DAILY DIGEST, 1/14: Court rejects State Water Board’s attempt to regulate waters not covered by the Clean Water Act; El Niño or La Niña? What they mean and why they matter; Top Delta management questions now available; and more …



On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: California TCP from 9am to 11:30am.  This webinar is offered at no cost to the staff and board members of public water supply entities in California where TCP contamination is a concern.  Presented by the American Groundwater Trust.  Click here to register.

MEETING: Delta Independent Science Board from 10:30am to 12:45pm.  Agenda items include the Delta Lead Scientist Report, the Science Needs Assessment, and the Monitoring Enterprise Review.  Click here for the full agenda.

FREE WEBINAR: Women + Water: Water Policy with Felicia Marcus and Graham Strickert from 10:30am to 12:00pm.  Presented by Global Water Futures.  Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: Scale Your Impact Through Human-Centered Design from 12pm to 1pm.  This webinar will focus on the value of human-centered approaches for designing solutions to complex challenges. Presented by the California Data Collaborative.  Click here to register.

WEBINAR GRATIS: Taller de uso del agua y la tierra en el Valle de San Joaquín – Español at 5pm.  Taller para agricultores y miembros de la comunidad para que hagan preguntas sobre la Ley de Gestión Sostenible de las Aguas Subterráneas (SGMA), las opciones de reutilización de la tierra y las fuentes de financiación, compartan preferencias de opciones de reutilización de tierras y recomendar usos de la tierra que no se han considerado, compartan preocupaciones sobre SGMA, la reutilización de tierras y las barreras de participación.  Pulse aquí para registrarse.

In California water news today …

Sacramento Superior Court rejects State Water Board’s attempt to apply water quality control plan to waters not covered by the Clean Water Act

The Sacramento County Superior Court recently issued a final decision in San Joaquin Tributaries Authority v. California State Water Resources Control Board, finding that the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) is not authorized to adopt a state-level water quality control plan for waters that are not classified as waters of the United States.  As a result, the State Board is prohibited from applying the Water Quality Control Plan for Inland Surface Waters and Enclosed Bays and Estuaries of California (Inland Surface Waters WQCP) to wetlands that do not meet the federal definition of waters of the United States.  At the same time, the court confirmed that authority for adopting and implementing water quality control plans for such waters resides with the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Board).  Thus, the extent to which this decision may impact a person discharging to such waters will depend on the Regional Board jurisdiction in which the discharger is located. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here:  Sacramento Superior Court rejects State Water Board’s attempt to apply water quality control plan to waters not covered by the Clean Water Act

El Niño or La Niña? What they mean and why they matter

In the world of oceanography and climatology, the names El Niño and La Niña carry a particularly important meaning that can be complex and difficult to understand for the average person. Defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as “complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific,” El Niño and La Niña’s weather implications for the Western United States, and the state of Nevada in particular, are equally, if not more complex.  … ”  Read more from Sierra Nevada Ally here: El Niño or La Niña? What they mean and why they matter

Top Delta management questions now available

As part of the development of the 2022-2026 Science Action Agenda (SAA), the Delta Science Program – with extensive stakeholder input – has compiled a list of the top 65 management questions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These questions will ultimately determine the region’s most pressing management-relevant science actions.  Stay tuned for next steps on the SAA, including ways to participate in the development of the 2022-2026 science actions.” Read the list at the Delta Stewardship Council website here:  Top Delta management questions now available

Four years of Trump administration attacks on California’s public lands, and the lasting impacts

Over the past four years, President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the public lands of California and beyond have inflamed the conservation community. The administration gutted conservation laws. It denied climate change. It attempted to slash budgets and hollow out crucial agencies.  Together, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service manage more than 40% of the land in California. And despite a dramatic increase in visitation to California’s federally managed parks, forests and rangelands in the past few years, the Trump administration has routinely attempted to reduce resources for those agencies. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Four years of Trump administration attacks on California’s public lands, and the lasting impacts

Dead trees fuel wildfire severity in Sierra Nevada

California’s drought of 2012-2016 killed millions of trees in the Sierra Nevada — mostly by way of a bark beetle epidemic — leaving a forest canopy full of dry needles. A study published from the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Forest Service helps answer concerns about what effect dense, dead foliage could have on subsequent wildfires and their burn severity.  In the study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, scientists found that the presence of recently dead trees on the landscape was a driver of wildfire severity for two large fires that occurred toward the end of the drought: the 151,000-acre Rough Fire in 2015 and the 29,300-acre Cedar Fire in 2016. … ” Read more from UC Davis here:  Dead trees fuel wildfire severity in Sierra Nevada 

California’s ‘new climate’

In 2020, Californians endured the hottest August, September and October since 1895. Climate scientists warn the trends are evidence of a warming planet. Rising temperatures combined with less rain and high winds have worsened the chance of extreme fire weather.  Last year, wildfires devastated more of California than ever before. High fire danger triggered utility power shut-offs that left thousands in the dark. The state’s grid couldn’t handle the energy demand from the heat wave and shut off power to thousands more.  But there is hope, climate scientists say: Energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions can help curb the dangers of climate change. … ”  Check out the visual story from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California’s ‘new climate’

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Another hurdle cleared, Klamath dams closer to coming down

After years of negotiations and agreements, roadblocks, renegotiations, and new agreements, dam removal on the Klamath river is closer than ever to becoming a reality. With almost all of the bureaucratic hurdles overcome, four of the six dams on the Klamath are slated to be removed by 2024, restoring fish access to the entire river.  If carried out as planned, it will be the largest dam removal project in the history of the United States, opening up 400 river-miles of habitat to salmon, trout, and eels, for the first time in decades. The Yurok Tribe and Klamath River Renewal Corporation hope it will also mean a return to a healthy river, one without toxic algal blooms each summer and fall, and a restored salmon run that can again support the tribe. … ”  Read more from Sierra Magazine here: Another hurdle cleared, Klamath dams closer to coming down

Humboldt County’s newest public space: Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area

You may know it as Dog Ranch or perhaps Dead Man’s Drop Forest, but forget that. The parcels immediately to the west of Samoa Bridge are now officially the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area. “We’re looking to re-introduce this place to our community,” says Mike Cipra, who heads up Friends of the Dunes, the new titleholder of the 357 acres. “This property is a fantastic jewel for our local community and we want to emphasize just how special it is with the name.” … ”  Read more from the North Coast Journal here: Humboldt County’s newest public space: Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area

Chinook salmon are able to ascend Upper Auburn Ravine to spawn

Chinook salmon have always spawned in Auburn Ravine Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River in Northern California northeast of Sacramento, but biologists have been uncertain if salmon could get past the Chaparral Cascades.  “As a result, some people have flatly stated that those cascades are a total barrier to upstream migration,” reported Friends of Auburn Ravine in today’s announcement. “They have used that judgement to downplay the potential need to provide a way for salmon to get past the Gold Hill Dam which is about ½ mile further upstream.” …  “Now there is proof that salmon can get through the cascades to spawn upstream. A local resident noticed salmon spawning about 375 yards upstream from the Chaparral Cascades on November 5, 2016 and preserved video proof of that,” the group said. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos here: Chinook salmon are able to ascend Upper Auburn Ravine to spawn

Yolo Audubon Society launches YouTube channel

Yolo Audubon Society recently established a YouTube channel. Videos of past programs and speakers, as well as the popular nature journaling workshops, can be accessed by the public. Also included is the first video in a new series titled “Out with a Birder.”  This series is intended to offer virtual field trips exploring local birding hotspots in and around Yolo County. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here: Yolo Audubon Society launches YouTube channel

Oak-forested ranch on San Joaquin River purchased for conservation and public access

San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust has purchased another stretch of riverside land — an important piece of a puzzle needed for a 22-mile public-access regional park envisioned in north Fresno.  The newly acquired Sumner Peck Ranch boasts oak forest and riparian vistas alongside acres of foothill vineyard, citrus, berries and landscaped event space. It’s within territory of the Yokuts. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Oak-forested ranch on San Joaquin River purchased for conservation and public access

Ambitious reimagining of LA River promises world class recreation and equitable access

In a section of the upper Los Angeles River, Dennis Parlato is taking his time crossing a pedestrian bridge over the historic body of water, pausing to observe the egrets and mallards splashing around and flying from branch to branch.  Parlato, a retired actor, is back home soaking up the Southern California sun after dodging the harsh winter in New York City where he lives most of the year.  “I try to start my day here,” Parlato said, motioning towards a section of open space that includes the river, a bike path and a public park all within earshot of roaring traffic from the Golden State Freeway. “I cross this bridge at least twice a day. I love what I see.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: Ambitious reimagining of LA River promises world class recreation and equitable access

Warm, dry conditions will elevate fire danger in Southland, forecasters say

Warm, dry, windy conditions will cause elevated to critical fire weather conditions in Southern California from Thursday through Saturday, the National Weather Service said.  Red flag warnings have been issued for the mountains and valleys from Thursday afternoon through Friday afternoon, and may be extended into Saturday, because of a combination of Santa Ana winds, warm temperatures, low humidity and persistently dry vegetation. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Warm, dry conditions will elevate fire danger in Southland, forecasters say

Palmdale Water District Board approves US Geological Survey study on effects of Bobcat Fire

The Board of Directors for the Palmdale Water District unanimously approved, on Monday, a contract with the United States Geological Survey to conduct a study on the effects of the Bobcat Fire. The Sediment and Storage Capacity Study on the Littlerock Reservoir will measure the amount of sedimentation, the changes in storage capacity and the physical characteristics of the deposited sediment in the reservoir for the next four years. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley News here:  Palmdale Water District Board approves US Geological Survey study on effects of Bobcat Fire

Salton Sea habitat project breaks ground near New River delta

Construction began this week on a 4,110-acre wetlands project on the Salton Sea’s playa near the mouth of the highly polluted New River, the California Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.  Called the Species Conservation Habitat Project, the $206.5 million plan will build ponds and wetlands along the small delta to provide wildlife habitat and suppress dust. The final design includes 340 additional acres of coverage as compared to older projections, and work led by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. is expected to be finished by 2024. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Salton Sea habitat project breaks ground near New River delta

Construction begins on key Salton Sea habitat and air quality project

In a key step to improve conditions at the Salton Sea, construction began this week on the state’s first large-scale project to create habitat and reduce exposed lakebed around the Sea.  The Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project, located at the southern end of the Sea on both sides of the New River, will create a network of ponds and wetlands to provide important fish and bird habitat and suppress dust emissions to improve regional air quality as the Salton Sea recedes. The SCH project will cover approximately 4,110 acres, an increase over the previously estimated 3,770 acres due to an updated design. Construction is expected to continue through the end of 2023. … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Natural Resources Agency.

Following initial onsite work in late fall, the state’s design-build contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., this week began clearing vegetation and constructing an interception ditch to drain the site. The contractor also began construction of a southern habitat berm.

“Beginning actual construction on this large project represents important progress,” California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said. “It is only possible thanks to strong coordination with our local, state and federal partners, including Imperial Irrigation District, Imperial County, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District, the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Obviously, much more work lies ahead. We need to continue to deliver projects on the ground that improve conditions at the Salton Sea for residents as well as for wildlife.”

The SCH project anchors phase one of the state’s Salton Sea Management Program, which centers on constructing wetlands and other projects to limit exposed lakebed, reduce airborne dust and restore environmental habitat on 30,000 acres around the Sea. The SCH is a $206.5 million investment in Imperial County that will create as many as 3,000 jobs.

After obtaining site access to the SCH area in May 2019, the state team launched the contracting process and executed a design-build contract to Kiewit in September. This design-build process, which expedites delivery of the project, was made possible through 2016 legislation supported by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso. State agencies also executed a water use agreement with Imperial Irrigation District to enable the project.

Though the construction site is not open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, the state team will share images of the project as construction advances on the state’s Salton Sea Management Program website.

Poway council to discuss lagoon restoration project

The Poway City Council will discuss the potential restoration of one of its watersheds, the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.  The council will be asked to direct staff on how it wants to move forward with its involvement in a restoration project of salt marshes in the lagoon. The project is part of a joint-agency effort to reduce sediment in the watershed. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Poway council to discuss lagoon restoration project

Will sand save San Diego North County’s bluffs?

Jayme Timberlake — tide-watcher, restoration ecologist, avid surfer — light-foots it down Encinitas’s iconic Stone Steps. She’s barefoot, having kicked off her shoes and left them on the sand-dusted floor of her truck cab. … Timberlake is the Coastal Zone Program administrator for the city of Encinitas. She is helping facilitate the town’s 50-50 share of a 50-year, $167 million Army Corps of Engineers sand replenishment project (laid out in 2670 pages of Corps-speak) that will cover a two-mile long and 50-foot wide shore. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  Will sand save San Diego North County’s bluffs?

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Along the Colorado River …

A “forever” drought takes shape in the West

The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the most days of “exceptional drought.”  These conditions may be the new normal rather than an exception, water experts say, as climate change runs its course. And worsening drought will intensify political and legal battles over water — with dire consequences for poor communities. … ”  Read more from Axios here: A “forever” drought takes shape in the West

Collaboration will protect the Colorado River from drought and speculation alike, says Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado’s current Colorado River Commissioner and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board

Colorado is headwaters to a hardworking river that provides for 40 million people. The importance of the Colorado River to the state and the nation cannot be overstated, and its recent hydrology serves as a reminder that we must continue to find workable solutions that will sustain the river. History shows that we are up to the challenge.  As Colorado’s commissioner and lead negotiator on Colorado River issues, it is my job to protect Colorado’s interests in the river. There is a rich history of collaboration that has sustained the Colorado River Basin for nearly a century. And as the director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, I advance its mission to protect and manage the state’s water for present and future generations. … ”  Read more from the Denver Post here: Collaboration will protect the Colorado River from drought and speculation alike

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In national water news today …

Vast coalition calls on Biden to impose national moratorium on water shutoffs

A broad coalition of organizations is urging Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to mandate a national moratorium on water and other utility shutoffs on day one in the White House, in order to curtail the spread of Covid-19 and ease the financial burden on struggling Americans.  More than 600 environmental, rights and religious groups will on Wednesday present the incoming Democratic administration with a draft executive order that would impose an immediate nationwide ban on disconnecting essential utilities like water, gas and electricity until at least 12 months after the coronavirus pandemic ends. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  Vast coalition calls on Biden to impose national moratorium on water shutoffs

Farm groups prod Biden, Congress on Western water

More than 200 farm and water organizations from 15 states are urging President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leaders to address aging Western water infrastructure in any economic recovery package.  Groups including state Farm Bureaus, the Family Farm Alliance and Western Growers issued letters to Biden and lawmakers Wednesday saying existing canals and reservoirs were built more than 50 years ago and are in desperate need of rehabilitation. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Farm groups prod Biden, Congress on Western water

Deteriorating infrastructure and growing investment gap will reduce US GDP by $10 trillion in 20 years: economic study

Infrastructure inadequacies will stifle U.S. economic growth, cost each American household $3,300 a year, cause the loss of $10 trillion in GDP and lead to a decline of more than $23 trillion in business productivity cumulatively over the next two decades if the U.S. does not close a growing gap in the investments needed for bridges, roads, airports, power grid, water supplies and more, according to a new economic study released today.  The report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems, finds that continued underinvestment in infrastructure and the inefficiencies that will result will have a cascading effect on the economy, increasing the burden on families, business productivity and overall GDP year after year. … ”  Read more from the American Society of Civil Engineers here: Deteriorating infrastructure and growing investment gap will reduce US GDP by $10 trillion in 20 years: economic study

Trump’s EPA team overrules career scientists on toxic chemical

Political officials at EPA have overruled the agency’s career scientists to weaken a major health assessment for a toxic chemical contaminating the drinking water of an estimated 860,000 Americans, according to four sources with knowledge of the changes.  The changes to the safety assessment for the chemical PFBS, part of a class of “forever chemicals” called PFAS, is the latest example of the Trump administration’s tailoring of science to align with its political agenda, and another in a series of eleventh-hour steps the administration has taken to hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to support aggressive environmental regulations. … ”  Read more from Politico here: Trump’s EPA team overrules career scientists on toxic chemical

2020 was Earth’s 2nd-hottest year, just behind 2016

It’s official: 2020 ranks as the second-hottest year on record for the planet, knocking 2019 down to third hottest, according to an analysis by NOAA scientists.  The average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe in 2020 was 1.76 degrees F (0.98 of a degree C) above average — just 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C) cooler than the 2016 record.   The Northern Hemisphere saw its hottest year on record at 2.30 degrees F (1.28 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. … ”  Read more from NOAA here: 2020 was Earth’s 2nd-hottest year, just behind 2016

2020 ties 2016 as hottest year on record, even without warming boost from El Niño

Global warming pushed temperatures to near-record levels in 2020, in effect tying 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to data released Thursday by U.S. science agencies.  Last year’s average global surface temperature was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the late 19th century average, according to NASA. It was the fifth consecutive year of more than 2 degrees above that base line.  Indeed, the seven hottest years in 140 years of record-keeping were the last seven. In descending record order, they are 2020 and 2016, 2019, 2017, 2015, 2018 and 2014. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  2020 ties 2016 as hottest year on record, even without warming boost from El Niño

Booming climate litigation movement faces Supreme Court test

Baltimore officials had natural disasters on their minds in 2018 when they filed an ambitious climate lawsuit that’s now reached the U.S. Supreme Court.  That spring, the city and neighboring areas were still recovering from flash floods that turned some local streets into rivers and tore up buildings in their path. The destruction came just two years after another storm inundated the region.  Linking the deluges and other extreme weather to climate change, Baltimore is waging a legal war to put oil and gas companies on the hook for the local impacts of burning fossil fuels. The city’s lawsuit accuses the industry of misleading the public about their products’ leading role in warming the planet. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Booming climate litigation movement faces Supreme Court test

Four international water stories to watch in 2021

The travails of the last year, when a bat virus infected humans and turned the world upside down, were an unfortunate reminder of the inseparable ties between society and the natural environment.  So it is with water, which will again this year direct the course of history, through events small and large.  What are the large events to pay attention to? What are the trends and flashpoints? … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here: Four international water stories to watch in 2021

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Today’s featured articles …

DELTA ISB: What we know and don’t know about the Delta foodweb

The Delta Reform Act of 2009 established the Delta Independent Science Board (or Delta ISB), whose ten members are appointed by the Delta Stewardship Council.  The members appointed to the Delta ISB are nationally or internationally prominent scientists with appropriate expertise to evaluate the broad range of scientific programs in the Delta.

The Delta Reform Act charges the board with providing oversight of the scientific research, monitoring, and assessment programs in the Delta through periodic reviews at least once every four years.  Since its establishment in 2010, the Delta ISB has produced several reports on various topics, such as restoration, water quality, levee hazards, and findings and recommendations from the Delta ISB reports have helped inform the development and implementation of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.  Many of the recommendations from the Delta ISB are also used to inform the development of science actions to fill critical science gaps through the Science Action Agenda and to better coordinate and communicate science through the Delta Science Plan.

The Delta is one of the most highly invaded estuaries with robust populations of non-native species, some intentionally introduced, and others arriving in ships’ ballast water and other means.  While not all non-native species will become problematic, some of these will, either by modifying habitat, such as submerged aquatic vegetation or by disrupting the food web.  Non-native species that alter food webs make them less able to support native species, either by competing for the food or by changing the food web’s overall composition.  The Delta’s food web has become so altered that the Interagency Ecological Program recognized it as one of the multiple factors contributing to the decline in numbers of multiple Delta fish species, including the Delta smelt.

One of the recommendations in the DISB’s review of non-native species is to build a spatially explicit model of the Delta food web.  At the Delta ISB’s November meeting, a panel discussed what we know and what we don’t know about the Delta’s food web.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Action Plan~ Headwaters Habitat~ Climate Digest~ Water Commission~ Environmental Projects~ Human-centered Design~ FIRO Webinar ~~

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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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