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DAILY DIGEST, Earth Day: In new filing, Becerra seeks to halt Trump’s Valley water boost; Water suppliers must report usage; Water availability for San Joaquin Valley farms: a balancing act; and more …


On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

In new filing, Becerra seeks to halt Trump’s Valley water boost:  “California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion Tuesday evening seeking to stop implementation of new Federal environmental guidelines aimed at boosting water supplies for the Central Valley and Southern California from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  In a filing submitted to Fresno-based U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Drozd, Becerra – on behalf of the Newsom administration – argued that Drozd should suspend the operation of newly-adopted biological opinions governing the Federally-managed Central Valley Project until the state’s lawsuit contesting the validity of those environmental regulations is resolved. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: In new filing, Becerra seeks to halt Trump’s Valley water boost

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California’s largest water suppliers must report usage:  “California’s largest water suppliers will have to report their monthly use and conservation efforts under a measure approved Tuesday by state regulators.  More than 400 urban systems that supply 90% of the state’s population will have to make monthly reports to the State Water Resources Control Board under a vote that makes the voluntary program mandatory. After passing a legal review, it would take effect in October. … ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Times here: California’s largest water suppliers must report usage

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Water availability for San Joaquin Valley farms: a balancing act: “Why does surface water access matter for groundwater sustainability?  Although the San Joaquin Valley has the largest groundwater deficit in the state, water resources vary considerably within the region. A few areas receive abundant surface water. Most others supplement with groundwater. Still others depend entirely on groundwater. In many areas, groundwater is being used at unsustainable rates and pumping will need to be cut to bring basins into balance. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  Water availability for San Joaquin Valley farms: a balancing act

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Allocating floodwaters to replenish groundwater basins:  “How can floodwaters reduce groundwater overdraft?  Water users have two options for bringing overdrafted groundwater basins into balance: reduce pumping or increase groundwater supplies. In many places, recharging basins with floodwaters from winter and spring storms is one of the most promising supply-side approaches. With SGMA, interest in capturing this water is at an all-time high. In the San Joaquin Valley, 28 of the 36 groundwater sustainability plans propose recharge projects. Total demand for floodwaters is so high that it outstrips what is likely to be available. Competition could be fierce. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Allocating floodwaters to replenish groundwater basins

Reclamation to implement Klamath River flushing flow for salmon health:  “The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with PacifiCorp, plans to increase flows below Iron Gate Dam to reduce the risk of disease for coho salmon in the Klamath River.  Beginning April 22, flows below Iron Gate Dam will increase from approximately 1,325 cubic feet per second up to 6,000 cfs. Increased releases out of Upper Klamath Lake will occur simultaneously. The highest releases, of up to approximately 6,000 cfs, will continue for 72 hours. Flows will ramp back down to normal by May 1. The public is urged to take all necessary precautions on or near the Link and Klamath rivers while flows are high during this period. ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here:  Reclamation to implement Klamath River flushing flow for salmon health

Reclamation updates 2020 Central Valley Project water allocation for Friant Division:  “Today, the Bureau of Reclamation updated the water supply allocation for Friant Division Central Valley Project contracts for the 2020 contract year. The Friant Division provides water for 15,000 family farms and several cities in the Central Valley. This is the second update to the 2020 Central Valley Project water allocation for Friant Division this year. Initial allocations were made on February 25. Reclamation increased the allocation from 20% to 40% for Class 1 water supply on April 6. ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation updates 2020 Central Valley Project water allocation for Friant Division

High tech and low show state’s snowpack is still stingy:  “The snowpack above the Central Valley looked slightly better after March and April brought the winter weather that was AWOL during the first two months of 2020.  But the late storms weren’t enough to get valley rivers much above the 60 percent of average mark, if that. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: High tech and low show state’s snowpack is still stingy

After coordination with local government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife delays trout season openers in three counties:  “As requested by county officials, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham delayed the start of the trout opener in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties. The director made this decision in consultation with California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar.  The trout season was scheduled to open in these three counties this Saturday, April 25. The delay to the opener in these counties expires May 31, 2020. ... ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: After coordination with local government, California Department of Fish and Wildlife delays trout season openers in three counties

FACT SHEET: California’s Recycled Water and Treated Wastewater Is Safe from theCOVID-19 Virus: Existing stringent state standards protect public fromCOVID-19 .  Click here for the fact sheet from the State Water Board.

Food system tries to match demand, supply:  “The nation’s complicated and essential food system continues to adjust to the sharp, sudden shift in demand spurred by stay-at-home orders and food-service shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. For farmers and others in the food supply chain, the immediate and long-term future remains uncertain as peak harvest season nears for many commodities.  California Farm Bureau Federation President Jamie Johansson said farmers and ranchers are feeling the effects from lost or disrupted markets, plant closures or added on-farm safety requirements. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Food system tries to match demand, supply

After the Coronavirus, the Climate Crisis Will Remain. What Have We Learned? Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but in an irony big enough to envelop the entire planet, many who want to celebrate will have to do it indoors. That, of course, is due to the coronavirus, which has killed around 175,000 people and forced populations around the globe to live life almost exclusively sheltered at home.  The death and chaos surrounding COVID-19 has been a brutal reminder of nature’s ability to disrupt humanity’s best laid plans. Yet, the crisis is not without at least one positive development. By one estimate, the pandemic could this year result in a 5.5% drop in worldwide carbon emissions, which cause global warming. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects the country’s emissions from gas and energy could decrease by a startling 7%. … ”  Read more from KQED here: After the Coronavirus, the Climate Crisis Will Remain. What Have We Learned? 

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In national/world news today …

As snowmelt declines, farmers in western U.S. could be among the hardest hit:  “As global temperatures continue to rise, farmers in the western United States who rely on snowmelt to water their crops could be one of the most severely affected agricultural communities in the world, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change. Two of the most vulnerable regions to climate change will be the San Joaquin and Colorado river basins, both major producers of crops and livestock. ... ”  Read more from Yale E360 here: As snowmelt declines, farmers in western U.S. could be among the hardest hit

CLEAN WATER ACT: Trump’s rewrite is finalized. What happens now?  “The Trump administration today finalized its controversial definition of what marshes, wetlands and streams quality for protections under the Clean Water Act.  But don’t expect regulatory certainty anytime soon.  EPA published its Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Federal Register this morning, nearly four months after the administration unveiled the rule.  Publication starts a 60-day clock before the rule goes into effect and waves a green flag for an onslaught of lawsuits likely to be filed around the country. The litigation will undoubtedly run beyond Election Day, so the future of the rule likely depends on whether Trump wins a second term. … ” Read more from E&E News here: CLEAN WATER ACT: Trump’s rewrite is finalized. What happens now?

Bipartisan senators announce $19.5B water infrastructure proposal:  “Lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee have announced two pieces of draft legislation that together would invest  $19.5 billion into the country’s water infrastructure.   One draft bill, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) would aim to increase water storage, offer flooding protection and repair wastewater and irrigation systems among other measures. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: Bipartisan senators announce $19.5B water infrastructure proposal

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In commentary today …

Celebrating Earth Day and the power of conservation partnershipsCarlos Suarez and Phil Souza write, “Fifty years ago, Americans celebrated the first Earth Day with hopes of “fixing” our broken Earth.   Our planet and fellow citizens needed help, much like today but in different ways. The Cuyahoga River burned, air quality had reached unhealthy levels, and some species and habitats were struggling.  Our country created a bedrock of environmental laws like the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. Working arm-in-arm with state governments and many others, we invested in conservation, learned valuable lessons and helped improve the health of the environment. We are proud of this legacy and our American heritage. … ”  C0ntinue reading at CalMatters here: Celebrating Earth Day and the power of conservation partnerships

Free-flowing rivers help ecosystems, wildlife, people and the economy, says Tom Wathen:  He writes, “Faced with the many risks and tragedies of this challenging spring of 2020, people have sought solace wherever they can find it, and for many that has been in the beauty of nature, from standing by a stream in their nearby park to contemplating the grandeur of America’s public lands and rivers. Right now, however, many of our nation’s rivers are under stress — from dams, diversions, and pollution — that is threatening their ability to serve as the lifeblood of wild landscapes, provide habitat and food to a huge range of plant and animal species, and ferry drinking water to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population.  … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Free-flowing rivers help ecosystems, wildlife, people and the economy, says Tom Wathen

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Today’s featured articles …

CA WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Removing the dams on the Lower Klamath River

Compared to most coastal river systems, the Klamath River is upside down. It starts slow and high among the farmlands of eastern Oregon; as it flows through Northern California toward the Pacific, its basin narrows and turns mountainous, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean south of Crescent City.  This twist of fate made the Lower Klamath River attractive for hydropower, and so four dams were built beginning in 1918 to supply power to customers in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

The river has been home to several Native American tribes for time immemorial including the Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa Tribes, for whom the once-abundant salmon were an integral part of the tribe’s culture as well as their physical sustenance.  The salmon runs on the Klamath River salmon were once the third-largest in the nation, but have fallen to just a fraction of their historic numbers after the dams were constructed, blocking salmon and steelhead from reaching hundreds of miles of upstream habitat.

So after years of lobbying and pressure, the four hydropower dams on the Lower Klamath River are set to be removed as soon as 2022 after their operator, PacifiCorp, concluded the dams no longer made economic sense as the relicensing procedure would likely result in fish mitigation being required.  The Klamath Dam removal project is the largest dam removal project ever proposed in the United States – or anywhere else in the world.

At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed the project.  Seated on the panel was Richard Roos-Collins, a principal with the Water and Power Law Group and General Counsel for the Klamath River Renewal Corporation; Paul Weiland, lawyer for Siskiyou County; and Mike Belchik, Senior Fisheries Biologist with the Yurok Tribe.

Click here to read this article.


The State and Metropolitan exchange letters over the State Water Project’s Incidental Take Permit

At the end of March, the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a new “Incidental Take Permit” (or ITP) for the State Water Project. This permit governs the operations of the State Water Project and enables DWR to operate in compliance with the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The approach of pursuing a separate state CESA permit is a new path for DWR, who in the past, pursued compliance with federal and state endangered species acts through a ‘consistency determination’ with the federal operating rules.

However, the new state permit that was issued is substantially different than the federal operating rules for the projects and throws into question how the two water projects, which draw from the same Delta channels, can operate under such vastly different operating rules.

After the permit was issued, the Metropolitan Water District board voted to sue the state over the permit at its April board meeting.

On April 14, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Chuck Bonham and Director of Department of Water Resources Karla Nemeth sent a letter to Chair Gloria Gray and board members of the Metropolitan Water District. On Monday, Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger replied to their letter outlining Metropolitan’s numerous concerns.

Click here to read the letters.


DELTA CONVEYANCE PROJECT: A sampling of scoping comments

Last Friday, April 17th, the public comment period for scoping comments on the Delta Conveyance Project closed. 

Here are some of the comments that I have received, listed in alphabetical order.  This list is likely nowhere near complete, however.  If you would like to have your organization’s comments posted here, please email them to me, and I will update this post accordingly.

Click here to read comments.

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NASA SWE Report …

NASA Snow Water Equivalent Report: The April 20, 2020  Real time SWE Report (in PDF format) for the Sierra Nevada Mountains is now available. The regional summary map (first figure in the report) shows the mean SWE above 5000’ elevation for three major regions of the Sierra Nevada. As of April 20th regional average SWE remains below average across the Sierra, with percent of average SWE highest in the central (74%) and south (79%) and lowest in the north (45%).

20200420_RT_SWE_Report

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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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