DAILY DIGEST, 8/5: Portfolio outlines actions to address water problems; Delta conveyance update; Climate change could lead to more incidents like the Oroville Dam spillway failures, experts warn; One step closer for $71M for Friant-Kern Canal; and more …


Good morning!

On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water begins at 9am. The Committee is scheduled to hear a large number of bills related to flood management, climate change, Anderson Dam, fire prevention, and other issues.  Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • PUBLIC HEARING: Proposed Statewide Suction Dredge Mining General Permit begins at 9:30am. The State Water Board will hold a Public Hearing for the Proposed Statewide Suction Dredge Mining General Permit.  Click here for an agendaClick here to watch on webcast.
  • WEBINAR: Groundwater Quality Data in California’s Uncertain Future from 12pm to 1pm.  SWRCB Staff will be presenting on their work in making data available from the various State and Federal sources and their data characterization tools up on the web.  Presented by the Groundwater Resources Association.    Click here for more information and to register.

In California water news today …

Portfolio outlines actions to address water problems

Now that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has released a final California Water Resilience Portfolio, farm organizations say they will monitor progress on implementing the plan’s proposals—and on resolution of ongoing state-federal conflicts that complicate achieving some of its goals.  A plan for the state’s water future, the final document prioritizes water improvements for agriculture, such as new water storage, help for local agencies to meet groundwater sustainability requirements, reaching voluntary river-flow agreements and more.  “The portfolio has a lot of initiatives we’d like to see carried through,” California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said. “We’ve always said that addressing California’s growing and very structural supply and demand imbalance will require a suite of solutions.” ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Portfolio outlines actions to address water problems

Delta Conveyance Update

(Received via email) “The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is continuing its work on the Delta Conveyance Project. The purpose of the project is to protect the long-term viability of the State Water Project by improving how water is moved through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta). This message provides an update on our work and opportunities for the public to participate in the coming months. … ”

Click here to continue reading this update from DWR.

New Materials & Information

Environmental Planning Activities

CEQACalifornia Environmental Quality Act
DWR is preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the planned Delta Conveyance Project under the state’s environmental review law (CEQA). DWR recently published a Scoping Summary Report that summarizes the public scoping period that concluded in April. It includes all public comments received. The information collected during scoping will help inform the environmental analysis. Preparation of the EIR also includes selecting a range of alternatives to evaluate in detail in the EIR. A presentation about alternatives formulation can be found here. Information related to the ongoing environmental review process can be found here.

NEPA—National Environmental Policy Act
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has informed DWR that it will conduct federal environmental review of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project. USACE will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the federal environmental review law (NEPA). Later this summer, USACE will issue a Notice of Intent officially announcing the start of preparation of the EIS. USACE’s letter to DWR can be found here.

As part of the effort to formally engage the USACE in the Delta Conveyance Project, DWR recently submitted a permit application to USACE for Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. During the EIS scoping period, the public and agencies will have an opportunity to comment on the permit application and EIS. More information about the scoping period will be available at that time.

Additionally, DWR is required to get a permit from USACE to identify and address potential impacts to federal flood control projects. To initiate this process, DWR requested and received approval from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB). This approval allows DWR to engage in early coordination with USACE and the CVFPB during development of the environmental documents. DWR expects all of these permit authorizations after the CEQA and NEPA processes are complete and the design process has progressed.

AB52—Tribal Consultations and Engagement
Earlier this year, project notification letters with information about the start of the state’s environmental review process were sent to 121 Tribes within the statutory Delta, Central Valley Project and State Water Project service areas and upstream of the Delta. The Tribes who received letters were invited to consult with DWR under AB 52 or DWR’s Tribal Engagement Policy. DWR will continue to provide Tribes with information on the project through consultation, informational meetings and emails. Information about Tribal Engagement can be found here.

Environmental Justice and Disadvantaged Communities
DWR plans to work with disadvantaged communities in all phases of the project to ensure the reliability of an important water supply for these communities. DWR is committed to addressing the concerns of historically burdened, underrepresented, low income and otherwise vulnerable populations who may be affected by the project. DWR also wants to identify opportunities where these communities can benefit from the project. Benefits could include strengthening water reliability and creating career pathways.

The help facilitate participation in the impact analysis, DWR will conduct surveys, interviews and small group briefings in the coming months to gather input on the usage and value of environmental resources in the Delta by disadvantaged communities. Efforts will then turn to developing a community- and research-informed document that outlines the scope of DWR’s environmental justice objectives. This document will be included as an appendix to the Draft EIR for public comment.

Engineering and Design
The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA)* is continuing to develop engineering and design information to help inform the environmental review process. This includes presenting data to the DCA’s Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC) to get input and ideas that can help avoid or reduce potential local effects of the project.

The DCA will also be reaching out to members of the Delta community to ensure DCA’s technical staff are using current and relevant data and information in their work. Examples include local school districts to obtain information about potential construction truck traffic and county health and safety service providers to coordinate on health, safety and emergency response in relation to construction activities.

Soil Data
DWR is moving forward with a number of efforts to collect data about soil conditions in the Delta. The department restarted previously approved soil work, and also finalized environmental documentation (Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration) needed for new activities. Soil investigations will include data collection, soil samples and surveys to better understand the region’s geology to support the future evaluation of potential activities, including the proposed Delta Conveyance Project.

Upcoming Meetings & Events

  • DCA Monthly Board Meeting:
    • Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 2:00pm.
    • Agenda, materials and participation information will be posted here.
  • Delta Conveyance Finance Authority Monthly Board Meeting:
    • Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 11:00am.
    • Agenda, materials and participation information will be posted here.
  • DCA SEC Monthly Meeting:
    • Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at 3:00pm.
    • Agenda, materials and participation information will be posted here.
  • Information, materials and video archives from all previous meetings can be found here.

RELATED CONTENTMET BAY DELTA COMMITTEE: Delta Conveyance update

A small city wants to unload a leaky water system, but regulators say not so fast

The city of Bellflower wants to sell its aging water system to a big for-profit water company that is better able to manage it. But the deal could fall through. That’s because state regulators say the price is so high, it could hurt water customers across Southern California.  The Bellflower dilemma illustrates the difficulty that hundreds of small, aging water systems face throughout California. State water policy calls for tiny struggling water systems to be acquired by larger, more stable water systems that have the capacity to fund needed upgrades.  But the law also calls for fair prices to be paid for such systems. So the argument is over what the fair price for the Bellflower system should be, and whether a fair-market price that buyer and seller agree upon would burden water consumers elsewhere. … ”  Read more from LAist here: A small city wants to unload a leaky water system, but regulators say not so fast

Climate change could lead to more incidents like the Oroville Dam spillway failures, experts warn

Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated when the spillways failed at Oroville Dam in 2017, an infrastructure disaster that cost around a billion dollars to repair.   Three years later scientists say events that partially led to the incident could become more frequent. It comes down to how and when snow and rain fall.  With Oroville, there was unusually deep snow in the Sierra Nevada, which was later melted  by a four-day warm wet storm known as an atmospheric river, according to Brian Henn, former researcher at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Oceanography. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Climate change could lead to more incidents like the Oroville Dam spillway failures, experts warn 

One step closer for $71 million for Friant-Kern Canal

Funding for much needed repairs at least in the short-term for the Friant-Kern Canal continues to move closer to becoming reality.  The House of Representatives last week passed H.R. 7617, the 2020-2021 appropriations bill needed to fund the federal government during the next fiscal year. The bill is a six-bill appropriations minibus, including the energy and water development minibus. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  One step closer for $71 million for Friant-Kern Canal

Groundbreaking research into working landscapes

Working lands conservation by California’s largest land trust annually provides between $900 million to $1.44 billion in environmental benefits — including habitat, carbon sequestration, food and watersheds, according to a new study released today.  The study, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, examined 306,718 acres of California Rangeland Trust’s conservation easements across the state to explore both the environmental and monetary value of preserving California’s open spaces. … ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today here:  Groundbreaking research into working landscapes

LAO Report: Improving California’s response to the environmental and safety hazards caused by abandoned mines

This report consists of three sections. First, in the background section, we describe (1) historical mining practices, (2) the risks Abandoned Mine Lands (AMLs) pose to the environment and the physical safety hazards they cause, (3) the coordination across the many state and federal agencies to address AML issues, and (4) laws and programs governing the remediation of AMLs. In the second section of the report, we discuss key challenges to systematically remediating AMLs, such as a lack of a centralized statewide approach, land ownership issues, and lack of funding. In the third and final section, we recommend steps the Legislature could take to improve California’s approach to addressing the threats to public health and the environment caused by AMLs.

Click here to view/download the report from the LAO.

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Irrigation District scores victory in water rights case

Now that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has released a final California Water Resilience Portfolio, farm organizations say they will monitor progress on implementing the plan’s proposals—and on resolution of ongoing state-federal conflicts that complicate achieving some of its goals.  A plan for the state’s water future, the final document prioritizes water improvements for agriculture, such as new water storage, help for local agencies to meet groundwater sustainability requirements, reaching voluntary river-flow agreements and more.  “The portfolio has a lot of initiatives we’d like to see carried through,” California Farm Bureau Federation Senior Counsel Chris Scheuring said. “We’ve always said that addressing California’s growing and very structural supply and demand imbalance will require a suite of solutions.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Klamath Irrigation District scores victory in water rights case

Del Norte County: Officers eradicate 8,194 marijuana plants, note numerous environmental violations at unpermitted grow sites

On July 27 and 28, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in collaboration with the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, served five search warrants in Del Norte County for illegal commercial cannabis cultivation on remote parcels off of Low Divide Road and Rowdy Creek Road. Support was also provided by CDFW Environmental Scientists, Pelican Bay State Prison Critical Incident Response Team, Del Norte County Code Enforcement and CAL FIRE. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Officers eradicate 8,194 marijuana plants, note numerous environmental violations at unpermitted grow sites

Lindsay to spend thousands to clean city’s water

Lindsay may be on their way to bringing their drinking water into state compliance.  Last week at the Lindsay City Council’s July 28 meeting, city services and planning director Michael Camarena presented a feasibility study. He noted that the city’s water system has been out of compliance with the Stage 2 disinfection byproduct rule for total trihalomethanes and five haloacetic acid maximum contaminant levels. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Lindsay to spend thousands to clean city’s water

Santa Barbara Council accepts $10 million matching grant to operate desalination plant

“The Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to accept a $10 million grant — with the understanding that it will run the plant at full capacity for at least 36 out of the next 40 years.  Some environmentalists objected to the council’s decision, citing environmental concerns.  The city was awarded a $10 million matching grant in 2018 from the California Department of Water Resources for the reactivation of the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant, 525 E. Yanonali St. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Santa Barbara Council accepts $10 million matching grant to operate desalination plant

Imperial Valley: Geothermal brines could propel California’s green economy

Deep beneath the surface of the Salton Sea, a shallow lake in California’s Imperial County, sits an immense reserve of critical metals that, if unlocked, could power the state’s green economy for years to come. These naturally occurring metals are dissolved in geothermal brine, a byproduct of geothermal energy production. Now the race is on to develop technology to efficiently extract one of the most valuable metals from the brine produced by the geothermal plants near the Salton Sea: lithium. … ”  Read more from Berkeley Labs here: Imperial Valley: Geothermal brines could propel California’s green economy

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In national water news today …

Trump signs into law $3 billion each year for conservation, parks

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law legislation that will devote nearly $3 billion annually to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by Congress.  “There hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” Trump said about the 26th president, who created many national parks, forests and monuments to preserve the nation’s natural resources.  Supporters say the Great American Outdoors Act is the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. Opponents counter that the money isn’t enough to cover the estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on federally owned lands. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Trump signs into law $3 billion each year for conservation, parks

‘No shrinking violet.’ Meet Trump’s surprise FERC pick

Last week, President Trump unexpectedly announced two nominees — one Democratic, one Republican — to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Democratic pick Allison Clements is a longtime energy lawyer whose name was floated over a year ago for a spot on the influential five-member commission. But news of Trump’s lesser-known Republican nominee left many agency observers asking: Who is Mark Christie?  E&E News spoke to more than half a dozen sources to paint a clearer picture of a nominee who has a deep track record on energy issues but had not previously been named as a favorite for a FERC seat. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: ‘No shrinking violet.’ Meet Trump’s surprise FERC pick

Brochure: Protecting drinking water at the source: Working with the USDA Forest Service

What does source water protection involve, and why is it important? The American Water Works Association (AWWA), with assistance from the Forest Service, has put together this brochure to provide a concise overview and suggest ways that utilities can partner with the USDA Forest Service to protect an invaluable natural asset.”

Click here to view/download brochure.

A surprising range of climate events may be predictable years in advance

An increase in the likelihood of a “Greenland Block” – a bulge of high pressure that stalls over the massive island and can cause extreme weather both in North America and Europe – could be predictable years in advance.  So too could changes in ocean acidity in the California Current System, which sustains rich and economically important fisheries, as well as fluxes in the amount of organic matter produced by phytoplankton in the ocean, which forms the base of the marine food pyramid.  Even probable increases or decreases in the amount of carbon dioxide taken up by plants, and the resulting impacts on the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, may be predictable several years out. … ”  Read more from NCAR here: A surprising range of climate events may be predictable years in advance

Measuring, monitoring, and modeling ecosystem cycling

The terrestrial biosphere—the regions of Earth’s land surface that support life—continuously exchanges carbon and water with the atmosphere. Plants capture atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through valves in their leaves, converting the gas into compounds for growth through photosynthesis and respiration. Meanwhile, water moves from the ground through plant roots and stems to leaves, where it is gradually released, or transpired, back into the atmosphere.  Changing climate conditions may shift the balance of ecosystem carbon and water cycles by altering plant processes like photosynthesis, transpiration, and respiration. … ”  Read more from EOS here:  Measuring, monitoring, and modeling ecosystem cycling

Projecting the future trade of virtual water

In the future, countries without enough water might find a solution in the global agriculture trade.  Crops require water to grow. By importing water-intensive crops, countries essentially bring in a natural resource in the form of virtual water. Agricultural virtual water is the amount of water needed to grow a particular crop in a given region.  Now research led by scientists at PNNL has projected that the volume of virtual water traded globally could triple by the end of the century. Under one set of changes to social and environmental conditions, the Missouri River basin in the United States, the La Plata basin in South America, and the Nile River basin in Africa contributed to virtual water exports. Under those conditions, much of India, Africa, and the Middle East relied heavily on imports of virtual water. … ”  Read more from Pacific Northwest National Labs here:  Projecting the future trade of virtual water

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In commentary today …

If CPUC eliminates ‘decoupling,’ water rates would rise, says Mary Ann Dickinson and Robert F. Powelson

They write, “As early as Aug. 6, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) could vote to adopt a proposal that would eliminate a best-practice regulatory tool – known as decoupling – that currently removes the incentive of water suppliers to sell more water.  This significant change has the potential to hamper water conservation efforts in California and raise rates for millions of customers without providing them any corresponding benefit at a time when water supplies continue to be scarce and many families already struggle to make ends meet. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly here:  If CPUC eliminates ‘decoupling,’ water rates would rise

Dam removal plan for the Klamath River hinges on billionaire Warren Buffett, says the San Francisco Chronicle

They write, “Through three governors, California has set a path to tear down four aging dams on the Klamath River astride the Oregon border. It would be the biggest such removal project in the nation, done in the name of fish preservation, clean water flows and political consensus.  But the undertaking is hitting a snag, one that Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to undo. He’s pleading in a letter with billionaire Warren Buffett, who controls the power company operating the dams, to stick with the $450 million demolition project. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Dam removal plan for the Klamath River hinges on billionaire Warren Buffett

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Today’s featured articles …

ACWA CONFERENCE: Chair Esquivel and Director Nemeth discuss their plans for 2020

At the ACWA’s virtual conference held last week, the second keynote speaker session featured Joaquin Esquivel, Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, and Karla Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water Resources.  Chair Esquivel’s comments focused on the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act, implementation of the Open and Transparent Water Data Act, and racial equity.  Director Nemeth spoke of the strides forward the Department was making on modernizing the State Water Project operations, improving statewide water resources planning, and addressing racial equity. Here’s what they had to say.

Click here to read this article.


MET BAY DELTA COMMITTEE: Delta Conveyance update

At the end of July, Metropolitan Water District’s Special Committee on the Bay-Delta held a meeting; the main agenda item was an update on the Delta Conveyance Project.  In this update, Bay Delta Initiatives Manager refreshed the Committee members on the status of the project, gave an update on the Notice of Preparation and the State Water Project contract extension negotiations, and highlighted upcoming issues for the Committee members.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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