On the calendar today …
- FREE WEBINAR: Ecological Drought: An Introduction from 8:30am to 9:30am. This webinar is the first in a four-part series that seeks to raise awareness of ecological drought, share actions that strengthen ecosystems resilience and mitigate the impacts of droughts, and discuss research and management needs for future drought planning and preparedness. The series is co-hosted by NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System and the USGS National Climate Adaptation and Science Center, with expert speakers from the research community, tribal nations, and government agencies. Click here to register.
- FREE WEBINAR: Stormwater Capture Drivers, Impediments, and Future Visions from 11am to 1pm. Join a group of stormwater management leaders from around the US to discuss stormwater capture motivations and drivers, barriers to progress, and future directions. Click here to register.
- PUBLIC MEETING: Draft Proposition 68 Floodplain Management, Protection, and Risk Awareness Grant Program Guidelines and PSP from 11am to 12pm. At this virtual public meeting, staff will present the Draft Guidelines and PSP and will solicit comments. The Draft Guidelines and PSP can be downloaded from the program’s webpage. Click here to register.
In California water news today …
Rural Valley cities secure permanent water supply in deal with Feds
“Three rural Valley cities finalized deals with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to cement permanent access to water from the Central Valley Project on Monday, the Federal bureau announced. The cities of Avenal, Coalinga, and Huron converted their water contracts with Federal water authorities along with Firebaugh-based Pacheco Water District and Panoche Water District, and Los Banos-based San Luis Water District. The move signals an end to negotiations that took over a year and a half to complete. … ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Rural Valley cities secure permanent water supply in deal with Feds
Sierra snow grows, but Bay Area has 3rd biggest rainfall deficit since 1849
“California’s water picture is heading in two different directions. A major storm last week and a more modest system Tuesday continued to boost the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the source of one-third of the state’s water supply, in promising ways. But the Bay Area and most cities across Northern California remain stuck in one of the worst two-year rainfall deficits seen since the 1849 Gold Rush, increasing the risk of water restrictions and dry wildfire conditions locally next summer. ... ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Sierra snow grows, but Bay Area has 3rd biggest rainfall deficit since 1849
A legal win for city finance – Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum
“Ben Franklin famously said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” The recent California Supreme Court decision in Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir is an important win for public utilities and local governments that boosts stability in local finance by holding that water rates are not subject to referendum. The logic of the case also suggests that utility fees, like solid waste, sewer, and power fees, are not subject to referendum either. Referendum is a power granted to voters by Article II, section 9 of the California Constitution. It essentially allows the electorate to put statutes adopted by legislative bodies to a vote of the people, subject to certain exceptions. … ” Read more from Western City here: A legal win for city finance – Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum
How the West’s conflagrations challenge winemakers
“From a bad-news, good-news perspective, the massive conflagrations that blackened over 10 million acres in the West seems to have positively impacted an oversupply of wine grapes while leaving growers stymied over winery decisions to cite smoke taint as a reason to reject grapes. Out of the mass fires over the past several years was birthed a coordinated effort to understand how wildfire smoke affects wine grapes and how their interaction with natural compounds in wine grapes can make or break a good wine. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: How the West’s conflagrations challenge winemakers
Water futures: the latest battleground in the defence of the fundamental right to water
“The volatility of stock market trading has made global headlines over the past couple of weeks thanks to the frenzy surrounding a US video games retailer. It’s a dizzying yarn of Reddit vigilantes taking coordinated action to bankrupt hedge funds that were short selling GameStop stocks, resulting in rollercoaster share prices, trading restrictions and US congressional hearings. It provides a stark illustration of the absurdity of the stock market, and yet, in early December 2020, the US state of California decided to allow water to become a tradable commodity. ... ” Read more from Equal Times here: Water futures: the latest battleground in the defence of the fundamental right to water
In legislation today …
Valadao introduces critical California water legislation
“Today, U.S. Representative David G. Valadao introduced the Responsible, No-Cost Extension of Western Water Infrastructure Improvements, or RENEW WIIN, Act, a no-cost, clean extension of operations and storage provisions of the WIIN Act (P.L. 114-322). This is Congressman Valadao’s first legislative action of the 117th Congress, bolstering his commitment to fighting to bring more water to California. The RENEW WIIN Act would extend the general and operations provisions of Subtitle J of the WIIN Act and extend the provision requiring consultation on coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. … ” Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: Valadao introduces critical California water legislation
SEE ALSO: Rep. David Valadao introduces legislation aimed at bringing more water to the Central Valley, from Channel 17
Clean Water Act to clean up all waterways by 2050 bill introduced
“Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and California Coastkeeper Alliance introduced the California Clean Water Act, Assembly Bill 377, legislation that will put California back on track to eliminate impaired waterways and make all waters statewide suitable for conversion to drinking water, swimming, and fishing by 2050. “Roughly 19 out of 20 waterways in California are polluted or ‘impaired,’” Asm. Rivas said. “Clearly, we need to do more to protect the health of Californians, communities and the environment. And, as with so many of our other environmental challenges, it’s our low-income communities and our communities of color who are hit the hardest by this issue. Access to clean water is a basic human right, and I am proud to introduce legislation that will give teeth to the original Clean Water Act and create a healthier environment for the entire State.” ... ” Read more from East County Today here: Clean Water Act to clean up all waterways by 2050 bill introduced
Newsom seeks higher fees on pesticides
“The cost of killing bugs in California will start to rise if lawmakers adopt Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reduce toxic pesticide use by gradually increasing fees, a measure that could affect everyone from crop dusters to home gardeners. The fee hike, phased in over four years, is included in the governor’s budget proposal. It would nudge pesticide users toward more sustainable methods while generating money — about $45 million annually over time — for the state’s efforts at expanding the use of sustainable methods. …” Read more from Capitol Weekly here: Newsom seeks higher fees on pesticides
In commentary today …
Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition: Partnerships and the voluntary agreements
“Re “Water partnerships between cities and farms would help prepare for a changing climate”; Commentary, Jan. 20, 2021: We agree with this commentary. And while the author focuses on regional partnerships, it is local cooperation that is the first building block in making these regional efforts possible. As with many things, local partnerships in the form of the voluntary agreements were stalled during the pandemic. And while health challenges remain, it’s time to move forward and secure California’s water future. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition: Partnerships and the voluntary agreements
Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance: What’s next for federal water policy?
“Never in my 30 years of working on Western water resources issues have I seen the needs of our farmers and ranchers being dealt with in a priority manner, through actions directed from the White House and former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Many of the focused priorities established by the Family Farm Alliance board of directors four years ago — based on recommendations of our advisory committee — were tackled head-on by the Trump administration. … We’re hoping that we can have a similar relationship with the Biden administration. Shortly after the November election, we prepared a set of recommendations for the Biden-Harris transition team, outlining how we felt our priorities matched up with theirs. One key priority is the pressing need to address aging Western water infrastructure. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance: What’s next for federal water policy?
In regional water news and commentary today …
Klamath River Renewal Corporation signs contract for Klamath dam removal restoration work
“The Klamath River Renewal Corporation has officially signed a contract with Resource Environmental Solutions to complete the restoration work associated with removing four dams on the Klamath River, according to a news release. Following contracts signed with Kiewit Infrastructure Inc., which will perform the demolition of the dams, KRRC has now locked in its subcontractors to carry out the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. Established in 2007, RES is one of the only fully-scaled ecosystem restoration companies in the U.S. They’ve carried out projects in 11 states, including a wetland conservation bank intended to offset disruptions to vernal pools in Jackson County’s Agate Desert. … ” Read more from the Herald & News here: Klamath River Renewal Corporation signs contract for Klamath dam removal restoration work
Open spaces renamed with Wintu language in Redding
“In an act of cultural appreciation, two open spaces in Redding are being renamed using the native Wintu language. What has been known as the Henderson Open Space along the bank of the Sacramento River in the heart of the city will now be known as “Nur Pon Open Space.” About $5-million have been spent in the area in the last 10 years, including the construction of a salmon spawning channel. A new start gave the city the idea of giving it a new name, so the Redding Rancheria was contacted. … ” Read more from KRCR here: Open spaces renamed with Wintu language in Redding
Press release: Cascadian Farm commits $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to rebuild wildlife habitat and restore groundwater on farmland in the Sacramento Valley
“Cascadian Farm, a pioneering brand in the organic movement, announced its commitment of $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to help rebuild farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. The two-year investment will focus on partnering with farmers to rebuild wildlife habitat and regenerate groundwater on more than 25 million square feet, equal to 600 acres of farmland, in this key sourcing region for the brand. “For 50 years, Cascadian Farm has committed to protecting natural resources, and we have never wavered from that commitment,” said Emily Thomas, vice president Natural & Organic division at General Mills. “Today, as more shoppers look to support brands who are working to protect the planet, we’re excited to meaningfully invest and live up to that expectation. Our hope is that Cascadian Farm products offer a way for consumers to participate in sustainability through every-day purchases.” ... ” Read more from Business Wire here: Press release: Cascadian Farm commits $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to rebuild wildlife habitat and restore groundwater on farmland in the Sacramento Valley
Rio Linda: ‘It puts our house up into the trees’: Locals are raising their homes up in preparation for floods
“In the winter months of 2021, flooding has not yet been an issue but many around Sacramento County who live in a flood plain are preparing for unexpected flows by physically lifting up their house. “Well, this started back actually in 2017 when we had the floods here in Sacramento County,” Michael Steinbacher told FOX40. Steinbacher said while his Walnut Grove house didn’t flood back then, he and his wife, Jill, wondered if there was more they could do to protect themselves since they were so close to the Sacramento River. “We qualified for a flood mitigation grant program,” Steinbacher said. ... ” Read more from Fox 40 here: ‘It puts our house up into the trees’: Locals are raising their homes up in preparation for floods
Bay Area coastline especially deadly this season
“Before 12-year-old Arunay Pruthi was swept into the Pacific Ocean, his family never imagined that he or anyone else could be at risk. The weather was unseasonably warm when the Pruthi family visited Cowell Ranch State Beach near Half Moon Bay on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. There was a light breeze and the ocean seemed calm, with wave after wave gently tumbling up the golden sand. But without warning, a wave of unexpected size and power — a sneaker wave — surged up the beach to where Arunay, his father and 8-year-old brother were. The wave knocked the Fremont boy down with cold force, then rapidly withdrew, pulling him out past the line of breaking waves. … ” Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Bay Area coastline especially deadly this season
Column: Salmon dwindling while SFPUC fiddling
Robyn Purchia writes, “While wetter streets and a greener White House may offer San Franciscans some hope for the future, the situation remains dire for salmon in the Tuolumne River. At the end of the 2020 spawning season, just over 1,000 salmon passed through the weir at the Tuolumne River — the source of the City’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. “The numbers are pretty pathetic,” Peter Drekmeier with the Tuolumne River Trust told me. “Historically, well over 100,000 salmon spawned in the Tuolumne.” … ” Read more from the San Francisco Examiner here: Column: Salmon dwindling while SFPUC fiddling
Bay Area sewage systems at risk as seas rise
“An NBC Bay Area investigation found 30 out of 39 sewage treatment plants located around San Francisco Bay Area are at risk of flooding as sea levels rise due to climate change. Four of those plants could flood with as little as 9.84 inches of sea level rise. That’s an amount that state analysts say is a possibility by 2030. If and when that happens, toilets won’t flush, and in some cases, sewage could back up into homes, whether residents live in the hills or along the coast. Sewage treatment plants in the San Francisco Bay Area were built on low lying areas along the bay so that wastewater from homes could flow downhill to the facilities using nature’s gravity rather than more expensive machine-driven pumping stations. … ” Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Bay Area sewage systems at risk as seas rise
Map: See the part of Highway 1 near Big Sur that fell into the ocean
“For the second time in four years, heavy rainfall sent pieces of California’s iconic coastline tumbling into the Pacific Ocean and shut down sections of the famed highway in the area of Big Sur. ... ” Check out this visual story from the SF Chronicle here: Map: See the part of Highway 1 near Big Sur that fell into the ocean
Press release: San Joaquin Valley: Integrated Regional Water Management Plan will benefit local communities
“The Greater San Joaquin County Regional Water Coordinating Committee (GSJCRWCC), a diverse group of regional water management stakeholders, announced that it adopted a significant update to the 2014 Integrated Regional Water Management Plan covering most of San Joaquin County (2020 IRWMP Addendum). Over $6.5 million in state grant funding will be available to the GSJCRWCC region to support water management projects identified in the IRWMP which meet California Department of Water Resources (DWR) requirements. “The San Joaquin region achieved a huge milestone with the adoption of the 2020 IRWMP Addendum,” said John Holbrook, Chairman of the GSJCRWCC. “This comprehensive plan provides a road map for future water resource management decisions and allows the region to receive critical funding, especially for disadvantaged communities.”
Westlands Water District farmers use stringent conservation to face uncertain supplies, says Gary Esajian, who has been farming in Westlands Water District for nearly four decades
“Despite the recent atmospheric river event, experts continue to forecast a dry winter in California, which would mean less surface water for the ecosystem, wildlife, humans, and farms. As a farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley, not having enough surface water may sound devastating — yet in Westlands Water District this is something we contend with just about every year. My family has farmed in the Central Valley for generations, bringing tomatoes, grapes, almonds, pistachios, among other crops to market. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Westlands Water District farmers use stringent conservation to face uncertain supplies
St. Francis dam disaster to be commemorated in memorial design competition
“One of the worst disasters in California history, the collapse of the Saint Francis Dam, is planned to be given a memorial by the U.S. Forest Service with a design competition now open to all U.S. citizens over 18. The U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that it has launched a design competition, open to the general public from Feb. 1 to April 31, for a memorial commemorating the deadly St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928 that occurred just north of Santa Clarita. “The U.S. Forest Service vision is for the memorial to serve both a commemorative and an educational function,” reads a statement issued by the service Monday. “More than just a plaque, the memorial should help the public learn about this significant historical event, while placing the tragedy in its broader historical and national context.” … ” Read more from KHTS here: St. Francis dam disaster to be commemorated in memorial design competition
Los Angeles’ iconic Bellona Wetlands could preserve endangered wildlife… or be bulldozed to benefit SoCalGas
Dan Bacher writes, “In 2000, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 12, creating a $2.1 billion bond “to spend on acquisition, development, and protection of recreational, cultural, and natural areas,” according to the lawsuit. Twenty-five million dollars of the bond was to be allocated “to acquire, protect, and restore wetlands projects that are a minimum of 400 acres in size in any county with a population greater than 5,000,000,” referring specifically to Ballona Wetlands. “Ballona Wetlands is currently home to approximately 1,700 animal and plant species – some threatened and endangered, and the last remaining coastal wetlands in Los Angeles,” the petitioners noted. … ” Read more from Red, Green & Blue here: Los Angeles’ iconic Bellona Wetlands could preserve endangered wildlife… or be bulldozed to benefit SoCalGas
San Diego County Farm Bureau: ‘pivoting the best we can’
“San Diego County’s farming community has endured a rain of body blows and attempts to hurt it with legislation during the year of COVID-19 but has proven to be remarkably resilient. “We are pivoting the best we can,” said Hannah Gbeh, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. She is speaking of both area growers and the organization itself, which is based in Escondido at the AgHub Office Building at 420 S Broadway. Almost from the first, the Bureau cancelled all meetings it would normally hold. To make up for that, it has sponsored weekly Wednesday webinars at 3 p.m. “We have experts come in and provide forty-five minute discussions and then fifteen minutes for questions and answers,” said Gbeh. They cover a wide range of subjects important to growers: such as rodent control, pesticide applications via drone technology, Cal Osha requirements—which are highly relevant—and surface water runoff management. … ” Read more from the Valley Roadrunner here: San Diego County Farm Bureau: ‘pivoting the best we can’
San Diego County Water Authority seeks to reduce water costs countywide
“Addressing the San Diego region’s limited local water supplies with innovative ideas is something the San Diego County Water Authority has become known for. Using expertise gained from decades of successful planning and projects, the Water Authority is developing strategies to reduce the future cost of water that sustains the economy and quality of life across the county. Those efforts are ramping up in early 2021, following a Water Authority Board decision to continue assessing the potential for a new aqueduct to transport San Diego’s low-cost, high-priority water supplies from the Colorado River to San Diego County. About 50 percent of the region’s current water supplies are from this independent source, and it is the region’s lowest base-cost supply. ... ” Read more from East County Magazine here: San Diego County Water Authority seeks to reduce water costs countywide
Along the Colorado River …
Drain Lake Powell, not Colorado farms, say Daniel P. Beard, former Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado
They write, “Experts agree the amount of water in the Colorado River basin has declined because of drought and climate change, and that population growth is fueling demand for water higher and higher. One result is the level of Lake Powell in Arizona, behind Glen Canyon Dam, has steadily declined and is now at 43% of capacity. Further, just last week, the U.S. Dept of Interior sounded an alarm that they may have to start draining other reservoirs in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming to try and “save” Lake Powell. … ” Read more from the Pagosa Daily Post here: Drain Lake Powell, not Colorado farms, say Daniel P. Beard, former Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado
In national water news today …
A consensus builder for EPA when some want a fighter
“As Michael S. Regan was settling in as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator in a new Democratic administration, a powerful Republican wanted to send a message to the young head of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. So in 2017, State Senator Brent Jackson slashed Mr. Regan’s budget. “Let’s just say that’s how I first got his attention,” Mr. Jackson said. But instead of lashing back, he recalled, Mr. Regan asked for a one-on-one meeting. That discussion led to several others, and eventually extended to Mr. Regan spending time at Mr. Jackson’s family farm. … ” Read more from the New York Times here: A consensus builder for EPA when some want a fighter
Water warning: The looming threat of the world’s aging dams
“Who would want to live downstream of the 125-year-old Mullaperiyar Dam, nestled in a seismic zone of the Western Ghats mountains in India? The 176-foot-high relic of British imperial engineering cracked during minor earthquakes in 1979 and 2011. According to a 2009 study by seismic engineers at the Indian Institute of Technology, it might not withstand a strong earthquake larger than 6.5 on the Richter scale. Three million people live downriver of the dam. But their demands for it to be emptied are held up by a long-running legal case in the nation’s Supreme Court between Kerala, the state under threat, and Tamil Nadu, the state upstream that operates the dam to obtain irrigation water and hydropower. … ” Read more from Yale e360 here: Water warning: The looming threat of the world’s aging dams
Why are rising sea levels a bad thing for humanity’s future?
“Waterworld may be lampooned as one of the worst movies of all time, but the cautionary tale that serves as its setting and conflict is becoming more relevant with each passing year. According to NASA, rising global temperatures over the past 100 years have led to a quantifiable rise in sea levels of about 6 to 8 inches. You might not understand why rising sea levels are a bad thing just yet, but the long term, consequences are already beginning to show themselves. There are quite a few reasons why rising sea levels are considered a bad thing. … ” Read more from Green Matters here: Why are rising sea levels a bad thing for humanity’s future?
And lastly …
Scientists have taught spinach to send emails when they detect landmines. You better be-leaf it.
“Scientists have managed to engineer spinach plants to send emails when they detect explosive materials – and social media is delighted. Euronews picked up its trowel and dug through a Nature journal entry to provide details of the nanotechnology that has been used to transform wild-type plants, such as spinach, into infrared communication platforms capable of sending information to computers and smartphones through a process of sensor detection and wireless relay. … ” Read more from IGN here: Scientists have taught spinach to send emails when they detect landmines. You better be-leaf it.
Today’s featured articles …
NEVADA IRRIGATION DISTRICT considers joining voluntary agreement efforts in the Delta watershed
At the January 13, 2020 meeting of the Nevada Irrigation District, David Guy from the Northern California Water Association gave a presentation on the efforts to negotiate voluntary agreements for the Delta watershed that would serve as an alternative to the State Water Board’s update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.
Mr. Guy began by noting that state, federal, and local agencies are committed to fixing the ecosystem problems within the Sacramento River and Delta watershed. These agencies and NGOs have been working on a collaborative approach called the voluntary agreements, which would improve river flows and restore habitat to help recover native species in the Delta, as well as provide funding for continuing science efforts. He noted that the Voluntary Agreements might catalyze localized innovative actions and project-specific activities that may improve aquatic environments while building long term resiliency through California’s water systems.
Click here to read this article.
PLANNING & CONSERVATION LEAGUE: The Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan: Where is it at?
Panel at PCL’s Environmental Assembly focuses on the lack of progress on the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update and the voluntary agreements
Water quality and flows in the Bay-Delta watershed have long been a disputed topic. Under the Clean Water Act, the state must develop a plan to protect water quality and to update this plan every three years. The last time a Bay-Delta Water Quality Control plan was adopted was in 1995 – over 25 years ago. The State Water Board initiated its process to update the Bay-Delta Plan in 2009; to date, the Board has adopted standards for Phase 1, which dealt with San Joaquin River flows and southern Delta salinity issues; however, those standards have yet to be implemented, and the bulk of the work on the rest of the Delta has yet to be finished, even in draft form. In the 2020 Water Resilience Portfolio, Governor Newsom set a state goal not to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan but rather to focus on developing voluntary agreements.
At the first set of webinars of the Planning and Conservation League’s 2021 Environmental Assembly held just last week, a panel discussed the problems with using voluntary agreements to regulate water use and strategies on how to convince the Newsom administration to focus on updating the Water Quality Control Plan. Panelists were Gary Bobker with the Bay Institute; Dr. Jon Rosenfield with the San Francisco Baykeeper; Tam Doduc with the State Water Board; and Rachel Zwillinger with Defenders of Wildlife.
Click here to read this article.