DAILY DIGEST, 7/29: Newsom lays out big dreams for California’s water future; How California Fish Passage Forum clears the way; Stockton algae bloom has higher level of toxins this year, officials say; and more …

Good morning!

On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: Enhancing Climate Resilience in the Water Sector from 10am to 11am

Expert panelists from the water sector will discuss tools and resources to assist utility staff with assessing risks and mainstreaming resilience strategies into core business functions. Participants will learn about the “Creating Resilient Water Utilities” (CRWU) initiative developed by the EPA to enhance security and resilience to prepare for and respond to all hazards.  Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: Water and the COVID-19 Pandemic from 12pm to 1pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the value of water and its connections to human health, while highlighting longstanding water equity, policy, and management deficiencies. There is an urgent need to provide clear messages about these issues and to offer guidance on individual, business, and government actions.  Join the Pacific Institute for a special webinar to hear key findings and important recommendations from recent research. Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Newsom lays out big dreams for California’s water future

Touting ways to shield California’s most precious resource from climate change, Governor Gavin Newsom released strategies Tuesday to improve drinking water quality, revive a stalled multibillion-dollar tunnel and build new dams.  Newsom says the sweeping water portfolio will help the Golden State prepare for global warming by reinforcing outdated water infrastructure and reducing the state’s reliance on groundwater during future droughts.  “Water is the lifeblood of our state, sustaining communities, wildlife and our economy,” said Newsom in a statement. “For more than a year, my administration has worked to assemble a blueprint to secure this vital and limited resource into the future in a way that builds climate resilience for all communities and sustains native fish and the habitat they need to thrive.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Newsom lays out big dreams for California’s water future

Click here to view/download the final Water Resilience Portfolio.
Click here for the press release from the Office of the Governor.

Water policy blueprint will guide state actions, support regional efforts

Safe drinking water, groundwater recharge, healthy waterways, progress on Salton Sea among top priorities

From the Office of the Governor:

Governor Gavin Newsom today released a final version of the Water Resilience Portfolio, the Administration’s blueprint for equipping California to cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, over-reliance on groundwater and other challenges.

The portfolio outlines 142 state actions to help build a climate-resilient water system in the face of climate change. The actions tie directly to Administration efforts to carry out recent laws regarding safe and affordable drinking water, groundwater sustainability and water-use efficiency. They also elevate priorities to secure voluntary agreements in key watersheds to improve flows and conditions for fish, address air quality and habitat challenges around the Salton Sea and protect the long-term functionality of the State Water Project and other conveyance infrastructure.

“Water is the lifeblood of our state, sustaining communities, wildlife and our economy,” said Governor Newsom. “For more than a year, my Administration has worked to assemble a blueprint to secure this vital and limited resource into the future in a way that builds climate resilience for all communities and sustains native fish and the habitat they need to thrive.”

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, and California Department of Food and Agriculture solicited extensive public input to prepare the portfolio in response to an April 2019 Executive Order (N-10-19).

“The state’s playbook for managing water in coming decades must be broad and comprehensive,” said Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “The portfolio identifies how the state can help regions maintain and diversify water supplies, protect and enhance natural systems and prepare for a future that looks very different from our recent past.”

The agencies released a draft version of the portfolio for public feedback in January 2020. Input from more than 200 separate individuals and organizations helped shape revisions, including the addition of 14 new actions. The revisions give greater emphasis to tribal interests and leadership, upper watershed health and cross-border water issues.

“The Water Resilience Portfolio is a roadmap that will help us plan and build for a climate uncertain future. This blueprint establishes regional priorities that align challenges with opportunities for water-focused innovations like conservation, replenishing aquifers and direct potable reuse,” said Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld. “By implementing this portfolio of actions together, we can meet the existential threat posed by climate change with a strategic sense of obligation and vision.”

The portfolio also recognizes the role of healthy soils in building resilience, including efforts that promote using working lands to sequester carbon, store water and prevent pollution.

“Evaluating our water management system for improved resilience is an essential first step in our quest for long-range sustainability and reliability,” said Secretary for Agriculture Karen Ross. “I look forward to collaborating with our state partners and agriculture stakeholders on this essential issue.”

Given the recent drastic downturn in the state’s budget situation, the final version acknowledges that the pace of progress on the actions in the portfolio will depend upon the resources available. The portfolio is a comprehensive, aspirational document, but there are several priorities the state will focus on.

These priorities include:

  • Implementing the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act of 2019
  • Supporting local communities to successfully implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014
  • Achieving voluntary agreements to increase flows and improve conditions for native fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watersheds
  • Modernizing the Delta water conveyance system to protect long-term functionality of the State Water Project
  • Updating regulations to expand water recycling
  • Accelerating permitting of new smart water storage
  • Expanding seasonal floodplains for fish and flood benefits
  • Improving conditions at the Salton Sea
  • Removing dams from the Klamath River
  • Better leveraging of information and data to improve water management

State agencies intend to track and share progress on portfolio implementation with an annual report and stakeholder gathering.

For more information, visit www.waterresilience.ca.gov.

Click here for statement from the Sacramento Regional Water Authority and the Water Forum.

The following statement was released today by Jim Peifer, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority, and Tom Gohring, Executive Director of the Water Forum, in response to the release of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s final Water Resilience Portfolio. The Portfolio is the Administration’s blueprint for equipping California to cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, over-reliance on groundwater and other challenges.

“The Governor’s Portfolio moves California water into the 21st Century. We appreciate the vision and spirit embodied in the plan that empowers state and local agencies to work together to address the impacts of climate change. And, we are pleased to see that many of the plan’s recommendations support initiatives already under development here in the Sacramento region to help our community adapt to increasing threats of flood, fire and drought projected with climate change.

“The Governor’s Plan is helpful to the Sacramento region in several important areas:

  • “The plan underscores that climate change will impact each region in California in unique ways and supports the role of local agencies in addressing the impacts and opportunities within their watershed. Rather than a top-down approach to climate planning, the Governor outlines a vision that empowers local agencies to create plans like the Sacramento Region Water Resilience Portfolio, which encompasses our entire supershed—from the mountain tops of the American River watershed to the urban core.
  • “The plan puts a premium on multibenefit projects such as the Sacramento Regional Water Bank that have the potential to provide value across multiple areas, including water supply reliability, flood protection and environmental stewardship, both within a region and statewide. The Water Bank is an innovative groundwater storage program to improve water supply reliability and environmental conditions for the Sacramento region and potentially beyond.
  • “The plan paves the way for local efforts to be successful by recognizing the need to make funding available for groundwater recharge projects with multiple benefits.

“We look forward to building on the successful collaboration of the Water Forum and Regional Water Authority by breaking down traditional silos that exist in managing our local water supplies, environment, flood risks and wastewater and creating stronger networks both within the region and with our state and federal agency partners.”

The Regional Water Authority (RWA) is a joint powers authority representing 21 water providers serving 2 million people in the greater Sacramento region. Formed in 2001, its primary mission is to help its members protect and enhance the reliability, availability, affordability and quality of water resources. Learn more at rwah2o.org. 

The Sacramento Water Forum is a diverse group of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments working together to balance two co-equal objectives: to provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sacramento region’s long-term growth and economic health; and to preserve the fishery, wildlife, recreational, and aesthetic values of the lower American River. Learn more at waterforum.org.

Click here for the statement from Californians for Water Security.

The following statement can be attributed to Michael Quigley, Co-Chair of Californians for Water Security:

“The Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio establishes a comprehensive vision for preparing California for future challenges to our water supply. We strongly support the Portfolio’s emphasis on modernizing our aging water distribution infrastructure by moving forward with the Governor’s Delta Conveyance project. It will protect the water supply for essential two-thirds of Californians from the very real risk of earthquakes, more extreme floods, prolonged droughts and sea level rise. This project is needed to protect and enhance our state’s water security into the future. We will continue to support the Administration to push this project forward.” 

CWS supports a Delta Conveyance project that would:

  • Protect water security for two-thirds of the state. Without action, water supplies through our main distribution infrastructure will continue to decrease.
  • Improve the reliability and security of our water system by fixing aging infrastructure using the most innovative technologies and engineering practices.
  • Protect water supplies from earthquakes, floods and natural disasters by delivering them through a modern water pipeline, rather than solely through today’s deteriorating levee system.
  • Prepare for the impacts of climate change by improving our ability to move and store water to account for extreme swings in drought and flood and to protect against salinity caused by sea-level rise.
  • Restore habitats and more natural water flows above ground in rivers and streams in order to reduce impacts on endangered fish and other wildlife.
  • Serve as a critical component of a comprehensive water portfolio.

 For more information, please visit: www.watersecurityca.com

Radio show: How California Fish Passage Forum clears the way

Our region is famous for salmon and other fish that return from the ocean and swim past major obstacles to return to spawning grounds in fresh water.  But we’ve put a lot of obstacles in their way over the years, in the form of dams and other human-built structures. The California Fish Passage Forum brings together public and private groups and agencies working to remove barriers to fish passage.  We get a quick lesson in the projects and progress of the Forum in an interview with Chair Bob Pagliuco and Coordinator Alicia Marrs.”  Listen at Jefferson Public Radio here:  How California Fish Passage Forum clears the way

Representative TJ Cox secures increased investments for drinking water in house-passed funding bill

Last Friday, the House passed H.R. 7608, a legislative package funding several federal programs and agencies for Fiscal Year 2021. Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) has been fighting for Central Valley priorities and secured funding for drinking water programs that will help Valley communities get clean water.   “The availability of safe drinking water represents deeply ingrained inequity in the Valley, and it’s time that it comes to an end,” said Rep. TJ Cox. “My constituents’ health and safety are my top priority, and a lack of clean, safe drinking water is a risk to public health. That’s why I have been fighting hard to increase federal investments in the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds, as well as other programs that provide both funding and technical assistance to underserved communities like those in my district.”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

Rep. TJ Cox advocated for robust funding of the following programs that invest in our nation’s drinking water and clean water infrastructure:

  • $1.26 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund – the primary federal program for ensuring the safety of public drinking water—with an additional $3.86 billion in emergency spending.
    • The Fund finances improvements to community water systems to reach compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and protect public health.
  • $1.64 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund with an additional $6.36 billion in emergency spending.
  • $26 million for the EPA Safe Water for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Program
    • Plus $50 million in additional emergency spending.
    • This program provides funding assistance to help public water systems in underserved communities get their drinking water up to federal safety standards.
  • Over $28 million for EPA drinking water and wastewater technical assistance programs.
  • Over $1.4 billion for USDA rural water programs including:
    • Water & Sewer Loan and Grant Program – helps construct water and wastewater infrastructure through grants and loans provided at reasonable rates and terms.
    • Household Water Well System Grant Program – provides grants for individually owned household decentralized wastewater and well systems.
    • Circuit Rider Program – supplies outside technical assistance to rural water systems that are experiencing day-to-day operational, financial or managerial issues.
    • Grassroots Source Water Protection Program – prevents pollution of surface and ground water used as the primary source of drinking water by rural residents.

Remembering severe biological opinions that restricted flows

Tom Birmingham is the general manager of the Westlands Water District. He looked back a few years, at how bad it truly was for the almond pistachio growers in the district.  “The frustration with respect to those calendar-based restrictions was that the reductions in pumping would occur regardless of the distribution of Delta Smelt in the Delta.  … ”  Continue reading at Ag Net West here: Remembering severe biological opinions that restricted flows

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In regional water news and commentary today …

LaMalfa announces FEMA grant funding for Paradise Irrigation District

Congressman Doug LaMalfa issued the following statement after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $3,440,574 to the Paradise Irrigation District as a result of damage incurred due to the Camp Fire in 2018.  LaMalfa said: “With much of Paradise’s infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the Camp Fire, it’s been a slow process bringing it back into operation. This FEMA funding will assist with restoring Paradise’s water system and bring safe potable water back to residents. I will continue working at the federal level to expedite the recovery process for Paradise and the Ridge.”

Click here to continue reading this statement from Rep. Doug LaMalfa.

“The Paradise Irrigation District is grateful for the federal government’s commitment to rebuilding the Town of Paradise,” said Kevin Phillips, Director of Paradise Irrigation District. “The District will be able to use these funds to continue working on getting the water system up and running. Thank you to FEMA and Rep. LaMalfa for making sure water is safe for Paradise residents.”

Ecosystem restoration effort builds momentum at Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day

Volunteers and team members from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, along with staff from the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, restored native wetland habitat in Johnson Meadow on Saturday, July 25, continuing work started in 2019. Teams stabilized crumbling stream banks, removed invasive plant species and cleared remnants of historic ranching operations. This work is the continuation of an ecosystem restoration project at Johnson Meadow that began during Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day last September. ... ”  Read more from YubaNet here: Ecosystem restoration effort builds momentum at Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day

Stockton algae bloom has higher level of toxins this year, officials say

A yearly algae bloom in the Port of Stockton is back. The bloom happens during the summer and turns the waterway green, creating a problem in the ecosystem.  The watchdog group Restore the Delta said the harmful levels of algae are showing up earlier this year.  While the Central Valley Water Board said the timing of the bloom is about normal. … ”  Read more from KCRA here: Stockton algae bloom has higher level of toxins this year, officials say

The San Joaquin River feeds stomachs and souls of countless people (says unidentified author)

Seven miles into the Ansel Adams Wilderness I got my first view of Thousand Island Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail.  Its numerous namesake rocky islands — many complete with pine trees — broke up the gently wind whipped blue water sparkling below the 12,942-foot prominence of Mt. Banner dotted with several small glaciers.  The lake before me was unlike the 10 others I had passed as I made my way into the High Sierra from June Lake. This was the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River where some of the snowmelt — if it is lucky — will make a 366 mile journey before flowing into Suisun Bay at the Delta’s edge on its way to San Francisco Bay then out the Golden Gate to mingle into oblivion with the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean. ... ”  Read more from the Escalon Times here:  San Joaquin River: Feeds Stomachs And Souls Of Countless People

Visalia prepares to clamp down on outdoor watering

Visalia’s groundwater has sunk by 7 feet since April, just one month into the summer season, and it’s not because people are home washing their hands more frequently and doing their dishes more often. The Visalia City Council took action last week to stave off a repeat of the rapid decline in water levels seen during the historic drought from 2011-2017.  At its July 20 meeting, the council unanimously approved moving the city from Stage 1, its least stringent level of its water conservation ordinance, to Stage 3, just one level short of declaring a water emergency. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Visalia prepares to clamp down on outdoor watering

Could the central and south coasts be impacted by another La Nina, and below average rainfall?

Last rainfall season was a big one for the Central and South Coasts, with above average rainfall for many drought impacted local communities.  Oxnard had 135% of average rainfall, Ojai 121%, and Lake Cachuma recorded136% of normal rainfall. But, could we be headed back to a drought year?  There are some early indications it’s a possibility, with a nearly 50-50 chance of us being impacted by a “La Nina” pattern of cooler ocean water in the Western Pacific. … ”  Read more from KCLU here:  Could the central and south coasts be impacted by another La Nina, and below average rainfall?

SoCal: Trout disease in hatcheries leads to lack of the fish in area lakes

It’s summertime and the fish aren’t jumping. At least not the trout in Southern California.  A contagious, potentially fatal bacteria has infected trout in the three state-run hatcheries that provide the fish to public lakes in Southern California and the eastern Sierra. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife expects to euthanize all 3.2 million trout in those hatcheries this week.  The disease, which never before has seen in California, was first identified at the Mojave River Hatchery in Victorville in April, and then at the Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries in the Owens Valley in June. … ”  Continue reading at the OC Register here: Trout disease in hatcheries leads to lack of the fish in area lakes

Controversial Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach set for hearings this week

Poseidon Water’s seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach, first proposed in 1998, could be getting closer to beginning construction after more than two decades.  The Santa Ana Regional Water Board will hold online hearings this week and decide whether to issue Poseidon a permit. The hearings begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and are scheduled to continue Friday, as well as Aug. 7 if needed, with a vote scheduled at the end of the hearings. The hearings can be viewed at cal-span.org.  Should the regional board approve the plant, Poseidon would also need a permit from the California Coastal Commission before it could purchase water from the Orange County Water District and begin construction. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Controversial Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach set for hearings this week

Imperial Irrigation District files opening brief in lawsuit against MWD

Following the Imperial Irrigation District’s recent win on a monumental water case in California’s appellate court against Michael Abatti, the water district is back in court filing the opening brief against the other large water district is Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District.  Last March, MWD took the unprecedented move to cut IID out of intrastate negotiations on the Drought Contingency Plan, promising to pay IID’s water bill to Lake Mead if water elevations shrank to 1,074 feet, triggering California’s response to the drought. … ”  Read more from The Desert Review here: Imperial Irrigation District files opening brief in lawsuit against MWD

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Along the Colorado River …

Navajo Nation residents hope federal act, aid will finally bring big water projects

Last summer, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez sat before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee and pleaded for the passage of a bill that would formalize water rights for the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation.  “More than 40% of Navajo households in Utah lack running water or adequate sanitation in their homes,” Nez said in the June 2019 testimony.  “In some cases, such as in the community of Oljato on the Arizona-Utah border, a single spigot on a desolate road, miles from any residence, serves 900 people. The legislation provides the means to address these critical needs of the Navajo people.” … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Navajo Nation residents hope federal act, aid will finally bring big water projects

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In commentary today …

Thomas Elias: Trump’s ‘war on California’ is reaching new levels

He writes, “President Trump’s more than three-year administrative war on California has now morphed beyond his many attempts to exact revenge upon this state, which provided the margin by which he lost the popular vote in 2016, when the Electoral College made him America’s second minority president out of the last three.  Not that Trump’s moves against California are trivial: He’s attempted to stop the Golden State’s long-running battle against smog, he’s tried end runs around clean water laws, he’s attempted to end sanctuary city laws passed by many cities, and much more. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Thomas Elias: Trump’s ‘war on California’ is reaching new levels

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In national water news today …

The new water wars

The coronavirus economic crash is tightening the financial vise on utilities that supply water and sanitation across the country, potentially putting water companies on the verge of financial insolvency while millions of Americans struggle to pay their utility bills.  As hand-washing and sanitation became crucial during the pandemic, cities from Detroit to Philadelphia issued moratoriums on new water shutoffs and directed utilities to reconnect homes that had been cut off for nonpayment.  While only 10 states have guaranteed residents full protection from water and energy shutoffs, an estimated 85 percent of drinking water utilities have suspended disconnections, according to a survey by the American Water Works Association. The industry estimates these moves to cost the industry $5.5 billion in lost revenue. … ”  Read more from Politico here: The new water wars

Green groups challenge Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law

The White House is facing a lawsuit from environmental groups challenging its latest rollback to a bedrock environmental law.  The Trump administration finalized changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) just two weeks ago. Environmentalists say the administration’s actions gut a law designed to weigh environmental and community impacts before roads, pipelines, oil and gas drilling and other major construction projects are permitted. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Green groups challenge Trump rollback of bedrock environmental law

Democrat asks for probe of Trump administration ‘forever chemical’ rulemaking

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) on Tuesday pushed for a probe into the rulemaking process used by the Trump administration regarding the regulation of a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS. He wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general (IG) and asked for an investigation into what he called “potential irregularities” during the finalization for a rule aiming to restrict the use of certain types of PFAS chemicals in consumer products. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: Democrat asks for probe of Trump administration ‘forever chemical’ rulemaking

RELATED: Trump EPA Continues to Aggressively Address PFAS on the Federal, State, and Local Level, press release from the EPA

Believe it or not, forests migrate — but not fast enough for climate change

We’re all familiar with migration: Wildebeests gallop across Africa, Monarch butterflies flit across the Americas … but did you know that forests migrate, too?  In his new book The Journeys of Trees, science writer Zach St. George explores an agonizingly slow migration, as forests creep inch by inch to more hospitable places.  Individual trees, he writes, are rooted in one spot. But forests? Forests “are restless things.” As old trees die and new ones sprouts up, the forest is — ever so slightly — moving. ... ”  Read more from National Public Radio here: Believe it or not, forests migrate — but not fast enough for climate change

‘Man cannot win against nature’: Amid catastrophic floods, China’s dams come into question

The white-haired farmer ran barefoot to his fields at 2 a.m. so he could harvest his crops before the floods came. He was one of tens of thousands of villagers whose homes and fields were about to be engulfed as a dam gushed open to release rising waters.  “We have to think big-picture, think of the greater good,” said the farmer identified as Qiao in a recent local news video from Anhui province. “Isn’t it like this every year?”  Qiao spoke as many rural residents of the Yangtze River floodplains do, accustomed to swelling waters whenever big rains hit. But this year is the worst in decades, with 433 rivers surging above flood control levels since June, 33 of them setting records. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: ‘Man cannot win against nature’: Amid catastrophic floods, China’s dams come into question

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Today’s featured articles …

DPIIC MEETING: The CVPIA and the state’s Incidental Take Permit: Ecosystem-based Management in the Delta

The Delta Stewardship Council established the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee (DPIIC) after the adoption of the Delta Plan in 2013.  The Committee is comprised of high-ranking members of 18 state, federal, and regional agencies who meet at least twice a year to coordinate programs and projects that affect land, wildlife, and water resources in the Delta.

At the July 2020 committee meeting, members heard presentations on the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the state’s new Incidental Take Permit for the State Water Project and how those programs utilize principles of ecosystem-based management.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOW AVAILABLE: Delta Plan Performance Measures Dashboard Update

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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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