DAILY DIGEST, 4/26: Some want to make Tulare Lake permanent; Forced water-use cuts made CA more waterwise; Costa, Curtis introduces bill to improve valley’s water supply; Felicia Marcus: ‘We can’t be living in an economy of 40 million people this close to the edge’; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • LEG HEARING: The Senate Committee on Environmental Quality beginning at 9am.  Click here for agenda and remote access instructions.
  • MEETING: Delta Independent Science Board from 12pm to 3pm.  Agenda items include a Seminar Presentation: Navigating Deep Uncertainty: Insights on Climate Resilience Planning with Alice Hill, and a discussion of the draft prospectus for the DISB’s review of decision-making under deep uncertainty.  Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • SoCAL WATER DIALOG WEBINAR: One Step Closer to Direct Potable Reuse from 12pm to 1:30pm.  California is one step closer to using recycled water as an additional drinking water source.  Preliminary Findings from an Expert Panel on Direct Potable Reuse have been submitted to the SWRCB.  Benefits from DPR include increased local water supply, drought resiliency, and the ability to fight climate change. Is there a clear path forward to adoption of final regulations?  To answer that question, a panel of experts will provide a historical perspective on scientific, technical and policy drivers and on approaches to DPR internationally and on the state level.  The panel will review the regulatory process underway, concerns from DPR proponents, funding sources, and proposed projects. Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Decision-making under deep uncertainty from 12pm to 1pm.  The Delta Independent Science Board, with support from the Delta Science Program, is hosting a seminar series to explore concepts from decision-making under deep uncertainty and present tools that can help managers and stakeholders evaluate and plan for a wide range of plausible futures in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Experts will speak on sources of and approaches for managing uncertainties and incorporating human behavior in anticipatory planning efforts.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Forest Futures: Historic and Current Approaches to Forest and Fire Management from 4pm to 5:15pm.  Our relationship to our forests and fire has changed dramatically in the face of catastrophic wildfire. But what strategies historically have led us to where we are now and what strategies are essential to implement today? Learn about the history of forest and fire management in our region and what is being done to address wildfire threat to our community.  Presented by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.  Click here to register.

In California water news today …

A lost California lake has roared back to life. Now some want to make it permanent

Floodwaters from the March storms have flooded field along 56/County Road J22 near Central Valley Highway 43 east of Alpaugh in Tulare County, California. The floodwaters are reforming Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Tulare Lake was largely drained in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Photo taken March 24, 2023. Ken James / DWR

“Tulare Lake, the long dormant lake that made a surprise comeback in California’s San Joaquin Valley this year, has gotten so big with the wet weather that water experts say it won’t drain until at least next year, and maybe well after that.  More than 100 square miles of roads, farms and homes in the formerly dry lakebed between Fresno and Bakersfield remain submerged in the entrenched floodwaters. Additional land is expected to go under through summer as record Sierra Nevada snow melts into rivers that fill the lake. Already, damages are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. While landowners as well as local, state and federal officials are focused on keeping major towns and infrastructure dry, the broader issue of whether there’s a better way to manage water in the basin looms. Some say the recent flooding is making the case to more naturally accommodate incoming water, perhaps broadening river plains, restoring old wetlands and, more dramatically, ensuring a permanent revival of Tulare Lake. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

Forced water-use cuts made California more waterwise

“After a drought-stricken California lifted a year of mandatory water-use cuts that were effective in 2015 and 2016, urban water use crept back up somewhat, but the overall lasting effect was a more waterwise Golden State, a University of California, Riverside, study has found.  Published Tuesday, April 25, in the journal Water Resources Research, the UCR study found that water use by 2019 was still lower than it was in 2013, thanks in large part to water use changes by larger water users.  The water-reduction mandate imposed in 2015 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown also spurred Californians to develop better water-saving habits, such as irrigating their lawns and gardens during cooler morning hours when less water is lost to evaporation, the researchers found. The study analyzed about half a billion records of hourly water use data. … ”  Read more from UC Riverside.

Two key projects to give full water supplies to farms

“After a series of winter storms boosted California’s reservoirs and snowpack, state and federal officials are pledging full water deliveries, increasing 2023 allocations for farmers and water districts to 100% of requested supplies for the year.  With snowmelt occurring, the California Department of Water Resources said last week it expects to deliver 100% of requested water supplies from the State Water Project. That is up from a 75% allocation announced in March. … “In water-supply terms, it was a great water year, and we should celebrate that. I don’t think we’ve had good news on allocations in a number of years,” said Chris Scheuring, California Farm Bureau senior counsel. “While we’re celebrating a good water year and great allocations for most of the water districts, we’re also mindful that water behind the reservoirs is going to have to get us through some dry years.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Biggest gold rush in years could unfold in California due to winter storms’ runoff, miners say: “Unprecedented”

“There’s a new nugget to this winter’s historic storms in California: All the runoff is exposing more gold, CBS Sacramento’s Steve Large reports.   Albert Fausel is a third-generation owner of the Placerville Hardware store, which opened in 1852.  “We do a lot of different gold supplies in here,” Fausel said.   The store is in the heart of gold country.  “So now, instead of selling dynamite, I’m selling metal detectors,” Fausel said.  Fausel says he’s is getting ready for a new gold rush. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

Lawmakers propose $4.5B flood protection bond measure

“Californians could be voting on a major flood protection bond next November.  State lawmakers are pushing a $4.5 billion bond measure which would help fund water infrastructure projects across the state. The bill’s author, San Joaquin Valley Democratic Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, said the language is not yet set in stone, but that funds from the bond would go to the Department of Water Resources (DWR).  According to the bill, $1 billion would be allocated to “multibenefit flood protection projects” under the Central Valley Flood Protection Board as well as other projects in the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

California’s Clean Fleets rule could make restoring power and water during an emergency more difficult

“One of California’s most significant clean air and climate change proposals is close to being approved with a major flaw that could risk longer water and electric outages during emergencies.  The Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule, proposed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is designed to transition all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state to electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles. This will result in cleaner air in vulnerable communities where thousands of trucks motor through daily. It will help cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector, which makes up most of the state’s climate pollutants. Overall, the rule is essential to achieve California’s environmental goal of a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. But the proposed rule’s major concern is that it may hinder many local utilities’ ability to respond to emergencies, natural disasters, and significant service disruptions. Customers and communities served by local governments that own and operate their own water, wastewater, and electric utilities will be at risk. … ”  Read more from California Municipal Utilities Association.

Costa, Curtis introduces bill to improve valley’s water supply

“U.S. Representatives Jim Costa (CA-21) and John Curtis (UT-04) introduced the Restoring WIFIA Eligibility Act, which would provide flexibility for San Joaquin Valley water users to meet water quality standards and improve water storage.  “Recent storms have eased some of the impacts of prolonged drought, but we need to further invest in our aging water infrastructure, so no individual, or community goes without access to clean drinking water and our farms and environment have a sustainable supply,” said Costa. “My legislation will build our water resiliency and prioritize investment in our water system.”  “It is essential that we streamline eligibility for water infrastructure projects,” said Rep. Curtis. “Over half a century ago, many water projects out west which were funded and managed by the federal government have changed hands. These projects are now in need of repairs or expansion but are ineligible for additional funding. Working alongside Rep. Costa; in short, this bill will fix ensure access to clean water for communities throughout the country.” … ”  Read more from Congressman Costa’s website.

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The Big Melt …

DWR working with 4 counties in the Tulare Lake Basin to support snowmelt flood planning

“This year’s series of winter storms has provided California with much needed rain and snow, even setting an all-time record this year for the Southern Sierra snowpack. While this precipitation has helped ease impacts from the state’s record-breaking drought, it has also resulted in flooding in certain regions throughout the state including the Tulare Lake Basin. DWR and multiple state, federal, and local agencies are working together to prepare for the snowmelt and protect communities from flooding. …  This year, the Southern Sierra snowpack levels are similar to those in 1969 and have exceeded levels seen in 1983. This means flood impacts in the Tulare Lake Basin are expected to continue now through the summer and as the Southern Sierra snowpack melts, is expected to result in sustained high-water flows until July. Advance planning to prevent flooding, and protect people and property requires a coordinated effort between the local county officials, private levee owners, dam operators, and water agencies and managers. … ”  Read the full story from DWR News.

State officials not expecting further flooding in Tulare Lake Basin

“State water officials said this week that they do not expect additional flooding in the Tulare Lake Basin in the coming days as temperatures increase and the state’s snowpack continues to melt. … Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services within Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, said Monday that the state intends to be proactive at preventing more snowpack runoff from submerging the basin even further.  “The idea is that we are making future decisions in a manner that prioritizes public safety and considers the regional aspect of all four counties,” Ferguson said. … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area.

Flooding wreaks havoc on Tulare County dairy industry. Will snowmelt make problem worse?

“Floodwaters from an overflowing Lake Success reached the Tule River next to Joseph Goni’s Tulare family dairy on March 15, in the middle of the night, much faster than he had expected.  The water was at their front door when Goni and his fiancee woke up. When his sister and brother-in-law, who also lived on the farm, pulled their children out of their home in pajamas, 2 to 3 feet of water was rushing everywhere, impossible to stop.  Goni choked up recently as he and Roberto Martinez, a 30-year employee, recounted how floodwaters nearly washed away the dairy three generations of his family had built.  “It started with us,” Goni said of the gushing water. “Then we started hearing about it moving toward Corcoran. And it was just one dairy after the other, after the other.” … ”  Continue reading at the Visalia Times-Delta.


Bains, Fong call on Newsom to raise spending on flood plain restoration, disaster relief

“Two Kern County lawmakers joined 10 of their peers Tuesday in asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to spend more money on flood plain restoration and flood disaster relief and prevention. A letter signed by Assemblywoman Dr. Jasmeet Bains, D-Bakersfield, and Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, asked the governor to dedicate $100 million for San Joaquin River flood plain restoration and to give the same amount to counties facing this year’s record snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. Ten other members of the Assembly also signed.  The six-paragraph letter called on Newsom to restore money that was diverted from the San Joaquin River’s flood plain restoration budget. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian.


In commentary today …

DWR’s latest misinformation about the Delta Conveyance Project

Doug Obegi, Director of California River Restoration for the NRDC, writes, “If the Delta Conveyance Project had already been constructed, in 2023 the project would have provided zero acre feet of additional water supply, while contractors would have had to pay as much as $1 billion or more to pay for the project this year.  However, you’d never know this based on DWR’s latest misinformation about its Delta tunnel project.  Currently, the State Water Project’s and federal Central Valley Project’s existing pumping plants in the South Delta could be diverting a lot more water than they are today while complying with existing or even stronger environmental regulations. However, for the past several weeks the SWP and CVP have been pumping significantly less water than they are allowed to, because San Luis Reservoir is completely full, meaning there is no place for the CVP and SWP to store additional water diversions. … However, although DWR argues that the Delta Conveyance Project could have pumped more water in January, any additional pumping through the Delta tunnel earlier this year would not have increased water supply. … ”  Read more from the NRDC.

Editorial: Levee repair to contain Tulare Lake cannot wait. A city of 22,000 is threatened

The Fresno Bee editorial board writes, “Only one thing stands between the city of Corcoran and disastrous flooding: a 14-mile-long wall of dirt.  That earthen levee protects the city of 22,500 on its west, south and east sides from the growing Tulare Lake. That is the body of water that periodically reappears whenever huge rain and snow seasons occur, like this year. Fed by the Kings, Kaweah, Tule and Kern rivers, Tulare Lake develops in the flat land in Kings and Tulare counties between Corcoran on the east, Alpaugh and Allensworth to the south and Stratford on the west.  Televised images of flooded homes demonstrated the dire need for levee reinforcement earlier this year when Merced County’s Planada and Monterey County’s Pajaro were overrun. Could Corcoran be next? … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee. | Read via Yahoo News.

California needs a wild salmon policy

Tom Cannon writes, “Canada has a Wild Salmon Policy. California needs one. California can develop a better salmon policy by taking a good look at the Canadian policy.  In past posts, I have mentioned the need for a comprehensive California Salmon Plan.  There are many plans in California, but there are few with real actions like NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service – NMFS) Central Valley Salmon Recovery Plan. The problem is that most plans have no “bite.” NMFS has been given a “bite option” in issuing take permits under the Endangered Species Act, but NMFS rarely uses its full authority in issuing biological opinions for federal projects. NMFS is particularly averse to issuing “jeopardy” opinions with mandated Reasonable Prudent Alternatives (RPAs). … ”  Continue reading at the California Fisheries blog.

Agriculture embraces a sustainable farming future

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, writes, “I’m a third-generation farmer. I love that it’s natural for farmers to speak of our calling in terms of generations. Just that word “generation” hints at a bigger story to tell, the story of how we adapt and change to keep fulfilling our calling and caring for our land.  As we have commemorated another Earth Day on March 22, it is important to note that sustainable practices are just what we do on the farm because we understand that we are caretakers of the land for a time. While some farmers may be the first generation in their family to care for the land, no one wants to be the last.  I wouldn’t be the third generation on my farm, and there surely wouldn’t be a fourth to follow, if we still farmed the exact way my grandfather did. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Future of California at risk the longer landmark CEQA environmental law remains unchanged

“Tracy Hernandez, CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed), and Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, write, “Like our changing climate and its many impacts on our communities, economy and environment; like the collapse of critical infrastructure; like the humanitarian homelessness crisis on our streets and the housing shortage driving it; like so many other slow-motion disasters that have befallen us, the warning signs have been unmistakably clear.  And just as often, we have ignored them, denied them and been slow to act.  Untold volumes have been written about California’s signature environmental law and how over the past five decades it has metastasized through judicial activism and other means to become a signature obstacle to progress. Examples are legion and often ludicrous, and the evidence presented in mountains of research indisputable. For all its good intentions and good outcomes, the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, has been increasingly exploited and perverted to slow or block everything from bike lanes and solar installations to affordable infill housing and homeless shelters.  And often, the reasons have little to do with protecting our environment. … ”  Read the full commentary at Cal Matters.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


PG&E may be dammed with Eel River safety concerns

“On April 18, national conservation organization American Rivers released their report “America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2023,” and listed Northernwestern California’s Eel River as being the sixth most endangered river in the U.S.A. American River publishes this list every year, and judges the state of different rivers based upon criteria including the river’s significance to people and nature, the magnitude of the threats presented to the watershed and surrounding communities, and how the public can influence decisions impacting the river’s future.  The Eel River is the third largest in California, stretching for 3,684 square miles, flowing northward from the coast ranges west of the Sacramento Valley before dumping into the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Humboldt County. The reason behind the Eel River’s place within the American Rivers’ List has to do with the construction of the Scott and Cape Horn Dams in 1922 and 1908 respectively, as a part of the Porter Valley Project. Both dams divert water from the Eel River towards the Russian River down south and have been linked towards the delayed recovery of multiple critically endangered fish species. … ”  Read the full story at the Sonoma State Star.

Clear Lake’s name its own worst enemy

“Now that Clear Lake is full the calls to clear up the algae and weeds have begun. The worst thing that ever happened to Clear Lake was its name. The lake is more than 2 million years old and it has never been clear. It got is name several hundred years ago from Spanish soldiers who couldn’t believe how clear the air around the lake was, so they named it Clear Lake. Clear Lake’s water has never been clear. In fact, Clear Lake is now clearer than it has been in more than 50 years.  Down through the years there have been a multitude of suggestions to change Clear Lake and they range from rerouting the Eel River through Clear Lake to flush it out to treating the lake with thousands of gallons of aluminum sulfate to rid its water of algae. Others have suggested dredging the lake to a depth of more than 100 feet. While all have sparked interest, they have failed to occur because biologists and geologists have said that the harm to the environment would far outweigh any benefits. … ”  Continue reading from the Lake County Record-Bee.


Peak snowpack: PG&E measures 211 inches of snow in final Lassen Peak survey

“The final snowpack survey of the year took a bit more effort for the PG&E team at Lassen Volcanic National Park.  In the dense, late April snow, PG&E hydrographers drilled through 211 inches of snowpack Tuesday to reach the gravel parking lot of the Lassen Peak trailhead — by jumping on their equipment like a pogo stick.  “At many other sites we can core many samples by hand. At this site, we have to jump on the sampler to use our full body weight to get it down,” said PG&E Hydrographer Dan Stephens. “We’ve already broken gear this morning.”  Stephens said Lassen Peak represents 3% of the Feather River watershed, and one of the stations measured 211 inches of snow, equivalent to 118 inches of water. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Tahoe area put on flood watch this weekend as snowpack melts

“The Lake Tahoe region has been put on flood watch this coming weekend as unseasonably warm weather melts the Sierra Nevada’s almighty snowpack.  “Creeks and streams will be running high fast,” the National Weather Service warned. “Low-water crossings may be flooded.” The agency specifically warned that the forks of the Carson River and Susan and Walkers rivers should be monitored closely, adding that anyone planning on participating in recreation activities on the creeks should use caution. “The water will be extremely cold as well, quickly causing shock,” the statement read. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Flood watch issued for Tahoe, Yosemite National Park; Soaring temperatures accelerating snow melt

“The ‘big melt’ of the massive snowpack piled up across the Sierra range over the winter months has begun as a heat wave grips the region with temperatures forecast to reach near record highs later in the week.  With 700 to 800 inches of snow having accumulated across the range during a winter filled with atmospheric rivers, forecasters and water officials are now casing wary eyes at rapidly rising water levels in rivers and creeks.  “The big melt is now here,” said weather expert Dr. Daniel Swain. “Right now it is looking like this week is going to an exclamation point on this melting process.” … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area.

Organizer’s plan to successfully reforest Lake Tahoe with Sugar Pine

“Last August in South Lake Tahoe we followed The Sugar Pine Foundation’s Maria Mircheva as she collected seeds from the majestic Sugar Pine.  With a sling shot, she took down a couple cones and determined harvesting them would happen in about ten days. What we didn’t know is, this tree, and the cones and the seeds were not just selected randomly.  They were selected because of their genetic code.  “These seedlings are special because they are progeny of rust resistant trees,” says Mircheva.  Identifying such progeny seeds isn’t guess work.  It happens at the U.S Forest Service Placerville Nursery in Camino located in El Dorado County. … ”  Read more from KOLO.

Ripple effect of fire-resilient forests

“Fire-resilient forests have a ripple effect — from trees to landscapes to communities — as their benefits spread beyond their borders to all of us.  The 275,000-acre North Yuba Landscape within California’s Tahoe National Forest is one of the largest contiguous unburned areas remaining in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was selected for the Wildfire Crisis Strategy in 2022 as a high-risk landscape.  The North Yuba is also home or backyard for several mountain communities, including Downieville — about 3 square miles with a population of around 250. Like many other small towns within forested lands in the West, Downieville is exposed to significant wildfire risks due to rising temperatures, enduring drought and an overabundance of living and dead trees on the land.  “There’s a lot of potential for large scale, high severity fire if something starts during the summer,” said Andrew Mishler, Acting Yuba River District Ranger. “And the work planned for this landscape really focuses on reducing the density of vegetation around communities and giving that buffer firefighters need to defend them.” … ”  Read more from the USFS Region 5.

Yuba Water awarded $6.9M for forest health project

“The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) announced this week that Yuba Water Agency will receive about $6.9 million in funding for its forest health project in the Yuba County foothills. Part of $142.6 million that has been awarded for other statewide projects that are “intended to enhance carbon storage while restoring the health and resilience of existing and recently burned forests” in California, Yuba Water received $6,993,937 for its New Bullards Bar 2023 Forest Health Project. “This project will improve forest health on 3,499 acres of public and private lands in the Yuba County foothills,” according to the program’s description. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat. | Read via Yahoo News.

Staff report concludes Rise Gold’s Idaho-Maryland project inconsistent with General Plan Policies

“Today, the Nevada County Planning Department released the staff report on the proposed Idaho Maryland Mine – Rise Grass Valley Project ahead of the May 10th Planning Commission meeting. The 139-page staff report is accompanied by numerous attachments, all found on the county’s Planning Department section dedicated to the project. The conclusion of the staff report reads, in part, as follows: “Thus, given the above discussion, staff believes that the proposed project has been found to be inconsistent with several of the General Plan Goals and Policies as outlined above, including Central Theme 1 of the Nevada County General Plan and based on that project as proposed is not consistent with the Goals and Policies of the Nevada County General Plan that encourage development to be compatible with the existing rural character of the neighborhoods or communities where the development is being proposed, while maintain the rural quality of life. … ”  Read more at YubaNet.


Here’s why you shouldn’t swim in Northern California rivers even as weather heats up

“As temperatures continue to heat up, it may be tempting to take a dip in the many rivers throughout the Sacramento region — but think again. California rivers are expected to rise this spring to levels not seen in years, according to a California Department of Water Resources news release. And even though the surrounding air is heating up — rising to 90 by the end of the week — the water is still frigid. The combination of cold and fast flowing water can make it dangerous. Here’s what you should know … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Accelerated restoration project begins on Big Chico Creek

“In April 2023, the permitting and design phase began at Big Chico Creek, or Ótakim Séwi, for the Iron Canyon Fish Passage Project which will create a path for anadromous and other migratory native fish to travel beyond Iron Canyon to Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and into critical cold-water habitats. The project team will approach project permitting and design simultaneously as we work towards construction in 2025.  What happens during this phase? Before project construction can begin, the project team must obtain necessary permits to meet relevant state and federal regulations. At the same time, the team will work to develop a final design for the project construction to follow. Design work will be led by Michael Love and Associates. Permitting work will be conducted by Gallaway Enterprises. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout.


Why Sonoma Water rates are rising even with widespread conservation

“After widespread conservation efforts led to a drop in water deliveries and revenue, the Sonoma County Water Agency voted to increase rates last week to address aging and seismically unsound infrastructure.  On April 18, Sonoma Water’s board of directors approved a 9.42% to 10.56% rate increase for the water it wholesales to nine local municipalities, including the city of Sonoma and Valley of the Moon Water District. Officials estimate it will amount to a $2 to $3 increase on customer’s monthly bills.  Local customers largely heeded conservation requirements directed by the state following California’s driest three-year stretch in recorded history. That meant Sonoma Water made fewer deliveries, causing a drop in revenue, finance manager Jake Spaulding told the Sonoma City Council at its March meeting.  … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Index-Tribune.


EBMUD further eases drought restrictions and focuses on long-term conservation

“Following a unanimous 7-0 vote by its Board of Directors, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has moved to a stage 0, further easing drought restrictions, while continuing to urge customers to conserve water.  The April 25, 2023 Board action ends the water shortage emergency that began in April 2021, and suspends a District-wide voluntary 10 percent water use reduction. Drought restrictions issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom in a March executive order remain in place. They include no irrigation within 48 hours of rainfall, no irrigation of ornamental turf on non-residential sites, no irrigation runoff, no spraying sidewalks and driveways, and only allowing hoses with shut-off nozzles when washing vehicles.  All changes went into immediate effect on April 25. … ”  Continue reading from EBMUD.

Despite years of work, homes along San Francisquito Creek may never escape flood zone designation

“At a community outreach meeting in Palo Alto on April 20, residents of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto learned that they might never escape FEMA’s flood zone designation, prompting further frustration over the flood-protection efforts two decades in the making.  The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Association (JPA) has been working on the flood relief efforts for 20 years, ever since areas across all three cities were designated as a flood zone in 1997, shortly before it flooded in 1998. The JPA consists of three cities along the creek and two local water agencies.  The JPA is focused on replacing the Newell Bridge between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, widening the creek channel, improving the flood walls and, as the last step, replacing the Pope-Chaucer Bridge between Menlo Park and Palo Alto. … ”  Read more from Palo Alto Online.


Tsunami maps for California’s central coast show an unusual risk

“Off the coast of Monterey lies stunning underwater terrain: an abyss whose walls soar higher than those of the Grand Canyon.  The abyss, called Monterey Canyon, is mysterious and dark but also a place where scientists regularly discover new species and where bizarre-looking deepwater fish carve out an existence in its cold depths. One of the deepest underwater canyons on the Pacific Coast, Monterey Canyon begins off the eastern edge of Monterey Bay and drops 2½ miles by the time it twists and turns down to the flat expanse of the abyssal plain.  While no one but scientists using remotely operated vehicles can see the canyon, geologists are on the watch for its effects — most notably, the underwater landslides and avalanche-like movement of sediment that carve out its deep trenches. Recent improvements to underwater mapping and exploration have helped them discover more about the processes that shaped the canyon, and they know that one landslide, if large enough, could in theory cause a major tsunami in the surrounding area. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Environmental group sues regents over UC Santa Cruz meadow development

“Local environmental conservation group Habitat And Watershed Caretakers filed another lawsuit against the University of California Board of Regents last week over the Student Housing West development, which was approved for the third time in about four years by the regents in mid-March despite a still-pending lawsuit, also filed by Habitat And Watershed Caretakers.  The student housing project has also faced past litigation from the East Meadow Action Committee, which consists of UC Santa Cruz faculty, students, alumni and community members. Both the committee and caretakers groups have sued the university board in recent years for environmental, financial and affordability concerns.  According to court documents, the latest litigation from Habitat and Watershed Caretakers is a public interest citizen suit to assure that the UC Regents comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before developing the student housing project. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Skepticism and outrage over Cal Am’s proposed water rate change

“California American Water is once again getting public backlash—this time over a proposed plan to increase everyone’s water bill.  Every three years, Cal Am has to submit a rate plan to the California Public Utilities Commission, who’s currently in the midst of reviewing the proposal and receiving public feedback.  On Tuesday, the commission held a meeting in Seaside to hear from Monterey County customers as it considers Cal Am’s proposal to increase revenue by over $55 million statewide over the next three years, and thereby, increase the bill for ratepayers. In Monterey County, the proposed revenue increase is about $10 million.  But starting January 2024, Cal Am says the average water bill could actually decrease. … ”  Read more from KSBW.


“Vibration” in Isabella Dam power plant causes temporary halt of Kern River outflows

“The Army Corps of Engineers will temporarily drop outflows from Isabella Dam to zero starting at midnight Wednesday so the power plant at the dam can shut down, according to Kern River Watermaster Mark Mulkay.  Once the power plant, run by Isabella Partners, is down, water will be routed through the dam’s gates and outflows into the Kern River will ramp back up through Thursday to 6,100-6,200 cubic feet per second.  “This is not an emergency situation,” Mulkay stressed. “This is not a failure or a catastrophic anything. This is an operational hiccup that will be taken care of in a day.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

USACE set to take full control of Isabella Dam water releases

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District will begin the process early Thursday morning to take full control of water releases from Isabella Lake as temperatures heat up.  Beginning at approximately 12 a.m. Thursday, operators will begin a phased process to briefly stop the release of water from Isabella Lake into Isabella Partners’ hydropower plant at the foot of the main dam. Once releases have stopped, power plant operators will drain the conduit and fully open the plant’s gates. Then dam operators will begin releasing water again, gradually increasing the outflow to the current target of approximately 6,200 cubic feet of water per second.  This flood risk reduction measure will enable USACE to fully control the rate at which controlled water releases enter the Kern River ahead of increased temperatures and reservoir inflows due to snowmelt runoff. Currently, the hydropower plant controls that rate. … ”  Read more from the US Army Corps.


LADWP crews prepare for runoff from record snowpack melt, shares public safety resources

“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), has begun preparing early for this year’s runoff based on lessons learned from the last extreme wet year in 2017. The historic snowpack levels in the Eastern Sierra of 296 percent of normal translates into runoff that is 233 percent of normal. That translates into 1 million acre feet, or 326-billion gallons of water that will need to be managed. The runoff season—the period in which temperatures rise and the snow melts– is expected to last through the summer months, requiring significant preparation work and coordination with partner agencies in the Eastern Sierra to implement public safety measures to mitigate the potential for flooding. … ”  Read more from LADWP.


Land of fire and flood: How the climate crisis is challenging our water supply

“Mark Pestrella is the director of L.A. County Public Works, which oversees 27 spreading grounds and 14 dams that both hold most of our local water supply as well as prevent massive flooding in the cities below.  Pestrella said he isn’t losing sleep over a megaflood. His biggest concern? The increasing severity of smaller, but intense storms — like many we experienced this winter. At times, some of those storms could be considered 100-year and 200-year events (or more severe in some areas) due to the intensity of the rainfall at certain times.  Such storms are becoming more dangerous as increasingly severe fires bring ashy sediment into the reservoirs, Pestrella explained. The county’s dams in the San Gabriel mountains are taking in a lot more muddy sediment when rain falls over large burn scars.  “Every one of the 14 major reservoirs are getting injected with sediment at an accelerated pace,” Pestrella said. … ”  Read more from the LAist.

MWDOC awarded $3 million grant from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) awarded $3 million to the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) for sustainable landscape improvements to residential, commercial, and public properties in Orange County. The multimilliondollar grant award came from the Bureau’s WaterSMART Grants Program for MWDOC’s Orange County Sustainable Landscapes Program Phase II (Program), which will promote water conservation by providing rebate incentives for transforming highwateruse landscaping and irrigation to waterefficient landscapes.  “Water use efficiency provides an impactful opportunity for our homeowners and businesses to help boost water reliability in the county,” said MWDOC President Megan Yoo Schneider. “The Bureau’s grant award supports MWDOC’s longstanding dedication to promoting sustainable landscapes and reducing water waste for all of Orange County. We want to express appreciation to our Representatives in Congress, Mike Levin (CA49), Katie Porter (CA45), and Lou Correa (CA46), for their support in this effort.” … ”  Read more from MWDOC.


San Marcos Creek set to become a feature instead of a foe

“The largest project in the city of San Marcos is only a few weeks from completion.  The city dedicated millions of dollars and spent three years improving the area around San Marcos Creek, which runs through the center of town. The creek regularly flooded streets when it rained, prompting road closures and backed–up traffic. During heavier storms, nearby neighborhoods would flood as well.  “Throw your hands up, turn around and go home,” San Marcos resident Gloria Ives said with a groan.  Ives said flooding from the creek locked everyone into their home for several hours on three occasions.  The San Marcos Creek Project looks to fix that. … ”  Read more from Channel 7.

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Along the Colorado River …

Felicia Marcus: ‘We can’t be living in an economy of 40 million people this close to the edge’

“As a rare silver lining, the Colorado River snowpack this winter is 158% of average. But how much difference does that make to the Colorado River’s grim outlook? Capital & Main asked Felicia Marcus about what must be done to prepare for the day Lake Mead might run dry. Marcus, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Water in the West Program, was chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board, where she helped lead the board through the state’s worst drought in modern history. She has also been the president of the Board of Public Works for the city of Los Angeles.  This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. … ” Read more from Capital and Main.

The very bad math behind the Colorado River crisis

“California and Arizona are currently fighting each other over water from the Colorado River. But this isn’t new – it’s actually been going on for over 100 years. At one point, the states literally went to war about it. The problem comes down to some really bad math from 1922.  To some extent, the crisis can be blamed on climate change. The West is in the middle of a once-in-a-millennium drought. As temperatures rise, the snow pack that feeds the river has gotten much thinner and the river’s main reservoirs have all but dried up.  But that’s only part of the story: The United States has also been overusing the Colorado for more than a century thanks to a byzantine set of flawed laws and lawsuits known as “the law of the river.” This legal tangle not only has been over-allocating the river, it also has been driving conflict in the region, especially between the two biggest users, California and Arizona, both trying to secure as much water as they can. And now, as a massive drought grips the region, the law of the river has reached a breaking point. … ”  Read more from Grist.

With projections showing a 50-foot rebound coming, Lake Powell resumes Grand Canyon’s experimental floods

“For the first time in five years, high volumes of water are gushing from the drought-depleted Lake Powell, replicating the spring floods that would naturally occur were the Colorado River not dammed at Glen Canyon.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Monday opened the gates at Glen Canyon Dam allowing up to 39,500 cubic feet per second, or cfs, to pour into the river channel at Lees Ferry, sending a flood-stage surge of water through Grand Canyon. That’s like the contents of 27 Olympic swimming pools a minute spouting through the bottom of the dam.  “These experiments are really designed to recreate habitat and the physical attributes that would have existed downstream from the dam, but for the existence of the dam,” said Amy Haas, executive director of the Colorado River Authority of Utah (CRAU), at last’s week board meeting. “In this case, what I’m talking about is building up sandbars using sediment that has accumulated.” … ”  Read more from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Experimental water release to continue Lake Mead’s improvement

“A large release of water from Lake Powell began Monday morning, sending water on a two-day journey through the Grand Canyon – where it will help restore sandbars and beaches while moving sediment downriver – to Nevada’s Lake Mead.  Monday’s water release from the Glen Canyon Dam is known as a High Flow Experiment (HFE) by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with Reclamation to ensure people using the Colorado River in the canyons know a surge of water is on the way.  The last time Reclamation conducted an HFE was in November 2018 and has been doing them sporadically since 1996. Lake Powell, much like Lake Mead, has seen its water level rise and subside over the years, but the last time it was full was the summer of 1983. That summer, Reclamation released more than 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to lower the reservoir and help the downriver canyons. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

Arizona revokes Saudi Arabian company’s well-drilling permits

“Arizona’s alfalfa yields are some of the highest in the world — the state produces an average of 8.3 tons of alfalfa per acre in comparison to the national average of 3.2 tons. State 48’s climate means that they can produce eight to 10 cuttings per year, but while the state has plenty of sunshine days (generally around 300), water is a precious commodity there.  And, water is where things start to heat up. Arizona has been renting approximately thousands of acres of state trust land in La Paz County to a Saudi Arabian-owned farm named Fondomonte Alfalfa Farm for $25 per acre (about one-sixth of the market price). The problem? The Arizona State Land Department hasn’t offered any transparency as to why they’ve issued this “sweetheart” of a deal. … ”  Read more from Ag Daily.

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In national water news today …

Biden administration’s definition of “Waters of the United States” goes into effect in select states while regulatory uncertainty continues

“Controversy over the Clean Water Act definition of “waters of the United States” persists as the Biden Administration’s new rule goes into effect in 24 states, but is enjoined in the remaining 26 states, continuing the trend of regulatory uncertainty that has characterized the issue for decades.  The Biden Administration’s definition of “waters of the United States” (2023 Rule) comes after definitions adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015 (the 2015 Clean Water Rule) and the Trump Administration in 2020 (the Navigable Waters Protection Rule). However, neither the 2015 Clean Water Rule nor the Navigable Waters Protection Rule were valid at the time President Biden assumed office. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Delta ISB Seeks Public Comments on Draft Prospectuses on Subsidence and Food Webs

NOTICE: Corps Regulatory Program Permit Options for Emergency Activities

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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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