DAILY DIGEST, 3/12: Salmon fishing curtailed on much of CA’s coast; Botulism threatens wild ducks again; Court Rules in favor of Mono County and the Sierra Club in lawsuit with LADWP; Legal alert: Increased restrictions or new water availability?; and more …
FREE EVENT: History and Mystery of the Refuge and the Bay tomorrow (Saturday) from 1pm to 2:30pm. The 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 …
This year’s California commercial salmon season could be half the size of last year’s
“The California commercial salmon season, due to start May 1, will be only about half as long as last year’s season, after the Pacific Fisheries Management Council settled on three proposals for the dates and months fishing can take place this season. “Time on the water is cut this year in an effort to have more salmon return to the rivers to spawn to meet our management objectives,” Kandice Morgenstern, environmental scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said after the council’s decision Thursday. ... ” Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle here: This year’s California commercial salmon season could be half the size of last year’s
Recreational ocean salmon fishery season curtailed on much of the California coast
“California’s recreational salmon fishery will open in ocean waters on Saturday, April 3 in the Monterey management area, from Pigeon Point (37° 11’ 00” N. latitude) south to the U.S./Mexico border, with a minimum size limit of 24 inches. All other areas of the California coast will remain closed until further notice. The remaining 2021 season dates and associated regulations will be finalized next month. Although the San Francisco and the Fort Bragg management areas were originally scheduled to open in April, on the advice of salmon fishery representatives, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) made the decision to delay the openers in these areas to limit ocean fishery impacts due to poor stock forecasts. … ” Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here: Recreational ocean salmon fishery season curtailed on much of the California coast
Counting the dead to account for the living: A summer survey of winter-run
“The feel of the wind in your face, the sound of a boat motor roaring down a river, the spray of water, the warm sun on your back and the smell of rotting flesh. This is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists on the Sacramento River experience when conducting winter-run Chinook salmon carcass surveys. “The carcass survey is a cooperative effort between the Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission,” said Kevin Niemela, a Service supervisory fish biologist located at the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office. “Typically, two boats are used to survey the river daily, one operated by the Service and the other operated by PSMFC working under contract through the Department. Each boat travels upstream and searches for carcasses, covering opposite shorelines.” ... ” Read more from the US FWS here: Counting the dead to account for the living
Botulism could decimate California wild ducks again. How hunters are trying to save them
“Last year, tens of thousands of water birds became paralyzed and died in a gruesome botulism outbreak caused by lack of water at two wildlife refuges on California’s border with Oregon. And it could happen again this summer. The crippling drought that has plagued the region for years shows no sign of ending, and there’s been little relief from the bureaucratic gridlock and lawsuits over water that has slowly starved the Klamath Basin refuges of their supplies over the past two decades. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Botulism could decimate California wild ducks again. How hunters are trying to save them
“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released the draft California’s Groundwater – Update 2020 (Bulletin-118), containing information on the condition of the State’s groundwater, which is especially important as California faces a critically dry water year. DWR encourages community members and water managers to review the publication and provide input. This version of California’s Groundwater provides a comprehensive look at statewide groundwater activities, compiling technical information and data from 2003 to 2020. This bulletin recognizes the historic passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 and builds a statewide framework to share new information and progress made by locals who are managing groundwater basins across the state. It also highlights emerging topics such as water markets and the impacts of climate change on groundwater and summarizes groundwater information for each of the State’s 10 hydrologic regions. … ” Continue reading here: DWR Releases Draft California’s Groundwater – Update 2020, Seeks Public Comment
Court Rules in Favor of Mono County and the Sierra Club in lawsuit with LADWP
“This week, the Alameda Superior Court issued an Order requiring the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to continue its historic provision of water for wildlife, habitat, and scenic, recreational and economic resources in the Long Valley and Little Round Valley regions of Mono County. The decision came as a result of a petition filed by Mono County and the Sierra Club under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) seeking to prevent damage to the region’s valuable environmental resources. Specifically, Mono County and Sierra Club opposed LADWP’s sudden and unanalyzed change in water management practices, arguing that environmental review must be completed – and impacts understood and mitigated – before such changes are implemented. …
Click here to continue reading this press release from Keep Long Valley Green.
“The Alameda County Superior Court’s ruling prohibiting LADWP from unilaterally altering historic water provision practices in Long Valley is a step in the right direction,” said Wendy Schneider, Executive Director, Friends of the Inyo, a Keep Long Valley Green member organization. “The ruling affirms that DWP must consider the health of Long Valley’s environment in its actions. The Keep Long Valley Green campaign will continue to seek a commitment from the agency to regularly provide water critical to support Long Valley’s ecosystem and economy. A commitment that, so far, the agency has refused to make.”
Siding with the County and Sierra Club, the Court directed LADWP to continue to provide water which it has historically delivered to ranchers in Long and Little Round Valleys until it completes a comprehensive environmental review. Ranchers have spread water in these areas for nearly 100 years — creating pasture, wetlands and meadows on more than 6,000 acres of land. This bio-diverse landscape to the east of Highway 395 on the way to Mammoth Lakes, CA is critical habitat for wildlife, including the Bi-State Sage Grouse, and supports healthy wetlands, native plants and insects. It also provides important scenic and recreational value and supports various segments of the region’s economy, from tourism and recreation to agriculture.
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling and hope to partner with LADWP to find a mutually beneficial solution for the long-term that protects our region’s habitat and resources, while also addressing the city’s legitimate water needs,” said Stacey Simon, Mono County Counsel.
Keep Long Valley Green asks that LADWP complete the legally required environmental review, as affirmed in this March 8 ruling before taking any action outside of the historical norm for the region. Following the review, the coalition hopes to see LADWP use the findings and information developed to create a thoughtful formula for water allotment in the valleys that takes the bio-diverse wetlands and meadows, resources of the Paiutes, and wildlife into account.
“LADWP has fought for two-and-a-half years to dry out these pastures,” said Lynn Boulton, with Keep Long Valley Green. “If they appeal this decision, it would show how disingenuous they are about protecting the environment.”
The Keep Long Valley Green coalition is composed of a diverse group of stakeholders including Friends of the Inyo, the Sierra Club, Mammoth Lakes Recreation, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, local indigenous tribes and the 12 ranching families that lease LADWP land in Long and Little Round Valley for grazing.
LADWP Statement in Response to Alameda Court Ruling (above)
Joe Ramallo, Assistant General Manager Communications and Public Affairs, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power writes, ““While we are still reviewing the details of the Court’s ruling, we are concerned with the precedent it could set for all water agencies trying to responsibly manage environmental needs and water operations when faced with volatile water supply conditions and a changing climate reality. What the ruling neglects to recognize is that a water system simply cannot be static. Every year, LADWP must adapt its water operations to respond to changes in weather, be it wet or dry, and the needs of the environment and communities we serve. Our operations in Mono County have always been and continue to be a reflection of changing factors that any responsible agency must consider including annual runoff, storage capacity, environmental needs and more. Further, we believe that LADWP was and is continuing to operate under the terms of leases that were approved in 2010. LADWP’s relationship with Mono County dates back nearly a hundred years, and we are committed to its continuation. LADWP continues to invest in ongoing environmental restoration projects in the region that have helped restore stream flows in Mono Basin and create a healthy environment for wildlife habitats to thrive.” (Source)
Legal alert: Increased restrictions or new water availability? What we can count on is change.
“Climate change is rapidly altering California’s hydrology. The wet season is expected to become shorter and wetter, while the dry season longer and drier. As temperatures rise, California will see more precipitation fall as rain instead of snow, reducing natural storage in mountain snow pack. Warmer temperatures cause snow to melt earlier in the spring. Less snowmelt runoff also reduces the amount of cold-water habitat for native fish. To address California’s increasing climate concerns, the Division of Water Rights within the State Water Resources Control Board released a staff report on Feb. 4, 2021, with recommendations to make water availability analysis for permitting new water rights more robust and responsive to climate change. … ” Read more from Brownstein Hyatt here: Legal alert: Increased restrictions or new water availability? What we can count on is change.
RELATED EVENT: On Thursday, March 18, Water Board staff will host a webinar to provide a detailed overview of the staff report, and provide an opportunity to ask questions and comment. Participants may also provide input on the recommendations, data sources and approaches not captured in the report. Click here to register.
‘We can’t do life without water.’ SLO County photographer highlights crisis in new film
“If you ask San Luis Obispo County photographer Brittany App, there’s an inescapable issue facing humanity today: the water crisis. A report App worked on with Dig Deep and the U.S. Water Alliance found that least 2 million people living in the United States without access to clean running water. If you are from a Black or Latinx community, you are twice as likely as those living in white communities to lack indoor plumbing, App said. Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to not have access to running water, App added. … ” Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here: ‘We can’t do life without water.’ SLO County photographer highlights crisis in new film
California households owe $1 billion in water bills, highlighting affordability crisis
“For many Californians, water bills are piling up at unprecedented rates during the pandemic, exacerbating water affordability issues that disproportionately impact low-income residents and communities of color. Arecent survey by the California State Water Resources Board, which was supported by research from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, shows the extent of water bill debt accumulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Households owe a combined $1 billion in unpaid bills, which has increased substantially since the pandemic. … ” Read more from UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation here: California households owe $1 billion in water bills, highlighting affordability crisis
Drought status update for California-Nevada
“California and Nevada remain entrenched in moderate-to-exceptional drought as the fifth into sixth consecutive dry months since October, likely ensuring that the region will suffer back-to-back dry water years. In California, 91% of the state is in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In Nevada, 100% of the state is in drought, and 40% is in exceptional drought (D4), more area than at any point during the 2012-2016 drought. Precipitation totals and snowpack remain well below normal. Since the North Pacific storm season is nearing its usual demise, the amount of additional precipitation that can be expected is most likely too small to reverse drought conditions, especially in the most intense drought regions. … ” Read more from NIDIS here: Drought status update for California-Nevada
A look at fire adapted ecosystems in the Sierra
“Forests of the Sierra Nevada have evolved with fire, as is evident in Sierran tree species characteristics, landscape scale fire histories, and the cultural history of these forests. Now, these same forests face the consequences of over a century of fire suppression that has resulted in a buildup of fuels and, in the worst cases, high-intensity wildfires that burn tens of thousands of acres. With great effort, decision-makers and stewards of the land are working to restore fire to the landscape in a way that supports fire resilient ecosystems and reduces the risk of high-intensity wildfire. … ” Continue reading at the South Yuba River Citizens League here: A look at fire adapted ecosystems in the Sierra
Groups sue over California county’s plan to drill oil wells
“Environmental and community groups have sued a California county after the prime oil-drilling region approved a plan to fast-track thousands of new wells in a state that’s positioned itself as a leader in combating climate change. The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a revised ordinance that could lead to approval of more than 40,000 new oil and gas wells over roughly 15 years. The Sierra Club and other groups asked a court Wednesday to order county leaders to set aside the ordinance and bar them from approving any drilling permits. ... ” Read more from the AP here: Groups sue over California county’s plan to drill oil wells
Go-ahead for more oil wells in Kern County frustrates California’s climate ambitions
“A small oil boom may be dawning in the flatlands outside Bakersfield, where many are hoping for a petroleum-led economic bump for the San Joaquin Valley, but where others see California losing its will to break away from fossil fuels. Leaders in Kern County, the heart of the state’s still-bustling oil country, approved a policy this week that will streamline the approval of drilling, and potentially allow nearly 2,700 new oil and gas wells annually. This would mean more than 30% more drill sites in California over the next 15 years. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Go-ahead for more oil wells in Kern County frustrates California’s climate ambitions
Commentary: The time has come for California to ban front yard lawns for new homes
Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin writes, “The climate change cabal in Sacramento is ignoring some extremely low hanging fruit in their bid to protect us from ourselves. The reason they don’t see it is simple. It doesn’t involve raising taxes, rewarding corporations or disruptor greenies they align with, nor does it destroy jobs. The California Legislature needs to ban grass lawns for front yards as well as general commercial development for all new building projects. … ” Continue reading at the Manteca Bulletin here: Commentary: The time has come for California to ban front yard lawns for new homes
“The Klamath Basin is facing another year of drought. Klamath County commissioners have requested that Gov. Kate Brown make a state-level declaration. Forecasts based on U.S. Geological Survey data predict that the Klamath Basin will only fulfill about a third of what’s needed for agriculture. The Upper Klamath Lake is more than a foot lower than it was this time last year, which was also a drought year. … ” Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: Klamath Basin faces drought, again
The Water Grab: Saving the McCloud River from bottled water disaster
““We have a problem in McCloud.”That was the message in the Fall of 2003 from our friends at the McCloud Watershed Council concerned about a back room deal by the Nestlé Corporation to establish one of the world’s largest water bottling plants in the town of McCloud. We would learn the deal was especially egregious and would threaten the springs that feed the majestic McCloud River. McCloud Community Services District had signed a 100-year contract with Nestlé to utilize 1,600 acre feet— that’s 520 million gallons—per year. … ” Read more from Cal Trout here: The Water Grab: Saving the McCloud River from Bottled Water Disaster
Treatment planned for Discovery Bay algae
“As temperatures warm up and the year creeps closer to summer, many Discovery Bay residents are looking toward the water and wondering what the next current will bring. Invasive weeds and toxic algae can sometimes temper the beautiful lifestyle many Delta residents love, but local agencies are working to keep the waters clear. Representatives from the Discovery Bay Community Foundation (DBCF) have partnered with the Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) to mitigate invasive weeds – such as floating hyacinth and egeria densa – clogging some parts of the Delta. … ” Read more from The Press here: Treatment planned for Discovery Bay algae
Housing or wetlands? Fight continues over future of Bay Area salt ponds
“For decades, the Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City have stretched into the San Francisco Bay like a blank slate. What’s to come of them? The Cargill corporation sees the outline of a new housing development, while environmental groups see a restored wetland habitat. David Lewis and his group Save the Bay recently joined a lawsuit against the former Trump administration’s EPA in a back-and-forth battle over whether the area falls under federal protection. … ” Read more from Channel 7 here: Housing or wetlands? Fight continues over future of Bay Area salt ponds
Cal Am sends partial desal project response to Coastal Commission staff
“Three months after the state Coastal Commission staff declared California American Water’s revised desalination project application incomplete and requested more information, company officials have submitted an initial response. On March 5, Cal Am outside attorney D.J. Moore sent a 118-page letter to Coastal Commission official Tom Luster responding to several issues raised in Luster’s Dec. 3 letter outlining the reasons why the company’s revised coastal development permit application had been deemed incomplete and requesting more information. … ” Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Cal Am sends partial desal project response to Coastal Commission staff
Turlock Irrigation District sets reduced irrigation cap amid historically dry year
“Local growers serviced by the Turlock Irrigation District will see a 34-inch water cap allotment this irrigation season, set to begin March 18. The water cap is a decrease from last year’s 42-inch allotment and comes as the Tuolumne River Watershed experiences what has been a historically-dry water year — and a second consecutive year of below-average rainfall. Under a resolution approved by the TID Board of Directors on Tuesday, the 2021 irrigation season will last 223 days and run through Oct. 27. … ” Read more from the Turlock Irrigation District here: Turlock Irrigation District sets reduced irrigation cap amid historically dry year
After a dry fall and winter, Kern County is seeing drought conditions
“It may not feel like we’re having a water shortage at this point considering the rain Bakersfield felt on Wednesday, but Kern County and most of California is in a drought. What’s to blame? Experts say California hasn’t had as white of a winter and they’d hope. “So bottom line, what it comes down to is snow. How much snow do we have in California’s mountains?” said 23ABC Chief Meteorologist Elaina Rusk. … ” Read more from KERO here: After a dry fall and winter, Kern County is seeing drought conditions
Water Replenishment District general manager retires following months of infighting over his replacement
“Robb Whitaker, the Water Replenishment District general manager whose retirement announcement triggered months of infighting, will make his exit Friday, just as the search for the district’s next leader begins again. Whitaker is concluding 17 years at the helm of the water district, where he spent the bulk of his career. He is credited with championing visionary programs and projects that allowed the district to rely solely on local water resources. “We don’t buy any imported water. We are sustainable, but we need to make the region sustainable,” said John Allen, the water board’s president. “He was a driving force in that, he had the vision. He had to pull us through some very, very tough times, when nobody liked us.” ... ” Read more from the Daily Breeze here: Water Replenishment District general manager retires following months of infighting over his replacement
Judge denies attempt to block approval of Los Cerritos wetlands land swap for oil wells
“A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled that the California Coastal Commission did not abuse its power when it approved a land-swap deal in 2018 that will allow for the rehabilitation of 150 acres of wetlands, but also the development of up to 120 new oil wells. In a 22-page tentative ruling, Judge Mary Strobel denied a request to stop the project in the Los Cerritos wetlands in the southeastern part of the city. Strobel’s ruling said that the commission did not misinterpret the Coastal Act in approving the deal, and the public benefits of the project were correctly weighed before voting to approve the deal. … ” Read more from the Long Beach Post here: Judge denies attempt to block approval of Los Cerritos wetlands land swap for oil wells
Man made tide pools may protect land around San Diego Bay
“California’s tide pools are under assault from the warming planet, but the fragile ecosystems are getting a boost in San Diego Bay, thanks to the Port of San Diego. “We need to be thinking about sea-level rise, right now,” said Rafael Castellanos, a port commissioner, while standing on the western edge of Harbor Island Park. Just beneath him at the water’s edge is an artificial tide pool that provides an extra barrier against the impact of a warming planet. … ” Read more from KPBS here: Man made tide pools may protect land around San Diego Bay
Details behind Biden’s ’30 by 30′ U.S. lands and oceans climate goal
“Among the many goals in President Biden’s climate change agenda, protecting 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean territories by 2030 is among the most ambitious. And among the most complex. The administration initiative is likely to face political headwinds in a divided government. Nevertheless, achieving the “30 by 30” goal could be a critical marker on the road toward a carbon-free future. The reason: Natural landscapes and seascapes are powerful carbon sinks, pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and storing carbon in soil, grasses, shrubs, and trees, coral reefs, sea grasses, and ocean floor sediments. … ” Read more from Yale Climate Connections here: Details behind Biden’s ’30 by 30′ U.S. lands and oceans climate goal
President Biden passes stimulus bill, includes water assistance
“President Biden gave final passage to a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, The American Rescue Plan Act. Among the provision of the American Rescue Plan Act are additional COVID-19 relief amounting to $500 million in assistance for clean and drinking water customers. Additional support for critical water and sewer investments is also included in the measure, according to a joint press release by NAWCA and AWMA. President Biden signed the bill a day earlier than anticipated, reported The New York Times. … ” Read more from Storm Water Solutions here: President Biden passes stimulus bill, includes water assistance
Insatiable demand for pot has created a huge carbon footprint
“University scientists have discovered something about cannabis that may unnerve some of its most ardent consumers: its drain on the environment is substantial. A new study by Colorado State University researchers found that electricity production and natural gas consumption from indoor environmental controls, high-intensity grow lights, and supplies of carbon dioxide for accelerated plant growth are ballooning the crop’s carbon footprint. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Insatiable demand for pot has created a huge carbon footprint
Commentary: Wanted: ‘Uncommon Collaborations’ Between Farmers and Environmentalists
Urban C. Lehner, Editor Emeritus writes, “A new administration with a strong commitment to the environment would seem to face two groups of skeptics. One group, which includes many environmentalists, worries the Biden team won’t do enough to address a changing climate, dwindling biodiversity and blighted air and water. The other, which includes many farmers, fears it will do too much. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made a bow toward the second group the other day. “We will begin with farmer outreach asking for input on how to best create new market opportunities to sequester carbon,” he said. “We want to establish a system designed by farmers, for farmers. We can also invest in new technologies to convert ag waste into a variety of products and continue collecting and reusing methane from livestock operations.” “A system designed by farmers, for farmers” is a rhetorical flourish worth a hyperbole check. … ” Continue reading at Progressive Farmer here: Commentary: Wanted: ‘Uncommon Collaborations’ Between Farmers and Environmentalists
The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.
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.