DAILY DIGEST: EPA makes good on Trump’s threat, cites SF for water pollution; How groundwater management activities can affect water quantity and quality; State Board could leave non-compliant cannabis farmers high & dry; Clean Water Act showdown at Supreme Court might be avoided – for now.; and more …

In California water news today, EPA makes good on Trump’s threat, cites San Francisco for water pollution; How groundwater management activities can affect water quantity and quality; California Water Board Could Leave Non-Compliant Emerald Triangle Cannabis Farmers High & Dry; How the USDA Helps California Farmers Steward Water and Land; California fines Chevron $2.7 million for surface oil spills at Cymric field in Kern County; Clean Water Act Showdown at Supreme Court Might Be Avoided. For Now.; UA-Led Study Measures Impact Of Built Environment On Water Use; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The State Water Resources Control Boards meets this morning at 9:30am. Agenda items include a Public Board Workshop on the proposed establishment of the Toxicity Provisions and the Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters, Enclosed Bays, and Estuaries of California; updates on hydrologic conditions and urban water conservation.  Click here for the full agendaClick here to watch on webcast.
  • Challenges and Solutions: The Intersection of Water Quality and People Experiencing Homelessness on the Central Coast from 10am to 4pm in San Luis Obispo.  Workshop at the Central Coast Water Board.   Click here for information on how to attend in person or watch on webcast.
  • WEBINAR: OEHHA Webinar: Achieving the Human Right to Water Draft Report and Tool from 1:00 to 2:30pm.  Click here for more information.

In the news today …

EPA makes good on Trump’s threat, cites San Francisco for water pollution:  “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation to San Francisco on Wednesday, accusing the city of improperly discharging waste into the ocean and bay and following through on President Trump’s recent pledge to cite San Francisco for water pollution.  The citation doesn’t mention Trump’s claim last month that the pollution is tied to the city’s homeless population and that used needles and other debris were washing to sea. Instead, it describes failures of sewer and stormwater systems to adequately trap pollutants, including heavy metals and bacteria. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: EPA makes good on Trump’s threat, cites San Francisco for water pollution

EPA cites San Francisco for ‘water pollution’, fulfilling Trump’s threat:  “The Trump administration issued an environmental notice of violation to San Francisco on Wednesday, fulfilling Donald Trump’s threat to cite the city over an inaccurate claim that linked water pollution with the city’s homeless crisis.  Trump said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would issue a notice because the city allowed needles and waste from its homeless population to flow from the sewer system into the ocean – an allegation city officials disputed. In a letter Wednesday, the EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, accused the city of improperly discharging waste into the bay, but avoided mentioning Trump’s comments directly. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here: EPA cites San Francisco for ‘water pollution’, fulfilling Trump’s threat

San Francisco pushes back as Trump claims city waterways have ‘tremendous pollution’:  “The city of San Francisco is pushing back against claims from the Trump administration that it isn’t doing enough to treat the stormwater it pumps back into its bay.  The city’s actions come as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the city a notice Wednesday saying it is violating the Clean Water Act because of its discharges.  It’s the second letter in a week where the EPA has referenced the city. EPA head Andrew Wheeler listed the city last Thursday when discussing how California is “failing to meet its obligations” on sewage and water pollution. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: San Francisco pushes back as Trump claims city waterways have ‘tremendous pollution’

How groundwater management activities can affect water quantity and quality:  “Peter Nico has co-authored a new working paper outlining how groundwater management activities can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater with a team of water-quality experts led by the Environmental Defense Fund. Nico is an environmental biogeochemist and program domain lead for Berkeley Lab’s Resilient Energy, Water and Infrastructure Program. The paper is intended to help groundwater managers avoid inadvertently contaminating water supplies as they change management practices to comply with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). It focuses on natural contaminants such as arsenic, chromium, and uranium, as well as contaminants that can pose a threat to human and ecosystem health, such as polyfluroalkyl substances. ... ”  Read more from the Berkeley Lab here: How groundwater management activities can affect water quantity and quality

California Water Board Could Leave Non-Compliant Emerald Triangle Cannabis Farmers High & Dry:  “On September 20, 2019, the California Water Board Division of Water Rights’ Cannabis Enforcement Section mailed 270 certified letters to various farmers in Trinity, Humboldt, and Mendocino Counties notifying them that they lack the appropriate permits for water use in commercial cannabis cultivation. Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near future. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: California Water Board Could Leave Non-Compliant Emerald Triangle Cannabis Farmers High & Dry

Can Dry Farming Help Save California’s Vineyards? California’s most recent drought lasted many long, parched years—eight in some regions—before ending in 2017 to the relief of everyone in and out of agriculture. For the state’s grape growers, it meant respite from parched vines putting out small berries and leaves and showing other signs of stress. “It was hard to walk through some vineyards and see vines dying, and there was nothing you could do,” says Tegan Passalacqua, director of winemaking for Turley Wine Cellars. “Some vineyards lost 300 vines in one year. Talk to the old timers, and they’ll tell you—they never remember that happening.” … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Can Dry Farming Help Save California’s Vineyards?

How the USDA Helps California Farmers Steward Water and Land:  “The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the largest federal agency in charge of food and farm policy in the US. But the agency also has a lesser known role: it runs a large portfolio of programs to promote conservation of soils, water, and wildlife habitat on farms.  California gets on average $150 million a year from the USDA’s suite of resource stewardship programs. The programs are operated by two of the nineteen agencies within the USDA: the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: How the USDA Helps California Farmers Steward Water and Land

Plant Diversity a Casualty of High-Severity Wildfires:  “Sierra Nevada forests are losing plant diversity due to high-severity fires, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. These fires are turning patches of forest into shrub fields — indefinitely, in some cases.  For the study, published in the journal Ecosphere, scientists analyzed plant diversity across a spectrum of fire severity — from low to moderate to high. They found the sweet spot for plant diversity exists where tree stands burned with low-to-moderate severity, as mixed conifer forests did in this region for millennia before the imposition of fire suppression policies in the early 20th century. Such policies have greatly increased forest density and the amount of woody fuels in many California forests and led to more severe, stand-replacing fires. … ”  Read more from  UC Davis here: Plant Diversity a Casualty of High-Severity Wildfires

Study: Wildfires are transforming California forests — for the worse:  “A new study released Wednesday by UC Davis shows severe wildfires are transforming California’s forests into shrubs.  Researchers said the science now shows that large portions of the forest in the Sierra may be unable to recover.  Here are three things to know about the study … ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here: Study: Wildfires are transforming California forests — for the worse

California fines Chevron $2.7 million for surface oil spills at Cymric field in Kern County:  “California on Wednesday fined Chevron more than $2.7 million for allowing an oil spill at the Cymric Oil Field in Kern County that lasted 113 days and covered almost an acre of a dry streambed.  Four “surface expression” spills – water, steam and oil forced to the surface — occurred in the field between May and July, Acting Oil and Gas Supervisor Jason R. Marshall found.  The spills caused “a significant threat of harm to human health and the environment,” Marshall said in his order levying the penalties. … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: California fines Chevron $2.7 million for surface oil spills at Cymric field in Kern County

Yuba Water Agency attorney selected for new position with State Water Board:  “A Sacramento-based attorney who has worked with the Yuba Water Agency for nearly 30 years was recently selected to head up a new office within the State Water Resources Control Board that will oversee water-right legal proceedings.  Alan Lilly, an attorney with Bartkiewicz, Kronick & Shanahan, will be the first presiding hearing officer of the State Water Board’s Administrative Hearings Office, which is a new office that will conduct hearings, compile evidence and prepare orders related to water rights. The office was established last year with the passage of Assembly Bill 747. … ”  Read more from the Appeal-Democrat here: Yuba Water Agency attorney selected for new position with State Water Board

Things you do every day are causing trillions of pieces of microplastic to flow into San Francisco Bay:  “Every year, 7 trillion tiny pieces of plastic, roughly equal to 1 million pieces each for every man, woman and child in the Bay Area, flow into San Francisco Bay, according to the most comprehensive scientific study yet on the subject.  The three-year study found that billions of pieces of “microplastic” — particles smaller than 5 millimeters each, or roughly the size of a pencil eraser — pour through the Bay Area’s 40 sewage treatment plants every year. The particles come from synthetic fibers in clothing, like fleece jackets that shed in washing machines or baby wipes flushed down toilets, and then wash down sewer pipes, pass through treatment plant filters and empty into bay waters. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Things you do every day are causing trillions of pieces of microplastic to flow into San Francisco Bay

New water year kicks off with surplus: California has greater reservoir storage than last year:  “California has more water stored in its reservoirs than it did a year ago after a marathon wet winter that pounded the state with rain and blanketed its mountain ranges with snow.  Statewide reservoir water storage is 128% of average, which amounts to about 29.7 million acre-feet of water for California, the Department of Water Resources announced Tuesday. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  New water year kicks off with surplus: California has greater reservoir storage than last year

California dam-raising project favored by Trump stumbles after water agency retreats:  “Opposed by California officials, the Trump administration’s $1.3 billion plan to raise Shasta Dam and increase reservoir storage has run into a roadblock that could delay the project or even kill it.  The state has called raising Shasta Dam a potential environmental disaster for the nearby McCloud River — and has succeeded in bottling up the project by obtaining court rulings that prevent Westlands Water District from preparing an environmental review required by state law.  Westlands, the giant farm-irrigation agency in the San Joaquin Valley, wants more storage in Shasta Lake and would be a crucial financial partner in the project with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  California dam-raising project favored by Trump stumbles after water agency retreats

Army Corps of Engineers speaks on dam failures:  “The history of dam safety and the lessons learned from previous failures was the topic of a presentation to the Kern River Valley Historical Society during their monthly meeting last week.  Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project, presented a program outlining catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s dams, including Isabella Dam.  Burdock presented an overview of four failures: The South Fork Dam in 1889, the St. Francis Dam in 1928, Teton Dam in 1976 and the Van Norman Dam in 1971. ... ”  Read more from the Kern Valley Sun here: Army Corps of Engineers speaks on dam failures

NATIONAL

Clean Water Act Showdown at Supreme Court Might Be Avoided. For Now. A lawsuit with broad implications for the country’s waterways and pollution permitting system might be resolved out of court, avoiding, at least for now, a showdown in the nation’s highest court over the scope of the Clean Water Act.  The Maui County Council voted 5 to 4 on September 20 to withdraw its appeal of a case that is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on November 6. … Read more from Circle of Blue here: Clean Water Act Showdown at Supreme Court Might Be Avoided. For Now.

Irrigation For Farming Could Leave Many Of The World’s Streams and Rivers Dry:  “Something odd is happening to streams and rivers on the high plains of Kansas and Colorado. Some have disappeared.  “We would go and visit these streams, and in many cases it’s like a dirt bike channel. It’s no longer functioning as a stream,” says Joshuah Perkin, a biologist at Texas A&M University who studies the fish that live in these streams.  These waterways, he says, were partly fed by groundwater: Water moving underground, through rock and sand, draining into streambeds or bubbling up in natural springs. That groundwater kept the streams flowing through dry periods. … ”  Read more from NPR here: Irrigation For Farming Could Leave Many Of The World’s Streams and Rivers Dry

Give Rivers Legal Rights:  “A few months ago, the Yurok Tribe in Oregon exercised its power as a sovereign nation and granted the Klamath River the rights of personhood. The Klamath, which runs through Oregon and deposits into the Pacific Ocean in California, has been subject to numerous attempts by energy companies to use its resources or install pipelines, such as the Jordan Cove Pipeline. In an attempt to protect the river and in response to destructive droughts that have affected the tribe’s salmon fishers, the Yurok Tribe sought to codify their ongoing attempts at revitalization by granting the river the same legal rights as a human. They followed this up with a lawsuit, joining with fishing groups to take on a recent proposal by the federal Bureau of Reclamation to reduce water levels—which would further harm crucial Coho salmon populations. … ” Read more from the New Republic here: Give Rivers Legal Rights

UA-Led Study Measures Impact Of Built Environment On Water Use:  “How much water single-family residences use is closely related to a community’s built environment, according to a University of Arizona-led study. In particular, design factors such as vegetated land cover, housing density and lot size appear to have a strong impact on water use.  The results can provide key data for city planners and water managers looking to develop sustainable water use strategies for their communities, the authors suggest in the paper that was published today in the Journal of the American Planning Association. … ”  Read more from Water Online here: UA-Led Study Measures Impact Of Built Environment On Water Use

Climate change could make borrowing costlier for states and cities:  “Someday soon, analysts will determine that a city or county, or maybe a school district or utility, is so vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, drought or wildfire that it is an investment risk.  To be sure, no community has yet seen its credit rating downgraded because of forecasting. And no one has heard of a government struggling to access capital because of its precarious geographical position.  But as ratings firms begin to focus on , and investors increasingly talk about the issue, those involved in the market say now is the time for communities to make serious investments in climate resilience—or risk being punished by the financial sector in the future. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here: Climate change could make borrowing costlier for states and cities

In regional news and commentary today …

Court won’t resolve Klamath Basin wells dispute:  “The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly imposed regulations in the area.  The Capital Press reports the appellate court has dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper Klamath basin earlier this year. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here: Court won’t resolve Klamath Basin wells dispute

Hundreds of tires dumped along Russian River near Hopland:  “Scrapped waste tires dumped by the hundreds at two sites along the Russian River near Hopland have incensed local watershed stewards eager to see someone held accountable.  Whether law enforcement investigators will be able to trace the used tires to what’s likely a commercial shop or hauler in the region is uncertain, though the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office will try, Capt. Greg Van Patten said.  Environmentalists who found the dumped tires during regular watershed clean-up efforts last month already have kicked into amateur sleuthing mode and are ready to offer investigative ideas of their own. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Hundreds of tires dumped along Russian River near Hopland

Sacramento commentary: Facing the forever drought:  “California isn’t in an official drought and under mandatory water conservation, but climate change means that saving water is always crucial.  Digging up thirsty lawns, taking shorter showers and making other lifestyle changes can reduce residential consumption. But to significantly cut water use, bigger and broader measures are also needed.  That’s why a recent announcement should not go unnoticed: the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District won state approval to deliver recycled water to agricultural and habitat conservation land in the southern part of the county. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento News-Review here: Sacramento commentary: Facing the forever drought

Bay Bridge: Troubled Bridge Over Water: “Chinese Communists have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, with Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, all decked out in red, joining in on the festivities. China’s totalitarian regime, a member of the World Trade Association since 2001, had more to celebrate when California opted to use Chinese steel on the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.  That stylish structure came in 10 years late, $5 billion over budget, and riddled with safety issues that prompted Gov. Jerry Brown famously to quip, “I mean, look, shit happens.” Many of the problems, it turned out, stemmed from the use of Chinese steel. … ”  Read more from the California Globe here: Bay Bridge: Troubled Bridge Over Water

Bay Area: What we’ll lose at the water’s edge:  “This story begins with the color blue. When we map the future of San Francisco Bay, we take what we have now and we add a layer of blue — it’s almost always some shade of blue — to give us a sense of where the water will be in 25 years or 80 years, depending on this predictive model or that.  That’s the best we can do when it comes to mapping the future — just add some blue. But that shading only really means anything if you know what was there before, or what’s there now. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Bay Area: What we’ll lose at the water’s edge

East Kaweah sets hearing for GSP acceptance:  “California is just three short months away from a new era of groundwater regulation, and the public is being invited to weigh in.  Last week the Lindsay City Council got their detailed report of what is in store for their groundwater future. Lindmore Irrigation District general manager and East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (East Kaweah) executive director Mike Hagman provided an in-depth presentation over their plans to reach ground water sustainability by 2040, outlined in the East Kaweah’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Gazette here: East Kaweah sets hearing for GSP acceptance

Paso Robles: Adelaida District Water Draws San Luis Obispo County Supervisors’ Attention:  “The San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors took its first step in addressing water use concerns the in northwest portion of Paso Robles, known as Adelaida. In response to persistent concerns voiced by residents about water use and sustainability, the board unanimously passed a motion to employ the United States Geological Survey to study the area. ... ”  Read more from The Colony Magazine here: Adelaida District Water Draws San Luis Obispo County Supervisors’ Attention

Santa Barbara coastline: Preparing for the future: “Santa Barbara County residents love their coastline, from the small-town beaches of Carpinteria to Santa Barbara’s waterfront to camping hotspots like Jalama Beach and dramatic Guadalupe Dunes. But drastic changes are in store in coming decades as temperatures and sea levels rise, bringing massive impacts to local ecology and human systems.  To help local coastal and land use managers prepare, a multidisciplinary team of researchers has synthesized projected changes to the Santa Barbara coast that are expected as a result of the warming climate, as well as options for adaptation. The new study is published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Santa Barbara coastline: Preparing for the future

Montecito Takes a Step Toward Recycled Water:  “On the heels of a severe drought and years of water rationing, a longstanding plan to provide recycled water for the vast lawn at the Santa Barbara Cemetery is finally gaining some momentum.  At a joint committee meeting this week, members of the Montecito Water and Sanitary District boards and staffs tentatively agreed to collaborate on recycled water for the cemetery, with the Sanitary District taking the lead. … ”  Read more from the Independent here: Montecito Takes a Step Toward Recycled Water

Santa Clarita Valley Water Notifies County, State For PFAS Contamination:  “The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency (SCV Water) has notified the state and county after 20 additional wells tested above new guidelines for PFAS contamination, officials said Wednesday.  During the quarterly sampling, SCV Water found 20 wells to be in excess of the state’s nonregulatory notification levels for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, according to a statement from the water agency. ... ”  Read more from KHTS here: Santa Clarita Valley Water Notifies County, State For PFAS Contamination

Santa Clarita water officials tackle emerging national problem:  “SCV Water Agency board members discussed ways of tackling the problem of a non-stick chemical suspected of being carcinogenic in 17 agency wells, after being informed of the issue earlier this week.  On Tuesday night, members of the agency’s board received official word from staffers that trace amounts of a chemical called PFAS, or polyfluoroalkyl substances, were found in 17 of its wells, requiring them to now notify key agencies about the discovery.  The trace amounts were so minuscule that none of wells required being shut down under state-set guidelines. … ”  Read more from the Santa Clarita Valley Signal here: Local water officials tackle emerging national problem

Court decision puts pause on LA County stormwater pollution limits required under 2012 permit, for now:  “Los Angeles County cities have won a major battle in their fight against new, stricter rules meant to decrease the amount of polluted stormwater that rushes off their streets and into the ocean — though more skirmishes could follow.  A superior court judge recently struck down certain requirements by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board that forced cities throughout the county to adopt costly watershed management programs, such as underground infiltration structures for stormwater runoff, that could have cost cities billions of dollars. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here: Court decision puts pause on LA County stormwater pollution limits required under 2012 permit, for now

Newport Beach homeowners face big fines for expanding their yards onto the sand:  “Dozens of Newport Beach homeowners who’ve illegally extended their yards as much as 80-feet onto the public beach are not only going see the city tear up their grass and plants in order to restore the dunes.  They’re also soon to be notified that they’ll be fined by the state Coastal Commission, possibly tens of thousands of dollars, for violating state laws designed to ensure public access. … ”  Read moire from the OC Register here: Newport Beach homeowners face big fines for expanding their yards onto the sand

Along the Colorado River …

‘Science Be Damned’: Water Rights And Scarcity With Eric Kuhn:  “Eric Kuhn is among the most respected water managers in the Colorado River basin. He is an engineer by training and pursued a thoughtful and creative program to manage West Slope Colorado water resources, meeting the challenge of confronting multiple needs and interests — to divert water to East Slope Colorado, develop water resources on the West Slope, and meet downstream commitments to other Basin States.  Kuhn’s book, cowritten with John Fleck, examines one of the long held myths of the Colorado River. ... ”  Listen to the radio show from Utah Public Radio here: ‘Science Be Damned’: Water Rights And Scarcity With Eric Kuhn

Environmentalists push for removing dam along Colorado River:  “Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government, alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.  Glen Canyon Dam holds back Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the United States. It and Lake Mead, which straddles the Arizona-Nevada line, are key to ensuring Colorado River water gets to the 40 million people and the more than 7,000 square miles (18,000 square kilometers) of farmland that depend on it. ... ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Environmentalists push for removing dam along Colorado River

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

SCIENCE NEWS: The largest land sale in California; 240 cubic miles of magma was just discovered beneath California’s supervolcano; The birds come back to the Bay; New proposal for expanded killer whale critical habitat; and more …

NEWS WORTH NOTING: Natural Resources Agency announces awards to protect cultural, community and natural resources; Perris Dam Seismic Retrofit enters second phase; EPA launches Agriculture Smart Sectors Program to achieve better environmental outcomes

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Resiliency Survey~ Grant Guidelines~ Stormwater Capture~ Committee Volunteers~ Estuary Conference~ Supporting Documents ~~

ANNOUNCEMENT: Inviting Nominations and Applications for the Water Solutions Network

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Prop 1 and Prop 68 Multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects

 

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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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