WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Jan 9-15: SGMA challenges and opportunities, first lawsuits over GSPs; Climate change and the Delta; plus all the top stories of the week and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

Note to readers: Sign up for weekly email service and you will receive notification of this post on Friday mornings.  Readers on daily email service can add weekly email service by updating their subscription preferences. Click here to sign up!

This week’s featured articles …

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.


DELTA ADAPTS: Climate change vulnerability assessment looks at climate impacts to Delta as a place, agriculture, recreation, and infrastructure

Delta Adapts: Creating a Climate Resilient Future is the Delta Stewardship Council’s effort to conduct the first-ever climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy for the Delta and Suisun Marsh. At the November 2020 Council meeting, Council staff presented selected key findings from the draft vulnerability assessment.  At the December Council meeting, Assistant Planning Director Harriett Ross presented additional initial findings from phase one of the Delta Adapts climate vulnerability assessment, including the economics analysis and the impacts to the Delta’s people, places, agriculture, recreation, and infrastructure.

Click here to read this article.


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.

Return to top

In California water news this week …

$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

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

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

Water bill debt soars during pandemic, prompting fears of future shutoffs

Tens of thousands of Bay Area residents financially impacted during the COVID-19 crisis now face tens of millions of dollars in unpaid water bills, prompting both long-term financial and public health concerns.  That’s the conclusion of a new a report released Thursday by the non-profit public policy organization SPUR, and that looming potential crisis has experts concerned about vulnerable customers. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Water bill debt soars during pandemic, prompting fears of future shutoffs

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

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

2021: Is this the year that wild delta smelt become extinct?

2020 was a bad year for delta smelt. No smelt were found in the standard fish sampling programs (fall midwater trawl, summer townet survey). Surveys designed specifically to catch smelt (Spring Kodiak Trawl, Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring Program) caught just two of them despite many long hours of sampling. The program to net adult delta smelt for captive brood stock caught just one smelt in over 151 tries. All signs point to the Delta smelt as disappearing from the wild this year, or, perhaps, 2022. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  2021: Is this the year that wild delta smelt become extinct?

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

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

STATE BUDGET: Governor Newsom submits budget proposal with funding included for wildfire and forest resilience, sustainable groundwater management, habitat restoration, and flood management

Governor Gavin Newsom today submitted his 2021-22 State Budget proposal to the Legislature totaling $227.2 billion. Here are some of the highlights pulled from the climate change, sustainable agriculture, natural resources, and environmental protection chapters. … ”  Read more from Maven’s Notebook here:  STATE BUDGET: Governor Newsom submits budget proposal

Return to top

In regional water news this week …

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

Napa County faces predicted sea level rise challenges

Kennedy Park, the rural Edgerley Island community and wetlands wildlife habitat are among Napa County areas that research shows are vulnerable to sea level rise in coming decades. Studies by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) try to find the Bay Area’s weak spots. Then communities can take steps avoid being flooded.  “I will say that in Napa County compared to other counties, it’s not so bad, especially in terms of the impacts to people,” said Dana Brechwald of BCDC. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa County faces predicted sea level rise challenges

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

Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency approves $22,000 contribution to Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley

On Thursday afternoon, the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s (ETGSA) Authority Board of Directors hosted a meeting over Zoom, and as part of the agenda the ETGSA approved a contribution to Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley (WBSJV) to identify water supplies in the amount of $22,000.  WBSJV has been working to identify the water supplies that might be available to achieve water sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley, including the Tule Subbasin. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency approves $22,000 contribution to Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley

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

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

Frank Gehry’s bold plan to upgrade the L.A. River seeks to atone for past injustices

In the decades since engineers first blanketed the Los Angeles River with concrete, working-class communities along its armored banks have struggled with blight, poverty and crowding — unintended consequences perhaps of an epic bid to control Mother Nature.  Now, as many of these neighborhoods suffer disproportionately higher rates of infection from COVID-19 — and as the nation seeks to atone for racial and institutional injustices laid bare in the police killing of George Floyd — famed architect Frank Gehry has unveiled a bold plan to transform the river into more than just a concrete flood channel and establish it as an unprecedented system of open space. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Frank Gehry’s bold plan to upgrade the L.A. River seeks to atone for past injustices

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

Saving Borrego’s Lifeblood

“Borrego Springs’ only viable water source is a large aquifer under Borrego Valley; it has long been accepted that the aquifer’s water collected over millennia and is being pumped at a rapid pace by recent generations. What farmers, developers, business owners, and residents never agreed upon was how much water was actually available, and how long it would last.”  Read more from the Local Government Commission here:  Saving Borrego’s Lifeblood

Return to top

In national water news this week …

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

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

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

In Trump administration’s final-days deregulatory push, Army Corps reduces stream protections

The Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule on January 4 that further retracts federal protections for the nation’s smallest streams.  The revisions to the nationwide permits, which authorize the filling and dredging of waterways, are one of a flurry of environmental deregulatory actions federal agencies are taking in the final days of the Trump administration, even though there is the possibility with a Democratic Congress that the Biden administration will reverse them. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: In Trump administration’s final-days deregulatory push, Army Corps reduces stream protections

Trump environmental record marked by big losses, undecided cases

In October 2017, President Donald Trump’s critics were celebrating. They’d won their latest fight against the new administration’s industry-friendly environmental agenda, and were confident in racking up more victories.  “It was very gratifying, but it was not unexpected,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Michael Saul said, recalling the district court decision that revived Obama-era methane restrictions for the oil and gas industry. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg here: Trump environmental record marked by big losses, undecided cases

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

Record number of billion-dollar disasters struck U.S. in 2020

It was an extraordinary year for weather and climate events in the U.S.: The nation endured an unprecedented 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020.  A record number of named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. The nation also had its most active wildfire year on record due to very dry conditions in the West and unusually warm temperatures that gripped much of the country.  Here’s a recap of the climate and extreme weather events across the U.S.in 2020, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. … ”  Read more from NOAA here: Record number of billion-dollar disasters struck U.S. in 2020

Weekly features …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Governor’s budget prioritizes climate adaptation, protecting vulnerable communities; Salmon recovery work in the Sacramento Valley shows promise; Can Wall Street profit off the Colorado River?; and more …

Click here to read this article.

 

Return to top

Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: CDFW Endangered Species Conservation and Recovery Grant Program

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: CDFW Accepting Applications for Prop 1 Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program

FUNDING: Ten Conservation Practices Prioritized for Accelerated Funding in California

NOTICE: NRCS announces extended application deadline for California wildfire disaster recovery funding

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

NOTICE: Army Corps of Engineers announces finalization of nationwide permits

Return to top

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
%d bloggers like this: