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In California water news this weekend …

Radio show: Trump rolls back Obama-era water protections. How will that affect California? The Environmental Protection Agency is stripping protections for streams, wetlands, and groundwater nationwide.  Major water bodies will still be protected, but smaller ones that don’t flow year-round, especially in California and western states, will be open to pollution dumps.  This change is good news for farmers and real estate developers. But environmental activists, and even the agency’s science advisers, disagree.”  Listen to the radio show from KALW here: 🔓 Radio show: Trump rolls back Obama-era water protections. How will that affect California?

Court battles, 2020 election loom over Trump WOTUS rule:  “Trump administration officials took a victory lap after they unveiled their final revisions to Clean Water Act protections for waterways and wetlands.  But the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, replacement rule that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers completed yesterday must now survive a possible Democratic win in the 2020 presidential election and an expected inundation of challenges in the courts.  If, say, Bernie Sanders is elected president, he would “go immediately to every court that has challenges pending and ask that they be put on hold because he’s going to replace it,” said Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau.  “Just the way Trump did.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: 🔓 Court battles, 2020 election loom over Trump WOTUS rule

Trump tries to woo struggling farmers with new water rule:  “President Trump’s new water rule cements a campaign promise to farmers to reverse a controversial Obama-era policy, but it may not be enough to win over an agricultural industry that has seen markets evaporate under his trade wars.  In the past two weeks, Trump has delivered some of his biggest wins for farmers, shepherding through an initial trade deal with China that would boost agricultural purchases, securing the passage of a new agreement with Canada and Mexico, and on Thursday, offering his replacement for Obama’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that was near universally-despised by farmers. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  🔓 Trump tries to woo struggling farmers with new water rule

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California’s oil wells could cost $9 billion to plug. Companies have set aside only a fraction.  “Cleaning up the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells scattered across California — which includes plugging them, removing surface infrastructure and cleaning the soil — could eventually cost more than $9 billion if they fall to the state to handle, a new report commissioned by state oil regulators says.  Companies have to set aside cleanup money, called “bonds,” but regulators only hold $110 million in these funds for onshore wells. … ”   Read more from the Desert Sun here:  California’s oil wells could cost $9 billion to plug. Companies have set aside only a fraction.

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In people news this weekend …

Brian Johnson, 50, of San Francisco has been appointed to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.Johnson has been California director at Trout Unlimited since 2011, where he was director of the California water program from 2005 to 2011. He was an associate at Shute, Mihaly & Weingerger LLP from 2000 to 2005, associate director for communications at the Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President from 1993 to 1997, and manager of Energy Star Computers for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation from 1991 to 1993. Johnson earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $50,497. Johnson is a Democrat. ”  (sourced from Governor’s press release)

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In national/world news this weekend …

Trump riffs on modern appliances, and pundits see a pattern:  “Americans are flushing toilets 10 times, showers aren’t cleaning people like they used to and dishwashers must run five times to be effective.  That’s President Trump’s latest twist on environmental messaging as he makes his pitch for a second term. And it’s one that political strategists said is reflective of so many aspects of Trump’s political career.  At recent rallies and media appearances, Trump has complained about energy-efficient dishwashers and toilets and called for showers that can actually wash his “beautiful head of hair.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: 🔓 Trump riffs on modern appliances, and pundits see a pattern

Liquid assets: how the business of bottled water went mad: “The dress code of the clientele in Planet Organic, Notting Hill is gym chic. On a hot day in mid-August, the men wore mid-thigh shorts, pectoral-enhancing vests, neon Nikes; the women were in black leggings and intricate ensembles of sports bras and cross-strapped Lycra. They had all either just worked out, were about to work out, or wanted to look as if working out was a constant possibility.  They examined the shelves. … Opposite a display of untouched pastries and assorted bread products (who, in Planet Organic in Notting Hill, still eats bread?), were the waters. There was Life, Volvic, Ugly, Sibberi (birch or maple), Plenish, What A Melon watermelon water, Vita Coco, Coco Pro, Coco Zumi, Chi 100% Pure Coconut Water, Rebel Kitchen Coconut Water and coconut water straight from the nut (“you have to make the hole yourself”, explained a shop assistant). … ”  Read more from Pocket here: 🔓 Liquid assets: how the business of bottled water went mad

Collins’ bipartisan legislation addresses plastic waste in oceans on global scale:  “The U.S. Senate recently approved a sweeping bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that would improve the nation’s efforts to combat marine debris.  The Senate advanced the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, S. 1982, which Sen. Collins cosponsored in June 2019 with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and 18 other cosponsors including U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to fight global plastic waste by spurring innovation and finding uses for existing plastic waste before it enters the oceans, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Collins’ office.  … ”  Read more from the Ripon Advance here: Collins’ bipartisan legislation addresses plastic waste in oceans on global scale

Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question:  “Coordinated research missions by scientists from America, Europe and the island nation of Barbados are plying the tropical ocean off of Barbados in search of an answer to a pressing question: Will the fluffy, innocuous, postcard-worthy armadas of clouds that help cool this stretch of warm seas, and tropical seas the world over, survive climate change?  To date, science has investigated how these clouds form and dissolve primarily using theories, models, and also observations from satellites, sparsely-spaced buoys, and prior field campaigns. Similar to prior research studies, the American, European and Barbadian campaigns currently underway will be focused on obtaining new data from instruments carried on four research ships, five instrumented airplanes, research-quality ground stations, and targeted satellites. … ”  Read more from NOAA here: 🔓 Wave gliders, ocean drifters and drones to help international researchers solve key climate question

NOAA gets go-ahead to study climate Plan B: Geoengineering:  “The top climate change scientist for NOAA said he has received $4 million from Congress and permission from his agency to study two emergency — and controversial — methods to cool the Earth if the U.S. and other nations fail to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  David Fahey, director of the Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, told his staff yesterday that the federal government is ready to examine the science behind “geoengineering” — or what he dubbed a “Plan B” for climate change.  Fahey said he has received backing to explore two approaches. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: 🔓 NOAA gets go-ahead to study climate Plan B: Geoengineering

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Sunday podcasts …

The Great Salt Lake:  Steve Baker writes, “The Great Salt Lake has some very special benefits to mankind and environment. First of all, it’s the greatest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. The migration of birds come to the Great Salt Lake to fatten up so they can continue to migrate across the desert.   And then we have the benefits to man; that Cold Smoke that skiers look for during each winter season. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steve Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems

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In commentary this weekend …

Newsom’s delta tunnel plan could work — but only as part of a more comprehensive water effort, says the LA Times:  They write, “In theory, a delta tunnel could work.  The point of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed underground aqueduct is to divert water from the Sacramento River beneath the fragile wetlands, waterways and islands that make up the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to an artificial body of water about 25 miles southwest of Stockton known as Clifton Court Forebay. From there, water would continue to flow through state aqueducts to coastal and Southern California and through federal channels mostly to farm fields in the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Newsom’s delta tunnel plan could work — but only as part of a more comprehensive water effort

The next steps for Indian Wells Valley water:  John Watkins writes,The next five years in Ridgecrest will be booming. The “ducks” are now all in a row. I’m speaking of the GSP that was approved last week by the IWV water czars. China Lake’s total rebuild plus extra is all but guaranteed.  Let me assure the plan will be expensive, trigger lawsuits and cause long term discussion about water rights. Everything from Searles Valley Minerals claims to be first in line for water rights; the Navy’s claim to have total water rights; and the agriculture community that will surely be put out of business under the GSP claim of business loss.  How many lawsuits come to the surface is not known now, but the ag community has already dug in and started legal proceedings. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Commentary: The next steps for Indian Wells Valley water

Watershed adjudication is the nuclear option, says Alisdair Coyne:  He writes, “Thousands of residents of the Ventura River Basin recently had to sign for a package in the mail regarding the commencement of adjudication proceedings on their groundwater supplies.  This all began five years ago when Santa Barbara Channelkeepers, an environmental organization long involved in water-quality issues in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, sued the city of Ventura to prevent the city’s overpumping of water near Foster Park by Casitas Springs. The lawsuit’s goal is to ensure that enough water remains in the lower Ventura River for riparian and aquatic species, including the federally designated endangered Southern California steelhead. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  Watershed adjudication is the nuclear option

California can aid the ocean, taxpayers by helping oil rigs become ‘reefs’, says the Desert Sun:  They write, “State lawmakers are missing the boat when it comes to what to do with obsolete oil rig platforms that dot the horizon off the California coast.  Despite rare support from both environmentalists and the oil and gas industry, the state Legislature hasn’t come through with regulations that would allow for “reefing” of decommissioned platforms.  This seems strangely out of step for a body that sees itself as a global environmental steward, unafraid to push the envelope as a pioneer in everything from strict water conservation and groundwater regulation to aggressive “green” energy mandates that seek to rapidly remake our energy portfolio.  Why should this matter to you? … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  California can aid the ocean, taxpayers by helping oil rigs become ‘reefs’

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In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Yuba Water Agency funds project to improve Wheatland drinking water system:  “A more efficient water system that will improve the city of Wheatland’s drinking water supply is in the works with the help of a grant from Yuba Water Agency.  The $700,000 grant, approved by the agency board, provides funds for the city to replace its aging water distribution system equipment, including all of the water meters, water meter reading technology and associated software. ... ”  Read more from the California Water News Daily here: 🔓 Yuba Water Agency funds project to improve Wheatland drinking water system

Sacramento water company sues U.S. over toxic Cold War chemicals left by Air Force:  “A Sacramento-area water utility sued the federal government this week over groundwater contaminated by toxic pollutants used for years at the former Mather Air Force Base.  California-American Water Co. sued the U.S. government for the costs of cleaning up one of its tainted wells in Rancho Cordova. The company serves about 16,000 households and businesses in its Suburban Rosemont system. The tainted well — called the Nut Plains Well — is one of 29 wells in the Rosemont system. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Sacramento water company sues U.S. over toxic Cold War chemicals left by Air Force

York Creek Dam scheduled for removal by end of 2020:  “St. Helena is on track to remove the Upper York Creek Dam by the end of 2020, restoring habitat for protected steelhead and fulfilling a longstanding legal mandate.  The actual cost won’t be clear until construction bids come in, city officials told the council on Jan. 14. A preliminary budget puts the total cost of the project at $8 million, up from a previous estimate of $6.5 million. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: York Creek Dam scheduled for removal by end of 2020

100,000-gallon red wine spill stains California creek bank. But what about the fish?  “Authorities in Northern California continued to work on Friday to clean up a spill that unleashed nearly 100,000 gallons of wine and polluted a local river system this week.  The spill happened Wednesday afternoon when a large blending tank of cabernet sauvignon at Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg burst, flowing first into Reiman Creek and then into Sonoma County’s Russian River, which ends at the Pacific Ocean, according to state authorities. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: 100,000-gallon red wine spill stains California creek bank. But what about the fish?

Russian Riverkeeper works to protect, restore Russian River:  “Rivers are vital. Like life-giving arteries, they deliver water for drinking and irrigation and fertile soil for vineyards and farms. They support watersheds teeming with life.  But humans are hard on rivers. We crowd their banks, dump waste in them and take out water, fish and other resources. In the process, waterways often end up reduced to narrow, dirty channels, shadows of their former selves.  When that happens, who speaks for the river? … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Russian Riverkeeper works to protect, restore Russian River

Lawsuit seeks billions in damages, halt to development on Treasure Island:  “Dozens of current and former Treasure Island residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday saying that authorities lied for years about the extent of contamination there, exposing the residents and their families to radioactive substances and toxic chemicals.  “Untrue and misleading statements” about the island by government agencies and private firms created a false picture of safety, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. The plaintiffs have “suffered serious emotional distress from a fear that they will develop cancer.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Lawsuit seeks billions in damages, halt to development on Treasure Island

Climate report prompts proposed policy changes to protect San Francisco Bay and outlying areas (press release from SF Regional Water Board):  “In an effort to aggressively combat the impacts of climate change on low-lying areas of the BayArea, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board today proposed changes to the region’s Water Quality Control Plan to better protect shorelines from sea level rise, storm surges and flooding. The recommended revisions to the document –which is known as the Basin Plan and serves as the master policy document for water quality regulation in the region–incorporate the most advanced science and reflect findings in “The Wetland Climate Change Update Project Report,” a comprehensive analysis by regional staff that was released in October. … ”  Read more from the SF Regional Water Quality Board here: 🔓 Climate report prompts proposed policy changes to protect San Francisco Bay and outlying areas (press release from SF Regional Water Board)

City of Paso Robles receives two regional water quality awards:  “On Friday, Jan. 17, representatives of the City of Paso Robles Public Works Department received two awards from California Water Environment Association (CWEA), at an awards banquet in Santa Barbara.  CWEA is California’s oldest and most prominent association of water protection professionals, according to a press release by the City of Paso Robles. … ” Read more from Paso Robles News Daily here: 🔓 City of Paso Robles receives two regional water quality awards

Key water leadership position in Kern County upended:  “A powerful water position changed hands unexpectedly Thursday when longtime Kern County Water Agency Board President Ted Page lost his post to fellow director Royce Fast.  A typically routine annual election of officers took a dramatic turn as Page, visibly upset, opened the meeting, then stood and said he …”never intended to create a situation where people were so pressed and so emotional about making this decision. It’s just life and it goes on. But I never wanted someone to be so pressured they just couldn’t take it. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: 🔓 Key water leadership position in Kern County upended

January will end on a dry note in Southern California as the jet stream locks into a zonal pattern:  “January will continue to be dry in Southern California as the jet stream settles into a stable or zonal pattern, which means it flows more directly from west to east with little fluctuation. A wavy or undulating jet stream is the pattern that brings storms from the north Pacific into California.  “When the winter jet stream calms down, Southern California stays dry,” says Bill Patzert, former climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  January will end on a dry note in Southern California as the jet stream locks into a zonal pattern

Will Southern California see a wildflower superbloom in 2020?  “Last year’s superbloom was epic, from Lake Elsinore’s hillsides of golden poppies to Anza Borrego‘s carpets of desert daisies. Check out #superbloom on Instagram; you’ll be kicking yourself if you missed it. So what will the 2020 wildflower season be like?  Right now, it’s too early to say, according to biologists and ecological resource officers who track seasonal shifts. California’s statewide drought officially ended in March, paving the way for the possibility of better blooms this year. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Will Southern California see a wildflower superbloom in 2020?

Southern California: Extreme low tides reveal a spectacular underwater world:  “A two-spotted octopus wrapped its long arms across Jim Serpa’s fingers; a rock crab safely tucked itself inside a hideout; and sand castle worms tightly gathered in masses to cover large rocks.  An underwater world is being exposed this week as extreme low tides in the afternoon hours send water receding back, revealing an ecosystem filled with color and wonder.  Serpa, 64, has been scouring the sea and tidepools up and down the Southern California coastline for the past few weeks with extreme negative tides in the forecast. The ocean and the creatures that call it home have been a lifelong fascination for him. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Southern California: Extreme low tides reveal a spectacular underwater world

San Juan Capistrano inks agreement with Santa Margarita Water District to take over the city’s water utility:  “San Juan Capistrano residents should have more stable billing when the Santa Margarita Water District takes over the city’s water and sewer system, likely by the summer, now that an annexation agreement has been reached.  San Juan Capistrano City Council members on Tuesday, Jan. 21, approved the agreement, following a few days behind the water district board’s approval.  “It’s surreal to finally get to the point of it happening,” Councilman Derek Reeve said at the council meeting. ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  San Juan Capistrano inks agreement with Santa Margarita Water District to take over the city’s water utility

Imperial Irrigation District responds to Abatti contempt motion over industrial water (press release from Imperial Irrigation District):  “On Jan. 22, the Imperial Irrigation District responded to the contempt of court motion brought against it by Mike Abatti, filing its 15-page brief in defense of its ability to serve industrial water users in its service area. In its response, IID argues that its approval of an amendment to an existing industrial water supply contract with longtime customer Ormat did not violate Imperial County Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt’s 2017 order invalidating the district’s 2013 Equitable Distribution Plan.  That plan sought to fairly apportion water among all of its agricultural, municipal and industrial users, and was rescinded by IID following the trial court judgment. … ”  Read more from IID here: Imperial Irrigation District responds to Abatti contempt motion over industrial water

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona’s water system for suburban growth heads toward ‘train wreck,’ Babbitt says:  “A water management district created by a 1993 state law that allowed massive subdivisions to spread into the outer suburbs of Tucson and Phoenix is now heading for a “train wreck,” warns former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.  Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who like Babbitt supported the 1993 law when it passed, now calls the groundwater district it created “the weakest link” in the state’s entire water management system. ... ” Read more from Tucson.com here: Arizona’s water system for suburban growth heads toward ‘train wreck,’ Babbitt says

Determining how much water Colorado’s snowpack will yield is an inexact science, but researchers persist:  “On a sunny April day at the tail end of last winter, Jeff Deems, a researcher at the Boulder-based National Snow and Ice Data Center, and Nathan Elder, the water supply manager for Denver Water, used snowshoes to reach a point high above the Blue River in Summit County.  There they dug a pit, which looked a bit like a grave, into the 5½-foot-deep snowpack and took measurements of the snow’s temperature profile, weight and density in order to estimate its water equivalent. They did measurements from the top to the bottom of the pit.  Overhead a small plane – the Airborne Snow Observatory – equipped with a mass spectrometer and a laser-radar technology, called lidar, scanned the Blue River Basin assaying its snowpack. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun here: Determining how much water Colorado’s snowpack will yield is an inexact science, but researchers persist

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Precipitation watch …

From the National Weather Service:  “Higher elevation mountain snow continues through the day Sunday. Heaviest snowfall is through 10am with lingering showers through the afternoon.”

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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Image credit: Lake Tahoe, February 2017.  Photo by J. Cook Fisher.

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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