DAILY DIGEST, 5/4: CA’s latest drought in 4 charts; District Court finds species conservation is not one of Twitchell Dam’s “other purposes”; CA Senator seeks expansion of land, water protection; What the new climate normals tell us about climate change; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: The State Water Resources Control Board meets today at 9am.  Agenda items include an update on current hydrologic conditions, the Delta Watermaster periodic report, and a report from the Delta Lead Scientist.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • FREE WEBINAR: Writing your utility’s digital playbook: know where to start from 12pm to 1:30pm.  We all know that digital adoption is key to unlocking capacity and confronting the challenges ahead. But with so much emerging innovation, it’s hard to know where to start.  As a sector, we’re rich with data and knowledge, but much of it lives in Excel sheets, PDFs, or employees’ heads. So how do you move from information to insights?  In this webinar, presenter David Lynch will provide a framework for innovation based on the fundamental goals of every utility. Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to expand your digital agenda, you’ll uncover areas of opportunity and come away with a process for writing your utility’s digital playbook.  Presented by the California Data Collaborative.  Click here to register.
  • MEETING:  The Delta Independent Science Board will meet from 12:30pm to 2:00pm.  Agenda items include a legislative update and discussion of future reviews.  Click here for full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • PUBLIC WORKSHOP: North Coast Regional Workshop on Expanding Nature-Based Solutions and Advancing 30×30 from 4pm to 6pm.  Join the California Natural Resources Agency and our partners for a North Coast regional workshop to provide input on meeting the State’s commitment to conserve 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 and accelerate nature-based solutions to address climate change.  The May 4th North Coast regional workshop encompasses Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, Siskiyou, and Del Norte counties. All meetings are open to the public, regardless of you or your organization’s geographic location.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

California’s latest drought in 4 charts

California is grappling with drought again, facing many of the same conditions and challenges that were features of the 2012–16 drought—including stressed ecosystems, depleted reservoirs, hard-hit farms and rural communities, threats to urban water supplies, and the potential for extensive wildfires. Knowing what’s different and what’s similar to our last major drought can help us better prepare the most vulnerable sectors for ongoing dry times.  To put this drought in context, this is only its second year. Historically, droughts have lasted up to six years. Our most recent one lasted five. We cannot know if this drought will break next year or four years from now, but we should plan for continuing drought. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  California’s latest drought in 4 charts

State develops tool and recommendations to support those most vulnerable to drought

With drought conditions returning to California, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has finalized a tool and recommendations to support those communities most at risk during drought.  Historically, small water systems and rural communities that rely on private domestic wells have been hit the hardest by prolonged periods of dry conditions. To provide increased state support, DWR led a two-year process learning from stakeholder experiences about what puts small water systems and rural communities at higher risk of water shortages and what is needed to build their resilience to drought. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: State develops tool and recommendations to support those most vulnerable to drought

California District Court finds species conservation is not one of Twitchell Dam’s “other purposes”

A federal judge’s decision rebuffed environmental groups’ effort to increase water flow from California’s Twitchell Dam, stating that wildlife conservation was not among the dam’s authorized purposes and that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) had no authority to modify the water releases for conservation purposes.  U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. sided with defendants in San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper v. Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District, rejecting plaintiffs’ claim that by failing to release enough water to benefit protected steelhead trout, the Bureau and local water district were in violation of the ESA.  At the heart of the dispute was whether conservation—in this case, protecting a species of trout—was among the dam’s purposes when it was created, and whether the Bureau was authorized by law to increase water flow. ... ”  Read more from the National Law Review here: California District Court finds species conservation is not one of Twitchell Dam’s “other purposes”

Bridging intention and outcomes: Panel discussion takeaways on the intersection of environmental justice, groundwater management and diverse stakeholders

On March 24, 2021, the Groundwater Resources Association of California and California Groundwater Coalition hosted the virtual 2021 Groundwater Law & Legislation Forum, featuring a keynote address from California’s Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and updates on pending groundwater legislation, DWR’s SGMA implementation, and ACWA’s position on potential bond measures.  One panel focused on the intersection of environmental justice, groundwater management and the role the legislative process can play in bridging the gap between the intent behind strategies designed to bring more diverse voices (especially the voices of entities and individuals more likely to bear a disproportionate burden) to the table and the ultimate outcomes. Given the broad applicability of the takeaways to the intersection of resource management and social and environmental justice highlighted, we wanted to share the conversation and ideas for proactive actions to effectively include more diverse voices in high-stakes natural resource issues and decision-making beyond solely groundwater management. ... ”  Read more from Brownstein & Hyatt here: Bridging intention and outcomes

State Senate lays out $3.4 Billion drought relief package

California Senators have unveiled a $3.4 billion drought relief package to address the hardships created by ongoing dry conditions. The Senate Budget Plan on Drought, Safe Drinking Water, Water Supply Reliability, and Ratepayer Assistance would be the single largest investment to address drought challenges in California. During the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection and Energy hearing, the proposal was passed by a 4-0 vote. The proposal offers a comprehensive approach to drought relief, with funding designated for water supply projects, research, and water-use efficiency projects. ... ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  State Senate lays out $3.4 Billion drought relief package

SEE ALSOCalif. lawmakers propose $3 billion in drought relief, from the Western Farm Press

California Senator seeks expansion of land, water protection

California Sen. Alex Padilla on Monday proposed a vast expansion of government protection for public lands and rivers that he said would fight climate change and safeguard natural treasures for generations to come.  His proposal would combine three bills already passed in the House and looks to take advantage of the Democratic tilt in Washington that is more welcoming to environmental protection, compared to the Republican Trump administration. Overall, it would expand protections for over 1 million acres of California public lands. ... ”  Read more from US News & World Report here: California senator seeks expansion of land, water protection

SEE ALSOCalifornia could get 600,000 acres of new federally protected wilderness, from the LA Times

Bay Area Democrats want to pass climate change laws. Can they deliver?

Now that Democrats have full control of Washington for the first time in a decade, Bay Area lawmakers want to make sure they don’t walk away empty-handed. For many of them, that means seeing green.  After several years of historically severe wildfires, heat waves and recurring drought conditions, bills related to climate change are at the top of the agenda for many lawmakers with local ties. Some of the legislative proposals focus on energy issues, such as investing in electric vehicle charging stations and planning job transitions for fossil fuel workers. Others would address the threats of extreme weather by allocating more money to reduce wildfire risks, strengthen water infrastructure and upgrade the electric grid. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Bay Area Democrats want to pass climate change laws. Can they deliver?

Regenerating our soil: A shift in agriculture practices can help the environment — and the bottom line

It’s an early spring morning at Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova. Shawn Harrison, the farm’s founder and co-director, points out a cobalt blue western bluebird and talks about a study that found the majority of the birds’ diet consists of insects that are agricultural pests. Their presence and efforts to attract the bluebirds are part of the story of regenerative agriculture unfolding on the farm. Regenerative farming practices integrate the entire ecosystem — building upon the relationships of the natural world — to simultaneously produce healthier, more abundant crops and restore the Earth’s natural resources.  … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here: Regenerating our soil: A shift in agriculture practices can help the environment — and the bottom line

Why California is planning to ban fracking

Jill Cowan writes, “A little more than a week ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that not only would California effectively ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by 2024, but the state also would work to phase out oil extraction entirely by 2045.  “As we move to swiftly decarbonize our transportation sector and create a healthier future for our children,” he said in a statement just after Earth Day, “I’ve made it clear I don’t see a role for fracking in that future and, similarly, believe that California needs to move beyond oil.”  … I wanted to know more about the state’s plans, so I spoke with two of California’s top environmental leaders: Jared Blumenfeld, who heads California’s Environmental Protection Agency, and Wade Crowfoot, who oversees the California Natural Resources Agency. … ”  Read more from the New York Times here: Why California is planning to ban fracking

Surprising tsunami triggers may lurk off California’s coast, scientists say

Although California’s most dangerous tsunamis come from thousands of miles away, scientists say they’ve pinpointed a wave trigger that’s much closer to home. Earthquakes along strike-slip faults can cause potentially dangerous waves in certain contexts, a new model shows — and such faults do exist right off parts of the Golden State’s shores.  If confirmed, the findings described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could affect future local tsunami risk assessments for coastlines along California and beyond. ... ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: Surprising tsunami triggers may lurk off California’s coast, scientists say

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In columns and commentary today …

Column: As Calif. enters historic drought. Washington focuses on… coral reefs.

Wayne Western writes, ” …  You might think water in the west – including California – is the main topic for discussion and problem solving among politicians both in Washington D.C. and Sacramento at times such as these.  While California citizens owe over $1 billion in water debt, while increasing acreage that supplies the United States with food goes fallow, while farmworkers lose jobs, and while sewage continues to leak into the Delta, surely governmental agencies, committees, and their bureaucratic tax collectors have a very clear view of their priorities, right?  You might think everyone realizes the dire situation our nation’s food supply is about to experience, right? ... ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Column: As Calif. enters historic drought. Washington focuses on… coral reefs.

To support people and fish, California must maximize every drop of water, invest in water infrastructure

Shelley Cartwright, deputy general manager of External Affairs for Westlands Water District, writes, “Given Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for California to “move past the old water binaries,” it’s disappointing that the Sierra Club is creating division through misstatements and misleading the public.  Westlands Water District has a long history of supporting local communities and investing in habitat restoration and conservation – strategies necessary to support the long-term health and sustainability of our environment and the fish and wildlife that depend on it. … ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters here:  To support people and fish, California must maximize every drop of water, invest in water infrastructure

Letters to the editor:  Why California can’t just build a water pipeline from the Great Lakes

Building a water pipeline from the Great Lakes to the Southwest and California, as suggested by one reader to address the drought, would be illegal and predatory.  As discussed in “Eau Canada,” a collection of essays published in 2006, Canada adopted a comprehensive water policy to protect its water rights, especially over the Great Lakes due to the “thirsty neighbours” in the United States. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Letters to the editor:  Why California can’t just build a water pipeline from the Great Lakes

How San Diego County’s water supply investments protect our economy and quality of life from drought

Gary Croucher. chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors, writes, “Increasingly ominous signs suggest that we are entering another multiyear drought in California. The State Water Project recently reduced projected water deliveries for 2021 from 10 percent of requested supplies to 5 percent, and on April 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a regional drought emergency in the Russian River watershed in Northern California.  But it’s a different story in San Diego County. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: How San Diego County’s water supply investments protect our economy and quality of life from drought

California is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Here’s why we are losing our biodiversity at an alarming rate.

Chuck Bonham, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, writes, “Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on a bone-dry lakebed in Northern California and announced the state is experiencing drought conditions again. Thus far, the most severe conditions are in specific northern watersheds such as the Russian and Klamath river basins. In the San Diego region, investments in diversifying water sources, conserving and recycling have enhanced resiliency to drought conditions.  Why should San Diegans care about dry conditions?  Here are a few reasons: climate change, our state’s incredible biodiversity and fire safety — all critically important. By applying what we learned from the last drought that officially ended in 2019, along with what we know to be true about the science of saving nature, we’re confident we can navigate this. ... ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune here: California is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Here’s why we are losing our biodiversity at an alarming rate.

Editorial: California’s extreme fire danger has never been greater. Why are Californians ignoring it?

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board writes, “A recent spate of spring blazes announced an alarmingly early start to California’s wildfire season, which is fast occupying too much of the year to fit any conventional understanding of the word “season.” With historically low moisture measurements suggesting vegetation is particularly primed to burn, too many Californians are about to find themselves in wildfires’ way.  As evidenced by fires that have toppled records for size and destruction in recent years, the state is struggling to protect the people and homes that have migrated to combustible exurbs over decades. The development patterns that have put more and more people up against fire-prone forest and chaparral can’t be easily undone. But we can and should stop adding housing, and fuel, to the fires. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Editorial: California’s extreme fire danger has never been greater. Why are Californians ignoring it?

In regional water news today …

Hornbrook leaders address stinky water issue

Residents of Hornbrook, California said they’ve had enough of the town’s smelly water. They are now asking the State of California for answers on an issue they say has been happening for years.  A basic necessity, Hornbrook residents said is running out dry. While the State of California appears headed for drought, the small town of Hornbrook has an added stressor  – stinky water.  “Everyone knows what a rotten egg fart smells like. I mean they’re horrible,” said Billie Stiolin has lived in Hornbrook for 1.5 years.  “Now imagine turning your water on and just this rotten egg fart smell coming out of your faucet,” said Stiolin. … ”  Continue reading at KOBI here:  Hornbrook leaders address stinky water issue

Radio show:  Eel River Restoration takes river stories to zoom

The Eel River is one of the major rivers of our region, draining a big chunk of California land into the Pacific south of Eureka.  The river has also taken a beating environmentally over the years, and that’s why there is an Eel River Recovery Project. ERRP is making sure the public stays up-to-date on river doings during the pandemic, offering the Eel River Zoom Series, Friday afternoon presentations on a wide range of topics affecting the river and its health.  Sessions started on April 8th and run through May 28th. Patrick Higgins, Managing Director of ERRP, gives us the overview. ... ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here:  Radio show:  Eel River Restoration takes river stories to zoom

California Tribes call out degradation of Clear Lake

“Seven years ago, after the fish died, Sarah Ryan decided she couldn’t wait any longer for help.  California at the time was in the depths of its worst drought in the last millennium and its ecosystems were gasping. For Ryan, the fish kill in Clear Lake, the state’s second largest and the centerpiece of Lake County, was the last straw.  Ryan is the environmental director for Big Valley Rancheria, a territory of the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians that sits on the ancient lake’s western shore. She and others raised alarms for several years about increasingly dire blooms of toxic cyanobacteria. But Lake County officials and state agencies were not gathering the data on toxin levels that Ryan thought was necessary to adequately communicate the health risks to tribe members or to anyone else using Clear Lake to swim, fish, drink — or walk their dog. … ”  Read more from Circle of Blue here:  California Tribes call out degradation of Clear Lake

The toxic, soupy biomass choking Clear Lake

On a good day, usually in late winter and early spring, the magnificent waters of Clear Lake seem to live up to their name. Under the shadow of the volcano Mount Konocti, the oldest lake in North America and second largest in California sparkles in an array of blues while fishing boats ply the shallow nearshore, their anglers hoping to hook a trophy bass.  From his office two miles inland, Frank Costner knows that the lake’s waters also shelter a treacherous occupant – potentially toxic blooms of cyanobacteria. As general manager of Konocti County Water District, Costner is responsible for supplying drinking water from Clear Lake to 4,500 people who live in this region a two-hour drive north of San Francisco. ... ”  Read more from High Country News here: The toxic, soupy biomass choking Clear Lake

Marin County water district to consider more drought restrictions this week

After recently approving the Bay Area’s first widespread restrictions on water customers amid worsening drought conditions, officials with the Marin Municipal Water District will vote Tuesday on imposing more.  The district’s board will vote on limiting overhead sprinkler irrigation to two days per week and requiring covers for recreational pools and spas “to reduce water loss through evaporation,” officials said. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Marin County water district to consider more drought restrictions this week

Bay Area: Fishing limits, choppy weather gets California salmon season off to slow – and expensive – start

The first glistening, coral-red fillets of California king salmon arrived in Bay Area stores Monday after the commercial season opened this weekend. But windy, choppy weather and regulations limiting where fishing can take place meant the season got off to a slow and expensive start.  “It’s decent fishing they’ve been doing,” said Hans Haveman, a fisherman and co-owner of H&H Fresh Fish in Santa Cruz Harbor, where he purchases salmon from fishermen and then sells it at a retail store and Bay Area farmers’ markets. But with winds at 30 or 40 knots, he said, “It’s been pushing people off the water.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Bay Area: Fishing limits, choppy weather gets California salmon season off to slow – and expensive – start

Southern California water district sues its own board member over videos, letters it says were unauthorized

The Central Basin Municipal Water District is suing a member of its board of directors, alleging she was behind the posting of online videos and the sending of letters invoking the district’s name without the authorization of its general manager or the entire board.  Friday’s Los Angeles Superior Court filing against Leticia Vasquez asks a judge to issue an injunction preventing her from taking such unilateral actions in the future. Vasquez did not immediately reply to a request for comment. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post here: Southern California water district sues its own board member over videos, letters it says were unauthorized

Where’s the sand? Some Southern California coastal cities hope delivery to local beaches will come

Sea-level rise is often pointed to as the unbeatable culprit chomping away at Southern California’s most popular asset. But rising seas aren’t the only reason the coastline is disappearing.  Decades of development along the coast blocked sand flow to beaches. Local shores historically have had a helping hand from the federal government in staying wide and sandy, but that assistance, like the sand itself, has dwindled in recent years.  City officials in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are concerned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to funded the major sand replenishment project that for decades kept the northern section of Orange County’s coastline flush with sand, providing a buffer between the ocean and communities and protecting a major economic driver for tourism to the region. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here: Where’s the sand? Some Southern California coastal cities hope delivery to local beaches will come

Video: Salton Sea Project Part 1 – Paradise Lost

The Salton Sea wasn’t always California’s forgotten lake. If you look at the current state of the area near the Salton Sea, you would be hard-pressed to believe that at one point, it was one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.  Fishing and boat races attracted all types of people as well as stars like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, and Sonny Bono. The Salton Sea was once considered a true desert oasis, but the good times would not last.  In part one of her four-part special report “Troubled Waters: The Salton Sea Project,” News Channel 3 morning anchor Angela Chen takes a look at the history of the Salton Sea and how it came to be on the brink of disaster.”  Watch news segment from KESQ here:  Video: Salton Sea Project Part 1 – Paradise Lost

Imperial Valley: Dispute over water rights possibly going to U.S. Supreme Court

In today’s Home Grown, a local lawsuit over ownership of the Colorado River water might be taken higher to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Michael Abatti versus the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) lawsuit has been ongoing in the valley, disputing over whether water rights belong to the landowners or if they are controlled by the IID.  “The best way we can protect our water rights is we can have it tied to the land, or as the Supreme Court decision said, appurtenant to the land,” Larry Cox said, former president of the Imperial County Farm Bureau. … ”  Read more from KYMA here:  Imperial Valley: Dispute over water rights possibly going to U.S. Supreme Court

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Along the Colorado River …

Drought intensifies forcing rationing of Colorado River water

The US Bureau of Reclamation last week warned water users to brace for a 500,000 acre-foot cut in water from the Colorado River as a historic drought continues to tighten its grip on the Southwest.  The cutback comes on top of a 200,000 acre-foot reduction Arizona water users agreed to last year in an effort to put off this day of reckoning. The Central Arizona Project provides more than a third of the state’s water. The reductions will mostly impact farmers.  The sparse snowpack this winter soaked into the ground during the hot, dry spring — producing little runoff. ... ”  Read more from the White Mountain Independent here: Drought intensifies forcing rationing of Colorado River water

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In national water news today …

Congress, water sector signal optimism for major investment

On Thursday the U.S. Senate voted to pass S. 914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA). It is the first infrastructure bill approved by the Senate this Congress.  The bipartisan, comprehensive clean water and drinking water infrastructure legislation will authorize strong annual water infrastructure investment to help boost total federal investment. In full, the legislation authorizes more than $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater resource development projects across the country “with a focus on upgrading aging infrastructure, addressing the threat of climate change, investing in new technologies, and providing assistance to marginalized communities.” … ”  Read more from Water Finance & Management here:  Congress, water sector signal optimism for major investment

Growing Drought: USDA indicates 14 states have no topsoil moisture in surplus conditions

“Drier weather helped aid major planting progress for U.S. farmers last week, but it didn’t help the topsoil moisture situation.  USDA’s latest Crop Progress report indicates 55% of the U.S. topsoil is considered ‘adequate,’ which is 10 points worse than this time last year. It also indicated soil moisture deteriorated from last week, when the U.S. had 59% of the topsoil in ‘adequate’ condition.  USDA shows 14 states have no topsoil moisture considered ‘surplus,’ which includes California Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. … ”  Read more from Ag Web here: Growing Drought: USDA indicates 14 states have no topsoil moisture in surplus conditions

Environmental groups sue Army Corps of Engineers over pipeline permitting

A coalition of five environmental groups on Monday sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying the corps did not properly analyze environmental impacts when issuing a broad pipeline permit.  The plaintiffs, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Waterkeeper Alliance and Montana Environmental Information Center, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Montana.  The permit at issue, Permit 12, is a so-called nationwide permit that streamlines the pipeline permitting process. The corps estimates its 2021 version will be used more than 40,000 times over the next five years. … ”  Read more from The Hill here: Environmental groups sue Army Corps of Engineers over pipeline permitting

The new U.S. Climate Normals are here. What do they tell us about climate change?

Every 10 years, NOAA releases an analysis of U.S. weather of the past three decades that calculates average values for temperature, rainfall and other conditions.  That time has come again.  Known as the U.S. Climate Normals, these 30-year averages — now spanning 1991-2020 — represent the new “normals” of our changing climate. They are calculated using climate observations collected at local weather stations across the country and are corrected for bad or missing values and any changes to the weather station over time before becoming part of the climate record. Simply stated: The Normals are the basis for judging how daily, monthly and annual climate conditions compare to what’s normal for a specific location in today’s climate.   … ”  Read more from NOAA here: The new U.S. Climate Normals are here. What do they tell us about climate change?

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Today’s featured articles …

BLOG ROUND-UP: Will California save the last winter run salmon this year?; Spring flow pulses in drought years can help salmon. So, what’s stopping us?; The “greedy” strategy for SWP and CVP reservoir operations; 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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