DAILY DIGEST, 3/29: Water shortages and fires loom after dry year; Warm water important for cold-water fish like salmon and trout, study finds; Learning from Native American fire stewardship; Biden lays groundwork for environmental regulations; and more …

On the calendar today …

PUBLIC MEETING: State Water Project Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance Negotiations at 10am.  Click here for agenda and remote access instructionsAccess all documents here.

EVENT: Brave Blue World Virtual Screening and Panel Discussion from 11am to 12pm. The Pacific Institute and California Water Environment Association (CWEA) are proud to host a panel discussion with experts in the water sector. We’ll take the stories and lessons from the documentary and take a closer look at what we can do in California and beyond.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Water shortages and fires loom after a dry winter

The weather forecast today calls for sunshine across the state, with barely a cloud on the horizon for the next week or so.  Pour yourself a nice, cool glass of water — and then think about how you’re going to start conserving it.  The lack of rain and snow during what is usually California’s wet season has shrunk the state’s water supply. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, a crucial source of water as it melts over the spring and summer, is currently at 65 percent of normal. Major reservoirs are also low. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Water shortages and fires loom after a dry winter

Southwestern US experiencing warmest weather in months

The warm air that moved into the Southwestern states over the weekend will stick around on Monday, with temperatures soaring to their highest levels since 2020.  Some cities are forecast to come as close as 5 degrees Fahrenheit from record high temperatures.  “High pressure has strengthened over the Southwest, which has forced the jet stream much farther north.” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather here: Southwestern US experiencing warmest weather in months

Warm water important for cold-water fish like salmon and trout, study finds

Warm river habitats appear to play a larger-than-expected role in supporting the survival of cold-water fish, such as salmon and trout. This information was published today in a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.  The research has important implications for fish conservation strategies. A common goal among scientists and policymakers is to identify and prioritize habitat for cold-water fish that remain suitably cool during the summer. This is especially important as the climate warms.  “Prioritizing cold-water habitat devalues seasonally warm areas, even if they are suitable for fish most of the year,” said Jonny Armstrong, lead author of the paper and an ecologist at Oregon State University. He called this a “potentially severe blind spot for climate change adaptation. … ”  Read more from NOAA Fisheries here: Warm water important for cold-water fish like salmon and trout, study finds

Fire as medicine: Learning from Native American fire stewardship

In 2020, nearly 60,000 wildfires raged across the United States, burning a record-breaking 10.3 million acres. The fires weren’t just frequent; they reached epic proportions: California and Colorado recorded their biggest fires ever, and in early October, 65 large fires were burning in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and, in smaller instances, five other states. In all, the blazes consumed more than 2 million acres.  The year’s catastrophic fire season could potentially be the new normal, as climate change is bringing hotter and drier conditions, perfect for igniting forests laden with fuel after decades of fire suppression efforts. ... ”  Read more from EOS here: Fire as medicine: Learning from Native American fire stewardship

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In commentary today …

Commentary: Strong state oversight needed to ensure California’s wetlands are protected

Samantha Arthur, Working Lands Program Director at Audubon California and member of the California Water Commission, writes, “When the first European explorers arrived in California’s Central Valley, they found a vast mosaic of seasonal and permanent wetlands, as well as oak woodlands and riparian forests. What remains of those wetlands are still the backbone of the Pacific Flyway; along with flooded agricultural fields, they support millions of migrating waterbirds each year.   According to a just-released study from Audubon, tens of millions of land birds rely on the Central Valley as well, including 60% of all Tree Swallows, 40% of Anna’s Hummingbird and other backyard favorites.  But today, the situation is dire. More than 90% of wetlands in the Central Valley – and throughout California – have disappeared beneath tractors and bulldozers. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Commentary: Strong state oversight needed to ensure California’s wetlands are protected

Column: Sacramento leans into sea level rise

Columnist Michael Smolens writes, “Big money and more intense planning to adapt to sea level rise may be on the way.  At least 17 bills are pending in the state Legislature that address the inevitable reconfiguration of the California coast by the growing Pacific Ocean. Many other measures deal more broadly with climate change, which is causing seas to rise around the world.  The marquee legislation, Senate Bill 1, seeks to provide $100 million annually for grants to coastal communities. SB 1, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins of San Diego, has a strong carrot provision. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: Column: Sacramento leans into sea level rise

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Mendocino County: State issues water warning, Supes take heed please

Columnist Jim Shields writes, “The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, with the exception of 3rd District Supe John Haschak, have managed to paint themselves into the World’s smallest corner.  What I’m talking about is the quartet of Supes’ latest monkey-around of the never-ending Cannabis Ordinance ordeal. … However, there is something that is not nonsense and that is the 10% rule and the opening of rangeland to cultivation cannot be justified by the four Supes who have decided that paving the way for corporate takeover of marijuana farming is going to occur notwithstanding that the state of California is most likely going to declare a drought emergency and impose mandatory water cuts as Gov. Jerry Brown did during 2012-2017 drought. … ”  Read the full column at the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Column: State issues water warning, Supes take heed please

New 113-acre preserve on Sonoma-Mendocino line aims to bolster Gualala River recovery

Standing above the Gualala River, his gaze toward the opposite bank and a sharp hairpin turn in the river known as Mill Bend, Dave Shpak recounted more than a century of environmental abuses there as somberly if they were still taking place.  In a way, they are.  Though the last of three industrial-scale lumber mills — two right at the edge of the river and a third, up the hill — ceased operations in 1963, the estuary has only just begun recovering from decades of degradation that altered the river bed, diminished the aquatic habitat and denuded the surrounding embankments of native plants to make room for sawing logs. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  New 113-acre preserve on Sonoma-Mendocino line aims to bolster Gualala River recovery

Bay Area temps to break into the 80s this week – when will rain return?

Warm and sunny weather will continue this week across the Bay Area, with temperatures reaching the upper 70s and low 80s inland.  The week will kick off with dry and breezy weather Monday, with temperatures in the 60s to low 70s inland. Temperatures along the coast will be in the upper 60s with northwest winds up to 20 mph. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle here: Bay Area temps to break into the 80s this week – when will rain return?

HotSpots H2O: Homeless San Franciscans are in a clean water crisis

People living on San Francisco’s streets and in its parks face daily barriers to finding and accessing clean water, according to a report released earlier this month by the nonprofit organization, Coalition on Homelessness. The coalition surveyed 73 unhoused people during the 2020-21 winter months to better understand how they access, use, and store water. Of those surveyed — mostly elderly and disabled people living in the Tenderloin area — some 68 percent responded that meeting their daily water needs is a burden. ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here:  HotSpots H2O: Homeless San Franciscans Are In A Clean Water Crisis

Monterey: Otters at risk for boat strikes as CA salmon season opens

“Salmon season starts this coming weekend, and it’s expected to draw hundreds of fishing boats to the central coast. 
Conservation groups are asking anglers to be especially careful not to hit any sea otters, which tend to congregate in the harbors, sea channels, kelp beds and rocky near-shore areas. … ”  Read more from the Public News Service here: Monterey: Otters at risk for boat strikes as CA salmon season opens

Restoration of salmon habitat continues on the Merced River

“Efforts are continuing to support restoration of crucial habitat for salmon spawning and rearing on the Merced River.  Last fall, Merced Irrigation District completed the Merced River Instream and Off Channel Habitat Restoration Project. Adult salmon, which migrated from the ocean to the river, are already known to have used the new gravel beds for spawning. Now, in the coming months, surveys will be done by biologists to further study the use of the new stretch of river and the developing juvenile salmon that may rear there.  “MID is proud of the work we’re doing, and that’s especially true of our efforts to protect and support migrating salmon on the Merced River. Although the damage to the river was not the result of our operations, we believe it is the right thing to do,” said MID General Manager John Sweigard. ... ”  Read more from the Merced Irrigation District here: Restoration of salmon habitat continues on the Merced River

SoCal: How local surfers can help scientists with ocean restoration

The excitement of paddling out into clear coastal water and surfing the first waves of the day. The delicious taste of a fresh local catch at a seaside restaurant. The breathtaking view of a late summer sunset from the beach. For Southern Californians, coastal waters are a central part of our livelihoods, in some obvious and some not-so-obvious ways.  But our beloved coastal waters now face a multitude of threats, which is why citizen science initiatives such as The Smartfin Project and conservation advocacy groups including the Surfrider Foundation are fighting to better our nearshore waters. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Sun here: SoCal: How local surfers can help scientists with ocean restoration

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Along the Colorado River …

Utah is a leader in cloud seeding. Is it working?

Utah’s winter sports industry may claim the greatest snow on Earth, but for skiers and water watchers alike, there is hardly ever enough powder.  For nearly 50 years, the second-driest state in the nation has been giving natural winter storms an engineered boost to help deepen its snowpack through a program largely funded by state taxpayers, local governments and water conservancy districts. More recently, the states that rely on water from the lower Colorado River — California, Arizona and Nevada — have been paying for additional cloud seeding in Utah. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Utah is a leader in cloud seeding. Is it working?

Despite blizzard, Colorado’s critical mountain snowpack shrinks

Despite the recent history-making blizzard on Colorado’s Front Range, statewide snowpack sits at 92 percent of average as of March 19, down from 105 percent of average at the end of February, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Just two river basins, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, are registering above average at 101 percent and 106 percent respectively. Among the driest are the Gunnison Basin, at 86 percent of average, and the San Juan/Dolores, at 83 percent, both in the southwestern part of the state. ... ”  Read more from Water Education Colorado here: Despite blizzard, Colorado’s critical mountain snowpack shrinks

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In national water news today …

Congressional Research Service: Water infrastructure for the 21st century: The viability of incorporating natural infrastructure in Bureau of Reclamation water management systems

This CRS statement focuses on the authorities of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and provides relevant general context on natural and nature-based infrastructure.1In serving Congress on a nonpartisan and objective basis, CRS takes no position on legislation and makes no recommendations. CRS remains available to assist the subcommittee in its development and consideration of water resource and other legislation. I will start by providing context for federal efforts on natural infrastructure. I will then discuss the Bureau of Reclamation’s authorities and potential opportunities for the incorporation of natural infrastructure in its activities, including questions for policymakers. …  ”  Click here to read this statement.

Industry eyeing EPA’s hustle to control ‘forever chemicals’

Industry attorneys say they’re bracing for a wave of corporate liability and litigation as the Biden administration works swiftly to fulfill a campaign promise to control “forever chemicals.”  The Environmental Protection Agency this month announced it’s working on three water-related regulations for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. It sent a fourth chemical data-collection proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, for approval.  In the near future, the agency is likely to list some or all PFAS as hazardous waste, triggering cleanups and financial obligations for companies nationwide, attorneys counseling chemical and other manufacturers said. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  Industry eyeing EPA’s hustle to control ‘forever chemicals’

Biden lays groundwork for environmental regulations

The Biden administration is poised to take significant action on a range of environmental issues.  In the coming weeks, officials are expected to release a new plan for reaching the goals set out under the Paris Climate Agreement and recommend changes to several national monuments. More broadly, the administration is considering steps that could include taking a harder line on climate regulations. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Biden lays groundwork for environmental regulations

Stanford researchers discuss how the Biden administration can address environmental justice

With racism in the public eye and the pandemic wreaking havoc on vulnerable populations disadvantaged by ecological hazards, the need to ensure environmental justice has become more apparent – and more important – than ever, according to plans laid out by the Biden administration. Stanford research on environmental, social and legal issues reveals some of the strengths and limitations of these commitments. ... ”  Read more from Stanford News here: Stanford researchers discuss how the Biden administration can address environmental justice 

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More news and commentary in the Daily Digest, weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • California weighs changes for new water rights permits in response to a warmer and drier climate
  • Future of Sierra, Sequoia forests being decided now. How Creek Fire figures into plans
  • Conviction for violation of Clean Water Act required knowing discharge “into water”
  • ACWA-sponsored SB 323 passes committee hearing
  • Sacramento: Warm weekend weather brings snowmelt, danger to area waterways
  • Proposed natural gas well at edge of Bay Area riles up opposition, at odds with state’s climate goals
  • Valley Water evaluating five dam alternatives for proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir
  • Seawall protecting Laguna Beach home slated for demolition after legal battle
  • Freshwater Thought Leader Sandra Postel awarded 2021 Stockholm Water Prize
  • And more …

Click here for the Daily Digest, weekend edition.

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Today’s featured article …

DELTA COUNCIL: Consistency Determination for Lookout Slough Project appealed

The Department of Water Resources filed its Certification of Consistency for the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Improvement Project on February 22nd, 2021, finding that the project is consistent with the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.  On March 24th, appeals were filed by Liberty Island Access, Solano County Water Agency, Reclamation District 2060 & Reclamation District 2068, and the Central Delta Water Agency.

Click here to read this article.

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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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