DAILY DIGEST, 2/18: Delta study examines climate change effect; Millions of steelhead to be released throughout Central Valley; Bay Area representatives call for protection of Redwood City salt ponds; NASA Snow-Water Equivalent (SWE) Report; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: The Central Valley Regional Water Board meets beginning at 9am. Agenda items over the next two days include the Mule Creek State Prison, the food safety white paper, the East San Joaquin Surface Water Framework recommendations, numerous waste discharge requirements and other regulatory matters.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access information.
  • FREE EVENT: The Wonderful Water Worlds of Newsha Ajami from 10am to 11:30am.  Newsha Ajami discusses Biden Administration water policy, her work on the Bay Area Regional Water Board and her new appointment to the San Francisco Public Utility Commision Board.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Joint DWR-State Water Board general SGMA webinar from 10:30am to 12:00pm.  The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board will host a virtual General Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Webinar on groundwater sustainability planning. This interactive webinar session will include an update on how the State is moving forward with groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) evaluations, the timeline and approach to releasing assessments for GSPs submitted to DWR by January 31, 2020, and an overview of state assistance to support locals moving forward with SGMA implementation.  Click here to register.
  • MEETING: Delta Conveyance Design And Construction Authority, Board Of Directors from 2pm to 5pmClick here for more information.

In California water news today …

Delta study examines climate change effect

For the better part of the last two centuries, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been modified in any number of ways to meet the demands of Californians. But a new wide-ranging study looks at what might be the most serious Delta threat that doesn’t come in the form of an excavator – global warming.  “Delta Adapts: Creating a Climate Resistant Future” was released by the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) with an overarching goal of building climate resilience in the Delta by improving the understanding of the region’s vulnerabilities to worldwide climate change. ... ”  Read more from The Press here:  Delta study examines climate change effect

Millions of steelhead to be released throughout Central Valley

Steelhead season is underway in the Central Valley as three major hatcheries are set to release over 1.1 million fish into the Feather, Nimbus and Mokelumne rivers later this month.  Steelhead are the migratory form of rainbow trout that make their journey to the Pacific Ocean and return to freshwater streams.  Unlike salmon, steelhead don’t die after spawning and can make the journey from freshwater to saltwater and back multiple times in their lives, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … ”  Read more from KCRA Channel 3 here:  Millions of steelhead to be released throughout Central Valley

Column:  California’s climate change future is being written – in its waterways

Wayne Western writes, “Much like COVID-19 is changing our election practices and day-to-day business operations, climate change could change your water rights, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.  In the past, I have eluded to the shift from historical facts used for analysis and forecasting to a fear-based guessing game that allows an unelected bureaucracy backed by a one-party-rule elected body to usurp your property rights.  From the State Water Board: “Hydrologic modeling informed by long-term measurement data sets can constrain the functional uncertainty of global climate model-based future hydrology projections.” ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Column:  California’s climate change future is being written – in its waterways

Water market could spell higher costs for local agencies

A recent webinar on trading of guaranteed future water prices on the stock market showed the potential to drive up the price tag of water for public agencies. During a Feb. 2 California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) virtual meeting, water stock market advocates were clear that prices would rise. However, they stated that it would be a good thing, because water has been undervalued and therefore wasted. Their approach would encourage more efficient use of water, they told the CDFA board. The meeting followed a recent announcement of the prestigious Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), which started in the 1800s trading corn futures, stating it would handle water trades. ... ”  Read more from the Livermore Independent here: Water market could spell higher costs for local agencies 

Expert panel: Food grown with produced water safe for human consumption

An expert panel has concluded that the decades-old practice of irrigating agricultural food crops with“produced water” from oil fields shows no evidence of increased risk to human health. The panel’s 35-page Food Safety Project White Paper is the result of five years of extensive crop sampling and a thorough evaluation of data, along with a review of existing literature. Central to the data analysis is an evaluation of toxicity related to the water and its potential impact on crops. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is inviting members of the public to comment on the white paper at its next meeting on Feb. 18-19, along with an option to submit written comments until March 5. … ”  Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here: Expert panel: Food grown with produced water safe for human consumption

The 20 best places to tackle U.S. farm nitrogen pollution

A pioneering study of U.S nitrogen use in agriculture has identified 20 places across the country where farmers, government, and citizens should target nitrogen reduction efforts.  Nitrogen from fertilizer and manure is essential for crop growth, but in high levels can cause a host of problems, including coastal “dead zones”, freshwater pollution, poor air quality, biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas emissions.  The 20 nitrogen “hotspots of opportunity”—shown on a striking map—represent a whopping 63% of the total surplus nitrogen balance in U.S. croplands, but only 24% of U.S. cropland area. In total, they comprise 759 counties across more than 30 states, finds the study in Environmental Research Letters. … ”  Read more from the University of Vermont here: The 20 best places to tackle U.S. farm nitrogen pollution

Climate change and fire suppression

The unprecedented and deadly blazes that engulfed the American West in 2020 attest to the increasing number, size and severity of wildfires in the region. And while scientists predict the climate crisis will exacerbate this situation, there’s still much discussion around its contributing factors.  With this in mind, scientists at five western universities, including UC Santa Barbara, investigated the effects of human-driven climate change and more than a century of fire suppression, which has produced dense forests primed to burn. Their research, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, confirms the importance of both factors in driving wildfires, but revealed that their influence varies, even within the same region of the Western U.S. ... ”  Read more from UCSB here: Climate change and fire suppression

Forest Service predicted devastation of Sierra’s Creek Fire — but solution came too late

California’s largest single-incident wildfire sparked to life in an area that federal land managers already knew was particularly susceptible to the devastating effects of an uncontrolled blaze.  But two months after officials signed off on a sweeping plan to improve forest conditions in the San Joaquin River drainage northeast of Fresno by removing dead trees and overgrown brush, the Creek Fire fulfilled those fears. … ”  Read more from the Freno Bee here:  CA forest management plan too late to prevent Creek Fire.

California lawmakers propose ban on fracking by 2027

New legislation would ban all fracking in California by 2027, taking aim at the powerful oil and gas industry in a state already planning to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035.  California has long been a leader in fighting climate change, requiring solar panels on new homes and passing a law to make the nation’s most populous state rely entirely on renewable energy by 2045.  But environmental groups say California officials — particularly governors — have long had a blind spot for the oil and gas industry, which has wielded its immense political power many times to kill or weaken legislation aimed at curtailing production. ... ”  Read more from the LA Times here: California lawmakers propose ban on fracking by 2027

New report confirms benefits of forecast-informed reservoir operations at Lake Mendocino

Modern forecasting methods fueled by advances in understanding and predicting atmospheric river storms have enabled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) operators to better optimize water resources at Lake Mendocino, a Northern California reservoir. A multi-agency report issued Feb. 4, 2021, describes how these forecasting tools have helped operators increase the lake’s dry season stores of drinking water, improve its ability to alleviate flood risk, and enhance environmental conditions in the downstream Russian River to support salmonid species. … ”  Read more from Water World here: New report confirms benefits of forecast-informed reservoir operations at Lake Mendocino

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In regional water news and commentary today …

OSU, USFS researchers use new method to track salmon, trout genetic diversity

Scientists at Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service have demonstrated that DNA extracted from water samples from rivers across Oregon and Northern California can be used to estimate genetic diversity of Pacific salmon and trout.  The findings, just published in the journal Molecular Ecology, have important implications for conservation and management of these species, which are threatened by human activities, including those exacerbating climate change.  “There has been a dearth of this kind of data across the Northwest,” said Kevin Weitemier, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State and lead author of the paper. “This allows us to get a quick snapshot of multiple populations and species all at once.” ... ”  Read more from KTVZ here: OSU, USFS researchers use new method to track salmon, trout genetic diversity

Another low return for Klamath kings in 2020

Following a disappointing 2019 adult fall run on the Klamath, 2020 proved to be only slightly better. Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t enough to get us out of the “overfished” category, and it’s likely we’ll have some severe restrictions both in the ocean and in the Klamath and Trinity rivers in 2021. “Based on this year’s run size, I’d expect very limited fishing opportunity in the coming year,” said Wade Sinnen, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife senior environmental scientist on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. … ”  Read more from the North Coast Journal here: Another low return for Klamath kings in 2020 

North Coast: Letter writer concerned about consequences requirement for no diversionary water in cannabis cultivation

Susan Jacobsen writes, “Recently I have had reason to research the requirements for cultivation under the 2.0 Cannabis Cultivation ordinance. The requirement for no diversionary water to be used is problematic.  The intent of this requirement seems to stem from a desire to protect the rivers and other surface waters from depletion by taking too much for farming of cannabis…an admirable goal. The other option allowed under this law is to pump water from a non diversionary, groundwater well. Unfortunately in the geology of our county such water doesn’t really exist. … ”  Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here: Letter writer concerned about consequences requirement for no diversionary water in cannabis cultivation

Yuba Water commits $6.5 million to improving forest health in Yuba River watershed

Yuba Water Agency’s board of directors took bold action today to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and advance landscape-scale forest restoration in the Yuba River watershed.  In two separate actions, the board approved $6.5 million in funding for forest restoration projects as part of the North Yuba Forest Partnership. The partnership is a diverse group of nine organizations working collaboratively to plan, finance and implement forest restoration across 275,000 acres of private and public land spanning Sierra and Yuba counties and two national forests. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: Yuba Water commits $6.5 million to improving forest health in Yuba River watershed

Tuolumne Utilities District board gridlocks on water supply, future availability

Tuolumne Utilities District will continue to process applications for new water hookups because its Board of Directors failed Thursday to reach a determination on future supply and availability. The TUD board held a special workshop Thursday to grapple with the oldest challenge in county history when it comes to water, but the big picture has not changed. The district relies on the South Fork Stanislaus River watershed that still provides a limited amount of runoff, an average of 104,000 acre-feet annually, and typically has access to less than one-quarter of that. ... ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here: Tuolumne Utilities District board gridlocks on water supply, future availability

Calistoga to increase Kimball reservoir capacity, relocate water treatment plant

The City of Calistoga has committed to making substantial and long-overdue improvements to its water collection and treatment facilities. On Tuesday, the city council approved two multi-million dollar projects; one to increase capacity of Kimball Reservoir, and the other to move the Kimball Water Treatment Plant. The city has received a $5 million federal grant to raise the height of the reservoir, with the city providing $1.6 million in matching funds. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  Calistoga to increase Kimball reservoir capacity, relocate water treatment plant

Lack of rain causes competitive coho spawning season

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) has an update on the 2020-21 spawner season, where adult salmon return from the Pacific Ocean back to their natal streams in the Lagunitas Watershed to build nests, called redds. The preliminary redd count stands at 101 redds, which is a generational improvement from three years ago, but remains below the 250 average as well as almost 90% below the federal target goal NOAA has determined to recover the species of 1,300 redds.  Due to the little rain the Central California Coast received during December and January—peak coho season—many of the smaller tributaries to Lagunitas and San Geronimo creeks were inaccessible due to low flows that allow fish to move upstream. With little access to other tributaries and more spawning ground, competition for spawning habitat increased in mainstem Lagunitas Creek. This led to more superimposition, where salmon build their nests on top of earlier redds, potentially digging up incubating eggs. … ”  Read more from the Turtle Island Network here: Lack of rain causes competitive coho spawning season

Marin Municipal Water District seeks voluntary conservation

The Marin Municipal Water District is calling on customers to voluntarily cut back on their water use for the first time since the 2013 drought in response to meager rainfall reminiscent of the notorious 1976-1977 drought.  “I have to say that looking at the forecast and how much rainfall we’ve had to date, we might actually be happy if we achieve the 1976-77 rainfall numbers at this point,” Paul Sellier, the district’s operations director, told the board of directors on Tuesday evening. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Marin Municipal Water District seeks voluntary conservation

Speier, Feinstein, Padilla, and Bay Area members call for protection of Redwood City salt ponds

Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Bay Area Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), John Garamendi (CA-03), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), and Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) sent a letter urging the Biden Administration to withdraw the Trump Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) appeal of the district court’s decision in San Francisco Baykeeper et al v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that directed the EPA to make a new determination of jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act for the Redwood City Salt Ponds.  “The Trump Administration hijacked the jurisdictional determination process, putting politics ahead of science and the law to encourage a private landowner’s development of these wetlands. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler waived Clean Water Act jurisdiction of the site in 2019, leaving the wetlands without that federal protection,” the Members wrote. … ”  Continue reading statement from Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office here:  Speier, Feinstein, Padilla, and Bay Area members call for protection of Redwood City salt ponds

McMullin Area GSA awarded $10 million grant to expand On-Farm Recharge Project

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), a Groundwater Sustainability Agency in the Central Valley’s Kings Subbasin, has been awarded a $10 million grant by the State Water Resources Control Board through the Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program to expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project located near Helm in Fresno County. The Project is identified in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan and is a key element in a vision developed by MAGSA to achieve groundwater sustainability under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) through innovative approaches in groundwater banking and crediting. ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: MAGSA awarded $10 million grant to expand On-Farm Recharge Project

State, Boeing mediating cleanup dispute at former nuke site near Simi, worrying activists

The state and Boeing have quietly begun mediating the long-planned cleanup of the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory site near Simi Valley, a move activists and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks fear will water down the cleanup.  In a Jan. 22 letter, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup, offered the aerospace giant, which owns most of the contaminated site, an opportunity to enter non-binding, confidential mediation.  The mediation would be an attempt to resolve Boeing’s “dispute with DTSC’s direction … regarding Boeing’s groundwater corrective measures study,” the letter states. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  State, Boeing mediating cleanup dispute at former nuke site near Simi, worrying activists

San Diego water agencies seek relief funds to cover delinquent water bills

Water agencies across the region are seeking help from the County of San Diego and the 18 incorporated cities in the county to provide essential financial relief for households throughout the county that are facing growing water bill delinquencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The water agencies are asking that the cities and the county allocate state and federal COVID relief funds to provide water bill offsets for financially strapped residents. Local water suppliers “have not received any COVID-related funding assistance to help address the substantial water debt held by residents of our communities that would help to provide much-needed relief to water ratepayers,” according to mid-February letters from water officials to county and city leaders. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Agencies Seek Relief Funds to Cover Delinquent Water Bills

Commentary: How the California State Coastal Conservancy proposed Smugglers Gulch Sediment Ponds will kill the natural ecology of the Tijuana River Valley

writes, “A few weeks ago, at the Nov. 20 public meeting the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined a preliminary plan proposed by the California State Coastal Conservancy which would replace the natural ecology of the Tijuana River Valley (TRV) and install a man-made system called Smugglers Gulch Sediment Ponds (SGSP). … When local citizens are shown plans of Smugglers Gulch Sediment Ponds and understand how it will be implemented, they unanimously feel this plan goes against common sense and river Best Management Practices (BMP’s) used throughout the State of California. ... ”  Read more from the Eagle & Times here: How the California State Coastal Conservancy proposed Smugglers Gulch Sediment Ponds will kill the natural ecology of the Tijuana River Valley

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In national water news today …

Texas winter storm cripples power, water systems

An unusually severe winter storm that caused rolling blackouts across Texas and left as many as 4.2 million people in the dark is also crippling the state’s water systems.  Residents in cities large and small are dealing with low water pressure, dry taps, and broken pipes. After water has been restored, residents are being told to boil their water before drinking it, even as many homes are without power.  The problems span the breadth of the state. As of Wednesday morning, more than 300 public water systems had reported disruptions in water or sewer service, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  Texas winter storm cripples power, water systems

Texas power outage underscores looming climate tests

Texas’ electric grid nearly melted down in the summer of 2019, when searing temperatures sent electricity demand soaring.  The state’s grid operator was able to keep the lights on, but many observers were worried. They wondered if Texas power plants would be able to match the rising demand, driven largely by residents reaching for the dial on their air conditioning units.  When the grid locked up again this week, leaving 4 million people in Texas without power, it was for an entirely different reason: extreme cold, the likes of which the state had never seen. ... ”  Read more from Scientific American here: Texas power outage underscores looming climate tests

Parched oystermen, farmers face off in Supreme Court water war

Oystermen in Florida and farmers in Georgia have been locked in a bitter argument over shared river resources for decades. Their dispute reaches the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, where justices will face the question of how much water is enough.  “It’s kind of a classic case between this small population and small economy depending on an environmentally sensitive industry, against a huge population and a huge economy by comparison up in Georgia,” said John B. Draper, a leading water rights lawyer based in Santa Fe, N.M. “There’s that kind of David and Goliath aspect to this.” … ” Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  Parched oystermen, farmers face off in Supreme Court water war

69 dams removed in 2020

Despite the challenges of working through a pandemic, river restoration practitioners continued to pursue dam removal projects in 2020 to revitalize local economies and communities and reconnect 624 upstream river miles for fish, wildlife and river health. Sixty-nine dams were removed in 2020 across 23 states, including: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. … ”  Read more from American Rivers here:  69 dams removed in 2020

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In commentary today …

To enact systems change, it’s time to get political, says Jennifer Sokolove with the Water Foundation

About three weeks after the election, several dozen environmental funders met to discuss how they could advance state and federal policymaking for a more just and sustainable water future. Jim Enote, of Colorado Plateau Foundation, emphasized where philanthropy needs to put its focus. He said, “Personally, I am no longer interested in some projects, because projects have a beginning and an end. We are talking about a movement—movement building.”  Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned a lot about how nonprofit 501c3 organizations like ours can boost nonprofit advocacy and lobbying in support of water movements. Our work in this space stands on the shoulders of many others, and we’re committed to sharing what we’ve learned and where we go from here. … ”  Read more from the Water Foundation here: To enact systems change, it’s time to get political, says Jennifer Sokolove with the Water Foundation

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NASA Snow-Water Equivalent (SWE) Report …

20210215_RT_SWE_Report

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Today’s featured articles …

WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Climate change adaptation, equity, and water

State Water Board member Laurel Firestone talks about the need to bring equity into our climate adaptation actions; Professor Karrigan Bork looks at temperature projections for California

The California Water Law Symposium is an annual collaborative student-run event that brings together leading minds in water law to discuss California’s critical water issues. Led this year by UC Davis School of Law, participant schools included USF School of Law; UC Hastings College of the Law; UC Berkeley School of Law; Golden Gate University School of Law; and University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

The theme of this year’s conference focused on climate change and adaptation.  Professor Karrigan Bork, a UC Davis King Hall’s environmental law faculty member, gave the introductory presentation to set the stage for the rest of the conference that highlighted the heat impacts that are projected for California over the next century.  Then, State Water Board member Laurel Firestone gave the keynote address, focusing on the climate change impacts that are disproportionately impacting frontline communities and the need to bring equity into how we adapt to these impacts.

Here’s what they had to say.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

ANNOUNCEMENT: Join the Delta Adapts Climate Resilience Scavenger Hunt and Adaptation Scoping Meetings

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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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