DAILY DIGEST, 5/20: Trump EPA’s targeting of San Francisco pollution may bring investigation; Even in dry year, Valley farmers see a bump in water allocation; Court of Appeal rules in Delta water rights case; Trump uses virus to permanently suspend rules on industry; and more …

On the calendar today …

WEBINAR: Water Reuse – An Operational Discussion from 11am to 12pm.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Trump EPA’s targeting of San Francisco pollution may bring investigation:  “The nation’s environmental watchdog may investigate federal enforcement of water policy in California after Democratic lawmakers accused the Trump administration of “irregular” interference targeting San Francisco, according to a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  But the investigation would not come until this fall at the earliest, if it happens at all, the letter said. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Trump EPA’s targeting of San Francisco pollution may bring investigation

Even in dry year, Valley farmers see a bump in water allocation:  “Farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta received some welcome news on Tuesday.  After a set of spring storms in April, water allocations from the Central Valley Project are increasing almost across the board at a rate of 5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced.  Water users on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley will see a five percent increase in water allocation – from 15 to 20 percent of their contracted amount. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Even in dry year, Valley farmers see a bump in water allocation

Click here to read statement from the Friant Water Authority.

Today the Bureau of Reclamation increased the Central Valley Project’s 2020 water allocation from 55% to 60% for Friant Division Class 1 contractors. We thank Reclamation for continuing to react quickly to changes in this year’s hydrology that allow for more water to be delivered to farms and communities on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Each increase in the Friant Division’s allocation reduces both the strain on our already overtaxed groundwater aquifers and the likelihood that small farms may go under this year. 

The allocation for Friant Division Class 2 contractors remains unchanged at “zero” in recognition of 2020 still being a very dry year. As a result, some farmers will continue to rely on groundwater supplies, potentially further exacerbating subsidence near the Friant-Kern Canal and elsewhere in the Valley. We remain steadfast in our pledge to move urgently to address conveyance limitations on the Friant-Kern Canal and work with our local, regional, state, and federal partners to promote policies and actions that help resolve the Valley’s long-term water imbalance.

Click here to read the statement from the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.

The allocation for south-of-Delta agricultural water service contractors was increased from 15% to 20% of their contract total. South-of-Delta municipal and industrial water service contractors allocations were increased to 70% of their historic use, up from 65%, or health and safety needs, whichever is greater. These allocation adjustments result from summer releases from Folsom Dam.

“During these unprecedented times, we must remember that reliable water supplies are the foundation on which community and economic health is built.  

“This year’s lack of rain and snowpack has challenged Reclamation’s ability to meet the multiple needs for water deliveries from the Central Valley Project – agricultural water supply, water for ecosystems and threatened species, and water for California’s urban populations.  

“The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority appreciates Reclamation’s ability to carefully strike a balance, given the challenging conditions. The reliability and quantity of surface water deliveries directly impacts the amount of groundwater that is used to produce the food we eat and the water we drink.  

“Today’s announcement of a water allocation increase has positive benefits for California communities and its environment and reduces the reliance on groundwater aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Snow-water equivalent still down despite recent storms:  “Though the last couple of weekends have seen wet weather, it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the yearly average in time for summer in California.  The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is tested regularly by employees of the California Department of Water Resources, has yielded some grim results so far in 2020 in terms of snow-water equivalent. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Snow-water equivalent still down despite recent storms

California’s Court of Appeal holds noncontiguous landowner has a riparian right to Middle River based on extrinsic evidence:  “On May 7, 2020, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a much-anticipated ruling in Modesto Irrigation District (MID) v. Tanaka, (Super. Ct. No. 34-2011-00112886-CU-JR-GDS) holding that the question of whether a landowner of noncontiguous real property has a riparian right depends upon the intent of the parties at the time of conveyance of the land, and such intent may be inferred from extrinsic evidence.  The basis of the suit arose in 2011 when MID filed an action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to enjoin a landowner (Tanaka) from diverting water from Middle River to her farm for irrigation.  In the mid-19th century, Tanaka’s property was part of a 250,000‑acre land holding abutting Middle River; however, the property was later conveyed by grant deed so that it was no longer contiguous to Middle River.  The trial court entered judgment in favor of MID and declared Tanaka did not have a riparian right to divert water from Middle River and enjoined her from making such diversions.  Tanaka subsequently appealed. ... ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  California’s Court of Appeal holds noncontiguous landowner has a riparian right to middle river based on extrinsic evidence

Water stakeholders try to compel reps for water funding:  “In the wake of COVID-19 water stakeholders have coalesced to vie for more funding from their representatives. Their latest convergence has been over congress’s HEROES act.  Last week a diverse coalition of 59 broad-based organizations, which collectively represents both California front-line communities as well as more than 450 California water agencies and multiple other water and environmental stakeholders, is urging the California Congressional Delegation to include funding for urgent water infrastructure and water affordability needs as part of the next federal stimulus package titled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act or other pending congressional actions. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Water stakeholders try to compel reps for water funding

Species decisions will affect use of land, water:  “The Northern spotted owl, California spotted owl, Pacific fisher, yellow-billed cuckoo, mountain lions, four species of native bumblebees—current or proposed protections for these and other species absorb the attention of farmers, ranchers, foresters and land managers, and organizations that represent them.  Private landowners invest in a multitude of conservation projects and comply with both state and federal Endangered Species Act regulations, but rarely see protected species recovered or delisted. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Species decisions will affect use of land, water

DWR completes juvenile salmon habitat study amid COVID-19 emergency:  “A study by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) investigating the growth rate of juvenile Chinook salmon raised in the Suisun Marsh area of Solano County was forced to conclude early due to the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency. Despite the change of plans, DWR scientists were still able to gather all pertinent data and are confident the study will provide useful information regarding how juvenile Chinook salmon grow.  “Originally the study was going to last eight or nine weeks,” said Brett Harvey, senior environmental scientist with DWR’s Division of Environmental Services (DES). “Two weeks into the 2020 study period COVID-19 protocols and guidelines went into effect and threw a real wrench in our plans.” … ”  Read more from DWR News here: DWR completes juvenile salmon habitat study amid COVID-19 emergency

DWR enters ‘whale’s belly’ to combat climate change, protect water deliveries:  “A marshy tract known as Sherman Island is one of the most sensitive and geographically important locations for water conveyance in California. On May 11, DWR began a restoration project on the southeast side of the island that combats climate change while protecting statewide water supply.  The 10,000-acre Sherman Island, which sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers between the cities of Rio Vista and Antioch, has sunk up to 20-feet below sea level since the Gold Rush due to evaporating peat soils. This sinking of land – a process known as subsidence –strains levees that protect Sherman and nearby Delta islands. ... ”  Read more from DWR News here:  DWR enters ‘whale’s belly’ to combat climate change, protect water deliveries

Nut of the Future? With droughts inevitable, more farmers are switching from almonds to pistachios, but not everyone is happy about it:  “Rain scarcely fell in the San Joaquin Valley in 2013, the second year of California’s five-year drought and one of the driest years in the state’s recorded history. For Sarah Woolf and her family, growers of tomatoes, vegetables, grapes and almonds, these unprecedented conditions, coupled with new restrictions on groundwater pumping, prompted a shift of gears: They would plant drought-hardy pistachios. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here:  Nut of the Future?

California 2020 Owner of the Year: Metropolitan launches innovative recycling plan:  “Despite its reputation as a conservative owner, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is piloting a bold new initiative to produce an additional regional water source through its Regional Recycled Water Program, which aims to take treated sanitation water and purify it to produce high-quality drinking water.  The program includes the use of an advanced water-purification system that would be the first of its kind in the U.S. In light of its efforts to meet Southern California’s need for an additional water source through innovation and efficiency, ENR California named Metropolitan Water District of Southern California its Owner of the Year for 2020. ... ”  Read more from Engineering News Record here: California 2020 Owner of the Year: Metropolitan launches innovative recycling plan

Is it safe to swim in a pool, lake or the ocean? Coronavirus questions answered:  “Summer always means water, whether it’s an ocean, lake, river, swimming pool or hot tub. But now that we’re worrying more about germs, it’s natural to wonder: Will this season’s swimming, surfing, floating and soaking be as safe as it used to be?  Yes, many experts say.  “There is no data that somebody got infected this way [with coronavirus],” said professor Karin B. Michels, chair of UCLA’s Department of Epidemiology, in a recent interview.  “I can’t say it’s absolutely 100% zero risk, but I can tell you that it would never cross my mind to get COVID-19 from a swimming pool or the ocean,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “It’s just extraordinarily unlikely that this would happen.” ... ” Read more from the LA Times here: Is it safe to swim in a pool, lake or the ocean? Coronavirus questions answered

In California, a push grows to turn dead trees into biomass energy:  “Jonathan Kusel owns three pickups and a 45-foot truck for hauling woodchip bins. He operates a woodchip yard and a 35-kilowatt biomass plant that burns dead trees, and he runs a crew marking trees for loggers working in national forests. Those are a lot of blue-collar credentials for a University of California, Berkeley PhD sociologist known for his documentation of how the decline of the timber industry affects rural communities.  What drove Kusel into a side business — logging small and dead trees and burning them in biomass boilers — is fear of fire. ... ”  Read more from Yale E360 here: In California, a push grows to turn dead trees into biomass energy

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In national/world news today …

Trump uses virus to permanently suspend rules on industry:  “President Trump instructed federal agencies yesterday to search for regulations they could suspend or kill in hopes of jolting the U.S. economy out of its pandemic stupor.  “The virus has attacked our nation’s economy as well as its health,” the president proclaimed in an executive order that directs agency heads to look for rules “that may inhibit economic recovery.”  The order permits rules to be suspended temporarily or permanently to aid economic activity and job creation. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: Trump uses virus to permanently suspend rules on industry

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In commentary today …

Rick Frank: State Water Board must act to protect the Bay-Delta and California’s fishing industry:  “The debate over Bay-Delta flows represents one of California’s most longstanding and heated water conflicts.  The prospect of a negotiated solution had led to requests for the State Water Resources Control Board to delay regulatory action to update flow standards.  … A careful review by the water board concluded that additional ecosystem flows are required.  Yet for five years, the board has been waiting for a voluntary agreement to produce consensus flow standards.  The board has waited long enough.  … ”  Read the full commentary at Cal Matters here: State Water Board must act to protect the Bay-Delta and California’s fishing industry

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In regional news and commentary today …


Reclamation and Auburn Recreation District to graze goats to reduce wildfire threats:  “The Bureau of Reclamation’s California-Great Basin Region is working with the Auburn Area Recreation and Park District to help reduce the threat of potential wildfire through a goat grazing project. The Auburn Area Recreation and Park District Grazing Project seeks to decrease fuel (vegetation) loads on lands near Maidu Drive where homes meet the forest. The goal is to thin lower vegetation layers and lessen the chance for wildfire to spread into the larger growths of shrubs and trees.  Contracted goat herds will graze overgrown vegetation within temporary fences and carefully monitored via controllers and herding dogs. ... ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here: Reclamation and Auburn Recreation District to graze goats to reduce wildfire threats

Yolo Habitat Conservancy wins ‘Award of Excellence’ from Sacramento area planners:  “The Yolo Habitat Conservancy recently received the 2020 American Planning Association’s Sacramento Valley Section Award of Excellence in the category of Innovation in Green Planning and has been invited to apply for the 2020 APA California Awards.  According to a statement from Jenny Tan, the county’s public information officer, in 2019, the Yolo Habitat Conservancy completed the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan. … ” Read more from the Daily Democrat here: Yolo Habitat Conservancy wins ‘Award of Excellence’ from Sacramento area planners

Major Monterey housing project gets its water:  “Monterey Peninsula water officials Monday allocated additional water for a portion of a major Monterey housing project that promises to bring scores of new affordable units to a city in desperate need of housing for its beleaguered workforce.  Late into Monday night, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District directors heard numerous impassioned pleas from a wide range of supporters of the additional water allocation, including Monterey city officials, housing advocates, educators and nonprofits — all of whom decried the dearth of housing in the city that has generated exorbitant rents and forced its workforce to live elsewhere. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Major Monterey housing project gets its water

The Salton Sea: Melancholic photographs of the last days of a dying California lake:  “In her moving series, The Salton Sea, American photographer Debbie Bentley documents the last days of a dying California lake that used to be a popular holiday spot in the 1950s, attracting many of Hollywood’s stars.  Located just south of Palm Springs and north of the Mexican border, the lake was accidentally created in 1905 when the Colorado River breached and flooded into the Salton Sink. For almost two years, an abundance of water from the Colorado River kept pouring into the sink resulting in the creation of California’s largest inland fresh-water lake. The Sea would become an oasis for migrating birds and birders and a sportfishing paradise for anglers. ... ”  Read more from The Creative Boom here: The Salton Sea: Melancholic photographs of the last days of a dying California lake

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And lastly …

A plague of delicious purple urchins is taking over the California coast and it’s our duty to eat them:  I’ll just cut to the chase:  ” … Unlike fish, sea urchins have no skin and therefore there is no barrier between ocean water and their tasty insides. In order to avoid becoming oceanic raisins from a life immersed in brine, urchins fortify themselves with a flavorful cocktail of savory, sweet, and salty amino acids, sugars, proteins, and minerals. In the kitchen, those proteins and lipids make uni a great thickener and emulsifier, and the amino acids and sugars help the roe caramelize when baked or roasted. The result is a multipurpose ingredient that, in terms of versatility, lands somewhere between roasted garlic, eggs, and avocados. … ”  Yum … ?  Well, at least they didn’t say it tasted like chicken.  Read it all from Get Pocket here: A plague of delicious purple urchins is taking over the California coast and it’s our duty to eat them

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Today’s featured article …

FEATURE: Predicting and planning for extreme precipitation from atmospheric rivers

On Feb. 27, 2019, an atmospheric river 350 miles wide and 1,600 miles long barreled through the sky, funneling moisture from the tropics to Sonoma County and dumping over 21 inches of rain over two days, causing the Russian River to crest at 13.4 feet above flood stage, flooding the town of Guerneville.  Damages were estimated at well over US$100 million.

The phenomenon is not new.  Formerly called a ‘Pineapple Express’, by the late 1990s, scientists discovered that much of the world’s moisture was transported from the tropics to higher latitudes by similar systems, which became known as ‘atmospheric rivers.’  These rivers in the sky can sometimes be the larger than any on earth, capable of transporting 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River.

Atmospheric rivers are doubled edged swords.  In dry conditions, atmospheric rivers can replenish water supplies and quench dangerous wildfires; in wet conditions, they can cause damaging floods and debris flows, and cause damages that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  Their presence or absence can make the difference between drought, a normal healthy water supply year, or floods. 

To address the challenges atmospheric rivers present, the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E) was established at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography to advance scientific understanding of atmospheric rivers and their role in extreme events and to improve forecasting capabilities.  Earlier this year, a webinar hosted by the Scripps Corporate Alliance highlighted the Center’s accomplishments.

Click here to read this article.

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NASA 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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