DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Plans finalized to increase water storage in San Luis Reservoir; Rep. Harder to sit on House Appropriations Committee; Alf W. Brandt: His waterworld runneth over; Drought: When should we worry?; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Reclamation and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority finalize plan to increase water storage in San Luis Reservoir

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority finalized the B.F. Sisk Dam Raise and Reservoir Expansion Project’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report. This joint proposed project would create an additional 130,000 acre-feet of storage space in San Luis Reservoir, producing additional water supply for 2 million people, over 1 million acres of farmland and 200,000 acres of Pacific Flyway wetlands.   “Adding storage capacity to existing reservoirs is one of the most practical strategies for California’s water shortage,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “At San Luis Reservoir, we have an opportunity to meet two objectives at the same time: implement dam safety modifications and increase water storage. This is one of the most efficient water infrastructure projects we can make happen south-of-the Delta.” … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release.

B.F. Sisk Dam is a 382-foot high earthfill embankment located on the west side of the Central Valley, about 12 miles west of Los Banos. The dam is over 3 miles long and impounds San Luis Reservoir, which has a current total capacity of around 2 million acre-feet of water.

Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority partnered to investigate adding an additional 10 feet to the crest of B.F. Sisk Dam while implementing Safety of Dams modifications. The expanded space would store water that could be delivered to south-of-Delta water contractors and wildlife refuges. This water would meet existing contractual obligations and not serve any new demands.

“Growing demands for California’s shared water resources over the last century, combined with insufficient water storage capacity, limits our ability to meet customer needs,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We are pleased to partner with the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority in this wise investment to increase the state’s water supply reliability.”

“San Luis Reservoir plays an important role as a lynchpin of California’s water system. The reservoir’s water storage capacity is increasingly important to respond to a changing climate. Increasing water storage is a critical component of building water resilience,” said Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Federico Barajas. “We are glad to partner with Reclamation to investigate expanding San Luis Reservoir—increasing water storage capacity and improving multi-year water management for the urban and rural communities, ecosystems, and agricultural production that are reliant on water stored in San Luis Reservoir.”

View the combined final SEIS/EIR online at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_project_details.php?Project_ID=44425. For document questions, contact Casey Arthur, Bureau of Reclamation, Willows Construction Office, 1140 W. Wood Street, Willows, CA 95988, at 530-892-6202 (TTY 1-800-877-8339), or carthur@usbr.gov.

California Democrat gets powerful committee spot. Why that matters to Central Valley

As Congress becomes more gridlocked, the budget process has become the main vehicle for getting new government projects through Congress — giving even more importance to Congress’ Appropriations Committees, which were already powerful in the first place.  Now, the Central Valley’s Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, has been elected to sit on that House committee, one of the more powerful assignments in Congress as they draft all funding legislation. Harder says it will mean more focus on water, agriculture and health care needs for rural communities, a point of view he says have been lacking on the committee for years. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  California Democrat gets powerful committee spot. Why that matters to Central Valley

Coalition urges action to address California wildfires moving forward

A coalition of groups representing a variety of interests is calling for action to address California wildfires in the future. Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature are being encouraged to provide more funding support in the upcoming budget. The coalition is made up of agricultural, forestry, environmental, and business groups. The group is asking for more than $1.5 billion of stable and sustainable financial support.  More than 9,600 fires burned more than 4.1 million acres in 2020, damaging more than 10,400 structures and causing 31 fatalities. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Coalition urges action to address California wildfires moving forward

Identifying where to reforest after wildfire

In the aftermath of megafires that devastated forests of the western United States, attention turns to whether forests will regenerate on their own or not. Forest managers can now look to a newly enhanced, predictive mapping tool to learn where forests are likely to regenerate on their own and where replanting efforts may be beneficial.  The tool is described in a study published in the journal Ecological Applications by researchers from the University of California, Davis; U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here:  Identifying where to reforest after wildfire

‘There’s good fire and bad fire.’ An Indigenous practice may be key to preventing wildfires

In Margo Robbins’s home, the first thing you notice is family: portraits of children and grandchildren in a crowded display on the wall. The second thing you notice is accomplishment: lines of academic and athletic trophies from those children and grandchildren. The third thing is baskets—Robbins is a Yurok basket-weaver, part of a tradition in her northern Californian nation that stretches back centuries upon centuries.  What you don’t see is that her home is one of the nerve centers of a cultural and political struggle that has been slowly changing the North American West. Her living room is where she co-founded the Indigenous Peoples Burn Network, a growing collaboration of Native nations, partnered with nonprofit organizations, academic researchers, and government agencies. It’s focused on a single goal: setting forests on fire. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here: ‘There’s good fire and bad fire.’ An Indigenous practice may be key to preventing wildfires

Conservation on California’s farms, ranches amid challenging year

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) continued its conservation work across California despite a tough 2020 marked with a pandemic and natural disasters. The agency helped farmers, ranchers and forest landowners implement conservation practices on their working lands, which help conserve natural resources such as soil, water, and wildlife as well as boost producers’ bottom lines. Additionally, NRCS launched new online tools that makes it easier for our customers to do business with us in this new virtual environment.  “With our partners, NRCS helps people help the land in the good times and the challenging times,” said NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “I have heard stories from across California, where our team is often using innovative means to help producers meet their conservation and business goals. Additionally, we continued our efforts to streamline program delivery and to work with our USDA counterparts to best serve the needs of our customers.” … ”  Read more from the NRCS here:  Conservation on California’s farms, ranches amid challenging year

Attorney General Becerra continues to challenge Trump administration’s unlawful assault on the Clean Water Act

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in support of a lawsuit by environmental organizations challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rule redefining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. Attorney General Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James are currently leading a multistate coalition in a separate lawsuit challenging the rule in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In today’s amicus brief, the coalition argues that the rule conflicts with the Clean Water Act and harms the states.   “Clean water is a fundamental right and one that we intend to fight for,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s why we filed our lawsuit in May challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful assault on the Clean Water Act – and that’s why we’re filing this brief.” … ”  Read more from Attorney General Becerra here:  Attorney General Becerra continues to challenge Trump administration’s unlawful assault on the Clean Water Act

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In people news this weekend …

Alf W. Brandt: His waterworld runneth over

Water—it’s an issue that can be all-consuming for a lawyer, and for much of Alf W. Brandt’s career it seemed that way. Some geo-pundits believe the next major war will be fought over water, not oil. At the very least, its use or misuse can divide even the most civil community.  Which shouldn’t be the case, Brandt emphasizes while taking on a philosopher’s tone during an autumn interview with Vanguard. Let water flow through humanity and nature, he beckons. If managed responsibly and sustainably, it replenishes. “Water is the thing that connects us most of all,” Brandt says. “As rivers flow, they connect cities. What happens upstream affects the bottom of the watershed. For 30 years, I have served in the middle of these critical issues for California.” … ”  Read more from Vanguard here:  Alf W. Brandt: His waterworld runneth over

Skip Thomson earns praise for commitment to Delta, personal humility

Skip Thomson attended his final meeting Tuesday as a Solano County supervisor, during which his commitment to the Delta, Travis Air Force Base, the homeless and his personal humility were lauded.  A video of a speech Thomson made at a statewide Delta Stewardship Council meeting showed that commitment to the Delta, as he argued against the twin tunnels project and bristled over a cost-benefit analysis that was kept from the board.  Thomson said Northern California may have a responsibility to help Southern California with its water needs, but not at the expense of the Delta. He received a standing ovation. … ”  Read more from the Daily Republic here: Skip Thomson earns praise for commitment to Delta, personal humility

Profile: Heather Cooley, Director of Research, Pacific Institute

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Heather says she has vivid memories of exploring the beauty and wonder of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a child – from the water and from atop the levees – and of the punishing drought that gripped California from 1987 to 1992. “I remember the effort to conserve water,” she recalls. “That was when I first understood its importance and how much we take water for granted.” … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute here: Heather Cooley, Director of Research

Daniel Swain: The climate scientist who is demystifying extreme weather

” … Whether hiding from the smoke or sheltering in place thousands of miles away from it, Americans doomscrolled their way through the latest evidence that climate change is real, here, and happening now. For Daniel Swain, climate scientist at UCLA, weather is an obvious inroad into engaging people on climate change, as people are way more likely to respond to a fire or flood at their doorstep than a chart of rising emissions.  “People talk about the weather day to day, but they don’t talk about climate change day to day,” Swain said. … ”  Read more from Vice here: The climate scientist who is demystifying extreme weather

Water Forum Names Jessica Law as Executive Director

The Water Forum is pleased to announce the selection of Jessica Law as its new Executive Director.  The Water Forum is a diverse group of local governments, environmentalists, water managers, businesses and others working together to balance the coequal goals of providing reliable water supplies for the Sacramento region and preserving the environment of the Lower American River.  Law brings more than 15 years of experience in water and environmental resource management, public process, and land use planning. For the past 13 years, she has been heavily engrossed in working closely with experts in water management, fisheries biology, ecosystem restoration, engineering, environmental law and economics to guide decisions on complex projects and programs. … ”  Read more at the Water Forum here:  Water Forum Names Jessica Law as Executive Director

General Manager, Dan Ferons celebrates 35 years at SMWD

Looking back over a 35-year career at Santa Margarita Water District, General Manager Dan Ferons has a lot of accomplishments to be proud of. Ask him to pick out his favorite and his answer is simple.   “I always like the next challenge best,” Ferons said.  A civil engineer who got his start in the field in high school as a part-time drafter at an engineering company, Ferons joined the District in 1986 as its project engineer. He started out working on pipelines and facilities for the fledgling water provider.  “I came to the District thinking I’d stay a couple of years and then move on,” Ferons said. That attitude quickly shifted when he realized that working in an area poised for growth brought all sorts of opportunities for interesting public works projects. Though he had been employed at several engineering firms before joining the District, he was certain that few other places would offer as many opportunities. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Margarita Water District here:  General Manager, Dan Ferons celebrates 35 years at SMWD

California Sea Grant and Delta Stewardship Council appoint Jessica Rudnick as Extension Specialist

California Sea Grant and the Delta Stewardship Council are pleased to welcome Dr. Jessica Rudnick. Rudnick will serve as an Extension Specialist with the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento. Rudnick joins California Sea Grant’sstatewide team of extension specialists who work with coastal communities, businesses, and policymakers to provide science-based information to support the state’s environment and economy. In this shared position with California Sea Grant, Rudnick will conduct social science research and outreach focused on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a critical region for California’s water resources, ecosystems, and fisheries. The Delta supplies a portion of the water to nearly two-thirds of California residents, and provides habitat for 80 percent of the state’s commercial fisheries. … ”  Read more from the Delta Stewardship Council here: California Sea Grant and Delta Stewardship Council appoint Jessica Rudnick as Extension Specialist

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Podcasts …

Debra Perrone, Assistant Professor UC Santa Barbara, discusses the dwindling groundwater supply affecting 12 million US wells caused by global warming and over-consumption. The world relies on groundwater, which is getting harder and harder to find. With groundwater close to the surface vanishing, well-drillers are forced to turn to deep drilling for corporate, agricultural, and domestic water needs. But going deep this way is far more expensive and increasingly yields contaminated water. “

THE WATER TABLE: Rainwater harvesting with Debbie Franco and Brad Lancaster

Is rainwater harvesting the solution? From the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, Debbie Franco, the senior advisor for water and rural affairs, shares her personal thoughts on the state’s water inequities and how practices like rainwater harvesting can improve the health of the state’s watersheds. The conversation centers around reflections on an interview with drylands water guru, Brad Lancaster, an expert in the field of rainwater harvesting and water management. Pieces of an interview from Lancaster’s masterclass in ‘planting the rain’ are interwoven throughout an insightful and inspiring conversation on how California can realign its relationship with water.”  More resources here.

WATER & POWER LEADERSHIP PODCAST: Advancing Clean Water and Energy with Innovative Collaboration in California’s Central Valley

The guest is California State Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.  Caballero, whose district encompasses many Central Valley communities, discusses her legislative efforts to support safe drinking water in California, the essential role of hydropower to achieve California’s clean energy goals, and what she learned as a mayor and councilmember in Salinas.


Steve Baker writes, “Changes in the environment and our lives are constantly occurring. Sometimes very quickly and other times quite slow. In the environment, rapid changes can quickly exceed the adaptive capacity of the ecosystem. Mankind living in the fast lane finds itself in a rapidly changing environment.  How does the banking industry handle change in the lending world and what about water associated risk?  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 …

Napa County faces a burning problem

Christopher Thompson exited his Deer Park house at 3:50 a.m. on Sept. 27 and saw a fiery scene he had long imagined with dread — and had hoped to help prevent. …The Deer Park firefighter and president of Napa Communities Firewise Foundation had worked unsuccessfully to obtain a $750,000 grant from Cal Fire for fuel management in Bell Canyon. He’d wanted to thin out vegetation and improve legacy roads there.  Now the Glass Fire raged. Thompson’s fire pager had alerted him. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  Napa County faces a burning problem

San Jose: Water level in Anderson Reservoir reaches 3% capacity

Since Oct. 1, Valley Water has gradually released water from Anderson Reservoir through the existing outlet. Water levels in Anderson Reservoir recently dropped to 3% of capacity, the lowest level that can be reached through the existing outlet tunnel. Valley Water will maintain this 3% level moving forward as we work on projects designed to strengthen Anderson Dam and provide greater control of water levels in the reservoir. … ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: San Jose: Water level in Anderson Reservoir reaches 3% capacity

In wake of summer wildfires, mountain residents brace themselves for winter rains

The wildfires in the Santa Cruz Mountains have passed, but they have left behind foreboding scars. Black, charred slopes loom quietly above homes and businesses, poised to become furious rivers of boulders and mud.   The extraordinary heat generated by summer’s CZU Lightning Complex fires ravaged the mountain range, scorching its forests and soils. And with winter rains now beginning to pound Northern California, debris flows, flash floods and rockfalls threaten to come crashing down on mountain communities.  … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here:  In wake of summer wildfires, mountain residents brace themselves for winter rains

A breezy, bone-dry Christmas holiday is likely in the Los Angeles region

Areas of severe and extreme drought expanded in Southern California, an area that has received less than 25% of its normal rainfall during the last three months, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.  That’s not likely to change in the coming week, as gusty Santa Ana winds bring elevated fire weather conditions to the region through Monday, the National Weather Service said. More strong, gusty north to northeast winds are possible Wednesday into Thursday, causing elevated to near critical fire conditions at times. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  A breezy, bone-dry Christmas holiday is likely in the Los Angeles region

Second lawsuit filed over San Diego’s Pure Water project

Earlier this year, the city of San Diego filed a lawsuit against San Diego Gas & Electric in a dispute over the utility’s underground infrastructure obstructing the construction of a $1.4 billion water recycling project.  Now, a second and separate lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a San Diego resident claiming an agreement between the city and SDG&E to help get the project started is illegal. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Second lawsuit filed over San Diego’s Pure Water project

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Along the Colorado River …

Reclamation completes review of Colorado River operations for Lakes Powell and Mead

Hoover Dam, photo by Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation today released a report intended to bring partners, stakeholders and the public to a common understanding of the effectiveness of the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The technical report documents conservation efforts and operations on the Colorado River since 2007 and provides an essential reference to inform future operations.  “The report presents a thorough review of operations and highlights that we have experienced historic collaboration among states, tribes, water users, non-governmental organizations and the international community in addressing issues affecting one of America’s most important rivers,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “Forty million people across seven states and Mexico depend on the Colorado River for life and livelihood, so it’s critical that our actions protect this resource now and into the future. Today’s report highlights both the historic steps taken in the basin, as well as the need for continued progress to meet the growing challenges in the years ahead.” … ”  For more information and to download the report from USBR here:  Reclamation completes review of Colorado River operations for Lakes Powell and Mead

Colorado River Basin winter forecast signals dry times ahead

All signs are pointing to a dry start to 2021 across much of the Colorado River watershed, which provides water to about 40 million people in the Western U.S.  A lack of precipitation from April to October made this spring, summer and fall one of the region’s driest six-month periods on record. And with a dry start to winter, river forecasters feel more pessimistic about the chances for a drought recovery in the early part of 2021.  “We’re starting off water year 2021 with widespread much below-average soil moisture conditions and snow water equivalent conditions,” said Cody Moser, a hydrologist with the Utah-based Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. … ”  Read more from Cronkite News here:  Colorado River Basin winter forecast signals dry times ahead

Amid drying conditions, Colorado River basin states kick off negotiations on future policies

States in the Colorado River Basin are poised to begin negotiating policies to govern the critical Western water source.  Officials from all seven states in the watershed sent a letter this week to Interior Department secretary David Bernhardt, letting the federal government know they’re ready to start hammering out details of operating guidelines for the biggest reservoirs in the country. … ”  Read more from KUNC here:  Amid drying conditions, Colorado River basin states kick off negotiations on future policies

US: More must be done to protect Colorado River from drought

A set of guidelines for managing the Colorado River helped several states through a dry spell, but it’s not enough to keep key reservoirs in the American West from plummeting amid persistent drought and climate change, according to a U.S. report released Friday.  Millions of people in seven states and Mexico rely on the river for drinking water and growing crops. The 2007 guidelines were meant to lessen the blow of any future cuts in the water supply for growing areas, giving states an idea of what to expect each year and ways to manage the risks. ... ”  Read more from the Trunbull Times here: US: More must be done to protect Colorado River from drought

Why do we need the Lake Powell Pipeline when we’re throwing so much water away? asks Andrew Kramer

He writes, “The proposed multibillion-dollar Lake Powell Pipeline would be one of the most expensive projects in state history, requiring dramatic increases in water rates and impact fees in Washington County and increases in property taxes statewide. For those of us expected to pay for this massive project, we deserve complete, well-reasoned analyses of less costly, viable alternatives that could be used in place of the pipeline.   Instead, since its inception in 2006, pipeline proponents have been obsessed with the pipeline being the only workable option and, consequently, have not fairly considered more efficient alternatives. … ”  Read more from the St. George Spectrum here:  Why do we need the Lake Powell Pipeline when we’re throwing so much water away?

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In national water news this weekend …

Drought: When should we worry?

Winter isn’t usually the season to be overly concerned with drought conditions, but they have worsened enough in recent months to warrant some extra attention.  Currently, 67% of the country is afflicted with varying levels of drought, with 22% in the two most severe categories – “extreme” and “exceptional.” With corn and soybean harvests complete, that leaves winter wheat as the major crop exposed for now. According to governmental data, nearly 40% of the 2020/21 crop is experiencing drought. And of course, if overly dry conditions persist into the spring, it could prove problematic for next year’s corn and soybean crops, too. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Drought: When should we worry?

Targeting U.S. wetland restoration could make cleaning up water much cheaper

Wetlands do a great job of filtering and cleaning up polluted water. But in the United States, many of those natural filters have been destroyed: filled in, paved over, or drained to become farm fields. Now, a study suggests policymakers responsible for managing wetlands could do a better job by strategically locating restored or created wetlands near sources of pollution, such as farms and livestock operations. Such a targeted approach would remove much more nitrogen—which pollutes groundwater, lakes, and coastal waters—than current scattershot policies, the researchers say. … ” Read more from Science Magazine here: Targeting U.S. wetland restoration could make cleaning up water much cheaper

Environmental justice groups see ally in Biden’s EPA nominee

Environmental justice advocates now have an empowered voice with the incoming administration and a potential new ally in Michael Regan, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for EPA administrator.  Groups pushing for civil rights and polluted communities upended the race on who would lead the agency for Biden. They lobbied hard against Mary Nichols, the outgoing California Air Resources Board chair, who was long considered the front-runner for the job, saying she had ignored their concerns about front-line communities dealing with industrial waste. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Environmental justice groups see ally in Biden’s EPA nominee

PFAS under Biden administration – change is coming

With just over thirty days until President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris are sworn into office, the Biden-Harris team continues to work on the many aspects of transition to ensure that change can commence immediately after swearing in. While the United States and other countries wait to see the areas that will remain the focus of the Biden-Harris leadership, there is little question that one of the top campaigning issues – the environment – will remain a key focal point of the administration’s efforts in the next four years. ... ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: PFAS under Biden administration – change is coming

CYBERSECURITY: ‘This is bad.’ Hacking chaos engulfs FERC, DOE, Microsoft

The Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons office and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are the latest agencies swept up in a staggering hack of global computer networks.  DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said the breach “has not impacted the mission-essential national security functions” of the agency or its National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.  But the intrusions at DOE and FERC add to fallout from a far-reaching Russia-linked hack of IT service provider SolarWinds. The departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, the Treasury and State are among the agencies reported to have been compromised in the hacking campaign. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: CYBERSECURITY: ‘This is bad.’ Hacking chaos engulfs FERC, DOE, Microsoft

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And lastly …

Illegal winery busted at Alabama town’s sewage plant

Sheriff’s officials say they’ve busted an illegal winery that was operating at a municipal sewage plant in a small north Alabama town.  The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement it received an anonymous tip about an alcohol operation at a municipal building in the town of Rainsville on Thursday. Investigators then uncovered what’s described as a large illegal winery inside the Rainsville Waste Water Treatment Plant. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here: Illegal winery busted at Alabama town’s sewage plant

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Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Dec 13 thru 18: Tribal water rights and resources, SGMA, water transfers, and the human right to water; plus all the top water news stories of the week and more …

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Grassland Bypass Project Drainage Management Plan

REGISTER NOW: Army Corps Virtual Regulatory Program Workshop on Friday, January 15, 2021

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Public review: California Water Boards’ Framework and Strategy for Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring


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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