WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for June 6-11: SGMA Implementation update; Considering surface waters and GDEs in GSPs; plus all the top water 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 …

KERN COUNTY WATER SUMMIT: SGMA Implementation Update

At the Kern County Water Summit held last week, hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, Acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources Statewide Groundwater Management Program Steven Springhorn provided an update on the Department’s progress on SGMA implementation, including the Department’s review of the submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans and the existing and proposed SGMA-related assistance.

He began by noting the considerable amount of work that has been done the past six years since the law went into effect, includes establishing regulations for the forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and for developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs).


WEBINAR: Managing California’s Groundwater: Interconnected Surface Waters & Environmental Users

The Local Government Commission and the Groundwater Exchange are excited to launch a three-part webinar series to share key learnings from the Groundwater Leadership Forum’s 2020 Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) review and provide detailed guidance about how GSPs can address specific areas of interest.  This first webinar discussion focused on interconnected surface waters, groundwater dependent ecosystems, and engaging environmental stakeholders in groundwater planning.  Our expert presenters were Charlotte Stanley and Melissa Rohde with The Nature Conservancy.

Watch webinar here.

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In California water news this week …

How dire is the drought? One of California’s biggest reservoirs could hit its lowest level ever

Normally at this time of year, workers at Lake Oroville’s two marinas are preparing for a deluge of visitors eager to spend the summer lazing on houseboats, zipping across the water on speed boats or cruising the sprawling lake’s rocky nooks and coves in search of salmon.  But this spring, after two years of scant rainfall, they’ve pulled about 130 houseboats out of the shallower reaches of the marinas and are closing boat launch ramps as the lake recedes, likely to record-low levels by the fall. At Lake Oroville and elsewhere in the state, shrinking reservoirs are among the most visible signs of the exceptional drought that has gripped much of California and could force water conservation measures as the hot, dry summer drags on. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: How dire is the drought? One of California’s biggest reservoirs could hit its lowest level ever

Pulling out trees, trucking water for cows: California farmers take drastic measures in drought

Normally, the biggest vegetable grower in Sonoma County, Humberto Castañeda Produce, grows heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, watermelons and other crops on 180 acres outside of Santa Rosa. But this year, Humberto Castañeda and his son, Gabriel, are farming only 17 acres after receiving a fraction of their normal allotment of water from the city of Santa Rosa.  “I could plant the whole farm and have water that might last me for a month,” said Gabriel, 27, who is managing the farm Humberto founded in the 1980s for the first time this season. “After that the plants are going to die.”  The Castañedas are among countless farmers across the state taking drastic measures to deal with the drought, either because they’re not getting their usual irrigation allotments or because the ponds they normally rely on are drying up in the second year of California’s drought. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Pulling out trees, trucking water for cows: California farmers take drastic measures in drought

SEE ALSOPhotos: California’s Growing Drought Disaster

‘This is definitely going to be a painful drought, but I don’t think it’s a complete calamity for most parts of the state’: UC-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

Co-Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis, Jay Lund, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the gravity of the drought the Western U.S. is facing and why the water shortage could send food prices higher.  ADAM SHAPIRO: I want to bring into the stream somebody very important. Because one way or another, whether you live in California or not, we’re tied to California. And the California drought is a big threat to agriculture in California. So Jay Lund is the co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. We appreciate you joining us right now. And for those of us who don’t understand the geographic issues for California, but also the water issues, the big question is, do we face food shortages? I mean, the pictures of these empty depleted reservoirs are kind of frightening.  JAY LUND: I don’t think we’ll be seeing food shortages.  The major losses for water supply in California are going to be from the big surface water systems. But California has quite a bit of groundwater that farmers use during drought years to make up for those depleted reservoirs. … ”  Continue reading Yahoo News here: ‘This is definitely going to be a painful drought, but I don’t think it’s a complete calamity for most parts of the state’: UC-Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

How ingenuity and desperate measures kept urban water flowing during the ‘77 drought

As a major drought expands across the West, there is concern that it will rival the harsh drought of 2014. For Californians with longer memories, the fear is not of repeating 2014, when the state muddled through. The fear is repeating 1977, when water districts stared into the abyss; some almost ran out. “1977 caught us unprepared,” said Jeff Kightlinger, the general manager of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, “In the generation since then we have tried to prepare” for what’s coming now. “Are the lessons learned going to be enough?”  What follows is an account by two former members of the 1977 staff of the East Bay Municipal Utility District about what it took to avoid disaster. … ”  Read more from Stanford’s … & the West here: How ingenuity and desperate measures kept urban water flowing during the ‘77 drought 

There’s a danger in over-simplifying Calif. water conservation

You hear it every time drought returns to California: “Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth.” “Collect shower water in a bucket before it warms up.”  While valuable, these tried and true drought resilience strategies can also deflect attention from the monumental challenges posed by droughts to natural areas, waterways, agriculture and people in California. Far-sighted and discerning management of the state’s annual precipitation and groundwater is critical, particularly as droughts become more frequent due to climate change, said Faith Kearns, the academic coordinator of UC’s California Institute for Water Resources.  “Like so many big societal problems, we don’t want to get caught up believing individual actions alone will solve this problem,” Kearns said. “Conserving water in households can help people feel activated and certainly conserve some water. But, at the same time, it’s not enough. We have big, systemic issues to deal with.” … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: There’s a danger in over-simplifying Calif. water conservation

Multiple late season atmospheric rivers are forecast to impact Northern California and the PNW this weekend

“This first AR is forecast to make landfall on Friday while the second and potentially stronger AR is forecast to make landfall late on Saturday.  The first AR is forecast to bring weak to moderate AR conditions to far Northern California and Southern Oregon.  Several GEFS ensemble members suggest the second AR could bring strong AR conditions (IVT >750 kg m–1 s–1) to Coastal OR, but there is higher forecast uncertainty surrounding this AR compared to the first.  The WPC is forecasting as much as 2–4 inches of precipitation over some of the higher elevation locations in Northern CA, OR, and WA. … ” Read more from the Center for Western Weather & Water Extremes here: Multiple late season atmospheric rivers are forecast to impact Northern California and the PNW this weekend

NorCal conservationists float emergency water plan to save salmon

After years of drought, salmon in Northern California are facing extinction. Conservation groups in the region have drafted a water management plan that, if adopted, would send less water to Central Valley farmers and keep more cold water for fish.  Last week, fishery advocates in Northern California submitted their temperature management plan to the State Water Resources Control Board. They want to change water operations in the Shasta, Trinity, Sacramento and Lower Klamath Rivers so the region’s salmon runs have enough cold water to survive. Tom Stokely is with Save California Salmon and co-authored the plan. He said the Bureau of Reclamation’s current practices are a recipe for disaster. … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio here: NorCal conservationists float emergency water plan to save salmon

Seeking a balanced plan: Sacramento River operations for 2021

Lewis Bair, the Reclamation District 108 General Manager, and Thad Bettner, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) General Manager, write, With the harshest dry year in recent memory, the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (Settlement Contractors) are working closely with federal and state agencies, as well as our conservation partners, to continually improve our operations and serve water for multiple benefits, including water for cities and rural communities, farms, birds, fish, and recreation.  The following 2021 operations plan balances the multiple beneficial uses of water in California dependent upon the Sacramento River and the various requirements that govern these operations. The Governor in his April drought proclamation set the tone for these operations—“to prepare for potential impacts of drought conditions on species, the Water Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife shall work with federal agency partners to manage temperature conditions for the preservation of fish in the Sacramento River downstream of Shasta Dam while balancing water supply needs.” … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association here:  Seeking a balanced plan: Sacramento River operations for 2021

After a bitter fight, Southern California’s water kingpin has a new leader

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has hired Adel Hagekhalil as its next general manager, following a bitter power struggle over the future of an agency that delivers hundreds of billions of gallons each year from the Colorado River and Northern California to a region that otherwise wouldn’t have nearly enough water to support 19 million people.  Hagekhalil was previously second in command at the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, where he helped develop strategies for cutting the city’s use of imported water — and therefore its reliance on Metropolitan. He said he’ll bring a shift in focus to the agency, putting more emphasis on recycling sewage water, capturing rainwater and cleaning up groundwater aquifers. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: After a bitter fight, Southern California’s water kingpin has a new leader

GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins

The wait is over for some Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the first Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) assessments for four basins yesterday, June 3, 2021.  DWR approved the 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Salinas Valley and the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin. DWR determined both GSPs “satisf[y] the objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and substantially compl[y] with the GSP Regulations.”  By contrast, DWR issued “consultation initiation letters” to the Cuyama Valley Basin and the Paso Robles Area Subbasin, requiring certain deficiencies be corrected before the plan is approved. Both GSPs were deemed incomplete for deficiencies in their definitions of sustainable management criteria (SMC), including minimum thresholds and undesirable results, as required by SGMA and GSP regulations. … ”  Continue reading at Brownstein Water here: GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins

Long Beach researchers to study how rising sea levels could pollute fresh groundwater

Researchers from Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge will kick off a two-year study starting on July 1 that will analyze how rising sea levels could cause underground fresh water to become contaminated with toxins further inland.  Their findings will then be used to create mapping tools to identify which low-income communities in California are most at risk of having their water contaminated in the near future. The goal is to bring awareness to state planners of the neighborhoods most impacted and how they can use the data to make better decisions when dealing with environmental planning. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post here: Long Beach researchers to study how rising sea levels could pollute fresh groundwater

How water bonds plug spending holes

As California responds to yet another drought and prepares for a future of greater climate extremes, securing funding to boost the water system’s resilience is a top priority. One go-to funding source over the last two decades has been state general obligation bonds.  In dollar terms, GO bonds play a relatively small role in water system spending, yet they punch above their weight when it comes to filling critical gaps. In fact, bonds have helped fund water’s fiscal orphans—critical activities that lack stable, long-term funding sources—including providing safe drinking water for small communities and managing floods, stormwater, and ecosystems. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: How water bonds plug spending holes

A new agricultural electricity use forecast method holds promise for water use management

Agricultural electricity demand is highly sensitive to water availability. Under “normal” conditions, the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP), as well as other surface water supplies, are key sources of irrigation water for many California farmers. Under dry conditions, these water sources can be sharply curtailed, even eliminated, at the same time irrigation requirements are heightened. Farmers then must rely more heavily on groundwater, which requires greater energy to pump than surface water, since groundwater must be lifted from deeper depths. … The surface-groundwater dynamic results in significant variations in year-to-year agricultural electricity sales. Yet, PG&E has assigned the agricultural customer class a revenue responsibility based on the assumption that “normal” water conditions will prevail every year, without accounting for how inevitable variations from these circumstances will affect rates and revenues for agricultural and other customers. … ”  Read the full post at Economics Outside the Cube here:  A new agricultural electricity use forecast method holds promise for water use management

Court rules water district rate increases violated Proposition 218

A court of appeal invalidated a water district’s adopted rate increases, concluding that the district failed to meet its burden under Proposition 218 of establishing that the increases did not exceed the cost of providing the water service. KCSFV I, LLC v. Florin County Water District [a Sacramento water district], No. C088824 (3rd Dist., May 28, 2021).  Following a hearing, the Board of Directors of the Florin County Water District voted to increase its water rates by 50 percent. Data presented by staff at the hearing showed that revenues would exceed expenditures in each of the four years following the rate increase, culminating in a net profit of almost $1.4 million in the fourth year.  The Court of Appeal upheld plaintiffs’ challenge to the rate increase, finding that the District failed to prove that the amount of the increase did not exceed the cost of providing the water service. … ”  Read more from the California Land Use & Development blog here: Court rules water district rate increases violated Proposition 218

Woman sues over getting stuck in fish trap while tubing in Sacramento

A Sacramento woman says she nearly drowned and her son was traumatized when she got stuck in a fish trap while floating on the American River.  A lawsuit filed Friday in Superior Court seeks damages from state and federal wildlife agencies and Sacramento County over the incident, on June 10, 2020, just west of the Watt Avenue bridge in Sacramento.  The woman and her son had been floating on inner tubes for less than a quarter-mile, the complaint says, when hers was pulled toward a “rotary screw trap” — a floating device intended to capture salmon for monitoring purposes. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here: Woman sues over getting stuck in fish trap while tubing in Sacramento

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In commentary today …

Water board choice is key to providing clean water for all

Belinda Faustina, strategic advisor with Los Angeles Waterkeeper and  Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, write, “California’s drought highlights the importance of an appointment sitting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk – filling the final seat on the State Water Resources Control Board. This is a critical agency appointment at a critical time.  The drought highlights many inequities in California water policy.  Disadvantaged communities in Stockton face the prospect of a drought summer plagued by harmful algae blooms in Delta rivers. Those algae outbreaks, which can harm children and kill pets, are caused by excessive nutrients and inadequate freshwater flow. Think what it means for a parent to be afraid for their child’s health if they swim in a river on a hot summer day. … ”  Continue reading at the Mercury News here: Water board choice is key to providing clean water for all

How better data can help California avoid a drinking water crisis

Rich Pauloo, hydrologist, data scientist, and co-founder of the Water Data Lab, and Alva Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center, write, “Drought is here — and we’re beginning to feel the effects.  A majority of affected households during the last drought were in the San Joaquin Valley and these same communities are among the most vulnerable this time. As California faces a second year of drought, many are left to wonder, “What can be done to help?”  Last time, small rural communities reliant on shallow wells — many of them communities of color — were among the most affected. More than 2,600 households reported losing access to water because their wells went dry between 2012–16. (That number is likely an undercount as reporting was voluntary.) Much has changed however since the 2012–16 drought. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: How better data can help California avoid a drinking water crisis’

In regional water news this week …

Amid mega-drought, rightwing militia stokes water rebellion in US west

Fears of a confrontation between law enforcement and rightwing militia supporters over the control of water in the drought-stricken American west have been sparked by protests at Klamath Falls in Oregon.  Protesters affiliated with rightwing anti-government activist Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights Network are threatening to break a deadlock over water management in the area by unilaterally opening the headgates of a reservoir.  The protest has reawakened memories not only of recent standoffs with federal agencies – including the one led by Bundy in eastern Oregon in 2016 – but a longer history of anti-government agitation in southern Oregon and northern California, stretching back to 2000 and beyond. ... ”  Read more from The Guardian here: Amid mega-drought, rightwing militia stokes water rebellion in US west

Podcast: Klamath Basin water conflict could offer opportunity to revisit solutions

The Klamath Basin is suffering the worst drought in the state. Competing need for the water by local tribes seeking to sustain endangered fish populations, farmers and ranchers, and commercial and tribal fisheries has been a persistent issue, and has led to conflicts in the past. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which took 10 years to plan, was a turning point and a compromise for the parties needing access to the water. The KBRA was ultimately not successful in Congress, but some say the relationships forged when crafting those agreements persist and can be built on to revisit new solutions. We’re joined by two geography professors at Oregon State University, Hannah Gosnell and Aaron Wolf, who tell us about the possibilities for mediating this issue. ... ”  Read more from OPB here: Podcast: Klamath Basin water conflict could offer opportunity to revisit solutions

Environmental advocates call for Klamath Basin water allocations

Tribes and environmental advocates fear flows along the Klamath River could be reduced to a trickle if the State Water Resources Control Board doesn’t take action on water use upstream on the Scott and Shasta rivers.  Andy Marx, board president of Friends of the Shasta River, said the river “virtually dried up” over Memorial Day weekend as a result of excessive irrigation diversions.  “The problem with the Shasta is it was adjudicated well beyond capacity in 1932 before fish were a concern and nothing’s really changed in terms of the drought,” Marx said. “Sprinklers are still on and alfalfa fields are green and pastures are green. I’m sure there have been some impacts on (ranchers and farmers) out there, but it doesn’t look a lot different from our perspective. The only big difference is the river has gotten so low so early in the year.” … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Environmental advocates call for Klamath Basin water allocations

Shasta River dangerously low on water: conservation group

The drought in Northern California, combined with agricultural water use, is shrinking the Shasta River, according to a conservation group in Siskiyou County. During normal summers an unobstructed, spring-fed Shasta River flows at 150-200 cubic feet per second, according to Bruce Shoemaker with Friends of the Shasta River. But in recent weeks, he says, it’s been reduced to just three cubic feet per second.  “It’s just been virtually, completely captured,” says Shoemaker who is a local property owner and member of the conservation group’s board. Friends of the Shasta River, a grassroots group of citizens in the Shasta River Basin, is worried that diversions for agriculture could cause the river to go dry this summer.  … ” Continue reading at Jefferson Public Radio here: Shasta River dangerously low on water: conservation group

State water regulators to consider emergency limits on at least 1,600 Russian River users

State regulators are considering sweeping drought emergency rules that would let them suspend the diversion of water from the Russian River to at least 1,600 homes, businesses and other users. The proposal, which would cover both the upper and lower parts of the watershed, could greatly extend the list of more than 900 water suppliers, agricultural producers and property owners already notified there has been too little rainfall for them to exercise their water rights this year.  The draft regulation goes before the water board next Tuesday and could account for substantial monthly savings, depending when diversions are limited, Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the state water board’s Division of Water Rights, said during a virtual Sonoma County Town Hall on the drought last week. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  State water regulators to consider emergency limits on at least 1,600 Russian River users

Whose water is it? Lake Tahoe water levels dropping quickly as demand increases

Those watching the level of Lake Tahoe know it is dropping quickly, and it’s not just because of a lack of snowfall this year and another year of drought.  Understanding why the lake drops, and who causes it to drop (yes, there is a person – the watermaster), is key to knowing why the lake should be at its natural rim of 6,223 feet above sea level by the beginning of August. As of June 8 the lake is two feet above that rim.  The surface of Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide and 191 square miles. The shoreline length is 75 miles and with an average depth of 1,000 feet, there is a lot of water in this jewel of the Sierra, 36.15 cubic miles or 39,000,000,000 (trillion) gallons of it, in fact. ... ”  Read more from South Tahoe Now here: Whose water is it? Lake Tahoe water levels dropping quickly as demand increases

Marin officials: Bridge water pipeline could be permanent

Officials are raising the prospect of a permanent water pipeline over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge as a potential drought-fighting strategy for Marin County.  “We currently have less than a year of water supply, and that’s a perilous position for a water agency to be in,” said Ben Horenstein, the general manager of the Marin Municipal Water District.  Horenstein was among the participants of a teleconference on drought and wildfires organized by Assemblyman Marc Levine on Wednesday.  “Climate change is challenging all of that planning, and what we’ve seen this year is that we’re at levels we’d typically see at year three of a drought and not in year two,” Levine said. “So you can’t say that we should have seen this coming and that it snuck up on us. This is a different type of animal in this year two of the drought.” ... ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal here: Marin officials: Bridge water pipeline could be permanent

Editorial: Gavin Newsom’s swollen budget is still short on cash to protect the Bay Area from rising seas

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board writes, “San Francisco Bay tides likely will rise more than a foot and a half by century’s end, according to the California Ocean Protection Council, with a substantial risk that over 4 feet of shoreline will be submerged. A special Chronicle report detailed the alarming and costly consequences for San Francisco’s Mission Creek and airport, suburbs such as Foster City and Hayward, and other neighborhoods, infrastructure and environments around the bay.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s otherwise generous budget proposal doesn’t rise to the level of this challenge to the region he calls home. While Newsom’s spending plan is swollen with a $38 billion surplus he plans to spend on cash payments to middle-income households and more, it doesn’t specify any funding for restoring Bay Area wetlands and otherwise protecting the region against the inevitability of rising seas. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Editorial: Gavin Newsom’s swollen budget is still short on cash to protect the Bay Area from rising seas

Editorial: State funding is crucial for restoring San Francisco Bay

The Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial board writes, “Five years ago Bay Area voters wisely approved Measure AA, a nine-county, 20-year, $12 per parcel annual tax to restore San Francisco Bay and guard against the threat of rising sea levels due to global warming.  The $500 million that it raised was a fraction of the estimated $1.5 billion needed to complete the job, but it was hoped that Measure AA would serve as a good start and attract state and federal funding to complete the job.  California’s $75 billion surplus this year provides that opportunity.  Bay Area legislators should lead the effort this week to include $300 million for San Francisco Bay restoration in the state’s budget. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News here: Editorial: State funding is crucial for restoring San Francisco Bay

Suisun Bay island owner must restore land he disturbed to make room for duck hunters

The state Supreme Court rejected the appeal Wednesday of the owner of an island in Suisun Bay who has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in penalties and restore landfill he discharged into marsh waters to make room for duck hunters and a kite-surfing club.  John Sweeney purchased the 39-acre island, Point Buckler, on the eastern edge of Grizzly Bay in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in 2011. It had been used by duck hunters for many decades until the 1990s, but regulatory agencies said levee breaches and neglect of the site had turned it into a tidal marsh. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Suisun Bay island owner must restore land he disturbed to make room for duck hunters

The refuge on the wild side of Silicon Valley

Hilary Clark writes, “I hear a melodic chirping.  I turn to see the flashy red patch of the male red-winged blackbird by the entry to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont. Established in 1974 as the country’s first and largest urban national wildlife refuge, Don Edwards spans over 30,000 acres of wetlands, marshes, ponds, vernal pools, and upland habitat in the South Bay. Observers have sighted over 280 species of birds here. In the winter, millions of birds stop to rest and refuel in the refuge after their long journeys along the Pacific Flyway.  Over 30 miles of trails run through the refuge, portions of which are in East Palo Alto, Alviso, and Redwood City. I walk down the 1.8-mile Tidelands Trail to Newark Slough–a slow-moving channel of water that snakes around marshes adjacent to the Bay. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: The refuge on the wild side of Silicon Valley

Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought

Have you ever been driving through the Salinas Valley and noticed how green the crops are against the golden hills? How do those crops get their water?  The water comes straight from rainfall. It’s all local water.  Monterey County is not part of the state water project. Rain that falls either directly waters the crops, accumulates in reservoirs or flows into the Salinas River. The water eventually seeps into the Salinas River basin for storage. … ”  Read more from Channel 8 here: Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought

Agricultural land donation promotes salmon recovery in the San Joaquin River

Connley Clayton, a third-generation farmer in California’s Central Valley, stood surveying the San Joaquin River flowing past Sack Dam, a century-old irrigation diversion. He could see that the river, and its salmon, are on their way to recovery.  “We are so happy that the river is running again,” said Connley, 75, who lives about 10 miles north of the property in El Nido with his wife. Specifically, Connley references the stretch of river below Sack Dam, which would often run dry when flow is diverted for agricultural uses. Then in 2016, the San Joaquin River Restoration Program started releasing water specifically for river restoration.  … To help foster the restoration program, Connley deeded 8.1 acres of the Clayton Ranch to the Bureau of Reclamation last December. The riverfront site will eventually become a natural fishway that will allow migrating spring-run Chinook salmon to navigate around Sack Dam. … ”  Read more from NOAA Fisheries here: Agricultural land donation promotes salmon recovery in the San Joaquin River

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July 1

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority voted to take action against Mojave Pistachios for not paying the GA’s replenishment fee.  The agency also voted to take action against Searles Valley Minerals, but not right away.  Neither decision was unanimous.  The actions were taken at a virtual meeting Wednesday that was troubled by technical difficulties with the live stream, which caused the meeting to halt at least once.  The authority approved an order for Mojave Pistachios to either pay the GA’s the $2,130 per acre-foot replenishment fee or stop pumping, effective immediately. If they fail to do one or the other, the GA can then seek a court order for enforcement. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July 1

State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan

Siding with Cuyama Valley conservationists, the state Department of Water Resources this month sent a local agency back to the drawing board to revise its 20-year plan for replenishing the groundwater basin, now severely depleted after decades of water-intensive, industrial-scale farming.  In a June 3 letter to the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), the department praised its “aggressive approach” in proposing to reduce agricultural pumping in the valley by up to two-thirds by the year 2040. But the department also identified a long list of “deficiencies” in the plan and suggested “corrective actions” to address them.  It was a victory of sorts for the community organizations and small-scale farmers who have long argued that a 20-year plan was too little, too late. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan

Start of Santa Ana Bridge replacement project brings Ventura County one step closer to removing Matilija Dam

Matilija Dam by Zack Abbey

The Ventura County Public Works Agency commemorated the start of the Santa Ana Boulevard Bridge replacement project with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon.  The ceremony took place at 2 p.m. and was attended by the county supervisor, Matt LaVere, as well as representatives from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Coastal Conservancy.  “The construction of the Santa Ana Bridge replacement is really the gateway to the removal of Matilija Dam,” said Glenn Shephard, Director of VCPWA-Watershed Protection. “This new, wider, longer and taller replacement bridge will enhance sediment transport, reduce the need for maintenance after major storm events, and improve migration up and down the Ventura River for the federally-endangered southern California steelhead.” ... ”  Read more from KEYT here: Start of Santa Ana Bridge replacement project brings Ventura County one step closer to removing Matilija Dam

Luring steelhead trout from ocean to O.C. waterways

After nearly two decades of efforts, the endangered steelhead trout appear on the verge of returning to Orange County streams and rivers.  The oceangoing fish return to freshwater to spawn as part of a dramatic and almost magical cycle, in which their offspring are often rainbow trout. Twenty percent or less of those rainbow trout then seek ocean water downstream and transform into the larger, silvery steelheads as they adapt to the saltwater.  But Southern California’s steelheads are endangered, with limited access to spawning grounds once they get south of Malibu Creek. That’s primarily because the rivers and streams they traditionally used in Orange and San Diego counties have been obstructed by manmade barriers. … ”  Read more from the Whittier Daily News here: Luring steelhead trout from ocean to O.C. waterways

Abatti responds to Imperial Irrigation District’s Supreme Court filing

Imperial Valley grower, landowner and former elected official Michael Abatti has responded to the Imperial Irrigation District’s official filing in his U.S. Supreme Court petition. In March, Abatti filed for a “writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District, to which the district was ordered by the High Court to provide a formal response last month. … Abatti is seeking to overturn a previous appellate court ruling that asserts Imperial Irrigation District is the “sole owner” of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do “not (have) an appurtenant water right” but rather are entitled merely to “water service” that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune here: Abatti responds to Imperial Irrigation District’s Supreme Court filing

Sparks fly again between IID and Chad Mayes over Coachella Valley power

The Imperial Irrigation District and Assemblyman Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, are caught in a power struggle again in the Coachella Valley, but may be inching toward common ground.  IID provides electricity service tonearly 100,000 Coachella Valley households and businesses, but its board is solely made up of Imperial County representatives — a situation Mayes and others see as unfair.  Mayes’ latest legislation, AB 1021, aimed at forcing Coachella Valley representation on the IID board, passed 73-1 in the Assembly on Tuesday and moved to the state Senate. ... ” Read from Desert Sun here: Sparks fly again between IID and Chad Mayes over Coachella Valley power

Del Mar declines to seek Coastal Commission certification for sea level rise plan

The Del Mar City Council decided to withdraw its sea level rise adaptation plan from a June 10 hearing in front of the California Coastal Commission, which leaves the plan uncertified after years of discussions between the two sides.  The city’s plan, adopted in 2018, will remain in effect without Coastal Commission certification, but that could create complications in new public and private development. The commission oversees development throughout the state’s coastal zone, which includes the entire city of Del Mar. Sand replenishment and other efforts to counter the rising sea in Del Mar will continue. … ”  Read more from the Del Mar Times here: Del Mar declines to seek Coastal Commission certification for sea level rise plan

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Along the Colorado River …

‘Red alert’: Lake Mead falls to record-low level, a milestone in Colorado River’s crisis

Lake Mead has declined to its lowest level since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam, marking a new milestone for the water-starved Colorado River in a downward spiral that shows no sign of letting up.  The reservoir near Las Vegas holds water for cities, farms and tribal lands in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. Years of unrelenting drought and temperatures pushed higher by climate change are shrinking the flow into the lake, contributing to the large mismatch between the demands for water and the Colorado’s diminishing supply.  The lake’s rapid decline has been outpacing projections from just a few months ago. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic here: ‘Red alert’: Lake Mead falls to record-low level, a milestone in Colorado River’s crisis

Report: Arizona ‘not all that close’ to achieving safe-yield on groundwater

Arizona has a groundwater problem. Outlined in a new report, called “The Myth of Safe Yield,” the authors note that if we could see our groundwater aquifers underground, many would look like the images we’ve seen of Lake Mead, with its bathtub ring indicating falling water levels.  The state has regulated groundwater for more than 40 years under the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. Among other provisions, it set a goal of safe-yield by 2025; that means the amount of groundwater being pumped out would be roughly the same amount of recharge going into the aquifers.  But that’s not happening, and while other water sources, like the Colorado River, have reduced our dependence on groundwater, those sources are also under stress.  Kathleen Ferris is senior research fellow at the Kyl Center for Water Policy at the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy, and is also an author of this report. She has been working on groundwater management issues for more than four decades.  The Show spoke with her to learn how many issues we predicted and what ones were unforeseen.” Listen to the radio spot at KJZZ here: Report: Arizona ‘not all that close’ to achieving safe-yield on groundwater

Decisions, decisions: Climate change and water

While a drought grips the southwestern United States and water supplies dwindle, decision-makers face increasingly difficult decisions about who, or what, gets water.  “With climate change, river flows will likely decrease—there will be winners and losers. Who gets the water and who’s willing to pay the most for it?” said Rajiv Prasad, an Earth scientist and hydrologist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).  As part of a multi-phased effort to provide data-backed solutions for competing tradeoffs, researchers are not only projecting flow declines in places like the Colorado River, but also developing solutions to help make those decisions more equitable. The Framework for Assessment of Complex Environmental Tradeoffs (FACET) was designed to navigate and rigorously evaluate competing environmental, economic, and social impacts.  In an example scenario prepared using publicly available data, FACET was applied to predict tradeoffs facing the Colorado River and to balance competing demands of river flow and temperature, along with withdrawals for cities, crop irrigation, and power generation. The goal is to help navigate and plan for increasingly complex resource decisions in a balanced, transparent way. … ”  Read more from Newswise here: Decisions, decisions: Climate change and water

In national water news this week …

Biden administration begins rewrite of water rule

In an action on Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States,” claiming a broad array of stakeholders are seeing “destructive impacts to critical water bodies under the 2020 rule established under the Trump administration.”  Under the Obama administration in 2015, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a new water rule that gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. The WOTUS rule was immediately challenged in court and subject to several preliminary injunctions. In 2019, the Trump administration repealed the 2015 rule and in June 2020, replaced it with the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule which was more widely supported by agricultural groups. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Biden administration begins rewrite of water rule

SEE ALSO: EPA, Army Announce Intent to Revise Definition of WOTUS, press release from the EPA

Weekly features …

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea

BLOG ROUND-UP: Protest filed over TUCPs; Dams and desal – CA needs both; Diversions by settlement contractors; Jobs, irrigation, and drought; and more …

SCIENCE NEWS: Assessing portfolios of actions for winter-run salmon in the Sacramento Valley; Reading the bones: ancient chinook salmon DNA challenges modern assumptions; Salt marshes trap microplastics in their sediments; and more …

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

REPORTS/PUBLICATIONS

VELES WEEKLY WATER INDEX REPORT: Light rain possible in N CA. Lake Mead water conservation ICS project working. NQH2O Sep Futures offer $35 below the July bid price.

REPORT: The Science of Non-native Species in a Dynamic Delta

SAN FRANCISCO ESTUARY & WATERSHED SCIENCE: Preparing for a fast-forward future; Salinity variation in the estuary; Juvenile salmon entrainment; Use of the SmeltCam for surveys; and more …

CA WATER COMMISSION: California Water Commission releases White Paper on State Role in Financing Conveyance to Meet Climate Change Needs

NOW AVAILABLE: Equity Advisory Panel Releases Summary Document, Virtual Workshop June 15

NOTICES

NOTICE: Consideration of adoption of emergency regulations for the Russian River Watershed & information on submitting public comments

NOTICE: Issuance of Water Quality Certification for 2021 Emergency Drought Salinity Barrier Project

NOTICE: San Joaquin River Restoration Program Ceases Restoration Flows, Water Rescheduled For Later This Year During Spawning

PUBLIC WORKSHOP on Proposed Russian River Emergency Regulation and recently issued Notices Of Water Unavailability for the Upper Russian River Watershed

NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Once Through Cooling (OTC) policy draft determinations

OTHER

ANNOUNCEMENT: Delta Conveyance Project to Host Informational Webinars

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~GSP Assessments ~MAR Abstracts ~Coastal Projects ~White Paper ~Snow Measurement ~Climate Report ~AWWA Conference ~~

DELTA eNEWS: ~~ CWC Meeting~ ISB Meeting~ Office Hours~ Marketing Workshop~ Drought Barrier ~~

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