WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Feb 12 -17: Storms in the forecast; Newsom suspends environmental laws to store more Delta water; What CA’s big winter storms mean for the future; Customized water pricing a strategy for drought; and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

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This week’s featured article …

DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST: Implementing equity in water management; Upcoming modeling workshop; 2022 State of Bay-Delta Science; and more …

At the January meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen’s article spotlight report focused on how equity considerations can be implemented in water management agencies. Dr. Larsen also gave details an upcoming Delta modeling workshop, and Delta Science Program staff highlighted two major synthesis efforts: The 2022 State of Bay Delta Science and the Delta Science Program-NCEAS Synthesis Working Group.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

Storms headed for California to boost already healthy snowpack

“After a mostly dry February, California may see a return of stormy weather over the next week — a welcome addition to a snowpack that will bring some relief to the historic drought.  The Western Regional Climate Center reported Thursday that despite a relatively slow February for snowfall, a deep snowpack that began accumulating during three weeks of relentless storms last month has grown stronger in California and the Great Basin.  “Following the strong atmospheric rivers earlier this winter, small-to-moderate storms with less moisture have resulted in smaller but continued snow water equivalent gains,” the office reported, adding that snow water equivalent measurements across the West are near or at record highs for this date. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.


Newsom suspends environmental laws to store more Delta water

“Facing an onslaught of criticism that water was “wasted” during January storms, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday suspended environmental laws to give the go-ahead to state officials to hold more water in reservoirs.  The governor’s executive order authorized the State Water Resources Control Board to “consider modifying” state requirements that dictate how much water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is allowed to flow into San Francisco Bay.   In January, after floodwaters surged into the bay, farm groups, Central Valley legislators and urban water providers complained that people and farms were being short-changed to protect fish. They urged state officials to store more water in reservoirs, which would increase the supply that can be delivered this summer to farm fields in the Central Valley and millions of Southern Californians.  Environmental activists say Newsom’s order is another sign that California is shifting priorities in how it manages water supply for humans and ecosystems. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

SEE ALSO: Governor Newsom Signs Order to Build Water Resilience Amid Climate-Driven Extreme Weather, press release from the Office of the Governor

DWR, Reclamation submit request to adjust water right permit conditions to conserve storage

“Following the driest three-year period on record, California experienced one of the wettest three weeks in January. But now those extreme wet conditions have activated a water quality standard in the Delta that, coupled with the extended dry period since then, could result in a sharp reduction in the amount of water that can be retained or moved into storage for both the State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP).  The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) are working in real time to operate the state’s water system to maximize water supply while protecting species and the environment. However, California continues to experience unprecedented swings in weather impacting water management operations.  Because of these extreme weather swings, DWR and Reclamation are taking proactive measures to manage the state’s water supply to store and capture more water in preparation for a return to hot, dry weather in the next two months.  Both agencies submitted a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) to the State Water Resources Control Board requesting approval to modify compliance with Delta water quality conditions specified in their water right permits, while proposing measures to avoid impacts on Delta smelt. … ”  Read more from DWR News.

California water agencies hoped a deluge would recharge their aquifers. But when it came, some couldn’t use it

The porous rock/sand/pebbles surface for this ephemeral stream in the Dunnigan area of Yolo Couny is well suited to water’s natural drainage, facilitating ground water recharge. Photo by Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“It was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.  The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.  Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.  Yet not everyone was able to fully capitalize on Mother Nature’s gift. … ”  Read more from Western Water.

‘The biggest challenge human civilization has had to face’: What California’s big winter storms mean for the future

“For three weeks after Christmas, California was pounded with a series of nine atmospheric river storms. The drenching rains replenished reservoirs that had been seriously depleted during three years of severe drought.  But they also caused flooding from the Central Valley to Santa Barbara, triggering mudslides, sinkholes and power outages, and left 22 people dead. Along the coast, big waves ripped a 40-foot hole in the Capitola Wharf, destroyed facilities at Seacliff Beach State Park, flooded homes, wrecked businesses and caused millions of dollars in erosion.  For the past 55 years, Gary Griggs, a Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at UC Santa Cruz, has studied big storms, sea level rise and California’s changing coastline. UCSC’s longest-serving professor, he is one of the nation’s experts in the ways oceans reshape the land.  This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity and length. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Harder pushes back on Newsom’s embrace of Delta tunnel

“Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent embrace of a once dead-on-arrival proposal to move water from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley and further points south via tunnel underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is coming under fire.  This time, however, opposition is mounting from a fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill who have cast the project as a water grab to benefit communities and farms south of the Delta.  Driving the news: Thursday, Rep. Josh Harder (D-Tracy) announced his re-introduction of the Stop the Delta Tunnel Act, aiming to block the drive to build a massive tunnel to convey water around the environmentally-sensitive Delta. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

USACE adds 4th public workshop to discuss proposed Delta Conveyance Project

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District will host its fourth public workshop discussing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project on March 1 in Stockton.  The 90-minute open house-style workshop will allow the public an opportunity to learn more about USACE’s review of the Delta Conveyance Project, including what the proposed project entails, USACE’s role on the proposed project, and the process USACE follows for assessing permit applications. Attendees will also be able to ask questions to USACE subject matter experts and provide public comments on the Draft EIS that is currently out for public review until March 16, 2023. No formal presentation will be given during the open house workshop. … ”  Read more from the Army Corps.

Water Resources IMPACT: California’s Megadrought

“As the American West responds to a 20-year megadrought, this first issue of a Water Resources IMPACT two-part series diagnoses water scarcity issues confronting the western U.S. and explains how these impact a variety of ecological, community, and economic sectors. … ” Many articles on drought, climate change, impacts to tribes, drought and freshwater species, sustainability and food supply, and more.  Publication produced by the American Water Resources Association.  Download your free copy of Water Resources IMPACT.

Putting data to work: How better data can help Californians manage drought, floods, agriculture, fisheries, and more

“The California Water Data Consortium (Consortium) today released a new technical report and policy brief: Putting Data to Work: Why Investing in Water and Ecological Data in California Matters. High-quality, usable, and accessible data are critical in supporting an equitable and resilient water future for all Californians. Putting Data to Work outlines six recommendations to improve water data and data infrastructure in California, ultimately providing water leaders with better ability to plan for shortages, flooding, groundwater conservation, and sustainable water consumption in a changing climate.  On any given day in California, reservoir operators are evaluating how much water to release downstream to prevent flooding during extreme rainfall events or to protect endangered salmon and their eggs during dry summer months. State agency employees are making decisions about how much water will be available for cities and growers in the coming year. Non-governmental organizations are trying to find and locate households whose sole water source – a domestic well – has gone dry, so they can provide emergency services. Missing or inaccessible data hinders the ability of these and many other water and ecological professionals to effectively manage resources and systems in these scenarios. … ”  Read more from the California Water Data Consortium.

DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST: Implementing equity in water management; Upcoming modeling workshop; 2022 State of Bay-Delta Science; and more …

At the January meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen’s article spotlight report focused on how equity considerations can be implemented in water management agencies. Dr. Larsen also gave details an upcoming Delta modeling workshop, and Delta Science Program staff highlighted two major synthesis efforts: The 2022 State of Bay Delta Science and the Delta Science Program-NCEAS Synthesis Working Group.  Click here to read this article from Maven’s Notebook.

A new strategy for western states to adapt to long-term drought: Customized water pricing

“Even after heavy snow and rainfall in January, western states still face an ongoing drought risk that is likely to grow worse thanks to climate change. A whopping snowpack is good news, but it doesn’t reduce the need for long-term planning. … Basic economics teaches us that a higher price for water would encourage conservation. Up until now, however, concerns about harming low-income households have limited discussions about raising water prices to reduce demand.  We know that it’s hard to pay more for essential goods such as food, energy and water, especially for lower-income households. Rather than raising everyone’s water prices, we propose a customized approach that lets individual consumers decide whether to pay higher prices. … ” Read more from The Conversation.

Why California was hit with unusually cold weather despite planet’s extreme warmth

“Most of the Eastern United States is in the midst of extreme warmth this winter season, with snowfall levels in cities like Chicago and New York running below average for this time of the year. But that’s been far from the case on the West Coast, where dangerous cold snaps and astronomical snowfall have been the standard this season.  In fact, California is one of just a handful of places on the planet that experienced cool, below-average temperatures in January. So, why exactly did California end up on the cooler side of the equation? … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

California lost 36 million trees to drought last year

“An estimated 36.3 million trees died in California in 2022, primarily because of drought, high temperatures, insects, disease and overcrowded forests, according to a recent report from the U.S. Forest Service.  An aerial detection survey, conducted from July 18 to October 7 last year, looked at 39.6 million acres of land and found that 2.6 million acres contained dead trees.  The primary cause of tree death was drought, according to the Los Angeles TimesNathan Solis. Since 2020, California has experienced its driest and warmest years on record, per a statement released last week by the Forest Service. At the end of September last year, 94 percent of the state was experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. … ” Read more from Smithsonian Magazine.

California’s snowpack is melting faster than ever, leaving less available water

“For decades, Californians have depended on the reliable appearance of spring and summer snowmelt to provide nearly a third of the state’s supply of water. But as the state gets drier, and as wildfires climb to ever-higher elevations, that precious snow is melting faster and earlier than in years past — even in the middle of winter.  That’s posing a threat to the timing and availability of water in California, according to authors of a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that the effects of climate change are compounding to accelerate snowpack decline.  “As wildfires become larger, burn at higher severities, and in more snow-prone regions like the Sierra Nevada, the threats to the state’s water supply are imminent,” said Erica Siirila-Woodburn, a research scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and one of the authors of the study. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Severe summer wildfires are impacting western U.S. mountain snowpack during winter and spring

“In recent years, wildfires have become more frequent, larger, and burn at higher severity across the western United States and especially in California. These wildfires are burning at higher elevations, which increases the geographical overlap between burned areas and seasonal snow zones (areas with persistent snowpack throughout the winter season). A recently published NIDIS-funded study led by scientists with the Desert Research Institute was motivated by an extended dry spell in the winter of 2021–2022 following multiple severe high-elevation fires in California. The authors were primarily interested in understanding how prolonged dry spells—long periods of no precipitation—during the middle of winter impact how burned landscapes influence snow water storage during a time of year when the snowpack should be accumulating. … ”  Continue reading at NIDIS.

Feinstein will leave a vast environmental legacy

“Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein shaped California’s environment like no one else.  Since her first election to the Senate in 1992, the onetime San Francisco mayor made herself the Golden State’s go-to legislator. With key committee assignments and a pragmatic bent, the veteran lawmaker put herself into the room where the deals got done.  “She’s someone that farmers, cities and environmentalists feel they can turn to fairly represent their interests,” one of her longtime top staffers, John Watts, said in an oral history filed at California State University at Fresno.  Now 89, Feinstein announced Tuesday that she will step down when her term ends in 2025 (E&E News PM, Feb. 14). Her pending departure caps a rough couple of years, including the death in 2022 of her husband Richard Blum and media reports about her health. They have provided a poignant coda to a career marked by landmark achievements in the natural resources arena. … ”  Read more at E&E News.

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In commentary this week …

George Skelton column: Rains and flooding leave claims of California drought high and dry

“Two words that government officials always try to avoid saying are “drought’s over” — even when there’s flooding.  This winter, Gov. Gavin Newsom has continued to declare that the state’s in a drought even while proclaiming regional flood emergencies.  This just seems contradictory and confusing. How can there be a simultaneous drought and flood?  Well, in weather-erratic, geographically diverse California, perhaps.  And I get it: Emergency proclamations allow victims to cut through bureaucratic red tape so they can drill a new well, obtain a flood repair permit or receive government aid.  But why persist in the fiction that we’re still in a statewide drought? … ”  Continue reading from the LA Times. | Read via Government Technology.

Declaring the drought over in California is extremely shortsighted

Letters to the editor:  “Columnist George Skelton believes it’s “fiction” to say California is still in a drought. He couldn’t be more wrong.  Many scientists view California as being in a permanent state of drought, greatly exacerbated by climate change. The fact that we have recently had a short period of significant rain with some reservoirs partially refilled doesn’t really change that. … When we declare the drought over, conservation will backslide because of human nature. We need to keep residents conserving and agriculture moving to more efficient irrigation and crops that demand less water.  Declaring the drought over is a recipe for disaster. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times.

A ‘get out of jail free’ card for stealing the Delta’s water

Doug Obegi, Director of California River Restoration for the NRDC, writes, “Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order this week that legalizes the State Water Board’s waiver of minimum water quality objectives in the Bay-Delta and pressures the State Water Board to approve violations of these minimum environmental flows.  It effectively gives the State Water Project and Central Valley Project a “get out of jail free” card for stealing water from the Bay-Delta environment – water that the two massive water projects promised to the environment decades ago in Decision 1641.  For the thousands of fishermen, Tribes, and communities that depend on a healthy Bay-Delta or care about its health, this executive order is an unambiguous signal that the State of California is unwilling and unable to protect salmon and the Bay-Delta environment. … ”  Read more from the NRDC.

Editorial: Newsom’s drought order amid wet winter threatens iconic California species

The LA Times editorial board writes, “Chinook salmon can’t swim in atmospheric rivers.  The iconic migratory California fish need actual rivers — the ones that run through the landscape, carrying juvenile salmon downstream in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, through the delta, past the powerful pumps that divert water to aqueducts for agricultural and residential use, across the San Francisco Bay and into the Pacific Ocean.  The fish live in the Pacific for several years and grow enough flesh and fat to battle their way back upriver to spawn, so their young can renew the cycle — if there’s enough water for the journey. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Gavin Newsom orders state agencies to weaken salmon protections; Claims drought emergency while reservoirs fill

“In a harsh blow to salmon recovery efforts, Governor Gavin Newsom has bowed to the will of factory farm operators in the Central Valley and invited his water managers to waive state law aimed at protecting salmon and other species.  Newsom issued an executive order on February 13 authorizing the State Water Control Board to waive legally required freshwater flows through the Delta. Without this water, salmon survival will plummet.  The executive order was immediately followed by a request from the state’s Dept. of Water Resources (DWR) for such a waiver.  DWR’s request admits that cutting Delta outflow will harm salmon saying it will harm, “… survival of juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead migrating from the Sacramento River basin during February and March 2023 …”  DWR says their increased pumping will suck baby salmon off their natural migration path and into the interior Delta, a well-documented death zone for them. … ”  Read the full press release from the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

Editorial: Feds should force California’s hand on Colorado River water use

The Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board writes, “California officials continue to be the lone holdout on an agreement among seven Colorado River states to cut water usage. Despite imposing numerous “deadlines” for such a deal, federal officials have yet to intervene. They must reconsider if the thirsty Golden State refuses to budge.  Six of the seven states — including Nevada — reached an accord last month to impose significant cuts on water allocations of nearly 20 percent. But California, which devours the most Colorado River water of any state, refused to go along. The state bases its position, in part, on the belief that legal precedent, archaic water law and its political clout will protect its domain.  In reality, the state is trying to preserve its agriculture industry. … ”  Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Resisting bullies along the Colorado River

Columnist Thomas Elias writes, “There’s one word for what six of the seven southwestern states that draw water from the Colorado River are trying to do to California: bullying.  The good news for Californians is that Gov. Gavin Newsom isn’t standing for it.  No, Newsom hasn’t directly called out the other six states involved (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada) for their tactics. He’s let his appointee Wade Crowfoot, California secretary of natural resources, do the talking. … The bullying this time comes from the other six Colorado River basin states, which want California to cut its use of the river’s water more than they would their own usage.  It’s a case of bullying, for sure, a matter of 6-1.  With 12 U.S. senators to California’s two, the other six states have been louder. It’s also a case of several smallish tails trying to wag the big dog, California. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury-Register. | Read via CA Focus website

Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance, writes, “Patrick O’Toole, whose family operates a sheep and cattle ranch on the Wyoming-Colorado border, was interviewed last month in Las Vegas, where he expressed the concerns that many farmers and ranchers have regarding unchecked urban growth in cities that rely on Colorado River water.  “We’ve got to find out what ‘the West that we want’ is, and then start working toward what we want, or you get what you deserve,” he said.  A recent Rasmussen Reports poll confirms that over 1,000 residents polled in Colorado also don’t want sprawl, and don’t think ag water should be transported to support that sprawl. Notably, 76% believe it is “very important” to protect U.S. farmland from development, so the United States is able to produce enough food to feed its own human population in the future. … ”  Read more from Farm Progress.

How to prevent a ‘complete doomsday’ along the Colorado River

The Washington Post editorial board writes, “Time is running out for the Colorado River. After more than two decades of drought fueled by climate change, the once-mighty waterway has seen its flow shrink by more than 20 percent. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the nation’s largest reservoirs, are about three-quarters empty. And forecasts for the future are even more dire: Officials warn that, if water levels continue to fall, the river could see a “complete doomsday scenario.” This looming catastrophe would have far-reaching consequences. Seven states and 30 tribes rely on the river. The basin’s hundreds of hydropower dams also provide energy to millions of people across the Southwest. What would it take to save the Colorado River? As we wrote last year, there are no painless solutions. But leadership and investment now could spare parched states an enormous amount of grief in the future — and start the overdue transition to a more sustainable relationship with water in the region. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

Imperial Valley has made enough sacrifices already in the water rights war

Craig William Morgan, a water resources engineer who served as consultant to farmers opposing the QSA, writes, “There is an old saying in the water world that it is better to be upstream with a shovel than downstream with a law book, which is the position California finds itself in as it stands apart from its neighbors on the Colorado River in negotiations over the use of the river’s water.  On Jan. 31, representatives for the six other basin states submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Reclamation describing the measures by which the supply deficit on the Colorado River should be closed in the near term. Not surprisingly, the other basin states have asked that California reduce its water use beyond that which the state had previously proposed last fall. California was right to decline its neighbors’ new proposal notwithstanding its position on the river. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

Why California controls the fate of the Colorado River

Columnist Joe Mathews writes, “Why do we still call it the Colorado?  Sure, the river begins in the Colorado Rockies. But in law and practice, the waterway making headlines is clearly the California River. And the first provision of any deal to save the river should rename it accordingly.  This condition wouldn’t be about Golden State pride. Instead, a name change would more accurately reflect the imperial role California plays in the movement of water, people, and power in the American West. … California is less a state than an empire, and the six states challenging it over water are California colonies. California is by far the richest and most dynamic area in this half of North America. California has more residents and a bigger economy than all the other western states of the U.S. put together. … ”  Read the full commentary at KCRW.

How California can solve the Colorado water deficit

Edward Ring, co-founder of the California Policy Center and the author of The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California, writes, “When the Hoover Dam was completed in 1935 it was the largest dam in the world, creating what was to become the largest reservoir in the world, Lake Mead. It took six years to fill, but at capacity Lake Mead held 28 million acre-feet (MAF) of water. Mead’s upstream counterpart, Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon Dam and completed in 1963, delivered an additional 25 MAF of storage capacity.  Access to the water stored in these giant reservoirs made possible the growth of cities and agriculture from the California coast all the way to Tucson in southeast Arizona. Las Vegas and Phoenix would not exist if it weren’t for these dams, nor would nearly 500,000 acres of rich irrigated farmland in California’s Imperial Valley along the border with Mexico. … ”  Read the full commentary at the National Review.

Lack of water is forcing major changes in San Joaquin Valley agriculture, new analysis says

Alvar Escriva-Bou, Ellen Hanak, and Josué Medellín-Azuara with the PPIC Water Policy Center write, “The San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater is dangerously depleted — a problem that’s grown worse as surface water deliveries have fallen in recent years. The consequences of groundwater overdraft are costly — and growing — for the Valley’s farms and communities: wells are drying up and land, bridges, and canals are sinking.  In 2014, the Legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to address these issues. Yet while agriculture’s irrigated footprint will have to shrink under SGMA, we found that a few key actions could defray some costs and help the Valley adjust.  Continue reading this commentary at the Fresno Bee. | Read via AOL News.

Despite deficit, state must invest to protect farming

Christopher Reardon, director of governmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau, writes, “As California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom embark on their annual budget dance, the state finds itself facing a projected $22.5 billion deficit. State budget watchers suggest the deficit will continue to climb before the annual budget revision process in May.  Only a year ago, California boasted a budget surplus of $100 billion. The Newsom administration had pots of money to distribute, with no worries about making painful budget cuts that could now affect a wide variety of services. Recently, the California Legislative Analyst Office reported, “The current economic environment poses a substantial risk to state revenues.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Who will save (not stop) the rain?

Winnie Comstock-Carlson, President and Publisher of Comstock’s, writes, “Our beloved Capital Region has been literally awash with rain, snow, flooding and downed trees, and I’m sure many of us think that California’s persistent drought has at last been rinsed away. After all, we’ve received huge amounts of snow in the Sierra, which will thaw and flow westward to fill our reservoirs, basins and valleys as it makes its way to sea. Add to that the atmospheric rivers of rain that have been pouring into our towns, overflowing our riverbanks, curbs, basements and canals, we’re tempted to assume that our state is no longer destined to be a desert. But that’s probably not going to be the case.  … ”  Read more from Comstock’s.

Does California have a ‘lead in drinking water’ problem?

Ellen Lee, Drinking Water Equity Advocate for the NRDC, writes, “It has been nearly eight years since the Flint water crisis and yet we continue to see how lead-contaminated drinking water threatens human health and disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities across the country. As headlines of lead in drinking water continue to make news in the Midwest and in northeastern cities, it may be surprising to some to learn that right here in California, we have our own issues with lead in drinking water as well.  In 2016, Fresno residents were concerned about “rusty, discolored water” coming from their pipes. Nearly 14% of children tested in one Fresno neighborhood had reported high lead levels, 25% of schools in Fresno reported finding lead coming from their drinking water fountains, and 40 homes had lead levels above the federal limit. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC.

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In regional water news this week …

Klamath countdown: Researchers hustle before largest dam-removal project begins

“Next year will be the big year. By the end of 2024 the Lower Klamath River will run free for the first time in a century, enabling fish like salmon and steelhead to reclaim 400 miles of river habitat in California and Oregon.  The removal of four dams on the river — the largest dam-removal and river-restoration project to date — got the official go-ahead late last year after two decades of work from the region’s Tribes and other advocates.  But before next year’s much-anticipated demolitions begin, a lot remains to be done.  The smallest of the four dams, Copco 2, will come down in 2023, and crews will improve roads and bridges, move a municipal water line, and build a new fish hatchery. … ”  Continue reading at The Revelator.

Reclamation announces temporary adjustment in Klamath Project operations

“The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the Services), announced today it will direct temporary adjustments to Iron Gate Dam effective immediately.  Despite storm events experienced across Oregon and California in late December and early January, the hydrology of the Klamath Basin continues to be hampered by the effects of a multi-year drought. Uncertainty remains with respect to forecasting for this water year, but the three agencies have coordinated on and agreed to an approach designed to minimize risk to Endangered Species Act-listed suckers (shortnose and Lost River suckers), coho salmon, and Southern Resident Killer Whales.  Reclamation and the Services will continue Tribal Nation and stakeholder communications initiated last fall, as well as the adaptive management process they have established to consider the best available scientific information in managing risks. This process is described in the Klamath Project January 2023 Temporary Operating Procedure, as further informed by the document, Klamath Project Operating Coordination, Winter/Spring 2023, February 13, 2023. … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation.

Interior cuts Klamath River flows despite winter storms: Tribes, fishermen prepare litigation

“Late last year, the final regulatory approvals to remove four large dams on the Klamath River became the good news environmental story of the year. The fact that Tribes from remote communities along the California-Oregon border started a successful movement to remove four large dams suggests that America can indeed restore rivers, ensure wild salmon runs for future generations, and honor traditional cultures.  Unfortunately, officials from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Fish and Wildlife Service are turning this epic into a tragedy. Today, Department of Interior officials told tribes that flows to the river from the Klamath Irrigation Project would be reduced below the minimums described by the Biological Opinion that is supposed to govern Klamath Irrigation Project operations. These flow decreases will dewater salmon eggs putting ESA listed coho salmon at further risk. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos.

California’s snow storms have Tahoe ski resorts poised for big Presidents Day weekend

“The slopes are ready. Are you? Ski resorts in the greater Lake Tahoe area have faced formidable challenges in recent years including California’s drought, warming climate, the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating wildfires. But now, fresh off weeks of unrelenting atmospheric rivers that dumped feet of snow in the mountains, those resorts can now cash in. Powder is fresh, with snow showers earlier this week topping off the mountains ahead of Presidents Day weekend – and without any serious storms in the forecast that would render mountain travel dangerous, as had been the case throughout for much of late December and the first three weeks of January. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Some levees in Sacramento County will cost millions to fix after storms. Why hasn’t FEMA helped?

“Multiple levee breaches in southern Sacramento County caused by severe flooding during winter storms are posing a problem for a small agency in charge of maintaining its stretch of levees along the Cosumnes River in Wilton.  Reclamation District 800, the agency that maintains the 34-mile stretch of levees, said that if the federal government does not help with funding for repairs, it fears it will not be able to continue as an agency.  According to district members, a stretch of levees in the area suffered three breaks, boils and overtopping during the winter storms. Patrick Ervin, P.E., an engineer for RD 800, estimates long-term repairs could be up to $50 million. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Monterey:  Despite the recent storms, water storage efforts on the Peninsula underperformed.

“Theoretically, the extraordinary series of atmospheric rivers that doused the Central Coast in late December and early January should have been a boon for efforts to divert water from the Carmel River and store it in the Seaside Basin for future use, a mechanism known as aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) – essentially, injecting water into an underground reservoir, where it can then be extracted during dry years.  That has not been the case. Due to a number of factors, those efforts have run up against constraints.  The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s ASR program was launched in the 2000s as part of an effort to shore up that water supply, and in 2017 – its record year of performance – it diverted and stored 2,345 acre-feet of water, about one quarter of the Peninsula’s annual water demand. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

Changing the course?: what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what’s next for LA’s Safe Clean Water Program

“LA Waterkeeper’s latest report, “Changing the Course?: What’s Worked, What Hasn’t, and What’s Next for the Safe Clean Water Program” assesses the first three years of Los Angeles County’s Safe Clean Water Program (SCWP). The program is funded by a voter-approved tax (2018’s Measure W) that raises about $280M per year, in perpetuity, to better manage urban and stormwater runoff. In just three years, LA County has gotten California’s (and one of the nation’s) most ambitious stormwater treatment and capture program off the ground.  LA Waterkeeper’s report specifically examines one of three programs that comprise the SCWP, the Regional Program. To date, the SCWP’s Regional Program has funded 101 projects to the tune of $1 Billion. The program’s success has been uneven, but it has made significant strides, and has show the power and potential to serve community needs while strengthening our region’s water independence. … ”  Access the report from LA Waterkeeper.

Senator Padilla introduces legislation to create Salton Sea Conservancy

“Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego) today introduced Senate Bill 583, creating the Salton Sea Conservancy, unifying the state’s efforts to accomplish necessary and overdue preservation projects, protecting residents’ health, and fostering ecological recovery in the area.  With a surface area of 343 square miles, the Salton Sea is California’s largest lake and was once a freshwater lake and a thriving tourism destination. Evaporation, exacerbated by climate change, along with agricultural runoff, has exposed toxins in the lakebed and created a perfect environment for dangerous algae blooms and bacteria to thrive. Some experts estimate the sea will lose more than half its volume by 2030, creating close to a 3-foot decline in the water level. As the sea shrinks, the lakebed containing elements such as arsenic and selenium becomes exposed, and the dust particles that then become airborne, spread the toxins throughout the region. … ”  Read more from Senator Padilla’s website.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE: Identification of Parties Interested in Potential Temporary Transfers

NOTICE: Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced (STM) Working Group meeting

NEPA DOCS: Delta-Mendota Canal Subsidence Correction Project

NOTICE of Opportunity for Public Comment, Public Hearing, and Consideration of Adoption of proposed amendments to the Water Quality Enforcement Policy

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