DAILY DIGEST, 2/11: Former PG&E lawyer named new regional EPA chief in CA; February without rain could boost wildfire danger in NorCal; Trump proposes deep energy, environmental cuts; Southern California Climate Change over; and more …

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On the calendar today …

  • California Environmental Flows Workgroup meets from 9:30am to 12:00pm.  Agenda items include presentations on the San Juan River case study, the health of fisheries, and priorities for E-flows workgroups.  Remote listening via Skype available.  Click here for the full agenda.
  • LEG HEARING: What Happens to Water Supplies During Power Shutoffs? at 9:30am: The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife will hold an informational hearing at the State Capitol, Room 444.  Click here for the full agendaClick here to listen to the hearing.
  • California State Board of Food and Agriculture will meet from 10am to 1:30pm at International Agri-Center (Theater), 4500 S. Laspina Street, Tulare, CA.  Agenda items include Central Valley agricultural updates as well as discuss a variety of issues related to farm to school, workforce, dairy and economic development initiatives.

In California water news today …

Former PG&E lawyer named new regional EPA chief in California:  “Days after the Environmental Protection Agency’s top official in California was abruptly removed from office, the agency announced Tuesday that it would replace him with John W. Busterud, a former lawyer for the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the state’s largest electric power provider.  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler praised Busterud’s “extensive background in energy and environmental issues” in a press release and said he was a “great choice” to lead the agency’s Pacific Southwest regional office, which oversees California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and other far West territories. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Former PG&E lawyer named new regional EPA chief in California

Are you starting to wonder when it will rain again? We are, too:  “So, we're almost at the point at which our current “wet” season — marked as it has been by prolonged periods of rainless, snowless weather punctuated by cold but rather feeble storms — is starting to look like a bust. By “bust” we mean: Precipitation just about anywhere you go in the northern two-thirds of California is well below normal, with little sign that storms are going to find their way to our coast, valleys and mountains any time soon.  Here's a recap of the season so far and a look at what lies ahead. … ”  Read more from KQED here: 🔓 Are you starting to wonder when it will rain again? We are, too

A February without rain could boost wildfire danger in Northern California:  “Meteorologists say much of Northern California likely will not see a drop of rain in February, heightening concerns that summer will arrive with below-average rainfall and tinder-dry hillsides susceptible to wildfire.  It’s too early to declare the rainy season a bust, as there could be huge storms in March and April. But a bone-dry February would make it nearly impossible to catch up to seasonal expectations, meteorologists warn. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: A February without rain could boost wildfire danger in Northern California

California meteorologists say 209 mph gust likely a mistake:  “A gust of 209 mph recorded atop a California peak over the weekend was likely not a new state wind record but a mistake resulting from a faulty sensor, meteorologists said Monday.  The wind recording was made Sunday morning by an instrument at 9,186 feet on Kirkwood Mountain south of Lake Tahoe. If accurate, it would have broken the previous wind record of 199 mph at Ward Mountain west of Lake Tahoe in 2017. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: 🔓 California meteorologists say 209 mph gust likely a mistake

Newsom proposes a new approach to reach agreements with water agencies:  “Imagine more water flowing through the Delta during dry years, and a habitat restoration for endangered species. That’s what Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing in a new approach to reach agreements with water agencies—rather than issuing rules that are often challenged in court.  Carlos Romero, president of the Stockton Chapter of the California Striped Bass Association, said he used to fish in the Stockton area but the fish are becoming harder to find. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: 🔓 Newsom proposes a new approach to reach agreements with water agencies

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In national/world news today …

Trump proposes deep energy, environmental cuts:  “President Trump's $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 budget proposal released today once again seeks to slash many energy and environmental programs to help shore up national security spending.  Like last year, the White House wants to cut all non-defense discretionary spending by 5%. Non-nuclear spending at the Department of Energy would be cut 29%, EPA would be reduced by 27%, the Army Corps of Engineers would drop 22% and the Interior Department would fall by 13%. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: 🔓 Trump proposes deep energy, environmental cuts

Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs:  “President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2021 calls for significant reductions to environmental programs at federal agencies, including a 26 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Trump’s budget would eliminate 50 EPA programs and impose massive cuts to research and development, while also nixing money for the Energy Star rating system. The Energy Star program, which measures the efficiency of electronics and appliances, would instead rely on businesses to pay a fee to participate in the program. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here:  🔓 Trump budget slashes EPA funding, environmental programs

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In wildfire’s wake, another threat: drinking water contamination:  “Even as bushfires push into new swaths of Australia, the communities close to and within the nearly 30 million acres that have already burned are starting to reckon with a complex, expensive aftermath: fire's threat to their drinking water. It's a vexing problem that a growing number of people around the world have had to cope with over the last two decades, as climate change fuels hotter, bigger fires that destroy forested catchments and consume towns and their water systems, engineers and scientists said.  … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: 🔓 In wildfire’s wake, another threat: drinking water contamination

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In commentary today …

Hard to swallow Newsom’s “voluntary agreements” under the threat of doom, says Wayne Western:  He writes, “First things first: you’d be wise to forget everything you’ve read or heard recently about “voluntary agreements,” which according to the usual suspects, will bring a just and peaceful end the seemingly never-ending battle over California water.  Not true. Not even close.  To be crystal clear: “voluntary agreements”, no matter who crafts and agrees to them, would result in more money and even more scarce surface water leaving the Valley. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Sun here: 🔓 Hard to swallow Newsom’s “voluntary agreements” under the threat of doom

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In regional news and commentary today …

NorCal: Winter dry spell forecasted to continue well into February:  “It’s been a dry winter in Northern California, and meteorologists are forecasting a continuation of this trend for at least the next couple weeks. As can be gleaned from the map above, which shows rainfall variation from the average for this time of year, most of the North Coast is between two and three inches of rainfall below average, which parts of the Sonoma County and the northern Sierras are as much as five inches behind. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: Winter dry spell forecasted to continue well into February

Watershed forum looks to defuse Napa County water issues:  “Various environmentalists are saying that the old adage about “water being for fighting over” doesn’t have to apply to Napa County.  The group called Water Audit California has used lawsuits to pry water releases from local reservoirs for fish and has threatened a groundwater-related lawsuit against Napa County. The group last week co-sponsored a forum to suggest another way. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Watershed forum looks to defuse Napa County water issues

Bay Area lawmakers seek $125M for San Francisco Bay estuary:  “It’s the largest estuary on the North America’s West Coast, supporting a vast network of natural habitat and a multibillion-dollar economy, but the San Francisco Bay Estuary is not receiving the federal funding it deserves for its restoration, according to a coalition of Bay Area lawmakers.  Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said despite the estuary and surrounding region generating $370 billion in annual goods and services, supporting about 3.5 million jobs, more than 100 endangered and threatened species and encompassing more than 60,000 square miles, other estuaries in the nation with far smaller populations served are receiving as much as 10 times in federal restoration funding. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Bay Area lawmakers seek $125M for San Francisco Bay estuary

Rising seas already overwhelm the Bay Area. Time is running out for California to act:  “When Jeff Moneda first started working for Foster City, where trails wind along the town’s scenic lagoons and the nicest homes perch along its picturesque canals, he received an email from federal emergency officials that jolted him into action.  “The first thing in my inbox was a letter from FEMA that said, ‘You need to raise your levee or we’re going to place the entire city in a flood zone,’” said Moneda, the city manager. “Talk about stress.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Rising seas already overwhelm the Bay Area. Time is running out for California to act

San Mateo: Fighting sea level rise together:  “To adequately prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, regional collaboration must be enhanced and a considerable investment by the state is needed and soon, according to the experts and officials who spoke at a hearing on sea level rise Friday in Foster City.  The well-attended event was convened by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, who was joined behind the dais by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, and Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Santa Cruz. … ”  Read more from the San Mateo Daily Journal here:  Fighting sea level rise together

Cosumnes River Preserve offers visitors a peek at what the Central Valley once looked like:  “Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. ... ”  Read more from the Water Education Foundation here:  🔓 Cosumnes River Preserve offers visitors a peek at what the Central Valley once looked like

Man pleads guilty to illegally dumping wastewater in Stockton sewer system:  “An El Dorado County man is facing prison time for dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of polluted wastewater into the Stockton sewer system.  Prosecutors say Jeremiah Young, 38, helped run a company, Community Fuels, that manufactured biodiesel fuel at the Port of Stockton. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento here: 🔓 Man pleads guilty to illegally dumping wastewater in Stockton sewer system

Sierra: French Fire reforestation project wraps up near North Fork:  “After more than three years, work is wrapping up on a project to reforest thousands of acres scorched by 2014’s French Fire.  The French Fire reforestation project ends but the work continues,” according to officials at the Yosemite Sequoia Resource Conservation and Development Council, which has guided the reforestation effort. The nonprofit organization, which serves Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Tulare counties, is dedicated to natural resource conservation and economic development.  … ”  Read more from Sierra News Online here: 🔓 French Fire reforestation project wraps up near North Fork

Santa Clarita Valley to remove wells from service following state PFAS guideline changes:   “The State Water Resources Control Board – Division of Drinking Water (DDW) decided to lower its response level guidelines for two chemicals found in low concentrations in drinking water across the state, according to SCV Water.  On Feb. 6, DDW lowered its response levels to 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and 40 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), two chemicals in a family of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The state’s previous response level set a combined 70 ppt for PFOA and PFOS.  Exposure to these chemicals may cause adverse health effects, according to SCV Water officials. … ”  Read more from SCV News here:  🔓 Santa Clarita Valley to remove wells from service following state PFAS guideline changes

Southern California Climate Change over:  “Southern California is one of only a few places outside the Mediterranean Basin to enjoy a Mediterranean-like climate. Mild summers and wet winters have long supported some of the state’s (and the country’s) most biodiverse locations. But Southern California is warming faster than nearly anywhere else in the contiguous United States, and climate projections for the state forecast higher temperatures and increasingly erratic precipitation—conditions that could drive the Mediterranean region farther north and leave in its place a subtropical desert.  Indeed, new research suggests this has happened before. ... ”  Read more from EOS here: 🔓 Southern California Climate Change over

Orange County: Polluted stormwater runoff in Bolsa Chica reserve leads to $95,000 EPA penalty:  “Huntington Beach company Airtech International will pay a $95,208 penalty for unauthorized industrial stormwater discharges, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday, Feb. 10.  Airtech manufactures products for the aerospace and automotive industries – among them, vacuum bag connectors and hoses, cutting tools, shrink tape and fiberglass. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Orange County: Polluted stormwater runoff in Bolsa Chica reserve leads to $95,000 EPA penalty

Deeper dredging proposed for Oceanside harbor:  “This year’s spring cleaning of the Oceanside harbor’s entrance could be deeper than in recent years, an effort to make navigation safer and produce more sand for the city’s beaches.  The annual dredging removes sand that builds up in the harbor entrance during winter storms and high tides, and pipes the sediment onto the beaches to the south. In past years, the harbor channel was dredged to a maximum depth of 25 feet, but this year the goal is 30 feet. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Deeper dredging proposed for Oceanside harbor

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Along the Colorado River …

Water must be managed as a scarce resource:  Ron Fleming writes, “Water scarcity” is not a term Arizonans like to use; certainly not civic leaders, economic development professionals or water utilities.  Those two words can invoke confusion and concerns, sometimes irrational.   But, the good news is it shouldn’t.  The basis of “water scarcity” is quite simple. When there is increasing demand for a finite resource that, in turn, has diminishing supply, then ultimately, we all have to deal with scarcity issues.  In the case of water, this does not mean your faucet will go dry. It doesn’t mean that we will have to suddenly stop all economic growth. Scarcity typically means it will become tougher to acquire, become more expensive, and there will be growing competition for the resource. This holds true for water.  ”  Read more from Arizona Big Media here: Water must be managed as a scarce resource

Water is Colorado’s most critical resource. So why isn’t it central to every local land-use decision? In the early 1980s, the small city of Woodland Park started strategically planning how to protect its water supply for the future.   “Because we have all junior water rights and a limited water supply, we knew we must be very careful about how we grow,” said Sally Riley, planning director for Woodland Park, which is home to approximately 7,500 people in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. “We’ve pretty much mapped out exactly how our 6.5 square miles are going to grow.”  … ” Read more from the Colorado Sun here:  Water is Colorado’s most critical resource. So why isn’t it central to every local land-use decision? 

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Also on Maven's Notebook today …

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Image credit: CA streamflow assessment map, courtesy of Belize Lane.   From this paper: Lane, B. A., Dahlke, H. E., Pasternack, G. B., & Sandoval‐Solis, S. (2017). Revealing the diversity of natural hydrologic regimes in California with relevance for environmental flows applications. JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association53(2), 411-430.

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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