DAILY DIGEST, 1/13: $2.5B Pacheco Dam project moves forward, despite cost increase; CA toxics agency may take aim at zinc in tires; Clean water plans need more public involvement, activists say; Ag Order 4.0 hearings raise concerns; and more …



On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: Women & Water Conflicts from 10am to 11am.  Lynette de Silva co-directors the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation, at Oregon State University. In 2019, de Silva co-authored a book entitled, “Resolving Environmental Conflicts: Principles and Concepts,” the third edition, through CRC Taylor and Francis Publishers.  Presented by the American Water Resources Association.  Click here to register.

UWMP WEBINAR – Considering Climate Change from 10am to 12pm. DWR will host its seventh topic-focused webinar to support training those preparing Urban Water Management Plans, due July 1, 2021. This webinar will present recommendations and ideas for how to consider and incorporate climate change projections into your UWMP in terms of water demands, supply, and reliability.  Click here for more information and to register.

GRA SF BAY (FREE): Regional Water Board Update from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.  The presentation will discuss the following significant Regional Water Board activities and issues in its groundwater programs. There will be time for questions and discussion.  Click here to register for this free event.

FREE WEBINAR: CaliWaterAg Water & Land Use Series Workshop – English at 5pm: This workshop is for growers and community members to: Ask questions on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), land repurposing options, and funding sources, share land repurposing option preferences and land-uses that haven’t been considered, and share concerns about SGMA, land repurposing, and involvement barriers. Click here to register.

In California water news today …

$2.5 billion Pacheco Dam project moves forward, despite cost increase

Leaders of the largest water district in Silicon Valley decided Tuesday to move forward with a plan to build a $2.5 billion dam near Pacheco Pass in Southern Santa Clara County — in what would be the largest new reservoir in the Bay Area in 20 years — despite learning that the cost has doubled due to unstable geology on the site.  Although several board members of the Santa Clara Valley Water District expressed concerns during their meeting about the growing price tag, others said the proposed project’s water storage is needed for the future, and that the agency should continue ahead with studies and public meetings. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: $2.5 billion Pacheco Dam project moves forward, despite cost increase

California to tire makers: Please remove harmful chemicals that threaten our aquatic life and waterways

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) today put tire manufacturers on notice that California wants them to explore alternatives to using zinc, a toxic chemical that harms aquatic life and burdens waterways.  Zinc helps make rubber stronger, but also wears off tire tread and washes into storm drains, streams, rivers and lakes, threatening California fish and other aquatic organisms. DTSC, the State’s department missioned to work toward safer California households, workplaces, and products, intends to use its innovative Safer Consumer Products (SCP) program to work with tire makers to look for an alternative to this harmful chemical. The SCP program seeks to remove toxic chemicals from products before they’re sold to consumers. This is more efficient and effective than issuing bans later, and, in this case, helps stormwater agencies cost-effectively meet state and federal water-quality requirements. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the Department of Toxic Substances Control here: California to tire makers: Please remove harmful chemicals that threaten our aquatic life and waterways

California toxics agency may take aim at zinc in tires

California is considering asking tire manufacturers to look at ways of eliminating zinc from their products because studies have shown the mineral, which is used to strengthen rubber, may harm waterways, it was announced Tuesday.  The state Department of Toxic Substances Control will begin preparing “a technical document for release in the spring” and will seek public and industry comment before deciding whether to create new regulations, the agency said in a statement. ... ”  Read more from the AP via the Star Tribune here: California toxics agency may take aim at zinc in tires

Clean water plans need more public involvement, activists say

The stage is finally set for years of talking to be translated into actual clean drinking water for potentially thousands of San Joaquin Valley residents.  But activists fear the effort will flop before the curtain rises if more isn’t done to engage the people who are drinking that water.  The issue is nitrate, which is rife the valley’s groundwater and considered dangerous for infants and pregnant women. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Clean water plans need more public involvement, activists say

COVID-19 relief includes money for water bill debt. Will it be enough?

The COVID-19 relief bill passed last month includes $638 million to address the growing issue of water bill debt across the nation. … Many advocate organizations that had been pleading with Congress to include water bill debt in new relief legislation were glad to see the $638 million, which may result in $60 million for California, according to Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director for Community Water Center.  But it may not be enough depending on how bad the situation is here, he said. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: COVID-19 relief includes money for water bill debt. Will it be enough?

National coalition pushes for investment in aging water infrastructure

A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership today to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package.  The coalition includes organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production, nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country, and tens of millions of urban and rural water users. … ”  ACWA, California Farm Bureau Federation, and Western Growers among the proponents.   Read more from the Family Farm Alliance here:  National coalition pushes for investment in aging water infrastructure

Central Valley groundwater may get (small) slice of state’s $15 billion surplus

The Governor’s proposal for how to spend California’s $15 billion surplus includes $60 million in direct grants to help replenish groundwater in the valley’s most depleted basins.  The measure specifies the money is to be used in “critically over-drafted basins,” which lie mostly in the San Joaquin Valley.  Water managers were pleasantly surprised, but not overwhelmed, by the amount. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Central Valley groundwater may get (small) slice of state’s $15 billion surplus

After decades of inequity, this woman is bringing long-overlooked voices to California’s land and water decisions

Vicky Espinoza is on a mission. Vicky is passionate about making sure rural, low-income communities and small-scale farmers have a say in land-use and water-management decisions in the San Joaquin Valley.  During the last drought, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) because decades of groundwater overpumping was causing drinking wells to dry up, land to sink, and millions of dollars of damage to canals and other infrastructure. ... ”  Read more from the Growing Returns blog here: After decades of inequity, this woman is bringing long-overlooked voices to California’s land and water decisions

CDFW Fall Trawl Survey yields no Delta smelt for third year

For the third year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife found zero Delta smelt in the agency’s 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey throughout the Delta.  The 2- to 3-inch-long Delta smelt, found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is an indicator species that reveals the overall health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. It was once the most abundant fish in the entire estuary, numbering in the millions. Now it’s on the verge of extinction in the wild. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: CDFW Fall Trawl Survey yields no Delta smelt for third year

A second chance for Eel River salmon and steelhead?

For many years Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has operated the “Potter Valley Project,” a hydroelectric facility on the main stem of the Eel River consisting of Scott and Cape Horn dams and a tunnel diverting water into the Russian River watershed, where it is used to generate a small amount of electricity and for irrigation by farmers in Potter Valley and farther south in Sonoma County.  The construction of Scott Dam in 1922 completely blocked passage of critically imperiled anadromous fish including salmon, steelhead and lamprey while simultaneously forming Lake Pillsbury, a 2,000-acre reservoir in remote northwestern Lake County used for boating, fishing and camping. Consisting of several hundred dwellings, primarily on Mendocino National Forest leaseholds but also including a scattering in private ownership, this community has very few permanent residents. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News here: A second chance for Eel River salmon and steelhead?

NRCS outlines conservation priorities for California

Several conservation priorities have been outlined for accelerated funding in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announced ten key areas to focus on. If adopted on a more widescale, the priority practices highlighted by NRCS have the potential to significantly benefit overall conservation efforts. Those who receive contracts for the featured conservation practices can receive incentive payments of up to 90 percent of the nationally identified cost. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: NRCS outlines conservation priorities for California

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In commentary today …

3 critical lessons California offers to improve restoration of land on a global scale,  say Julie Rentner, president of River Partners and Manuel Oliva, CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science

2021 presents opportunities for decisive and positive action, including the launch of the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which reinforces the importance of healing degraded ecosystems around the world before it’s too late.  It gives us great hope to know that California is committed to leadership through investment and sharing lessons learned from decades of experience.  Our diverse ecosystems, abundant natural resources and a mild climate have helped attract millions of residents and developed California’s world-class economy. Sadly, our approach to economic progress has imperiled our unique wetlands, grasslands, rivers and mountain meadows – natural assets directly responsible for purifying and storing our drinking water, sequestering carbon, providing recreational opportunities, supporting diverse wildlife habitat and so much more. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  3 critical lessons California offers to improve restoration of land on a global scale

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Russian River’s mouth forced open by Sonoma Water crews

After recent weeks of high and dangerous surf that took four lives along the Sonoma and Mendocino ocean coast, accompanied by King Tides and offshore storms that kept closing the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River, Sonoma Water work crews on Tuesday were finally able to breach the blockage and eliminate the threat of flooding to the town of Jenner. … ”  Read more from Sonoma West here: River’s mouth forced open by Sonoma Water crews

Corte Madera critics resist town’s climate plan

Corte Madera residents concerned about the town’s “climate action plan,” a document that lists projects to address flooding and wildfire, have more time to provide feedback.  Caltrans approved the town’s request to extend its funding deadline, allowing more time for public vetting of the plan, said Todd Cusimano, the town manager.  Originally, the town had to approve the plan by Feb. 28 to receive a $200,000 Caltrans grant. On Monday, the deadline was extended to the end of April, Cusimano said. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Corte Madera critics resist town’s climate plan

King tides swelling across Bay Area coasts

Tides above 7 feet — some of the highest of the year — are expected to swell across the Bay Area coast Tuesday and inundate the lowest-lying areas of the coastline, forecasters said.  The king tides will hit the coastline throughout Tuesday morning along with separate larger-than-normal waves, resulting in minor coastal flooding, the National Weather Service said. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  King tides swelling across Bay Area coasts

Drought taking toll on Piedmont’s trees, parks panel told

The city’s lush urban forest is suffering from California’s second year of drought, the city’s Park Commission heard at its Jan. 6 meeting.  Darya Barar of Hort Science/Bartlett Consulting told commissioners, “the impact is significant, not to be downplayed. Trees’ immune systems are more susceptible to pests and disease with less water. Over time rain (patterns) have changed. The trees are stressed.”  The Chinese pistache and autumn blaze maples around town are somewhat drought-tolerant, but all species of trees are suffering to some degree, she added. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Drought taking toll on Piedmont’s trees, parks panel told

South San Francisco eyeing sea level rise

Recognizing the threat that sea level rise poses to South San Francisco over the coming decades, officials and community members will convene to discuss strategies for protecting the city’s share of the Bayshore from flooding. South San Francisco officials will host Tuesday, Jan. 12, a discussion with county Supervisor Dave Pine, San Francisco Estuary Institute representative Jeremy Lowe and Richard Mullane with architecture firm Hassell Studio to discuss sea level rise protection opportunities. ... ”  Read more from the Daily Journal here: South San Francisco eyeing sea level rise

Half Moon Bay: Packed at Pillar Point

” … Pillar Point’s reef is unique. Tidepools often run along the coastline, but Pillar Point stretches as far out as a football field on a minus-tide day and hosts at least 650 species. A sunny, low-tide day this time of year used to lure a couple dozen, maybe 100 visitors. As people have looked for socially distanced outdoor things to do in the pandemic, they’ve been drawn to the reef. Over the summer crowds grew steadily and starting in November, the first month in which mussels are considered safe from biotoxins, daily crowds numbered anywhere from 200 to 400 during low tides. That’s remained the norm through the holidays, causing concern among scientists who worry about the potential ecological impact to a place that’s long been a resilient home to many different human uses.  Alison Young, a marine biologist, arrived one day in mid-December to see an estimated 400 people. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: Half Moon Bay: Packed at Pillar Point

Central Coast: Ag Order 4.0 hearings raise concern over complexity of compliance

The recent Ag Order 4.0 hearings have raised a level of concern as the timeline for adoption quickly approaches. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board went over proposals for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program known as Ag Order 4.0. For two consecutive days, the Board specifically reviewed alternative proposals for the revised draft order. There is concern within the agricultural industry that the revised order will make compliance exceptionally difficult.  “I think the result is that they came up with much more of a complexity to the compliance either for the individual option or the cooperative option, which is what we’re calling the third-party option at this point,” said Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Directive Norm Groot. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  Ag Order 4.0 hearings raise concern over complexity of compliance

Central Coast: Endangered coho salmon released into Pescadero Creek

After years of habitat restoration, in collaboration with local landowners, 10,000 juvenile coho salmon were released into Pescadero Creek in northern California in November 2020.  Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon were once abundant from Mendocino County to Santa Cruz County. They were listed as endangered in 2005 and have since fallen to critically low levels.  NOAA Fisheries named CCC coho salmon as a Species in the Spotlight in 2015. This initiative highlights nine species under NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction that are most at risk of extinction. Healthy salmon populations provide economic and social benefits; communities, businesses, jobs, and cultures revolve around the salmon of California. ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Central Coast: Endangered coho salmon released into Pescadero Creek

Turlock: Current drought conditions contributing to historically dry year

The local region’s current water year is shaping up to be one of the driest on record according to Turlock Irrigation District, with below-average rainfall amplifying California’s existing state of drought.  Data provided by TID Hydrologist Olivia Cramer during Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting showed that from September 2020 through Jan. 10, 2021, the Tuolumne River Watershed has so far received 5.55 inches of precipitation. Compared to TID’s historical average of 19.02 inches for those same dates, the recent 2020-2021 rainfall numbers account for just 37.9% of normal. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Current drought conditions contributing to historically dry year

Kern County:  Valley irrigation district OKs plan to harvest mountain stream

A plan to bring water from the South Fork of the Kern River through Isabella Lake and down 60 miles to farm fields west of Bakersfield was unanimously approved by the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District board of directors on Tuesday.  If the environmental documents supporting that plan survive what is sure to be a barrage of lawsuits brought by other Kern River rights holders, Rosedale-Rio Bravo farmers could see South Fork water in their furrows as early as this spring, according to Rosedale-Rio Bravo General Manager Eric Averett. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Kern County:  Valley irrigation district OKs plan to harvest mountain stream

Army Corps takes next step toward San Pedro Bay reefs, kelp beds

Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet with members of the Long Beach Boat Owners Association and other stakeholders next week to talk about a plan to add rocky reefs and kelp beds along the Long Beach shore.  The proposal, called the San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Plan, is meant to improve the ecosystem and slow beach erosion. The plan stems from a November 2019 report from the Army Corps of Engineers about how to improve marine habitat in east San Pedro Bay. In that report, the Army Corps rejected the idea of eliminating or altering the breakwater — something many advocates have urged for years as a way to bring waves back to the placid Long Beach waterfront and improve water quality — but instead pitched the reefs and kelp beds as a possible alternative. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here:  Army Corps takes next step toward San Pedro Bay reefs, kelp beds

Restoring habitat at Southern California’s Salton Sea

Stretching between Southern California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys, the Salton Sea is what one might call a landmark of untraditional beauty. At 33 miles long and 5 miles wide, it’s the state’s largest inland lake, serving a crucial role as a stopover for migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway.  But the Salton Sea lacks the conventional, inviting atmosphere of other lakes on the West Coast. Its waters are rapidly evaporating, leaving another few thousand acres of dry and dusty lakebed (playa) each year. That loss of water increases the lake’s already-high levels of salinity, and it occasionally emits a pungent rotten egg odor that permeates the air. And – of particular concern to scientists – the evaporation decreases habitat for the wildlife that has historically thrived in and around this important ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: Restoring habitat at Southern California’s Salton Sea

San Diego: Valve opening sends billions of gallons of water from Loveland to Sweetwater Reservoir

A valve at the base of the Loveland Dam near Alpine was opened Monday, allowing billions of gallons of water to thunder down the valley toward Sweetwater Reservoir in Spring Valley.  “It’s a spectacle that is hard to forget,” said Hector Martinez, Chairman of the Sweetwater Authority “Very powerful! I almost feel the ground shaking when the water is being released.”  The gushing valve is a sight to behold, and thanks to the massive transfer, South Bay water customers might be looking at their water bills with similar amazement. … ”  Read more from Channel 7 here: Valve opening sends billions of gallons of water from Loveland to Sweetwater Reservoir

San Diego supervisors chart new course for climate action plan

San Diego County is taking a new approach in its effort to develop a climate action plan that survives legal scrutiny.  The state legislature passed a number of laws and California governors have passed executive orders requiring municipalities to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their borders.  Climate action plans are a key tool, but San Diego County has repeatedly produced plans that were challenged and rejected in the courts.  The political environment has changed, however. … ”  Read more from KBPS here: San Diego supervisors chart new course for climate action plan

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Along the Colorado River …

Writers on the Range: Who calls the shots on the Colorado River?

If there’s a dominant force in the Colorado River Basin these days, it’s the Walton Family Foundation, flush with close to $5 billion to give away. Run by the heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton, the foundation donates $25 million a year to nonprofits concerned about the Colorado River. It’s clear the foundation cares deeply about the river in this time of excruciating drought, and some of its money goes to river restoration or more efficient irrigation.  Yet its main interest is promoting “demand management,” the water marketing scheme that seeks to add 500,000 acre-feet of water to declining Lake Powell by paying rural farmers to temporarily stop irrigating. … ”  Read more from Magic Valley News here: Writers on the Range: Who calls the shots on the Colorado River?

In national water news today …

Endangered Species rollback faced early pushback within administration, emails show

The U.S. agency responsible for marine fisheries considered pulling out of a recent Trump administration rollback of the Endangered Species Act over a disagreement with political appointees at the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), according to emails obtained by The Hill.  The emails from a Freedom of Information Act request show that during last year’s rulemaking process, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) considered withdrawing its support for a joint rule with FWS that makes it harder for areas to receive critical habitat protections. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here: Endangered Species rollback faced early pushback within administration, emails show

Democrats look to erase Trump environment rules, but weigh cost

Prominent Democratic lawmakers stand ready to use their control of the House and Senate to try erasing last-minute Trump administration environmental rules.  Fresh off double wins in Georgia that give them slim control of the Senate, Democrats are contemplating using the Congressional Review Act. The law gives the House and Senate time after a rule is finalized to scrap it with an expedited simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes needed for most Senate legislation—giving the incoming Biden administration the fastest path to revoking some of the most controversial environmental rules of the Trump era. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Democrats look to erase Trump environment rules, but weigh cost

Biden climate team says it underestimated Trump’s damage

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team says the Trump administration has done more damage than anticipated to the government’s ability to address climate change.  Potentially lowering expectations for the incoming president’s early climate efforts, Biden officials say their agency review teams have found deeper budget cuts, wider staff losses and more systematic elimination of climate programs and research than they realized. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Biden climate team says it underestimated Trump’s damage

The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States

Record-setting wildfires torched huge swaths of western states in 2020. They blotted out the sun, produced hazardous air pollution in cities far from the blazes and sent toxic smoke wafting clear across the country and beyond. Such far-reaching effects are no longer aberrations, Stanford scholars write in research published Jan. 12 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   The number of homes at direct risk from wildfires – and the investment in firefighting resources to protect them – is on the rise. Nearly 50 million homes in the U.S. now sit in the wildland-urban interface where houses are close to forests and highly combustible vegetation, according to the authors, led by Marshall Burke, an associate professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). ... ”  Read more from Stanford News here:  The shifting burden of wildfires in the United States

SEE ALSO: This tool can help scientists rebuild forests after wildfires, from the Global Economic Forum

Hurricanes, wildfires, and heat dominated U.S. weather in 2020

One of the hottest years in U.S. history, 2020 was besieged by a record number of billion-dollar disasters, led by two of the most dangerous phenomena with links to climate change: wildfires and hurricanes. In its initial U.S. climate summary for 2020, NOAA catalogued a year that fell firmly in line with expectations for a human-warmed climate.  The average temperature last year for the contiguous U.S., 54.37 degrees Fahrenheit, was the fifth warmest in 126 years of recordkeeping, NOAA reported. All five of the warmest years on record – 2012, 2016, 2017, 2015, and 2020 – have occurred in the past decade. The 10 coldest years were all before 1980. ... ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections here: Hurricanes, wildfires, and heat dominated U.S. weather in 2020

As world’s deltas sink, rising seas are far from only culprit

” … Although sea level rise will be the most important force driving coastal inundation in the medium- to long-term, scientists say key factors in the short term are local changes related to human activity. Development has made some of the world’s most fertile and populated deltas more vulnerable to sea level rise. In the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, upstream hydropower projects, coupled with sand mining to supply concrete to build the region’s growing cities, have more than halved sediment flow, leading to land subsidence, saltwater intrusion, and erosion. In the Volta Delta in Ghana, rates of erosion increased after the construction of dams in the 1960s slashed the flow of sediments. And the Mississippi River Delta has lost 2,000 square miles of land over the past century as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a massive network of levees to control flooding, and oil companies carved canals to transport rigs and other equipment to and from the Gulf of Mexico. … ”  Read the full story at Yale E360 here:  As world’s deltas sink, rising seas are far from only culprit

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Today’s featured article …

SGMA IN ACTION: Challenges and opportunities, Environmental justice considerations, and first lawsuits over GSP plans

Critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) in January 2020, and high and medium priority subbasins will be submitting their GSPs in 2022. At the Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, a panel provided an update on Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, including issues being litigated in first impression lawsuits across the state. Best practices for groundwater allocation and trading, and incorporation of environmental justice concerns into GSPs.  How agencies address CEQA compliance for GSA Project and Management Actions were also discussed.

Click here to read this article.

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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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