DAILY DIGEST, 6/19: Delta Conveyance Project moves forward; Ag shrinking under weight of Calif. regulations; Filling Trump void, California steps in to protect birds, wetlands; California and EPA tussle over water quality protections; and more …

On the calendar today …
  • FREE WEBINAR: Greater Ventura County Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem (GDE) from 10am to 12pm.  Intended for stakeholders interested in learning more about how to assess groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) in groundwater sustainability planning, and how to engage in the local groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) process.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: From the Trump Water Plan to the Shasta Dam Raise: The Fight for Sacramento River/Bay Delta Salmon from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Join moderator Regina Chichizola with guest speakers Chief Caleen Sisk, Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, and Morning Star Gali for this free webinar.  Click here to watch streaming on Facebook.
  • WEBINAR: June Bites & Bigwigs with San Diego County Water Authority from 12pm to 1pm.  Glenn Farrel and Gary Bousquet of the San Diego County Water Authority will provide insights on impacts of current events to the regional water industry and a potential energy project at San Vicente Dam and Reservoir.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Next steps for Delta ConveyanceThe Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues to advance the Delta Conveyance Project, which is being planned to maintain reliability of the state’s water system in decades to come. This message provides an update on the planning activities for this project and opportunities for public participation in the coming months.  Under the California Environmental Quality Act, DWR must complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the planned project. DWR held an extended 93-day public scoping period that concluded in April 2020. The scoping period provided agencies and the public an opportunity to comment on the scope and content of the Delta Conveyance Project environmental review, including potential environmental impacts and the range of alternatives to be analyzed in the EIR. … ”  Continue reading from DWR News here:  Next steps for Delta Conveyance

ICYMI: DWR submits Delta Conveyance Project Section 404 permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has submitted a (revised) Department of the Army permit application pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (Section 404 permit application) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to request authorization for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project activities in waters of the United States.  Separately, DWR has initiated USACE (and the Central Valley Flood Protection Board) review of the Delta Conveyance Project under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbor Act, Title 33 United States Code Section 408, as an activity that may affect the Federal-State flood control system.  DWR is submitting its Section 404 permit application for the Delta Conveyance Project now in order to formally engage USACE in early coordination with DWR’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process regarding environmental review under USACE’s process for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. The USACE permit process will not be concluded until NEPA and all other relevant environmental compliance efforts are complete. ... ”  Continue reading at DWR News here:  Delta Conveyance Project Section 404 permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ag shrinking under weight of Calif. regulations:  “Dairy owner Steve Nash used to be enmeshed in California politics, staying active in the Fresno County Farm Bureau and appearing before state legislators and regulators to advocate for agriculture-friendly policies.  But in 2014, he gave up. He began the process of moving his business from Selma, Calif., where it had been operating for more than 80 years, to Chapel Hill, Tenn.  … “Regulations were probably one of the biggest” reasons for leaving the Golden State, Nash told Farm Press. “We wanted to build and expand, and there was a lot of cost to doing that – everything from environmental impact reports and assessments to things as small as the fire department being involved in the expansion of your dairy. Everyone wanted a fee.” … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Ag shrinking under weight of Calif. regulations

Filling Trump void, California steps in to protect birds, wetlands:  “On a foggy November morning, the 900-foot container ship Cosco Busan was lumbering through San Francisco Bay when it struck a support tower for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The collision gouged out a long scrape on the ship’s side, sending 54,000 gallons of sludgy petroleum billowing into the bay.   Heavy fuel oil slathered across 150 square miles, an estimated 7,000 birds died, as much as 30% of herring spawn died and 200 miles of coastline in five counties had to be cleaned up. The penalties that followed the 2007 spill were prescribed by a federal law, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which has sheltered nearly every bird species in the nation for 102 years. The shipping company was fined $44.4 million, with more than $32 million set aside for rehabilitating birds and restoring their habitat, work that is still occurring.  But if that same disaster occurred today, the company would no longer be fined or prosecuted under federal law for killing birds. ... ”  Read more from CalMatters here:  Filling Trump void, California steps in to protect birds, wetlands

California and EPA tussle over water quality protections:  “Attorneys for 18 states and 2 major cities were in federal court Thursday asking a judge to grant a preliminary injunction that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from removing protections from temporary streams, wetlands and other minor water bodies.  U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg presided over a lengthy and combative hearing that featured attorneys from the state of California making the case that the Trump-era EPA acted contrary to its fundamental mission when it exempted ephemeral streams and wetlands from protections afforded by the Clean Water Act. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: California and EPA tussle over water quality protections

Federal judge considers states’ bid to block Trump water rule:  “A California federal judge is weighing whether to block the Trump administration’s controversial water rule, as requested by more than a dozen states suing over the regulation.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California spent three hours Thursday hearing arguments on whether to halt the Navigable Waters Protection Rule from taking effect on June 22, as planned.  A preliminary injunction will “prevent widespread harm to national water quality, and disruption” to water pollution control in cities and states while the claim is litigated, the 17-state coalition led by California and New York argued in a motion filed last month. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: Federal judge considers states’ bid to block Trump water rule

Plans to fix the Friant-Kern Canal moving fast. Funding — not so fast.  “Planning to fix the Friant-Kern Canal is moving at a lightning clip even as funding to put those plans into action lags.  The massive project went from its initial notice on Dec. 3, 2019, to release of the draft environmental impact statement on May 8, 2020 — just five months. … Expectations are that a final environmental impact statement will be released early this fall for consideration by the Friant Water Authority, which operates the canal on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Plans to fix the Friant-Kern Canal moving fast. Funding — not so fast

Retreat or fight for coastal communities?  “In the coastal getaway town of Stinson Beach, king tides and storm surges regularly put roads and parking lots underwater: wintertime events that give locals an unnerving idea of what rising sea level will look like for the small community. “We know sea-level rise is coming, but here, we say we’ve already got it,” says Stinson Beach homeowner Jeff Loomans, also the president of the Greater Farallones Association, which has been active in sea-level rise planning.  Rising sea level is no longer a distant matter of if or when. Firm science and unyielding line graphs into the future make it clear: the swelling ocean is a reality that is shaping state development policy and challenging coastal communities. Pushed forward by the unstoppable momentum of global warming, repeating waves gnaw at the shore, causing beaches to vanish and sea cliffs to crumble. And homes that once offered residents a piece of the California dream now serve as seaward windows into the uncertain future of coastal living. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Retreat or fight for coastal communities?

Cabernet with a side of carbon:  “Napa Valley is built on a bedrock of cabernet sauvignon. Imported from France around 1853, this varietal now accounts for 51 percent of grapes grown in the region. It thrives in moderate temperatures—below 68 degrees Fahrenheit or so—making it perfectly suited to the Northern California climate. Or at least, it used to be. Climate change now poses an existential threat to cabernet and other quintessential Napa wines. Projections show the area in Napa suited to growing cabernet, pinot noir, and other premium grapes could be cut in half by 2039. In the face of these climbing temperatures, along with potential water shortages and more devastating fires, Napa’s growers are looking to take action: both to protect their own livelihoods and to contribute to global efforts to fight climate change. Lately, many are embracing something called carbon farming—a suite of practices designed to maximize carbon storage in the soil, instead of letting it loose in the air. ... ”  Read more from Slate here: Cabernet with a side of carbon

California, watch the wildfires in Arizona, they may be a preview of what’s to come later this year:  “California should take a lesson from what’s happening with wildfires in Arizona right now, says UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. More than 220,000 acres have burned in active wildfires across that state.  “We can kind of look to Arizona and New Mexico right now … as a preview to what might be coming to California later in the season,” he said. “The fires in Arizona right now are extremely large and intense. They’re burning in places that haven’t burned in a long time.” ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  California, watch the wildfires in Arizona, they may be a preview of what’s to come later this year

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In national/world news today …

Major bill on Indian water rights settlements moves to House:  “On Monday, June 15, the U.S. House of Representatives received the newly-minted Indian Water Rights Settlement Extension Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate and which passed that chamber earlier this month. The current bill packages three separate pieces of legislation: the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Completion Act, and the Kickapoo Tribe Water Project Study.  Native American water rights account for a significant portion of vested entitlements to the West’s limited water supplies, though many of such rights remain unquantified and unused. Determining tribal water rights in court through general stream adjudications entails great expense, time, and uncertainty for all involved. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Major bill on Indian water rights settlements moves to House

Top House Democrats detail infrastructure plans:  “House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) plans to beat back several Republican amendments at today’s marathon markup of a nearly $500 billion surface transportation bill.  The session is one part of House Democrats’ broader push for an infrastructure package that will include clean energy legislation and see floor debate June 30. A water projects bill is also on the agenda for next month.  GOP amendments aimed at striking transit and environmental provisions from the highway bill are a “non-starter,” DeFazio told E&E News in a phone interview yesterday, where he detailed other House plans on infrastructure. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: Top House Democrats detail infrastructure plans

Environmental injustice is even worse than we thought:  “As our nation searches its soul for a response to racial injustice in policing, it must also reckon with profound environmental injustice. New research shows that a handful of egregiously polluting facilities account for the vast majority of toxic releases and that a disproportionate share of these facilities are located near black and brown neighborhoods.  Too often people in low-wealth communities and communities of color live, work, or attend school near sources of harmful environmental contamination – factories and power plants, highways and congested roads, lead-contaminated buildings and hazardous waste sites. The impacts of this toxic exposure are compounded by inadequate healthcare, limited access to healthy foods and underlying health conditions, such as asthma. ... ”  Read more from Reslience.org here: Environmental injustice is even worse than we thought

EPA announces dynamic new water data transparency tool:  “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new tool that assembles publicly available water quality data into a user-friendly package that provides information on the quality of our nation’s waters at the community, state, and national level. The release of this tool coincides with the agency’s monthlong focus on partnerships as part of EPA’s 50th anniversary commemoration. This new tool was created in partnership with states and water stakeholders and will facilitate next steps in our collective efforts to continue providing clean water for recreation and safe drinking water for communities across the nation. ... ”  Continue reading at the EPA here:  EPA announces dynamic new water data transparency tool

Sustainability in desalination:  “As the world’s population grows, the number of people facing water scarcity issues is expected to rise, with some estimates pitting the number of people experiencing water shortages to be at 60 percent by 2025. With 97 percent of the world’s water in oceans, seawater desalination represents a major opportunity for alleviating water stress across the globe.  But the process can be expensive and time consuming due to the complexity of the treatment process. At most plants, electrical energy accounts for about 35 to 40 percent of total operating costs, which is why sustainable, energy-efficient desalination is at the forefront of research into developing clean water technologies. … ”  Read more from Water World here: Sustainability in desalination

How microplastics impact life at the bottom:  “Microplastics are prevalent in the news and in the oceans. These small pieces of plastic have been found in wildlife, on beaches, and even in human fecal matter! Because there is such a wide variety of plastic sources, microplastics come in a multitude of plastic types and shapes: ranging from Styrofoam circles to nylon fibers. These different types and shapes of plastic behave differently in the environment, with their density in particular determining where they end up in the ocean. As such, it’s important to understand how microplastics can potentially impact different areas. ... ”  Read more from EnviroBites here:  How microplastics impact life at the bottom

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In commentary today …

California can lead the world to a more sustainable agriculture industry, says Steve Shimek:  He writes,As a biologist and environmental advocate, even before the pandemic, I was scared by the headlines about our planet:  A 75% decline in insect biomass with a 40% loss of insect species predicted; a United Nations warning of the imminent extinction of 1 million species worldwide; a 3 billion loss of birds in United States and Canada over the past half-century; the growth of dead zones on our coasts and the decline in the oxygen held by the world’s oceans.  Climate change will only worsen these environmental problems.  Then COVID-19 blazed around the globe.  As we emerge from this pandemic, we have a critical opportunity to address multiple, interrelated threats to our future.  … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: California can lead the world to a more sustainable agriculture industry

Department of Defense must do more to address PFAS pollution, say Rebecca Patterson and Scott Faber:  They write, “The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate the blood of virtually every American. These chemicals have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, harm to the reproductive system, and harm to the immune system.  Americans are exposed to dozens of PFAS every day. Because PFAS never break down and build up in our blood and organs, they are often known as “forever chemicals.”  Military service members and their families are especially at risk. The DOD’s 50-year use of fire-fighting foam made with PFAS, also known as aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), has disproportionately exposed them to PFAS pollution. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Department of Defense must do more to address PFAS pollution

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In regional news and commentary today …

Clear Creek salmon habitat restoration project begins construction: “The Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, plans to begin construction of the Lower Clear Creek Floodplain and Stream Channel Restoration Project Phase 3C on the week of June 22. This project is funded through the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.  Construction is scheduled for weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30. The project site is on federally owned public lands near the China Gardens trailhead, on Clear Creek Road. Watch for truck traffic and road signs and use caution in this area.   The project will improve spawning and juvenile rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead by returning Clear Creek to its historic channel alignment and by river restoration enhancements.  This is the final major phase of the Lower Clear Creek Floodway Rehabilitation Project. Started in 1999, the project has been guided by the technical input of the Clear Creek Technical Team, a group of federal, state and tribal agencies and local stakeholders.   For additional information, contact Derek Rupert, fish biologist, at at drupert@usbr.gov or 530-247-8514 (TTY 800-877-8339).”

El Dorado County: Save the Canal group files appeal:  “Save the Canal, a citizen’s group, on Tuesday filed an appeal to the El Dorado County Superior Court’s decision denying its petition to stop the El Dorado Irrigation District from piping 3 miles of the historical El Dorado Canal that runs through Pollock Pines.  Judge Dylan Sullivan on April 17 ruled, “There was substantial evidence supporting the EID finding of no significant impact.” … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: Save the Canal group files appeal

Bay Area: EPA announces $513 million WIFIA  loan to the city of San Francisco for wastewater upgrades:  “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $513 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) in California to help finance needed pretreatment and other related improvements to its Southeast Treatment Plant, which treats 80% of San Francisco’s wastewater. This action marks the second WIFIA loan supporting San Francisco’s Southeast Treatment Plant and represents the latest effort by EPA to help protect public health and the environment in the Bay Area.  “Not only will this project provide environmental and public health benefits, it will create more than 3,000 jobs in the Bay Area,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “Rebuilding our aging water infrastructure at low cost to communities is a top priority for EPA.” ... ”  Read more from the EPA here: Bay Area: EPA announces $513 million WIFIA  loan to the city of San Francisco for wastewater upgrades

Bay Area: Highway 37: the road to restoration:  “San Francisco Bay has seven highway bridges with tolls, eight if you count the span linking Antioch to the Delta. In the future it just might have nine. The latest candidate is not the long-debated Southern Crossing, but rather a series of causeways carrying California’s single most vulnerable road in the era of sea-level rise: State Route 37 between Vallejo and Novato.  A bridge on dry land? But the dryness of this region is a fading illusion. Over a century ago, dikes, pumps, and fill transformed a 50,000-acre wetland wilderness into a fabric of fields and managed ponds—for a geological blink of an eye. Now the tides are returning, in a process partly planned and partly inevitable. In the name of habitat, something like half of the old wetlands along this arc have been reopened to the Bay, with much more to come. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Bay Area: Highway 37: the road to restoration

Bay Area: Big projects, wet feet: mega developments hedge on sea-level rise:  “On September 3, 2019, Golden State Warriors CEO Rick Welts stood proudly in front of the newly inaugurated $1.4 billion Chase Center basketball arena. “A brand new journey starts today,” he promised the assembled luminaries and fans. Having built on Mission Bay’s watery footprint, the Warriors defended their new arena against sea-level rise, saying in an official statement it will stay dry in 2100 “even with the anticipated 36 inches of sea-level rise.”  Just three weeks later, a massive $1 billion dollar housing and commercial development less than a mile upshore from the Chase Center received permission to break ground. Dubbed “Mission Rock,” the project is also designed for sea-level rise: 66 inches by 2100. In other words, almost twice as much as its waterfront neighbor. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Big projects, wet feet: mega developments hedge on sea-level rise

Conservation groups file motions to defend Ventura County wildlife connectivity:  “Conservation organizations filed two legal motions today to defend Ventura County’s innovative wildlife connectivity ordinances — the first of their kind in California.  Ordinance No. 4537 and Ordinance No. 4539, which increase protections for important designated wildlife corridors connecting the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, were challenged in court by industry groups last year. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Conservation groups file motions to defend Ventura County wildlife connectivity

San Bernardino: Federal grant to support local habitat conservation efforts:  “In May the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District was awarded an $875,000 Habitat Conservation Planning grant through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act.  This is the district’s fourth Section 6 HCP Planning Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2014, totaling $2.62 million in grant funding in support of the proposed Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan.  In 2014, the district took the bold step to lead the development of a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the Upper Santa Ana River. This HCP will provide incidental take coverage for sensitive, threatened and/or endangered species associated with more than 70 proposed projects, including stormwater and recycled water, throughout the upper watershed. ... ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: San Bernardino: Federal grant to support local habitat conservation efforts

Progress continues on South Orange County water dam, reservoir project:  “The Trampas Canyon Dam and Reservoir Project, under construction by the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD), continues to move forward, according to SMWD officials.  The main dam has been completed and reportedly stands more than 200 feet high. Overall work is expected to be substantially completed in September. A construction crew has been busy working on the project’s emergency spillway. ... ”  Read more from the San Juan Capistrano Dispatch here: Progress continues on South Orange County water dam, reservoir project

Holtville wetlands project stuck in the mud by engineers:  “The wetlands project in Holtville seems to have hit every snag during its 15-year journey to completion and is now being held hostage by an engineering firm two years behind in finishing its work.  The Holtville City Council was recently given a status report from City Manager Nick Wells on the wetlands project during a June 8 meeting.  “I have been in contact with the representative from (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation). While she is concerned about the progress (of the project), the conversation did calm the waters a bit on their end,” Wells wrote to the council in his report. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: Holtville wetlands project stuck in the mud by engineers

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona reactivates & renames DCP Committee to develop state perspective on the future of Colorado River:  “During the successful Drought Contingency Planning (DCP) process that kicked off for Arizona almost exactly two years ago, water issues dominated the headlines. The success of that effort was due to the commitment and hard work of leaders in the water community and a public process focused on the perspectives of varied Arizona stakeholder interests.  Now, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and Central Arizona Project (CAP) are using this same approach to develop an Arizona consensus on the “reconsultation” of the Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead, known as the 2007 Guidelines. ... ”  Read more from the Arizokna Department of Water Resources here:  Arizona reactivates & renames DCP Committee to develop state perspective on the future of Colorado River

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National Water and Climate

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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