DAILY DIGEST, 7/7: The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds?; Feinstein, Harris to GAO: Investigate EPA singling out San Francisco; House rejects Trump cuts, proposes boost for environmental agencies; and more …
ONLINE MEETING: The State Water Resources Control Board will meet at 9am. Agenda items include updates on the Board’s actions and responses to COVID-19, Current Hydrologic Conditions, and Urban Water Conservation; and consideration for adoption of the Fiscal Year 2020-21 Fund Expenditure Plan for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. For the full agenda, click here. Click here to watch online.
ONLINE ROUNDTABLE: The Restoration Economy: Examining Environmental and Economic Opportunities from 11am to 12:30pm. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), chair of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee will lead a livestreamed policy roundtable at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, July 7, on policies to create new conservation-oriented jobs around the country. Watch online at Facebook at https://bit.ly/2BqFyF9 and YouTube at http://youtu.be/TmWF3vQiNrI.
In California water news today …
The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds? “For people in the western United States, images of devastating wildfires have become a terrifyingly familiar part of the annual news cycle. While the fires themselves can be dangerous and damaging to the communities where they occur, the impacts are not limited to when the flames are burning. With long-lasting changes to the landscape, fires can also change the way in which water moves through the landscape for months and years afterwards. When thinking about how water moves through an area, scientists often think in terms of a watershed, which is the area of land for which any rain that falls on that surface will eventually drain to the same point, such as a large lake or river. Understanding processes happening within watersheds and how they could be affected by fires is important since changes to these processes impact water supplies, both for communities that lie within the bounds of the watershed, as well as communities further downstream. … ” Read more from Enviro Bites here: The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds?
Rebuilding healthy headwater forests: “Headwater forests are critical to California’s water supply, a fact made plain by recent state funding decisions. … Restoring and maintaining resilient headwater forests was a primary concern for the Little Hoover Commission in its 2018 report, Fire on the Mountain: Rethinking Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada. These headwaters are the lifeblood of California. More than 60 percent of California’s developed water supply originates in the forest headwaters of the Sierra Nevada. Seventy-five percent of the fresh water coursing through the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta originates from the Sierra Nevada. More than 25 million Californians and three million acres of agricultural land rely on this water. But California’s headwaters are imperiled by the state’s overgrown and unhealthy forests. … ” Read more from the Little Hoover Commission here: Rebuilding healthy headwater forests
Feinstein, Harris to GAO: Investigate EPA Singling Out San Francisco: “Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (both D-Calif.) today called on the Government Accountability Office to work with the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general to determine whether the White House pressured the agency to abuse its law enforcement authority to single out the city of San Francisco. Last September, EPA Administrator Wheeler sent a letter to Governor Newsom alleging state water quality violations that contradict the agency’s own findings. The letter was sent after President Trump inaccurately claimed that solid waste and needles from San Francisco’s homeless were flowing into the ocean from storm sewers and the city would soon be given a notice of violation. In October, the agency issued a formal notice of violation to San Francisco. “EPA’s internal guidance states that its ‘goal is to emphasize the value of deterrence and to establish a minimal national consistency by taking actions across the country so that no one state is singled out,’” the senators wrote. “We ask GAO to investigate whether EPA has, in fact, applied this ‘national consistency’ in its water quality enforcement actions.”
Click here to read the text of the letter.
July 6, 2020
The Honorable Gene Dodaro Comptroller General, Government Accountability Office 444 G St NW Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
The EPA Inspector General (IG) recently informed us in the attached June 1, 2020, letter that the Inspector General is coordinating with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its review of EPA’s enforcement actions against California.
We urge GAO to work with the Inspector General on one important part of this potential investigation: whether EPA has failed to apply a consistent approach to enforcement against San Francisco as compared to other water utilities with combined sewer systems. The attached letter from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission clearly spells out how EPA has singled out San Francisco for water quality enforcement in contrast to other municipalities. In fact, EPA’s September 2019 finding of San Francisco’s alleged water quality violations was inconsistent with both:
EPA Region IX’s history of permit approvals for San Francisco’s wastewater collection and treatment system and EPA Region IX’s conclusion that San Francisco’s system protects beneficial uses in the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay; and
EPA’s lack of comparable enforcement action against other municipalities with highly similar treatment systems for water quality discharges.
EPA’s internal guidance states that its “goal is to emphasize the value of deterrence and to establish a minimal national consistency by taking actions across the country so that no one state is singled out.” (See Interim Guidance to Strengthen Performance in NPDES Program (June 22, 2010)) We ask GAO to investigate whether EPA has, in fact, applied this “national consistency” in its water quality enforcement actions.
We request that GAO examine whether EPA’s enforcement actions against San Francisco are comparable to the agency’s enforcement actions against other municipalities which also have combined sewage systems. Thank you for considering our request.
Dianne Feinstein United States Senator
Kamala D. Harris United States Senator
Congress receives report on Friant-Kern Canal repairs: “On Monday, the United States Bureau of Reclamation sent Congress the final feasibility report to begin repairs on the Friant-Kern Canal. Officials from the office local Congressman Kevin McCarthy applauded the report saying this marks a critically important step forward in restoring lost water capacity to the communities served by eight irrigation and water districts along the canal. … ” Read more from Channel 23 here: Congress receives report on Friant-Kern Canal repairs
McCarthy applauds final feasibility report on repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal: “Today, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent Congress the final Feasibility Report under Section 4007 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. This marks a critically important step forward in restoring lost water capacity to the communities served by eight irrigation and water districts along the Friant-Kern Canal. “Water is the lifeblood that supports our communities and the food we grow on the eastside of the Central Valley,” said McCarthy. “However, subsidence on the Friant-Kern Canal is adversely impacting many communities’ ability to get the water they contract and pay for through the canal, including in Kern and Tulare Counties. I want to commend Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman for their work on finalizing this feasibility report, which under the WIIN Act, now makes this project eligible to receive construction funds from Congress. I also want to thank Friant Water Authority Chairman Chris Tantau, CEO Jason Philips, and other local stakeholders for their support and commitment to advancing this project. “There is still work to be done, but Reclamation’s actions today represent a significant milestone in supporting the more than one million acres of farmland that provide sustenance to the United States and across the globe.”
Click here to read comments compiled by Rep. McCarthy's office.
The following statements were also issued on the feasibility report:
“Thanks to President Trump and Leader McCarthy, today’s resulting action furthers the Trump Administration’s commitment to America’s hardworking farmers who need water to feed our nation. Earlier this year, President Trump and I joined Leader McCarthy and other elected officials in the House in Bakersfield where the President signed the ‘Memorandum on Developing and Delivering More Water Supplies in California,’ directing the Department to invest in western water infrastructure and provide water to California’s communities and farms.” – Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
“Addressing reliable water and power delivery in the west is a top priority for the Trump Administration, and the 50-year old Friant-Kern Canal is front and center. Restoring the capacity along the middle stretch of the canal is critical to providing reliable water supplies to one of the most agriculturally-productive regions in the nation. Thank you Leader McCarthy and colleagues for your strong support for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project.” – Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman
“On behalf of Friant Water Authority and its members, I want to thank Secretary Bernhardt, Commissioner Burman, Leader McCarthy, and our other federal partners and congressional representatives who have helped maintain momentum for reaching this critical milestone. The nearly 15,000 farms and dozens of communities who rely on the Friant-Kern Canal are deeply appreciative of your leadership and support for this project, which is absolutely critical to maintaining jobs and economic prosperity for our agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley.” – Friant Water Authority Chairman Chris Tantau
“For nearly three years, Friant Water Authority staff and team of consultants have been working in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation to assess the magnitude of the Friant-Kern Canal’s conveyance challenges, and developing alternatives for addressing it. This final study not only affirms that this project is feasible, but that it provides a high value for investment by local and federal partners.” – Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Philips
“As the southernmost district on the Friant-Kern Canal, the cumulative effects of the canal’s constriction land at our doorstep. And, as the single largest Class 2 water contractor, we live and die by our ability to recharge groundwater aquifers using canal supplies. With the feasibility study now complete, we can move forward to repairing the canal and restoring needed water supplies for our farmers and small communities who rely on the recharge water it delivers.” – Arvin-Edison Water Storage District President Edwin Camp
“Even if your job doesn’t have anything to do with agriculture, if you live in the San Joaquin Valley, water matters to your quality of life. Today’s milestone is a critical step in implementing a project that will help our region thrive as we work towards long-term groundwater sustainability.” – Porterville Irrigation District Chairman Eric Borba
“The full utilization of our existing water conveyance infrastructure, which includes the Friant-Kern Canal, is paramount to the long-term economic viability of production agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. The Kern County Farm Bureau, its Board of Directors and members, and the communities it serves depend on accessibility to surface water supplies in order to maintain one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Therefore, the Kern County Farm Bureau is in full support of restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal, and is encouraged by Bureau of Reclamation’s development of the final feasibility report that will help make this into a reality.” – Kern County Farm Bureau President John Moore
“This repair is an essential project so that growers serviced by the Friant-Kern Canal can continue the essential service of producing food. As SGMA groundwater restrictions loom, every gallon of surface water provided is one less gallon of groundwater extracted.” – Tulare County Farm Bureau President John Guthrie
Built between 1939 and 1944, the Friant-Kern Canal is 152 miles long, delivering water from Millerton Lake to the eastern side of the Central Valley for irrigation and conjunctive use purposes, and terminates near Bakersfield, California.
In 2017, the Friant Water Authority discovered significant subsidence (up to 2 feet in some areas) along 33 miles of the Friant-Kern Canal in Tulare and Kern Counties. The subsidence has reduced the canal’s capacity to deliver water by 60% to the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, Kern Tulare Water District, Sausalito Irrigation District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Tea Pot Dome Water District, and Terra Bella Irrigation District.
In 2017, one of the wettest years in recent history, 300,000 acre-feet of water could not be delivered through the Friant-Kern Canal to those who contract and pay for it due to subsidence.
In 2016, the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was championed by McCarthy, was signed into law. Section 4007 of the law created a process by which water infrastructure projects, like the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project, can be authorized by Congress and provided Federal funds of up to 50% of total project costs. With the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) issuing a final feasibility report for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project, funds can now be requested by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and subsequently appropriated by Congress for construction of this project.
The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project Feasibility Report is the first such report to be sent by the DOI and BoR to Congress following enactment of the WIIN Act in 2016.
Prior to the feasibility report being finalized, Congress already provided $4,550,000 to this project for studies and pre-construction work at the request of the DOI.
The BoR estimates the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project will cost $500,000,000, which will be financed through a combination of Federal and non-Federal funds. Specifically, this project will repair subsidence on the canal between Mile Posts 88.2 and 121.5.
Representative TJ Cox Scores Funding for Friant-Kern Canal Repair, Other California Water Projects in House FY21 Appropriations Bill: “Today, Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) announced the inclusion of several water infrastructure projects critical to the Central Valley in the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, must pass legislation funding the Bureau of Reclamation, Western water projects, and other federal agencies for fiscal year 2021. Today’s appropriations legislation includes funding championed and secured by Rep. Cox for the following water projects:
Click here to continue reading.
$200 million for the repair of critical Bureau of Reclamation canals, including the Friant-Kern Canal repairs and improvements;
$25 million for repairs of critical Bureau of Reclamation canals to address the reduction in water storage and restore conveyance capacity due to land subsidence, including the Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota Canals;
$7.8 million for an expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir;
$3 million for subsidence correction for the Delta-Mendota Canal to address the reduction in storage in the San Luis Reservoir and the Mendota Pool; and
“Never before has Congress made as serious of an investment in repairing the aging water conveyance facilities bottlenecking the delivery of water to the Central Valley. For years, farmers and communities up and down the Valley have spoken with one voice: ‘Fix the sinking Friant-Kern Canal or the Valley will literally dry up,’ but Washington would offer us scraps,” said Rep. Cox. “This bill represents the full federal share of what’s needed to fix Friant-Kern and it will take a big bite out of other major water problems afflicting the Valley. Increasing water storage and improving water supply reliability will be a game changer for hardworking farmers, ranchers, and families in the Central Valley, getting the water flowing and creating jobs.”
“Representative TJ Cox is a tireless advocate for the people of California’s Central Valley. As a direct result of his efforts, the fiscal year 2021 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill includes significant federal funding for the Bureau of Reclamation to repair critical California water infrastructure and projects throughout the West. I look forward to continue working with him on legislation to ensure a reliable and resilient water supply for the hard-working families and communities in the Central Valley,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Chairwoman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.
This comes on the heels of last week’s House passage of Rep. Cox’s Move Water Now Act as part of the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), House Democrats’ transformative infrastructure package to rebuild the country.
Road trip: Exploring the San Joaquin River Delta: Tim Viall writes, “A veteran of San Joaquin County recently complained about how flat our topography was. I suggested he take a short road trip to the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta, a place that although flat, is plentiful in adventure, history, good food and wine, and a scenic free ferry or two. To do the same, head west on Highway 12, crossing the Delta to Rio Vista, an old, historic town on the Sacramento River. With 1,000 miles of waterways bisecting scores of Delta islands, take a good map or your GPS, for it’s easy to get lost in this beautiful country. … ” Read more from the Stockton Record here: Road trip: Exploring the San Joaquin River Delta
CDFW’s Science Institute: Providing our scientists with the tools for success: “CDFW is a department with about 1,200 employees in scientific classifications, spread from Yreka in the north to Blythe in the southeast. Their expertise spans a broad spectrum of subjects – wildlife management, fisheries management, marine issues, habitat conservation and restoration, veterinary science, pathology, genetics, invasive species and so much more. Coordinating the efforts of a department with such a wide range of specialties is no small task. But back in 2006, CDFW released its Strategic Initiative, which laid the groundwork to do just that. The document outlined the strategies and actions that the department should take in order to increase its effectiveness across the board. One specific goal was to expand the department’s scientific capacity – to establish best standards and practices, to improve access to scientific literature, and heighten visibility and awareness of scientific efforts. … ” Read more from CDFW here: CDFW’s Science Institute: Providing our scientists with the tools for success
House rejects Trump cuts, proposes boost for environmental agencies: “The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee on Monday proposed a funding bump for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), soundly rejecting cuts proposed by President Trump. The committee bill would increase funding for the EPA, Interior and related agencies by $771 million for fiscal 2021, including a $304 million increase for Interior and a $318 million increase for the EPA. … ” Read more from The Hill here: House rejects Trump cuts, proposes boost for environmental agencies
Social justice argument on Delta tunnel project doesn’t hold water, says John Vasquez of Vacaville and Chuck Winn of Ripon: They write, “In his commentary Gary Kremen asserts, “As California confronts increasing water challenges, the most equitable statewide solution from a social justice perspective is the single-tunnel project proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.” The Delta Counties Coalition, which represents the communities that will be most impacted by the tunnel project, takes issue with many of the statements made by the multimillionaire, Match.com founder who sits on the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority board. Every single Californian deserves access to clean, reliable, affordable water. Contrary to statements in the column, the most disadvantaged communities in California, will not be helped by a tunnel. This massively expensive, environmentally destructive conveyance project won’t provide additional water to water-starved communities in this unpredictable climate-change era; nor can it promise safe, low-cost water supplies. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Social justice argument on Delta tunnel project doesn’t hold water
Senate passes technical fix to aid drought-stricken Klamath Basin: “As severe drought grips the Klamath Basin, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill intended to help local farmers and ranchers hard-hit by water shortages. The bill is a technical fix to the 2018 Water Resources Development Act, which included a provision for up to $10 million annually to establish a water banking program in the basin, which straddles Southern Oregon and Northern California. The money is supposed to pay for things like idling farmland or pumping groundwater in lieu of surface water in especially dry years. But lawmakers say language in the original bill was unclear, making it difficult for growers to access funding from the Bureau of Reclamation. … ” Read more from the Capital Press here: Senate passes technical fix to aid drought-stricken Klamath Basin
Radio show: Wetland oasis in Willits’ Little Lake Valley is thriving: “Underneath the Willits Bypass on the 101, lies a 2,087 acre wetland oasis. Compared to the hot, dry air and dusty, golden mountain sides that mark the arrival of summer, the Willits Bypass Wetland in Little Lake Valley feels like a different world. The plan to create the 101 bypass began all the way back in 1988. In 2002, CalTrans presented its first environmental impact Report for public comment. They received more than 400 comments from the public, over half requesting non-freeway alternatives. The Willits Bypass wetland is a result of the fight against the bypass and the compromises CalTrans made to those who opposed the new section of highway. After six years of mitigation work led by CalTrans and The Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, the ecosystem is thriving.” Listen to the show from KZYX here: Radio show: Wetland oasis in Willits’ Little Lake Valley is thriving
Sacramento-area water providers awarded $8.74 million for climate resiliency projects: “Sacramento-area water providers have been awarded $8.74 million in state grants to advance 11 projects to build water reliability in the Sacramento region, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced. Part of DWR’s Proposition 1 Integrated Regional Water Management Implementation Grant Program, funding will be used for projects designed to help the region adapt to the projected effects of climate change and enhance water efficiency. With climate change, regional temperatures are projected to increase 4 to 7 degrees by 2070, precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, and snowmelt runoff will peak earlier in season, according to the 2020 American River Basin Study (ARBS). This will have significant impacts on water supply and flood management in the region. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Regional Water Authority here: Sacramento-area water providers awarded $8.74 million for climate resiliency projects
Novato sued over Hanna Ranch sewer dispute: “A commercial property developer has filed a lawsuit against Novato alleging the city illegally granted a sewage line easement through its land. Hanna Ranch Conservation LLC is seeking a judicial order to block the move and remuneration for financial damages. The plaintiff says the city’s action, if allowed to stand, will cost it $12 million in lost development value. The dispute involves adjacent tracts at the junction of Highway 101 and Highway 37. Hanna Ranch Conservation is the developer of the so-called “Hanna Ranch project,” which envisions a hotel, restaurants, office and commercial space near the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center. … ” Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Novato sued over Hanna Ranch sewer dispute
Agreement reached to shore up East Bay bridge hit by landslides: “After three years of negotiations, Moraga and EBMUD have announced a deal to protect the Canyon Road Bridge — where two landslides have occurred in recent years — by building a retaining wall. … The retaining wall agreement was announced late Thursday by East Bay Municipal Utility District and Moraga. EBMUD adopted the settlement deal on June 30. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Agreement reached to shore up East Bay bridge hit by landslides
San Juan City Council receives 80-page water report: “San Juan Bautista’s persistent water problems and the Third Street transformation were the main topics addressed at the City Council meeting on June 30. The primary agenda item was the release of an 80-page draft report titled San Juan Bautista Potable Water Source Control and Waste Water Treatment Plant Improvements. The document was made available to the council just minutes before the meeting. City Manager Don Reynolds said it’s still being revised and will be made available to the public at some point. … ” Read more from San Benito Link here: San Juan City Council receives 80-page water report
Scientists affirm adequacy of Kern fracking reviews: “Bay Area scientists have signed off on a series of fracking permits in western Kern County, allowing the well-completion technique to proceed after Gov. Gavin Newsom put in place new, time-consuming review procedures prompted by environmental concerns and regulatory conflict-of-interest accusations. The permit authorizations disclosed Friday by California’s Geologic Energy Management Division cover a series of hydraulic fracturing operations Aera Energy LLC and Chevron proposed in Belridge and Lost Hills. The earliest were finalized in April; the most recent came earlier this month. ... ” Read more from Bakersfield.com here: Scientists affirm adequacy of Kern fracking reviews
Kiewit-Stantec design-build team moving forward on critical LADWP groundwater projects (press release): “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is one step closer to remediating and restoring the beneficial use of the San Fernando Valley Groundwater Basin (SFB), providing a critical, local source of clean drinking water for the Los Angeles region. The Kiewit-Stantec design-build team recently completed its “basis of design report,” which outlines treatment technology that will be used to treat contaminated groundwater as well as provide the basis for the treatment facility layout at LADWP’s North Hollywood Central and Tujunga remediation sites. ... ” Read more from Business Wire here: Kiewit-Stantec design-build team moving forward on critical LADWP groundwater projects
New plan aims to fight chronic flooding during rainstorms in parts of San Diego: “San Diego is trying to reduce chronic flooding in neighborhoods like Mission Valley, Sorrento Valley and the Tijuana River Valley with a comprehensive new plan to streamline the clearing of clogged stormwater channels across the city. The plan aims to shrink the number of evacuations and the amount of property damage that residents and businesses typically suffer in San Diego during annual winter rains —particularly in El Nino years with unusually heavy rainfall. … ” Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: New plan aims to fight chronic flooding during rainstorms in parts of San Diego
At the end of January of this year, the state’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their adopted groundwater sustainability plans (or GSPs), meeting an important deadline in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; the remaining basins subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in January of 2022. The Department of Water Resources will now have two years to review the plans to determine their adequacy.
At the Third Annual GSA Summit, Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan section at the Department of Water Resources’ Sustainable Groundwater Management Office or SGMO, reflected on the GSPs and how the implementation of SGMA is playing out.
See majestic photos of the tallest trees on earth: “Stretching along California’s North Coast, the largest surviving block of old-growth redwood forest on Earth juts into the sky. California’s coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) can grow more than 300 feet tall and live upwards of 2,000 years. They owe their mammoth size and long lives to polyphenol-rich bark and heartwood, which makes them resistant to bugs and harmful fungi. The coastal climate also creates a thick veil of fog over the forest, providing a constant source of moisture and fire resistance. … ” Read more and view slideshow from National Geographic here: See majestic photos of the tallest trees on earth
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.