DAILY DIGEST, 9/14: Extraordinary heat, rare summer snow brought unprecedented West Coast firestorms; Western wildfires damage, contaminate drinking water systems; A rebuilt Paradise nervously watches the horizon; Pandemic, unpaid bills test utilities’ social justice vows; and more …



In California water news today …

Extraordinary heat, rare summer snow brought unprecedented West Coast firestorms

The West Coast had just experienced a record-shattering heat wave when news came last week of a rare late-summer snowstorm in Colorado. To those still sweltering in California, Oregon and Washington, it sounded like a dream come true. In fact, it was an omen of a greater disaster to come.  As the blast of cold air in the Rocky Mountains sank, it searched for an escape — the lands of hotter weather farther west, toward the Pacific Coast. That triggered furious winds that poured over the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, acting as a giant bellows over the entire Pacific Coast, where fires were already burning in crackling-dry brush and timber. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Extraordinary heat, rare summer snow brought unprecedented West Coast firestorms

Western wildfires damage, contaminate drinking water systems

The American West is in flames, ablaze in one of the region’s worst fire episodes in the last hundred years.  More than 300,000 acres burned in Washington state on Monday, twice the total acres that burned in all of 2019.  In Oregon, the small towns of Detroit and Gates were leveled by wind-fueled flames racing down Santiam Canyon. As of Thursday night, a half million people in the state lived in areas under evacuation orders or alerts.  In California, where a record 3.1 million acres have burned this year, thick banks of smoke enveloped the Bay Area, obscuring mid-day skies with an eerie orange hue. The U.S. Forest Service, citing extreme fire risk, earlier this week closed all national forests in the central and southern parts of the state to visitors. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Western Wildfires Damage, Contaminate Drinking Water Systems

Paradise, the postcard Sierra Nevada town incinerated 22 months ago by the worst wildfire in California history, passed a milestone last month on its journey to rebuild from the ashes of 2018.  “The Town of Paradise has surpassed the 1,000th building permit issued!” officials crowed in an Aug. 12 recovery update. The occasion marked the town’s rise from what remained of 14,000 destroyed homes and buildings.  A new Tractor Supply Co. will fill half of the once burned-out Kmart store. The Best Western opened 11 hotel rooms, with another 50 planned to be ready by the end of the year.  Things were looking up. Until Wednesday. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  A rebuilt Paradise nervously watches the horizon

Is climate change worsening California fires, or is poor forest management to blame? Yes

Long before climate change severely parched California, priming it to burn at a record scale, federal foresters made an inventory of trees in the southern Sierra Nevada.  The year was 1911, and the goal of the fledgling U.S. Forest Service was to document the amount of timber in the area. More than a century later, however, the historical data set proved invaluable to researchers with a far different purpose: assessing how much the forest, and the inherent threat of fires within it, had evolved. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Are climate change or poor forest management worsening California fires? Yes

Newsom to meet with Trump on wildfires privately near Sacramento

Gov. Gavin Newsom will join President Donald Trump for a Monday wildfire briefing near Sacramento with state fire and emergency officials, but the meeting will be private, Newsom officials announced Sunday night.  Newsom will then depart separately for his own tour of active fire areas of the state, the governor’s team said Sunday. Trump is expected to appear at a press event later at McClellan Park, a former air base that serves as a home for state firefighting planes. That itinerary suggests the two leaders will not appear together in public Monday. … ”  Read more from Politico here:  Newsom to meet with Trump on wildfires privately near Sacramento

When President Trump flies to California on Monday to assess the state’s raging forest fires, he will come face to face with the grim consequences of a reality he has stubbornly refused to accept: the devastating effects of a warming planet.  To the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the American West are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here:  In visiting a charred California, Trump confronts a scientific reality he denies

Steelhead trout follow their instincts, not environmental cues

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are shedding new light on the behavior of an endangered fish in California. The study suggests that steelhead trout do not rely on environmental cues to decide when to migrate, but instead listen to their internal clock.  Professor Michael Booth has been studying the migration patterns of steelhead trout, a subpopulation of rainbow trout,  that make their way to the Pacific Ocean to hunt and feed until they return to freshwater streams to spawn. … ”  Read more from Earth.com here:  Steelhead trout follow their instincts, not environmental cues

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Point Reyes protest calls out park service over tule elk water supply

On Sunday, protesters staged an unusual photo op to highlight the conflict between cattle ranchers and a herd of elk at Point Reyes National Seashore.  The debate actually began in 1978 when a group of 30 tule elk were re-introduced onto the land, in a preserve enclosed by a three-mile-long fence. The herd has grown to about 450 animals and protesters say that, after last year’s dry winter, the elk are now trapped behind the fence with a dwindling water supply. … ”  Read more from KPIX here: Point Reyes protest calls out park service over tule elk water supply

Pleasanton council mulls options to treat PFAS water contaminants

The Pleasanton City Council made headway on plans to repair a contaminated groundwater well and meet — if not exceed — future water quality standards earlier this month.  In a unanimous vote Sept. 1, the council approved a $437,374 contract with Walnut Creek-based Carollo Engineers to prepare a basis of design report for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) treatment and rehabilitating the city’s groundwater wells 5, 6 and 8. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly here:  Pleasanton council mulls options to treat PFAS water contaminants

Desal project on Monterey Peninsula would improve water supply, environment and economy

Jeff Davi writes, “John F Kennedy, speaking in 1962, said: “If we could produce fresh water from salt water at a low cost, that would indeed be a great service to humanity, and would dwarf any other scientific accomplishment.”  And today, we are there. The Monterey Peninsula Water Supply Project, which will be before the California Coastal Commission for its final permit on Sept. 17, meets Kennedy’s criteria. This plant will provide a sustainable long-term water supply for our community which can replace over-pumping from the endangered Carmel River. For the sake of our environment, our economy and our water supply, the Coastal Commission needs to allow the project to move forward. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Desal project on Monterey Peninsula would improve water supply, environment and economy

Redondo Beach says it will sue state water board over power plant extension

Redondo Beach intends to sue the State Water Resources Control Board over a recent decision to extend the life of a power plant in the city for one year and three others around Southern California for at least three more years.  The board, for its part, declined to comment specifically on the proposed lawsuit. An agency spokesperson, however, did defend the board’s decision — saying it was “sensitive” to the concerns Redondo Beach officials raised. … ”  Read more from The Beach Reporter here: Redondo Beach says it will sue state water board over power plant extension

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Along the Colorado River …

Colorado, 5 other states promise lawsuits if feds fast-track approval of Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline project

For more than 20 years, negotiations among the seven states that rely on the Colorado River have avoided lawsuits, even as drought and population growth threaten the river’s flows.  That may change as a promise to rush the environmental review of a diversion project between the Colorado River’s upper and lower basins has six states suggesting lawsuits challenging the project could topple years of agreements.  … ”  Read more from Channel 9 here: Colorado, 5 other states promise lawsuits if feds fast-track approval of Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline project

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In national water news today …

Pandemic, unpaid bills test utilities’ social justice vows

They may not march with Black Lives Matter, but you wouldn’t know it from the tone struck by chief executives of some of the largest U.S. electric companies.  “As we power the lives of our customers, we will also continue to advocate for change, stand up for justice and ensure the communities where we work and live are provided with equal opportunities,” CEO Lynn Good of Duke Energy Corp. told analysts and investors last month.  Now, corporate vows to fight for racial and social equity are being tested as many state disconnection protections fade and fears of unpaid bills and spiraling customer debt climb. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Pandemic, unpaid bills test utilities’ social justice vows

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Weekend Daily Digest …

In California water news today:

  • After the blazes: Poisoned water and ‘a flood on steroids’;
  • A landfalling atmospheric river is forecast to potentially bring wildfire relief to the Pacific Northwest;
  • DWR continues critical operations during public emergencies;
  • California’s water crisis hits farmworkers hardest, maps call attention;
  • Trout don’t follow the weather forecast;
  • Dan Walters:  Environmental exemptions yes, but reform no;
  • Modoc Point Irrigation District illegally turns on pumps;
  • Bear Fire and Lake Oroville;
  • Tree mortality on decline, but drought conditions continue at Tahoe;
  • The Colorado River is awash in data vital to its management, but making sense of it all is a challenge;
  • Why some in Nevada see Utah pipeline plan as ‘first salvo in coming water wars’;
  • And more …

Click here to read today’s Daily Digest.

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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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