DAILY DIGEST, 1/24: Newsom pledged to fix California water politics. Now he’s bogged down in the delta; New Delta tunnel project is déjà vu all over again; Researchers: Drought threat lingers over Northern California; Trump’s latest water policy exposes sharp divides; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • The Central Valley Flood Protection Board meets at 9:00am.  Agenda items include a presentation from Nancy Vogel on the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, an update on legislation to address damaging actions to critical infrastructure, Governor Executive Order N-23-20 on homelessness, 2019 levee inspection report, the Lower Elkorn Levee Setback project, and more.  Click here for the full agenda and webcast link.

In California water news today …

Newsom pledged to fix California water politics. Now he’s bogged down in the delta:  “Soon after taking office last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to break through the “status quo” of California water politics, plagued by decades of litigation and impasse.  “We have to get past the old binaries, like farmers versus environmentalists, or North versus South,” the governor said in his 2019 State of the State address. “Our approach can’t be “either/or.” It must be “yes/and.”  One year later, the Newsom administration appears to be a house divided on water, as competing interests pull it in opposite directions. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Newsom pledged to fix California water politics. Now he’s bogged down in the delta

New Delta tunnel project is déjà vu all over again:  “Citing a need to protect the state’s water supply from climate change and seismic threats, the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) plan to construct a single tunnel through the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta took a major step forward with the Jan. 15 publication of the project’s notice of preparation (NOP), and its release drew swift reactions from both sides of the metaphorical aisle. … ”  Read more from The Press here:  New Delta tunnel project is déjà vu all over again

Researchers: Drought threat lingers over Northern California; ‘Hope for rain’:  “What kind of winter is California having? This year, trying to answer that presents another question, and that is how would one like to do the measuring? That is exactly the kind of thing they work on at U.C. Davis.  “It sounds like such a simple problem,” laughs Professor Andrew Rypel. “But the solution is not simple.” … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area here: Researchers: Drought threat lingers over Northern California; ‘Hope for rain’

UC Merced researchers working on innovative way to desalinate ag water:  “A new project at UC Merced is focusing on irrigation water.  The work could have a significant impact on the crops that are grown throughout the Central Valley.  “We’re trying to take two problems and come up with one solution out of the two of them. We have an excess of drainage water which has excess salt in it, and we need cooling of agricultural greenhouses,” says assistant professor James Palko. … ”  Read more from Channel 30 here: UC Merced researchers working on innovative way to desalinate ag water

Water company sues over Mather chemical in groundwater well:  “California American Water is suing the federal government for the cost of installing a filtration system near the former Mather Air Force Base to remove a chemical from groundwater at a well.  In its suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the water company is seeking $1.3 million to pay for acquiring and installing a filtration plant and for the cost of monitoring. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Business Journal here: Water company sues over Mather chemical in groundwater well

California could limit ‘flushable’ wipes tied to sewer clogs:  “Wet wipes, those single-use wet tissues for babies and adults wanting something more than just toilet paper, are the scourge of sewer systems nationwide, according to several cities challenging claims that the products are safe to flush.  Legislation that advanced on Thursday would require products that cannot be flushed down the toilet to be clearly labeled as such. Cities including New York and the District of Columbia have also attempted to cut down on what manufacturers call “flushable wipes,” saying they can actually clog pipes and require costly repairs. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: California could limit ‘flushable’ wipes tied to sewer clogs

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In national/world news today …

Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more common in tap water than thought, report says:  “You may not recognize the name PFAS, short for poly and perfluoroalkyl substances, but you likely come into contact with it regularly, maybe multiple times a day. You might even consume it.  Put simply: PFAS, a class of more than 4,000 different chemicals, is everywhere. It turns up in everything from household items to fast food wrappers. It’s even been found in our blood. And new research recently published by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), shows it’s prevalent in tap water as well.  The public and policymakers are taking notice. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more common in tap water than thought, report says

Trump’s latest water policy exposes sharp divides:  “Democrats and environmental groups on Thursday admonished the Trump administration for issuing a rule they say sets protections for waterways back decades; however, it’s shaping up to be a huge win in GOP-leaning rural America as the Trump campaign eagerly courts farm country ahead of the 2020 election.  Trump’s new rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, would strip federal protections for small bodies of water, something critics say will increase the amount of pollution that flows into larger bodies often relied on for drinking water. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Trump’s latest water policy exposes sharp divides

Final WOTUS rule drains wetland protections:  “A final rule unveiled by the Trump administration today eliminates Clean Water Act protections for the majority of the nation’s wetlands and more than 18% of streams.  The Navigable Waters Protection Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule, replaces regulations that have been in place since the Reagan administration.  It is sure to be immediately met with lawsuits from environmental groups and Democratic states, and heralded by supporters of the Trump administration, including the National Association of Home Builders, whose annual conference EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will be speaking at later this afternoon in Las Vegas. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Final WOTUS rule drains wetland protections

Agriculture applauds new WOTUS rule:  “Groups representing farmers and ranchers are hailing a final rule that provides a clear definition of Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.  The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule replaces the Obama administration’s controversial 2015 WOTUS rule, which expanded federal jurisdiction to nearly all waterways and many areas that only temporarily hold water. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Agriculture applauds new WOTUS rule

NRDC’s Gina McCarthy on President Trump’s Dirty Water Rule:  ““So much for the `crystal clear’ water President Trump promised. You don’t make America great by polluting our drinking water supplies, making our beaches unfit for swimming, and increasing flood risk.  “This effort neglects established science and poses substantial new risks to people’s health and the environment. We will do all we can to fight this attack on clean water. We will not let it stand.”  (Source)

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In commentary today …

Birds in California’s desert are dying, say :  They write, ” … As heat rises and weather patterns change, our storied California desert bird populations have fallen. Researchers at UC Berkeley found that bird communities straddling the California/Nevada border region of California have collapsed over the past 100 years, in part due to lower rainfall and a change in the timing of that rainfall due to climate change. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Birds in California’s desert are dying

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In regional news and commentary today …

Sonoma winery blending tank springs a leak; thousands of gallons flow into Russian River:  “Crews at the Rodney Strong Winery were cleaning up a massive wine spill Thursday after a blending tank sprang a leak and dumped more than 97,000 gallons of red wine onto the ground and into a nearby creek.  Christopher O’Gorman, the winery’s communications manager told KPIX that the leak was detected at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. … ”  Read more from KPIX Channel 5 here: Sonoma winery blending tank springs a leak; thousands of gallons flow into Russian River

There’s plenty of water: City of Calistoga updates its water element in general plan:  “The demand for water in Calistoga has significantly decreased from 2002 to 2019, and the last time that element was updated in the city’s general plan.  Demand for water from 2002-2015 was down 36%, and demand for 2019 was only about half of what it was for 2015, city staff said at a planning commission meeting Jan. 22. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  There’s plenty of water: City of Calistoga updates its water element in general plan

Monterey requests water for affordable housing:  “Monterey will be asking water officials for additional water allocations to dramatically increase the number of affordable housing units the city can provide.  On Tuesday the City Council passed a resolution to make a formal request of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District that it allocate additional water to the city to develop affordable housing. The water district manages and allocates water for Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Seaside and Sand City as well as certain unincorporated areas of the Peninsula. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey requests water for affordable housing

Salty water spat erupts over “no man’s land” of Mendota Pool:  “The federal government has OKed a 20-year extension of a water exchange program for one Central Valley water district that another district says will illegally foul its water.  The Bureau of Reclamation billed the exchange program as a way to “optimize water supplies and reduce pumping impacts” by allowing a group of Westlands Water District farmers to pump groundwater into a small reservoir called the Mendota Pool for “credits” to retrieve water out of the San Luis Reservoir. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here (note: free registration required): Salty water spat erupts over “no man’s land” of Mendota Pool

Madera Irrigation District marks its centennial:  “One hundred years ago, Madera County looked quite different than it does today.  Water, liquid gold, was desperately needed to farm the fertile acres of the Central Valley. The Madera Irrigation District was formed on Jan. 13, 1920 with plans to build a large dam on the San Joaquin River, near Friant. … ”  Read more from The Madera Tribune here: Madera Irrigation District marks its centennial

Madera/Fresno County: Local agencies receive more than $1 million to preserve ag land: “Madera County is one of 19 California counties slated to divide $57 million in grant money to fund efforts to preserve agricultural land.  The California Strategic Growth Council recently awarded the money to promote infill development — constructing new homes, businesses and roads within cities and other areas already developed —rather than building on farms and ranchlands, so they will stay in ag production. ... ”  Read more from The Business Journal here:  Local agencies receive more than $1 million to preserve ag land

Santa Maria to begin large-scale restoration project in riverbed:  “The city of Santa Maria is set to begin a native-plant restoration project on about 150 acres of city-owned land in the Santa Maria Riverbed, a spokesman announced Wednesday. The work is slated to begin this week, east of the Highway 101 bridge.  The project will reduce overgrown shrubbery and invasive plant species, according to city spokesman Mark van de Kamp, who added that the work also will help native plants and animals thrive in the upcoming spring season, allow for easier walking access, and help mitigate any potential fire risk. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Times here: Santa Maria to begin large-scale restoration project in riverbed

Lake Elsinore area residents organize to oppose hydroelectric project:  “Some local residents are organizing to oppose a twice-rejected proposal for a Lake Elsinore hydroelectric plant.  The Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage project, more commonly known as LEAPS, was tossed aside by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nearly a decade ago in 2011.  Vista-based Nevada Hydro Company, the project’s backer, submitted a final license application for LEAPS again in 2017. ... ”  Read more from Valley News here: Lake Elsinore area residents organize to oppose hydroelectric project

San Juan Capistrano City Council Approves Annexation Agreement with Santa Margarita Water District:  “An annexation agreement between the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) and City of San Juan Capistrano was approved by the San Juan Capistrano City Council during a regular council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21.  The agreement means the city’s water and sewer utility systems will be transferred to SMWD. City Finance Director Ken Al-Imam said the agreement was a “major milestone” in the reorganization of utilities and builds upon a previously approved memorandum of understanding between both agencies. … ”  Read more from the Capistrano Dispatch here: San Juan Capistrano City Council Approves Annexation Agreement with Santa Margarita Water District

Newsom’s newly promised $220 million for Salton Sea would require bond measure, voter OK:  “After Imperial County declared a state of emergency at the Salton Sea, hoping to pressure California Gov. Gavin Newsom to take action, state officials responded with a letter this month promising the state would allocate $220 million toward Salton Sea projects in the upcoming year’s budget.  That sounded like good news. But what the letter didn’t say was that those funds hinge on the passage of a $4.75 billion bond measure that Newsom’s administration hopes will be on the November 2020 ballot. And that measure isn’t even officially on the ballot yet — the state legislature still needs to act.  … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Newsom’s newly promised $220 million for Salton Sea would require bond measure, voter OK

IID approves controversial land deal near Salton Sea for construction of ‘inland port’:  “The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted this week to approve an option to sell 2,880 acres near Niland and Calipatria to a Moreno Valley-based developer for the construction of an “inland port.”   The board postponed action on the deal in December and called for more information and new terms, which IID staff presented before Tuesday’s vote. By a 4-1 vote, the board approved the amended deal, with President Norma Sierra Galindo as the lone vote in opposition. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here: IID approves controversial land deal near Salton Sea for construction of ‘inland port’

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Along the Colorado River …

Water rule leaves ephemeral streams unprotected:  “The Trump administration has made final its definition for what constitutes a “Water of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act.  “EPA and the Army [Corps of Engineers] are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the announcement.  The policy has big implications for Arizona. ... ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Water rule leaves ephemeral streams unprotected

Hydro-storage project proposed for Lake Powell on Navajo nation:  “The company Daybreak Power has proposed a 2,210-megawatt facility near the south shore of Lake Powell. It’s dubbed the Navajo Energy Storage Station. According to the company, it would use solar and wind energy to pump lake water to a 6-billion-gallon upper reservoir and then release it, generating 10 hours of electricity daily. The project would include a 131-foot concrete dam and other infrastructure. The $3.6 billion project would also utilize power lines left from the now-closed Navajo Generating Station to deliver electricity to Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. … ”  Read more from KNAU here:  Hydro-storage project proposed for Lake Powell on Navajo nation

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Precipitation watch …

From the National Weather Service:  “Some light precipitation possible, mainly this morning and north of I-80. Wetter Pacific storm moves through this weekend with unsettled weather continuing early next week.”

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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