Hillside Daisies on the Carrizo Plain, by Rob DeGraff

DAILY DIGEST, weekend/holiday edition: Trump’s CA water plan troubled federal biologists. They were sidelined; Wetlands restoration can improve water quality in Central Valley; Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Trump’s California water plan troubled federal biologists. They were sidelined

Federal scientists and regulators repeatedly complained they were sidelined by Donald Trump’s administration when they warned of risks to wildlife posed by a California water management plan, according to newly unveiled documents.  The plan, finalized in late 2019, favored the former president’s political allies – farmers upset with environmental protections that kept them from receiving more irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of California’s water network. A top California fisheries regulator questioned whether officials with the Trump administration were violating her agency’s “scientific integrity” policy and warned her boss that the administration’s methodology “definitely raises a flag”. A scientist said he feared “the pendulum was always going to swing in the favor of political decisions”. Another vowed to stand up for science even if “someone tries to bury it”. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Trump’s California water plan troubled federal biologists. They were sidelined

New Study: Wetlands restoration can improve water quality in Central Valley

Audubon has long worked to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands throughout the United States. We have done this because we know that wetlands provide invaluable habitat for resident and migratory birds, as well as for thousands of other plant and animal species.  We now know that wetlands also play an important role in the overall health of our ecosystem and our communities. Wetlands can provide flood protection, groundwater recharge, sequestration, pollution filtration, and places for public access. Periodically called, “earth’s kidneys”, these vibrant ecosystems can absorb carbon dioxide helping mitigate climate change and nitrogen cleaning the run-off from human use of the land for agriculture or development.  … ”  Read more from Audubon here: New Study: Wetlands restoration can improve water quality in Central Valley

If you look deep into the eyes of a fish, it will tell you its life story

At least, that’s what CalTrout’s most recently published research, led by our partners at UC Davis, suggests.  The study, just published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, demonstrated that stable isotopic analysis of salmon eye lenses can reveal a fish’s life history: where it swam and what it ate along the way.  The work has major implications for tracking how salmon use floodplain habitat and for understanding how the Central Valley’s altered landscape is impacting fish populations. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout here: If you look deep into the eyes of a fish, it will tell you its life story

California now has a futures market for water. Some farmers are skeptical

Investors, farmers, and Reddit users can now all hedge bets on the price of water in California thanks to the launch of the first water futures market in the country late last year. It represents a new financial outlook on water in California — one driven by the market.  Since its launch Dec. 7, the futures the market has seen 180 trades — equivalent to over 550 million gallons of actual water. But the water futures market has nothing to do with the movement of real water: it’s just about money.  “We’re not delivering water,” Tim McCourt of the CME Group, which manages the marketplace, said at the California Department of Food and Agriculture last week. “This is really the financial value.” … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio here: California now has a futures market for water. Some farmers are skeptical

Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank

A major water banking proposal northwest of Bakersfield that won coveted Proposition 1 funding in 2018, was hit by two lawsuits earlier this month, one claiming it is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing intent on selling Kern River water to southern California.  The City of Bakersfield and the Kern County Water Agency filed separate complaints Feb. 2 against the Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project seeking to have the project’s recently approved environmental impact report deemed inadequate. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Double blast of lawsuits fired at proposed Kern groundwater bank

Nearly a foot of snow fell in Sierra and another storm is coming, weather service says

After dumping nearly a foot of snow over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the winter storm that recently rolled into Northern California is still active.  The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office reported the highest overnight snowfall at Donner Summit, where 10 inches fell in a span of 24 hours.  Kingvale also saw 8 inches of snow, while Soda Springs and Sugar Bowl both reported 9 inches. Early Saturday morning, conditions were treacherous enough for traffic to be temporarily held on eastbound Interstate 80 after several spin outs, according to Caltrans. Chains are currently required on both I-80 and Highway 50 over mountain passes due to the inclement conditions. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Nearly a foot of snow fell in Sierra and another storm is coming, weather service says

State Water Board awards $97.9 million for stormwater projects

The State Water Resources Control Board awarded today $97.9 million in Proposition 1 funds for 24 stormwater projects to cities, counties, and special districts statewide in an effort to capture stormwater and put it to beneficial use for communities. The stormwater management awards will improve regional water self-reliance, and adaptation to water supply challenges arising from climate change. And they come at a time when drought concerns are highlighting the need for innovative projects to help water agencies maximize local water resources while reducing dependence on water imports. ... ”  Read more from the State Water Board here: State Water Board awards $97.9 million for stormwater projects

Anticipating the extremes: Birch Aquarium lecture looks at atmospheric rivers and California’s climate

The first of three virtual “Perspectives on Ocean Science” lectures presented by Birch Aquarium in La Jolla focused on atmospheric rivers and the impact they may have on California’s climate.  Meteorologist Alexander Gershunov discussed “The Art and Science of Atmospheric Rivers and the Changing Hydroclimate of the West” on Feb. 8.  He said he studies “how regional weather patterns and extreme weather events are related to climate change and how to use those relationships to predict weather and climate better” and that he is also interested in the effects of extreme weather on society. … ”  Read more from the La Jolla Light here: Anticipating the extremes: Birch Aquarium lecture looks at atmospheric rivers and California’s climate

FEMA releases more funds for reimbursing Oroville Dam spillway repair costs

The process to recoup over $1 billion in repairs to Oroville Dam’s spillways after the 2017 crisis is receiving more federal funds.  The Department of Water Resources announced Feb. 1 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency released an additional approximately $308 million in requested funds for the Oroville Dam spillways reconstruction and emergency response. These funds are in addition to over $260 million that FEMA has already committed to for repairs to the lower portion of the main spillway and other work conducted in response to the emergency. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: FEMA releases more funds for reimbursing Oroville Dam spillway repair costs

California’s rainy season is starting about a month later than it did in the 1960s, researchers say

California’s annual rainy season is getting underway about 27 days later now than it did in the 1960s, according to new research. Instead of starting in November, the onset of the rains is now delayed until December, and the rain, when it comes, is being concentrated during January and February.  “The onset of the rainy season has been progressively delayed since the 1960s, and as a result the precipitation season has become shorter and sharper in California,” said Jelena Lukovic, the lead author of the study. Lukovic is a climate scientist at the University of Belgrade in Serbia. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California’s rainy season is starting about a month later than it did in the 1960s, researchers say

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Podcasts …

THE ECONEWS REPORT: Busting Myths about the Klamath Dam Removal

Mike Belchik, senior fisheries biologist with the Yurok Tribe, joins Gang Green to give an update on the Klamath dam removal (spoiler: it’s on track to be completed by 2024!) and helps resolve a number of myths concerning the Klamath dams that you might see shared on social media.  Click here to listen to podcast.


TALK + WATER: Wicked Water Problems and Colorado River Issues

Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief Dr. Todd Votteler talks with Dr. Sharon B. Megdal, Director of The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, which is a Cooperative Extension center and a research unit in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Her work focuses on water policy and management, on which she writes and frequently speaks.


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING: A Common Link

Steve Baker writes, “It doesn’t work to only have an environmental agency; “take care of the environment.” Gabe Olsen saw a country that doesn’t have any environmental enforcement, Kenya, and compared their environmental successes with the staunch environmental enforcement present in America. The current American solutions still aren’t enough to safeguard the environment. Communities need to come together, politically and non-politically.   Everyone has an interaction with the environment and, many times, we take for granted these wonderful benefits in our lives.   He witnessed the tribes of Kenya coming together through a common link, water. Community ownership and sustainable development ultimately are achieved in the long run when environment comes first. Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

 

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In regional water news this weekend …

Ukiah Groundwater Agency moves forward with well monitoring network — expects groundwater regulation by June 2022

After a three month hiatus, the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s board held their first meeting of 2021 yesterday, at which they approved new board members, adopted an updated communication plan, and formally gained access to two parcels where they will expand their groundwater monitoring network as they work towards their goal of fully regulating and managing groundwater usage by June 2022.  In the past, no government has regulated groundwater usage in Ukiah nor in California. However, a 2015 law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA pronounced like the Greek letter Σ), changed that. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here: Ukiah Groundwater Agency moves forward with well monitoring network — expects groundwater regulation by June 2022

Tahoe commentary: Wildfire funding is an investment in our community

Steve Frisch and Brittany Benesi with the Sierra Business Council write, “Every year, the Truckee/Lake Tahoe communities hold their collective breath when wildfires start burning forestland in California.  Last year, more than 4.3 million acres in California burned, destroying more than 10,000 homes, killing 31 people, and emitting more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide. Five of the state’s20 largest fires in recorded history occurred last year, and wildfires are increasingly burning into California’s urban centers. The economic disruption, public health impacts and loss of healthy ecosystems in California are accelerating as our climate is changing.  The challenge of restoring our forests is not insurmountable. ... ”  Continue reading at the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Wildfire funding is an investment in our community

Waterfowl, and yes, elk, return to newly flooded Montezuma wetlands

It did not take long for nature to reclaim what it took Jim Levine and Montezuma Wetlands LLC more than 30 years to create.  Levine told the Solano County supervisors Tuesday that within hours of a levee being breached to flood an area that had been tidal wetlands for thousands of years, birds and other wildlife moved into the area.  “What really surprised us was, literally on that day, Oct. 27, in the afternoon, we had flocks of birds come into the site and a herd of elk moved into our site,” said Levine, the managing partner of Montezuma Wetlands LLC. “They showed up that day.” … ”  Read more from The Daily Republic here: Waterfowl, and yes, elk, return to newly flooded Montezuma wetlands

‘This is outrageous’: Residents protest big rate increases from San Jose Water

Customers of Silicon Valley’s largest water company are in an uproar after receiving yet another proposal to substantially hike up their monthly water bills.  Under a new proposal from San Jose Water, the monthly bill of a typical customer would increase nearly 30% over the next four years — and that’s on top of an about 60% rise in rates since 2015.  With many San Jose residents and families struggling financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many across the South Bay described the proposed hike as “outrageous,” “irresponsible” and “greedy.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: ‘This is outrageous’: Residents protest big rate increases from San Jose Water

Scotts Valley Water District votes to proceed exploring consolidation with San Lorenzo Valley Water District

The Scotts Valley Water District board voted Thursday night to move forward in exploring a possible merger with the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, a motion contingent upon San Lorenzo Valley board staff voting to do the same.  It’s the first step of a multi-year process, that investigates the possibility of consolidating the two water agencies, into one, new water supplier.  … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Scotts Valley Water District votes to proceed exploring consolidation with San Lorenzo Valley Water District

Wildfires can pollute drinking water. That worries some in the hills above Santa Cruz

As the first heavy rains of the season poured across the Santa Cruz Mountains last month, emergency responders and residents braced for debris flows, road closures and power outages.  Others also feared for their drinking water. These included Boulder Creek resident Dan Fitzpatrick, who amid the downpours pictured the rain washing over burned-out neighborhoods and into the catchment system of his water provider.  “Every storm that has occurred since the fire has caused the water to run black for a few days, so I know runoff is making it into the water,” said Fitzpatrick, a former member of his water district’s engineering committee. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Wildfires can pollute drinking water. That worries some in the hills above Santa Cruz

Canadian utility proposes Salinas Valley desal project

A large Canada-based utility service company has unveiled a proposal to construct and operate a Moss Landing desalination plant using brackish water from wells at the mouth of the Salinas Valley.  According to a Jan. 28 presentation by Liberty Utilities official Kim Adamson, the proposal calls for a desal plant capable of producing up to 32,000 acre-feet of drinking water per year at a cost of about $1,000 to $1,500 per acre-foot for Salinas, Castroville and Marina, and perhaps even eventually the Monterey Peninsula. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Canadian utility proposes Salinas Valley desal project

Bill reintroduced to protect public lands and rivers across Central Coast

The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, a bill that would safeguard public lands and wild rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and would designate a 400-mile National Recreation Trail, was reintroduced by Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) this week. Carbajal’s district includes Paso Robles and all of San Luis Obispo County.  “Pragmatic policies like the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act make a real difference in the fight against climate change, give residents and visitors the opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors, and boosts our recreation economy, all while preserving the plant and animal life that call these public lands home,” said Congressman Carbajal. … ”  Read more from Paso Robles Daily News here:  Bill reintroduced to protect public lands and rivers across Central Coast

Inland water agencies plan to build close to 80 projects to enhance local water security

Local water agencies have identified close to 80 projects they need to build to ensure the reliability of local water supplies in the coming decades.  The projects, which are described in the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), will enable San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and Western Municipal Water District to take advantage of new Santa Ana River water rights they obtained more than a decade ago but have not been able to use because of disputes with environmental protection agencies.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to approve the HCP later this year. Once that happens, water agencies can begin the permitting process for numerous water capture and groundwater re-charge projects. Here are several projects being planned by Inland water agencies … ”  Read more from the Highland Community News here:  Inland water agencies plan to build close to 80 projects to enhance local water security

Regulators on Poseidon desalination plant received calls that are likely prohibited

Three members of the regulatory board considering approval of the controversial Poseidon desalination plant were called by the state’s environmental protection secretary at the time of last summer’s deliberations, an apparent violation of a rule that in serious cases can disqualify members from voting on the issue.  While Secretary Jared Blumenfeld’s calls and texts last summer didn’t explicitly solicit a vote for the Huntington Beach project, the gubernatorial appointee noted in at least two of the communications that “statewide water resilience” was important to Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to disclosures released Thursday, Feb. 11. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here: Regulators on Poseidon desalination plant received calls that are likely prohibited

Commentary: The Aliso Creek beach berm-a false narrative

Roger Butow, Laguna Beach resident and land use consultant and environmental compliance advisor, writes, “Reading the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Investigative Order (IO) R9-2020-0265, it’s obvious that they like many have been manipulated, bought into and drank the local NGO’s “estuary” allegation Kool-aid regarding this lowest segment of Aliso Creek.  Describing the portion of the Creek from the Ben Brown’s Golf Course lower gate down to the point of discharge (POD) where the sand berm backs up water as an estuary meriting regulatory protection is a classic example of a public disinformation campaign. … ”  Continue reading at the Laguna Beach Independent here: Commentary: The Aliso Creek beach berm-a false narrative

La Jolla Town Council hears concerns about fish farm proposed off the local coast

Opponents of an immense fish farm proposed off the coast of Bird Rock and Mission Beach let members of the La Jolla Town Council know how they feel Feb. 11 as the project is undergoing environmental review.  The Pacific Ocean AquaFarms project, spearheaded by the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Long Beach-based investment group Pacific6 Enterprises, would produce up to 5,000 metric tons of yellowtail fish annually in federal waters about four miles offshore. … ”  Read more from the La Jolla Light here: La Jolla Town Council hears concerns about fish farm proposed off the local coast

San Diego County Water Authority exploring new aqueduct plan

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 the Mission Times Courier here: San Diego County Water Authority exploring new aqueduct plan

Commentary: An Independent Colorado River Aqueduct could be a money saver for San Diego

Gary Croucher, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors writes, “There’s an old saying that those who don’t remember history are destined to repeat it.  And that certainly holds true when it comes to securing water for this semi-arid place we call home. Those who have been around here since the early 1990s remember when we relied on a single Los Angeles-based water agency to meet almost all of our water needs — and we paid for it with traumatic supply cuts that crippled our economy.  Thankfully, three decades of regional investments have changed San Diego’s story for the better. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego here:  Commentary: An Independent Colorado River Aqueduct could be a money saver for San Diego

San Diego officials call Tijuana River valley sewage flow a public health crisis

San Diego County declared a public health crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border because sewage tainted water continues to flow into the U.S. and the region endures a lot of other pollution.  All five members of the San Diego Board of Supervisors voted to approve it. … ”  Read more from KPBS here: San Diego officials call Tijuana River valley sewage flow a public health crisis

Tijuana sewage pounded South Bay beaches last year. EPA says help is on the way

When a storm pummeled the San Diego-Tijuana region two weeks ago, hundreds of millions of gallons of water laced with raw sewage, trash and industrial chemicals flowed over the border shuttering beaches as far north as Coronado.  The shoreline stink and closures came as no surprise to residents of Imperial Beach — a city where swimming was strictly prohibited at its main oceanfront for nearly half of 2020. The waterfront to the south along Border Field State Park was closed last year for 295 days. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here: Tijuana sewage pounded South Bay beaches last year. EPA says help is on the way

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Along the Colorado River …

Utah’s new river commissioner appointed at ‘critical time’ for Colorado River use

Last month the governor appointed the state’s newest Colorado River commissioner, but just what does this position entail and how does it relate to Southern Utah?  “The role of the commissioner is to represent the state of Utah in negotiations with regards to the use of its portion of the Colorado River,” Gene Shawcroft, the state’s newly appointed Colorado River Commissioner said Monday. “(It’s) coordinating with the other six (Colorado Basin) states, as well as the federal government as decisions are made state by state with each state’s individual right to use its allocation from the Colorado River.” … ”  Read more from the St. George Spectrum here: Utah’s new river commissioner appointed at ‘critical time’ for Colorado River use

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In national news this weekend …

Biden has chance to boost leftward tilt on D.C. Circuit

President Joe Biden has an opportunity to shape one of the most important federal courts for environmental policy and other regulations after Judge David S. Tatel announced plans to take senior status.  Tatel, who notified the president of his plans on Thursday, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for nearly three decades, providing a reliable vote for environmental interests in cases involving anti-pollution laws.  Legal observers consider the D.C. Circuit the most important federal court for energy and environmental issues, as provisions of the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and other statutes funnel legal challenges there. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Biden has chance to boost leftward tilt on D.C. Circuit

Gina Raimondo nomination rekindles fish vs. turbine fight

In 2019, long-simmering differences between Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and the state’s fishing industry boiled over.  The dispute concerned a plan to limit fishermen’s financial losses associated with a proposed $2 billion offshore wind project. Many boat captains felt the deal undervalued their catch, and they directed their ire at Raimondo, an outspoken offshore wind advocate, accusing her of freezing the fishing industry out of negotiations with Vineyard Wind, the project developer.  At a meeting of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council that February, many lined up to blast the package. Council members, who are appointed by the governor, expressed sympathy for the concerns but argued that it represented the best offer. They ultimately signed off on the deal. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Gina Raimondo nomination rekindles fish vs. turbine fight

Biden’s conservation push could trigger state backlash

While proponents of dismantling the federal estate have largely halted their efforts in recent years — satisfied by the Trump administration’s rollback of protections on public lands — a bill before Montana state lawmakers this week hints at a movement that could be rekindling.  State Rep. Steve Gunderson, a Republican who represents a northwestern Montana district, wants fellow lawmakers to pass a bill that would prohibit the sale of any federal land granted or transferred to the Treasure State.  On its surface, the single page proposal aims to prevent the state from obtaining public lands and then turning around to sell them off. … ”  Read more from E&E News here: Biden’s conservation push could trigger state backlash

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

NOTICE: New Cybersecurity Advisory on Compromise of Florida Water Treatment Facility

Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Feb 7-12: Can Newsom end the water wars?; California’s aging dams face new perils; Your water heater a secret weapon in climate change fight; Stormwater could become an important water source; and more …

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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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