In California water news this weekend …

Kavanaugh takes cues from Scalia in groundwater ruling:  “The Supreme Court’s newest justice yesterday waded into the murky waters of Clean Water Act law and may have hinted at where he would come down when other more high-profile cases reach the high court.  In County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, the court struck a middle ground on the question of whether pollution that flows through groundwater into a protected waterway requires a Clean Water Act permit.  Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of six justices who said permits are required if the pollution at issue amounted to the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Kavanaugh takes cues from Scalia in groundwater ruling

Can nature help curb climate change?  “Just off Highway 880 at the edge of Hayward, the cityscape changes abruptly. Businesses and parking lots give way to large swaths of pickle grass and pools of water stretching out to the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay.  On a recent sunny, windy March day – just before COVID-19 sent the Bay Area into lockdown – Dave Halsing stood on the trails at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and pointed out what used to be old industrial salt ponds. He noted how they’re gradually being restored into a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other ecosystems in the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. ... ”  Read more from EcoWatch here:  Can nature help curb climate change?

Measuring groundwater from 300 miles above:  “Although it isn’t perceptible to the human eye, changes in water mass around the world cause small fluctuations in Earth’s gravity field. This includes water in underground aquifers, which couldn’t be remotely monitored before NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites.  Starting in 2011, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies (CALMIT) and the National Drought Mitigation Center in the School of Natural Resources worked with NASA to use the GRACE data to generate weekly maps of groundwater and soil moisture conditions. ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Measuring groundwater from 300 miles above

California’s almond acreage keeps rising:  “For the first time, the Almond Board of California (ABC) is concurrently releasing two California almond industry acreage reports: USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2019 California Almond Acreage Report and Land IQ’s 2020 Standing Acreage Initial Estimate (bearing acres, only). These reports are being issued side by side to improve industry reporting methods and provide a fuller picture of California’s almond acreage. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: California’s almond acreage keeps rising

Forestry training program helping cut wildfire risk and create jobs, ecosystem benefits:  “One of the critical solutions to California’s wildfire crisis is creating healthier, sustainable forests. Yet, this vital undertaking faces a major barrier: the lack of a trained workforce.  An innovative partnership in Central California seeks to fill that void. Known as the Central Valley Forestry Corps, the initiative launched its first class of recruits this spring – a hardy and dedicated collection of individuals who signed up to train and serve as modern-day forestry workers.  Upon completion of the program, these new additions to California’s workforce will make their mark within federal, state, and private forestlands, where they will fight fires as well as conduct fuels reduction and reforestation activities. The benefits will reach across California in the form of reduced wildfire threats, enhanced safety, and increased forest resilience, cleaner air and protected water supplies. … ”  Read more from California Forward here: Forestry training program helping cut wildfire risk and create jobs, ecosystem benefits

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In people news this weekend …

Escondido employee named California laboratory person of the year:  “City of Escondido Water Quality Lab Associate Chemist Oyuna Jenkins has been named “Laboratory Person of the Year” by the California Water Environment Association for 2019-20.  Supervising Chemist Ralph Ginese nominated Jenkins for the award, calling her “an incredible asset” during her seven years working at the lab. “The lab technically could not function without Oyuna,” wrote Ginese.  “This is really teamwork,” said Oyuna Jenkins of her recognition. “I have to give credit to everyone in the lab. We work really hard. Whoever you call a hero, there are always people behind them. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Escondido employee named California laboratory person of the year

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Legal briefs …

CLEAN WATER ACT/GROUNDWATER SUPREME COURT RULING

The clean water case of the century:  “The nation’s highest court has sided with clean water advocates in a decades-long legal dispute involving a wastewater treatment plant, its pollution discharges, and a partially dead coral reef in Hawaiʻi.  The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on Apr. 23, solidifying the Clean Water Act’s place as one of the nation’s most effective environmental laws. “This decision is a huge victory for clean water,” said David Henkin, the Earthjustice attorney who argued the case before the court. “We are glad the Court has recognized the importance of protecting clean water for all Americans.” … ”  Read more from Earthjustice here:  The clean water case of the century

Striking middle ground(water), the Supreme Court holds that some discharges to groundwater require Clean Water Act permits:  “The U.S. Supreme Court issued on April 23, 2020 a significant and controversial Clean Water Act (“CWA”) decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al.  As summarized previously, the issue presented was whether the County of Maui (“County”) requires a CWA discharge permit to dispose of wastewater through groundwater discharge wells where the discharged waters ultimately reach the Pacific Ocean. Without determining if the County’s discharge requires a permit, the Court held that any discharge to groundwater that is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge into navigable waters requires a CWA permit. In its decision, the Court struck a middle ground by declining to adopt the even more expansive “fairly traceable” standard adopted by the Ninth Circuit, or the bright line “groundwater doesn’t count” rule sought by the County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). ... ”  Read more from Brownstein Hyatt here: Striking middle ground(water), the Supreme Court holds that some discharges to groundwater require Clean Water Act permits

WOTUS RULE PUBLISHED

After months of delay, the 2020 WOTUS rule is finally published, ensuring the California regulated community receives no relief associated with the rule’s bright lines and clarifications: The 2020 WOTUS Rule seeks to provide certainty regarding the extent and reach of Federal Water Pollution Control Act (“CWA”) jurisdiction and permitting through the establishment of bright line rules, added definitions, and the elimination of the “significant nexus” test established by Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006) (hereafter “Rapanos”). However, whether the 2020 WOTUS Rule will suffer the same fate as the earlier 2015 WOTUS Rule remains to be seen due to threatened and anticipated litigation by a number of states and environmental organizations. To wit, on February 13, 2020, thirteen (13) environmental groups filed a Notice of Intent to sue the Agencies over the 2020 WOTUS Rule. Litigation regarding the earlier repeal rule, which made effective once again the 1988 United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) and the 1986 United States Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) versions of the WOTUS definition until the 2020 WOTUS Rule is in effect, continue to make its way through the federal courts. … ”  Read more from Downey Brand here: After months of delay, the 2020 WOTUS rule is finally published, ensuring the California regulated community receives no relief associated with the rule’s bright lines and clarifications

Redefining navigable waters: the next frontier of the WOTUS saga:  “In the ongoing saga of the Clean Water Act’s so-called “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) announced changes to the definition of “Navigable Waterways” on January 23, 2020. Those changes were published in the Federal Register on April 21, 2020. The EPA and ACOE share jurisdiction for administering the Clean Water Act and are collectively responsible for adopting regulations for implementing the Clean Water Act. The change to the definition of Navigable Waters is the latest move by the EPA and ACOE to redefine the scope of the Clean Water Act’s reach during the years following the introduction of the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The confusion and controversy stem, ironically, from the Clean Water Act’s simple definition of “navigable waters” as “waters of the United States.” The Act itself doesn’t provide any further definition, and determining the waters over which the Act confers jurisdiction has been the subject of controversy and litigation for years. ... ”  Read more from Nossaman here: Redefining navigable waters: the next frontier of the WOTUS saga

KEYSTONE PIPELINE

Federal court vacates Corps of Engineers permit for Keystone XL pipeline — and jeopardizes thousands of other projects nationwide:  “A U.S. District Court in Montana has ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 in 2017 to authorize qualifying utility line projects. Several environmental organizations challenged the Corps’ authorization under that permit of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline’s crossing of several streams. Agreeing with them that the Corps had not complied with its obligations under the Endangered Species Act, the court vacated NWP 12 and the Corps’ authorization of the pipeline. The court couched its ruling in such sweeping terms, though, that it effectively called into question the validity of Corps NWP 12 authorization of thousands of other utility line projects throughout the country. More than that, the court’s reasoning might apply as well to the other 51 Corps nationwide permits and thus jeopardize tens of thousands of projects of various sorts—residential, commercial, and institutional projects, maintenance activities, linear transportation projects, hydropower projects, certain types of mining, agricultural activities, and stormwater management projects—approved under those permits. ... ”  Read more from Briscoe Ivester & Bazel here: Federal court vacates Corps of Engineers permit for Keystone XL pipeline — and jeopardizes thousands of other projects nationwide

MONTHLY WATER USE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Monthly water use reporting requirements from 2016 drought are here to stay:  “As of April 21, 2020, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) adopted a regulation requiring approximately 400 urban water suppliers in California to report monthly water use.  By way of brief background, monthly reporting was required during the historic drought between 2012-2016 through emergency rulemaking procedures that were enacted via California Code of Regulations, Title 23, Section 864 (which expired after the emergency’s end). During this time, California saw cumulative water savings of nearly 2.7 million acre-feet from June 2015 to March 2017. Beginning in 2018 with Executive Orders B-37-16 and B-40-17 (collectively “Orders”), former Governor Brown sought to bolster his plan to “Make Conservation a California Way of Life” by directing the State Water Board to adopt permanent reporting requirements for urban water suppliers. ... ”  Read more from Atkinson Andelson Loya Ruud & Romo here: Monthly water use reporting requirements from 2016 drought are here to stay

Monthly water use reporting requirements adopted by SWRCB:  “The new regulation applies to California’s largest urban retail water suppliers — those with more than 3,000 connections or supplying more than 3,000 acre-feet of water annually. In total, these systems service 90% of California’s population. ... ”  Read more from Brownstein Hyatt here: Monthly water use reporting requirements adopted by SWRCB

COASTAL VINEYARDS

Vintners lose challenge to local coastal program ban on new vineyards:  “A California Court of Appeal upheld denial of a petition by vintners challenging the prohibition on new vineyards within the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone in deference to the California Coastal Commission’s finding that viticulture adversely impacts sensitive habitats, water quality, water supply, and scenic resources. Mountainlands Conservancy, LLC v. California Coastal Commission, No. B287079 (2d Dist., Apr. 1, 2020). ... ”  Read more from JD Supra here: Vintners lose challenge to local coastal program ban on new vineyards

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Sunday podcasts …

Our Heritage and Values: Steve Baker writes, “Have you ever wanted a perfectly calibrated countryside? Water is the fundamental backdrop for expanding society into new areas. I wonder, what does it take to achieve this? Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co 

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In regional news and commentary this weekend …

Water battle brewing in Klamath Falls:  “A legal challenge between federal and state rights is brewing over water in Klamath Falls.  The legal statement was posted on the gates to the Link River Dam late Thursday afternoon.  “Basically, the Oregon Department of Water Resources has taken control of the water in Klamath Lake.” Explains Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd.  The Klamath Irrigation District has been pursuing a legal effort to have water controlled by the state, rather than the federal government. ... ”  Read more from Fox 26 here: Water battle brewing in Klamath Falls

Klamath water allocation short of demand for farmers, ranchers:  “As expected, irrigators in the Klamath Project are getting less water than they will likely need this summer thanks to a combination of dry weather and more water being kept in-stream to protect threatened coho salmon.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will provide approximately 140,000 acre-feet of water to farms and ranches from Upper Klamath Lake in 2020, the agency announced Wednesday.  That is only one-third of historical demand for the Klamath Project, which delivers irrigation water to 230,000 acres of farmland in Southern Oregon and Northern California. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Klamath water allocation short of demand for farmers, ranchers

Siskiyou County once again faces severe drought:  “As Siskiyou County slips back into severe drought, members of Siskiyou County’s Groundwater Advisory Committees met last week to continue drafting groundwater management plans as conservation groups, farmers and other special interest groups brace for another dry summer.  California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, in response to the then years-long drought to manage state groundwater supplies. The law calls for the sustainable management of groundwater basins. In the context of groundwater, the state defines sustainability as managing water resources to meet the state’s current environmental, residential and agricultural needs while not impacting the ability of future generations to also meet their needs. … ”  Read more from the Mount Shasta Herald here: Siskiyou County once again faces severe drought

Amador County to take a closer look at Mule Creek State Prison spills: “The Amador County Board of Supervisors decided at its latest meeting that it could no longer turn a blind eye to continued reports of contamination in Mule Creek.  Since 2006, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR), which runs Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP), has had more than 50 industrial waste spills into Mule Creek. In the past four months alone, more than 17 million gallons have been dumped illegally into Mule Creek. ... ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch here:  Amador County to take a closer look at Mule Creek State Prison spills

San Luis Obispo County allocates $4.2 million for Nacimiento pipeline fix:  “The Lake Nacimiento water pipeline, which delivers supplemental drinking water to several local communities including the city of San Luis Obispo, has been out of commission since September after leaks were discovered in a segment of the 45-mile pipe that traverses the Salinas River.  Now, SLO County is emptying the project’s reserve account to fix the problem. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: San Luis Obispo County allocates $4.2 million for Nacimiento pipeline fix

Water Co. finds PFAS in five Atascadero wells:  “In December 2019, Atascadero Mutual Water Company (AMWC) was directed by the California State Water Board (Water Board) to sample five of its main production wells for perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under the Water Board’s Monitoring Order. PFAS are a group of man-made compounds that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States, since the 1940s. PFAS are very persistent in the environment.  … ”  Read more from the Atascadero News here: Water Co. finds PFAS in five Atascadero wells

Expect a wet Kern River through May:  “Unless it’s a big water year (spoiler alert: It’s not), the Kern River through Bakersfield is usually a dry, sandy channel.  So, water in the riverbed is pretty exciting in old B-town. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Expect a wet Kern River through May

The Politics of Malibu Sea Level Rise Projections:  “On Feb. 24, The Malibu Times ran a story summing up the California Coastal Commission’s 30-page rejection of a residential construction project on Broad Beach, which had already been approved by the City of Malibu. One of the five reasons the commission rejected the project was, they said, the applicant and city hadn’t used the latest available science on sea level rise.   The trouble is, when the homeowners (the Klein family) applied to the city for their coastal development permit in 2017, they were using the current science. The coastal commission, which didn’t look at the project until 2020, was using data that wasn’t published until November 2018—nearly a year after the city’s approval. … ” Read more from the Malibu Times here: The Politics of Malibu Sea Level Rise Projections

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Along the Colorado River …

Facing water cutbacks, Arizona farmers ‘in limbo’ despite $10 million federal pledge:  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved $10 million to help pay for water projects in the farmlands of central Arizona, where growers are bracing for their supply of Colorado River water to be shut off.  But those funds, conditionally awarded this month by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, are still subject to negotiations between federal and state officials. And leading representatives of irrigation districts in Pinal County say many details about the funding remain uncertain, including how much they may be able to spend on drilling wells to pump more groundwater, a central piece of Arizona’s plan for implementing the historic Colorado River drought deal signed last year. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Facing water cutbacks, Arizona farmers ‘in limbo’ despite $10 million federal pledge

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Image credit: Middle Fork of the Tule River; photo by Mike Trimble via Flickr.

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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