A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …
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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.
DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST REPORT: Climate change and California’s water resources
Dr. Laurel Larson, the new Delta Lead Scientist, is in the process of moving from Finland to California, so at the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Dr. Louise Conrad provided the report to the Council on Dr. Larson’s behalf.
The article chosen for this month’s lead scientist report is a technical report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, titled ‘Troubled Waters: Preparing for Climate Threats to California’s Water System.’
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
Harnessing rice fields to resurrect California’s endangered salmon
“It’s easy to see how biologists studying the fate of California’s native fish might fall into despair. That’s how Jacob Katz felt when he and his colleagues reported in 2011 that more than three-quarters of the state’s native freshwater fish, including its iconic Chinook salmon, were in sharp decline. But Katz, a fly-fishing ecologist who directs Central Valley operations for the conservation nonprofit California Trout, isn’t the despairing type. His eyes lit up as he recalled the moment he realized the same forces leading California’s fish to the brink of extinction could be harnessed to reel them back. … ” Read more from Inside Climate News here: Harnessing rice fields to resurrect California’s endangered salmon
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – a short history of big changes
“Deltas globally adjust with changes and fluctuations in external conditions, internal dynamics, and human management. This is a short history of big changes to California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) in the past and present, and its anticipated future. This history is important for understanding how many of the Delta’s problems have developed, changed, and continue to change. … ” Continue reading at the California Water Blog here: California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – a short history of big changes
Zero Delta smelt found in fall midwater trawl survey for the third year in row
Dan Bacher writes, “For the third year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found zero Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), once the most abundant fish species in the estuary, in its 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey throughout the Delta. Not only did the survey catch zero Delta Smelt , but it also found zero Sacramento Splittail, a native minnow that was removed from the Endangered Species list by the Bush administration. The zero Delta Smelt and Sacramento Splittail found in the survey reflect an ongoing collapse of pelagic (open water) fish species in the Delta that also includes Longfin Smelt, Striped Bass, Threadfin shad and American Shad. ... ” Read more from the Daily Kos here: Ecosystem Disaster: Zero Delta Smelt Found in Fall Midwater Trawl Survey for the Third Year in Row!
Delta National Heritage Area Management Plan Advisory Committee goes to work
“Amid the seemingly endless stories of threats to the Delta and the people who depend upon it, there is an occasional bright spot. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was designated as a national heritage area (NHA) in March 2019. On Tuesday, Jan. 5, the first meeting of the NHA Management Plan Advisory Committee was held to begin the process of shaping the Delta NHA. “The NHA designation for the Delta is a national recognition of something people here have known for a long time — this is a nationally significant place with a nationally significant rich story, or more accurately, stories,” said Mike Moran, supervising naturalist at Big Break Regional Shoreline and ex officio member of the advisory committee. … ” Read more from the Brentwood Press here: National Heritage Area Management Plan Advisory Committee goes to work
Water futures trading index elicits questions, concerns
“Trading water futures in California is nothing new, according to those involved with water and financing. While those in the finance industry say it will bring a sense of transparency to water pricing, a longtime water manager says the realities remain to be seen. The water futures contract idea is merely a financial tool; It does not wheel an ounce of water. Unlike other commodity futures trades, where the buyer is guaranteed the volume of commodity purchased through the futures exchange, it does not work that way with water, according to Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District in central California. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Water futures trading index elicits questions, concerns
Delta Conveyance Project alternatives screening process
“Selection of alternatives to evaluate in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is an important component of public agency project planning and is typically a required as part of the environmental review decision-making process. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has initiated this process for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project and is currently preparing a Draft EIR in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). With regard to alternatives, CEQA directs that an EIR must analyze a reasonable range of potentially feasible alternatives that meet most of the project’s objectives and avoid or reduce potential significant environmental impacts of the proposed project. … ” Read more from DWR News here: Delta Conveyance Project alternatives screening process
Legal alert: Court rules against California’s wetlands regulatory program
“Last week, the Sacramento Superior Court delivered a serious blow to California’s regulatory program for the protection of wetlands and other waters of the State. The State’s wetland protection program (commonly known as the “Procedures”), which became effective in May, was intended to create a regulatory structure to fill the gap left by recent Trump administration regulations that dramatically narrowed Federal wetland protections. Ironically, the court’s order prohibits the State of California from applying the Procedures to any waters other than those already protected by Federal law, thus leaving in place the very regulatory gap that the Procedures were intended to fill. … ” Read more from Cox Castle Nicholson here: Court rules against California’s wetlands regulatory program
ACWA requests water workers receive early covid-19 vaccination
“The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Jan. 4 announced California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan, which includes those at risk of exposure at work in the water and wastewater sector in Phase 1C. “I am pleased that CDPH recognized that the water sector provides essential services and needed to be prioritized for vaccines,” said ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton. … ” Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: ACWA requests water workers receive early covid-19 vaccination
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
Businesses, residents support Tahoe underwater cleanup, meet $100,000 match
“The Tahoe Fund announced Tuesday that Tahoe Blue Vodka’s $100,000 match has been met, allowing the nonprofit Clean Up The Lake to begin its massive effort to remove trash around all 72-miles of Lake Tahoe this spring. Support to meet the match was overwhelming, with more than 135 businesses and people donating to the cause, including $25,000 from Vail Resorts. Beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe, long known for its famed clarity and brilliant blue waters, thousands of pounds of trash are breaking apart and impacting the lake’s aquatic habitats. ... ” Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Businesses, residents support Tahoe underwater cleanup, meet $100,000 match
Plan proposes first ever use of herbicides in Lake Tahoe
“In the Tahoe Keys—a neighborhood of houses and artificial lagoons with easy boat access to Lake Tahoe, one of America’s least polluted lakes—the water is not blue but a murky mass of green, filled with invasive weeds. Dogs have died from swimming in the canals, which is prone to toxic algae blooms. Activists want to wall the Keys off from the lake. The neighborhood association is proposing to tackle the problem with herbicides, which have never been used before in Lake Tahoe. The lake enjoys an Outstanding National Resource Water designation, granting it special legal water quality protections that environmentalists say would be violated by the use of herbicides. In order to justify their use, all other options must be exhausted, and the most obvious solution has yet to be tried: Eliminate the conditions in which the weeds grow and restore the area to natural and beneficial marsh. … ” Read more from Sierra Magazine here: Plan proposes first ever use of herbicides in Lake Tahoe
Tuolumne Utilities District efforts to acquire PG&E water rights and infrastructure ‘still on track’
“Tuolumne Utilities District efforts to acquire water rights and infrastructure from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. were slowed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but TUD’s general manager said Tuesday that negotiations with the utility giant are “still on track,” and he is optimistic an agreement could be reached this year. Leaders of TUD, the water-and-sewer agency that serves more than 40,000 Tuolumne County residents, are currently in what they describe as exclusive negotiations with PG&E to acquire water rights, Pinecrest and Lyons reservoirs, the Tuolumne Main Canal flumes and ditches, and Phoenix hydropower facilities. … ” Read more from the Union Democrat here: Tuolumne Utilities District efforts to acquire PG&E water rights and infrastructure ‘still on track’
Sacramento: Flood board makes no-fence policy official
“The weight of public authority continues to crush a handful of property owners who fought for decades to keep people away from the Sacramento River levee in Pocket, Greenhaven and Little Pocket. The latest victory for public access comes from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, the state agency that owns and controls the levees. In November, the flood board formally canceled its 1996 policy that permitted nine private fences and gates to block the levee. The old policy allowed property owners to seal off public access and create private playgrounds for themselves along the waterfront. The vote to drop the policy was unanimous. … ” Read more from Inside Sacramento here: Flood board makes no-fence policy official
State water board worries Paso Robles groundwater decline will impact domestic wells
“As North County water stakeholders wait for the state’s approval of a 20-year Paso Robles Groundwater Basin sustainability plan, the State Water Resources Control Board recently expressed concerns about whether that plan does enough to reverse the basin’s decline and protect domestic well users. The water board’s Dec. 8 comments list several qualms about the basin and the plan, including that shallower domestic wells could “experience substantial impacts” if groundwater trends continue. It says the plan does not address the extent to which domestic wells—as well as public water systems—could be impacted. … ” Read more from New Times SLO here: State water board worries Paso Robles groundwater decline will impact domestic wells
Santa Monica: Bay Foundation fights beach degradation with the power of plants
“One might not think much of a ragweed plant, but this sand growing species and others like it have the ability to fight erosion, protect from sea level rise, and increase biodiversity — pretty impressive for a little shrub. The Santa Monica-based Bay Foundation is capitalizing on the power of coastal plants to help fight beach degradation through its Malibu Living Shoreline initiative. … ” Read more from the Santa Monica Daily Press here: Bay Foundation fights beach degradation with the power of plants
Petition against Ballona wetlands project reaches over 8,000
“A petition in opposition to a Ballona Wetlands restoration project approved by the state had more than 8,800 signatures as of Monday. “It is under threat to be bulldozed and have more than 2 million cubic yards of life-filled soils excavated, moved around and re-sculpted, as if one can play ‘Frankenstein’ with nature,” the petition states. “This plan is for an amusement-type park that would eliminate habitat for many of the rare species that rely on Ballona today … this is not a good use of public money that was meant for protection of wetlands, grasslands and other fragile habitats.” … ” Read more from Spectrum 1 News here: Petition against Ballona wetlands project reaches over 8,000
Tired of waiting on Salton Sea fixes, Desert Shores residents take a stand
” … the residents of Desert Shores believe they have a cost effective answer to their woes, one that won’t fix the Salton Sea but will at least improve the quality of life in one town along the retreating lake. Called the Desert Shores Channel Restoration Project, their plan would build a berm across the opening that once let the lake flow in, pump water back into the channels and clean it. Proponents say it would cut down on dust and potentially add habitat for wildlife. It also is as close to a shovel-ready project as exists around a lake where solutions have proven elusive. … ” Read more from the Desert Sun here: Tired of waiting on Salton Sea fixes, Desert Shores residents take a stand
‘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.
“Now that the calendar has flipped to January 2021, it’s time to say goodbye to the mess of the past year, yes? The baggage from 2020 was discarded, left behind at the station when the clock struck midnight, right? Appealing as that might be, the answer is no. Far from being in the rearview, the upheaval of the last year will set the stage for the next 12 months and beyond. … Unanticipated storylines will undoubtedly arise — who, a year ago, expected such tumult from a virus? — but some trends are known in advance. The contours of these four stories have already taken shape. ... ” Read more from Circle of Blue here: Four U.S. water stories to watch in 2021
Q&A: Water recommendations for the next administration
“With so much going on in the world right now, why should water be a priority for the Biden administration? The fact is that water challenges in the U.S. are severe and worsening. As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, poor water infrastructure and the failure to provide universal access to safe water and sanitation threaten public health. Water shortages, poor management, and antiquated water systems threaten the nation’s food supply, ecosystems, and economy. Conflicts over water around the globe threaten our national security. Worsening climate changes are increasing these risks, and the failure to act now will only make solving these issues harder. With this urgency in mind, we released a set of water recommendations for the next U.S. presidential administration, Water Recommendations to the Next President. … ” Read more from Pacific Institute here: Q&A: Water recommendations for the next administration
A wish list for water collaboration with the Biden‒Harris administration
“Cooperation between California and the federal government was at a low ebb over the past four years. With a new administration in the nation’s capital, what should be top water priorities for collaboration between the state and the federal government? The PPIC Water Policy Center recently discussed this issue with a diverse group of experts … Here is a summary of some of their remarks. … ” Read more at the PPIC here: A wish list for water collaboration with the Biden‒Harris administration