DAILY DIGEST, 3/9: Storm on the way, but drought persists; Operating dams to better manage big storms can build resiliency; Incorporating blue carbon science into climate policy solutions; Trump’s water rule now enforced nationally; and more …


On the calendar today …

PUBLIC MEETING: Habitat Projects that Benefit Threatened Fish in the Russian River Watershed from 2pm to 4pm.  The Public Policy Facilitating Committee (PPFC) will host its annual meeting to receive reports and presentations on various projects designed to help restore endangered and threatened fish to the Russian River watershed, while maintaining the region’s primary water supply. The meeting will take place via Zoom from 2 to 4 p.m. To register for the meeting and receive log-in directions, visit www.sonomawater.org/ppfc2021.

In California water news today …

Storm expected to bring more rain & snow this week, but drought persists

A storm coming into the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada Tuesday afternoon is unlikely to keep the state out of a drought, according to the National Weather Service.  The good news? This storm system is coming in from the Gulf of Alaska and likely to be cold enough to produce a measurable amount of snow.  NWS Hanford Meteorologist Jerald Meadows is tracking this week’s storm.  “We’ve got a pretty cold storm moving out of the Gulf of Alaska over the next 24 to 36 hours,” Meadows said. “Looks like rainfall totals for the Valley area are right around a half inch, give or take.” ... ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Storm expected to bring more rain & snow this week, but drought persists

SEE ALSO:

Operating dams to better manage big storms can build resiliency to climate extremes

California’s large reservoirs are currently operated using historical hydrology and outdated assumptions about the state’s climate. Many experts are calling for changing how reservoirs are managed to reflect advances in weather forecasting, which can help the state adapt to a warmer, more volatile climate. We talked to Martin Ralph—director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography—about advances in this field.  PPIC: How can weather forecasting help inform reservoir operations?  MARTIN RALPH: California has the most variable climate in the country. Drought and flood years can come back-to-back. And it’s getting more extreme: wet periods are expected to get wetter and dry ones drier. We have to prepare for these changes and figure out how to use the state’s amazing water system to our advantage. This system was developed for an already variable climate, but it has its limits. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  Operating dams to better manage big storms can build resiliency to climate extremes

Diagnosing water market barriers

Much like real estate, water – or rather the right to use water – can be bought and sold in western states. Starting in the 19th century, water rights across the West were set on a first come, first served basis, where the first water user that diverted a river, stream or aquifer for certain uses held a right to use that water. It is estimated that by 2030, the entire water supply will be legally claimed in most western U.S. watersheds, with little to no water left for new users. At the same time, factors such as population growth, urbanization, industrial development and climate-induced drought have stressed water supplies across the western states.  … ”  Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Diagnosing water market barriers

Should water be treated as a commodity?

In times of drought, California’s Central Valley is full of farmers hindered by the lack of water. And this region, where the bulk of the nation’s fruits and vegetables are cultivated, is driving up the demand for water.  Although many farmers without easy access to water often buy and pump it in from their neighbors, droughts often fuel massive price increases. And this often makes water so cost-prohibitive that it can discourage farmers from even planting crops.  This predicament led a firm to recently list water as the newest commodity on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Now, water futures are traded daily. This helps farmers lock in a price for water, so they have a cushion if a drought threatens their crop revenues.  Experts at the University of Miami who study water and sustainable business practices weighed in on the advantages and pitfalls of hedging water prices this way. ... ”  Read more from the University of Miami here: Should water be treated as a commodity?

Low-level thinning can help restore redwood forests without affecting stream temperatures

Selectively cutting trees in riparian zones to aid forest restoration can be done without adversely affecting streams’ water temperature as long as the thinning isn’t too intensive, new research by Oregon State University shows.  Published in PLOS One, the study led by OSU College of Agricultural Sciences graduate student David Roon is one of the few to quantify restorative thinning’s effects on forest streams.  “We don’t know much about what happens with the more subtle changes in shade and light that come with thinning,” Roon said. “Most of the research so far has looked at the effects of clearcutting with no stream-side buffer at all, or harvests outside of an untouched buffer area. And regulatory requirements tend to look at single descriptors of stream temperature – the warmest it gets in the middle of summer, for example – and those descriptors possibly don’t do a thorough job of explaining thermal influences on ecological processes.” … ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here: Low-level thinning can help restore redwood forests without affecting stream temperatures

Invasive mussels in aquarium supplies alarm wildlife managers

Capt. Eric Anderson of the Washington State Department of Fish and  Wildlife was driving down Highway 101 at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when the computer terminal in his car blinked on. His Montana counterpart, Tom Wolfe, had forwarded him an email with an innocuous automated report from the U.S. Geographic Survey about the detection of a zebra mussel in Washington state.  “All of a sudden, my phone line started going off,” he said Thursday at noon. Anderson, who runs Fish and Wildlife’s 10-person Aquatic Invasive Species Unit, says his life has been “chaos” since then. … ”  Read more from High Country News here: Invasive mussels in aquarium supplies alarm wildlife managers

Road trip through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for river towns, history, food and more

Today’s road trip features the Delta “super highway” of the 1800s, with plenty of water, quaint river towns, history and food along the way. From Stockton, you’ll travel a little more than 100 miles, so plan for a fun day-long outing.  You’ll see every type of agriculture, levees built by Chinese labor after the early railroads were constructed, and boats and cargo ships travelling the same sloughs as did old steamboats and sailing packets. Back then, coal was mined in the coastal range just north of Mt. Diablo (Black Diamond Mines Regional Park features the old mining district), shipped by a short rail line to Pittsburg, then on to Stockton and San Francisco by ship, to power both steamboats and heat homes. ... ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Road trip through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for river towns, history, food and more

Court of Appeal upholds Water Boards’ analysis of economic considerations regarding Los Angeles County MS4 permit

A regional water board is not required to estimate the compliance costs for individual permittees before issuing a permit. City of Duarte v. State Water Resources Control Board, 60 Cal. App. 5th 258 (2021).  The case involved the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued to 86 municipal entities in Los Angeles County that operate municipal separate storm sewer systems (commonly referred to as MS4s). The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the permit in November 2012, and the State Water Resources Control Board upheld the permit with modifications in June 2015. The permit included numeric effluent limitations rather than effluent limitations based on best management practices. … ”  Read more from the California Land Use & Development Law Report here: Court of Appeal upholds Water Boards’ analysis of economic considerations regarding Los Angeles County MS4 permit

Will California remain leader in U.S. agricultural production?

“”California Agriculture: Dimensions and Issues” by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics details the past, present and future of many of California’s major agricultural commodities, including grapes, tree fruits and nuts, vegetable crops, dairy, livestock, nursery and floral production, and cannabis. The new 18-chapter book, written by agricultural economists at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, addresses issues such as labor, water, climate and trade that affect all of California agriculture. ... ”  Read more from HortiDaily here: Will California remain leader in U.S. agricultural production?

Commentary:  Those in agriculture are silent partners with Mother Nature

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management and board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau writes, “My grandfather used to say that the weather will begin to warm up around the 22nd of February. For the most part I think he was right. Certainly, the last week of February this year brought warm days into the mid 70s.  Fruit trees are blossoming all around town, showing off their white and pink flowers, reminding us that springtime is around the corner. You have probably noticed that I talk about the weather quite often in my columns. Those of us involved in agriculture are sort of silent partners with Mother Nature and her control over the weather. It is really a testament to the resiliency of farmers and ranchers as we deal with the variables of hot and cold temperatures, droughts, floods, winds, and timing. ... ”  Read more from the Lompoc Record here: Commentary:  Those in agriculture are silent partners with Mother Nature

Blue Carbon California: Incorporating blue carbon science into climate policy solutions

California is home to a diversity of coastal ecosystems like tidal marshes, seagrass beds, and estuaries. These ecosystems provide flood and storm protection, healthy habitats for fish and birds, and recreational spaces. They may also play an important role in addressing climate change.  A new COS and Natural Capital Project study in Global Environmental Change investigates the carbon sequestration potential of habitats along the California coast and details pathways incorporating carbon-capturing habitats into climate change policy. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here: Blue Carbon California: Incorporating blue carbon science into climate policy solutions

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New publications …

Publication: WHO Toxic cyanobacteria in water: A guide to their public health consequences, monitoring and management

Cyanobacterial toxins are among the most hazardous substances, widely found in waterbodies. They occur naturally, but human activity influences the extent to which toxic cyanobacteria proliferate. Therefore, management of lakes, reservoirs and rivers to prevent cyanobacterial blooms is critical to protect human health.  This second edition presents the current state of knowledge on the occurrence of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins, as well as their impacts on health through water-related exposure pathways, chiefly drinking-water and recreational activity. It provides technical background information to support hazard identification and the assessment, prioritisation and management of the risks posed by cyanobacteria and their toxins at each step of the water-use system. It also includes practical considerations for developing management strategies, and designing monitoring programmes for cyanobacteria management. … ”  Read more and download publication here:  Toxic cyanobacteria in water: A guide to their public health consequences, monitoring and management

Guide: Benefit accounting of nature-based solutions for watersheds

Nature-based solutions use or mimic natural processes to meet societal and environmental needs. They can be used to restore, manage, or protect water resources while also increasing biodiversity and providing additional social and economic benefits.  Yet there is no standardized method to identify, estimate, and monitor the benefits that nature-based solutions can provide, making it hard to build the case for investments in these solutions. This guide builds on the Benefit Accounting of Nature-Based Solutions for Watersheds Landscape Assessment [hyperlink], which highlights the barriers for businesses to implement nature-based solutions on a large scale. The guide outlines which specific nature-based solutions can be implemented in various habitats, and suggests methods for measuring the benefits. … ”  Read more and download publication here: Guide: Benefit accounting of nature-based solutions for watersheds

In regional water news and commentary today …

Nevada Irrigation District survey: snowpack at 79% of average; reservoir levels at 84%

Despite mild weather in February, snowpack remains decent on the snow courses that provide water to Nevada Irrigation District (NID) customers.  During measurements taken Feb. 24 through 26, NID surveyors found the average water content in the Sierra snowpack was 22.2 inches, which is 79% of the normal average of 28 inches for this time of year. The survey was taken at the District’s five high-elevation snow courses.  NID’s nine major reservoirs are currently storing 176,970 acre-feet of water, which is 65 % of capacity and 84% of average for this date (an acre-foot is one acre covered one foot deep). ... ”  Read more from The Union here: Nevada Irrigation District survey: snowpack at 79% of average; reservoir levels at 84%

Owner of Solano County island must restore wetlands, pay $1.8M fine for illegal levee repairs

A man accused of illegally repairing a levee and damaging sensitive aquatic habitat in the Suisun Marsh is facing a $2.8 million fine following a California appeals court decision last month.  John Sweeney, who ran a kiteboarding club on Point Buckler Island in Solano County after buying it in 2011, must also abide by a cleanup and abatement order that requires him to restore the marshlands and tidal channels damaged during the levee work. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Owner of Solano County island must restore wetlands, pay $1.8M fine for illegal levee repairs

SEE ALSO: Point Buckler Island owner faces $2.8 million fine for illegal levee repair, from SF Bay

San Jose: New program addresses homelessness, trash in Guadalupe River Park

A new effort is underway to clean up debris-strewn Guadalupe River Park, while also helping the large numbers of people living there in tents and makeshift shacks.  The two-year pilot program, announced Monday, involves three local nonprofits working together. Downtown Streets Team, San Jose Conservation Corps + Charter School and the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy will send teams to the park on alternate days to pick up trash, maintain the landscaping and trails, and reach out to the park’s homeless residents. The collaboration is funded by a $90,000 grant from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: San Jose: New program addresses homelessness, trash in Guadalupe River Park

Monterey Bay: Sea otters maintain remnants of healthy kelp forest amid sea urchin barrens

Sea otters have long been recognized as a classic example of a keystone species, a dominant predator that maintains the balance of kelp forest ecosystems by controlling populations of sea urchins, which are voracious kelp grazers.  Since 2014, however, California’s kelp forests have declined dramatically, and vast areas of the coast where kelp once thrived are now “urchin barrens,” the seafloor carpeted with purple sea urchins and little else. This has occurred even in Monterey Bay, which hosts a large population of sea otters. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Cruz here: Sea otters maintain remnants of healthy kelp forest amid sea urchin barrens

Kern County: Oil drillers win OK for 40,500 new wells, but major farmer vows to sue

Kern County supervisors on Monday night, over the objections of farmers and environmentalists, gave upfront, blanket environmental approval for 40,500 new oil and gas wells in the county via a single, supplemental environmental impact report and a related ordinance.  The vote allows oil producers to streamline normally lengthy reviews necessary to gauge the impact of each new project on a laundry list of issues including air quality, drinking water and wildlife.  … After listening to more than 250 comments, many phoned in by opponents outside of Kern County, the supervisors, who ultimately gave the plan the go ahead in a 5-0 vote, dismissed objections as “ridiculous” and “patronizing” in some cases. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun here: Kern County: Oil drillers win OK for 40,500 new wells, but major farmer vows to sue

SEE ALSO:

San Diego County Water Authority plan shows sufficient supplies through 2045

The San Diego County Water Authority’s draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan was released for public review today. The plan highlights how regional investments in a “water portfolio approach” to supply management and a sustained emphasis on water-use efficiency mean that San Diego County will continue to have sufficient water supplies through the 2045 planning horizon — even during multiple dry years.  A 60-day public comment period on the draft plan ends May 6 and will include a public hearing on March 25. The Board of Directors is expected to consider adoption of the final plan during its regular meeting on May 27. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: Water authority plan shows sufficient supplies through 2045 

Bill introduced to address water pollution at U.S.-Mexico border

A coalition of San Diego County elected representatives introduced a bill on Monday to address water pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency coordinating federal, state and local agencies’ efforts to build and maintain infrastructure projects aimed at reducing pollution along the border. ... ”  Read more from NBC 7 here: Bill introduced to address water pollution at U.S.-Mexico border 

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In national water news today …

Trump’s water rule now enforced nationally

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the Colorado injunction of the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, siding with a coalition of trade groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Pork Producers Council.  The Court ruled that Colorado failed to show irreparable injury on the record before the Court. Due to this ruling, NWPR is now effective law in Colorado and all 50 states are now must abide by the water definitions laid out with the Trump rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. rule. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Trump’s water rule now enforced nationally

NASA data power new USDA soil moisture portal

Farmers, researchers, meteorologists, and others now have access to high-resolution NASA data on soil moisture, thanks to a new tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), NASA and George Mason University.  The app, Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA), provides access to high-resolution data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument in an easy-to-use format. Soil moisture data are critical for professionals in the agriculture and natural resources sectors who use soil moisture in tandem with other data to plan crop planting, forecast yields, track droughts or floods, and improve weather forecasts.  … ”  Read more from NASA here: NASA data power new USDA soil moisture portal

Invasive mussels are pooping so much phosphorous it’s choking the Great Lakes and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage a year

Environmentalists have been fighting the good fight against the Great Lakes’ algae blooms – toxic green soup that kills fish and contaminated drinking water – for decades, by trying to clean up the shores and stem pollution from the surrounding area.  The algae feed on phosphorous, so regulators have worked to limit how much can seep back into the water from agricultural runoff and wastewater.  But scientists may have been fighting the wrong enemy all along. A new report suggests the phosphorous is coming from a different source: An invasive species of mussels native to Russia that’s been living on the bottom of the lakes and churning out the potent chemical in their poop. … ”  Read more from the Daily Mail here: Invasive mussels are pooping so much phosphorous it’s choking the Great Lakes and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage a year

Big step forward for $50 billion plan to save Louisiana Coast

The next phase of a $50 billion plan to protect the Louisiana coast from erosion and rising sea levels has cleared an important hurdle, with the Army Corps of Engineers delivering a long-awaited environmental impact statement for a key part of the project.  The report, issued Thursday evening, looked at a proposal to punch a hole in the Mississippi River levee. The corps said the move would largely benefit coastal areas in the state, though it might also affect some marine life, especially bottlenose dolphins, and could cause problems for those who make their living from raising and catching seafood in the area. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Big step forward for $50 billion plan to save Louisiana Coast

The river of discords

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson paddles her gray-speckled kayak along the Santa Fe River near Gainesville, Florida on a November day. The sun is warm, the wind brisk — a chilly day by Florida standards, in the low 70s. She wears a flannel and gloves, with a purple and pink knitted scarf around her neck. Puffy cumulous clouds hang in the Florida sky.  Merrillee can’t believe what a gorgeous and beautiful and perfect day it is on the water. Bald cypress trees line the banks, palms and pines peeking between them, creating a canopied tunnel, like a portal into a world separate from our own.  But even on a day like today, Merrillee’s duties as the river’s guardian don’t stop. … ”  Read more from the Earth Island Journal here: The river of discords

Assessing regulatory fairness through machine learning

The perils of machine learning – using computers to identify and analyze data patterns, such as in facial recognition software – have made headlines lately. Yet the technology also holds promise to help enforce federal regulations, including those related to the environment, in a fair, transparent way, according to a new study(link is external) by Stanford researchers.  The analysis, published this week in the proceedings of the Association of Computing Machinery Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency(link is external), evaluates machine learning techniques designed to support a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiative to reduce severe violations of the Clean Water Act. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here:  Assessing regulatory fairness through machine learning

EPA investigates toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating the presence of toxic chemicals in pesticides, which may be coming from their plastic containers, it said on Friday.  The agency said in a statement that its testing showed that the chemicals, belonging to a family of substances called PFAS, were “most likely formed” by a reaction while fluorine was being put into the containers, and then “leached into the pesticide product.” … ”  Read more from The Hill here: EPA investigates toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in pesticides

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And lastly …

Welcome to the Lost Sierra: An hour away from Tahoe is a corner of California history

Julie Brown writes, ” … On those days when Tahoe’s beaches are packed, when the road around Emerald Bay is a traffic jam, when I just don’t have the energy or the patience to deal with all the other people — that’s when I follow Highway 89 north towards the Lost Sierra.  The Lost Sierra is a region that spans the northern part of the Sierra Nevada crest. It’s hard to say where it stops and where it ends. I feel the shift as soon as I reach Sierra Valley, a vast and gorgeous landscape studded by red barns and grazing cows. The farther north you drive, the more remote it feels. But the sweet spot, the heart of the Lost Sierra, is really between Lassen National Park in the north and a charming town called Graeagle in the south. … ”  Read more from SF Gate here: Welcome to the Lost Sierra: An hour away from Tahoe is a corner of California history

September Morning Over The Sardine Lakes from Scott Chandler Productions on Vimeo.

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Desal objections are discredited cliches; An immediate threat to the Delta; In pursuit of the Delta’s co-equal goals, facts matter; and more …

Click here to read the blog round up.

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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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