In California water news and commentary this weekend …

Is ecosystem change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta outpacing the ability of science to keep up?

Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.  Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary. … ”  Read more from Western Water here:  Is ecosystem change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta outpacing the ability of science to keep up?

Here’s the challenge of implementing historic groundwater law, says Burnell Blanchard, vice president of operations at Searles Valley Minerals

California celebrated the passage of historic legislation six years ago when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, written to achieve sustainable groundwater management for basins throughout the state.  The groundwater law requires governments and water agencies to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. While the law is essential to our ability to manage the state’s groundwater supply so that it can continue to meet the needs of California’s homes, farms and businesses, success will depend entirely on reasonable, collaborative implementation at the local level. In his signing statement, the governor stressed that “groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally.” ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Here’s the challenge of implementing historic groundwater law

Q&A: In Modesto, organizing for community-driven land and water decisions

As part of an ongoing series on broadening who makes water decisions and how, we spoke with Edgar Garibay, community relations manager at the Tuolumne River Trust. Edgar is working with residents in Modesto, CA, to grow the communities’ power in land and water decision-making.  Water Foundation (WF): Thanks for chatting with us, Edgar. Can you share how you got into this type of work?  Edgar Garibay (EG): Prior to working at the Tuolumne River Trust, I worked a little over two years at Catholic Charities in their environmental justice program. That’s how I began doing regional land use planning and advocacy for Stanislaus County, working with statewide networks, and working with the faith community and the community in general. … ”  Continue reading at the Water Foundation here: Q&A: In Modesto, organizing for community-driven land and water decisions

Satellite data helping to make more informed water decisions

The increased availability of satellite data is helping to make more informed decisions about water use. Detailed information about water supplies has substantial value on both a micro and macro level. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been a significant collaborator in multiple different projects looking at water use. One particular area of focus has been gathering a better understanding of evapotranspiration (ET). … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Satellite data helping to make more informed water decisions

Water agencies call for support in developing voluntary agreements

Water agencies are calling for support from state officials in moving forward with voluntary agreements. The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) recently submitted a document to Governor Gavin Newsom highlighting the need to reprioritize voluntary agreements. The Roadmap to Achieving the Voluntary Agreements document is a call to action for stakeholders to re-engage on the agreements. The document was accompanied by a letter from ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton on behalf of more than 450 ACWA member agencies. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Water agencies call for support in developing voluntary agreements

Behind the battle for the future of California’s oil

Environmentalists, petroleum industry executives, union leaders and communities near oil drilling sites are all gearing up for what’s expected to be a fierce political battle over efforts to reduce California’s oil production.  This time around, Gov. Gavin Newsom says he wants a ban on fracking, and a key state lawmaker says the Legislature should go further and reduce oil drilling of all kinds.  The push comes in the middle of two crises hitting the state: the coronavirus pandemic and record-breaking wildfires intensified by climate change. … ”  Read more from KQED here: Behind the battle for the future of California’s oil

Northern California weather/fire danger …

Diablo Winds kick off Sunday evening, pose increased fire danger

High winds with forecasted gusts of up to 70 miles an hour at the highest peaks are set to buffet the Bay Area starting Sunday evening, a grave warning for firefighters who have been aided by favorable weather the past week.  The kind of cold, humid air that blanketed much of the San Francisco Bay on Sunday morning is set to dry out starting around 7 p.m. Sunday evening, when winds will switch from blowing into the Bay from the sea to flowing out of the dry valleys and into the ocean. … ”  Continue reading from the San Jose Mercury News here: Diablo Winds kick off Sunday evening, pose increased fire danger

More than 1 million Californians could lose power Sunday amid the windiest, driest conditions of the year

Pacific Gas and Electric may cut power to more than 1 million people in Northern and Central California on Sunday amid extreme fire weather that’s expected to bring the strongest winds and driest conditions of the year.  The utility undertakes the preemptive blackouts, which it calls public safety power shutoffs, to avoid a situation in which wind gusts could snap off tree branches or damage a piece of equipment, creating a spark that could ignite dry brush and lead to the next wildfire disaster. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  More than 1 million Californians could lose power Sunday amid the windiest, driest conditions of the year

Temperatures near Lake Tahoe are about to plunge into the single digits

A dry cold front is expected to bring freezing temperatures in the teens to the Lake Tahoe area and single-digit temperatures to nearby valley areas like Truckee on Monday morning, weather service officials said.  The cold front — which was already moving through the region Saturday night from northern Canada — will also bring “pretty significant, strong winds along the crest over the Tahoe basin,” said Edan Weishahn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Reno office. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Temperatures near Lake Tahoe are about to plunge into the single digits

California wildfires …

Along California’s ring of fire, residents face decades of danger, destruction

““We moved up there for the forest. And now it’s not there.”  He is feeling lost and in limbo, like so many others besieged by the worst fire season on record.  With climate models predicting a hotter, drier California, many wonder what the state will look like in the decades to come. What places might be too risky to live in? What great icons of nature will be left in a land so long defined by its extremes? … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Along California’s ring of fire, residents face decades of danger, destruction

Crews from state and county work to protect important watersheds

Five California Conservation Corps (CCC) crews are assisting Butte County Public Works and Department of Water Resources in making sure that the watershed is protected from potential rain water run-off from homes burned in the North Complex Fire.  “Right now, we are out here digging little trenches for the wattles and staking them in to prevent erosion and chemicals from getting into our watershed,” said CCC member, John Alviso.  CCC agency rep and task force leader, Benjamin Herbert, said that when it rains, wattles will absorb toxic materials and prevent these toxic materials from reaching important water resources. … ”  Read more from Action News Now here:  Crews from state and county work to protect important watersheds

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In people news this weekend …

AWARDS

Former DWR Director Ronald B. Robie awarded Lifetime Achievement Award

Justice Ronald B. Robie, who served as the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) fifth director, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Lawyers Association’s Environmental Law Section for his 60 years of contributions to the environmental law field.  “I am deeply honored to receive this award,” Robie said. “But I share it with all my coworkers and those placing confidence in me over these many years.” … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Former DWR Director Ronald B. Robie awarded Lifetime Achievement Award

PROFILE

Jeff Volberg: The Dreams of a Cowboy

“Even as he dreamt of herding cattle on ranch lands in Northern California, a body of water was ever present in that cowboy fantasy. Whether a pristine lake or a rippling river, the youngster was always drawn to the beauty these waterways imposed on the landscape.  Some 60 years later part of that dream is no longer a mere object in the background, yet has taken center stage.  As a UC Davis student in the 1970s Jeff Volberg studied agricultural business management in hopes of making a career on the farm fields and ranches that dotted the West. But after four years of working on remote ranches in Northern California and Nevada that dream started to fade. … ”  Continue reading at the Northern California Water Association blog here:  Jeff Volberg: The Dreams of a Cowboy

APPOINTMENTS

Letitia Clark, 38, of Tustin, has been appointed to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Clark has been District Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations at the South Orange County Community College District since 2018 and a Member of the Tustin City Council since 2016. She was District Director of Public Affairs, Marketing and Government Relations at the Coast Community College District from 2015 to 2018 and Executive Director and Community Relations Director at the American Academy of Pediatrics, Orange County from 2013 to 2015. Clark earned a Master of Public Policy degree in emergency management from New England College. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $250 per diem. Clark is a Democrat.

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Podcasts …

WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING:  A Personal Economic Hardship

Steve Baker writes, “There were talks at the county level regarding rules about how water can be used on newly developed land then, one day, Thad Vaughn, a builder on the eastern flank of Washington state’s Cascade mountain range woke up to a water moratorium that turned his life upside down. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

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In regional water news this weekend …

Local tribes, fishermen, conservationists call on Warren Buffet to undam the Klamath

Members of local tribes, fishermen and conservationists are calling on Warren Buffett to undam the Klamath.  People across the country joined members of the Karuk, Yurok, Klamath and Hoopa Valley tribes on Friday for a day of action to get the attention of Buffett, the owner of Pacific Power and the Klamath River dams, through a social media campaign; hanging an “Undam the Klamath” banner on the gate of his home in Omaha, Nebraska; and holding demonstrations in cities like San Diego, Portland and Sacramento. During a virtual webinar Friday afternoon, members of the Yurok Tribe described how damming the Klamath has negatively impacted water quality, salmon runs and the ability for tribal members to continue their ceremonies. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here:  Local tribes, fishermen, conservationists call on Warren Buffet to undam the Klamath

Eel River tributaries decimated by drought

Completely dry riverbeds, record low flows, and diminished fish populations — that’s what staff and volunteers from a local environmental nonprofit found when they surveyed tributaries of the Eel River earlier this month.  Patrick Higgins, managing director of the Eel River Recovery Project, a Laytonville based organization, has been surveying the river for nine years. On his latest trip, streams he went to included Outlet Creek, Ten Mile Creek, and the Upper South Fork Eel. What he found was distressing. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here:  Eel River tributaries decimated by drought

Erosion Control starts in Berry Creek to protect Lake Madrone after North Complex Fire

Fifty-five members of the California Conservation Corps (CCC) started a two-week stretch of installing erosion control on properties burned by the North Complex Fire by assisting the Butte County Public Works Department and Department of Water Resources.  On Wednesday, crews worked on neighborhoods surrounding Lake Madrone in Berry Creek where corps members laid straw wattles and dug culverts to prevent debris flows and toxic run-off from entering the lake as well as creeks and streams. ... ”  Read more from KRCR here:  Erosion Control starts in Berry Creek to protect Lake Madrone after North Complex Fire

Nevada Irrigation District announces possible irrigation water fluctuations due to PSPS

The Nevada Irrigation District has been notified that water supply from PG&E may be shut off to some of its canal operations associated with an expected PSPS event throughout the region. As a result, NID will be switching to back up generators and pump stations for an alternate supply.  Some irrigation customers may notice fluctuating water flows during this time. NID treated water customers will not be affected. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here: Nevada Irrigation District announces possible irrigation water fluctuations due to PSPS

Influential California congressman opposes Sonoma County-backed plan to drain Lake Pillsbury

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi has filed an official objection to a plan backed by Sonoma County and his House Democratic colleague Jared Huffman to remove Scott Dam on the Eel River and drain Lake Pillsbury, a popular recreation spot for nearly a century.  Garamendi, a fixture in California state politics since the 1970s, sent a letter to federal energy regulators faulting the plan for failing to include Lake County in planning the future of a remote hydropower project that forms a key link in the Russian River system serving 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Influential California congressman opposes Sonoma County-backed plan to drain Lake Pillsbury

Post-fire resiliency and recovery in the Putah Creek watershed

Wildlife in the upper Putah Creek watershed was devastated by the LNU Complex Fire, which started on Aug. 17, was finally extinguished on Oct. 2, and grew to be the fourth largest in California history.  However, the oak woodlands in this region have evolved with fire, and with natural resiliency and a little support from local agencies, recovery is expected. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Post-fire resiliency and recovery in the Putah Creek watershed

No rain in Bay Area forecast for next 2 weeks: ‘We find ourselves in a moderate to extreme drought’

The rainfall looks bleak for the San Francisco Bay Area, putting the region on track for exceptionally dry start to rainy season, according to ABC7 News Meteorologist Mike Nicco.  “We are not going to have rain for next two weeks,” said Nicco.  The latest map provided by the Climate Prediction Center shows the rainfall outlook from October 30 to November 5 does not look promising for the Bay Area. … ”  Read more from KGO here:  No rain in Bay Area forecast for next 2 weeks: ‘We find ourselves in a moderate to extreme drought’

SEE ALSOHere’s why the Bay Area faces extreme fire danger this weekend

Mule Creek contamination may land CDCR in Federal Court

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has entered its official response to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) regarding the 42,227 gallons of raw sewage that spilled into Mule Creek on August 10, 2020.  “On August 10, 2020 MCIC Lift Station released 42,227 gallons of raw sewage due to a faulted programming logic controller ‘PLC.’ The cause of the fault has been tied to bad programming code for the knife gate valve,” said Anthony Stark, Chef Plant Operator for Mule Creek State Prison WWTP. … ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch here:  Mule Creek contamination may land CDCR in Federal Court

This Week in Fresnoland: A Drinking Water Guide

Contaminated and unreliable drinking water is not isolated to a few rural communities in our region. It’s a huge problem facing both large and small communities. It’s partially the legacy of agriculture and development, which has for decades left contaminants to sit in underground aquifers that many of us rely on. It’s also because our water agencies are so fragmented, leaving dozens of tiny agencies on their own to solve really expensive, technical problems. And — because we continue to pump groundwater at unsustainable rates — the level of contaminants in the water concentrates at levels that are unsafe to drink. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  This Week in Fresnoland: A Drinking Water Guide

Success Lake, wildlife area open with limitations

Success Lake is open on a limited basis, but much of Success Lake’s features aren’t open to the public now and not just because of COVID-19.  A major construction project and the low water level of the lake has also caused many areas at Success Lake to be closed.  The Success Lake wildlife area is now open for activities such as hiking and horseback riding. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Success Lake, wildlife area open with limitations

Ridgecrest: Could recycled water help balance the basin?

If all goes according to plan, recycled water from the city’s planned $45 to $60 million wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) may be used to help balance the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin as mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The city’s WWTF may provide as many as 2,016 acre-feet of recycled water per year for new beneficial uses while still maintaining enough water for the Navy golf course and the Tui Chub habitat, according to a presentation by Jeff Helsley from water consultant Stetson Engineers at the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting October 15. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Could recycled water help balance the basin?

Damaging Santa Ana winds are on tap for Monday in the Los Angeles region, forecasters say

Damaging Santa Ana winds could cause power outages, downed power lines and felled tree limbs on Monday, the National Weather Service said. Widespread critical fire weather conditions are likely from late Sunday night through Tuesday.  The strongest winds are expected late Sunday night through Monday, especially early Monday morning into the evening hours. Gusts of 60 to 75 mph are possible in the mountains. Winds could exceed 55 mph in the valleys and 45 mph at the coast, the weather service said. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Damaging Santa Ana winds are on tap for Monday in the Los Angeles region, forecasters say

Pasadena calls for bids in Lower Arroyo Seco Restoration Project

The city has put out a request for bids for the Lower Arroyo Seco Habitat Restoration Project.   According to the notice inviting bids, the work will include the removal of existing non-native trees and vegetation; installation of native planting material; installation of a new irrigation system; and minor grading and drainage work. The estimated bid range for the work, which is listed as taking 30 workdays to complete, is $350,000 to $450,000.  … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here:   Pasadena calls for bids in Lower Arroyo Seco Restoration Project

Contaminated Exide plant turned over to state environmental trust

An environmental trust will take over the toxic Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon to prevent its bankrupt owners from abandoning the heavily contaminated facility, the Department of Toxic Substances Control announced Friday.  Despite its earlier objections, California agreed to creation of the trust after a federal judge on Thursday rejected an emergency request to prevent Exide from dumping the site Oct. 30. The trust “avoids the many legal challenges posed by abandonment and ensures an orderly transition of ownership and responsibility for maintenance and site cleanup — all with DTSC’s close supervision and oversight,” the state agency said in a statement. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press-Telegram here:  Contaminated Exide plant turned over to state environmental trust

San Diego Regional Water Board vote forces city to consider rewild wetland restoration plan for Northeast Mission Bay

In a unanimous vote following two hours of public testimony, the state Regional Water Quality Control Board for the San Diego region voted 6-0 October 14 in support of a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) that will enable the ReWild Mission Bay “Wildest” plan for wetland restoration in northeast Mission Bay to be considered at the same level as the city’s own plan. Today’s decision marks the culmination of a two-year effort by the ReWild Coalition since the ReWild Mission Bay Wetlands Restoration Feasibility Study was released to the public in Sept. 2018. … ”  Read more from the OB Rag here: Regional Water Board vote forces city to consider rewild wetland restoration plan for Northeast Mission Bay

Imperial Irrigation District petitions appellate court to reassign Abatti case concerning attorney fees and costs

Attorneys for Imperial Irrigation District, on Friday, Oct. 23, filed a writ of mandate with the Fourth District Court of Appeal in the Michael Abatti v. IID case, seeking to have further action by the trial court reassigned to another judge.  Action is pending before the trial court regarding whether IID is entitled to a reassignment for attorney’s fees and costs. Last week, the district petitioned Judge L. Brooks Anderholt to recuse himself. He declined.  The district believes such reassignment, under the circumstances, is warranted. … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from IID.

Statement from Frank Oswalt, IID general counsel:  “By taking action to file this writ of mandate with the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the IID board is doing what it must do to protect the interests of the public that it serves. The board can no longer ignore the trial court’s record of bias in this litigation. From day one before this judge, his rulings, reactions to counsel and, ultimately, his written decision were, in my view, demonstrably biased against the district.

“A close reading of the Court of Appeal’s reversal of the judge’s 2017 order reveals a litany of questionable holdings and conclusions that, in retrospect, are obviously the result of bias. By denying IID’s well-founded request that he recuse himself, Judge Anderholt has left the board no choice but to file this writ with the Court of Appeal that seeks his removal from the case.”

Statement from Norma Sierra Galindo, IID board president“In the interests of justice and impartiality, the most prudent thing for Judge Anderholt to do was to have stepped aside; it is regrettable that he chose to not do so.  Our legal counsel has advised the board to seek relief from the Fourth District Court of Appeal and this is precisely what we did by authorizing general counsel to file this writ of mandate.”

2020-10-23 IID Petition for Writ of Mandate (stamped received)

In national water news and commentary this weekend …

Amid President Trump’s repeated efforts to woo suburban voters, the Department of Energy made good this morning on his vow to tweak efficiency requirements for dishwashers.  The final rule is sure to make conservatives happy after groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute complained the current setup resulted in slow wash cycles.  Energy efficiency advocates say the new rule will allow the sale of products that use more energy to achieve quicker wash times, undercutting the purpose of the standard.  The rule is the latest in a series of Trump administration actions on energy efficiency that backers say will allow more competition and consumer choice, even if those decisions result in more energy costs. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  DOE makes good on addressing Trump dishwasher complaints

EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday finalized a rule that eases the permitting process for modifications made to polluting facilities.  The rule changes the way the threshold for a more stringent type of permitting is calculated, with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler arguing that the action incentivizes industry to implement technology that would lessen air pollution.  “This rule incentivizes installation of new technologies that can both improve operator efficiency and reduce air pollution,” he said in a statement. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities

The fate of executive orders after 2020 election

“During his term in office, President Trump has issued several executive orders (EOs) to implement his vision of rolling back environmental regulations and streamlining infrastructure projects. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has released The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice (the Biden Plan), which provides that “on day one, Biden will sign a series of new EOs with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden administration platform….” Although the Biden Plan does not go as far as the measures outlined in the Green New Deal, the Biden Plan will likely require the rescission or amendment of some EOs issued by President Trump.  Two EOs issued early in the Trump administration may be ripe for rescission or amendment: Executive Order 13766 (Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects) signed on January 24, 2017 (82 FR 8657),and Executive Order 13807 (Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects) signed on August 15, 2017(82 FR 40463) … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: The fate of executive orders after 2020 election

Forecasting climate policy under a Trump or Biden administration

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have vastly different views on climate change and the type of policies and mandates that they believe are needed to address it—including those relating to carbon emissions. … Given these diametrically opposite views, the outcome of the election will have significant consequences on the type, shape, and direction of climate policies that will impact all aspects of society well beyond the next president’s time in office.  What should we expect? If our past is prologue, then the actions over the past four years of the Trump administration—and during eight years of the Obama/Biden administration before that—provide a useful roadmap of what the United States can expect during the next four years on climate policy. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here:  Forecasting climate policy under a Trump or Biden administration

Where did Trump get the idea that Americans have the cleanest water?

It was overshadowed among Donald Trump’s other outrageous claims in Thursday’s debate, but once again the president asserted that Americans enjoy the cleanest water in the world.  “We have done an incredible job environmentally, we have the cleanest air, the cleanest water, and the best carbon emission standards that we’ve seen in many, many years,” he said.  Trump habitually talks about water quality to steer environmental discussions away from his administration’s failure to contain large-scale carbon emissions and fight global climate change. … ”  Read more from Slate Magazine here: Where did Trump get the idea that Americans have the cleanest water?

Sunday video …

Hope Valley fall colors

Fly over the fall foliage at Hope Valley. Drone video shot and edited 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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