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DAILY DIGEST, weekend/holiday edition: Climate change could deliver more sediment and pollution to the Bay-Delta; Rep. TJ Cox introduces Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act; MID-funded documentary explores fishery issues on Tuolumne River; If a forest burns in a fire, does it return to normal?; and more …


In California water news this weekend …

Climate change could deliver more sediment and pollution to the San Francisco Bay-Delta

Climate change could deliver more silt, sand and pollution to the San Francisco Bay-Delta, along with a mixed bag of other potential consequences and benefits, according to a new study in the AGU journal Water Resources Research, which publishes research articles and commentaries providing a broad understanding of the role of water in Earth’s natural systems.  By running models of future climate change scenarios, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey found that as air temperatures increase by 1.6 to 5.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, with varying changes in rainfall, streams and rivers draining through the Sacramento Valley may see higher peak streamflows. Future storms will not necessarily bring more water overall, just more water during shorter time periods. Those higher streamflows will carry 39% to 69% more sediment down to the Bay-Delta by the end of the century, according to the researchers’ models. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Climate change could deliver more sediment and pollution to the San Francisco Bay-Delta

Rep. TJ Cox introduces Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act

“Today, Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) introduced the Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act, adding to a series of bills introduced this Congress by Rep. Cox to address water infrastructure in the Central Valley. The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Jim Costa (CA-16) and John Garamendi (CA-3).  The bill authorizes $800 million for surface and groundwater storage and conveyance projects, more than double what was previously available. Additional funding for water storage is necessary now that funding authorized by the WIIN Act has been exhausted. The bill also extends the operational and environmental authorities of the WIIN Act to provide continued water supply benefits without adverse impacts to listed species.  Supporters of the bill include the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (pending ratification), Friant Water Authority, Northern California Water Association, South Valley Water Association, Westlands Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Family Farm Alliance. “Even during this difficult time, we can’t stop our work to bring everyone in the Valley the water they need,” said Rep. Cox. “Water supply reliability is incredibly important to the lives of Central Valley working families and for the entire world’s economy and food system.”

Click here to continue reading this press release from Congressman TJ Cox.

“Our valley economy depends on a reliable and clean water supply. It is apparent, now more than ever during this pandemic, how important our food producers are to our well-being. We cannot wait to increase water storage across California. This is a critical need that calls for bold investment in infrastructure. Building out California’s water supply is the only way to ensure we produce the food needed to feed the American people,” said Rep. Costa.

“Congressman Cox has introduced important legislation to solve California’s water supply and environmental challenges, providing critical water for the Central Valley and upholding essential protections for the Delta. This bill indicates Congressman Cox’s understanding of the balance needed to meet California’s long-term water needs, and I compliment him on his leadership,” said Rep. Garamendi.

“The Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act builds on the success of 2016’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act by providing new federal funds to improve existing infrastructure, such as repairing subsidence along the Delta-Mendota and San Luis Canals or expanding San Luis Reservoir, and to build new water infrastructure, like constructing Pacheco Reservoir, that would increase the water supply reliability for communities and residents that rely on surface water provided by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority’s member agencies. The legislation also includes an extension of key Congressional direction regarding operations of the Central Valley Project that has improved south-of-Delta water supply reliability while protecting species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “It’s estimated that full implementation of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) could lead to the fallowing of up to 1 million acres of prime agricultural land in California – land that provides nearly 60 percent of our nation’s fruit and nut production and that nearly 5 million people rely on for their jobs and their way of life. The Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act provides key tools to improve surface water supply reliability that is necessary to help reduce the impacts of the implementation of SGMA on San Joaquin Valley communities.”

“The Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act includes needed funding for storage projects in California. Additional storage will better enable Californians, particularly those in the Central Valley, to adapt to the extreme shifts in water availability due to climate change. The Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act also builds on the success of the WIIN Act passed in 2016, which restored flexibility for operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project and provided much needed support for a sustainable water future for the people throughout California, including growers in Westlands Water District. The WIIN Act has proven extremely effective at protecting California’s fragile ecosystem and at-risk native fish species, while providing additional water throughout California. By extending the WIIN Act, from the environmental monitoring provisions to the operational provisions, and by updating funding for water infrastructure, this bill recognizes the needs of the Central Valley and provides a positive path forward,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “Enactment of this legislation would promote crucial storage projects, enhance environmental monitoring, and preserve operational flexibility for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project to maximize water deliveries to CVP and SWP contractors while providing the needed protections for listed fish species”

“The Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act comes at a time for California when many agencies like ours are working to fund critically needed projects that improve infrastructure to store or move water, such as the Friant-Kern Canal, and facing the additional challenge of achieving sustainable groundwater basins and sustainable economies into the future. This bill not only authorizes funding for critical projects but also continues use of the funding and approval process set up by the WIIN Act, and thus avoids creating new processes that could slow down efforts to fund projects that desperately need it during the next three years,” said Jason Phillips, CEO, Friant Water Authority.

“On behalf of the South Valley Water Association, which delivers water to over a million acres of productive farmland, I applaud Congressman Cox for the introduction of the Western Water Storage Infrastructure Act. If passed, this legislation will ensure much needed flexibility in the management of the California water system and produce funding for critical water infrastructure upgrades and we than Congressman Cox for his continued support of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Dan Vink, Executive Director, South Valley Water Association.

“We appreciate Representative Cox’s efforts to extend and expand federal support for water storage West-wide. The bill will create additional opportunities for federal support for smart, locally-led water storage projects, like Sites Reservoir, which will provide water for fish and wildlife, while improving statewide and regional water reliability and a more drought resilient economy and environment,” said David Guy, President, Northern California Water Association.

“As we’re seeing again in 2020, California experiences wide swings in drought and flood that make constant updating of our water system crucial. It’s a matter both of maintaining and repairing the system we have and expanding it to meet future needs. To keep pace with weather patterns, population growth, food production and environmental imperatives, our state and nation must make continual investments in underground and aboveground water storage and the facilities needed to move water effectively and efficiently,” said Jamie Johansson, President, California Farm Bureau Federation.

This is the third water bill introduced by Rep. Cox this Congress. Water storage is one of several tools needed for fixing the water supply crisis in the Central Valley. Investing in badly needed water storage projects will provide increased storage capacity and, in conjunction with flexible water management, will improve water supply reliability by banking more water in wet years for use in dry years. 
Read the full bill text here.

MID-funded documentary explores fishery issues on Tuolumne and nearby rivers

An online documentary explores the recent debate over protecting river fish in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.  The 83-minute film, “Until the Last Drop,” starts streaming at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at www.untilthelastdrop.com.  It was commissioned by the Modesto Irrigation District, which diverts part of the Tuolumne River to farms and city residents.  The documentary reflects the view of MID and its allies that the region’s economy would suffer if too much water were released for salmon and other fish. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  MID-funded documentary explores fishery issues on Tuolumne and nearby rivers

California’s three fish and wildlife entities: what’s the difference?

California has three fish and wildlife-related entities: Fish and Game Commission, and Department of Fish and Wildfire, and Wildlife Conservation Board. What’s the difference? ”  Read more from the California Globe here:  California’s three fish and wildlife entities: what’s the difference?

Animal group accuses Foster Farms of wasting water to kill chickens

A California animal advocacy group is suing Foster Farms for using a water-intensive slaughter method on chickens while the state suffers through drought.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund on Wednesday sued Foster Farms, which operates a large slaughterhouse and chicken processing plant in Livingston, for wasting water while slaughtering chickens through “electric immobilization.” As Livingston’s largest water customer, Foster Farms accounts for more than 60 percent of the city’s water usage through the consumption of approximately four million gallons of water each day. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here: Animal group accuses Foster Farms of wasting water to kill chickens

‘Compound climate events’ wallop California

A blistering heat wave is expected to engulf much of California this weekend, with temperatures potentially soaring as high as 115 degrees in the southern part of the state. The National Weather Service has warned of an elevated risk of wildfires, even as firefighters work to contain blazes already burning across the state.  It’s the second dangerous heat wave to hit California in the last few weeks. Mid-August saw triple-digit temperatures across much of the state, prompting California’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: ‘Compound climate events’ wallop California

If a forest burns in a fire, does it return to normal?

“When a forest burns in a wildfire, should we expect it to return as it was before?” Research scientist, Jonathan Coop, and his team pose this question. It addresses a critical conundrum in ecology, how do ecosystems recover from disturbance and why?  Historically, forest scientists developed successional models, a timeline of when certain species return to an environment after a disturbance, such as a wildfire. We expect the sun-loving, fast-growing plants to come back first followed by the shade-tolerant, slow-growing species. But with a changing climate and thus unpredictable disturbances, the successional models may no longer be accurate. Scientists will need new models to accurately predict ecological recovery after disasters. … ”  Read more from EnviroBites here: If a forest burns in a fire, does it return to normal?

California Supreme Courts holds categorical classification of well permits as exclusively “ministerial” does not hold water

After a nearly two-year wait, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus (2020) _Cal.5th  (POWER), the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected the County of Stanislaus’s (County) bright-line categorization that all groundwater well construction permits are ministerial, and therefore not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In an interesting twist, the Supreme Court also rejected the petitioner’s alternative “all or nothing” position that, if the permits are not ministerial, they must be discretionary and conditioned on CEQA compliance.  Instead, the Supreme Court held the decision of whether each permit is ministerial or discretionary hinges on the specific language of the governing ordinance and regulatory controls.  For those in urban settings, it may seem that a determination related to well permits has limited application.  However, this decision has been long awaited throughout the State, particularly in jurisdictions with thriving agricultural and energy generation industries, and has the potential to upset the long-standing practice in many areas that administer similar well programs. ... ”  Read more from the National Law Review here:  California Supreme Courts holds categorical classification of well permits as exclusively “ministerial” does not hold water

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In people news this weekend …

Bette Boatmun to Close Out 46 Years on CCWD Board of Directors

During the Contra Costa Water District’s (CCWD’s) Board meeting last night, Director Bette Boatmun shared publicly that she has decided not to seek re-election for the seat she has represented for over 46 years.  Director Boatmun was appointed to the CCWD Board in July 1974 and has served in that seat representing Division 4 for over 46 years. In her tenure, she has made countless contributions to CCWD, the community and beyond.   “I initially decided to apply for this position in the interest of bringing more women into the water industry and have been honored to represent our community on many important decisions,” said Director Boatmun. “This Board works together constructively and collaboratively and CCWD’s workforce is strong – I know that our community will continue to be well represented and served.” … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

A trailblazer for women in leadership in the community, water agencies and special districts, Director Boatmun served as President of CCWD from 1990-1992, President of the Association of California Water Agencies from 2002-2004 and Chair of the Contra Costa Special Districts Association.

Under her leadership, CCWD has implemented many significant projects and programs including: building Randall-Bold Water Treatment Plant; fencing the Contra Costa Canal; constructing Los Vaqueros Reservoir; providing a conservation program and demonstration garden; upgrading Bollman Water Treatment Plant; providing a low-income assistance program; building the Multi-Purpose Pipeline; building two new Delta intakes; and expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir, just to name a few.

Director Boatmun always has had an eagle-eye on CCWD’s finances to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency for customers.

“Bette has been a relentless advocate for customers by supporting water education, water use efficiency, financial responsibility and giving back to the community,” said CCWD Board President, Lisa Borba. “We will greatly miss her wit and wisdom at our Board meetings, but we expect that she will check in as a customer from time to time.”

Selection of the new Division 4 Director will be on the November 3, 2020 ballot. Division 4 covers parts of Concord, Pittsburg and Antioch.

Charlie Hoppin: The farmer who defied his father

As thick white smoke filled the air, Charlie took a moment to soak in what was about to happen.  Here was this former small-town farm boy with one of the biggest action movie stars in history, who now also happened to be the governor of California.  Arnold Schwarzenegger recently came into office with a decree to mix it up inside the big white dome and Charlie was about to see first-hand how the new governor planned to do just that.  If only his father could see him now.  … In what was considered the ultimate long shot, Charlie submitted an application to become a Board Member of the State Water Resources Board. Twenty-five people applied, many with years of political or conservation experience. There was no way a farmer from the Sacramento Valley would be appointed… or was there? … ”  Read the full profile here: Charlie Hoppin: The farmer who defied his father

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Podcasts …

Water talk: Beaver hydrology and management

A conversation with California State University-Channel Islands Professor Emily Fairfax about her work studying the lives of beavers and their impacts on droughts, fires, and water quality as well as some strategies for beaver management.  (Confidential to GS: This is for you!)

Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing: A Common Problem-Shared Solution

Steve Baker writes, “There is one thing that each of us has in common when it comes to water in our lives. Our life-styles create a source of pollution that is called non-point pollution.  We are producing in our cars, grassy lawns and other life-style activities a type of pollution that is very hard to stop. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.” Podcasts here Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

Jive Talking: Mike Young makes water sharing and markets work

David Zetland writes, “Mike Young holds a Research Chair in Water and Environmental Policy at the University of Adelaide, was the Founding Executive Director of its Environment Institute, is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and is a Distinguished Fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society. Mike is best known for his contribution to the development of natural resource and environmental policies, with a specialization in water policy reform. Mike published hundreds of publications over decades, so check out his home page (www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/mike.young#) for more.”

H2Whoa!  Podcast: What Is Water?

Wholly H2O is launching a new podcast, H2WhOa! Each episode includes two experts: scientist and artist, and takes a deep dive into the intricacies of H2O.  This first episode is focused on liquid water; we’re exploring what makes water, well… water!  Special Guests:  Scientist: Dr. Richard SayKally – UC Berkeley, Artist: Moses Hacmon – Israeli Artist

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In regional water news this weekend …

Reclamation augments Klamath Project water supplies to benefit water users and wildlife refuges

Today, Reclamation announced water supply increases for the benefit of water users and wildlife refuges in the Klamath Project in view of modest improvements in hydrology during the late summer and operational adjustments described below.  “We appreciate the efforts taken by Klamath Project water users that allowed the limited supplies of 2020 to stretch through the summer,” stated Commissioner Brenda Burman. “Managing the second lowest allocation in the history of the Klamath Project was an enormous challenge for both the project and the refuges. I am pleased that Reclamation, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, can make these operational adjustments to close out the agricultural activities as planned and bring additional relief to the wildlife refuges. … ”

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

Managing water during extreme drought conditions in the basin has required a series of adjustments in Klamath Project operations since April. Reclamation has continually assessed available supplies in Upper Klamath, Clear Lake and Gerber reservoirs and the needs of the project and wildlife refuges. Based on its most recent assessment, Reclamation is making three adjustments in September to close out the 2020 irrigation season and prepare water supplies for 2021:

  • 5,400 acre-feet of water will be delivered from Upper Klamath Lake to Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges to help curtail the ongoing avian botulism outbreak. This volume was acquired for fish and wildlife purposes and held in Upper Klamath Lake since this spring and is the same source of water that has allowed for the delivery of 4,000 acre-feet over the past month for the same purposes.
  • Reclamation will facilitate a temporary irrigation exchange of 10,000 to 15,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake to farms in the Klamath Project. The volume in Upper Klamath Lake will be replenished from Clear Lake and Gerber Reservoir releases during the fall months.
  • Reclamation is increasing the allocation of the Klamath Project by up-to 8,000 acre-feet from Upper Klamath Lake, if needed.

For more information on the Klamath Project and its operations, visit https://www.usbr.gov/projects/index.php?id=470.

Click here for the statement from the Klamath Water Users Association.

Klamath Waters Users Association (KWUA) expressed strong support for U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman’s announcement earlier today of Klamath Project management adjustments to finish the irrigation season while benefitting wildlife refuges. “This is the kind of creative thinking and flexibility we need in the basin,” said KWUA Executive Director Paul Simmons.  Commissioner Burman announced augmented water deliveries to wildlife refuges to combat avian botulism.  There will also be an exchange of water from the Lost River basin. Under that approach, current Upper Klamath Lake diversions will be replenished by offsetting releases from the Lost River system that occur later in the year, facilitating refuge deliveries and increasing total irrigation water supply by about five percent for the year. 

In April, irrigators learned that water supplies from Upper Klamath Lake would be only about 140,000 acre-feet, far less than one-half of the need for farms and wildlife refuges that are served through irrigation districts. Simmons said that district managers and irrigators taken unprecedented action to stretch the limited supply. 

“This has been a terrible year by any measure,” said Simmons. “But the irrigation community has been very resourceful and is doing an incredible job of stretching what little we’ve got.”

Water deliveries for wildlife refuges so far this year have been extremely limited. However, through cooperation by irrigation districts and federal managers, refuges have received more water than their entitlement for the year.  “We respectfully co-exist with the wildlife, and we do the right thing for our neighbors, including the wildlife refuges,” said Tulelake Irrigation District President John Crawford.

Today’s announcement will not reduce the amount of water planned for release to the Klamath River during the irrigation season, which is over 400,000 acre-feet.

“There should be no mistake: the amount of water for Project irrigation and refuges this year is unacceptably low.  There has already been significant damage to farm communities and wildlife,” said Simmons. “But today’s management decision is welcome news.”

He added that KWUA is driven to work with other parties to reach more stable conditions for communities throughout the basin after such an uncertain and troubling year.

“No one will be feeling any nostalgia for 2020.”

Coming home to the Klamath

Four aging dams on the Klamath River are coming down. Their completion between 1921 and 1964 brought hydroelectric power to Northern California. It also blocked hundreds of kilometers of fish habitat, causing chinook salmon to effectively disappear from the upper river basin. But the removal of dams is no guarantee the fish will return, so a team of wildlife researchers hopes it can coax the fish to repopulate the river by exploiting a new discovery about salmon genetics. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Coming home to the Klamath

It’s algae season on the Klamath River — again

Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs, which have created toxic conditions for the Klamath River’s fish for decades, are officially unsafe for humans to swim in this time of year.  The recreational health advisory “has become an annual ritual,” according to a news release from the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources.  Copco and Iron Gate Reservoirs are currently at “danger” levels of toxic algae, according to the California Water Quality Monitoring Council’s Harmful Algal Bloom Incident Report Map. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:   It’s algae season on the Klamath River — again

Big Springs residents: water trucking for illegal marijuana grows hasn’t stopped

At their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors discussed issues that Big Springs area residents are still facing regarding alleged privatized water sale for illegal marijuana grows.  Despite an urgency ordinance prohibiting the trucking of water and a rally near one of the alleged extraction sites on Aug. 22, residents say they’re still noticing trucking going on.  A few residents told supervisors that the enforcement hasn’t happened, and they are frustrated at their drying wells. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here:  Big Springs residents: water trucking for illegal marijuana grows hasn’t stopped

Commentary:  Unlimited water in Big Springs?

We Advocate for Thorough Environmental Review writes, “We are truly concerned about what is happening with the Big Springs residents losing access to water for their domestic use. Reviewing local water history is important. The Gateway Neighborhood residents (near the Crystal Geyser plant in Mount Shasta) experienced the same water shortage issues during CocaCola – Dannon water bottling days and were rebuffed by the county. The board of supervisors told the affected households to speak to the company, who then of course said it couldn’t possibly be from their pumping … even though they pumped more in one day than three of our neighbors pumped in a year! So, when the new CG project was proposed, our neighborhood had already experienced problems with over pumping. During the EIR process, WATER and experts urged the County and CG to include the neighborhood wells in the groundwater testing. What we got was misleading theoretical modeling and no testing of our domestic wells. Hence, our lawsuit is now pending a hearing in Appellate Court. ... ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Commentary:  Unlimited water in Big Springs?

Fort Bragg’s water shortage means steep cuts, no watering of lawns; climate scientists say to expect more

Fort Bragg is running low on water. On Monday, August 31, the City declared a stage two water emergency, asking all municipal water users to cut their usage by 20 percent. Specific restrictions include no watering lawns, no washing sidewalks, irrigating gardens between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., washing the exterior of any building, filling a swimming pool, and more. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here:  Fort Bragg’s water shortage means steep cuts, no watering of lawns; climate scientists say to expect more

Russian River: Ways to get involved with protecting our creeks

September marks several dedicated efforts throughout California that signify the importance of clean water and promote cleanups of local waterways. Pollution Prevention Week (starting on the third Monday of September), Creek Week (starting the fourth week of September), and California’s Coastal Cleanup Day all coincide in September to encourage public participation in keeping our water free of harmful pollutants, with a primary focus on removing trash from local waterways.  Each September cleanup events are organized to bring volunteers together to clean up trash and debris from beaches, rivers, and creeks, to educate community on the importance of clean water, and to promote an overall appreciation of our environment, nature, and being outside.  This year most of these designated cleanup events will not take place due to the restrictions around COVID-19, but there are still many ways to participate and make a difference in your community. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma County Gazette here: Russian River: Ways to get involved with protecting our creeks

Muddy Petaluma river dredged with hopes of reviving once-thriving waterway

For the first time in years, boats will soon be able to travel freely again down the Petaluma River.  Traditionally, Petaluma has been known by its nickname “River Town” but, by the state of affairs here over the last few years, it might as well have been called Mudville.  Once a vibrant waterway, Petaluma River is now silted in, full of mud. At low tide in the upper reaches near downtown, it’s so shallow that the geese walk.  Lt. Colonel John Cunningham says the river hasn’t had a full cleaning by the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 20 years. … ”  Read more from KPIX here:  Muddy Petaluma river dredged with hopes of reviving once-thriving waterway

Different technologies help address Lake Tahoe clarity

Groups in the Tahoe Basin are using new technology to fight invasive species and decreasing lake clarity.  Researchers at University of Nevada, Reno and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency have been testing a UV light equipped vessel to control aquatic invasive plants in the Tahoe Keys.  The technology, using the UV-C wavelengths, a short-wave electromagnetic radiation light that damages the DNA and cellular structure of aquatic plants and their fragments, was developed by John Paoluccio, president of Inventive Resources, Inc. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here:  Different technologies help address Lake Tahoe clarity

Sacramento: Scientists collect water quality data prior to wastewater treatment plant upgrades

The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San) is currently completing major upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant. In anticipation of these upgrades, USGS scientists are gathering data to establish baselines for current nutrient levels and dynamics in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta).   The plant is located two miles from the Sacramento River, near the city of Elk Grove. Known as the EchoWater Project, work on the upgrades broke ground in 2015. The project includes a Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) upgrade which is due to be completed in late 2021. (The entire EchoWater project will reach completion in 2023.) The BNR upgrade includes enhanced water treatment processes such as the removal of the nutrients ammonium and nitrate. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Scientists collect water quality data prior to wastewater treatment plant upgrades

Federal EPA weighs in on CDCR contamination of Mule Creek

The period for public comment on the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (RWQCB) proposed settlement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for violations at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) facility in Ione ended at 5 p.m. on August 19. While Kenny Croyle, RWQCB Water Resources Control Engineer, WDRs and Title 27 Compliance and Enforcement Unit, has stated that the RWQCB is preparing the responses to the comments received, and anticipates those will be finalized and made public in the coming weeks, the Ledger Dispatch did obtain the official comment to the RWQCB from the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region IX. … ”  Read more from the Amador-Ledger Dispatch here:  Federal EPA weighs in on CDCR contamination of Mule Creek

Ridgecrest:  Council bumps IWVGA rep discussion

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s basin replenishment fee may have been approved, but groundwater authority representation continues to raise issues.  Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens asked prior to the approval that council consider having the city withdraw from the groundwater authority if the controversial basin replenishment fee were to pass. It did pass, so Stephens’ item was listed on the council agenda this week. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Council bumps IWVGA rep discussion

Los Angeles: Construction on major Valley water projects close to beginning

A multimillion dollar water project in the heart of Northridge is on the fast track to becoming a reality.  The Aliso Creek-Limekiln Creek Restoration Project at Vanalden Park is aimed at reducing pollutants in city waters by treating stormwater and urban runoff from Aliso and Limekiln creeks and an open channel storm drain.  Runoff will be diverted to pretreatment equipment for removal of trash and debris and then conveyed to a bioretention basin for further filtration before discharging back to the creeks and ultimately the Los Angeles River. … ”  Read more from the LA Daily News here: Los Angeles: Construction on major Valley water projects close to beginning

San Diego:  Editorial: New EPA help welcome, but local leaders should keep demanding sewage fixes

The May announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had approved a $300 million plan to fix broken industrial infrastructure that has allowed sewage from the Tijuana River to frequently foul South County beaches brought sighs of relief from San Diegans who couldn’t understand why the federal government had for a decade been so indifferent about such a profound quality-of-life problem in one of the nation’s most populated counties. But the relief was limited because of the widespread view that needed fixes would cost significantly more than $300 million. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Editorial: New EPA help welcome, but local leaders should keep demanding sewage fixes

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona endorses a company’s plan to sell Colorado River water to Queen Creek

Arizona’s top water regulator has endorsed a company’s proposal to take water from farmland near the Colorado River and sell it to the fast-growing Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek.  The plan, which still would require federal approval, has generated a heated debate about whether transferring water away from the farming community of Cibola could harm the local economy, and whether the deal would open the gates for more companies to buy land near the river with the sole aim of selling off the water for profit. … ”  Read more from Arizona Central here:  Arizona endorses a company’s plan to sell Colorado River water to Queen Creek

In national news this weekend …

The Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed new rules that could make it easier to shrink future critical habitats designated under the Endangered Species Act.  Opening a new front in the Trump administration’s multipronged bid to reshape the ESA, the agency declared its latest proposal is intended to “articulate clearly when and how FWS will undertake” an analysis of whether to exclude certain lands from critical habitat.  “The proposed regulations would provide greater transparency for the public, improve consistency and predictability for stakeholders affected by ESA determinations and stimulate more effective conservation on the ground,” FWS Director Aurelia Skipwith said in a statement. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Trump admin proposal could shrink critical habitat

US Wildlife Agency seeks to carve out areas from protections

A Trump administration proposal released Friday would allow the government to deny habitat protections for endangered animals and plants in areas that would see greater economic benefits from being developed — a change critics said could open lands to more energy development and other activities.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials described the proposal as giving more deference to local governments when they want to build things like schools and hospitals.  But the proposal indicates that exemptions from habitat protections would be considered for a much broader array of developments, including at the request of private companies that lease federal lands or have permits to use them. … ”  Read more from Courthouse News Service here:  US Wildlife Agency seeks to carve out areas from protections

RELATED CONTENT:  OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Processes for considering critical habitat exclusions under the Endangered Species Act

Attorney General Becerra leads multistate comment letter challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict the definition of habitat under the Endangered Species Act

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, joined by 16 attorneys general, sent a comment letter challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to narrowly and unlawfully define the term ‘habitat’ under the federal Endangered Species Act. The proposed federal rule change could restrict restoration efforts and limit government’s authority to protect plants and wildlife amid climate change.  “The Trump Administration can’t explain its reasoning for tampering with definitions of protected habitat. Here’s the reason: They want to weaken protections for fish and wildlife so that industry can steamroll critical habitats,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our coalition is committed to protecting all species and habitat from unnecessary disruption from industry and climate change.”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Department of Justice.

The proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would add a new, restrictive definition of “habitat.” This definition would limit government agencies from designating and protecting habitat that is critical for species survival and recovery. In the letter, the Attorneys General urge withdrawal of the proposed rule for the following reasons:

  • The proposed rule is contrary to the Endangered Species Act’s primary purposes of promoting species survival and recovery;
  • The proposed rule is contrary to the statutory definition of “critical habitat” because it would restrict currently unoccupied habitat from being designated as such under the Act, including restored habitat or other areas that species may move into as they adapt to climate change or other human-caused activity;
  • The proposed rule is arbitrary and capricious because the administration has failed to provide any reasonable rationale for the change; and
  • The proposed rule is a substantive change that requires environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In California, there are over 300 species listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act – more than any other mainland state. California also has tens of millions of acres of federal public land protected under the Act.

The federal Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973, was intended to reverse the trendline of species extinction and has proven to be one of the nation’s strongest tools for modifying human activities in order to reduce or avoid environmental damage.

In challenging this proposal, Attorney General Becerra continues his longstanding fight to protect the Endangered Species Act. On September 25, 2019, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of 18 attorneys general and the City of New York to file a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Act’s implementing regulations. And on June 29, 2020, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a multistate coalition in opposing President Trump’s executive order instructing federal agencies to use emergency authority to bypass the federal Endangered Species Act and other foundational environmental laws.

In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

Judge considers freezing ‘political’ environmental review rule

A federal judge took a no-nonsense approach Friday to a hearing on the White House’s rewrite of federal environmental review standards, grilling conservation groups on how they’ll be harmed and chiding the Justice Department for glossing over the political motivations behind the rules.  Judge James P. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia presided over more than two hours of arguments on whether he should freeze the government’s new National Environmental Policy Act rules. They take effect Sept. 14, replacing Nixon-era requirements. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Judge considers freezing ‘political’ environmental review rule

NEPA rules rewrite: what’s next?

This is the final in our series of eAlerts on revisions to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations published in the Federal Register on July 16, 2020 by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (“Final Rule”).  This final eAlert focuses on some of the major “moving parts” related to the Final Rule that may affect the applicability and longevity of the Final Rule.  As anticipated, several lawsuits have been filed concerning the Final Rule. Following are challenges to the Final Rule that have been filed as of the date of this eAlert … ”  Read more from Nossaman here: NEPA rules rewrite: what’s next?

Wheeler’s environmental justice pledge leaves activists cold

Environmental justice leaders say they are perplexed by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler’s commitments to low-income communities of color—one of the main themes of a speech he gave in California.  Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Wheeler laid out his views in a Thursday speech about the agency’s future, arguing the nation’s environmental policies have been a problem for frontline communities for decades, stretching back before the Trump administration. He said past policies haven’t done a thorough enough job of cleaning up such communities, and have pounded them economically.  But Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator at the Climate Justice Alliance, said Wheeler’s comments are “not just hypocrisy, it’s Orwellian lip service,” given the EPA’s track record under President Donald Trump. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Wheeler’s environmental justice pledge leaves activists cold

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Sunday video …

Flyover of the upper Sacramento River near Redding, including the primary spawning habitat for Winter-run Chinook Salmon. Video by John Hannon.

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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