DAILY DIGEST, 11/10: New PPIC Report: Priorities for CA water; DWR releases Oroville Dam report; Wildfires emerge as threat to water quantity across parched West; 2020 delivers setbacks for some long-planned Western water projects; and more …
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In California water news today …
New PPIC Report: Priorities for California’s water
““Volatile” doesn’t begin to describe the past year. The monumental impacts of the coronavirus health emergency and resulting economic fallout have affected virtually every aspect of modern life, including how water is managed. And the nation’s much-needed and difficult conversation about racism has illuminated water equity issues—such as how we address climate change, safe drinking water, flood management, and more. Layered on top of these upheavals is California’s regular companion, drought. … This brief highlights how events this past year have shifted the state’s water landscape and lays out priorities for local, state, and federal action. … ” Read more from the PPIC here: Priorities for California’s water
DWR releases Oroville Dam Comprehensive Needs Assessment Summary Report
“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has published a summary report on the Oroville Dam Safety Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA), initiated in January 2018 to identify dam safety and operational needs following reconstruction of the spillways damaged in February 2017. A team of experts, including an Independent Review Board (IRB)of dam safety experts, determined that the Oroville Dam Complex is safe to operate and no urgent repairs are needed. Since conditions can change over time, DWR will conduct ongoing monitoring and assessment to maintain the safety and reliability of the complex. “Public safety is at the core of DWR’s mission, and we are committed to continually evaluating the performance and safety of State Water Project facilities, including Oroville Dam,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The Comprehensive Needs Assessment report is an important step in our efforts to ensure the ongoing safety and reliability of facilities that provide water and flood control for millions of Californians.” …
Click here to continue reading this press release.
The CNA identified several risk-reduction projects that DWR already is moving to implement, including installation of new water pressure measurement devices to improve seepage monitoring and completion of a state-of-the-art seismic stability analysis. DWR also is planning to implement recommendations to raise Parish Camp Saddle Dam by three feet, line Palermo Canal to reduce leakage and improve rock slope stability, and install new remote starter and power connections to the spillway radial gates to improve reliability.
In addition, the CNA identified potential vulnerabilities that require further examination to better understand their actual risk.
The CNA report results are based on conditions known at this moment in time. Excellence in dam safety requires continual monitoring, investigation and assessment to understand risks as well as actions to reduce those risks, recognizing that no public infrastructure is ever free of risk. This continual monitoring, investigation and assessment of the Oroville facilities will occur through the State Water Project’s Dam Safety Program to ensure the ongoing safety and reliability of these facilities.
The CNA team included engineers, hydrologists and other experts knowledgeable about Oroville Dam, as well as experts in risk analysis. An Independent Review Board (IRB) of dam safety experts provided oversight, and a community-led group of elected officials and stakeholder organizations and private citizens (known as the Ad Hoc group) provided input.
The CNA was conducted in parallel to other Oroville Dam safety review efforts required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), including a Level 2 Risk Analysis conducted by independent experts. The results of the FERC and the CNA assessments will be used by DWR management to make risk-informed investment decisions across State Water Project infrastructure.
DWR will continue to work with the Oroville Citizens Advisory Commission to seek input and coordinate future Oroville Dam activities related to construction, operations, maintenance, flood management, and public safety. The report will be presented to the Commission on Friday, November 13, 2020. That meeting will be held virtually. More information is available at https://resources.ca.gov/Initiatives/Oroville-Dam-Citizens-Advisory-Commission.
Report: Oroville Dam safe, but still vulnerable
“It appears that repair work on the Oroville Dam’s damaged spillways has paid off. A team of experts released their findings Monday, concluding that no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville Dam. The report goes on to say that the largest earthen dam in America is safe to operate. However, the Oroville Dam is not completely in the clear. … ” Read more from KRCR here: Report: Oroville Dam safe, but still vulnerable
Making end-of-life decisions on aging dams
“California’s nearly 1,500 large dams are aging, and many pose hazards to communities downstream. We talked to Andrew Rypel—co-director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and one of the authors of an article on “deadbeat dams” in California and the nation—about what we should do about this aging dam population. PPIC: What constitutes a deadbeat dam? ANDREW RYPEL: These are dams that have outlived their functions and have become less of a benefit and more of a problem. … ” Read more from the PPIC here: Making end-of-life decisions on aging dams
UC expert: Wildfires are devastating to soil
“After another record year for California wildfire, concern is now turning to the soil impacted by firestorms, reported Sarah Klearman in the Napa Valley Register. High-temperature flames can incinerate vegetation and destroy plant root systems, said Toby O’Geen, UC Cooperative Extension soil specialist at UC Davis. The loss of vegetation destabilizes the landscape, making it vulnerable to serious erosion or flooding. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: UC expert: Wildfires are devastating to soil
Wildfires emerge as threat to water quantity across parched West
” … How wildfires can affect water quality are well documented. But increasing—and increasingly intense—Western conflagrations are leading to fears they also could constrict the water quantity available in some of the nation’s most water-stressed areas. Fort Collins isn’t an outlier: This raging wildfire season and extreme drought, exacerbated by climate change and compounding the damage from previous record-breaking wildfire years, could pose a years-long threat to water supplies throughout the West. It could even choke the ability of some cities and states to keep faucets flowing. … ” Read more from Bloomberg News here: Wildfires emerge as threat to water quantity across parched West
California’s climate agenda likely to get big boost from Biden — look for reversal of Trump policies
California Farm Bureau Federation backs Costa for ag committee chair
“The California Farm Bureau Federation announced early Monday it supports U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, as he seeks chairmanship of the House Committee on Agriculture. The committee works to protect the nation’s food supply system, helps to ensure all Americans are fed, advocates for urban and rural America and works to maintain competitive markets for agriculture around the world. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: California Farm Bureau Federation backs Costa for ag committee chair
Changing Pacific conditions raise sea level along U.S. West coast
“Ask your average resident of California, Oregon, or Washington to name the natural hazard that concerns them most and sea level rise probably won’t bubble to the top of the list. After all, the region is better known for its wildfires, earthquakes, heat waves, and mudslides. But those who live along the coastline know better. They’ve seen first-hand the effects of coastal erosion, beach loss, storm damage, and tidal flooding resulting from sea level rise. In some locations, it’s a constant battle to hold back the sea. Yet during the 1990s and 2000s, natural climate cycles actually suppressed the rate of sea level rise off the U.S. West Coast. … ” Read more from NASA here: Changing Pacific conditions raise sea level along U.S. West coast
Yreka City Council approves pipeline replacement under Iron Gate
“The Yreka City Council approved the Fall Creek Pipeline Replacement under Iron Gate Lake/Klamath River at their meeting last week. City Staff and PACE Engineering recently reviewed a new conceptual plan for the relocation of the 24″ water main downstream of the proposed dam removal project. The city said that this new concept replaces the existing pipe on the bottom of Iron Gate Reservoir and relocates it under the proposed river channel. … ” Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Yreka City Council approves pipeline replacement under Iron Gate
Humboldt County: We stand at a tipping point, says Tasha McKee
She writes, ” … We encourage the Redwood Creek community and our fellow restorationists to learn about the Marshall Ranch Flow Enhancement Project, with grave consideration of the existing conditions. Redwood Creek, like the Mattole, has been impacted by all of the ways we have worked and lived on the land without understanding the degradation we were causing. And now, with climate change — also caused by our way of life — we stand at a tipping point. Can we work together to restore flows — for the fish and for our children, for the beauty of healthy watersheds and flowing rivers, for the comradery and pride and community building that comes from working together for something bigger than ourselves? … ” Read the commentary at the Eureka Times-Standard here: We stand at a tipping point, says Tasha McKee
Placer County: Fortifying the flumes and one short tunnel
“Two El Dorado Irrigation District projects are under way to ensure delivery of one-third of our water supply. The biggest project is reconstruction of rickety Flumes 38-40 by contractor KW Emerson. This is the same contractor who won the bid to replace Flume 44, an equally rickety wooden flume that took two seasons to replace with steel-reinforced concrete u-channel. … ” Read more from the Mountain Democrat here: Fortifying the flumes and one short tunnel
Napa County moves idea of a single water agency to future talks
“Napa County has achieved a degree of peace – at least for now – over big ideas involving water governance and how possible changes might affect farmland preservation. Some finessing of language paved the way for the Local Agency Formation Commission of Napa County (LAFCO) to adopt a Napa Countywide Water and Wastewater study. The commission on Monday unanimously approved a document almost two years in the making. … ” Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa County moves idea of a single water agency to future talks
Santa Cruz: Big Basin Water Company lifts do not drink water order for some customers
Monterey: Exploring the mystery of California’s bioluminescent blooms
“Earlier this year, locals could spot glowing blue waves tumbling down the shoreline, as bioluminescent tides took over the coast. Now the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary plans to host a virtual event to discuss the luminous waters from the perspectives of science and art. Bioluminescent tides occur due to tiny, floating organisms called phytoplankton. When the phytoplankton are disturbed, a chemical reaction takes place inside them that emits a blue-green light. Bioluminescent blooms can cover hundreds of square miles, making for a breathtaking scene. … ” Read more from the Mercury News here: Monterey: Exploring the mystery of California’s bioluminescent blooms
Monterey: Ron Weitzman: Desal impact on Salinas River
He writes, “The time has come for the Monterey One Water board to proceed with the extension of its recycling project, currently opposed by Salinas Valley members of the board. Perhaps those board members will end their opposition when they realize that Cal Am’s project, while protecting the Carmel River, would have the opposite impact on the Salinas River. What is that impact? A little tutorial is necessary to answer that question. … ” Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Ron Weitzman: Desal impact on Salinas River
San Joaquin Valley: Worried about your private well water in San Joaquin Valley? What you need to know
“Private wells in the central San Joaquin Valley are at risk of water quality issues, failing equipment and declining groundwater supplies. Is your drinking water safe? What will you do if the well goes dry? To help residents address these concerns, The Fresno Bee contacted public officials, water advocates and other experts to answer frequently asked questions about common issues. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Worried about your private well water in San Joaquin Valley? What you need to know
Malibu: Residents may now weigh in on water district plans
“LA County Waterworks District 29 has invited the public to review the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for critical water system improvements in Malibu and Topanga over the next six years. The planned projects have been in the works for some time. Beginning in 2012, District 29 drew up a Water Systems Master Plan (WSMP) that was later refined to identify and prioritize the Malibu area’s most critical water system deficiencies. … ” Read more from the Malibu Times here: Residents may now weigh in on water district plans
SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park tap millions of tons of recycled water for sustainability
“About 26 million gallons of recycled water will be delivered annually to SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, home of the Rams and Chargers, officials announced Monday, Nov. 9. The West Basin Municipal Water District is supplying the recycled water to the 298-acre sports and entertainment development in Inglewood, where it will be used for landscape irrigation, maintenance and aesthetic purposes, which includes a Lake Park cascading water feature and various greenscapes. … ” Read more from the Daily Bulletin here: SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park tap millions of tons of recycled water for sustainability
Plan in works to keep Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay circulating for water quality
“A decade ago, the State Water Resources Control Board decreed that electricity providers had to stop using water to cool their generating plants. That prompted a rush to build air-cooled power plants — in Long Beach, AES Alamitos spent $1.3 billion to build two new air-cooled generators, along with an electricity storage battery facility, creating the Alamitos Energy Center. Further down the river, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was doing the same thing at the Haynes Power Plant. … ” Read more from the Long Beach Press-Telegram here: Plan in works to keep Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay circulating for water quality
San Diego County renews IRWM agreement
“The Integrated Regional Water Management agreement between San Diego County, the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, but the IRWM will be extended for at least another five years. The county Board of Supervisors voted 5-0, Wednesday, Oct. 28, to approve a new memorandum of understanding with the city and the County Water Authority. That agreement will cover the period from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2025. The supervisors’ action also found the MOU to be exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review. … ” Read more from the Ramona Sentinel here: San Diego County renews IRWM agreement
2020 delivers setbacks for some long-planned Western water projects
“2020 has been a tough year for some of the Colorado River basin’s long-planned, most controversial water projects. Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have run up against significant legal, financial and political roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings. … ” Read more from KUNC here: 2020 delivers setbacks for some long-planned Western water projects
Arizona shares framework for new surface water quality protections
“The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is beginning to draft a set of regulations to protect surface water following the Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Water Act. The changes that took effect in June significantly narrow the list of waters that receive federal protection from pollution and contaminants, known as “waters of the U.S.” or the acronym “WOTUS.” And that leaves a big regulatory gap in Arizona, which currently has no surface water protection program. … ” Read more from Arizona Public Media here: Arizona shares framework for new surface water quality protections
Drought moves Colorado toward water speculation
“There’s a concept called “demand management” in the news in Colorado, and here’s a simple definition: Landowners get paid to temporarily stop irrigating, and that water gets sent downstream to hang out in Lake Powell. It’s an idea long talked about because of increasing drought and the very real danger of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping into “dead pool” where no hydropower can be generated. But fears keep arising about what water markets mean. To some rural people, the idea of separating water from the land sounds like heresy. … ” Read more from Vail Daily News here: Drought moves Colorado toward water speculation
ACE act officially signed into law by President Trump
“President Donald Trump recently signed America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act into law. The legislation will help to address several challenges that ranchers face in regard to wildlife. Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Tom Carper of Delaware introduced the legislation at the end of 2019. The bill was passed through the U.S. House of Representatives in early October and was signed by President Trump four weeks later. “America’s Conservation Enhancement Act builds on state and stakeholder commitments to restore wetlands and improve water quality by reauthorizing effective programs,” Carper said in a press release. … ” Read more from Ag Net West here: ACE act officially signed into law by President Trump
How will climate change change El Niño and La Niña?
“As human-caused climate change disrupts weather patterns around the world, one overarching question is the subject of increased scientific focus: how it will affect one of the world’s dominant weather-makers? The future of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is the subject of a new book published by the American Geophysical Union. With 21 chapters written by 98 authors from 58 research institutions in 16 countries, the volume covers the latest theories, models, and observations, and explores the challenges of forecasting El Niño and La Niña. The book, “El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate” was published online on November 2. … ” Read more from Climate.gov here: How will climate change change El Niño and La Niña?
GUEST COMMENTARY: Declaring “Droughts” in California: Do they tell the complete story?
Guest commentary by Robert Shibatani:
Every year at this time as the new water year unfolds, predictions and warnings about California’s upcoming water supplies begin emerging each one trying to project the likely status of water availability in the upcoming months. To facilitate such predictions a rich bevy of resource data are available. These databases are shared among the various federal, State, and local agencies as well as research and academic institutions, all of which collectively help to refine and tailor these projections. Despite their coverage and seeming quality, we should not lose sight of the fact that these forecasts still remain only best guesses. Well informed guesses to be sure but guesses all the same.
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.