DAILY DIGEST, 3/26: New report on repurposing fallowed farmland; Modeling shows Sacto River headwaters should be top conservation priority; CA seeks input on Delta benefit program; Allocations cause jump in CA water index; and more …

On the calendar today …

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board meets at 9am.  Agenda items include a followup on the Army Corps levee inspection ratings, an update on the 2022 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, and a briefing on permit revocation and encroachment removal procedures.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. … To help groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), local governments, rural communities and land use planners facing these challenges, Environmental Defense Fund worked with a broad group of stakeholders to develop a new guide, Advancing Strategic Land Repurposing and Groundwater Sustainability in California. … ”  Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund here:  Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Sacramento River Headwaters Should Be Top Priority for Conservation in California

With a state spanning over 100 million acres, determining where to prioritize limited conservation and climate dollars in California is a complicated and daunting challenge. A new climate modeling study, however, suggests that the Sacramento River headwaters — a 7-million acre set of watersheds that feed the state’s largest reservoirs — should be a top priority as California charts a path towards protecting 30 percent of the state’s land by 2030.  A new study from the Pacific Forest Trust, climate researchers at UC Davis and Duke University studied the 7-million acre watershed — and a 3-million acre surrounding buffer — across  multiple scenarios and found that the region provides highly favorable conditions for California to protect its biodiversity and secure the state’s water supply over the next 100 years…. ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Pacific Forest Trust.

The study provides an important data point and decision support tool as lawmakers in Sacramento consider how to meet the state’s 30×30 biodiversity, climate, and water goals. These findings are particularly timely as a climate resilience bond, as well as current climate investments which will help finance catastrophic wildfire prevention and drought preparation projects, are being discussed.

“Simply put, this is a crucial part of the state where conservation efforts are highly likely to have enduring impact,” said Laurie Wayburn, President of the Pacific Forest Trust. “This is an urgent problem, given how quickly the climate crisis is already changing where species live and it is clear that our decisions will determine which ones survive. The Sacramento River headwaters region contains over 80 percent of the state’s habitat types and is home to over 60 percent of its vertebrate species. It’s a key place to focus restoration and protection work in California, and this research highlights its ability to keep providing good habitat and a reliable water supply.”

The Sacramento River headwaters, with its three mountain ranges (northern Sierra, southern Cascade, and Klamath-Trinity) is globally recognized for its biodiversity — including the single most biodiverse conifer forest in the world. Climate change is already pushing species to migrate upslope there from the Central Valley, and adding more biodiversity to the region.

And as the source of the vast majority of water used in the state, the region serves as California’s water fountain. Water from this region supplies both the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, supplying drinking water for residents all the way down to Southern California.  

“How we manage and protect these watersheds has enormous ramifications for the urban water supply in Southern California,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “Between extreme droughts and floods, California will need to find a way to manage our water supply through this weather whiplash. We can do this by restoring our forests, meadows, and wetlands so that they absorb and store more water, and the Sacramento headwaters is a great place for us to start.”

The latest snowpack measurements point to California heading into another drought, heightening the need to secure clean, reliable, and affordable water. Healthy forests are a vital part of our water system, increasing overall water storage, improving the watershed’s ability to hold water longer into hotter, drier summer seasons. They also reduce peak flooding, reducing pressure on dams and preventing costly repairs such as those applied to the Oroville Dam.

In addition to shoring up a safe and reliable water supply, investments in restoring watersheds and other natural infrastructure bring other important benefits such as:

  • Reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires: Smart and thoughtful forest management practices such as mechanical thinning and prescribed burning increase water retention and moisture in the soil, reducing the intensity of fires. This can also save lives and properties, while keeping air quality at healthier levels.
  • Creating powerful carbon sinks: Forest loss is the second-largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Restored, healthy forests absorb more carbon from the atmosphere and store more of it in trees and soil, making forest protection an essential part of California’s toolbox to address climate change and reach carbon neutrality by 2045.
  • Jumpstarting rural economies: Watershed restoration creates jobs in forestry, ecosystem restoration, and road upgrades and decommissioning, bringing dollars that will multiply in benefits as they circulate in a region that has had some of the highest unemployment rates and greatest income inequality in California.   

“With our economy in challenging straits, another drought year ahead, ever present risk of wildfires, and the climate crisis impacting frontline communities harder than ever, California is facing a quadruple threat,” said Wayburn. “Managing our natural and working lands can meaningfully address every single one of these challenges, and the data shows that the Sacramento River headwaters is a great place for California to be investing conservation dollars.”

For more information, visit https://www.pacificforest.org/healthy-watersheds-california.

California seeks input on Delta benefit program

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced a series of workshops intended to solicit public input on the development of a community benefit program associated with the Delta Conveyance Project (DCP). According to DWR, community benefit programs go beyond traditional concepts of mitigation. They attempt to provide greater flexibility in addressing possible community impacts associated with the major construction projects. … However, some project opponents view the program as little more than an effort to buy public acceptance of the controversial Delta tunnel project. … ”  Read more from The Press here: California seeks input on Delta benefit program

Are we managing invasive species wrong?

European green crabs arrived on the eastern shores of North America in the early 1800s, likely as ship ballast stowaways or affixed to boat hulls. They found their way to the continent’s western shores by the 1980s, and they’ve caused trouble in every new ecosystem they invade.  … Causing both ecological and economic harm has put green crabs in the spotlight, and a team of researchers from the University of California, Davis and other institutions have been studying how to best eradicate them. Along the way the scientists made a surprising discovery that they believe could change how managers deal with other invasive aquatic species. … ”  Read more from The Revelator here:  Are we managing invasive species wrong?

Simple hand-built structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Wearing waders and work gloves, three dozen employees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service stood at a small creek amid the dry sagebrush of southeastern Idaho. The group was eager to learn how to repair a stream the old­-fashioned way. … Landowners and conservation groups are bringing in teams of volunteers and workers, like the NRCS group, to build low-cost solutions from sticks and stones. And the work is making a difference. Streams are running longer into the summer, beavers and other animals are returning, and a study last December confirmed that landscapes irrigated by beaver activity can resist wildfires. … ”  Read more from Science News here: Simple hand-built structures can help streams survive wildfires and drought

Ice-fighting bacteria could help California crops survive frost

Every spring, California farmers forgo sleep to patrol their fields for signs of frost. Faced with the prospect of losing an entire season’s harvest to severe frost, growers spend millions of dollars a year on heaters, wind machines, sprinklers and even helicopters, to keep cold air at bay.  But a scientist whose groundbreaking research linked frost damage to plant-dwelling bacteria thinks there’s a better way to fight frost. And it doesn’t require spending a fortune on equipment that consumes copious quantities of water and fossil fuels. ... ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: Ice-fighting bacteria could help California crops survive frost

California Water Project allocations drop; Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O) and futures jump nearly 30%

After Tuesday’s SWP and CVP allocation announcements, the Nasdaq Veles California Water Price Index (NQH2O) jumped on Wednesday by nearly 30% from approximately $530 per acre foot to $686 per acre foot. The NQH2O index serves as a benchmark for CME Group’s Nasdaq Veles California Water Index Futures, which were up more than 27% on Wednesday morning. This increase was driven by the recent completion of several spot water transfers purchased by permanent crop growers in the San Joaquin Valley. Prices paid in recent transactions ranged between $600 and $900 per acre foot. One small volume transfer was executed at $1,300 per acre foot, representing the high water mark for 2021 prices to date. Additional spot water transfers are currently being negotiated at similar prices but have not yet been consummated. … ”  Read the issue of Water Market Insider here: California Water Project allocations drop; Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O) and futures jump nearly 30%


California regulator praised for ‘landmark’ proposal to list ‘forever chemical’ as carcinogen

A public health watchdog on Wednesday praised California’s proposal to add the so-called “forever chemical” PFOA to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer.  PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, was formerly used to make DuPont’s Teflon and other products. It’s part of a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Dubbed forever chemicals because they don’t break down and can accumulate in the human body, PFAS contamination is widespread. Humans can be exposed through workplace environments, groundwater contamination, or household products. ... ”  Read more from EcoWatch here:  California regulator praised for ‘landmark’ proposal to list ‘forever chemical’ as carcinogen

2021 land use, environmental, and natural resources update

With the end of the first quarter of 2021 approaching, we thought it timely to issue an update on selected recent developments and proposed changes in law and policy touching environmental, land use, and natural resource issues. At the national level, with the new Biden administration, federal policies already have undergone a significant seachange from those of the Trump administration. And the Golden State continues to lead with a protective agenda on land use, environmental, and natural resources legislation and regulation. We present here a diverse set of selected snapshots on the federal and state of California policies, laws, regulations, and judicial opinions that have been adopted and issued in 2020 through the first quarter of this year on these topics of key concern to our clients.”  Read publication from Allen Matkins here: 2021 land use, environmental, and natural resources update

California Court of Appeal upholds subordination of dormant groundwater rights

Last week, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District of California issued a long-awaited decision in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Cases, resolving a dispute more than two decades in the making. The case adjudicated groundwater rights in the Antelope Valley Adjudication Area (AVAA) in northern Los Angeles County and southeast Kern County. The adjudication, which commenced in 1999, involved private water suppliers, public agencies, the federal government, and overlying landowners who pump water for agricultural, industrial, commercial, and domestic uses. Although currently unpublished, the court’s opinion illustrates several important developments in California groundwater law. … ”  Read more from O’Melveny here:  California Court of Appeal upholds subordination of dormant groundwater rights

SEE ALSO: Appellate Decisions Limiting Groundwater Pumping in an Overdrafted Basin, from Best Best & Krieger


Will California have another year of record-setting wildfires?

In the tiny California town of Briceburg, at the edge of Yosemite National Park, workers are installing a new solar microgrid from a startup called BoxPower. The local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, used to send power to the community through long distribution lines that traveled through remote areas—the same type of equipment that sparked disastrous wildfires such as the one that swept through the town of Paradise in 2018, killing at least 86 people. With the new grid, which generates power for the community locally, that dangerous long-distance infrastructure no longer needs to exist. … The Forest Service and Cal Fire, the state’s fire agency, are also taking steps to help the state avoid more catastrophic fires. But after multiple years of extreme fires, how likely is it that California will face another crisis—or series of crises—in 2021? ... ”  Read more from Fast Company here:  Will California have another year of record-setting wildfires?

Bark beetles are further aggravating wildfires in California

From the floor of the San Joaquin Valley, firefighter Eric Daniel looks through the ashen sky toward the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada. He makes a long, sweeping motion with his hand. “It’s all ready to burn,” he says. … Daniel attributes the fires to a combination of factors: hot and dry weather driven by climate change mixed with a history of fire suppression and low funds for land management. But he also points out a secondary climate emergency fanning the flames: “Bark beetles.” ... ”  Read more from Earth Island Journal here: Bark beetles are further aggravating wildfires in California


California lawmaker proposes buyouts for homes threatened by rising sea

At a normal tide on a normal day on the Southern California coast, ankle-high waves glide over a narrow strip of gold sand. On one side sits the largest body of water in the world. On the other, a row of houses with a cumulative value in the hundreds of millions of dollars, propped on water-stained stilts.  Property value ebbs and flows, but when it comes to coastal real estate “the trend lines are pretty clear,” says California state Sen. Ben Allen, squinting in the sun. “And they’re not pretty.”  Within the span of a 30-year mortgage, more than $100 billion worth of American homes is expected to be at risk of chronic flooding. As the climate warms and oceans rise, narrow strips of sand such as the one Allen is standing on, will be submerged, leaving coastal communities — affluent and not — with the torturous question of how to adjust. Build seawalls? Dump sand? For how long and at what cost? … ”  Read more from KQED here: California lawmaker proposes buyouts for homes threatened by rising sea

New DWR powerplant turbine helps California achieve clean energy future

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) took another step in its ambitious efforts to reduce climate change impacts by replacing an old electricity-generating turbine with a new, energy efficient model at the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Powerplant in Butte County that will help the Department achieve its goal of using 100 percent zero-emission resources by 2045. The Thermalito power plant, one of three powerplants in California’s State Water Project’s (SWP) Oroville-Thermalito Complex, was badly damaged in a 2012 fire. The facility’s reconstruction offered an opportunity to replace rather than repair an older electricity-generating Kaplan turbine. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  New DWR powerplant turbine helps California achieve clean energy future

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Klamath suckers: What’s in a species? For suckers, some lines are blurred

C’waam and Koptu — Lost River and shortnose suckers — may spend more time in the Klamath Basin’s political limelight, but the upper portion of the watershed is actually home to four sucker species.  Though, as new research emphasizes, their genetic differences are as murky as the lake and riverbeds they feed on. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News here:  What’s in a species? For suckers, some lines are blurred

Klamath: Fight of the river people

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. There was Joseph James from the Yurok Tribe, who’d come to see the river’s declining health as a “slow strangulation” of his people — “river people” — who have lived along its banks and relied on its salmon as the bedrock of their diet since time immemorial. And there was Don Gentry, recently elected to a third term as the upriver Klamath Tribes’ chair, whose people hadn’t seen salmon and steelhead swimming in their ancestral territory in a generation. … ”  Read more from the Del Norte Triplicate here: Fight of the river people

Napa Valley’s grape growers chart course in the face of an emerging statewide drought

There’s one thing at the forefront of the minds of many of Napa Valley’s grape growers anticipating the 2021 harvest: water.  Different regions within Napa County have received between 60% and 70% less rainfall than is average this rainy season, experts say, part of a larger drought pattern that is emerging state-wide.  The previous 2019-2020 rainy season was also a dry one for North Bay wine country, according to Kaan Kurtural, associate specialist at the University of California, Davis’ Cooperative Extension in Viticulture, and the consecutive dry years have had a “compounding” effect. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa Valley’s grape growers chart course in the face of an emerging statewide drought

St. Helena: York Creek uncorked

Over the summer, while most of the Bay Area was figuring out how to navigate the COVID-induced shelter-in-place orders, 1,933 heavy truckloads laden with 22,000 yards of material wound their way away from Napa County’s York Creek, and were dumped into two nearby landfills. Extracting these spoils was the last step in the York Creek Dam removal project, the culmination of decades of effort by the city of St. Helena to take down a small earthen dam with a big ecological impact. The dam blocked fish from spawning in the creek’s 4.4-square-mile-watershed. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Bay Area: York Creek uncorked

Commentary: San Luis Obispo has a plan to pipe reclaimed water to Edna Valley. What’s the holdup?

Neil Havlik, formerly San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager, writes, “A water project that would generate revenue, make wise use of reclaimed water and preserve large tracts of open space in the city of San Luis Obispo was first made public over 10 years ago.  Since then, the city has made no progress on the proposal to allow Edna Valley landowners to reuse some of the city’s treated wastewater to irrigate vineyards and other agricultural crops.  Surplus water already could be assisting growers in Edna Valley, which is an important part of the city’s greenbelt.  Instead, excess water is being discharged into San Luis Obispo Creek. ... ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  San Luis Obispo has a plan to pipe reclaimed water to Edna Valley. What’s the holdup

Hazardous waste survey off Palos Verdes Peninsula concludes this week

For decades, an unknown number of barrels of hazardous chemicals have sat on the ocean’s floor just miles off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, worrying scientists and environmentalists.  But now, a team of researchers — led by scientists from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — have concluded a nearly two-week study to determine the extent of environmental damage and, potentially, who might be to blame. … ”  Read more from the Peninsula Press here: Hazardous waste survey off Palos Verdes Peninsula concludes this week

San Bernardino: Project will protect species in the wash

The San Bernardino kangaroo rat and the Santa Ana River woolly star thrive in areas with frequent flooding. But decades of mining — and the construction of ditches, pipeline crossings, levees and a bridge — had cut off water flow and made their environment unlivable.  With generous funding from the California Department of Water Resources and the Proposition 84 grant program administered by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District has built the multi-benefit Plunge Creek Conservation Project to restore this environment in a move designed to save the local population of kangaroo rats while increasing groundwater recharge in accordance with the district’s mission. … ”  Read more from the Highland Community News here: San Bernardino: Project will protect species in the wash

San Diego may propose 28 percent sewer rate hikes for single-family homes

Sewer rates for San Diegans in single-family homes would increase nearly 19 percent next year and a total of 28 percent over the next four years under a new city proposal. But rates for most businesses, condominiums and apartments would go down next year and remain mostly steady over the next four years under the proposal, which is based on a comprehensive new analysis of future sewer system costs.  The analysis found that single-family homeowners are not paying nearly enough to cover the overall maintenance and expansion costs of the city’s sewer system, which will soon begin purifying treated sewage into drinkable water. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here:  San Diego may propose 28 percent sewer rate hikes for single-family homes

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In national water news today …

Almost 500,000 covid infections may have been prevented with a national water shutoff moratorium

Almost half a million COVID infections could have been prevented last year if there had been a national moratorium on water service shutoffs, according to new research from Cornell University and the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch.  The findings also show that during the same period, from mid-April through the end of 2020, 9,000 COVID deaths could have been prevented with a robust moratorium on water shutoffs. … ”  Read more from Common Dreams here:  Almost 500,000 covid infections may have been prevented with a national water shutoff moratorium

Preventing cyberattacks on water infrastructure

To get a preview of the next possible mass casualty terrorist attack, look no further than the town – and critical infrastructure – of Oldsmar, Florida. In what was surely a Sum of All Fears moment for government officials, a cyber intruder of unknown origin attempted to poison Oldsmar’s water supply on Feb. 5, 2021, by hacking the town’s water treatment plant. Using the remote access program TeamViewer – widely used by IT professionals to provide remote support – the hackers accessed the facility’s control systems and attempted to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide, safely used in minute quantities to reduce lead levels in water, to dangerous levels. ... ”  Read more from Security Boulevard here:  Preventing cyberattacks on water infrastructure 

EPA report identifies hot spots for hazardous spills into drinking water sources

The morning of January 9, 2014, regulators at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality received complaints of strange odors akin to licorice coming from the Freedom Industries chemical storage facility, in Charleston.  When inspectors arrived on site, they found two holes at the bottom of tank 396. The holes, no wider than a nickel, allowed about 11,000 gallons of crude MCHM, a coal washing chemical, to flow into the adjacent Elk River. … The Freedom Industries spill is one of many incidents detailed in a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the number, location, and characteristics of chemical and toxic spills into U.S. drinking water sources. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here: EPA report identifies hot spots for hazardous spills into drinking water sources

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National water and climate update …

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.


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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Conservancy Meeting~ Bridge Closures~ Abandoned Vessels~ Estuary News~ DWR Blog ~~

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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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