DAILY DIGEST, 12/2: Funding for the proposed delta tunnel could be slipping; State Water Boards adopt aquatic toxicity plan; Winter’s dry start prompts low water allocation; Meet Biden’s water experts; Once-ignored promises to Tribes could change the enviro landscape; and more …



On the calendar today …

  • WEBINAR: Salmon in the Central Valley: Climate, flow, habitat, and fisheries from 10am to 11am.  The first part of this talk will discuss the evolution of climate forcing on the fishery performance across 170 years of ecological simplification.  The second part will discuss integrative effects of flow, spawners, and the landscape on habitat use by natural origin fry, highlighting the potential interdependence of water, fisheries, and habitat restoration management arenas in actualizing effects of habitat restoration.  Presented by Dr. Stuart Munsch, NWFSC.  Remote Access:  https://meet.google.com/prt-ezpa-trv; phone number: +1 661-473-0853; PIN: ‪764850 507#
  • PUBLIC LISTENING SESSION: Racial Equity Listening Session 3 (Spanish only) from 6pm to 8pm.  Se requiere registrarse por adelantadoen línea en: https://bit.ly/32tpnl3.  Para obtener más información, haga clic aquí.

In California water news today …

Funding for the proposed delta tunnel could be slipping

The Metropolitan Water District likely won’t pick up the slack to cover planning costs for the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel.  That’s a huge shift from MWD’s “all in” support of the previous tunnel project.  And MWD’s pull back could create a ripple of iffyness among other State Water Contractors about how much of their own money they want to invest down the line without the giant southern California water purveyor in its usual position as a financial backstop. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Funding for the proposed delta tunnel could be slipping

Delta farmers express doubts on ‘carbon farming’

Plans to convert nearly 200,000 acres of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta farmland into rice production or tule-based carbon farms are being greeted with skepticism among representatives of delta farmers.  The Delta Conservancy, a state agency, has partnered with environmental organizations and universities on pilot projects aimed at stopping or slowing ongoing land subsidence in the delta under a California Wetland Protocol. The protocol, currently certified through the nonregulatory American Carbon Registry, is being used to quantify carbon sequestration from growing tules or rice on seasonally or perennially wetted lands in the delta. … ”  Read more from the California Farm Bureau Federation here: Delta farmers express doubts on ‘carbon farming’

State Water Boards adopts aquatic toxicity plan

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved a comprehensive plan to ensure lab testing and analysis for toxicity in waterways are completed using the same protocols and standards statewide. This will help address toxicity in California’s waterways and significantly improve protections for fish and other aquatic life.  The plan, called the Aquatic Toxicity Provisions, makes important and targeted changes to activities at the State Water Board and nine Regional Water Boards by implementing the following:

Click here to continue reading this press release.
  • Consistent statewide water quality objectives for acute and chronic aquatic toxicity
  • A program to control aquatic toxicity discharges to waterways
  • A framework for monitoring waters for aquatic toxicity
  • A statewide statistical approach to analyze results

“These important new measures approved today have been a long time coming and should give the public confidence that the State Water Board is committed to protecting aquatic life from potentially toxic waters,” said Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “As we take a comprehensive approach, it is crucial that we are not only consistent throughout California, but transparent in how we determine the health and safety of our waterways.” 

Although the statewide objective is that all waters be maintained free of toxic substances that harm aquatic life, the regional water quality control boards have applied different interpretations in how they, and the dischargers they regulate, go about it. The new Aquatic Toxicity Provisions standardizes the methods statewide for consistent protection of aquatic life. 

Aquatic toxicity – the measurement of water quality that determines whether water is safe for aquatic life – is most commonly assessed by having a selection of fish, insects plants or algae live in a targeted sample of water for a period of time and then measuring survival, growth or reproduction rates and comparing that data to a control group of the same organisms living in water predetermined to be safe. These tests are done in a laboratory setting – generally a pair of aquariums – and the water is deemed safe if the organisms in both aquariums perform similarly over the course of monitoring. 

This kind of test has been used consistently since the 1980s when testing treated wastewater at wastewater treatment plants, before releasing the water into waterways. It has not, however been consistently applied to test the quality of water already in waterways. Other methods have also been available. 

Comment period opens for the state Water Commission’s proposed rulemaking giving applicants to Water Storage Investment Program a second opportunity at early funding

” … In May of 2020, multiple proponents of WSIP-funded projects voiced their concern to the Commission that the COVID-19 pandemic could create severe economic challenges that threaten the viability of their projects. The proponents requested the Commission adopt emergency regulations that include, among others, modifying early funding conditions, increasing early funding flexibility, and incorporating COVID-19 related impacts into pre-established deadlines. The Commission adopted emergency regulations in mid-August allowing WSIP applicants who did not previously receive early funding to apply for early funding to assist with completing environmental documents and permits. The Office of Administrative Law approved the emergency regulations, and then the Commission filed a notice of proposed rulemaking in an effort to make the emergency regulations final. … ”  Read more at Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Comment period opens for the state Water Commission’s proposed rulemaking giving applicants to Water Storage Investment Program a second opportunity at early funding

Keeping California a powerhouse of almond production while improving environmental quality

A favorite healthy snack, almonds are a staple on grocery store shelves worldwide. More than 80% of these almonds are grown in California. As permanent crops, almond trees have unique needs and challenges for farmers.  Sat Darshan Khalsa, a member of the Soil Science Society of America, studies how almond trees use the key nutrient nitrogen. He recently presented his research at the virtual 2020 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting.  How does farming almonds, considered a deciduous permanent crop, differ from a traditional crop?  … ”  Read more from Sci Tech Daily here:  Keeping California a powerhouse of almond production while improving environmental quality

Winter’s dry start prompts low California water allocation

California’s water managers on Tuesday preliminarily allocated just 10% of requested water supplies to agencies that together serve more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.  The state Department of Water Resources cited the dry start to the winter rainy season in California’s Mediterranean climate, along with low reservoir levels remaining from last year’s relatively dry winter. Winter snow typically supplies about 30% of the state’s water as it melts. … ”  Read more from the AP here: Winter’s dry start prompts low California water allocation

SEE ALSOTHIS JUST IN … DWR Releases Initial State Water Project Allocation of 10%

The year the West was burning: How the 2020 wildfire season got so extreme

More than 4 million acres of California went up in flames in 2020 – about 4% of the state’s land area and more than double its previous wildfire record. Five of the state’s six largest fires on record were burning this year.  In Colorado, the Pine Gulch fire broke the record for that state’s largest wildfire, only to be surpassed by two larger blazes, the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires.  Oregon saw one of the most destructive fire seasons in its recorded history, with more than 4,000 homes destroyed.  What caused the 2020 fire season to become so extreme? … ”  Read more from The Conversation here:  The year the West was burning: How the 2020 wildfire season got so extreme

“Thirstier” atmosphere will increase wildfire risk out West

Recent years have seen the largest, most destructive wildfires on record in California. Accompanying these extreme events have been extreme levels of evaporative demand—the degree to which the atmosphere “wants” to evaporate water from plants and the ground, regardless of how much water is available.  A new analysis of global climate model simulations by McEvoy et al. suggests that evaporative demand will increase in California and Nevada through the end of the century, driving increased risk of more extreme wildfires and drought. … ”  Read more from EOS here: “Thirstier” atmosphere will increase wildfire risk out West

How the West Coast fires and the volatile chemicals tainting America’s drinking water are connected

From his back deck, Bogdan Marian can see the scars running down into the San Lorenzo Valley: the pad of a destroyed home, the scorched brown trees at the ridge line.  Marian is grateful to have a standing home. Yet his family and many others in the area still face another worry: the safety of their tap water. After fires marred the valley near Santa Cruz, California, in August, the local water district issued a “Do Not Drink Do Not Boil” notice to residents.  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene, residents were warned, could be seeping into the water system — just as the toxic chemicals did in Santa Rosa and Paradise, California, in the wake of wildfires in 2017 and 2018. … ”  Read more from Green Biz here: How the West Coast fires and the volatile chemicals tainting America’s drinking water are connected

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

Water environmental group threatens Calistoga with lawsuit, again

Stemming from litigation dating back to 2008, the City of Calistoga is confronted again with a long-standing threat from an environmental group over the operation of Kimball Dam.  Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered a letter to the City of Calistoga on Monday criticizing the city for not fulfilling its commitment to complete a “stream study … and other aspects of its commitments.”  According to the letter, the City adopted an interim bypass plan in 2011, with the intention of meeting demands and ending the litigation. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Water environmental group threatens Calistoga with lawsuit, again

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ends plans to dredge San Francisco Bay

Every day, boats travel into the San Francisco Bay, carrying with them cargo and other supplies. Some travel up the channel that connects the San Francisco Bay to Stockton. It’s the primary route for tankers carrying oil products to and from several oil refineries.  This channel is naturally pretty shallow, about 35 feet. But a fully loaded oil tanker needs deeper waters to travel. So currently the tankers can’t be fully loaded because otherwise they’d get stuck. Instead they have to make multiple trips. This ends up costing those tankers more money. … ”  Read more from KALW here: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ends plans to dredge San Francisco Bay

East Bay: Cattle ponds double as habitat for threatened amphibians

When ecologist Jackie Charbonneau learned that cattle ponds in the East Bay hills are vital to rare amphibians, it came as a surprise. Stock ponds can be so muddy and trampled that “they can look like a bomb hit them,” said Charbonneau, who works in Alameda County at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. But looks can be deceiving. As an East Bay Regional Park District intern early in her career, she found that stock ponds are full of California red-legged frogs and California tiger salamanders, which are unique to the state and federally listed as threatened. … ”  Read more from the Bay Area Monitor here: East Bay: Cattle ponds double as habitat for threatened amphibians

Dry weather mitigated by Monterey County groundwater

The Central Coast and parts south are unusually dry, according to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s national drought monitor.  That could lead to dry soil, increased irrigation, stunted germination of dryland crops and increased risk of fire, the report says.  However, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales noted that Monterey and Ventura counties, which have their own groundwater systems, are likely to manage drought better than other agricultural counties. … ”  Read more from the Salinas Californian here: Dry weather mitigated by Monterey County groundwater

Challenge brought against proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir

A coalition of conservation groups is working to prevent the development of a dam in the Del Puerto Canyon. The proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir would reportedly store more than 80,000 acre-feet of water. The Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the River have sued the Del Puerto Water District (DPWD) for approving the project. In a lawsuit filed on November 20, the plaintiffs assert that the project would negatively impact the habitat of several species. … ” Read more Ag Net West here: Challenge brought against proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir

Two plead guilty for illegal cannabis grow in Los Padres National Forest

“In November 2020, Alejandro Barbosa Mejia and Cristo Sanchez Suarez pled guilty in Monterey County for an illegal cannabis operation and other crimes in the Big Sur region of the Los Padres National Forest.  The grow was eradicated by wildlife officers in July 2020 with assistance from the U.S. Forest Service and National Guard Counterdrug Program. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: Two plead guilty for illegal cannabis grow in Los Padres National Forest

Public workshop to explore water conveyance needs, funding options in Southern California

The California Water Commission is conducting a series of public workshops as part of its efforts to assess a potential state role in financing conveyance projects that could help meet needs in a changing climate.  The goal of the workshops is to learn from diverse voices across the state. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Public workshop to explore water conveyance needs, funding options in Southern California

Legal brief: Orange County sues over tainted aquifers

Orange County, California, and several of its cities sued chemical giants 3M, DuPont and others Tuesday, complaining they manufactured products containing PFAS chemicals that have contaminated drinking water sources across the county.”  Via Courthouse News.

How safe is the water off the coast of the San Onofre nuclear plant?

Though many may not know it, throughout its existence the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station has discharged wastewater that contains very low levels of radiation.  All nuclear plants release some effluents, though the nature and amounts can vary by plant site and configuration. In the case of San Onofre, the “liquid batch releases” go right into the Pacific.  Southern California Edison, the plant’s operator, insists the levels are safe for marine life and the humans who swim and surf at San Onofre State Beach. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: How safe is the water off the coast of the San Onofre nuclear plant?

San Diego coastal marshes may become important tools to battle climate change

Matthew Costa stepped gingerly into a little pocket wetland near the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The squishy salt marsh is more than just a patch of habitat in the intertidal zone.  “Just watch out,” said Costa, a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as he warned a helper. “Watch out for birds.”  Endangered ridgeway rails like hiding in the pickleweed that covers the soft, moist ground nestled between train tracks and a busy Del Mar street. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: San Diego coastal marshes may become important tools to battle climate change

Return to top

In national water news today …

Several former Obama EPA and Interior Department officials on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team bring with them deep expertise in water policy that could come in handy as the incoming administration plots policy goals and actions to undo Trump administration rollbacks.  With expertise including crafting WOTUS; tackling the Flint, Mich., water crisis; restoring the Everglades; and curbing coal plant pollution, the experts may be appointed to high-level positions after the new administration ramps up and may shape policy going forward. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Meet Biden’s water experts

Once-ignored promises to Tribes could change the environmental landscape

” … Federal and state officials signed nearly 400 treaties with tribal nations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Threatened by genocidal violence, the tribes signed away much of their land. But they secured promises that they could continue to hunt, fish and gather wild food on the territory they were giving up. Many treaties also include cash payments, mineral rights and promises of health care and education.  For the most part, the U.S. has ignored its obligations. … ”  Read more from Pew Charitable Trust here: Once-ignored promises to Tribes could change the environmental landscape 

US EPA recommends testing wastewater for PFAS

Some facilities may have to test for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their wastewater, under a new strategy from the US Environmental Protection Agency.  The effort could eventually help reduce the level of environmentally persistent and toxic PFAS in drinking water drawn downstream of such facilities as well as in fish and river sediment.  But environmental advocates say the guidance amounts to little for people who have drinking water contaminated with PFAS. … ”  Read more from Chemical and Engineering News here: US EPA recommends testing wastewater for PFAS

Analysis: Trump Administration incompetence helped save environmental regulations

President-elect Joe Biden has said that the environment and climate change will be top priorities of his administration. On Jan. 20, Biden will not only take the helm of a country shaken by climate-driven disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, but also inherit the consequences of the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations.  To discuss what experts and environmentalists think Biden needs to do to repair U.S. environmental and climate policy, and also the relative ineffectiveness of the Trump administration’s attacks on environmental regulation, KQED’s Brian Watt spoke with Rolling Stone magazine’s chief research editor, Hannah Murphy, who wrote in September about the environmental challenges a Biden administration would face. The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity. ... ” Read more from KQED here: Analysis: Trump Administration incompetence helped save environmental regulations

Return to top

In commentary today …

After COVID-19 ends, will Californians go thirsty? asks the LA Times

They write, “In the midst of drought yet again, and two decades into the 21st century, California continues to operate with a water infrastructure engineered and constructed for 20th century climate conditions and populations. That’s true not only of the state’s physical network of dams and aqueducts, but of its legal and financial infrastructure as well — the pricing rules that allocate the state’s precious liquid resources among its 40 million thirsty people. The coronavirus emergency has highlighted some of the most serious stresses in the system. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  After COVID-19 ends, will Californians go thirsty? asks the LA Times

Commentary: Local trading offers tool in managing groundwater, says Justin Fredrickson

He writes, “For groundwater sustainability agencies, landowners and pumpers in California’s designated “critical overdraft basins,” the hard work of preparing and submitting initial groundwater sustainability plans by 2020 is past. For these same areas, this marks the start of the even harder work of actually implementing submitted GSPs to bring groundwater additions and withdrawals into balance during the next 20 years.  Rules to divvy up and allow trading of set shares in the total supply of available water in a basin afford one potentially important way to balance a basin. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Commentary: Local trading offers tool in managing groundwater

Return to top

Today’s featured articles …

DELTA ADAPTS: Preliminary findings from the first comprehensive climate change vulnerability assessment for the Delta

Study assesses climate change risks to the Delta’s vulnerable communities, ecosystems, water supply, and flood management

Delta Adapts: Creating a Climate Resilient Future, simply called Delta Adapts, is the Delta Stewardship Council’s climate change study consisting of a first-ever climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun the Marsh.  The study will help the Council assess specific climate risks and vulnerabilities in the Delta and, in coordination with a diverse group of stakeholders, develop adaptation strategies to address those vulnerabilities.

Click here to read this article.

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: