DAILY DIGEST, 3/2: Pattern change to bring precip, but drought worries remain; Hertzberg introduces Drought Resilient Communities Act; CA Trash Monitoring Playbook now available; New study identifies mountain snowpack most “at-risk” from climate change; and more …


On the calendar today …

MEETING: The State Water Board meets beginning at 9am.  Agenda items include the Board’s response to COVID-19 and an informational item on proposed notification and response levels for Perfluorobutane Sulfonic Acid (PFBS).  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

PUBLIC WORKSHOP: CDFW Grants: Cutting the Green Tape from 1pm to 5pm.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the restoration community to participate in a workshop focused on restoration granting and permitting under its current Cutting the Green Tape initiative. This workshop will focus on restoration permitting, including an overview of existing and new project-specific permitting options and case studies, led by CDFW permitting specialists.  Agenda and Meeting Details (PDF)

In California water news today …

Pattern change to return rain to Pacific Northwest and California by the weekend

Following a quiet first few days of March, a slow-moving storm is expected to douse the Pacific Northwest coast later this week, eventually reaching portions of California by the weekend.  Residents and visitors will have a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the first days of meteorological spring through the middle of the week as dry weather and near- to slightly above-average temperatures will dominate, thanks to a broad area of high pressure overhead. … ”  Read more from Accu-Weather here: Pattern change to return rain to Pacific Northwest and California by the weekend

State water officials to take 3rd Sierra snowpack measurement of season

The third snowpack measurement of the season will be taken Tuesday in the Sierra by state water officials.  California keeps track of how much snow is on the ground and how much water is in that snow and uses that information to decide who gets water from the state’s dams and canals for the rest of the year.  Last month’s snowpack survey showed that it’s at 93% of normal levels. … ”  Read more from KTVU here: State water officials to take 3rd Sierra snowpack measurement of season

California’s wet season nears an end with big concerns about drought

A disappointingly dry February is reinforcing fears of another severe drought in California, and cities and farms are bracing for worsening conditions. In many places, including parts of the Bay Area, water users are already being asked to cut back.  The state’s monthly snow survey on Tuesday will show only about 60% of average snowpack for this point in the year, the latest indication that water supplies are tightening. With the end of the stormy season approaching, forecasters don’t expect much more build-up of snow, a key component of the statewide supply that provides up to a third of all of California’s water. … ”  Read more the San Francisco Chronicle here:  California’s wet season nears an end with big concerns about drought

‘It’s just not enough’ says Senator Caballero about 5% water allocation to SJV farmers

Agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta were allocated 5% of their contract supply by the Bureau of Reclamation. Central Valley lawmakers think the state needs to do better.  “It’s not enough. It’s just not enough,” says state Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas. “We know we need more.”  The Westlands Water District responded to the Bureau of Reclamation’s announcement last week.  “A 5% allocation, although better than zero, will result in a human and economic disaster for families on the westside of the Valley and could result in major strains for the nation’s food supply,” said General Manager Tom Birmingham in a statement. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: ‘It’s just not enough’ says Senator Caballero about 5% water allocation to SJV farmers

SEE ALSO: Getting Through a Low Water Allocation Season. from Ag Net West

SoCal grandmother owes $17,000 in water bills

A tsunami of love is what anyone walking into 67-year-old Deborah Bell-Holt’s Jefferson Park home can expect.  “This is a place where you can come and just talk, if you’re hungry you can come and be fed,” said Holt.  That’s why when the pandemic hit, she welcomed back with open arms eight of her children and grandchildren. All of a sudden, her household grew from four to 12. … But those extra family members added another wrinkle to Holt’s already complicated situation with water affordability. At the beginning of the pandemic Holt owed $8,000 to LADWP, now her debt is over $17,000. ... ”  Read more from Spectrum 1 here: SoCal grandmother owes $17,000 in water bills

Majority leader Hertzberg introduces New Drought Resilient Communities Act

Today, Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) introduced new legislation to drastically improve drought preparedness for small and rural communities throughout California.  SB 552 protects vulnerable communities from extended periods of water shortages by making changes to local drought and water shortage contingency plans, and by enhancing coordination between local and state governments, small water suppliers, and rural communities. Once in place, these tools will build a drought preparedness framework for small and rural communities and will help ensure water security for all Californians.  “Access to water is a fundamental human right,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys). “Every Californian should be able turn on their tap and expect clean water to flow – it is unacceptable this was not the case for thousands of Californians during the last drought. We must remain vigilant in protecting this core right and I am proud to continue this effort with SB 552 to improve drought resiliency in our most vulnerable communities.” … ”  Read more from Senator Hertzberg’s office here:  Majority leader Hertzberg introduces New Drought Resilient Communities Act

Judge finds that Water Boards have authority to regulate discharges of dredge and fill material as waste under Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act

On February 18, 2021, the First Appellate District issued an opinion in Sweeney et al. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Bd., San Francisco Bay Region et al. (Case No. A153583) (“Sweeney”).  The opinion is much anticipated given its relevance to the continued validity of the State Water Resources Control Board’s recently adopted State Procedures for Discharges of Dredged and Fill Material (“Procedures”).  The Appellate Court reversed the lower court in the entirety, substantially deferring to the actions and prosecutorial discretion of the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (“Regional Water Board”, collectively, “Water Boards”) based on application of a revised standard of review.  Importantly, according to the court, the appropriate interpretation of the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act’s (“Porter-Cologne Act”) definition of waste provides the Water Boards adequate authority to regulate discharges of dredge and fill material, bolstering the Water Boards’ efforts to continue with implementation and enforcement of the Procedures, which were recently called into question and narrowed by the trial court order issued in San Joaquin Tributaries Authority v.  State Water Resources Control Bd. (Case No. 34-2019-80003133) (“SJTA”). … ”  Continue reading from Downey Brand here: Judge finds that Water Boards have authority to regulate discharges of dredge and fill material as waste under Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act

Video: Improving the Health of California’s Freshwater Ecosystems

California’s rivers, wetlands, and other freshwater ecosystems are in poor health. Water management practices, pollution, habitat change, invasive species, and a changing climate have all taken a toll, leaving many native species in dire straits. And the current approach for managing freshwater ecosystems is not working.  In this video Jeff Mount, senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center, discusses the many benefits these ecosystems bring to California, and outlines a path for improving their condition to secure these benefits for future generations.  “Healthy freshwater ecosystems improve water supply and water quality, reduce flood risk, support fisheries and recreation, and reduce conflicts over water,” Mount says. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Video: Improving the Health of California’s Freshwater Ecosystems

Updated freshwater sportfishing regulations

New freshwater sport fishing regulations which take effect on March 1, 2021, aim to simplify and streamline the laws regulating inland fishing while maintaining and protecting California’s fisheries. The package of updated regulations was adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission in October 2020. It was the largest regulatory inland sport fishing package in the Commission’s history.  “The underlying goals were to reduce the complexity of inland sport fishing regulations, increase regulatory consistency and remove regulations that are no longer biologically justifiable,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Inland Fisheries Program Manager Roger Bloom. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife here:  Updated freshwater sportfishing regulations

California Trash Monitoring Playbook now available

With the Ocean Protection Council-funded trash monitoring project concluded, the project team is eager to deliver its results to you. The team has compiled its data, composed its reports, and is now ready to share with you two reports, intended for use by trash-monitoring practitioners and the diverse constellation of stakeholders who benefit from trash-monitoring efforts. … This trash monitoring methods project offers guidance on the certainty, precision, and interoperability of results for four monitoring methods. After all, as we look at the “big picture” of trash in California’s creeks, streams, and wetlands, variability in monitoring methods makes it very challenging to report, with any certainty, the amounts of trash and whether conditions are getting better or worse. With your cooperation, this outlook now might improve. … ”  Read more from San Francisco Estuary Institute here: California Trash Monitoring Playbook now available

New study identifies mountain snowpack most “at-risk” from climate change

As the planet warms, scientists expect that mountain snowpack should melt progressively earlier in the year. However, observations in the U.S. show that as temperatures have risen, snowpack melt is relatively unaffected in some regions while others can experience snowpack melt a month earlier in the year.  This discrepancy in the timing of snowpack disappearance—the date in the spring when all the winter snow has melted—is the focus of new research by CPO-funded scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.  In a new study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, Scripps Oceanography climate scientists Amato Evan and Ian Eisenman identify regional variations in snowpack melt as temperatures increase, and they present a theory that explains which mountain snowpacks worldwide are most “at-risk” from climate change. The study was funded by NOAA’s Climate Program Office (CPO) Climate Observations and Monitoring (COM) program. ... ”  Read more from the Climate Program Office here: New study identifies mountain snowpack most “at-risk” from climate change

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development

Latham & Watkins is pleased to present its fourth annual CEQA Case Report. Throughout 2020 Latham lawyers reviewed each of the 34 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appellate cases, whether published or unpublished. Below is a compilation of the information distilled from that annual review and a discussion of the patterns that emerged. … In 2020, the California Courts of Appeal issued 34 opinions that substantially considered CEQA. Additionally, the California Supreme Court issued one opinion, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal issued one opinion. Significantly, in Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus, the California Supreme Court held that Stanislaus County could not categorically classify the issuance of all well construction permits as “ministerial. … ”  To read this report by Latham & Watkins, go here:  CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development

In commentary today …

As another dry year looms in California, key steps will make a resilient water future, say Representatives Jim Costa and John Garamendi

They write, “On issues ranging from climate policy to immigration and health care, the past four years have been full of discord between California and Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, water users throughout California have not escaped the conflict, including in the Central Valley, where our communities have suffered as a result. Now, with drought conditions returning and the impacts of climate change intensifying, it is time to advance a solution for statewide water policy that will transition us from an era of conflict to one of collaboration. … Now, with a new federal administration in place, state and federal policymakers must come together to complete negotiations, end the cycle of policy-making by litigation, and enact voluntary agreements that are rooted in data, the best-available science, and a shared desire to actually get something done for all Californians. ... ”  Read the full commentary at the Sacramento Bee here: Commentary: As another dry year looms in California, key steps will make a resilient water future

Cap and trade, offsets at a crossroads in California’s climate policy, says Kathleen McAfee, professor of international relations at San Francisco State University

She writes, “Should oil refineries in California be allowed to emit extra greenhouse gases if they “offset” their effects by paying hog farmers in Iowa to reduce methane from animal waste? Or by paying landowners to promise to take better care of their trees? In other words, should offset trading based on projects like these remain part of our state’s climate policy?  This is a big question facing the California Air Resources Board at a hearing this week and over the coming year as they revise the rules of the state’s climate law, AB 32 / AB 398.  Under that law’s cap-and-trade section, any California company that purchases approved offsets may emit more planet-heating gasses than would otherwise be allowed. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Cap and trade, offsets at a crossroads in California’s climate policy

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

224-acre logging plan above Russian River near Guerneville awaiting approval

A plan to log 224 acres of steep land above the Russian River, on the outskirts of Guerneville and Monte Rio, is expected to win approval in the coming days despite heavy opposition from residents and activists alarmed by the project’s proximity to rural communities and the natural landscape that draws tourists there.  Representatives for the Roger Burch family, which owns the property and the Redwood Empire Sawmill in Cloverdale — where logs from the Silver Estates timber harvest would be milled — said the forest is overstocked and badly in need of thinning to promote the growth of larger trees and reduce excess fuels. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: 224-acre logging plan above Russian River near Guerneville awaiting approval

Commentary: Tahoe Keys Weeds

Tobi Tyler, Vice Chair Tahoe Area Group, Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter writes, “The Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association (TKPOA) has applied to the Lahontan Water Board (LWB) and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (permitting agencies) for a permit to use aquatic herbicides for the very first time in Lake Tahoe’s waters. There have been many claims made about the need for this proposed one-time use of herbicides in the Tahoe Keys lagoon waters to treat the out-of-control invasive aquatic weeds there, which have been spreading to other parts of the Lake threatening the health of the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada and national treasure that is Lake Tahoe. However, few if any answers have been provided. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Nevada Ally here: Tahoe Keys Weeds

San Francisco Bay: EPA deals setback to Cargill over Redwood City property

The Biden administration has sided with environmentalists in their long-running battle with Cargill Salt over whether an expansive property on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay in Redwood City can be developed.  In the latest chapter of a saga that has played out for 12 years with potentially billions of dollars at stake, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday dropped the Trump administration’s appeal of a federal court ruling from last October that concluded the property, located east of Highway 101 near the Port of Redwood City, is subject to the federal Clean Water Act. … ”  Read more from the East Bay Times here: San Francisco Bay: EPA deals setback to Cargill over Redwood City property

South San Joaquin Irrigation District worried drought may be on the way

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District season is starting March 10 although board members added an asterisk to that decision.  Restrictions on water allocation as the irrigation season unfolds loom as a possibility especially if March ends up being mostly dry.   The board last week was guided by the conservative outlook the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted for its California and Nevada River Forecast that includes the Stanislaus River watershed that the SSJID relies on to make deliveries to farmers irrigating 52,000 acres around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon as well as deliver drinking water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy. ... ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: South San Joaquin Irrigation District worried drought may be on the way

After the Creek Fire: Why a big rain could be bad for Fresno-area drinking water

That it hasn’t rained much this year isn’t all bad news, especially in the aftermath of the Creek Fire that burned nearly 40% of the San Joaquin River watershed. Most importantly, mountain communities devastated by the Creek Fire have not faced the secondary disaster that can be brought by weather, like in Santa Barbara County when heavy rain in the burn scar of the Thomas Fire led to deadly and destructive mudslides. Some areas near Big Creek and North Fork are at risk of hazardous, post-fire debris flows. There is another benefit of the dry year. A big rainstorm could make tap water undrinkable for thousands of people in Fresno County, where public water systems aren’t equipped to filter large amounts of sediment that could come from debris flows. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: After the Creek Fire: Why a big rain could be bad for Fresno-area drinking water

Santa Barbara County considering CCWA request to sell unneeded state water supplies

It’s not long ago that Lake Cachuma, the main water source on the South Coast, was in danger of going dry in a seven-year drought.  Water agencies from Carpinteria to Goleta spent millions of dollars scrambling to buy surplus state aqueduct water from around the state to avert a local shortage. They did so not only because their groundwater levels were plunging and Cachuma was failing, but because their yearly allocations from the aqueduct had dropped to zero.  Yet on Tuesday, the water managers serving Santa Maria, Buellton, Guadalupe, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito and the Santa Ynez and Carpinteria valleys will ask the county Board of Supervisors to grant them the right to sell their state water allocations outside the county – not permanently, but potentially for years at a stretch. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Santa Barbara County considering CCWA request to sell unneeded state water supplies

Landslides after wildfires in Southern California will become more common, new study says

Post-wildfire landslides are now likely to happen every year in Southern California and the region can expect major landslides every 10 to 13 years, according to a new study.  With climate change making rainfall more intense, major landslides — capable of damaging 40 or more structures — could occur even more frequently, said the study published in Earth’s Future, the journal of the American Geophysical Union. … ”  Read more from The Weather Channel here: Landslides after wildfires in Southern California will become more common, new study says

The canary in the coal mine: Southern steelhead endangered species status

“In the 10,000-year history of the southern steelhead trout, Aug. 11, 1997, was particularly noteworthy. On this day, the fish was listed as an endangered species by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).”  Steve Hymon thus framed his LA Times interview with CalTrout Executive Director Jim Edmondson in 1998. Answering the question of why people should care, Edmondson described steelhead as among the “most cost-beneficial and biologically important indicator species of the health of that watershed. They are the canary in the coal mine. Anything that happens in that watershed, ultimately gets in the creek. The steelhead needs to live in the creek, the lagoon and the ocean to fulfill its life cycle. It’s hard to imagine another species that provides that kind of barometer.” ... ”  Read more from Cal Trout here:  The canary in the coal mine: Southern steelhead endangered species status

San Diego’s last native freshwater turtle is in hot water. Here’s what you can do.

The southern western pond turtle, San Diego’s only native freshwater turtle, is becoming rarer and rarer in coastal Southern California.  These pond turtles are competing against other recently introduced animals such as bullfrogs and largemouth bass, and especially released pets such as other turtles.  Do NOT release pet turtles, or any other type of pet, into the wild as they often eat the smaller southern western pond turtle’s natural food and even their hatchlings, said Ms. Mallory Lindsay of Ms. Mallory Adventures. … ”  Read more from KUSI here:  San Diego’s last native freshwater turtle is in hot water. Here’s what you can do.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Study: Arizona using less water than it did 50 years ago, but continued growth threatens supply

It has long been reported that Arizona’s water supplies are shrinking. A year-end environmental impact study quantifies the ongoing crisis, showing how Arizona residents feel about the shortage and the difficult allocation choices that lay ahead.  Arizona is consuming less water today than it was 50 years ago, despite the massive population growth over the past four decades.  Water scarcity is increasing. So is demand for water in the state. But overall water use has actually dropped. Part of that is efficiency and technology, according to environmental scientist and natural resources planner, Leon Kolankiewicz. … ”  Read more from KJZZ here: Study: Arizona using less water than it did 50 years ago, but continued growth threatens supply

Return to top

In national water news today …

Climate-proofing water systems needs billions, advocates say

Municipal utilities and clean water organizations are calling on Congress to expand the EPA’s water infrastructure programs to help them climate change-proof drinking water and wastewater systems following last week’s deep freeze in Texas.  Before the storm, the EPA estimated that maintaining and improving the nation’s wastewater and drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years will cost about $750 billion. Water infrastructure advocacy organizations say the deep freeze shows the importance of spending more federal money on preparing vulnerable water works for climate extremes. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Climate-proofing water systems needs billions, advocates say

11 facts about salt marshes and why we need to protect them

Between land and sea lie the ecological guardians of the coast—salt marshes.  Their grassy and sinuous channels fill and drain with saltwater as the tides ebb and flow, providing food, shelter, and nursery grounds for birds, fish, and other wildlife, ranging from dolphins and otters to snails and turtles.  Healthy salt marshes cleanse the water by filtering runoff, and help other ecosystems, including oyster reefs and seagrass beds, thrive. And conserving salt marsh helps people, too. Marshes can reduce erosion, stabilize shorelines, protect against storm surge, and support species that are crucial to recreational and commercial fishing, hunting, birding, and other activities. … ”  Read more from the Pew Charitable Trust here: 11 facts about salt marshes and why we need to protect them 

Attorney General Becerra challenges weakening of crucial requirements that protect public from lead in drinking water

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a lawsuit challenging a Trump-era rule revising nationwide standards for controlling and remediating lead in drinking water. While the final rule includes certain necessary updates to the existing standard, these changes are overshadowed by the unlawful weakening of critical requirements and the rule’s failure to protect the public from lead in drinking water to the maximum extent feasible, as required by law. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) update to the Lead and Copper Rule is arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act’s prohibition on the weakening of existing drinking water standards. ... ”  Read more from Attorney General Becerra here:  Attorney General Becerra Challenges Weakening of Crucial Requirements that Protect Public from Lead in Drinking Water

Environmental settlement tool’s reboot leaves target on its back

A popular tool brought back by the Biden administration is expected to fuel future legal challenges for the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency in their shared enforcement of anti-pollution laws.  Supplemental environmental projects, or SEPs, are theoretically back on the negotiating table after the acting head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division last month tossed a stack of 2020 memos that narrowed options for resolving cases.  But government lawyers have reported internal hesitance about using SEPs, and at least one conservative legal group already has them in its crosshairs. Many attorneys think such challenges would be doomed to fail but acknowledge that by sidelining SEPs, the Trump administration complicated the use of what had become a settled practice. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here: Environmental settlement tool’s reboot leaves target on its back

Return to top

Today’s featured articles …

MET BAY-DELTA COMMITTEE: Update on the voluntary agreements, Delta Conveyance Project

Click here to read this article.


BLOG ROUND-UP: CVP and SWP plan to drain CA’s largest reservoirs; Zombie Tunnel Project back to life; CA’s new futures market for water; and more …

Click here to read this article.

 

Return to top

 

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.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
%d bloggers like this: