DAILY DIGEST, 5/14: Scott Dam removal part of Potter Valley coalition’s proposal; Delta advocates see hope in the last option remaining: the law; Groundwater recharge needs to be data driven; Clean Water for All Act introduced to block implementation of new WOTUS rule; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: The Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife will meet beginning at 10am.  The Committee will hear bills related to hatcheries, flood management, Northern California watersheds, groundwater quality in disadvantaged communities, Anderson Dam, and others.  Click here for full agendaClick here to listen in.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Hydrology from the Bottom Up: How Groundwater Shapes the Water Cycle.  Presented by the Groundwater Resources Association from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Presented by the Groundwater Resources Association. Click here to register.

 

In California water news today …

Scott Dam removal part of Potter Valley coalition’s proposal:  “A group of Northern California agencies on Wednesday filed a proposal to acquire the Potter Valley project from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., submitting a report that includes plans to remove the controversial Scott Dam and form a new authority to operate complex infrastructure at the Eel and Russian river basins.  If an independent federal commission approves the plan, the coalition intends to remove the dam that experts say has threatened fish populations in the Eel River, though ecologists will need to bolster alternative water diversions to continue providing water to thousands of Potter Valley residents. … ”  Read more from the Redwood Times here: Scott Dam removal part of Potter Valley coalition’s proposal

Sonoma County backs plan to remove Scott Dam, assume control of hydropower project:  “A nearly century-old dam on Eel River that impounds Lake Pillsbury is slated for removal under a $500 million proposal submitted Wednesday by Sonoma County and four other regional partners seeking to take over from PG&E a remote hydropower project in Mendocino County.  The county and its partners, including Mendocino and Humboldt counties, hailed the proposal as a milestone in their effort to meet the needs of all three counties, protecting farmers, fish and communities and maintaining a key source of water for the Russian River system that serves 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Sonoma County backs plan to remove Scott Dam, assume control of hydropower project

SEE ALSO:

Essay: After losing several key battles over water, Delta advocates see hope in the last option remaining: the law:  “The conflict over California water, often compared to a war, rather resembles a geological process. As along an earthquake fault, surface spasms come and go. The latest twitch is an injunction momentarily halting some Trump Administration water plans. But the underlying pressures are a constant. They never stop exerting themselves.  For the San Francisco Bay, the Delta, and the Central Valley streams, the fundamental tension is the same as ever. The estuary and its feeder rivers are simply not getting the water they need to maintain plankton, salmon runs, the Delta smelt, orcas off the Golden Gate, revivifying currents in the South Bay—indeed almost any aspect of the system that once existed. Something over half the available runoff on average is diverted to farms and cities, an amount that has been creeping upwards for decades. That is too much—if we care for the environment at all. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  After losing several key battles over water, Delta advocates see hope in the last option remaining: the law

Groundwater: The charge to recharge needs to be data driven:  “In the world of groundwater recharge, not all dirt is created equal.  Where, when, how much and how fast water can best be recharged into our depleted aquifers has become a critical question in the Central Valley.  A new tool aims to help answer those questions at the field-by-field level or up to an entire county.  The Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool, or GRAT, was spearheaded by Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit group that works to find collaborative solutions to some of California’s thorniest problems, including water and land use in the valley. It worked with Earth Genome, an environmental data crunching group, to develop GRAT. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater: The charge to recharge needs to be data driven

Creative ways to manage groundwater for vegetable crops:  ” … The trouble with the water supply in California is not so much that there is insufficient rainfall, but rather that the winter storms are erratic. If every drop of precipitation could be stored in a reservoir and metered into the existing network of rivers and canals, it would not be too difficult to meet the water demands of the state.  However, the reservoir system in California has limited capacity, and prospects for developing additional surface water storage are not promising. … Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is an approach the California Department of Water Resources and many local water agencies are exploring. MAR captures and stores storm runoff in the state’s largest reservoirs, the deep aquifers that underlie most of the agricultural valleys, including the expansive San Joaquin Valley. ... ”  Read more from Growing Produce here:  Creative ways to manage groundwater for vegetable crops

California sues EPA for suspending pollution enforcement during coronavirus pandemic:  “California, along with eight other states, sued the Trump administration Wednesday over the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to stop requiring companies to monitor and report air and water pollution during the coronavirus pandemic.  Three days after receiving a request from the American Petroleum Institute to halt pollution enforcement, the EPA’s compliance director, Susan Parker Bodine, announced a new policy March 26.  Retroactive to March 13, when President Trump had declared a state of emergency over COVID-19, Bodine said, businesses could decide for themselves when it would no longer be practical to monitor pollution and report it to federal, state and local agencies. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: California sues EPA for suspending pollution enforcement during coronavirus pandemic

Modesto Irrigation District continues to defend water rights’ principles in ongoing legal dispute (press release):  “The Modesto Irrigation District (MID) Board of Directors unanimously agreed to continue with legal action in the MID v. Tanaka lawsuit regarding unauthorized Delta water diversions. This decision was announced in the MID Board meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court judgment in favor of MID’s 2011 claim that defendant Heather Tanaka does not hold riparian water rights and illegally diverts water from the Middle River in the Delta. The trial court found that, in accordance with longstanding legal principles, the deed from the original sale of land to Tanaka’s great-grandfather—which severed the parcel from connection to the river—did not convey riparian rights. Conversely, the Court of Appeal found that while not explicitly stated in the deed, the conveyance of riparian rights was implied. … ”  Continue reading at the Modesto Irrigation District here:  Modesto Irrigation District continues to defend water rights’ principles in ongoing legal dispute

Federal judge grants preliminary injunction over water: Stimulus would provide water funding for low income:  “At least based on a ruling issued on Tuesday, the San Joaquin Valley could have to do with less water.  A federal judge in Sacramento late Monday sided with Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration to grant a preliminary injunction when it comes to how water from the San Joaquin Delta River is distributed.  In February, President Trump signed an order that based water delivery to the Valley on updated biological opinions that would have provided more water for the Valley. But the state sued and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra then filed a motion for a preliminary injunction for water deliveries to be based on previous biological opinions. ... ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Federal judge grants preliminary injunction over water: Stimulus would provide water funding for low income

Natural Resources Agency announces awards for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Grant Program:  “The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) in coordination with the California Transportation Commission today announced $6.3 million in funding for 11 projects under CNRA’s Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation (EEM) grant program. EEM provides grants to local, state and federal governmental agencies as well as nonprofit organizations for projects that mitigate environmental impacts produced by new or modified state transportation facilities.  The funded projects include a grant of $500,000 to California Trout for its Cochran Creek and Quail Slough Enhancement Project. This project will restore 3.2 acres of habitat on Cochran Creek and widen the Quail Slough channel to recover threatened salmonid habitat, provide flood control and improve water quality. ... ”  Read more from the Natural Resources Agency here: Natural Resources Agency announces awards for the Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Grant Program

Climate change and COVID-19 pose double threat this wildfire season in California:  “The number of wildfires in California is up roughly 60% so far this year, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom — and now the state has to prepare for not just climate change’s effect on the fire season, but also COVID-19.  “The hots are getting hotter, the driers are getting drier, the wets are getting wetter,” the governor said during his regular coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. He called this the situation “a new reality.” … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Climate change and COVID-19 pose double threat this wildfire season in California

Did sea farm debacle sink California aquaculture? As pilot projects go, it couldn’t have gone much worse.  The nation’s first commercial shellfish farm in federal waters was supposed to provide a national model for sustainable aquaculture.  Bobbing in the Pacific Ocean six miles off Huntington Beach, the 100-acre Catalina Sea Ranch was cautiously approved in 2014 by a host of state and federal agencies. Considered an experiment, it was subject to strict operational oversight.  But in practice, the operator ignored permit requirements from the California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, did not perform required inspections and failed to repair equipment. The company ignored enforcement letters demanding compliance with state and federal rules. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Did sea farm debacle sink California aquaculture? 

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In national/world news today …

Clean Water for All Act introduced to block implementation of Trump administration’s navigable waters final rule:  “Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, has introduced the Clean Water for All Act to prohibit the implementation of Trump administration clean water regulations.  DeFazio called the April 21 final rule “the most draconian rollback of clean water protections in the history of the Clean Water Act.” In addition, the bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start over and develop a new regulation to protect rivers, streams and wetlands. ... ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Clean Water for All Act introduced

EPA: How a revised calculation could hurt future climate rules:  “EPA is on the cusp of proposing changes to its decades-old methodology for measuring costs and benefits in Clean Air Act rulemakings, which if finalized could stymie efforts by future administrations to combat climate change.  The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a draft rule that EPA says would improve the consistency and transparency of regulatory cost-benefit analyses under the landmark environmental law used to limit carbon under both the Obama and Trump administrations.  Meanwhile, an advisory group of experts is vetting separate but related guidance from EPA’s policy office that would direct the agency to find the most cost-effective way to limit a targeted pollutant, even if it did less to curb other emissions. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: EPA: How a revised calculation could hurt future climate rules

Climate-related extreme events can, but do not consistently, motivate change for water managers:  “Extreme events like drought can create a window of opportunity for policy change, but they do not always seem to drive organizations toward adaptation. With communities across the Western U.S. facing increasing drought risks, new research, led by the Western Water Assessment (a CPO RISA team) and funded by the Sectoral Applications Research Program’s (SARP) Coping with Drought initiative in partnership with the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), studied how water managers responded in the wake of two significant Western Colorado droughts in 2002 and 2012 to better understand what motivates adaptive change.  ... ”  Read more from NOAA here: Climate-related extreme events can, but do not consistently, motivate change for water managers

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In commentary today …

State Water Contractors: Temporary May 11 preliminary injunction was not about Delta smelt, longfin smelt or delta outflow…so what was it about?  They write, “Several media outlets have reported that the May 11 federal court ruling related to the Federal Biological Opinion case governing Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) operations was a wholesale rebuke of the 2019 Biological Opinions. However, none of the articles I have read have mentioned the very narrow scope of the resulting injunction and that most aspects were denied.  In hearing the two separate preliminary injunction requests from PCFFA, NRDC, et. al. and the State of California, the Judge organized the ruling into three topics: Shasta operations, Stanislaus River operations, and Delta operations. ... ”  Read more from the State Water Contractors here:  Temporary May 11 preliminary injunction was not about Delta smelt, longfin smelt or delta outflow…so what was it about?

Pablo Garza, EDF: Why I’m visiting the California Capitol to testify on groundwater:  He writes, “California lawmakers returned to work last week after taking measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the state Capitol, acknowledging they must continue to tackle many other challenges still facing the state. Water is one of those perennial challenges.  That’s why I will be testifying Thursday on a bill, AB 2642, that will help farmers transition to more sustainable groundwater use. ... ”  Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund here:  Why I’m visiting the California Capitol to testify on groundwater

Steve Claassen: Ag must become sustainable to avoid a second Dust Bowl:  He writes, “We’re the Greens so a Green New Deal with a WWII scale mobilization to transform our economy is a significant part of our national Green Party platform.    One of the key transformations our Green New Deal calls for is sustainable agriculture.  Here in Fresno and Kings counties, sustainable ag means that among, other things, agriculture has to respect its water budget.  A sustainable agriculture doesn’t overplant irrigated crops or over use water to the detriment of the environment or to the detriment of other communities that rely on our finite water supplies.  Sadly Central Valley ag is not sustainable. ... ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Steve Claassen: Ag must become sustainable to avoid a second Dust Bowl

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In regional news and commentary today …

San Mateo: Butano Creek restoration reopens habitat for salmon in California:  “For decades, sediment buildup in California’s Butano Creek caused an array of issues for both fish and people. It flooded roads and local communities, prevented steelhead and coho salmon from migrating, and contributed to substantial die-offs of fish. In October 2019, the NOAA Restoration Center and partners finished a $7 million effort to remove the sediment and restore the creek.   Butano Creek is a major tributary of Pescadero Creek. It winds through San Mateo County in central California, from its headwaters in the Santa Cruz Mountains to its mouth in Pescadero Creek Marsh. Decades of agriculture, logging and other human activities caused a huge increase in the amount of sediment entering the waterway. As sediment built up over time, it resulted in what was essentially  a mile-long dam, clogging the flow of water and blocking the migration of fish. … ”  Read more from NOAA here: Butano Creek restoration reopens habitat for salmon in California

Valley Water increases flows into Coyote Creek to encourage threatened steelhead trout to migrate to San Francisco Bay:  “People walking along the Coyote Creek trail this month might notice an increased flow of water in the creek.  The increase is not the result of a late spring storm. Valley Water has opened the radial gates at the small dam that impounds water in Coyote Percolation Pond (also known as Metcalf Pond) just north of Metcalf Road in South San Jose to benefit the threatened steelhead trout population in Coyote Creek. … ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Valley Water increases flows into Coyote Creek to encourage threatened steelhead trout to migrate to San Francisco Bay

Monterey: Commentary: Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal falls short, says  Fred Meurer, Bill Kampe, Norm Groot, and Joe Gunter:  They write, “The board of Monterey One Water recently voted not to certify a supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) for an expansion of Pure Water Monterey. While the expansion was a technical concept that might provide additional water for the Peninsula, the Board action injected some much-needed clear thinking and foresight into a critical topic for the Monterey Peninsula. It’s not about desal versus expansion or public versus private ownership. It’s about creating an adequate and reliable water supply for our future.  Initially, the expansion was described as a backup to the Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project yet would provide substantially less water, still leaving the Peninsula with a constrained water supply. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here:  Pure Water Monterey expansion proposal falls short

Small water systems across Monterey County are bracing for the inevitable next drought:  “As a volunteer, Victor Lurz helps run the water system for his community of 96 households off River Road in the Salinas Valley. The community relies on a well that draws groundwater from hundreds of feet below the surface.  “The water we are using has been the same since the 1940s,” he says. “Occasionally we have had testing on the depth of the well and how fast it recharges. We have numbers from back to the 1950s. They have been consistent since then.” Even during the drought a few years ago, there was ample water in the well. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Small water systems across Monterey County are bracing for the inevitable next drought

City of Santa Barbara greatly reduced sewage spills:  “Ten years ago, the City of Santa Barbara experienced 41 sewage spills, resulting in the loss of 12,638 gallons of material flushed from city homes that otherwise would have eventually found its way to the wastewater treatment plant. Popping out of manhole covers, 7,622 gallons flowed into city creeks, and eventually into the ocean. Fast-forward to 2019. Only four sewage spills. Of the 705 gallons that busted loose, only 122 made their way into city waterways.  This dramatic transformation was the subject of quiet rejoicing during the COVID-imposed virtual reality of this Tuesday’s City Council meeting. By spending $49 million on sewage pipe repairs and replacement, Santa Barbara’s water treatment team won regional and statewide awards. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: City of Santa Barbara greatly reduced sewage spills

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And lastly …

See Winning Photos From Cal Academy’s Nature and Conservation Photo Competition:  “Each year, the California Academy of Sciences’ renowned BigPicture Photography Competition celebrates some of the world’s best photographers and the year’s most striking images. Judged by an esteemed panel of nature and conservation photography experts, including Suzi Eszterhas, Tony Wu, and bioGraphic contributing photo editor Sophie Stafford, the competition’s winning images and finalists highlight Earth’s biodiversity and illustrate the many threats that our planet faces. Each photo, in its own way, inspires viewers to protect and conserve the remarkable diversity of life on Earth. … ”  See pictures at KQED here:  See Winning Photos From Cal Academy’s Nature and Conservation Photo Competition

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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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