DAILY DIGEST, 3/4: 17 key environmental bills on the 2021 legislative agenda; Snow, rain returning to NorCal; Q&A: “Buzz” Thompson on CA water market; Where to see NorCal’s most spectacular waterfalls; and more …


On the calendar today …

FREE WEBINAR: You Got Your Landscape Area Data from DWR…Now What? (Part 1) from 11am to 12pm.  As California agencies continue to receive their landscape area measurement data from DWR, many face questions about the next steps. Join CalWEP and Eagle Aerial Solutions, the company hired by DWR to perform the landscape area measurement analysis, to walk through their top tips for evaluating your data and the most frequently asked questions. Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: The importance of data at the Water Boards from 12pm to 1pm.  State Water Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel will discuss the importance of data at the Water Boards.  Presented by the State Water Board’s College of Water InformaticsClick here to register.

FREE EVENT: History and Mystery of the Refuge and the Bay from 5pm to 6:30pm.  The Don Edwards Refuge was created in 1972, but this story starts 200 years earlier when Europeans discovered San Francisco Bay. Learn about the Bay’s history and the answers to mysteries such as: Why are mercury and gold a lethal duo? How did silver mining in Nevada affect the bay? Why was Oscar the Grouch happier 60 years ago than today? Join docent Larry Rosenblum to discover the answer to these mysteries and others, then take a virtual tour through one of the marshes of the refuge.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

17 key environmental bills on the 2021 agenda in California’s Legislature

California’s legislative session came to a wild ending in 2020 when the clock ran out on major bills. Key pieces of environmental legislation were among those that died on the floor, and conservationists are hoping 2021 brings a different story. … “This year, I think we’re setting our sights a little higher than 2020 when the standard was essentially survival,” said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But, because of the continued logistical complications in the Legislature due to COVID, it’s still going to be difficult to hold hearings.” … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here:  17 key environmental bills on the 2021 agenda in California’s Legislature

Bills seek to conserve public lands and rivers across California

Based on anecdotal reports from around the U.S., more people have been getting outside to hunt, fish, hike, cycle, boat, and more during the COVID-19 pandemic than in recent memory. But despite this trend, one long-standing and unfortunate aspect of outdoor recreation remains: Not all people have equitable access to trails, parks, rivers, and other public lands and waters. That may change in California because of four bills that would help safeguard mountains, forests, and rivers in the state and improve opportunities for people to experience these resources. … ”  Read more from the Pew Trust here:  Bills seek to conserve public lands and rivers across California

Garcia introduces bill aimed at improving California’s access to water

On Wednesday, Garcia introduced a bill that would enact a seven-year extension for “critical water supply provisions” in the WIIN Act, which became law at the end of 2016.  “These provisions ensure that California has the storage capabilities and operational flexibility necessary to provide Californians the access to water they deserve and need,” Garcia said in a statement Wednesday. “Allowing these provisions to expire would put the state at great risk during future droughts.”  California has experienced below-average precipitation over the past five months, a trend that is expected to continue throughout the year. Officials say that these indicators point to a critically dry year, making Californians’ access to water particularly essential.   “We would like to thank Congressman Garcia for recognizing the importance of investing in the nation’s water infrastructure,” said Matt Stone, general manager of Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency, in a statement Wednesday. ... ”  Read more from SCV News here:  Garcia introduces bill aimed at improving California’s access to water

After days of temperatures in the 70s, Northern California is getting cooler weather and much needed rain

After several days of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, Northern California is set to return to a wet winter pattern. This new colder wet pattern arrives as welcome news for areas experiencing various levels of drought, and lower than average snowpack. Thursday will see the temperatures start to drop to widespread 60s for Sacramento Valley locations. The weather will remain dry but the temperature trend will continue to cool into next week with highs moving into the 50s for several days with cold storms. … ”  Read more from ABC Channel 10 here: After days of temperatures in the 70s, Northern California is getting cooler weather and much needed rain

Historic drought deepens in the West as window for rain, snow closes

The year 2020 is going to be remembered for a lot of things, many of them not so good. Included in the not-so-good list is the drought that has plagued the West, lasting into 2021. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which has published weekly maps since 2000, the 2020 drought is the worst, in terms of its geographical scope, in more than 20 years. Almost 80 percent of the Western U.S. is in drought, with nearly 42 percent of the region in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. Much of the region experienced developing drought in the summer, following a warm and dry spring. Since then, conditions have deteriorated, and the precipitation deficits continue to build. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here: Historic drought deepens in the West as window for rain, snow closes

Editorial: Drought threat should trigger water conservation now

The San Jose Mercury News editorial board writes, “California shouldn’t wait another day to implement water conservation measures to counteract the likelihood of drought this year.  The state Department of Water Resources reported Tuesday that the Sierra Nevada snowpack was just 61% of it historical average for this date.  “Absent a series of strong storms in March or April, we are going to end with a critically dry year on the heels of last year’s dry conditions,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the state DWR. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Editorial: Drought threat should trigger water conservation now

Then and now: A ‘megadrought’ in California

This year is likely to be critically dry for California. Winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across the state are not expected to be substantial enough to counterbalance dry conditions.  Lake Oroville plays a key role in California’s complex water delivery system.  This 65km-square body of water north of Sacramento is the second-largest reservoir in California. It is crucial to the state’s complex water delivery system. … ”  Read more from the BBC here:  Then and now: A ‘megadrought’ in California

Want to save energy and fight climate change? Try using less water

Efficiency is not a newfangled concept, as you probably know if you’ve ever purchased an Energy Star-certified dishwasher or asked about the gas mileage of a car. Across the United States, per-person energy use has fallen since the 1970s even as overall demand has risen, according to the Energy Information Administration. … But there’s plenty more energy to be saved. And as often as I write about the importance of building clean power infrastructure to fight climate change, the cheapest, easiest way to reduce emissions is to use less energy in the first place.  And in Los Angeles, at least, one of the cheapest, easiest ways to use less energy is to use less water. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Want to save energy and fight climate change? Try using less water

California water on the market: Q&A with Barton “Buzz” Thompson

California water has joined gold, energy and bitcoin as a commodity whose future value can be traded on a financial exchange and the first market trades on water futures took place three months ago. The market, based on values determined by NASDAQ’s Veles Water Market Index, was hailed by some as a useful tool so California farmers can reduce the risk of drought-driven escalation in water costs. It was sharply criticized by others, from a United Nations representative to racial justice groups as potentially limiting access to something essential to life.  Buzz Thompson, a Stanford Law School professor and founding director of the Woods Institute for the Environment, now directs the Water in the West program. He founded the law school’s Environment and Natural Resources program and served as a special master for the United States Supreme Court in Montana v. Wyoming, an interstate water dispute involving the Yellowstone River.  Here are his answers to questions about the development of thinking about water’s value and the possible impacts of this market in water futures. … ”  Read more from the & the West blog here:  California water on the market: Q&A with Barton “Buzz” Thompson

Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

For more than a decade, Brad Hanson and other researchers have tailed the Pacific Northwest’s endangered killer whales in a hard-sided inflatable boat, leaning over the edge with a standard pool skimmer to collect clues to their diet: bits of orca poop floating on the water, or fish scales sparkling just below the surface. Their work established years ago that the whales depend heavily on depleted runs of Chinook, the largest and fattiest of Pacific salmon species, when they forage in the summer in the inland waters between Washington state and British Columbia. But a new paper from Hanson and others at the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center provides the first real look at what the whales eat the rest of the year, when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast — data that reaffirms the central importance of Chinook to the whales and the importance of recovering Chinook populations to save the beloved mammals. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here: Study: Chinook salmon are key to northwest orcas all year

Widespread wildfire as a proxy for resource strain

Fire is a natural part of ecosystems in the western United States, but the summer fire season has grown both longer and more intense in recent years. As the size of the area burned across the region has risen year after year, so too has the expense of fire management. Indeed, federal wildfire suppression costs more than tripled between the 1980s and today, from roughly $245 million per year to $1.6 billion.  With the region becoming hotter and drier, the risk of synchronous fire danger overwhelming management resources will continue to grow, according to new research. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Widespread wildfire as a proxy for resource strain 

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …

Fight of the river people: The generational push that brought Berkshire Hathaway to the table and put dam removal back on track

It was a Friday in late August when four jet boats made their way up the Klamath River under a cloudless blue sky. The boats carried three tribal chairs. From the Karuk Tribe, there was Russell “Buster” Attebery, who’d found pride as a boy catching salmon from the river and bringing them home to his family, and later come to believe some tribal youth’s troubles — from suicides to substance use — could be traced back to their never having had that opportunity, growing up alongside a river now choked with algae and diminishing fish populations.  … ”  Continue reading at the Lost Coast Outpost here: Fight of the river people: The generational push that brought Berkshire Hathaway to the table and put dam removal back on track

Cordua Irrigation District joins historic Lower Yuba River Accord

Yuba Water Agency’s board of directors today approved an agreement that adds the Cordua Irrigation District to the historic Lower Yuba River Accord, a model water management agreement that supports endangered salmon and steelhead, ensures water supplies for cities and farms and reduces conflict over water use.  “This new agreement significantly enhances how we manage the region’s surface and groundwater resources by bringing everyone together around the same common rules,” said Scott Matyac, Yuba Water’s water resources manager who worked closely with Cordua to develop the agreement. “We deeply appreciate the willingness of the district’s past and current board members to work together on this important effort.” ... ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: Cordua Irrigation District joins historic Lower Yuba River Accord

California spring flood outlook 2021: Low, but always high in Sacramento

Sacramento is typically ranked first or second in the country for the risk of flooding. The region is surrounded by the Sacramento, American and Cosumnes Rivers. The American and Sacramento Rivers have flood control measures like weirs, bypasses and Folsom Dam. The Cosumnes River is an uncontrolled and natural river running from the Sierra Nevada foothills and flowing into southern Sacramento County.   Much of the flood control system is over a century old. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here:  California spring flood outlook 2021: Low, but always high in Sacramento

Turlock: 34-inch irrigation cap possible if dry spell continues

During what has so far been one of the driest water years on record for the Turlock Irrigation District, the water agency’s directors on Feb. 23 received information on just how much — or how little — irrigation water local farmers could potentially receive this season.   “Sadly, this year is shaping up to be a very dry year as you guys have seen…it is the sixth driest year on record to date, so there is nothing that we can do about that,” said TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her. “So far, Mother Nature has played its card and it is dry so far. Considering that it follows a previously dry year, it makes this workshop very necessary and prudent.” … ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here: Turlock: 34-inch irrigation cap possible if dry spell continues

Water Association offers March 15 webinar on Lake Isabella dam project

For those looking for an update on the Lake Isabella dam project, the Water Association of Kern County will host a webinar on Monday, March 15 at noon with an expert on the project.  The event will feature David C. Serafini, lead engineer for the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project.  He is a registered geotechnical engineer with more than 19 years of experience with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working on military and civilian projects, a Water Association news release said. … ”  Read more from the Kern Valley Sun here:  Water Association offers March 15 webinar on Lake Isabella dam project

Paso Robles: Supervisors discuss water resources and amendments

” …  After closed session, the Board returned to hear the Water Management Amendment 18 to Water Supply Contract between the State of California Department of Water Resources and San Luis Obispo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.  This amendment would give more flexibility to the county in how they want to use any additional water over the allowed holding while still requiring that every use would have to come before the Board to be approved.  Peschong stated his concerns on behalf of his constituents, “We really have gone out of our way not to allow water banking. If I can cut to one thing, this is what I worry about. [The verbiage of the amendment is] not strong enough to let the state know this is not the place they can store water underground.” ... ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Press here: Paso Robles: Supervisors discuss water resources and amendments

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors extends State Water Project Contract through 2085

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve an extension of the county’s state water contract for 50 years, saying it would ultimately save ratepayers money.  “The ability to stretch costs over time is a real benefit,” said Supervisor Gregg Hart, who represents the Goleta Valley and western Santa Barbara.  Eight water agencies in Santa Barbara County, from the Carpinteria Valley to the City of Santa Maria, presently import water through the California Aqueduct. By 2035, their ratepayers will have paid off the $575 million construction debt for the pipeline that county voters approved in 1991 on the heels of a six-year drought. It extends from the aqueduct in Kern County to Lake Cachuma. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  Santa Barbara County extends State Water Project Contract through 2085

SEE ALSOSanta Barbara County Board of Supervisors extends State Water Project Contract through 2085, from Noozhawk

Rain barely registered in Ventura County. Here’s what it means

Ventura County had a misting of rain Wednesday morning, which means rainfall levels continue to be far below average for this time of year.  Most parts of the region received less than one-tenth of an inch of rainfall from Wednesday’s storm. According to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, Conejo Valley received the most rain in the county, with 0.12 inches recorded in Westlake Village, 0.1 inches at Lake Sherwood and 0.09 inches in Thousand Oaks as of 1 p.m.  Ventura, Oxnard, Ojai and Santa Paula all registered less than one-hundredth of an inch. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Rain barely registered in Ventura County. Here’s what it means

Whittaker-Bermite owner files for bankruptcy, working to sell land

Santa Clarita LLC, which owns the undeveloped 900-plus-acre Whittaker-Bermite site, recently filed for voluntary bankruptcy, and is working to sell it to a global industrial real estate company for possible commercial and residential development, officials said Wednesday.  In November, Santa Clarita LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing assets of up to $1 billion and debts ranging from $100 million to $500 million, a move that was designed to sell the property to Prologis Inc. and help Santa Clarita LLC pay its creditors, according to Christopher Bayley, an attorney representing the company. … ”  Read more from The Signal here:  Whittaker-Bermite owner files for bankruptcy, working to sell land

Storm brings L.A. area a little much-needed rain, forecast of snow in the mountains

Many Angelenos opened umbrellas Wednesday morning after thunderstorms brought heavy rain and lightning to the region.  Though L.A. experienced briefly heavy midmorning showers, the storm was expected to be “pretty inconsequential,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.  The weather service said between one-tenth and one-quarter of an inch of rain would fall in most of L.A. through the evening.  By noon, downtown Los Angeles, Culver City and Bel Air got less than 0.15 inches of rain. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Storm brings L.A. area a little much-needed rain, forecast of snow in the mountains

$44.4 million in MWD overcharges being returned to local water agencies

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors in February 2021 announced a plan to distribute a rebate of $44.4 million to its 24 member agencies across the region after receiving a check for that amount from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay legal damages and interest, according to a SDCWA press release.  The money resulted from the Water Authority’s decade-long rate case litigation in state Superior Court seeking to compel MWD to set legal rates and repay overcharges. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review here:  $44.4 million in MWD overcharges being returned to local water agencies

Bill introduced to reduce water pollution at US-Mexico border

A bill aimed at addressing pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border and improving water quality in the Tijuana and New rivers was introduced Wednesday.  The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency coordinating federal, state and local agencies to build and maintain infrastructure projects aimed at reducing pollution along the border. It would also require the EPA and other agencies to identify a list of priority projects and would authorize the EPA to accept and distribute federal, state, and local funds to build, operate and maintain those projects. ... ”  Read more from KPBS here: Bill introduced to reduce water pollution at US-Mexico border

SEE ALSO: Feinstein, Padilla introduce bill to reduce U.S.-Mexico border pollution, improve water quality, from Senator Feinstein’s office

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

New water law helps conservation work for all Arizonans

Governor Ducey recently signed important legislation that updates how Arizona’s longstanding “use it or lose it” water policy is applied. That’s good news for Arizonans, our economy and the environment. Under the new law, HB2056, water right holders such as ranchers and farmers can intentionally and voluntarily leave their water in a stream without fear of losing their water rights through forfeiture or abandonment. While that may sound commonsense, it’s a significant shift in how our state has approached water rights. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Capitol Times here:  New water law helps conservation work for all Arizonans

Stakeholders debate Arizona’s proposed clean water rules

The state of Arizona is writing new clean water rules for streams and rivers, following a rollback of federal protections last year. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, the proposed legislation is supported by business, farm, and mining groups but opposed by environmentalists.  The bill calls for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to publish a list of protected streams and rivers and adopt water quality standards for them. … ”  Read more from KNAU here:  Stakeholders debate Arizona’s proposed clean water rules 

Utah Senate backs new agency to battle neighboring states over Colorado River

The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would establish the so-called Colorado River Authority of Utah, along with a $9 million “legal defense fund,” intended to ensure that the state receives its allotted share of the Colorado’s dwindling flows.  “Our surrounding states have spent the last several years spending millions and millions of dollars to fight against our having our share,” Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said on the Senate floor, offering no evidence to support the assertion. “It’s important to our state to stop running our share of the water down the Colorado River. We need to recapture it. It’s our water. They’re making moves every day to posture in the surrounding states to take our water right away from us.” ... ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here:  Utah Senate backs new agency to battle neighboring states over Colorado River

Return to top

In national water news today …

WATER Act introduced in Congress

A comprehensive water justice bill was introduced in both chambers of Congress to address water access, safety and affordability in the country on Feb. 25.  Also known as the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act, the legislation was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senator Bernie Sanders and to the U.S. House of Representatives by Congress Members Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna, reported Common Dreams Newscenter. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions here: WATER Act introduced in Congress

High court backs secrecy over draft records about harm to endangered species

Endorsing government secrecy in a 7-2 ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court found that the Environmental Protection Agency need not disclose what proved to be the “last word” about how a proposed policy might harm endangered species.  Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the majority ruling this morning in a case that was her first oral argument upon confirmation to the bench last year.  “The deliberative process privilege protects the draft biological opinions from disclosure because they reflect a preliminary view — not a final decision,” Barrett wrote. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News here: High court backs secrecy over draft records about harm to endangered species

How much do humans influence Earth’s water levels?

Water levels in the world’s ponds, lakes and human-managed reservoirs rise and fall from season to season. But until now, it has been difficult to parse out exactly how much of that variation is caused by humans as opposed to natural cycles.  Analysis of new satellite data published March 3 in Nature shows fully 57 percent of the seasonal variability in Earth’s surface water storage now occurs in dammed reservoirs and other water bodies managed by people.  “Humans have a dominant effect on Earth’s water cycle,” said lead author Sarah Cooley, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). … ”  Read more from Standord News here:  How much do humans influence Earth’s water levels?

Return to top

And lastly …

Where to see Northern California’s most spectacular waterfalls

Burney Falls doesn’t cascade—it explodes. Each day, 100 million gallons of spring water bursts from a 129-foot basalt cliff face and spills into a cerulean pool flanked by ponderosa pines. “If you’re there after a storm, you can’t even get close to [the falls],” says Zach O’Brien, founder of the outdoor travel news website Active NorCal. “The spray leaves you soaking wet, even on a sunny day.”  Tucked away from the crowds in northern California’s McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the rip-roaring waterfall is fed by a surface-level creek and reservoirs of water—by-products of the Shasta Cascade region’s seismic history. The waterfall so impressed Teddy Roosevelt that he dubbed it “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” paving the way for it to receive National Natural Landmark status in 1954. … ”  Continue reading from National Geographic here:  Where to see northern California’s most spectacular waterfalls

Return to top

Today’s featured articles …

DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST REPORT: Farm to Fish: Lessons from a Multi-Year Study on Agricultural Floodplain Habitat, plus an update on activities of the Delta Science Program

At the February meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Laurel Larsen discussed a new report on the benefits of floodplain habitats for fish production and updated the Council on the Delta Science Program’s activities.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Combined Well Standards Reposted to DWR Website

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: