DAILY DIGEST, 1/6: Price tag for Pacheco Pass Dam nearly doubles to $2.5B; Why the American West is fighting for water protections; More on water futures; Effects of fire on CA’s natural resources; and more …



In California water news today …

Price tag nearly doubles to $2.5 billion for huge new dam project in Santa Clara County

In a major and potentially fatal setback for plans to build the largest dam in the Bay Area in more than 20 years, the price tag to construct a new reservoir in southern Santa Clara County near Pacheco Pass has nearly doubled, from $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion.  The project, proposed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a government agency based in San Jose, calls for a 319-foot-high dam to be built along Pacheco Creek in the rural canyons just north of Highway 152 near Henry W. Coe State Park. For the past three years, the district has considered the dam to be a key part of the future water plans for 2 million people in the South Bay. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Price tag nearly doubles to $2.5 billion for huge new dam project in Santa Clara County

Why the American West is fighting for water protections

Since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, the assumption has been that all waterways are protected from pollution — meaning that rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are, by law, shielded from industrial and agricultural waste through a strict permitting process via the federal government.  But the Trump administration has managed to successfully chip away at environmental protections in the US, including actions like 2020’s implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. … ”  Read more from Vox here:  Why the American West is fighting for water protections

Last December, California’s water became a commodity on the stock market

As the world’s climate shifts, the shape of our future becomes more and more uncertain. However, Wall Street is poised to make a profit out of this uncertainty, by allowing water to be traded just like any other commodity.  The ‘water market’ — the first of its kind in the world — launched last month on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to Bloomberg News. All in all, it opened at roughly $1.1 billion in contracts tied to water prices in California. … The question, as always, remains — is this a good thing? ... ”  Read more from ZME Science here: Last December, California’s water became a commodity on the stock market

Response team investigates wildfire damage to buried drinking water infrastructure

Over the years, wildfires have crept out of the wild and into the urban landscape, threatening more lives, property, and infrastructure than ever before, sometimes devastating communities. In Paradise, California, and the surrounding Butte County, 85 people lost their lives and an estimated 18,800 structures were destroyed because of the November 2018 Camp Fire. Damage to aboveground infrastructure is easy to observe and assess. However, communities are only just beginning to understand how their buried drinking water infrastructure can be damaged or compromised during these disasters. A response team from Purdue University and Manhattan College led an investigation into the damage sustained to Paradise’s drinking water infrastructure and came to some surprising conclusions. … ”  Read more from the ASCE Magazine here: Response team investigates wildfire damage to buried drinking water infrastructure

Staffer caught up in Merced legislator’s political rift. It involves Valley water, too

Adam Gray, like his 79 other colleagues in the California Assembly, is supposed to be in Sacramento this week conducting the people’s business.  Because of COVID-19, the Legislature’s return has been delayed until Jan. 11. When Gray does resume work in the state’s capital, he might be happy to see 78 of those co-workers.  “The Speaker and I seem to have some irreconcilable differences on some of my votes, most notably my opposition to the state board and their water grab,” Gray said of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Staffer caught up in Merced legislator’s political rift. It involves Valley water, too

Reclamation finalizes M&I Water Rate-setting Policy for CVP contractors

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announces the finalization of the Municipal and Industrial Water Rate-setting Policy for Central Valley Project water contractors. This accomplishment provides agreement between CVP contractors, Reclamation, and the Department of the Interior regarding the recovery of the CVP cost for M&I water users.  “This is a great milestone that has been outstanding for many years,” said Regional Director Ernest Conant. “The finalization of this policy will provide our M&I water contractors with greater certainty, so they can better plan into the future. Thank you to the Reclamation team and CVP partners who worked so diligently to see this achievement through.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation here:  Reclamation finalizes M&I Water Rate-setting Policy

BlueGreen Water Technologies gets approval in California for Lake Guard Oxy

BlueGreen Water Technologies has secured approval from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation for its algaecide, Lake Guard Oxy, for commercial application in the US state.  According to the firm, in the past year, there has been a marked rise in the severity of toxic algal blooms, also called as ‘blue green algae’ and ‘red tide’ in several of the state’s lakes as well as on the coasts.  With the commercial availability of Lake Guard Oxy, the company stated that the state, and local officials, and private lake owners will be able to combat the toxic blooms with a green solution that is not only cost-effective but also quick in restoring aquatic ecosystems. … ”  Read more from Water Technology here: BlueGreen Water Technologies gets approval in California for Lake Guard Oxy

Global warming may be triggering toxic algae blooms along U.S. West Coast

New toxic algal blooms have appeared on the U.S. west coast due to an ocean heat wave, a new study finds. The researchers said that climate change is increasing the frequency of highly toxic algal blooms in this area. These algae produce a neurotoxin called domoic acid that causes severe and potentially lethal digestive and neurological symptoms, and is a threat to marine wildlife and humans. … ”  Read more from US News and World Report here: Global warming may be triggering toxic algae blooms along U.S. West Coast

California’s 2020 wildfire emissions akin to 24 million cars

California’s 2020 wildfire season thwarted the state’s fight against climate change, spewing enough carbon dioxide into the air to equal the emissions of millions of passenger vehicles driving over the course of a year.  Those roughly 9,600 fires burned nearly 4.2 million acres, killed 31 people, and emitted an estimated 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to a California Air Resources Board report released Dec. 31. The number is akin to the greenhouse gas emissions of 24.2 million passenger cars driving in a single year, according to a calculator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: California’s 2020 wildfire emissions akin to 24 million cars

CA FISH AND WILDLIFE JOURNAL: Effects of Fire on California’s Natural Resources

The California Fish and Wildlife Journal concludes the 2020 Special Issue installments with the winter quarter’s Special Wildland Fire Issue. With this year’s unprecedented fire season, and California’s fire-adapted natural communities taking center stage in land management discussions throughout the State and beyond, this issue is especially poignant as we reflect on this past year and contemplate the incoming new year.  Unlike previous Special Issues, this issue is divided into three sections: Vegetation Treatment and Policy, Fire Impacts on Plants, and Fire Impacts on Wildlife and Water. Each section highlights a piece of the wildfire and landscape management ‘puzzle’ through an examination of fire and its impacts on California’s fire-adapted ecological landscape. … ”  Read more here: CA FISH AND WILDLIFE JOURNAL: Effects of Fire on California’s Natural Resources

LAO Report: A Framework for Evaluating State-Level Green Stimulus Proposals

This report is intended to provide guidance for the Legislature on how to evaluate the merits of state-funded green stimulus proposals. When reviewing such proposals, the Legislature faces two basic questions to evaluate whether they are worth pursuing: (1) what effects is the proposal likely to have on certain short-term economic conditions, such as employment and economic output; and (2) what short- and long-term environmental benefits could the proposal achieve?Click here to read the report.

New public agency laws on safety, finance, contracting and more

With the unique challenges that 2020 brought, California lawmakers passed bills that addressed both the State’s ongoing problems, as well as laws responsive to the public health and economic crisis brought by COVID-19 and social justice issues. Public agencies in California were not immune to these critical problems and, as such, some of the new laws directly impact how local government agencies, including cities, counties and special districts, operate.  In our annual Legal Alert series, Best Best & Krieger LLP provides California public agencies with summaries of some of the most critical legislation to ensure they stay in compliance while working to serve their communities. All laws went into effect Jan. 1, unless otherwise noted. … ”  Read more from BB&K here: New public agency laws on safety, finance, contracting and more

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In commentary today …

Water markets critical to managing scarcity, says Will Rinehart, senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University

He writes, “As COVID started to spread, farmers and large cities in Southern California were hit with another blindside last March. Fires, drought, and the planting season drove up the price of California’s water market, over 220 percent in just three months. Crops failed and pastures were lost.  In September, CME Group Inc vowed to create a new market to help with the risk of these price swings. Last month, the first contract connected to the future price of California’s $1.1 billion water market was inked. … ”  Read more from the Daily Breeze here: Water markets critical to managing scarcity, says Will Rinehart, senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University

Biden administration should look to producers for viable solutions, says Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance

He writes, “Shortly after the November election, our organization prepared a set of recommendations for the Biden-Harris transition team, outlining how we felt our priorities matched up with theirs. Two of our priorities are addressing aging Western water infrastructure and advocating for collaborative conservation. And we asked the new administration to seek out Western producers to help lead those efforts.  It’s critical our country continues to invest in water infrastructure. Western water infrastructure is aging and needs to be modernized. As Western hydrology continues to change and populations expand, the need to address water security only intensifies. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Biden administration should look to producers for viable solutions

In regional water news and commentary today …

Congressman McCarthy announces funding and water for Tulare County farmers

Congressman Kevin McCarthy announced a host of provisions pertinent to Kern and Tulare counties from the fiscal year 2021 appropriations and COVID stimulus bill. The major piece of legislation passed by the federal government last week.  Among the stimulus relief provisions was $13 billion to provide financial assistance to America’s agricultural producers, a welcome sight according to Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Gazette here: Congressman McCarthy announces funding and water for Tulare County farmers

San Joaquin River access expands after local non-proft buys Sumner Peck Ranch

The San Joaquin River is the longest in Central California and now residents have a chance to see a part of it up close.  “There are deer out on the property, all kinds of birds, great blue herons, great egrets. The other day, I was out here and there were five great egrets sitting up in a tree right behind me here, so you never know what you’ll see when you’re out along the river,” said Sharon Weaver, San Joaquin River Parkway & Conservation Trust Exec. Director.  Shannon Weaver is the executive director of the River Parkway Trust. … ”  Read more from ABC 30 here: San Joaquin River access expands after local non-proft buys Sumner Peck Ranch

Long Beach’s climate action and adaptation plan to be presented to city council Tuesday

The effects of climate change are here now, causing a host of problems that are in need of rapid solutions lest things become disastrously worse and reach the most dire predictions made by climate scientists.  In an attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change that are attacking Long Beach, the city has put together a comprehensive Climate Action and Adaptation Plan with input from scientists, business people, city leaders and the public. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post here: Long Beach’s climate action and adaptation plan to be presented to city council Tuesday

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Along the Colorado River …

‘They’re making water a commodity.’ Investors see opportunity in the Colorado River.

In the West, few issues carry the political charge of water. Access to it can make or break both cities and rural communities. It can decide the fate of every part of the economy, from almond orchards to ski resorts to semiconductor factories. And with the worst drought in 1,500 years parching the region, water anxiety is increasing.  In the last few years, a new force has emerged: From the Western Slope of the Rockies to Southern California, a proliferation of private investors have descended on isolated communities, scouring the driest terrain in the United States to buy coveted water rights. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: ‘They’re making water a commodity.’ Investors see opportunity in the Colorado River.

Radio show: Communities concerned as private companies buy Colorado River water rights

The old axiom goes, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin'” — it reflects the never-ending horse-trading that involves distribution of water in the arid Southwest and the tug of war between the region’s agricultural communities and the ever-growing urban centers, including Las Vegas, Phoenix and areas of Southern California. Traditionally, water rights have been brokered by state and local governments, as well as regional water districts. This is changing, though, as private equity firms have been purchasing water rights in localities along the Colorado River, from the Western Rockies through the valleys of Southern California. Ben Ryder Howe reported on this trend for the New York Times, and he’s with me. So Ben, some residents of these areas served by the Colorado are concerned by what’s going on for a number of reasons. What are some of those? … ”  Listen to radio show/read transcript from Fronteras here:  Radio show: Communities concerned as private companies buy Colorado River water rights

Southwest drought intensifies fivefold in a year and there’s no significant relief in sight

Drought conditions in parts of the Southwest have intensified by up to five times in the last year and the prospects for significant relief are slim for the foreseeable future.  The final U.S. Drought Monitor report of 2020 released last week shows how U.S. drought conditions now compare to those from a year ago. This is depicted in the map below, which shows the change in drought conditions by class, or category, across the U.S. in the one-year period ending Dec. 29, 2020. … ”  Read more from The Weather Channel here:  Southwest drought intensifies fivefold in a year and there’s no significant relief in sight

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In national water news today …

Conservationists slam lame-duck gut of migratory bird protections

Conservationists and legal experts blasted the Trump administration’s rollback of protections for migratory birds Tuesday as a last-minute gift to industry at the expense of the environment which could complicate the Biden administration’s environmental policy goals.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized regulations Tuesday that will limit the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to apply to landowners and industry operatives only when they kill birds on purpose, letting them off the hook when birds are accidentally killed by oil spills or other environmental hazards. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Conservationists slam lame-duck gut of migratory bird protections

SEE ALSO:

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Precipitation watch …

A weak system will bring showers to the area on Wednesday.  Unsettled weather continues through the work week, with dry conditions for the weekend.

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Today’s featured articles …

CA WATER COMMISSION: Determining the public benefits of conveyance projects

The California Water Commission is in the process of assessing the state’s role in financing commands projects that could help meet the needs in a changing climate as tasked by action 19.4 in Governor Newsom’s water resilience portfolio. This work advances the portfolio’s goal of promoting statewide water resilience and reinforces the role that the Commission plays as the primary public forum for improving water management policy to assist regions in achieving climate resiliency, as stated in goal one of the Commission’s strategic plan.  The Commission is currently gathering public and expert input related to the state’s role in financing climate-resilient conveyance projects. This input will help the Commission formulate its recommendations to the administration.

At the Commission’s December meeting, a panel of experts discussed public benefits associated with conveyance projects. The panel’s objective was to provide the Commission with information about identifying public benefits based on policy priorities, providing examples of where this has been done already, and discussing methods for valuing public benefits.  The commissioners will use this information to develop a recommended list of public benefits that the state could fund and how the state could consider valuing those benefits.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

SOURCE MAGAZINE: Risk and Resilience

CA FISH AND WILDLIFE JOURNAL: Effects of Fire on California’s Natural Resources

NOTICE: Public workshop to focus on water conveyance needs and funding options in Northern California

NOTICE: EPA releases National Rivers and Streams Assessment

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition’s Groundwater Management Practice Implementation Report (GW MPIR) Template

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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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