DAILY DIGEST, 5/3: A new spike’ in global temperatures in the forecast; Winnemem Wintu and partners join to return endangered salmon to historic habitat; Third District upholds Oroville hydropower facilities relicensing EIR against numerous CEQA challenges; A new breed of water speculator is remaking the American West; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WORKSHOP: Second revised draft initial biological goals for the Lower San Joaquin River beginning at 9:30am.  The Board will hold a workshop to receive oral public comments on the second revised draft initial biological goals for the Lower San Joaquin River flow objectivesClick here for the workshop notice.
  • WEBINAR: California Water Plan Update 2023 – Reservoir Reoperation Resource Management Strategy workshop from 10am to 12pm.  The California Water Plan describes and updates a broad set of resource management strategies (RMSs) that help local agencies and governments manage their water and related resources. Every RMS can be a technique, program, or policy that can be used to meet water-related management needs of a region and the state as a whole.  During this workshop, the Water Plan Team will gather comments on the draft Reservoir Reoperation RMS.  This will be an online only workshop, please register to receive the link.
  • WEBINAR: Mapping and modeling riverscapes to inform Pacific salmon management from 11am to 12pm.  Remote sensing has become an increasingly viable tool for characterizing river ecosystems. As applications of this new technology become more widespread, information on the relative merits and limitations of various approaches is critical to ensuring efficient, cost-effective use of remote sensing. In a series of related studies, we’ve developed methods for mapping key riverine salmon habitat variables (e.g. bathymetry, depth, velocity) and salmon spawning locations, using data acquired from conventional piloted aircraft, uncrewed aircraft systems (UxS), and satellites. In this talk, Lee Harrison, Research Hydrologist, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, will discuss potential limitations and opportunities for using these new remote sensing techniques to study and visualize riverscapes and inform management of Pacific salmon populations.  Remote Access: https://swfsc.webex.com/swfsc/j.php?MTID=m3806c3115f500baad2d89356012682a6; Password (if needed): fedsem1nar! ; Join by phone by dialing  +1-415-655-0002 US Toll, Access code: 2498 072 7370
  • WEBINAR: Solutions in Our Soil – The Soil-Water Nexus from 11am to 12:15pm.  Healthy soils are home to a wealth of benefits – including climate solutions like carbon sequestration, increased biodiversity, and thriving farmlands that produce nutritious food. The health of our soil is also integral to drought resilience and protecting water quality.  Our panel of experts will unearth the vital connection between soils and water – discussing the latest research and policies as well as the importance of taking a community-centered approach that’s rooted in equity.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Integrating Environmental Justice into Water Resource Management from 12pm to 2pm.  During this webcast you’ll hear from states, universities, and NGO’s that are working to integrate environmental justice into watershed and water quality management. Join us to learn more about using data for prioritization of environmental justice work, collective impact campaigns for watershed health, empowering community members to combat climate change impacts, and the connection between flooding issues and housing accessibility.  Presentations will focus on specific projects as well as bigger picture thinking on how various entities are proactively including environmental justice in their work.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Lunch-MAR: Floodplain restoration and recharge pilot study beginning at 12:30pm.  A floodplain restoration and recharge pilot study conducted by the DWR Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) program will be discussed at the next Lunch-MAR webinar. The study used newly developed workflows to compare benefits and implementation costs of conceptual restoration designs for potential habitat and recharge projects.  Click here to register.
  • WORKSHOP: California Water Plan – Water Balances Data Webinar from 1:30pm to 4:00pm.  Join DWR’s California Water Plan Team for a webinar that will share and discuss water balance data – data foundational to building the state’s water resilience. Creating and enhancing water resilience requires an understanding of how and where water is used in the state, as well as the source of the supplies.  The webinar will cover: background on the water balances, important observations from recent water years, examples of how the data has been and can be used, and a preview of continuing innovations.  You can register here: https://ca-water-gov.zoom.us/j/86116296423?pwd=TksrUU5tTElxNUhENUk4Vk0xa29oUT09

In California water news today …

A new spike’ in global temperatures in the forecast

“Forecasters from the World Meteorological Organization are reporting increased chances that the global climate pattern known as El Niño will arrive by the end of summer. With it comes increased chances for hotter-than-normal temperatures in 2024. While there is not yet a clear picture of how strong the El Niño event will be or how long it might last, even a relatively mild one could affect precipitation and temperature patterns around the world. “The development of an El Niño will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records,” said Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the meteorological organization, in a news release. … ”  Read more from the New York Times (gift article).

All signs point to El Niño

“Global weather patterns may be changing this year.  Since March, ocean temperatures have rapidly increased in a short period of time, suggesting that the climate pattern known as La Niña was on her way out. Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it was now on the lookout for the opposite climate shift—El Niño. The watch was established because “conditions are favorable for the development of El Nino within the next six months,” the agency wrote. Here’s what that means. … ”  Read more from Gizmodo.

Snow survey data feeding runoff forecasts

“Water managers with the California Department of Water Resources surveyed the snowpack at Phillips Station a fifth time this year and they say the data gathered Monday morning is critical to planning for impacts of snowmelt runoff.  The last time there was measurable snow at the Phillips Station snow course in early May was 2020, when only 1.5 inches of snow and .5 inches of snow water equivalent was measured, DWR data shows.  Despite a brief increase in temperatures in late April, the statewide snowpack overall melted at a slower pace than average over the month of April due to below-average temperatures early in the month and increased cloud cover, according to DWR. An average of 12 inches of the snowpack’s snow water equivalent has melted in the past month and it now contains an average of 49.2 inches snow water equivalent. … ” Read more from the Mountain Democrat.

Historic wet winter brings talk of new gold rush in the Mother Lode

“Gold hunters and people who cater to them have been talking for months about how this spring and summer could be a boom season for prospecting in creeks, streams, and rivers of the Mother Lode. Their reasoning is sound, given that significant winter storms packing atmospheric rivers of precipitation have already unleashed millions of gallons of erosive runoff, and the significant winter snowpack is just beginning to melt off to unleash more raging waters into watersheds downstream. Gold seekers hope all that runoff is scraping out a bounty of long buried, undiscovered placer gold fragments, washing riches downstream that anyone with patience for panning can gather on their own, or with the help of enterprising locals who cater to gold-mining tourism. … ”  Read more the Union Democrat.

Winnemem Wintu and state and federal partners join to return endangered salmon to historic habitat

“The agreements support a joint effort to return Chinook salmon to their original spawning areas in cold mountain rivers now blocked by Shasta Reservoir in northern California. The goal is ecological and cultural restoration which will one day renew fishing opportunities for the tribe that depended on the once-plentiful salmon for food and much more.  The tribe signed a co-management agreement with CDFW and a co-stewardship agreement with NOAA Fisheries, reflecting the way the two agencies describe accords with tribes. This three-way collaboration is a historic achievement that advances our common goals.  The agreements call for the agencies to include the tribe in decisions for salmon that have great meaning for the Winnemem Wintu. Three years of drought have taken a toll on endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, which migrate and spawn in the lower Sacramento River. The river can warm to temperatures that are lethal to their eggs. … ” Read more from the Daily Kos.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife denies emergency listing for Clear Lake hitch; full species evaluation to be completed in 2025

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that it will not grant an emergency endangered species listing to the Clear Lake hitch, however, a listing under the agency’s regular process could still happen after a species evaluation is complete in two years’ time.  The Fish and Wildlife Service said it will continue to invest in projects that support the hitch’s recovery while moving forward with its full evaluation of the species scheduled to be completed by January 2025.  Lake County News reached out to Sarah Ryan, environmental director for the Big Valley Pomo on Tuesday, to ask for the tribe’s comment. However, as of press time, the tribe did not offer a formal response to the federal emergency listing decision. … ”  Read more from Lake County News.

Central California Coast coho salmon need restored habitat to improve resilience to climate change

“Although conservation efforts for endangered Central California Coast coho salmon have reduced some threats to the species, most threats remain largely unchanged over the last 5 years. Historical threats such as timber harvest and commercial fishing have lessened in the past few decades. Other threats, often linked to climate change, have worsened—and will likely worsen further in the coming decades.  Those are the conclusions of a recent 5-year review of the species conducted by NOAA Fisheries under the Endangered Species Act. The review is required every 5 years to ensure the species retains the correct designation of threatened or endangered and the appropriate level of protection. The review also recommends the most important recovery actions necessary over the next 5 years.  The timely recommendations will help inform new funding for fish passage and salmon conservation through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other measures. NOAA Fisheries has designated Central California Coast coho one of nine national “Species in the Spotlight,” that warrant special attention to help promote their recovery. … ”  Continue reading from NOAA.

South-Central California Coast steelhead maintain threatened listing status

“NOAA Fisheries’ 2023 5-year review finds the steelhead populations (Oncorhynchus mykiss) of the south-central California coast warrant continued protection as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Remnant populations of steelhead occupy watersheds from the Pajaro River (Monterey County) south to Arroyo Grande Creek (San Luis Obispo County), along the south-central coast of California.  The south-central California coast includes the Salinas River (one of the largest watersheds in California) and numerous small streams along the rugged Big Sur Coast. Populations in the larger watersheds, including the Pajaro, Carmel, Salinas, and Arroyo Grande rivers have suffered the largest declines of steelhead runs. Some sparsely developed watersheds along the Big Sur Coast and in northern San Luis Obispo County continue to support annual runs of steelhead, and a small catch-and-release sports fishery. This southernmost steelhead fishery in California is tightly regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … ”  Read more from NOAA.

Southern California steelhead maintain threatened listing status

“NOAA Fisheries’ 2023 5-year review finds that the southernmost endangered steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) populations in California warrant continued protection as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  The southern California coast includes rivers and streams from the Santa Maria River (Santa Barbara County) to the Tijuana River at the U.S. Mexico border (San Diego County). Steelhead runs in all of these watersheds have experienced sharp declines. Now they are the rarest and most critically endangered steelhead populations on the West Coast.  During the most recent extended drought, steelhead that migrate to and from the ocean have nearly disappeared. The resident form that do not migrate to the ocean has continued to persist, principally in the four U.S. national forests in southern California.  “The risk of permanently losing the anadromous form of the species over the long term is high,” said Lisa Van Atta, Assistant Regional Administrator in NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region. “It is also increasing due to barriers on migration corridors between the Pacific Ocean and upstream spawning habitat.” … ”  Read more from NOAA.

That dam case (again): Third District upholds Oroville hydropower facilities relicensing EIR against numerous CEQA challenges

“On April 7, 2023, the Third District Court of Appeal filed a lengthy published opinion – the latest installment in one of the longer ongoing CEQA battles in recent memory – affirming a judgment finding an EIR for the Federal relicensing of Oroville Dam and related hydropower facilities legally adequate.  County of Butte and County of Plumas, et al v. Dept. of Water Resources  (2023) ___ Cal.App.5th ___.   This case’s remarkably extensive litigation history has resulted in no fewer than four published decisions, three from the Third District and one from the California Supreme Court (aka “SCOCA”).  (Of the three Third District opinions, only this case (Butte IV) is good authority, the other two having been abrogated by SCOCA’s grants of review.)  The case has its origins in the operation of the Oroville Dam on the Feather River, which is part of the large statewide plumbing system with the prosaic name of State Water Project (“SWP”). … ”  Read more from Miller Starr Regalia.

A new breed of water speculator is remaking the American West

“For the first two decades of the 21st century, not even a once-in-a-millennium drought could deter real estate developers from building vast suburban tracts on the wild edges of Western U.S. cities. But in 2021, a reckoning appeared on the horizon. Western officials had seldom let questions about water availability get in the way of population growth, but suddenly they seemed to have no other choice. Faced with an unprecedented shortage, many local governments tried to pump the brakes on new developments. This pivot to conservation was bad news for D.R. Horton, the nation’s largest homebuilding company.  All of a sudden, Horton had to find the water itself.  Luckily, there was a third party who could help. … ”  Read more from the Reno Gazette Journal (open article).

How California rains could affect snake season

“The rainfall that has pummelled California could cause a surge in rattlesnake activity over the coming weeks, a snake expert has told Newsweek.  The spate of wet weather started in late December. Severe storms hit the state throughout January and February and into early spring, caused by atmospheric rivers.  Spring is snake season in the U.S., when the cold-blooded creatures tend to become a lot more active.  Tyler Young, who runs Placer Snake Removal in Northern California, told Newsweek that no real change in the snake population is expected this year, but the wet weather has created abundant vegetation that will support rodents—rattlesnakes’ favorite prey. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.

Bizarre blue ‘jellyfish’ washing up on California beaches are a sign of spring

“Along the U.S. Pacific coast, droves of alien creatures about the size of a doughnut are washing up on beaches and leaving a mat of briefly blue debris that soon fades to a crackly white—hiding just how bizarre these animals are.  “Most people experience them as some kind of weird, off-white, old-toenail-color crunchiness that you walk on on the beach,” says Julia Parrish, a marine ecologist at the University of Washington. “They have no idea that they’re actually walking across billions and billions of organisms.”  The invasion may be a sign of warmer temperatures in the oceans or even of the large-scale climate pattern known as El Niño, although scientists say these connections are more hypothesis than proved fact. … ”  Read more from Scientific American.

Bloom or bust: Historic rains are fueling another California super bloom — but it’s under threat

“During the depths of California’s latest drought, much of the Golden State was brown. But hidden beneath the parched, cracked — and sometimes charred — earth, life was waiting to emerge.  The torrents of rain that cascaded across California this winter broke records, flooded fields and washed over hillsides. That same water also seeped into underground seed banks, nourishing long-dormant flora. The result: epic, statewide “super blooms.”  The sudden transformation of California’s landscape from dry and apparently barren into kaleidoscopic fields of wildflowers has captivated the country and drawn thousands of revelers. It’s a phenomenon that has become increasingly rare. The super bloom, like so many of nature’s most magnificent expressions, is under threat. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

Robots deployed to fight toxic algae

“Scientists at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering (USC Viterbi) are using robotics to spot toxic algae blooms.  Students programmed aquatic robots to track down prime locations for toxic algae. Their programming instructs the robots to detect harmful agal blooms (HAB) in lakes and other bodies of water from exploding and polluting our water supply.  “Our lab’s role is in making such robots more intelligent. So we don’t build the mechanical robot but we build its brains,” said Gaurav Sukhatme, Vice Dean and Professor of Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering at USC Viterbi. … ”  Read more from Spectrum 1.

High levels of dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ found in California’s most-used insecticide

“California’s most-used insecticide, along with two other pesticides, is contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of PFAS “forever chemicals,” according to test results released today by the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.  Intrepid 2F is the most widely applied insecticide product in the state of California and the second most widely used pesticide product in the state, behind only Roundup. In 2021, the most recent year data are available, more than 1.7 million pounds of it were applied to over 1.3 million cumulative acres of California land. Use is highest in the Central Valley on crops such as almonds, grapes, peaches and pistachios.  The findings that 3 of 7 agricultural pesticides tested contain high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS — in one case far exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe in drinking water — highlights the need for much broader testing and removal of contaminated products, according to the groups. … ”  Read more from the Center for Biological Diversity.

California tackles plastic pollution at the source

“In 2022, California took a bold step to address plastic pollution by enacting the Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act (Senate Bill (SB) 54), which dramatically overhauls how single-use packaging and single-use plastic foodware will be offered for sale, sold, distributed, and imported in the state, and tackles plastic pollution at the source.   The problem with plastic:An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment each year with devastating consequences for the ocean ecosystem. Everywhere we look, we find plastic; it is in our land, water, air, food, and even in our bodies. And the problem is expected to get worse as the production and use of single-use plastic has skyrocketed over the last decade. Today, nearly 40 percent of the plastic produced annually is for single-use plastics and packaging, a sector that has expanded rapidly due to a global shift from reusable to single-use containers. … ”  Continue reading at the American Bar Association.

Arguments get heated in fire retardant case

“The U.S. Federal District Court of Montana heard oral arguments April 17 for the Forest Service Employees For Environmental Ethics’ lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for the service’s discharging of fire retardant into national waters.  Of those making arguments, a coalition of firefighting experts and stakeholders gave their opinions through an amicus brief defending the use of fire retardants as needed to fight increasing and more frequent wildfires. … “Over the course of my 40-year career fighting fires, I have witnessed countless examples where the aerial deployment of fire retardant made a significant difference in our ability to protect public safety, communities, property and natural resources,” Pimlott states in the brief. “If the Forest Service were enjoined from the aerial deployment of fire retardant, it would dramatically disrupt the close coordination between federal and state governments in deploying aerial resources to respond to wildfires. This would result in significantly increased response times and would place an additional burden on state and local government aircraft, risking additional large fires that threaten lives and natural resources.” … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Column: When flooding season runs into fire season

Columnist Michael Smolens writes, “The state’s first notable wildfire of the year broke out a week ago in the San Bernardino National Forest, signaling the start of the fire season and creating an odd juxtaposition.  At about the same time, some 300 miles to the north, Yosemite National Park announced it was temporarily closing because of the threat from anticipated melting of the vast Sierra snowpack.  California, which has been battered by extreme weather for some time, is used to being whipsawed by the elements — though not quite like this past year.  But the state caught a bit of a break. The feared runoff from a brief warm weather spell wasn’t as much as expected and Yosemite reopened a few days earlier than planned. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Wet winter may delay — but not deter — 2023 fire season; ‘We must not let our guard down’

“Against a backdrop of rolling green hills at the Prado Helibase in Chino this week, San Bernardino County fire chief Dan Munsey delivered a terse message:  “These hills will turn brown, and they will burn,” he said.  The early outlook for the 2023 fire season arrived as California continues to deal with fallout from this year’s wet winter, including major flooding and record-deep snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada.  But while the remnants of rain and snow should help keep the state’s vegetation moist longer, there are no guarantees that it will prevent the now-lush landscape from burning, officials said. In fact, it may only serve to delay the start of fire season. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Western fires could be delayed after months of rain and snow, but risk remains

“The Western United States is likely to see a delayed start to the summer wildfire season after months of rain, snow and cold weather. But the wet winter, which has dramatically eased drought conditions, doesn’t guarantee a low-risk fire year. Destructive fires could still spark in the late summer and autumn, fueled by all the grasses that bloomed because of the downpours and will be ready to burn later in the season. The latest wildfire outlooks, released this week from the National Interagency Fire Center, show the West with low to normal wildfire risk for at least the first part of the summer. Near-record to record snowpack in several Western states will keep high elevation forests moist for much of the summer, making them less prone to bigger fires. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

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In commentary today …

Weather whiplash is the new normal, but it offers ways to capture water for California

Ann Hayden and Sarah Woolf, co-chairs of the San Joaquin Valley Water Collaborative Action Program. write, “For the past several years we hoped for rain and snow to ease the crippling drought across California. We got more than we bargained for this past winter. This water was certainly welcomed and lifted most of our state out of dire dry conditions. But the intensity of that rainfall also led to devastating flooding that caused billions of dollars of damage, including to homes and farms in the Central Valley. Now comes the snow melt. As the weather warms, the historic snow pack in the Sierra will thaw and flow down into our already swollen rivers. Our communities will likely experience more flooding in the near future. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee. | Read more from AOL News.

5 reasons why desalination isn’t worth it

Food & Water Watch writes, “We know that clean, affordable water — essential for life — is a human right. We want to make sure that everyone has access to water when they need it. So as drought drains our reservoirs and climate-fuelled natural disasters threaten our water supplies, it’s no wonder we’re worried about having enough to drink.  In response, governments and companies are turning to the ocean. Drought-stricken areas are seeing more proposals for ocean desalination projects, which would make ocean water drinkable by removing the salt.  However, ocean desalination is not a solution to the threat of water shortages. It’s expensive and environmentally destructive. Moreover, its downsides will — like so many other greenwashed technologies — impact already struggling communities the hardest.  To ensure drinking water for all, we need to rein in corporate water abusers and invest in sustainable water resilience strategies. That doesn’t include desalination. Here are 5 reasons why ocean desalination is not worth it: … ”  Continue reading at Food and Water Watch.

Wildfire size doesn’t matter but its impacts do

“The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, maintains a list of the “Top 20 Largest California Wildfires.” Lately, as bigger blazes erupt, it’s become the norm for the agency to have to update the list each year. All but two of the fires on the current list occurred within the past 20 years; the top five all happened within the past five. That same pattern repeats in other states across the West.  At the same time, more communities are at risk of burning than in years past. More than 460 million acres across the United States are at a “moderate” to “very high risk” from wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Climate change is creating some of the hotter and drier conditions, but urban sprawl and forest management practices over the past century also shape the landscape. Addressing the heightened challenge fire poses requires rethinking how we approach our relationship with it. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Conservation goals require Newsom to prioritize partnerships with Tribes

“As Yuki descendants, my family prided ourselves in our plentiful clean water, and our beautiful valleys and mountains. We had fresh water available from our well, healthy fisheries, and loved spending endless summers in our rivers and at Howard Creek, 30 minutes north of Fort Bragg on the coast. … Worldwide scientists assert preventative measures related to severe impacts of climate change require a minimum protection of 30 percent of the planet’s land and waters by 2030. In 2020, by executive order, Governor Newsom launched California’s 30×30 effort, the following year the Biden Administration set the same federal target. California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) estimates California must protect six million acres of land and 500,000 acres of coastal waters in less than seven years.  I ask California leaders to accelerate conservation efforts in Round Valley and all of Indian Country. Our leaders must prioritize Tribal partnership opportunities to achieve 30×30. … ”  Read more from Capitol Weekly.

How a misreading of the Bible fuels many Americans’ apathy about climate change

Bart D. Ehrman, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes, “Christian theology and global politics can make strange bedfellows. Consider the intimate relationship between fundamentalist expectations of Jesus’ return and market-driven disregard for the environment.  The affair became public back in 1981, when Ronald Reagan’s newly minted Interior secretary, James Watt — once known for suing the department he went on to lead — was testifying before a House committee. Watt was asked whether he was committed to “save some of our resources … for our children?”  “That is the delicate balance the secretary of the Interior must have,” the secretary affirmed, “to be steward for the natural resources for this generation as well as future generations.” But then he continued: “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns. Whatever it is, we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources for future generations.”  Was Watt suggesting that his faith in the Second Coming should temper the government’s conservation efforts? In response to the ensuing uproar, he maintained that his personal Pentecostal belief in a possibly imminent end of the world would have no bearing on official policy. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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Today’s featured article …

FEATURE: California taps beavers to restore watersheds

Written by Robin Meadows

As evidence for the wide-ranging environmental benefits of beavers has mounted, champions of these 40-to-70-pound rodents have increasingly clamored for restoring them in California. Now, the state has finally joined others, including Oregon, Washington and Utah, that are putting these furry ecosystem engineers to work. This year marks the launch of a $1.44 million per year California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) program to bring beavers back to watersheds throughout their historic range in the state.

“We agree: time for California to embrace beavers,” CFDW director Chuck Bonham wrote in a January 2023 op-ed in Outdoor California.

Click here to continue reading this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Lower Klamath receives water thanks to Ducks Unlimited, partners

“It’s shaping up to be another challenging year for Tule Lake and Lower Klamath national wildlife refuges. These hugely important stopovers for migratory birds along the Oregon-California border went completely dry last year for the first time in the refuges’ 115-year history.  Unfortunately, the watersheds that supply the refuges didn’t get hit with as many of the drought-ending atmospheric river storms that hammered the rest of California this rainy season. But the good news is there was enough water to fill Unit 2 this spring on Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. The large wetland unit received water thanks to a pumping station Ducks Unlimited recently installed and the efforts of DU’s partners, the Klamath Drainage District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. … ”  Read more from Ducks Unlimited.

All hands on deck to ensure safety with California North Coast fast river flows

“Garrett Binder showed up for opening day of the rafting season relieved his companion was a black Labrador retriever, a breed long known to innately thrive in the water.  “It’s his first time, but he’s in the water a lot,” the Hopland man said of 2-year-old Benny, while on their way to the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach to put in a raft with Russian River Adventures on April 22. It was Binder’s fifth time — but conditions were quite different from previous years.  Coming out of a record winter with water runoff that caused flooding over much of California, the Russian River, like many waterways in the state, was transformed into a fast and wide torrent — prompting concern from North Bay agencies tasked with river safety. … ”  Read more from the North Bay Business Journal.

Radio: Healing the Eel River

“North Coast Regional Director for California Trout, Darren Mierau, describes what removing two aging dams from the endangered Eel River could mean for the salmon population. California’s Eel River was recently recognized by the American Rivers Organization as one of America’s most endangered rivers. Two dams on the river are driving Chinook salmon and steelhead toward extinction. Experts say these dams are no longer necessary. American Rivers is working with a coalition of regional partners, calling on federal regulators to require Pacific Gas and Electric to remove them as part of a decommissioning plan.  North Coast Regional Director for California Trout Darren Mierau talks about their efforts and what it could mean for the salmon population.”  Listen at KPCW.


Commentary: Commitment to Lake Tahoe’s conservation continues

Julie Regan, the executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, writes, “Most of us have a memory of the moment when Lake Tahoe first took our breath away. For many, that moment of awe was also our first call to protect it. As inspiring and captivating as the lake is, it is also incredibly fragile with a complex landscape of public and private land. With the recent celebration of the 53rd Earth Day in mind, we can see in Tahoe and around the world a growing recognition that people, communities and ecosystems are deeply interconnected.  Our beloved lake received some good news recently. Scientists who have been studying Lake Tahoe’s clarity for decades reported that the lake’s famed clarity last year was the clearest it has been since the 1980s. This report was a shot in the arm, coming as it has on the heels of record storms this winter and several years of drought, wildfires and increasingly extreme weather events. However, the story of Lake Tahoe’s conservation is far from over. … ”  Read more from the Nevada Independent.


Ricelands salmon project update

Paul Buttner, Manager of Environmental Affairs, California Rice Commission, writes, “It has been about six weeks since we concluded our fieldwork and drained our project field in the second week of March. You may recall that the bypasses flooded for a second time in mid-March and, as a result, we were unable to count all the fish that had colonized the field because we had only drained about half of the field before the floodwaters took over. However, with the fact that an initial flood event in early-January brought natural-origin salmon and other fish onto our project field to study and count for nearly two months, we had a very productive season of fieldwork. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association.


Celebration and concern: Hetch Hetchy reservoir turns 100, but climate change complicates its future

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and a gaggle of water officials gathered in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park on Tuesday to celebrate the centennial of the creation of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and the O’Shaughnessy Dam.  “Hetch Hetchy is one of the reasons why San Francisco is such a resilient city,” said Mayor London Breed with a sweeping view of mountains soaring above the water behind her, their reflections mirrored on the reservoir’s surface.  “This [dam] was created and is a testament to the creativity, and the innovation of San Franciscans,” she said.  The water system, San Francisco’s main water source, provided a stable supply of pristine Sierra Nevada snowmelt for city residents through most of the 20th century. But as human-caused climate change worsens, some water experts say the stability of San Francisco’s mountain tap is losing its surety for the 21st century and beyond. … ”  Read more from KQED.


Rain runoff prompts Monterey County to advise against swimming in the ocean

“Monterey County has issued a rain advisory Tuesday evening for all Monterey County beaches. They are asking the public to not enter the ocean for at least three days after the last rainfall.  A rain advisory is issued after a rainstorm because of issues with runoff.  After a rainstorm, bacteria levels usually exceed the state standards for recreational water use due to untreated storm drain flows that may contact motor oil, pet waste, pesticides, and trash.  They are asking people to not enter the water due to this possible increase of bacterial levels. … ”  Read more from KSBW.

What are the toxic chemicals found in groundwater around SLO airport?

“Toxic chemicals have leached from San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to dozens of area residents’ water wells, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board recently found. The chemicals — per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or, PFAS — likely came from a special fire suppressant foam used by Cal Fire on the airport’s property. The local water board has issued a draft order to San Luis Obispo County and Cal Fire to clean up and replace the polluted water. The two entities are contesting their legal obligation to do so. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Grant to research microplastic pollution comes to Santa Barbara

“The City’s Sustainability & Resilience Department is pleased to announce that the Creeks Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Division (Creeks Division), in partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program, has been awarded $1.26 million in grant funding for microplastic pollution research.  Microplastics are small plastic pieces or fibers smaller than 5mm in size (about the size of a pencil eraser). They are found on our streets, in our creeks and ocean, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe. Microplastics can absorb and carry pollutants, leach harmful chemicals into water, and are often mistaken for food by wildlife. Microplastics often come from larger plastic products breaking down due to sun, wind, and wave exposure, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. … ”  Read more from Edhat.

Ojai: State approves local groundwater sustainability plan

“The California Department of Water Resources on April 27 released assessments of groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies, including a plan for managing an Ojai Valley groundwater basin. The GSP developed by the Upper Ventura River Groundwater Agency was one of 12 plans winning approval by the state, according to a news release from DWR. “(They) concluded that the GSP meets the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and approved it. So we’re given the green light to continue managing the basin to sustainability,” said Bryan Bondy, UVRGA executive director. … ” … ”  Read more from the Ojai Valley News.


Study: Central Valley’s private wells at risk of manganese contamination

“A new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology estimates that thousands of private well users in the Central Valley could be extracting contaminated water. The study estimates a 0.7 percent chance users of a domestic well in the Tulare Lake hydrologic region, which includes Hanford, would draw water above the Environmental Protection Agency’s secondary maximum contaminant level for manganese. According to Samantha Ying, principal investigator of the study and assistant professor of Soil Biochemistry at the University of California Riverside, manganese, a mineral naturally found in groundwater, can have serious effects on health. This is particularly true for babies and children. … ”  Read more from the Hanford Sentinel.

Some counties have closed fast-running rivers to recreation. Here’s the stance in Stanislaus

“Stanislaus County authorities are not going to close fast-running rivers to recreation but are stressing the waterways are hazardous for those lacking the proper equipment and skills. Sheriff Jeff Dirkse delivered an update on the weather and flood emergency Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors. The sheriff said agencies in some counties have closed swollen rivers to recreation because of the threat of drowning and challenges of trying to rescue people in those conditions. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee.

Recreation sites above Lake Kaweah closed due to dangerous conditions

“The Army Corps of Engineers closed two recreation areas at Lake Kaweah on Tuesday because of dangerous riverbank instability.  The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office made the request for closure and the Corps closed down the Cobble Knoll and Slick Rock recreation areas. They will remain closed until conditions are safe again, according to the Corps.  The closure comes four days after Tulare County Search and Rescue teams had to rescue two people from the middle of the river at Slick Rock on April 28, according to reports in the Fresno Bee. An adult male and 7-year-old child were rescued and another adult male was still missing. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.


Residents want a natural L.A. River; officials say it’s risky

“The deluge of rain over the weekend flooded streets and damaged infrastructure across California. One place that didn’t flood? The Los Angeles River.  That, of course, is by design. It’s exactly why local officials starting excavating the river and lining it with concrete 85 years ago, and ever since, most of the LA River’s 51 miles from the Santa Susana Mountains to the San Pedro Bay have served primarily as a flood management system.  But a changing climate and changing ideas about how Angelenos want to live with nature are now sparking a debate about LA’s relationship with its straight-jacketed river. Is it too late for a better way? … ”  Read more from the Public News Service.

Los Angeles County fully out of a drought

“The latest update from the official U.S. Drought Monitor shows that more areas of the Golden State are no longer in a drought, including all of Los Angeles County.  Drought conditions have continued to retreat across the state after the winter season brought heavy rain and historic snowfall.  The data, released on April 27, shows that more than 60% of California is free from any drought classification, a percentage that has continued to increase since March when researchers found that more than 50% of the state was out of a drought, which was the first time that happened in three years. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

This is what Southern California is doing to save water

“In a few places, California has been recycling water and wastewater for decades. However, in most areas, the practice hasn’t caught on.  At Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles, named after the legendary basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, sits an intricate maze of machines used to treat and recycle water. In it, workers trap stormwater that would otherwise be unused and redirect it to water the park. The process frees up other water supplies, like that of the Colorado River, for citizens to drink or shower with while Magic Johnson Park waters itself.  “The water gets diverted here where it gets treated with ozone, alum, and chlorine,” explains an engineer and tour guide at the park. … ”  Continue reading at KLAS.

Pico Rivera in ‘final steps’ of installing water treatment measures

“The city of Pico Rivera is touting the “final steps” in installing water treatment vessels at the city’s water plants, which officials say will bring safer water to residents in the city.  The vessels were installed last month in response to the state’s mandatory monitoring requirement that went into effect in 2019, seeking to test for chemicals in the groundwater supply.  Because of industrial activities in prior years, many of Southern California’s groundwater aquifers were contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a chemical that can cause cancer,  according to city officials. They’re called “forever chemicals” because they remain in the body of those who have consumed them. … ”  Read more from the Whittier Daily News.


Restriction rollback: Coachella Valley’s water agencies are dropping rules regarding water use—but the Colorado River remains a problem

“The state of California has gotten 30.23 inches of precipitation since the current water year started on Oct. 1, 2022, putting the state at 145% of the historical average, according to the state’s California Water Watch website, as of April 18.  Major reservoir levels across the state are at 105% of their average historic levels, and the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada stands at 228% of its historic average peak. Because of all this water, most of the state has emerged from a record-breaking drought.  All this good water news has spurred Gov. Gavin Newsom, the State Water Resources Control Board and Coachella Valley water agencies to roll back most drought-related water usage restrictions—which had grown more onerous over the last two years. The governor’s March 24 announcement that he was rescinding the 15% voluntary water-usage reduction target for every household and business in the state prompted many of the state’s water agencies to discontinue most Level 2 usage restrictions. … ”  Read more from the Coachella Valley Independent.


East County residents continue to question Loveland Reservoir closure

“East County residents are still searching for answers after the Loveland Reservoir was drained and then closed to public access. They haven’t been told when or if they’ll be able to use the area for recreation again.  “Their contract was to provide public access again. It’s right in their mission statement, public participation, and they are not adhering to their part of the bargain,” Elisa Peskin said.  People living in the Alpine area continue to be concerned about the ongoing closure of the reservoir.  “This is the only opportunity to do hiking. I know that we can’t fish because the fish all died when the lake was drained, but at least we could take advantage of the other opportunities here,” said Karen Wood, who also pointed out it’s the only parking lot available along Japatul Road. … ”  Read more from Fox 5.

As water crisis persists, San Diego looks at treated wastewater as a drinking water source

“As Arizona faces an ongoing mega-drought and a mounting water crisis, leaders are looking for ways to ensure Arizona’s water supply. … On May 1, we took a look at desalination, which is used in San Diego to satisfy a portion of the county’s water needs. We also heard from experts on whether desalination is a feasible solution for a landlocked state like Arizona.  Besides desalination, however, San Diego officials have even bigger plans, in terms of strengthening their water supply.  A few miles inland in San Diego, one is able to see that bigger plan, in the form of cranes, pipes and cement.  “[It is] the city’s largest infrastructure project,” said Amy Dorman with the City of San Diego. … ”  Read more from Fox 10.

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Along the Colorado River …

Imperial Irrigation District testifies to State Assembly on Colorado River status, state impacts

“Representatives of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the Colorado River Board of California testified Tuesday, May 2, during an informational hearing before the California State Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife standing committee.  According to a press release from Imperial Irrigation District, the IID Board Vice President and California’s Colorado River Commissioner JB Hamby and IID Water Department Manager Tina Shields testified at the state capitol on how Southern California is preparing for climate impacts to water supplies.  “Commissioner Hamby spoke on the history of the development of the river by California’s Colorado River water users, the Law of the River, programs and agreements that maintain the state’s use within its 4.4 million acre-feet entitlement, and next steps toward a consensus-based alternative to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS),” the release reads. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press.

Imperial Irrigation District testifies on Colorado River status and impacts to State Assembly

“Representatives of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the Colorado Board of California testified on Tuesday at an informational hearing about how Southern California is preparing for climate impacts to water supplies and the river’s status.  IID Board Vice President and California’s Colorado River Commissioner JB Hamby and IID Water Department Manager Tina Shields testified before the California State Assembly’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife standing committee. … ”  Read more from KYMA.

San Diego County Water Authority testifies on California’s efforts to support the Colorado River

“During state Assembly testimony on Tuesday, May 2, San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Sandra L. Kerl highlighted the steps taken by the Water Authority and partner water agencies across California to support the Colorado River in the era of climate change.  Kerl joined representatives from the Colorado River Board of California, the Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the environmental community. A theme throughout the hearing was that California is prepared to do more to help the river, but all seven Basin states must be involved in a consensus-based approach.  “When you ask how California is responding and preparing for the effects of climate change, I offer the San Diego region’s focus on a diversified water supply portfolio as an example of focusing on conservation and water management while also developing new drought-proof supplies,” Kerl told the committee. … ”  Read more from the Water News Network.

California farmers at odds with states seeking Colorado River conservation plan

“The law of the River– the Colorado River, that is – says the farmers come first. That’s how they see it in California, in the Imperial Valley, where farming is big business.  Take Andrew Leimgruber of Holtville, Calif., a few hundred miles from the Mexico border.  Leimgruber is a fourth-generation farmer who believes the water rights bestowed unto the farmers in the 1922 accord between California, and the other six states – including Nevada – that rely on Colorado River water to live. That water right established a system putting the farmers at the top of the list.  “If you look at our priority system, it was based on first in line, first in use,” Leimgruber said.  Since the 1922 agreement expired earlier this year, California has refused to sign an agreement with the six other so-called “basin states.” In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation has proposed an emergency plan for dividing Colorado River water unless the states are able to ink a new deal with each other. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

Column: Arizona farmers feel like they’re a target. They’re not wrong

Columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “Farmers need certainty.  Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse made that point during a kickoff event for the Arizona Water Innovation Initiative, a $40 million effort to help make the state more water resilient.  The state’s farmers are struggling to plan for the long haul, she told the crowd, because they’re not even sure that they’ll be around for the long haul.  This is a common sentiment, even among farmers with more senior water rights than central Arizona’s largest cities. … ”  Continue reading from Arizona Central.

Arizona AG takes aim at foreign-owned farms that pump groundwater to feed cattle overseas

Amid Arizona’s worsening groundwater crisis, the state’s new attorney general is vowing to crack down on foreign-owned farms that lease land from the state with the benefit of unlimited water pumping.  State officials recently revoked two new well-drilling permits for a Saudi Arabian agriculture company that uses Arizona groundwater to grow alfalfa to feed dairy cows overseas, and state Attorney General Kris Mayes told CNN she believes more action should be taken to curb the farm’s water pumping.  “I am never going to stop until these leases are canceled or not renewed,” Mayes said, adding that she will keep advocating for this within Arizona’s state government. … ”  Read more from CNN.

Somewhere between demand and supply is the ‘Thirst Gap’ that’s shrinking Lake Powell

“Even with plentiful run-off from snow-laden mountains, Lake Powell’s low water level is eerily stark. The once mighty reservoir spanning the Utah-Arizona border hit a record low in February. Even as the Colorado River that feeds it withers due to drought and increased demand, the seven squabbling states that tap the river — including Utah — have yet to strike a deal easing off the spigot.  Reporter Luke Runyon of public radio station KUNC spent the last five years reporting on the Colorado River. He said it’s impossible to escape the reality of the Lake Powell’s predicament.  “There’s this hundred foot high or taller bathtub ring that encircles the whole reservoir and you can see it everywhere that you’re boating through the reservoir,” he observed. … ”  Read more from KUER.

Tribal rights, water rights, states’ rights and the Colorado River: What’s at stake in the SCOTUS case, Arizona v. Navajo Nation

“The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Arizona v. Navajo Nation, No. 21-1484, a case consolidated with a separate petition for certiorari filed by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), No. 21-51. The consolidated cases involve a water rights case initially brought by the Navajo Nation against DOI. The states of Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado, along with six major municipal and agricultural water providers with adjudicated rights to the Colorado River in the Lower Basin, intervened in the case. Those states and public water providers (Intervenors) filed the petition for certiorari seeking review of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. DOI and the Intervenors are appealing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, which held that the federal government has a trust duty to the Navajo to, among other things, manage the Lower Colorado River to protect the Navajo’s unadjudicated claims to water for the part of its reservation located in Arizona. DOI and the Intervenors argued that there is no such trust duty and that the Navajo Nation’s complaint seeks rights to the Lower Colorado River, which is subject to the retained and exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court pursuant to its 2006 Final Consolidated Decree.  … ”  Continue reading from the American Bar Association.

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In national water news today …

‘Ticking time bomb’ awaits EPA’s latest WOTUS rule

It’s difficult to imagine any issue that has captured more attention and time and resources of U.S. farmers and agricultural groups than the debate over the Waters of the U.S. or WOTUS definition in the Clean Water Act.  Since passage in 1972 the WOTUS definition in the amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 has been a lightning rod for farm and environmental groups debating how far the federal government should go in protecting water.  “This term is central for interpreting the Clean Water Act because only those waters that fall under the definition of WOTUS are going to be under Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” said Brigit Rollins, staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center. “Therefore, knowing what WOTUS is is crucial to carrying out the Clean Water Act.” … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Why is the sea rising faster in some parts of the US?

“The level of the sea has risen globally by 8 to 9 inches since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But it hasn’t risen evenly everywhere. Research published in the journal Nature Communications recently shows that sea levels along the nation’s Southeast and Gulf coasts have been accelerating at unprecedented rates over the past decade—about half an inch every year since 2010, or about three times more than the average sea level rise in the rest of the world.  What’s leading to this asymmetry? Global warming has heated up the Earth at a rate of approximately 0.14 °F per decade since the 1880s. The warmer the planet gets, the more the glaciers and ice sheets covering its surface melt, releasing more water into the ocean. At the same time, the water in the oceans gets warmer because of the increased heat and expands—the laws of physics state that hotter molecules have more energy, and move around more, taking up more space. … ”  Continue reading at Sierra Magazine.

US summer weather: AccuWeather breaks down the 2023 forecast

“Millions of people across the United States have already had a taste of summer weather, and at 10:57 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 21, the season will officially get underway.  For some, the first taste of summerlike warmth arrived much earlier than normal, including in Washington, D.C., where the temperature hit 84 degrees Fahrenheit on March 23, the same day the capital’s famous cherry blossoms reached peak bloom, which was about two weeks ahead of schedule. However, winter seemingly never wanted to loosen its grip on the northern Plains, including in Minneapolis, following one of the snowiest seasons on record.  While the official start of summer is still weeks away, AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, led by Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, is ready to release its annual summer forecast. And the forecasters say the season could get off to a fast start in terms of hot weather for about one-third of the country. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.

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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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