DAILY DIGEST, 11/21: Court grants petition challenging EIR for Lookout Slough Project; State Water Board ordered to pay attorney’s fees in drought curtailment lawsuit; New research ties specific extreme weather events to climate change; and more …
Court grants petition challenging EIR for Lookout Slough Project
“On November 18, 2022, the Contra Costa County Superior Court ruled against the Department of Water Resources in a case challenging the Department of Water Resources’ environmental review of the Lookout Slough Restoration Project in southeastern Solano County. Several local agencies (Central Delta Water Agency, Solano County Water Agency, City of Vallejo, RD 2068 & 2060) challenged DWR’s approval of the 3,000 + acre project, which is being carried out by a private equity firm based in Maryland. The judge determined the Environmental Impact Report failed to properly consider the project’s impact on opportunities to fish from the shoreline within the Delta region. Three miles of shoreline that can currently be used for pedestrian fishing on Liberty Island would become inaccessible as a result of the project. The court ordered that a writ of mandate issue “compelling Respondent to set aside the certification of the FEIR.”
Click here to continue reading this press release. Includes ruling.
“Lookout Slough would interfere with recreational opportunities for people without boats that currently can bank fish in the California Delta. With so much of the Delta being important flood control infrastructure, maintaining fishing opportunities for the community and for tourism is critical,” explained Osha Meserve, counsel for Central Delta Water Agency.
A longtime advocate for recreational access at Lookout Slough, Taylor Dahlke/Liberty Island Access, added, “We are pleased to hear that the courts have validated what we’ve said all along; the idea that Lookout Slough has no significant impacts on recreation is a fiction. We sincerely hope that DWR will now choose to acknowledge and meaningfully address recreational access.”
The November 18, 2022 Ruling is below. City of Vallejo et al. v. State of California State Department of Water Resources (Superior Court of Contra Costa County, Case Nos. MSN21-0558, MSN21-0559, MSN21-0560, MSN21-0561)
Court of Appeal awards attorneys’ fees under the private attorney general doctrine to California irrigation districts after successful challenge to the SWRCB’s actions arising from the 2015 curtailments
“On Friday, November 18, 2022, the Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District (Sixth District Court) reversed the Santa Clara County Superior Court’s denial of an attorneys’ fees award in favor of a group of California irrigation districts and water agencies (Districts) that successfully challenged the State Water Resources Control Board’s (State Board) decision to issue certain water right curtailment notices during the 2015 drought. The Sixth District Court held that the Districts are entitled to attorneys’ fees incurred prosecuting the Superior Court litigation against the State Board. In the underlying Superior Court litigation, the trial court issued writs of mandate finding that the State Board unlawfully issued water diversion curtailment notices to the Districts without jurisdiction under Water Code section 1052(a), and in violation of the Districts’ constitutional due process rights. … ” Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn here: Court of Appeal awards attorneys’ fees under the private attorney general doctrine to California irrigation districts after successful challenge to the SWRCB’s actions arising from the 2015 curtailments
New research ties specific extreme weather events to climate change
“Minor improvements can be found in the state’s drought situation, according to the latest drought monitor. Data from the early November storm that dumped up to 5 feet of snow in the Sierra and brought soaking rain to the valley is included on this week’s monitor. While the storm system didn’t vastly improve conditions, it is a decent start to what is a critical year for California’s water resources. … Research over the past decade has proven that extreme events, such as California’s record-setting wildfires and the ongoing drought, can be scientifically tied to climate change. “Over the past decade or so, the area of what’s called attribution science, where we can go into individual weather events and tease out the role of climate change has advanced dramatically,” said Bernadette Woods Placky, Chief Meteorologist and Climate Matters Program director at Climate Central, fresh off her visit to Egypt for this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP). … ” Read more from Channel 10 here: New research ties specific extreme weather events to climate change
The flow of California water policy – A chart
Jay Lund writes, “California water policy is often discussed and depicted as being impossibly complex. In its essentials, it can be seen much more simply, as in the flow chart below. Without extreme events (such as floods and droughts), the policy process would be simpler, but ironically less effective, and less well funded. … ” Read more from the California Water Blog here: The flow of California water policy – A chart
Car tire chemicals are killing salmon and steelhead
“Since the early 2000s, Barb French observed an unexplainable phenomenon among coho salmon in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When the fish returned to their natal streams to spawn, a point in their life cycle when they are typically in excellent health, they behaved strangely. “They’d swim into the banks of the creeks,” French, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told EHN. “They were very disoriented, even swimming sideways.” The fish lost their sense of direction, gaping their mouths at the water’s surface and splaying their fins. Within a few hours, they would die. Last year, a group of Washington researchers pinpointed the cause of these mass fish kills: 6PPD, a chemical added to tires to prevent them from breaking down. … ” Read more from Environmental Health News here: Car tire chemicals are killing salmon and steelhead
Interactive map shows wildfire reduction projects
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced the launch of a new interactive map showing the progress made in addressing the wildfire crisis in eight western states. The project is part of the Forest Service’s 10-year wildfire crisis strategy. The map allows users to see the impact of investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law across 10 initial landscapes in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Interactive map shows wildfire reduction projects
The fate of the Salton Sea rests in the hands of the Imperial Irrigation District
Robert Glennon, a Regents Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona College of Law, and Brent Haddad, Professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, write, “On Sept. 30 the Independent Review Panel set up by California’s Salton Sea Management Program issued its final report. SSMP charged the panel with evaluating proposals to import water to the Salton Sea. In the end, the panel did not endorse any of the 18 proposals. The panel found that the key issue is not the size of the sea, it’s the salinity, which is nearly twice that of the ocean and getting worse. A smaller sea can achieve the principal objectives of salinity reduction, environmental restoration and regional air quality improvement. First, the state should embark as soon as possible on designing and building a desalination plant at the sea. … ” Read more from the Desert Sun here: The fate of the Salton Sea rests in the hands of the Imperial Irrigation District
“After years of campaigning, tribes and environmental organizations achieved a major victory last week when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a plan to remove four hydroelectric dams from the Lower Klamath River and restore critical salmon habitat in California and Oregon. The agency’s unanimous vote to let the dams’ licenses lapse was the last major hurdle toward returning the Klamath River to its free-flowing state — a goal that advocates have been doggedly pursuing for more than two decades. Tribes wanted to remove the dams to make it easier for Chinook and coho salmon to reach their upstream spawning grounds and to restore the overall health of a river that is culturally important to Native peoples in the area. “The Klamath salmon are coming home,” Joseph James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe — one of several tribes that has spent years fighting for dam removal — said in a statement following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision. ... ” Read more from the Grist here: A free-flowing Klamath River
Palo Alto partners with Mountain View, other Peninsula cities in planning colossal upgrade to wastewater plant
“Seeking to modernize aged equipment and cut down on the nitrogen that flows into the San Francisco Bay, Palo Alto and its partners are embarking on an ambitious makeover of the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, a project that will cost $193 million and take about five years to complete. The City Council is preparing to approve next month a $161 million contract with Anderson Pacific Engineering Construction to upgrade the wastewater treatment system at the regional plant on Embarcadero Road, near the Baylands. It will also consider additional contracts for design and engineering services and for construction management, raising the overall costs of the colossal project to $193 million. The project would be funded through a state loan and costs will be shared by Palo Alto and its partners in the plant: Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District. … ” Read more from Palo Alto Online here: Palo Alto partners with Mountain View, other Peninsula cities in planning colossal upgrade to wastewater plant
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY
Column: San Joaquin Valley is mired in ‘exceptional’ drought. So why aren’t we saving water?
Columnist Marek Warszawski writes, “Lest anyone forget while we were being bombarded by election conjecture and commercials, California remains historically parched. The last three years were the driest on record. Our particular section of the Golden State (i.e. the San Joaquin Valley) has it worst of all. We’re experiencing what federal agencies have termed “exceptional” drought, compared to other regions where drought conditions are categorized as “extreme,” “severe” and “moderate.” Because the San Joaquin Valley is experiencing California’s worst drought conditions as well as our economic dependence on agriculture, those of us living here should be extra diligent about conserving water. ... ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Column: San Joaquin Valley is mired in ‘exceptional’ drought. So why aren’t we saving water?
Farmers navigate Kern County drought
“Californians are familiar with hearing about the drought, as the state regularly enters and exits droughts every few years. Of course, the state is experiencing yet another drought, and we have another predicted dry winter again here in Kern County. After being in a drought for nearly two years, it’s only made Kern County farmers’ already difficult jobs even harder. Jason Giannelli is a 4th generation farmer. He starts his day at 4am, and usually doesn’t get home till around 6:30pm. While it can be a difficult job, it’s an important one Giannelli values, and the public relies on. … ” Read more from Bakersfield Now here: Farmers navigate Kern County drought
Golden Hills water rights issue tabled until December water district meeting
“The final regular meeting for two members of the Board of Directors of Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District was a quick one, with little business conducted. Director James Pack served eight years on the board and Director Kathy Cassil served four years. Both opted not to run for reelection. At the Nov. 16 meeting, board President Robert Schultz and the district’s General Manager Tom Neisler both thanked the two for their service on the board. Neisler said he hopes they will attend the December meeting at which the district will transition to a new board. … ” Read more from the Techachapi News here: Golden Hills water rights issue tabled until December water district meeting
Exploring a plan to remake the L.A. River
“Today we’ll start with a short history lesson about one of Los Angeles’s most vital (and most forgotten) landmarks: the Los Angeles River. For centuries, the river, which begins in the San Fernando Valley and ends in the ocean in Long Beach, sustained small communities of Native peoples. In the 1800s it nurtured hundreds of vineyards and orange groves, and exporting the harvests helped expand the Southland’s reputation around the globe. The city of Los Angeles ultimately formed around the river, as opposed to along the coast, because it was the region’s source of fresh water. But the river flooded frequently. And as Los Angeles grew, development encroached on the river’s banks, leaving less open land to absorb the overflow. That came with disastrous consequences: During a heavy rainstorm in February 1938, the Los Angeles River burst its banks and ultimately killed 87 people. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to entomb the river in concrete to speed up water flow and prevent flooding, a project that was completed in the 1960s. … ” Read more from the New York Times here: Exploring a plan to remake the L.A. River
Santa Monica: Newly opened facility keeps dream of water self-sufficiency afloat
“Thursday morning marked a watershed moment in Santa Monica history as Mayor Sue Himmelrich, in one of her final formal appearances as a local dignitary, cut the ribbon on the $96 million water treatment plant affectionately known as SWIP, the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Project. The celebratory opening featured statements from a who’s who of public figures in the greater Los Angeles water world, from Santa Monica Water Resources Manager Sunny Wang to LA County Public Works Director Mark Pastrella. … ” Read more from the Daily Press here: Santa Monica: Newly opened facility keeps dream of water self-sufficiency afloat
Newport Beach, Newport Bay Conservancy look ahead to Big Canyon restoration project
“Big Canyon Nature Park in Newport Beach is a place to recreate: kayaking, walking, bird-watching, hiking. But for environmentalists and city staff, it’s the site of a decades-long restoration project nearing its final phase. Big Canyon is one of several large tributaries to upper Newport Bay. Roughly 45 acres of it is designated as Big Canyon Nature Park and is owned by the city of Newport Beach while the lower 15 acres are owned by the California Fish and Wildlife Department and lie within the Upper Newport Bay State Ecological Reserve, according to the Newport Bay Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to preserve and protect the bay through education, restoration and advocacy. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Newport Beach, Newport Bay Conservancy look ahead to Big Canyon restoration project
Drought prompts water transfer between Loveland and Sweetwater reservoirs
“Sweetwater Authority has begun transferring water between its two reservoirs in response to drought conditions, the agency announced. The move has paused access to fishing at Loveland Reservoir and local anglers fear that continued draining will result in a permanent end to one of the few, free options to fish in the region. Tuesday marked the beginning of a water transfer from Loveland, which is near Alpine, to the Sweetwater Reservoir south of Spring Valley, where it will be treated by the agency and then supplied to its 200,000 customers in Bonita, Chula Vista and National City. Authority officials said Thursday the transfer will occur over several weeks and result in large savings. ... ” Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune here: Drought prompts water transfer between Loveland and Sweetwater reservoirs
“Quality Investors LLC and David G. Epstein, the owners of a three–acreresidential construction project in Oceanside,face a $411,475 penalty from the SanDiego Regional Water Quality Control Board for allegedly violating multiple provisions oftheir stormwater discharge permit in December 2021.Most notably, the owners’apparentfailure to install critical storm drain infrastructurebefore the rainy season allowed runofffrom elevated areasto commingle with disturbedsoil at the site, resultinginsediment–laden stormwater dischargesto Buena Vista Creekand Buena Vista Lagoonthatthreatenedharm to marine and wildlife habitat.Buena Vista Lagoon, the only freshwater lagoon in California, covers 223 acres ofwetland habitat and is home to dozens of varieties of migrant and resident waterfowl.Since 2016, the lagoon has beenon the Clean Water Act list of impaired waterbodiesdueto excessive sediment and soil buildup and an inability to absorb additionaldischarges. … ” Continue reading this press release from the State Water Board here: Oceanside residential development owners face fines for alleged stormwater permit violations
Snowpack off to a good start across Colorado River basin
“About 60% percent of the Colorado River starts as snow in Colorado. That’s a water lifeline for more than 40 million people from Wyoming to Mexico. This year’s snowpack is off to a good start, but the basin would need years of back-to-back wet conditions to help erase drought. “We’ve had a few rough years,” Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist, said. “And so to get to get us back into a more comfortable spot, we really need above average peak and a nice, slow, sustained melting season in the spring.” To keep up those higher-than-average totals, Bolinger says the mountains need consistent snow every week until the spring. … ” Read more from KNAU here: Snowpack off to a good start across Colorado River basin
As the Colorado River is stretched thin by drought, can the 100-year-old rules that divide it still work?
“Cowboy Michael Klaren heaved hay bales onto his wagon, climbed aboard and urged his two workhorses to drag it across a meadow, the ground spongy with the meltwater from a snowstorm. Wet boots had raised his spirits on this March morning, as had two wet cow dogs he called Woodrow and Gus. The meadow was off to a more promising head start on spring than he had come to expect after years of drought. If left to run off in rivulets or percolate through the pasture, the moisture from the Colorado River’s prodigious Wyoming headwaters would collect in the nearby New Fork, join the Green River, and ultimately surge across three state lines before swelling the Colorado in southeastern Utah and buoying the Southwest’s depleted reservoirs. But first, Klaren would wring some of it out for his next hay crop. … ” Read more from Arizona Central here: As the Colorado River is stretched thin by drought, can the 100-year-old rules that divide it still work?
Tucson, other cities commit to long list of water-saving goals
“Get rid of ornamental grass. Recycle more wastewater. Make indoor and outdoor watering more efficient. Limit outdoor watering to a few days a week. Create water rate structures that encourage conservation. Minimize business use of thirsty swamp cooling. Crack down on water leaks. A group of 30 cities and water districts, including Tucson, committed to carrying out these water conservation measures in an agreement signed last week. The measures, described by the agency officials as unprecedented, are aimed at reducing water demand by cities across the West to make the region less reliant on dwindling Colorado River supplies. … ” Read more from the Tucson.com here: Tucson, other cities commit to long list of water-saving goals
Colorado’s soil moisture is better than in recent years. But that’s not saying much.
“Fall soil conditions across the Upper Colorado River Basin are not as dry as in the past few years, but the amount of moisture packed into the dirt heading into winter is still below long-term averages, according to new modeling from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. “Across many of the major contributing areas, the higher elevation areas that generate the most runoff, our model soil moisture conditions are near to below normal,” said Cody Moser, a senior hydrologist at the forecast center. Soil moisture this time of year is an important factor for water managers who study weather conditions for a sense for how much runoff to expect in the spring. After a particularly wet 2019, the past two years have been hotter and drier across the West; those conditions dried out the soil, which then sucked up valuable snow melt before it ever made its way into a river or stream. … ” Read more from the Colorado Sun here: Colorado’s soil moisture is better than in recent years. But that’s not saying much.
Why America’s food-security crisis is a water-security crisis, too
“Deepak Palakshappa became a pediatrician to give poor kids access to good medical care. Still, back in his residency days, the now-associate professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem was shocked to discover that a patient caring for two young grandchildren was food insecure. “Our clinic had set up one of those food drive boxes, and near the end of a visit, she asked if she could have any of the cans because she didn’t have food for the holidays,” he recalls. Thirteen years later, Palakshappa’s clinic team now asks two simple questions of every patient to ascertain whether they’ll run out of food in a given month. But there are some critical questions they don’t ask: Do you drink your tap water? Is it potable and ample? Can you cook food with it, and use it to mix infant formula and cereal? Such questions could uncover some of the millions of Americans who are water insecure—a circumstance directly connected to food insecurity. There’s no healthcare screener for water insecurity. … ” Read more from the Food and Environment Reporting Network here: Why America’s food-security crisis is a water-security crisis, too
World headed in wrong direction on five key climate indicators, report finds
“To halt warming at 1.5 degrees C, countries must slash emissions from power plants, heavy industry, cars, trucks, agriculture, and forest loss, among other sectors. But in some key areas, according to a new report, the world is seeing emissions continue to rise. The State of Climate Action 2022 report, assembled by a coalition of environmental organizations, gauged global performance on 40 indicators of progress toward the 1.5 degree goal. On 27 indicators, progress is being made, but with insufficient speed. These include curbing deforestation, building out renewable energy and electric vehicles, and ramping up climate finance. On five other indicators, the world is clearly moving in the wrong direction … ” Read more from Yale E360 here: World headed in wrong direction on five key climate indicators, report finds
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.