DAILY DIGEST, 8/26: Sacramento River Science Partnership shares science to find fish and water solutions; The biblical flood that will drown CA; Virus contributes to possible big salmon season; AB 3030 raises several questions for ag groups; and more …

On the calendar today …

ONLINE MEETING: Wildlife Conservation Board meets at 10am.

Click here for agenda and remote access instructions.

FREE WEBINAR: Estimating Benefits and Costs of Stormwater Management in California: Evaluating Reported Spending Through Data Integration at 10am to 11:30am

As part of ongoing work to improve tools for stormwater management in California, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9 Environmental Finance Center at Sacramento State (EFC at Sacramento State) compiled sources of existing, readily available data on reported stormwater budgets and expenditures to provide an improved estimate of existing activities.  The webinar will describe findings of the study and offer insights for improving future estimates of municipal stormwater management spending in California.  Click here to register.

ONLINE EVENT: California’s Super Salmon Week 1 from 1pm to 1:30pm

Water Wednesdays return with a look at the fascinating life cycle of California salmon! Join DWR fishery biologist Casey Campos to learn about these amazing fish and what carcass surveys (previously featured on Dirty Jobs) can tell us about the health and future of their populations.  Watch on YouTube or register through Zoom to ask Casey questions. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

PUBLIC MEETING: Delta Conveyance Project Stakeholder Engagement Committee from 3pm to 6pm

Agenda items include intakes design refinements, traffic reductions, and briefing on Bethany alternative. Click here for Stakeholder Engagement Meeting Materials for August 26, 2020  Ring Central Video Conference Information:  Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://meetings.ringcentral.com/j/1494672175 

EVENT: Virtual Ideas Exchange with Erin Brockovich from 5:30pm to 6:40pm

Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange presents author and environmental activist Erin Brockovich in conversation with L.A. Times energy reporter Sammy Roth.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Sacramento River Science Partnership shares science to find fish and water solutions

This month six California and federal agencies representing water management, fish, and wildlife, along with the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, signed onto the Sacramento River Science Partnership. The Partnership establishes an interagency science collaborative in which members will develop, share and discuss science to inform water management activities and protection of fish in the mainstem Sacramento River.  Stretching south from Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California, the Sacramento River carries water to millions of people at the same time it supports farms, birds along the Pacific Flyway, and endangered species, such as winter-run Chinook salmon. The seven signatories will foster and advance science to inform sustainable solutions to water management challenges including conflicts between water supply delivery and fish survival. ...

Click here to continue reading this press release.

By openly discussing science from their individual perspectives, the Members anticipate that opportunities to promote effective and efficient science may emerge,” the Partnership Charter says. Charter members include Bureau of Reclamation, Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region and Southwest Fisheries Science Center, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Water Resources.

Partnership members are co-producing a science plan for the mainstem of the Sacramento River from Shasta Reservoir to Verona, at the confluence with the Feather River, including the Sutter Bypass. The plan, which is expected to be finalized in mid-September, provides science and research recommendations centered on prediction, detection and understanding of the effects of management actions designed to support all four runs of Sacramento River Chinook salmon.

The Partnership is coordinating with other groups working on water issues in the Sacramento River watershed and Central Valley salmon populations.

Officials say the diversity of the Partnership demonstrates its strength, because it draws on the expertise of local, state and federal partners. A shared understanding of research and monitoring, as well as collaborative science, will help build trust between agencies and stakeholders and provide a common foundation for decisions.

Statements from the Partners:

“Reclamation looks forward to this new science collaborative. We welcome a forum that includes both stakeholders and agencies to reach a shared understanding of, and advancement in, the science supporting habitat restoration actions and our operation of Shasta Reservoir for fish, water supply, and power generation.”  — Ernest Conant, Regional Director, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is proud to be among the founding partners of this collaborative science effort to benefit one of California’s iconic rivers upon which so much of our state depends.”  — Charlton H. Bonham, Director, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

“DWR’s mission is to balance water supply and flood protection for communities while preserving species and natural ecosystems. We recognize the role of upstream tributaries in advancing this mission. The partnership brings together the right minds to preserve this critical upstream habitat.”  — Karla Nemeth, Director, California Department of Water Resources

“This takes advantage of shared resources to go beyond what any agency or organization would do on its own. We cannot recover these species on our own, and welcome partners to lean in and work through the science to inform good fish and water management decisions.”  — Barry Thom, Regional Administrator, NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region

“The partnership is a valuable forum for sharing and coordinating science that assists NOAA Fisheries with its responsibilities.”  — Kristen Koch, Director, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

“Science is the key to understanding how best to protect and manage fish and wildlife species. Water managers are best served when making decisions founded in solid and collaborative science. The Sacramento River Science Partnership is a great opportunity to move forward with development and sharing of that science.”  — Paul Souza, California Great Basin Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We have all seen that warring science only leads to conflict—this is a new path forward for collaborative science. It’s hard work, but this will help improve conditions for salmon while also serving water for farms, cities and rural communities, birds and recreation.”  — Roger Cornwell, Chair, Sacramento River Settlement Contractors

SEE ALSOA New Way Forward for Our Environment and Water Management in the Upper Sacramento River, commentary by Thad Bettner at the NorCal Water Association blog

The biblical flood that will drown California

” …  [The letters] provide a stark look at the greatest natural disaster known to have befallen the western United States since European contact in the 16th century: the Great Flood of 1861–1862. The cataclysm cut off telegraph communication with the East Coast, swamped the state’s new capital, and submerged the entire Central Valley under as much as 15 feet of water. Yet in modern-day California—a region that author Mike Davis once likened to a “Book of the Apocalypse theme park,” where the this year’s wildfires have already burned 1.4 million acres, and dozens of fires are still ragingthe nearly forgotten biblical-scale flood documented by Brewer’s letters has largely vanished from the public imagination, replaced largely by traumatic memories of more recent earthquakes.  When it was thought of at all, the flood was once considered a thousand-year anomaly, a freak occurrence. But emerging science demonstrates that floods of even greater magnitude occurred every 100 to 200 years in California’s precolonial history. ... ”  Read more from Mother Jones here:   The biblical flood that will drown California

Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

If you’ve got water for sale, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has $50 million to spend.  Or, it will once it starts collecting a controversial, five-year, $2,000-per-acre-foot pumping fee that was approved by the authority last week.  Specifically, the desert groundwater basin about 100 miles northeast of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert, is looking to buy rights to 5,000 acre feet a year from an as-yet-to-be-determined Central Valley source.  How it will get the water from the valley over the Sierra Nevadas is another question without any answers so far. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

Virus contributes to possible big California salmon season

Anglers and biologists believe California is likely to experience an increase of chinook salmon during the fall run resulting from the coronavirus and fewer fish caught over the summer.  The annual migration is expected to peak in September, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. … ”  Read more from the AP via KRCR here:  Virus contributes to possible big California salmon season

CPUC to vote on water bill surcharge reform

A ruling that promises to rein in the surcharges appearing on the water bills of $3 million ratepayers in Monterey County and elsewhere in California is coming up for a vote at the California Public Utilities Commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 10am.  The vote was originally scheduled to take place on Aug. 6 but was postponed at the last minute.  The water bill reform is being proposed by CPUC Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves with backing from the agency’s Public Advocate’s Office. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here: CPUC to vote on water bill surcharge reform

Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Groundwater is California’s water savings bank account that can be tapped during dry years when water in lakes and rivers are low. Conserving water helps preserve groundwater, which is important for plants, animals and people.  Groundwater comes from rain and melting snow that seeps down into the ground and is stored in aquifers. An aquifer is a body of porous rock or sediment saturated with groundwater. Groundwater can move through the aquifer and resurface through springs or be pumped to the surface using manmade wells. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

AB 3030 raises several questions for ag groups

Assembly Bill 3030 (AB 3030) sets forth ambitious goals for conservation in California. The bill seeks to preserve 30 percent of all water areas as well as 30 percent of land by 2030. Introduced by State Assemblymember Ash Kalra back in February, the bill is titled Resource Conservation: Land and Ocean Conservation Goals.  The measure is being opposed by more than 40 organizations, including the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the California Forestry Association, as well as several hunting and fishing groups. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: AB 3030 raises several questions for ag groups

Researchers build app to monitor irrigation water quality

An Oregon State University researcher and a student team are developing an internet-based application that taps “big data” to help farms document water quality under the Produce Safety Rule.  The federal rule applies to fruits and vegetables that are generally consumed raw. It requires farms to document water quality, which they could do via on-site testing. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here:  Researchers build app to monitor irrigation water quality

California EPA releases new study indicating that investing in wastewater treatment plant’s ability to process food waste may save money and the environment

On August 25, 2020, the California Environmental Protection Agency released a new study suggesting that the state’s wastewater treatment plants (“treatment plants” or “facilities”), if operating at maximum co-digestion capacity, could process at least half of California’s landfill-bound food waste. Such efforts could help the state meet its organic waste diversion mandate under SB 1383 and reduce CO2-equivalent by as much as 2.4 million metric tons per year. Co-digestion is the process of adding energy-rich organic waste materials (i.e., food scraps) to anaerobic digesters to aid in the decomposition and anaerobic fermentation of the waste. Through the co-digestion process, treatment plants may capture biogas (i.e., methane and carbon dioxide) and ethanol which may be used to produce electricity, fuel, or renewable natural gas. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  California EPA releases new study indicating that investing in wastewater treatment plant’s ability to process food waste may save money and the environment

California’s wildfire crisis: a scientist explains why

Unexpected bad news hit California more than 11,000 times last week. That’s the estimated number of lightning strikes that unleashed two of the biggest fires in state history. The fires are burning at the same time across across more than 1.4 million acres, sending a cloud of smoke stretching across the Western U.S.  Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has emerged as one of the foremost voices explaining how California became a climate tinderbox. … ”  Read more from MSN here:  California’s wildfire crisis: a scientist explains why

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Dam hearing highlights stakes in holdup to dam removal project

Stakeholders shared their concerns of potential consequences over a stalled project to remove four hydroelectric dams along the lower Klamath River during a recent online panel discussion.  Congressman Jared Huffman of California’s Second Congressional District and chairman of the Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee, hosted the discussion.  Under a Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) for the removal project reached in 2016, the dams’ owner Pacificorp would hand them over to and allow the nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) to oversee their removal. … ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here:  Klamath Dam hearing highlights stakes in holdup to dam removal project

Resilient Tahoe: A future full of potential, says Catherine Cortez Masto

She writes, “Anyone who has laid eyes on Lake Tahoe knows that the lake is a treasure. The crystal clear waters and breathtaking mountain peaks delight locals and draw tourists, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists from all over the world.  On Tuesday, Aug. 25, I’m convening many of these stakeholders, including environmentalists and local leaders from around Lake Tahoe, for the 24th Annual Tahoe Summit — and the first virtual summit. This year’s summit theme, “Resilient Tahoe,” is a reminder of all the lake has withstood and all the potential it has to thrive in the years to come. ... ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here:  Resilient Tahoe: A future full of potential

El Dorado Irrigation District canal piping OK’d

Despite opposing views among board members and objections from the public, on a 3-2 vote the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors voted Monday to approve piping the Upper Main Ditch, also known as the El Dorado Canal.  A 3-mile ditch that runs through Pollock Pines transporting water from Forebay Reservoir to the Reservoir 1 Water Treatment Plant (WTP), the ditch conveys one-third of EID’s water supply, providing water to customers from Pollock Pines to El Dorado Hills. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here:  El Dorado Irrigation District canal piping OK’d

El Dorado County: Forebay full again — more water storage, more hydroelectric power

After more than two years, another big El Dorado Irrigation District project is complete as renovations and improvements to the El Dorado Forebay Dam and Reservoir are finished and the reservoir refilled.  Located in Pollock Pines, the dam and reservoir were originally constructed in 1923 as a part of the El Dorado Hydroelectric Project.  A year later a small power plant became operational that completed the project. … ”  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here:  Forebay full again — more water storage, more hydroelectric power

Fairmead faces water scarcity concerns

Fairmead, California, residents may lose water service since the town’s only community well is showing signs it may fail.   The well may fail before a new one can be built, according to the Bee.  Fairmead’s water crisis first made the news in 2015, when research indicated almond orchards were a culprit of major water usage, besides the drought. 165 Fairmead households utilize the community water well and hundreds of others in town use private wells, which all rely on groundwater. … ”  Read more from Water Quality Products here:  Fairmead faces water scarcity concerns

Tulare Co. rejects Resnick blitz, backs Assemi’s pistachio plant expansion

The Wonderful Company’s fight with the Assemi family over a pistachio processing plant in Tulare County took a hit on Tuesday.  In a unanimous vote, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors tentatively denied Wonderful and billionaire owner Stewart Resnick’s request for an appeal of building permits issued to Assemi-owned Touchstone Pistachio Company to expand a facility. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Tulare Co. rejects Resnick blitz, backs Assemi’s pistachio plant expansion

Lake Success recreation area closed until next summer

Three weeks ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began Phase 1 of their project to give Lake Success more capacity.  The Sacramento district for the corps began construction operations to realign Avenue 146 and widen the existing Tule River Spillway at Success Lake in Porterville on Aug. 2. Once complete, the project will increase storage capacity in Success Lake by 28,000 acre-feet and will help improve flood risk reduction for the region. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here:  Lake Success recreation area closed until next summer

Instead of helping Valley water situation, Rep. TJ Cox harms it with vote, says David Valadao

He writes, “Throughout my time in Congress, it was my mission to fight for our Central Valley and work with both Democrats and Republicans to stand up against policies harming our values and way of life. Time and time again, I reached across the aisle and worked to find solutions to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, improve agriculture policy, and ensure our nation’s military and veterans are taken care of.  In the Central Valley, water is our lifeline and crucial to everything we do. That is why while I was in Congress, delivering more water to the Central Valley was my No. 1 goal. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Instead of helping Valley water situation, Rep. TJ Cox harms it with vote

Lake Elsinore hydroelectric project would threaten sacred land, Pechanga tribe says

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians once warned that a proposed mine would obliterate a sacred site equal to the Biblical Garden of Eden.  Now, the southwest Riverside County tribe is sounding a similar alarm about the Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage Project, or LEAPS, a hydroelectric project proposed for the Lake Elsinore area.  “Lake Elsinore is central to our Luiseño Creation Account. Even today, our Tribe has reservation lands in the city,” Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in an emailed statement. “LEAPS would irreparably harm at least four Traditional Cultural Properties that are ceremonial and sacred.” … ”  Read more from the Press-Enterprise here: Lake Elsinore hydroelectric project would threaten sacred land, Pechanga tribe says

San Diego: EPA orders owners of mobile home park to correct water quality violations

A mobile home park on the Pala Band of Mission Indians reservation has been ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fix problems with its broken drinking water and sewer systems that may have caused drinking water to be contaminated with fecal matter and disease-causing organisms.  Pala Environmental Department found a faulty septic system that caused untreated human sewage to regularly be emitted on the property’s soil during inspections of the Lee Bar Ranch mobile home park between January and May. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  EPA orders owners of mobile home park to correct water quality violations

Farmer Michael Abatti is fighting to the end in legal tussle with IID in Imperial Valley

Attorneys for farmer Michael Abatti on Monday filed a petition requesting that the California Supreme Court take up a case against the Imperial Irrigation District, continuing the battle for control over California’s Colorado River water allotment.  This latest filing calls on the court to rule that Imperial Valley farmers have a right to water ownership, which currently resides with the district. It suggests that Abatti, a powerful landowner in the Imperial Valley, is likely prepared to exhaust all legal courses of action before he would bow out of his years-long fight against IID. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Farmer Michael Abatti is fighting to the end in legal tussle with IID in Imperial Valley

Click here for statement from IID regarding Abatti Petition for Review before Supreme Court of California.

While not having had time to fully analyze and respond to the recently filed Petition for Review, the initial impression is that Mr. Abatti’s attorneys remain mistaken in their characterization of the law and the Court of Appeal’s recent decision.  “The IID has consistently argued that Mr. Abatti and all other water users within the IID service territory have a right to service,” said Frank A. Oswalt, IID general counsel. “Decisions on how it should be allocated among all water users is within the sound discretion of the IID. These two principles were confirmed by the Court of Appeal’s decision.  He further added that IID does not expect the California Supreme Court to grant review of Mr. Abatti’s petition because the Court of Appeal’s decision was correct, and based on a very thoughtful and clear analysis of the law.  The IID has 20 days to file a response and will oppose Mr. Abatti’s petition.”

Rusty Jordan: Water trades, transfers, and treaties

” …In California, the efforts to move water from the old agricultural users along the river to the cities began in the 1980s. Some argue it began with court arguments in Arizona vs California 1963. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) comments about the quality of the IID’s water rights should be read. In what seemed unrelated in the 1980s, John Elmore sued IID for wasting water and causing the Salton Sea to raise and thus flood his land. He prevailed in a decision written by now Appellate Judge Robie in Decision 1600 at the California State Water Resources Control Board. His lawyer was David Oasis. This brought about a transfer of about 110,000 a/f to MWD for 35 years beginning around 1990. To get this water, MWD paid, and pays, for conservation measures. Even with this transfer the Salton Sea continued to rise.   … ” Read more from the Desert Review here:  Water trades, transfers, and treaties

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Along the Colorado River …

Lake Mead and Lower Colorado River to remain in tier zero shortage for 2021

The Colorado River millennial mega-drought continues, despite robust snowpack last winter. Above-average temperatures in spring resulted in a paltry 57% runoff, nowhere near enough water to refill the reservoirs that remain half-empty. Based on these conditions, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently determined that 2021 will be a “tier zero” year under the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, with reduced water deliveries for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. Audubon advocated over several years for the states to adopt this plan that is needed to avoid catastrophic water shortages that would impact people and nature in prolonged and severe dry periods. … ”  Read more from Audubon here: Lake Mead and Lower Colorado River to remain in tier zero shortage for 2021

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In national water news today …

Researchers tracking COVID-19 in wastewater collaborate to translate data for US municipalities

“Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Stanford University and the University of Notre Dame are collaborating to create a “startup blueprint” for municipalities that plan to implement SARS-CoV-2 sewage surveillance. It would address dual challenges: implementation of best practices for sample collection, analysis, and interpretation, and speedy and appropriate translation and communication of results to public health decision-makers. … ”  Read more from Smart Water here:  Researchers tracking COVID-19 in wastewater collaborate to translate data for US municipalities

EPA touts winning record, but some attorneys dispute its numbers

The EPA’s top lawyer is trumpeting the agency’s success rate in court, saying it’s won two-thirds of “significant” environmental cases during the Trump administration.  But the assertion, made by the agency’s general counsel, Matthew Z. Leopold, in an Aug. 10 opinion piece in Bloomberg Law, clashes with—and also comes in response to—other tallies showing judges have largely sided with the EPA’s state and environmental adversaries. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg here:  EPA touts winning record, but some attorneys dispute its numbers

Grand theft agua: Up to HALF of world’s water supply is being stolen, new report claims

New research suggests that somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of the world’s water supply is being illegally siphoned off and is not being paid for or counted, reviving debate about how we define water.  In their paper, the researchers argue that a lack of any widely-accepted definition of what constitutes water theft, or whether it can even exist at all, precludes coordinated effort from governments, regulators and communities and therefore hamstrings any efforts at enforcement and policing of water resources.  The study points the blame squarely at the political, legal and institutional establishments which it says are fundamentally flawed and incapable of protecting one of the planet’s most precious resources.  … ”  Read more from RT here: Grand theft agua: Up to HALF of world’s water supply is being stolen, new report claims

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In commentary today …

The western view: why is the west burning – again?

Len Wilcox writes, “Once again, the West is burning. Once again, forestry experts tell us that taking the cows and sheep out of the forest has made the summer fire season unbelievably worse. Our public lands are nice and green in the winter and the grasses grow tall – but they dry out and become fuel for the summer and fall. No wonder the land burns.  It doesn’t take a genius to understand that grazing animals eat up that fuel, but they’ve been kicked out of public lands. With proper range management maybe we wouldn’t have seen those thousand homes burn in Redding, or watch a firestorm kill 85 people and consume the town of Paradise. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  The western view: why is the west burning – again?

Unless we change course, the US agricultural system could collapse, says Tom Philpott

He writes, “Picture an ideal dinner plate. If you’re like most Americans, it features a hearty portion of meat, from animals fattened on midwestern corn and soybeans, and a helping of vegetables, largely trucked in from California. The unique landscapes we rely on to deliver this bounty – the twin jewels of the US food system – are locked in a state of slow-motion ecological unravelling.  California’s agricultural sector has flourished from decades of easy access to water in one of the globe’s biggest swaths of Mediterranean climate. ... ”  Read more at the Guardian here: Unless we change course, the US agricultural system could collapse

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Today’s featured article …

ACWA CONFERENCE: Adapting to Flood, Fire, and Drought: A Case Study of the American River

The Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio Initiative underscores the need for communities to maintain and diversify water supplies and to protect and enhance natural environments to prepare for the impacts of climate change.   At ACWA’s virtual conference held in July of 2020, a panel comprised of agencies described the experience of the American River region in evaluating climate impacts on their watershed in a new cutting-edge study and the comprehensive suite of projects designed to address increasing threats from more frequent and intense floods, fires, and droughts.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE OF PERMIT APPLICATION: Delta Conveyance, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties, 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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