Created wetlands; Photo by Bruce Barnett/Flickr.

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Could “angel investors” buy a piece of the Friant-Kern Canal?; How a marsh restoration could help preserve Tahoe’s clarity; Water hyacinth acts like ‘plastic wrap’ on the Delta; CA all-in on effort to preserve Salton Sea; and more ..

In California water news this weekend …

Could “angel investors” buy a piece of the Friant-Kern Canal?  “An investor funding proposal that could substantially increase the Friant-Kern Canal’s historic flow capacity is gaining interest among the Friant Water Authority’s member districts.  In theory, that investor money could bump the amount of water that has historically flowed down the canal on the Central Valley’s eastern flank by up to 800 cubic feet per second — or more.  It wouldn’t be cheap. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Could “angel investors” buy a piece of the Friant-Kern Canal?

How a marsh restoration could help preserve Lake Tahoe’s famed blue hue:  “When Stuart Roll moved to Tahoe around two decades ago he took the gondola up the mountain in South Lake Tahoe. What he saw concerned him.  “I remember riding up the gondola and looking out over the lake and seeing what appeared to be a giant brown plume coming out of the river,” said Roll, a watershed supervisor for the California Tahoe Conservancy.   That plume is fine sediment from the Upper Truckee River that pours into the lake. But now Roll is working on a project that could increase filtration by allowing the river to flow through the largest remaining wetland in the Tahoe Basin.  ... ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: How a marsh restoration could help preserve Lake Tahoe’s famed blue hue

Water hyacinth acts like ‘plastic wrap’ on the Delta:  “Looking at the water hyacinth’s lovely lavender flowers and lush green leaves, it’s easy to see why it was brought here from South America. But too much of a good thing can cause trouble, and few things turn into “too much” as quickly as water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes).  Hyacinth plants float on water, where they interlock into dense, sturdy mats. One of the world’s fastest-growing plants, the hyacinth’s mats can double the area they cover in just two weeks.  “I’ve seen them cover the entirety of a creek in one season,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Leanna Zweig of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Fish and Wildlife Office. “There was no water surface showing; it looked like you could walk across it.” … ”  Read more from the US FWS here: Water hyacinth acts like ‘plastic wrap’ on the Delta

Long criticized for inaction at Salton Sea, California says it’s all-in on effort to preserve state’s largest lake:  “The Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the desert lake – a vital stop for migrating birds – from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and a source of choking dust. The state of California, long derided for its failure to act in the past, says it is now moving full-bore to address the sea’s problems, with ambitious plans for wildlife habitat and dust suppression. Skeptics say addressing the sea’s issues is vital not only for the sea and surrounding communities, but for management of the Colorado River as well. … ”  Continue reading at Western Water here:  Long criticized for inaction at Salton Sea, California says it’s all-in on effort to preserve state’s largest lake


FERC throws wrench into major dam-removal project:  “The country’s largest dam removal project was thrown into question yesterday when federal regulators refused to let the current owner fully transfer the impoundments to a nonprofit to carry out the demolition.  At issue are four dams on the remote Klamath River in Northern California that have had a devastating effect on the region’s salmon runs.  After years of efforts by local tribes and environmentalists, their owner, the Portland, Ore.-based utility PacifiCorp, agreed they should be removed. Oregon and California also support the effort.  But to do so, PacifiCorp has sought to transfer the dams and their licenses to the Klamath River Renewal Corp., a nonprofit established to manage their removal. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: FERC throws wrench into major dam-removal project


Click here for the statement from the Klamath River Renewal Corporation.

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) issued the following statement regarding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) July 16 ruling that approved partial transfer of the Lower Klamath Project License to KRRC, provided that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee.

“We are pleased that FERC has identified a pathway for the project to move forward. There is more work to be done, and we are working with our settlement partners on how to ensure a successful project. Our partners have indicated they remain committed to identifying a path to move forward.”

Click here for statement by Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot.

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot issued the following statement today regarding an order issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approving a partial license transfer for four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.

“We appreciate FERC’s positive action yesterday approving the partial license transfer. With this action, we are closer than ever to the largest dam removal in history, which would help restore the Klamath River and the fisheries that California Tribes and anglers depend upon and benefit the Klamath Basin as a whole. We look forward to working with PacifiCorp, the Tribes and the other signatories to this historic settlement in moving forward to remove these four dams.”


IID retains control over Colorado River water in legal tussle with farmer Michael Abatti:  “The Imperial Irrigation District and farmer Michael Abatti have been locked in a years-long legal battle with as many twists as the river over which it has been fought. The saga might finally come to an end, though, after a California appellate court handed down a ruling on Thursday that found IID is the rightful manager of the portion of the Colorado River guaranteed to the Imperial Valley.  ... ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here: IID retains control over Colorado River water in legal tussle with farmer Michael Abatti

Appeal Court reverses, affirms, and remands in monumental Abatti v IID case:  “The Imperial County agricultural community finally heard from the Fourth Court of Appeals about the landmark water case that could rewrite water laws across the State deviating from historical precedents. The Court ruled the Imperial Irrigation District is the sole owner of appropriative water rights to Colorado River water in the Imperial Valley, reversing a previous ruling.  “This is a historic decision by the Court of Appeals whose ruling affirms IID’s position that it (IID) is the water rights holder for Imperial Valley and that there is no privileged class of water users; and that, furthermore, agricultural water users have the same rights to service that all other water users do,” Norma S. Galindo, IID board president said in a formal press release. … ”  Read more from The Desert Review here: Appeal Court reverses, affirms, and remands in monumental Abatti v IID case

Click here to view/download court decision.


Unpaid bills spiking at some water utilities:  “Several state legislators have asked the Governor to extend his order prohibiting water shutoffs for nonpayment to even the smallest water utilities.  Right now, the Governor’s April 2 order applies to water utilities serving 200 or more connections.  If Gov. Newsom expands his order, it could have a huge impact in the San Joaquin Valley, which has hundreds of extremely small water systems, serving countless families, many in disadvantaged communities. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Unpaid bills spiking at some water utilities

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves groundwater extraction fee hike:  “Local water users will pay higher groundwater extraction fees to close the gap between estimated and actual costs associated with the Groundwater Sustainability Plan required by California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The fee increase was approved on Thursday by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority.  The rationale for the fee increase is to make up roughly $1.5 million in “gap funding” between original estimates and actual costs for the GSP, legal counsel Jim Worth said. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves groundwater extraction fee hike

New petition demands water be put back in Kern River in Bakersfield:  “A new online petition demands a swifter resolution to water disputes that could potentially mean more water in the Kern River channel in Bakersfield, the latest in long-sought efforts to restore flows to what for decades has been a dry river channel.  “The people of Bakersfield need a flowing river — with water in a thriving river parkway, quality of life in Bakersfield will be significantly improved,” says the petition, posted recently by local resident Jonathan Yates on … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: New petition demands water be put back in Kern River in Bakersfield

River Report Card grades freshwater health risks in Los Angeles County:  “Heal the Bay today released the annual River Report Card, which assigns water quality color-grades of Red, Yellow, or Green for 28 freshwater sites in Los Angeles County based on observed bacteria levels in 2019. Green means there is a low risk of illness when there is contact with the water. Yellow indicates a moderate risk, while Red signals a high risk. The River Report Card is the most comprehensive water quality report to date on bacterial pollution in freshwater recreation areas within the Los Angeles River, the Malibu Creek, and the San Gabriel River Watersheds. ... ”  Read more the Santa Monica Daily Press here: River Report Card grades freshwater health risks in Los Angeles County

Redlands water quality tests come back clear, repaired line back in service:  “Two rounds of state-mandated testing confirmed that a Redlands water line that broke and spilled millions of gallons is safe to run at full capacity, the city announced Friday, July 17.  In a news release, the city said two water samples taken 16 hours apart were tested to ensure water quality following repairs and chlorination. Both samples came back clear, and the State Water Quality Control Board authorized the city to put the water line in service Friday morning.  City workers discovered the break in the 16-inch water transmission line at a municipal dumping station near Ford Park early Monday, July 13. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here: Redlands water quality tests come back clear, repaired line back in service


Pandemic shines spotlight on shortcomings in water infrastructure:  “The fallout from the ongoing coronavirus crisis has brought a few issues into sharp focus, including a number of structural problems in place across the globe with regard to the availability of and access to clean water. At present, one-third of the global population cannot reach a safe source of drinking water, while over half are without basic sanitation services.  The issue is an especially pertinent one right now, given the importance of basic hygiene in combating COVID-19 and limiting its spread. … ”  Read more from the International Policy Digest here: Pandemic shines spotlight on shortcomings in water infrastructure

And lastly … Will planes fly in a hotter world? On a sweltering summer day in 2017, nearly 50 flights were canceled at Arizona’s Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.  Rows of planes sat on the tarmac with nowhere to go, as passengers grumbled about disrupted plans.  The culprit behind the cancellations: temperatures of nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The searing heat made it difficult — and dangerous — for planes to take off.  Experts say the incident was a preview of coming decades, when climate change will make extreme heat a more common and costly problem for airports around the world. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Will planes fly in a hotter world? 

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In people news this weekend …

USDA, USTR Names Dave Puglia as New Agricultural Trade Advisor:  “Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced the appointment of Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia to serve on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee. In this role, Puglia will provide advice to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on trade policy matters including the operation of existing trade agreements and the negotiation of new agreements.  In response to the appointment, Puglia issued the following statement:  “I am honored to be appointed to the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee. International markets are vital to the growth of the fresh produce industry, accounting for more than $23 billion in fruit, vegetable and tree nut sales in 2019. However, tariff and non-tariff barriers continue to restrict access to key export destinations. I look forward to working with USDA, USTR and my committee colleagues to help formulate durable trade policies that benefit our domestic growers.”

Rick Callender leads Valley Water as new Chief Executive Officer:  “On Monday, July 13, 2020, Rick Callender officially starts as chief executive officer, becoming the first African American to serve in the role in Valley Water’s 90-year history.  Callender’s immediate priorities will be navigating the agency through COVID-19, while focusing on the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit, Pacheco Reservoir Expansion, Rinconada Water Treatment Plant Reliability Improvement, and the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.  Callender, a longtime advocate for racial equality, also announced that he will establish a new unit within Valley Water, the Office of Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This office will ensure effective diversity and inclusion practices are in place internally and also within the communities Valley Water serves. … ”  Continue reading at Valley Water here: Rick Callender leads Valley Water as new Chief Executive Officer

Farms and fish: A Dooley family tradition:  “Behind every environmental win in California are the people who work to make collaboration and progress possible. We couldn’t do what we do every day without folks who are willing to think differently, see possibilities, and make change together. As part of our new Check in & Connect series, Michael Behrens, our Chief Development officer, sat down with Dan Dooley, Sustainable Conservation’s new Board chair, to learn more about why he does this work.  Dan has nearly four decades of experience in California agricultural, natural resources, and water policy and legal issues. ... ”  Read more from Sustainable Conservation here: Farms and Fish: A Dooley Family Tradition

Scientist profile: Ben Ewing:  “Ben Ewing is an environmental scientist for CDFW’s North Central Region. Based out of the region headquarters office in Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County, Ben serves as the district fisheries biologist for Alpine, Amador, Calaveras and Lake counties.  Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Ben holds a Bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Humboldt State University. He first joined CDFW as a volunteer staffing a hunter-angler check station at Camp Roberts on the Central Coast and was later hired as a scientific aid in 2004.  Ben worked as a scientific aid in three CDFW regions – the North Central Region, the Marine Region and the Central Region – before landing a permanent position with CDFW in 2007 as a reservoir fisheries biologist in Riverside County. He rejoined CDFW’s North Central Region in his current capacity in 2012. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife here: Scientist profile: Ben Ewing

‘Man of Tomorrow’ chronicles life of Jerry Brown, California’s longest-serving governor:  “When Jerry Brown took office for his second go-around as California’s governor, he inherited a $27 billion budget deficit. When he left office eight years later, that was erased, and the state was in one of the longest economic recoveries in modern history. But famously-frugal Brown warned when he unveiled his final budget proposal: “As Isaac Newton once observed, what goes up must come down. This is a time to save for our future, not to make pricey promises we can’t keep. I said it before and I’ll say it again — let’s not blow it now.”  Brown left California with more than $13 billion in its rainy day fund. His legacy was about his fiscal conservatism and his tendency to quote philosophers and obscure Latin expressions in his State of the State addresses.  Journalist Jim Newton has written a comprehensive biography of California’s longest-serving governor. It’s called “Man of Tomorrow: The Relentless Life of Jerry Brown.”  ... ”  Read article or listen to podcast from KCRW here:  ‘Man of Tomorrow’ chronicles life of Jerry Brown, California’s longest-serving governor

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Sunday read …

Federalism and Water: The California Experience

by Clifford T. Lee

Clifford Lee speaking at the California Water Law Symposium in February of 2020. Notebook file photo.

The struggle between California’s water plentiful north and the water deficient south has marked water conflict in the state for the last century. This struggle has played out in repeated disputes over the operation of the federal Central Valley Project  (“CVP”) and the California State Water Project (“SWP”), the two inter-basin water conveyance facilities that deliver water through-out the state. Commencing in the 1920’s and 30’s with the enactment of California’s area of origin statutes and extending in more recent times to federal and state environmental laws, a complex set of legal requirements constrain the CVP and the SWP’s ability to deliver water to the projects’ agricultural and municipal users.

Doubts about the efficacy of these requirements to achieve their goals have been long-standing. Former California state senator Peter Behr’s remark that “[y]ou can’t contain a thirsty beast in a paper cage” reflects the skepticism held by many that the rule of law cannot effectively constrain project operations in a water-short state such as California.

This article will address one sub-set of these legal requirements: the historic requirement that federal reclamation projects such as the CVP defer to state law relating to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of water as set forth in section 8 of the federal Reclamation Act of 1902.4 This article will discuss: (1) the origin of the federal reclamation law principle of deference to state water law and its inclusion in the Reclamation Act of 1902, (2) the application of the deference principle in California to the CVP, (3) the rise of federal and state endangered species laws as constraints on the CVP and SWP’s use of water, and (4) the implications of the deference principle as to the question of whether California’s endangered species law applies to the CVP.

Click here to read/download journal article.

Article begins on page 12 of the pdf below.

GGU ELJ Vol.12 (Lee) (2020)

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Sunday podcasts …

Econews report: A proposed new Central Valley Dam could have big impacts on the Trinity River:  “The Trinity is the only North Coast river that is partially diverted into the Central Valley Project — the massive waterworks that feeds the Central Valley and southern California.  Today the Green Gang checks in with Tom Stokely, salmon water policy advocate at Save California Salmon, to talk about the Sites Reservoir, a big new dam and reservoir proposed near Colusa.  If it gets built, how might Sites Reservoir affect the health of the Trinity River and its salmon run?

Click here to listen to this podcast.

Down on the Farm with Tom Willey: Watershed scientist Josh Viers:  “Though not an agricultural campus per se, many of UC Merced’s young faculty passionately investigate the interface between intensive food production and our bioregion’s natural systems. One of these is watershed scientist Josh Viers, whose research focuses on balancing agricultural productivity with California’s increasingly water-limited future. Join “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Joshua Viers in creative conversation.”

Click here to listen to this podcast.

Water Talks: Water Reform in California Institutional Ecosystems:  “A conversation with UC Davis doctoral researchers Linda Estelí Méndez Barrientos and Jess Rudnick about water governance, institutional reforms, equity, justice, and participation in California. Note: The CA Water Code referenced in this episode is § 10721.”

COVID-19 is a Wimp:  Steve Baker writes, “When we take effective action, this virus is a wimp. The same applies to solving our water problems; we care for the entire population, address the problem through scientific facts, monitor, monitor, monitor and we update our actions as we learn more about the issue. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.” Podcasts here Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at


Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

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Image credit: Created wetlands; Photo by Bruce Barnett/Flickr.

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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