DAILY DIGEST, 9/24: Saving the Salton Sea: Are the solutions boons or boondoggles?; Town still waits for clean water one year later; Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’; Heat and drought teaming up more frequently; and more …



On the calendar today …

ONLINE MEETING: Delta Stewardship Council beginning at 9am

Agenda items include SGMA and the Delta Plan, Lead scientist report, and presentations from DSC Science Fellows.  Click here for the full agenda.

CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Federal and State Efforts to Restore the Salton Sea beginning at 9am

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), chair of the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, will lead a hearing titled Federal and State Efforts to Restore the Salton Sea. The event will focus on federal and state agency efforts to mitigate health risks to Californians living near the Salton Sea, where receding sea levels have exposed residents to toxic dust with unsafe levels of selenium, arsenic and industrial runoff.  Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot and State Water Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel among those scheduled to testify.  Watch Live: https://bit.ly/3hJHg3R (Facebook) or https://youtu.be/jC9cqP1nzBs (YouTube)

WEBINAR: Ending Conflicts Over Water: Solutions to Water and Security Challenges 10a, to 11:30 am

This session explores the various dimensions of how nature-based solutions can build long-term water security and why this matters over the next 30 years to address and manage future shocks.  The session provides examples and best practices from around the world in integrating nature into national water management plans, and shows how businesses are integrating nature-based solutions into their water stewardship plans.  Program will be broadcast on this page.

WEBINAR: Klamath River Dam Removal  from 12pm to 1pm

In 2010, an agreement was signed to remove the lowermost four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in 2020 in what would be the largest fish restoration project in history. Now it is 2020. Why aren’t the dams coming out yet? Are the dams still coming out at all? What affect are the dams having to the river now? If the dams come out, what will be the benefits to the river and what will be the short-term negative effects? All these questions and more will be answered or updated in this presentation.  In order to attend, you must register in advance for this meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0tdeyvpzkvGdLct4DwX5x7cYdWCYG…

WEBINAR: Potter Valley Project: what’s it all about? beginning at 6pm

A group of water agencies and environmental has come up with a decommissioning plan that would ope the main stem of the Eel River to endangered salmon and steelhead and maintain water deliveries to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, but also include removal of Scott Dam and disappearance of the lake. What would this mean for local recreational users and cabin owners? What would replace the lake’s function as a fire-fighting resource? What would be the impacts to surrounding wildlife such as the resident herd of Tule Elk? What can be done to get the best deal for Lake County?  Please join us to explore these questions.  For full connection information and to register, visit the Lake Group’s webpage.

SALTON SEA: Community Input Online Meeting from 6pm to 8pm

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has released a draft Project Description for the Salton Sea Management Program Phase I: 10-Year Plan.  This is the last in a series of three virtual workshops to solicit community input on the draft Project Description goals and objectives as well as the sizes, locations, and types of projects being proposed and anticipated impacts. The state is also seeking feedback about how the public would like to access the Sea and what compatible community amenities should be prioritized.  More information, Zoom link, and meeting materials will be posted at this website.

In California water news today …

Saving California’s Salton Sea: Are the solutions boons or boondoggles?

The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is in decline, mainly due to ever decreasing water flows. It is shrinking and becoming more saline with significant impacts on the region’s health, wealth and environment. Several proposals to ‘fix’ the sea are being considered. Chief among these are importing water from the Sea of Cortés and transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. But are such proposals projects of value or fool’s errands? Lucia Levers runs the numbers and discovers considerable differences between the options. Here she describes how she and colleagues assessed the Salton Sea water importation options and what’s at stake. … ”  Read the article at the Global Water Forum here:  Saving California’s Salton Sea: Are the solutions boons or boondoggles?

New Salton Sea documentary wades into the slow-moving environmental disaster

It’s been nearly two decades since a controversial deal transferred huge amounts of Colorado River water out of the Imperial Valley and away from the Salton Sea, but still no long-term solution has been found to cover thousands of acres of toxic dust exposed at California’s largest lake.  A new documentary — “Miracle in the Desert: The Rise and Fall of the Salton Sea” — takes a crack at the growing public health issue, drawing on archival footage to tell the tale of a lake that was largely forgotten by the government even before its shorelines began receding. Focusing on interviews with residents of the Coachella and Imperial valleys, the film suggests that a hotly debated sea-to-sea importation plan — where water would be pumped in, likely from the Sea of Cortez — is the answer. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: New Salton Sea documentary wades into the slow-moving environmental disaster

Gov. Newsom told this California town they’d get safe drinking water. It’s been a year

It’s been four years since safe drinking water flowed from the tap at Jovita Torres-Romo’s home.  When the well at her rental house went dry in 2016, the only running water available to her family came through a hose stretched across the street from a neighbor’s house.  “Just close your eyes and imagine you had no water for a day or even a week to do basic things like shower, wash your hands, and use the bathroom,” Torres-Romo told The Fresno Bee. “That was my life for three months.” … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Gov. Newsom told this California town they’d get safe drinking water. It’s been a year

Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean

Meteorologists track hurricanes over the oceans, forecasting where and when landfall might occur so residents can prepare for disaster before it strikes. What if they could do the same thing for droughts?  Stanford scientists have now shown that may be possible in some instances – the researchers have identified a new kind of “landfalling drought” that can potentially be predicted before it impacts people and ecosystems on land. They found that these droughts, which form over the ocean and then migrate landward, can cause larger and drier conditions than droughts that occur solely over the land. Of all the droughts affecting land areas worldwide from 1981 to 2018, roughly one in six were landfalling droughts, according to the study published Sept. 21 in Water Resources Research. … ”  Read more from Stanford here:  Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean

Heat and drought team up more frequently, with disastrous results

The combination of drought conditions and heat waves, which can make wildfires more likely, is becoming increasingly common in the American West, according to a new study. The results may be predictably disastrous.  It has been well established that both droughts and heat waves have been occurring more frequently in recent decades. And while those conditions can cause damage singly, “their concurrence can be even more devastating,” the authors wrote. ... ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Heat and drought team up more frequently, with disastrous results

SEE ALSO: Frequency of combined droughts and heatwaves has substantially increased in western U.S. over past 50 years, from Phys Org

New ‘Atmospheric River’ scale aims to measure damage potential of incoming rain storms

Hurricanes have the Saffir-Simpson Scale (“Category 5”), tornadoes have the Enhanced Fujita Scale (“EF-3”) but now the West Coast has a storm scale of our own with a recent introduction of a new rating system for “atmospheric rivers” — the causes of a vast majority of our annual autumn and winter flooding damage. … ”  Read more from KOMO here:  New ‘Atmospheric River’ scale aims to measure damage potential of incoming rain storms

California wildfires …

After a wildfire ripped through central California last month, residents in the Riverside Grove neighborhood in the Santa Cruz Mountains discovered another danger: contaminated water coursing through their pipes.  Benzene, a chemical tied to cancer, leukemia and anemia, was detected in the town’s drinking water after 7 miles of plastic water piping was torched in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire south of San Francisco. Plastic pipes are used for their flexibility in earthquake-prone California. Today, about 450 homes there remain under a “do not drink” advisory.  Riverside Grove is one of three fire-damaged areas in California where benzene has been detected so far in the latest round of historic wildfires, said Dan Newton, the assistant deputy director of California field operations within the Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Torched towns beset by poisoned water

Creek Fire’s ‘fire-breathing’ cloud to aid research on wildfires and climate

In the early days of the Creek Fire, photographs went viral of what looked like a mushroom cloud billowing into the atmosphere over the blaze. It’s no wonder that type of cloud, known as pyrocumulonimbus, was dubbed by a NASA writer as “the fire-breathing dragon of clouds”: Each one is a towering thunderstorm, complete with thunder, lightning and rain, generated by a wildfire. … ”  Read more from Valley Public Radio here:  Creek Fire’s ‘fire-breathing’ cloud to aid research on wildfires and climate

Can you handle the truth?: Politifact California fact checks wildfire misinformation

Misinformation is continuing to spread on social media about the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.   To talk about that, CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols joins us for “Can You Handle The Truth?” a weekly conversation about his latest fact checks. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: Can you handle the truth?: Politifact California fact checks wildfire misinformation

This woman’s tribe was evicted from Yosemite. Now it’s her job to protect it from wildfires.

Alveta Coats is trying to save Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove.  For the last two weeks, the 64-year-old Paiute grandmother has been leading her team of four in a scramble to prepare for the Creek Fire, a raging 283,000-acre inferno that is creeping steadily closer to the nation’s most treasured giant sequoia forest.  Coats is technically the foreman, but she’s also in the thick of the hazardous smoke, clearing away the decomposing foliage that’s accumulated at the base of the grove’s enormous trees. With a background in forest maintenance and a long line of ancestors who lived in the park, effectively managing the land for more than 7,000 years, Coats seems a good fit for the job. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here:  This woman’s tribe was evicted from Yosemite. Now it’s her job to protect it from wildfires.

Wildfire danger in West to escalate as intense heat dome builds this weekend

Thousands of firefighters struggling to contain dozens of blazes from California to Washington need a break in the weather to help them get the upper hand. However, although temperatures have returned to near average after a blistering heat wave in mid-August and another record-shattering heat episode this month, the weather is poised to tip decidedly in the fires’ favor.  A large area of high pressure, or a heat dome, is projected to build across the West at the same time as a large dip, or trough, in the jet stream delivers cold air to the Midwest and East beginning this weekend and continuing into early October. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  Wildfire danger in West to escalate as intense heat dome builds this weekend

Fall in Southern California begins the race between rains and Santa Ana winds

The autumn equinox was at 6:30 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, meaning there are nearly equal periods of daylight and darkness. From now until the winter solstice in December, days will gradually get shorter and nights will get longer in the Northern Hemisphere.  That’s good news and bad news for fire-scorched California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Fall in Southern California begins the race between rains and Santa Ana winds

California outpaced Trump’s Forest Service in wildfire prevention work: data

While more than half of California’s forests fall under federal management, the U.S. Forest Service consistently spends fewer dollars than the state in managing those lands to reduce wildfire risks, a Reuters data analysis reveals.  The relative spending by federal and state forest authorities undermines President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to blame deadly wildfires on a failure by California to clear its forests of dead wood and other debris.  “You gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests… I’ve been telling them this now for three years… they don’t listen to us,” Trump said at a rally last month. … ”  Read more from Reuters here:  California outpaced Trump’s Forest Service in wildfire prevention work: data

MORE ON FIRES …

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In regional water news and commentary today …

California regulators identify violations after Rodney Strong wine spill, but no fine yet

One of the largest wine spills in Sonoma County history this year violated federal and state clean water laws, according to California officials, who are still deciding whether an accident at a Healdsburg winery that emptied a 100,000-gallon tank and polluted the Russian River with red wine will result in any fines.  In a notice issued Tuesday, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board outlined three discharge violations stemming from the Jan. 22 spill at Rodney Strong Vineyards, where a racking door at the bottom of a large stainless-steel storage tank burst open, flooding the Old Redwood Highway facility with a torrent of cabernet sauvignon. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  California regulators identify violations after Rodney Strong wine spill, but no fine yet

Santa Clara County Measure S: Safe, Clean Water And Natural Flood Protection Program

Santa Clara County Measure S asks voters to renew the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program. This program was originally passed overwhelmingly in 2012 by voters of Santa Clara County.   The program was developed with input from 16,000 residents of the community, and has several priorities. These include ensuring a safe, reliable water supply, reducing toxins, hazards, and contaminants in the waterways, protecting the water supply from earthquakes and natural disasters, restoring wildlife habitats, and offering flood protection to homes, businesses, schools, and highways.  … ”  Read more from KALW here:  Santa Clara County Measure S: Safe, Clean Water And Natural Flood Protection Program

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled against reshuffling water rights to fix environmental issues. Walker Lake advocates still see a path forward.

Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state’s fundamental obligation to protect natural resources for future generations did not allow it to reallocate water rights issued under state law. The decision appeared to rule against litigants pushing to restore Walker Lake, where the use of upstream water rights has decreased the amount of water that reaches the lake.  But even with the ruling, advocates for the lake’s restoration see a path forward. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent here: The Nevada Supreme Court ruled against reshuffling water rights to fix environmental issues. Walker Lake advocates still see a path forward.

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In national water news today …

Everglades restoration to ‘get the water right’ estimated at $7.4 billion through 2030

Everglades restoration projects will require about $7.4 billion over the next 10 years, compared with $6 billion spent through 2019, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday while presenting a draft of its work schedule.  The estimated cost for 2020-30 is what has been authorized for construction, and doesn’t include other projects that are currently waiting for authorization, said Eva Velez, a Corps project manager who oversees the integrated delivery schedule of Everglades restoration projects. Under the schedule, first reported by Herald news partner, WLRN News, the federal and state governments will need to spend about a billion dollars every year through 2026. … ”  Read more from the Miami Herald here: Everglades restoration to ‘get the water right’ estimated at $7.4 billion through 2030

One Michigan county tells the story of a nation plagued by water pollution

Murray Borrello, wearing khakis and a loose-fitting brown button-up, walked down a backroad during the summer of 2019 listening to the sounds of the woods. Water from the Pine River flowed slowly beneath him as he looked out over a bridge.  “Oh, I hear a frog,” the Alma College geology and environmental studies professor said. “That’s a good sign.”  Borrello has been monitoring the Pine River for nearly two decades, so he is attuned to the marks of a healthy ecosystem. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  One Michigan county tells the story of a nation plagued by water pollution

Scientists publish water quality database for 12,000 freshwater lakes

Scientists have published a global water quality database detailing the health of nearly 12,000 freshwater lakes, almost half the world’s freshwater supply.  Compiled by researchers at York University, in Canada, the database offers water quality information on lakes in 72 countries and all seven continents, including Antarctica. … ”  Read more from UPI here:  Scientists publish water quality database for 12,000 freshwater lakes

US-Qatar partnership aims to find buried water in earth’s deserts

Earth’s driest ecosystems are a study in extremes: They can be blazingly hot stretches of sand like the Sahara Desert or shatteringly cold expanses of ice such as those in Greenland and Antarctica. These arid regions receive very little annual precipitation, and the effects of climate change in these ecosystems are poorly understood. A joint effort between NASA and the Qatar Foundation aims to address that – and, in the process, help communities that are being impacted by those changes. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  US-Qatar partnership aims to find buried water in earth’s deserts

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In commentary today …

Legislation will provide environmental justice to protect communities from toxics, say Cristina Garcia and Jane Williams

They write, “Communities like ours are called environmental justice communities.  That’s an elaborate way of saying that – among other things – our children are suffering from asthma at abnormally high rates because they literally don’t get clean air to breathe. Our communities don’t all have safe drinking water, they don’t have parks to play and exercise in and, worst of all, they are surrounded by a high concentration of industries that have been allowed to emit toxics for too long. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Legislation will provide environmental justice to protect communities from toxics

One water district is trying to make sure agriculture cleans up its own mess, says Jacques Leslie

He writes, “A Central California water board is poised to do something rare in American agriculture: It is trying to establish enforcement mechanisms — not just toothless regulations — to limit the use of farm fertilizers that contribute to dangerous levels of groundwater pollution. If the effort is successful, within a few decades it will have reversed or at least stopped adding to the pollution of groundwater beneath the Salinas and Santa Maria valleys. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  One water district is trying to make sure agriculture cleans up its own mess

Of Course The Climate Is Changing, It Always Does, says Len Wilcox

He writes, “Recently Governor Newsom and Senator Harris visited a home burned out by the Creek Fire.  They brought the media and stood over the ash of a destroyed family home, touched what was left of a charred Chevy pickup, and decried the damage done by Climate Change. It was all they wanted to say:  This destruction is climate change.  Well, we’re not going to argue about that.  The governor was about to announce a major initiative on Climate Change, and he thought he had the perfect stage. Well, I’ll just say that managing the forest has nothing to do with causing Climate Change, but it can help solve it.  Just think how much these fires added to the problem, how much carbon those flames liberated to increase climate change. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Of Course The Climate Is Changing, It Always Does

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Today’s featured articles …

GUEST COMMENTARY: The Gulf Hurricane is a Call to Action to Protect Californians from Catastrophic Floods

Photo taken February 27, 1986.  Norm Hughes / California Department of Water Resources

Guest commentary by Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton and former state senator Mike Machado:

2020 has taught us that one of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to protect our communities, families and livelihoods.  That means more than responding to disasters like a pandemic.  It means looking down the road to prevent them. 

The terrible impact of Hurricane Laura on Gulf Coast communities is a wake up call for California decision-makers about the need to prepare for – and to prevent – catastrophic flooding that could be as close as the next storm.

Click here to continue reading this commentary.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: 2021 Bay-Delta Science Conference

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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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