DAILY DIGEST, 9/15: Farmland repurposing program awaits Gov. Newsom’s OK; New opportunities for trading surface water in the Sac Valley under SGMA; Growing uncertainty in the Central Valley; In response to Western drought, a flood of legislation; and more …


On the calendar today …

  • TOWN HALL: Sonoma County Drought Town Hall will begin at 5:30pm.  Sonoma County Water Agency and Second District Supervisor David Rabbitt will host a virtual Drought Town Hall via Zoom webinar. The focus of the meeting will be on the drought and impacts to the Second Supervisorial District and Russian River watershed. Speakers will include representatives from the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner, City of Petaluma, National Weather Service and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Click here for more information and remote access instructions.

In California water news today …

Farmland repurposing program awaits Gov. Newsom’s OK

A bill that would have created a program to help farmers find new life for farmland idled by coming groundwater restrictions had its own phoenix moment last week in the Legislature when it was simultaneously killed and reborn — this time with money.  AB 252, authored by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), died in the state Senate last week but much of its content was reborn in a budget bill with $50 million attached. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Farmland repurposing program awaits Gov. Newsom’s OK

New opportunities for trading surface water in the Sacramento Valley under SGMA

New groundwater agencies in the Sacramento Valley are currently finalizing plans to manage their groundwater basins for long-term balance, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Successful stewardship demands good information not only about groundwater conditions, but also about surface water availability. To help build shared understanding of surface water for agriculture—the valley’s main water-using sector—we produced a new dataset showing how access to this vital resource varies across irrigated farmland in the Sacramento Valley and the Delta. This effort builds on previous PPIC work in the San Joaquin Valley, making it now possible to assess surface water conditions across the entire Central Valley. … ”  Continue reading at the PPIC here: New opportunities for trading surface water in the Sacramento Valley under SGMA

Thousands of salmon washing up dead on California creek banks due to climate crisis

The salmon population in California is plummeting due to conditions linked to the climate crisis.  The state’s Fish and Wildlife Service reported that thousands of dead Chinook salmon have been found on banks of Butte Creek this year, leaving a foul smell in the area of Helltown, 100 miles north of Sacramento.  Severe droughts and record-setting temperatures in the state are killing off the salmon population and threatening future generations, wildlife experts say. … ” Read more from Yahoo News here:  Thousands of salmon washing up dead on California creek banks due to climate crisis

Growing uncertainty in the Central Valley

One weekend in late June, I drove with friends to Yolo County, California, a rural area in the Sacramento Valley. It was the second day of a multiday heat wave, and temperatures approached the triple digits. The road shimmered. In the passenger seat, a friend, seven months pregnant, wondered aloud whether it was safe for her to be outside. As we neared our destination, winding through fruit and nut farms, we passed a walnut orchard. Its trees had been cut down to the roots—the trunks neatly dominoed, flat and brittle against the earth.  That night, I asked a farmer friend, also in walnuts, what had happened at the orchard. A confluence of things, he explained. ... ”  Read more from the New Yorker here: Growing uncertainty in the Central Valley

Downsized almond industry proceeds with harvest

Almonds in California are no longer sustainable at current levels.  That’s the consensus of recent headlines describing the prolonged historic drought — and increasing restrictions on water use — currently impacting the state’s $6 billion industry and its efforts to produce 80 percent of the world’s almonds. The U.S. Drought Monitor is showing California to be slowly approaching 90% of the state categorized as being in ‘extreme’ drought —especially in the Central Valley. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Downsized almond industry proceeds with harvest

‘I’m still optimistic,’ nut grower says

Last year about this time, Walt Stile of Chico was going about his business harvesting almonds and walnuts in his orchards, confident both crops would come in heavy.  As the Vice President of the Butte County Farm Bureau went about harvesting his several varieties of nuts — part of a 2020 record crop — he worked around hazy conditions from rampant wildfires and pest management applications for navel orangeworm — all the while remaining confident of new plateau numbers. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: ‘I’m still optimistic,’ nut grower says

Legal brief: Sacramento Valley groundwater pumping

A federal court in California denied environmental groups’ request to block a Bureau of Reclamation-approved groundwater extraction project in the Sacramento River Valley, finding the alleged harm the project will cause is “largely speculative” and the government is “attempting to deal as best it can with the critical problem of too little water.””  Read the ruling here, via Courthouse News Service: Groundwater pumping

Policy brief: Improving California’s water market

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires local water users to bring their groundwater basins into balance by the 2040s.  Water markets could play a key role in helping communities adapt to SGMA and stave off the worst effects of reduced groundwater pumping.  Good design is key to creating effective and responsible water markets that support low-cost trading and banking while protecting third parties from harm.  Water markets are currently hampered by a range of stumbling blocks, but thoughtful, concerted action can address these challenges and help the state build resilience.”  Read the full policy brief from the PPIC here: Policy brief: Improving California’s water market

Regional districts file suit over state water supply cuts

California’s reservoirs are nearly empty due to historic drought conditions. Water supplies for many farmers are curtailed or cut off entirely, leaving them to hope that Mother Nature brings winter rain and snowpack to rescue them next year.  But, until then, irrigation districts in several Central Valley farm communities are going to court, challenging the authority of state officials to curtail their senior water rights.  Lawsuits, filed in recent weeks, are attempting to overturn drought emergency water curtailments imposed last month by the State Water Resources Control Board.  The Aug. 20 board action halted water diversions for 10,300 water rights on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It effectively closed the surface water faucet for some 4,500 farms in America’s largest agricultural economy. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Regional districts file suit over state water supply cuts

Assembly ends SB 559 hopes this year

The Valley’s best hope to renovate its water infrastructure has been put on the shelf for now.  Senate Bill (SB) 559, the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021, was moved to the state Assembly’s “inactive file” on Sept. 8. The bill passed the Senate floor on May 28, and had promise to make it through the Assembly before last week.  Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Hanford) introduced the most recent iteration of the bill in February. As written SB 559 offered a holisitic, statewide approach to help restore the conveyance capacity by created a fund to provide up to $785 million to repair key parts of the state’s water infrastructure. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Assembly ends SB 559 hopes this year

California budget: Funding for fish, water, & people

The California Legislature released the final budget language late on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. CalTrout remains critical of the unnecessary delay in releasing critical budget items like emergency drought funding, wildfire relief, and climate resilience packages. As water curtailment orders go live throughout the state, the legislature is still waiting to officially approve these critical funding packages to combat the effects of climate during this year’s especially dry drought conditions.  Despite these real and unavoidable consequences of a slow legislative process, CalTrout remains optimistic as state government is poised to inject over $8.8 billion in drought preparedness, climate resilience, and fire preparedness funding. … ” Continue reading from Cal Trout here: California budget: Funding for fish, water, & people

Past fires may hold key to reducing severity of future wildfires in western US

Previous fires may hold the key to predicting and reducing the severity of future wildfires in the western United States as fire activity continues to increase, according to researchers from Penn State and the U.S. Forest Service.  “We have a good understanding of how fire used to interact with dry, forested landscapes before we implemented the policy of fire suppression, and how fire seems to be deviating from these patterns today,” said Alan Taylor, professor of geography and ecology and interim director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. ... ”  Read more from YubaNet here: Past fires may hold key to reducing severity of future wildfires in western US

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In commentary today …

How California ignored lessons of an epic drought

Justin Fredrickson, environmental policy analyst for the California Farm Bureau, writes, “The epic California dry spell that even not-so-old drought historians like to call attention to—1976-77—tracks uncannily close to our current exceptional drought conditions of 2020-21.  Sadly, California’s statewide water system has changed almost not a whit since the 1970s. And stresses and strains on the system have mounted exponentially, leaving us arguably in a far worse place.  In the 45 years since the start of the 1976-77 drought to the alarming déjà vu of this year’s crisis, California’s once enviable statewide water system has steadily aged and deteriorated. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  How California ignored lessons of an epic drought

California fails at drought resilience

Todd Fitchette writes, “It is painfully apparent that California lawmakers cannot make wise decisions. Their refusal to prioritize drought resilience is appalling. While some talk a good talk and argue that efforts are underway, nothing good happens. It’s Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football every time.  As lawmakers and others point to climate change and the need to do something about it, repairing the state’s broken water infrastructure is not on the table. Billions of dollars in state bonds later and the sucking sound of water circling the drain is apparent. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: California fails at drought resilience

Western water crisis demands a strong federal-state response

Columnist Peter Morici writes, “Climate change has arrived with a vengeance in the American West.  The region’s 22-year drought is the second-worst since the year 800, and scorching temperatures, municipalities and farmers scrambling for water, lost hydroelectric capacity, and conditions from Dante’s Inferno are a chronic condition. The summer’s heat dome in the Northwest cooked 1 billion sea creatures. Eight of the 10 biggest California forest fires have occurred in the last four years. In an unprecedented event, the Dixie Fire started in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, burned up to the crest and down the eastern slope. … ”  Continue reading at MarketWatch here: Western water crisis demands a strong federal-state response

In regional water news and commentary today …

Mount Shasta is nearly snowless, a rare event that is helping melt the mountain’s glaciers

Deep in the northern California wilderness, nestled among rolling hills and magnificent pines, the Mount Shasta volcano towers above the landscape as a lone sentinel beckoning to those around it. Rising to 14,179 feet, Shasta is one of the tallest mountains in the Lower 48.  Given its height, snow cover is common year-round, especially after a snowy season or two. It is home to some of the largest glaciers in California and includes at least seven glaciers, some named after Native Americans in the 1800s. This year is testing the theory that snow and ice will always be found on Shasta. “Mt. Shasta has snow on the summit year-round. This summer is different,” wrote Mt. Shasta Ski Park in late August. “The glaciers that are visible from the north side of the mountain are melting VERY quickly this year.” … ”  Continue reading from the Washington Post here: Mount Shasta is nearly snowless, a rare event that is helping melt the mountain’s glaciers

SoHum towns restrict water usage as Eel River falls to historic lows

““We are going door to door and we’re calling every customer [with ag meters,]” explained Ralph Emerson, the General Manager of the Garberville Sanitary District which deals with water for the small Southern Humboldt town. Yesterday, all customers with ag meters were turned off after water flows as measured at the Eel River gauge located at Sylvandale fell to new lows.  The lowest minimum in 81 years of collecting data was 11.4 cfs (cubic feet per second). Today’s cfs measured at the same gauge was 7.74 cfs. … ”  Read more from the Redheaded Blackbelt here: SoHum towns restrict water usage as Eel River falls to historic lows

Colusa Subbasin Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan public review underway

The Colusa Groundwater Authority (CGA) and Glenn Groundwater Authority (GGA) are now offering the community the opportunity to review the Public Review Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the Colusa Subbasin.  According to a coordinated release issued by the two departments, the GSP is being prepared as a requirement of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, as amended in 2015.  “Your input is very important to us and we look forward to getting your perspectives on this GSP,” read the release. … ”  Read more from the Colusa Sun Herald here: Colusa Subbasin Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan public review underway

Amador Water Agency declares “Stage 1” water alert in Amador County

Amador Water Agency Directors declared a Stage 1 – Water Alert, effective immediately, at their regular Board meeting Thursday, triggering conservation requirements for water customers targeting a 20 percent reduction in use.  Directors have been closely watching dry conditions in the watershed and low levels in reservoirs throughout the state. More recently, the State of California issued “curtailment” orders to water rights holders in the region. AWA was ordered to stop diverting water from the Mokelumne River under the Central Amador Water Project (CAWP) water right that allocates water to Amador’s Upcountry communities. ... ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch here: Amador Water Agency declares “Stage 1” water alert in Amador County

Owner of Sonoma County quarry faces $4.5M fine for endangering salmon

Water quality regulators let a Sonoma County-based quarry know last week it could face a $4.5 million-fine for multiple alleged violations of the Clean Water Act that threaten the survival of endangered salmon populations in tributaries of the Russian River.  The proposed fine from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is part of a legal proceeding known as an administrative civil liability that alleges the operator of Mark West Quarry, Dean Soiland, doing business as BoDean Co. Inc., discharged highly turbid stormwater from its quarry operations into Porter Creek from September 2018 through May 2019. … ”  Read more from KTLA here: Owner of Sonoma County quarry faces $4.5M fine for endangering salmon

National Park Service decides ranching will continue at Point Reyes

The National Park Service will allow private ranches and dairy farms to continue to operate within Point Reyes National Seashore for decades to come, rejecting calls from environmentalists to curtail private agriculture at the California site.  Following a nearly three-year review, NPS last night released its record of decision amending the park’s 1980-era management plan.  “Point Reyes National Seashore protects diverse natural and cultural resources that can serve as a model where wilderness and ranching can coexist side by side,” Shannon Estenoz, the Interior assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said in a statement. “We recognize and deeply respect the passion that so many people have about how to best care for this special place and look forward to ongoing stakeholder engagement in the years to come.” … ”  Read more from E&E News here: National Park Service decides ranching will continue at Point Reyes

Marin County supes to vote on extending drought emergency declaration

As an ongoing water shortage that’s hurting ranchers and dairies in the North Bay, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will consider extending a local emergency declaration of drought conditions at its meeting Tuesday.  Much of the state is facing parched conditions after two consecutive dry years and Marin County is no exception. The county’s two largest water suppliers, the Marin Municipal Water District and the North Marin Water District, have declared water shortage emergencies and put mandatory conservation measures in place. … ”  Read more from KTLA here: Marin County supes to vote on extending drought emergency declaration

Annual Delta Waterway Cleanup scheduled for Saturday

Environmentally minded residents of East County have an opportunity to help make the Delta a little better. The annual Delta Waterway Cleanup will take place Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon. The Delta Protection Commission (DPC) sponsors this event, and has similar ones scheduled in each of the five counties that adjoin the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta. In Contra Costa County, volunteers will focus their efforts on Bethel Island. The Delta cleanup is part of California’s Coastal Cleanup Day, the state’s largest annual volunteer event. … ”  Read more from The Press here: Annual Delta Waterway Cleanup scheduled for Saturday

Santa Cruz: As drought worsens, local agencies seek ambitious water solutions

From the top of Newell Creek Dam, the water level of Loch Lomond Reservoir looks particularly low. Steep, gravely banks stretch between the trees and the water.  On one side of the reservoir, a crane and a drilling rig sit on floating docks, surrounded by shipping containers and other heavy machinery. The City of Santa Cruz is replacing the pipeline that brings water in and out of Loch Lomond. But the project managers worry that if the water level drops much lower, the construction equipment could get stuck.  After two dry years in a row, Loch Lomond sits at just under 60% full. The reservoir is the only major water-storage site for Santa Cruz, and it holds about a year’s worth of water when full. ... ”  Read more from Good News Santa Cruz here: Santa Cruz: As drought worsens, local agencies seek ambitious water solutions

Ceres: Surface water plant operational by June 2023?

Currently every drop of water that comes out of faucets in Ceres comes straight out of the ground. But come June 2023, some of that water will be directly piped from the Tuolumne River after it’s been treated.  Construction is about 25 percent completed and running $1 million under budget, a manager of the project told the Ceres City Council on Monday evening.  Bob Granberg, general manager of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA), a joint powers authority to allow the cities of Ceres and Turlock to buy water from Turlock Irrigation District and operate the plant to treat and deliver water at cost, gave the update. … ”  Read more from the Ceres Courier here: Ceres: Surface water plant operational by June 2023?

Tulare County: Sierra Club threatens suit over ag land policy

A month after the Visalia City Council threw out a policy designed to prevent urban sprawl, the Sierra Club is threatening to sue the city over the change. The Kern-Kaweah chapter of the environmental group filed a petition in Tulare County Superior Court on Aug. 31 requesting an injunction against implementation of the new policy, which does not include an ag mitigation policy (AMP). The filing asks the court to order the city to reverse its decision or face a full-scale court battle. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Sierra Club threatens suit over ag land policy

Kern County’s fracking lawsuit also targets other oilfield regulatory actions

The lawsuit Kern County filed this week against Gov. Gavin Newsom is aimed at not only ending his de-facto ban on fracking but also at easing state regulatory constraints on at least two other oilfield techniques common locally.  As part of its larger argument that the Newsom administration has overstepped its constitutional authority, Monday’s petition for a writ of mandate in Kern County Superior Court asserts Newsom had no right in 2019 to place a moratorium on high-pressure cyclic steaming or require extensive “area of review” analyses prior to approval of underground injections. ... ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: County’s fracking lawsuit also targets other oilfield regulatory actions

Needles receives $1.97M to drill secondary well

Needles should soon have one less thing to worry about when it comes to water.  On Aug. 20, the city was awarded $1.97 million from the State Water Resources Board’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and received immediate authorization to begin drilling a new well.  The Needles Public Utility Authority has been working to locate a new well since 2019, when the state adopted iron and manganese standards that made three of NPUA’s four wells unusable. … ”  Read more from the Mohave Valley News here: Needles receives $1.97M to drill secondary well

San Diego: Request for proposals issued to develop San Vicente energy storage facility

San Diego County Water Authority this week issued a formal Request for Proposals seeking a full-service private partner capable of developing a large-scale pumped energy storage project planned jointly by the Water Authority and the City of San Diego. Proposals are due by 2 p.m. Nov. 3 … ”  Read more from the Water News Network here: San Diego: Request for proposals issued to develop San Vicente energy storage facility 

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Along the Colorado River …

Utah’s water outlook slightly improved, but West remains in grip of long-term drought

Utah’s drought-induced water crisis has softened somewhat after a string of monsoons, but the state’s water supplies are far from safe, with reservoirs across the state falling below 40% full, state officials told lawmakers Tuesday. Only a massive snowpack this winter can assure adequate supplies going into next year, and even then, Utah’s water future remains uncertain in the face of long-term drought and climate change. … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune here: Utah’s water outlook slightly improved, but West remains in grip of long-term drought

The Colorado River can’t be divvied up without indigenous people at the table

Percy Deal lives in Black Mesa, a bowl-shaped region in northeastern Arizona that’s part of the Navajo and Hopi reservations. The mesa is situated along the Colorado River and two of its tributaries, the Little Colorado and San Juan. Yet Deal, like some 40% of Navajo people, doesn’t have running water in his house.  “So what we do is we go to a watering facility, which is located, for me, 20 minutes away, one way, 40 miles [64 kilometers] round trip,” he said.  Deal, a 72-year-old community activist whose family has lived on this land for 500 years, usually loads up two 55-gallon drums with water at the pumping station, then drives them home and siphons them out into two more empty drums that he keeps on his porch. He does this every few weeks. ... ”  Read more from Gizmodo here: The Colorado River can’t be divvied up without indigenous people at the table

Could climate change put an end to Arizona’s alfalfa heyday?

It’s always alfalfa season in Arizona. In most other parts of the country, the perennial crop grows tall enough to harvest just a few times a year. But in the sun-drenched Southwest, the irrigated fields allow the crop to grow year-round, to the tune of 8.5 tons harvested for every acre and $397 million a year. All farmers need to do is add water. At least that’s been the case for the many decades that alfalfa has boomed and bloomed in the Arizona desert, providing feed to the region’s megalithic dairy industry. Now, accelerating climate change and depleting water availability could change this. … ”  Read more from Civil Eats here: Could climate change put an end to Arizona’s alfalfa heyday?

Radio show: How a climate disaster is also a sign of hope

Lake Powell, a 190-mile long reservoir in Utah that holds back the Colorado River, and which can hold 24 million acres of water, has dropped 140 feet since 2000 and 50 feet in the last year. But as the lake’s surface recedes, leaving a bathtub-like ring marking its evaporation, Glen Canyon, a natural wonder which was partially flooded by the dam, has reemerged. As Elizabeth Kolbert writes, in that canyon, we are seeing the Colorado River restore itself in real time. Well talk to Kolbert about what it’s like to celebrate “the effects of what, by most standards counts as a disaster” and the confounding feelings of finding silver linings in climate change.”  Listen to the radio show from KQED here: Radio show: How a climate disaster is also a sign of hope

A 20-year megadrought threatens hydropower in the West

A 20-year megadrought in the West is threatening hydropower for millions of people, so the federal government is taking emergency action. It’s sending water from other reservoirs to Lake Powell to help keep the power turbines there spinning. Here’s Michael Elizabeth Sakas from Colorado Public Radio.  At Elk Creek Marina, people wait in line to back their trailers into the water to pull their boats out. And some, like Walter Swetkoff, are frustrated. … ”  Continue reading from NPR here: A 20-year megadrought threatens hydropower in the West

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In national water news today …

In response to Western drought, a flood of legislation

Las Vegas visitors can still snap selfies with the mermaids swimming among tropical fish in the Silverton Casino’s massive aquarium and gaze at the colorful dancing water displays of the iconic Bellagio fountains — for now.  But southern Nevada and much of the American West are struggling to cope with a worsening drought that has strained municipal water supplies, agricultural operations and wildlife populations. Tens of millions of Americans live in areas being punished by drought, from Oregon’s Klamath River basin to California’s Central Valley. The crisis is ramping up pressure on Capitol Hill to act even as lawmakers confront sharp partisan differences over the best ways to respond. … ”  Continue reading from Roll Call here: In response to Western drought, a flood of legislation

Biden says fire, drought ‘doesn’t give a damn’ about political parties

Democratic President Joe Biden has said that wildfire and drought don’t “give a damn” about political parties.  Biden made the comment during his Tuesday evening address in Golden, Colorado. In his address, he spoke about climate change and the Democratic infrastructure bill.  “In the end, it’s not about red states or blue states,” Biden said. “A drought or a fire doesn’t see a property line. It doesn’t care, give a damn, for which party you belong to. Disasters aren’t going to stop. That’s the nature of the climate threat.” ... ”  Read more from Newsweek here: Biden says fire, drought ‘doesn’t give a damn’ about political parties

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Today’s featured article …

WATER DATA SUMMIT: Secretary Crowfoot discusses resilience, partnerships, and transforming our water systems to meet the challenges ahead

The California Data Collaborative (CaDC) is a network of water professionals collaborating to create tools and applied research supporting planning and analysis to support water management.  The CaDC is governed by water agencies and powered by technologists, and, according to their website, the CaDC sees data and technology as a tool to realize a more reliable, resilient, and sustainable water industry.  The CaDC advances their mission through committees, workshops, webinars, and the annual California Water Data Summit.

The sixth annual California Water Data Summit was held in August of 2021 with the theme, “Expect the Unexpected.”  The keynote speaker was Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, a position he has been in no less than three times before, including the very first Water Data Summit held at Stanford in 2016.

Click here to read this article.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NEPA DOCS: Sacramento Regional County Sanitation Districts Harvest Water Program Environmental Assessment

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING/PUBLIC COMMENT: 2021 Triennial Review of the San Francisco Bay Basin Plan

WATER PLAN eNEWS: ~~Drought Funding~ Flood Grants~ Well Strategies~ Specialty Crops~ Water Markets~ Sierra Meadows~ Diversity Webinar~~

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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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