WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for Feb. 19-24: Major storm to bring blizzard, feet of snow and flooding rain; Water allocations increased for cities, farms; Water board waives Delta rules that protect salmon; and more …

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

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In California water news this week …

Major storm to bring blizzard, feet of snow and flooding rain to California

“A large and disruptive storm system tracking south just offshore of the West Coast on Thursday was bringing some impacts to California. As the storm zeroes in on the Golden State, it is forecast to ramp up in intensity on Friday and produce heavy rain, snow and even rare blizzard conditions in the mountains around the Los Angeles area.  AccuWeather meteorologists warn that this storm has the potential to be the most impactful storm of the winter, and perhaps in a number of years, for Southern California due to the risks of flooding, snow in low elevations and widespread travel disruptions. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

Reclamation announces initial 2023 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project contractors

“Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced initial 2023 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project water users. Water supply allocations are based on an estimate of water available for delivery to CVP water users and reflect current reservoir storage, precipitation, and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.  “While we are cautiously optimistic, we are also cognizant of the uncertainties that exist and the fluctuating nature of California’s climate with the possibility that dry conditions will return,” said Reclamation Regional Director Ernest Conant. “We received a much-needed dose of rain and snow in December and January that helped boost the water levels at our CVP reservoirs. The projected runoff from the snowmelt later this year will further benefit the state as we head into the summer months. However, we are all too aware of the precarious nature of recent weather patterns and must proceed prudently as we move through the water year—especially with below average storage in the state’s largest reservoir, Shasta.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation via Maven’s Notebook.

After storms, Feds to deliver 35% water allocation to Valley farmers

“While still far off from their contracted amounts, Central Valley Project contractors are in line to receive a much better portion of their contracted water than they were last year.  CVP contractors South-of-Delta will receive 35 percent of their contracted amount, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday.   Along with the 35 percent for South-of-Delta contractors, municipal and industrial contractors will receive 75 percent of their historical use. Friant Division contractors have their supply split between Class 1 – the first 800,000 acre-feet of available water supply – and Class 2, the next amount of available water supply up to 1.4 million acre-feet.  The Friant Division’s water supply allocation is 100 percent of Class 1 and 20 percent of Class 2. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

DWR Announces Modest Increase in State Water Project Allocation – now 35%

Lake Oroville, January 12. 51% capacity

“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced a modest increase in forecasted State Water Project (SWP) deliveries this year due to early gains in the Sierra snowpack. DWR now expects to deliver 35 percent of requested water supplies, up from 30 percent forecasted in January, to the 29 public water agencies that serve 27 million Californians. That would translate to an additional 210,000 acre-feet of water.  Record-breaking atmospheric rivers that pounded the state in January gave way to a mostly dry February that saw less than an inch of precipitation statewide to this point.  “We’re hopeful that more storms this week are a sign that the wet weather will return, but there remains a chance that 2023 will be a below average water year in the northern Sierra.” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Careful planning and the use of advanced forecasting tools will enable the Department to balance the needs of our communities, agriculture, and the environment should dry conditions continue this spring and into next year.” … ”  Read more from DWR via Maven’s Notebook.

Water board waives Delta rules that protect salmon

San Joaquin River, South Delta.

“California’s water board decided Tuesday to temporarily allow more storage in Central Valley reservoirs, waiving state rules that require water to be released to protect salmon and other endangered fish.  The waiver means more water can be sent to the cities and growers that receive supplies from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta through the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The state aqueduct delivers water to 27 million people, mostly in Southern California, and 750,000 acres of farmland, while the Central Valley Project mostly serves farms.  The flow rules will remain suspended until March 31.  Environmentalists reacted today with frustration and concern that the move will jeopardize chinook salmon and other native fish in the Delta that are already struggling to survive. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

State Water Board approves Temporary Urgency Change Petition for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project

“On February 21, 2023, the State Water Resources Control Board issued an order conditionally approving temporary changes to requirements included in the water right permits and license for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project for the period of February through March 2023. The order was issued in response to a Temporary Urgency Change Petition jointly filed by the California Department of Water Resources and the United States Bureau of Reclamation on February 13, 2023.”  Read the State Water Board order.

With all this rain and snow, can California really still be in a drought? Look deeper

“Only weeks after a series of atmospheric rivers deluged California, the state is once again bracing for powerful winter weather that could deliver heaps of rain and snow, including fresh powder at elevations as low as 1,500 feet.  But as worsening climate extremes and water supply challenges continue to bedevil the state, officials cautioned residents Tuesday not to assume that the recent moisture signaled an end to the drought. The entire state remains under a drought emergency declaration that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued in 2021, with millions of residents still under strict watering restrictions.  “I want to be clear that these storms — and the likely rain and snow we may get over the next few weeks — did not, nor will they fully, end the drought, at least not yet,” said Yana Garcia, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re in better shape than we were two months ago, but we’re not out of the woods.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Proposed legislation would grant the State Water Resources Control Board new authority over all surface water diversions

“A pair of bills introduced last week propose sweeping new authorities for the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) that would increase state oversight of surface water diversions. AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) and SB 389 (Allen) would create new administrative enforcement processes that would allow the SWRCB to make binding determinations on water rights.  Significantly, AB 460 in particular would grant interested parties the right to file petitions for the SWRCB to impose restrictions on water rights that could significantly limit or eliminate a diverter’s ability to exercise those rights.  Collectively, both bills would undermine existing legal protections for pre-1914 and riparian water rights and result in significant changes to how California’s water rights system is administered. The discussion below provides background on existing law, the key changes to existing law proposed by each bill, and their respective impacts on water rights holders.  … ”  Read more from Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford, & Guernsey.

Did winter storms replenish California’s depleted groundwater supplies? Here’s what data shows

“Winter storms have filled California’s reservoirs and built up a colossal Sierra snowpack that’s nearly twice its normal size for this time of year. But years of dry conditions have created problems far beneath the Earth’s surface that aren’t as easily addressed.  Groundwater — found in underground layers containing sand, soil and rock — is crucial for drinking water and sustaining farms. During drought years, 60% of California’s annual water supply comes from groundwater. This water is not easily replenished, especially as many groundwater basins across the state are critically overdrafted. “Even if we have a substantial wet year, it’ll take many years for basins to fully recover, if at all,” said Paul Gosselin, deputy director of sustainable groundwater management for the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

Farmers race to sink water into ground after storms

“Growers in the San Joaquin Valley are hurriedly building temporary groundwater sinking basins to take advantage of inexpensive, uncontrolled seasonal water. And they are racing to replenish underground water supplies that could carry them through drier years ahead.  In Tulare County, farm manager Zack Stuller’s phone started ringing nonstop in late December, after a series of intense storms fueled by atmospheric rivers walloped California, dumping snow in the mountains and rain in the lowlands.  Clients of Stuller’s farm management and land development business took note of conditions in the San Joaquin River and Kaweah River watersheds and anticipated an opportunity to conduct on-farm recharge—if they had a place to put it.  “Everyone is scrambling,” Stuller said as he surveyed a recent project in Exeter. “We weren’t prepared for this much water, and we can’t build them fast enough.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Amid well-drilling and pumping, calls grow for stronger California water regulation

“In 2014, California adopted a landmark law aimed at combating excessive groundwater pumping, especially in farming areas of the San Joaquin Valley where many families were seeing their wells sputter and run dry.  More than eight years later, many local agencies are still working on long-term groundwater sustainability plans. Water levels have continued to decline, and in many areas household wells have continued to dry up — including some that have failed since torrential rains soaked the state in January.  Now, with more wells at risk of running dry, activists are urging the state to intervene in five Central Valley areas where they say plans are inadequate to combat chronic overpumping.  “At this point, we just don’t believe that the locals will actually take into consideration drinking water needs,” said Nataly Escobedo Garcia, a policy coordinator with the environmental justice group Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability. … ”  Continue reading from the LA Times.

Los Angeles DWP battles to keep spigot open at Mono Lake

“With its haunting rock spires and salt-crusted shores, Mono Lake is a Hollywood vision of the apocalypse. To the city of Los Angeles, however, this Eastern Sierra basin represents the very source of L.A.’s prosperity — the right to free water.  For decades, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has relied on long-standing water rights to divert from the streams that feed this ancient lake as part of the city’s far-flung water empire. But in the face of global warming, drought and lawsuits from environmentalists, the DWP is now facing the previously unthinkable prospect of ending its diversions there.  In the coming months, the State Water Resources Control Board will decide whether Mono Lake’s declining water level — and the associated ecological impacts — constitute an emergency that outweighs L.A.’s right to divert up to 16,000 acre-feet of supplies each year. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

DWP’s “new water war” even bigger than LA Times suggests

The Mono Lake Committee writes, “Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times article, “LA’s new water war: Keeping supply from Mono Lake flowing as critics want it cut off,” on the State Water Board’s Mono Lake workshop left readers and workshop attendees, well … wondering.  Print space and attention spans are always tight, but the article missed information key to understanding the issue at Mono Lake, the diversity of voices calling Mono Lake protection, and the water supply solutions that are right at hand for Los Angeles.  The State Water Board’s five-hour workshop was attended by 365 people, and 49 of the 53 public commenters spoke in support of raising Mono Lake. At the time the workshop started the Board had already received more than 800 comment letters in support of suspending water diversions until the lake rises enough to protect wildlife and the ecosystem—as already required by the Board—and to quickly schedule a hearing to implement long-term stream diversion changes to ensure Mono Lake can rise to the healthy level mandated by the Board in 1994. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.

California invests in critical Central Valley water infrastructure projects

Aaron Cuthbertson, engineering geologist with the DWR, measures groundwater levels at designated monitoring wells in Yolo County. Photo by Kelly M. Grow / DWR

“California’s water authorities will spend $15 million in three crucial water management zones within the drought-ravaged southern Central Valley.  The hub of agricultural production in the Golden State, the Central Valley has also faced the most dire impacts from another historic drought, as thousands of wells went dry last year and many communities faced a total lack of safe drinking water.  The state’s authorities say they are releasing funds to begin projects to prevent such hardship in future droughts. The Department of Water Resources along with California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot came to the small city of Parlier on Thursday to announce three grants totaling $15 million to improve water infrastructure in the region. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

SEE ALSODWR Awards $25 Million in LandFlex Grants to Protect Drinking Water Wells, from DWR News

A guide for new California water wonks

“Water is a universal foundation for every problem and opportunity in California.  Most people use it every day, yet even experts with decades of experience don’t know it all.   (Alas, too many advocates and pundits almost don’t know it at all.)  Welcome!  Immense numbers of books and articles have been written on California water.  Here is a selection of some readings and websites useful for folks who want to become California water wonks as serious journalists, students, agency and NGO leaders or workers, consultants new to the area, professors and instructors, or just obsessed members of the public.  Bon appétit! … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

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In commentary this week …

Gavin Newsom just declared war on San Francisco Bay

Gary Bobker, program director at the Bay Institute, writes, “In response to the 9/11 attacks of 2001, then-President George W. Bush created an enemy that could not be defeated — the very concept of terrorism. He used this framing to help justify launching unjustified wars of aggression in Iraq and infringing on traditional civil liberties at home. His actions — propelled by the cynical exploitation of a real emergency — ultimately backfired, fueling terrorist ideology instead of hindering it.  While obviously not so dramatic, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order this week declaring war on California’s water scarcity takes a note from the Bush playbook. The decision to extend his drought emergency declaration — despite the recent record rains and flooding — gives carte blanche to state agencies to eviscerate essential water quality and environmental protections in perpetuity. Meanwhile, his administration continues to press for the same kinds of projects and management strategies that helped create the state’s water problems in the first place. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Complicated, but significant positive news on the water front

Geoffrey Vanden Huevel, Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs with the Milk Producers Council, writes, “With the imminent threat of losing hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of stored water to the ocean, Governor Newsom on Monday issued an Emergency Order seeking to stop that from happening. In his State of Emergency Proclamation, the Governor ordered the State Water Board to consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases. The proclamation also suspended some provisions of the Water Code to make this possible. Later in the day on Monday, the Department of Water Resources, together with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) with the State Water Board to get relief from the ocean outflow requirement. Despite the order from the Governor, the five governor-appointed State Water Board members have the power to grant, modify or deny the petition. It is very encouraging to see the Governor use his considerable emergency powers in an effort to do something significant for water supply, but we need the State Water Board to follow through by granting the petition.  There is of course, opposition to this move by the radical environmentalists. … ”  Continue reading at the Milk Producers Council.

Governor’s action on water supply is welcome for the San Joaquin Valley

State Senator Anna Caballero writes, “One of California’s greatest attributes is its diversity. Throughout our history, we have welcomed people from all over the world, each contributing in their own way to make California a global leader in aerospace, entertainment, technology, and, of course, agriculture. California has also had a traditionally diverse water supply, from rain, and snow, to plentiful groundwater basins, and rivers flowing in from other states. Predictable weather patterns have now changed, making long-term water supply planning even more difficult.  That is why I appreciate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent effort to help protect the water in our reservoirs that was captured during the storms in December and January. It is more important now to capture water during the wet season to save for times when it will be dry. Today, those extremes can all happen within a one- or two-year time period. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian.

Water quality, fish and wildlife protection: It’s all voluntary

Chris Shutes writes, “The future is now.  Governor Newsom’s February 13, 2023 Executive Order ordering the State Water Board  to consider modifying flow and storage requirements for the State Water Project (SWP) and the Central Valley Project (CVP) is his blueprint for the Bay-Delta estuary and every river that feeds it.  When requirements to protect water quality, fish, and wildlife are inconvenient, water managers can ignore them.  It’s all voluntary.  For ten-odd years, California’s water managers have promised “Voluntary Agreements” to replace the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.  They could never figure out the details of what to propose. … ”  Read more from the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

California’s ongoing water follies

Steven Greenhut, Resident Senior Fellow and Western Region Director, State Affairs, writes, “An unusually severe winter storm inundated California last month, bringing more water in a few weeks than the state sometimes receives in a year. The biggest water problem in my region was, quite obviously, too much of it, as the state’s last undammed river, the Cosumnes, overflowed the aging levees and led to floods and destruction. At first blush, it looks like Mother Nature has bailed out our drought-ravaged state once again.  The state’s reservoirs are not at their highest levels, but they’ve filled up quite a bit, and the Sierra snowpack — essentially the state’s largest “reservoir” — is higher than it has been in nearly four decades. Yet policymakers here are insisting on continuing with water-rationing measures. Water officials are not about to loosen the severe water-use restrictions put in place during recent dry years. Why aren’t any of us surprised? … ”  Continue reading at R Street.

Rains and flooding are not enough to solve California’s persistent drought problems

Robin Epley, an opinion writer for The Sacramento Bee, writes, “California’s reservoirs may be as full as they’ve been in years thanks to recent rainfall, but it’s still not enough water to meet the state’s demands — and it will never be if the state doesn’t invest in new ways to capture all that precious water. Not enough of the state’s heavy rainfall is draining into California’s underground reservoirs to keep us sated, even through the next summer. January saw torrential downpours. February has been dry. This week, California will see a blanket of snow across much of the state, and some forecasters predict it will even reach coastal communities such as Eureka. This is, of course, the havoc of climate change at its most obvious: The wets are getting wetter and the drys are getting drier. We, the people, get soaked and scorched every time the pendulum swings. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Calif.’s drought cure starts with adapting to changing circumstances

William Bourdeau, executive vice president of Harris Farms, director of the Westlands Water District, and chairman of the Valley Future Foundation, writes, “Following a downbeat 2022, with sparse rainfall, soaring demand for water, and a need to continue to put food on the nation’s table, California kicked off 2023 blessed with an abundance of precipitation.  For the past six weeks, however, that blessing, to some extent, has been squandered.  The rules governing the flow of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta forced millions of acre feet of water – enough to meet the water needs of Los Angeles multiple times over –  to be flushed out to the Pacific Ocean to meet rigid, calendar-based environmental standards. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Water, water everywhere—if we get serious about storing it

Columnist George Boardman writes, “The massive rainstorms that inundated California is early January are starting to fill up the state’s reservoirs, but it is just a drop in the bucket of what might have been.  The state Department of Water Resources estimated in late January that it will provide 30% of the water requested by municipal and agricultural water agencies this year, up from 5% projected in early December. It may not seem like a lot, but it is the most provided by the state since 2019. More is on the way, depending on how the rainy season plays out. But little has happened since January, the snow is melting faster than usual, and after three years of drought, we can’t assume our current bounty will last for long.  We could relax if we did a better job of saving the water we get. … ”  Read more from The Union.

Snow, rain, wind and cold in California? Here’s some good news about this week’s winter storms

Ned Kleiner, a PhD candidate at Harvard studying atmospheric science, writes, “The National Weather Service’s map of warnings and advisories on Wednesday looked like the aftermath of letting a toddler loose with your painting supplies. High wind and winter storm warnings, forecasting wind gusts up to 60 miles an hour and more than half a foot of snowfall in 12 hours, stretched across the U.S., from Texas to Montana and from California to Michigan. … The good news is that unlike a number of other recent extreme weather events such as the monsoonal flooding in Pakistan that killed more than 1,500 people in 2022, the record-shattering Pacific Northwest heat wave in June 2021, and the cold snap that crippled the Texas power grid in February 2021 — this storm system does not seem to have been substantially caused by climate change. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Investing in our communities’ clean water future

Sean Bothwell, Executive Director of California Coastkeeper, writes, “Fifty years ago, the federal government passed the Clean Water Act to clean up the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans, many of which were polluted to dangerous levels. The State and Regional Water Boards were charged with implementing the Act here in California. In addition to setting statewide water quality standards and policy and issuing regulations, the Water Boards are also charged with enforcing water quality rules and penalizing violators.  Under current law, those who violate water quality rules (say, by discharging more of a chemical into a river than is allowed) have two options. The first option is to create a Supplemental Environmental Project to clean up the water in the community in which the violation occurred. Nearly all violators, however, choose the second option: paying a penalty into the State Water Board’s Cleanup & Abatement Account. … ”  Continue reading at California Coastkeeper.

How goes Mono Lake goes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta when it comes to LA water politics

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “You may not care about the fate of Mono Lake and its unique ecological system.  But you should.  It’s because the myopic water doctrine Los Angeles has been relentlessly pursuing so it could sustain its growth and wealth for well over a century  will lay waste to Mono Lake if they are not stopped.  Why care about a lake that’s a 160-mile drive from Manteca via Highway 120 when Tioga Pass isn’t closed by winter snow?  The Save the Mono Lake Committee can rattle off a lot of reasons. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance: There’s less to NID’s Supreme Court Appeal than meets the eye

Chris Shutes, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, writes, “In a February 8, 2023 op-ed, the president of the Board of Directors of Nevada Irrigation District (NID) writes that an appeal to the US Supreme Court by NID could have “severe impacts” to NID and the community it serves. The op-ed omits the key facts on which the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last August. It also exaggerates the impacts to NID and obscures the issues.  In 2008, Nevada Irrigation District (NID) started “relicensing” its Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) first licensed the Project, for 50 years, in 1963. … ”  Continue reading at YubaNet.

California wants to keep (most) of the Colorado River for itself

co-author of “Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River” and publisher of the Inkstain blog, writes, “If the Colorado River continues to dwindle from the same arid trend of the last two decades, it could take as little as two bad drought years to drive the reservoir here on the Arizona-Nevada border to “dead pool.” … Last month, six of the seven proposed a sweeping plan to share the burden and bring the river’s supply and demand into balance. But California, the river’s largest water user, refuses to play fair.  As climate change shrinks the river, California argues, it’s Arizona that should take the biggest cuts. If the water in Lake Mead dips below 1,025 feet above sea level, California’s proposal would cut Arizona’s allocation in half, but California’s share, which is already larger, would be cut only 17 percent. That would mean central Arizona’s cities, farms and Native American communities would suffer, while California’s farmers in the large desert agricultural empire of the Imperial Valley — by far the region’s largest agricultural water user — would receive more water from Lake Mead than the entire state of Arizona. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times (gift article).

Column: Shrinking water supply will mean more fallow fields in the San Joaquin Valley

Columnist George Skelton writes, “Downpours or drought, California’s farm belt will need to tighten up in the next two decades and grow fewer crops.  There simply won’t be enough water to sustain present irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley.  Groundwater is dangerously depleted. Wells are drying up and the land is sinking in many places, cracking canals. Surface water supplies have been cut back because of drought, and future deliveries are uncertain due to climate change and environmental regulations.  We’ve known all this for years, but long-term projections have become even more grim, according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times.

Smelt status – Winter 2023: How low can you go?

Tom Cannon writes, “In prior posts in December 2022 and November 2021, I described the status of listed delta smelt and of longfin smelt.  More recent information shows little change in the dire outlook for these two native Bay-Delta fish.  Delta smelt and longfin smelt populations have declined severely over the past few decades due to poor water management. In the Bay-Delta, where the smelt spend most of their lives, south Delta water exports and warming of the Bay and Delta from reduced inflow and outflow has limited their production.  Temporary urgency change petitions (TUCPs) during multiyear droughts and  subsequent orders by the State Water Board have allowed reduced Delta outflow, leading to higher water temperatures and increased Delta salinity. The State Board is again considering yet another TUCP in winter 2023 that would reduce Delta outflow to allow higher exports. … ”  Read more from the California Fisheries blog.

‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule unworkable for family farms

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, writes, “Last month, the American Farm Bureau Federation filed a new lawsuit challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s latest “waters of the United States” rule. We were joined by more than a dozen other organizations representing agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing and housing.  Even though farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting our nation’s waterways, they deserve better than this rule, which requires a team of lawyers and consultants just to identify “navigable waters” on their land.  The EPA’s new WOTUS rule is a giant step in the wrong direction. Instead of making federal regulations more clear, it reinstates confusing standards that have already caused decades of uncertainty. Most importantly, the rule gives the government sweeping authority over private lands. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

High Country News engages in climate change denialism and greenwashing

Chad Hanson, a research ecologist with the John Muir Project, writes, “A once-respected news outlet for environmental journalism that highlighted and exposed abuses of our natural world, High Country News (HCN) has now taken an ugly turn for the worse. On February 10, 2023, HCN published and distributed an article, “Does thinning work for wildfire prevention?”, that presented itself ostensibly as an examination of “what scientists find” to be true on the subject of “thinning”, wildfires, and climate change. But, to address this issue, the article only quoted one forest/fire ecologist, Gavin Jones, a pro-logging scientist employed by the U.S. Forest Service, who has never published a single scientific study on how “thinning” affects wildfires or climate change. … ”  Read more from Counter Punch.

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In regional water news this week …

Are the feds risking endangered salmon for fries and potato chips?

“Last fall, following a 20-year campaign led by tribal organizers, the federal government ordered the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon to California. For almost a century, these dams have prevented the river’s salmon from swimming upstream to spawn.  The dams will be gone by next year, but now the salmon, including endangered coho, are facing a renewed threat from farther upstream. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls another set of dams on the Klamath, announced last week that it will cut flows on the river to historic lows, drying out the river and likely killing salmon farther downstream.  “The bureau’s proposal will kill salmon, and there’s no question about it,” said Amy Cordalis, general counsel for and citizen of the Yurok Tribe. “These are some of the lowest flows the Klamath River has ever seen.” … ”  Read more from High Country News.

Marin surveyors find few salmon, steelhead eggs after storms

“Marin salmon and steelhead researchers said this week that the outcome of this year’s spawning season will likely remain a mystery until the summer because recent storms prevented surveys during the peak period of the run.  While the storms help to signal fish such as endangered coho salmon, threatened chinook salmon and steelhead trout to swim upstream to their spawning grounds, the intensity of the back-to-back storms in January scoured creekbeds in salmon strongholds such as Lagunitas Creek and Redwood Creek.  The storms occurred right as coho salmon were completing their spawning season. Several eggs nests that were laid in the stream bed were likely washed away by the powerful torrents, surveyors said. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

Tehama County man fined by EPA

“An error in paperwork proved to be a costly mistake for Justin Jenson, who was fined around $30,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency.  According to the EPA, Jenson, in November 2021, conducted bank stabilization activities on his residence along the shoreline below the ordinary high water mark, impacting 90 linear feet of the Sacramento River without a CWA Section 404 permit.  Jenson, who is the county’s public works deputy director, said when he bought the property, there was a big pile of riprap that was meant to be installed as bank reduction near his home. He read through all the documents from the previous landowner and believed it was completed for the planned work.  After inspecting the property, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that they gave him the green light, according to Jenson. … ”  Read more from the Red Bluff Daily News.

Repairs on Folsom Dam spillway to cost $16 million

“There’s a dam dilemma facing the Folsom Dam spillway.  In 2017, local dignitaries celebrated the construction of a new auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam. And after years of drought, the flood-control project was just used for the first time this January, allowing more water to be released from the lake as a series of strong winter storms hit northern California.  CBS13 has learned that parts of the nearly billion-dollar spillway are broken.  According to CBS13, the nearly billion-dollar auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam has been discovered to have a design flaw that has resulted in damage to the system. The metal rods that open and close the steel gates have cracks in the coating that allows water to seep through, causing corrosion that could eventually prevent the system from operating. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.

Balancing the water needs of people and the environment: Water Forum brings diverse interests together to tackle tough issues on the Lower American River

“Come drought or deluge, how can we develop a lasting water agreement for the greater Sacramento area?  That’s the challenging task before the Water Forum, a unique consortium of business and agricultural leaders, citizen groups, environmentalists, water managers and local governments, including the City of Roseville.  With eyes particularly on Folsom Lake and the Lower American River, as well as weather, Water Forum members work on water issues both near- and long-term. Recent winter storms, following years of drought, added extra complexity to that job.  “We’ve had weather whiplash,” says Jessica Law, Water Forum executive director. “It was super-super dry, then so much rain! We’re just one team of experts watching weather like this.” … ”  Read more from the Sacramento News & Review.

Anderson Dam retrofit project receives big federal loan; troubled Pacheco Dam project remains in limbo

“Two huge dam projects are being planned in Santa Clara County at a price tag in the billions. The Biden administration has decided to help fund one of them but — at least for now — not the other.  At a news conference scheduled for Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to announce it has approved $727 million in low-interest loans to the Santa Clara Valley Water District to help fund the rebuilding of Anderson Dam near Morgan Hill. The largest reservoir in Santa Clara County, Anderson has been drained for earthquake repairs since 2020, exacerbating Silicon Valley’s water shortages. Federal dam safety officials were concerned that its 240-foot earthen dam, built in 1950, could fail in an earthquake.  But the water district also asked the EPA for twice as much in other low-interest loans — $1.45 billion — to help fund construction of a huge new dam near Pacheco Pass and Henry W. Coe State Park.  That $2.5 billion project has been mired in cost overruns, a lawsuit from environmentalists and a growing disagreement among the district’s board members over whether it should even be built or killed. It did not receive a loan from the EPA. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News. | Read via the Mendocino Beacon.

Monterey County’s latest seawater intrusion maps reveal an intractable problem that’s getting worse.

“In the story of the lower Salinas Valley’s groundwater – which is the sole source of water for agriculture and residents – history repeats itself: groundwater levels continue to get lower, and seawater intrusion in that water continues its inexorable march inland.  On Feb. 21, hydrologists from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency presented the county’s 2022 seawater intrusion maps to the agency’s board, and they came bearing bad news.  The valley’s main aquifers – the 180-foot, 400-foot and deep aquifers, named for their depths – saw varying degrees of groundwater level decline. The worst was in the 400-foot aquifer, on account that many wells in the 180 have been taken offline due to seawater intrusion. … ”  Read more from Monterey County Weekly.

Changes needed to save second-largest U.S. reservoir, experts say

“Water levels in the nation’s second-largest reservoir dropped to a record low last week, raising the alarm that major changes are on the way for the seven states — and millions of Americans — relying on that system, experts say.  Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir that sits along the Colorado River on the Arizona-Utah border, generates electricity for about 4.5 million people. It is also a key part of the Colorado River Basin system, which supplies water to more than 40 million people. As of last week, its water levels fell to 3,522 feet above sea level, which is the lowest seen since the structure was filled in the 1960s. It’s now just 22 percent full, and unprecedented cuts in states’ water usage are necessary to avoid dire consequences. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE of Staff Workshop on Potential Legal Delta and Return Flow Water Supply Refinements to the Water Unavailability Methodology for the Delta Watershed

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Delta Plan Performance Measure Dashboard Updates: New and Revised Ecosystem Targets and a 2022 Year in Review

NOTICE of Petitions for Temporary Urgency Change – U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

NOTICE of Certification of consistency with Delta Plan filed for McCormack-Williamson Tract Levee Modification And Habitat Restoration Project – Phase B (C20231)

NOTICE for Water Quality Certification Application for Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project – Phase 2 No Regrets

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