DAILY DIGEST, 6/12: Unusually warm May contributes to expanding drought in the West; Climate change threatens U.S. mortgage market; Trump executive order: environmental streamlining or political quagmire?; and more …

On the calendar today …

In California water news today …

Unusually warm May contributes to expanding drought in the West:  “The Western drought has continued to expand and intensify, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data released Thursday.  Wet late-spring weather resulted in a slight decrease in the area deemed to be in extreme drought in Northern California.  Severe drought receded a little in parts of northeastern Utah and southwestern Washington. Unseasonably heavy precipitation, including high-elevation snow, fell in northeastern Utah, the Drought Monitor reported. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Unusually warm May contributes to expanding drought in the West

Borrowed time: Climate change threatens U.S. mortgage market:  “U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in climate-related property losses as the government backs a growing number of mortgages on homes in the path of floods, fires and extreme weather.  Violent storms and sunny-day flooding are on the rise, and more houses are being built on at-risk land. But fewer people are buying federally backed flood insurance despite requirements that homeowners in flood plains be insured if their mortgage is backed by taxpayers.  In short, the government’s biggest housing subsidies — mortgage guarantees and flood insurance — are on course to hit taxpayers and the housing market as the effects of climate change worsen, a POLITICO analysis finds. A series of disasters in a single region could trigger a full-blown housing crash. … ”  Read more from Politico here: Borrowed time: Climate change threatens U.S. mortgage market

More than 1,000 tons of plastic rains into Western U.S. protected lands annually:  “Utah State University Assistant Professor Janice Brahney and her team used high-resolution atmospheric deposition data and identified samples of microplastics and other particulates collected over 14 months in 11 national parks and wilderness areas. The researchers identified plastic and polymers’ composition to identify sources of plastic emitted into the atmosphere and track its movement and fallout. The findings are reported in the June 12 issue of Science Magazine in the article, Plastic Rain in Protected Areas of the United States. ... ”  Read more from Utah State University here: More than 1,000 tons of plastic rains into Western U.S. Protected lands annually

Legal alert: Trump executive order: environmental streamlining or political quagmire?  “On June 4, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to provide federal agencies the foundation to speed up environmental permitting in the wake of COVID-19. While the move was lauded by many, others view the executive order as an impermissible use of executive power to circumvent environmental protections. The Center for Biological Diversity has already announced its plans to pursue litigation challenging the EO, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act.  Executive Order 13927, “Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities,” (EO) was issued pursuant to the National Emergencies Act and directs agencies to use existing authority to speed up environmental review processes to alleviate the economic emergency caused by COVID-19. ... ”  Read more from Nossaman here: Trump executive order: environmental streamlining or political quagmire?

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In commentary today …

Beyond COVID and social unrest, Valley’s big problem remains declining groundwater, say Ellen Hanak and Jelena Jezdimirovic:  They write, “In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But in the San Joaquin Valley — where groundwater supplies have been declining for decades — excess pumping is a critical problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the environment and local economies.  The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater planning and actions to sustain this vital resource. Agencies from California’s 21 “critically overdrafted” basins — including 11 large basins that span most of the San Joaquin Valley floor — submitted their first groundwater plans in January. ... ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Beyond COVID and social unrest, Valley’s big problem remains declining groundwater

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In regional news and commentary today …

U.S. EPA announces $300,000 for additional cleanup, reuse effort in California’s Humboldt Bay harbor district:  “Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $300,000 in supplemental funding for ongoing redevelopment work on the Humboldt Bay in northern California’s Humboldt County. Humboldt County is one of 25 successful Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) grantees nationally.  The RLF supplemental funds are being provided to communities with demonstrated successes in using the Revolving Loan program to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. A brownfield is a property where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Humboldt County will use the funds to complete the cleanup of five sites at the historic railroad Roundhouse Property in Samoa, Calif. These funds will allow the non-profit Timber Heritage Association to take ownership of the property, clean up the contamination and allow the public to access this historical, cultural resource. ... ”  Read more from the US EPA here: U.S. EPA announces $300,000 for additional cleanup, reuse effort in California’s Humboldt Bay harbor district

Third driest year on record leads to reduced Russian River flow request to protect fisheries:  “The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) today filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) with the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce Russian River minimum in-stream flows this summer. With the Ukiah region facing its third driest water year on record, Lake Mendocino’s water supply is projected to reach critically low levels due to dry conditions and reduced water transfers from the Potter Valley Project. The reduced Potter Valley Project water transfer is forecasted to put Lake Mendocino’s water supply levels into a critical condition. This critical condition is concerning for communities and agriculture that rely on Lake Mendocino for water their supply and could threaten water quality conditions for endangered fish species migrating in the fall up the Russian River. Minimum in-stream flows requested in the TUCP would help preserve water supplies in Lake Mendocino and protect the fall migration of endangered fish. … ”  Read more from Sonoma Water here: Third driest year on record leads to reduced Russian River flow request to protect fisheries

Napa County taps citizens to plan groundwater sustainability plan:  “Napa County’s annual groundwater “snapshot” for 2019 depicts a subbasin under the floor of world-famous wine country that isn’t being sucked dry by wells.  Water users pumped 18,005 acre-feet of water from the Napa Valley subbasin last year. That is within the annual sustainable yield of 17,000 to 20,000 acre-feet, according to the Luhdorff & Scalmanini consulting firm. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa County taps citizens to plan groundwater sustainability plan

Lake Tahoe loses 8 feet of clarity in 2019:  “Lake Tahoe’s clarity took a small hit in 2019 but the overall outlook isn’t all bad.  In 2019, Lake Tahoe’s clarity decreased nearly 8 feet from the previous year’s 10-foot improvement. The average clarity in 2019 was 62.7 feet, determined by 28 measurements taken over the year at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center long-term intake station.  According to a report from UC Davis, clarity fluctuates year-to-year so the 5-year average shows a better picture and is 67.3 feet. ... ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Lake Tahoe loses 8 feet of clarity in 2019

SEE ALSO: Lake Tahoe’s famous clarity is fading, report finds, from the San Francisco Chronicle

40-year license for Middle Fork American River Project:  “Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) and Placer County announced that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a new a 40-year operating license for the Middle Fork American River Project (MFP).  The MFP provides water supplies, clean hydroelectric power, public recreational opportunities and environmental stewardship for the people of Placer County and the region. … ”  Read more from Rocklin and Roseville Today here: 40-year license for Middle Fork American River Project

USACE to discuss American River erosion protection work at June 15 virtual public meeting:  “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District and Central Valley Flood Protection Board will co-host a virtual public meeting June 15 to discuss the draft environmental documents related to proposed erosion work along the lower American River in Sacramento.  The draft supplemental environmental assessment/environmental impact Report for American River Contract 1, which was released for public review on June 5, analyzes the impacts associated with a proposed 5,500-foot-long bank stabilization project along the American River from Glenn Hall Park to just past the H Street Bridge. The document primarily addresses project modifications and refinements that have occurred since the publication of the American River Common Features General Re-evaluation Report final environmental impact statement/environmental impact report in January 2016. … ” Read more from the Army Corps of Engineers here: USACE to discuss American River erosion protection work at June 15 virtual public meeting

City of Folsom talks transfer sale of excess water:  “The Folsom City Council held its regular meeting Tuesday night and a resolution to an environmental impact report for Folsom, south of Highway 50, and the transfer of thousands of acre-feet of water were discussed.  “In short, the city is looking to sell/transfer up to 5,000 acre-feet of water in 2020. This water is in excess to what the city would need to meet demands in 2020 and would not impact any existing customers north or south of Highway 50. The CEQA documentation is required to evaluate whether or not the transfer of water would have any environmental impacts,” shared Christine Brainerd, city of Folsom communications director. … ”  Read more from Gold Country Media here: City of Folsom talks transfer sale of excess water

Fresno Irrigation District still flowing at 100:  “In the mid-19th century, water from the San Joaquin and Kings rivers allowed the desert to bloom.  Beneath the summer heat, workers built canals that would shape the area’s future.  Today, the Fresno Irrigation District oversees the now-680 miles of pipelines and canals that deliver river water to growers and cities. … ”  Read more from The Business Journal here: Fresno Irrigation District still flowing at 100

Paso Robles: Advancing reuse through tertiary treatment:  “Water agencies in California typically include water recycling in their water supply portfolios, but the ones that serve smaller populations may not be able to implement full-blown reuse programs all at once. The City of Paso Robles, home to approximately 30,000 residents, shows it’s possible to build water resilience without building an advanced purification plant. New tertiary treatment facilities at the 4.9 MGD Paso Robles Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) showcase a sustainable approach to water management, advanced wastewater treatment, and cost-effective solutions for communities of any size.  ... ”  Read more from Water World here: Advancing reuse through tertiary treatment

San Diego: LAFCO approves detachment review committee:  “San Diego’s County’s Local Agency Formation Commission approved a committee to review issues regarding the proposed detachment of the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District from the San Diego County Water Authority.  An 8-0 LAFCO board vote June 1 approved the composition of the committee, although LAFCO executive officer Keene Simonds will appoint the specific members and the list of tasks for the committee.  “We have agreement with the County Water Authority, Rainbow and Fallbrook,” said county supervisor Dianne Jacob, who is the chair of the LAFCO board. ... ”  Read more from the Fallbrook Village News here:  LAFCO approves detachment review committee

San Diego and Tijuana announce plans to improve Tijuana River water treatment:  “Both United States and Mexican officials announced separate plans Tuesday to upgrade Tijuana River wastewater facilities.  The international river has been a longtime problem for residents of Imperial Beach and Tijuana, as sewage and trash from the river have spilled into the Pacific Ocean for decades, often closing beaches near the border and damaging natural habitats along the river. ... ”  Read more from KPBS here: San Diego and Tijuana announce plans to improve Tijuana River water treatment

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Along the Colorado River …

Lake Powell Pipeline hits ‘an important milestone’ with roll out of environmental study:  “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a draft environmental impact statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline project Monday and encourages the public to submit comments on the study between now and early September.  State and local water officials are pleased with the results of the draft environmental impact statement, more commonly referred to as an EIS, while opponents of the project carry a different view. … ”  Read more from St. George Spectrum here: Lake Powell Pipeline hits ‘an important milestone’ with roll out of environmental study

Hundreds of Navajo Nation homes might finally get running water: “When Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez held a town hall in May to discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s impacts on the Navajo Nation and the best use of federal relief funds, he identified a clear spending priority: the construction of water lines.  More than one third of Navajo Nation households lack running water, and the problem is even worse in Utah’s San Juan County where, according to the office of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, half of Navajo Nation residents have to haul water. Families fill jugs at communal wells or buy bottled water from stores — both costly and time-consuming burdens that have become only more difficult during the pandemic. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Hundreds of Navajo Nation homes might finally get running water

No border wall for Arizona tribe’s Colorado River stretch:  “President Trump’s wall now stretches along 200 miles of U.S.-Mexico borderland. Progress hasn’t slowed during the coronavirus pandemic; in some places it’s even accelerating. But there’s a tiny swath of tribal land on the Colorado River where that’s not the case.  The Cocopah Indian Tribe’s reservation sits in the river’s delta, a corner of the borderland where California, Arizona and Mexico meet. Today tribal members are some of 40 million residents in western states who receive a share of water from the Colorado River basin. But they have been tied to the river much longer than those states have existed. … ”  Read more from Arizona Public Media here: No border wall for Arizona tribe’s Colorado River stretch

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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.

dmrpt-20200611

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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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