DAILY DIGEST, 7/28: Avoiding unintended consequences in groundwater recharge water rights permitting; Forging connections to provide safe drinking water; Little time, big agenda when CA lawmakers return; Peter Gleick on the world after coronavirus; and more …

Good morning!

On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: FishPAC Connectivity – Fort Goff Creek Bridge from 9am to 10:15am.

The California Fish Passage Advisory Committee is hosting a webinar to share successes and lessons learned from the Fort Goff Creek bridge project.  Click here to register.

DELTA SCIENCE NEEDS: Discussion #3: What science is needed to support future decision-making? from 9:15 to 10:30.

A panel discussion among Louise Conrad (Delta Science Program), Mike Chotkowski (United States Geological Survey), and Stephanie Fong (Interagency Ecological Program) on what science is needed to support future decision-making, how their science programs are preparing for future changes, and setting strategic research goals. Presentation details for September to come.  Join discussion via Microsoft Teams by clicking here.

FREE WEBINAR: Empowering Local Officials to Talk Flood Risk

Building on initiatives to transform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) into a simple and easier experience that customers can value and trust, FEMA has focused on developing tools to improve the customer experience.  This webinar will introduce participants to the components of the Toolkit and discuss opportunities for local implementation as community officials are ramping up for this year’s Flood Awareness Week.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Water right permitting options for groundwater recharge: Avoiding unintended consequences

Efforts to boost groundwater recharge are critical to making California’s limited, and increasingly volatile, water resources go further. Recharge is playing a growing role in maintaining groundwater as an effective drought reserve and in slowing or reversing the effects of years of unsustainable groundwater pumping. But implementing recharge projects is not easy. Water managers face a range of hurdles. Even with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) on the books, and the increasing availability of technical assistance, local decision-makers are left mostly to their own ingenuity to figure out how to shore up groundwater resources to meet future needs. Many Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) expect recharge to help them meet their responsibilities under SGMA. But the details of how they will implement recharge projects are often unclear. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet here:  Water right permitting options for groundwater recharge: Avoiding unintended consequences

Forging connections to provide safe drinking water

Providing a reliable source of drinking water is a challenge for many small water systems in the San Joaquin Valley, where dropping groundwater levels, aging systems, and water quality problems are acute. Researchers at California State University, Fresno, reviewed the feasibility of connecting a dozen small water systems to the City of Fresno’s system—part of a larger effort under the State Water Board to facilitate such consolidations. We talked to Laura Ramos and Sarge Green of Fresno State’s California Water Institute about this effort.  PPIC: What problem is this project trying to solve? … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Forging connections to provide safe drinking water

Little time, big agenda when California lawmakers return

California lawmakers are returning to work Monday for a furious five-week sprint that will include contentious debates about police brutality, unemployment benefits, hospital mergers and a moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus pandemic.  The state Legislature has shut down twice because of the coronavirus, losing precious time to work through issues and cut deals on key legislation. Now, most of the 55 standing committees will only meet one more time, limiting the number of bills that can pass by the Aug. 31 deadline for the session. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: Little time, big agenda when California lawmakers return

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In national water news and commentary today …

Migratory river fish populations plunge 76% in past 50 years

Populations of migratory river fish around the world have plunged by a “catastrophic” 76% since 1970, an analysis has found.  The fall was even greater in Europe at 93%, and for some groups of fish, with sturgeon and eel populations both down by more than 90%.  Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Migratory river fish populations plunge 76% in past 50 years

Federal agencies warn foreign hackers are targeting critical infrastructure

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Thursday warned that foreign hackers are attempting to target U.S. critical infrastructure. The agencies specifically warned that internet-connected operational technology (OT) assets, used throughout U.S. defense systems, were often the targets of malicious cyber actors attempting to hit critical infrastructure, such as systems providing water, gas and electricity.  … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Federal agencies warn foreign hackers are targeting critical infrastructure

Trump makes two FERC nominations, potentially rebalancing commission

President Trump made two nominations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Monday, bowing to pressure from Democratic lawmakers who have pushed to maintain the bipartisan split in the commission.  Trump nominated Allison Clements, Democrats’ preferred nominee, alongside Mark C. Christie, who currently serves as chairman of Virginia State Corporation Commission. If confirmed, the two would regulate electricity and natural gas markets alongside other major energy projects. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Trump makes two FERC nominations, potentially rebalancing commission

‘Magic ion’ in public drinking water linked to lower suicide rates, study finds

An element commonly found in aircraft and some batteries is said to have an anti-suicidal effect when consumed via public drinking water, new research has found.  A compilation of studies conducted between 1946 and 2018 show that areas with high concentrations of lithium in public drinking water had “correspondingly lower suicide rates,” according to a news release.  Research that has touted this connection suggests the element — sometimes dubbed the “magic ion” — could be used to combat risks associated with mental health conditions, especially in communities that have a high prevalence of criminal behavior, chronic substance abuse and risk of suicide. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: ‘Magic ion’ in public drinking water linked to lower suicide rates, study finds

LEGISLATION

AMWA: Spending bill with WIFIA restrictions advances in House

The U.S. EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program would receive no new funding under a package of FY21 appropriations bills approved by the House of Representatives last week. Lawmakers have adopted an amendment to the bill intended to protect projects already awaiting WIFIA loans.  The measure would provide EPA with $9.38 billion in regular funding next year, about $210 million above the agency’s current funding level. … ”  Read more from Water Finance and Management here: AMWA: Spending bill with WIFIA restrictions advances in House

House, Senate DOD bills have only modest impact on PFAS chemicals

Each of the differing $740-billion defense authorization bills that the House and Senate passed during the week of July 20 includes several provisions that would address pollution caused by per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) at Dept.of Defense (DOD) facilities. But neither would classify the chemicals as hazardous materials eligible for Superfund cleanup.  Each of the bills would provide funding for research and development on PFAS remediation methods, as well as additional funding for cleanups at active DOD sites. But environmental and public health advocates say the bills do not go far enough to address PFAS contamination. They describe the measures as lost opportunities to address PFAS pollution in a significant way. … ”  Read more from Engineering News-Record here:  House, Senate DOD bills have only modest impact on PFAS chemicals

Environmental justice leaders hail $17 million in house bill

Funding for the EPA’s environmental justice program would nearly double under the House-passed spending bill, heartening community leaders who say the funding is badly needed.  The House on Friday passed a minibus (H.R. 7608) that includes $17 million overall for environmental justice programs at the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a significant boost from the $9.55 million provided in the fiscal 2020 enacted budget for environmental justice activities. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Environmental justice leaders hail $17 million in house bill

REGULATION

Feds to limit water pollution enforcement where states have taken action

The federal government will not pursue civil enforcement actions in Clean Water Act (CWA) matters where states have already taken action, according to a new Justice Department memo. “Civil enforcement actions seeking penalties under the CWA will henceforth be strongly disfavored if a State has already initiated or concluded its own civil or administrative proceeding for penalties under an analogous state law arising from the same operative facts,” says the internal memo from Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Feds to limit water pollution enforcement where states have taken action

EPA leads on Trump deregulatory agenda, says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

He writes, “Americans have carried the burden of our government’s heavy-handed approach to environmental regulation for far too long—with rural and disadvantaged communities bearing the brunt. By imposing untenable regulations on American businesses, employers have faced difficult decisions to delay investments, move jobs overseas and pass on cost increases to consumers. Under President Donald Trump’s leadership, EPA has sought to undo and correct the Obama administration’s failed regulatory decisions, proving that environmental protection and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand.  When President Trump took office, he immediately began a process to remove and replace undue regulatory burdens that stifle American innovation and economic development. ... ”  Read more from Newsweek here: EPA leads on Trump deregulatory agenda

NEPA REVISIONS

CEQ releases long-awaited final rule to improve NEPA regulations

On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published its highly anticipated final rule to improve its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations.  The update, which largely mirrors the proposed rule, is the first comprehensive amendment to the regulations since their original publication in 1978.  The final rule is designed to streamline the NEPA review process, clarify important NEPA concepts, and codify key guidance and case law. CEQ’s final rule is informed by comments it received on both last year’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and proposed rule.  CEQ received over 1 million comments on the proposed rule, including approximately 2,400 unique substantive comments. … ”  Continue reading at the National Law Review here: CEQ releases long-awaited final rule to improve NEPA regulations

The fight to preserve NEPA: Climate protection and environmental justice

On July 16, the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized new regulations dismantling the procedural safeguards for our climate and our communities that for forty years have provided the backbone of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This week, Sierra Club, NRDC, and a coalition of organizations that focus on environmental justice – Communities for Environmental Justice, Environmental Justice Health Alliance, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.E.J.A.S.) – are pushing back by challenging those regulations in federal court. … ”  Continue reading at the Sierra Club here: The fight to preserve NEPA: Climate protection and environmental justice

NEPA revisions look to expedite projects and reduce litigation

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) received its first comprehensive update in more than 40 years. The NEPA revisions were issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The final rule that was published modernizes and clarifies the regulations to provide more efficiency in the review process. The amendments will also help to foster better interagency coordination and transparency of the environmental review process. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: NEPA revisions look to expedite projects and reduce litigation

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Video features …

Peter Gleick: The World After Coronavirus: The Future of Water

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis of unprecedented scale, with aftershocks that will be felt in virtually every aspect of life for years or decades to come. The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at the Pardee School of Global Studies has launched a new video series called “The World After Coronavirus,” in which we ask leading experts and practitioners from Boston University and across the world to explore the challenges and opportunities we will face in our post-coronavirus future.” 


Yale e360 video contest: Inside the Uphill Fight for Clean Water in California’s Central Valley

California’s Central Valley, covering close to 20,000 square miles, produces roughly 40 percent of the United States’ fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That abundance is the result not only of large-scale irrigation, but also of the widespread use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which then seep back into the valley’s aquifers.  The resulting pollution is a major reason why more than 1 million Californians do not have access to safe drinking water. … In her video “The Great Divide” — a finalist in the 2020 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest — filmmaker Casey Beck takes a look at one of those small communities — Tooleville, an unincorporated community of 80 homes located in the Juan Joaquin Valley at the southern end of the Central Valley. … ”  Read more and watch video at Yale e360 here: Inside the Uphill Fight for Clean Water in California’s Central Valley

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Huffman advances North Coast, Environmental wins in first round of appropriations

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the H.R. 7608, the first “minibus” of fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills, which included significant victories for California’s second district championed by Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael). H.R. 7608 totals $259.5 billion in discretionary funding and consists of four FY 2021 funding bills: State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.  “The appropriations process is one of the most consequential aspects of our work in Congress, allocating funding that supports priorities for my constituents on the North Coast and for Americans across the country,” said Rep. Huffman. … ”  Read more from Willits News here: Huffman advances North Coast, Environmental wins in first round of appropriations

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors recognizes climate change

At their regular meeting on July 21, Mendocino County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a Climate Emergency Resolution proposed by their appointed Climate Action Advisory Committee (MCCAAC).  Committee Chair Marie Jones noted “This is an important first step as the board has formally recognized the importance of both climate change and climate adaptation for our community. This action sets the stage for Mendocino County to become a leader in climate change policy in Northern California. The Advisory Committee looks forward to assisting the board as it seeks to incorporate climate into its decision-making process in order to move the county onto a more climate-friendly path.” ... ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors recognizes climate change

Tule elk are at the center of an epic conservation battle on Point Reyes National Seashore

The forecast promises rain but the skies that darken above Northern California’s Tomales Bay bring only rainbows, dancing elegantly over the trail. As I hike five miles toward the peninsula’s abrupt end at Tomales Point, tule elk lounge on the bluffs, their antlers glinting in the dappled light.  Two hundred years ago, the prairies and meadows of Point Reyes National Seashore were teeming with these shaggy ungulates, a subspecies of elk found only in California. Though three herds of tule elk live in the park today, only the captive one on this narrow rocky peninsula at Tomales Point resembles what once was. … ”  Read more from Roadtrippers here: Tule elk are at the center of an epic conservation battle on Point Reyes National Seashore

Famously clear Lake Tahoe has been polluted by climate change

Despite the pandemic, even on a weekday, people still crowd Pope Beach at Lake Tahoe.  “I like camping and having a bike ride and going swimming at the Lake,” said one girl named Dakota.  “This is something beautiful everybody wants to visit,” said Emerica Benitas.  Which is why Matt Meunier’s dive business is still going strong, even in a pandemic. … ”  Read more from CBS News here: Famously clear Lake Tahoe has been polluted by climate change

Sacramento: Red algal muck at McKinley Pond found to produce toxins; city to attempt treatment

The city will begin vacuuming up globs of muck Monday at the McKinley Park pond following tests that suggest the rust-red material is both algal matter and cyanobacteria.  The testing last week by the California Water Resources Control Board revealed that both Euglena species, an algae-like eukaryote, and cyanobacteria, a toxin-producing bacteria that often grows in conjunction with algal matter, are present throughout the pond in east Sacramento. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Red algal muck at McKinley Pond found to produce toxins; city to attempt treatment

Santa Clara County: Providing flood protection through the Stream Maintenance Program and Adopt-A-Creek Program

Linda LeZotte, Valley Water Director, writes:  “As part of Valley Water’s mission to provide flood protection for our communities, we are continuously preparing for the possibility of flooding. We must regularly keep our streams and creeks well maintained to handle the rainy season and protect the many species of wildlife that live there.  Valley Water’s primary flood prevention efforts are performed annually under the Stream Maintenance Program (SMP). The SMP work kicked off on June 15 and will continue through Oct. 15. We will work at over 30 different locations throughout Santa Clara County that we’ve identified as critical flood protection projects.

Click here to continue reading this press release.

This work is necessary to help reduce the impact of flooding if we are hit with sudden downpours that could overwhelm our waterways, causing them to overflow into our streets and homes.  The program is also intended to improve wildlife habitat by removing invasive plants, trash and debris.  Some of the work performed during the SMP includes removing build-up of rocks that restrict the flow of water, cutting overgrown weeds, trimming trees, planting native plants, stabilizing creek banks that have eroded, and clearing trash and debris.

Several projects are scheduled to take place in District 4 in San Jose:

• Planting native plants that benefit the ecosystem and provide wildlife habitat along areas of Alamitos Creek and Guadalupe Creek.
• Removal of invasive plants that spread aggressively, damages the homes of wildlife, and pose an increased risk of flooding and fire danger at Guadalupe River from Blossom Hill Road to Branham Lane.
• Removal of vegetation to help restore water flow at various parts of Alamitos Creek, Golf Creek, Greystone Creek, and Guadalupe Creek.

While most of the work takes place during the summer, stream maintenance is a year-round effort. However, we can’t do it alone. Join us and be stewards of the environment and protect our creeks and streams by participating in our Adopt-A-Creek Program. Our partners adopt a creek, monitor trash and commit to at least two cleanups a year.

We encourage you to start the process now to adopt a creek near you. Cleanup supplies are provided free of charge. To learn more, visit https://www.valleywater.org/learning-center/adopt-creek.

Let’s work together and continue to do our part in protecting our communities and keeping our families safe. If you notice a problem in our creeks, you can report it on our Access Valley Water service portal to alert our field crews of downed trees, eroding banks, trash and debris, and overgrown vegetation. Visit https://www.valleywater.org/AVWapp.

For more information about SMP, visit https://www.valleywater.org/flooding-safety/stream-maintenance-program.

SMP is partially funded by the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, a voter-approved parcel tax. To learn more, visit www.valleywater.org/safecleanwater.

Big Sur tribe regains land 250 years after being removed

“Nearly 250 years ago, when Spanish soldiers built a military outpost in Monterey and Franciscan padres founded the Carmel, Soledad, and San Antonio missions nearby, the Esselen tribe — who had lived in the area for 8,000 years — was decimated.  Brought to the missions to be baptized and converted to Catholicism, Esselen families were broken up. They were were stripped of their culture, their language and their lands by the late 1700s.  On Monday, for the first time, their descendants finally got some of the land back. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Big Sur tribe regains land 250 years after being removed

La Nina Watch means dry winter and longer fire season possible for Southern California

NOAA has issued a La Nina Watch, which means a dry winter and longer fire season are possible this year for Southern California.  This stems from colder water along the equator in the Pacific which has a domino effect on other parts of the world, including an increased risk of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean due to weaker winds and also higher chances for a dry winter over Southern California because of a lack of moisture. A lack of winter rain means the fire season could be longer than usual. … ”  Read more from ABC 10 here: La Nina Watch means dry winter and longer fire season possible for Southern California

Huntington Beach: Poseidon’s desalination plant faces day of reckoning

After more than 20 years of developing plans for a Huntington Beach desalination plant and winding its way through a seemingly endless bureaucratic approval process, Poseidon Water comes to a key juncture as the Regional Water Quality Control Board votes on whether to grant a permit after hearings this week.  The battle before the regional board is between desalination advocates hoping to secure a drought-proof water supply for the next three decades and opponents who argue that $1 billion project is too expensive, not needed and would unnecessarily harm the environment. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Poseidon’s desalination plant faces day of reckoning

San Diego: Why your water bill might spike

San Diego’s water utility is preparing to absorb a five percent spike in rates this year despite cries from elected officials to freeze costs during a global pandemic.  Why? The blame often gets passed up the proverbial pipeline.  About three-quarters of San Diego’s drinking water comes from the Colorado River via pipes and aqueducts controlled by the Metropolitan Water District, based in Los Angeles. Since it controls much of the lifeline, it’s often blamed for an increase in rates and that’s partially what happened this year. ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here: San Diego: Why your water bill might spike

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona’s beloved San Pedro River is about to meet the rising wall on the US-Mexico border

The birds are the first sign, their scattered song piercing the quiet. A breeze skips through the grass as the arid land slopes downward and soil begins to soften underfoot. Water can’t be far. Tangled mesquite trees come into focus, then towering cottonwoods, unveiling a canopy of green. They lead at last to the San Pedro River, a cradle of life in the Arizona desert.  The San Pedro River appears in satellite images as a narrow band of moisture slithering against a rugged and dusty terrain. It’s been called a “ribbon of green” and a “national treasure,” and is one of the most studied and beloved rivers in the Southwest. … ”  Read more from Earth Island Journal here: Arizona’s beloved San Pedro River is about to meet the rising wall on the US-Mexico border

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Delta tunnel alternatives, June 2020 outflow, 106 years of water supply reliability, Giants in the rice fields; and more …

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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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