DAILY DIGEST, 4/23: As a dying Salton Sea spews harmful dust, Imperial Valley water wars heat up again; CA ranks small water agencies in the county, state for drought vulnerability; Coronavirus forces farmworkers to scramble for safe drinking water; Supreme Court hands environmentalists a win in water pollution case; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: The Conservation Lands Network: A bold regional vision and tools to increase the pace and scale of conservation in the SF Bay Area from 10:30am to 12:00pm.  Presented by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Click here to register.

 

In California water news today …

As a dying Salton Sea spews harmful dust, Imperial Valley water wars heat up again:  “The people of California’s Imperial Valley can be as unforgiving as the region’s harsh desert climate.  It’s been 16 years since Bruce Kuhn cast the fateful vote to transfer tens of billions of gallons of Colorado River water from the valley’s sprawling farms to thirsty coastal cities, reshaping water politics in California and across the West.  But for many locals, it might as well have been yesterday.  Voters sent Kuhn packing from the Imperial Irrigation District’s board of directors last month after a primary campaign in which his leading opponent, J.B. Hamby, hammered him over the consequences of the water transfer — including the accelerated demise of the Salton Sea, a giant lake that is spewing lung-damaging dust into the air as it shrinks. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: As a dying Salton Sea spews harmful dust, Imperial Valley water wars heat up again

California ranks small water agencies in the county, state for drought vulnerability:  “Roy Vincent has no problem ticking off the problems he says face the little community water district that serves him in Jones Valley near Redding.  The system leaks, the filtration system is old and prone to breaking down, many individual meters are antiquated and the water pumps have inadequate wiring, he said.  But even with those issues, he believes the Jones Valley Community Service Area water system could weather another drought. ... ”  Read more from the Redding Record-Searchlight here: California ranks small water agencies in the county, state for drought vulnerability

Coronavirus forces California farmworkers to scramble for safe drinking water:  “Bare shelves in grocery stores have become a fact of life during the coronavirus crisis, as panicked shoppers worried about shortages resort to hoarding. Yet what’s little more than an inconvenience for most people could pose serious health risks for as many as a million Californians living in poor rural farmworker communities with tap water fouled by decades of agricultural pollution.  The crisis has revealed the inadequacy of state programs designed to get safe and affordable drinking water to these communities, leaving organizers scrambling to make sure residents have enough clean water for their families. ... ”  Read more from the Food & Environment Network here: Coronavirus forces California farmworkers to scramble for safe drinking water

Sites Project Authority to “right size” Sites Reservoir to meet current and future water supply needs (press release):  The Sites Project Authority (Authority) today announced its intent to revise and recirculate its environmental document for the Sites Reservoir project. Over the past several months, the Authority has undertaken a rigorous Value Planning effort to review the project’s proposed operations and facilities in an effort to develop a project that is “right sized” for current participants while still providing water supply reliability and enhancing the environment. …  “

Click here to continue reading.

The process has resulted in a project that includes facilities and operations that are different than originally proposed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) released for public review in 2017. Due to these changes, the Authority as the California Environmental Quality Act lead agency will revise and recirculate its Draft EIR and work with landowners, tribes, stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to conduct a collaborative environmental review process. The Authority will also coordinate with the Bureau of Reclamation to confirm the appropriate approach to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The Value Planning process was responsive to input from our investors, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, elected officials, landowners and local communities. By optimizing our plans for Sites Reservoir, we can design a water storage project that meets the needs of our participants and the environment today and in the future.” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority.

Sites Reservoir is a generational opportunity to construct a multi-benefit water storage project that helps restore flexibility, reliability, and resiliency to our statewide water supply. Located 10 miles west of Maxwell in rural Glenn and Colusa counties, Sites Reservoir would be an off-stream storage facility that captures and stores stormwater flows in the Sacramento River—after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met—for release primarily in dry and critical years for environmental use and for California communities, farms and businesses when it is so desperately needed.

“By creating a resilient and reliable water supply for people and the environment during dry periods, Sites Reservoir provides a unique benefit that closely aligns with Governor Newsom’s Water Resiliency Plan,” said Jerry Brown, executive director for the Sites Project Authority.

Sites Reservoir would provide federal and state resource agencies with a dedicated and reliable supply of water they can manage to provide environmental benefits, especially during drier years. A substantial portion of the project’s water would be dedicated to environmental flows, which would help to improve conditions for Delta smelt, and help preserve the cold-water pool in Lake Shasta later into the summer months to support salmon development, spawning and rearing. In addition, it would improve the Pacific Flyway habitat for migratory birds and other native species.

Revisions to the EIR are underway. A revised and recirculated EIR is expected to be released for public review in Summer 2021. The Authority is coordinating with the Bureau of Reclamation on how best to move forward with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with the goal of remaining a joint EIR/EIS to facilitate the public review process. “

Sites is an off-stream reservoir proposed north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where it would provide unique water supply and environmental benefits during dry and critical water years, and especially during extended drought periods. Additional information can be found at www.sitesproject.org or on Facebook and Twitter at @SitesProject.

California Department Of Fish And Wildlife responds to request from Sierra County about fishing:  “California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham took two specific and limited steps today for fishing in Sierra County. As requested by county officials, CDFW suspended fishing on the mainstem of the North Fork Yuba River and delayed the trout opener on the entire Downie River mainstem in the county. Sierra County officials requested these actions last week along with requests from Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties; however; the tailored request required additional discussion with the county. The director made this decision in consultation with California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar. ... ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: California Department Of Fish And Wildlife responds to request from Sierra County about fishing

California Supreme Court grants review of  Third District decision involving FERC Relicensing of State’s Oroville Hydroelectric Dam Project to decide extent to which Federal Power Act preempts CEQA:  “On December 11, 2019, the California Supreme Court by a 7-0 vote granted the petition for review of Butte and Plumas Counties and the Plumas County Flood Control and Water Conservation District in County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources (State Water Contractors), Case No. S258574 (formerly published at (3d Dist. 2019) 39 Cal.App.5th 708).  The order granting review, which also directed that the Third District’s opinion be depublished at the request of defendant and respondent Department of Water Resources (which interestingly filed no answer to the petition for review), specified the following two issues for briefing … ”  Read more from JD Supra here: California Supreme Court grants review of  Third District decision involving FERC Relicensing of State’s Oroville Hydroelectric Dam Project to decide extent to which Federal Power Act preempts CEQA

Reclamation awards $1.1 million to six tribes for water resource technical assistance:  “Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that six tribes will share $1.1 million through the Native American Affairs Technical Assistance to Tribes Program to develop, manage and protect water and related resources.  “Reclamation is committed to working with tribes throughout the West on water management issues,” Commissioner Burman said. “This funding will establish cooperative working relationships with Indian tribes and tribal organizations and ensure they can fully participate with Reclamation as they develop, manage and protect their water resources.” ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation awards $1.1 million to six tribes for water resource technical assistance

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In national/world news today …

8 rivers that could disappear in the next 100 years:  “Find out how humans have put these vital waterways in peril.”  Read/view photo essay from Reader’s Digest here: 8 rivers that could disappear in the next 100 years

Supreme Court hands environmentalists a win in water pollution case:  “The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with environmentalists by giving a broad reading to the types of water-borne pollution covered by the Clean Water Act.  In a 6-3 decision, the justices held that a permit is required for either a direct discharge of pollutants into federally-regulated rivers and oceans or its “functional equivalent.” … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Supreme Court hands environmentalists a win in water pollution case

Senate water bills need more funding due to pandemic: witnesses:  “Two bipartisan draft water infrastructure bills unveiled this week by the Senate environment committee are a good start but will need even more funding in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, water agencies and other groups said Wednesday.  The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 centers mostly on Army Corps of Engineers projects and policy, and would authorize roughly $17 billion in infrastructure projects. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg News here: Senate water bills need more funding due to pandemic: witnesses

The tides they are a-changin’ — and it’s not just from climate change:  “It was the muddy water that caught Stefan Talke’s eye.  In the mid-2000s Talke was a postdoctoral scholar at Utrecht University, studying the Ems River that empties into the North Sea between Germany and the Netherlands. Decades earlier, engineers had begun dredging parts of the Ems so that newly built ships could navigate it from a shipyard upriver.  But those changes also changed the rhythm in which tides ebbed and flowed into the river from the sea. Those shifting tides stirred up sediment from the river bottom and muddied its waters. Over the last 120 years the tidal range — the distance between high and low tide — has quintupled in the Ems estuary. … ”  Read more from Knowable Magazine here: The tides they are a-changin’ — and it’s not just from climate change

Could changing the way we farm rice be a climate solution?:  “Rice may be having a moment. Until recently, the average American ate only about a half a pound of the grain annually, while people in some Asian countries eat upwards of eight pounds a year. By early March, however, one data firm found that sales of rice and other staples were up 84 percent. And, as significant questions have arisen about the short-term future of meat production, this grain could become a more significant part of the U.S. diet.  As one of only a few commodities grown in the U.S. that go directly to feed people, rice also has a much smaller environmental footprint than many other foods. … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Could changing the way we farm rice be a climate solution?

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In commentary today …

California should not build Temperance Flat Reservoir. The federal government should, says Kristi Diener:  She writes, “Sixty-eight percent of California voters made their wishes clear in 2014 when they voted to approve the Proposition 1 water bond sold to them as the path to building new, major, above-ground storage.  But California never had any intentions of making the people’s wishes a reality if the bond passed, which is why the words “dam” and “reservoir” were not mentioned in the carefully crafted language one single time. They used the phrase “water storage” instead, giving themselves plenty of wiggle room to exploit its interpretation. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: California should not build Temperance Flat Reservoir. The federal government should

Opportunities are plentiful to sustain California agriculture in the face of water supply uncertainties, says Cora Kammeyer:  She writes, “Re California water policies inhibit food production by Valley farmers: There is no evidence supporting the author’s claim that the San Joaquin Valley’s water supply challenges are linked to California’s food security or the rise in foreign produce imports.   Drivers that do cause increasing importation of produce from other countries include: Consumer demand for fresh, inexpensive produce year-round, fewer environmental, health and safety protections in foreign countries that drive down labor and production costs as compared to California, and federal policies that encourage agricultural imports, including special rules that allow specific crops to be imported, and low tariffs for foreign produce. … ”  Continue reading at CalMatters here:  Opportunities are plentiful to sustain California agriculture in the face of water supply uncertainties

We need to keep our water systems — and workers — safe as the novel coronavirus ravages the world, says Scott Houston:  He writes, “Many hard lessons have already been learned — and, in some cases, ignored — as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the world. The good news is that, so far, the water and wastewater sectors in the United States have been largely spared. This likely will continue to be the case: Treated drinking water will remain safe to drink, and utility and wastewater treatment workers do not appear to be in any novel danger. … ”  Read more from Ensia here:  We need to keep our water systems — and workers — safe as the novel coronavirus ravages the world

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In regional news and commentary today …

Reclamation releases Interim Operating Procedures and 2020 Operations Plan for the Klamath Project:  “The Bureau of Reclamation released the Interim Operating Procedures and 2020 Operations Plan for the Klamath Project today. The Klamath Project delivers irrigation water to approximately 230,000 acres in southern Oregon and northern California. The annual Operations Plan is based upon the expected hydrologic conditions from the April 1, 2020 Natural Resources Conservation Service inflow forecast and current reservoir elevations.  “We are having a very challenging water year,” said Klamath Basin Area Office Manager Jeff Nettleton. “We’ve had a dry fall, winter and spring, resulting in a low snowpack and significantly lower-than-average reservoir inflows. These conditions make it even more challenging than normal to meet all the water needs in the Basin. Reclamation deeply appreciates all of the stakeholders working together with us to meet the needs of our diverse communities through the Klamath Basin.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation releases Interim Operating Procedures and 2020 Operations Plan for the Klamath Project

Mendocino: Chinook salmon runs reached significant low in 2019 – 2020 season:  “Counts of chinook salmon in the Eel River were lower during the 2019 – 2020 ocean runs than any previous count conducted by the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) since the organization began tracking in 2012, according a new report, with estimates putting the entire chinook salmon run at below 10,000 fish.  The ERRP points to low river flows and a decrease in ocean krill populations as pressures on the salmon population, and the organization recommends improving freshwater habitat for chinook on lower Eel River as one possible solution, noting that only one adult salmon was counted in Outlet Creek, and probably no more than 120 adult salmon were in Tomki Creek. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: Mendocino: Chinook salmon runs reached significant low in 2019 – 2020 season

Water Forum Marks 20 Years Collaboration on Lower American River:  “When the Water Forum Agreement was officially signed 20 years ago this week, the occasion marked an unprecedented show of regional cooperation. For years, interests representing business, the environment, water suppliers and others had sparred over the water needs of people vs. the environment of the lower American River. A growing population, competing water supply and environmental needs and steadily declining groundwater levels made the issues more urgent.  “Environmentalists feared the American River would be drawn down to a trickle. Water managers wondered how they’d get customers to pay for new pipes and pumps necessary to increase reliability to keep faucets flowing in the next century,” wrote then-Sacramento Bee reporter Nancy Vogel. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: Water Forum Marks 20 Years Collaboration on Lower American River

Monterey: More water? Or just more politics? Melodie Chrislock writes, “The coronavirus certainly hasn’t slowed Cal Am and its desal supporters down. One might hope that it would soften their “corporate bottom line at all costs” attitude with just a bit more of the “help your neighbor, we’re all in this together” attitude. No chance.  Cal Am’s next target is the expansion of the Pure Water Monterey recycled water project, the cost-effective water supply solution so many in our community have been working to see developed. The expansion project would give us another 2,250 acre-feet of water annually. … ”  Read more from Voices of Monterey Bay here: Monterey: More water? Or just more politics?

Wet Spring Provides a Big Boost to Santa Barbara County’s Water Supply:  “It wasn’t exactly a “March Miracle,” but the precipitation Santa Barbara County received this spring rescued what otherwise had been a fairly sorry rain season, and gave a healthy boost to local water supplies.  As of Monday, the county as a whole had received 95 percent of its average rainfall to date, according to the county Flood Control District.  At the beginning of March, that figure stood at only 57 percent. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Wet Spring Provides a Big Boost to Santa Barbara County’s Water Supply

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Along the Colorado River …

Earthquake-prone Western Slope wastewater facility resumes limited operations:  “A wastewater facility on Colorado’s Western Slope is resuming operations more than a year after it was shut down for causing a sizable earthquake in 2019.  The Bureau of Reclamation’s Paradox Valley Unit in rural Montrose County, Colo. pumps salty groundwater into a well to keep it from seeping into the Dolores River and loading it with salt. A higher salt content in the Dolores River, a main tributary of the Colorado River, makes it more difficult to use in cities and on farms throughout the southwestern watershed. … ”  Read more from KNAU here: Earthquake-prone Western Slope wastewater facility resumes limited operations

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Today’s Featured Article ...

WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Water resources management in the Pajaro Valley Basin

The Pajaro Valley is home to a billion-dollar agricultural industry, it’s rich, fertile soil providing fruits and vegetables for the nation and all grown with groundwater.  Located on the Central Coast, the Pajaro Valley has no connection to the State Water Project or to otherwise bring in imported water.

In 1980, the Department of Water Resources published Bulletin 118, identifying the Pajaro Valley as one of eleven basins in the state considered critically overdrafted.  Community leaders recognized that local management of the groundwater basin was necessary as seawater intrusion was already impacting agricultural water supplies as well as domestic wells; however, there was no single agency with authority to manage the entire basin which encompasses parts of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties as well as the City of Watsonville.  So in 1984, local legislators spearheaded the state legislation necessary to form the a multi-jurisdictional agency to manage groundwater which was subsequently approved by local voters.

Since that time, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency has been working toward sustainable management of the Pajaro Valley’s water resources.  At the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, General Manager Brian Lockwood discussed the projects and programs the Agency is implementing as they work towards achieving groundwater sustainability.

Click here to read this article.

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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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