DAILY DIGEST, 8/28: California and the Forest Service have a plan to prevent future catastrophic fires; CPUC approves structural change to water bills; Paso Robles to lose $458M due to SGMA implementation; and more …

Good morning!

On the calendar today …

ONLINE MEETING: The Central Valley Flood Protection Board meets at 9am.

Agenda items include updates on the EcoRestore program, the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, Preseason flood coordination, Sacramento and San Joaquin system levees, Chester Diversion Dam.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

ONLINE EVENT: Eel River Dam Removal from 12pm to 1pm.

This webinar will describe the Feasibility Study Report and Project Plan submitted to FERC in May of 2020 by a coalition of five regional entities including CalTrout to acquire the license for the Potter Valley Project. The Project Plan includes removal of Scott Dam, modification of Cape Horn Dam, continued power generation, and winter “run-of-the-river” water diversions. The Project plan would result in unimpeded migratory access for salmon and steelhead into the upper Eel River, along with continued diversion of Eel River water to the Russian River.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

California and the Forest Service have a plan to prevent future catastrophic fires

As hundreds of fires scorch California, state officials and federal forest agents signed an agreement that may help the state be able to better weather future fire seasons.  Right now, the second and third largest fires in the state’s history are ripping through coastal forests and inland shrubland in Northern California. The flames have claimed more than 1,100 homes and other buildings, along with 1.4 million acres of land. Climate change is culpable here. While fire is a normal and necessary part of much of California’s forest and rangelands, the region’s trend toward heightened wet and dry extremes, coupled with overall warmer conditions, make the state especially primed for high-intensity burns. … ”  Read more from Popular Science here:  California and the Forest Service have a plan to prevent future catastrophic fires  (Scroll down for more California wildfire news.)

CPUC approves structural change to water bills

State utility regulators on Thursday put an end to a system that’s allowed investor-owned water utilities including California Water Service to bill customers the cost difference between expected and actual water usage.  The California Public Utilities Commission, siding with its consumer-advocate arm, voted 4-1 to halt what are known as water-revenue adjustment mechanisms, which sometimes resulted in unexpected surcharges on ratepayers’ monthly bills. Commissioner Liane M. Randolph cast the lone vote against the proposal. … ” Read more from Bakersfield Californian here:  CPUC approves structural change to water bills

Wildlife Conservation Board funds environmental improvement and acquisition projects

At its Aug. 26, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $25.3 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 26 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.  Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.”

Click here for a list of funded projects.

Funded projects include:

  • A $5 million grant to the National Wildlife Federation for the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass Crossing in cooperation with the California Department of Transportation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the California State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), the City of Agoura Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to construct a wildlife crossing over U.S. Route 101 to facilitate wildlife migration near Agoura Hills in Los Angeles County.
  • A $350,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with CDFW and California State Parks to complete a suite of planning activities to daylight a storm drain and restore multiple habitat types including arroyo, riparian, intermittent wetlands and coastal sage scrub along the Los Angeles River in Los Angeles County.
  • A $670,000 grant to American Rivers for a cooperative project with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to restore approximately 140 acres of wet meadow habitat in the Pine Creek watershed, located on USFS’s Lassen National Forest approximately 30 miles northwest of Susanville in Lassen County.
  • A $700,000 grant to California State Parks for a cooperative planning project with the California Tahoe Conservancy to complete plans, designs and permits for pier replacement and recreation access improvements at Kings Beach State Recreation Area, located 10 miles northeast of Tahoe City in Placer County.
  • A $700,000 grant to Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District for a cooperative project with SCC and the California Natural Resources Agency to acquire approximately 341 acres of land for the protection of coastal dunes, Sitka spruce and beach pine forest habitats in order to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, and provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities in the community of Samoa in Humboldt County.
  • A $4 million grant to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency (SCVHA) and the acceptance of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grants with the approval to subgrant these federal funds to SCVHA to acquire approximately 1,741 acres of land for the protection and preservation of existing regional wildlife linkages and special status species occurrences, as well as rare serpentine bunchgrass plant communities, grasslands, oak woodlands, and pond and riparian habitat areas within the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan, located west of U.S. Route 101 in Santa Clara County.
  • A $1.08 million grant to SCC for a cooperative project with the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy to acquire approximately 44 acres of land for the protection of nesting and foraging habitat for state-listed Belding’s Savannah sparrow and foraging habitat for California least tern and other sensitive species located in Huntington Beach in Orange County.
  • A $3.5 million grant to The Nature Conservancy for the acquisition in fee of approximately 3,148 acres for the protection of deer, mountain lion and special status species habitat, and to increase protection of regional wildlife habitat corridors in the Tehachapi Mountain Range located near Bakersfield in Kern County.

For more information about the WCB please visit wcb.ca.gov.

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California wildfires …

West Coast wildfires, Gulf Coast hurricanes: How climate change connects these extreme events

In Northern California, crews labored Thursday to control megafires sparked by a rare barrage of lightning strikes.  Across the country, a Category 4 hurricane made landfall overnight in Louisiana, destroying buildings and toppling powerlines with unrelenting winds and rain.  Two of the wildfire complexes still burning near the Bay Area are in the top three of Cal Fire’s list of the largest wildfires in modern state history. At its peak, Hurricane Laura brought 150-mile-per-hour winds, and is now one of the country’s most powerful storms ever recorded.  These two extreme events thousands of miles apart might seem very different — but climate scientists say they are closely connected. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: West Coast wildfires, Gulf Coast hurricanes: How climate change connects these extreme events

Wildfires are pinching California’s legal cannabis market

Wildfires are raging across California, leaving hundreds of thousands of charred acres in their wake. In addition to burning homes and landscapes, the fires have destroyed potentially hundreds of cannabis grows. David Downs, California bureau chief for Leafly, says that damage goes beyond simply being burned.  “Crops can burn of course, but they can be tainted by wildfire smoke that makes the weed taste smoky. They call it campfire kush as a joke,” Downs says. Cannabis that has been tainted by smoke can easily fail. … ”  Read more from KCRW here: Wildfires are pinching California’s legal cannabis market

California wildfires and dwindling water supply threatening Tule elk

Wildlife advocates say dwindling water supply, heat and wildfire are threatening hundreds of Tule elk at the Point Reyes National Seashore.  The area is home to several herds of elk, a population that is currently estimated at 445.  “We’re concerned that the elk are going to die. There are almost 500 in there and five years ago, 250 of the 500 died because of a lack of water,” says Jim Coda, a wildlife photographer who frequents the area. … ”  Read more from KTVU here:  California wildfires and dwindling water supply threatening Tule elk

‘We’re drying the fuels’: How climate change is making wildfires worse in the West

As flames tore through California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Craig Clements drove toward the fire in a specialized radar-equipped Ford pickup, watching the plume of smoke billowing from the forest.  Clements is a professor who leads San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, and he chases wildfires to study their behavior.  As the late afternoon sun filtered through the smoke on Aug. 19, an orange glow enveloped the road and the forest. Ashes, oak leaves and twigs from burning fir and redwood trees rained down from the smoky sky. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here:  ‘We’re drying the fuels’: How climate change is making wildfires worse in the West

Stanford researchers discuss wildfire weather

Something unfamiliar to many Californians – an intense thunderstorm with widespread lightning strikes – spawned the all-too-familiar wildfires that have so far burned more than 1 million acres across the state’s north. That contrast may foreshadow a future of increasingly frequent extreme weather that drives natural disasters.  Noah Diffenbaugh, the Kara J Foundation Professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, studies climate change’s role in increasing the risk of extreme weather and has led recent research forecasting longer, more extreme wildfire seasons. Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, studies climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, with a focus on disaster risk reduction, especially from wildfires.  Here, Field and Diffenbaugh discuss extreme weather’s role in current and future wildfires, as well as ways to combat the trend toward bigger, more intense conflagrations. … ”  Read more from Stanford’s University here: Stanford researchers discuss wildfire weather

In commentary today …

Yes, we need a ‘Grand Bargain’ over Delta water – and everyone’s best ideas, says Barbara Barrigan Parilla

She writes, “Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt calls for “a ‘Grand Bargain’ in which all the parties achieve a consensus, confirmed in legislation, to apportion Delta water between exports and an adequate ecological flow to San Francisco Bay.”  We agree. Let’s start with a statewide water audit.  … ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters here:  Yes, we need a ‘Grand Bargain’ over Delta water – and everyone’s best ideas

Despite unprecedented times, natural resources should remain important to the Legislature, says Pablo Garza

As if a global pandemic was not enough, the tumultuous legislative session comes to a close as much of the state is on fire. Understandably, lawmakers had already significantly pared down their legislative packages to focus on a response to COVID-19. And, then last week many important bills on environmental justice and natural resources stalled. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Despite unprecedented times, natural resources should remain important to the Legislature

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Nevada Irrigation District posts water planning projections for public review

The Nevada Irrigation District today posted its updated Water Planning Projections to its website. The three studies, taken together, help NID determine if its water storage and delivery system will provide sufficient water to meet customer demands over time and under variable conditions.  The 2020 Water Planning Projections are used by the District to prepare a number of planning reports such as the Urban Water Management Plan and the Agricultural Management Plan, both required by the State of California to be updated and submitted every five years. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Nevada Irrigation District posts water planning projections for public review 

Pure Water Monterey supply set for extraction, use on Peninsula

Pure Water Monterey is finally poised to make water available for the Monterey Peninsula, providing a new water supply source for the area while allowing a reduction in Carmel River water usage albeit at a considerably reduced rate to start than was expected.  Last weekend, Monterey One Water announced that it had completed a 1,000-acre-foot recycled water reserve in the Seaside basin and that California American Water could start extracting additional water from the basin equivalent to the amount of recycled water being pumped into the basin beyond the reserve. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Pure Water Monterey supply set for extraction, use on Peninsula

Salmon habitat restoration project is underway on the Merced River

As part of its decades-long commitment to environmental stewardship, Merced Irrigation District has broken ground on a project to restore an additional half mile of Merced River salmon-rearing habitat below Lake McClure.  In total, the Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project consists of re-grading and enhancing more than 7-acres of riparian and upland habitat. It also involves enhancement of approximately 1.7-acres of salmonid spawning habitat; 3.9-acres of seasonally inundated juvenile rearing habitat; and approximately 13-acres of the Merced River channel. …

Click here to cotinue reading this press release from Merced Irrigation District.

The Project is located approximately 1,400 feet downstream of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Merced River Salmon Hatchery. Funding for the $2.27 million project has been provided by MID, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The restoration project is the latest in a string of rehabilitation efforts along a 4-mile stretch of key salmon spawning and rearing habitat between Crocker Huffman diversion dam and the community of Snelling.

Between the early and mid-1900s, a significant stretch of the Merced River was critically damaged by state-sanctioned private gold dredge mining. The mining resulted in cobble and gravel from the river being strewn for several miles, eliminating crucial spawning habitat. It also decimated the shallow riparian habitat used by juvenile salmon before migrating downstream toward the ocean.

In recent years, approximately 1.25 miles of the river section have been restored through various projects. The current Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project will bring the total to 1.75 miles of restored river. Additionally, another 0.25 river miles above Henderson Park has been approved for restoration funding by the California Department of Water Resources. Upon completion of both projects, approximately half of the river stretch between Crocker Huffman Dam and Snelling will have been restored.

“This is in line with our environmental stewardship intentions and helps support the salmon lifecycle within our region,” said MID General Manager John Sweigard. “We have maintained for years that we want to do our part – within our sphere of influence – to address the needs of salmon and that’s exactly what we are doing.”

As part of the project, approximately 65,000-cubic yards of material will be excavated and sorted from dredger tailing piles including floodplain re-contouring and side channel creation. Approximately 38,500-cubic yards of native gravel and cobble will be used to enhance and establish gravel bars and salmonid spawning riffles. The gravel and cobble will also be placed in select areas in the main channel to create 1.7-acres of salmonid spawning habitat and increase the water surface elevation in order to facilitate inundation of newly created floodplain and side channel habitat.”

Kings County Farm Bureau: Telling the farm-to-table story

Kings County Farm Bureau is a non-profit advocacy organization formed in 1918. Its primary goal is to ensure every farmer has the right to farm and protect their heritage. Too often, agriculture is painted in a negative light when someone hears or reads a story on the industry.  As an industry, we listen to those stories and often complain to fellow agriculturalists, then move on. We see the work in progress by industry groups like the Farm Bureau and tell ourselves that it is enough. Enough to combat the negative story seen on the news or written by an activist group. Sufficient to convince an elected official that the industry is full of good people trying to do the right thing, which it is. Where we fall short is in telling our story, not letting someone tell it for us. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Kings County Farm Bureau: Telling the farm-to-table story

Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

A new study released by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is projecting the potential economic impact of water reductions in the Paso Robles region resulting from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The study, The Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Irrigated Agriculture in the Paso Robles Area and Potential Impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, performed by Lynn Hamilton, Ph.D. and Michael McCollough, Ph.D. of CalPoly, estimates that reductions to irrigated agriculture could potentially cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. … ”  Read more from Wine Business here: Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

Santa Barbara City Council approves $10 million grant for operation of desalination plant

The Santa Barbara City Council accepted a $10 million matching grant to operate the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant at their Aug. 4 meeting.  The city was awarded the $10 million grant from the Department of Water Resources in 2018. Since that time, staff has been negotiating with the DWR over the terms of the funding agreement.   On Aug. 4, council members unanimously voted to authorize the city administrator to execute the funding agreement. … ”  Read more from The Log here: Santa Barbara City Council approves $10 million grant for operation of desalination plant

Los Angeles: The city wants you to weigh in on the new Silver Lake Reservoir master plan

The Silver Lake Reservoir, home to the popular walking path, recently upgraded “meadow,” and two dog parks known more for people-watching than anything else, is one step closer to getting a full makeover.  On Friday, L.A.’s Engineering Bureau released the master plan for the park virtually, with the caveat that if there wasn’t a pandemic, they would have held a large public event.  It’s been a long journey for the no-longer-a-functioning-reservoir reservoir. … ”  Read more from the LAist here: The city wants you to weigh in on the new Silver Lake Reservoir master plan

Ocean water has record temperature off San Diego coast

San Diego ocean temperatures hit record territory this past weekend, as a heatwave also baked the San Diego Region.  The record comes just weeks after the unseasonably cool ocean temperatures were recorded. Someone has taken the temperature at the end of Scripps Pier every day for more than 100 years. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: Ocean water has record temperature off San Diego coast

New border wall to cut through Tijuana River channel

Plans are underway to build a new section of border wall that will cut through the Tijuana River channel — a concrete culvert where toxic sludge runs into the U.S. and where Border Patrol and caravan migrants violently clashed in 2018.  The border-wall system will stretch about 0.2 miles across the channel, located west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry near Las Americans Premium Outlets. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  New border wall to cut through Tijuana River channel

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Along the Colorado River …

Businesses contribute $1.5 million to shore up Arizona’s water reserves

Eight major corporations have contributed more than $1.5 million to shore up Arizona’s dwindling water supplies in a conservation project with the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) in western Arizona.  Intel Corp., Microsoft, Cox, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Reformation, Silk, and Swire Coca-Cola, USA are providing the funding as part of the project that was developed through the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) negotiations in Arizona. … ”  Read more from Chamber Business News here: Businesses contribute $1.5 million to shore up Arizona’s water reserves

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In national water news today …

Reclamation launches prize competition to improve streamflow forecasting

“The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a prize competition to improve short-term streamflow forecasts. Evolving data science such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and high-performance computing are starting to be used in streamflow forecasting. The Streamflow Forecast Rodeo competition seeks to spur innovation using these technologies.  Reclamation is making up to $500,000 available through this prize competition.  “Streamflow forecasts are integral to managing water,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “Finding improvements to forecasting will allow water managers to better operate their facilities for high flows, mitigate drought impacts and maximize hydropower generation.

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Bureau of Reclamation.

This competition delivers on the Department of the Interior and Reclamation’s commitment to improve water availability. It also supports the goals of the President’s memo on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West.

The competition will begin with a “pre-season” in August, followed by a year of real-time forecasting beginning October 1, 2020. The pre-season will allow competitors to build and refine their forecast methods. The real-time forecasting competition will have solvers forecast streamflow for the next 10 days, updated daily at multiple locations across the West, for the duration of the competition.

Reclamation is partnering with the CEATI International’s Hydropower Operations and Planning Interest Group, NASA Tournament Lab and Topcoder on this crowdsourcing competition. Partnering with CEATI HOPIG includes a companion project that will provide benchmarks against which the competitors will be evaluated, as well as scoring of solver forecasts by RTI International. Other CEATI HOPIG members making contributions include Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, Tennessee Valley Authority, Hydro-Quebec, and Southern Company. To learn more about this competition, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/streamflowrodeo.html.

Reclamation conducts prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, problem solver community. Through prize competitions, Reclamation complements traditional design research to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $1,000,000 in prizes through 22 competitions in the past 6 years. Please visit Reclamation’s Water Prize Competition Center to learn more.

Green groups fight EPA rollback limiting states from blocking projects

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing another suit over its rule that limits states’ ability to block pipelines and other controversial projects that cross their waterways.  The Clean Water Act previously allowed states to halt projects that risk hurting their water quality, but that power was scaled back by the EPA in June, a move Administrator Andrew Wheeler said would “curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that have held our nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”  The latest suit, however, argues the Trump administration is inappropriately denying states veto power over major projects that pose risks to their waterways. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Green groups fight EPA rollback limiting states from blocking projects

New report offers grim details on underinvestment in U.S. water infrastructure

A new economic study finds that cost of water and wastewater failures will be significantly higher in 20 years for American households.  According to the new report released this week by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Value of Water Campaign, the United States is underinvesting in its drinking water and wastewater systems, putting American households and the economy at risk. The report, “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the U.S. Economy Recovery,” finds that as water infrastructure deteriorates and service disruptions increase, annual costs to American households due to water and wastewater failures will be seven times higher in 20 years than they are today —from $2 billion in 2019 to $14 billion by 2039. … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here: New report offers grim details on underinvestment in U.S. water infrastructure

U.S. flood strategy shifts to ‘unavoidable’ relocation of entire neighborhoods

For years, even as seas rose and flooding worsened nationwide, policymakers stuck to the belief that relocating entire communities away from vulnerable areas was simply too extreme to consider — an attack on Americans’ love of home and private property as well as a costly use of taxpayer dollars. Now, however, that is rapidly changing amid acceptance that rebuilding over and over after successive floods makes little sense. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: U.S. flood strategy shifts to ‘unavoidable’ relocation of entire neighborhoods

50 Fascinating facts about farming in America

Since just after World War II, the number of people employed in agriculture has dropped by half. Today, just 4% of U.S. farms produce 66% of farm products. Most of America’s farms are small and nearly all are family-run—but they’re also disappearing. In 1935, the number of farms peaked at almost 7 million. By 2007, that number had dropped to about 2.2 million farms.  COVID-19 has put additional pressure on an already strained industry: In March 2020, farm bankruptcies jumped by 23%. Issues have included breakdowns in the supply chain and the closures of processing plants, wreaking havoc on farms around the country. To find out more about this complex and essential industry, Stacker compiled a gallery of 50 facts about U.S. farming. We’ve relied on authoritative sources that include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and industry and trade groups. … ”  Read more from KAKE TV here:  50 Fascinating facts about farming in America

The soil, sand, and sea: the journey of microplastics

As we approach the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2021, it is time we face our unseen but ubiquitous problem: microplastics. Chances are by now you have heard of the extensive plastic pollution in the ocean such as in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but what we are quickly finding is that the plastic bottles and bags you see floating in these patches are only the tip of the iceberg—ocean waters, freshwater, soil, and air are being infiltrated by tiny pieces of plastic that are difficult to detect. Microplastics are particles of plastic usually less than 5mm, and the concept was first introduced by a team of UK researchers in the 2004 article Lost at Sea: Where is All the Plastic? Since the production of plastic ramped up over the past 60 years, most of plastic is not ending up in landfills or ocean garbage patches, but “disappearing” as they break down into microplastics that we cannot see but remain ever-present. To understand what to do about this problem, we first need to understand from where microplastics predominantly originate, what happens to them as they move around ecosystems, and in turn what this microplastic pollution does to its environments. … ”  Read more from EnviroBites here:  The soil, sand, and sea: the journey of microplastics

Fidelity of El Niño simulation matters for predicting future climate

A new study led by University of Hawai’i at Manoa researchers, published in the journal Nature Communications this week, revealed that correctly simulating ocean current variations hundreds of feet below the ocean surface — the so-called Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent — during El Niño events is key in reducing the uncertainty of predictions of future warming in the eastern tropical Pacific.  Trade winds and the temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean experience large changes from year to year due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), affecting weather patterns across the globe. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Fidelity of El Niño simulation matters for predicting future climate

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Conveyance Project~ Science Blog~ Science Workshops~ DWR Finding~ Water Education ~~

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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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