WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for April 11-16: Toxic algae, 2022 Flood Plan update; Recreation and tourism in the Delta; plus all the top news of the week

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

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This week’s featured articles …

DELTA ISB: Harmful Algal Blooms in the Delta (and elsewhere)

Harmful algal blooms (or HABs) occur when colonies of algae, under the right conditions, grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds.

Every U.S. coastal and Great Lakes state experiences harmful algal blooms.  In California, reports of harmful algal blooms have increased from 91 in 2016 to 241 in 2019.  In 2020, Stockton experienced a severe harmful algal bloom; it marked the first year that algal blooms spread into the San Joaquin and Calaveras Rivers so early in the summer and fall months.  Drought and heat are factors that increase harmful algal blooms, so all indications are that harmful algal blooms will again make headlines this year.

The Delta Independent Science Board tackled the subject at their December 2020 meeting, which featured two experts on the topic …

Click here to read this article.


DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: 2022 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan update, Recreation and tourism in the Delta

At the March meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, the councilmembers were briefed on the 2022 on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan and on the update to the recreation and tourism chapter of the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Plan.

Click here to read this article.

 

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In California water news this week …

Three states, one river and too many straws

As drought deepens across the West, California’s decision to limit State Water Project (SWP) deliveries to 5% forced Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) to increase pumping from the Colorado River near Lake Havasu. The good news: there’s water behind Hoover Dam for them to use.  The bad news: As MWD draws on what they call “intentionally created surplus” under a previous agreement, Lake Mead will fall below the threshold for Tier 1 restrictions, leading to a curtailment of water deliveries to Arizona farmers.  It’s not MWD’s fault that California reduced its promised deliveries from the SWP. Under an agreement in the late 1960s that established the federal Central Arizona Project, Arizona agreed to a lower priority of Colorado River water.  … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Three states, one river and too many straws

Costa, Feinstein introduce bill to restore Valley canals. No money for dams.

Rep. Jim Costa and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein introduced the bipartisan Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act on Thursday, a bill to authorize more than $653 million to restore the capacity of three San Joaquin Valley canals.  Restoring these canals would improve California’s drought resilience and help farmers comply with limits on groundwater pumping under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Costa’s office said in a news release.  “We know we have a broken water system and we know there’s a lot that we need to do to improve our water supply and our water quality,” Costa told reporters during a virtual news conference Thursday afternoon. “One of the most precious resources we have is water. Where water flows, food grows.” … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Costa, Feinstein introduce bill to restore Valley canals. No money for dams.

Friant Water Authority is one step closer to fixing the Friant-Kern Canal

Today, the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors voted to finalize a cost-share agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) that details how the work to restore lost capacity in the Friant-Kern Canal will proceed and be funded.  Reaching this important milestone clears the path for Reclamation to solicit construction bids with the goal of having a contractor selected around Summer 2021.  Construction on Phase 1 of the project is expected to be completed in 2024. The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project would restore capacity of up to 60% in certain areas where flow is severely constricted. The constriction is the result of land subsidence due to groundwater overdraft, largely from lands outside of the Central Valley Project Friant Division service area with no access to surface water supplies.

Click here to continue reading this press release.

“The Friant Division began 70 years ago with a shared vision and investments in its collective future,” said Cliff Loeffler, Friant Water Authority Chairman. “Although challenging, it was important for Friant contractors to continue financing their portion of the Friant-Kern Canal repairs together, as a family, irrespective of being north or south of the pinch point. It’s our legacy and part of what makes the Friant Division special, unique, and solutions-oriented.”

Components of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project finance plan include:

  • $206 million in funding as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in December 2020;
  • A minimum of $125 million in funding provided by a landmark agreement with the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency; and
  • $50 million in local funding provided by Friant-Kern Canal contractors.

The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project will restore the canal’s design capacity through 30 miles of its most conveyance-restricted section near Terra Bella. State and Federal environmental reviews for the project were completed in September 2020 and the project’s Record of Decision was signed on November 4, 2020.

The Friant Division was designed in the early 20th century to function as a large-scale conjunctive use effort to stabilize groundwater supplies while meeting community and farm water needs on the San Joaquin Valley’s eastside. One of the Friant-Kern Canal’s primary functions is to deliver surface water to be used in lieu of groundwater or to recharge groundwater aquifers. As a result, restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal is critical to the southern San Joaquin Valley’s success in complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, in additional to achieving water quality and water supply goals for small, rural, or disadvantaged communities on the eastside.  

Fish on rice: A modern approach to managed landscapes for the 21st century

Jacob Katz writes, “My hands came up out of the muddy water and there it was, sleek and fat with silver sides flashing in the winter sun. What a surprise to pull such a beautiful little salmon from the turbid waters of a rice field. Salmon were supposed be in the river, not out here in the shallow, wetland-like waters of a farmed floodplain. But there it was: young, fat and healthy.  I had been taught (and had taken it as gospel) that salmon belonged in the river and that the river belonged in its banks. This little “floodplain fatty” was telling me that neither of those assumptions were necessarily so. This salmon definitely knew something we didn’t. ... ”  Read more from Cal Trout here:  Fish on rice: A modern approach to managed landscapes for the 21st century

Unwelcome and tough to evict: California’s costly, uphill battle against invasive species

It’s nothing less than an invasion. Interlopers are coming into California by land, by sea…and by FedEx.  That’s what happened with the European green crab, a voracious cannibal that stowed away in packages of worms sent by overnight delivery to commercial fisherman in California. Unknown to anyone, the tiny crustaceans were concealed in seaweed that wrapped the cargo and were freed into the Pacific when fishermen tossed it overboard.  Then the green crabs, which a century ago decimated the East Coast’s shellfish industry, began to dine out in the Pacific, munching nearly everything in sight. Authorities made plans to rid the ocean of the pests.  But, as a research team from UC Davis discovered, invasive species don’t go quietly. ... ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Unwelcome and tough to evict: California’s costly, uphill battle against invasive species

Hurtado introduces the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021

Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) today introduced the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 – legislation that will provide up to $785 million to restore the capacity of California’s critical water delivery infrastructure and repair aging roads and bridges. The new legislation, Senate Bill 559, will fund repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal, Delta-Mendota Canal, San Luis Canal and California Aqueduct – California’s main state and regional water conveyance infrastructure.  “An investment made in the Central Valley and California’s water infrastructure is an investment made for the Nation and all Californians,” said Senator Hurtado. “This investment is critical for our country’s food supply chain, public health and ultimately the livelihoods of our farmworkers and families in rural communities. Restoring this infrastructure is essential to withstanding the long-lasting impacts of climate change while delivering clean, reliable, affordable water for hundreds of disadvantaged communities across California.” … ”  Read more from Senator Melissa Hurtado’s office here:  Hurtado introduces the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021

Valley Congressmen press resistant Newsom to declare state of emergency over Calif. drought

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sidestepping of a bureaucratic formality has caught the attention of California lawmakers in Washington who are demanding he declare a state of emergency over the severe drought conditions affecting the entirety of the Golden State.  Four Central Valley Congressmen – Devin Nunes (R–Tulare), David Valadao (R–Hanford), Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) and Tom McClintock (R–Elk Grove) – signed onto the letter to Newsom.  “It is not a secret that we find ourselves dealing yet again with a major drought,” the Republican delegation wrote. “It is imperative we do all we can as elected leaders to ensure our constituents, and the communities they live in, have access to the resources they need ruing this time, namely water.” ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Valley Congressmen press resistant Newsom to declare state of emergency over Calif. drought

Never mind: OID and SSJID cancel large water sale to West Side because of drought

The worsening drought has canceled a large water sale to West Side farmers by the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts.  They announced Wednesday that their own customers will need the water, which had been declared surplus in early March. A revised forecast of Stanislaus River runoff scuttled the sale, which could have brought up to $25 million to the sellers.  The water would have been delivered down the Stanislaus to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, then pumped to buyers as far south as Kern County. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee here: Never mind: OID and SSJID cancel large water sale to West Side because of drought

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

Southern California water giant wants Sacramento Valley water — and has $44 million to spend

With California in the throes of a second year of drought conditions, the mega-water agency of Southern California served notice Tuesday that it’s prepared to spend up to $44 million to buy water from Northern California to shore up its supplies.  The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million urban residents, authorized its staff to begin negotiating deals with water agencies north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where supplies are generally more plentiful. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Southern California water giant wants Sacramento Valley water — and has $44 million to spend

Report offers first in-depth picture of California water systems struggling to provide safe drinking water

The State Water Resources Control Board announced today the completion of its first-ever comprehensive look at California water systems that are struggling to provide safe drinking water to communities and how to help them. With criteria for the state’s Human Right to Water list recently expanded, the assessment identifies both failing water systems and those at risk of failing, offering the most in-depth view of long-term drinking water safety the state has ever had.  The needs assessment follows California’s leadership in adopting the first Human Right to Water policy in the nation. The study is part of the state’s Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Program, a comprehensive approach to implementing Governor Gavin Newsom’s commitment to ensuring the estimated 1 million Californians being served contaminated water have solutions for safe, affordable drinking water. … ”  Read more from the State Water Board here: Report offers first in-depth picture of California water systems struggling to provide safe drinking water

California report tallies hundreds of failing water systems in the state

When California lawmakers were debating a funding package in 2018 for clean drinking water, one of the unknowns was how large the need really was.  Now, with the release of an in-depth report, state regulators have a detailed picture of how many small water systems are failing or at the brink of failure and what it would cost to bring them up to par.  The State Water Resources Control Board’s needs assessment found 326 public water systems that are consistently failing to provide drinking water that meets state and federal standards. ... ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue here: California report tallies hundreds of failing water systems in the state

Today in California, 331 drinking water systems fail health standards. More are at risk

A new state analysis estimates a $4.6 billion funding gap for water system infrastructure needed to ensure Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water.  The State Water Resources Control Board this month released the first-ever drinking water needs assessment, showing that approximately 620 public water systems and 80,000 domestic wells are at-risk of failing to provide a sufficient amount of drinking water that meets basic health standards.  The highest concentrations of at-risk systems are in schools and communities in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles Basin and the Central Coast, according to the principal investigator on the project, Greg Pierce of UCLA. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Today in California, 331 drinking water systems fail health standards. More are at risk

Congressman David G. Valadao cosponsors resolution supporting the Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao signed on as an original co-sponsor of a resolution to support the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This rule revised the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that imposed unnecessarily burdensome regulations on farms and businesses. The resolution, introduced today by Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), also expresses that clean water is a national priority. … “As a lifelong farmer, I know firsthand the challenges government overreach places on the day-to-day operations of farms and businesses,” said Congressman Valadao. “It is critical Congress affirms the importance of prioritizing clean water and defends the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This commonsense rule protects the quality of American waters and lands while ensuring the prosperity of farms and businesses.” … ”  Read more at Congressman Valadao’s website here:  Congressman David G. Valadao cosponsors resolution supporting the Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Why Wall Street investors’ trading California water futures is nothing to fear – and unlikely to work anyway

Water is one of the world’s most vital resources.  So is there reason to freak out now that profit-hungry hedge funds and other investors can trade it like a barrel of oil or shares of Apple?  That’s exactly what CME Group recently did in California when it launched the world’s first futures market for water in December 2020. Put simply, a futures market lets people place bets on the future price of water.  Some people worry Wall Street’s involvement in trading water will disenfranchise the water rights of rural communities and lead to more scarcity of an already dwindling resource, thus driving up the price everyone pays. … While there are real risks, we think they’re misunderstood and overblown. And anyway, very few are actually trading water futures. ... ”  Read more from The Conversation here:  Why Wall Street investors’ trading California water futures is nothing to fear – and unlikely to work anyway

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In commentary this week …

Raising Shasta Dam threatens McCloud River, sacred tribal lands and salmon

Chief Caleen Sisk, spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, writes: “Earlier this week, American Rivers released a list of the nation’s most endangered rivers. California’s McCloud River is included because of the federal government’s proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam.  That proposal is a continuation of a long and shameful history of attacks on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. Fortunately, Deb Haaland, our nation’s first Native American Secretary of the Interior, has an opportunity to point the federal government toward justice for the river and my people.  The Winnemem Wintu name means “middle water people” in our language – a reference to the McCloud River.  The river and our salmon – winter run Chinook – define our existence, shape our spiritual practices and provided us with food for millennia. Because of this connection, Shasta Dam looms over the river – and our tribe – as an ongoing threat. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Raising Shasta Dam threatens McCloud River, sacred tribal lands and salmon

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the State Water Resources Control Board must adopt a comprehensive, science-based plan to restore San Francisco Bay

Jon Rosenfeld, Senior Scientist with Baykeeper, writes, “San Francisco Bay’s life support systems are unraveling quickly, and a wealth of science indicates that unsustainable water diversions are driving this estuary’s demise.  Yet, with another drought looming, federal and state water managers still plan to divert large amounts of water to their contractors and drain upstream reservoirs this summer. Meanwhile, the state’s most powerful water districts are preparing yet another proposal to maintain excessive water diversions for the long-term.  By delaying reforms that the law requires and that science indicates are necessary, Gov. Gavin Newsom encourages wasteful water practices that jeopardize the Bay and make the state’s water future precarious. … ”  Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Gov. Gavin Newsom and the State Water Resources Control Board must adopt a comprehensive, science-based plan to restore San Francisco Bay

Failure to prepare deepens the pain from dry years

Danny Merkley and Chris Scheuring write, “It’s that time of year, when we find out it’s that kind of year.  We appear at the doorstep of a “critically dry year,” and most reservoir levels are significantly below average. Those conditions bring painfully to mind the awful drought years of 2014 and 2015, and threaten water supplies for California farms and cities, and for the protected fish species that must also get by in these lean years.  For direct diverters, the State Water Resources Control Board recently sent letters to 40,000 water right holders of record, asking them to start planning for potential water supply shortages later this year, and identifying actions water users can take to increase drought resilience. ... ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Commentary: Failure to prepare deepens the pain from dry years

Innovation needed to solve state’s water challenges

Danielle Blacet, deputy executive director at the California Municipal Utilities Association, and Adrian Covert is senior vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, writes, “Earlier this month, camera crews once again gathered in the Sierra Nevada to watch a man plunge a pole through the snow. The pole was removed and, following a tense few moments, Californians learned we experienced another dry winter, and we are plunging further into drought.  These snowpack surveys are quaint rituals, but they’re also a jarring reminder of how little technological innovation has occurred in California’s water sector.  The case for action is clear.  … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here:  Commentary: Innovation needed to solve state’s water challenges

In regional water news this week …

How a historic drought is threatening the future of Klamath Basin farms and endangered species

When it was announced Wednesday that Klamath River Basin farmers would receive less than 10% of their annual summer water allotments due to a historic drought, the news was not so much of a surprise as it was stunning in the totality of the economic devastation it would sow, irrigators said.  The announcement that farmers would receive only 33,000-acre feet of water was made by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water deliveries on federal land and delayed the decision for more than a month.  Many farmers and ranchers, already reeling following a global pandemic, are now questioning their future in the second-largest land reclamation project on record. Native American tribes are also worried as endangered fish species such as Coho salmon and the Lost River sucker — considered an integral part of their culture — are equally threatened.  It promises to be a long and difficult summer for everyone involved. ... ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: How a historic drought is threatening the future of Klamath Basin farms and endangered species

Born with this: The last days of the Klamath River dams.

The Hornbrook Chevron looks like any other place to buy gas, snacks and a fishing license along the I-5 corridor in Northern California. It’s also one of the few businesses still standing in Hornbrook, California (population around 200). For a few hours though, it comes to life because the Chevron parking lot is the unofficial rendezvous point for fly-fishing trips on the upper Klamath River. It’s here that guides meet anglers, coffee chases donuts and steelhead strategies hatch.  It’s here, on a near-perfect fall morning, I meet up with Patagonia ambassador and California Trout (CalTrout) videographer Mikey Wier and his colleague Andrew Braugh. … ”  Read more from Patagonia here: Born with this: The last days of the Klamath River dams.

Threatened by Shasta Dam raise, McCloud one of America’s most endangered rivers, conservation group says

While the federal government sees the prospect of raising the height of Shasta Dam as a way to increase water storage for a thirsty California, the Winnemem Wintu of Shasta County see it as a threat to their culture.  It was a theme picked up this week by American Rivers, a conservation group that named the McCloud River one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers because of the proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam.  “Raising the height of Shasta Dam would decimate more of the McCloud River,” Ron Stork, with Friends of the River, said in a news release. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight here: Threatened by Shasta Dam raise, McCloud one of America’s most endangered rivers, conservation group says

Santa Rosa cuts back recycled water allocations to agriculture by two-thirds

At a time of year when farmers have counted on tapping into recycled water to get them through the hotter months, water officials in Santa Rosa have severely cut back the amount of water they will deliver. They blame the drought.  “We’ve never seen it like this before,” said Elise Howard, spokeswoman for the city’s Water Reuse department.  Starting Monday, the city will cut its allocations to its agricultural customers to a third of what they normally get. Those 60 users will share 600 million gallons of recycled water. In the average water year, the city doles out 1.7 billion gallons. … ”  Read more from the North Bay Journal here:  Santa Rosa cuts back recycled water allocations to agriculture by two-thirds

Court rules Marin County’s protections for endangered coho salmon inadequate

The Marin County Superior Court today ruled that the county in Northern California failed to adequately protect coho salmon and their habitat in the San Geronimo Valley.  Marin County originally planned to adopt a streamside conservation ordinance to preserve vegetation, maintain water quality and prevent erosion in 2007 when it last updated its countywide plan. But 12 years later, the measure has still not materialized, in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.  The lawsuit was brought by the Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) and Center for Biological Diversity. … ” Read more from the Center for Biological Diversity here: Court rules Marin County’s protections for endangered coho salmon inadequate

Suisun Marsh gas drilling plan runs into environmental buzz saw

The Suisun Marsh — known as the largest swath of contiguous wetlands on the West Coast and a haven for thousands of migrating waterfowl — has become the Bay Area’s latest battleground between fossil fuel producers and environmentalists hellbent on fighting climate change.  A Brentwood company, Sunset Exploration Inc., announced in January it wants to explore for natural gas by drilling a section of the 116,000-acre marshland about 9 miles southwest of Suisun City in an area known as Hunter’s Point, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Sunset proposes to construct a gravel drilling pad almost an acre large and drop a volleyball-sized drill bit about a half-mile into the sandstone ground, probing to see if there’s enough gas worth extracting. This first-phase process would last several weeks. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Suisun Marsh gas drilling plan runs into environmental buzz saw

Lower Putah Creek Salmon Study extended through SCWA approval

How many salmon populate the Lower Putah Creek? What are the demographics of these fish? In what ways can their habitat be preserved so the lower creek remains healthy?  Researchers at the University of California, Davis are researching these questions, and the Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) has given them another year of funding to continue their research as part of the Lower Putah Creek Salmon Study through the rest of the 2021-22 fiscal year.  “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,” SCWA General Manager Roland Sanford said in a statement. “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.” … ”  Read more from The Reporter here: Lower Putah Creek Salmon Study extended through SCWA approval

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

Cargill drops fight to build 12,000 homes on Redwood City salt ponds

In what environmental groups are hailing as a “complete victory,” Cargill Salt announced this week it will not appeal a decision by a federal judge that protects Redwood City’s salt ponds from development, effectively halting its decades-long effort to build thousands of new homes there.  The move comes after a U.S. District Court judge ruled in October that the federal Environmental Protection Agency ignored its own regulations when it decided in 2019 that about 1,400 acres of San Francisco Bay salt ponds adjacent to the city’s port aren’t protected by the Clean Water Act.  As salt ponds, the land isn’t worth much financially — but if the ponds had been excluded from the act, it would have allowed Cargill to make lucrative land and development deals potentially worth billions of dollars. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Cargill drops fight to build 12,000 homes on Redwood City salt ponds

‘A scary scenario’: Water bills in San Jose headed for costly, decade-long spike starting this summer

Residents across San Jose can expect to see their water bills increase in the coming months no matter what company they get their water from — a trend that could continue year after year for the next decade.  Santa Clara Valley Water District, the region’s wholesale water provider, plans to raise its rates by up to 9.6% each year for the next eight years, followed by an 8.7% jump the following two years. The monthly rate increases would equate to an approximate $4.50 to $5.10 increase per month for customers, according to the water district. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: ‘A scary scenario’: Water bills in San Jose headed for costly, decade-long spike starting this summer

Central California: Down to the wire: Ag order 4.0 adoption deadline this Friday

A final decision on the pending Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program known as Ag Order 4.0 is expected by Friday, April 16. Producers have anxiously been monitoring the development of the program from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Stakeholders have repeatedly provided feedback on the proposal, detailing the challenges it would create within agriculture. As the adoption deadline quickly approaches, industry members still have concerns about multiple provisions of the measure. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Down to the wire: Ag order 4.0 adoption deadline this Friday

Creating a place for nature in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley’s quest for groundwater sustainability will result in large amounts of irrigated agricultural lands being retired. A new book explores how some of these lands could be restored to natural areas that bring multiple benefits. We talked to Scott Butterfield, a senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy and one of the book’s editors, about this vision.  PPIC: The book describes a vision for “rewilding” retired agricultural land. How might this work in the San Joaquin Valley?  SCOTT BUTTERFIELD: “Rewilding” in the context of the San Joaquin Valley means creating functional ecosystems that support a suite of native plants and animals. We’re thinking about how to repurpose the agricultural lands that are most at threat of being retired under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) or for other reasons—lands where farming is likely no longer sustainable. … ”  Continue reading at the PPIC here: Creating a place for nature in the San Joaquin Valley

Monterey: Judge rejects Cal Am, county bid to limit desal plant project re-do

A Monterey County Superior Court judge has affirmed her earlier ruling that the Monterey County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the California American Water desalination plant project must be rescinded in its entirety.  Last week, Judge Lydia Villarreal rejected a bid by Cal Am and the county to limit the court’s rescission order to only the county board’s statement of overriding considerations for the desal plant project, which would have allowed the supervisors to reconsider just that part of the project approval. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey: Judge rejects Cal Am, county bid to limit desal plant project re-do

New front in Santa Barbara County’s pot wars

Santa Barbara County’s most depleted water basin, the Cuyama Valley, is fast becoming the latest battleground in the fight over how — and whether — to address the negative impacts of the lucrative cannabis industry on farming and residential communities.  The giant groundwater basin underlying this sparsely populated, heavily farmed, economically depressed valley is one of California’s 21 most critically over-drafted basins and the only one outside the Central Valley. For 75 years, the Cuyama Valley has been a mecca for water-intensive farming on an industrial scale — first, alfalfa, and now, carrots, a $69 million annual crop. Now there’s a newcomer on the block. More than 740 acres of outdoor cannabis cultivation has been proposed for the Cuyama Valley and is under review for zoning permits, county planners say. The industry is poised to drop new straws into the declining basin, where some of the well water is 1,000 feet deep and 30,000 years old — so old, it’s known as “fossil water.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: New front in Santa Barbara County’s pot wars

Permit terms might kill Poseidon desalination proposal in Huntington Beach

Recommended terms for a permit to build Poseidon Water’s controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach would make it impossible to get financing for the $1.4 billion project, according to the developer.  Regulators question that claim, although they acknowledge that the requirements could create financing obstacles.  Poseidon’s three-year effort to win a permit from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is scheduled to culminate within the next month, with a vote as soon as the board’s April 23 meeting. Additional meetings have been penciled in for April 29 and May 13, if needed, as previous deliberations and public hearings have often stretched longer than anticipated. ... ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Permit terms might kill Poseidon desalination proposal in Huntington Beach

Valley district seeking federal funding to study the feasibility of using Seven Oaks Dam for enhanced water supply

San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District supported construction of Seven Oaks Dam because the district believed it would not only provide flood control, but capture precious drinking water for the benefit of Inland Empire water agencies.  But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which completed construction of the dam in 2000, has never been officially authorized to use the 550-foot-tall structure for anything other than flood control purposes. This project, which cost the tax payers $450 million in the late 1990s, has the capacity to hold at least 115,000 acre-feet in its reservoir, yet it is only authorized to provide “incidental water conservation.” “Everyone knows that it is a colossal challenge to construct a new above-ground reservoir these days in California, yet in the Santa Ana watershed we have an existing dam and reservoir that has already been built, to the tune of nearly $700 million in today’s dollars, that is only operated for a single purpose,” said Paul Kielhold, president of San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board of Directors.

Click here to continue reading this press release from the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

Cadiz faces new suit over water pipeline

Another legal challenge has been launched against a project by downtown-based water infrastructure company Cadiz Inc. to pump and transport water from its desert aquifer to connect with existing water conveyance systems.  This latest lawsuit was filed March 23 against the Bureau of Land Management by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club. It asks the federal court to overturn a December BLM decision to approve the conversion of an idle oil and gas pipeline to carry water from Cadiz’s desert aquifer. Cadiz is not a direct party to the lawsuit but would be impacted by a decision resulting from the suit. … ”  Read more from the LA Business Journal here: Cadiz faces new suit over water pipeline

San Diego: Controversial pipeline project is fueling drama within the Water Authority

The San Diego County Water Authority is no stranger to conflict – virtually all of its dealings over the past decade have been shaped by its feud with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California .  Now that feud is fueling fights within the agency itself.  In the latest twist, some members called for an independent ethics officer during a full meeting of the Water Authority last month. “Different viewpoints need to be respected and protected by this board. If you’re unable to stop these attacks, I believe the Water Authority should establish an independent ethics office,” said Kim Thorner, general manager and voting member for Olivenhain Municipal Water District, which serves places like Encinitas, Carlsbad, Solana Beach.  ... ”  Read more from the Voice of San Diego here:  San Diego: Controversial pipeline project is fueling drama within the Water Authority

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

Shortages looming For Colorado River Basin

The numbers show Lake Mead is likely to drop below 1075 (one thousand seventy-five) feet in elevation later this year. That triggers a “Tier 1” shortage under the rules of the Drought Contingency Plan.  Arizona takes the brunt of the shortage, losing more than five hundred thousand acre-feet of water, or about a third of the Central Arizona Project’s supply. The canal brings water to Tucson and Phoenix, but the cuts will largely affect farmers.  The Colorado River is currently in “Tier Zero” status, which requires Arizona to leave nearly two hundred-thousand-acre feet of water in Lake Mead. ... ”  Read more from KNAU here: Shortages looming For Colorado River Basin

Homestake Reservoir release proves tricky to track: Getting water to state line would be key in compact call

In September, Front Range water providers released some water downstream — which they were storing in Homestake Reservoir — to test how they could get it to the state line in the event of a Colorado River Compact call.  But accurately tracking and measuring that water — from the high mountain reservoir in the Eagle River watershed all the way through the Colorado River at the end of the Grand Valley — turned out to be tricky, according to a recently released report from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from Vail Daily here: Homestake Reservoir release proves tricky to track: Getting water to state line would be key in compact call

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Weekly features …

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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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: $20 million available for shovel-ready forest and wildfire resilience projects in Sierra Nevada

ARMY CORPS REGULATORY WORKSHOP: Nationwide permits

ANNOUNCEMENT: Incentive Program Launched for Small Municipalities to Replace Their Lead Pipes

ANNOUNCEMENT: CNRA Launches Website, Public Input Questionnaire on Using Natural and Working Lands to Achieve Climate, Biodiversity Goals

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ Climate Workshop~ Meeting Canceled~ CWC Meeting~ Water Storage~ Bridge Closure ~~

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~ Needs Assessment~ Disadvantaged Communities~ EPA Webinars~ Conveyance Financing~ Water Conference~ Forest Stewardship~ Climate Goals ~~

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