WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for April 23-28: Water Board discusses intervention options for groundwater basins with inadequate plans; DWR approves 12 basin plans; CA snowpack data debunked; and more …

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

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This week’s featured articles …

MEETING: State Water Board discusses intervention options for groundwater basins with inadequate plans

In March 2023, the Department of Water Resources issued final determinations on groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) submitted by the groundwater basins in January of 2022 that were ultimately determined to be incomplete.  After the groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) were given 180 days to correct the deficiencies and revise their plans, six of the twelve basin plans were determined to be inadequate, triggering possible intervention by the State Water Board.  At the April 4 meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board, the Board discussed the options for moving forward.

Click here to read this article.

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In California water news this week …

DWR approves sustainability plans for 12 groundwater basins as efforts continue to protect critical water resources

“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today the approval of groundwater sustainability plans for 12 non-critically overdrafted groundwater basins located across California. The approved basins include Big Valley, Shasta Valley, Scott River Valley, East Side Aquifer, Forebay Aquifer, Langley Area, Monterey, Upper Valley Aquifer, San Jacinto, Upper Ventura River, San Luis Obispo Valley and Santa Margarita.  “We are impressed with the effort that local agencies have put into their groundwater sustainability plans. Since the plans in these 12 basins were adopted in 2022, the local agencies immediately began implementation and embraced groundwater sustainability. We look forward to supporting local agencies while they continue to improve their planning efforts,” said DWR Deputy Director of Groundwater Management Paul Gosselin. “We expect these plans to adapt over time to changing conditions. The climate-driven weather extremes we are experiencing amplify the need for long-term groundwater management planning to ensure a safe and reliable groundwater supply that can be accessed during both wet years and the driest years without causing negative impacts.” … ”  Continue reading this press release from DWR.

Growing crops with less groundwater

“On a warm February afternoon, Kirk Pumphrey walks down his rows of almond trees at Westwind Farms in Yolo County. He notices the buds on the branches have already sprouted pink. It worries him. The earlier the trees bloom, the more likely winter frost will damage the nuts. Early blooms are occurring more often as higher temperatures from climate change stimulate plant growth.  California’s warming climate also means thirstier trees and an increasing reliance on groundwater, especially during drought. UC researchers found that farms pumped 27% more water from aquifers last year compared with 2019.  But Pumphrey has tapped 5% less water from these sponge-like underground stores of water in the past year, before the state ended its driest three-year period on record. … Pumphrey’s orchards have become a proving ground for UC Davis scientists at the Agricultural Water Center to test technologies and techniques designed to help farmers conserve groundwater. The center’s goal is not only to alleviate overpumping — mining groundwater faster than it is replenished — but also to help California remain the most productive agricultural state in the nation. … ”  Read more from UC Davis.

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).

Forecast map: California rivers bulge with snowmelt, but no major floods expected. How’s it look near you?

“The “Big Melt” has begun.  As the gargantuan Sierra snowpack gets heated up by warmer temperatures this week, many of the Golden State’s major waterways are expected to see a surge in flow from the melting snow — though major floods still seem a ways off for now. The only rivers forecast to exceed flood stage in the next four days are the Merced River near Yosemite Valley, which will close down parts of the national park, and the West Fork Carson River in Alpine County.  The map below shows the two locations where minor flooding is forecast. Those spots are symbolized by yellow dots. These dot forecasts only predict flooding within the next four days. … ”  Click through to view interactive map at the Mercury News. | Read via MSN News. | Read similar story and map from NBC News.

California’s reappearing phantom lake could remain for two years in the Central Valley

Floodwaters from the March storms have cut across 6th Avenue south of Corcoran, in Kings County. Photo by Ken James / DWR

“Satellite images taken over the past several weeks show a dramatic resurrection of Tulare Lake in California’s Central Valley and the flooding that could remain for as long as two years across previously arid farmland. … Scientists warn the flooding will worsen as historically huge snowpack from the Sierra Nevada melts and sends more water into the basin. This week, a heat wave could prompt widespread snow melt in the mountains and threaten the small farming communities already dealing with the resurrected Tulare Lake.  The water in the lake bed could trigger billions of dollars in economic losses and displace thousands of farmers and residents in agricultural communities. Continued flooding also threatens levees, dams and other ailing flood infrastructure in the area. … ”  Read more from CNBC.

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

“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).

Report cover showing an image of a reservoir with low water levels. Text says: Managing Water Scarcity: A Framework for Fair and Effective Water Right Curtailment in California, April 2023 Policy ReportTo manage water scarcity, California needs a framework for fair and effective water right curtailment

“After three years of drought, a parade of storms brought flooding, landslides, and a massive snowpack to California. With water temporarily so abundant, it is tempting to push planning for water scarcity to the back burner. But California does not have this luxury. The state’s water management challenges during wet and dry times interrelate, and are intensifying. Historically, the amount of precipitation that falls in California has been more variable from year-to-year than for any other state. Climate change is exacerbating precipitation variability, supercharging California’s wet and dry extremes and the whiplash between them.  In our new report, Managing Water Scarcity: A Framework for Fair and Effective Water Right Curtailment in California, we argue that the state needs to act now to strengthen its capacity to fairly and effectively allocate water in times of scarcity. The report describes the legal context for water right curtailments in California, summarizes the history of curtailment practices in the state, and recommends actions California can take to build an effective framework for curtailment. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet.

California county recycles all its wastewater, a world first

“On April 14, Orange County, Calif.’s Water District (OCWD) and Sanitation District (OC San) announced that together, they had accomplished something that has never been done anywhere else, ever. They are purifying and recycling 100 percent of the county’s reclaimable wastewater.  The county’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), operational and expanding continuously since 2008, is the largest indirect potable water reuse facility in the world. It uses a three-step process — incorporating microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet light. Purified water is pumped to recharge basins, where it percolates into a groundwater basin that provides drinking water to 2.5 million people.  The GWRS now provides 130 million gallons of water a day, enough to meet the daily needs of a million residents. Mike Markus, the general manager of OCWD, has managed this work since its inception. He talked to Governing about the origins of the project and factors in its success. The interview has been edited for clarity and length. … ”  Read more from Governing.

Sacramento River pulse flow expected to increase survival of juvenile salmon traveling to the ocean

Image by RDTubbs from Pixabay

“Researchers from NOAA Fisheries and University of California Santa Cruz will tag several groups of juvenile salmon in the Sacramento River system. The tags will help us measure the benefits from the river’s first “pulse flow.” A pulse flow is a rapid increase and decrease in dam released water designed to resemble natural spring runoff.  The researchers want to know if the pulse flow increases the survival of juvenile salmon and improves their chances of returning to the river as an adult to spawn. They plan on measuring this by implanting tags into juvenile salmon migrating downriver before, during, and after the pulse. They will compare their speed and survival on the way to the ocean.  “We want to maximize our opportunity to learn from this,” said Cyril Michel, a research scientist with NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center based at University of California Santa Cruz. “This doesn’t happen often so we are measuring it from every angle.” … ”  Read more from NOAA.

Water Commission explores drought impacts and responses in latest issue of Water Resources IMPACT magazine

The California Water Commission staff has acted as guest editor for two issues of Water Resources IMPACT magazine, featuring articles on the topic of prolonged drought in California. Articles delve into how drought impacts people and the environment and how we can respond to droughts, better preparing for the inevitable.  The first issue, published in February 2023, focused on water scarcity issues confronting California and the ways these issues impact different sectors. The second issue, published on April 20, 2023, focuses on drought response, considering the options for adaptation. This two-part series complements the Commission’s work on strategies to protect communities and fish and wildlife in the event of a long-term drought.  The March/April edition of Water Resources IMPACT magazine can be accessed, free of charge, on the American Water Resources Association website, using this promotional code: 23MarAprWC.

A new front in the water wars: Your Internet use

“When Jenn Duff heard that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, wanted to build yet another data center in Mesa, Ariz., she was immediately suspicious. “My first reaction was concern for our water,” Duff said. The desert city of half a million residents was already home to large data centers owned by Google, Apple and other tech giants, and Duff, a city council member, feared for the city’s future water supply.  “It’s not like we’re sitting fat and happy in water,” she said. “We’re still constantly looking at the drought situation.” Mesa is only one of many cities and towns in the West wrestling with the expansion of water-guzzling data centers. For years, data centers have come under scrutiny for their carbon emissions. But now, as a “megadrought” continues to ravage the Southwest and the Colorado River dwindles, some communities charge that the centers are also draining local water supplies. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

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.

Bill requiring Bay Delta Plan update before tunnel diversion permit is considered passes committee

“The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee today approved Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman’s bill, SB 687, to ensure that the State Water Resources Control Board updates the Bay-Delta Plan before considering a change in point of diversion permit associated with the Delta Tunnel.  The measure, “Water Quality Control Plan: Delta Conveyance Project,” moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  This bill does four things … ” Read more from the Daily Kos.

California bill could ban foreign investors from buying state farmland

“A bipartisan bill in the state Legislature would prohibit foreign governments from buying California agricultural land.  Senate Bill 224 would also require the state to annually track — and publish — a report on foreign ownership of California resources. Foreign investors own 2.8% of California farmland, according to a 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, though they would be allowed to keep that land if the measure passes.  The bill’s author is Senator Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat representing the Bakersfield area. She says the intent is to put California in control of its food supply chain.  “The agricultural land in California that produces one-third of our country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts is invaluable to our state’s GDP,” Hurtado said in a prepared release. “This bill is a central part of how we get the data needed to have a better understanding of the role foreign owned governments may play in our energy and water facilities and agricultural land.” … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio.

CA Water for All Coalition issues statement regarding senate committee passage of Senate Bill 366

Today, CA Water for All lauded the Senate Committee of Natural Resources and Water’s passage of Senate Bill 366 authored by Senator Anna Caballero (DMerced). SB 366 would transform California water management so that instead of managing for scarcity, the State will work toward water supply targets to ensure adequate and reliable supplies for all beneficial uses.  SB 366 was approved by the Committee on a unanimous 110 vote and will face its next hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee next month.  “We’d like to thank the Committee for keeping this vital legislation moving forward,” said Barry Moline, Executive Director, California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA), cosponsor of SB 366. “It’s critically important that policymakers address the inadequacies in the water system that are evident in times of drought and heavy rain. Even with this year’s precipitation, we cannot ignore our state’s longterm water supply challenges. We need bold action to secure our state’s water supply future.” … ”  Read the full letter from CA Water For All.

Legislature advances water rights bills to appropriations committees

Two water rights bills in which ACWA is leading a large coalition to oppose advanced out of committees Tuesday despite several ACWA members and others in the coalition, testifying to urge “No” votes. A third water rights bill advanced last week.  AB 460 (Bauer-Kahan) passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee with a vote of 7-2-2 and moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  SB 389 (Allen) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee and will next moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  AB 1337 (Wicks) passed out of the Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee on April 18 with amendments and will also be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia advances $15.1 billion climate bond

“Taking action to protect California communities from the climate crisis, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) has introduced AB 1567, a $15.1 billion climate bond with an equity-focused investment plan. The legislation passed the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources on April 24 following previous success in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, according to a press release.  “Our communities are suffering the real-time consequences of climate change, from extreme heat, unprecedented storms, economic damage, or the worsening public health impacts of pollution — this crisis has grown increasingly urgent and deadly. We must act, and importantly, we must invest,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. … ”  Read more from the Desert Review.

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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In commentary this week …

Dan Walters: California’s lengthy battle for water rights moves into the Legislature

“After its first committee hearing, Assembly Bill 1337 was amended last week, which could be the opening salvo of a monumental political and legal war over who controls access to water in California – an issue that stretches back to the state’s founding in 1850.  If enacted as now proposed, AB 1337 would overturn a key state appellate court decision and give the state Water Resources Control Board the legal authority to curtail diversions from rivers – even by those who now hold the most senior water rights, those gained prior to the state asserting authority over water in 1914.  The legislation, carried by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, a Democrat who represents East Bay suburbs, would bolster a years-long drive by environmental groups to enhance natural river flows by reducing agricultural diversions during periodic droughts. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Tunnel vision: LA focuses on Delta ‘interruption’ while existing conveyance systems are in peril

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Los Angeles has bigger fish to fry than the Delta Tunnel.  To get an inkling of what that is, you need to stand along the shores of two lakes.  One you can find on the edge of the Great Basin at 6,791 feet near the foot of the Eastern Sierra.  The other is 160 miles south of the Delta.  The first is Crowley Lake.  It was created by a dam built in 1941 by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power on the upper Owens River.  The LA agency is the much despised engineer of the destruction of Owens Valley agriculture that relegated the local economies to dependency on tourism. … ”  Continue reading at the Manteca Bulletin.

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.

Commonsense measures needed to fight California’s water mismanagement

Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) write, “Sticker shock at the grocery store has become the norm for many American families, with food prices increasing by 11.4 percent in 2022. According to the USDA, an average family of four is paying $131 more per month this year, and groceries now account for 20 percent of an average household’s income. Since 1959 the U.S. has been a net food exporter of agricultural goods, but for the second time in the last three years, the U.S. will be a net agricultural food importer. The ongoing war in Ukraine, China’s growing influence on the U.S. agriculture industry, and supply chain backlogs should all serve as warning signs that the security of our domestic food supply is at risk.  The lights of food shortages are blinking red — now is the time to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of our domestic food supply. … ”  Read more from The Hill.

After the winter’s magnificent snowpacks

Connor Everts writes, “In 2018, UCLA scientists accurately predicted that California would experience “dramatic shifts between extreme dry and extreme wet weather [especially wet] by the end of the 21st century.”  And it seems safe to say that Californians have seen that prediction fulfilled for the past six years, and more.  But nobody predicted the record snowpack and snow water content that this year’s extreme storms left in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  Now, this water-year’s extreme precipitation seems to have ended. And so ends the worst drought in the west in 1,200 years, at least in most of California.  Californians are experiencing the predictable results of our latest climate-change whiplash: great snow, fuller reservoirs, better flowing rivers and streams, and great floods.  They are also experiencing the predictable spin doctoring of climate events by Big Ag and other “water abundance” ideologues, who want to preserve our current unsustainable water-supply system.  These extremists seem to think that climate change is over or never happened. Or maybe they care more about profits and power than life itself? … ”  Continue reading at the Orange Juice Blog.

Editorial: Aerial wildfire retardant fouls waterways but saves lives. We can’t simply stop using it.

The San Diego Union-Tribune writes, “Under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 — one of the first major federal environmental laws — a core principle of regulation is a cost-benefit analysis that examines the consequences of all the alternatives being considered in response to any particular problem. The smart approach acknowledges the concern reflected in a well-known saying: Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.  A federal court case with this concern at its center is now unfolding in Montana, one that fire officials warn has grim implications for California’s ability to fight the massive forest blazes that have become far more common over the past decade because of the hotter, drier conditions generated by the climate emergency. At issue is the government’s use of aerial fire retardant in responding to giant forest fires that can’t be controlled by other tactics. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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.

Editorial: California’s Brown Act open-meeting law under assault

The Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial board writes, “Residents in local communities across California could soon walk into the meeting room of their city council, school board, planning commission or county supervisors only to find no one at the dais and the policymakers on a monitor on the wall.  The elected or appointed representatives might be participating from home or out of state. Lobbyists could be at their sides telling them what to say or how to vote, and the public would never know. Residents won’t be able to discern if their officials are paying attention or talking to others on the phone if their cameras are turned off.  That’s the world of local government that would be made possible if Assemblymember Diane Papan, D-San Mateo, gets her way. Her pending legislation, Assembly Bill 1379, would undermine 70 years of progress that today enables Californians to watch — in person — their local officials’ policymaking process. … ”  Read more from the Mercury News.

California investors care about environmental, social risks. It has little to do with politics

Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of CalSTRS, writes, “The words “environmental, social and governance,” or ESG for short, have been embroiled in a polarizing storm of political rhetoric. These simple words are nothing to fear and should not be fodder for political posturing or gamesmanship.  In fact, they are most appropriately looked at through an investment lens to identify risks that are not typically presented in a company’s financial statements or annual reports.  The current furor over ESG is largely positioned along ideological and political lines. That’s plain wrong, and why President Joe Biden’s recent veto of a congressional resolution that would tie the hands of investors was the prudent action to take. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

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In regional water news this week …

Siskiyou County drought restrictions lifted after winter rain, snows, bring relief

“Water restrictions in Siskiyou County on a number of farming and ranching activities have been lifted — at least for now.  The move by the California State Water Resources Board lifts water curtailment restrictions put in place to manage ground and surface water during the drought. However, curtailments could be revisited in May if flow levels in the Shasta and Scott rivers decline.  Water restrictions impacting Scott Valley farms with senior water rights have been suspended through May 2, according to Ailene Voisin, a spokesperson for the California State Water Resources Board. Similar water restrictions affecting farms with senior water rights along the Shasta River have been suspended through April 30. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News.

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.

As temperatures rise, flood threat grows along Los Angeles Aqueduct

“More than a month after heavy storms eroded a section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, work crews are still scrambling to complete repairs and shore up flood defenses in the face of a weeklong heat wave that threatens to trigger widespread snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada.  “We’re doing as much as we can, as quickly as possible,” said Paul Liu, of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. “Our crews are working 12-hour shifts.”  Historic snowpack levels in the Eastern Sierra are expected to melt into runoff that is 225% of normal, which translates to about 326 billion gallons of water that will need to be managed, DWP officials said.  And while a typical runoff season in the region can last from May to June, this year’s “could push through to August,” said Anselmo Collins, senior assistant general manager of the DWP’s water system. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Southern California: ‘Take a seat, bro’; Embattled water agency muzzled critic at public meeting, ACLU says

“Already roiled by criminal indictments against its general manager and bitter infighting between board members, the embattled Central Basin Municipal Water District has now been accused of trying to muzzle critical comments at a public meeting.  After telling a Downey resident and vocal critic of the board that he was “out of order” for mentioning criminal charges against district general manager Alejandro “Alex” Rojas, and then ordering guards to eject the resident from a recent meeting, the district’s board has been accused of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act, a California law that guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in government meetings.  “It is abundantly clear … that the Board had no legitimate or legal basis for its actions, which violated the Board’s obligation to allow public comment,” read a cease-and-desist letter filed recently by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

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

NOTICE: Corps Regulatory Program Permit Options for Emergency Activities

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

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