DAILY DIGEST, 3/22: California faces more flooding after strong Pacific storm; Ranking atmospheric rivers: New study finds world of potential; State Water Board expedites funding process for high–priority drinking water projects; Wall Street is thirsty for its next big investment opportunity: The West’s vanishing water; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Delta Conservancy Board will meet from 9am to 1pm. Agenda items include an Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Adaption Grant Program Update, Community Enhancement Grant Program Update, 2022 Delta Drought Response Pilot Program Report and Technical Analysis, Overview of Resources for Science, Data, and Environmental Compliance and Permitting for Delta Conservancy Projects, and Delta agency updates. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WORKSHOP: The State Water Board will hold a workshop beginning at 9:30 am on proposed regulatory framework for making water conservation a California way of life. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WORKSHOP: Flood-MAR Network from 10am to 12pm.  The wet winter of 2022-23 is providing a terrific test of California’s efforts and ambitions toward implementing Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR). While highlighting some encouraging successes, the recent storm and flood events expose weaknesses and limitations in the quest to both better manage floodwaters and increase groundwater storage dramatically in our changing climate. This workshop will review actual Flood-MAR efforts, highlight successes as well as missed opportunities, culminating in the identification of Network actions that are needed to place California on the path to realizing the goal of increasing average annual managed groundwater recharge by 500,000 ac-ft.  Click here for the agenda.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Tapping the Power of Wetlands: Carbon, Water, Biodiversity, and Beyond from 11am to 12pm. Join this webinar on World Water Day to hear experts with Point Blue Conservation Science, Natural Resources Defense Council, and more discuss their newly released report on how restoration and stewardship of wetlands in California and beyond can help address climate change while providing multiple benefits to wildlife and people.  There will be a panel presentation followed by Q&A. Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Restoration Speaker Series: Restoration After Large Scale Dam Removal from 12pm to 1pm.  The series is part of a new education initiative that aims to teach students and policymakers about Tribally led large-scale restoration projects, long-lasting environmental damage, and ecosystem functions throughout Northern California. Webinars will be added to Save California Salmon’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Science & Management, and Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California curricula, which can be found at https://www.californiasalmon.org/copy-of-river-education.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: SoCal Water Dialog: Capturing Stormwater – Can’t We Do Better? from 12pm to 1:30pm.  In a region that imports 60% of its water, capturing and storing stormwater is essential to increasing local supply. Yet only a fraction of the billions of gallons that descend from the skies is captured and stored in groundwater basins.  Can we do better and, if so, how?   The Water Dialogue panelists will delve into how much stormwater current regional projects capture, how much more could be captured in the future, and whether we can accelerate the pace of project completion. The panel also will discuss the value of stormwater for wetlands, ocean water quality, and aquatic species.  Click here to register.
  • GRA SoCAL HYBRID MEETING: A Long-Term Perspective of the Changing Remediation Field, From Beginning to PFAS from 6pm to 8:30pm.  The remediation field has evolved considerably since it began about 40 years ago, with paradigm shifts sparked by scientific breakthroughs and hard-fought experience superimposed over the emergence of new contaminants every few years. The result has new conceptual site models, waves of innovation, stronger remediation technologies, and more credible management strategies. This talk will attempt to take the key lessons learned in the remediation field since the first pump and treat sites in the 1980s and apply them to our field’s newest, most difficult challenge: management of PFAS in the subsurface. Three potential future scenarios for managing PFAS groundwater sites are presented, along with the prospect of applying a variant of Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) and Enhanced Attenuation (EA) at certain types of PFAS sites.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

California faces more flooding after strong Pacific storm

“A strong late-season Pacific storm that brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California was blamed for two deaths and forecasters said additional flooding was possible Wednesday in parts of the state.  Tuesday’s storm focused most of its energy on central and southern parts of the state, bringing threats of heavy runoff and mountain snowfall. In the north, intense hail was reported in Sacramento, the state capital.  Locally heavy rain and snowmelt may cause flooding Wednesday in southern California and central Arizona, the National Weather Service warned. On Tuesday, some residents of north-central Arizona were told to prepare to evacuate because of rising water levels in rivers and basins. … ”  Read more from the Associated Press.

Wild storm hits California: The Fujiwhara effect, a bomb cyclone, even landspout, tornado warnings

“Even on the heels of an unusual winter of intense rain, wind and snow, the storm that slammed California on Tuesday came with some surprising conditions.  The storm was marked by powerful winds in the Bay Area and other parts of Central and Northern California that downed trees, created treacherous commuting conditions, broke windows in downtown San Francisco and caused power outages. The National Weather Service issued high wind warnings for a stretch of the coast from San Francisco to San Diego, as well as inland areas, including Palmdale, Lancaster and the Antelope Valley. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Storms boost water supply, but drought impacts linger

“Severe winter storms that caused widespread flooding and damage to California communities also contributed to improving the state’s water-supply picture, increasing reservoir levels and boosting the Sierra Nevada snowpack to 222% of average last week.  The sudden water abundance comes after the state endured three years of drought and water cutbacks.  “What we’re seeing here is just an extended period of storm after storm after storm, so you do begin to build some accumulated impacts through the system as well as one of the largest all-time snowpacks,” said State Climatologist Michael Anderson of the California Department of Water Resources. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Farms statewide hit by storms and floods

“Warm atmospheric river storms wreaked havoc on California last week, causing widespread flooding from rain and snowmelt, which overfilled rivers and creeks, displaced residents, washed out roads and damaged agriculture.  In Tulare County, flooding forced farmers to evacuate cows and the current carried silt and debris into citrus groves. In Monterey County, water flooded leafy greens and berries. The storm impacted livestock and feed crops in northern California counties, such as Humboldt.  Farmers in Tulare County said they worked in shifts to address flooding in communities downstream of the Tule River, which feeds into Lake Success near Porterville, and downstream of the Kaweah River, which feeds into Lake Kaweah near Lemon Cove. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

SEE ALSO:  Scenes From Recent Atmospheric Rivers in California, from the New York Times

Ranking atmospheric rivers: New study finds world of potential

“Atmospheric rivers – vast airborne corridors of water vapor flowing from Earth’s tropics toward higher latitudes – can steer much-needed rain to parched lands. But in extreme form, they can also cause destruction and loss of life, as recently occurred in parts of California. Their effects, both hazardous and beneficial, are felt globally. A new study using NASA data shows that a recently developed rating system can provide a consistent global benchmark for tracking these “rivers in the sky.” Research into atmospheric rivers has largely focused on the west coasts of North America and Europe. The new findings help expand our understanding of how these storms arise, evolve, and impact communities all over the world. In addition, the ratings could help meteorologists better warn people to plan for them. … ”  Read more from JPL.

Squeezing the most out of California’s water supply

” … Most indicators point to a drier future for California, leaving even less water for irrigation. A recent study by the non-profit Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows that by 2040, annual supplies could decline by as much as 20 percent. Yet the research notes that changing climate conditions are only part of the overall calculus. The bigger supply impact comes from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a state mandate to limit groundwater pumping to replenish chronically overtapped reserves.  Coupled with dwindling surface supplies and increased environmental regulations, California’s transition to groundwater sustainability could have particularly sobering consequences for the San Joaquin Valley, which is home to nearly 4.5 million irrigated acres and produces $35 billion in agricultural output. Future water constraints could, in the worst case, fallow as much as 900,000 acres of farmland, evaporating close to 50,000 jobs and shaving regional economic activity by 2.3 percent. … ”  Read more from Modern Farmer.

What is El Nino and how does it affect the weather?

“A major key to shaping weather patterns worldwide is found in the tropical Pacific Ocean, far from any mainland. Known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), this climate phenomenon is the pattern that can create significant differences in average ocean temperatures and often plays a pivotal role in how global weather patterns unfold.  The ENSO pattern occurs in three stages. The neutral state indicates that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are near a long-term historical average, while La Niña results in ocean temperatures that are cooler than the historical average along with stronger surface winds. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

State Water Board expedites funding process for highpriority drinking water projects

As part of its ongoing effort to accelerate access to safe and affordable drinking water for Californians who need it, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted new guidelines that will expedite the approval of funding for eligible projects that address failing infrastructure in disadvantaged communities.  The guidelines address applications to the funding arm of the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program. SAFER, established in 2019, is a set of tools, funding sources and regulatory authorities created to secure safeand economically and environmentally sustainable drinking water access for California’s disadvantaged communities. The state enacted drinking water as a human right in 2012.  The board’s SAFER program is accelerating funding solutions to the state’s drinking water problems by fasttracking projects that are welldeveloped, benefit disadvantaged communities and are close to being shovelready,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “This is about facilitating financial support for drinking water infrastructure projects so they can be completed as quickly as possible, while still carrying out the due diligence and compliance review necessary for state and federal investments.” … ”  Read more from the State Water Resources Control Board.

State court decision is favorable to agriculture, proves farmers are meeting obligations

“In a legal victory for California farmers Friday, a state appeals court rejected all arguments brought by environmental groups and sided with the California State Water Resources Control Board, the California Farm Bureau and others related to the Central Valley’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.  The Third District Court of Appeal addressed in its decision three cases brought by environmental plaintiffs against the California State Water Resources Control Board in which the groups challenged the adoption of general waste discharge requirements for growers within the Eastern San Joaquin Watershed.  “The court’s decision is precedential” — meaning, from a legal standpoint, it can be used as the basis for other decisions — “and applies to irrigated lands regulatory programs throughout the state,” said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson, an Oroville olive rancher and owner of Lodestar Farms, a producer of olive oil. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Federal researchers say two widely used pesticides harm many endangered fish species

“Federal researchers have found that a widely used pesticide significantly harms endangered Northwest salmon and steelhead species. The opinion could lead to a change in where and how the pesticides can be used.  The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a draft of its biological opinion Thursday concluding that continued use of insect-killing chemicals containing carbaryl or methomyl likely jeopardizes dozens of endangered fish species — including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye, and steelhead in the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake rivers.  Carbaryl and methomyl are insecticides commonly used on field vegetables and orchard crops. Both are used on agricultural land across the Willamette Valley, the Columbia River Gorge, and southeastern Washington, according to federal data. … ”  Read more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Accelerating Water Solutions: Stanford expert discusses surprising freshwater challenges and potential solutions in the U.S. and abroad

“If you are like the majority of Americans, you don’t think much of the water you use to drink, bathe, and do other basic necessities. For the approximately two billion people who live in places where water sources are contaminated with feces, it can be a matter of life and death: contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrheal deaths each year, most of them children, according to the World Health Organization.  Jenna Davis, director of Stanford’s Program on Water, Health and Development is in New York City this week for the UN 2023 Water Conference – the first global water gathering in nearly 50 years. The gathering is expected to result in commitments from governments, civil society and private sector groups on ways to “accelerate our progress towards water-related goals and targets.” On March 22, World Water Day, Davis discussed surprising freshwater challenges and potential solutions in the U.S. and abroad. … ”  Read more from Stanford News.

Scientists, policy leaders, and insurance experts meet to address climate risks

“The March 16 Coastal Climate Resilience Symposium at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center focused on the role of insurance and nature-based solutions in reducing the risks of flooding and other natural disasters, which are being exacerbated by climate change and rising sea levels.  Coastal scientists, insurance industry experts, and representatives of state and federal agencies came together at the meeting to address challenges and opportunities for building coastal resilience to climate change. The flooding from a levee breach in nearby Pajaro served as a somber reminder of the urgency of the issues they had gathered to discuss.  “There’s been a tendency to think of climate change as a future problem and the impacts as happening elsewhere, but climate change is a here-and-now problem, and we’ve got to start adapting and working to reduce the risks,” said Michael Beck, director of the UCSC Center for Coastal Climate Resilience. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Cruz.

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In commentary today …

Facing weather whiplash, California must change water management

Ashley Overhouse, water policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife, writes, “This year’s World Water Day theme is “Accelerating Change.” The theme was chosen to help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to update and safely manage water systems and sanitation globally by 2030—which is exactly what is needed in California and, unfortunately, the opposite of what is happening on the ground.  Last week, in a sign of dire water times, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council moved to close California and parts of Oregon to salmon fishing in 2023 because of the species’ low numbers due to water mismanagement in the Central Valley rivers. This is only the second time in California’s 174-year history that a salmon fishing closure has happened. Salmon are a keystone species and indicators of overall watershed health. The low number of salmon returning to their spawning rivers this year is yet another signal that the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is facing an extinction crisis. … ”  Continue reading at Defenders of Wildlife.

Why does California continue to waste much needed water?

Susan Shelley writes, “On Saturday, the Department of Water Resources released a video on its Twitter account that showed water being released from Lake Oroville to the Feather River at the rate of 35,000 cubic feet per second.  The footage was breathtaking. Shot from a drone or helicopter, the video showed crystal clear fresh water gushing down the spillway, exploding into massive clouds of water that surged over the landscape toward the ocean, racing behind a delicate rainbow in the mist.  For Californians who have lived for years with state and local water officials practically stepping into the shower with them to lecture about conserving every drop, it was a nauseating sight. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance, writes, “There’s a passage in John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” that does a good job describing California’s -and much of the West’s – hydrology:  “The water came in a 30-year cycle. There would be five to six wet and wonderful years…..then would come six or seven pretty good years….and then the dry years would come … During the dry years, the people forgot about the rich years, and when the wet years returned, they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”  And it’s still that way today.  Just last fall, California’s reservoirs had dropped to dangerously low levels and the state was headed for a fourth year of drought.  And then – just in time for the holidays – we were blessed with a series of “atmospheric rivers”. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Here’s why farm water use reports are exaggerated

Amrith Gunasekara, Ph.D., director of science and research for the California Bountiful Foundation, writes, “You may have heard it repeatedly through local and national news outlets or from organizations critical of California’s agricultural water use.  At the height of a historic drought in 2015, for example, The Washington Post published a report titled “Agriculture is 80% of water use in California.” And a 2022 report by Food and Water Watch, titled “These industries are sucking up California’s water and worsening drought,” again noted that, “in California, 80% of our water goes toward agriculture.”  Really?  Before we explain just how much that 80% figure is taken out of context, this fact is worth noting: Water for farmers in California produces by far America’s largest food supply, including staples that are affordable, safe, nutritious and essential for our daily lives. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

With salmon season closed for 2023, the work is just beginning

Tom Cannon writes, “The final rules adopted by NOAA Fisheries and California Department of Fish and Wildlife this spring will be much different than last year’s rules.  The 2023 commercial and sport fishing closure is designed to ensure that adequate numbers of fall run salmon, the primary stock of the fishery, return to spawn this year and  begin the recovery of the population to allow future fisheries.  The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) and the California Fish and Game Commission are taking this extreme action as their authorized contribution to the recovery of collapsed California’s salmon populations.  This year’s salmon closure follows yet another three-year drought (2020-2022) and associated water mismanagement.  But the work does not stop at closing the season. … ”  Continue reading at the California Fisheries blog.

Water’s moment: Advancing the human right to water in the United States

Monica Lewis-Patrick, President and CEO of We The People of Detroit, and Susana De Anda, co-founder and executive director of the Community Water Center, writes, “More than a decade ago, the United Nations declared that access to clean water and sanitation is a human right, underpinning all other goals for equality, health, and economic prosperity. The United States did not sign on. Today, on World Water Day, global leaders are gathering in New York to discuss progress towards this goal. It’s the first time the UN Water Conference is being held in the U.S. and time for our nation to embrace the moral imperative: Water is a human right.  People tend to think of clean water and sanitation access as issues for countries with the lowest GDPs. Yet, more than 2 million U.S. residents live without safe running water or a working toilet. Millions more experience water shutoffs because of unaffordable water and sewer bills, and climate change threatens reliable access to clean water for many more communities. The water access gap also costs our national economy more than $8 billion a year. … ”  Read more from Common Dreams.

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Today’s featured article …

HEATHER COOLEY: Solutions for Building Water Resilience in California

With the ever-changing climate and increasingly dry summers, California faces water challenges, despite this year’s bountiful snowpack.  At the February meeting of the California Water Commission, Heather Cooley, Director of Research at the Pacific Institute, explained how increasing water efficiency, water reuse, and stormwater capture is essential to building and enhancing California’s water resilience.

Heather Cooley began by noting that the past  22 years in the southwestern US have been the driest in 1200 years, partly due to climate change.  However, there is a growing recognition it’s more than a drought; it’s a fundamental shift in our climate to one that is hotter and drier and will include longer, more intense droughts requiring us to change how we use and manage water.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


The lower Klamath River will soon flow freely again

Klamath River.  Credit: John Heil/USFWS

“In the fall of 2002, Molli Myers witnessed an event she’ll never forget on the Klamath River. Up to 70,000 dead fish—mostly Chinook salmon that had been making their way upriver to spawn—washed up on the banks of the Klamath River for dozens of miles, their bodies rotting in the sun.  “Disgusting and devastating,” remembers Myers, a member of the Karuk tribe in northern California, who was working for the Karuk Department of Natural Resources at the time. Excessive water diversions had caused an already ailing Klamath to run too slowly and too shallow, leading to high water temperatures and other conditions that made the fish vulnerable to disease. Hydroelectric dams further disrupted the Klamath’s natural flow, and the combination of these factors paved the way for the largest recorded salmon fish kill in U.S. history. From then on, Myers dedicated herself to healing the river she grew up fishing and the one her own five children would fish one day. And that meant getting rid of its dams. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC.

Douglas-fir in Klamath Mountains are in ‘decline spiral,’ Oregon State research shows

“Increases in mortality among Douglas-fir in the Klamath Mountains are the result of multiple factors that have the iconic tree in a “decline spiral” in parts of the region, a new study by the Oregon State University College of Forestry and OSU Extension Service indicates.  Findings, which include a tool landowners and managers can use to assess a stand of trees’ risk as the climate continues to change, were published in the Journal of Forestry.  Douglas-fir, Oregon’s official state tree, is the most abundant tree species in the Klamath Mountains, growing among ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir, incense cedar, Oregon white oak, California black oak and Pacific madrone.  Dead Douglas-fir that are standing, as well as recently fallen Douglas-fir, can increase the potential for hotter, more extreme wildfires, the researchers note. … ”  Read more from Oregon State University.


Tahoe-area ski resorts extend seasons as snow blasts Northern California. Here’s the latest

“Tahoe-area ski resorts are extending their ski seasons, as Northern California sees more snow and rain downpours. This includes Heavenly Mountain Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort, according to resort websites. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


Observations on a modern water rights system in the Sacramento Valley

“With the discussions surrounding the modernization of our water system in California for both wetter and drier years, including the water rights system, we offer the following observations from the Sacramento Valley to help bring some focus to the conversations:  California’s water rights system is foundational to our state’s water management system for cities and rural communities, farms, fish and wildlife, hydropower and recreation—thus our economy and environment are dependent upon the orderly exercise of the water rights system and we are all invested in its success. Californians have built an amazing and highly managed water system. State, federal and local water agencies continue to evolve as we face increasing recurrence of droughts, floods and fires. California’s current population of 40 million will grow to 50 million by 2050. In California, we have the most abundant agricultural bounty in the world, we are graced with a stunning landscape and environment, we are the 5th largest economy in the world, and people pursue endless recreational opportunities in every part of the state. We cannot take any of this for granted!” … ”  Continue reading at the Northern California Water Association.

A.C.I.D responds to concerns of Cottonwood residents with flooding of the A.C.I.D canal

“On Monday, we reported on residents of an eleven-house complex over here in Cottonwood packing up and moving out of their flooded homes in the next few days.  Well, one of the main concerns of residents in the area is they want more accountability from A.C.I.D regarding the drain control of their canal.  The residents expressed concerns to KRCR in the past few days over the proper functionality of the drainage of the canal and believe A.C.I.D is to blame for their flooded homes.KRCR’s Tyler Van Dyke took those concerns to the General Manager of A.C.I.D Jered Shipley, and asked if they could’ve been more prepared for the flooding issues. … ”   Read more from KRCR.

How many days has it rained in Sacramento this year? Here’s a look at seasonal records

“The past three months in California — record rainfall, cold streaks and a monstrous snowpack — couldn’t be farther than the dry, warm winter predicted. If this winter feels rough, said meteorologist Eric Kurth with the National Weather Service, it’s probably because of the cold, gloomy weather mixed with ongoing atmospheric river storms. According to the Sacramento rain meter, it’s rained nearly half of the year so far. It’s rained 37 of the last 78 days — or 47% of the time. In Sacramento, it rained every day for the first 11 days in January. The city received a single day of dry weather and then another four days of constant rainfall before its two-week dry spell. More than 7 inches of rain fell, which is almost twice the normal amount for January. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


Storm winding down today, but more rain-makers on tap for the Bay Area this week

“The strong storm that slammed the Bay Area on Tuesday with serious winds and rounds of rain showers is on its way out this morning, leaving a few light showers and south winds in its wake. Conditions will gradually continue to improve in the Bay Area and across California, as drier air rolls onto the West Coast. This air will keep most of California from being washed out by another round of heavy rainfall over the next couple of days.  But two low-pressure systems are slated to approach Northern California by Thursday and Friday. These systems will be relatively weak, but have the potential to raise spotty showers in parts of the state, including the Bay Area. Depending on the duration of the dry air overhead, some of these rainfalls could be on the moderate end. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

‘Explosively developed’: Showers linger into Wednesday following Bay Area’s ‘once in every 10 year’ weather event

“Even experienced weather experts were stunned by the destructive, deadly and ultimately rare “bomb cyclone” that touched down in the region Tuesday afternoon.  “Even by the standards of what has turned out to be one of our most extraordinary winter seasons in a very long time, (Tuesday) stands out,” National Weather Service meteorologist Warren Blier wrote in the agency’s Area Forecast Discussion early Wednesday morning.  While it rained throughout the Bay Area for most of Tuesday, it was the explosive and violent wind that packed a real punch, tearing down trees, toppling big rigs and roiling the waters with gusts of more than of 81 miles per hour, according to the NWS.  “I’m a scientist. I tend to not be a fan of flamboyant adjectives,” Blier told Bay Area News Group in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “But after the winter we’ve had, to get something like yesterday, I thought it was extraordinary.” … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Bomb Cyclone off California’s coast? Not quite. Here’s what really happened

“The low-pressure system that was sitting over the open waters of the Pacific Ocean on Monday night quickly intensified into a powerful storm that is forecast to reel in more heavy rainfall, strong winds and the risk for thunderstorms along most of the California coast through Tuesday.  The growth of this storm was forecast by weather models like the European, Canadian and American. But some uncertainties made this a challenging forecast as models struggled to pinpoint where the center of the storm would come ashore and just how strong it would become by Tuesday morning.  The challenges over where the storm would form became apparent by early Monday morning as the European and American models flipped between a landfall near the Bay Area or closer to Southern California. Through the use of statistical analysis and a blend of models, meteorologists pinned down the area where the storm would most likely come ashore: the Central Coast. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSODramatic satellite videos show rare eye of storm centering over S.F., from the San Francisco Chronicle

Elevated State Route 37 a major opportunity for wetlands

“On February 2nd, World Wetlands Day, the Sierra Club submitted a letter to the California Department of Transportation stating our concerns about short-sighted plans for State Route 37, the 21-mile highway running along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay, linking Novato with Vallejo. Everyone involved agrees that rapidly advancing sea level rise, as well as worsening traffic congestion, means that adaptation is urgently needed. Done properly, the project could enable tidal marsh restoration on a historic scale, with enormous benefits for wildlife and climate, through carbon sequestration. Elevating the roadway – and removing the existing highway that currently acts as a levee – would allow natural tidal flows to feed a vast area of existing or potential wetlands. And, as sea levels rise and inundate existing marshes, places like San Pablo Bay where wetlands can slowly migrate inland with the rising water level will be crucial to the survival of wildlife. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Club.

Fewer than 10% of levees in the greater Bay Area have a federal flood risk rating

“Atmospheric river-fueled storms have hammered the network of hundreds of levees in coastal counties near the San Francisco Bay — from the agricultural fields of Monterey County to urban places like San Leandro, Walnut Creek and Richmond to more rural parts of the North Bay. At least two major levees, in Salinas and Pajaro, have failed since New Year’s Eve. … Levees are designed with a certain level of flood risk, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rates how safe each levee is as part of the National Levee Database. But federal risk records are available for less than 10% of the coastal region surrounding the Bay Area. The agency was not available for an interview but did comment via email.  The database identifies 539 levee systems across 11 counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma. Forty-one have a low-risk rating, 12 have a moderate-risk rating and 484 have no rating — either because that information doesn’t exist about the levee or the jurisdiction that maintains it hasn’t reported it to the federal government. … ”  Read more from KQED.


How the Pajaro flooding is impacting California

A drone provides a view of construction equipment placing rock to close a levee break caused by floodwaters from the Pajaro River near the township of Pajaro in Monterey County. Photo taken March 15, 2023 by Ken James / DWR

“Tranquilina Ramirez sits at a table outside a Freedom, California grocery store on a brisk March evening. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, the mother of seven has been a local farmworker for 14 years.  Now, like countless other workers in the Pajaro area, she is in limbo after the devastating impact of the recent winter storms. Storms have raged intermittently since January, with the most recent one causing the Pajaro River levee to suffer a catastrophic failure, flooding the town of Pajaro and creating a nightmare scenario for the already-devastated region. The destruction has created a dire situation for families like hers, whose livelihoods depend on the local land.  “We’re looking for work, but there is nothing out there. We are used to working the fields, but there is nothing,” she says in Spanish. “It’s hard for us campesinos because it’s taking a long time, and we have to wait and see if there is work. And if there is, it will be a lot less.” … ”  Read more from Good Times Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz editorial | Flooding: Protecting wastewater treatment plant at top of list for urgent funding

The Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial board writes, “Much of the attention from this year’s Pajaro River flooding is how it is endangering vital infrastructure such as sewer lines and the area’s wastewater treatment facility. And these threats are a major reason why government officials are proceeding cautiously in giving evacuated Pajaro residents a date for when they can return to their homes.  Among many issues, Watsonville’s Wastewater Facility came close to a disaster as last week’s flooding moved down the floodplain. The treatment plant is located in the floodplain, at a 90-degree bend downstream from the Pajaro breach, so the city of Watsonville and plant managers were putting out sandbags and nervously monitoring the water flow.  Because if the plant was flooded, it would be down for months. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Where does this winter stack up in terms of historical rainfall?

“David Schmalz here, thinking about the weather. Frankly, I’m starting to get tired of it. As I write this another atmospheric river—the 12th of the season—is sweeping over the Central Coast, and it’s starting to feel like it will never end: Wasn’t yesterday, after all, the first day of spring?  Having lived nearly my entire life in California, I can’t recall a winter where the rain seemed more consistent and the air felt more cold. And after reading reports on what might become record snowpack in the Sierra, I wondered: In Monterey County, how does this winter stack up historically in terms of precipitation?  So yesterday I talked to Brian Garcia, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Monterey, and asked him: Might this winter be a record year locally in terms of rain? … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly.

Paso Robles awarded $9.7-million grant for recycled water distribution system

“The City of Paso Robles has received a $9.73 million grant from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to construct its recycled water distribution system project. The grant, which was awarded by the State Water Resources Control Board, will be used in combination with a low-interest loan.  The project will include the construction of a major pump station at the city’s wastewater treatment plant near the Salinas River, a 4.5-mile large diameter water pipeline across the northern part of the city, and a 900,000-gallon concrete tank at the eastern edge of city limits, near Barney Schwartz Park. This infrastructure will enable the city to deliver over 3,000 acre-feet per year of high-quality recycled water to the city’s east side for irrigation of parks, golf courses, vineyards, and common area landscaping in new housing developments. … ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News.

Ventura County: ‘We feel powerless’: Homeowners could be stuck with bill to fix neighborhood storm drain

“With heavy rain looming Tuesday, a retired couple who could be stuck with the bill for fixing a storm drain pipe serving scores of homes is calling for immediate action from Ventura County officials.  Ivar Tombach and his wife, Diane Fisher, live in a home on Grada Avenue high above Camarillo beside a storm drain pipe that failed 10 days ago, sending truckloads of mud into the unincorporated neighborhood. They were stunned to learn that the County of Ventura said they were responsible for repairing the pipe buried 30 feet underground, not the government.  “We feel powerless,” Tombach said. “You’re caught between nature and bureaucracy.” … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Free summit to address future of agriculture

“Stanislaus State professor Chantelise Pells will be one of the panel moderators at a one-day agricultural summing later this month at California State University, Fresno.  The summit “What is the Future of Agriculture in California,” is free to attend either in person or virtually March 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Sponsored by The Maddy Institute, in partnership with CSU Stanislaus, UC Merced, Livermore Lab Foundation, Fresno State, CSU Bakersfield, and Climate Now, the summit will address the current and future climate reality for the greater San Joaquin Valley as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead. … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal.

River Islands: What 200-year flood protection looks like

“High water. High winds. High tide. Heavy rain. Combine those four factors with significant releases from massive reservoirs in the Sierra foothills. Toss in the constant need for money for upkeep and you have what used to set the stage for high anxiety for Reclamation District 2062 located where the San Joaquin River drains 12,250 square miles into the Delta.  That’s because Stewart Tract that Reclamation District 2062 protects — the most southeastern of 55 islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta created with more than 1,000 miles of levees —a history of levee failures. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

Floodwaters create ‘situational crisis’ for California dairy farmers

“Dairy farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are working to overcome the impacts of substantial flooding. Last week’s storms have left broad swaths of Tulare County under standing water. Evacuation orders have been in effect in several areas including Alpaugh, Allensworth, Porterville, and Cutler. CEO of Western United Dairies, Anja Raudabaugh said it has been a difficult task evacuating livestock from flooded areas.  “Not everyone in California is aware of the situational crisis that’s happening in Tulare, now spreading into Kings County,” said Raudabaugh. “Our members have been underwater. We’ve had to move almost 100,000 cows at this point in emergency evacuation circumstances since Wednesday of last week.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

Flood threat: Boils appear on Tuolumne and San Joaquin river levees in Stanislaus County

“Crews from Stanislaus County and the state are dealing with boils on river levees, as the threat of river flooding intensifies.  Tuesday afternoon, county Public Works crews and the state Department of Water Resources were working to repair a boil on the San Joaquin River near Patterson, said Deputy Raj Singh, a spokesman for the county Office of Emergency Services.  The boil was discovered Tuesday morning near the old fishing access at Poplar Avenue and Old Las Palmas Avenue, not far from the Las Palmas Avenue bridge over the San Joaquin. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News.

Levee break causes severe flooding in Corcoran

“Parts of Kings County are flooded with water after a levee break early Saturday morning.  Gushing water flooded a nearby home and several businesses in Corcoran.  Corcoran resident Darrell Knox says he use to work for the people who live at the flooded home.  “My old friends. They had a notice to get out,” Knox said.  Knox says seeing all this water makes him worried for his own home.  “What’s concerning me now with the high winds and water washing against the banks. It could open the banks. It could create a whole lot of problems with the high winds,” Knox explained. … ”  Read more from Channel 30.

Once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Tulare Lake in central California will begin to refill amidst continued heavy rain and flooding in the state. The lake has long been dry because of water diversions.  The Army Corps of Engineers ordered flood releases into the dry lakebed from the Kings River. This is a rare move that will convey water through the Kings River Water Association onto the lakebed. The river releases are expected to last indefinitely, according to Kings River Conservation District. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Residents prepare for some of the worst flooding seen in Tulare County

“Tulare County is preparing for some of the worst flooding it has seen.  There are evacuation orders for businesses and residents in Alpaugh, Allensworth, Teviston, Porterville, Cutler, Exter, Three Rivers, and Springville areas with over 23,000 structures threatened by flooding, according to Cal Fire Tulare Unit.  Officials say over 700 people from different agencies across California have come out to Tulare County to help with flooding. … ”  Read more from Fox 26.

A look back at Tulare Lake: Archive footage shows drastic changes over decades

“A home movie from 1942 captured the return of Tulare Lake when it was revived by heavy runoff from the Sierra.  At the time, the lake remained at about a quarter of its original size for a few years after being dry for decades.  A 1876 map of Tulare County shows a vast lake nearly a thousand square miles in size.  During that time frame, the lake was the largest body of fresh water in the western United States.  If the lake was still here, Kettleman City and Lemoore would be lakefront communities, the town of Alpaugh would be on an island, and Corcoran would be underwater. … ”  Read more from Channel 30.

City of Woodlake braces for more water as residents demand answers

“Woodlake government officials got an earful Monday night as residents expressed outrage, frustration and fear over what they see as a paralyzed city response to devastating flooding.  The City of Woodlake held a public meeting to update residents on flood impacts and extend a local state of emergency in anticipation of yet more incoming storms. The city council chambers were packed with more than 50 community members. The panel of city staff included Woodlake’s five council members including the mayor and vice mayor, chief of police, city administrator and the city attorney.City staff presented explanations of ongoing preparation and emergency storm response. And they tried to address concerns that a new housing development may have made flooding worse.  … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Woodlake residents voice frustrations over outdated flood zones

“A sea of residents from West Kaweah Street and surrounding areas flooded into the city council chambers on March 20 to voice their frustrations and fears about the most recent flooding. Joshua Diaz, a resident of Woodlake who lives on West Kaweah Street, had to escape the flooding in his home by crawling out of his window alongside his wife and children. The floodwaters were so deep, that it reached all the way up to his dog’s neck, who he had to scoop up from the water. When Diaz first bought his home, he was not living in a flood zone. Like many in the area, Diaz went without flood insurance under the notion his home would not be affected in the future. Currently, the city of Woodlake has found that the flood zone areas do need to be updated. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette.


Tuesday night brought an extremely rare tornado warning. Intense storms continue today

“We’re heading into the second, and last day, of this stormy weather.  Morning commuters could see light, isolated showers in different areas and the roads are still slick from Tuesday’s heavy downpour, so please drive slow and give yourself extra time to reach your destination. You can see our tips for driving in the rain below.  Some areas across Southern California experienced thunderstorms last evening, and according to meteorologist Kristen Lund from the National Weather Service, there’s a 20% chance L.A. County will see more thunderstorms in the afternoon, when the rainfall will be at its heaviest.  “Any thunderstorms that we do have will bring brief heavy showers up to like one inch per hour of rain rates, small hail, gusty winds to like 40 to 50 mph,” said Lund, adding that lightning is a concern. … ”  Read more from the LAist.

Tired of rain? There’s more of it, along with wind and snow, on the way to Southern California

“Southern California is in for more wet weather this week as yet another atmospheric river — the latest of several to soak the region with rain and snow since December — was headed south and poised to strike Tuesday.  The unseasonably cold weather front was expected to arrive late Monday — the first day of spring — with strong winds from the Northwest. It was likely to grow stronger and peak sometime on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.  Along with accumulations of rain and snow across much of the already saturated region, forecasters warned of strong winds, hazardous seas and heavy surf along the coast. Officials also urged motorists to be careful driving on wet roads and wary of street flooding in some areas; driving conditions in some mountain areas would be “dangerous to impossible,” the weather service said. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

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Along the Colorado River …

Wall Street is thirsty for its next big investment opportunity: The West’s vanishing water

“Situated in the Sonoran Desert near the Arizona-California border is the tiny rural town of Cibola – home to roughly 300 people, depending on the season.  Life here depends almost entirely on the Colorado River, which nourishes thirsty crops like cotton and alfalfa, sustains a nearby wildlife refuge and allows visitors to enjoy boating and other recreation.  It’s a place few Americans are likely to have heard of, which made it all the more surprising when investment firm Greenstone Management Partners bought nearly 500 acres of land here. On its website, Greenstone says its “goal is to advance water transactions that benefit both the public good and private enterprise.”  But critics accuse Greenstone – a subsidiary of the East Coast financial services conglomerate MassMutual – of trying to profit off Cibola’s most precious and limited resource: water. And it comes at a time when Arizona’s allocation of Colorado River water is being slashed amid a decadeslong megadrought. … ”  Read more from CNN Business.

RELATED: Firms buying land and water rights in Western US, from CNN Business

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.


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