DAILY DIGEST, 10/9: Trump rants about Delta smelt on Fox News; Legislative session brings new state laws on water and climate change for 2021; Concerns grow about herbicide use in wildfires’ wake; Lack of utility data obscures customer water debt problems; and more …



On the calendar today …

PUBLIC WEBINAR: SAFER Aquifer Risk Map: At-Risk Domestic Wells and State Small Water Systems at 9am.

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) will hold its third public webinar to receive input from interested persons concerning the identification of at-risk domestic wells and state small water systems.  Registration Link (Zoom)  Pre-Meeting Survey Link  Draft Aquifer Map

In California water news today …

Trump says California had to ration water because it poured its supply into the sea to ‘take care of certain little tiny fish’ during a bizarre rant on Fox News

Donald Trump embarked on a bizarre monologue on Fox News on Thursday during which he warned that California’s plan to ration water was caused by its policy of redirecting “millions of gallons” of water to the Pacific Ocean in order to help “certain little tiny fish.”  The US President, whose voice broke down during the interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, warned that a victory for Joe Biden would transform the US into a “ninth-world country.” … ”  Read more from the Business Insider here:  Trump says California had to ration water because it poured its supply into the sea to ‘take care of certain little tiny fish’ during a bizarre rant on Fox News

Legislative session brings new state laws on water and climate change for 2021

California’s 2020 legislative session came to an end Sept. 30 with several new bills signed into law that will impact water operations and the Department of Water Resources (DWR).  This year, while the Legislature responded to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, passing legislation focused on statewide health, economic, and employment impacts, lawmakers also passed several water and climate change-related bills that will take effect in 2021. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Legislative session brings new state laws on water and climate change for 2021

Concerns grow about herbicide use in wildfires’ wake

First, the wildfires came to California and Oregon, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests.  Next, weeds will sprout on those blackened lands. They’ll be followed quickly by chemical weedkillers like glyphosate, as the Forest Service tries to make trees grow again.  That cycle of fire and reforestation, aided by herbicides, is likely to accelerate if climate change-induced wildfires increase as scientists predict, and as federal forest management policies tilt toward a more intensive approach to clearing potential fuel for the blazes. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Concerns grow about herbicide use in wildfires’ wake

Swing and a miss: anticipated October rain evaporates, and more adverse fire weather on horizon

” …  There was a lot of excitement on social media (and the Weather West comments section) regarding the potential for a significant and wildfire-mitigating rain event this weekend. The models struggled for many days with the evolution of this extremely complex pattern–sometimes generating copious rain and thunderstorms, other times suggesting the possibility for a bone-dry outcome if everything didn’t come together right. The model *ensembles*, meanwhile, suggested far more muted precipitation changes–including about a 1 in 3 chance of little to no precipitation.  Very unfortunately, that 1 in 3 possibility has come to fruition: little to no rain is now expected anywhere in California during this weekend’s transient “pattern shift.” … ”  Read more from Weather West here:  Swing and a miss: anticipated October rain evaporates, and more adverse fire weather on horizon

Joe Mathews Column: Why we need a Water Party

We live in a two-party system, but sometimes it takes a nudge from the margins to get things done.  Third parties don’t have a great record of success in the U.S., and California is no exception. But Zocalo commentator Joe Mathews says this state is crying out for structural reform that can only come from outside the dominant Democratic and Republican parties. Mathews wants to call his new movement the Water Party because the state needs to become more fluid and less constrained in its approach to solving problems and delivering the essentials. … ”  Read the column at KALW here:  Joe Mathews Column: Why we need a Water Party

The hidden costs of desalination

Feeding the U.S. comes at a high cost to the environment and people of Mexico, according to new Stanford-led research. The study, recently published in Environmental Science & Policy, examines the economic, environmental and social sustainability of agriculture reliant on desalination in San Quintín, Mexico – one of the country’s most productive farming regions. They identify policy interventions to regulate desalination and protect water resources while also addressing inequities experienced by people living in the region. … ”  Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: The hidden costs of desalination

Tsurumi pumps support wildlife restoration work in California

” ...  A project helped reestablish plant and animal habitats in Oroville. It was part of a multi-agency effort to improve water streams and flood management in the Oroville Wildlife Area next to the Feather River.  In an effort to restore the destructed habitat, the Olivehurst, California-based company Nordic Industries was contracted to create a channel to serve as a passage for native salmon and other fish to return into the Feather River. … ”  Read more from Construction Pros here:  Tsurumi pumps support wildlife restoration work in California

Climate-smart agriculture funding at risk

Through a pandemic and now wildfires, California has had to reallocate resources to respond. Some of the victims include critical programs to help make agriculture more sustainable and resilient to a changing climate. One of those programs is State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, or SWEEP, which started the year with $20 million in the general fund of the Governor’s proposed budget.  … ”  Read more from Cal Ag Today here: Climate-smart agriculture funding at risk

OpenET project expands availability of water data

Eyes in the sky and clouds on the ground—of the computing kind—may soon help farmers, ranchers and water managers gain a handle on something they can’t see: water vapor.  A web-based program called OpenET is being developed with the goal of providing near-real-time data on evapotranspiration for California and 16 other Western states. The website, set to go live next year, represents a cooperative project by NASA, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  OpenET project expands availability of water data

CA attorney general remains adamantly against raising Shasta Dam

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently sent a comment letter expressing opposition to plans to raise the Shasta Dam. The 21-page letter asserts the plans for raising the dam up to 18.5 feet are inadequate. Becerra notes that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) relies on an incomplete draft supplemental environmental impact statement. “Reclamation misapprehends and ignores the fundamental environmental protections that apply to its effort to raise Shasta Dam,” the letter states. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: CA attorney general remains adamantly against raising Shasta Dam

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

Avian botulism kills 40,000 birds at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

Meghan Hertel writes, “Highway 161 carries me along the Oregon and California border as I head towards Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). I wish that I were visiting it under better conditions. Normally this is a place where birds gather in abundance, feasting and fattening up as they continue their migration along the Pacific Flyway. Instead, I am sadly here to witness a massive outbreak of avian disease that is wiping out tens of thousands of birds. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here:  Avian botulism kills 40,000 birds at national wildlife refuge

UC Davis testing sewage to ID coronavirus infections

UC Davis is joining a growing list of universities which is testing poop for the coronavirus as students return to campus.  The university is ramping up its testing of sewage because its been found as a safe and quick way to find out who is infected.  The goal is to monitor progress of the pandemic on campus and catch outbreaks before it’s too late to control them. Some schools, such as UC San Diego and others have been testing wastewater since August and September. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  UC Davis testing sewage to ID coronavirus infections

Building roads to save Yosemite toads

Each spring deep in the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite toads roam the alpine meadows in search of a mate. Biologists have been tracking the movements of these toads, and have noted that they travel surprisingly long distances for such small creatures. From breeding habitat to overwintering habitat, they journey nearly a mile, and in some places, the toads must cross busy highways to reach important habitat.  “In Mono County, Highway 108 goes right through Upper Sardine Meadow, a breeding area for one of the largest known populations of Yosemite toads on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The road literally splits the toad breeding habitat in half,” said Chad Mellison, fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Reno Fish and Wildlife Office. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Building roads to save Yosemite toads

Unsavory stories from the Lompoc sewer system

Ron Fink writes, ” … The Lompoc POTW and every other plant like it in the United States operates using a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. These permits contain conditions, which the operator—in this case the city of Lompoc—must comply with.  The EPA conducts routine audits to assure compliance. This is where the actions of three Lompoc City Council members (Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega) and a utility commissioner (John Linn) created compliance problems for the wastewater utility. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Maria Sun here:  Unsavory stories from the Lompoc sewer system

Olivenhain social media solves water infrastructure mysteries

If you’ve ever driven past pipes sticking out of the ground and wondered, “What is that thing?” you aren’t alone. While sitting at a red light one day, Olivenhain Municipal Water District Customer Services Manager John Carnegie glanced at a pipe and realized there were probably members of the public who are unaware of the role key water infrastructure objects in their neighborhoods play in delivering safe, reliable water.  “OMWD’s #WhatIsThatThing social media campaign is a great way to inform our customers who may be unaware of all the water and wastewater infrastructure around them,” said OMWD Board Secretary Bob Kephart. “It’s a fun way to create a better understanding of the district’s work.” … ”  Read more from Water News Network here: Olivenhain social media solves water infrastructure mysteries 

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

The Colorado river’s water supply is predictable owing to long-term ocean memory

A team of scientists at Utah State University has developed a new tool to forecast drought and water flow in the Colorado River several years in advance. Although the river’s headwaters are in landlocked Wyoming and Colorado, water levels are linked to sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the water’s long-term ocean memory. The group’s paper, “Colorado River water supply is predictable on multi-year timescales owning to long-term ocean memory” was published October 9 by Communications Earth and Environment, an open-access journal from Nature.  … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  The Colorado river’s water supply is predictable owing to long-term ocean memory

Climate change likely to keep hammering Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs

The Colorado River’s largest reservoirs are expected to keep struggling over the next five years due to climate change, according to the federal agency that oversees them.  The Bureau of Reclamation’s new modeling projections, which include this year’s record-breaking heat and dryness in some parts of the southwestern watershed, show an increasing likelihood of an official shortage declaration before 2026. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  Climate change likely to keep hammering Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs

Invasive mussel species impacts the food web in Lake Mead

Invasive dreissenid mussels are causing significant ecological and economic impacts across North America. These mussels were first identified in the Great Lakes during the 1980s where accidental introduction occurred by the release of larvae contained in ship ballast water. Since then, the spread of these muscles has increased, affecting infrastructure, recreational water use, and severely altering aquatic ecosystems.  The USGS has been conducting dreissenid mussel research and control efforts for years. One negative impact of dreissenid mussels is the redistribution of synthetic organic compounds (SOCs) in the ecosystem. SOCs are a class of man-made contaminants which the mussels readily absorb. … ”  Read more from the USGS here: Invasive mussel species impacts the food web in Lake Mead

ADWR Hydrology publishes research of water-supply conditions in western Arizona

The Hydrology division of the Arizona Department of Water Resources has published its research into water-supply conditions of a vast area of western Arizona known as the “Western Planning Areas.”  The Western Planning Area Hydrologic Monitoring Report summarizes water-level monitoring of the depth-to-groundwater within wells located throughout much of western Arizona as of December 2016. … ”  Read more from Arizona Department of Water Resources here: ADWR Hydrology publishes research of water-supply conditions in western Arizona

Demand management — but whose demand?

” … The untamed Colorado River ebbed and flowed as it had for millennia. The assumption is that it would always do that. But, then came the idea that if we controlled it and put it to work for us, things would be more predictable. In theory it was not a bad idea. But here we are almost 100 years later and we have a mess on our hands. … ”  Continue reading at the Montrose Press here:  Demand management — but whose demand?

Return to top

In national water news today …

Lack of utility data obscures customer water debt problems

More than one in five Baltimore residents meets the federal definition of poverty, and the city’s water rates have more than doubled in the last decade. Its aging sewer system is proving costly, undergoing $1.6 billion in federally mandated repairs. For large metro areas, the Queen City also has some of the oldest housing stock in the country, which is a risk factor for pipe leaks.   Together, it is a recipe for residents having high and unaffordable water bills and an indicator that many households might be in debt to the water department. But how many? It is hard to say. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  Lack of utility data obscures customer water debt problems

House Democrats ask CDC to halt water shutoffs during the pandemic

Two Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked the federal government’s top public health agency to suspend water service disconnections nationwide as a means of slowing the spread of Covid-19.  To protect public health, Reps. Harley Rouda of California and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan want the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use its authority under the Public Health Service Act to prohibit water utilities from shutting off service to customers who are behind on their bills. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here: House Democrats ask CDC to halt water shutoffs during the pandemic 

The climate battle quietly raging this week about US homes

Some challenges to US climate action are obvious – like when Donald Trump boasts about leaving the international Paris agreement and rolling back pollution rules.  But many more play out behind the scenes. One of those is the battle over efforts to make America’s new homes and buildings more energy-efficient.  On one side are the city and state officials trying to go greener, and on the other are real estate developers and the natural gas industry. … ”  Continue reading at the Guardian here: The climate battle quietly raging this week about US homes

Attorney General Becerra opposes Trump administration proposal to exclude critical habitat from Endangered Species Act protections

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, co-leading a multistate coalition with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, today filed a comment letter opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposal to establish a new, unlawful process for excluding areas from critical habitat designations under the federal Endangered Species Act. If finalized, the proposal is likely to drastically reduce the areas protected as critical habitat, further endangering the conservation of our nation’s most imperiled species. In the comment letter, the coalition of 17 attorneys general argue that FWS’s proposal is contrary to the plain language of the Endangered Species Act and arbitrarily limits its ability to protect endangered or threatened species as required by the Act.

Click here to continue reading this press release.

With every blow the Trump Administration deals to the Endangered Species Act, iconic species like the California condor and Chinook salmon are pushed closer to extinction,” said Attorney General Becerra. “If we want to avoid hitting the point of no return, we need to be strengthening environmental protections, not weakening them. We urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider this blatantly unlawful proposal. The fate of our endangered species should not lie in the hands of industry interests.”

Enacted under the Nixon Administration in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is intended “to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” Under Section 4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, FWS is required to designate critical habitat for listed species based on “the best scientific data available” and after considering economic, national security, and other relevant impacts. Areas designated as critical habitat are provided with significant protections to ensure that species have the ability to recover to sustainable population levels so that they no longer need to be listed. FWS “may” exclude areas of critical habitat if the agency determines that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designation. In California, there are over 300 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act — more than any other mainland state — as well as millions of acres of designated critical habitat.

On September 8, 2020, FWS published a proposed rule that would establish a new process for excluding areas of critical habitat. If finalized, FWS would be required to consider excluding areas from a critical habitat designation when a “proponent of excluding a particular area” presents “credible information” supporting exclusion. In conducting such an analysis, FWS would have to defer to outside “experts” and “sources” regarding “nonbiological impacts” that are outside the scope of FWS’s expertise. If FWS determines that the benefits of excluding a particular area outweigh the benefits of specifying that area as a critical habitat, FWS must exclude that area, unless it will result in the extinction of a species. This would be likely to drastically reduce the amount of critical habitat designated and protected under the Endangered Species Act. 

In the comment letter, the coalition argues that FWS’s proposal is unlawful and should be abandoned because:

  • The proposal is contrary to the plain language and overarching conservation purposes of the Endangered Species Act;
  • The proposal is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act because FWS fails to provide any reasoned explanation for the proposal; and 
  • FWS incorrectly suggests that the proposal is subject to a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act, or that it may complete review at a later date, despite its major substantive changes that are likely to cause significant environmental effects on imperiled species and their habitat. 

Attorney General Becerra has been a staunch defender of the Endangered Species Act. On September 4, 2020, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in submitting comments challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to narrowly and unlawfully define the term ‘habitat’ under the Endangered Species Act. In May, Attorney General Becerra secured a critical victory in a multistate lawsuit challenging FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service’s weakening of the Endangered Species Act. Litigation in that case is ongoing.

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 in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects

A conservation group sued the federal government on Thursday over an action taken this year to no longer allow polluters to reduce their fines by paying for projects to help the environment. A Department of Justice (DOJ) memo issued in March and first reported by The Hill said that the Special Environmental Projects (SEPs), which had been used for about 30 years, violate a law requiring money received by the government to go to the U.S. Treasury. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects

Return to top

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.

dmrpt-20201008

Return to top

Today’s featured articles …

SCIENCE NEWS: Can fish eat their way out of climate change?; How coho cope with drought: studying summer sanctuaries; San Francisco Bay’s nutrient phenomena; Building roads to save Yosemite toads; and more …

 

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Delta Survey~ Paintersville Bridge~ Proposition 68~ Nimbus Hatchery~ ISB Meeting ~~

Return to top

 

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.

 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: