WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for March 12-17: Independent science board reacts positively to the Voluntary Agreements; Jeff Mount: What will it take to protect species?; plus all the week’s water news

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

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This week’s featured articles …

DELTA INDEPENDENT SCIENCE BOARD reacts positively to the scientific basis report for the voluntary agreements

The Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) met on Friday, March 3, to discuss their review of the Draft Scientific Basis Report Supplement for the Voluntary Agreements.  The draft report was developed by State Water Board staff in collaboration with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources.  The draft report summarizes the science behind the Voluntary Agreements, which are proposed as an alternative pathway to update and implement the Bay-Delta Plan.  The Voluntary Agreements include varying amounts of increased flows and habitat restoration to improve spawning and rearing capacity for juvenile salmonids and other native fishes on the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

Continue reading this article.

DR. JEFFREY MOUNT: California Drought: What will it take to protect species?

Freshwater-dependent species in California are in decline due to many factors, but the impacts on native species populations are greatest during drought.   With droughts becoming increasingly intense, taking action to protect native species is necessary.  In this presentation by Dr. Jeff Mount, Senior Fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center (PPIC), he argues for an ecosystem-based approach that provides flexibility for environmental water and focuses more on habitat than water.  The challenge, he says, is to rebuild drought resilience in a landscape full of novel ecosystems in a rapidly changing climate.

Dr. Jeff Mount began by pointing out something often missed in discussions:  California’s native species are drought-adapted in extraordinary ways.

Click here to read this article.

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Integrating social sciences in the Delta

Aerial view of the historic district of Locke, California, added to the National Historical Places Registry in 1970. Paul Hames / DWR

Integrating the social sciences into environmental science and management in the Delta can contribute to a better understanding of the people who live, work, and recreate in and around the estuary, how the region impacts their health and well-being, and how their behaviors influence environmental issues.  At the February meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, the Council’s Social Science Integration Team gave a presentation on their ongoing efforts to increase interdisciplinary science into the work at the Council and the Delta Science Program.  Then, Dr. Mark Lubell, director of the Center of Environmental Policy and Behavior, followed with a presentation on their ongoing research into the Delta science enterprise and some of the results of the Delta science stakeholders survey.  Lastly, for the Delta Lead Scientist report, Dr. Laurel Larsen spotlighted an article summarizing a recent symposium on eDNA and the Delta.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

A very wet winter has eased California’s drought, but water woes remain

“Torrential rain and snow have again drenched California in recent weeks, amplifying an already wet winter season. The extreme precipitation has begun to ease the state’s long-term drought, the driest three-year stretch on record.  The recent onslaught of precipitation has flooded highways, broken levees and knocked out power for tens of thousands of utility customers, inflicting widespread destruction on Californians still weary from the back-to-back atmospheric river storms that pummeled the state in January.  The deluges have also had another effect: replenishing reservoirs and building up snowpack, which has improved drought conditions across much of the state. This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor noted “broad reductions in drought coverage and intensity” across California and neighboring areas.  But long-term concerns remain in a state where years of aridity, rising temperatures and unsustainable water use have left their mark, experts say. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times (gift article).

‘There is a whole hell of a lot of water up there right now’

“From late December through January 2023, a total of nine atmospheric river storms swept across California, dumping 32 trillion gallons of water in three weeks and killing at least 22 people before moving inland. February and March brought still more. In late February, the Bay Area hills were blanketed in several inches of rarely seen snow. In early March, residents in Mendocino and Lake counties were snowed in for more than a week, and the snowpack statewide topped 200% of normal, reaching historic levels in the Central and Southern Sierras. On March 11, a levee burst on the Pajaro River, forcing thousands of residents in the farmworker community of Pajaro to evacuate as floodwaters submerged their homes in the middle of the night and drowned strawberry and lettuce fields. … More storms are forecast through mid-March. After that, meteorologists expect this year’s parade of atmospheric rivers to slow down. But the saturated landscape, historically full reservoirs and massive snowpack they leave behind will continue to affect drought conditions and fire risk well into the year, and may increase the risk of major flooding as all that snow melts. … ”  Read more from High Country News.

The sog slog continues: Forecast calls for even more rain through March

“Californians shouldn’t put the rain gear away quite yet. March is expected to continue roaring like a lion beyond mid-month.  Models are pointing to another potential atmospheric river in the first half of next week, forecasters say, the 12th of California’s wet season. An upper-level low-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska is expected to move over the West Coast, and there’s a 60% chance that a plume of atmospheric river moisture could affect the California coast, the National Weather Service said.  The six- to 10-day precipitation outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday shows well above normal precipitation for most of the state, with a 70% chance that precipitation will be above normal in the central portion of California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Dan Walters: California’s ghostly Tulare Lake will be revived this year

“Spanish soldier and California explorer Pedro Fages was chasing deserters in 1772 when he came across a vast marshy lake and named it Los Tules for the reeds and rushes that lined its shore.  Situated between the later cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, Tulare Lake, as it was named in English, was the nation’s largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It spread out to as much as 1,000 square miles as snow in the Sierra melted each spring, feeding five rivers flowing into the lake.  Its abundance of fish and other wildlife supported several Native American tribes, who built boats from the lake’s reeds to gather its bounty.  When the snowmelt was particularly heavy, the lake rose high enough that a natural spillway would divert water into the San Joaquin River and thence to the Pacific Ocean through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay. … ”  Continue reading from Cal Matters.

El Niño queues up as three-peat La Niña ends: what it means to CA

“After enduring historic drought conditions exacerbated by three years of the La Niña weather phenomenon, California is finally free from her clutches, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. However, El Niño may be looming, and with it, comes a whole new set of weather and climate challenges. Unlike the typically dry years La Niña brings to California, El Niño tends to bring increased chances of torrential storms, flooding, mudslides and coastal erosion. It typically occurs every three to five years when surface water in the equatorial Pacific becomes warmer than average. This week, the World Meteorological Organization forecast a 55 percent chance of an El Niño developing heading into autumn. … ”  Read more from MSN.

How rising temperatures are intensifying California’s atmospheric rivers

“California is no stranger to big swings between wet and dry weather. The “atmospheric river” storms that have battered the state this winter are part of a system that has long interrupted periods of drought with huge bursts of rain — indeed, they provide somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of all precipitation on the West Coast.   The parade of storms that has struck California in recent months has dropped more than 30 trillion gallons of water on the state, refilling reservoirs that had sat empty for years and burying mountain towns in snow.  But climate change is making these storms much wetter and more intense, ratcheting up the risk of potential flooding in California and other states along the West Coast. That’s not only because the air over the Pacific will hold more moisture as sea temperatures rise, leading to giant rain and snow volumes, but also because warming temperatures on land will cause more precipitation to fall as rain in the future, which will lead to more dangerous floods. … ”  Read more from Grist.

Regs relaxed for storing flood water

“Governor Gavin Newsom is hoping to see the deluge from the ongoing storms socked away for dry times by making it easier to recharge underground aquifers.  The governor issued an executive order Friday suspending some regulatory requirements to divert flood water for groundwater recharge. The hope is to recharge as much water as possible since more storms are causing extreme flooding in some parts of the state.  The move comes after some farmers, water districts and even one county Board of Supervisors complained in January that state red tape was wasting a precious opportunity. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

How California is using recent floods to recharge groundwater

As part of this groundwater recharge project, floodwater diverted from the Kings River was directed to inundate some fields at Terranova Ranch. Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“Even as California reels from a series of drenching atmospheric river-fed storms and near-record snowfall, the drought-plagued state has approved a plan to replenish its groundwater.  The State Water Resources Control Board has approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River so they can percolate down to aquifers.  The plan would divert 600,000 acre feet of water — or more than the 191 billion gallons supplied to the city of Los Angeles each year.  “Coming off the heels of the three driest years in state history, California is taking decisive action to capture and store water for when dry conditions return,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news release.  Newsom also has signed an executive order temporarily lifting regulations and setting clear conditions for diverting floodwater without permits to recharge groundwater storage. … ”  Continue reading at the Weather Channel.

DWR concludes Groundwater Awareness week activities and releases update on statewide groundwater conditions

“Each year, DWR celebrates National Groundwater Awareness Week by distributing information and educational materials that increase the public’s understanding of groundwater. As part of an ongoing effort to promote groundwater awareness and provide the latest groundwater information, DWR has just released the newest Semi-annual Groundwater Conditions Update, which includes a look back at the previous water year informed by DWR’s groundwater data and tools. New this year, the report also includes data reported by groundwater sustainability agencies as required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  “We are seeing how local and state efforts to monitor groundwater conditions are really paying off,” said Paul Gosselin, DWR’s Deputy Director of Sustainable Groundwater Management. “With the extreme changes in climate that we are experiencing, including swings of flood amidst prolonged drought, this data is driving decision-making now and into the future.” … ”  Read more from DWR News.

Click here to view/download the semiannual groundwater conditions report.

Damage from “severe breach” of Friant-Kern Canal construction at Deer Creek difficult to assess

“An unfinished section of the new Friant-Kern Canal suffered a “severe breach” at Deer Creek in Tulare County Friday night as the normally dry creek swelled with rain and snowmelt and overran its banks into the construction zone.  “This was worse than the one before,” said Johnny Amaral, Chief Operating Officer of the Friant Water Authority, at the authority’s executive committee meeting on Monday. “We haven’t gotten a handle on it yet but it’s tough to do anything out there right now with what we’re expecting tomorrow.”  He referred to another atmospheric river forecast to barrel into the state Monday night through Tuesday.  “The site is severely flooded,” he said of the Deer Creek construction area. “After the first breach, we had fortified it with what we thought was a good amount of rip rap but these flows have just taken over the whole area.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

How did two valley groundwater plans win recommendations for approval from the state?

“Most groundwater plans covering the San Joaquin Valley got a big, fat thumbs down from the state.  Plans by the Westlands Water District and Kings subbasin, which together cover most of the valley portion of Fresno County, got recommendations for approval from the Department of Water Resources.  Those areas face all the same problems as the Kern, Kaweah, Chowchilla, Tule, Tulare Lake (Kings County) and Delta-Mendota subbasins, whose plans were stamped “inadequate” earlier this month and sent to the State Water Resources Control Board for possible enforcement action.  Westlands and Kings have similar water quality issues, sinking land and plummeting water tables. And their initial plans, like those from all the other valley groundwater agencies, were kicked back last year with a list of deficiencies.  But their plans got gold stars this time around.  How’d they do it? … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

New analysis finds 2023 storms would have yielded water for up to 2.4 million people, farms, and businesses if Sites Reservoir were operational today

Today, the Sites Project Authority announced updated findings from an analysis that projected Sites Reservoir could have diverted and captured 250,000 acre-feet of water as a result of the January storms if the reservoir was operational, and an additional potential 244,000 acre-feet of water as a result of the February-March storms.  “Once again, a flood of storms in Northern California produced a significant amount of rainfall that would have been captured if Sites was operational,” said Jerry Brown, Executive Director of the Sites Project Authority. “Rain will not always come at the right time, so we must build Sites Reservoir to capture storm and floodwater for future use during dry periods.” … ”  Continue reading this press release from Sites JPA.

CDFW testing ‘parentage-based tagging’ of fall-run chinook salmon

“Under cover of darkness and with a series of cold, late-winter storms building, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff gingerly released approximately 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon fry (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) into the American River at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County.  It was an evening of firsts for CDFW on Feb. 23, 2023. It was the first release of fall-run Chinook salmon into the American River in more than three years. Since the spring of 2020, drought conditions have forced the trucking of Nimbus Fish Hatchery juvenile salmon to points within the San Francisco and San Pablo bays.  It was also the first time in decades CDFW has released fall-run Chinook salmon at such a small size. The salmon fry, just three months old and only 1.5- to 2-inches in length, had just absorbed their yolk sacks and had not yet been fed by the hatchery. Typically, fall-run Chinook salmon released from the hatchery are about 6 months old and 3.5- to 4-inches in length.  “By putting these fish out into the river now, they are going to experience the natural environment of the lower American River as natural-origin fish would,” said Jay Rowan, who oversees CDFW’s Fisheries Branch. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

CDFW using winter storms to help increase survival of hatchery released chinook salmon

“Anticipating good conditions for the survival of hatchery-produced Chinook salmon throughout the Sacramento River and tributaries, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will release both spring and fall-run Chinook during the historic rain and snowfall the state is experiencing. Several releases have already happened, and others are planned over the next few weeks to utilize good in-river habitat conditions for these young salmon.  On Feb. 23, with a series of late-winter storms building, CDFW staff released approximately 1.1 million fall-run Chinook salmon fry into the American River at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Sacramento County. These Chinook salmon are part of a pilot study testing new genetic based tagging techniques that if successful, will allow more flexibility in fish release strategies to take advantage of natural high flow events in the future. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Ocean salmon sport fisheries in California closed for April through Mid-May 2023

Salmon trollers by Jennifer Gilden.

“Today, on recommendation from California and Oregon agency representatives and industry advisors, the National Marine Fisheries Service took inseason action to cancel ocean salmon fishery openers that were scheduled between Cape Falcon, Ore., and the U.S./Mexico border through May 15.  The sport fishery had been scheduled to open off California in most areas on April 1. The actions were taken to protect Sacramento River fall Chinook, which returned to the Central Valley in 2022 at near-record low numbers, and Klamath River fall Chinook, which had the second lowest abundance forecast since the current assessment method began in 1997.  … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Valadao’s take on Biden’s Valley water grab: Where’s the beef?

“The Biden administration’s move to throw out the Trump-era biological opinions that govern California’s water flow is nothing more than a political move to Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford).  In an upcoming interview on Sunrise FM, Valadao discussed the history of the biological opinions and the Congressional investigation into the Biden administration’s decision.  The backstory: The latest biological opinions which govern the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project were signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, capping the process of formulating the new opinions that started under President Barack Obama. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Groups say fire retardant injunction would increase Western U.S. risks ‘dramatically’

“Several groups of associations, cities and counties are attempting to challenge a case in Montana they say has the potential to take away an important tool from firefighting efforts at a time when Western U.S. wildfires are worsening.  The groups, led by the National Wildfire Suppression Association, filed a motion in U.S. District Court District of Montana Missoula this week to intervene as defendants in a case that seeks to enjoin the U.S. Forest Service from using aerial fire retardant. They were part of several groups that include the wildfire-prone counties, as well as towns like Paradise, California, which was destroyed by massive the 2018 Camp Fire. … ”  Read more from the Insurance Journal.

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In commentary this week …

Waiving California environmental rules for Delta water equates to a civil rights issue

Kasil Willie is the staff attorney for Save California Salmon and a member of Walker River Paiute Tribe, and Regina Chichizola, executive director of Save California Salmon, writes, “There has been a lot of attention for Gov. Gavin Newson’s executive order encouraging California agencies to waive environmental laws to deliver more water to powerful agricultural interests. There have also been hearings about modernizing California’s outdated water rights system.  Largely missing from this discussion is the fact that California still lets race decide who has access to its most precious resource – water.  An analysis of census data for 14,000 individual water right holders suggests that 91% are white.  Ninety percent of California farm operators are white and control 95% of our farmland. Those farmers use 80% of our developed water. Many receive abundant water supplies while cities face shortages and our water quality and ecosystems decline.   California’s antiquated water rights laws were written before women or people of color could own land or vote. It was an era when white people could declare Native Americans vagrants and take them as slaves.  Can you imagine if we still had the same voting, criminal justice or education laws we had a century ago? … ”  Continue reading at Cal Matters.

Newsom’s Delta decisions are the sort of responsive moves California needs for water crisis

Charley Wilson, executive director of the Southern California Water Coalition, writes, “Two recent watershed decisions in California exemplified how difficult it is to manage this precious resource.  Last month, many water leaders applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking quick action to suspend a 1999 environmental regulation and keep more water in reservoirs on a temporary basis. This was a commonsense and prudent move to allow California to adapt in the face of changed climate conditions and severe pressure on the state’s other main source of supply, the Colorado River.  The thinking: Let’s hold on to this water now in case drier times are ahead.  Then the weather forecast changed. A warm atmospheric river shifted course, threatening to melt record snowpack in California’s mountains and send huge quantities of water through the state’s waterways. To prevent catastrophic flooding and operate dams safely, the state acted quickly to release water, creating room in its reservoirs for new flows. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

In California, the preservation of our state ecology is pitted against our water needs

Jun Park, a candidate for a master of social work at the University of Southern California, writes, “The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has emerged as the heart of our state’s vast water system, providing fresh water to two-thirds of the state’s population and six million acres of farmland. In January of 2023, Downtown Sacramento received 7.54 inches of rainfall, nearly doubling its 30-year average (3.86 inches). The record precipitation induced disastrous flooding, accelerating runoff to the Pacific Ocean. Despite having a comprehensive system of natural reserves and human ingenuity, conservationists estimated that nearly 95% of the received rainfall in California was diverted to the Pacific Ocean. The wanton runoff ignited bipartisan outrage, driving nearly a dozen legislators hailing from the drought-stricken Central Valley to call for an increase in the amount of water captured in the State Water Project’s aqueducts. Although the runoff can be interpreted as an egregious failure of bureaucracy, water pumping restrictions are informed by environmental regulations that preserve the Delta’s ecological integrity. … ”  Continue reading at the Sacramento Bee.

Editorial: Restore California’s floodplains to capture more stormwater, protect human life

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes, “The southern Sierra Nevada is covered with the deepest snowpack in recorded history, and the rest of the range is not far behind. When all that snow melts, where will it go?  You can read the answer in the landscape of the Central Valley. To the eye it is nearly flat, covered by layers of gravel, silt and clay washed from the mountains over the eons by rain and melting snow. Amid the flatness are gradual slopes down to the valley’s center, where the Sacramento River creates a watery vein in the north and the San Joaquin River does the same in the middle. Once — before the late 19th century, when newcomers began to drain the land and channel the water from wetlands into farm fields — the southern part of the valley held the largest freshwater lake, by surface area, west of the Mississippi. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

What happened in Pajaro isn’t just a ‘natural’ disaster

Michael Méndez, an Andrew Carnegie fellow and assistant professor of environmental planning and policy at UC Irvine, and Manuel Pastor, a professor of sociology and director of the Equity Research Institute at USC, write, “In the last few years, California has experienced extreme wildfires, heat waves and the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic. What has become abundantly clear, particularly from the ravages of the pandemic on low-income communities of color, is that disaster risk is not an equal-opportunity affair.  The latest evidence of this came this past weekend as the Pajaro River levee failed and flooded a small town populated mainly by migrant workers and their families. In an eerie coincidence, the levee failure occurred on March 12, 95 years to the day the St. Francis Dam catastrophically failed because of a defective foundation and other design flaws. … Just as with the St. Francis Dam, the failure of the Pajaro levee was not totally a “natural” disaster. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

The Hodge approach is the best solution to California’s water disputes

Emma Lautanen writes, “California water law has significantly evolved since the state first constitutionalized the doctrine of riparian rights in 1928. Although the article X, section 2 principle of reasonable and beneficial use remains the backbone of California water law, the law has shifted away from priority rights and toward prioritizing efficiently exploiting water sources to their “fullest extent.” Priority rights are still an important factor courts consider in dispute resolution, but courts now increasingly recognize how the limited availability of California water sources forces the law to match the volume of a water right to its reasonable and beneficial use. The Hodge approach, which embraces situation-specific physical solutions to effectively allocate water rights, is the best general approach to resolving water law disputes because it embodies the evolution of California water law and provides flexibility in unique contexts. … ”  Continue reading from the SCOCA from Berkeley Law.

Why pausing water diversions to Los Angeles honors landmark Mono Lake deal

Martha Davis, a board member for the Mono Lake Committee and former assistant general manager for policy development at the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, writes, “In 1994, I stood at a crowded dais in Sacramento where the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or DWP, joined the Mono Lake Committee and many others to support the State Water Board’s landmark decision to save Mono Lake.  For California, the historic announcement ended two decades of litigation over the DWP’s environmentally devastating diversion of water away from Mono Lake.  The 1994 decision was intended to benefit Mono Lake, an extraordinary ecosystem located east of Yosemite National Park. This million-year-old lake is one of the nation’s most important shorebird habitats, internationally recognized as an essential stop on the Pacific Flyway for millions of migratory birds. … Fast forward 29 years: Mono Lake was saved, right?  Unfortunately, no. … ”  Read the full commentary at Cal Matters.

California’s agriculture has outstanding economic performance, but at what cost?

Angel S. Fernandez-Bou, Senior Climate Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes, “I was an Agricultural Engineer. Well, technically I still am, but years ago, when I was in graduate school and discovered advocacy, I started working at the system level. Now, I am a SocioEnvironmental Systems Engineer.  Understanding the environment holistically has helped me see the web of intersecting problems and challenges that we experience nowadays in California, especially in how most agriculture is practiced. More importantly, I have realized we cannot implement a solution if it is going to create a new problem.  I love agriculture, and it is hard to see it become more and more unsustainable, contributing to negative side effects rather than being an essential part of nature. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Why rain-on-snow floods from atmospheric rivers could get much worse

Keith Musselman, an assistant professor in geography, mountain hydrology and climate change at the University of Colorado Boulder, writes, “California’s latest atmospheric rivers are sending rainfall higher into the mountains and onto the state’s crucial snowpack. The rain alone is a problem for low-lying areas already dealing with destructive flooding, but the prospect of rain on the deep mountain snow has triggered widespread flood warnings.  When rain falls on snow, it creates complex flood risks that are hard to forecast. Those risks are also rising with climate change.  For much of the United States, storms with heavy rainfall can coincide with seasonal snow cover. When that happens, the resulting runoff of water can be much greater than what is produced from rain or snowmelt alone. The combination has resulted in some of the nation’s most destructive and costly floods, including the 1996 Midwest floods and the 2017 flood that damaged California’s Oroville Dam. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Amid solar energy rush, let’s protect our farmlands

Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “Excellent soils and a Mediterranean climate make California one of the most productive agricultural centers in the world, allowing our state to produce two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, and one-third of its vegetables. Not making the best use of this unique agricultural resource would be a big mistake.  Yet, the U.S Department of Agriculture says California lost 1 million acres of irrigated farmland between 1997 and 2017. After years of failures to build new state water storage infrastructure, another 1.2 million acres were fallowed in 2020 and 2021 alone due to drought and water shortages, according to the University of California, Merced.  For generations, much of the lost farmland has been attributed to urban or suburban development, a reality that will continue as the state’s population keeps growing. Now there is a significant new threat to farmlands: California’s desire to build a massive amount of new solar facilities. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

The West’s weather whiplash should not influence long-term water management

Thomas Piechota, professor of engineering and environmental science and policy at Chapman University in Orange, Calif, writes, “There’s a water contradiction in the West with serious long-term water scarcity in low reservoirs and depleting groundwater tables, while California is in the middle of an extremely wet and snowy winter. As water levels in dangerously depleted Lake Mead and Lake Powell drop to record lows, California has experienced one of the wettest winters on record, with a statewide snowpack that’s almost 200 percent of normal for this time of year and a flooding risks from rain and snow events in March.  In this way California is unlike the other six states currently negotiating a set of reductions to address drought conditions and dropping water levels in the Colorado River Basin. The means for managing water scarcity in the Basin does not always apply to California, where there can be an abundance of water and flooding followed by extreme droughts.  … ”  Read more from The Hill.

DeSantis, Newsom, and the algae apocalypse

Edward Ring, a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness, writes, “It would not be surprising if the final candidates for president in November 2024 were Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But if a younger generation of candidates prevails in their respective primaries, an equally unsurprising outcome would be Gavin Newsom pitted against Ron DeSantis.  While purists on both sides may find the California Democrat and the Florida Republican to be far from perfect embodiments of their ideals, a contest between these two governors would nonetheless be a contest between two very different visions for the future of America insofar as they govern two big states that diverge on almost every policy of consequence.  The prevailing perception of a hypothetical race between Newsom and DeSantis focuses on cultural issues, with both of them claiming their state is a beacon of freedom. But a comparison of equal consequence could be based on their response to environmental challenges. … ”  Read more from American Greatness.

It’s no longer a matter of if but when a catastrophic flood will hit Sacramento

Elena Lee Reeder and Kevin L. King with Reclamation District 1000 write, “The Sacramento region’s flood crisis has made national news, with coverage focused on destruction, closed streets and the loss of property and life. Of course, the silver lining is that these storms have nearly filled our depleted reservoirs. But these storms are significant for another, overlooked reason: They serve as a wake-up call for a public that has been lulled into a false sense of security by the long periods of drought California routinely experiences. Nevertheless, as officials responsible for flood protection, we affirmatively know that it’s not a matter of if, but when, Sacramento will experience a massive flood. The barrage of storms since New Year’s Eve has altered a somewhat abstract concept into a harsh reality — that’s the true transformative power of wind and water. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Gee, did SF have anything to do with putting more people at risk from rising sea levels?

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “San Francisco, by any stretch of the imagination, is not a hotbed of “climate change deniers.”  It’s been that way for more than a decade and counting.  Yet the powers that be in San Francisco in recent years embraced a plan to take the population of Treasure Island from a population of 2,000 to 19,000, build up to 500 hotel rooms, and add tons of commercial buildings to create a $5 billion neighborhood.  Just one small detail.  Treasure Island is a 400-acre artificial island created in 1936-37 using mud dredged from the San Francisco Bay by the Army Corps. It was created to build the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.  Climate experts contend Treasure Island will all be under water in less than  80 years.  San Francisco’s coast overall could see as much of a 7-foot rise in sea level by 2100. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal.

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In regional water news this week …

After the dams: Restoring the Klamath River will take billions of native seeds

“On the north shore of Iron Gate reservoir, Frank Henry, Jr. jams a heavy metal pole into the ground and twists. Once a hole is excavated, he grabs a stick from a five-gallon bucket. Water drips from the small tangle of roots at one end. The stick is Klamath plum; it will eventually grow into a shrubby tree that forms dense thickets and produces mauve-colored fruits.  Henry pats native soil—moist, fluffy, and sticky with clay—around the plum plant, then moves on to the next one. “I’m digging maybe a 12–13-inch hole with the rock bar,” he says. “These little ones that are kind of cluttered together are the ones I’m putting in right now.” … ”  Read more from  Jefferson Public Radio.

Scott Dam gates to stay open, meaning Lake Pillsbury diversions to remain at drought levels

“Pacific Gas & Electric says it intends to keep the gates open at Scott Dam from now on in deference to seismic safety concerns, meaning Lake Pillsbury in Lake County will never completely fill again, even in a wet year like this one.  The utility usually closes the dam gates in April, allowing spring runoff and snowmelt to raise the water level for summer recreation and water releases during the later, drier parts of the year.  But the company says updated seismic analysis of the dam suggested a higher level of risk than previous evaluations, prompting a change in operations. Instead, more water will be allowed to flow into the Eel River this spring instead of keeping it behind the dam. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Stockton survives latest atmospheric river, flood risk still uncertain

“Stockton was spared the worst of Tuesday’s storm and will spend the next few days mostly dry and in the 60s before another potentially major storm next week.  The National Weather Service’s rain gauge at the Stockton Airport gathered just over a quarter inch of rain from Tuesday’s storm. While local rainfall remained light, the weather service said wind gusts in Stockton were reaching 45 mph midday Tuesday.  Winds were predicted to hit 60-plus mph.  No road closures or major storm damage from Tuesday’s storm was reported from the city of Stockton. San Joaquin County reported isolated road closures from localized flooding, but not to the severity of the impacts the area saw from January’s series of storms. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record.

An epic snowpack may test water management in the San Joaquin Valley

Dr. Jeff Mount writes, “Water policy wonks like us at PPIC spend an extraordinary amount of time analyzing information from the past, trying to understand the present, and modeling or speculating about the future. All this work goes toward identifying policy changes that might help California better manage its water. But for all our efforts, nothing improves our understanding of water like a “stress test,” whether that test is severe drought or extreme wet. And it is starting to look like we are going to get one of those stress tests this spring in the San Joaquin Valley.  As news outlets have been reporting for some time, there is an “epic” snowpack in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, rivaling or in some cases exceeding the record snowpacks of the 1982–83 El Niño water year. And while Californians have been laser focused on managing drought over the past decade, it’s now time to start thinking about what to do with too much water, at least in the San Joaquin River and Tulare Lake basins. … ”  Read more from the PPIC.

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority begins reckoning with wells running dry

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has begun taking action to mitigate the harm resulting from the IWV groundwater basin’s water levels that are dropping, and have been dropping for decades.  Up to now, IWVGA has largely been an agency of theory and planning. Collecting data to form the best possible theories about what’s happening in the IWV groundwater basin and putting together plans to maintain a sustainable supply of water for communities in IWV.  At the IWVGA board meeting on March 8, that began to change. The IWVGA board dealt with issues that are not theory or planning. They discussed two cases where dropping groundwater levels may have impacted wells, and took action on how to mitigate the harm. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent.

Water restrictions lifted for 7 million in Southern California, but region still urged to conserve

“Mandatory water restrictions are being lifted for nearly 7 million people across Southern California following winter storms that have boosted reservoirs and eased a severe shortage that emerged during the state’s driest three-year period on record.  The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California decided to end the emergency conservation mandate for agencies in portions of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that depend on supplies from the State Water Project. Officials said the change reflects improvements in the available supplies, but they urged residents and businesses to continue conserving to help address what is still a water deficit, and to prepare for expected cuts in supplies from the Colorado River’s depleted reservoirs. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

Storms end Southern California water restrictions for 7M

“California’s 11th atmospheric river left the storm-soaked state with a bang Wednesday, bringing flooded roadways, landslides and toppled trees to the southern part of the state as well as drought-busting rainfall that meant the end of water restrictions for nearly 7 million people.  Even as residents struggled to clean up before the next round of winter arrives in the coming days — with some 27,000 people still under evacuation orders statewide Wednesday — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s decision brought relief amid the state’s historic drought.  The district supplies water for 19 million people in six counties. The board imposed the restrictions, which included limiting outdoor watering to one day a week, in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties last year during a severe shortage of state water supplies. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press.

SEE ALSOMetropolitan board rescinds emergency conservation mandate imposed on dozens of communities, press release from Metropolitan Water District

The price of San Diego’s ‘drought-proof’ water could spike a whopping 14 percent

“San Diegans are facing a tidal wave of rate increases in coming years for so-called drought-proof water — driven in large part by new sewage recycling projects coupled with the rising cost of desalination and importing the Colorado River.  While many residents already struggle to pay their utility bills, the situation now appears more dire than elected leaders may have anticipated.  The San Diego County Water Authority recently announced that retail agencies should brace for a massive 14 percent spike on the cost of wholesale deliveries next year. While local water managers have ways to ease that pain for residents and businesses, at least in the short term, higher bill are likely unavoidable. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOW AVAILABLE: California Stream Gaging Prioritization Plan

ANNOUNCEMENT: New Fixing the World Restoration Speaker Series to Focus on Tribally Led Restoration

EVENT: Water Energy Education Alliance to hear results of statewide water and wastewater workforce needs assessment

NOTICE of 180-Day Temporary Water Right Permit Application T033357 to Appropriate Water from Rock Creek in San Joaquin County

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