DAILY DIGEST, 2/24: Valley gets grim news about water supply; CA GOP urges Biden to uphold biops; Delta island owner ordered to clean up landfill dumped into Suisun Bay; San Joaquin River flood solution is in 18th year of review; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • PUBLIC WORKSHOP/CEQA SCOPING: Delta Mercury Control Program and TMDL Review from 9am to 12pm.  Staff from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board) will hold an online public workshop and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) scoping meeting pursuant to California Code of Regulations, title 23, section 3775.5 to discuss and solicit comments and suggestions from the public regarding a proposal to amend the Water Quality Control Plan for the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins (Basin Plan) as appropriate to include Phase 2 requirements within the Delta Mercury Control Program and associated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), collectively referred to as the DMCP; Consider adoption of a mercury offsets program; and Consider whether or how to maintain the Mercury Exposure Reduction Program (mercury education and outreach to community groups).  Click here for the full meeting notice and remote access information.
  • FREE EVENT: The Water Resilience Portfolio with Susan Tatayon and Nancy Vogel from 10:30am to 12:00pm.  The Municipal Water District of Orange County invites you to attend a very special Virtual Water Policy Forum on Wednesday, February 24, featuring keynote panelists Susan Tatayon, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, and Nancy Vogel, Director, Governor’s Water Portfolio Program. Join us as we take a closer look at the Governor’s plan for long-term water resilience, and discuss how it aims to achieve the state’s coequal goals of sustainable water supplies and environmental harmony.  Click here to register.
  • SO CAL WATER DIALOG: Metropolitan Water District’s Integrated Water Resources Plan:  Planning for an Uncertain Future from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Please join us for an update on Metropolitan’s IRP process, and lend your perspective as we discuss key drivers of change that will impact Southern California’s options and the potential scenarios for the region’s water future.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Ruminations on fire and vegetation trends in California from 1:00pm to 2:30pm.  Dr. Hugh Safford will summarize historical, current, and projected future patterns and trends in fire and vegetation in California. Burned area is increasing rapidly in California (and principally in northern California), but in most years it is still notably below pre-Euroamerican settlement averages.  The real issue is the way that fires are burning, not their area. Huge increases in the amount of forest fire area burning at high severity (aka “stand-replacing”) are leading to issues with forest regeneration, vegetation type conversion, ecosystem services, and loss of key habitat for important wildlife species of conservation concern.  Click here to register.
  • SCOPING MEETING/OPEN HOUSE: Pacheco Reservoir Project from 1pm to 3pm.  Valley Water is inviting you to join us at one of two virtual public scoping meetings to learn the latest news about the scope and content of the Project EIR for the Pacheco Reservoir Project that Valley Water is preparing. We’re encouraging the public and agencies to provide any additional comments on the scope and content of the EIR. The meetings will include a detailed presentation, open house and an opportunity for you to ask questions. Click here to register.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: Delta Conveyance DCA Stakeholder Engagement Committee Meeting from 3pm to 6pm.  Agenda items include a CEQA status update from DWR, the Bethany Alternative, Geotechnical field work update, Community benefits, and project financing overview.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Red alert sounding on California drought, as Valley gets grim news about water supply

A government agency that controls much of California’s water supply released its initial allocation for 2021, and the numbers reinforced fears that the state is falling into another drought.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Red alert sounding on California drought, as Valley gets grim news about water supply

MORE COVERAGE:

STATEMENTS ON THE CVP ALLOCATIONS

Click here to read the statement from the Friant Water Authority.

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the Central Valley Project’s initial 2021 water allocation. The Friant Division Class 1 Contractors were allocated 20% (160 TAF) of their contract supply, and Class 2 Contractors did not receive an allocation, reflecting the very dry hydrology thus far in the water year. The large storms in January and early February helped avoid complete catastrophe for this water year, but still were not enough to overcome two consecutive dry years resulting in below-average water storage throughout the state. Despite the low allocation, we do appreciate Reclamation’s work to issue this initial allocation early in the year, as it will help districts and farmers plan their operations for the remainder of 2021.

We anticipate that many growers throughout the south San Joaquin Valley and on the Eastside will need to rely heavily on groundwater supplies, just as they did in 2020. This which is likely to further exacerbate the type of regional land elevation subsidence that has so dramatically reduced the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal and other valley canals. This makes our efforts to increase the availability of surface supplies to the San Joaquin Valley and to fix the Friant-Kern Canal’s capacity limitations even more critical and underscores the need for resolving the valley’s long-term water imbalance.

Click here for the statement from the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.

Statement from Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority:

Today, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”) announced the initial water allocation for 2021-2022. The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (“Authority”) understands that dry hydrology is the main driver in the low initial allocations for our member agencies and the communities they serve – the nearly 1.2 million acres of highly productive farmland and 3 million people, many living in economically disadvantaged communities, throughout the western San Joaquin, San Benito and Santa Clara Valleys. The Authority wishes that the initial allocation were higher, but understands that existing conditions have prohibited Reclamation from making a higher initial allocation.

The last decade – in which California experienced the greatest drought in nearly 1,200 years between a couple of years of intense rainfall and flooding – continues to reinforce that California’s rainfall and snowpack patterns are changing and that we must shift to multi-year water management strategies to meet the diverse needs of the communities and ecosystems served by the Authority’s member agencies. The challenge before us demands long-term and sustainable solutions – we must invest in the maintenance, improvement and restoration of our critical infrastructure that serves as the backbone of California, we must increase our ability to store water during those flood years for the droughts we know will come, and we must improve the operational flexibility of our system so that vital water transfers are not being unreasonably delayed by bureaucratic hurdles.

“Healthy and sustainable food production is a national security issue and the Authority’s member agencies serve the urban and agricultural communities that grow a significant portion of the nation’s plate. As a community, region, state and country, we need to work collaboratively to improve the resilience of California’s water system in a balanced way, particularly with the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“Authority staff will continue to work with Reclamation and its member agencies to analyze hydrologic conditions in hopes the allocation can be increased as early as practicable.

Click here for the statement from Westlands Water District.

In response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) announcement that the initial allocation for South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors is 5%, Tom Birmingham, Westlands general manager, today issued the following statement:

Today’s announcement is no surprise given current hydrologic conditions and regulations that restrict operations of the Central Valley Project, but it is devastating nonetheless for farmers and communities across the region that rely on water from the CVP and jobs created by irrigated agriculture. It’s also yet another reminder of the urgency behind our continued work with policymakers, regulators and the farming community to maximize water use efficiency, improve climate resilience, and ensure greater water supply reliability now and in the future.

Westlands is among the South-of-Delta contractors that, together, hold contracts with Reclamation for approximately 3 million acre-feet (977 billion gallons) of water. Over the last 10 years, Westlands and other South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors have received a 100% allocation of water only once and have received a 0% allocation two times. On average, these contractors have received less than a 40% allocation of water over the past decade.

Recent studies have shown that reductions in surface water availability in the Central Valley can cause approximately 194,000 acres of land to be taken out of production, more than $1.3 billion in lost crop revenue and thousands of job losses. Lack of surface water also increases reliance on groundwater and can have negative impacts on drinking water availability and quality – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

To maximize water use efficiency, Westlands’ water distribution system is comprised of approximately 1,100 miles of buried pipeline and is outfitted with over 3,000 water meters. Since 2017, Westlands has invested $14.2 million in its water infrastructure system, which measures every drop of water and minimizes losses caused by seepage and evaporation.

With the announcement of this year’s initial allocation, Westlands remains more committed than ever to ensuring that every drop of water available to the District is put to beneficial use,” Birmingham added. “A 5% allocation, although better than zero, will result in a human and economic disaster for families on the West side of the Valley and could result in major strains for the nation’s food supply. We urge Governor Newsom to move swiftly to mitigate the impacts of today’s announcement and help prevent the disastrous impacts of past droughts by streamlining transfers of available water, immediately reengaging on negotiations of the voluntary agreements and supporting critical water infrastructure investments to help ensure we can continue managing water efficiently, even as we face the consequences of a changing climate.”

Past studies indicate that statewide economic losses as a result of California’s 2014-2016 drought totaled $3.8 billion, with thousands of jobs lost in the Central Valley alone and many rural drinking water wells running dry. Furthermore, parts of the Central Valley Project infrastructure that carry water to Westlands have lost up to 30% of their conveyance capacity over time due to subsidence; combined with higher operational and power costs, this results in millions of dollars in higher costs to convey less water through the system every year. Westlands is among a broad coalition of water agencies supporting both state and federal legislation to address this issue.

Click here to read the statement from Congressman Jim Costa.

“Though not surprising following another year of dry weather, these allocations are simply not enough to sustain our farming communities and the people who live there. Jobs, schools, and economic conditions – all in the middle of a pandemic — will be severely impacted,” said Costa. “Along with the unpredictable weather patterns of Climate Change, today’s announcement makes it clear that more needs to be done. That’s why I’ve called repeatedly for state and federal officials to work out their differences over the biological opinions and complete voluntary agreements to create more water certainty for the people of California. As the Valley begins to plan how to cope with another dry year, it is important that water transfers and other mitigation efforts are approved rapidly.”

This year’s low allocation is an indicator of the dry winter California is experiencing after the dry water year of 2020. The Bureau announced a 5% allocation for South of Delta agricultural contractors, 20% for Class 1 Friant contractors and 75% for the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors.

Click here to read the statement from Congressman David Valadao.

Agriculture in the Central Valley drives our local economy, provides tens of thousands of jobs, and produces food for the entire world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, farm workers have sacrificed their health and safety to keep our families fed. Now, the Bureau of Reclamation threatens this supply of food and countless livelihoods. The Central Valley farming community has survived devastating drought conditions and burdensome regulations for decades; however, our farms cannot survive without greater water allocations for South-of-Delta agriculture. It is critical allocations of California’s water supply reflect the needs of these farms so they many continue to produce the food our nation relies on.”

California Republican Delegation urges Biden administration to ensure continued California water supply

Tuesday, Congressman David G. Valadao and the entire California Republican delegation sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to emphasize California’s water needs and to express strong support for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s new coordinated long-term operations plan for the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the California State Water Project (SWP).  This includes the associated biological opinions developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service within Commerce that were completed last year. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel here: California Republican Delegation urges Biden administration to ensure continued California water supply

SEE ALSO: McCarthy, Valadao, and CA GOP Call on Biden Administration to Uphold Current Federal BiOps, press release from Congressman Kevin McCarthy

Sierra snowpack has major drop over the past decade

Sierra snowpack is so vital to California as it provides one third of the state’s water supply and it seems more and more lately we are seeing this dwindle. You can see from 2002 to 2011 60% of the time the Sierra snowpack was 100% or better, a pretty good trend.  But take a look at the data for Sierra snowpack over the past 10 years. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here:  Sierra snowpack has major drop over the past decade

Delta island owner ordered to clean up landfill dumped into Suisun Bay

A state appeals court has reinstated a cleanup order and multimillion-dollar penalties against a developer who has deposited large amounts of landfill into Suisun Bay marsh waters to clear the way for a duck club and kite-surfing center on an island he owns.  Environmental agencies’ restoration orders and $3.6 million in fines against John Sweeney had been overturned in December 2017 by Solano County Superior Court Judge Harry Kinnicutt, who said Sweeney had actually improved conditions on the 39-acre island and had been targeted by the agencies with “an appearance of vindictiveness.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Delta island owner ordered to clean up landfill dumped into Suisun Bay

High Sierra electronics announces innovative new remote erosion monitoring system for levees

Today, High Sierra Electronics (hsierra.com), a Grass Valley, California-based, manufacturer of environmental monitoring products, announced a new system that can detect when and where levee erosion has occurred and automatically alert and inform levee owners, managers, and public safety officials.  The system, known as REMS, short for Remote Erosion Monitoring System, uses a series of beacon sensors that are embedded at levee sites that are prone to erosion. If erosion occurs and washes the bank away, the beacons immediately transmit their status. … ”  Continue reading this press release at Monterey Weekly here: High Sierra electronics announces innovative new remote erosion monitoring system for levees

Feinstein to chair energy and water appropriations subcommittee

“Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on being named chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. This subcommittee has jurisdiction over funding levels for the Department of Energy, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies related to our nation’s energy and water infrastructure programs.  “I’m honored to again serve as chairman of the Energy and Water Subcommittee. Its work is vital to securing a stronger future for our country and California. … ”  Continue reading this press release from Senator Feinstein here: Feinstein to chair energy and water appropriations subcommittee 

Investors now can bet on California’s water, helping agriculture withstand dry spells

Climate change and extreme weather events are forecast to further reduce water supplies in the American Southwest, and a new futures market could allow water users to recoup losses if the price of water spikes.  The futures market is the first of its kind, allowing investors and farmers alike to bet on how much water in California will cost on a future date.  Water users buy the futures contract to avoid risk and hedge against rising water prices affected by things such as droughts. On the other end, market investors or speculators, who assume risk, can buy the futures contract to profit from the market changes, also affected by extreme weather conditions and climate change. ... ”  Read more from Cronkite News here: Investors now can bet on California’s water, helping agriculture withstand dry spells

“Water wars” – fights over a precious resource

Picture the desert landscape of a Mad Max movie populated with vigilantes devoted to acquiring not gasoline — but water.  This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. “Water wars” describes conflicts between countries, states, or groups over the right to access water resources, usually freshwater. Freshwater is necessary for drinking, irrigation, and electricity generation, and conflicts occur when the demand for potable water exceeds the supply, or when allocation or control of water is disputed.  The first known war over water took place between the Sumerian states of Lagash and Umma around 2500 BCE.  … ”  Continue reading at Interesting Engineering here: “Water wars” – fights over a precious resource

Winter weather hampers fresh vegetable markets

The effects of the deadly winter storms that have enveloped the Midwest, South and East echo on the winter-vegetable farms of the Imperial Valley.  “It’s fairly warm out here and cold back there,” said John Hawk, who grows vegetables near Holtville. “Not a good combination.”  Hawk and fellow Holtville-area vegetable farmer Jack Vessey attributed a mid-February market glut to the freezing weather gripping much of the rest of the country.  “The grocery stores aren’t buying lettuce or any kind of leafy greens,” Vessey said, “because they don’t have anywhere to refrigerate it right now”—a reference to last week’s widespread power outages in Texas. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Winter weather hampers fresh vegetable markets

Evidence suggests climate whiplash may have more extremes in store for California

Vanderbilt paleoclimatologists using pioneering research have uncovered evidence of ancient climate “whiplash” in California that exceeded even the extremes the state has weathered in the past decade. Their findings present a long-term picture of what regional climate change may look like in the state that supplies the U.S. with more than a third of its vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. “We hope this is useful to planners who are seeking more information on recurrence intervals of climate events like droughts, storms and floods,” said Jessica Oster, associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences. … ”  Read more from Vanderbilt University here: Evidence suggests climate whiplash may have more extremes in store for California

California’s climate goals likely out of reach

California is unlikely to meet its ambitious climate goals, two reports released Tuesday show.  The first, from California State Auditor Elaine Howle, doesn’t mince words: “The state will fall short of meeting the 2030 goal” of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels “unless emissions reductions occur at a faster pace.” The audit, which found that transportation emissions have actually increased since 2013, rebuked the California Air Resources Board for overstating the impact of its emissions-reduction programs — including rebates that encourage Californians to buy clean vehicles, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: California’s climate goals likely out of reach

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Cresta Aqueduct: Oroville, California:  A picturesque example of brute-force engineering conquering nature.

At first glance, this structure appears to be an enigma. It’s a bridge between two granite monoliths, an above-ground tunnel, and an aqueduct carrying water over a creek. This structure is actually part of an elaborate water system. … ”  Read more at Atlas Obscura here: Cresta Aqueduct: Oroville, California

EPA raises vessel sunken in January to protect Lake Tahoe

Today, weather permitting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will raise a vessel first reported sunk in Lake Tahoe on January 15. EPA, in coordination with the El Dorado County Sheriff, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response is taking action to raise the vessel after a February 15 report indicating the vessel had begun leaking oil.  … ”  Continue reading this press release here: EPA raises vessel sunken in January to protect Lake Tahoe

Tiny bubbles aid new push to kill invasive weeds at Tahoe

Researchers at Lake Tahoe are using tiny bubbles to combat the spread of invasive weeds that rob the alpine lake of its clarity.  Conservationists are partnering with local property owners to expand the use of the so-called “bubble curtains” to halt the spread of non-native plants in the waters straddling the California-Nevada line, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported last week.  Originally used in the Pacific Northwest to protect aquaculture operations and remove floating debris, the technology has proven effective since it was implemented in a channel at the Tahoe Keys on the lake’s south shore in 2018. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Press here: Tiny bubbles aid new push to kill invasive weeds at Tahoe

Healdsburg asking residents to voluntarily conserve water

With much of Northern California swathed in a severe drought, the city of Healdsburg is asking residents to voluntarily conserve water by reducing irrigation and switching to drought resistant plants, fixing leaky faucets and running clothes and dishwashers at full capacity.  As of Jan. 19, precipitation was at 40% of normal rainfall according to Felicia Smith, a utility conservation analyst with the city of Healdsburg.  “We’ve gotten some small rain events and so while we wait for Sonoma Water to release the most updated information, I’m expecting typically rainfall to still be below 50%,” Smith said during a city council presentation on Feb. 16. … ”  Read more from the Healdsburg Tribune here: Healdsburg asking residents to voluntarily conserve water

LNU fire complex scalds some Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument landscapes, spares others, tour reveals

The splash of green on the ashen landscape was unexpected. Marc Hoshovsky, a naturalist retired from a career with California state agencies, was reviewing a satellite photo of areas burned in the LNU Complex fire last fall, hoping to tease out insights into its trajectory across the lands around Lake Berryessa. This landscape, on the southeast flank of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, had burned repeatedly in fires over the past decade. Amid the fire damage revealed in the photo, that green flag, centered on the monument’s Cedar Roughs Wilderness area in eastern Napa County, stood out like a Fresno pepper dropped on a barbecue grill’s burnt charcoal. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: LNU fire complex scalds some Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument landscapes, spares others, tour reveals

State tells Schnitzer to clean up pollution caused by Oakland shredder

State environmental regulators surprised an Oakland metal recycling facility on Tuesday with a 97-page “Enforcement Order for Corrective Action,” directing its owner to prepare a plan to clean up hazardous waste produced in its operations.  The action by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control follows on the heels of a Feb. 2, 2021 settlement agreement among Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., the owner of the facility, the Attorney General of California and the District Attorney of Alameda County. Under the agreement, Schnitzer agreed to pay $4.1 million on account of prior polluting activity at the site. ... ”  Read more from SF Gate here: State tells Schnitzer to clean up pollution caused by Oakland shredder

Santa Cruz County faces potential water rationing

January’s big storm brought some much needed rain to the central coast. But prior to the storm, water supply in Santa Cruz County and surrounding areas was looking rough, sparking a conversation of a possible water rationing mandate.  The last time a significant water ration was implemented in the city was in 2014 and 2015, back when California saw exceptional drought conditions. .. Rosemary Menard, the Director of Water Department for Santa Cruz states it all comes down to what Mother Nature has in store for the future and whether Santa Cruz residents will have to ration come summer. … ”  Read more from KION here:  Santa Cruz County faces potential water rationing

State Ocean Protection Council awards $1.3 million to Elkhorn Slough restoration

The state’s Ocean Protection Council has awarded $1.3 million to preserving and safeguarding estuary habitat at Elkhorn Slough, which boasts the second-largest tidal salt marsh in California.  The wetland, once degraded by farming activities such as diking, is at risk of impacts from climate change — particularly rising sea levels.  “We all know that climate change is going to change a lot, and so we’re doing all we can to make sure that these habitats remain valuable for wildlife and for people too,” Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: State Ocean Protection Council awards $1.3 million to Elkhorn Slough restoration

Tuolumne Utilities District scales back $6.3M Phoenix reservoir dredging project

A $6.3 million project to remove tons of sediment from Phoenix reservoir east of Sonora has been scaled back from removing 235,000 cubic yards of sediment to 175,000 cubic yards, Tuolumne Utilities District communications staff said Thursday.  The reduction means the original goal of restoring 150 acre-feet of capacity at Phoenix is now scaled back to restoring 117 acre-feet of space to the reservoir, which has filled in with sediment over many decades. … ”  Read more from the Union Democrat here:  Tuolumne Utilities District scales back $6.3M Phoenix reservoir dredging project

San Joaquin River flood solution is in 18th year of review

River Islands — secure behind robust 300-foot wide super levees they built to provide 200-year flood protection for the planned community — has taken steps to help reduce flooding threats to farmland south of Manteca as well as its Lathrop neighbors on the north side of the San Joaquin River.  The measures evolve around widening Paradise Cut to take pressure off the main San Joaquin River channel during high water flow between the confluence with the Stanislaus River and the vulnerable Mossdale Crossing where a narrow channel combined with sharp bends makes levees suspectible to seepage and possible failure. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: San Joaquin River flood solution is in 18th year of review

Many in San Gabriel Valley drink “forever chemicals” in tap water

Fluorinated compounds, commonly known as PFAS, have been found in water samples in Monterey Park, Duarte, El Monte, Glendora, Rosemead, and LaVerne, according to the Environmental Working Group. One PFAS compound, known as PFHxA, also has been found routinely in imported water the Metropolitan Water District (“Met”) supplies to Southern California cities, acknowledges Rebecca Kimitch, Met spokesperson.  Pasadena Water & Power monitors water for PFAS, said spokesperson Margie Otto, but so far has found its water is free of the compounds. South Pasadena water monitoring data show its tap water contains PFHxA. Both cities rely on well water, but they also import water from Met. ... ”  Read more from Colorado Blvd. here: Many in San Gabriel Valley drink “forever chemicals” in tap water

Ballona Wetlands are getting a makeover, but opponents don’t want too much ecological change

A restoration project for the long-suffering Ballona Wetlands is moving forward after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife certified the final Environmental Impact Report for the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve last year.  Years of neglect, human impact, and development took a toll on the wetlands for years.  The project aims to remove invasive plants and leftover fill from the development of Marina Del Rey, re-establish a functioning floodplain, and create natural levees for flood protection against sea level rise.  It would also make the area more park-like, adding walking paths and bike trails. … ”  Read more from KCRW here: Ballona Wetlands are getting a makeover, but opponents don’t want too much ecological change

Sewage spill shuts down swimming near Belmont Pier

A sewage spill has prompted officials to close the area west of the Belmont Pier to swimmers.  The spill occurred on Monday, Feb. 22, after about 26,241 gallons of sewage was discharged into the Los Angeles River in the city of Los Angeles. It was caused by construction to maintain a 48-inch sewer main line, according to a news alert sent out by the city of Long Beach.  The area of closed beach access, which continued Tuesday, Feb. 23, spans from Third Place to Belmont Pier, according to the Long Beach water hotline. ... ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram here: Sewage spill shuts down swimming near Belmont Pier

800-pound bulls in Trabuco Canyon help restore environment

Frank Fitzpatrick is excited for a pilot project with the Transportation Corridor Agencies to show the good his cattle can do.  “Everyone hates cows because they’ve been fed a bill of goods that they are harmful,” he said about past damage done from cattle over-grazing on many of Orange County’s rolling hills. “Environmental degradation comes from man-made decisions. It’s not the cow; it’s the how.” … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  800-pound bulls in Trabuco Canyon help restore environment

Salton Sea: Tensions rise over Red Hill Bay in Part III of hearing

Tensions grew in a series of back-and-forth exchanges between attorneys for the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the Imperial Irrigation District regarding the Red Hill Bay project site during a third day of hearings over an air-pollution violation order against the district.  A hearing board met Friday, Feb. 19, for the third part of its hearing to discuss a petition from Air Pollution Control Officer Matt Dessert for an order for abatement against the district for violations of air district rules and regulations. An order for abatement is an enforcement action that requires an owner or operator who is out of compliance to take specific action to get back into compliance with air district rules.  Discussions have centered around exposed Salton Sea lakebed, or playa, at the Red Hill Bay project at the southern end of the sea. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: Tensions rise over Red Hill Bay in Part III of hearing

New River: Imperial County looks at options to force action

Imperial County officials are considering suing the federal government over continued inaction at the polluted New River.  Members of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors during their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23, discussed potentially suing the United States government or sending a strongly worded “demand” letter to federal officials to try to sway them to take action on building a wastewater treatment facility on the border to help clean the filthy waterway. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: New River: Imperial County looks at options to force action

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Next door in Nevada …

Legal brief: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal remands Walker River decree public trust claims for determination of alternative remedies

On January 28, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal (Ninth Circuit) issued a decision addressing issues related to the extent to which the public trust doctrine may be used to safeguard water resources covered under the 1936 Walker River Decree (Decree). The litigation arose from contested water rights in the Walker River Basin, which originates in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and ends at Walker Lake in Mineral County, Nevada. In response to the declining water quality of Walker Lake, Mineral County moved to intervene in ongoing litigation in federal district court over the Decree, which adjudicated rights in the Walker River Basin. Mineral County sought to modify the Decree to ensure minimum flows into Walker Lake under the public trust doctrine. … ”  Continue reading at Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Legal brief: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal remands Walker River decree public trust claims for determination of alternative remedies

Along the Colorado River …

Will the climate crisis tap out the Colorado River?

Southern California farmers spend their winters watching the snowpack in the Colorado Rockies, and what they see is the climate crisis hitting hard. When it melts, the snow that falls on these peaks will, eventually, make its way into the Colorado River, which connects the Southwest like a great tendon, tying the Continental Divide in Colorado to Southern California’s hayfields, where the Imperial Irrigation District is one of the country’s largest, and pouring from the faucets of urban users in Los Angeles and San Diego.  From California’s perspective, the view upriver is not encouraging. … ”  Read more from High Country News here: Will the climate crisis tap out the Colorado River?

Arizona changes ‘use it or lose it’ water law

A change in Arizona water law will let farmers and ranchers conserve water without worrying about losing their rights to it in the future.  Like most western states, Arizona water rights are “use it or lose it,” meaning that if farmers or ranchers don’t use their full amount for a certain number of years they risk forfeiting their rights forever. Kim Mitchell, senior water policy advisor with Western Resource Advocates, said that disincentivizes conservation at a time when we increasingly need more of it. … ”  Read more from Arizona Public Media here:  Arizona changes ‘use it or lose it’ water law

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In national water news today …

Federal priorities for a secure water future in the West

Climate change will continue to impact the West, and particularly its water supply—the many impacts include longer and more damaging wildfire seasons as well as prolonged drought. Federal leadership and action are needed to address the climate crisis. With the 117th Congress now in session, Audubon is advocating at the federal level for funding and policy priorities that restore habitat, protect communities, and support birds through proactive water management and conservation. … ”  Read more from Audubon here: Federal priorities for a secure water future in the West

Southern cities reeling from water shortages: ‘What is happening there should never happen in a first world country’

Forty-plus degrees feels good, but the thaw hasn’t ended the problems faced by cities across the South still reeling from a frozen week.  Water mains are still breaking regularly as temperatures rise, causing the water pressure to disappear. Maintenance crews are bracing for ice-melt flooding.  Airlines canceled flights. Hospitals struggled to stay sanitary. Schools without safe water told teachers not to come. Water treatment plants couldn’t receive chemicals because the roads were too icy for the trucks to get through.  Sub-freezing temperatures beginning Feb. 15 wreaked havoc on water supplies, leaving some southerners without water for the entire week. And many of those people are still waiting. It is no longer freezing, but the problems have not gone away. … ”  Read more from the Gadsen Times here: Southern cities reeling from water shortages: ‘What is happening there should never happen in a first world country’

Texans’ frozen pipes are warnings of yet another climate threat

At first, Amanda Fuller thought she was one of the lucky ones. Then the water stopped running.  As Texas started dipping into single-digit temperatures overnight Sunday, power companies began instituting blackouts across the state, but Fuller’s home just outside Austin stayed warm and bright. On Monday, though, as she was fixing a mid-morning a snack for her two children, ages one and six, the water from the tap suddenly “went to a trickle within a few seconds and was gone,” she said. It turned out the freeze had caused several water mains to break and disrupted power to the city’s primary water treatment plant. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Green here: Texans’ frozen pipes are warnings of yet another climate threat

Native Americans finally have a cabinet nominee. Will an adopted Tlingit take her down?

” … Interior nominations are usually pretty uncontroversial affairs: The past six presidents all had their first choices for the job confirmed with the support of more than two-thirds of the Senate. But this time is gearing up to be different. Republicans have dug in against Haaland over her environmental views. Red-state senators have labeled her a “radical” and called her nomination “alarming,” vowing they’ll try their best to block her from getting the job.  But opposing Haaland could come at a cost. ... ”  Read more from Politico here: Native Americans finally have a cabinet nominee. Will an adopted Tlingit take her down?

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Today’s featured articles …

STATE WATER BOARD: Reviewing the State Water Board’s actions during the 2014-15 drought years

Stakeholders all said they wanted better communication, but data and SB-88 compliance are a problem

In 2014 and 2015 during a period of severe and persistent drought conditions, then-Governor Brown had declared a state of emergency and signed urgency legislation that provided, in part, for the adoption of emergency regulations by the State Water Board “to prevent the waste, unreasonable use, unreasonable method of use, or unreasonable method of diversion, of water,” or “to require curtailment of diversions . . . .” The State Water Board did so adopt emergency regulations and issue curtailment orders, but their methods were soundly criticized and several lawsuits were filed.  Since that time, the State Water Board has embarked on a number of actions to intended to improve the Board’s response to the next drought, which could even be this summer.

At the February 16 meeting of the State Water Board, Erik Ekdahl, Deputy Director of the Division of Water Rights, presented an overview of recent interviews conducted for the Water Rights Drought Effort Review (or WARDER) report.  The report was an effort to solicit feedback and recommendations on the Division of Water Rights actions and efforts during the historic 2012-2016 drought period to inform the Water Board on how to better plan and prepare to implement dry year activities when needed in the future.

Click here to read this article.

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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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