DAILY DIGEST, 4/13: Biden admin declares CA drought disaster. What is Newsom waiting for?; Water technologies offer drought lifelines; SSJID pulls plug on water deal tied to spring pulse flow; IID decides to stand pat on Abatti’s Supreme Court petition; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water will meet beginning at 9am.  Items to be heard include numerous bills regarding oil and gas; also drought planning, environmental equity.  Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • PUBLIC WEBINAR: SAFER: Needs Assessment Results from 9am to 12pm. This webinar will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to learn about the State Water Board’s Needs Assessment results. The State Water Board will provide an overview of the results of the Risk Assessment (public water systems, state small water systems, and domestic wells), Cost Assessment, and Affordability Assessment.  Click here to register.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Weather, Wildfire, and Wine: Challenges Facing California Wineries from 10am to 11:30am. California’s wine grape growers and wineries are facing unprecedented challenges in the wake of climate change, wildfire, drought, and labor-related shortages. Join us on ARE Discussions where Aaron Smith (Deloach Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis) will provide an overview of the challenges facing the wine industry and Molly Moran Williams (Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association) will provide industry insights and on-the-ground perspectives from Napa County.  Click here to register.
  • FREE EVENT: Ballona Wetlands and the Future of Southern California Coastal Conservation from 12pm to 1:15pm. The symposium will feature the following participants: Dr. Richard Ambrose, Professor, UCLA Department of Environmental Health Sciences and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; Dr. David Jacobs, Professor, UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Dr. Shelley Luce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Heal the Bay; David McNeill, Executive Officer, Baldwin Hills Conservancy.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

Biden administration declares California drought disaster. What is Newsom waiting for?

Lake Oroville, February 4, 2021. Photo by Andrew Innerarity / DWR

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 50 California counties as natural disaster areas last month because of the drought.  And, over the weekend, Fresno Congressman Jim Costa said on KSEE-24’s Sunday Morning Matters program that Gov. Newsom should declare a statewide emergency because of the dangerously dry conditions.  Vilsack is a Democrat and former Iowa governor who served eight years as President Obama’s top farming official. Costa is a Democrat. ... ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Biden administration declares California drought disaster. What is Newsom waiting for?

Dan Walters: Drought hits California — and Newsom

By any standard, California is experiencing one of its periodic droughts after two successive years of below-normal precipitation.  “We are now facing the reality that it will be a second dry year for California and that is having a significant impact on our water supply,” state water resources director Karla Nemeth said in late March as the state reduced projected deliveries of water to 5% of requested demand.  … As the very dry 2020-21 winter drove home the reality of another drought, a group of state legislators last week sent a letter to Brown’s successor, Gavin Newsom, urging him to also declare a drought emergency.  “This is the slowest, most foreseeable train wreck imaginable,” state Sen. Andreas Borgeas, a Fresno Republican who fostered the letter, said.  Newsom, however, is clearly reluctant to declare an emergency. … ”  Read more at Cal Matters here: Dan Walters: Drought hits California — and Newsom

Officials confident in water supply management without drought declaration

Despite a dry water year, state officials do not feel that a drought declaration is necessary. During a recent meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Director of the California Department of Water Resources, Karla Nemeth provided a water update. Much of the presentation to the board centered on drought and what the outlook is for California water supplies moving forward. Even with a snowpack roughly half the average and below average water storage levels, officials believe that the state can manage the rest of 2021 without an emergency declaration. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Officials confident in water supply management without drought declaration

Drought is consuming the western U.S., but water technologies offer lifelines

It’s only April, but in parts of the U.S. Southwest, it already feels like summer. With temperatures in the upper-90s last week and virtually the entire western half of the U.S. in drought, we can prepare for yet another year of record-breaking weather.  Parts of Texas have yet to recover from the deadly winter storm two months ago while now preparing for the onslaught of hot, dry days punctuated by the upcoming hurricane season. It’s not unprecedented: Texas last saw such a severe winter storm in 2011, followed that summer by the worst year of the state’s multiyear drought which included 90 days of 100 degrees-plus temperatures and catastrophic wildfires. … ”  Read more from the Triple Pundit here: Drought is consuming the western U.S., but water technologies offer lifelines

South San Joaquin Irrigation District pulls plug on water deal tied to spring pulse flow for fish while district now scrambling to avoid water cutbacks to Manteca, farmers

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District received word Friday that their share of the runoff from the Stanislaus River watershed will be 20,000 to 40,000 acre feet of water less than previously estimated.  “It is a bleak water outlook,” noted SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk. …  The lower water projection made the district’s proposal to release up to 100,000 acre feet to boost the soring pulse flow for threatened fish in the Stanislaus River and then sell that water to west side farmers that are without state water this year impossible to do. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here:  Bleak water outlook

Report sets path toward clean drinking water for all Californians

California was the first U.S. state to legally recognize access to safe, clean and affordable water as a human right. But substantial parts of the state lack access to drinking water that meets those criteria.  A new study (PDF) published by the California State Water Board and supported by UCLA research identifies a risk for failure among a significant portion of the state’s small and medium-sized public water systems. The report is the first comprehensive analysis of how clean water is provided in California, and it estimates how much it would actually cost to deliver safe water to every resident. … ”  Read more from UCLA here: Report sets path toward clean drinking water for all Californians

California watershed restoration to utilize EPA grant

The California State Water Resources Control Board (the State Board) will use $4.4 million of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to fund projects in seven counties around the state. EPA’s Nonpoint Source Program grant assists the State Board in implementing programs to address pollution caused by runoff moving over the ground, known as nonpoint source pollution. … ”  Read more from Rocklin & Roseville Today here: California watershed restoration to utilize EPA grant

California could phase out fracking, other oil drilling under bill headed for first test in legislature

Legislation that would gradually phase out fracking and other extraction methods that account for most of California’s petroleum production faces its first big test in Sacramento on Tuesday.  The nine-member Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee is set to vote on a proposal, Senate Bill 467, that would bar new permits for hydraulic fracturing, cyclic steaming, steam flooding and water flooding.  The legislation would begin taking effect in 2023 and also prohibit renewing existing permits for fracking and the other targeted methods, which a committee bill analysis says accounts for an estimated 80% to 95% of the state’s oil production. ... ”  Read more from KQED here: California could phase out fracking, other oil drilling under bill headed for first test in legislature

April has never been this dry, say researchers, as Cal Fire begins to staff up

Moisture content in vegetation is typically not something Cal Fire has to pay attention to until May or June.  This is not a typical year.  The United States Forest Service already checked fuels in the Sierra Nevada Foothills in eastern Fresno County on April 1 because of abnormally dry conditions confronting the state.  Also atypical — Cal Fire is bringing in additional personnel this week to have more fire engines staffed by week’s end. ... ”  Read more from GV Wire here:  April has never been this dry, say researchers, as Cal Fire begins to staff up

Can ‘banana buffers’ save California from wildfires?

California’s deadly, damaging wildfires worsen by the year. The state’s naturally dry landscapes, parched by a changing climate, have turned into tinderboxes. A stray match or lightning strike has the capacity to incinerate forests, fields, and neighborhoods. Last year saw a summer and fall of choking smoke and blood-red skies over huge portions of the state.  To avoid fiery disaster, local governments often clear away dried brush from the hillsides and fields surrounding homes and streets. But one professor has a rather bananas idea: Barath Raghavan thinks growing groves of banana trees around towns and cities could help halt these now-yearly tragedies. ... ”  Read more from Atlas Obscura here: Can ‘banana buffers’ save California from wildfires?

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Tensions rise in water battle along Oregon-California line

One of the worst droughts in memory in a massive agricultural region straddling the California-Oregon border could mean steep cuts to irrigation water for hundreds of farmers this summer to sustain endangered fish species critical to local tribes.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water allocations in the federally owned Klamath Project, is expected to announce this week how the season’s water will be divvied up after delaying the decision a month.  For the first time in 20 years, it’s possible that the 1,400 irrigators who have farmed for generations on 225,000 acres (91,000 hectares) of reclaimed farmland will get no water at all — or so little that farming wouldn’t be worth it. Several tribes in Oregon and California are equally desperate for water to sustain threatened and endangered species of fish central to their heritage. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press here: Tensions rise in water battle along Oregon-California line

Scientists investigate if suckers need to take their vitamins

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into whether a previously unexplored vitamin deficiency could play a role in the decline of sucker species in the Klamath Basin.  Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, is essential for all vertebrates. It helps enzymes break down sugars, produce energy and create genetic material. In fish, it plays a significant role in early growth and development. … ”  Read more from Herald & News here: Scientists investigate if suckers need to take their vitamins

Environmental groups sue Humboldt County over Rolling Meadow Ranch cannabis project near McCann

“Citizens For A Sustainable Humboldt (CSH) and the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) have filed a lawsuit in the Humboldt County Superior Court, with claims under the California Environmental Quality Act, the State Planning and Zoning Law, and other laws, challenging the environmental review and permits approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.  The recent permitting of the Rolling Meadow Ranch project (“Project”), a large industrial Cannabis project near McCann, on the banks of the Main Stem Eel River, has been a great disappointment to the neighbors in McCann, local Fire Districts, and many others in the community. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Environmental groups sue Humboldt County over Rolling Meadow Ranch cannabis project near McCann

Solano County Water Agency extends Lower Putah Creek Salmon Study

The Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) has approved another year of funding through Fiscal Year 2021-22 for University of California, Davis researchers to continue their Lower Putah Creek Salmon Study.  As part of ongoing Putah Creek restoration efforts, SCWA and its partners have developed a robust program to monitor the abundance and population dynamics of salmon in Lower Putah Creek. This monitoring program will continue with the implementation of new monitoring tools to determine the presence and growth of a self-sustaining salmon population within the creek.  The study also explores best practices to manage the ecosystem into the future. Salmon runs are a critical part of the Putah Creek ecosystem health, and by creating the ideal habitat for salmon to spawn, whole food-chains stand to benefit as Putah Creek becomes a thriving ecosystem for invertebrates, birds, and fish alike.

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Solano County Water Agency.

“We are pleased to continue to fund a program that will give us a greater idea of how effective our restoration work is for Putah Creek’s environment,” said Roland Sanford, General Manager at SCWA. “It’s important that we continue to have this research-based feedback as we continue and refine our efforts to improve the creek’s flows and habitat.”

The project will involve five labs at UC Davis, with collaboration from the SCWA and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife with efforts to sample and track juvenile and adult fish.

“We will be able to use data from DNA comparisons to estimate how many Chinook salmon in Putah Creek originate from past spawners in the system. In addition, we will be able to track juvenile salmon migrations within and outside the system to understand their survival rates and outmigration dynamics, including potential methods for boosting survival,” said Andrew Rypel, Associate Professor and the California Trout Chair in Coldwater Fish Ecology at UC Davis. “Increasing understanding of the salmon run on Putah Creek is critical to managing the health of this ecosystem in the future.”

SCWA has championed decades of restoration efforts in this region to date, making Putah Creek the statewide model it is today for stream conservation and habitat restoration. 

Climate change is setting us up for a terrible wildfire season; it’s also killing off rare California elk

So far in 2021, parts of the North Bay near Santa Rosa are without nearly 20 inches of normal yearly rainfall, leading to concerns of another hellacious wildfire season on the horizon. Those same kinds of drought conditions, too, are linked to the deaths of over 150 tule elk. … The aforementioned desiccation has transformed the grasslands and shrubbery groves many of the state’s wildlife depend on into food deserts. Among the casualties caused by this lack of available sustenance? California’s threatened tule elk populations — which, as of publishing, number less than 6,000 examples split up between an estimated 22 herds sprinkled throughout the state. ... ”  Read more from SFist here:  Climate change is setting us up for a terrible wildfire season; it’s also killing off rare California elk

Sausalito sewage spill unloads nearly 100K gallons

Tree roots are being blamed for a 98,280-gallon sewage spill in Sausalito that went unnoticed for two weeks.  The overflow started on March 17 and went undetected because of heavy vegetation, according to the county. The spill was stopped on March 31.  The spill, between 71 and 67 Woodward Ave., was caused by roots blocking a private sewer lateral, said Gregory Pirie, a county environmental health official. ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here:  Sausalito sewage spill unloads nearly 100K gallons

The simple local solution to sea level rise? Mud from the bottom of San Francisco Bay

Protecting the Bay Area from sea level rise may all come down to mud.  That’s the finding of a new report from San Francisco Estuary Institute that tries to address a two-part problem related to the looming threat of sea level rise: the lack of natural sediment coming into the bay and the need to reinforce its shorelines to protect the region from rising seas.  There’s a fairly straightforward solution, the nonprofit research organization proposes: Take the sediment that’s dredged from the bay’s shipping channels and barged out to sea or to deep parts of the bay — 2½ to 3 million cubic yards of mud a year — and use it to restore wetlands on the perimeter. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  The simple local solution to sea level rise? Mud from the bottom of San Francisco Bay

Report: Sediment for Survival: A Strategy for Resilience of Bay Wetlands in the Lower San Francisco Estuary

The Sediment for Survival report provides a regional sediment strategy aimed at examining the future of sediment in the Bay and informing sediment management for the resilience of tidal marshes and tidal flats to climate change. The report analyses current data and climate projections to determine how much natural sediment may be available for tidal marshes and tidal flats and how much supplemental sediment may be needed under different future scenarios. These sediment supply and demand estimates are combined with scientific knowledge of natural physical and biological processes to offer a multi-benefit strategy for sediment delivery that will allow these wetlands to survive a changing climate and provide benefits to people and nature for many decades to come. The approach developed in this effort may also be useful beyond San Francisco Bay because shoreline protection, flood risk management, and looming sediment deficits are common issues facing coastal communities around the world. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Estuary Institute here:  Sediment for Survival

SEE ALSO: San Francisco Bay: Protection from costly disasters is being thrown away, scientists say, from the San Jose Mercury News

Marina Coast water storage upgrade starts up, district adds new GM

A new $15 million Marina Coast Water District water storage project designed to increase water storage by more than 3 million gallons and replace a septuagenarian Army water tank and other aging infrastructure is moving forward as the district brings on a new general manager.  Last month, the water district board approved a construction contract with Anderson Pacific and a construction management deal with Psomas for the project, which includes two new 1.6-million gallon potable water storage tanks and a new booster pump station. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Marina Coast water storage upgrade starts up, district adds new GM

Kern County: Plan to thin out forest on Mount Pinos draws immediate opposition

A disagreement about how to defend southern Kern County mountains against wildfire may spread westward to Mount Pinos.  The U.S. Forest Service, still in court over its efforts to thin out the woods near Frazier Park, has proposed chopping down trees less than two feet wide across 2½ square miles near the highest peak in the Los Padres National Forest, two miles southeast of Pine Mountain Club.  A public comment period on the project opened Wednesday and extends for almost another month. It’s unclear how soon tree removal could begin. ... ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Kern County: Plan to thin out forest on Mount Pinos draws immediate opposition

No restrictions expected in Pasadena as county sees ‘severe drought’ conditions

An exceptionally dry winter has brought what experts are describing as drought conditions to Los Angeles County, but officials in Pasadena say local water restrictions beyond the usual seasonal conservation efforts are not anticipated.  … “The imported water supplies provided to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have been reduced to levels which reflect the severe drought conditions in Northern California and the Colorado River Basin,” Otto said.  “However, investments to store water have been successful and Pasadena and MWD do not anticipate enacting any water restrictions beyond the normal conservation stages expected for each summer,” she said. … ”  Read more from Pasadena Now here: No restrictions expected in Pasadena as county sees ‘severe drought’ conditions

Ballona activists demand UCLA stops taking fossil fuel money

Ballona Wetlands activists are demanding that the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability stop taking fossil fuel company money, protesting an upcoming virtual event this week. A symposium on Zoom planned for April 13 from noon to 1:15 p.m. with the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability titled “Ballona Wetlands and the Future of Southern California Coastal Conservation” … Activists want a second symposium from UCLA to feature leading opposition groups to discuss what environmentalists call a counterfeit “restoration” project, said Marcia Hanscom, a Sierra Club leader and wetlands activist for the Ballona Wetlands since 1995, in a statement to Patch. ... ”  Read more from The Patch here: Ballona activists demand UCLA stops taking fossil fuel money

Imperial Irrigation District decides to stand pat on Abatti’s Supreme Court petition

Imperial Irrigation District apparently has decided not to sweat Michael Abatti’s decision to appeal his case against the district to the nation’s highest court.  IID announced Monday it will not file a response to Abatti’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court over his ongoing legal dispute with the district over water rights. The exception would be if the court requests a response. ... ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press here: Imperial Irrigation District decides to stand pat on Abatti’s Supreme Court petition

Statement: Imperial Irrigation District will not file a response to Abatti’s U.S. Supreme Court petition

The Imperial Irrigation District will not be filing a response to Mike Abatti’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court unless the Court requests one.  IID General Counsel, Frank Oswalt, explained the decision that no response was necessary.  “After a thorough review of Mr. Abatti’s petition, it was the unanimous conclusion of counsel that there is almost no possibility that the United States Supreme Court will grant the petition.” … ”

Click here to continue reading this press release from IID.

The Supreme Court is not a court of general jurisdiction. Under our federal system, it does not involve itself in questions of whether a state law has been interpreted or applied correctly. In this case, the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District sitting in San Diego wrote a thoughtful, detailed opinion spanning more than 100 pages in which it conclusively rejected Mr. Abatti’s central proposition that he owns IID’s water rights. Neither he, nor any other water user in the IID system has an enforceable water right, other than the right to be served by the IID. Mr. Abatti’s position on the ownership of water was and is solely a question of state law. The Court of Appeal’s decision rejected Mr. Abatti’s legal argument, and the California Supreme Court saw no reason to disturb their opinion when it refused Mr. Abatti’s petition for review. The law governing this matter is settled.”

“There is absolutely nothing raised by Mr. Abatti’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari that merits any attention by the U.S. Supreme Court. Our litigation attorneys are communicating the IID’s position that no response is needed and we expect the Court will swiftly reject Mr. Abatti’s latest filing.”

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Along the Colorado River …

Extreme conditions now sparking drought contingency plan for first time

Extreme drought conditions throughout the West are lowering levels in the crucial water reservoir, Lake Mead. Scars of long years of low precipitation are hard to go unnoticed at Lake Mead, and the hot, dry summers have been felt for the last several years in Arizona. 2020 was especially dry, with little monsoon.  Now, the West is in uncharted territory. ... ”  Read more from Channel 13 here: Extreme conditions now sparking drought contingency plan for first time

Radio show: Updating the status for water from the Colorado River

The Colorado River is one of the most highly developed surface water systems in the world, but demand for the river’s water continues to exceed supply. University of Arizona geosciences professor Connie Woodhouse discusses the impact of a warming climate on the Colorado River. She is the featured speaker for the annual College of Science lecture series April 15.  Connie Woodhouse spoke with Leslie Tolbert, Regent’s professor emerita in Neuroscience at the University of Arizona.”  Listen to the radio spot from Arizona Public Media here: Radio show: Updating the status for water from the Colorado River

Mother Nature to unload a shot of mid-April snow across the Rockies

A dramatic change in the weather pattern is erasing what’s been a milder start to April across the Intermountain West, and AccuWeather meteorologists say a developing storm system will allow winter to make its presence felt in an even bigger way.  Temperatures across Colorado, Wyoming and Utah have averaged around 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal so far in April. … However, this seasonable trend will come to an end this week as the jet stream continues to plunge south across the western United States. Temperatures have already been trending lower to start the week. ... ”  Read more from AccuWeather here:  Mother Nature to unload a shot of mid-April snow across the Rockies

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In national water news today …

White House pressured to intervene on forthcoming drinking water shutoffs

As the novel coronavirus pandemic impacted Americans’ ability to earn income and pay for fundamental services, drinking water utilities around the country have waived fees or suspended shutoffs for those households that haven’t been able to pay their bills. But with shutoffs looming again in many states, some have asked for federal intervention to help consumers maintain access to drinking water. ... ”  Read more from Water Online here: White House pressured to intervene on forthcoming drinking water shutoffs

Endangered US rivers at grave risk from dams, mining and global heating

Dams, mining, factory farms and global heating are among the gravest threats facing America’s endangered rivers, according to a new report. … Every year American Rivers ranks the country’s 10 most endangered rivers to highlight where imminent threats to human health, safety and survival could be resolved through decisive political, business and community measures.  This year’s list highlights the unequal impact of unchecked big business, Native American treaty violations, and inadequate regulation on the nation’s rivers and the communities who depend on them for water, food and cultural heritage. … ”  Read more from the Guardian here: Endangered US rivers at grave risk from dams, mining and global heating

State infrastructure in shambles, White House says ahead of negotiations

In time for President Joe Biden’s meeting with lawmakers regarding his administration’s sweeping infrastructure proposal, the White House published 50 reports Monday that detail widespread deficiencies plaguing American roads and bridges, its power grid and more.  The price tag for Biden’s American Jobs Plan is $2 trillion, a contentious sum that has unsurprisingly set Democrats and Republicans at odds over how the federal government can best manage the nation’s long-neglected infrastructure needs against its ballooning $28 trillion debt. ... ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here: State infrastructure in shambles, White House says ahead of negotiations

Why the market for ‘blue carbon’ credits may be poised to take off

Off the shores of Virginia, vast meadows of seagrass sway in the shallow waters. Over the past two decades, conservation scientists have spread more than 70 million seeds in the bays there, restoring 3,600 hectares (9,000 acres) of an ecosystem devastated by disease in the 1930s. The work has brought back eelgrass (Zostera marina) — a keystone species that supports crustaceans, fish, and scallops, and is now absorbing the equivalent of nearly half a metric ton of CO2 per hectare per year.  Now, the Virginia Nature Conservancy is aiming to turn those tons into carbon credits that it can sell for cash. … ”  Read more from Yale e360 here: Why the market for ‘blue carbon’ credits may be poised to take off

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Today’s featured article …

BLOG ROUND-UP: CA releasing water from reservoirs, claiming drought conditions; CA’s predatory water policy is billionaire farmer–friendly; Resource managers should consider the law of “limiting factors” to save Delta smelt; 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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