The right-wing National Review this weekend featured a screed by its vice president, one Jack Fowler, again pointing the finger at the delta smelt. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Column: Right-wingers again demonize the tiny delta smelt to protect Big Agriculture

In regional news and commentary today …

Roseburg Forest Products settles water dispute with Weed, California:  “Roseburg Forest Products and the City of Weed, California settled a two-year legal dispute over the water rights to Beaughan Springs with the courts deciding the company owns exclusive rights on Friday.  The Superior Court of California in the County of Siskiyou said the company owns the exclusive right to divert and use 4.07 cubic feet per second of Beaughan Springs water and the City of Weed acknowledged that it has no ownership interest in the water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights. … ”  Read more from The News Review here: Roseburg Forest Products settles water dispute with Weed, California

Notable Sonoma County wine executive’s vineyard business firm accused of water quality violations:  “Prominent Sonoma County wine executive Hugh Reimers, who last month abruptly left as president of Foley Family Wines, faces allegations that his grape growing company has violated regional, state and federal water quality laws for improperly clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard.  The North Coast Regional Water Quality Board accused his Santa Rosa vineyard management company, Krasilsa Pacific Farms, of violations of the water board’s local water rules, the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act for clearing and grading 140 acres. The water quality board concluded the work on a section of Krasilsa Pacific’s more than 2,000-acre property was done without applying or obtaining the necessary permits required by the county to operate a vineyard. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Notable Sonoma County wine executive’s vineyard business firm accused of water quality violations

Yuba County: TRLIA receives $2 million loan for Goldfields levee project:  “The Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority will receive a $2 million loan from the Yuba Water Agency to help advance its Goldfields levee project.  The loan was approved by YWA board members at last week’s meeting. The loan will be used to help acquire approximately 108 acres of land for the project. The rest of the funding that will be used to purchase the land, which is estimated to cost a total of $7.7 million, will come from the California Department of Water Resources. ... ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat here: TRLIA receives $2 million loan for Goldfields levee project

Lake Tahoe: Climate change poses threat to snowpack, lake clarity:  “Following the annual State of the Lake Report, Dr. Geoffrey Schladow took center stage in Incline Village to discuss the findings from this year’s study.  Among the topics discussed during the roughly hour-long presentation on lake data from 2018 were invasive species, temperature and precipitation, deep water mixing, forest health, and whether Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity can be safeguarded against climate change.  “We all love Tahoe,” said Schladow, director of the University of California, Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. “Tahoe’s beautiful. It’s like no other place on earth, but it is changing. … ”  Read more from the Record-Courier here: Lake Tahoe: Climate change poses threat to snowpack, lake clarity

Roseville: Groundwater basin recharged with 470 Olympic-sized pools worth of water:  “Increasingly, water management in California is a balancing act where solutions must knit together the needs of people, industry, farming, species and the environment. Managing water to benefit these multiple uses is hard enough if water was a stationary resource – but it’s not. Especially during the winter months, water managers confront complex decisions about when and where water is released from reservoirs for winter flood protection as well as environmental flows and supply needs throughout the year.  … ”  Read more from the City of Roseville here: Roseville: Groundwater basin recharged with 470 Olympic-sized pools worth of water

South San Joaquin Irrigation District holds 4 aces: Tri-Dam Project plus Woodward Reservoir:  “South San Joaquin Irrigation District and its 110-year-old Tri-Dam Project partner — the Oakdale Irrigation District — hold three aces that have allowed the farmers and cities they serve to weather droughts during the past 62 years.  Donnells and Beardsley reservoirs in the steep terrain of the Sierra on the Stanislaus River provide the two districts with 134,000 acre feet of storage. A third component of the Tri-Dam Project completed in 1957 and financed without any state or federal help is Lake Tulloch — above Knights Ferry and Goodwin Dam — that provides an additional 58,803 acre feet of storage. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: South San Joaquin Irrigation District holds 4 aces: Tri-Dam Project plus Woodward Reservoir

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority awaiting decision from Department of Water Resources:  “The tentative low priority status of the Owens Valley groundwater basin has only heightened the complexity of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority’s meetings, not lowered them. The current nine board members opted to hold off on additional meetings until the state Department of Water Resources issues its final decision.  The delay will also give the members’ individual entities another chance to figure out if they want to proceed with a Groundwater Sustainability Plan and all the potential requirements of that plan. The snag in the delay is the deadline of January 31, 2022 when medium and above priority basins will have to have a plan in place. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority awaiting decision from Department of Water Resources

Ridgecrest: PAC talks well registration outreach:  “With the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board of Directors set to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory groundwater well registration on Aug. 15, a looming question remains: how to notify residents in the valley.  The IWVGA Policy Advisory committee went through a round of discussions during a special meeting called by committee chair Dave Janiec on Wednesday. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: PAC talks well registration outreach

Del Mar expects state to accept its rejection of managed retreat:  “Del Mar is optimistic that its rejection of “managed retreat” for adapting to sea-level rise will be accepted by the state Coastal Commission, City Councilman Dwight Worden said last week.  “Rejecting managed retreat is central to our plan, and having the coastal staff agree with our position is very significant and encouraging,” Worden said by email. ... ”  Read more from the Del Mar Times here: Del Mar expects state to accept its rejection of managed retreat

Helix, Padre Dam water district personnel heading up to Paradise:  “A six-man crew from East County will be making a weeklong trek to help the Paradise Irrigation District in northern California.  Four field employees from Helix Water District and two from Padre Dam Municipal Water District will leave Aug. 18 and spend seven days in the Butte County town of Paradise, which was gutted last November when the Camp Fire scorched more than 150,000 acres and burned down nearly every building in town, about 19,000 structures.  At least 85 people died with dozens more injured in the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Helix, Padre Dam water district personnel heading up to Paradise

Along the Colorado River …

Farms turn to technology amid water warnings in Southwest US:  “A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared camera to help researchers decide how much water they would give the crops the next day.  After a brief, snaking flight above the field, the drone landed and the researchers removed a handful of memory cards. Back at their computers, they analyzed the images for signs the corn was stressed from a lack of water.  This U.S. Department of Agriculture station outside Greeley and other sites across the Southwest are experimenting with drones, specialized cameras and other technology to squeeze the most out of every drop of water in the Colorado River — a vital but beleaguered waterway that serves an estimated 40 million people. ... ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Farms turn to technology amid water warnings in Southwest US

Scientists Are Still Uncovering The Grand Canyon’s Geological ‘Secrets’:  “The Grand Canyon in Arizona is among the world’s most amazing natural wonders. A century ago, the 227-mile long canyon, which is part of the Colorado River basin, was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson as the U.S.’s 15th national park.  It’s one of the most visited national parks in the world, with more than 6 million people visiting last year alone.  Yet its layered bands of red rock still contain many geological mysteries. Geologist Wayne Ranney, author of “Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories, and Mystery,” says when tourists stay at the South or North Rim tourist areas and hotels, they only see about one tenth of the canyon. ... ”  Read more from WBUR here: Scientists Are Still Uncovering The Grand Canyon’s Geological ‘Secrets’

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Trump’s rollback of the ESA, Voluntary settlement agreements and SB1, Delta tunnel and sea level rise, Farms and climate change, droughts and not enough water, water is no one-thing, 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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