Artwork of Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Valley; Photo by Rob Bertholf.

BLOG ROUND-UP: The state’s plan for Delta fishes, biological opinions, the Delta tunnel, SGMA’s economic impacts to San Joaquin Valley, dam failures, federalism and PFAs, and more …

How protective is the state’s plan for Delta fishes?  Tom Cannon writes, “California’s Attorney General has sued the federal government over the new federal biological opinions for the operation of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP). But in fact, the State’s plan for operating the Central Valley operations of the State Water Project is not much better than the Bureau of Reclamation’s federal plan in terms of protecting Delta fish. The State’s plan is built on the same theory that the water projects can divert more water by monitoring fish presence and backing off on diversions when monitoring detects fish. This so-called “real-time operation” was also the foundation of the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) proposal to protect fish in the 2016-2019 hearings on DWR’s proposed Delta tunnels (“WaterFix”).  The major difference between the new state and federal plans for Delta operations is that the State plan retains a requirement for increased flow in the summer and fall of wetter water years to protect smelt. … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries blog here: How protective is the state’s plan for Delta fishes?

State Water Contractors Stand with Trump Administration:  Doug Obegi writes, “Yesterday, attorneys for the State Water Contractors filed a motion to intervene in litigation challenging the Trump Administration’s recent biological opinions in the Bay-Delta.  In the motion, “The State Water Contractors (SWC), including its member agencies—which include among others the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Kern County Water Agency, Central Coast Water Agency, and Solano County Water Agency” ask the court for permission to side with the Trump Administration and Westlands Water District to defend Trump’s plan for extinction in the Delta.  These are the same water districts who urged Governor Newsom to veto SB 1, who have consistently fought efforts to reduce water diversions in order to protect the Bay-Delta, and who have consistently advanced Trumpian claims that fish don’t need water. ”  Read more from the NRDC here: State Water Contractors Stand with Trump Administration

Questions for state water contractors on the Delta mega-tunnel proposal:  Restore the Delta writes, “Restore the Delta sent letters on Thursday 3/5/20 to four state water contractors with questions about their participation in the Delta Conveyance Project.  The questions are simple.  1. With what water will future Delta tunnel and dams and reservoirs be able to operate?  2. Will California’s key water agencies, yours among them, conduct thorough, factual, and honest outreach to all communities, especially environmental justice and disadvantaged communities in their service areas regarding the costs of proposed projects and water outcomes? … ”  Continue reading at Restore the Delta here:  Questions for state water contractors on the Delta mega-tunnel proposal

Delta Tunnel: DCA and DWR reject findings of independent technical review panel:  “Under the supervision of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) is providing “engineering, field studies and design work to inform the environmental planning process, and assist[ance] in evaluating and minimizing community impacts” for the Delta Tunnel project.  On December 4-6, 2019, the DCA convened an Independent Technical Review Panel for the single tunnel project design. The panel included engineers from major international tunneling contractors – Herrenknecht, Dragados, Kiewit, Frontier-Kemper, Obayashi, and McMillen-Jacobs. … ”  Read more from the California Water Research blog here: Delta Tunnel: DCA and DWR reject findings of independent technical review panel

Pretty Ugly Stuff!  Up to 1 million acres of productive farmland will be permanently fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley:  Families Protecting the Valley writes, “A new report by University of California, Berkeley shows that “the California economy will suffer unless responsible, balanced water reforms are enacted in the effort to achieve groundwater sustainability goals in the San Joaquin Valley.”  Here are some of the findings … ”  Read more from Families Protecting the Valley here: Pretty Ugly Stuff!  Up to 1 million acres of productive farmland will be permanently fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley

Economic Impacts of Potential Water Reductions in the San Joaquin Valley: Reaction to the Blueprint Report:  Jeff Michael writes, “The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley released a report (hereafter referred to as the Blueprint Report) on the economic impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and additional potential water supply reductions in the San Joaquin Valley.  The Blueprint is a group advocating a plan to replace up to 2.4 million acre feet of groundwater overdraft through increasing water exported from the Delta and a variety of government subsidized water supply infrastructure.  My assessment is that the Blueprint Report substantially overestimates the total economic loss to the San Joaquin Valley from sustainable groundwater and environmental policies, and provides misleading analysis of the distributional impacts of the costs between landowners and laborers. … ”  Read more from the Valley Economy blog here: Economic Impacts of Potential Water Reductions in the San Joaquin Valley: Reaction to the Blueprint Report

The fate of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley:  Dr. Edward T. Henry writes, “To me retiring/fallowing one million acres of irrigated farmland in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) [as predicted by Dr. David Sunding] has the equivalency of a “natural disaster” such as a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the Bay Area or Southern California, or another massive California wildfire, or flooding, or a tsunami, etc. Certainly there won’t be the property damage, personal injuries and deaths like any of those natural disasters, but the long-term collateral damage from SGMA and the potential failure of the new Biological Opinions (BiOps) will be a “socio-economic disaster” in the making with the resultant trickle-down through the SJV’s economy (and eventually the state, and possibly the nation) affecting towns, disadvantaged communities (DACs), schools, property taxes, sales taxes, etc.—and then what about the significant “out migration” of the unemployed?  ... ”  Read more from Water Wrights here: The fate of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

California’s governance innovation for groundwater sustainability:  Anita Millman and Michael Kiparsky write, “For the past several years, California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has been the talk, not only of the town and of the state, but also of the national and international groundwater and environmental policy community.  What’s the big deal?  SGMA fundamentally changes groundwater management in California – a big deal to be sure. Equally important, as we discuss in a recently published paper, is the broader conceptual significance of the SGMA experiment. That significance lies in SGMAs governance structure. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here: California’s governance innovation for groundwater sustainability

An irrigation specialist puts down roots in California:  “Mallika Nocco is an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist in Soil-Plant-Water Relations in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis.  Q: You are new to UC Davis and UC ANR. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  A: I grew up in Minnesota and studied philosophy, cultural studies, and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. After graduating, I moved to Wisconsin and worked in pharmaceutical sales for about five years. … ”  Read more from The Confluence here:  An irrigation specialist puts down roots in California

Who’s in the Klamath COW and why do they meet in secret?  Felice Pace writes, “KlamBlog has received documents from a whitstleblower who agrees with us that the Klamath is a public river and, therefore, all meetings about the future of the River ought to be open to any resident. Documents produced by the secretive Coalition of the Willing (COW) received by KlamBlog and available to read and download via Dropbox … ”  Read more from the KlamBlog here: Who’s in the Klamath COW and why do they meet in secret?

Dam safety for downstream safety: revisiting the Oroville Dam spillway failure:  Daisy Schadlich writes, “It’s been three years since our nation’s tallest dam, Oroville Dam, partially failed, forcing downstream evacuations, environmental damage, and costly emergency repairs. In the wake of the main spillway failure, a host of environmental groups (including American Rivers), the public, and governmental agencies responded. The takeaway was clear: dam safety across the United States needs to be improved. As America’s infrastructure continues to age and faces new threats posed by our changing climate, we need to be more proactive about making updates to the structures we rely on for public safety and resources. ... ”  Read more from the American Rivers blog here:  Dam safety for downstream safety: revisiting the Oroville Dam spillway failure

Delta Flows: Shutting down Anderson Dam:  Tim Stroshane writes, “It was alarming, hardball news to hear yesterday that Leroy Anderson Dam—which holds back Silicon Valley’s Anderson Reservoir—is considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, a federal dam regulatory) so seismically unsafe that its owner, the Santa Clara Valley Water District , must drain it to the last drop by October 1 this year.  FERC viewed the District (“Valley Water”) as having slow-walked its response to seismic safety concerns, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Anderson Dam is underlain by channel sediments that could liquefy and undermine the dam’s foundation in good-sized (say, magnitude 6.6) earthquake nearby.   The Calaveras Fault is very close by. In 1984, I felt a 6.2 magnitude quake from that fault where I worked in Mountain View. The usually solid outdoor parking lot asphalt on which I took refuge rippled before my eyes. … ”  Read more from Restore the Delta here: Delta Flows: Shutting down Anderson Dam

Contemplating the carp at UC Davis:  Kim Luke and Brian Williamson write, “The UC Davis Arboretum is a defining feature of the campus. Students, faculty, and ducks alike all enjoy the waterway that was once a part of Putah Creek. Many organisms call the Arboretum “home”, but one of recent interest is the non-native Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio). Originally native to Eurasia, Common Carp were widely introduced to aquatic environments throughout the USA as a potential sport- and food-fish. Yet sportfishing interest for Common Carp in the USA never took full flight, and while stockings quickly ceased, the species quickly become one of the most invasive animals in the world. Abundant and easy to spot, you may have seen this Arboretum dweller with its beautifully large scales perusing the waters on campus. While It’s easy to see these invasive fish on campus, some people can’t see eye-to-eye on whether their presence is welcome or not. The following excerpts are from two student researchers at the Center for Watershed Sciences, providing two separate viewpoints on the Carp. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: Contemplating the carp at UC Davis

Oakdale Irrigation District: still gambling with its water rights:  Eric Caine writes, “Last July, the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) Board of Directors agreed to develop a five year plan to deliver water to farmers outside district boundaries but within its sphere of influence.  Based on the board’s decision, several farmers who had petitioned for water began making good on their promises to provide infrastructure necessary for the deliveries. In some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent. Then, just last Tuesday, some OID board members appeared ready to renege on the agreement.  Given the gravity of the situation, the affected farmers were remarkably civil. Most had formed a coalition that not only worked together to provide infrastructure but also made sure the proposed deliveries were in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). ... ”  Read more from the Valley Citizen here: Oakdale Irrigation District: still gambling with its water rights

Could water from retiring coal plants help solve the Upper Colorado River Basin’s “demand management” problem?  Eric Kuhn writes, “As the states of the Upper Colorado River Basin work through how to build a “demand management” account in their reservoirs to protect against shortages, water from retiring coal plants could play a crucial role. With few alternatives for use of the water, simply banking it in Upper Basin reservoirs is an attractive option.  In a recent KUNC piece, Luke Runyan discussed the impact of Tri-State G & T’s decision to close its coal-fired power plant near Craig, Colorado. Luke focused on the impact of the closing on the local community and options for the water rights that will be freed up when the plant is closed.  The Craig Station is one of ten major coal-fired power stations that were built in the Upper Colorado River Basin from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s. Several smaller plants were also built in the 50s, now all shut down. These plants were spaced throughout the basin with three in Utah, two each in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico, and one in Arizona’s small portion of the Upper Basin, the Navajo Generating Station near Page, AZ. ... ” Read more from the Inkstain blog here: Could water from retiring coal plants help solve the Upper Colorado River Basin’s “demand management” problem? 

How dry was 2000-2018 on the Colorado compared to “normal”?  Eric Kuhn writes, “The Colorado River’s natural flows are shrinking by 9% per degree C (1.8 F) of warming as climate change continues to sap the river’s flow, according to an important new study by Chris Milly and Krista Dunne of the US Geological Survey. Milly and Dunne also conclude that increasing precipitation is unlikely to offset this temperature induced drying. The study adds important additional evidence that not only will climate change reduce the river’s flows in the future, but that it is already happening – the already over-tapped Colorado River is facing a future with even less water.  My one caution is that like almost all other similar studies, for baseline purposes, Milly and Dunne use the Colorado River Natural Flow Data Base (NFDB) for the annual natural flows at Lee Ferry.  … ”  Read more from the Inkstain blog here: How dry was 2000-2018 on the Colorado compared to “normal”?

Federalism and the regulation of PFAS:  Seth Jaffe writes, “There has been much angst at the state level that EPA has not moved faster to develop drinking water or cleanup standards for PFAS. …  The focus of this post is on the federalism implications of the current EPA approach towards PFAS. Wisely or not, EPA is proceeding at a much more deliberate pace in addressing PFAS than a number of states think is appropriate. Wisely or not, a number of state have decided that they now have to tackle PFAS regulation on their own, without waiting for EPA. … ”  Read more from JD Supra here: Federalism and the regulation of PFAS

Public Lands Watch: Revisions to NEPA regulations:  Eric Biber writes, “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the most important statutes for public lands management in the United States, even though it actually is not specific to public lands. NEPA requires federal agencies to analyze and publicly disclose the significant environmental impacts of proposed agency actions, consider alternatives to those proposals, and seek and respond to public comment on the analysis of impacts and consider alternatives. NEPA has been controversial over the years because of its requirement for analysis, a requirement that is backed up by the possibility of litigation challenging agency compliance with NEPA. Critics argue that NEPA produces excessive paperwork that is ultimately uninformative, delays (from both analysis and litigation) and disproportionately empowers opponents of projects. Supporters argue that NEPA improves agency decisionmaking by requiring consideration of impacts before commitments are made, empowers agency officials who have expertise in environmental issues, and allows the public a real say in agency decisionmaking. ... ”  Read more from The Legal Planet here: Public Lands Watch: Revisions to NEPA regulations

Featured image credit: Artwork of Ricardo Breceda, Sculptures in Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs, California.  Photo by Rob Bertholf via Flickr.

About the Blog Round-up: The Blog Round-up is a weekly journey through the wild and varied tapestry of blog commentary, incorporating the good, the bad, the ugly, and sometimes just plain bizarre viewpoints existing on the internet. Viewpoints expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily my own; inclusion of items here does not imply my endorsement of their positions. Items are chosen to express a wide range of viewpoints, and are added at the editor’s discretion. While posts with obvious factual errors are excluded, please note that no attempt is made on my part to verify or fact check the information bloggers present, so caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.
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