DAILY DIGEST, 8/20: State Water Board and conservationists sue FERC over Clean Water Act waivers; The winners and losers with Klamath Dams removal; CA still hasn’t found analyst to study Salton Sea water import proposals; Water contaminant could have neurotoxic effects on children; and more …
ONLINE MEETING: Residential Landscape Area Measurement Study 3rd Quarter Technical Work Group from 9am to 12pm. DWR will present the validation results for completed classification of residential landscapes. The meeting will be an online format. Click here to register.
State Water Board and conservationists sue the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over Yuba and Bear River waivers of Clean Water Act Protections
“The State Water Board and environmental conservationists have filed lawsuits against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals to protect the Yuba and Bear River watersheds. Recent decisions by FERC and parallel rollbacks by the Trump Administration have crippled the Clean Water Act in a way that would allow a series of hydropower dams on the Yuba and Bear rivers to avoid California’s environmental laws protecting our water, our lands and our community for the next 30 to 50 years. “The Yuba River Watershed is the first in line to be sacrificed,” stated Melinda Booth, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL). “It is inappropriate for a federal agency to gut our State’s ability to protect our watershed. Our community can’t stand by without speaking up.” …
Click here to continue reading this press release from Friends of the River, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and the South Yuba River Citizens League.
Clean Water Act section 401 reserves the state’s authority to condition a federal hydropower license to meet state water quality standards. However, a recent ruling by FERC found that California lost its authority to issue a water quality certification for the Yuba-Bear hydropower project on the Yuba and Bear Rivers.
SYRCL, Friends of the River (FOR), California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), Sierra Club and its Mother Lode Chapter have filed suit seeking to overturn the Commission’s waiver of certification on the Yuba-Bear Project and to instead protect the State’s authority to require the project operator Nevada Irrigation District (NID) to obey state environmental regulations.
NID’s Yuba-Bear Project is part of one of the oldest and most complex hydropower systems in the state. That system contains thirteen main dams, four powerhouses and four major conduits. The current FERC license for the Yuba-Bear Project is more than 50 years old and pre-dates the enactment of modern environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
“The laws may seem complicated, but the principles are simple,” stated Chris Shutes, CSPA’s FERC Projects Director. “After NID applied for a state permit, it refused to provide the information the State needed to issue the permit. Then, NID asked FERC to take away the State’s authority to issue the permit because the State supposedly took too long. NID and FERC have effectively assigned the consequences of NID’s failures to the State and the public while NID will benefit from less-stringent regulation for the next 30 to 50 years.”
FERC’s decision on Yuba-Bear would have damaging impacts on the Yuba and Bear river watersheds and lasting impacts for Clean Water Act enforcement statewide.
CSPA, SYRCL and other environmental partners have consistently opposed numerous similar waivers of certification before the Commission for the past year, to no avail. It is now up to the 9th Circuit Court to vacate FERC’s waiver of the Clean Water Act and allow the inclusion of the Water Board’s 401 certification in the final hydropower license.
“Hydropower operations need to be conditioned to protect fish, frogs, plants and water quality. Safeguarding our bedrock environmental laws for the health of our impacted waterways is more important now than ever before,” stated Ron Stork, Senior Policy Advisor with Friends of the River. “Our legal challenge is necessary to ensure that California is able to protect its precious waterways.”
The winners, the losers, and the landscape that might emerge if the Klamath River dams disappear
“The dams’ formal name is the Lower Klamath Hydroelectric Project, but locals call them the Klamath dams — four aging structures straddling the California-Oregon border. By any name, they have been a rallying point for environmentalists, Native groups, and conservation-minded legislators who see the dams’ elimination as a landmark for the environmental restoration movement. It would be the largest project of its kind in the United States. The Klamath complex consists of four hydroelectric dams, ranging from 38 to 173 feet in height. They were built between 1922 and 1964 to limit flooding and generate hydroelectric power, and still provide electricity to about 70,000 people. In the early 2000s, facing steep renovation costs to bring the dams up to federal code, their operator, PacifiCorp, announced that it would abandon the relicensing process and pursue removal instead. … ” Read more from Stanford’s & the West here: The winners, the losers, and the landscape that might emerge if the Klamath River dams disappear
California still hasn’t found analyst to study Salton Sea water import proposals it asked for
“Long-term fixes for the ever-shrinking Salton Sea remain stalled as California Natural Resources Agency officials on Wednesday revealed they have been unable to find an analyst to study proposed solutions to a nearly two decades-old problem. Eleven different plans, submitted in 2018, suggested methods of importing water from the Sea of Cortez or the Pacific Ocean to decrease salinity and reverse water losses at the Salton Sea, which have exposed a toxic playa laced with pesticides and other pollutants. Although some researchers who study the lake write off the plans as financial and logistical pipe dreams, CNRA still needs to study them as part of the process to determine a long-term solution. … ” Read more from the Desert Sun here: California still hasn’t found analyst to study Salton Sea water import proposals it asked for
Water contaminant could have neurotoxic effects on children
“Manganese isn’t considered a major water contaminant in America, but a new study is taking a closer look at whether it should be. A naturally occurring metal, manganese can be found in water supplies throughout the world. Over time, excessive ingestion of manganese can produce cognitive disabilities in children and symptoms similar to those associated with Parkinson’s Disease in adults. … ” Read more from UC Riverside here: Water contaminant could have neurotoxic effects on children
California is battling 367 known fires | State blanketed in smoke and fire
“Wildfires, started by lightning and stoked by a searing heatwave, combined with fierce winds, have been moving quickly, overwhelming the state’s firefighters and first responders. Governor Gavin Newsom reported at a press conference yesterday, Wednesday, August 19th, that the state is currently battling 367 known fires. “We are challenged right now,” the governor said. The state was struck by lightning 10,849 times over the course of 72 hours, he said. … ” Read more from the Sierra Wave here: California is battling 367 known fires | State blanketed in smoke and fire
North Coast: The survival of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead this summer is dependent upon adequate stream flows
“Coastal streams in Northern California are experiencing extreme low flows this summer with most stream flows at or below those of the 2012-2016 drought. The survival of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead this summer is dependent upon adequate stream flows to provide necessary food and maintain survivable temperature and oxygen levels in pools. Due to the extremely low flows this summer, every week is critical to the survival of these threatened and endangered fish. … ” Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here: The survival of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead this summer is dependent upon adequate stream flows
Grand Jury reports say closure of Sonoma Development Center’s water system may have been a mistake
“When the state shut down the Sonoma Developmental Center an unintended consequence was putting the Sonoma Valley in danger of not having enough water during an emergency, recent Grand Jury reports concluded. “It was really foolish to shut down the most sustainable large resource of water for the Valley,” said Matt Fullner, interim general manager for Valley of the Moon Water District (VOMWD), of the closure of the SDC’s water system. The Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury wrote two related reports – “Water for a Changing Future” and “Emergency Water Shortages in Sonoma Valley” — that were released earlier this month. … ” Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune here: Grand Jury reports say closure of Sonoma Development Center’s water system may have been a mistake
Coliform bacteria shuts down water in Tulare County’s main Visalia offices
“The Tulare County Civic Center is on a boil-water notice after a bacteria that commonly lives in human feces was discovered in the county’s wells. Officials discovered coliform bacteria during a routine test of wells that serve the Tulare County Superior Court, the Main Jail, Human Resources & Development, General Services Agency (GSA), County Counsel, the Board of Supervisors and the County Administrative Office. The California Water Service does not supply water to county offices and its customers are not affected by the notice, a representative of the utility said. … ” Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: Coliform bacteria shuts down water in Tulare County’s main Visalia offices
Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike
“‘The “Save Searles” campaign was launched Tuesday, just three days before the IWV Groundwater Authority’s virtual public hearing intended to either approve or shoot down the controversial new replenishment fee. The replenishment fee would increase water costs for Searles Valley Minerals by nearly $6 million a year, “pushing the company and the local community towards extinction,” according to the campaign’s announcement. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike
Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply
“Although 2020 has presented many challenges, Carpinteria Valley Water District (CVWD) staff are working hard to keep making progress on many important matters while social distancing. The development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has begun and will help to ensure that we can manage the Carpinteria Groundwater Basin (CGB) sustainably, which is an important shared resource for the Carpinteria Valley. … ” Read more from the Coast News here: Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply
San Diego County website helps residents protect watershed
“Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs. But rainfall turns into an unwelcome problem when it enters the storm drain system. After the first heavy rain in several months, stormwater runoff gathers pollutants building up on surfaces like rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks, and streets. This polluted water gets carried into street drains that dump out directly into the Pacific Ocean. Pollutants harm waterways and affect sea animals, plants, and the people who surf, swim, or dive in the ocean. Residents may be contributing to this problem between rainstorms without realizing it. Your yard drainage system including French drains, weeping tiles, and sub-surface drains should not be used for non-stormwater water runoff. They are intended only to prevent flooding by diverting rainwater from your property to the road or street. … ” Read more from the Water News Network here: San Diego County website helps residents protect watershed
Utah pipeline plan an affront to Nevada, says Tick Segerblom, Clark County Supervisor
He writes, “Nevada and Utah share more than borders. We share the coveted and much-fought-over Colorado River. But it seems as if only one state — Nevada — is doing the difficult work to protect our most valuable resource during a time where temperatures are warming, climates are changing and demand is growing for more water in the Southwest. … ” Read more from the Boulder City Review here: Utah pipeline plan an affront to Nevada
The Grizzly Creek fire is threatening the Colorado River and water for the entire West
“White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams was driving home from vacation on Aug. 10 when he glanced up and saw the plumes billowing out of Glenwood Canyon and knew a historic wildfire was coming. It wasn’t just that the flames licking up the craggy canyon walls were threatening homes, a railroad, a major highway and a power plant. It’s that the now 25,000-acre-and-growing Grizzly Creek Fire was burning in the municipal water supply of Glenwood Springs and in the headwaters of the Colorado River watershed, which eventually slakes more than 40 million downstream users. … ” Read more from the Colorado Sun here: The Grizzly Creek fire is threatening the Colorado River and water for the entire West
Grizzly Creek Fire could impact Glenwood Canyon, Colorado River long after it’s contained, experts say
“Colorado officials have called the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon a national priority — not only does the wildfire continue grow in dry conditions and across steep terrain, it has kept Interstate 70 shut down for more than a week, blocking a major artery through western Colorado, where few detours exist. But even if crews are able to get enough of a handle on the fire to re-open the interstate, the fire could have a longterm impact on Glenwood Canyon and communities down the Colorado River, environmental experts said Wednesday. … ” Read more from the Denver Channel here: Grizzly Creek Fire could impact Glenwood Canyon, Colorado River long after it’s contained, experts say
New report on drought and outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West
“Outdoor recreation is a major contributor to the Intermountain West’s economy, but the future viability of many businesses—particularly small businesses—in the industry is threatened by their drought vulnerabilities and the region’s projected increases in drought severity and frequency. In 2019, NIDIS partnered with the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment Graduate Program to research drought information needs of the outdoor recreation industry in the Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming), with the goal of addressing information needs and strengthening the industry’s drought resilience. While the project focused on the Rocky Mountain states, much of the information presented can apply to other regions. … ” Read more from NIDIS here: New report on drought and outdoor recreation in the Intermountain West
Salmon are getting smaller. Fishing and ecosystems are feeling the pinch
“Folks in Alaska have noticed for years that Alaskan wild salmon, one of the most important creatures to Alaska’s economic and environmental wellbeing, have slowly been getting smaller and smaller – and now researchers have begun to understand why. In a state often dominated by wildlife management, commercial fishing opportunities and ocean-to-land resource distribution, few things influence the state of Alaska as much as wild salmon. They help to support local fisheries, provide needed nutrition for Alaskan people and animals alike and help to fertilize the ecosystems and rivers that make up their natural spawning grounds. … ” Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Salmon are getting smaller. Fishing and ecosystems are feeling the pinch
Why FEMA doesn’t wilt in Trump’s political heat
“A former Department of Homeland Security official’s allegation that President Trump sought to halt disaster aid to California in 2018 for political revenge revives the notion that presidents manipulate disasters for political gain. But the charge by former DHS Chief of Staff Miles Taylor, who says in an explosive new political ad that Trump was “rageful” at California voters while wildfires were destroying their homes, ignores one fact. California has received more disaster declarations than any other state since Trump took office. … ” Read more from E&E News here: Why FEMA doesn’t wilt in Trump’s political heat
Climate change: Dams played key role in limiting sea level rise
“Over the past century, melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of sea water have driven up ocean levels. But this new study finds that dams almost stalled the rising seas in the 1970s because of the amount of water they prevented from entering the oceans. Without them, the annual rate of rise would have been around 12% higher. … ” Read more from the BBC here: Climate change: Dams played key role in limiting sea level rise
SCIENCE NEWS: How far we’ve come: A reflection by outgoing Delta Lead Scientist Dr. John Callaway; Chinook may rely on magnetic minerals to navigate; Using mark-recapture to estimate population size; Drones provide a bird’s eye view for enviro scientists; and more …
Point Blue Quarterly: Tales of the unexpected: Scientific surprises that led to conservation insight
“The theme for the new issue of the Point Blue Quarterly is Tales of the Unexpected, and it’s one we’ve been wanting to take on for a long time. The nature of conservation science lends itself to both unexpected discoveries in complex datasets and unexpected experiences in the field. But in March of 2020, we all experienced something unexpected when COVID-19 spread around the world, disrupting our lives. We knew this was the right time to dedicate an issue to responding to change and unexpected developments. Science, like life, is full of the unexpected. From surprising information about our regional birds revealed by decades of data to a mystery solved under our Marine Lab microscopes, the stories in this Quarterly show how scientific curveballs can lead to new insight or trigger a new line of inquiry. … ”
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.