In California water news this weekend …

Predicting drought in the American West just got much more difficult

People hoping to get a handle on future droughts in the American West are in for a disappointment, as new USC-led research spanning centuries shows El Niño cycles are an unreliable predictor.  Instead, they found that Earth’s dynamic atmosphere is a wild card that plays a much bigger role than sea surface temperatures, yet defies predictability, in the wet and dry cycles that whipsaw the western states. The study, published today in Science Advances, is a detailed assessment of long-term drought variability. … ”  Read more from the University of Southern California here: Predicting drought in the American West just got much more difficult

Drought continues to expand as the monsoon in the Southwest has been largely a no-show

Hot and dry conditions pushed portions of Arizona, southern Nevada and Southern California either into drought or further into drought, data from the U.S. Drought monitor show.  The portion of California deemed abnormally dry grew by almost 7%, mainly in eastern San Bernardino County. Large portions of Arizona and parts of southern Nevada slipped from abnormally dry into moderate drought, and severe drought expanded in southern Arizona. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Drought continues to expand as the monsoon in the Southwest has been largely a no-show

In Colorado’s climate-change hot spot, the West’s water is evaporating

On New Year’s Day in 2018, Paul Kehmeier and his father drove up Grand Mesa until they got to the county line, 10,000 feet above sea level. Instead of the three to five feet of snow that should have been on the ground, there wasn’t enough of a dusting to even cover the grass.  The men marveled at the sight, and Kehmeier snapped a photo of his dad, “standing on the bare pavement, next to bare ground.” … ”  Read more from the Seattle Times here: In Colorado’s climate-change hot spot, the West’s water is evaporating

Senator Hurtado hopes to freshen farmworkers’ water

Contaminated water has long plagued California’s Southern Central Valley, a region home to many farmworkers. SB 974, a bill by Senator Melissa Hurtado, seeks to provide safe drinking water by exempting small disadvantaged communities from certain CEQA provisions.  This bill exempts drinking water projects benefiting public water systems, from CEQA review, that serve small disadvantaged communities and schools. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here:  Senator Hurtado hopes to freshen farmworkers’ water

New winery wastewater regulations: ‘untenable for small wineries’

The State Water Resources Control Board is working on new winery wastewater regulations which present significant challenges for the industry. The permitting process for the updated winery general order appears to be especially complex and will require a substantial amount of monitoring and reporting. The proposed order would have an impact on more than 2,000 wineries throughout California.  “The issue for us is, the process they’ve proposed for monitoring wastewater discharge is simply unreasonable for wineries,” said Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  New winery wastewater regulations: ‘untenable for small wineries’

Reclamation modernizing Central Valley Project Improvement Act accounting procedures

On August 6, Reclamation proposed revisions to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act’s 1993 Interim Guidelines that govern the Act’s accounting requirements. The proposed revisions are subject to a 30-day public comment period beginning August 6.  “The revisions to the CVPIA Guidelines represent a considerable amount of time and effort,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “The consistent engagement, feedback, and work that our water and power customers have put into this endeavor is very much appreciated by Reclamation.

Click here to continue reading this press release.

The CVPIA was enacted in 1992 to revise the Central Valley Project’s authorization to include the protection, restoration, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and associated habitats. A Restoration Fund was established under the Act to collect revenue from the Central Valley Project’s water and power customers for carrying out the provisions of the Act.

Reclamation has been working with stakeholders on updates to the accounting treatment of expenditures for more than five years. The objective of the revisions is to update the guidelines consistent with the provisions of CVPIA and implement a recent court ruling on proportionality as it relates to Restoration Fund payments.

Stakeholders participating in revisions for the past five years are likely on the current distribution list and will receive an emailed copy of the guidelines. Email Heather Casillas, CVPIA program manager, at hcasillas@usbr.gov to be added to this list or receive a copy of the guidelines.

Submit comments on the guidelines by September 4 to Heather Casillas, Bureau of Reclamation, BDO-300, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814, or email hcasillas@usbr.gov.

In the Sierra Nevada, an escape to the past

Dan White writes, “When I was a child, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was my annual escape from hatchet-faced bullies, geometry quizzes and Los Angeles County smog.  At 7,881 feet, at Sierra Nevada’s eastern edge, the informal and slightly run-down ski town always made me breathless and dizzy for the first couple of days. But I loved the cinder cones, the lupine fields, the eerie moonscape of Obsidian Dome and the flat-bodied bugs that jumped over my boots on the Shadow Lake trail.  But when my wife and daughter asked if we could take a vacation to Mammoth Lakes this July, as a break from sheltering at home in Santa Cruz, I refused. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: In the Sierra Nevada, an escape to the past

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In regional water news this weekend …

Dead lizards discovered in Garberville Sanitation District ‘very old’ water tank

According to Barry Sutter, the Klamath District Engineer with the State Water Resources Contol Board’s Division of Drinking Water, during a July 21 inspection of Garberville Sanitation District’s Robertson Tank, “a lizard was spotted during a routine inspection of one of Garberville’s drinking water tanks.” Sutter said Garberville Sanitation District was made aware of the situation, removed the lizard, and then upon further inspection reportedly found two lizards on the bottom of the tank.  In terms of the potential risk to the public, Sutter said, “Chlorination kills 99.9 % of bacteria and viruses within a short period of time (less than one hour). The lizards may have been in the tank for months exposed to the chlorinated water so the risk to the public is minimal.” … ”  Eeeew.  Read more at the Redheaded Blackbelt here: Dead lizards discovered in Garberville Sanitation District ‘very old’ water tank

EPA, Stockton-based vegetable brining company reach settlement over waste disposal issue

A Stockton-based vegetable brining company has reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency after a waste disposal well suffered a mechanical failure last year.  This is the second enforcement action the EPA has levied against SMS Briners Inc., which owns and operates a facility in the 17000 block of East Highway 4.  The company is a part of the EPA Underground Injection Control Program, said Amy Miller, director of the EPA Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division for the agency’s ninth district, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands and 148 Tribal Nations. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: EPA, Stockton-based vegetable brining company reach settlement over waste disposal issue

Amador County: Guest Commentary: Settlement between water board and CDCR is a sham, says resident David Anderson

He writes, “A few weeks ago, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) proposed a tentative agreement with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for the fine CDCR would pay for the past illicit discharges at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP). I have reviewed it and I could drone on endlessly about the inaccuracies, distortions, omissions and outright lies, but I think most people would find the fine to be of the greatest interest as it exemplifies the corruption and malfeasance by the State of California by both agencies.  The fine is proposed to be $2.5 million, which is based on a determination of the amount of uncontrolled waste coming from the prison into the creek and the groundwater. … ”  Read more from the Amador Dispatch-Ledger here: Guest Commentary: Settlement between water board and CDCR is a sham

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority prepares to decide on a ‘replenishment fee’

Ridgecrest by David O

Mick Gleason, First District Supervisor and IWVGA Representative writes in a letter to the editor: ” … We must stop damaging our aquifer by continued overdrafting. This fee will force businesses to make critical decisions for their future investments and compel more efficient use of our precious resource. ... ”  Read his letter here: Letter to the Editor August 7, 2020: Information on the GA’s fee decision  In a second letter, Scott M. O’Neil, Executive Director of the IWV Economic Development Corporation recommends deferring for a year to decide on the fee, clarify the purpose and usage of the fee, and to change the name of the ‘Replenishment Fee’ to something that more accurately describes the purpose of the proposed fee.  Read his letter here: EDC recommends IWVGA fee wait a year Last, Resident Raymond Kelso writes, ” … Unless a majority of landowners file a written protest, the IWVGA will proceed to spend a significant amount of OUR money on the first phase of the IWVGA’s Groundwater Augmentation Project with NO Plan, NO schedule and an exorbitant budget. … ”  Read his letter here:  Notice to all water drinkers!

Santa Ana Water Board postpones decision on Huntington Beach desalination permit renewal

After three lengthy public hearings and intense debate, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board today postponed its decision on a waste discharge permit renewal for a proposed desalination project in Orange County and requested more information from staff.  Poseidon Water’s $1 billion facility would be built on 12 acres of the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station and produce 50 million gallons per day of potable water – enough to satisfy about 450,000 households. It would be the second largest desalination plant in the United States, behind the Claude “Bud” Lewis facility in Carlsbad, 30 miles north of San Diego.  … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.

During three recent workshops, regional board members raised questions about the need and cost of desalinated water, Orange County Water District’s commitment to purchase the supply, the potential harm to marine life, and at today’s hearing, devoted the entire morning session to whether the Bolsa Chica wetlands mitigation plan complies with the state’s Ocean Plan requirements for coastal desalination plants.  The board concluded that more expansive restoration measures were needed to offset the environmental harm and asked staff to research the appropriate ratio between restoration efforts and preservation – mainly dredging the Bolsa Chica inlet channel – and report its findings at a special meeting scheduled for September 17.

Poseidon’s desalination plan for Huntington Beach delayed again

After years of bureaucratic hurdles and increasing regulatory requirements, Poseidon Water was dealt yet another delay Friday, Aug. 7, in its pursuit of a controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach.  The Regional Water Quality Control Board concluded three days of hearings on the project’s next permit by telling Poseidon it must return with a more robust, more detailed mitigation plan to offset the environmental damage the project will cause.  “What we ended up with was not nearly enough,” said board member Daniel Selmi of the mitigation proposed at the outset of Friday’s meeting. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty (about) how this will work out.” … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Poseidon’s desalination plan for Huntington Beach delayed again

West Valley Water District announces facility expansion project

Due to local population growth and rising peak summer usage, the West Valley Water District (WVWD) announced that it will expand treatment capacity for the region by 16 million gallons per day through the Oliver P. Roemer Water Filtration Facility Expansion Project.  WVWD selected GHD Inc., a global infrastructure engineering firm with extensive treatment facility experience, to assist with the planning and construction of the Roemer expansion project. GHD Inc. will analyze existing facilities, evaluate expansion plans for feasibility and cost-effectiveness and assist in the selection of a design-build firm. … ”  Read more from the Highland Community News here: West Valley Water District announces facility expansion project

Radiation releases from San Onofre into Pacific Ocean: Reason for health concerns?

For more than 50 years, wastewater with traces of radioactivity has been regularly released into the ocean a mile offshore from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.  These “liquid batch releases” are regulated by, and reported to, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and details are available in NRC records. But those records are a bit inscrutable to folks without engineering degrees.  Recently, however, operator Southern California Edison — after requests from the Surfrider Foundation and others seeking greater transparency as the shuttered plant is torn down — began publishing advance notice of batch releases on its website. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Radiation releases from San Onofre into Pacific Ocean: Reason for health concerns?

Local congressional delegation introduce border water restoration act in House

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and other local Congress members introduced the Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act of 2020 Friday to address pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and improve the water quality of both the Tijuana and New rivers.  Reps. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Raul Ruiz, D-Coachella, and Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, co-authored the bill, a House companion bill to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, D-California, Senate legislation introduced on July 29.  Both bills will designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency to coordinate all federal, state and local agencies to plan and construct infrastructure projects to help combat pollution along the border. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: Local congressional delegation introduce border water restoration act in House

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In commentary this weekend …

Klamath dam deal is in peril, but hope remains, says the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Four dams on the Klamath River along the California-Oregon border were going to be removed. All sides had agreed to the deal — the dams’ owners, Indigenous tribes, farmers, communities, everybody with a stake. Leave it to federal regulators to muck everything up. Now the deal is in jeopardy, and all sides should return to the negotiating table to salvage it.  In 2016, all sides signed onto a plan to remove the dams. Competing interests gave way to compromise. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Klamath dam deal is in peril, but hope remains

PacifiCorp must accept responsibility for removing its dams, says Bruce Shoemaker

He writes, “We don’t expect Warren Buffett to keep tabs on the inner workings of all the companies he owns. But he needs to know what is going on right now with one of them: Portland-based PacifiCorp. That’s because Buffett and PacifiCorp have an opportunity to simultaneously do something extraordinary for one of the great rivers of the West while making a very prudent financial decision for ratepayers and shareholders. … ”  Read more from the Mail Tribune here: PacificCorp must accept responsibility for removing its dams

Dennis Wyatt: The LA sequel to Owens Valley: The Tunnel to destroy Northern SJ Valley

He writes, ” … Before Los Angeles got is claws into Owens Valley to divert snowmelt and draw down the high desert water tables to essentially bleed Eastern California and stunt its economic growth all so the City of Angels could prosper beyond the means of its water basin, the gorge carried water tapped into by farmers and ranchers working the land.  That was in the 1920s. Three decades later LA decided it needed more cheap power to fuel its growth. So they built Long Valley Dam at the head of the gorge. That led to the river running dry before it reached the lower gorge for a 38-year period desecrating a unique riparian ecological system. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: The LA sequel to Owens Valley: The Tunnel to destroy Northern SJ Valley

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Along the Colorado River …

A fact-based analysis reveals holes in the Lake Powell Pipeline plan, says Andrew Kramer

He writes, “If constructed, the proposed 140-mile Lake Powell Pipeline would be a multi-billion dollar project, one of the most expensive in state history. As water users and taxpayers required to pay for this mammoth project, we deserve complete, dependable information and accurate cost data including well-reasoned analysis that demonstrates the need and economic viability of the pipeline. Instead, studies by the Utah Division of Water Resources (DWR) and the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) are biased, incomplete and do not fairly consider feasible, much less costly alternatives. … ”  Read more from the St. George Spectrum here: A fact-based analysis reveals holes in the Lake Powell Pipeline plan

For first time in 8 years, 100% of Colorado is under drought or abnormally dry conditions

Hot and dry conditions are hammering Colorado, intensifying a 20-year shift toward aridity.  On Thursday, federal officials designated 100% of the state abnormally dry or in drought for the first time in eight years — “extreme” or “severe” in many areas — consistent with a broader transformation of the Southwest amid climate warming.  A combination in Colorado of paltry spring snow, warmer temperatures that triggered earlier melting of winter mountain snowpack, feeble rain through summer, and parched soil from previous dry years led to this formal label. … ”  Read more from the Denver Post here:  For first time in 8 years, 100% of Colorado is under drought or abnormally dry conditions

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In people news this weekend …

Water policy expert Felicia Marcus joins Stanford

The Program on Water in the West (WitW) at Stanford University is pleased to announce that Felicia Marcus, a preeminent water policy expert and the previous chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, is joining the program as this year’s William C. Landreth Visiting Fellow. Deemed “California’s Water Czar” by The New York Times for her leadership role during the state’s historic drought, Marcus offers over 35 years of water expertise in organizational management, policy development, program implementation and public engagement at the federal, state and local level.  … ”  Read more from Water in the West here:  Water policy expert Felicia Marcus joins Stanford

Tiffany Baca receives 2020 Communicator of the Year Award

The California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) is pleased to announce that Tiffany Baca, Public Affairs Manager for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, has been honored as the 2020 Communicator of the Year Award.  This award recognizes an individual who, in the judgment of the CAPIO Awards Committee and Board of Directors, demonstrates exceptional abilities, skills, and talents in leading their organization to greater and more successful communications and public engagement. … ”  Continue reading from CAPIO here: Tiffany Baca receives 2020 Communicator of the Year Award

City of Santa Clarita Communications Team selected as the 2020 Crisis Communications Leader

The City of Santa Clarita Communications Team was selected as the 2020 Crisis Communications Leader by the California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) in recognition of superior efforts during 24 days in the fall of 2019 where the team helped residents navigate the darkest days in Santa Clarita’s recent history.  Going from the highs of the annual State of the City celebration, to the fear and destruction of the Tick Fire, to the terror and unimaginable grief of the Saugus High School Shooting, to the hope, love and community unity of the Saugus Strong Vigil, the Santa Clarita Communications division not only provided valuable information, but became a source of trust and comfort for a distressed community. … ”  Read more from CAPIO here:  City of Santa Clarita Communications Team selected as the 2020 Crisis Communications Leader

Sierra Nevada Research Institution sees a leadership transition

Change is everywhere at UC Merced this year, from hiring a new chancellor to the completion of a major campus expansion. The Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI), an early hallmark of research excellence at UC Merced, is also making a change: After a 13-year tenure, Faculty Director Professor Roger Bales has stepped down and Professor Tom Harmon is taking the reins.  Both Harmon and Bales are founding faculty members who joined UC Merced in 2003, just as the campus was being built. They both research a variety of topics related to hydrology, climate change and sustainability. Harmon has spent much of his time working in and around soils, groundwater wells and rivers, while Bales focuses on the Sierra Nevada headwaters, forest management and water resources. ... ”  Read more from UC Merced here:  Sierra Nevada Research Institution sees a leadership transition

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Podcasts …

TED Radio hour: Our relationship with water

We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water — water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water.”

Listen to the show at NPR here: Our relationship with water


The Great Dust Bowl

Steve Baker writes, “Life is so busy that the importance of water in our lives can be hidden. Unfortunately, it is when water becomes scarce that we recognize how important water really is. A close friend of mine, Marcella Hart knows. She was five years old during the dust bowl when her family had to leave Oklahoma. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.” Podcasts here Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co


THE ECONEWS REPORT: Round-up Show! Billboards, Birdwatching and the Trump Administration’s Attack on Federal Environmental Laws

This week’s show is a lightning round on various environmental developments around the region and the world: New developments on Eel River dam removal, the NEC’s “Trashathon,” socially distanced ways to experience nature in groups, billboards and more!

Click here to listen to this podcast at the Lost Coast Outpost.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

Featured image creditBolinas Lagoon by David Abercrombie

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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