DAILY DIGEST, 8/16: $2.7B bond fund to build water reservoirs sits idle; Should we dam the Golden Gate to protect from sea level rise?; How climate change complicates CA’s plans for a carbon-free future; Western states face first federal water cuts; and more …


In California water news today …

$2.7 billion bond fund to build water reservoirs sits idle in California

It’s been seven years since drought-wracked California raked in $2.7 billion in bond funds that promised construction of reservoirs to capture excess water runoff during winters.  The money is sitting in a bank account without a single shovel of dirt overturned to begin construction of eight above-ground water holding facilities. Meanwhile, governors and local politicians over the years have called for urban water cutbacks and even rationing for farmers who have watched crops wither and die due to decreased water supply. ... ”  Continue reading at Yahoo News here: $2.7 billion bond fund to build water reservoirs sits idle in California

San Francisco Bay’s tides are going to rise. Should we dam the Golden Gate first?

Experts studying the issue agree that sea level rise in coming decades could pose an enormous threat to San Francisco Bay’s shoreline. So perhaps it’s no surprise that there’s now talk of looking into an equally enormous response.  Why not build a barrier to keep rising tides outside the Golden Gate? Researchers in the past have dismissed this seemingly straightforward concept on environmental grounds. Engineers are skeptical, too. But the enormity of the challenge has some Bay Area leaders saying it should at least be studied.  “I can’t help but wonder why we aren’t focusing our energies on one solution, rather than dozens of solutions,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo asked at a meeting last month of elected officials. “There’s one location where we (all) are exposed to sea level rise, and that is at the Golden Gate.” ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  San Francisco Bay’s tides are going to rise. Should we dam the Golden Gate first?

Hydroelectric drought: How climate change complicates California’s plans for a carbon-free future

” … While experiencing a few years of drought is not entirely new to residents of the arid Southwest, what is new is the intensity and duration of current droughts, because of climate change caused by our dependence on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. There is also evidence that what is considered a typical climate in California is unusually wet compared with long-term historical trends for the region. In the future, climate change is expected to cause droughts to be longer and more intense in terms of precipitation shortage. That will affect California’s water supply and other systems that depend on it, namely hydroelectric generation resources. … ”  Read the full article at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here: Hydroelectric drought: How climate change complicates California’s plans for a carbon-free future

Research project looks at drought impacts on rangeland conditions

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to help researchers develop strategies for making rangelands more resilient to drought.  Associate professor of ecology in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, Jennifer Funk has received a total of $481,274 to support the project. As environmental conditions continue to get warmer and drier, rangelands are being negatively impacted. The underlying purpose of the research is to evaluate potential approaches for making rangelands more resilient to drought. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here: Research project looks at drought impacts on rangeland conditions

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In regional water news and commentary today …

Scott River: As big ag pumps water for alfalfa, California salmon face extinction

Dan Bacher writes, ““It’s heart breaking for me to see this fish slowly suffocating in these small puddles while the alfalfa fields are emerald green,” said Karuk Chairman Russell ‘Buster’ Attebery.  “State and federal agencies are failing to protect our tribal trust resources and letting yet another native fish species go extinct.” While Coho salmon’s historic range includes many tributaries of the Klamath River, the Scott is the most important for spawning and juvenile rearing. … The California Water Resources Control Board will consider a petition filed by the Karuk Tribe back on July 1, 2021 at the August 17 Board Meeting in Sacramento. The petition calls on the Board to use its emergency powers granted by the Governor’s Drought Emergency Declaration to curtail water use to ensure a minimal flow is maintained in the river, the Tribe reported. … ”  Read more at Red, Green, and Blue here: Scott River: As big ag pumps water for alfalfa, California salmon face extinction

Commentary: Tahoe is a priority in California, Nevada and Washington D.C.

Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD (League to Save Lake Tahoe / Keep Tahoe Blue), Joanne S. Marchetta (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency), and Steve Teshara (Tahoe Chamber), write, “Lists can be very useful. They’re simple. They get to the point.  An all-too-familiar way to recount the past 18 months is by listing off the terrible, unthinkable things our society and community have been through: a pandemic, economic hardship, social unrest, historic wildfires, and environmental damage – even here in our beloved Tahoe Basin.  On the eve of the 25th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit, and with an optimistic eye, we’re suggesting a different way to read that list. The bullet points of doom and gloom provide stark contrast – like bright letters on a dark background – for how much Lake Tahoe means to so many people, especially recently. It’s a refuge, a source of energy and a place to find peace. It’s our home, our playground and an economic lifeline. Tahoe also reminds us to appreciate all we have, and that we must work together to protect it. … ”  Continue reading at the Tahoe Daily Tribune here: Commentary: Tahoe is a priority in California, Nevada and Washington D.C.

Hungry deer, shrinking ponds, speeding golf balls: the drought’s toll around Berkeley

The second-biggest wildfire in California history is in its second month of immolation. Dozens of northern towns report they’re running out of water. Around Sacramento, heat-stressed cockroaches are pouring into homes so profusely one backyard looks like it moves at night.  What’s this climate change-worsened drought doing around Berkeley?  Head up into the bone-dry hills for an answer. “I’ve worked at the park district for almost 15 years and this is the worst year I’ve ever seen,” says Matt Graul, chief of stewardship for the East Bay Regional Park District. … ”  Read more from Berkeleyside here: Hungry deer, shrinking ponds, speeding golf balls: the drought’s toll around Berkeley

Video: Inside view with Utica Water & Power’s Joel Metzger on water, power, drought & jobs

Inside View is the long running public affairs program from Calaveras Community Television. In this episode Utica Water & Power Authority General Manager Joel Metzger lets us know on the latest at one of our local water and power companies. Joel talks about not only water and power but also drought issues that may be affecting not only UTICA but also potentially everyone in California. On a personal note Joel also talks about job opportunities that many may not think of as a career path that can provide great paying careers right here at home.”  Watch video from The Pine Tree here: Video: Inside view with Utica Water & Power’s Joel Metzger on water, power, drought & jobs 

Saved by a bucket, but can the Owens pupfish survive?

The Owens pupfish, a small blue fish native to the springs in the California desert, was spared from extinction on an August afternoon in 1969 by Phil Pister and his two buckets.  That day Mr. Pister, a state wildlife biologist, had heard that a marsh called Fish Slough, one of the few natural oases in the arid Owens Valley, was on the verge of drying up. The marsh, he knew, held the world’s last population of Owens pupfish. So he grabbed the buckets, jumped in his pickup truck and sped through ranch land toward water. The drive from his office in Bishop normally took 15 minutes; he did it in 10.  He parked in a cloud of dust, then he and a small crew hurriedly corralled 800 or so pupfish into mesh cages in the dregs of the pond. Afterward, he shooed his colleagues into town for dinner; he would finish up. But when he returned to the edge of the pool, he saw that the caged pupfish were dying, some already belly-up. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times here: Saved by a bucket, but can the Owens pupfish survive?

Deep pockets vie for Kern pistachio orchards

Pistachios have recently become perhaps the top choice for institutional investors in Kern County agriculture, apparently surpassing almonds.  Farmland brokers say prices and demand for local pistachio orchards — the few properties listed for sale, anyway — have increased since about 2019 because of the trees’ longevity, crop price stability and higher tolerance for limited and lower-quality water supplies.  “Pistachios are kind of a hot thing right now,” said Kevin Palla, land advisor with Bakersfield-based Pacific Commercial Realty Advisors, part of Cushman & Wakefield. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Deep pockets vie for Kern pistachio orchards

Report underscores continued need for research at Salton Sea

Efforts of the Salton Sea Management Program to achieve to goals of mitigation efforts “will be difficult, if not impossible” without investment in continuing scientific research, according to a new report.  The report was prepared for policymakers and stakeholders by the University of California, Riverside Salton Sea Task Force. The task force consists of an interdisciplinary group of scientists, engineers, medical experts and economists gathered to identify critical scientific research necessary to guide policymakers in making decisions about the region’s future. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press here:  Report underscores continued need for research at Salton Sea

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Along the Colorado River …

Western states face first federal water cuts. What does that mean?

U.S. officials on Monday are expected to declare the first-ever water shortage from a river that serves 40 million people in the West, triggering cuts to some Arizona farmers next year amid a gripping drought.  Water levels at the largest reservoir on the Colorado River — Lake Mead — have fallen to record lows. Along its perimeter, a white “bathtub ring” of minerals outlines where the high water line once stood, underscoring the acute water challenges for a region facing a growing population and a drought that is being worsened by hotter, drier weather brought on by climate change. … ”  Read more from ABC 4 here: Western states face first federal water cuts. What does that mean?

Column: Combating drought and promoting sustainability in Southern Nevada

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto writes, “Everyone in the West knows that we’re living through a historic, two-decade drought. The climate crisis is making droughts worse, putting pressure on all of us to use the water we have more wisely. When I was elected, I knew confronting water issues would be one of my top priorities. I’m doing everything I can in the U.S. Senate to help my hometown and all Western communities address drought and water shortages.  I’m inspired by all that Nevadans have done to conserve water and strengthen our water supply. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Sun here: Column: Combating drought and promoting sustainability in Southern Nevada

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In national water news today …

Adaptive learning in water management: How do small-scale experiments work – without upsetting anyone?

Adaptive management is all about dealing with uncertainty through learning. It is a highly recommended policy approach for water management. However, there are many factors regarding how adaptive management works on the ground in need of development. Elisa Kochskämper has been researching systematic learning in water governance. With colleagues she studied small-scale interventions of adaptive management in Northern Germany to identify patterns of success and learning. Here she discusses insights from five local adaptive management projects established to improve water quality.” Read the article at the Global Water Forum here: Adaptive learning in water management: How do small-scale experiments work – without upsetting anyone?

Record salmon in one place. Barely any in another. Alarm all around.

This summer, fishers in the world’s largest wild salmon habitat pulled a record-breaking 65 million sockeye salmon from Alaska’s Bristol Bay, beating the 2018 record by more than 3 million fish.  But on the Yukon River, about 500 miles to the north, salmon were alarmingly absent. This summer’s chum run was the lowest on record, with only 153,000 fish counted in the river at the Pilot Station sonar — a stark contrast to the 1.7 million chum running in year’s past. The king salmon runs were also critically low this summer — the third lowest on record. The Yukon’s fall run is also shaping up to be sparse.  The disparity between the fisheries is concerning — a possible bellwether for the chaotic consequences of climate change; competition between wild and hatchery fish; and commercial fishing bycatch. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News here: Record salmon in one place. Barely any in another. Alarm all around.

UN climate report’s warnings compound worries in insurance world

A UN climate change report’s warnings are compounding alarm in the insurance industry and companies that pay premiums, as they eye increased risks from more frequent and more severe storms, wildfires, droughts, and rising sea levels threatening coastal cities.  The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change report—which United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres branded a “code red for humanity”—only worsens fears of increasingly costly payouts for the insurance industry and concern that companies faced with pared-back coverage will opt to go without. “This is by no means the end of insurance,” but it does represent a wake-up call for the industry, said David Bresch, former head of Swiss Re’s Sustainability & Political Risk Management Unit. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law here:  UN climate report’s warnings compound worries in insurance world

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

In California water news this weekend …

  • La Niña watch is officially on this fall, and that could be disastrous for the drought
  • Small towns grow desperate for water in California
  • Before-and-after satellite photos show just how terrible the drought is in the West
  • ‘When will the megadrought end?’ is the wrong question to ask
  • Fish food on the floodplain with Jacob Montgomery
  • Wildfire smoke may lead to less rain in the western US
  • California tree deaths could hurt forests on the East Coast
  • California, Oregon braced for another extremist water rebellion. Why it’s calm, so far
  • Karuk Tribe: Water users strand endangered salmon, create possible extinction event
  • The toxic truth of L.A.’s stormwater sewer system
  • The Colorado River basin’s daunting new math
  • Some U.S. drinking water still carries levels of arsenic experts consider unsafe
  • And more …

Click here to read the weekend edition of the Daily Digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Survey to inform upcoming DWR Urban and Multibenefit Drought Relief program

PUBLIC WORKSHOP: Petitions for Reconsideration of the Water Quality Certification for the Yuba River Development Project

MEETING NOTICE: Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) Criteria Expert Panel

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Forest Conservation Program – 2021 Proposal Solicitation Notice

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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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