DAILY DIGEST, 6/16: Groundwater accountability sparks clash of Central Valley ag titans; Budget includes funding for Salton Sea; 4 key data management milestones to ensure water sustainability; and more …

On the calendar today …
  • ONLINE MEETING: The State Water Resources Control Board meets at 9:30am.  Agenda items include an update on the Board’s actions and responses to COVID-19; Consideration of a proposed Resolution to adopt a definition of “Microplastics in Drinking Water”; and Consideration of a proposed Resolution to adopt the State Fiscal Year 2020-21 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan (IUP).  For the full agenda, click hereClick here to watch on webcast.
  • WEBINAR: Franks Tract Futures: Using map-based public surveys to inform a participatory multi-benefit design project from 11:45 to 1:15pm.  This series of public webinars on the human dimensions of California water and environmental management and policy issues is part of the hiring process for a California Sea Grant Extension Specialist based at the Delta Stewardship Council. This position will contribute to advancing collaborative partnerships and catalyzing social science research to inform management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region.  Candidate is Alejo Kraus-Polk, Ph.D. Candidate, Geography Graduate Group, UC Davis.  Click here for Zoom link.

In California water news today …

Groundwater accountability sparks clash of Central Valley ag titans:  “Two giant Central Valley farming companies are slinging serious mud at one another over groundwater.  And, in a rare break with tradition, they’re doing it in public.  The fight has spilled out in public comments on the Tulare Lake Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan, which covers most of Kings County.  The titans behind the comments are J.G. Boswell Company and Sandridge Partners, owned by John Vidovich. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater accountability sparks clash of Central Valley ag titans

California legislature votes to keep funding for Salton Sea project in state budget proposal:  “The California legislature voted Monday to keep the Salton Sea in its budget proposal sent to Governor Gavin Newsom.  Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia said he’s pleased the legislature found a way to allocate some funding for the Salton Sea despite the fiscal challenges created by the pandemic. … ”  Read more from KYMA here: California legislature votes to keep funding for Salton Sea project in state budget proposal

California lawmakers pass budget that depends on federal aid:  “California’s legislature passed a $143 billion general-fund budget for the next fiscal year that counts on federal aid before triggering spending cuts, a rejection of Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to slash services ahead of more money from Washington.  The bill was approved 61 to 13 in the Assembly and 29 to 11 in the Senate Monday. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here:  California lawmakers pass budget that depends on federal aid

No California budget deal yet as Newsom, lawmakers approach big deadlines:  “Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders of the California Legislature worked Monday toward a final deal on a new state budget, leaving lawmakers in the awkward position of voting on their own spending plan — one that did not have Newsom’s support — a few hours before their annual deadline to take action.  Although both Newsom and legislators expressed optimism as negotiations continued into Monday night, the eventual agreement will mean substantial alterations need to be made in the bill adopted in party-line votes by the Senate and Assembly. That plan, however, did meet the minimum constitutional standard for an approved budget to ensure that legislators won’t forfeit any of their pay. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: No California budget deal yet as Newsom, lawmakers approach big deadlines

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In national/world news today …

Feinstein, Harris: Fed should lift cap on number of short-term loans for special districts:  Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) today called on the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to make short-term loans available to special districts that suffered substantial revenue losses from COVID-19.  Special districts –local government agencies that provide specific services such as water, energy, fire, public safety and more –are expected to lose an estimated $30.7 billion due to the pandemic.  The Federal Reserve created a program called the Municipal Liquidity Facility to provide short-term loans to state and local governments, including special districts with at least an A- credit rating. However, that program will provide loans to a maximum of two special districts per state; California has 1,913 special districts. Feinstein and Harris are calling for that cap to be lifted.

Click here to continue reading.

The senators wrote: “Rather than limiting the total number of eligible facilities, we ask that you rely instead on the term sheet’s independent provisions requiring a minimum credit rating for public entities to access the Municipal Liquidity Facility.  Given that only public entities with solid credit are eligible, we urge you to consider opening the facility to any special district that meets those credit eligibility standards. These districts need assistance to continue to provide essential public services through the pandemic …

Click here to read the letter.

Supreme Court Justices reject Clean Water Act plea in blow to miners:  “Supreme Court justices today declined to consider whether moving — but not adding — rocks, sand and other debris within a regulated waterway is subject to Clean Water Act restrictions.  The court’s decision not to take up the Eastern Oregon Mining Association’s petition came as a disappointment for operators that use suction dredge mining, an industrial process similar to panning for gold in a river.  The rejection carries big financial implications, said Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Damien Schiff, who represented the mining association. ... ” Read more from E&E News here: Supreme Court Justices reject Clean Water Act plea in blow to miners

Video: America’s environmental future: the water solution:  “On Monday, June 15, POLITICO held a virtual deep-dive panel discussion on the policies and legislation needed at the state, regional and federal levels to meet the water needs of Western states and secure long-term solutions at a time when the attention and resources of local and state leaders are consumed by the pandemic crisis.” Watch video from Politico here: Video: America’s Environmental Future: The Water Solution

4 key data management milestones to ensure water sustainability:  “With the global population expected to hit 8.5 billion in the next 10 years, the demand for water is rising inexorably. Many areas of the world are already facing either water shortages or water that’s unsafe for human consumption. … The bottom line – if we remain on the same path, the world is facing a 40 percent shortfall in freshwater resources by 2030, according to the United Nations. So, it’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum ranked the water crisis in the top 5 of global risks for the eighth consecutive year. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: 4 key data management milestones to ensure water sustainability

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In regional news and commentary today …

Klamath: Groups call on Supreme Court to rule on ‘takings’ issue:  “In the Western states, water rights for irrigation are private property rights: The U.S. Constitution requires that the federal government pay citizens when it takes their property. The Klamath “takings” case (Baley v. United States) stems from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation cutting off irrigation water to the federal Klamath Project, located in Northern California and southern Oregon, in 2001. That year, BOR allocated all available water to fish species under the Endangered Species Act.  Klamath water users sued the United States to assert that Klamath Project water users have a Fifth Amendment property interest, which entitles them to compensation for the 2001 shutoff. ... ”  Read more from Western Farmer here: Klamath: Groups call on Supreme Court to rule on ‘takings’ issue

Yurok Tribe, Rep. Huffman respond to increased Klamath River flows:  “The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) announced last week that it would resume flow increases to the Klamath River after it abruptly stopped them in early May. Dry conditions in 2020 have created dangerously low water levels, endangering juvenile salmon at a time when fish infection rates from C. Shasta parasites spiked at alarming levels, according to a news release.  The Yurok Tribe and commercial fishing groups sought court intervention after the Bureau unilaterally reduced river flows in early May, denying water promised in a plan the Bureau had adopted to resolve a lawsuit brought by the Tribe and fishing groups. ... ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Yurok Tribe, Rep. Huffman respond to increased Klamath River flows

Klamath basin water users getting moderate relief:  “Farmers who rely on the Klamath Basin for water supplies have received an increase in allocations from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The bureau recently announced changes to the water allocation for the Klamath Project, moving the allocation back up to April estimate of 140,000 acre-feet. While the improved water allocation is welcome news for growers in the area, it is still only 40 percent of the full annual allocation of 350,000 acre-feet. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Klamath basin water users getting moderate relief

Commentary: Fairness and justice for farmers, says For far too long farmers have been stereotyped as environment-trashing know-nothings. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is the favored tool of litigious-happy, urban environmental groups who attack rural America and are rewarded with court-ordered attorneys’ fees. In the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon and northernmost California, farmers and ranchers using water from a federal water project are on the bleeding edge of the onslaught.  On June 18, the Supreme Court has the chance to give these citizens a day in court and protect American values. ... ”  Read more from the Herald & News here: Fairness and justice for farmers

Field note: Ensuring flows for fish in the Shasta and Scott River:  “The weather is starting to get warmer up here in Northern California, and after an extremely dry winter, flows in the Scott and Shasta rivers are well below average. In March, CalTrout started receiving calls from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seeking help to address the impacts of these low flows on coho salmon. The agencies were worried that the juveniles from last year (1+) would not be able to exit their natal streams, and also that there would not be enough water instream to maintain existing redds long enough for the new juveniles (0+) to emerge, which wouldn’t happen for a few more months. Fortunately, some much needed spring rain arrived, helping the 1+ juveniles to leave and alleviating some of the stress on the existing redds. However, now there is the concern that low flows will prevent the 0+ coho from moving into over-summering habitat once they hatch. ... ”  Read more from Cal Trout here:  Field note: Ensuring flows for fish in the Shasta and Scott River

Napa 90 percent of Napa vineyards have been certified by Fish Friendly Farming (press release):  “The Fish Friendly Farming® Certification Program was designed to improve water quality and to restore and sustain habitat for federally-listed threatened species like Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. In a stunning victory for fish, farming and our environment, Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) has already certified 90 percent of all Napa grape vineyards.  Salmon and trout are considered indicator species due to their sensitivity to human-induced impacts to their environment. They are sensitive to changes in water quality, quantity, temperature, turbidity and aquatic food webs. The decline of salmon and/or trout in a creek or stream can give an early warning of decline in the overall health of the environment. By focusing on improving conditions for salmon and trout, FFF takes a comprehensive approach to environmentally friendly land management.

Click here to continue reading. Includes list of Napa wineries certified.

The Fish Friendly Farming Certification Program is a certification program for farmers who implement land management practices that restore and sustain fish habitat on their property and improve water quality. It is an incentive program that rewards farmers for practicing beneficial management practices to protect fish habitat over the long term. FFF works on all the land in the watershed from the top of the ridge to the edges of the estuary.

Laurel Marcus, Executive Director for FFF, admits that farmers have to comply with a complicated series of rules to achieve certification. “It is a very detail-oriented program, but that’s the way the environment is. It is a complex system, so you have to look at all the places a farm touches the environment that could cause an impact.”

FFF visits the farms and works with farmers to collect information on assessing erosion and native vegetation. They note how drainage systems work, how vineyards are winterized and perform a complete road assessment. There is a labor and work force element, a business practices element and green initiatives. They look at wells, which chemicals are used and make sure farmers have legal surface water rights.

All information collected by FFF during their assessment is put onto maps and templates which are read and accompanied by more on-site inspections by official governmental certifiers like the National Marine Fisheries Service and County Agricultural Commissioner. They inspect the site and can add requirements to the original report. The farmer gets a list detailing what they need to do to implement their farm plan along with a time frame to get the work done. “Fish Friendly Farming has more rigorous standards and compliance is more difficult to achieve than many other programs,” said Marcus. “It’s not just that 90 percent of Napa farms are certified, it’s that they are certified to a very high environmental standard.”

The FFF program clearly resonates with Napa grape growers. Julie Nord is the owner of Nord Vineyard Services and currently farms nearly 1,000 prime Napa Valley acres, selling grapes to over 60 ultra-premium wineries. “Our winery clients are focused on sustainability and our impact on the environment,” said Nord. “Fish Friendly Farming gives us ongoing help about farming in ways that best protect the environment. Once they even helped us obtain a grant to work on an erosion project. Their certification guarantees our clients that we are up to date on the latest regulations and that our vineyard practices protect fish, waterways and the environment.”

The technical experts for FFF, with input from the growers, complete a Farm Conservation Plan: a comprehensive history and assessment of natural resources, agricultural lands and management practices. The plan is a strategy for implementing Beneficial Management Practices and guides the improvement of projects for a specific property. Each plan is unique, addressing the features and needs of a particular property.

Matt Crafton has worked at Chateau Montelena since 2008 and was named winemaker in 2014. He worked with Fish Friendly Farming to obtain certification for the winery’s vineyards. “Fish Friendly Farming is based on vetted science. It is a verified approach with clear cut goals,” he explained. “The team is very professional. They understand the farming, the viticulture, and they understand that the two goals of protecting our waterways and farming can be one and the same, especially with a high-quality, valuable crop like wine grapes. They do a fantastic job of making sure the practices that are beneficial to the fish are also beneficial to the vines, so you really have farmers and scientists and environmentalists all working together to the same goals.”

The Fish Friendly Farming Certification Program is a smashing success. Over 90 percent of Napa vineyards have already been certified. It applies the best of modern science to protecting fish and in doing so helps protect the environment and produce higher quality grapes. It is clearly a win-win situation for California agriculture.

The Fish Friendly Farming® Certification Program was designed to improve water quality and to restore and sustain habitat for the federally-listed threatened Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout in the Russian, Navarro, Gualala, Petaluma and Napa Rivers and Sonoma, Suisun, Putah, Salmon and Greenwood Creeks and other watersheds as well as the Sierra foothills and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  

The Fish Friendly Farming® (FFF) program is a certification program for farmers who implement land management practices that restore and sustain fish habitat on their property and improve water quality.  The FFF Program recognizes that improved land stewardship is best accomplished through a cooperative and positive working relationship with landowners and farmers.  Landowners make numerous decisions regarding land management and will use improved methods, if encouraged, and if technical and financial assistance is available for projects.  

A listing of wineries who have all of their lands certified by Fish Friendly Farming reads like a Who’s Who of Napa: Treasury, Sterling, Beaulieu Vineyards, Provenance, Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Trinchero Family/ Sutter Home, Joseph Phelps, Silverado Vineyards, Clif Family winery, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Chateau Montelena, Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, Long Meadow Ranch, Hall Wines, Charles Krug Winery, Boisset Family Estates, Frog’s Leap, Hess Collection, Saintsbury, Schramsberg, Silver Oak Cellars, Trefethen, and V. Sattui.  

Palo Alto Tide Gates, which prevent flooding in low-lying areas on Peninsula, to be replaced:  “Driving on Highway 101 from the South Bay, up the Peninsula, commuters zoom by nearly invisible infrastructure keeping the highway and nearby communities dry. Beyond the highway, at the edge of the San Francisco Bay, are levees and tide gates protecting roads and neighborhoods against high tides and storm flooding. Unless you visit the bay lands to walk the levee trails, you might never know these important structures exist. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here:  Palo Alto Tide Gates, which prevent flooding in low-lying areas on Peninsula, to be replaced

San Joaquin River Restoration Program: Reach O Levee work is underway:  “Work has started on the Reach O levee improvements! The project will improve seepage and stability requirements within two miles of Eastside Bypass levees to allow for higher Restoration Flows. Currently, the levee is constructed of sand or gravelly soils of higher permeability which can transmit water via seepage during high-water stages — potentially impacting adjacent lands. The project aims to reduce these impacts by installing cutoff walls to reduce levee seepage and underseepage as well as replacing aged culverts with concrete reinforced pipe. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin River Restoration Program here: Reach O Levee work is underway

Fourth Appellate hears Abatti v IID water rights case:  “The Fourth Appellate Court of California heard the Abatti parties vs. Imperial Irrigation lawsuit, Friday, June 12. The appeal was generated after Imperial County Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt ruled in Abatti’s favor of repealing the Equitable Distribution Plan in August 2017, which could ration agricultural water users by historical and straight-line measurements to deal with the longest drought in modern California history.  After IID appealed the case, Friends of the Court briefs for the district were filed by the local Imperial Valley Coalition for Fair Sharing of Water, started by Holtville resident Wally Leimgruber, the California State Water Board, and San Joaquin Tributaries Authorities. ... ”  Read more from the Desert Review here: Fourth Appellate hears Abatti v IID water rights case

San Diego: Water’s long journey to your faucet:  “Most people take it for granted. You turn the faucet on, and water comes out.  But it isn’t that simple. In fact, it’s far more complicated to fill a glass with clean drinking water.  That’s one of the reasons why the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department is mailing residents the annual Drinking Water Quality Report this week.  “A lot of people just think that when you turn the tap water on, it’s just coming from the lakes and the streams,” said Michael Simpson, the Senior Water Operations Supervisor at the Alvarado Water Treatment Plant near Lake Murray. … ”  Read more from NBC San Diego here: San Diego: Water’s long journey to your faucet

Major ocean research effort centered in San Diego:  “The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego will host a major research initiative funded by the federal government.  UC San Diego will host the Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth and Atmospheric systems, and it will get up to $220 million in funding for research over a five-year period. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: Major ocean research effort centered in San Diego

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Along the Colorado River …

For now, 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. … ”  Read more from KUNC here:  For now, no border wall for Arizona Tribe’s Colorado River stretch

Nevada water order kills real estate project:  “Nevada restricted groundwater pumping Tuesday in an area north of Las Vegas, potentially killing a real-estate project that threatens an endangered fish clinging to existence in a handful of spring-fed desert pools, the Center for Biological Diversity said.  “We’re pleased that the state engineer recognizes that these critical groundwater supplies must be protected to save the Moapa dace from extinction,” said Patrick Donnelly, the center’s Nevada state director. “There’s still too much groundwater pumping, and further reductions are necessary to ensure long-term conservation and recovery.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Nevada water order kills real estate project

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Ask an enviro with Ann Hayden; Real estate acquisition for Delta tunnel; Deadbeat dams; Artisanal fishermen of Monterey Bay; and more …

Click here to read this article.

LETTER: San Joaquin Valley water districts object to further temporary funding of the Delta Conveyance Project

Yesterday, four San Joaquin Valley water districts led by the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, sent a letter to Governor Newsom objecting to any further temporary funding of the Delta Conveyance Project, stating it is ‘not appropriate’ to continue funding at this time, given the current economic conditions and uncertainty over State Water Project supplies.

Click here to read this article.

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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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