DAILY DIGEST, 4/15: Feinstein, Congressional leaders call on Interior, California to work together to manage California water supply; Met votes to initiate lawsuit against the state; Friant Water Authority opposes state strategy on inconsistent water management; and more …
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In California water news today …
Feinstein, Congressional leaders call on Interior, California to work together to manage California water supply: This just in from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office: “Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Jim Costa, Josh Harder, TJ Cox and John Garamendi (all D-Calif.) today called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and California Governor Gavin Newsom to maintain coordination of operations between the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The two projects provide water for an estimated 30 million Californians, nearly 4 million acres of agricultural land in California and numerous ecosystems, including managed wetlands. Both projects have traditionally coordinated their operations to achieve favorable outcomes for communities, endangered species, the environment and the agriculture industry. Recently, the state and federal governments developed conflicting rules for the amount of water each project can pump. Without an agreement, it will be harder for both projects to capture water for agricultural and other uses and to coordinate on increased flows for threatened or endangered fish at critical times for the species. …
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In a letter to Secretary Bernhardt the members wrote: “Continued coordinated operation is threatened by the conflict between the federal biological opinions and the state’s recently issued incidental take permit for the long-term operation of the State Water Project. Given the seriousness of this challenge, we urge you to take advantage of what is likely the last opportunity to work with the state and seek a solution to this impasse.” Read the full letter here.
In a separate letter to Governor Newsom, the members wrote: “We believe the most plausible path forward is through continued negotiation and the voluntary agreement process. We understand that an agreement between the necessary parties was close but has not yet been reached. Early implementation of such a voluntary agreement when fully negotiated could provide a framework to allow the State to settle its lawsuit with the federal government and resolve the differences between the federal biological opinions and the State’s incidental take permit for the long-term operation of the State Water Project.” Read the full letter here.
The Metropolitan Board voted to initiate a lawsuit against the state over the Incidental Take Permit issued at the end of March. I was listening to the board meeting yesterday afternoon. Any substantive discussion had to be held in closed session, and so it basically was just a vote. Many directors abstained and quite a few voted no, so the motion did pass but not resoundingly so. Here’s an article on Bloomberg about it, but it’s behind a paywall: California Water Supplier Heading to Court in State Permit Fight
Friant Water Authority opposes state strategy on inconsistent water management: “Earlier this year, President Donald Trump visited Bakersfield to put his signature on the biological opinion for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project. Governor Gavin Newsom and the state attorney general immediately filed their opposition in court. Late last month, the Friant Water Authority’s CEO, Jason Phillips, expressed his displeasure of California’s take on the federal government’s biological opinion for the State Water Project. “The State of California announced it is issuing a separate incidental take permit for operating the State Water Project that is inconsistent with the federal biological opinions finalized just over a month ago. This outcome is beyond disappointing,” Phillips said in a statement. … ” Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here: Friant Water Authority opposes state strategy on inconsistent water management
Feds cut water to exchange contractors, wildlife refuges: “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a water allocation update Monday and it had disappointing news for some San Joaquin Valley farmers, as well as wildlife refuges. The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors saw their allocation cut from February’s announced 100% to 75%, which is their contract minimum. Wildlife refuges likewise were reduced from 100% to 75%, Bureau officials said that even though March rains improved California’s overall water situation that wasn’t the case at Shasta Reservoir, which supplies the Exchange Contractors. … ” Read more from GV Wire here: Feds cut water to exchange contractors, wildlife refuges
DWR releases drought planning report: “The Department of Water Resources has released a draft report with recommendations and guidance to help small water suppliers and rural communities plan for the next drought, wildfire, or other natural disaster that may cause water shortages. The report, developed through a year-long stakeholder process and published on April 14, could inform future legislation to help small water suppliers and rural communities reduce their risk of inadequate water supply amid a water shortage event. … ” Read more from DWR News here: DWR releases drought planning report
Farmers dump milk, plow under crops as coronavirus cases climb in Fresno area: “Last week, Isabel Solorio turned away five families from the Lanare food bank serving farmworkers in rural Fresno County. There just wasn’t enough food to feed the 215 families who showed up. It was twice the number of families that needed food a week earlier, she said. But that same week, on a farm just 20 minutes away, at least two fields of fresh lettuce were disced back into the ground, left to rot as the restaurants that buy the produce struggle to stay afloat. Solorio’s husband works on that farm and suggested that the farm donate the lettuce to a food bank. ... ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Farmers dump milk, plow under crops as coronavirus cases climb in Fresno area
California weighs some freshwater fishing bans over virus: “California regulators will try again to convene an online public meeting to discuss a potential limited ban on freshwater fishing during the coronavirus pandemic after last week’s teleconference was canceled when it became overwhelmed by hundreds of callers. The state Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider emergency closures of some California rivers, streams and lakes at the request of local officials concerned that visiting anglers might spread the virus. ... ” Read more from the Lompoc Record here: California weighs some freshwater fishing bans over virus
ON A RELATED NOTE … California Fish and Game Commission to hold remote meeting this morning and tomorrow: They will be discussing the fishing closure issue this morning starting at 10am. Agenda and webcast information here..
Green sturgeon makes surprise appearance in the San Joaquin River: “A rare, wild green sturgeon was found on the San Joaquin River upriver from the confluence of the Merced this past weekend by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation crews checking salmon traps at Hills Ferry. The discovery caused some excitement as this endangered fish had not been seen that far up the San Joaquin in many years, according to National Marine Fisheries Service staff. ... ” Read more from SJV Water here: Green sturgeon makes surprise appearance in the San Joaquin River
For Californians without water access, coronavirus adds another layer of struggle: “Lucy Hernandez knew something was wrong when she arrived at a Walmart store in Visalia, California, last month, shortly before Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On the normally well-stocked shelves, Hernandez couldn’t find bottled water. Alarmed, she jumped back in her car and headed to Costco. No water. She tried the 99 Cents Only store, the Dollar Tree and Target. No water. Desperate, Hernandez drove 20 miles to Hanford, but still couldn’t find water for sale. A grandmother of three, Hernandez lives with nine other family members in the tiny community of West Goshen, just east of Visalia. Residents in the predominantly low-income Latino community distrust the local tap water because it has a history of contamination. … ” Read more from Healthline here: For Californians without water access, coronavirus adds another layer of struggle
Water advocates advise against bottled water hoarding: “Within hours of the first COVID-19 diagnosis in Tulare County, bottled water started flying off the shelves everywhere. Preparing for what could be a long stay at home, and presumably a water shutoff, customers took more than their fair share of cases. However, that left communities with contaminated groundwater short on options. “Over the last few weeks, we have all witnessed empty shelves where bottled water used to be stocked in grocery stores and corner markets,” said Michael Claiborne, Senior Attorney with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “For those with safe tap water, this is a mere inconvenience. For the hundreds of thousands of Californians who lack access to safe tap water, the bottled water shortage is a crisis. The state must act now to make emergency water supplies available to those who need them.” … ” Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Water advocates advise against bottled water hoarding
Dairy operators strike balance to protect groundwater: “Over the last 20 years, University of California research has shown that dairies in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys of California are potentially major contributors of nitrate and salts in groundwater, and to maintain groundwater quality, the California Water Resources Control Board has ramped up regulations to ensure that dairy manure and wastewater application isn’t contaminating the aquifer. University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor Nick Clark is helping farmers in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties of California work through the process and continue producing crops sustainably now and in the future. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Dairy operators strike balance to protect groundwater
New digital market opens for West’s most valuable resource: water: “The market for water rights — often called the greatest asset in the West — has been patchy, complicated and expensive to access. A new program aims to change that. A digital platform called Western Water Market debuted in February. It offers an online listing service where people can buy, sell or lease water rights. The online platform resembles the housing market listing service Zillow. “It’s like Craigslist,” said Kristina Ribellia, founder of WWM, “but classier.” ... ” Read more from the Capital Press here: New digital market opens for West’s most valuable resource: water
Pandemic shines a light on critical water issues — will congress fund solutions? “Our days now are clouded with uncertainty. How long will the COVID-19 crisis last? What immediate health effects and long-term economic damage will we experience? What’s the best protocol for staying safe and healthy? On that last front, we know one thing for sure: We need to wash our hands well and often. And for that we need clean, running water. But so far the federal legislative responses to the novel coronavirus crisis have not included financial support for water utilities, most of which are public agencies. And there’s been no federal mandate to prevent water shutoffs for households unable to pay their bills. ... ” Read more from The Revelator here: Pandemic shines a light on critical water issues — will congress fund solutions?
Water contamination risks lurk in plumbing of idled buildings: ” … Building closures have obvious repercussions for local economies and social connections. Politicians want to lift stay-home orders and reopen public and private spaces as soon as the health risks from Covid-19 are manageable. But before the all-clear signal is flashed, one hidden risk should not be overlooked, plumbing experts say. Prolonged closures can degrade water quality within buildings and introduce into the water harmful pathogens like Legionella bacteria and chemical contaminants such as lead. Certifying a building as fit for reopening means clearing the plumbing system, they say. … ” Read more at Circle of Blue here: Water contamination risks lurk in plumbing of idled buildings
Programs to assist Klamath Basin irrigators in progress: “The Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (KPDRA) is accepting applications for 2020 drought relief programs to provide financial incentives and/or relief to local farmers who normally receive surface water through the Klamath Project from Upper Klamath Lake or the Klamath River, according to a news release. This program is available to qualified irrigators or districts who pump groundwater and/or the farmers of lands that are not irrigated during the 2020 season. ... ” Read more from the Herald & News here: Programs to assist Klamath Basin irrigators in progress
Stanislaus River feeds prosperity, politics; generates power, clashes: “As you read this there is just a tad more than 50 inches of snow at the 8,770-foot level below Sonora Pass where the now closed Highway 108 — the second loftiest highway in California — crests the Sierra at 9,264 feet. The snow from Sonora Pass — as well as the surrounding peaks and that covering the Sierra dozens of miles to the west — will ultimately melt. Some will flow through dozens of penstocks unleashing power as it cascades downhill to generate electricity that will light homes, power milking machines, and provide the energy to keep a large segment of the Silicon Valley humming. … ” Continue reading at Riverbank News here: Stanislaus River feeds prosperity, politics; generates power, clashes
Legal fight reopened over Kern River: “The Kern River can’t seem to stay out of California’s courtrooms — even in a pandemic. The latest legal scuffle, which erupted last week, is a continuation of a nearly decade long battle by a Kern County ag water district to hold on to a portion of its main water supply. On Friday, April 9, North Kern Water Storage District unsuccessfully sought to have a Ventura County court slap a temporary restraining order on the City of Bakersfield to force it to hold 20,000 acre feet of water in Lake Isabella to sell to the ag water district later on. ... ” Read more from SJV Water here: Legal fight reopened over Kern River
More drought on tap for western US amid low river flows: “The mighty Rio Grande is looking less mighty as U.S. forecasters predict spring flows will be less than half of average — or worse — and that signals potential trouble for the already stressed waterway. One of the longest rivers in North America, the Rio Grande delivers drinking water and irrigation supplies to millions of people from southern Colorado into Texas and Mexico under a decades-old water-sharing agreement. With more dry years than wet ones over the last two decades, how much water ends up flowing downstream has been a point of contention among the states. … ” Read more from the AP here: More drought on tap for western US amid low river flows
TED GRANTHAM: The evolution of environmental flows in California
Ted Grantham is a Cooperative Extension Specialist at UC Berkeley and the CalTrout Ecosystem Fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California. He studies water, climate, and water management with a focus on the environmental consequences of the ways in which we manage water in this state and throughout the world. In this presentation, Dr. Grantham discussed environmental flows and the policy context in California in which environmental flows are managed and how that has evolved over time.
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.