DAILY DIGEST, Wednesday: Biggest winter storm in weeks expected to hit Northern California; Reclamation releases final CVP cost allocation study; Offshore oil rigs could turn into windmills and dive hotels; Trump set to gut water protections; and more …

In California water news today, Biggest winter storm in weeks expected to hit Northern California; Reclamation releases final CVP cost allocation study; Dramatic steps, better weather, luck made 2019 a much less devastating fire year; San Francisco building gives water and human waste a second life; Offshore oil rigs could turn into windmills and dive hotels; CEQA year in review 2019; Trump set to gut water protections; Former EPA Chief Gina McCarthy on environmental policy’s future; Republicans gird to fight widely backed climate bill; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The California Water Commission meets at 9:30am. Agenda items include the election of a Commission Chair and Vice Chair, State Water Project GHG reduction update, a briefing on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Headwaters to Floodplain Flood Safety Partnership, and an update on the Water Storage Investment Program.  For agenda and webcast link, click here.
  • Free webinar: EPA Enviro Atlas update from 12pm to 1pm: EnviroAtlas is a data-rich, web-based decision support tool that combines maps, analysis tools, downloadable data, and informational resources. This webinar will give an overview of EnviroAtlas focusing on its recent updates and will include a short demo previewing what will be available soon.  For more information and to register, click here.
  • GRA SF BAY: Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Annual Regulatory Update from 5:30 to 8:00pm in Oakland.  Click here for more information.  You do not need to be a member to attend.

In the news today …

Biggest winter storm in weeks expected to hit Northern California:  “The biggest winter storm in weeks will be moving through California on Thursday. Showers will begin early in the morning with the heaviest rain hitting during parts of the morning commute.  It’s likely that heavy rain and wind will hit the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys during the morning, with thunderstorms possibly following during the afternoon. ... ”  Read more from ABC 10 here: Biggest winter storm in weeks expected to hit Northern California

SEE ALSO: Rain and Some Snow in Bay Area Forecast (Plus, More Snow in the Sierra)

Reclamation ends decades of financial uncertainty for water and power users of the Central Valley Project (Press release):  “The Bureau of Reclamation today released the Central Valley Project Final Cost Allocation Study, which determines how to distribute costs of the multipurpose CVP facilities to project beneficiaries. … The CVP’s current and interim cost allocation was completed in 1970, with a minor update in 1975. Reclamation was directed by Congress to complete this Final Cost Allocation Study in 1986. This final cost allocation study will replace the 1975 interim allocation to reflect additional project construction, as well as regulatory, operational, legal and ecological changes that have taken place over the last half century. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation ends decades of financial uncertainty for water and power users of the Central Valley Project

Dramatic steps, better weather, luck made 2019 a much less devastating fire year:  “It’s impossible to divorce the 2019 fire season in Northern California from the two that came immediately before. Those were nothing short of disastrous, so much so that many Californians entered last summer filled with dread of a third consecutive year of incinerated homes, mass evacuations and tragic loss of life.  So, with those recent calamities haunting the state, officials took some unprecedented steps to avert a devastating repeat. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Dramatic steps, better weather, luck made 2019 a much less devastating fire year

San Francisco building gives water and human waste a second life:  “Let’s face it, in the new 754-unit NEMA luxury apartment building on San Francisco’s mid-market street — there will be a lot of showering, sink running and — well — toilet flushing. But Aaron Tartakovsky and his company, Epic CleanTec, are aiming to give all that water — and even human waste — a second act.   The company is conducting a 6-month experiment with a system that is taking the water and poop from 55 of the building’s residential units and recycling it, all in an effort to change how urban high-rises deal with water reuse. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: San Francisco building gives water and human waste a second life

Offshore oil rigs could turn into windmills and dive hotels:  “Long a scourge to environmentalists, California’s offshore oil rigs may be transformed into ecological trophies.  A dozen or more of the state’s 27 offshore platforms could be decommissioned in the next decade. Rather than tearing them down, many would like to preserve the incidental artificial reefs – and the enriched marine habitat – that have formed on their underwater pilings.  And up top?  How about windmills? Dive hotels? Sea farms? Marine research centers? Or simply lop them off 85 feet below the ocean surface, leaving the base for fish and the recreational fishermen who hunt them? … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Offshore oil rigs could turn into windmills and dive hotels

Trump administration sued over plan to open California to fracking:  “A consortium of conservation groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday to try and stop it from opening a million acres of public lands in Central California for oil and gas drilling.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming the Bureau of Land Management failed to consider threats to wildlife and recreation or climate change and air pollution when it approved reopening the land tracts to potential drilling. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Trump administration sued over plan to open California to fracking

CEQA year in review 2019:  A summary of published appellate opinions under the California Environmental Quality Act:  “The year 2019 saw several trailblazing opinions, indicating that courts continue to grapplewith some of CEQA’s core policies. The California Supreme Court weighed in on the threshold question of what constitutes a “project” subject to CEQA. In Union of Medical Marijuana Patients v. City of San Diego, the court recognized that a decision to enact a zoning ordinance is not necessarily a project if the ordinance cannot foreseeably result in changes to the physical environment. It also ruled, however, that where such an ordinance is capable, at least in theory, of resulting in environmental changes, it is a “project” as defined by CEQA, and therefore must be analyzed further to determine whether it is exempt or necessitates preparation of a negative declaration or EIR.  … ”  Continue reading at Perkins Coie here: CEQA year in review 2019

NATIONAL NEWS

Trump set to gut water protections:  “The Trump administration is preparing to further dismantle environmental regulations by vastly reducing the reach of federal protections for streams and wetlands — delivering a major win for farmers, developers, miners and oil and gas producers.  The announcement could come as soon as the upcoming holiday weekend, when President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the most vocal advocate of the rollback of water protections. … ”  Read more from Politico here: Trump set to gut water protections

Scientists fight back against toxic ‘forever’ chemicals:  “On the day Susan Gordon learned Venetucci Farm, in Colorado, was contaminated by toxins, the vegetables looked just as good as ever, the grass as green, and the cattle, hogs, chickens, and goats as healthy.  The beauty of the community farm she and her husband managed made the revelation all the more tragic. Chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, invisible and insidious, had tainted the groundwater beneath her feet. PFAS had seeped into the soil from decades of training exercises that involved spraying firefighting foam at the nearby Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado Springs. … ”  Read more from Wired here: Scientists fight back against toxic ‘forever’ chemicals

Radio show: Former EPA Chief Gina McCarthy on environmental policy’s future:  “This month, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy became the president and chief executive officer of Natural Resources Defense Council. Serving as the 13th Administrator of the EPA under President Barack Obama, McCarthy led initiatives focused on limiting air pollution and greenhouse gases and helped set national standards for power plants’ carbon emissions. We’ll talk with McCarthy about her new role and the state of environmental policy under the Trump administration. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Radio show: Former EPA Chief Gina McCarthy on environmental policy’s future

Republicans gird to fight widely backed climate bill:  “Climate hawks often describe hydrofluorocarbons as a kind of white rhino, a rare area of climate policy that everyone — industry, environmentalists, Democrats, Republicans — can agree on.  Such was the case at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing yesterday to examine H.R. 5544, the long-awaited bill to phase down HFCs, potent greenhouse gases used for refrigeration and air conditioning over the years.  Virtually every relevant industry group, along with many environmental organizations, support the legislation — perhaps its most powerful selling point. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Republicans gird to fight widely backed climate bill

FACT CHECKS (If it’s “facts”, would be it a commentary?  I don’t know, so I shall put them here.)

Fact check: Trump hits and misses as he campaigns for re-election — and against California:  “The president clearly enjoys needling the nation’s most populous state.  Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has taken aim at California for its policies on immigration and environmental protection, its left-leaning cultural institutions, its poverty rate (which, if you factor in the cost of living, is the highest in the nation), its crime rate (which isn’t), its most recent choice of governor and its alleged tolerance of voter fraud (a charge that’s completely unfounded). … Now, as he hits the campaign trail, it’s become an even more frequent theme. For the president, the political risk of taking potshots at a state he lost by a 2-to-1 margin in 2016 is minimal. And anti-California sentiment might be an effective way to rally his base. But does he have a point?  In this survey of some of the president’s boldest California claims, we explore whether they stand up to scrutiny. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Fact check: Trump hits and misses as he campaigns for re-election — and against California

And while we’re fact checking … EPA Fact Check: New York Times continues campaign against Trump administration (press release):  “Today, The New York Times continued its march to irrelevance through extreme bias, launching an interactive hit list on the Trump Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The frame of the piece is intended to negatively portray current EPA officials’ private and public sector careers prior to joining the Administration. Furthermore, the Times refused to include any of the nearly 250 word response EPA provided to the publication as key information and context for the story. Please see below for the Agency’s official response to the latest New York Times hit piece. ... ”  Read more at the EPA here: New York Times continues campaign against Trump administration

In commentary today …

An ounce of prevention: Australia and California could benefit from forest management, says Kat Dwyer:  She writes, “The fires raging in Australia present a sadly recognizable scenario, a new normal that, after two years of devastating wildfires in California, we in the United States have become all too familiar with. Policies intended to return forests to a more “natural” state with less proactive human management have created disastrous conditions that allow fires to burn hotter, longer and leave more destruction in their wake. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: An ounce of prevention: Australia and California could benefit from forest management

The overlooked threat to the digital economy: Water scarcity, says Pedro Sancha:  He writes, “If you manage a data center, you need smart water management strategy. Fortunately, practical solutions to make that happen are available today.  Smart water management is a growing necessity because of two colliding challenges: the need for more data centers around the world and increasing global water scarcity. As the volume of data traffic grows –think of video streaming, smart home applications and 5G networks – we’ll need significantly more processing power. In Southern California alone, there was a 23 percent increase in data center leasing in 2018. Some companies are doubling their capacity each year. The same trendlines exist worldwide: Mobile data traffic in the Middle East and Africa is growing at a rate of 65 percent per year. … ”  Read more from Data Center Dynamics here: The overlooked threat to the digital economy: Water scarcity

In regional news and commentary today …

Microbes endure a variety of inhospitable conditions in California’s Mono Lake:  “Microbes found across distinct layers in California’s Mono Lake may be surviving by using a variety of carbohydrates for energy, according to a recent study.  New research presented last month at the 2019 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco described that thrive in the inhospitable lake across a variety of nutrient conditions. … ”  Read more from Phys Org here: Microbes endure a variety of inhospitable conditions in California’s Mono Lake

Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received:  “In Santa Clara County, the largest supply of water is hidden beneath our feet.  Local groundwater basins can hold more water than all 10 of Valley Water’s reservoirs combined and serve as our primary reserve in times of drought. Groundwater provides about 40% of the water used in Santa Clara County, and nearly all the water used in South County.  Because the amount of groundwater pumped far exceeds what is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining healthy groundwater basins. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received

Hester Marsh Restoration Project: “The recently completed Hester Marsh project restored 65 acres of salt marsh at California’s Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.  The work, begun in January, adding soil from the Pajaro River flood control project to increase the elevation of drowned marshes. ... ”  Read more from Dredging Today here: Hester Marsh Restoration Project

Digging into levees: Homeless create unique safety issue for those living in Lathrop:  “Lathrop — like any other community — has a homeless problem.  But unlike other communities, the homeless problem could imperil the community.  That’s because a number of homeless in the Lathrop area have taken to digging holes into the base of levees designed to hold back the San Joaquin River at high water levels.  And in some cases those “holes” lead to large rooms. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Digging into levees: Homeless create unique safety issue for those living in Lathrop

Court rules that Modesto Irrigation District customers were overcharged: A judge has come back in favor of some customers of the Modesto Irrigation District who claimed they were overcharged to subsidize irrigation for farmers.  A Stanislaus Superior Court decision found that the water was subsidized with an illegal tax on electric customers. How much ratepayers were overcharged and what the remedy will be is still to be determined. … ” Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Court rules that Modesto Irrigation District customers were overcharged

Tooleville is center of California water crisis:  “The people of Tooleville have been forced to use bottled water for over 12 years because the water piped into their homes is contaminated and dangerous. They are worried about their health and the long-term impact of tainted water on their children.  The dusty community, in the shadow of the great Sierra, is a tiny hamlet of homes in Tulare County, a part of the vast San Joaquin Valley. It is just across the tracks and through an orange grove, about a mile, from the pretty, larger town of Exeter, where the water is safe to drink. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here: Tooleville is center of California water crisis

Draft report says rising seas will significantly affect Santa Barbara beach areas:  “Santa Barbara’s shoreline, beaches and bluffs face serious levels of erosion over the next 80 years.  The City Council on Tuesday discussed the potential impacts as part of a larger effort to prepare for sea level rise. The city in 2018 started on its Draft Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here:  Draft report says rising seas will significantly affect Santa Barbara beach areas

Why San Diego farmers worry about water:  “Valley Center farmers aren’t alone when it comes to the high cost of water. But it could get lonelier and costlier if two neighboring water districts unyoke from the Water Authority to get a fresh start in Riverside.  In December, the boards of the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District voted to begin detachment from the San Diego County Water Authority in order to join Riverside’s Eastern Municipal Water District. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Reader here: Why San Diego farmers worry about water

Along the Colorado River …

At least two well-metering bills at Arizona capitol:  “Multiple bills in the Arizona Legislature are tackling well metering due to the lack of groundwater regulation outside of central Arizona. This comes after a series of recent reports in the Arizona Republic showing large industrial farms in rural counties are drilling deeper wells, but these companies are not required to disclose exactly how much water they are pumping.  Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) is proposing a bill to let the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources require a meter on wells outside of “Active Management Areas,” which govern the central part of the state. The director could also require an annual report. … ” Read more from KJZZ here: At least two well-metering bills at Arizona capitol

Legislature plans to address groundwater crisis in rural Arizona:  “State legislators plan to tackle widespread problems of groundwater overpumping in rural Arizona this session, proposing bills that would make it easier to limit well-drilling in farming areas where residents have asked for help from the state to safeguard their dwindling water supplies.  At least four bills have been filed or are planned to strengthen groundwater rules and oversight in rural areas where there are no limits on pumping and where water levels have fallen dramatically. More bills are expected to be introduced in the coming days.  … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Legislature plans to address groundwater crisis in rural Arizona

Why would Bruce Babbitt, long a voice of reason on water, support such a knee-jerk idea? asks Grady Gammage, Jr.  He writes, ” … Generations of Arizonans have participated in the complex system of managing water resources for the benefit of the entire state. For more than 100 years, these decisions have required balancing economic benefits, environmental impacts, individual property rights and public interests.  Bruce Babbitt has been one of those Arizonans – a thoughtful leader with broad, long-term perspective. That’s why it was shocking to see his column championing a scheme that would set off internal, parochial, Balkanizing fights over Arizona’s future. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Why would Bruce Babbitt, long a voice of reason on water, support such a knee-jerk idea?

Precipitation watch …

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Briefing on the 2019 update to the State of the Estuary Report

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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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