DAILY DIGEST, 5/5: Louder voices, bigger investments needed for CA water security, local experts say; Wet winter to help summer lights stay on; Bills seek to protect forest lands; Raising a levee on sinking ground; and more …

In California water news today …

Louder voices, bigger investments needed for Calif. water security, local experts say.

“As the San Joaquin Valley yo-yos from drought to flooding, the region’s top water experts spent Thursday afternoon examining how to best approach the Valley’s long and short-term needs.  The viewpoints came amid the California Water Alliance’s third-annual water forum featuring the leaders of Friant Water Authority, Westlands Water District, farmer Cannon Michael, and Rep. John Duarte (R–Modesto).  Duarte hones in on twin crises: With the expected ‘Big Melt’ likely to increase flooding likelihoods across the San Joaquin Valley over the spring and summer, Duarte opened the forum by noting that he pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite permitting for channel flow improvements by water agencies.  … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

California’s wet winter to help summer lights stay on, PG&E says

“California’s wet winter will help the Golden State keep the lights on when energy demand soars this summer, PG&E Corp.’s top executive said.  The series of atmospheric rivers that slammed the state with heavy snow and rain has replenished hydroelectric supplies that had been sapped by drought.  “All of this rain has filled up our reservoirs,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Patti Poppe said in an interview Thursday. “We have a very large hydro system with additional capacity that will be available this year on multiple days, whereas last year and the year before, we were really holding it for the peak-of-peak days.” … ”  Read more from Bloomberg (gift article).

River rafters say big California snowmelt means epic season

“Triple Threat. Deadman’s Drop. Satan’s Cesspool. After years of drought, the rapids along California’s American River are truly living up to their names.  As a historic snowpack starts to melt, the spring runoff is fueling conditions for some of the best whitewater in years on the American River and its forks, which course through the Sierra Nevada northeast of Sacramento.  “This is an epic whitewater rafting season,” said Deric Rothe, who owns Sierra Whitewater Inc. and has been rafting for decades. “The conditions are awesome. If you compare the rafting to a rollercoaster, it’s bigger, faster, more fun, and more exciting. So, we’re loving it.” … ”  Read more from CBS News.

Here’s where California reservoir levels stand after this week’s rain showers

“After California kicked off May with yet another round of rain — with a few more to come throughout the week — California’s major reservoir levels continued to tick up, with many already well above their historic averages, and some even nearing their total capacity.  While the latest rain has added to the state’s major water supply reservoirs, the most dramatic shifts were seen in the early months of the year, when several large winter storms swept through, completely changing California’s drought outlook, water supply and snowpack.  Statewide, reservoir levels are 5% higher than their overall historic average for this time of year. In March, after the series of atmospheric rivers and winter storms in the first few months of the year, statewide water storage levels surpassed the historic average for the first time since 2020, hitting 7% above average. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Shasta Lake inches closer to reaching full pool

“Shasta Lake is a mere 3 feet from reaching full pool. A banner year worth of rain, snow, and runoff is filling area reservoirs.  Visitors to the lake have been awestruck by the amount of water in the lake. Some have never been to the lake while others are visiting for the first time in a few years say they are happy to see the lake full of water. … ”  Read more from Action News Now.

Rain and snow chances continue through this weekend in Northern California

The unseasonably cool and wet weather for the beginning of May will continue through the weekend in Northern California. Precipitation amounts from the low pressure system spinning off the coast have been variable across the region in response to the thunderstorm activity that popped up earlier in the week. Generally, the valley has picked up a tenth to half an inch of rain, but some areas that felt the brunt of the thunderstorms have picked up even more.  As the work week wraps up, the cool and wetter than average weather will continue. Scattered showers will be present, along with the possibility of more thunderstorms, across Northern California on Thursday as the low pressure moves closer to the coast. Above 5,000-6,000 feet these showers will be snow showers with a few more inches of snow accumulation expected. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.


New research asks, “Can Pacific salmon keep pace with climate change?”

“A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that salmon migration timing is changing in unpredictable ways in response to climate change. Dr. Eric Ward of NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center was part of a team of scientists across North America, who analyzed data from 66 salmon populations over 70 years.  The study brought together more than over 50 scientists from government and community organizations across North America. Everyone contributed their expertise and data to better understand this important, but often overlooked life stage.  “This is the longest, most detailed dataset of its kind and offers a pretty unique picture into the potential response of climate change across salmon species,” notes Ward. … ”  Read more from NOAA Fisheries.

NASA’s “Flooding Analysis Tool” helps highlight potential effects of sea level rise for Northern California

“Tidal flooding is not currently a regular issue for the California coast, but scientists say it could be by the end of this century.  A new “Flooding Analysis Tool” produced by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows that in the coming decades, the number of days with tidal flooding will likely increase for all locations mapped around the United States.  That increase in high tide flooding is directly linked to global sea level rise, spurred on by climate change. “There are things that cause sea level to rise and we know those things quite well,” said Dr. Ben Hamlington, who is one of the research scientists contributing to the flooding analysis tool at JPL. “On global scales we know that melting ice contributes to rising sea levels” … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Higher food bills? Your veggies, nuts and berries may cost more thanks to extreme weather

“Snow, torrential rains, massive floods. Extreme weather has battered the U.S. this year, and shoppers likely will feel the lingering effects at the grocery store heading into summer.  Good weather, especially in the spring when planting season starts, is vital to growing a bountiful crop of fruits, nuts and vegetables. But the extreme swings this year have left many growers behind schedule, especially in California, which produces nearly half of U.S. fruits, nuts and “salad bowl” vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, spinach and kale, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Although farmers are optimistic they can recover from delayed planting timelines, it may take a few months. In the meantime, consumers may see smaller selections, lower supplies and higher prices, experts say. … ”  Read more from USA Today.

Beware! These California superblooms are beautiful but treacherous

“Tourists and travelers driving to visit California’s superblooms this year may see some striking vistas along the way — swaths of bright yellow, perhaps, covering formerly drab hillsides.  Before you ooh and aah, keep in mind: Some of that growth is invasive species that pose a treacherous threat. Experts say these plants can create stark and dramatic changes to the environment, altering soil chemistry and erasing native flora in some areas.  “In the 2017-2018 superbloom, I was down in the desert and you could see one side of the hillside … with this spectacular superbloom,” said Andrea Williams, director of biodiversity initiatives for the California Native Plant Society. “The other side was just a field of Sahara mustard.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Bills seek to protect forest lands

A pair of bills by U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., that seek to protect forest lands are making their way through Congress.  The House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee recently held a legislative hearing on the bills — the TOXIC Act and the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023.  H.R. 1586, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act, was introduced in response to an environmental group’s lawsuit to block use of fire retardant. The suit would require firefighting agencies to get National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits to continue using fire retardant, and are calling for an injunction on the use of this critical tool. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.

Return to top

In commentary today …

Farmers didn’t design a world economy that wants their alfalfa

Brian McNeece writes, “It seems everywhere you turn, Imperial Valley is in the news, with a target on its back. Recently columnist Dan Walters wrote, “Imperial Valley nears day of reckoning for use of distressed Colorado River.” Over and over, journalists remind the world that the Imperial Irrigation District is allocated 3.1 million acre-feet out of California’s 4.4 maf. Somehow that makes us the bad guys.  Imperial Valley farmers are almost vilified because they grow alfalfa. Most of that goes to dairy and horse farmers, but a significant amount gets shipped overseas.  When it’s sold to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, folks raise that pointy finger and proclaim that we are exporting our precious water overseas, as if this was some sort of betrayal of the nation.  Really? Let’s start with the simple observation that farmers, like 100% of their accusers, are just trying to make a living. … ”  Continue reading at the Desert Review.

Water trading vs. water speculation? What would Michael Lewis say?

Jim Lauria writes, “I’m a big fan of author, reporter and overall sharp-eyed observer Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, Moneyball and other explorations of the depths of economics and humans’ capacity for brilliance…and greed. With a new wave of interest in water trading, facilitated by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and NASDAQ listing water as a tradeable commodity, I’m very eager to get Lewis’ take on what he sees.  I grew up a few subway stops from Wall Street, and I’ve been watching its reaction to water trading. When the CME’s water market launched in late 2020, most of us were watching for Covid vaccines, but investors couldn’t help but notice the $1.1 billion price tag on the first bucket of contracts.  Putting on my The Big Short hat, I’m wary of the sophisticated tools Wall Street traders can now bring to bear on our most essential resource. … ”  Continue reading at Linked In.

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …


Several inches of snow possible to kickoff weekend at Tahoe

“The cold, stormy weather will continue through the weekend and beyond at Lake Tahoe before a possible warming trend later next week.  The National Weather Service in Reno is calling for several inches of snow late Friday night into Saturday morning. Snow accumulations of 4-8 inches are possible near the Sierra crest above 6,500 feet, with 2 inches possible in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and above 5,000 feet in northeast California, west of U.S. Highway 395.  The snow may impact travel over Sierra passes from late Friday through Saturday morning. Mountain travelers should expect slushy or snow-covered roads. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Commentary: Quantity vs quality: the shoddy science behind the Idaho-Maryland Mine

Aaron Zettler-Mann, Interim Executive Director and Watershed Science Director at the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), writes, “The final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Idaho-Maryland Mine fails to adequately address the valid critiques of the draft EIR. Instead, shoddy science, bad computer models, baseless assumptions, and mountains of text hide the truth – the Idaho-Maryland Mine is bad for the environment and bad for our community.  In the world of academic writing, the peer review process serves as a check on the quality of the work that was done. This process ensures that the methods used were sound, appropriate, and the right conclusions are being drawn from the evidence. The EIR fails in this respect, making unrealistic false assumptions and drawing large conclusions based on unacceptably small sample sizes.  Rather than reanalyze problem areas and the critical shortcomings, the final EIR doubled down in an attempt to justify their false assumptions and inadequate sampling. … ”  Read more from the South Yuba River Citizens League.


Granite Construction wins $173m contract for Sacramento Weir widening project

“The Sacramento Weir is more than 100 years old and the only manually operated weir on the Sacramento River system, officials say. The new section would be a passive weir, allowing high water to flow into a bypass during floods. The 48 manual gates on the existing weir will remain intact.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District selected Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction Co. for a $172.9-million contract as part of the Sacramento Weir widening project aimed at reducing impacts of future flooding.  The project would extend the 1,950-ft-wide weir by an additional 1,500 ft with a concrete road on top of it. Granite is expected to begin this year and complete its work in October 2026, according to the Corps of Engineers. … ”  Read more from Engineering News-Record.


Sonoma Mountain vernal pools protected for generations

“Thursday Sonoma Land Trust unveiled its newest preserve of sensitive vernal pools on Sonoma Mountain.  Home to hundreds of plant species, the 174-acre property is now protected via a conservation easement by the Land Trust and Sonoma Ag and Open Space.  It helps preserve a vital wildlife corridor between the mountainous areas in Sonoma and Napa counties, and wild lands in Point Reyes.  “You know, our work has just started here, but this land…I’ve been really impressed by how intact, especially the grasslands are here,” Chris Carlson said. … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media.


Rainbow trout in Alameda Creek signals return of normal migration

“Local conservationists focused on restoring Alameda Creek as a habitat for steelhead trout and other fish species who carry out most of their lives in ocean waters before migrating to inland waterways to spawn are celebrating what they call a milestone after finding a young fish they have been seeking to see accommodated in the local tributary to San Francisco Bay last month.  A juvenile rainbow trout was found in the creek by Alameda County Water District and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who issued a joint statement on April 24 along with the Alameda Creek Alliance.  “We’ve made incredible progress building fish migration infrastructure in the lower urban portion of our watershed, allowing spawning adult salmon and steelhead to swim upstream to reach good habitat in Niles Canyon and the upper watershed toward Sunol Regional Wilderness,” Jeff Miller, director of the alliance, said in a statement. “But the successful downstream migration of juvenile fish is just as critical; it’s gratifying to be able to document some of our trout moving toward the Bay to complete their dramatic life cycle.” … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly.


With flooded fields and ruined crops, what will happen to Pajaro now?

Olga Rosales Salinas writes, “Living in Pajaro, California, means living at the whims of the effects of climate change on both life and property. On March 11, 2023, the Pajaro River breached the town levee, flooding the town. It’s been seven weeks since the levee breach. Now I wonder how the residents and township of Pajaro will hold up during the next natural disaster. Because it’s now clear: Pajaro residents survived by relying on community support, mainly from nonprofits. … In fact, nonprofit organizations bridged the gap between the federal government and direct assistance to the underserved residents of Pajaro. … ”  Read more from Voices of Monterey Bay.

Massive sewage spill dumps estimated 10 to 16 million gallons of raw sewage in Ventura County arroyo

“Storms blamed for damaging decades old underground pipeline in Moorpark. It’s a massive sewage spill in Ventura County that may have gone undetected for weeks because of its remote location. “It’s hard to say exactly….it’s somewhere between10 million gallons, and 16 million gallons,” said Joe Pope, the Director of Water and Sanitation for the Ventura County Public Works Department. Pope says the spill involves the Ventura County Water and Sanitation facility which serves Moorpark.  It’s pipeline network was impacted by recent storms. They discovered the rupture Tuesday, after realizing there were some flow irregularities in the system. … ”  Read more from KCLU.

Oxnard water rate increase approved

“The City Council, by unanimous vote, approved the proposed water rate increase Tuesday, May 2, and introduced an ordinance establishing new water rates, fees, and charges.  The action comes after a large effort by the City to educate the public on the need for an increase through workshops across the community.  Public protests could have invalidated the increase with a majority of written protests. The City received 1,432, not enough to conduct a validation of the protests.  The average single-family residential bill will go from $50.39 to $62.65. Multi-families will increase from $91.41 to $108.77. … ”  Read more from the Tri-County Sentry.


Newman City Council awards contract for Newman wetland project

“The Newman City Council approved awarding a contract to start construction for the Newman Seasonal Inland Wetland Restoration Project.  Voting 4-0 (Mayor Casey Graham was absent) at the April 25 meeting, the Newman City Council awarded the contract to Rolfe Construction, which came in with the lowest bid at $278,043.  “They complied with everything that we needed,” said Newman’s Director of Public Works Kathryn Reyes.  The Newman Seasonal Inland Wetland Restoration Project is one piece of the larger Newman Community Conservation Area. The NCCA encompasses a 78-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Canal School Road and Inyo Avenue as well as a nearby 24-acre parcel located northeast of Brazo Road, just outside the City limits in Merced County. … ”  Read more from Westside Connect.

Raising a levee on sinking ground

“The Corcoran levee is being raised – again.  The fear is it won’t be high enough as runoff from record breaking snowpack above several rivers that feed into the old Tulare Lake gets underway.  That’s four feet shorter than when it was last raised in 2017, after sinking several feet from its prior height.  The problem is subsidence, the land is sinking. And it’s taking the levee with it.  When California dries out and farmers can’t get enough water from river and state supplies, they turn to groundwater.  Around Corcoran, farmers have pumped the ground so hard it is collapsing – subsiding – over a large area.  The massive area of subsidence has been documented in satellite photos. It even has a name: “the Corcoran bowl.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water.


Southern California gets snow, rain and small tornadoes in spring storm

“An unseasonably cold storm coated Southern California mountains with snow, dumped heavy rain elsewhere and spawned two small tornadoes Thursday as spring struggled to shake the grip of an exceptionally wet winter.  More than 4 inches of new snow was reported on Mount Wilson, 15 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, the National Weather Service said.  Winter weather advisories were posted for mountain ranges across three counties. Forecasters said the highest peaks could end up with 14 inches.  Most of the storm moved through Southern California overnight. But the weather service issued a late-morning warning for winds up to 50 mph and hail as a thunderstorm moved through Los Angeles County. … ”  Read more from NBC News.

Column: Whoever said Angelenos never worry about the weather was lying

Mary McNamara writes, “When I moved to Los Angeles — can it be more than 30 years ago? — one of my highly disapproving East Coast friends sniffed: “At least you won’t have to worry about the weather.”  It’s true that Angelenos have a different relationship with the weather than most Americans. We can picnic, play outdoor sports and leave our lawn furniture out pretty much year-round; we never need to think about getting snow tires and rarely worry about the gutters. Our rain gear is typically more about style than necessity.  But not worry about the weather? Give me a break. We worry about the weather all the time. And not just in a general unchecked-climate-change-will-kill-us-all kind of way. (Though many of us worry about that too.) … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times.

Final plans begin for Rindge Dam removal

“California State Parks announced April 24 the start of pre-construction design and engineering for the Malibu Creek Ecosystem Restoration Project at Malibu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains.  At the heart of the project is the dismantling of Rindge Dam along Malibu Creek and the removal of approximately 780,000 cubic yards of sediment behind the massive concrete structure. Eight upstream barriers along Las Virgenes and Cold creeks within the Malibu Creek Watershed will be modified or removed, officials said.  Cal Parks and partners from McMillen LLC and Stillwater Sciences, two aquatics engineering companies, will team up with the California Trout nonprofit group to conduct baseline biological surveys, hydrology modeling and flood risk assessment as experts narrow down the scope of the project. … ”  Read more from the Acorn.


Riverside County, Alianza launching community meetings on Eastern Coachella Valley Infrastructure Initiative

“Riverside County and nonprofit organization Alianza Coachella Valley are reaching out to community members to discuss ECV Próspera, a new initiative by Riverside County and Supervisor V. Manuel Perez to bring infrastructure and improve the quality of life in the communities of the eastern Coachella Valley.  Alianza’s mission is to transform the socio-economic conditions of the Coachella Valley so that people in all communities have opportunities to prosper. … “ECV Próspera is a plan for how we can help residents with major investments and improvements in the communities of North Shore, Mecca, Thermal, Oasis and Vista Santa Rosa,” said Supervisor Perez. “These communities have many infrastructure needs such as clean drinking water, housing, sewer and sidewalks and roads. Through these meetings, we will be introducing ECV Próspera and working with community members to identify projects that we can build out using a unique tool known as the EIFD that can put in infrastructure up front and benefit communities long-term.” … ”  Read more from the Uken Report.

Coachella Valley Water District puts emphasis on water safety month

“The cool weather we’re feeling won’t last forever and with summer quickly approaching, so does the desire to jump into pools, lakes, or even the Whitewater River Channel.  With that comes a word of caution from experts.  The Coachella Valley Water District reminds residents and visitors to avoid the Whitewater River Channel, especially this year when the mountains received lots of rain and the channel is experiencing extremely dangerous water flow.  The month of May is Water Safety Month and naturally as the temperatures continue to rise, many take advantage of the summer months and head to the pool.  That’s not for everyone, some opt for the Whitewater River. … ”  Read more from NBC Palm Springs.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Imperial Irrigation District testifies to State Assembly on Colorado River status and potential 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.  IID Board Vice President and California’s Colorado River Commissioner John Brooks 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.  Hamby spoke on the history of the development of the river by California’s Colorado River water users, and the Law of the River, which refers to the rules, regulations, and various agreements that control the Colorado River watershed. … ”  Read more from the Holtville Tribune..

How capturing rainfall can help crisis on Colorado River

“The snow melt provides most of the water that flows into the Colorado River. However, in California capturing rainfall is another option to save water to help the crisis on the Colorado River.  No year provides a more stark illustration of this than 2023, during which has already seen about twice as much rain as a normal year. This means a massive amount of water has flowed out to sea, never to be captured and never to be used to help combat the water crisis.  “There’s been very little dams built in California recently,” Bill Hasencamp said, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District, which provides water to 19 million southern Californians. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

Restoration project supported by ADWR’s Water Protection Fund deemed a “great success”

“In times of severe drought, hydrological success stories can come few and far between, so a report from the U.S. Forest Service – Coconino National Forest about a successful restoration project on the Verde River watershed is welcome news.  According to a post on the Forest Service’s Coconino National Forest Facebook page, a hydrological restoration project begun 22 years ago to restore 2,800 feet of stream channel is working as envisioned, without human maintenance.  Known as the 2001 Clover Springs restoration project, the reach is “performing as planned,” according to the Forest Service Facebook report … ”  Read more from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Snow detectives are in the mountains to solve a mystery: Where’s all the snow going?

“The route to the research site feels like a polar expedition. High in the mountains above Crested Butte, Colorado, a team of scientists trudges single file through the whiteout, following a chain of orange flags marking the route.  Each plod of their skis squishes down into the pillowy snow below, the kind that melts on contact and drenches jackets and gloves.  During some portions of the trek, the snowglobe conditions make it hard to tell where the sky ends and the ground starts. But after a few miles, a cluster of narrow gray columns starts to come into focus.  Eli Schwat, a member of the research team, stared up at the thin metal towers – each holding high-tech monitoring equipment – through a tightly-cinched jacket hood. … ”  Read more from KUNC.

Return to top

In national water news today …

How recent research on rising sea levels could impact coastal designs

“Sea levels have been marching higher for the past century, and rates have accelerated in the past few decades. From 1993 to 2014, average sea level rose 2.6 in., (about an eighth of an inch per year), and it continues to rise at about that same pace.  Waterfront cities are facing increasing threats from rising waters, including flooding and coastal erosion. By the year 2100, scientists estimate that about a billion people around the world will be at risk of hazards from sea level rise. And with the continued acceleration of sea level rise, current hazards could increase by two to three orders of magnitude.  Smart adaptation of civil engineering can help mitigate the risk to coastal communities. But for these efforts to be effective, engineers and city managers have to know where sea level rise effects will happen and by how much. But having good information is just the start — communities also need robust plans that will take them through the next century and beyond. … ”  Continue reading from Civil Engineering Source.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE: Draft Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan now posted

Return to top

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.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email