DAILY DIGEST, 2/9: Accounting for a decade of headwater forest management; Congressman Valadao wants to RENEW the WIIN Act; New timeline of Camp Fire could guide lifesaving research and action; Hackers hit Florida water supply; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • FREE WEBINAR: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: What can we learn from the management of fisheries? from 10am to 11:30am.  As California grapples with new regulations under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), local water managers are considering groundwater markets as a strategy for achieving sustainability targets. While groundwater trading may be a relatively new concept to California, tradable allocations have been deployed extensively in the past for other renewable resources like fisheries. Join us to discuss the lessons learned from tradable catch shares in fisheries. Following an update on SGMA developments across the state by UC Berkeley PhD Student Arthur Wardle, we will have guided Q&A with AquaShares VP James Workman and fisheries economist Dr. Kailin Kroetz (Arizona State University).  Please register here.
  • WORKGROUP MEETING: California Environmental Flows Workgroup from 10am to 12:30pm.  Agenda to be posted hereClick here to join the meeting

In California water news today …

Accounting for a decade of headwater forest management

Forests in the Sierra‒Cascade headwater region have dramatically changed over the past 150 years. The prohibition of Indigenous burning, aggressive wildfire suppression, and early timber harvest practices made these forests denser over time, increasing their vulnerability to catastrophic wildfires and widespread tree-die off. These forests are a dominant feature on the landscape, occupying nearly 40% of the 15 million acre headwater region overall and well over half of some northern watersheds.  Changing the way we manage these forests can improve their health and make them more resilient to wildfire, drought, and disease. Healthier forests provide a host of important benefits. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  Accounting for a decade of headwater forest management

Congressman Valadao wants to RENEW the WIIN Act

Water agencies in the San Joaquin Valley are lining up behind a bill in Congress that would extend certain provisions of the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act meant to aid water deliveries to valley farmers.  The bill by Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., would extend a requirement for consultation of coordinated operations of the federal Central Valley Project and California’s State Water Project. It would also keep in place the authorization of money for water storage projects approved by the Secretary of the Interior. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Congressman Valadao wants to RENEW the WIIN Act

The Snow-Covered Range:  UCSB faculty members publish book about the lakes and watersheds of the Sierra Nevada

A simple yet fitting name adorns California’s most prominent mountains: Sierra Nevada, or “snow-capped mountain range” in Spanish. The Sierra snowpack is the driving force behind the range’s hydrology and ecology, and it serves as a crucial reservoir for much of the thirsty state in which it lies.  “People think of gold as being key for California’s history, which of course it was,” said aquatic biologist John Melack(link is external), a distinguished professor at UC Santa Barbara, “but really, the gold is the Sierra Nevada snowpack. That’s what makes California what it is.”  Melack and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jeff Dozier(link is external), of UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management have released “Lakes and Watersheds in the Sierra Nevada of California(link is external)” (UC Press, 2020), which synthesizes over 40 years of research on the mountains. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Barbara Currents here:  The Snow-Covered Range

Diverse bills take on rising sea level

The flood of state bills addressing sea level rise this year is surging faster than the ocean itself, as legislators recognize the urgent need to prepare for the consequences expected in the decades ahead.  Among at least nine sea level rise bills introduced so far, one would study the idea of relocating coastal railroad tracks, another would provide low-interest loans for cities to buy threatened coastal homes, and a third would investigate an early warning system for coastal bluff collapses.  “Sea level rise and the overall need to protect our coast have always been important issues and with each passing year (they) grow more pressing, especially to the people of Orange County, with the second-most endangered coastline in California,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie- Norris, D-Laguna Beach, author of two of the bills and co-author of a third. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Diverse bills take on rising sea level

New timeline of deadliest California wildfire could guide lifesaving research and action

The Camp Fire was the costliest disaster worldwide in 2018 and, having caused 85 deaths and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, it became both the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, two records the fire still holds today.  What made the Camp Fire so devastating? And what lessons can we learn to prevent another disaster of this scale? Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have begun to answer these questions by investigating the conditions leading up to the fire and meticulously reconstructing the sequence of events describing the first 24 hours of its progression. A new report containing the timeline identifies areas where more research is needed to improve life safety and reduce structural losses. It also offers a detailed look at how a large and deadly fire advances — information that will become increasingly valuable as fire seasons continue to intensify. … ”  Read more from the National Institute of Science and Technology here:  New timeline of deadliest California wildfire could guide lifesaving research and action

UC’s Humiston: Extension’s budget woes ‘frustrating’

The annual battle to adequately fund University of California Cooperative Extension programs continues to frustrate Glenda Humiston, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Division.  As the annual rate of inflation continues to eat at the flat budget allocations from the state, Humiston struggles to find the revenue necessary to serve farmers and others who benefit from Extension programs. … ”  Continue reading at the Western Farm Press here: UC’s Humiston: Extension’s budget woes ‘frustrating’

A recent snow boom for ski resorts, but is it enough?

An atmospheric river storm in late January dumped a whole lot of snow over California mountain resorts. This helped improve the state’s snowpack conditions, but the situation is still pretty dismal.  January stayed dry for Southern California until the first in a series of three storms arrived on January 23rd. The last storm, an atmospheric river type storm, was a double-edged sword.  On one hand, residents who live in and around recent burn scars were fearful heavy rain would trigger debris flows. On the other hand, mountain resorts and all the people who love playing in the snow couldn’t wait to see what would fall.  Mother Nature delivered. ... ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: A recent snow boom for ski resorts, but is it enough?

What’s a bigger issue: financial speculation over video games — or over water?

The volatility of stock market trading has made global headlines over the past couple of weeks thanks to the frenzy surrounding a 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 U.S. Congressional hearings. It provides a stark illustration of the absurdity of the stock market, and yet, late last year, the state of California decided to allow water to become a tradable commodity. Futures trading allows speculators to bet on the future price of a financial instrument or commodity, like oil or gold, and since December 2020 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) has made it possible to trade in contracts for California’s water market. ... ” Continue reading at Inequality.org here:  What’s a bigger issue: financial speculation over video games — or over water?

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath Basin: Despite below-average snowpack, 2021 water year still a wild card

The Klamath Basin’s snowpack forecast isn’t looking so hot this month, but it’s still too early to tell whether water year 2021’s luck will change. The Natural Resources Conservation Service released its February outlook report last week, reporting below average precipitation and snowpack in river basins across Oregon. Though January did bring several winter storms to the region, warmer-than-normal temperatures caused them to dump more rain than snow on mountains, melting some of the powder that had already accumulated in some areas of the state. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  Klamath Basin: Despite below-average snowpack, 2021 water year still a wild card

Commentary: Stepping out of the comfort zone on Klamath River management

Mark Johnson, deputy director and fish biologist for the Klamath Water Users Association writes, “Klamath Project irrigators have long been stewards of the land and care deeply about the fisheries and migratory bird populations that call the Klamath Basin home.  Over the last 20 years, the management regime of “send more water” down river has become gospel. Unfortunately, no one has demonstrated that there has been any benefit to the fisheries in the lower Klamath River.  Meanwhile, this flow-centric focus has diminished a once-reliable stored agricultural water supply, causing an undue and unfair burden on the basin producers.  It is time to step back, re-evaluate the situation, and not be afraid to try alternative management strategies. … ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Commentary: Stepping out of the comfort zone on Klamath River management

Chico, Paradise sewer project unanimously reaches second phase

Chico City Council unanimously voted to analyze and study the current and future needs for the Chico Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) to develop a regional sewer connection to Paradise, according to the Town of Paradise.  The connection will be from a specified area in Paradise, called the Sewer Service Area, and will include many parcels along Skyway, Pearson, and Clark Road. … ”  Read more from Action News Now here: Chico, Paradise sewer project unanimously reaches second phase

Marin water suppliers consider drought restrictions

Marin County water districts are weighing the need for mandatory conservation actions in the face of abnormally low rainfall and what could be another prolonged drought.  Marin’s two largest suppliers — the Marin Municipal Water District and the North Marin Water District — plan to begin with voluntary conservation measures before considering more restrictive options such as rationing and irrigation bans similar to those of the 2014 drought. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Marin water suppliers consider drought restrictions

Environmental groups file appeal to stop 469-home development near Newark wetlands

Environmentalist groups aiming to stop a major controversial housing development at the edge of Newark’s wetlands are appealing an Alameda County court decision that would allow the project to go forward, marking the latest volley in a decades-long fight over the best use for the land.  The Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the appeal Monday to California’s First District Court of Appeal, challenging a Christmas Eve rejection of their lawsuit by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: Environmental groups file appeal to stop 469-home development near Newark wetlands

Monterey won’t protect water district from legal action by the state

A concern over a potential lawsuit by state water officials against the Monterey Peninsula water district could threaten an affordable housing project in Monterey.  In May, the board of directors of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District reversed a staff recommendation and approved sending roughly 5 acre-feet of additional water — some 1.7 million gallons — for one section of a Garden Road project that will be built out by developer Brad Slama. That approval included a request to the city to indemnify the water district. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey won’t protect water district from legal action by the state

Great white shark numbers up significantly in Monterey Bay

Researchers have discovered a “dramatic increase” in the number of great white sharks swimming in Monterey Bay in recent years, including an area off Santa Cruz County where a surfer was killed last year, according to a new study published Tuesday.  Juvenile great white sharks — younger animals that are between 5 and 9 feet long — that traditionally concentrated in warm waters off northern Mexico and Southern California have moved north since 2014 as water temperatures have warmed, the study found. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here:  Great white shark numbers up significantly in Monterey Bay

Fresno-area utility providers face financial crisis. Can they keep the water running?

Unpaid water bills are piling up during the pandemic, as small water providers in the central San Joaquin Valley teeter toward a financial crisis that could affect drinking water quality and affordability.  More than 76,000 customers in Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties are behind on their water bills for a total debt of more than $15 million — according to the results of a state survey of just a fraction of community water systems. In reality, the collective debt is much larger. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Fresno-area utility providers face financial crisis. Can they keep the water running?

Long-awaited study shows no major health concerns from water wells on Oxnard Plain

A new study shows petroleum-related and other gases present in groundwater overlying an oil field on the Oxnard Plain, as well as unanswered questions about gases in five water wells, but no widespread contamination of the water supply.  State and county officials said they are reviewing the 66-page report by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey before determining what, if any, future actions should be taken.  The study confirmed what scientists suspected two years ago after finding petroleum-related gases in water wells but adds new details. Scientists involved in the project, though, said they still do not know whether the gases got into the groundwater through a natural geological process or from oilfield operations.  … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Long-awaited study shows no major health concerns from water wells on Oxnard Plain

San Diego: The high cost of getting rid of water

If the cost of consuming water wasn’t high enough in San Diego, consider the cost of getting rid of it.  As Andy Keatts detailed in a story Monday, San Diego has a huge infrastructure backlog and half of the unfunded projects over the next five years involve fixing the stormwater system. To cover the estimated $1.27 billion bill, Council members are thinking about adding a new tax for voters to weigh in 2022, or charging every home about $1 a month as a fee, according to the Union-Tribune. … ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here: San Diego: The high cost of getting rid of water

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Along the Colorado River …

The Colorado River crisis is a national crisis

” ... The Southwest is currently in the middle of a drought that began around 2000, which has resulted in weaker downriver flows in both the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. Reports on the issue over the past year from national outlets like The New York Times have focused on explaining the “why” of the problem—walking through how a warm spring in 2020 led to the snowpack in the Rockies melting more quickly and cementing dryer conditions for the coming year, or explaining how the long-term effects from the explosion of global emissions in the twentieth century affect modern-day soil moisture rates. These pieces are crucial, as they help explain how human actions collide with and exacerbate natural trends. But as with any article that ends with a natural resource shortage, on the other side of a scientific explainer story is one that is deeply, unavoidably political. … ”  Read more from New Republic here: The Colorado River crisis is a national crisis

Boom in sports betting benefits Colorado’s water plan

In a state that exemplifies many of the country’s largest water issues, a surprising source of revenue is helping to drive solutions.  In 2019, Colorado legalized sports betting through a proposition that promised to funnel revenue from the practice to much-needed state programs, including Colorado’s Water Plan, a comprehensive initiative to protect the state’s drinking water sources while preparing them for increased demand.  A little more than a year later, it’s becoming clear that the state’s bet on sports gambling is paying off. … ”  Read more from Water Online here: Boom in sports betting benefits Colorado’s water plan

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In national water news today …

A hacker tried to poison a Florida city’s water supply by spiking levels of a dangerous chemical, law enforcement authorities said yesterday.  The unsuccessful cyberattack Friday on a water treatment plant in Pinellas County — the first documented attempt to hack into and contaminate a U.S. community’s water supply — raises questions around critical infrastructure security as water and energy utilities move to digitize their operations.  A hacker gained access to a water treatment facility serving around 15,000 people in the city of Oldsmar, changing the levels of sodium hydroxide pumped into the water supply to a “significant and potentially dangerous” level, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference yesterday. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  ‘What nightmares are made of.’ Hackers hit Fla. water supply

Quality water from every tap: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief

The quality of U.S. drinking water is at risk from many causes, including the nation’s aging infrastructure and environmental conditions that affect source water conditions. Quality Water from Every Tap, a workshop held in Washington, D.C., on November 21-22, 2019, provided an opportunity for experts from government, affected communities, academia, and the private sector to explore both the challenges and factors that affect the delivery of water with acceptable quality and the paths to increase the quality of water for systems that do not meet today’s drinking water standards – especially focusing on communities that lack adequate resources and expertise because they are small or have declining populations. This publication provides the rapporteurs’ high-level summary of the topics addressed in the workshop and suggestions provided by workshop participants for potential actions to address the nation’s water quality challenges.”  Download PDF or read online at the National Academies Press here:   Quality Water from Every Tap

Green groups threaten to sue Biden over Trump-era waterway permits

A coalition of environmental groups warned the Biden administration Monday it would sue if the Army Corps of Engineers fails to reconsider Trump-era permits for industry activity they fear will pollute waterways.  The notice of intent to sue from the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and others targets 16 so-called nationwide permits that allow discharges from oil and gas development, pipeline and transmission-line construction, and coal mining into waterways. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Green groups threaten to sue Biden over Trump-era waterway permits

Senate advances nomination of Biden EPA pick Regan

Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee voted on Tuesday to advance the nomination of Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The committee voted 14-6 to move Regan’s nomination to the full Senate.  Regan was formerly North Carolina’s top environmental regulator. If he’s confirmed to lead the EPA, he’ll be tasked with implementing a number of Biden’s campaign pledges, including helping the U.S. reach carbon neutrality by 2050. ... ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Senate advances nomination of Biden EPA pick Regan

Inside the Haaland-Grijalva partnership

Rep. Raúl Grijalva doesn’t tend to recruit members to serve on the House Natural Resources Committee, of which he’s served as top Democrat since 2015. The Arizona lawmaker made an exception in 2018, when he learned Deb Haaland was coming to Capitol Hill.  Then poised to assume the chairmanship in the new Democratic majority, Grijalva immediately went to work courting Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico who was already gaining notice as one of the first two Native American women elected that year to serve in Congress, ever.  “Sometimes, especially someone who’s coming in with high expectations as Deb was coming in, they can kind of pick and choose where they want to go,” Grijalva recalled in an interview with E&E News — an acknowledgement his committee isn’t always the first choice for lawmakers who want to make national headlines or attract big donors. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Inside the Haaland-Grijalva partnership

Everglades restoration might get a boost. King Coal could get knocked down. Oil and gas production in Texas may not have as much sway.  Those are just some of the environment and energy trends that may emerge as states gain or lose congressional seats as the nation’s once-a-decade reapportionment of 435 House districts plays out.  Florida stands to potentially gain two seats, while Texas stands to gain three, according to a report that independent political consulting firm Election Data Services Inc. released using the Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates. Other states, like West Virginia, New York and California, each appear poised to lose a seat. … ”  Read more from E&E News here:  How redistricting could affect energy, environment policy

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Precipitation watch …

From NWS Sacramento: A cooler and wetter weather pattern is shaping up for next weekend.

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Whither habitat for the imperiled delta smelt?; The San Joaquin Valley Blueprint helps everyone; Preparing for a dry year: Safe drinking water; and more …

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Proposed Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report

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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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