DAILY DIGEST, 4/8: Judge urged to close gates on federal water grab in the Delta; Newsom accomplishes rare feat: a water plan no one likes; Dozens of ag groups ask for regulatory pause during pandemic; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: Voluntary Agreements, from 11am to 12pm.  Presented by Restore the Delta.  To sign up for this webinar, please click here.
  • WEBINAR: “The Urge to Merge – How to Engage in a Socially Distanced World” from 12pm to 1pm: This GRA CAST will provide time-critical advice on how to ease diverse groups of people into new and potentially challenging virtual meeting formats, how to deal with fear and anxiety associated with these changes, how to set mutual expectations and calm people down, and facilitation tips and tools you can use to run effective, engaging and necessary remote gatherings.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Judge urged to close gates on federal water grab in California Delta:  “Taking advantage of recently approved rules, the federal government is quickly following through on President Donald Trump’s promise to quiet environmentalists and “open up the water” to California farmers.  Less than two months after the president made a rare trip to California to sign the controversial package before an adoring crowd in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s district, the pumps supplying the federal government’s massive water project have been dialed up in recent days. The feds have gulped past previous limits, taking nearly three times the amount of water previously allowed even as another miserably dry rainy season wraps up in California. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Judge urged to close gates on federal water grab in California Delta

Newsom accomplishes rare feat: a water plan no one likes:  “In the century-long “us-versus-them” mentality of California water, a plan released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of Water Resources last week achieved something perhaps never accomplished before in the Golden State’s water industry.  It incited universal scorn.  ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Sun here: Newsom accomplishes rare feat: a water plan no one likes

Dozens of ag groups ask for regulatory pause during pandemic:  “Nearly 40 industry groups representing various agricultural commodities are asking for a regulatory pause as California addresses issues related to COVID-19.  In a letter addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom, the group highlights a concern that multiple state agencies are advancing the regulatory process without adequate input from stakeholders.  “Our member-informed input into proposed state agency actions is a vital element of sound public policy development and provides State regulators with much-needed perspectives and insight into the potential impacts of State actions,” the letter stated. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Dozens of ag groups ask for regulatory pause during pandemic

Commission to hold meeting to give CDFW authority to suspend sportfishing in some areas:  “The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just extended a statewide sportfishing ban until May 4 because of coronavirus concerns, but recreational fishing in California inland water waters not already closed to recreation by local jurisdictions and water agencies remains open at this time.  However, the California Fish and Game Commission will remotely meet at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 9, to discuss delegating temporary authority to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to “delay, suspend or restrict sport or recreational fishing” if the CDFW director, in consultation with the president of the commission, finds that such action is necessary to protect against the threat from COVID-19 based on state, federal, local and tribal public health guidance and public safety needs. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Commission to hold meeting to give CDFW authority to suspend sportfishing in some areas

SEE ALSO: California Fish and Game Commission to Hold Emergency Meeting, from the Department of Fish and Wildlife

Reclamation issues Record of Decision on long-term water transfer program: “The Bureau of Reclamation today signed a Record of Decision allowing consideration of water transfers to increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during dry times.  “By signing this Record of Decision, we will be able to streamline the regulatory process for water transfers based on real-time hydrologic conditions,” said Ernest Conant, regional director of Reclamation’s California-Great Basin. “This is essential to providing flexibility in California’s water supply system.”  The water transfers could occur on an annual basis sending water from willing sellers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to water users south of the Delta and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Based on annual approvals, the transfers could occur through 2024. ... ” Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation issues Record of Decision on long-term water transfer program

Storms bring little drought relief:  “Despite an ample amount of recent rainfall, a majority of the state is still experiencing a moderate drought that is likely to persist.  It was announced in February that parts of the state had been pushed back into a drought following a significantly dry winter in California — conditions that have been amplified as the days go by. Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 42 percent of the state is experiencing a moderate drought, while an additional 31.8 percent is abnormally dry. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Storms bring little drought relief

Farmers gain from soil-health practices:  “Farmers who have adopted healthy soil practices such as growing cover crops or adding compost say the techniques save money on production costs while enhancing crop yields. A farmland-conservation group says it hopes case studies documenting the benefits will encourage more farmers to use similar methods.  At Okuye Farms in Merced County, Jean Okuye said the farm has used cover cropping for some time, and soil-health improvements added in the past 14 years have benefited both the soil and the farm’s bottom line. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Farmers gain from soil-health practices

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In national/world news today …

Removing the novel coronavirus from the water cycle:  “Scientists know that coronaviruses, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can remain infectious for days — or even longer — in sewage and drinking water.   Two researchers, Haizhou Liu, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside; and Professor Vincenzo Naddeo, director of the Sanitary Environmental Engineering Division at the University of Salerno, have called for more testing to determine whether water treatment methods are effective in killing SARS-CoV-19 and coronaviruses in general. … ”  Read more from UC Riverside here: Removing the novel coronavirus from the water cycle

Covid-19 Crisis Could Decimate Water Utility Revenue, Worsen Affordability Problems:  “Only a few weeks into the shutdown of large portions of the American economy, the loss of jobs and business is already staggering.  Some 6.6 million people filed unemployment claims last week, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday. That number is nearly ten times the previous weekly record, from 1982.  The widespread closure of restaurants, manufacturing facilities, theaters, dentist offices, and universities will reverberate not only in jobs reports. The shutdown will also have immediate and potentially long-lasting consequences for America’s water utilities and the people they serve. ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: Covid-19 Crisis Could Decimate Water Utility Revenue, Worsen Affordability Problems

Here’s the latest count of suspected bases with toxic “forever chemicals” in the water:  “There are nearly 700 military installations with either confirmed or suspected ground water contamination caused by fire-fighting foam using in vehicle and aircraft mishaps, according to new data released Thursday by the Environmental Working Group.  Cancer-linked per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively known as PFAS, have been confirmed at 328 sites, according to Pentagon data analyzed by EWG. and are suspected on about 350 more Defense Department installations and sites. ... ”  Read more from Military Times here: Here’s the latest count of suspected bases with toxic “forever chemicals” in the water

EPA to maintain WaterSense program specifications (press release):  “Today, after a review of WaterSense specifications as directed by America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that the agency will not make updates or changes to the program specifications.  “Today’s action is yet another example of the Trump Administration following through on its promise to uphold consumer choice for the American people,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “By maintaining the existing WaterSense specifications, EPA is ensuring responsible conservation of our Nation’s water supply without adding unnecessary specifications or creating undue burdens on the economy.” … ”  Read more from the EPA here:  EPA to maintain WaterSense program specifications

NASA study adds a pinch of salt to El Niño models:  “When modeling the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ocean-climate cycle, adding satellite sea surface salinity — or saltiness — data significantly improves model accuracy, according to a new NASA study.  ENSO is an irregular cycle of warm and cold climate events called El Niño and La Niña. In normal years, strong easterly trade winds blow from the Americas toward southeast Asia, but in an El Niño year, those winds are reduced and sometimes even reversed. Warm water that was “piled up” in the western Pacific flows back toward the Americas, changing atmospheric pressure and moisture to produce droughts in Asia and more frequent storms and floods in the Americas. The reverse pattern is called a La Niña, in which the ocean in the eastern Pacific is cooler than normal. … ”  Read more from NASA here: NASA study adds a pinch of salt to El Niño models

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In commentary today …

Commentary: It’s time to start a different conversation about water:  Christian Scheuring of the California Farm Bureau Federation writes, “Spring is a perennial season of hope, and even against the backdrop of devastating human news around the planet, the soils are warming and the crops are pushing.  Just now, as well, the COVID-19 pandemic has Californians looking at their grocery stores in a whole new way: as a lifeline in a continuing public health emergency.  That emergency makes health care providers and other first responders into heroes who man the ramparts while a broad swath of society is shuttered for the time being. Farmers and farm employees remain at their posts, too, and the water system that ultimately feeds us all is beginning to limber up. Across California irrigation districts, canals are being charged and pumps are being lowered into the state’s rivers, streams and conduits. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Commentary: It’s time to start a different conversation about water

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In regional news and commentary today …

Water to flow to Klamath Project irrigators:  “While the country is in the grips of a pandemic, Klamath Project farmers face the additional challenge of drought conditions.  April first traditionally marks the start of irrigation season on the Klamath Project.  Jeffrey Nettleton of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation notes the water will begin flowing Tuesday. “Tomorrow, they are going to open up the ‘A’ canal, and start charging the canal.”  It will take about 2 weeks for the water to flow through nearly 200 miles of canals. ... ”  Read more from KOBI here: Water to flow to Klamath Project irrigators

Klamath Project water allocation could fall well short of demand:  “Farms and ranches in the Klamath Project will likely have far less water during the 2020 irrigation season than they did a year ago, with at least one forecast predicting water supplies will be less than half of typical demand.  The Klamath Water Users Association estimates the project will receive approximately 140,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake, compared to 325,000 acre-feet in 2019. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Klamath Project water allocation could fall well short of demand

Friant division contractors getting more water:  “In a recent announcement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), Friant Division contractors will be receiving an increased water allocation.  USBR has doubled the Class 1 allocation to 40 percent for Friant Division Central Valley Project contracts for the 2020 contract year.  The initial allocations that were announced in February had incorporated some of the operational flexibility afforded by the latest biological opinions. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Friant division contractors getting more water

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Along the Colorado River …

Construction finishes on $650 million water pumping station at Lake Mead:  “The Southern Nevada Water Authority, along with contractor Barnard of Nevada, Inc., announced the completion of the Low Lake Level Pumping Station after nearly five years of construction.  The $650 million project at Lake Mead was finished on time and came in under budget, marking a big step in new infrastructure that is critical in preserving reliable water delivery for the valley. … ”  Read more from Channel 3 here:  Construction finishes on $650 million water pumping station at Lake Mead

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: The battle over the raising of Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam

One of the long-running controversies in California water is the effort to raise Shasta Dam, a dam on the Sacramento River in Northern California which creates a 4.5 MAF reservoir, the largest in California.  The dam provides long-term water storage, flood control, and hydroelectricity, and is a key storage facility for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project.  In the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation (SLWRI) final Feasibility Report and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) completed in 2015, the Bureau of Reclamation identified the alternative with the greatest level of benefit as the one that would raise the height of Shasta Dam 18.5-feet, increasing the water storage capabilities of the dam by about 13%.

At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed the history of the project.  Speaking on the panel was Chief Caleen Sisk with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Doug Obegi with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Darcie Houck who is currently General Counsel with California Energy Commission, but formerly represented the Winnemem Wintu Tribe when she was in private practice.

Click here to read this article.

LETTER: Republican Congressmen send letter to Newsom requesting he withdraw ITP, lawsuit against federal biops

Six Republican Congressmen led by Congressman Kevin McCarthy have send a letter to Governor Newsom requesting the State of California drop its recently filed litigation against the 2019 Federal Biological Opinions and rescind the recently issued Incidental Take Permit in favor of a consistency determination under the California Endangered Species Act.

The Congressmen contend the new Incidental Take Permit threatens to send operations of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project into a ‘downward spiral of conflict, confusion, and litigation’ and that it effectively kills negotiations on the Voluntary Agreements.

Click here to read this article.

THIS JUST IN … State Water Board Issues Key Documents That Further Efforts to Remove Klamath River Dams

From the State Water Board:

The State Water Board today issued key documents that move the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) significantly closer to removing four dams and re-opening 360 miles of the Klamath River and its tributaries to imperiled salmon.

The board issued a Final Water Quality Certification permit and Final Environmental Impact Report. The permit conditions will become part of the broader Lower Klamath Project License Surrender Order that must be issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory  Commission (FERC) before the dams can be decommissioned and removed.

Click here to read this article.

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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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