DAILY DIGEST, 6/10: Delta dispute casts shadow on water supplies; Water’s not the issue; Some water restored for Klamath Basin farmers; EPA’s chemical regulation authority at stake with fluoride case; and more …

On the calendar today …
  • WEBINAR: To Be (a Point Source) or Not To Be (a Point Source): Implications of the County of Maui Supreme Court Decision for Clean Water Utilities from 11am to 12:30pm.  Presented by the WateReuse Association.  Click here to register.

In California water news and commentary today …

Delta dispute casts shadow on water supplies:  “With supplies curtailed from California’s largest water projects, farmers have been reducing acreage, water districts have been working to secure additional supplies, and everyone has been keeping an eye on the continued dispute between state and federal governments on managing the delta.  Carryover storage from a wet 2018-19 winter has eased the impact of this year’s reduced Sierra Nevada snowpack and the resulting partial supplies from the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project.  “Farmers are thankful for the water they are getting, and part of the reason is storage: the system of reservoirs, canals and other conduits designed to take advantage of the plentiful times for use in the lean times,” California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said. “Since reservoirs were in good shape to start with, we were able to draw upon some of that supply.” ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Delta dispute casts shadow on water supplies

Water’s not the issue:  “As the coronavirus creeps through the human population, causing social and economic turmoil, farmers discard vast quantities of food that they are abruptly unable to sell in the upended economy. The waste has been widely reported as one heartbreaking impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Part of the problem seems to be that, with restaurants closed, vegetable farmers, as well as producers of milk, eggs and meat, wound up with no one to buy their goods.  But while tens of millions of pounds of food has been destroyed or buried in the ground, a band of California’s farmers is claiming they can’t produce enough food to feed Americans, and they’re using the pandemic as leverage to grab more of the West’s scarce water. ... ”  Read more from the East Bay Express here: Water’s not the issue

New State Water Contractors website offers more tools to navigate California’s water world (press release):  “Today, the State Water Contractors (SWC) are pleased to announce the launch of a new and updated website: www.swc.org. The new site will make it easier for users to learn about how the organization is advocating on behalf of its members for improved supply reliability and water quality based on sensible, science-based policies related to the State Water Project (SWP) that result in sustainable and cost-effective management of the SWP for California’s citizens, economy and environment. …

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“This new website is designed to provide an easy-to-use resource for our state’s water leaders and decision makers, scientists, elected officials, our members and the general public to stay informed about the State Water Contractors and State Water Project – the backbone of California’s water supply delivery system,” said SWC General Manager Jennifer Pierre. “The site includes a number of features that consolidate in one place much of the data that helps drive our state’s water management actions.” 
 The new website features:
    • A Delta Dashboard – Providing the latest information on California’s statewide hydroclimate and State Water Project operations, including precipitation, snow water content, daily average flow, reservoir storage, total exports and more.
    • An Interactive GIS Layered Map of California – Illustrating each of the service territories for our 27 member agencies, as well as residents served, SWP supply, the SWP percentage of each agencies’ total supply, cities/counties served and contact information.   
    • An Extensive Resources Page – Including all of our educational materials such as fact sheets, FAQs and reports, SWC press releases, statements, blogs and op-eds, among other helpful materials.
    • A Dedicated Science Page  – Showcasing the SWC’s $2 million annual investment in science and research to support water actions and decisions that will help to provide a more reliable water supply for California and protect, restore and enhance the Delta ecosystem.

The State Water Contractors is a statewide, non-profit association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project. Collectively the State Water Contractors deliver water to more than 27 million residents throughout the state and more than 750,000 acres of agricultural land. For more information on the State Water Contractors, please visit www.swc.org

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In national/world news today …

Internal compass guides salmon’s incredible journey:  “After spending their adult lives at sea, salmon famously swim upriver until they reach the exact location where they were hatched. Salmon complete this incredible journey only once—after they spawn, they die. A new study has found evidence that salmon’s homing instinct may be driven in part by tiny particles of magnetite that serve as an internal compass, a mechanism previously identified in sea turtles, bats, and birds but not yet in fish.  Long-distance animal navigation is thought to be partly guided by Earth’s magnetic field via a phenomenon known as magnetoreception. “Magnetoreception seems to be fairly universal,” having been identified in all major taxonomic animal groups, said Richard Holland, a zoologist at Bangor University in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the new study. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Internal compass guides salmon’s incredible journey

EPA’s chemical regulation authority at stake with fluoride case:  “A legal battle over fluoride in drinking water could forge a new path for advocacy groups to challenge the EPA’s conclusions about a range of chemicals’ health risks, attorneys say.  Health advocacy groups, including Food and Water Watch Inc., the Fluoride Action Network, and Moms Against Fluoridation, argue fluoride is a neurotoxin. They unsuccessfully petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 to stop the decadeslong practice of adding it to drinking water.  The groups and EPA will virtually present their arguments in the resulting trial starting Monday in federal district court in San Francisco. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: EPA’s chemical regulation authority at stake with fluoride case

Cannabis Water Report moves forward; will be published in late 2020:  “As cannabis and hemp regulation expands globally, its impact on water resources is relatively unknown. However, a partnership between Resource Innovation Institute (RII), the Berkeley Cannabis Research Center and New Frontier Data will change that.  The three organizations will publish The Cannabis Water Report in late 2020. The report will study water practices and usage rates across a range of cultivation methods and geographies and will offer strategic recommendations for governments and other stakeholders. … ”  Read more from Water World here: Cannabis Water Report moves forward; will be published in late 2020

Trump signs executive order allowing agencies to bypass NEPA, ESA, and CWA requirements:  “On June 4, 2020 President Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities,” allowing—and, in fact, directing—federal agencies to circumvent environmental permitting requirements in order to expedite infrastructure projects. The Order is based on the President’s March 13, 2020 declaration of national emergency due to the Novel Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”) outbreak and the resulting dramatic downturn in the economy; apparently, the administration concluded that “without intervention, the United States faces the likelihood of a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistent high unemployment.” ... ”  Read more from the CEQA Chronicles here:  Trump signs executive order allowing agencies to bypass NEPA, ESA, and CWA requirements

Green infrastructure can be cheaper, more effective than dams:  “Hundreds of studies on nature-based solutions to extreme events show that “green infrastructure” is often cheaper and more effective than engineered projects like dams, levees and sea walls, according to a new analysis.  Experts say federal and state governments should heed those findings and increase funding for natural landscapes and systems to reduce climate disaster risk. Solutions include floodplain restoration and “living shorelines” along vulnerable coasts and rivers.  The 44-page “Protective Value of Nature” report released this morning is a joint effort between the National Wildlife Federation and Allied World, a global insurance and reinsurance firm. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Green infrastructure can be cheaper, more effective than dams

Was May 2020 warm and dry or cool and wet across the U.S.? It depends…  “The May 2020 climate summary for the United States was released yesterday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, and the temperature patterns were mixed: a warm West and cool East. In the Four Corners region, a few areas were record warm. In the East, temperatures were much cooler than average in the Southern Appalachians in southwestern Virginia, the Carolinas, and northern Georgia. ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  Was May 2020 warm and dry or cool and wet across the U.S.? It depends…

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In regional news and commentary today …

Some water restored for Klamath Basin farmers:  “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is backpedaling on a plan to further slash water deliveries to Klamath Basin farmers this summer, as the agency is reverting to an earlier allocation of 140,000 acre-feet.  The bureau in May signaled plans to cut its allocation to 80,000 acre-feet as part of a three-year operating plan, which was initiated under an agreement with the Yurok Tribe. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Some water restored for Klamath Basin farmers

Water users react to restored project allocation:  “Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA) expressed appreciation for the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) announcement today that irrigation water supplies from the Upper Klamath Lake / Klamath River system have not changed from the approximately 140,000 acre-feet announced in April.  “This is definitely a relief,” said KWUA President Tricial Hill.  “Even though available supplies will only meet about 40 percent of our true need, Project irrigators had planned and managed the best that they could, based upon the meager supply announced in April.  The possible reduction we heard about in May has created chaos and more uncertainty in an already-terrible year.”

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Today’s announcement followed a month-long period of uncertainty when it appeared that supplies could be reduced to as low as 80,000 acre-feet.  Many local farmers and ranchers had relied upon the April 1 forecast and had already sunk investment in the ground, based on the earlier forecast of irrigation water supply that would be available.  Irrigators are relieved, but remain vigilant, and concerned. 

“The Project is still drastically short of water,” said Klamath Project Drought Response Agency (DRA) President Marc Staunton.  “We need more people to commit to our land idling program.  Irrigators also need to understand that today’s announcement does not provide any water for Warren Act contracts.”

Over recent decades, the Klamath Project has been subject to regulation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with increasing requirements for maintaining Upper Klamath Lake elevations for endangered sucker species and Klamath River flows for any coho salmon in the Klamath River below Iron Gate Dam. 

“Facts don’t lie: this strategy isn’t helping the species,” said Klamath Irrigation District Board President Ty Kliewer.  “Meanwhile, water that was stored under an irrigation water right is being re-allocated to non-irrigation uses, such as flow augmentation.”

The Klamath Project’s demand for irrigation water from Upper Klamath Lake this year is over 350,000 acre-feet.  Due to drought and federal operations constraints, the announced Project Supply based on an April 1 run-forecast was 140,000 acre-feet, roughly 40 percent of the need.  Under the applicable ESA biological opinions (BiOps), the April Project Supply cannot be reduced.  Still, during May, and based on updated runoff forecasts, there was concern that the Project Supply allocation could drop to only 80,000 acre-feet.  Farmers who had planned their operations based on the April allocation were suddenly at risk of their limited plantings drying up in the field.  The impacts on farm families and local communities could have been catastrophic 

Fortunately, forecasted runoff conditions have improved over the past month.  In a statement released by Reclamation, Commissioner Brenda Burman stated that “although the project remains at a painful, record low allocation, I am pleased that the recent improvement in lake inflow allows Reclamation to stabilize water supplies for Klamath Project water users this year.”

Klamath Drainage District (KDD) President Jason Flowers said that his district and others can still adapt to the latest information.  “We will manage intensely and do our best,” he said.  “That is what we do.”

Still, local irrigation leaders emphasize that disaster relief assistance is sorely needed for the Project. 

“We are going to have the worst year ever, even with the confirmation of the Project Supply that we assumed in April,” said Tulelake Irrigation District Board President John Crawford.  “Our elected officials need to keep the community whole, especially the young farmers that have come back home to carry on the legacy of this basin.”

KWUA Executive Director Paul Simmons said that the Oregon and California congressional delegations are working aggressively to pursue funding avenues to support activities of the DRA.  “We have great bipartisan support and are working closely with the members,” he said.

The local irrigation community continues to emphasize that federal agencies must re-visit the current practice of reducing Klamath Project water deliveries as the primary means to protect ESA-listed species. 

“We will continue to push for changes in the regulatory approach and respect for state water rights and sound science,” said Mr. Kliewer.

Reclamation also intends to provide some further augmentation of Klamath River flows, over and above the minimum flows below Iron Gate Dam allowed under the applicable BiOps. 

“We have differences of opinion about Klamath River flows,” said KWUA board member Bob Gasser.  “But for now, we understand there will be a targeted and carefully managed flow augmentation that won’t further reduce the minor amount of water that we have.”

Between March and September, the amount of water released from Upper Klamath Lake for Klamath River flows will be over 400,000 acre-feet.  This is significantly more than will flow into Upper Klamath Lake during that same period, and nearly three times greater than the irrigation supply that will be available from Upper Klamath Lake.

Ms. Hill believes that the Trump Administration inherited a damaging regulatory and scientific approach to the Klamath Project that formed over recent decades but she expects improvement soon.  “I am optimistic that today’s decision-makers know there are problems and are committed to fix them very soon,” she said.  “In the meantime, we recognize that this is what Reclamation needs to do now.”  

SEE ALSO: Reclamation secures 2020 water supply for Klamath Project (press release)

Special meeting to decide Turlock’s water future:  Mayor Amy Bublak writes,  “Since it was founded in 1871 by prominent grain farmer John William Mitchell, the City of Turlock has relied on well or ground water to meet the water needs of its citizens, farmers and businesses. Today, with the growth of Turlock to nearly 75,000 residents, successful farming, a growing local business community, including the Turlock Regional Industrial Park (TRIP), Turlock needs more water and must move to surface water usage.  Presently we have two options to acquire surface water:  Build our own plant through the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA) or partner with the City of Modesto through the use of their surface water plant. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Special meeting to decide Turlock’s water future

Inyo County considering appealing trial court decision in LADWP lawsuit (press release):  “Inyo County was recently dealt a trial court setback in its attempt to acquire ownership of the local landfills. As the public is aware, Inyo County intends to use eminent domain (condemnation) to acquire three properties that the County currently leases from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and has used for decades as the sites of the Bishop, Independence, and Lone Pine landfills. The County took this action due to the costly and unreasonable difficulties imposed by LADWP on the County’s efforts to provide essential solid waste services to its constituents. 

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One way LADWP challenged the County’s course of action was by filing this California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit, in which LADWP argued that Inyo County was required to study the environmental impacts from Inyo County simply taking ownership of the three landfills. This is in spite of the State already regulating all landfills in a manner designed to protect the environment. LADWP convinced the trial court that the County was required to study the potential environmental impacts from any possible use of those landfills, instead of recognizing what the County actually intends to do: continue to use the landfills as they are currently being used. LADWP also convinced the judge to order the County to engage in the costly and unnecessary CEQA review process before determining if the County is legally permitted to take ownership of the three landfill sites via eminent domain.

The County firmly believes that the judge was misled by LADWP, and is considering all options including appealing the decision. While this matter is ongoing, Inyo County is committed to continuing to provide efficient and essential solid waste services to our constituents while protecting the environment, and will continue to work toward resolving the unreasonable and costly demands imposed by LADWP on these (and other) County operations.”

Access court documents by clicking here.

San Diego County identifies projects to dramatically reduce Tijuana River Valley sewage:  “The County of San Diego has released a report that identifies 27 projects that could potentially reduce the flow of sewage from Mexico into the U.S. and Tijuana River Valley each year by as much as 91%, from 138 days to 12.  The report, the Tijuana River Valley Needs and Opportunities Assessment, identifies strategies to manage impacts from sewage, trash, and sediment on the U.S. side of the border. It was created in collaboration with more than 30 agencies and organizations, numerous meetings and the review of more than 600 documents. ... ” Read more from the Coronado Times here: San Diego County identifies projects to dramatically reduce Tijuana River Valley sewage

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Along the Colorado River …

Public comment for Lake Powell Pipeline open, again, until September:  “Comments, questions and concerns are now being accepted, again, for the Lake Powell Pipeline.   This comes after the Bureau of Reclamation issued the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline, which is designed to pump water to Washington County.  The proposed 140-mile underground pipeline is estimated to cost between $1 billion to $1.7 billion to be repaid over 50 years. It will deliver up to 86,249 acre feet of water annually, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Public comment for Lake Powell Pipeline open, again, until September

Arizona housing growth tees up opportunity for water investors:  “Central Arizona has been booming — more people, more houses, more need for water. There’s also a long-term drought, and less water to buy from the Central Arizona Project canal system . It’s leading Phoenix exurbs to cast about, looking for new buckets.  Other regions of the state say: don’t come here.  “They want to come and take from the rural counties, which is completely wrong, in my opinion,” said Holly Irwin, a county supervisor in La Paz County, in far-west Arizona. … ”  Read more from Aspen Public Radio here: Arizona housing growth tees up opportunity for water investors

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Today’s featured article …

STATE WATER BOARD: Update on SGMA implementation

Presentation discusses the GSP review process and highlights tools, resources, and assistance for GSAs

Since the legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was passed in 2014, the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Board have been working to support the local agencies the development of their groundwater sustainability plans.  At the State Water Board’s meeting on June 2nd, Natalie Stork, unit chief for the Groundwater Management Program at the State Water Board, and Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Review section at the Department of Water Resources, updated the board members on how implementation is going so far.

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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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