DAILY DIGEST, 12/4: Trump’s ‘QAnon of water projects’: Destined for death?; Chemical in tires linked to salmon deaths; ‘Carcass survey’ helps DWR learn about health of salmon species; Can Biden get an infrastructure deal done despite Capitol Hill gridlock? and more …



On the calendar today …

  • VIRTUAL TOUR: Groundwater Replenishment System from 10am to 11:30am. Join us for a tour of Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), the world’s largest advanced water purification system for potable reuse. Featuring General Manager Mike Markus leading a video tour of the GWRS facility followed by a live Q & A session with Mehul Patel, OCWD Executive Director of Operations.  Click here to register.
  • 2020 UWMP Training Webinar – Using the Optional Planning Tool for Drought Risk Assessment 2020 UWMP Training Webinar – Using the Optional Planning Tool for Drought Risk Assessment from 1pm to 3pm.  Click here to register: https://csus.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_azfpnkMgSJuOOF0EHxMXOA

In California water news today …

Trump’s ‘QAnon of water projects’: Destined for death?

The Trump administration made a splash last month announcing it was moving ahead with enlarging one of California’s largest dams to provide the drought-stricken state’s farmers more water.  But state officials and conservationists have another message for the outgoing administration: Not so fast.  The Bureau of Reclamation on Nov. 20 finished its environmental review of raising the 600-foot Shasta Dam in Northern California by 18.5 feet. It would be the Trump administration’s largest water infrastructure project, expanding one of the country’s biggest reservoirs by more than 200 billion gallons.  The highly-publicized announcement, however, led some state officials to scratch their heads and others to laugh out loud. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Trump’s ‘QAnon of water projects’: Destined for death?

Scientists solve mystery of mass coho salmon deaths. The killer? A chemical from car tires

When officials in Seattle spent millions of dollars restoring the creeks along Puget Sound — tending to the vegetation, making the stream beds less muddy, building better homes for fish — they were thrilled to see coho salmon reappear.  But when it rained, more than half, sometimes all, of the coho in a creek would suffer a sudden death.  These mysterious die-offs — an alarming phenomenon that has been reported from Northern California to British Columbia — have stumped biologists and toxicologists for decades. Numerous tests ruled out pesticides, disease and other possible causes, such as hot temperatures and low dissolved oxygen. Now, after 20 years of investigation, researchers in Washington state, San Francisco and Los Angeles say they have found the culprit: a very poisonous yet little-known chemical related to a preservative used in car tires.  … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Scientists solve mystery of mass coho salmon deaths. The killer? A chemical from car tires

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‘Carcass survey’ helps DWR learn about health of salmon species

After salmon spawn, or reproduce, it marks the end of their lifecycle. For the Department of Water Resources (DWR) it marks an important time for dissecting and studying salmon carcasses to learn about the species’ population and assess their numbers in the Feather River.  “We do our Chinook Salmon Escapement Survey, also known as a ‘carcass survey’, to determine how many salmon are coming back to the river to spawn on any given year,” said Casey Campos, DWR environmental scientist. “These numbers are really important in estimating how many fish are still in the ocean and available for next year’s commercial and recreational fisheries.” … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  ‘Carcass survey’ helps DWR learn about health of salmon species

California appears to be in for a dry, warm winter

December typically marks the onset of winter, but you’d never know it by looking at California.  Mountain ranges lay blackened by wildfire as record heat scorched the Golden State through fall. Daytime temperatures in Los Angeles have hovered around 80 degrees through Thanksgiving. Southern California has experienced scant rain since February — with no precipitation in the forecast. And nearly all of the state is experiencing extremely dry or drought conditions again. … ”  Read more from USC News here:  California appears to be in for a dry, warm winter

What the current dry spell means for the long-term local water supply

It’s been four years since a protracted drought had Southern Californians taking four-minute showers and turning off the tap during tooth brushing.  Now, with no rain forecast for the foreseeable future and fires once again raging in the southland, the prospect of another drought is looming large, along with its implications.  Downtown Los Angeles’ average rainfall for November is 1.04″, but it only received .04″ this year, according to Spectrum News 1 Chief Meteorologist Robert Santos. December’s average rainfall is 2.33″, but it’s gotten off to a dry start with no sign of rain through the first two weeks. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: What the current dry spell means for the long-term local water supply

SEE ALSO:

Water managers urge patience after initial, 10% allocation from State Water Project

The rainy season is still young, but that’s about the only consolation to be found in California’s initial estimate this week that farmers who get water from the State Water Project will only get 10 percent of their requested allocations next year. … The announcement Tuesday by the California Department of Water Resources isn’t expected to cause the water project’s local customers to scale back because they’re still able to pump from local reserves. Local water managers say there’s a good chance conditions will improve before the allocation is finalized by about May. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here:  Water managers urge patience after initial, 10% allocation from State Water Project

California water district PFAS lawsuit – $1 billion at stake

In August 2020, we flagged the possibility that local water boards in Orange County, California would file a lawsuit alleging that certain PFAS manufacturers were responsible for PFAS contamination found in the local drinking water sources, with possible damages of over $1 billion dollars in cleanup costs. On December 1, 2020, eleven local water districts, including the Orange County Water District, filed a lawsuit in Orange County Court alleging that PFAS manufacturers (DuPont, 3M, Chemours and Corteva) and one consumer product manufacturer (Decra Roofing Systems) are responsible for the costs of cleanup and decontamination related to PFAS in the districts’ water. The California water district PFAS lawsuit is significant not only because it is one of the largest PFAS lawsuits filed to date by a water district, but also because it is one of the first times that a consumer product manufacturer is being targeted for PFAS cleanup costs. … ”  Read more from the National Law Review here:  California water district PFAS lawsuit – $1 billion at stake

SEE ALSO: PFAS Power Lawyers Steer Multibillion-Dollar Litigation Boom

Wildfires linked to humid, stormy weather have become more common across California, researchers find

A little bit of moisture goes a long way in increasing the likelihood of thunderstorms, and subsequent wildfires, according to new research out of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  Atmospheric scientists with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory analyzed environmental and meteorological data, looking at temperatures, wind patterns as well as precipitation and humidity levels that preceded wildfires in California.  “We found a large number of fires related to conditions that are generally wet, where you have onshore winds with a lot of moisture blowing from the ocean to land,” study author Ruby Leung said. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  Wildfires linked to humid, stormy weather have become more common across California, researchers find

California environmental groups tell Biden not to pick Mary Nichols for EPA

A coalition of some 70 California environmental justice groups, national environmentalists and other organizations sent a letter to Joe Biden’s transition team Thursday asking the incoming president to avoid picking Mary Nichols as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Nichols has been reported to be Biden’s top candidate to lead the EPA.  The outgoing chair of the California Air Resources Board, Nichols is “not the right person to oversee and implement climate and environmental programs for the country” because of her “bleak track record in addressing environmental racism,” the groups wrote. … ”  Read more from KQED here: California environmental groups tell Biden not to pick Mary Nichols for EPA

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In commentary today …

Governor’s talk on environment falls short when it comes to the Poseidon project, says Garry Brown, founding director of Orange County Coastkeeper

He writes, “Orange County sees past Poseidon’s efforts to buy support for its desalination boondoggle. Why can’t Gov. Newsom?  Poseidon Water, a large water development company, has been pushing to build a $1.4-billion water desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Like Poseidon’s underperforming, high-cost plant in Carlsbad, the plant and its inflated water would be paid for by ratepayers.  In an independent review of Orange County’s water needs, the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) prepared its Water Reliability Study, which showed the Poseidon project as the least cost-effective and most “financially risky” of several water supply alternatives reviewed. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Governor’s talk on environment falls short when it comes to the Poseidon project

Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute: Water scarcity will increase risk of conflict, says new national intelligence report

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 116-92), including the Intelligence Authorization Act of FY2020. Section 6722 of that law required a report be prepared on the national security effects of “global water insecurity” and be submitted within 180 days (by late June 2020) to “the congressional intelligence committees, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.”  … The report concludes that “Governments, industry, and civil society are facing an increasing risk of water insecurity as demand grows and supply is increasingly strained.” It attributes these increased risks to “development practices, agriculture, and environmental degradation” and to “poor governance and resource management” that affect both water availability and quality. … ”  Read the full commentary at Circle of Blue here:  Water scarcity will increase risk of conflict, says new national intelligence report

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Success in the Sierra: French Meadows partnership doubles pace in second season of work

After six months of strategic forest treatments, partners of the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project (Project) are wrapping up their second season of implementation work. Located in the headwaters of the Middle Fork American River, in the Tahoe National Forest, the Project aims to restore forest health by reducing high-severity fires across 28,000 acres of critical watershed, and to study the effects of forest treatments on ecosystem health. In its second season, the partnership expanded its efforts beyond the heavily-trafficked area around French Meadows Reservoir and into the upper reaches of the watershed. … ”  Read more from YubaNet here:  Success in the Sierra: French Meadows partnership doubles pace in second season of work

Why San Francisco Bay Area beaches are dangerous today

A long period west-northwest swell will impact the Northern California coast Thursday into Friday, bringing dangerous conditions for everyday beachgoers and near-perfect waves for surfers.  While this event won’t mark the biggest surf of the season, it will deliver powerful sneaker waves that run farther up the beach than usual and can pull unsuspecting people out to sea. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Why San Francisco Bay Area beaches are dangerous today

Sand mining at the Cemex plant in Marina ends ahead of deadline

Occupying part of the beach in Marina for decades, the last coastal sand mine in the United States has ceased operations, according to officials at the California Coastal Commission.  Cemex, a multinational company based in Mexico, notified the commission in mid-October that it had stopped mining sand at its Marina dredge pond, fulfilling the central requirement of a 2017 settlement agreement two-and-half months before the deadline of Dec. 31.  “Cemex has stopped removing sand from the beach environment, allowing sand that is part of the public trust to remain in place,” says Justin Buhr, an analyst with the commission’s enforcement arm. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly here:  Sand mining at the Cemex plant in Marina ends ahead of deadline

Work progressing on Newman water project

Work is proceeding on construction of a new well, booster pump station and million-gallon storage tank on the western reaches of Jensen Road north of the city.  The $10 million project to upgrade Newman’s municipal water system has been in the works for about a decade.  Distribution lines being installed along Jensen Road will tie the new facilities into the existing water system at Hardin Road and Fig Lane. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect here: Work progressing on Newman water project

Water district moves to hire ousted Carson mayor as general manager during bizarre meeting

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California’s board of directors moved Thursday to hire a former board member forced out of office by the district attorney as its new general manager, despite concerns about his lack of qualifications and the rushed hiring process.  Board members voted 3-2 to select former Carson Mayor Albert Robles as the new general manager, then went into closed session to discuss it further. They then continued the meeting until the next day, though they had finished their agenda, and left those in attendance, including some other board members, unsure about what exactly that meant. … ”  Read more from the Daily Breeze here:  Water district moves to hire ousted Carson mayor as general manager during bizarre meeting

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Along the Colorado River …

The rancher trying to solve the West’s water crisis

“Paul Bruchez’s family has ranched cattle in Colorado for five generations. And twice in his lifetime, his generation has nearly become the last.  The first time, it was the city of Denver that squeezed them out. By the 1990s, when Bruchez was still in high school, the city’s fast-growing suburbs had swept north and totally surrounded their roughly 2,000 acres in Westminster. Bruchez’s father had taken dirt roads to get to school, but by the time Bruchez was a teenager, development had engulfed the family homestead so completely that at one point the city needed to send a police escort to help move their harvest equipment safely between fields on what were by then city roads. Running a full-scale farm operation in the middle of a city soon became untenable and the family opted to cut a land deal with the city and start fresh on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. … ”  Read more from Politico Magazine here: The rancher trying to solve the West’s water crisis

Will others follow SNWA’s lead on conservation?

Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network writes, “Water conservation isn’t cheap. But it’s not as pricey as 300-mile pipelines and water grabs.  Last week, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s board passed its 2020 Water Resource Plan — a blueprint detailing the water purveyor’s estimates for supply and demand in a world with a declining Colorado River, spiking temperatures and increasing populations.  The SNWA also approved a rate increase that will likely result in about a $10 hike in residential water bills by 2026 in order to pay for current and future projects. ... ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here: Will others follow SNWA’s lead on conservation?

Creating water out of thin air in the Navajo Nation

The West is in a drought that’s only getting worse, and drought is an even bigger problem in places that have uneven access to water to start with. In the Navajo Nation, in the southwestern U.S., many homes have no running water at all. The tribe is working with the startup Source, which makes Hydropanels — solar-powered panels that pull water vapor from the air and condense it into clean drinking water. … ”  Read more from Marketplace here: Creating water out of thin air in the Navajo Nation

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In national water news today …

Can Biden get an infrastructure deal done despite Capitol Hill gridlock?

Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama made infrastructure initiatives central goals of their administrations, as President-elect Joe Biden has similarly pledged to do, only to be stymied at delivering on those promises.  Industry watchers, politicians and public works contractors are all wondering if Biden will also hit a wall with his promised infrastructure package. The president-elect said his administration will invest $2 trillion into the economy, creating millions of jobs in infrastructure, housing, building construction and other projects. … ”  Read more from Construction Dive here:  Can Biden get an infrastructure deal done despite Capitol Hill gridlock?

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National water and climate update

dmrpt-20201203

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

SCIENCE NEWS: Spotting salmon spawning by drone; Tire-related chemical responsible for adult coho salmon deaths; Functional flows can improve environmental water management; How some trees survive the summer dry season; and more …

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Delta Independent Science Board Assessment Survey

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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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