A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …
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This week’s featured articles …
DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST: Advances in mapping invasive aquatic vegetation
At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen discussed Council-funded research that will lead to improved management of invasive aquatic weeds. She also gave an update on the activities of the Delta Science Program.
Click here to read this article.
RISING VOICES: New nonprofit Minnow combats the inextricable link between land, water, and justice
In this issue of the Water Hub’s Rising Voices column, we check in with Director of Strategic Storytelling at Minnow, Javier Román-Nieves, about discriminatory land and water laws in California and advocating for small farmers in California.
Army Corps releases draft EIS for Delta Conveyance Project
From the US Army Corps of Engineers
The public draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the Delta Conveyance project is available for public review and comment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, is the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Cooperating Federal agencies include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Click here for more information and to access the documents.
DWR EXPLAINER: The Army Corps Delta Conveyance Project EIS and the Delta Conveyance Project EIR: What are the differences?
From the Department of Water Resources:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Delta Conveyance Project for public review. USACE’s Draft EIS assesses the exact same proposed Delta Conveyance Project analyzed in the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), available for public review July 27, 2022 – December 16, 2022.
USACE’s Draft EIS is different from DWR’s Draft EIR as follows …
Click here to read this article.
In California water news this week …
California will be hit with 2 weather systems this holiday weekend. Here’s a timeline of impacts
“Bay Area residents from San Francisco to San Jose are waking up to a gloomy, but balmy Friday morning, with clouds set to slowly fizzle out by tonight as a warming trend takes hold of Northern California. This warmth will peak on Christmas Day and host some of the warmest temperatures not just in the Bay Area but in the entire country. But this holiday warmth won’t last for too long. The ridge of high pressure responsible for this cozy holiday weekend is set to march out of California by Monday, introducing the potential for some travel concerns for residents heading back home during the early part of next week. … ” Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here (gift article): California will be hit with 2 weather systems this holiday weekend. Here’s a timeline of impacts
SEE ALSO: Here’s what weather pattern changes next week could mean Northern California rain, from KCRA
Tribes accuse California water board of discrimination and urge EPA oversight of Bay-Delta
“A coalition of California tribes and environmental justice groups filed a civil rights complaint Friday against the State Water Resources Control Board, charging it with discriminatory water management practices that it says have led to the ecological decline of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Members of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Little Manila Rising, Restore the Delta and Save California Salmon are calling for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversight of the state water board, including an investigation into its alleged failure to review and update water quality standards in compliance with the Clean Water Act. The Title VI civil rights complaint comes about seven months after the same coalition petitioned the board to review and update its water quality plan for the delta and San Francisco Bay — a petition the groups said went largely ignored. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Tribes accuse California water board of discrimination and urge EPA oversight of Bay-Delta | Read via AOL News
ICYMI: Civil rights complaint seeks US EPA oversight of CA State Water Board: Bay-Delta ecological crisis harms California Tribes and Delta EJ communities
“Today, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Little Manila Rising, Restore the Delta, and Save California Salmon filed a Title VI (Civil Rights) Complaint and a Petition for Rulemaking with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The coalition is represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic. The complaint and petition seek relief for California Tribal nations and disadvantaged Delta communities. In May 2022, this same coalition of groups petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board to update water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (the “Bay-Delta”) to improve instream flows to save fish species and address harmful algal blooms (HABs) that plague their communities. The State Board refused to act on these requests. … ” Read more from Restore the Delta via Maven’s Notebook here: Civil rights complaint seeks US EPA oversight of CA State Water Board: Bay-Delta ecological crisis harms California Tribes and Delta EJ communities
Dan Walters: California’s water conundrum hinges on Delta
“The most important piece of California’s water puzzle is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the 1,100-square-mile estuary where the state’s two most important rivers meet. The Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers drain a watershed of mountains and hills that stretches about 400 miles from Mount Shasta, near the Oregon border, to the Sierra southeast of Fresno. After meandering through the dozens of channels and sloughs of the Delta, their combined waters flow into San Francisco Bay and thence to the Pacific Ocean – minus whatever has been diverted into cities and farms along the way. And that’s the rub. For decades, in political and legal forums, there’s been a great debate over how much water can be taken from the two rivers, their many tributaries and the Delta itself without destroying its natural function as habitat for fish and other wildlife. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Dan Walters: California’s water conundrum hinges on Delta
Congressman Valadao leads request for answers from Interior on biological opinions
“Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-21) led Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04), and the entire California Republican delegation in a renewed request to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to provide answers about the Department of Interior’s (Department) reconsultation process on the 2019 Biological Opinions (BiOps). The reconslutation of the 2019 BiOps has caused significant uncertainty for Central Valley farmers about the future of their water supply, and Congressman Valadao has led several efforts to obtain answers from Interior about their attempts to reverse them. All requests for information have gone unanswered. In the letter, lawmakers raise concerns about political influence on the Department in its attempt to cancel the BiOps: “We are concerned that this reconsultation process represents a departure from common practice, raising questions about whether outside entities may have exerted undue influence on the Department’s decisions,” the lawmakers wrote. … ” Read more from Congressman Valadao’s website here: Congressman Valadao leads request for answers from Interior on biological opinions
Golden State Salmon Association/Public asks federal officials to intercede in new water operations rules in CA
“In a petition written by GSSA, 1500 Californians have asked NMFS and the USFWS heads to step in to protect California’s Central Valley salmon runs. The petition went to Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Martha Williams, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). NMFS and the USFWS play a key role in making sure that species protections are included in new operation rules currently being written that govern the federal Central Valley Project. The CVP’s dams, canals, pipes and massive Delta pumps all harm salmon and other native species. The rewrite is happening because the Biden Administration acknowledged that the last set of rules, written by the Trump administration, failed to adequately protect fish and wildlife. … ” Read more from the Golden Gate Salmon Association here: GSSA/Public Asks Federal Officials to Intercede in New Water Operations Rules in CA
Some San Joaquin Valley farmers are rebelling against groundwater measures
“As water managers throughout the San Joaquin Valley scramble to reign in groundwater pumping, they’re running into a serious roadblock: angry farmers. Across the valley, farmers have decried fees and other measures meant to reduce pumping, threatening not to pay, taking agencies to court and protesting groundwater rules. In some cases, it’s working. In the Kaweah subbasin in Kings and western Tulare counties, farmers forced a groundwater agency to cut pumping fees by half. In the Chowchilla subbasin farmers voted down groundwater fees and are pursuing creation of their own groundwater agency. … The rebellion is a reaction to the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims to bring critically overdrafted water subbasins into balance by 2040. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: Some San Joaquin Valley farmers are rebelling against groundwater measures
Depletion of groundwater is accelerating in California’s Central Valley, study finds
“Scientists have discovered that the pace of groundwater depletion in California’s Central Valley has accelerated dramatically during the drought as heavy agricultural pumping has drawn down aquifer levels to new lows and now threatens to devastate the underground water reserves. The research shows that chronic declines in groundwater levels, which have plagued the Central Valley for decades, have worsened significantly in recent years, with particularly rapid declines occurring since 2019. “We have a full-on crisis,” said Jay Famiglietti, a hydrology professor and executive director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security. “California’s groundwater, and groundwater across the southwestern U.S., is disappearing much faster than most people realize.” … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Depletion of groundwater is accelerating in California’s Central Valley, study finds
Landflex Program to help farmers transition away from groundwater
“The new LandFlex program from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) seeks to reduce groundwater demand through incentives. Administered in partnership with local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), the program is being supported by $25 million from DWR. Chief Executive Officer of Western United Dairies, Anja Raudabaugh said there are three main components of the program. “You have the immediate drought relief piece which is paid per acre-foot of saved water through evapotranspiration technology,” said Raudabaugh. “The second piece is to incentivize the farmer – we’re calling it a transition payment – to transition from a fairly water-intensive crop to a lesser water-intensive crop.” … ” Read more from Ag Net West here: Landflex Program to help farmers transition away from groundwater
Amid climate change, a question: What’s the future of California rice?
“After absorbing sunshine all summer, mature rice plants in California’s Sacramento Valley stand as high as three feet tall, in five inches of flood water. Planted in spring, farmers drain their fields in August, and they drive big, loud harvesters into them in September, gently separating the rice stalks from the grain, and blowing the harvest into bankout wagons that they tow beside them. On average, each acre produces 8,000 pounds of rice, which is a greater yield than most of the world’s rice growing regions. But this September, 300,000 of California’s 550,000 acres of rice lay barren—over half the state’s rice crop. What does this foretell about one of California’s most important crops? … ” Read more from Capitol Weekly here: Amid climate change, a question: What’s the future of California rice?
Changing climate, shift to more extreme weather intensify risk of flooding in California
“California’s shift to a hotter and drier climate is intensifying flood risk across the state and demands action, even during ongoing drought. With warmer temperatures, California needs to be prepared for more extreme flood events brought on by storms producing more rain than snow. Today, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board approved the 2022 Update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) which outlines improved flood management and infrastructure investments to significantly reduce flood risk especially in the most vulnerable communities of the Central Valley. The CVFPP is a strategic roadmap for flood management in the Central Valley. The 2022 Update, developed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), outlines a suite of recommended actions and clear opportunities to reduce flood risk especially in the San Joaquin River basin. … ” Read more from the Department of Water Resources here: Changing climate, shift to more extreme weather intensify risk of flooding in California
Disaster scenarios raise the stakes for Colorado River negotiations
“The water managers responsible for divvying up the Colorado River’s dwindling supply are painting a bleak portrait of a river in crisis, warning that unprecedented shortages could be coming to farms and cities in the West and that old rules governing how water is shared will have to change. State and federal authorities say that years of overconsumption are colliding with the stark realities of climate change, pushing Colorado River reservoirs to such dangerously low levels that the major dams on the river could soon become obstacles to delivering water to millions in the Southwest. The federal government has called on the seven Western states that rely on Colorado River water to cut usage by 2 to 4 million acre-feet — up to a third of the river’s annual average flow — to try to avoid such dire outcomes. But the states have so far failed to reach a voluntary agreement on how to make that happen, and the Interior Department may impose unilateral cuts in coming months. Many state water officials fear they are already running out of time. … ” Read more from the Washington Post here (gift article): Disaster scenarios raise the stakes for Colorado River negotiations
For western wildfires, the immediate past is prologue
“Since 1984, satellites have observed a growing trend in summer wildfire activity in the western United States, with the total burned area increasing by 104,000 acres (42,100 hectares) per year on average. From 1984 to 2000, wildfires across an area including all or parts of 11 states burned about 27.4 million acres in total, whereas from 2001 to 2018, this figure grew to about 55.9 million acres. In 2020 alone, the burned area jumped to roughly 8.7 million acres—equivalent to 32% of the cumulative area burned from 1984 to 2000—and the 2020 and 2021 fire seasons combined burned almost 15 million acres of the western United States, an area nearly as large as West Virginia. … In spring 2020, Jimy Dudhia, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, asked us whether established relationships between climate and fire can be used to forecast fire activity accurately. This question ignited our curiosity, fueling research to find out whether weather in the winter and spring can reliably predict the severity of the fire season the following summer. … ” Read the full article at EOS here: For western wildfires, the immediate past is prologue
In regional water news this week …
Tribes decry Klamath water proposal
“The Karuk and Yurok tribes issued a warning this morning that a Bureau of Reclamation proposal to reduce flows on the Klamath River could kill off an entire salmon run in advance of a historic dam removal and restoration effort aimed at saving the fish. Nothing that tribes and state officials just last week celebrated the historic agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams from the lower Klamath River — a pact reached after decades of efforts by the tribes and environmental groups — the tribes issued a press release this morning warning that regulators have proposed reducing the river’s flows by 40 percent. “We are hurt and frustrated,” said Yurok Vice Chair Frankie Myers in a press release. “We are on the verge of the biggest salmon restoration project in history and now we learn of plans to de-water the river.” … ” Read more from the North Coast Journal here: Tribes decry Klamath water proposal
Feds propose cutting Klamath River flows as irrigators illegally divert river
“Last week Tribal communities celebrated as Klamath dam removal plans were approved. This week, the celebration was cut short as the Bureau of Reclamation proposed a plan to cut Klamath River flows by 40%. “We are hurt and frustrated,” said Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers. “We are on the verge of the biggest salmon restoration project in history and now we learn of plans to de-water the river.” Several consecutive years of drought has led to irrigation diversion curtailments, poor water quality, and fish kills. With mounting political pressure on federal agencies to fill the only water storage feature on the mainstem Klamath, Upper Klamath Lake, the Bureau of Reclamation has floated a proposal to cut river flows by 40% when flows are already below recommended minimums. … ” Read more from the Daily Kos here: Feds propose cutting Klamath River flows as irrigators illegally divert river
ICYMI: Bureau of Reclamation plans to set aside a twenty-two year-old agreement on Trinity River; Hoopa Valley Tribe files for injunction
“[Friday], the Hoopa Valley Tribe asked a California federal court for an injunction against the Interior Department agency responsible for restoring Hoopa’s fishery on California’s Trinity River. The Bureau of Reclamation plans to set aside a twenty-two year-old agreement with the United States to restore the Tribe’s fishery, which was devastated by Reclamation’s unlawful over-diversion of water to industrial agriculture and other uses in California’s Central Valley. This case is Hoopa’s latest battle in an ongoing war to defend its sovereignty and fishing rights. “That agreement is sacred to us”, said Tribal Chairman Joe Davis. “It took an act of Congress and years of negotiation to make a restoration plan we could agree on. More than a generation ago, on December 19, 2000, Federal, State, Local, and Tribal officials gathered in Hoopa at a ceremony on the banks of the Trinity River to witness Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Tribal Chairman Duane Sherman sign the agreement.” … ” Read more of this press release from the Hoopa Tribe via Maven’s Notebook here: ICYMI: Bureau of Reclamation plans to set aside a twenty-two year-old agreement on Trinity River; Hoopa Valley Tribe files for injunction
$36.5 million from Monsanto water pollution settlement headed to Bay Area cities, Alameda County
“One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies is set to pay Bay Area cities tens of millions of dollars after settling a class action lawsuit involving PCBs, a toxic chemical compound manufactured by Monsanto that seeped for decades into storm water, sediment and the area’s rivers, streams and lakes. German-based Bayer, which acquired the now defunct Monsanto in 2018, will dole out $36.5 million in total to 13 Bay Area cities and Alameda County. The recipients include large cities — San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco — and smaller ones, including Antioch, Alameda, San Leandro and Vallejo. … ” Read more from the San Jose Mercury News here: $36.5 million from Monsanto water pollution settlement headed to Bay Area cities, Alameda County
After 2022’s fatal algal bloom, scientists fear the Bay’s sturgeon could go extinct
“At Point Pinole, 21 sturgeon carcasses––some more than seven feet long––lay strewn along a mile-long stretch of beach in late August 2022, baking in the relentless heat. It was the peak of the largest harmful algal bloom on record in San Francisco Bay, and people noticed. Around the Bay, members of the public made hundreds of sturgeon carcass reports to government agencies and on the citizen-observation platform iNaturalist—so many that four months later, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is still sorting through them. Sturgeon survived the calamity that struck down the dinosaurs, the movement of continents across the ages, and the advent of the Anthropocene, hardly changing over 200 million years. But this summer’s harmful algal bloom, also known as a red tide, triggered the largest sturgeon mortality event ever recorded in the San Francisco Bay estuary. … ” Read more from Bay Nature here: After 2022’s fatal algal bloom, scientists fear the Bay’s sturgeon could go extinct
Water District asks state regulators to compel Cal Am to sign off on Pure Water Monterey expansion.
“If Cal Am won’t voluntarily play ball to expand Pure Water Monterey, a recycled water project that could preclude the need for a local desalination project for decades, perhaps a strongly worded petition to the California Public Utilities Commission might help. On Dec. 16, David Laredo, attorney for the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, sent such a petition to the CPUC, the state commission that regulates private utilities, alleging that Cal Am is acting in bad faith in its request for a rehearing on the rate structure connected to Pure Water Monterey expansion. The petition asks that the commission compel the private water utility to sign an amended water purchase agreement—essentially, a promise that Cal Am will buy the water a PWM expansion would produce—so that construction of the project would begin and add 2,250 acre-feet of water annually to the local portfolio. (Current annual demand on the Peninsula is just under 10,000 acre-feet.) … ” Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Water District asks state regulators to compel Cal Am to sign off on Pure Water Monterey expansion.
SEE ALSO: Water district asks regulator to force Cal Am to buy water, from the Monterey Herald
Low lake level prompts Mono Lake Committee to seek State Water Board action
“On December 16, 2022 the Mono Lake Committee submitted a request to the California State Water Resources Control Board for an emergency action to protect Mono Lake by addressing the developing ecological crisis due to the lake surface elevation having fallen below 6380 feet above sea level, which threatens the nesting California Gull population and dangerously increases lake salinity. The Committee requested that the Board issue an emergency regulation, or take other action, suspending the export of water diverted from Rush and Lee Vining creeks and requiring delivery of that water into Mono Lake until Mono Lake has risen to 6384 feet above sea level. Mono Lake is dangerously low due to the legacy of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) water diversions, worsened by recent drought. … ” Read more from the Mono Lake Committee here: Low lake level prompts Mono Lake Committee to seek State Water Board action
Desert groundwater agency mulls how to get water from San Joaquin Valley
“A high-desert groundwater agency in eastern Kern County that’s in the midst of buying water from Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley, recently considered alternatives for how to actually get that water up and over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, which covers the Ridgecrest area, got updates on three potential pipeline alignments at its Dec. 14 meeting. No decisions were made at the meeting but the clock is ticking for the board to use a $7.6 million grant from the state Department of Water Resources toward the pipeline study and alignment adoption. ... ” Read more from SJV Water here: Desert groundwater agency mulls how to get water from San Joaquin Valley
Army Corps study of Salton Sea could yield billions for long-term restoration
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to review both short-term and long-term options for restoring the Salton Sea, which could ultimately net billions for major public works to restore the crashing ecosystem of California’s largest water body. First up, the federal agency will, by March 1 of next year, complete streamlined federal environmental reviews of projects that are part of the state Salton Sea Management Program’s 10-year plan that is supposed to be completed by 2028, including some that are underway. They include nearly 29,000 acres of interconnected pond and wetlands habitat projects, dust suppression and native vegetation projects, and refilling former boat canals in Desert Shores. … ” Read more from The Desert Sun here: Army Corps study of Salton Sea could yield billions for long-term restoration
San Diego’s zombie water pipeline project is dead again. For now.
“San Diego’s proposal to build its own $5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River and bypass paying Los Angeles for water is now in a state of the undead –technically lifeless unless local water officials choose to revive it again. The San Diego County Water Authority last resurrected the idea to build its own pipeline from the major water source in September 2020. It was an effort to free its dependence on the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District, which owns the only aqueduct – and San Diego’s only connection – to the Colorado River. Dan Denham, the Water Authority’s deputy general manager, confirmed Thursday that it’s “pencils down” on the water wholesaler’s sixth attempt to study the pipeline project since the 1990s. The reason this time is that Water Authority is in court with Metropolitan over what LA charges to transport almost 60 percent of San Diego’s water, but there’s hope for common ground. … ” Read more from the Voice of America here: San Diego’s zombie water pipeline project is dead again. For now.