DAILY DIGEST, 8/7: Trump administration studies raising the height of Shasta Dam; Validation action filed regarding financing of proposed Delta Conveyance Project; Implementation journal offers progress report on Water Data Act; Endangered species ‘habitat’ proposal raises climate questions; and more …

Happy Friday …

On the calendar today …

  • VIRTUAL TOUR: Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System from 10am to 11:30am.  On behalf of the Orange County Water District (OCWD) we invite you to join us for a Virtual Tour of our the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS).  A joint project of OCWD and the Orange County Sanitation District, the GWRS is the world’s largest water purification system for potable reuse, taking treated wastewater and purifying it to drinking water standards.  The Virtual Tour features General Manager Mike Markus leading a video tour of the GWRS facility followed by a live Q & A session with staff.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: From Fish Wars to Fish Kill: Indigenous Activism on the Klamath River from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Click here for Zoom webinar link.

In California water news today …

Trump administration studies raising the height of Shasta Dam

The decades-long battle over an effort to raise the height of Shasta Dam took another turn Thursday when the Trump Administration released a new environmental report on the plan, just five years after completing a similar study.  The most recent environmental study and feasibility report takes another look at how raising the height of Shasta Dam 18½ would affect the environment around Lake Shasta and downstream of the structure.  The report says there is new information to consider surrounding the effects of raising the dam, particularly on wetlands and the McCloud River, a protected stream that flows into Lake Shasta. ... ” Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here:  Trump administration studies raising the height of Shasta Dam

RELATED CONTENTPublic comment period open for critical Shasta Dam proposal to increase water storage for Californians and fish

Validation action filed regarding financing of proposed Delta Conveyance Project

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) filed a “validation action” with the Sacramento County Superior Court regarding DWR’s authority to, among other things, issue revenue bonds to finance the planning, design, construction and other capital costs of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project. Although DWR has existing legal authority to finance and construct the proposed project under the Central Valley Project (CVP) Act, a validation action is necessary to provide the requisite assurance to the financial community for the sale of the Delta Conveyance Project revenue bonds. The documents filed as part of the validation action can be accessed here.

Click here to continue reading this notice from the Department of Water Resources.
  • DWR proposes to issue revenue bonds to raise funds for the environmental review, planning and, if approved, construction of a Delta Conveyance Project.
  • The validation case will confirm DWR’s authority to use revenue bonds to fund the effort. Bonds for construction will not be issued unless and until specific conditions precedent are satisfied.
  • DWR derives its authority to issue bonds to finance planning and construction of the State Water Project (SWP) under the following acts of the State legislature: The State Water Resources Development Bond Act of 1959 (Burns Porter Act), CWC section 12930 et. seq., and the CVP Act, CWC section 11100 et. seq.
  • The CVP Act authorizes DWR to issue revenue bonds to pay the cost and expense of carrying out the CVP Act, which include environmental review, planning, and construction of SWP facilities for the conservation, storage, and distribution of water for the welfare and benefit of the people of California.
  • This CVP Act includes the Legislature’s instruction that the Act be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose.
  • As is the case with other revenue bonds issued to finance the SWP, these revenue bonds, if issued, would be repaid by participating SWP contractors.

Implementation Journal Offers Progress Report on Water Data Act

The AB 1755 Partner Agency Team has released its updated AB 1755 Implementation Journal, a high-level summary of the implementation strategy and accomplishments to date relative to the Open and Transparent Water Data Act (AB1755, Dodd). The journal, updated periodically, details cooperative actions by the eight implementing agencies, led by the California Department of Water Resources, to make water and ecological data more readily available and applicable in addressing California’s water management challenges. This latest update of the Implementation Journal includes numerous links to water and ecological data resources, as well as a user interface survey that seeks input to help inform ongoing implementation efforts.”  Click here for the implementation journal.

Cal Trout’s Watershed Review 2020-2021

This Watershed Review is a summary of the work we’re doing today on behalf of native fish and healthy rivers which will have an impact for decades, even centuries. From headwaters to sea, we are removing barriers from Southern California to the Oregon border–Klamath, Scott, Matilija, Santa Margarita, Rindge.  Reshaping how resources are managed in California with our innovative, science-driven work in the Central Valley. And championing meaningful legislation for our native fish and rivers. … ”  Check out Cal Trout’s Watershed Review 2020-2021 by clicking here.

California wastewater treatment plants subject of state’s new PFAS initiative

In July 2020, the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) issued an extensive 46 page Order that requires publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) in the state to begin sampling for PFAS in a wide variety of waste water forms. While the Order only applies to wastewater treatment plants with a capacity of one million gallons per day or more, the Order nevertheless impacts over 250 POTWs in the state. This is just the latest step that the Water Board has taken to target potential sources of PFAS in the environment (previous efforts by the state focused on airports, landfills, and manufacturing). The Order is one of the most far-reaching of its kind with respect to PFAS, mainly because it requires testing and reporting for 31 different types of PFAS – more than any state has regulated in water sources for PFAS to date. The consequences of the Order will prove to be both short term (increased costs to POTWs to come into compliance) and long term (an increase in litigation and regulatory action), and promise to significantly impact the trajectory of PFAS issues in the state of California. … “  Read more from the National Law Review here:  California wastewater treatment plants subject of state’s new PFAS initiative

Congressmen Harder goes to bat for California farmers and their water

Congressman Josh Harder represents the Modesto area that is surrounded by almonds and walnuts. And he’s very keen to those growers needs. He’s got a new bill called Representative Harder’s Save Water Resources Act, and the bill passed the house this week on a vote of 217 to 197.  Once that bill is signed in the law, three projects will each receive $1 million in funding this year, including Del Puerto Canyon, Sites and Los Vaqueros Reservoirs, all helping agriculture and mainly the nut industry. … ”  Read more from Ag Info here:  Congressmen Harder goes to bat for California farmers and their water

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Forest Service assessment looks at current conditions of northwest forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has released a bioregional assessment evaluating the social, economic and ecological conditions and trends covering 19 units across Washington, Oregon and Northern California in a brief and easy-to-understand format.  The assessment uses the best available science and focuses on capturing current conditions and changes on the national forests and grasslands.   It provides recommendations on how the Forest Service could address the challenges facing forests, grasslands and communities in the plans that govern how land management decisions are made. ... ”  Read more from Lake County News here:  Forest Service assessment looks at current conditions of northwest forests

Siskiyou County Supervisors say no to trucking water for illegal cannabis grows

Siskiyou County Supervisors unanimously approved an urgency ordinance that prohibits the extraction and discharge of water to irrigate illegal marijuana crops at their meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.  “The marijuana grows are fine; my yard is dying,” Mt. Shasta Vista resident Mary Cameron told Siskiyou County Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday. Cameron’s well and those of her neighbors have gone dry, she said, possibly as the result of water extraction to irrigate nearby illegal cannabis grows. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Siskiyou County Supervisors say no to trucking water for illegal cannabis grows

Efforts to keep pollutants out of Lake Tahoe surpass targets, Challenges persist with reaching overall water clarity goals

According to the latest data, local government and State transportation agencies have successfully surpassed 2019 pollution prevention targets established to reduce urban stormwater pollution and restore Lake Tahoe’s famous, crystal-clear water.  Stormwater from roads and urban areas is the primary source of fine sediment particles, which scatter and reduce light, reducing the distance people can see into Tahoe’s depths.  The Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Program’s 2020 Performance Report, compiled by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and the California Regional Water Board, Lahontan Region (Lahontan Water Board), details the ongoing accomplishments of this bi-state program to restore Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity. …

Click here to continue reading this press release from the State Water Board.

The report found that, in 2019, urban implementing partners collectively reduced fine sediments by 477,000 pounds; this equates to 853 drums (55-gallon) of fine sediment no longer washing into the Lake, surpassing targets for the program. Reductions of nitrogen and phosphorus – which spur algae growth – also surpassed program targets.  The report is available online at: clarity.laketahoeinfo.org/

Launched in 2011, the Lake Tahoe TMDL Program is a science-based plan to restore clarity to Lake Tahoe, by requiring local governments and highway departments at Lake Tahoe to implement pollutant controls to reduce the amount of clarity-harming pollutants that wash into the lake.

Pollution controls include:

  • Use of environmentally friendly wintertime road operations using state-of-the-art technology
  • Installation of stormwater treatment systems
  • Controlling runoff from homes and businesses

“Local governments and highway departments continue to reduce Lake Tahoe pollution ahead of schedule,” said Lahontan Water Board Executive Officer Patty Kouyoumdjian. “These efforts are ongoing and critical to controlling runoff from roads and urban areas, which cause over 70% of fine sediment pollution impacting the Lake’s clarity.”

“It is very encouraging that our partners are seeing positive results and TMDL implementation is on track,” said Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Administrator Greg Lovato. “Although great progress has been made, we understand that the work is not done, and new data is presenting new challenges. Beautiful, clear water is a trademark of Lake Tahoe and we are highly motivated to continue this restoration work”.

While urban stormwater remains the focus of TMDL Program efforts, non-urban sources play an important role in the lake restoration strategy. TMDL agencies continue to work with non-urban implementing partners to ensure results are accurate and comprehensive.  Actions taken to reduce fine sediment particles and nutrients from non-urban sources, (i.e. forestlands, stream channels, and the atmosphere) are tracked and assessed using a set of project performance measures.

Key results include:

  • Retrofitting nearly 235 miles of forest road with stormwater runoff controls
  • Decommissioning 9 miles of unpaved roads
  • Sweeping 7,500 miles of paved roads to prevent dust from being deposited into the lake through the air
  • Restoration of 30,000 linear feet of channel to reduce erosion from stream beds and banks.

Key Trends

In 2019 several factors converged to reduce the five-year running average of lake clarity to 67.3 ft., likely affected by the fact that two of the top four largest precipitation years on record (2017 first, 2019 fourth) occurred in this timeframe. Despite the effect of washing in higher particle loads from the surrounding watershed during these years, the long-term trend of clarity stabilization continues to hold.

The trend in winter clarity values shows slight improvement, likely in response to TMDL program partner efforts that are done in the winter when most of Tahoe’s annual precipitation occurs. However, summer clarity continues to steadily decline. A bi-state committee of scientists led by the Tahoe Science Advisory Council is reviewing the reasons for the difference between winter and summer clarity, with an initial report due to be completed by August 2020.

Identified as a high priority by the two-states and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the report aims to provide insights into factors causing differences between summer and winter and investigate how these factors influence lake clarity. Drivers suspected to influence clarity include, biological conditions; lake stratification from water temperatures; stream/lake interactions; and factors such as the timing and delivery of pollutant loads and extreme climate conditions.

A longer term water quality Science-to-Action work plan was developed by the Tahoe Science Advisory Council in response to requests from resource managers in NV and CA. The plan has identified key areas for investigation needed to provide a better understanding of recent clarity values and trends. This ongoing work will specifically investigate the influence of climate change, the associated impacts to lake dynamics, and watershed hydrology that are anticipated as a result.

Upper Truckee River Marsh restoration update and video

“Work is underway on the Upper Truckee Marsh to restore and enhance over 250 acres floodplain by returning river flows to the center of the marsh. This will enrich native fish and bird habitat and act as a natural pollution filter that will improve water quality before it reaches Lake Tahoe.  This is a California Tahoe Conservancy restoration project and funding for the $11.5M first phase of the project is coming from them, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation. ... ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now here: Upper Truckee River Marsh restoration update and video

Save Lake Tahoe from invasive weeds and herbicides, says Carolyn Willette

She writes, “More than 50 years ago, developers committed one of the greatest injuries to Lake Tahoe — dredging the lake’s largest natural wetland to build the Tahoe Keys development — 1,500 homes with canals for private boaters.  Today, local powers are considering making that injury much worse.  The Tahoe Keys artificial lagoons are an ecological disaster, because they destroyed the lake’s natural filtering system (a healthy wetland) that purified the largest inflow. The lagoons are now rife with invasive aquatic weeds (Eurasian milfoil and curly leaf pondweed) and dangerous algae blooms. Signs line the lagoons, warning people of the dangerous waters caused by toxic algal blooms. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here:  Save Lake Tahoe from invasive weeds and herbicides

Sacramento: Regional San’s landmark recycled water program gets news name

Regional San’s landmark recycled water program—previously known as the South County Ag Program—has been rebranded. Now known as Harvest Water, the program will be one of the largest water recycling projects in California and will deliver up to 50,000-acre feet per year of tertiary-treated recycled water to an estimated 16,000 acres of farm and habitat lands in southern Sacramento County. The program will also reduce groundwater pumping, support habitat restoration efforts and benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  With the opportunity to provide high-quality recycled water to farmers fast approaching, branding was necessary to give the program a powerful and symbolic identity that clearly infers its purpose and benefits. Harvest Water indicates that Regional San is harvesting a new water supply by recycling wastewater for agriculture, irrigation and other beneficial uses for the farming economy and environment. … ” Read more from CWEA here: Regional San’s landmark recycled water program gets news name

Bridges installed in Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area to improve wetlands

Construction crews installed two bridges in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area this past week as part of a larger construction project taking place this summer to create new habitat, improve wetlands management and support wildlife-friendly agriculture.  A 350-ton hydraulic truck crane placed the precast concrete bridges, that replace narrow pipes regularly blocked by beavers and debris, improving drainage and water supply in the Wildlife Area.  The bridges are part of a $4 million project scheduled for completion in October. More improvements are planned for the summer of 2021 if additional funding is secured. … ”  Read more from the Woodland Daily Democrat here: Bridges installed in Yolo Bypass Wildlife area to improve wetlands

How a Bay Area ballot measure is accelerating green projects

write, “Given the momentous events of the past few months, it’s easy to have missed the news that drought is once again creeping across California, and with it, wildfire risk. It’s a stark reminder that while California bends the curve on COVID-19, we cannot relent in our efforts to make the state more resilient to climate change.  Which is why a modest wetland restoration project in San Francisco is so important. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle here: How a Bay Area ballot measure is accelerating green projects 

Fresno: Are you on a private well? We’re investigating risks to drinking water and need your help

Thousands of families who rent or own homes with private wells are at risk of losing their drinking water in Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties — and some already have.  The Fresno Bee is investigating the risks to private wells and proposed solutions, and we need to hear your stories and your questions to guide our reporting. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Fresno: Are you on a private well? We’re investigating risks to drinking water and need your help

Unlikely source promises (a little) water for the Kern River

If all goes according to plan, there will be water in the Kern River.  And not just when Mother Nature dumps a boatload of snow in the Sierras.  The City of Bakersfield is poised to ink a deal with Buena Vista Water Storage District that will provide at least some water in the riverbed through the main part of the city between April and June — even in drier years.  “We’ve been calling it ‘aesthetics water,’” said Tim Ashlock, General Manager of Buena Vista. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Unlikely source promises (a little) water for the Kern River

Santa Clarita Valley Water recognized for PFAS communication efforts

SCV Water received a statewide award from the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) for its ongoing communication efforts surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals.  This marks the first award for the Agency’s communications efforts.  “We are pleased to receive an CAPIO award for our PFAS outreach efforts,” said SCV Water’s Assistant General Manager Steve Cole. … ”  Read more from SCV News here: Santa Clarita Valley Water recognized for PFAS communication efforts

Plunge Creek among first Santa Ana wash plan projects to break ground

Habitat rehabilitation in Highland’s Plunge Creek began last week, making the conservation project one of the first to begin work following signage and implementation of the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Plan.  The wash plan is a permitting agreement designed to balance habitat and water conservation efforts with construction, mining, transportation, flood control and recreational activities within the wash. … ”  Read more from Highland Community News here:  Plunge Creek among first Santa Ana wash plan projects to break ground

DWR selects design-build contractor for Salton Sea Project

The Department of Water Resources has completed the evaluation of proposals for the Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. has been selected as the best-value design-build entity. Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and DWR are in the process of finalizing the contract, according to a recent Salton Sea Authority press release.  Design and construction of the SCH project is expected to begin in fall 2020. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review here: DWR selects design-build contractor for Salton Sea Project

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Along the Colorado River …

“Non-soon” Version 2.0 has arrived and it’s bigger, hotter and drier than ever

Last April, the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Phoenix told a panel of drought experts that while there was a good chance Arizona’s approaching summer would be a hot one, there was at least a decent chance of normal monsoon-related precipitation in the region.  Regardless, said NWS forecaster Mark O’Malley, it couldn’t be worse than the near-record dry “non-soon” of last year.  “Well up to this point, it’s been far worse,” said O’Malley to Arizona Water News recently.  “Add in the record heat, and drought is quickly becoming an issue for the state.” … ” Read more from Arizona Water News here: “Non-soon” Version 2.0 has arrived and it’s bigger, hotter and drier than ever

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In national water news today …

Endangered species ‘habitat’ proposal raises climate questions

The threatened eastern black rail haunting marshes along the East Coast is set to have its habitat submerged under the rising Atlantic because of climate change.  But if the rail is officially listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Trump administration’s proposed definitions of the term “habitat” may not protect the bird as it is forced to find a new home farther inland as seas rise.  That’s because the administration’s proposed definitions of “habitat” could, depending on interpretation, exclude areas that a species doesn’t currently occupy, even if it’s pushed thereby rising temperatures or tides. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  Endangered species ‘habitat’ proposal raises climate questions

Legal alert: NEPA Rules Rewrite: Initiation of the Environmental Impact Statement Process

Today, we focus on changes the CEQ has made to the beginning of the NEPA process for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The beginning of the NEPA process comes once an agency or applicant determines to take an action that requires federal funding or a federal approval. The official NEPA process is preceded by planning activities undertaken by the agency or applicant needed to formulate that action. For example, federally funded highway or transit projects must come from a state or metropolitan transportation planning process specified by law. The federal agency that is to make the approval or funding decision may decide on its own, on the basis of early studies or after preliminary consultation with other agencies whether to handle the action with a categorical exclusion (CE), an environmental assessment (EA) or an EIS. This basic process is retained by the new regulations, but with some significant changes we examine below. … ”  Read more from Nossaman here: NEPA Rules Rewrite: Initiation of the Environmental Impact Statement Process

Federal court dismisses Trump water rule challenge in Oregon

One of the first challenges brought against the Trump administration’s Clean Water Act rule redefining federal jurisdiction over the nation’s waters was dismissed by a federal judge in Oregon late Thursday, according to lawyers on the video conference call with the judge.  The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association had sued the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May for bringing non-navigable, small streams and wetlands under Clean Water Act protection in the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  Federal court dismisses Trump water rule challenge in Oregon

Why sprawl could be the next big climate change battle

President Trump is attacking Democrats on a new front: suburbia.  “They want to eliminate single-family zoning, bringing who knows into your suburbs,” Trump said on a July campaign call.  While it’s unclear whether Trump’s veiled appeal to racial anxieties will help his poll numbers, the focus on single-family homes has touched on a contentious debate in a growing number of communities. Around the country, cities and states are grappling with how zoning rules have deeply codified racial inequity and exacerbated climate change. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Why sprawl could be the next big climate change battle

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National Water and Climate Update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.


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And lastly …

The weirdest places you can spend the night in California

Sure you could stay in a hotel (boring) next time you go on a California road trip, but why on Earth would you do that when you could sleep on an ocean liner? Or in a caboose?? Or, you know, inside a HUMAN NEST???  That’s right: there are a whole bunch of weird places you can sleep in (and on) in this cool state of ours. Get ready to have the way you road trip forever changed. … ”  Read more from The Thrillist here: The weirdest places you can spend the night in California

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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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