DAILY DIGEST, 9/3: EPA opens new Western office to deal with mine cleanup; The impact of Groundwater Sustainability Plans on domestic wells; ‘Dangerous heat’ forecast for California over Labor Day weekend; Wildfire suppression efforts are more aggressive than ever, but is there an ecological cost?; and more …



On the calendar today …

VIRTUAL WORKSHOP: Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program from 10am to 12pm.

On July 31, 2020, DWR announced a 45-day public comment period for the Draft SGM Grant Program Proposition 68 Implementation Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP). The public comment period will close at 5 p.m. on September 18, 2020.  A public meeting will be held September 3, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to present the draft PSP and solicit comments.  Click here to register.

ONLINE EVENT: Making the Most of Water for the Environment from 11am to 12pm.

Water and land management have greatly altered river flows across California, degrading ecosystems and decimating native species. A different approach to managing environmental flows is needed to arrest the decline.  PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem Fellow Ted Grantham will outline a new report on using “functional flows”—which restore seasonal components of river flow—to sustain the biological, chemical, and physical processes necessary for ecosystem health. A panel of experts will discuss how to put this approach into practice.  Click here to register.

PUBLIC MEETING: Public Meeting for B.F. Sisk Dam Raise and Reservoir Expansion Project at 4pm

This joint proposed project would create an additional 130,000 acre-feet of storage space in San Luis Reservoir that could be used as an additional water supply for two million acres of farmland and 200,000 acres of Pacific Flyway wetlands that use reservoir water.  Meeting via Microsoft Teams, accessible at the following link: http://bit.ly/BFSiskEIRSEISRescheduledPublicMeeting

In California water news today …

“EPA today is announcing the creation of an Office of Mountains, Deserts and Plains to focus on issues in the West, including mine cleanup across the region. The move comes as the Interior Department is trying to ramp up its presence in the West, having recently completed a controversial move of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.  It’s unclear how the new office will interact with EPA’s existing regional office system, and if it will require new employees or draw staffers from elsewhere. Details about costs and official duties are also unknown.  … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Wheeler to open new office: Mountains, Deserts and Plains

Sustainable for whom? The impact of Groundwater Sustainability Plans on domestic wells

Studies estimate that 1.5 – 2.5 million Californians rely on domestic wells to meet their household water needs (Johnson and Belitz 2015; Dieter et al. 2018; Pace et al. 2020). But because domestic wells are often shallow, they are also often sensitive to changes in groundwater levels. As such, sustainable groundwater management has an important role to play in safeguarding the health and safety of residents and the achievement of California’s recognized Human Right to Water.  This report analyzes 41 Groundwater Sustainability Plans in 19 critical priority subbasins in California (in the San Joaquin Valley, Central California, and the Central Coast) to assess monitoring network coverage and the vulnerability of domestic wells to minimum thresholds (MTs), or the lowest groundwater level considered sustainable. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here: Sustainable for Whom? The Impact of Groundwater Sustainability Plans on Domestic Wells

California Legislature’s end-of-session scramble leaves environment bills on cutting room floor

Monday at midnight marked the deadline for California lawmakers to pass bills out of the Legislature. But in a session replete with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice and wildfires, numerous bills were left to die on the cutting room floor.  Among them was the majority of the environmental agenda in what some legislators, environmentalists and public health advocates labeled a disappointment.  “We only have until 2030 to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis and prepare for what’s happening, and right now there’s no clear vision or agenda from leadership in Sacramento on how to tackle this challenge,” Mary Creasman, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters said in a statement. “Big Oil and other industry interests have a hold on our state legislature and are putting our future at risk.” … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here:  California Legislature’s end-of-session scramble leaves environment bills on cutting room floor

This new guide to California’s glorious forests is a love letter—and a call to action

As wildfires ravage the state and bad news abounds, artist and naturalist Obi Kaufmann wants people to rethink how they approach environmental issues.  “I write books of hope, not of despair,” says Kaufmann, who’s in the midst of a six-book exploration of California nature that celebrates the state’s immense diversity. “There is so much [despair] in the ether, so much of that in the social atmosphere.”  Kaufmann is known for publishing what he calls field atlases. “As opposed to a field guide, which will tell you what you’re looking at, a field atlas is a reference handbook to tell you how to look at these ongoing processes that are unfolding,” Oakland-based Kaufmann explains. “It’s more of a treatise on ecology than it is on biology.” … ”  Read more from LA Magazine here: This new guide to California’s glorious forests is a love letter—and a call to action

‘Dangerous heat’ forecast for Southwest and California over Labor Day weekend

The National Weather Service forecasts a big Labor Day weekend warmup stretching from Oregon through California, Nevada and Arizona to the New Mexico border.  In a tweet Wednesday the NWS released a map showing an excessive heat watch for most of coastal and Central California, as well as southern Nevada and most of western Arizona. Parts of southern Oregon and northern California will be under a heat advisory. … ”  Read more from Fox News here:  ‘Dangerous heat’ forecast for Southwest and California over Labor Day weekend

LEGAL

Judge says owner of San Francisco Bay Area island broke law

The owner of a San Francisco Bay Area island violated the federal Clean Water Act when he destroyed marshland by building a levee and dumping dredged material while building duck-hunting ponds, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.  The ruling is the latest in a years-long battle between regulators and John Sweeney, who owns an island in Suisun Bay, a tidal channel and marsh area northeast of San Francisco. … ”  Read more from AP News here:  Judge says owner of San Francisco Bay Area island broke law

Supreme Court of California weighs in on blanket categorization of well construction permit approvals as ministerial

Under CEQA, perhaps the earliest key determination a governmental entity can make is whether its role in a project is ministerial or discretionary. This distinction is crucial to government entities and project developers alike; if there is no discretionary approval on the part of the governmental entity, then the entity’s decision is ministerial, and the project itself is statutorily exempt from the demands of CEQA. (see Pub. Res. Code § 21080(b)(1);see also CEQA Guidelines § 15268(a).) In Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources, et al.. v. County of Stanislaus, et al., filed on Aug. 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of California addressed the permissibility of a County blanket designating an entire subset of permit approvals as ministerial, even though the text of the governing ordinance left at least a portion of the approval decision up to the judgment of County officials. … ”  Read more from JD Supra here: Supreme Court of California weighs in on blanket categorization of well construction permit approvals as ministerial 

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

Wildfire suppression efforts are more aggressive than ever, but is there an ecological cost?

Smoky summers caused by large wildfires in recent years led to a strong public outcry. Now, federal land managers aggressively put out as many fires as they can before they get large.  National forest managers are responsible for managing wildfire on federal land under their control. Kris Sexton with the Klamath National Forest said she doesn’t like to take chances when it comes to safety.  “We always take aggressive action to put fires out right away and when they’re small,” she said. … ”  Read more from OPB here:  Wildfire suppression efforts are more aggressive than ever, but is there an ecological cost?

Wildfires in California will ‘continue to get worse,’ climate change experts explore why

More than a million acres are charred black in California as the result of historic wildfires this summer. For residents like Nick Pike, whose home was destroyed by the LNU Lightning Complex fires in the hills west of Vacaville, the blazes are simply devastating.  “This sucks,” Pike said. “We have four kids. Everything’s gone.”  At the time, Pike said he had no idea how many people evacuated or made it out of their homes. “But it seems as bad as the Paradise one to me, with the amount of smoke and fire we’re seeing,” he said. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Wildfires in California will ‘continue to get worse,’ climate change experts explore why

California cows could fight the fires, says Tyler Ribiero

He writes, “California is on fire once again, and the conversation of prevention is still being swept under the rug. How in the world can you allow your state to go up in flames every year so dramatically that homes are turned to ash, cities are leveled, and lives are lost battling the never-ending blazes and still not face the facts? California is going through a man-made drought that is spewing more greenhouse gasses in the air than cows have ever or will ever do. The kicker is that this is all preventable. … Where do cows come in to play? Cows are the heroic knights in shining armor left at home while the dragon spews fire across the land. … ”  Read more from Hoard’s Dairymen here:  California cows could fight the fires

Californians are buying their own fire trucks on Craigslist

For $17,000, an imported 1995 Japanese Toyota Hilux fire truck can be yours.  “This particular unit features ladder and hose racking, a slide-out pump tray in the bed, cargo basket, and two spot lights on the driver’s side,” reads an ad, one of many on Craigslist right now, hawking private fire trucks in California.  The devastating 2020 wildfires, sparked by an unforgiving dry lightning storm in August amid a soaring heat wave, left over one million acres of California torched, and the state’s fire services dangerously depleted of firefighters, trucks and other resources. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Californians are buying their own fire trucks on Craigslist

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Experts question impact of North Bay wildfires on endangered coho salmon

As the North Bay continues to deal with thick smoke from still-smoldering wildfires, some experts are already beginning to wonder about this winter. They’re concerned about endangered salmon in the Russian River watershed.  Ground zero is the Warm Springs Fish Hatchery just below Lake Sonoma, at the top of the Dry Creek Valley.  “We have 200,000 juveniles and about 1,000 to 1,500 adults,” said Ben White, who runs the hatchery for the Army Corps of Engineers. He is concerned about them, especially after the Walbridge Fire. … ”  Read more from KGO here:  Experts question impact of North Bay wildfires on endangered coho salmon

Point Reyes: Park refutes activists’ claim that elk lack water

Despite statements by Point Reyes National Seashore officials that the tule elk herd within the fenced enclosure at Tomales Point have an adequate natural water supply, activists are ringing an alarm. Last Sunday, around a dozen people took matters into their own hands, carrying buckets of water into the enclosure and filling troughs they brought with them.  Fairfax resident Jack Gescheidt was among those who made the trek with a five-gallon water jug. “Why wait until there are more dead elk to conclude that there is a shortage of water for hundreds of elk in a drought that is going to continue in drought season? Why not act now and put out water for the animals you have penned behind fences?” he asked. … ”  Read more from the Point Reyes Light here:  Point Reyes: Park refutes activists’ claim that elk lack water

Load study may offer insight to harmful algae blooms in Discovery Bay

Scientists have begun a load study in the Discovery Bay Delta to find out if hydrogen peroxide will help mitigate harmful algae blooms.  The experiment is a collaboration between the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Aquatic Ecotechnologies and the Discovery Bay Community Foundation (DBCF). Funded by a grant of $80,000, the project began on Aug. 25 and will conclude on Sept. 8. … ”  Read more from The Press here: Load study may offer insight to harmful algae blooms in Discovery Bay

Cause of ‘unprecedented’ power failure that led to sewage dump into SF Bay still unknown

A power outage at the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s main wastewater treatment plant last month triggered 47,000 gallons of raw sewage and 3.72 million gallons of partially treated wastewater to spill into the Oakland Estuary.  In the Aug. 14 outage, multiple redundant power sources failed at the plant in West Oakland, something that hasn’t happened since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  Cause of ‘unprecedented’ power failure that led to sewage dump into SF Bay still unknown

Coalition pushes Redwood City on plans to combat climate change

Concerns for rising sea levels and unprecedented wildfires have driven 24 Bay Area organizations to call on the Redwood City Council to address specific demands, including prohibiting development on Baylands within the city’s 2030 Climate Action Plan, calling the draft a recycled appendix of “boilerplate ideas.”  The statement, signed by a coalition of nonprofits including the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Redwood City Neighbors United, Save the Bay and Green Foothills, called for Redwood City to incorporate “specific and measurable climate adaptation actions targeted at shoreline resiliency, green stormwater infrastructure and mitigation of wildfire risk.” … ”  Read more from the Daily Journal here: Coalition pushes Redwood City on plans to combat climate change

Cannabis, broccoli share similar gross value in Monterey County

While lettuce and strawberries continue to top gross agricultural output in Monterey County, Calif., a crop that only recently became legal to produce in the county is quickly gaining value. When or if it overtakes the two agricultural mainstays remains to be seen.  Leaf lettuce, strawberries and head lettuce consistently rank as the county’s top-grossing crops. At No. 4, broccoli now has competition from cannabis, which is not part of the region’s annual report required under the California Food and Agriculture Code. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Cannabis, broccoli share similar gross value in Monterey County

Ceres City Council OKs bonds for interim funding of surface water plant

The Ceres City Council approved a resolution last week which gets the ball rolling on issuing bonds to help finance the surface water plant jointly built between the cities of Ceres and Turlock.  Both cities are members of a joint powers authority under the name of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA). In June the JPA Authority awarded a $195.4 million design-build contract for the design and construction of the plant to CH2M Hill. The firm will complete the raw water pump station, design and construct raw and finished water pipelines and a 15 million gallon per day water treatment plant (WTP). The project costs will be funded by both cities and Turlock Irrigation District. … ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here: Ceres City Council OKs bonds for interim funding of surface water plant

Tulare County: Wonderful Pistachios gets not so wonderful news

Last week the Tulare County Board of Supervisors heard two arguments over their permitting process from competing pistachio farmers. And they unanimously decided that permitting ARO Pistachios to add to their presence on their Terra Bella plant was by the book.  At the Aug. 25 meeting assistant director for the Tulare County Resource Management Agency (RMA), Aaron Bock, made clear to the board that permits for ARO Pistachios were for three pistachio storage silos with catwalks and stair system. And another permit that allows for up to eight more silos, four dryers, one receiving pit, one pre-cleaner and one wet huller. Wonderful Pistachios is disputing the RMA issued permits from May 20 and June 2 of this year that allowed ARO Pistachios to make those changes effectively expanding their capacity to process pistachios. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here:  Wonderful Pistachios gets not so wonderful news

Fallbrook Public Utilities District approves additional LAFCO deposit for detachment

San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission requires a deposit to process applications to LAFCO for jurisdictional changes, and the Fallbrook Public Utility District will be providing an additional deposit to process the application for FPUD to detach from the San Diego County Water Authority and annex into the Eastern Municipal Water District.  A 5-0 FPUD board vote, Monday, Aug. 24, authorized an additional $62,220 deposit to LAFCO. The deposit is expected to cover an additional 510 hours of LAFCO staff time at LAFCO’s rate of $122 per hour. … ”  Read more from the Fallbrook Village News here:  Fallbrook Public Utilities District approves additional LAFCO deposit for detachment

EPA announces short-term projects to plug border sewage flow

Emphasizing the “unprecedented” bipartisan cooperation between local and state governments, Border Patrol and the International Boundary & Water Commission, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced short-term projects Wednesday to plug the international sewage flow across the U.S.-Mexico border.  The two projects — which will cost $25 million and are funded by the EPA’s Border Water Infrastructure Program — will control sewage and wastewater, sediment and trash that flows from the Tijuana River across the U.S.-Mexico border into San Diego, Wheeler said during a press conference Wednesday at the U.S. Coast Guard station in San Diego. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: EPA announces short-term projects to plug border sewage flow

EPA commissioner announces projects to address sewage spills at border, an end to South Bay beach closures

Federal investments in Tijuana River Valley infrastructure to address ongoing problems with sewage runoff could mean an end to beach closures that have plagued the South Bay in recent years, officials announced today in San Diego.  Environmental Protection Agency Commissioner Andrew Wheeler, alongside local political leaders including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, announced several projects funded in part by the agency at a news conference at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in San Diego. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  EPA commissioner announces projects to address sewage spills at border, an end to South Bay beach closures

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In national water news today …

Ag lenders need to get on board with conservation

An Environmental Defense Fund report finds that agricultural lenders aren’t giving financial credit to farmers who utilize conservation practices.  “Agricultural lenders have a blind spot when it comes to climate risk and the value of farming practices that build resilience,” said Maggie Monast, EDF’s director of working lands. “Loan structures and credit review processes don’t incorporate the value of farmer investments in conservation practices that are known to mitigate weather risks, ultimately undermining long-term resilience and profitability for farmers and lenders alike.” … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Ag lenders need to get on board with conservation

How distributed water infrastructure can boost resilience in the face of COVID-19 and other shocks

COVID-19 — and the ensuing economic crisis — is affecting all sectors of society, including water. Across the country, water utilities are facing lower revenues, more unpaid and late water bills, and higher costs to protect essential staff from COVID-19. These financial challenges are affecting much-needed investments in water infrastructure, both now and in the future. Here, we summarize the financial impacts of COVID-19 on water utilities, examine how this may reduce or delay water infrastructure investments, and explore how investments in innovative distributed water infrastructure can address some of these issues while also fostering economic recovery, system flexibility, and long-term resilience.  … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here: How distributed water infrastructure can boost resilience in the face of COVID-19 and other shocks

Pacific Institute report: Ending conflicts over water: solutions to water and security challenges

Water-related conflict and political instability are on the rise across the globe. But while intensifying water challenges and the threats they pose to security are well documented, relatively few solutions have been presented.  This report fills the gap by exploring several dozen strategies to reduce water-related conflicts in key water-insecure hotspots around the world. The solutions are organized into four broad categories: natural resources, science, and engineering approaches; political and legal tools; economic and financial tools; and policy and governance strategies. These solutions provide decision-makers with options for addressing unique water challenges and can help improve water resources management, drought response, flood prevention, and access to safe, reliable, and affordable water for all. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here:  Pacific Institute report: Ending conflicts over water: solutions to water and security challenges

As much as half of the world’s water supply is being stolen, report finds

As much as half the world’s water supply is being stolen, with agriculture responsible for much of that, according to a new study.  Writing in the journal Nature Sustainability, an international team of researchers says thieves steal between 30% and 50% of the planet’s water supply every year. Overhauling legal and political frameworks could protect precious water supplies, they say.  The theft of water takes various forms, including using treated drinking water without paying for it, and taking water from natural sources in breach of environmental guidelines. Agriculture, which accounts for 70% of global water use, is often to blame. The report found that social attitudes and uncertainty over future supply help drive the crime. … ”  Read more from the World Economic Forum here:  As much as half of the world’s water supply is being stolen, report finds

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National Water and Climate Update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

Click here to view/download report.

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Today’s featured articles …

ECO RESTORE UPDATE: Five years in, program makes big gains on Delta habitat restoration

California EcoRestore is an initiative started in 2015 under the Brown Administration with the ambitious goal of advancing at least 30,000 acres of critical habitat restoration in the Delta and Suisun Marsh by 2020.  The project includes a broad range of habitat restoration projects, including aquatic, sub-tidal, tidal, riparian, flood plain, and upland ecosystem.

At the August meeting of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, Bill Harrell, gave an update on the Eco Restore program and the progress that has been made over the past five years.

Click here to read this article.


SCIENCE NEWS: Human effects on historic drought cycles, Invasive or not?, The silent extinction of freshwater mussels, What happens to bees after a fire?, and more …

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS on Integrated Regional Water Management, SGMA, equitable involvement in water planning, and climate change

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~IRWM Collaborations~ Summit Orientation~ Equitable Planning~ Infrastructure Investment~ Education Resources~ Managing Rivers ~~

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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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