In California water news today …
Warren Buffett controls dams in Northern California. Why Gov. Newsom wants them torn down
“Desperate to complete a historic but complicated dam removal on the California-Oregon border, Gov. Gavin Newsom has appealed to one of the world’s wealthiest men to keep the project on track: financier Warren Buffett. Newsom dispatched a letter to Buffett and two of his executives Wednesday urging them to support the removal of four hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River, where the dams have hurt salmon populations. The dams are owned by PacifiCorp, an Oregon-based electric utility that’s part of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. conglomerate. … ” Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee here: Warren Buffett controls dams in Northern California. Why Gov. Newsom wants them torn down
New tools indicate how thinning and fire affect forest water use and boost runoff
“Forest-management actions such as mechanical thinning and prescribed burns don’t just reduce the risk of severe wildfire and promote forest health — these practices can also contribute to significant increases in downstream water availability. New research from UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) provides the tools to help estimate and verify those changes. The study titled “Evapotranspiration Mapping for Forest Management in California’s Sierra Nevada” was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. The researchers’ aim was to assess change in evapotranspiration, or water mainly used by vegetation, after wildfires. Looking specifically at the Yuba and American watersheds between 1985 and 2015, they used a combination of multi-year measurements of evapotranspiration, satellite imagery and precipitation data. … ” Read more from the Merced Sun Star here: New tools indicate how thinning and fire affect forest water use and boost runoff
Kamala Harris to introduce comprehensive environmental justice bill in Senate
“Fifteen years ago, Kamala Harris — San Francisco’s District Attorney at the time — created an environmental justice unit in her office. The goal was to go after the perpetrators of environmental crimes that were hurting some of the city’s poorest residents. The state attorney general’s office had emphasized the need for state and local law enforcement to step up because of a void left by federal authorities in the Bush administration who were busy rolling back environmental protections. “One of the best tools out there to go after polluters is to go after them on a criminal basis,” a spokesperson for then–State Attorney General Bill Lockyer told SFGate in 2005. Across the country, communities burdened by pollution and contamination have been calling for that type of accountability at the federal level for decades. … ” Read more from Grist here: Kamala Harris to introduce comprehensive environmental justice bill in Senate
Radio show: Scarce resources, drought and the tragedy of the commons in California
“Up until now, Planet Money Summer School has looked at individual decisions. But it’s time to consider how our decisions affect everyone else. In Class 4: how do economists tally up the good and bad impacts we have on other people? We travel to Porterville, California, where a drought has dried up residents’ wells. There’s water under their homes; they just can’t get to it. Who can? Farmers growing almonds and pistachios, who can afford to drill deeper and deeper wells. And with such a lucrative crop, they have no incentive to share the water. But California is looking at ways to change that. … ” Read more and listen from NPR here: Scarce resources, drought and the tragedy of the commons in California
PPIC poll on Californians and the environment
Californians remain bullish on environment, despite pandemic and budget woes
“A resurgent coronavirus and a spoiled economy haven’t dampened Californians’ support for strict climate change polices, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday. With under 100 days until Election Day, a Public Policy Institute of California survey found most residents want the state to continue key environmental policies, such as the nation’s strongest greenhouse gas limit, zero-emission big rigs and cap-and-trade. In addition, 83% of likely voters responded the presidential candidates’ environmental planks are important in determining how to vote in November. “In the midst of the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, Californians are highly supportive of the state’s policies to address global warming,” said PPIC president and CEO Mark Baldassare in a statement. … ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Californians remain bullish on environment, despite pandemic and budget woes
Poll: Californians support state policies to tackle climate change
“Californians across the state are concerned about climate change and support plans to reduce harmful emissions and focus on renewable sources of energy. But there are stark differences when it comes to which residents of the Golden State see pollution as a serious threat to their family’s health. According to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites and Asian Americans to be worried about air and water pollution in their neighborhoods. … ” Read more from the Mercury News here: Poll: Californians support state policies to tackle climate change
Water Resilience Portfolio
California has a new plan to protect its water supply from climate change, but some say it’s based on old thinking
“Water is a big deal in California, and climate change is threatening the precious resource. That’s why Gov. Gavin Newsom finalized a broad plan this week to help prevent future water challenges, but some Californians say it relies on old thinking and harmful water storage projects. The Water Resilience Portfolio outlines 142 actions the state could take to build resilience as the effects of warming temperatures grow. It supports everything from a recent fund focused on safe and affordable drinking water to habitat restoration to improving groundwater storage capabilities. … ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here: California has a new plan to protect its water supply from climate change, but some say it’s based on old thinking
Governor Newsom releases final water portfolio that includes Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir
Dan Bacher writes, “California Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday unveiled a final version of his controversial Water Resilience Portfolio, a water plan that includes the Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir and the agribusiness-promoted “voluntary agreements.” The plan drew praise from agribusiness interests and water agencies — and strong criticism from salmon advocates, Tribal leaders and environmental justice leaders for the damage that they say the tunnel, new reservoir and voluntary agreements would could cause to the San Francisco Bay-Delta Ecosystem, imperiled salmon and steelhead populations and West Coast fisheries. … ” Read more from Dan Bacher here: Governor Newsom releases final water portfolio that includes Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir
Final California Water Resilience Portfolio released: What’s there, what’s missing
“In January 2020, California state agencies released a draft document meant to signify a new chapter in California water. Now, six months later and after extensive public consultation, the final draft of the Water Resilience Portfolio has arrived. The Portfolio was developed in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order (N-10-19), which calls for a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient water system in California for the 21st century. This strategy includes several ambitious actions, such as ensuring all communities have access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water and utilizing natural infrastructure and approaches that provide multiple benefits. The Portfolio was a collaborative effort, compiled through an interagency working group with input from communities and leaders across the state. ... ” Read more from the Pacific Institute here: Final California Water Resilience Portfolio released: What’s there, what’s missing
In regional water news and commentary today …
Reclamation invests in new science updates for Klamath Project
“In response to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman’s recent visit with Klamath Basin ranchers, farmers, tribes and community officials, Reclamation is launching a new science initiative to inform Klamath Project operations. The project supplies water to more than 230,000 acres of irrigated farmland along the border between Oregon and California. Updated science will improve water supply forecasting, operations planning and modeling. “We heard firsthand from the community on the best path forward to address longstanding water challenges,” said Commissioner Burman. “Reclamation is launching a fresh approach with an initial $1.2 million investment in applied science projects. These projects will improve our understanding of natural stream flows and the relationship between project operations and aquatic ecosystems in the Klamath Basin.” … ”
Grants could restore water system to Paradise
“More money for the Paradise Irrigation District was announced Tuesday to help with Camp Fire recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $3,440,574 to the Paradise Irrigation District for damages as a result of the fire in 2018. “With much of Paradise’s infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the Camp Fire, it’s been a slow process bringing it back into operation,” Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) said. “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.” ... ” Read more from the Paradise Post here: Grants could restore water system to Paradise
Commentary: Point Reyes National Seashore: New vision, or enduring myth?
Jeff Creque writes, “The founding myth of the Point Reyes National Seashore, that it was born of a partnership between environmentalists and willing agriculturalists, is just that: myth. Land was acquired to create the seashore through a series of pressured buyouts and threats of eminent domain—and yes, the cooperation of a few willing sellers—that left ranchers with little alternative. As a later seashore superintendent would tellingly declare, “I don’t have to pay my lawyers.” Despite the odds, agriculture in the seashore remains a critical component of Marin County’s agricultural economy. Its loss would undermine, if not destroy, the supporting economic and information infrastructure that depends on a critical mass of regional agricultural activity for its continued viability. … ” Continue reading at the Point Reyes Light here: Commentary: Point Reyes National Seashore: New vision, or enduring myth?
San Benito Foods sues Hollister over permit, claims extortion
“Vancouver, Washington-based Neil Jones Food Company, owner of the San Benito Foods tomato cannery, filed a lawsuit in San Benito County Superior Court against Hollister alleging the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as well as the Brown Act, committed a breach of contract, and asked for declarative and injunctive relief. In a court filing, San Benito Foods accused the Hollister City Council of “extortion of fees” for removing sludge from pond #2 at the city’s industrial wastewater treatment plant, which the cannery uses to dispose of its wastewater, and that it is in breach of an agreement between the city and the company. … ” Read more from San Benito Link here: San Benito Foods sues Hollister over permit, claims extortion
Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: What is IWVGA? An overview
“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s notice of an upcoming public hearing on a basin replenishment fee has attracted a lot of attention from water users in the valley, but not everyone understands what the IWVGA is. In a nutshell, the IWVGA is a body charged with balancing the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin (IWVGB). The key is achieving sustainability. This is similar to balancing a checkbook; the IWVGA has to come up with a way to balance the basin’s recharge with its annual outflow. Here is where the problem begins: if the basin were a checkbook it would be severely overdrawn. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: What is IWVGA? An overview
Valley farmers look to Kern River tributary to replenish groundwater
“A Kern County water agency is facing a wall of opposition against its plan to harvest up to 12,000 acre feet of water from the South Fork of the Kern River above Lake Isabella and bring it to valley farms and homeowners in northwest Bakersfield. Mountain residents fear the proposal by Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District will dry up their groundwater and turn the area into another Owens Valley. ... ” Read more from SJV Water here: Valley farmers look to Kern River tributary to replenish groundwater
Tied up in appeals, litigation over water fees could deepen Long Beach’s fiscal pain
“Long Beach’s financial future has been thrust into uncertainty by the COVID-19 pandemic, but existing litigation over its practice of charging city-run utilities to access rights of ways could blow a nearly $20 million hole in future budgets if the city loses a court appeal. The city has been in a legal battle to maintain the right to spend money it transfers out of the water department’s water and sewer funds and into the general fund, something it had done since 2003. ... ” Read more from the Long Beach Post here: Tied up in appeals, litigation over water fees could deepen Long Beach’s fiscal pain
Senator Feinstein bill would reduce border pollution, improve water quality
“Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act, a bill to reduce pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and improve the water quality of the Tijuana and New rivers. The bill would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency to coordinate all federal, state and local agencies to build and maintain needed infrastructure projects to decrease pollution along the border. “Toxic pollution continues to flow from Mexico into the United States because no federal agency has taken charge to meaningfully address the issue despite decades of problems,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill would finally end the confusion and put the EPA in charge of fixing the problem. It would require the EPA to work with federal, state and local agencies to develop and build the necessary infrastructure projects to stop the pollution and protect the health and safety of California’s border communities.” …”
Along the Colorado River …
Arizona Water Blueprint: A user- friendly, one-stop shop for insight on Arizona’s water resources
“In many respects, the Arizona Water Blueprint – a data-rich, interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure created by the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University – could not have been rolled out at a better time. Research into Arizona’s varied sources of water is approaching an all-time high. The Governor’s Water Augmentation, Innovation and Conservation Council is examining potential means of augmenting the State’s water supplies by a variety of methods. A committee of water experts from around Arizona recently has convened to help determine Arizona’s path forward in Colorado River management issues. And several ad hoc groups in rural areas are busy assessing the future of groundwater use in their regions. … ” Read more from the Arizona Department of Water Resources here: Arizona Water Blueprint: A user- friendly, one-stop shop for insight on Arizona’s water resources
Officials warn Colorado River levels could fluctuate to meet summer energy needs
“Federal water managers are warning hikers and river runners below Glen Canyon Dam that Colorado River levels could suddenly fluctuate in the coming weeks. Officials plan to release more water from the dam to meet increasing summer electricity needs in the Southwest. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. … ” Read more from KNAU here: Officials warn Colorado River levels could fluctuate to meet summer energy needs
New book by UNM professor examines crucial water issues
“Every summer about this time, water is on the minds of many New Mexicans. There never seems to be enough precipitation to fill the reservoirs and dry riverbeds, even as summer monsoons flood arroyos and bring welcome relief to parched gardens. A new book co-authored by John Fleck, director of the Water Resources Program at The University of New Mexico, is an alarming reminder of the high stakes in the management—and perils in the mismanagement—of water in the western United States. Fleck and Eric Kuhn, who was the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District until his retirement in 2018, have co-authored a new book called Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River. … ” Read more from the University of New Mexico here: New book by UNM professor examines crucial water issues
In national water news today …
Habitat loss sparks cascade of ecosystem damage: study
“The effects of shrinking habitats on wildlife are more profound and wide ranging than often assumed, a study published Wednesday found, as researchers warned that many forecasts underestimate how many species are lost in fragmented environments. Human activity is devouring ever more of the natural world, destroying forests, splintering habitats into isolated areas, while polluting land and sea. This is driving the sixth mass extinction event in the last half-billion years —the last one wiped out land-based dinosaurs around 66 million years ago. … ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Habitat loss sparks cascade of ecosystem damage: study
How over-pumping of underground aquifers can cause land to sink
“If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t really have to think about where your drinking water is coming from, how your food was grown, or what effects such processes have had on the environment. Specifically, in reference to our drinking water, around half of the US population gets their drinking water from either public or private wells. Water wells are used on a massive scale. They suck water from underground aquifers for use in agriculture or for drinking water. Water is, after all, essential to life, but many civilizations have developed in regions of the world that don’t have access to sufficient surface freshwater. … ” Read more from Interesting Engineering here: How over-pumping of underground aquifers can cause land to sink
Ocean crops: Is this the next frontier for agriculture?
” The food and agriculture industry is undergoing a radical transformation around the world. Covid-19 has accelerated disruptions to the global food supply chain. … Currently, 11% of the world’s land area is used for crop production. However, this is only 3% of the entire globe’s surface area. Now, an exciting new frontier for agriculture is opening up 70% of the world’s surface that has not traditionally been used for crops – the ocean. … ” Click here to continue reading at Forbes here: Ocean crops: is this the next frontier for agriculture?
Wide-ranging water infrastructure bill easily passes House
“Legislation authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to boost the nation’s water infrastructure, protect waterways from emerging contaminants, and bolster coastal shorelines sailed through the House Wednesday. On a voice vote, the House used a procedure reserved for mostly non-controversial legislation to pass the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (H.R. 7575), which lays out a two-year road map for projects that the Corps’ civil works program must tackle. … ” Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Wide-ranging water infrastructure bill easily passes House
House Passes Garamendi wins for Delta and Central Valley in Water Resources Development Act
“Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure whose district includes 200 miles of the Sacramento River and is adjacent to several major ports, secured key provisions in the “Water Resources Development Act of 2020” (H.R.7575) for the California Delta and Central Valley. The legislation passed the House of Representatives unanimously and is expected to become law this year. “This critical legislation supports levee projects throughout the Sacramento Valley, which provide critical flood protection and make local communities more resilient to climate change,” Garamendi said. “I secured provisions in this bill to authorize and expedite construction of flood protection and aquatic ecosystem restoration projects, address harmful algal blooms in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and give local agencies greater flexibility in using federal Army Corps funds to meet local needs. This is a strong piece of legislation, and I will work tirelessly to ensure it becomes law,” Garamendi concluded. … “
Harmful algal blooms are on the rise — here’s why stopping them is so hard
“From the fall of 2017 to the beginning of 2019, Florida endured a persistent and damaging algal bloom caused by the algae Karenia brevis, also known as red tide. The blooms formed in both Gulf and Atlantic waters, sickening people, killing birds, fish, dolphins, manatees and other marine animals, and driving visitors away from beach towns. Scientists say it’s a problem that’s going to get worse — and not just in Florida. Harmful algal blooms, which can occur in both fresh and marine waters, are becoming more frequent, lasting longer, and occurring in more places. In recent weeks news reports have warned residents in western New York, Utah and California to stay out of rivers and lakes clouded with these microscopic organisms that can sometimes be fatal to people, pets and wildlife. … ” Read more from The Revelator here: Harmful algal blooms are on the rise — here’s why stopping them is so hard
Climate change could make toxic algal blooms in our oceans more deadly
“Late spring and early summer in California bring thousands of marine mammals to the state’s beaches, as groups of California sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals give birth along the shore. Visitors to places such as the Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve can observe portly cubs lounging in sand, awaiting the return of their mothers from fishing expeditions in the Pacific Ocean. Not all of the seals and sea lions are surviving, however. Toxic algal blooms are increasingly poisoning these marine mammals. … ” Read more from Water Online here: Climate change could make toxic algal blooms in our oceans more deadly
Lawsuit challenges Trump’s overhaul of environmental review law
“A legal battle with far-reaching consequences for industry and ecosystems kicked off Wednesday with the filing of a federal lawsuit over the Trump administration’s revamp of a longstanding law that requires extensive environmental reviews for road, industry and building projects. A coalition of 20 conservation groups sued to block President Donald Trump’s revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act, a 50-year-old law that forces government agencies to carefully assess the ecological impacts of projects before they start. … ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Lawsuit challenges Trump’s overhaul of environmental review law
Legal analysis: NEPA rules rewrite: What’s in a name?
“This is the first in a series of eAlerts on revisions to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations published in the Federal Register on July 16, 2020 by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). CEQ’s revised rules amend 40 C.F.R. Parts 1500-1508. Nossaman attorneys Ed Kussy, Rob Thornton, Svend Brandt-Erichsen, Rebecca Hays Barho, Brooke Marcus Wahlberg, David Miller, and Stephanie Clark are contributors for this series. We begin our series on the revised NEPA regulations by describing changes CEQ has made to the backbone of the regulations: the definitions section. For many regulations, the “definitions” section is fairly innocuous. This has never been the case for the CEQ’s NEPA regulations. ... ” Read more from Nossaman here: Legal analysis: NEPA rules rewrite: What’s in a name?
Today’s featured articles …
At the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. John Callaway updated the Council on the latest scientific developments, discussing three papers that highlight the multi-faceted approach that is needed to address the Delta’s ecosystem; he also previewed upcoming events and provided the By the Numbers Report.
GUEST COMMENTARY: How to Use Climate Change in California Water Resource Litigation
Guest commentary written by Robert Shibatani:
Insofar as climate change and water resources is concerned, there are many related issues, but don’t let that lead you astray. Stay focused on the fundamental water issue tied to climate change. The whole premise behind climatic change in water resources is that it is changing our global hydrologic baselines. That’s it. Simple, straightforward, uncomplicated. In this short piece, the focus is on water quantity and related quality issues as illustrated through the use of hypothetical examples taken within California geography. The GHG side of climate change which is more policy-related and not directly linked to water resources is not discussed here.
So, what does this all mean?
Also on Maven’s Notebook today …
SCIENCE NEWS: Klamath fisheries field crew stays safe and gets the job done; Massive seagrass die-off leads to widespread erosion in Morro Bay; How the California Fish Passage Forum clears the way; and more …
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