DAILY DIGEST, 4/24: Snowpack data debunked: 2023 was no record year; Californians fear catastrophic floods; State overhauls its sea level rise plan; Growers to meet with regulators over flooded Salinas River; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife beginning at 9:30am.  Click here for agenda and remote access links.
  • MEETING: Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee from 10am to 4pm at the Big Break Visitor Center in Oakley. Agenda items include a tour of the Dutch Slough Restoration Site, DPIIC Restoration Subcommittee Workplan, and a recap of the February 2023 Delta Restoration Forum. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: The UN Water Conference: What Just Happened? from 10am to 11am.  The first UN water conference in almost 50 years finished up in March. What was at stake? Who was there? What were the outcomes? Was it important or useful? In an ask me anything format moderated by Michael Campana, John Matthews and Ingrid Timboe will talk about their experiences in New York over the week, their impressions, and what might emerge in coming months and years.  Presented by the American Water Resources Association.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

California snowpack data debunked: 2023 was no record year. And neither was 1952

“It was the snowpack reading that spawned a hundred headlines. “California ties 1952 record for all-time Sierra snowpack,” proclaimed KTVU. “California’s snowpack soars to record high after 17 atmospheric rivers,” trumpeted the Washington Post.  State officials largely seemed to agree. “As of right now, it’s looking like this year’s statewide snowpack will probably, most likely, be either the first — or second — biggest snowpack on record dating back to 1950,” Sean de Guzman, manager of the California Department of Water Resources monthly snow survey, declared the day of the official April reading earlier this month.  But this year wasn’t a record at all. It only appeared that way in large part because of the state’s shifting definition of a “normal” snowpack, which critics say obscures the true impact of climate change. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News (gift article).

The banality of floods (and droughts)

Jay Lund writes, “California’s ongoing floods and very wet year overall will continue to grab headlines, provide great pictures, and break some local records, but overall this year is unlikely to be truly extreme from historical or broader water policy and management perspectives. It can still be a very useful wet year, beyond just having lots of water.   Today’s essay reflects on our obsession to identify unique aspects of flooding in California this year. Were floods on the Cosumnes, Russian, Salinas, and other rivers “record-breaking”? Is the ongoing and coming flooding in the Tulare Basin “record-breaking”? (DWR 2023; Moyle 2023)  In most cases no, even though 2023 is a very wet year for most of California, and naturally invites search for such comparisons. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

‘Do people have to die?’ Why these Californians fear catastrophic floods.

“In the coming weeks and months, Cutler, located about three hours north of Los Angeles in Tulare County, and other towns in the San Joaquin Valley are facing the prospect of catastrophic flooding from what could be the largest amount of snowmelt in state history — and much of the area’s flood infrastructure is in dire need of repair, according to residents.  After a parade of atmospheric rivers deluged the state this winter, Cutler’s aging Sand Creek breached in several places, turning streets into rivers and damaging about 130 homes. While the flooding was a surprise, it was not unprecedented or unpredictable for the valley floor, experts said. The canal, as well as other parts of the area’s flood and irrigation management systems, was already eroding and poorly managed largely because of the state’s decades-long extreme drought, experts and residents said. “We haven’t seen anyone coming here,” Martinez said, gesturing toward the haphazardly patched canal. “We lost a lot of memories, stuff we were going to pass on to our children. What has to happen? Do people have to die for something to be done about it?” … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).


California overhauls its sea level rise plan as climate change reshapes coastal life

“Sea level rise lapping over and pushing up groundwater under the California shoreline is the next climate threat in a state already thrashed around by wildlife, drought and deluge. State and federal scientists are preparing a comprehensive assessment of the threat that rising seas pose to California, updating a highly scientific and complicated document from 2018 (PDF) with the latest science in user-friendly guidance for local leaders.  The new sea level rise plan will incorporate federal climate models from last year and attempts to compel cities and counties to take ownership of the issue, coordinate and move rapidly to prepare for rising tides at the local level. Currently, state and local agencies use a scattershot range of sea level rise scenarios that forecast 1 foot to more than 1 meter — more than 3 feet — of inundation. The state’s goal with this update is to shore up that messy field, said Dominique Koné, senior science officer with the California Ocean Science Trust. … ”  Read more from KQED.

California reservoir race: Which reservoir filled up first?

“It’s official, at least one of California’s reservoirs is now at capacity for the first time in years, according to data from California Department of Water Resources. High reservoir levels are a welcomed relief after years of drought.  Wet weather has poured into the Golden State over the past several months, and reservoirs started to swell. The three that were poised to head over the top with a bit more moisture included San Luis, Cachuma and Castaic reservoirs. But which one took the win this week? … ”  Read more from KRON.

Gold Rush 2.0: Wild fires and torrential rain in California unleash ‘a flood of gold’ – with amateur treasure hunters flocking to state to find nuggets worth nearly $2,000 a piece

“Recent wildfires and rain have caused a ‘Gold Rush 2.0’ in California‘s Central Valley where some have located pieces of gold that were unearthed by the natural events.  According to historian Ed Allen of the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, only about 10 to 15 percent of California’s gold has been discovered.  Now, nearly 175 years after the first gold rush, groups of eager amateur miners are headed back to ‘Gold Country’ – an area on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada – in search of the remaining 85 percent. … ”  Read more from the Daily Mail.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Hoopa Tribal member fights to save California’s Trinity River and its salmon

“For 19-year-old Danielle Frank, California’s Trinity River is a cultural lifeline.  “We are water people. We are river people,” she says. “And we believe that when our river drains and there is no more water left, we will no longer be here.”  Frank is a Hoopa tribal member and Yurok descendant. The Trinity River runs through her homeland. … ”  Read more from Yale Climate Connections.

Salmon habitat restoration, abalone breeding projects recommended for funding toward a climate-ready North Coast

“Several North Coast projects designed to strengthen the climate resiliency of our coastline have been recommended to receive substantial grants from the federal government, Vice President Kamala Harris announced this week. Among these are projects in and adjacent to Mendocino County that focus on salmon recovery, abalone breeding, and floodplain reconnection. The recommendation signals expected approval of these projects, though funding has not yet been allocated.  The Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s $739,000 project will focus on reconnecting Ackerman Creek, a tributary of California’s Russian River that runs between the river and North State Street, to its floodplain. Funding will support tribal staff positions to lead the planning effort and liaise with partners; a series of collaborative workshops to share cultural and traditional ecological knowledge will also take place. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon.


Bell Ranch trustee sues Tehama County Flood Control and Water Conservation District over water fee

“The Tehama County Flood Control and Water Conservation District has been sued along with its board of directors by a trustee of Bell Ranch.  David Garst filed suit on April 3, alleging the district violated Propositions 13, 218, and 26, Government Code section 54999.7, along with common law of utility rulemaking, when the TCFC passed a $0.29 per acre registration fee on June 20, 2022.  The lawsuit was the subject of a special meeting that was a joint closed session with the County Board of Supervisors and the TCFC on April 18. That meeting was held one day after the regular April 17 meeting was canceled. … ”  Read more from the Tehama Daily News.


East Palo Alto couple to pay $1.7 million for destruction of tidal wetlands

The Solano County Superior Court approved a settlement between the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and property owners Param and Amandeep Dhillon that requires the Dhillons to pay a $1.7 million penalty and restore the White Slough wetlands in Vallejo they destroyed.  In late 2019, the Dhillons filled most of the East Lagoon portion of White Slough with thousands of cubic yards of dirt trucked onto their property. The White Slough is a tidal wetland east of the Napa River near the intersection of State Routes 31 and 29, which is protected under state law and designated as a resource conservation area by the City of Vallejo. The East Lagoon is a seasonal pond and wetland on the Dhillons’ property that provides important habitat for birds and wildlife. The terms of the settlement require the Dhillons to assess the damage they caused to these wetlands and restore the lagoon to its former condition. … ”  Read more from the SF Regional Water Board.

Meet the team preserving Stanford’s land, water, and wildlife

“On a recent afternoon in the Stanford foothills, a few hundred meters from the Dish, a crew of Stanford conservationists inspected a pond where California tiger salamanders are successfully breeding.  “The recent rain has been really positive for these salamanders because it fills up their breeding ponds,” said Esther Adelsheim, program manager in Stanford’s Conservation Program.  Due, in part, to years of drought and habitat conversion, the slithery black and yellow amphibian is a state and federally-recognized threatened species. But constructed pools like this – one of eight at Stanford – are increasing their chances of survival. With around 800 eggs in that pond alone, Adelsheim is optimistic about the species’ future.  “The more aquatic habitat they have, the more successful they’ll be in contributing juvenile salamanders that will sustain and bolster the population into the future,” she said. … ”  Read more from Stanford News.


Growers to meet with regulators over flooded Salinas River

“On May 5, growers in the agriculturally rich Salinas Valley plan to sit down with a bevy of regulators to formulate a channel maintenance program for the Salinas River that they hope will prevent the kind of losses experienced from the second catastrophic flood in less than 40 years.  Norm Groot, the executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, is leading the effort to reach out to five different state and federal government agencies to try and reach a compromise that will allow growers to clear brush and sediment out of the river channel to increase water capacity and lessen the impact of flood waters on cropland.  “We ask that agencies with jurisdiction over the Salinas River channel environment provide the funding for the studies and permits necessary to ensure a long-term program that can achieve the necessary flow capacity for flood control while balancing the environmental benefits,” Groot said during a press conference last week. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Water board finds new culprit for cancer-causing chemical released in San Luis Obispo County. What’s next?

“The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department issued a notice on Christmas Eve 2015 that trichloroethylene, or TCE, had been discharged into the groundwater in the small rural neighborhood south of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport far above safe levels. Those who had been drinking and showering in the contaminated water were at higher risk of liver or kidney damage and cancer, the notice said. … In January 2020, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued the Nolls — who rent out a few buildings at 4665 Thread Lane — a cleanup and abatement order to remediate the chemical pollution. … Since then, Janice Noll and her brother, John, have been paying more than $50,000 every year to maintain water filters on the wells to keep their neighbors from being exposed to TCE. But now there’s a new suspected culprit. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune. | Read via Yahoo News.

Commentary: Groundwater scarcity threatens Ventura County agriculture

This column was submitted as an entry for CalMatters’ inaugural Earth Day Op-Ed Contest.  Camilla Lewis, a sophomore at Foothill Technology High School and an assignment editor for the Foothill Dragon Press, and Beatrice Barnes, a sophomore at Foothill Technology High School and a features writer for the Foothill Dragon Press, write, “The effects of climate change in Ventura County are threatening a precious local resource: groundwater. About 68% of total groundwater used in the county goes to agriculture, an integral aspect of the county’s culture and economy. On top of the overpumping of aquifers, results of climate change such as rising temperatures and sea levels have caused major pollution and depletion of groundwater. This environmental disaster has widespread consequences for local residents and worldwide consumers alike.  Ten of Ventura County’s groundwater basins are reported to be medium to high utilization priority, and three of these are deemed critically overdrafted by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). One of these critically overdrafted basins is the deep Oxnard Subbasin that has complex layers of clay between its five underground aquifers. This alone makes the process of groundwater recharge difficult, which is worsened by rising temperatures and sea levels. … ”  Continue reading at the Ventura County Star.


Our View: No one will escape the threat of the looming flood

“When temperatures spike beyond the century mark and people question how we can possibly tolerate living in the valley, we are quick to say, “But it’s a dry heat.” We won’t be able to say that this year if predictions are true. Bakersfield and the Central Valley won’t be dry when traditional high temperatures return and the state’s record-setting snowpack melts. All eyes in the nation are focused on the Tulare Lake and San Joaquin River basins, where flooding is expected to be the most devastating this spring and summer. Already we have seen flooding on the valley floor as “atmospheric rivers” and winter storms pounded California. Those storms dumped so much snow in the mountains that the statewide snowpack is estimated to be more than 250 percent above normal. In the southern Sierra Nevada, which bisects Kern County, the snowpack is even deeper. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian.

State Water Project water allocation to 100 percent comes too late to be much help

“An increase in the availability of water from the State Water Project to 100 percent of Table A allocation will mean little to Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District because it is already struggling to find places to store its previous allocation. The original allocation of 5 percent in December was increased to 30 percent in January, upped to 35 percent in February and then to 75 percent on March 24.  The latest increase — to 100 percent — was announced on April 20, a day after the district’s Board of Directors heard General Manager Tom Neisler’s report at its April 19 meeting. … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News.


News Conference: SoCal water rights looking to the future

For the first time in history the federal government says it may impose restrictions who can take what from the Colorado River. NBC4’S Conan Nolan talks with Adel Hagekhalil, the head of the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  Watch video at NBC LA.

AVEK will get 100% of its state water allocations

“For the first time since 2006, State Water Project contractors are slated to receive 100% of their allocations this year, thanks to the unusually wet winter and ample snowpack. “It’s really good news,” Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency General Manager Matt Knudson said. The state Department of Water Resources announced Thursday the amount of water forecast to be delivered. It’s an increase from the earlier amount of 75% announced in March.  The Antelope Valley is served by three state water contractors: Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, Palmdale Water District and Littlerock Creek Irrigation District. AVEK is the largest of these, and the third largest of the 29 water contractors in the state. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press.

Rain brings L.A. County out of drought

“Rainy day after rainy day has characterized Malibu this year, Amy Rocha, manager of communications with the West Basin Municipal Water District. The onslaught of rain is bringing L.A. County out of its drought, Rocha said.  Despite the unusual amount of rain this year, the wider Southwest U.S. is still in a multi-decade drought, wrote Steven Frasher, public information officer with L.A. County Public Works, in an April 4 email to the Graphic.  “One good season of rain does not undo years of prolonged and extreme drought,” Frasher wrote. … ”  Read more from the Pepperdine Graphic.


Record snowpack ‘welcome news’ for San Diego’s Colorado River river supply

“The San Diego County Water Authority said a new federal report that forecasts significant increases in reservoir levels along the Colorado River is “welcome news” for San Diego’s water supply. The report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that a near-record snowpack will raise Lake Mead at Hoover Dam by over 20 feet and Lake Powell farther north by 50 feet. About two-thirds of San Diego County’s supplies are conserved Colorado River water. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego.

Recreation or marshland? San Diego’s plan to transform northeastern Mission Bay draws fierce backlash

“San Diego’s plan to transform much of recreation-rich northeast Mission Bay into marshland is facing a powerful backlash this spring from tennis players, golfers, boating clubs, campers and supporters of youth sports.  They say the city’s plan to replace some recreational areas with hundreds of acres of climate-friendly marshland threatens vital local institutions that have been part of San Diego’s civic fiber for more than 50 years.  Those institutions include Campland by the Bay, the Mission Bay Golf Course, the Pacific Beach Tennis Club, Bob McEvoy Youth Fields and the Mission Bay Boat & Ski Club. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Along the Colorado River …

Above-average snowpack will raise Lake Mead, buy time for collaboration

“A federal report released April 20 says near-record snowpack in the Colorado River Basin could raise the elevation of Lake Mead by more than 20 feet by the end of the year, providing a critical opportunity for water agencies to improve long-term management of the river.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s report shows vastly improved hydrological conditions are also expected to raise the water level in Lake Powell by more than 50 feet. California relies heavily on lakes Powell and Mead for water, as do Arizona and Nevada.  Despite the good news this year, the ongoing trend toward a hotter and drier climate means long-term solutions remain critical. About two-thirds of San Diego County’s supplies are conserved Colorado River water. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network.

Colorado River crisis continues to loom even in wake of record winter

” Even with the exceptionally wet winter, the crisis of the Colorado River continues to loom. The Colorado River basin has been stressed to the max since the turn of the century due to exceptional drought and explosive population growth in the region. Forty million people in seven states rely on water from the river.  In order to manage the water and divide it between the states, the states came together to create a compact known as the Colorado River Compact, more commonly known as the law of the river. The so-called “law of the river” came to be over 100 years ago during an exceptionally wet period for the American southwest. Cutbacks are needed to prevent potentially catastrophic scenarios along the Colorado River. “The natural runoff of the Colorado River system is 32% less than the runoff in the system in the 1910s and 20s when the compact was negotiated,” said Dr. Jack Schmidt, a professor and director of Colorado River studies at Utah State University. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.

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In national water news today …

Floating filtration technique may soon fight algal blooms

“Treating algal blooms and eutrophication can be a complicated and expensive undertaking, but a new method being investigated may cut down on both costs and labor in an environmentally friendly way, according to a press release from Concordia University.  Writing in the journal Water, the researchers describe a system of floating geotextile filters that efficiently remove suspended solids, algae and the nutrients from a shallow lake.  While the project is still in development, the researchers say they believe it has the potential to scale up. This technology could then benefit the health of larger bodies of water such as ponds, rivers, coastal areas and bays.  Over the summer and early fall seasons of 2019 and 2020, the researchers placed six geotextile layers in a floating filtration unit at Lac Caron, Quebec. Lac Caron is a shallow eutrophic lake with a maximum depth of 2.6 meters located in Ste-Anne-des-Lacs, about 75 kilometers north of Montreal. The lake has been under a recreational advisory since 2008 due to excessive algae growth. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions.

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

Mother Nature by Juraj Patekar, Mother Nature
International Mosaiculture exhibition – Montreal Botanical gardens

In California water news this weekend:

  • It’s here: Why this may be the moment California’s ‘Big Melt’ accelerates
  • California’s cool forecast could limit dangerous snowmelt flooding
  • California’s water and snowpack Motherlode: a blessing or a curse?
  • Geologist weighs in on importance of California’s snowpack
  • How modernizing infrastructure can help to capture more storm flow
  • This California town hasn’t had clean drinking water in 11 years
  • Water Commission explores drought impacts and responses in latest issue of Water Resources IMPACT magazine
  • Better late than never: Calif. growers get full allocations
  • KIND Snacks starting new ag initiative in Madera County
  • Eureka! After California’s heavy rains, gold seekers are giddy.
  • Californians see a need for immediate action on climate change
  • California researchers attempt ocean climate solution
  • Sacramento waters rise, but Klamath Basin stays dry in ‘rain shadow’
  • Puppet service announcements: Threatened species share Bay Area county’s Earth Day message
  • California farming valley scrambles to save future as Tulare Lake floods take over
  • Upper Colorado River states add muscle as decisions loom on the shrinking river’s future
  • Commentary: Colorado River’s fate relies on water cuts that probably will never happen
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

UPCOMING WORKSHOP: Delta Island Adaptations Public Workshop #3 (Bouldin Island)

NOTICE: Notice of 180-Day Temporary Permit Application T033366 – Kern and Kings Counties

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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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