DAILY DIGEST, 8/31: Rebalancing ag and natural land; CA lawmakers vote to phase out toxic firefighting foam, wildfire funding bill poised to die; Western wildfires a boon for native species; Toxic dust from Salton Sea could complicate coronavirus recovery; and more …



In California water news today …

Over the next 20 years, San Joaquin Valley farmers may need to temporarily fallow or permanently retire over half a million acres of cropland as California pushes towards sustainable groundwater use. But, according to new research led by Stanford University and The Nature Conservancy, using an informed approach to land management that engages and compensates landowners for dedicating land to habitat can spur recovery of biodiversity in local ecosystems and provide other environmental benefits for people. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here: Rebalancing Agricultural and Natural Land

California lawmakers vote to phase out toxic firefighting foam

California lawmakers voted Sunday to phase out the sale and use of firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer and have contaminated drinking water throughout the state.  The measure, put forward by state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), requires municipal fire departments, chemical plants and oil refineries to gradually stop using the foam, replacing it with alternatives that don’t contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals commonly known as PFAS. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California lawmakers vote to phase out toxic firefighting foam

Wildfire funding bill poised to die in California Legislature

California lawmakers are running out of time and may abandon a last-minute bill that would have raised $3 billion for wildfire and climate change projects by extending an existing fee on some utility customers.  The proposal, AB 1659, was introduced just five days before the end of the legislative session, with some lawmakers complaining they didn’t have sufficient time to review it. As the complex bill chugged through the legislative process, it was amended at each stop and faced broad-based opposition from legislators in both parties. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Wildfire funding bill poised to die in California Legislature

Today is the last day for the Legislature to pass any bills

Nothing really water or environmental on the agenda that I can see.

Newsom names new California state parks director amid wildfires and budget challenges

California’s state park system — an exceptional landscape of sandy beaches, redwood forests and landmarks from Lake Tahoe to Hearst Castle, Mount Diablo to Anza-Borrego Desert — has been damaged in recent weeks by raging wildfires, and hobbled by a decade of budget woes, and critics say, lack of direction.  Now the collection of 280 parks, 340 miles of coastline, 4,500 trails and 15,000 campsites visited by millions of families a year, has new leadership.  Gov. Gavin Newsom has named Armando Quintero, 64, of San Rafael, as the director of the state Department and Recreation. He begins Tuesday. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here:  Newsom names new California state parks director amid wildfires and budget challenges

They know how to prevent megafires. Why won’t anybody listen?

What a week. Rough for all Californians. Exhausting for the firefighters on the front lines. Heart-shattering for those who lost homes and loved ones. But a special “Truman Show” kind of hell for the cadre of men and women who’ve not just watched California burn, fire ax in hand, for the past two or three or five decades, but who’ve also fully understood the fire policy that created the landscape that is now up in flames.  “What’s it like?” Tim Ingalsbee repeated back to me, wearily, when I asked him what it was like to watch California this past week. … ”  Read more from Pro Publica here: They know how to prevent megafires. Why won’t anybody listen?

Western wildfires will be a boon for these native species

Earlier this month a series of lightning strikes touched off dozens of fires across California, burning 1.5 million acres, choking cities with smoke and claiming at least six lives. Outside California, large wildfires are burning in Colorado and Oregon, too.  For people who live near the path of flames or the drifting smoke, wildfire season can be dangerous. And this year’s sudden eruption of multiples blazes is stretching resources thin, as firefighters — already facing restrictions due to the pandemic — work hard to protect lives and property.  Amidst the barrage of media images of charred homes and sweeping flames, it can be easy to forget that for some native species that live in western forests, wildfires are actually beneficial and necessary, creating valuable habitat and some of the most biodiverse forest ecosystems. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here: Western wildfires will be a boon for these native species

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In regional water news and commentary today …

‘Unlikely’ power failure and series of equipment mishaps led to massive Oakland sewage spill

A major release of raw and partially treated sewage into the Oakland Estuary earlier this month was triggered by a rapid-fire series of electrical failures at the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s main wastewater treatment plant, the agency says in a report filed with state regulators.  The spill took place during the Bay Area’s mid-August heat wave and prompted the agency to post warnings along a nearly 4-mile stretch of the waterway separating Oakland and Alameda. Water quality samples taken in the estuary the day after the spill showed bacteria levels many times higher than the safety threshold for the area. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  ‘Unlikely’ power failure and series of equipment mishaps led to massive Oakland sewage spill

Franks Tract planners seek comments on final restoration proposal

Residents have until Wednesday to review and comment on the proposal for restoring Franks Tract, a 3,000-acre flooded island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The pubic draft identifies three restoration concepts and a no-action alternative. The preferred design, after several public meetings, would restore about 1,000 acres of tidal marsh habitat while deepening other areas to provide fill for the marsh creation. Community concerns regarding navigation and recreation would also be addressed according to the plan. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here:  Franks Tract planners seek comments on final restoration proposal

New phase begins for 50-year sand replenishment project in North County

A long-anticipated project to beef up beaches in Solana Beach and Encinitas with sand delivered at five- and 10-year intervals for 50 years just got a little closer.  Solana Beach approved an agreement last week with Encinitas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the pre-construction engineering and design of the Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project authorized by Congress in 2016.  “The good news is it’s moving forward,” Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade said Thursday, Aug. 27. “We approved the design agreement, and that’s a lot.” … ”  Read more from the Del Mar Times here:  New phase begins for 50-year sand replenishment project in North County

Toxic dust from Salton Sea could complicate coronavirus recovery

Health experts say the Salton Sea poses a health risk to the residents who live around it, especially in the age of coronavirus. The lake’s continued evaporation is already making Valley residents sick, and it could make virus patients even sicker.  Farmlands in Imperial County use less water from the Colorado River than ever before. Most of the river’s water now goes to cities like San Diego and Los Angeles. That means less irrigation water drains into the Salton Sea. It’s rapidly shrinking. … ”  Read more from KYMA here:  Toxic dust from Salton Sea could complicate coronavirus recovery

San Diego County Water Authority-Fallbrook/Rainbow split:  LAFCO detachment committee discusses CEQA, conditions, consultants

The items discussed at the Aug. 3 meeting of the advisory committee on the Fallbrook/Rainbow detachment created by San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission included whether the reorganization was subject to California Environmental Quality Act review, whether LAFCO can place conditions on the detachment, and the use of consultants to address issues on which parties differ.  The 10-member advisory committee will not make recommendations but will seek to identify and potentially resolve issues regarding the proposed reorganization in which the Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District would detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex to the Eastern Municipal Water District. … ”  Read more from the Village News here:  LAFCO detachment committee discusses CEQA, conditions, consultants

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Along the Colorado River …

Salt and Verde rivers expected to be less impacted by climate change

“As of late August, the Salt and Verde River reservoir system is 86 percent full, even with little rainfall this monsoon season.  It all comes down to when the Valley gets its rain and the time of water runoff, which typically occurs during the latter part of winter and early spring.  Therefore, droughts on the Salt and Verde rivers aren’t expected to be as impacted by climate change as the Upper Colorado River Basin, according to Dr. Bo Svoma, a meteorologist with the Salt River Project. … ”  Read more from Channel 15 here: Salt and Verde rivers expected to be less impacted by climate change

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In national water news today …

New tool quantifies and predicts snow droughts

Although snowfall is often seen as a nuisance—a chore to be shoveled, a danger to drive on, a reason for flight delays—snow is also a vital component of the hydrological cycle on Earth. Snowpacks store water and release it over time. This release can be gradual, sustaining agriculture and ecosystems long into summer months, or dangerously rapid when rainfall melts huge swaths of snow all at once, creating flash floods and other water management challenges. Snow’s socioeconomic impact extends to tourism and the multibillion-dollar skiing industry.  Yet despite snow’s enormous importance, Laurie Huning, a hydrologist at California State University, Long Beach, said snow droughts have been understudied relative to other types of drought, which is why she and her colleague Amir AghaKouchak sought to create a framework for monitoring and describing the phenomenon around the world. … ”  Read more from AGU EOS here: New tool quantifies and predicts snow droughts

Nearly 35 million households will lose their utility shutoff protections over the next month

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans have relied on emergency orders put in place by state and local governments that bar utility companies from shutting off services such as gas, electricity and water. However, many of these orders will expire by the end of September, leaving 34.5 million households without shutoff protections, according to a new report from energy efficiency startup Carbon Switch. … ”  Read more from CNBC here:  Nearly 35 million households will lose their utility shutoff protections over the next month

Why fixing the nation’s water crisis and combating a pandemic are linked

Water is necessary for life. Up to 60 percent of the adult human body is water. Water regulates our body temperature and metabolizes and transports carbohydrates and protein in the bloodstream. Water is also necessary to wash our hands, particularly during a pandemic.  Some people in the U.S. lack either access to water or access to clean water. More than two million Americans lack running water and indoor plumbing, according to a report by Dig Deep and U.S. Water Alliance. People of color are disproportionately affected. Native Americans are 19 times more likely than whites to lack indoor plumbing. African American and Latinx households are nearly twice as likely to lack indoor plumbing. … ”  Read more from Planet Watch here: Why fixing the nation’s water crisis and combating a pandemic are linked

This week in water

If our collective future were a movie, last week would be the trailer.  Parents, teachers, and staff might now have another problem to contend with—Legionnaires’ disease in schools.  It’s a crime that’s neither well understood nor well known.  Lice joyride on elephant seals to a depth of 6500 feet—and survive.  Songbirds have a surprising strategy to cope with drought.”  Listen to podcast/read stories from H2O Radio here:  This week in water

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Weekend edition of the Daily Digest …

In California water news this weekend …

  • Water district fires nearly all of its employees after they refuse to follow board’s illegal votes
  • Consultants list 10 lessons learned over 5 years of SGMA implementation
  • AGs challenge trump weakening of ‘Magna Carta’ of environmental law
  • How California Condors and other rare wildlife weather wildland fires
  • Walbridge fire damages half of prime salmon, steelhead spawning grounds, experts say
  • Point Reyes wildfire reshaping coastal wilderness
  • Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program
  • ESA to potentially reflect a new ‘habitat’ definition under proposal
  • What is blue carbon, anyway?
  • Water Buffs Podcast with Cynthia Koehler: Water managers cope with climate change
  • And lastly … the return of Rock-a-Hoola … ?
  • And more …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

CA WATER & POWER MAGAZINE: Utilities perserve during pandemic; Federal, state agencies scrutinize PFAS in water supply; Five changes California utilities should watch amid our uncertain future

HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOM update reports updated in last 7 days

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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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