DAILY DIGEST, 11/24: Will December bring rain to record-dry CA?; CSPA opposes Turlock and Modesto ID’s petition for waiver of Clean Water Act; San Bernardino Valley MWD votes for Delta Conveyance; San Diego pipeline plan takes a small step forward; and more …



In California water news today …

Will December bring rain to record-dry California?

It’s probably not the first thing that will come to mind when you think back on this year, but 2020 is now on track to be the second driest calendar year in San Francisco in recorded history — dating back 170 years to 1850.  Water managers track a water year from July to June, so depending on what happens this winter, it might not set any records. It might even end up as an overall wet winter! “You can’t necessarily draw conclusions on November 23,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun. “Honestly, it’s too early to kind of throw up the flag or whatever.”  But let’s draw some conclusions! ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  Add “dry” to the list of 2020 descriptors: Will December bring rain?

Very dry weather across California through mid-December

The good news: there has been some rain and snow across most of Northern California over the past two weeks. The higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada have seen a nice blanket of the white stuff, and the typically wet parts of NorCal have seen several inches of cumulative rainfall. In the wettest locations, that precipitation may well be considered “fire season ending”–and rains elsewhere have significantly dampened wildfire risk. But true season-ending rains have still not yet arrived across some parts of NorCal, and certainly not yet across most of SoCal. Indeed–autumn 2020 is shaping to to be among the top-5 driest on record across a wide swath of California. This comes immediately following the warmest August-October period on record in California. … ”  Read more from Weather West here: Very dry weather across California through mid-December

CSPA opposes Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts’ petition for waiver of Clean Water Act

Joining a growing list, Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts (Districts) filed a Petition for Declaratory Order with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) on October 2, 2020 asking that the Commission find that the State of California has waived certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  CWA Section 401 allows a state to issue a “water quality certification” that places mandatory conditions on a new federal permit or license.  The Districts are seeking a new FERC license for two hydropower projects on the Tuolumne River, the Don Pedro Project and the La Grange Project. … ”  Read more from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance here: CSPA opposes Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts’ petition for waiver of Clean Water Act

San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to pay for 2.8 percent of the Delta Conveyance Project

The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District took major action last week to restore lost water supplies and ensure the long-term reliability of the Inland Empire’s imported water supplies. Valley District’s board of directors voted unanimously to commit to pay 2.8 percent of the costs of building the Delta Conveyance Project, a tunnel that will reliably carry drinking water beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 2.8 percent commitment translates into about $9 million in planning and permitting costs for Valley District over the next four years and about $445 million over the life of the project.  “We are taking decisive action to restore some of our lost imported water supplies and to modernize the delivery system,” stated Valley District President T. Milford Harrison, adding, “Investing in the Delta Conveyance Project will help us overcome threats to long-term reliability such as sea level rise and earthquakes.”

Click here to read this press release from San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

Plans to raise Shasta Dam get finalized by Trump Administration

The plan to raise Shasta Dam and increase its water storage capacity is officially moving forward. The Trump Administration recently released the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Shasta Lake reservoir would increase its water storage capacity by 634,000 acre-feet under the plan. It has been more than four decades since any significant federal water storage infrastructure has been built in the state. During that same time period, California’s population has nearly doubled. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Plans to raise Shasta Dam get finalized by Trump Administration

California turkeys will likely trot north as climate warms, but may not leave the suburbs

Wild turkeys are thriving across California, but as the climate warms habitats like Sacramento may not be able to sustain the invasive species that people either hate or love.   “People are seeing them more often in places where they might not think a turkey would live,” said Peter Tira, an information officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “During the drought there were very few natural resources out on the wild landscape. Water was hard to find, food was hard to find and turkeys kind of moved into the cities and suburbs.” … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  California turkeys will likely trot north as climate warms, but may not leave the suburbs

Trump environmental war against California ran deep. Here’s how Biden changes everything

Mary Nichols has led California’s resistance to President Donald Trump’s climate policies. Now she may wind up leading the federal government’s fight on climate and other environmental issues.  The chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board is widely reported to be on President-elect Joe Biden’s short list of candidates for Environmental Protection Agency administrator — a vivid example of the sea change coming to Washington and the clout that California will have in shaping the new administration’s views on a wide range of critical matters. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Trump environmental war against California ran deep. Here’s how Biden changes everything

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In regional water news and commentary today …

How wine country is adapting to climate change

In September of 2015, Cecilia Enriquez sold the Petaluma estate of her family’s winery, Enriquez Estate Winery, in order to purchase a new property in the Russian River Valley. The following year, they were “rocking and rolling” in their new vineyard, but by the beginning of 2017, record-breaking rains had hit the Bay Area and caused destructive flooding.  Thankfully, the winery was elevated enough to not be affected. Then October brought historic fires that damaged at least 27 wineries across Sonoma and Napa counties. With her winery located right off of River Road, Enriquez says, the fire came close, crossing Highway 101 just south of the River Road exit, toward Coffey Park. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  How wine country is adapting to climate change

Sanitation district error leads to tax bill overcharge

Property owners in the Sonoma Valley generally receive their property tax bills in early October, which includes a lengthy list of percentages levied for various bonds, and direct charges for district fees such as fire districts, the health care district and the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District.  But for the third time in seven years, said Sonoma resident Scott Pace, that sanitation district charge has been inaccurate. … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here: Sanitation district error leads to tax bill overcharge

Liquid gold on tribal land

““We were always told if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you,” says James Kinter, tribal secretary of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, whose ancestral homeland is located in Northern California’s Capay Valley. “This is something that we fought blood, sweat, and tears for. Because we had to buy back land that was stolen from us.”  Kinter is standing in an olive orchard on a blustery November morning, in the shadow of the tribe’s Cache Creek Casino and Resort and nearby golf club. … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Liquid gold on tribal land

Marin County seeks flood tax in Santa Venetia

Marin County flood planners are turning to Santa Venetia voters to help pay for an estimated $6 million project to upgrade the timber-reinforced berm that protects hundreds of homes from overtopping tides.  The county has proposed a ballot measure that would impose on homeowners an annual $297 per parcel tax for seven years, raising approximately $1 million toward the project. The measure would also establish a new “subzone 7A,” consisting of 660 homes within Flood Zone District 7 that are below 11 feet in elevation. Only property owners of those homes will be voting on and paying the tax. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin County seeks flood tax in Santa Venetia

Bay Area: On quiet beaches, snowy plovers reclaim their territory

As people paused their activity due to pandemic lockdowns this spring and summer, threatened snowy plovers spread out across the beaches of California.   Snowy plovers are small white and gray shorebirds. They spend their lives on the coastline of the Pacific, ranging from Baja, Mexico to Washington, living and nesting on open beaches. For the last few decades the snowy plover population has declined, mostly due to habitat loss by human encroachment and environmental degradation. With fewer people heading out to the coast due to the pandemic, it has meant snowy plovers are able to nest on long-lost beaches. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  On quiet beaches, snowy plovers reclaim their territory

Monterey: State water penalty kicks in as Cal Am misses deadline on desalination plant construction

A recent exchange of letters between a public utility and a state water authority highlights the continued stalemate in the effort by the Monterey Peninsula to develop a new water supply and end the overdrafting of the Carmel River.  On Oct. 21, California American Water sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board to note it had missed a deadline of Sept. 30 to advance construction on a proposed desalination plant just outside the city of Marina. Per a 2016 water board order, the missed deadline carries a penalty, requiring an immediate reduction of 1,000 acre-feet in pumping from the Carmel River.  … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here:  State water penalty kicks in as Cal Am misses deadline on desalination plant construction

San Joaquin Valley: Helicopter will dangle electromagnet array over valley this week

If you look up into the Valley skies this week and see a large, oddly shaped device hanging from a helicopter, don’t be alarmed.  It’s part of a research project to map underground water supplies.  Beginning Monday, flyovers are expected in areas west and south of Fresno – including Fowler, Kingsburg, Lemon Cove, Orange Cove, Orosi, Parlier, Piedra, Reedley, Sanger, Selma, Woodlake.  This high flying technique has been used in California before and has been shown to provide useful information that can be used to better manage natural resources. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Helicopter will dangle electromagnet array over valley this week

Creek Fire updates: Containment grows; when can firefighters declare victory?

Firefighters battling the Creek Fire zeroed in on the last embers of the monster blaze in the Sierra and Inyo national forests Sunday, as containment was reported to reach the 95% figure.  The blaze, which erupted Sept. 4, burned 379,895 acres in eastern Fresno and Madera counties, destroying hundreds of structures, including homes in Shaver Lake. The cause remains under investigation. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:   Creek Fire updates: Containment grows; when can firefighters declare victory?

Kern County fish hatchery to close temporarily for repairs

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is announcing the temporary closure on Dec. 1 of the Kern River Hatchery in Kern County. The purpose of the closure is to complete much needed repairs so that, once reopened, the hatchery can serve as a recreational resource for visitors and produce Kern River rainbow trout for the sport fishing community. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here:  Kern County fish hatchery to close temporarily for repairs

SEE ALSO: Hatchery closes down again following three years of renovations, from the Bakersfield Californian

Yorba Linda Water District installs natural gas generator to support reliable water service during emergencies

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and the Yorba Linda Water District (YLWD) today commemorated the installation of YLWD’s new natural gas-powered electricity generator located at the water district’s Elk Mountain Booster Pump Station. The generator was installed to provide back-up power in the event of power loss from wildfires, Public Safety Power Shutoffs, and other emergencies. Natural gas-powered generators are one of the cleanest, resilient and most affordable energy solutions available for backup energy in an event of an emergency. … ”  Read more from the OC Breeze here: Yorba Linda Water District installs natural gas generator to support reliable water service during emergencies

San Diego pipeline plan takes a small step forward (with some drama)

Things got a little wild at the San Diego County Water Authority meeting last week when its 36 directors argued over whether they should spend more money studying a controversial $5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River.  Outrage after leaders apparently skipped over female directors waiting to add comments during a discussion period sparked some to change their vote on the matter.  “There are three women on the line that are left, and they probably should have been given an opportunity to speak,” said Jim Mosca, a director who represents the San Dieguito Water District. … ”  Read ore from the Voice of San Diego here: San Diego pipeline plan takes a small step forward (with some drama)

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Along the Colorado River …

Tucson: A desert city tries to save itself with rain

In an average year, Brad Lancaster can harvest enough rain to meet 95% of his water needs. Roof runoff collected in tanks on his modest lot in Tucson, Arizona — where 100 degree days are common in the summer months — provides what he needs to bathe, cook and drink.  When Lancaster gets thirsty, he sips filtered rain “known as sweet water,” he says, having never picked up salt from soil. When he wants a hot shower, he places his outdoor shower’s water tank in the sun. To irrigate his fruit trees beyond the Sonoran Desert’s two rainy seasons, which bring the vast majority of Tucson’s precipitation, he uses fresh rainwater or greywater — the latter being, in his case, used rainwater leftover from the shower, sink, or washing machine. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg City Lab here: Tucson: A desert city tries to save itself with rain

Utah’s water year so far, and why people should ‘think snow’

Bah humbug.  So far this water year that began Oct. 1 has been treating most of Utah like a miserly scrooge, stingy with storms and the accompanying snow.  The southern half of the state, as of Monday, was sitting in the 60% of normal accumulation of snowpack, and the Lower Sevier River Basin at 36% of normal is experiencing abysmally dry conditions.  In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor, in data updated last week, shows a large swath of central Utah in the exceptional drought category and the majority of Utah in extreme drought. … ”  Read more from Deseret News here: Utah’s water year so far, and why people should ‘think snow’

As Lake Powell recedes, river runners race to document long-hidden rapids

Climate change and overuse are causing one of the Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs, Lake Powell, to drop. While water managers worry about scarcity issues, two Utah river rafters are documenting the changes that come as the massive reservoir hits historic low points.  For the past three years, Moab-based river runners Mike DeHoff and Pete Lefebvre have carefully photographed and mapped Cataract Canyon on their boating trips. For decades, Lake Powell buried the lower portion of the beloved canyon under flatwater. But now that the lake’s water levels are dropping, things are rapidly changing in the canyon. … ”  Read more from KUNC here: As Lake Powell recedes, river runners race to document long-hidden rapids

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In national water news today …

Racial disparities in access to running water: 5 studies to know

Clean water piped into the home is a given for most Americans. But piped, running water isn’t universal, and people of color are disproportionately more likely than white Americans to lack piped water, finds new research in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.  Householders of color in the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. are 34% more likely to lack piped water compared with white, non-Hispanic householders, the researchers find. In all, the authors estimate 1.1 million people in the U.S. lack what the U.S. Census Bureau calls “complete plumbing” with nearly three-quarters of them living in cities and suburbs. … ”  Read more from Journalist’s Resource here:  Racial disparities in access to running water: 5 studies to know

Western states wrestle with shrinking water supplies

State and local leaders across the West are embracing ambitious water conservation initiatives in an effort to match the magnitude of the solutions to the challenges that lie ahead as droughts worsen and fire seasons become longer and more destructive.  The breadth, scope and interconnectedness of these ongoing projects was outlined during the recent Water in the West Symposium, hosted by Colorado State University’s new SPUR campus at the National Western Center in Denver. … ”  Read more from Ag Journal here:  Western states wrestle with shrinking water supplies

East Coast: ‘Happening right now’: Saltwater is invading local groundwater, threatening ecosystem

Risks are rising faster than predicted for coastal residents from Long Island, New York, to the Gulf Coast as saltwater invades from above and below ground.  Reporting from the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism shows the salting of the coast threatens drinking water, crops, property, and our ability to mitigate the carbon releases driving global warming.  That means higher utility bills, increased property damage and a resculpting of the coastline as forests and marshes disappear. … ”  Read more from WJLA here:  ‘Happening right now’: Saltwater is invading local groundwater, threatening ecosystem

Who will lead Biden’s ag department?

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced his first cabinet picks on Monday, among them Tony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and John Kerry as “climate tsar,” The Guardian reported.  Other appointments include: Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary; Avril Haines as national intelligence director and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations. … ”  Read more from Western Farm Press here:  Who will lead Biden’s ag department?

Key changes made to environmental NEPA procedures

The U.S. Forest Service announced new improvements to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that will streamline NEPA reviews and make the process work better for grassland users such as cattle producers. The changes include new tools and flexibilities to tackle critical land management challenges as part of a broader agency effort to better serve the American people through timely, high-quality management decisions affecting infrastructure, permitting and restoration of natural resources in national forests and grasslands, the Forest Service said in a news release. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Key changes made to environmental NEPA procedures

Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ agency moves ripe for Biden reversal

Agencies uprooted by the Trump administration moved to the middle of the country are facing deep staff recruitment challenges, with critics of the moves hoping President-elect Joe Biden can reverse them.  Both the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and two agencies within the Agriculture Department saw consequential shifts under President Donald Trump‘s administration. The Interior Department’s land bureau headquarters moved to Grand Junction, Colo., and two USDA agencies — the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — moved to Kansas City, Mo. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ agency moves ripe for Biden reversal

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And lastly …

Photo gallery: The Redwood Sky Walk at the Sequoia Park Zoo

” … Interim Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery was kind enough to invite the Outpost to tag along on a Thursday morning tour of the Sky Walk to get a closer look at the progress that has been made and experience the thrill of exploring the redwood canopy from a dizzying 100 feet above the forest floor. ... ”  Check it out at the Lost Coast Outpost here:  The LoCO Tours Eureka’s Fabulous New Redwood Sky Walk

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Today’s featured articles …

WATER COMMISSION: Addressing California Aqueduct subsidence; State Water Project Operations and Maintenance

At the November meeting of the California Water Commission, Commissioners were briefed on subsidence issues with the California Aqueduct and current construction and maintenance projects underway for the State Water Project.

Click here to read this article.


BLOG ROUND-UP: Oroville damages and the State Water Project; Farmers can help with weather whiplash; The Delta as salmon nursery; Dairies and water; and more …

Click here to read the blog round-up.

 

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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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