DAILY DIGEST, 9/11: La Niña is back. What does that mean for California’s drought?; Scientists predict heavy flood events over the Sierra with climate change; Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion moves ahead; ‘Fire-breathing dragon of clouds’ over Creek Fire; and more …



On the calendar today …

Groundwater Replenishment System Virtual Tour from 12pm to 1:30pm

The Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is the world’s largest water purification system for indirect potable reuse. The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have previously been discharged into the Pacific Ocean and purifies it to high-quality water that meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

La Niña is back. What does that mean for California’s drought?

La Niña conditions were observed in the Pacific Ocean last month, and there is a 75% chance the weather pattern will persist through the winter, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.  A La Niña climate pattern has been slowly building over the summer, and now we’re in “strengthening La Niña territory,” climatologist Bill Patzert said Thursday.  What does that mean for California and the Southwest? … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  La Niña is back. What does that mean for California’s drought?

La Nina is here, threatening even bigger blazes and storms

The extreme weather that’s hammered California with runaway wildfires and hit Louisiana with its most powerful hurricane in 160 years may be about to get even worse.  La Nina — a phenomenon that occurs when the surface of the Pacific Ocean cools — has officially formed, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. It triggers an atmospheric chain reaction that stands to roil weather around the globe, often turning the western U.S. into a tinder box, fueling more powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic and flooding parts of Australia and South America. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Green here: La Nina is here, threatening even bigger blazes and storms

SEE ALSO: Q&A: La Nina may bring more Atlantic storms, western drought, from US News and World Report

Scientists predict heavy flood events over the Sierra Nevada will become more extreme under future climate warming

California is on track to get drier over the coming decades. But that doesn’t mean the golden state’s water woes come only from too little rain. In a new study, researchers at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA warn that flooding potential associated with extreme precipitation events is set to sharply increase.  These storms are anticipated to become more intense overall, but a smaller fraction of their precipitation will fall as snow. This means a smaller snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, a critical part of the state’s water storage.  The twofold impact of increased precipitation and reduced snowfall, the researchers said, could lead to unprecedented flooding that could overwhelm the current capacity of many California reservoirs. The study was recently published in Geophysical Research Letters. … ”  Read more from UCSB here:  Scientists predict heavy flood events over the Sierra Nevada will become more extreme under future climate warming

Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion moves ahead

A major expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir took a step forward with the release of the Final Feasibility Report by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) that concluded the initiative is economically viable.  The reservoir is owned and operated by the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD), and the project will increase its capacity by more than 70% when complete.  “This is a significant milestone for the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project and project partners,” said Lisa Borba, CCWD board president. “We are grateful for our partnership with Reclamation as we move forward to make this important investment in water storage a reality.” … ”  Read more from The Press here:  Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion moves ahead

Reclamation announces virtual open house and public comment period extension for Shasta Dam proposal to increase water storage for Californians and fish

Reclamation announces a virtual open house website for the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: http://www.virtualpublicengagement.com/usbr_shasta/index.html. Additionally, the public comment period is extended to October 5 to allow more time for public engagement.  Website visitors will be able to learn more about the project, review summaries of Draft Supplemental EIS chapters, and submit comments. … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

Reclamation released the Draft Supplemental EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act on August 6. The report includes updated project information relevant to Clean Water Act 404(r), revised modeling reflective of operational changes from the 2019 Biological Opinions, and updated analysis on effects to the McCloud River. The original 45-day comment period is extended by two weeks and will close on October 5.  The Draft Supplemental EIS is available at: https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=1915. Submit comments by close of business on October 5 to David Brick, Bureau of Reclamation, CGB-152, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825, via telephone at 916-202-7158 (TTY 1-800-877-8339); via email at dbrick@usbr.gov; or via the virtual open house website.”

Trump Administration announces more than $130 million in public-private funding for wetland conservation projects

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt, approved more than $130 million in funding for various wetland conservation projects.  The 2020 North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants will be used to ensure waterfowl and other birds are protected throughout their life cycles. Of the projects approved, $33.3 million will be allocated for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 157,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds for 32 projects in 21 states throughout the United States. These grants will be matched by almost $85 million in partner funds.  “The Trump Administration continues to take significant conservation actions benefiting all Americans, particularly hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. It has never been more important than now that we conserve our great outdoors and expand public access to public lands, and the Trump Administration has done that,” said Secretary Bernhardt. …”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

“The Trump Administration continues to support wetland restoration and habitat conservation projects that benefit waterfowl and many other species while improving access to outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands for all Americans,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith.

Wetlands provide many ecological, economic and social benefits such as habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants. NAWCA grants conserve bird populations and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, family farming and cattle ranching. This year’s projects include:

San Joaquin Wetlands Conservation IV – California – $1 million to restore and enhance over 1,500 acres in the California’s Central Valley. Activities will benefit species including cackling goose, American wigeon and sandhill cranes.

Continue reading this press release by clicking here.

California heatwave fits a trend

In early September 2020, an intense heatwave broke temperature records in several locations in Southern California. The dry, hot conditions helped fuel new and existing fires, which have consumed tens of thousands of acres of land. According to recently published research, these extremes fit a long-term trend toward longer and more intense heatwaves in Southern California.  The map above shows air temperatures across the United States on September 6, 2020, when much of the Southwest roasted in a dramatic heatwave. The map was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and represents temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. The darkest red areas are where the model shows temperatures surpassing 113°F (45°C). … ”  Read more from Earth Observatory here:  California heatwave fits a trend

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California wildfires …

‘Fire-breathing dragon of clouds’: Formation over Creek Fire said to be biggest in US history

A giant thunderstorm hovered above the Creek Fire on Saturday, shooting smoke plumes into the stratosphere as flames tore through the Sierra National Forest below — and an obscure meteorological term briefly burst into the popular lexicon: pyrocumulonimbus.  That’s the name for a rare formation that NASA dubbed “the fire-breathing dragon of clouds.” ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: ‘Fire-breathing dragon of clouds’: Formation over Creek Fire said to be biggest in US history

A climate reckoning in fire-stricken California

Multiple mega fires burning more than three million acres. Millions of residents smothered in toxic air. Rolling blackouts and triple-digit heat waves. Climate change, in the words of one scientist, is smacking California in the face.  The crisis in the nation’s most populous state is more than just an accumulation of individual catastrophes. It is also an example of something climate experts have long worried about, but which few expected to see so soon: a cascade effect, in which a series of disasters overlap, triggering or amplifying each other. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: A climate reckoning in fire-stricken California

How record-smashing heat invited infernos to the West

Two weeks ago, the Pine Gulch Fire became the largest wildfire in Colorado history when it grew to an area nearly the size of Chicago.  The 139,000-acre blaze, ignited July 31, was fueled by another record: The area where the fire occurred experienced its hottest August in at least 126 years. … Nearly three-quarters of the counties in six Western states broke monthly temperature records for August, NOAA records show. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, which make up NOAA’s West and Southwest climate regions. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: How record-smashing heat invited infernos to the West

Peter Gleick: The future has arrived. These explosive fires are our climate change wakeup call

He writes, “Like millions of people in the western United States this week, I woke up to deep red, sunless skies, layers of ash coating the streets, gardens, and cars, and the smell of burning forests, lives, homes, and dreams. Not to be too hyperbolic, but on top of the political chaos, the economic collapse, and the worst pandemic in modern times, it seemed more than a little apocalyptic.  Too much of the western United States is on fire, and many areas not suffering directly from fire are enveloped in choking, acrid smoke. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Peter Gleick: The future has arrived. These explosive fires are our climate change wakeup call

Dianne Feinstein:  California’s burning landscape is proof of rapid climate change

She writes, “So far this year, California has experienced three of the four largest fires in state history, and we’re only just entering the traditional fire season. Sixteen of the 20 largest fires have occurred since 2007, nine of those in just the last five years.  Every time California suffers a particularly bad fire season, we ask the same questions: How can we prevent destructive fires in the future? Where can we turn for more resources? What can we do to help those who lost their homes and businesses?  One near-term solution is the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act, a bill I introduced last month with Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to carry out wildfire mitigation projects, sustain healthier forests and help businesses and residences limit their risks from future fires. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Dianne Feinstein:  California’s burning landscape is proof of rapid climate change

SEE ALSO:

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In regional water news and commentary today …

A disease outbreak in California has killed an estimated 40,000 birds

First, an infected bird may lose the ability to walk. Its wings often go next. Finally, its neck goes limp and it drowns.  This is the sad scene that Caroline Brady, a northern California waterfowl biologist, has observed often this summer. As wildfires burn across the state, temperatures hit record highs, and communities cope with the COVID-19 crisis, she is helping respond to a different disaster: the worst avian botulism outbreak that anyone can remember at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. … ”  Read more from Audubon here: A disease outbreak in California has killed an estimated 40,000 birds

City of Arcata, RCAA start Spartina extraction at the Marsh Friday

The City of Arcata is partnering with the Redwood Community Action Agency to remove an invasive plant, known as Spartina densiflora,​ on I Street a​ t the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary.  Spartina removal helps fulfill wetland mitigation requirements for the construction of Arcata’s portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. “Wetland mitigation” helps to enhance, restore or preserve wetlands that have been subject to unavoidable wetland impacts, and this project will help to enhance the native salt marsh habitat. … ”  Read more from the Mad River Union here:  City of Arcata, RCAA start Spartina extraction at the Marsh Friday

Zone 7 considers flood control system overhaul

Zone 7 Water Agency’s failed flood control system needs a total revamp from the ground up, according to a consultant hired by the agency.  The system can’t be saved by adding touches here and there. It will need a whole new rethinking, and will be expensive, said Eric Nagy, a principal with the firm Larsen, Wurzel & Associates in Sacramento.  Nagy delivered his report at the board’s Sept. 2 virtual special meeting. No formal board vote was taken, because the item was placed on the agenda for discussion only, not action. … ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here: Zone 7 considers flood control system overhaul

Santa Cruz water quality at risk from wildfire damage

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire’s threat to water quality in Santa Cruz came into sharper focus Tuesday as a Cal Fire emergency watershed response team neared completion of a damage study.  The most pressing risk is debris that could clog the San Lorenzo River near River Street and Highway 1 where water enters the city’s system, said Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard. The San Lorenzo River is the city’s largest water source. It represents about 45% of the water supply.  “We are concerned about what will happen when the rains come,” Menard said. … ”  Read more from Santa Cruz Local here: Santa Cruz water quality at risk from wildfire damage

$2,460,000 state grant allocated to Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris has announced that the California State Coastal Conservancy has allocated a $2,460,000 grant to acquire the 44-acre Newland Marsh property in Huntington Beach from the California Department of Transportation, and to transfer the property to the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy (HBWC).  “Now more than ever, we must support habitat restoration projects to protect our coastline in the face of climate change,” said Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “This grant from the State Coastal Conservancy will make an incredible difference in preserving the sensitive wetland habitat of Newland Marsh, while increasing access to natural spaces for the public.” ... ”  Read more from the OC Breeze here:  $2,460,000 state grant allocated to Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy

Rancho Water to refund bonds and cover loss from shelved rate increases

During a joint regular meeting of the Rancho California Water District finance and audit committee and a special meeting of the board of directors, Thursday, Sept. 3, the district committee agreed to implement the 2020 Plan of Finance and authorize RCWD’s general manager to negotiate and enter into agreements for proposed bond issuances to save the district an estimated $1.3 million.  The savings will help cover the loss expected when the board agreed to halt rate increases during the COVID-19 pandemic last month. … ”  Read more from Valley News here: Rancho Water to refund bonds and cover loss from shelved rate increases

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Along the Colorado River …

Lake Powell Pipeline a “monkey wrench” in the future of Colorado River management

The Utah Board of Water Resources has proposed to construct, operate and maintain the 141-mile long Lake Powell Pipeline, a project that would convey water from Lake Powell near Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, to Washington County, Utah. … The Lake Powell Pipeline is a project that will take 28 billion gallons of water out of the Colorado River every year to feed lawns and golf courses in St. George, Utah. Pipeline proponents, propose to do this without considering alternatives like water conservation and conservation programs that have been successfully employed in southern Nevada and elsewhere across the West. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Ally here: Lake Powell Pipeline a “monkey wrench” in the future of Colorado River management

Audubon “Wingspan” weighs in on Colorado River Lake Powell Pipeline

This week, Audubon submitted comments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on the draft environmental impact statement for the Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) Project on the Colorado River. These comments are submitted on behalf of National Audubon Society and several Audubon Chapters located in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, California, and Nevada.  While Audubon recognizes the years of effort that have gone into the development of the environmental analyses for the Lake Powell Pipeline, our letter lays out the reasons Audubon does not support any decision by the Reclamation that would approve the preferred alternative for the LPP. … ”  Continue reading at Audubon here: Audubon “Wingspan” weighs in on Colorado River Lake Powell Pipeline

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In national water news today …

Strained rural water utilities buckle under pandemic pressure

The months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic already spelled trouble for the Rome Water System and the tiny community it serves in the Mississippi Delta.  A tornado tossed around several homes, closed roads and left the community without power for two weeks. Lightning strikes on two separate occasions damaged pumps used to transport water and wastewater for about 75 connections serving about 220 people.  The system usually takes in about $3,400 a month. But since the pandemic hit, the system has been bringing in just over half as much. It can’t catch up until people start paying their bills, said the system’s treasurer, Irie Knighten.  “We ain’t doing so hot,” Knighten said. … ”  Read more from the Pew Charitable Trust here: Strained rural water utilities buckle under pandemic pressure 

Legal alert: Critical habitat designation regulation change proposed

A proposed new rule under the Federal Endangered Species Act will significantly change the way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service applies its authority in determining critical habitat designations. The FWS published the proposed new rule on Tuesday. The agency is accepting public comments on it through Oct. 8.  If adopted, the new rule would change how FWS determines whether particular areas are excluded from critical habitat based upon economic and other relevant impacts of a proposed designation. … ”  Read more from BB&K here: Legal alert: Critical habitat designation regulation change proposed

Removing carbon from air, which increases water use, is no simple climate fix

Technologies that pull heat-trapping carbon out of the air and store it underground, one option for cooling the planet, have significant drawbacks and consequences for water, energy demand, and food production, a new study finds.  Delaying emissions reductions now and having to deploy carbon removal at large scale in the coming decades could worsen water stress at the same time that water is already expected to become scarcer in some regions and seasons due to warming temperatures, said Andres Clarens, one of the study authors. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here: Removing carbon from air, which increases water use, is no simple climate fix 

August 2020 was third-warmest on record for the U.S., and dry conditions dominated the West

According to the latest climate summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, extreme heat in the U.S. Southwest carried August 2020 into the record books as the country’s third-warmest August in the 126-year record. At 74.7° Fahrenheit, the August average temperature in the contiguous United States was 2.6°F above the twentieth-century average.  Average precipitation in August was in the driest third of the historical record, despite the arrival of two tropical cyclones—Marco and Laura—and above-average precipitation across the Mid-Atlantic, the Ohio and Lower Mississippi Valleys, and the Southeast. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  August 2020 was third-warmest on record for the U.S., and dry conditions dominated the West

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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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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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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