DAILY DIGEST, 5/22: Fong demands answers on CA’s water lawsuit spending; Interior Dept. sued over Obama-era law to cement Valley water contracts; CRISPR a tool for Delta smelt conservation; LAO overview of Governor’s budget revision proposals for resources; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • ONLINE MEETING: The Central Valley Flood Protection Board will meet beginning at 9am.  Agenda items include monthly DWR report, an update on the 2022 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Update, and consideration of approval of a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that USACE initiate, in cooperation with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and other federal agencies, a joint review of Delta Conveyance Project and also the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage (Big Notch) Project.  Click here for the full agenda.
  • ONLINE WORKSHOP: Metropolitan Integrated Resources Plan Workshop from 10am to 11:30pm.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: The State of Our Environment from 10am to 11:30am.  Presented by the California Lawyers Association.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Taking the Delta Watershed’s Pulse – The Confluence of Science and Policy from 11am to 12:30pm.  Presented by Restore the Delta.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Fong demands answers on Calif.’s water lawsuit spending:  “As California wades deeper into a legal battle over the rules that will determine how much water is pumped south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Asm. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield) is seeking some answers.  His first question: is a global pandemic – responsible for a $53.4 billion budget deficit – the best time to launch a pricey Federal lawsuit?  During a Thursday budget hearing in Sacramento, Fong, launched into a line of questioning over the State of California’s ongoing litigation against the Trump administration centered on the environmental rules governing the state’s two major water projects – the Federally-managed Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Fong demands answers on Calif.’s water lawsuit spending

Interior Dept. sued over Obama-era law to cement Valley water contracts:  “Environmental groups are adding a new front to ongoing legal battles with the Federal government over its moves to stabilize and increase water deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.  Wednesday, three groups – the Center for Biological Diversity, Restore the Delta, and Planning and Conservation League – filed a Federal suit contesting the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s moves to convert water service contracts to permanent repayment contracts for Central Valley Project users. ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Interior Dept. sued over Obama-era law to cement Valley water contracts

ICYMI: Feinstein introduces bill to restore San Joaquin Valley canals, improve water supply:  “Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act, a bill to authorize $800 million in federal funding to repair critical canals in the San Joaquin Valley damaged by land sinking from overpumping of groundwater, known as subsidence, and for environmental restoration.   If the canals are not restored to their original capacity, 20 percent of the farmland – approximately 1 million acres – might have to be retired in a region that produces $36 billion in crops annually, including a third of the nation’s produce.  Representatives Jim Costa and TJ Cox (both D-Calif.) have introduced similar legislation in the House. ... ”  Read more from Maven’s Notebook here: ICYMI: Feinstein introduces bill to restore San Joaquin Valley canals, improve water supply

Wildlife Conservation Board funds environmental improvement and acquisition projects:  “At its May 20, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $36.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 31 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.  Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Click here for list of funded projects.

Funded projects include:

  • A $343,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the National Park Service and the California Institute of Environmental Studies to restore approximately three acres of migratory bird breeding habitat on Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Port Hueneme in Ventura County.
  • A $635,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society to acquire approximately 22 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species and riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.
  • A $1.3 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire in fee approximately 201 acres to preserve montane meadow, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Truckee in Nevada County.
  • A $4.7 million grant to Tuolumne County for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), CAL FIRE, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Forest Service to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning and replanting activities on approximately 6,434 acres of mixed conifer forest in the Tuolumne River watershed located in Stanislaus National Forest 20 miles east of Sonora in Tuolumne County.
  • A $1.25 million grant to Port San Luis Obispo Harbor District for a cooperative project with California State Parks to rehabilitate a pier and boat landing at Avila Pier located approximately eight miles northwest of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County.
  • A $689,000 grant to Bolsa Chica Conservancy for a cooperative project with Signal Landmark, Pacific Life Foundation and CDFW to install new portable buildings for an interpretive center and construct educational features, an Americans with Disabilities Act accessible observation desk and restrooms in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve approximately four miles northeast of Huntington Beach in Orange County.
  • A $10 million grant to Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority for a cooperative project with the Peninsula Open Space Trust and State Coastal Conservancy to acquire in fee approximately 235 acres of land to protect a critical linkage both for movement of wildlife and for species adaptation to climate change, and the protection of a natural floodplain located in Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County.
  • A $5 million grant to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District for a planning project that will complete final design plans for Matilija Dam removal and for three downstream levee construction/rehabilitation projects as essential components of the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration Project, a watershed-scale dam removal initiative and one of California’s largest dam removal efforts located five miles northwest of Ojai in Ventura County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

Conservation efforts are needed to save California salmon:  “The increasing frequency and severity of drought in California poses a major threat to salmon populations, but a new study led by UC San Diego describes how conservation efforts could make a big difference.  According to the researchers, pools that serve as drought refuges would drastically reduce the risk for California’s endangered salmon.  The experts monitored nearly 20,000 fish in streams across Sonoma County from 2011 to 2017. The Russian River watershed is home to an endangered group of coho salmon that nearly vanished less than two decades ago, but conservation efforts have helped the population recover. … ”  Read more from Earth.com here: Conservation efforts are needed to save California salmon

CRISPR a tool for conservation, not just gene editing:  “The gene-editing technology CRISPR has been used for a variety of agricultural and public health purposes — from growing disease-resistant crops to, more recently, a diagnostic test for the virus that causes COVID-19.  Now a study involving fish that look nearly identical to the endangered Delta smelt finds that CRISPR can be a conservation and resource management tool, as well. The researchers think its ability to rapidly detect and differentiate among species could revolutionize environmental monitoring. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: CRISPR a tool for conservation, not just gene editing

Can oilfield water safely be reused for irrigation in California? A new study by researchers at Duke University and RTI International finds that reusing oilfield water that’s been mixed with surface water to irrigate farms in the Cawelo Water District of California’s Kern County does not pose major health risks, as some opponents of the practice have feared.  “We did not find any major water quality issues, nor metals and radioactivity accumulation in soil and crops, that might cause health concerns,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of water quality and geochemistry at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, whose lab led the new study. … ”  Read more from EurekAlert here: Can oilfield water safely be reused for irrigation in California? 


LAO Hearing Handout: Overview of governor’s may revision proposals for resources and transportation programs:  This handout covers the reduction in the May revised budget compared to January budget; key general fund reductions; special fund loans and transfers; general fund augmentations and issues for legislative consideration.  Click here to read the handout.

Budget Update: May Revise Changes to Wildfire Funding:  “Last Thursday, May 14, Governor Newsom released the State’s Budget May Revise for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. The Governor began his press conference by reminiscing on the economic health the state enjoyed at the beginning of this year which had allowed him to propose a number of expansions in state services and programs in his January Budget, many of which the state will no longer be able to fund under the state’s new economic reality. ... ”  Read more from the Mountain Counties Water Resources Association here:  Budget Update: May Revise Changes to Wildfire Funding

Radio show: Balancing the state budget, deficit challenges:  “Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have less than a month to resolve the $54 billion deficit and pass a balanced budget.  Part of the plan to cover the massive deficit includes slashing some $119 million in spending that keeps more than 45,000 people out of nursing homes.  It’s a part of a series of budget cuts that target older adults, who are among most at risk of being infected with COVID-19. The state has until June 15 to vote and approve a legitimate spending plan.  Today on Insight, we take a closer look at the budget process. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Radio show: Balancing the state budget, deficit challenges

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In national/world news today …

New USACE Report – Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Water Security through Resilience:  “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR) released a report titled Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Water Security through Resilience.  With the water needs of society increasing and becoming increasingly diverse, water management and planning are more challenging than ever. Water security in all its forms is as important, but seems progressively difficult to achieve. Additional water storage and flood risk management is needed, but major new surface infrastructure projects seem unlikely.  Water storage underground (managed aquifer recharge, or MAR) is an alternative to augment surface storage and increase resilience of USACE projects while improving the Nation’s water security. … ”  Read more and download report here: New USACE Report – Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Water Security through Resilience

Water, wastewater professional’s guide to COVID-19 by WEF:  “On February 19, 2020, WEF published The Water Professional’s Guide to COVID-19. The Guide was meant to increase water sector awareness of COVID-19 virus and any water and wastewater-related issues and relevant resources. The content was reprinted in the April 2020 issue of Water Environment & Technology. Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the disease has spread to more than 210 countries  with more research on the virus being published every day.  In an effort to keep the water community informed of COVID-19 developments, the Waterborne Infectious Disease Outbreak Control (WIDOC) working group has prepared an update to highlight the latest scientific findings, as well as topics not previously addressed. The goal is to contextualize these new results and state the implications and significance from a water and wastewater collection and treatment, public health and water resource recovery facility (WRRF) worker perspective. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Environment Association News here: Water, wastewater professional’s guide to COVID-19 by WEF

Democrats decry ‘pandemic of pollution’ under Trump’s EPA:  “Democrats on Wednesday blasted the Trump administration’s moves to roll back environmental regulations during the coronavirus crisis, with one senator saying a “pandemic of pollution″ has been released.  The Environmental Protection Agency has weakened regulations dealing with fuel efficiency and mercury emissions and has waived enforcement on a range of public health and environmental mandates, saying industries could have trouble complying with them during the coronavirus pandemic. The rollbacks are among dozens of actions by the EPA to ease requirements on industry to monitor, report and reduce toxic pollutants, heavy metals and climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions. ... ”  Read more from the AP here: Democrats decry ‘pandemic of pollution’ under Trump’s EPA

‘Expect more’: Climate change raises risk of dam failures:  “The dam that failed in Central Michigan on Tuesday gave way for the same reason most do: It was overwhelmed by water. Almost five inches of rain fell in the area in the previous two days, after earlier storms had saturated the ground and swollen the Tittabawassee River, which the dam held back.  No one can say yet whether the intense rainfall that preceded this disaster was made worse by climate change. But global warming is already causing some regions to become wetter, and increasing the frequency of extreme storms, according to the latest National Climate Assessment. The trends are expected to continue as the world gets even warmer.  That puts more of the nation’s 91,500 dams at risk of failing, engineers and dam safety experts said. … ”  Read more at the New York Times here: ‘Expect more’: Climate change raises risk of dam failures

EPA releases draft criteria to help protect lakes and reservoirs:  “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new, draft ambient water quality criteria recommendations for nutrients in lakes and reservoirs. The agency’s criteria recommendations serve as important resources that states and authorized tribes can use to protect public health, pets, and aquatic life from the adverse effects of excess nutrients in surface waters, including during the summer recreation season.  “Under the Trump Administration, we are working with states, tribes and farmers from across the country to develop a wide range of tools that will reduce excess nutrients in America’s water bodies,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “These draft criteria are the first update to EPA’s recommended nutrient criteria in almost 20 years. This flexible approach is based on the latest scientific information and will help States and Tribes protect lakes and reservoirs from harmful algal blooms.” … ”  Read more from the EPA here: EPA releases draft criteria to help protect lakes and reservoirs

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In regional news and commentary today …

Sacramento Valley: Rice research continues:  “While much of the world has stopped, the plants keep on growing.  Whitney Brim-DeForest, the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension rice and wild rice advisor, has been conducting research on weeds found in rice fields around the Sacramento Valley, with her current study ongoing since January.  “Obviously, due to the coronavirus, it has been more difficult to focus on research, and the way that we have to interact with each other — colleagues, employees, students — is a little different than normal,” Brim-DeForest said. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: Rice research continues

PPIC: Valley groundwater plans not measuring up:  “Reviews are in and Central Valley groundwater plans are coming up short.  The plans aren’t aggressive enough in stemming plummeting groundwater levels and land subsidence; they are overly reliant on the hope of new water as a fix; and they don’t work regionally.  Those were the takeaways from a review by the Public Policy Institute of California, which looked at 36 of the 41 plans submitted to the state Department of Water Resources so far.  The PPIC outlined its findings during a webinar Thursday morning. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: PPIC: Valley groundwater plans not measuring up

SEE ALSO: PPIC Review of GSPs May 21, 2020, from Water Wrights

Turning on the tap: clean water flows in Seville:  “The Community of Seville has clean tap water today for the first time in almost five years. The County of Tulare led a project to construct a replacement water system and potable water is available throughout the community. As of Friday, May 15, 2020, the Water Board has rescinded the boil water notice.  “We are excited to have been part of the team bringing a clean, safe, reliable water system to Seville and we look forward to transitioning it over to the newly created Yettem-Seville CSD,” said Reed Schenke, Director, Tulare County Resource Management Agency. “This ensures the residents and users of the infrastructure can own and maintain the system with local control and interest. We want to thank all of the partners, sponsors, and community members who have been part of this project.” … ”  Read more from Valley Voice here: Turning on the tap: clean water flows in Seville

Monterey County Board of Supervisors: New Salinas Valley well moratorium fails:  “With a temporary moratorium on new and replacement wells in the overdrafted, seawater-intruded Salinas Valley groundwater basin due to expire, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday came up short on adopting a new prohibition.  By a 3-2 vote, the county board fell one vote short of adopting a proposed ordinance that would have continued the moratorium on new and replacement wells, with some exemptions, until this summer. The ordinance would have been in effect until September in an effort to allow Salinas Valley stakeholder groups to consider the impact of a stricter, longer-term well moratorium proposed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey County Board of Supervisors: New Salinas Valley well moratorium fails

FDA: Grazing cows likely cause of e. coli outbreaks linked to Salinas Valley romaine lettuce:  “Outbreaks of E. coli illness that sickened 188 people who ate romaine lettuce grown in California probably came from cattle grazing near the farms, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a report released Thursday.  Feces from the cows, which contain the bacteria, is considered “the most likely contributing factor” to three outbreaks of food-borne illness traced to fields in the Salinas Valley, the report said. … ”  Read more from Fox 5 here: FDA: Grazing cows likely cause of e. coli outbreaks linked to Salinas Valley romaine lettuce

Highway 1 at Moss Landing could disappear under rising seas if no action is taken:  “From the cockpit of a Cessna airplane flying over the Monterey Bay in early February, you could almost see the future.  The wide sandy beaches disappeared underneath the waves, which were crashing against the dunes and worsening the erosion of our coastline. The Elkhorn Slough swelled and breached some of the brims meant to guide its course. The Union Pacific Railroad tracks were for stretches submerged.  The flight that provided a vantage point for these images took place during one of the highest tides of the year, known as a king tide. It was an aerial tour for the Weekly and KRML radio organized by the nonprofits Surfrider Foundation and LightHawk, two groups that hope to raise awareness about the challenge of sea-level rise. ... ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Highway 1 at Moss Landing could disappear under rising seas if no action is taken

Water use on the Monterey Peninsula plunged in April, likely due to coronavirus lockdown:  “In April, during the first full month of the lockdown, water demand on the Monterey Peninsula dropped by 15 percent compared to the same month a year ago, according to data provided to the Weekly by local water regulators.  Many factors, including weather fluctuations, determine how much water people use in their homes, gardens and businesses, but the main reason for the drop of 117 acre-feet of water is likely the shelter-in-place order, says Dave Stoldt, general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Water use on the Monterey Peninsula plunged in April, likely due to coronavirus lockdown

Commentary: Ag runoff threatens the sea life we love, says Art Seavey:  He writes, ”  … Recently, the frequency and intensity of toxic algae outbreaks seems to be increasing. So it’s important to our business, and many others, that state agencies do everything they can to ensure the health of our ocean.  That’s particularly important because scientific studies have found signs linking agricultural runoff to Monterey Bay water quality problems, including evidence that nutrients in runoff could prolong outbreaks of harmful algae blooms. ... ”  Read more from Voices of Monterey here:  Ag runoff threatens the sea life we love

EPA reaches $6.5m settlement to clean up Whittier Superfund site:  “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it had reached a tentative $6.5 million settlement with 145 parties to clean up groundwater contamination for up to four miles around a Superfund site in Whittier.  “We are pleased that this settlement will help address the groundwater contamination to which these companies and others have contributed,” EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud said of the former Omega Chemical Corp. site. “Ensuring the protection of a vital drinking water source for L.A. County is one of the priorities in getting this site cleaned up.” … ”  Read more from CBS LA here: EPA reaches $6.5m settlement to clean up Whittier Superfund site

MWD’s Jeffrey Kightlinger on ensuring reliability of Southern California’s water supply:  “Weathering two historic droughts within the last decade and a half, and in the midst of global pandemic, reliability of Southern California’s water supply is a unifying issue and the central mission for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). TPR spoke with MWD General Manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, who recently announced his plans for retirement at year’s end, to highlight the impressive progress MET has made on conservation, local supply, and resilience during his tenure. … ”  Read the interview at The Planning Report here:  MWD’s Jeffrey Kightlinger on ensuring reliability of Southern California’s water supply

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Along the Colorado River …

Southern Nevada Water Authority gives up 30-year proposal to pump groundwater to Las Vegas:  “The Southern Nevada Water Authority is retiring a controversial, decades-old proposal to pump groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas and will instead focus on water conservation measures and the pursuit of possible partnerships with other Colorado River water users.  The water authority’s Board of Directors unanimously voted today to withdraw all pending groundwater importation applications, return a right-of-way associated with groundwater importation plans to the Bureau of Land Management and take other actions to move the multibillion-dollar groundwater development project — sometimes referred to as the water pipeline project — into “indefinite deferred status.” ... ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here: Southern Nevada Water Authority gives up 30-year proposal to pump groundwater to Las Vegas

Private meetings spark concerns as Arizona considers rules for streams and wetlands:  “An advisory group created by Arizona environmental regulators has been meeting on Zoom to discuss ideas for new state regulations to protect streams and wetlands.  The group’s members, including representatives of cities, water suppliers, environmental nonprofits, the mining industry, developers and others, have held three online meetings so far. Copies of their agendas, presentations and meeting summaries are posted on a state website, but it’s not possible to listen in without an invitation. State officials are keeping the meetings private. ... ”  Read more from Arizona Central here: Private meetings spark concerns as Arizona considers rules for streams and wetlands

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National Water and Climate Update

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.


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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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