DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: DFW drone program provides a bird’s eye view for scientists; Harder, Feinstein collaborate to keep snowpack readings accurate; Supreme Court lets stand decision upholding Delta Council’s authority; American River forest project before and after thinning; and more …
Department of Fish and Wildlife drone program provides a bird’s eye view for environmental scientists
“In March 2019, there was late winter flooding at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County near Davis. Wildlife area supervisor Joe Hobbs wanted to check a series of old railroad trestle mounds to make sure there was no wildlife stranded there. In previous years when there had been flooding, staff went out on a boat to check the trestle mounds. But that approach had downsides: From a boat, it could be difficult to see exactly what was on the mounds, and the sound of the boat’s motor could potentially spook the animals. Hobbs saw an opportunity to utilize the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) drone program, a service offered by CDFW’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Unit within the Biogeographic Data Branch. He submitted a project request which was ultimately granted. … ” Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: Department of Fish and Wildlife drone program provides a bird’s eye view for environmental scientists
Harder, Feinstein collaborate to keep snowpack readings accurate
“A correct analysis of the state’s water supply is always important, but especially during drought years. A new bill introduced by Rep. Josh Harder and Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday hopes to improve the state’s water management by establishing an airborne snowpack observation program. The Snow Water Forecasting Program Authorization Act would create an airborne snow observatory and measurement program within the Department of the Interior — a necessity given a previous program run by NASA is no longer in operation, leaving water managers without the public information they need to make informed decisions about their water supplies. … ” Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Harder, Feinstein collaborate to keep snowpack readings accurate
Click here to read press release from Senator Feinstein's office.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala D. Harris and Representative Josh Harder (all D-Calif.) introduced the Snow Water Supply Forecasting Program Authorization Act to establish an airborne snow observatory (ASO) and measurement program within the Department of the Interior. Without accurate readings, water managers could be forced to unnecessarily release water from reservoirs or use it for groundwater pumping, resulting in millions of dollars in financial losses.
“Smarter water management in California starts with more precise readings of our mountain snowpack,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our bill will ensure the federal government continues investing in proven snowpack measurement methods like the airborne snow observatory. This will help improve water conservation, supply and delivery forecasts across the Western United States.”
“Many of our rivers are born in the mountains – without accurate snowpack readings, we end up wasting our most precious resource – water – as well as millions of dollars in public funds,” said Representative Harder. “Creating a unified central program to get our water users the info they need is good for our farmers, good for conservation practices, and will end up saving a ton of money in the long-run.”
Last December, NASA ended its ASO program that measured snowpack depth and water content using an airplane-mounted light detection instrument, commonly known as LiDAR, coupled with an imaging spectrometer. This bill would replace the NASA program with a new program at the Department of the Interior to improve the understanding, management and deployment of snowpack measurement technologies used for seasonal water forecasting. It would also provide a total of $15 million in funding for fiscal years 2022 to 2026.
Conventional survey techniques can only achieve 50 to 90 percent accuracy when measuring snow runoff. The ASO technology developed by NASA can perform more precise measurements, increasing the accuracy to within 96 to 99 percent when paired with conventional techniques. More precise measurements allow water managers to make better determinations on water allocations – using more water when it’s available and conserving water when it’s not.
In addition to Representative Harder, the House version is cosponsored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), TJ Cox (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.).
The bill is supported by water associations and districts across California, including the Association of California Water Agencies, Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District, South Valley Water Association, Friant Water Authority, Family Farm Alliance, Kings River Conservation District, San Juan Water District, City of Folsom and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
“The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) applauds the introduction of the Snow Water Supply Forecasting Program Authorization Act by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Josh Harder. One of ACWA’s highest priorities is strategic water management through the use of improved technologies. This legislation provides water managers with new snowpack measurement technologies that can assist in increasing water supplies, improving water management efficiencies, and enhancing flood control measures,” said Dave Eggerton, executive director of ACWA.
“I want to thank Senator Feinstein and Congressman Harder for working with TID over the last year to introduce this important legislation,” said Dr. Rob Santos, president of the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors. “Our water resources are far too valuable to rely on the inconsistent 75 year-old technology in modeling snowmelt and forecasted runoff to optimize the management of our water storage reservoirs. TID is proud to be one of the first water managers in the country to put this cutting-edge technology to use. This bill will build on the great technological advances of the last decade and ensure that the Federal government continues to play an active role in expanding the adoption of these technologies.”
“We applaud Senator Feinstein and Congressman Harder for their forward thinking and dedication to advancing water management in California. Together with our Tuolumne River watershed partners, MID has had proven success in utilizing this science-based, data-driven forecasting technology,” said Paul Campbell, board president of the Modesto Irrigation District. “This bill ensures that we will continue to have the very best tools and technologies to enhance our water modeling and management and without a doubt, help us navigate California’s dynamic weather patterns.”
“As one of the original funding partners for the ASO program, the South Valley Water Association sincerely appreciates Senator Feinstein and Congressman Harder for the Snow Water Supply Forecasting Program Authorization Act, which would ensure continued federal support for the ASO program.” said Dan Vink, executive director of the South Valley Water Association. “This critical legislation will ensure that the Bureau of Reclamation has the tools it needs to precisely measure snowpack in the Upper San Joaquin watershed, which will benefit flood control, water supply and the environment in the San Joaquin Valley.”
“Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) technology generates data that greatly improves our ability to estimate water supply and runoff in the Western United States,” said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance. “This bill establishes a program within the Department of the Interior that will help improve the understanding, management, and deployment of snowpack measurement technologies and seasonal water forecasting in order to increase the accuracy of runoff models. We appreciate and want to thank Congressman Harder and Sen. Feinstein for their leadership on this issue, and we’re hopeful that this legislation will allow for continued ASO application in California and the expansion of ASO technology application throughout the West.”
“In California, we’re finding that the conventional methods of measuring snowpack can, in some years, result in estimates that can be ‘off’ by 40%-60%,” said Jason Phillips, CEO of Friant Water Authority. “As demand for water supplies to meet human and environmental needs increases throughout the West, we can no longer afford these costly errors. ASO is proven technology that reduces the “guesswork” of water supply forecasting so that water managers can make decisions that maximize the
“This bill will continue to advance the important role of forecasting hydrology, which directly leads to more informed planning and better management of our water supplies for people and the environment,” said David J. Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association.
ICYMI: Supreme Court lets stand decision upholding Delta Stewardship Council’s authority for sustainable management of the Delta
“The California Supreme Court Wednesday (April 12) denied the petition for review and request for de-publication made by the State Water Contractors in response to an April 10, 2020, Third District Court of Appeal decision. As a result, the appellate decision, which upheld the central role of the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water management and land use planning, remains intact and is governing law. The Appellate Court decision had sided with the Council on all remaining issues from a suite of 2013 lawsuits that challenged the Council’s Delta Plan, its long-term sustainable management plan for the Delta. By declining to hear the petition for review, the Supreme Court put an end to this fight over the scope of the Council’s authority and the validity of its Delta Plan.
Click here to continue reading this press release from the Delta Stewardship Council.
“We appreciate the validation of the Council’s authority to achieve the state’s coequal goals for the Delta, measure progress appropriately, reduce reliance on the Delta for water supply, and improve habitat and water supply reliability,” said Council Chair Susan Tatayon.
“After a seven-year court battle, I am pleased that the Delta Plan is firmly in effect, and the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court acknowledged the broad discretion the Delta Reform Act confers to the Council,” said Council Executive Officer Jessica Pearson.
Immediately after the Plan was adopted, 26 parties – local agencies, organizations, and individuals – filed seven lawsuits in three counties – later consolidated – arguing that some of the policies and regulations in the Delta Plan were in conflict with the 2009 Delta Reform Act.
In 2016, the trial court sided with the Council on almost all points, but invalidated the Plan because, the Court said, it lacked legally enforceable, quantifiable targets for certain objectives and inadequately “promoted” options to improve the way water projects move water across the Delta.
The Council and other parties appealed, which placed the decision to invalidate the Plan on hold pending the April 10, 2020 appellate court ruling, and in the intervening years the Council proceeded both to implement and amend the Plan. The Appellate Court ruling found specifically that the Council’s regulatory policies align with the Council’s authority under the Delta Reform Act, and that the Council has discretion to determine whether performance measures should be regulatory. It also found that the Council’s alleged failure to promote conveyance options and to have sufficiently specific performance measures were both moot because of subsequent amendments to the Delta Plan.
The trial court had earlier upheld all other portions of the Delta Plan, and the Appellate Court affirmed those decisions. The Appellate Court held that the Council’s appeal procedures are valid and that the Delta Plan was based on the best available science. It rejected an argument that the Council could not enforce the state’s policy of reduced reliance on the Delta.
Developed to achieve the state’s coequal goals of a reliable statewide water supply and a protected, restored Delta ecosystem in a manner that preserves the values of the Delta as a place, the Delta Plan now includes 14 regulatory policies and 95 recommendations. Collectively, these policies and recommendations address current and predicted challenges related to flood management, land use, water quality, water supply reliability, and the Delta’s ecosystems.
Created in 2009, the Council has a central role in guiding and managing the long-term sustainability of the Delta that goes beyond ensuring regulatory compliance with the Delta Plan regulations. This includes directing actions across state, federal, and local agencies that support the coequal goals and promote a shared body of transparent science upon which to base decisions.
Legal Briefs and analysis
Legal brief: Municipal water rates are protected from referendum challenges
“The California Supreme Court ruled that water rates and other local utility charges are considered “taxes” for the purpose of California Constitution Article II, Section 9 and therefore exempt from the referendum process. Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir, No. S252915 (Cal. Supr. Ct., August 2, 2020). The City of Dunsmuir adopted new water rates to finance the replacement of the City’s aging water storage tank and water mains. Plaintiff attempted to challenge the rates using multiple strategies, including submitting a referendum petition. … ” Read more from Perkins Cole here: Legal brief: Municipal water rates are protected from referendum challenges
PFAS issues in California compounded by Colorado’s PFAS proliferation
” … In Colorado, attention is increasing regarding the presence of PFAS in the Colorado River. Hundreds of streams and waterways feed into the river from all over the state. In Colorado, there are six military bases, five of them Air Force bases. At many of the bases, PFAS-containing aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) were used for decades to suppress fires and to conduct drills simulating putting out fires on the base or aircraft. Over time, the PFAS leached through the ground and into local waterways, which eventually found their way to the Colorado River. One target of the PFAS concerns in Colorado was Peterson Air Force Base, for which the federal government paid nearly $50 million in cleanup efforts in the neighboring area. However, none of the cleanup involved downstream waterways or the Colorado River. … ” Read more from the National Law Review here: PFAS issues in California compounded by Colorado’s PFAS proliferation
Don’t go in the water: dangerous algal blooms at Iron Gate, Copco reservoirs
“It’s going to get hot this weekend, and people will be looking for somewhere to cool off. But don’t jump in Iron Gate or Copco – the state is warning people not to come in contact with water in either reservoir because of dangerous algal blooms. A Harmful Algal Bloom (better known as HAB) Danger Advisory from the California Water Resources Control Board says to stay out of the water, and not to touch scum in the water or on the shore. Pets shouldn’t be allowed in the water, to drink the water or eat the scum. … ” Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Don’t go in the water: dangerous algal blooms at Iron Gate, Copco reservoirs
PG&E cancels upcoming whitewater flows in Feather River, citing coronavirus pandemic
“Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced it will no longer be conducting higher water flows for whitewater recreation on the Feather River during the weekend of Aug. 22-23, saying in a press release the cancellation came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a typical year, PG&E conducts three or four whitewater flows for recreational purposes on the Rock Creek Reach, an 8.3-mile stretch on the north fork of the Feather River between PG&E’s Rock Creek dam and the Rock Creek powerhouse. … ” Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: PG&E cancels upcoming whitewater flows in Feather River, citing coronavirus pandemic
Researchers plan to turn invasive species into dog treats to help Lake Tahoe’s clarity
“The key to controlling the numbers of Lake Tahoe’s invasive Mysis shrimp, which have been linked to a decline in clarity, might be as simple as rewarding the family dog with a treat. Researchers and a team of students from the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management have identified the shrimp as an ingredient for high-end dog treats and are currently in the early phases of developing an initial product. “What we have here in the Mysis is a potential opportunity to create a dog treat that is not only exceptionally high in EPA and DHA omega-3s but also lower calorie, relatively, than anything else comparable on the market,’ said Yuan Cheng, a second-year M.B.A. student, who is leading the project. “That’s a potential winner right here.” … ” Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Researchers plan to turn invasive species into dog treats to help Lake Tahoe’s clarity
American River forest project before and after thinning
“This is the way forests are said to have looked previously in California, prior to changes in woodlands firefighting strategies. These pictures show the same place at the headwaters of the American River, prior to thinning and after thinning. These trees will be more resilient to pests, drought, and wildfire, says CAL FIRE. … ” Read more from Action News Now here: American River forest project before and after thinning
Sea level rise a major threat to San Francisco
“Sea levels on the California coast could rise as much as seven feet by 2100 and put tens of thousands of vulnerable San Franciscans at risk of daily flooding, according to a new report from the California State Legislative Analyst’s office. The Aug. 10 report, which summarizes the impact rising sea levels would have on California residents, businesses, and infrastructure, acknowledges that it is difficult to focus on mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change as officials scramble to respond to immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. But the report urges state and local officials to treat sea level rise with a similar sense of urgency. … ” Read more from San Francisco Weekly here: Sea level rise a major threat to San Francisco
50K gallons of raw sewage spilled into Oakland Estuary after power outage affects EBMUD wastewater plant
“Boaters are being warned to stay away from the Oakland Estuary on Saturday, after an estimated 50,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled during a power outage Friday night at the East Bay Municipal Utility District wastewater treatment plant in West Oakland. Signs were posted along the estuary on Saturday morning about the spill and EBMUD was reaching out to rowing clubs and others who frequently use the strait between Oakland and Alameda. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: 50K gallons of raw sewage spilled into Oakland Estuary after power outage affects EBMUD wastewater plant
Old aircraft taxiway in Alameda to be converted to wetlands park
“A stretch of concrete and asphalt that was once an aircraft taxiway will be removed so the site along San Francisco Bay can be converted to a wetlands park, according to a proposal the city is considering. To be called, De-Pave, the park would be located along the western edge of Seaplane Lagoon at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. It’ll feature walking paths and overlooks, where people can watch birds and, eventually, harbor seals resting on floating platforms. “It will give the people of Alameda a place to learn about nature away from the urban bustle,” said Linda Carloni, who sits on the board of the Golden Gate Audobon Society. … ” Read more from the East Bay Times here: Old aircraft taxiway in Alameda to be converted to wetlands park
Valley Water to rescue, relocate threatened steelhead in Coyote Creek ahead of Anderson Reservoir drawdown
“Valley Water biologists will be rescuing federally threatened Central California Coast Steelhead and other sensitive fish from Coyote Creek next week and relocating them to a more suitable environment in the Coyote watershed. Valley Water will capture as many Central California Coast Steelhead, Sacramento blackfish and Pacific lamprey from Coyote Creek as possible before the drawdown of Anderson Reservoir begins on Oct. 1. Two teams of Valley Water biologists are participating in the weeklong rescue and relocation effort, which starts Aug. 17. … ” Read more from Valley Water here: Valley Water to rescue, relocate threatened steelhead in Coyote Creek ahead of Anderson Reservoir drawdown
Monterey: Setbacks and opportunities
“As Central Coast residents mitigate the threat of COVID-19, a cadre of local scientists working on marine mammal research has been undeterred in their quest. And the U.S. government has taken a liking to their efforts to find out more. But COVID has shuttered a lot of research possibilities as well as the labs in which those scientists need to do their work. … Even so, there are a few new unique scientific research opportunities that have opened up now that humankind’s influence on the world has been muted. … ” Read more from Voices of Monterey here: Monterey: Setbacks and opportunities
Are you on a private well in the Central San Joaquin Valley? We need to hear from you
“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: Are you on a private well in the Central San Joaquin Valley? We need to hear from you
EPA reaches $56.6M settlement for groundwater cleanup throughout LA County
“Federal officials announced on Friday that more funds have been devoted to the further cleanup of contaminated groundwater throughout Los Angeles. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies have reached a $56.6 million settlement to assist in cleanup at the Dual Site Groundwater Operable Unit of the Montrose Chemical Corp. and Del Amo superfund sites. … ” Read more from KTLA here: EPA reaches $56.6M settlement for groundwater cleanup throughout LA County
San Diego County Water Authority awarded $44.4 million in long-running dispute with LA agency
“A judge has awarded the San Diego County Water Authority $44.4 million in a final judgment of two lawsuits over rates paid to transport water supplies from 2011 to 2014. The award, announced Friday, included $28.7 million in damages and interest to be paid by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which controls the transport of water from the Colorado River. The Water Authority had worked for more than a decade to resolve the dispute, which concerned San Diego’s independent supply of water from the river that was carried by Metropolitan Water’s aqueducts and pipelines. … ” Read more from the Times of San Diego here: San Diego County Water Authority awarded $44.4 million in long-running dispute with LA agency
‘The pie keeps shrinking’: Lake Mead’s low level will trigger water cutbacks for Arizona, Nevada
“Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will again receive less water from the Colorado River next year under a set of agreements intended to help boost the level of Lake Mead, which now stands at just 40% of its full capacity. The federal Bureau of Reclamation released projections on Friday showing that Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, will be at levels next year that continue to trigger moderate cutbacks in the two U.S. states and Mexico. Those reductions could eventually increase in the next few years if Lake Mead drops further. The estimates show the reservoir near Las Vegas will likely begin 2021 about 10 feet above a level that would trigger larger cuts. … ” Read more from Arizona Central here: ‘The pie keeps shrinking’: Lake Mead’s low level will trigger water cutbacks for Arizona, Nevada
New border wall near unique wetlands endangered water supply
“The agency in charge of building the border wall received repeated warnings: tap water from nearby wells, and the unique wetlands of southeastern Arizona — yes, Arizona — home to a variety of wildlife and endangered fish will go dry. Immigration officials didn’t head those warnings. Then, several ponds at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge found themselves without water or with an extremely low supply, according to documents obtained by two different environmental groups. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency in charge of the refuge, said in a statement on Thursday that ponds “remain intact and the refuge continues to manage for endangered fish and wildlife.” … ” Read more from the AP here: New border wall near unique wetlands endangered water supply
“Cynthia Koehler, vice president of Marin Water’s Board of Directors, has been appointed to serve on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Financial Advisory Board. Koehler was one of 33 appointees selected nationwide. The Mill Valley resident is an environmental attorney and water policy expert who has represented Southern Marin on the Marin Water Board since 2005. “Director Koehler is an excellent choice to serve on this advisory board,” said Jack Gibson, president of Marin Water’s Board of Directors. “She has been a leader on the issue of the affordability of water and water use efficiency measures on Marin Water’s Board, and I am confident that she will be an asset to the Environmental Financial Advisory Board and provide an important perspective.” ... ” Read more from The Patch here: Cynthia Koehler appointed to EPA Advisory Board
Jenny Bertagna Holtermann named Executive Director of the Water Association of Kern County
“The Water Association of Kern County Board of Directors has named Jenny Bertagna Holtermann as the new executive director. Holtermann will replace Beth Pandol, who is retiring after 10 years leading the association. Holtermann, a fourth generation California farmer and graduate of California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, has been a blogger, freelance writer and social media advocate as well as sales/grower relations specialist for several agricultural firms in the San Joaquin Valley including SunWorld International and Bayer Crop Science Vegetable Seed. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: Jenny Bertagna Holtermann named Executive Director of the Water Association of Kern County
Erin Brockovich wants to know what you’re drinking
“Twenty years ago, ‘Erin Brockovich‘ was released, and the brash, unvarnished legal assistant turned activist at the heart of the film—memorably portrayed by Julia Roberts in micro-miniskirts and vertiginous high heels—had the surreal experience of becoming a household name almost overnight. “Let me be the first to tell you that life takes an interesting turn when your name becomes a verb,” the real Erin Brockovich writes in the introduction to her new book, Superman’s Not Coming. “To ‘Erin Brockovich something’ has become synonymous with investigating and then advocating for a cause without giving up.” … ” Read more at The Atlantic here: Erin Brockovich wants to know what you’re drinking
Steve Baker writes, “My adventures as a kid are worth remembering and I give water the highest score on the early mornings of summer. Why, when I was a kid, did dew only show up in the morning? 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
Reps. Jim Costa, T.J. Cox and Josh Harder: Delivering dollars for Central Valley water
“Water is the lifeblood of our region and there are immense challenges to providing and maintaining a reliable and resilient water supply for both farms and communities in the Central Valley. As your congressional representatives, we’ve been working together to bring resources back home to address our collective needs. Recently, the House of Representatives passed legislation as part of the annual funding process that would provide over $390 million for water projects, including what would be the largest federal investment in water conveyance infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley in 50 years. … ” Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Delivering dollars for Central Valley water
Thomas Elias: Trump’s ‘war’ on California spreads; legality in doubt
“President Trump’s more than three-year administrative war on California has now morphed beyond his many attempts to exact revenge upon this state, which provided the margin by which he lost the popular vote in 2016, when the Electoral College made him America’s second minority president out of the last three. Not that Trump’s moves against California are trivial: He’s attempted to stop the Golden State’s long-running battle against smog, he’s tried end runs around clean water laws, he’s attempted to end sanctuary city laws passed by many cities, and much more. … ” Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Thomas Elias: Trump’s ‘war’ on California spreads; legality in doubt
Michigan drone plunged to watery death in eagle attack
“Announcing a setback of humankind’s efforts to rule the skies, Michigan officials announced Thursday that a bald eagle has sunk a state drone to the bottom of Lake Michigan. The attack occurred on July 21 as a state environmental quality analyst was using a Phantom 4 Pro Advanced drone to map shoreline erosion around the lake, part of an effort to document and help communities cope with high water levels. … In the 3.5 seconds that it took to spiral to the water, the drone sent 27 warning notifications, one of which noted that the eagle had relieved it of its propeller. … ” Continue reading at the Courthouse News Service here: Michigan drone plunged to watery death in eagle attack
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.