DAILY DIGEST, 5/16: Even after a wet winter, CA preparing for the next drought; CA’s atmopsheric river storms ranked as a billion-dollar disaster by NOAA; Shasta, Lake Oroville rise to the top; When disaster strikes, is climate change to blame?; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • EVENT: Virtual California Financing Coordinating Committee 2023 Spring Funding Fair from 9am to 12:30pm.  The funding fair will provide the opportunity to learn more about available grant, loan, and bond financing options for infrastructure projects from federal, state, and local agencies.  Representatives from water industry professionals, public works, local governments, and California Native American Tribes should attend. This includes city managers and planners, economic development and engineering professionals, officials from privately owned facilities, water and irrigation district managers, financial advisors, and project consultants.  To register, click here.
  • VIRTUAL PUBLIC MEETING: Colorado River Draft SEIS from 11am to 1:30pm. Reclamation will hold four virtual public meetings to provide information on the draft SEIS, answer questions, and take verbal comment.  This is the last of the four meetings. Each virtual public meeting will begin with 30 minutes for participants to explore the background information on the webpage at their own pace. The formal meeting presentation will begin 30 minutes after the scheduled meeting start time. Reclamation will take questions and public comments following the presentation. The interactive webpage materials and the virtual public meetings will be available in Spanish. Click here to register.
  • WORKSHOP: Salton Sea Management Program, Phase 1 beginning at 12pm. The Board will hold an annual public workshop on the status of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program. In-person and remote attendance options in the meeting notice. The staff presentation will be the same for this workshop and Wednesday’s workshop. Click here for the meeting notice.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: California’s White Sturgeon Fishery from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a virtual public meeting on California’s White Sturgeon fishery on May 16, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. At this meeting, you’ll learn about White Sturgeon biology, fishery history, current status and management, and challenges they face. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask CDFW scientists questions about sturgeon and provide input on their present and future hopes for the fishery.   Register for the Zoom meeting

In California water news today …

Even after a wet winter, California is preparing for the next drought

“Mountains are capped with record snowpack, rolling hills are covered in a rainbow of wildflowers, reservoirs are filled to the brim, and rivers are rushing with snowmelt.  A vast majority of California is finally out of drought this month, after a punishing multiyear period of severe aridity that forced statewide water cuts and fueled existential fear over the future of the water supply.  Although a series of massive storms during the winter months brought desperately needed precipitation throughout the Golden State, water experts and state officials remain focused on preparing for the inevitable next drought. Based on lessons learned in recent years, they’re refilling the state’s over-drafted groundwater aquifers and encouraging water efficiency among residents learning to live with climate change.  By recharging groundwater basins and keeping in place some conservation policies, state and local water officials can help alleviate the pain of future droughts — but those efforts require flexibility and more investment, said Andrew Ayres, a research fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank. … ”  Read more from Stateline.

Saving the Rain: Flooding our fields helps store water in belowground aquifers

As part of this a groundwater recharge project, floodwater diverted from the Kings River was directed to inundate some fields at Terranova Ranch. The project is designed to capture excess flow for groundwater storage in Fresno County. Andrew Innerarity / DWR

“In drought years, California’s depleted reservoirs are a visible reminder of the state’s water crisis. As dry periods drag on, its two largest reservoirs — Shasta and Oroville — start to look more like streams than lakes. But for every gallon of water no longer aboveground, gallons more are disappearing, largely unnoticed, from storage that can’t be seen from the highway.  California’s underground aquifers can hold around eight to 12 times as much water as all its largest reservoirs combined. Yet over the past two decades, California’s Central Valley — the epicenter of the state’s agriculture industry — has been pumping groundwater at an accelerated rate. During the 2011-2017 drought alone, Central Valley aquifers lost more water than it takes to fill Lake Mead all the way to the top.  California’s shrinking aquifers represent both an opportunity and a problem. The state could store a lot of water underground, and overdrafted aquifers are more than just wasted space. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s.

Breaking down ‘grocery bliss’ might be key to winning Calif.’s fight for water storage

“This year has been an unusual one in recent history: California has an abundance of water.  Yet the Golden State’s water storage situation has not changed one bit, making 2023 turn into the year of missed opportunities to protect against the inevitable future drought that will dry up the state.  Friant Water Authority Chief Operating Officer Johnny Amaral spoke with The Sun for an upcoming episode of Sunrise FM to discuss the lack of necessary water storage in California, among many other issues.   The backstory: As of Monday, California’s snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was 337 percent of the average for May 15, up there with the 1982-1983 season as the highest in the state’s history.  Yet amid the torrential storms that battered the state to start the year, California flushed out a significant amount of the incoming water to the ocean. … ” Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

California’s atmospheric river storms ranked as a billion-dollar disaster by NOAA

“So far, in 2023, seven different weather and climate-related disasters have cost the United States at least $1 billion.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data dating back to 1980, that is the second-highest number of events on record for the first four months of a year.   One of those billion-dollar disasters is the flooding caused by the many atmospheric river storms that made landfall over California.  When doing these cost analyses, NOAA applied climatologists consider many different assets like homes, businesses and government buildings as well as key infrastructure like roads, levees and the electrical grid. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Winter atmospheric rivers gave pathogens, diseases path to infect crops

“The wave of atmospheric rivers that swept across the state this winter has created the right conditions for plant pathogens that haven’t been seen for decades in California. University of California, Davis, plant pathologist Florent “Flo” Trouillas is getting more calls from growers and farm advisors concerned about potential crop damage.  “Generally, whenever you have rain events, you’re going to have problems,” said Trouillas, a Cooperative Extension specialist who is based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. “In wet years we get really busy because most pathogens need and like water.”  Trouillas is like a disease detective. He splits his time between the field and the lab, working to diagnose pathogens, diseases and other ailments that strike fruit and nut crops such as almonds, cherries, olives and pistachios. … ”  Read more from UC Davis.

Shasta, Lake Oroville rise to the top

“California when it rains: water cooler talk.  Both Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta reported near-full capacity Monday with plenty of snow in the northern mountains anticipated to melt.  Shasta Lake reached 1,063 feet elevation on May 1 with four feet of capacity remaining and Lake Oroville reached 890 feet on May 13 with 10 feet left of capacity — each holding steady since.  Lake Oroville is at 96% capacity and is expected to be filled into the spring.  Oroville last reached capacity in 2017 and in the last 30 years reached capacity in 2017, 2012, 2011, 2006, 2005, 2003, 1998, 1996 and 1993, according to an email from DWR Information Officer Jason Ince. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Video: What happens to California’s snowpack? An expert interview

“Dr. Andrew Schwartz provides updates on California’s May snowpack measurements, and what he expects to happen next with the state’s snowmelt.”  Watch video at the Weather Channel.

The human right to water: Stanford engineer discusses water equity in California and the U.S.

“If safe water is a human right, why does it remain out of reach for so many? A Stanford-led project, supported by the Sustainability Accelerator of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, is focused on the broad goal of achieving the human right to water (HR2W) in California. Cindy Weng, a PhD candidate in environmental engineering, is leading the project’s data analytics for assessing equity in urban water access during droughts. Recently, she discussed the project, water equity issues, and potential solutions for California and the rest of the country.  What drew you to the human right to water project?  I was drawn to this project because of my experience growing up in Oakland and its culture of social justice. Since high school, I’ve been passionate about understanding the intersection of engineering and society, but most of my academic career has focused on technical issues, such as developing catalysts and nanomaterials. For a long time, I’ve wondered how I could combine my interests in water and equity. … ”  Read more from Stanford News.

The EPA’s Martha Guzman discusses new environmental justice initiatives

“Martha Guzman is the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 9 office in San Francisco. She’s leading EPA efforts to protect public health and the environment for a region that includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the US Pacific Islands territories, and 148 tribal nations. We spoke with Ms. Guzman to learn more about the EPA’s latest environmental justice initiatives—and found her to be a fountain of both information and enthusiasm.  Q:  The EPA recently announced an initiative to support environmental justice investments, using funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. Can you tell us about the new environmental justice grants?  A: In September 2022, the EPA launched a new division, the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. That’s a huge deal because it’s institutionalizing environmental justice on a par with the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act. Before, it was a much smaller office; now it’s essentially a national program. The administrator and the president were able to do that, in large part, because of the Inflation Reduction Act. … ” Read more from the PPIC.

Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer Tom Philp will rejoin The Sacramento Bee

“The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board is a century-old institution, and, in that time, it has been awarded two Pulitzer Prizes. Jack Ohman won a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 2017. The other Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award given in American journalism, was won by Tom Philp in 2005. We are delighted to announce that Philp will rejoin The Bee Editorial Board as a columnist and editorial writer on May 22. Opinion Aside from his stellar qualifications, Philp’s knowledge of Sacramento, his professional relationships with newsmakers throughout the region and the state — and his reputation as a wonderful colleague — will make us better at what we do. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee. | Read more via Yahoo News.

How NASA is using satellites to track glacier melt, predict sea level rise

“For decades, researchers from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena have been studying melting glaciers from sea level to space. Recently launched satellites, like the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, are providing precise measurements of changes in the height of the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, other satellite-based technologies are measuring the shrinking ice sheets themselves.  “There’s ways to measure gravity. So you can actually see the mass of the ice through how much gravity it has, which is an amazing and astounding way to look at the ice sheets,” says Nicole Schlegel, a glaciologist on NASA-JPL’s Ice Sheet monitoring team. … ”  Read more from KGO.

A lawsuit to protect streams could take away a prime firefighting tool

“Every summer, wildland firefighters across the West gear up for a monumental task, aiming to stop fires that are burning hotter and moving faster with climate change. They accomplish this in two ways: on the ground and out of the sky. From above, helicopters sling buckets of water, while airplanes dump fire retardant — a thick red solution made mostly of fertilizer. The United States Forest Service uses millions of gallons of retardant each year.  But there have long been concerns about what happens when that mix of ammonium phosphate, emulsifiers, and colorants finds its way into water. Some environmentalists worry spraying the stuff on forests does more harm than good. The main chemical in retardant — ammonium phosphate — is known to poison fish and other aquatic life, including vulnerable species like Chinook salmon. Some research suggests the slurry also could spur the growth of weeds that threaten native plants. … ”  Read more from Grist.

Almost 40% of land burned by western wildfires can be traced to carbon emissions

“Almost 40% of forest area burned by wildfire in the western United States and southwestern Canada in the last 40 years can be attributed to carbon emissions associated with the world’s 88 largest fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers, according to new research that seeks to hold oil and gas companies accountable for their role in climate change.  In findings published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the authors concluded that the emissions generated in the extraction of fossil fuels, as well as the burning of those fuels, have increased the amount of land burned by wildfire by raising global temperatures and amplifying dry conditions across the West. This growing dryness, or aridification, has caused the atmosphere to become “thirstier” for water, draining moisture from trees and brush and causing them to become more vulnerable to fire, the researchers say. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Calling out the companies responsible for western wildfires

“The US wildfire season used to last about four months, beginning in late summer or early autumn. These days, it stretches six to eight months, according to the US Forest Service, and in some places it’s now a year-round affair. … There are a number of reasons why there has been so much more wildfire destruction this century, particularly in the western United States and Canadian southwest. Encroaching development in fire-prone areas and widespread fire suppression are among them. But another major culprit is climate change, which has intensified the heat and drought that have always been factors in western North America.  That climate change obviously didn’t just happen on its own. It mainly comes from burning fossil fuels, and a new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) peer-reviewed study [LINK]—published on May 16 by Environmental Research Letters—calculates just how much of the acreage burned in forest fires in the western United States and southwestern Canada can be attributed to the carbon emissions from the world’s largest fossil fuel companies and cement manufacturers and their products. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Return to top

In commentary today …

Farmers can adapt to alternating droughts and floods—here’s how

Omanjana Goswami, Interdisciplinary scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes, “Farmers like predictable weather, and this past year in California has been anything but. After the state suffered through the worst drought in modern history, a series of atmospheric rivers starting last December brought recurring deluges of heavy rain and snow that caused widespread and extensive damage, forcing people to evacuate in many areas across the state and resulting in multiple deaths. Snow levels are at historic highs in the Sierra Nevada mountains, with final snowpack numbers reported at a staggering 207% to 308% of normal—threatening more flooding to come as it all melts. And the agriculture industry, which uses an outsize amount of California’s water and has literally changed the state’s landscape, needs to change and adapt, fast. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

How federal dollars can help ease the rural water crisis

Michael Prado, President of Sultana Community Services District, and Celina Mahabir, Federal Policy Advocate with Community Water Center, writes, “Everyone has heard about the water crises in cities like Flint, Michigan and Jackson, Mississippi, but America’s rural communities are facing equally dire problems with toxic taps and outdated infrastructure, and they typically have even less to spend on fixes. That may change soon. In addition to the historic water funding included in recent infrastructure bills, the farm bill that is currently being negotiated in Congress could support real progress in small towns across the country, thanks to the billions it includes for construction of rural water and sewer systems. We know firsthand what a huge impact those dollars can make on the ground. In California, people in an estimated 300 communities can’t drink from the tap. And two examples—the unincorporated farmworker communities of Monson and Sultana—show how federal funding can make the difference between residents having to rely on bottled water to drink, brush their teeth, and cook dinner, or having safe water from the tap. … ”  Read more from Civil Eats.

Return to top

Today’s featured article …

FEATURE: Sacramento’s New Wastewater Treatment Upgrade Will Help Recharge Groundwater—Will It Also Help the Delta?

Regional San’s new Biological Nutrient Removal facility uses bacteria to remove nearly all the ammonia from wastewater in the Sacramento region. Photo by Regional San.

Two decades ago, scientists were alarmed by sudden declines in at-risk fish and their tiny prey, called zooplankton, in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

“No one knew why,” says Dylan Stern, a Program Manager at the Delta Stewardship Council, a state agency. “Everyone was kind of freaking out.”

After a flurry of investigation, a potential cause emerged: nutrient pollution in the form of excess ammonia, a nitrogen compound, from Sacramento’s wastewater treatment plant. Operated by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional San), the treatment plant is the largest discharger to an inland body of water west of the Mississippi River.

In 2010 the State Water Resources Control Board required reducing nutrients in this effluent, which necessitated a significant upgrade to the treatment plant. This month marks completion of the $1.7 billion, decade-long upgrade, and nutrients in the effluent are way down.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …


Major funding milestone reached for Prairie Creek Restoration

“We are thrilled to provide an update on one of our most ambitious endeavors in the North Coast region: the Prairie Creek Floodplain Restoration Project as a part of the Redwood National and State Parks Trails Gateway and Restoration Project. This initiative stands as a testament to our skills as effective leaders in collaboration and to our unwavering dedication to ecological restoration.  Along with the rest of our collaborative partner non-profits, state and federal agencies, our team of local design and compliance consultants, and the Yurok Tribe – we are delighted to announce that the project has received a recommendation for $7 million in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will drive the restoration efforts forward to be completed by the end of 2025. The grant will be awarded to the California State Coastal Conservancy, who funds both CalTrout, and the Yurok Tribe. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout.


Increased flows on lower McCloud River bringing rising water levels

Lower McCloud Falls.  Photo by Steve Payer / DWR

“Flows on the lower McCloud River are expected to surge in May and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. officials are urging caution.  PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said flows may be be about a foot-and-a-half higher as the winter snowmelt increases and the utility performs planned maintenance on the James B. Black Powerhouse.  Officials anticipate the McCloud Dam will start spilling over on Monday night, which is expected to increase flows in the lower McCloud River from 900 cubic feet to 1,000 cubic feet per second. Flows in the lower McCloud this time of year are usually about 450 cfs. … ”  Read more from the Redding Record Searchlight.

Waivers for well registration fees discussed in Tehama County

“Tehama County’s well registration program faced a potential new wrinkle during Monday’s Flood Control and Water Conservation District meeting.  An incentive for participation in the county’s well registration program was up for vote today, with proposed waivers on the $0.29 per-acre fee for those who complete the registration process on time. The well registration program is necessary as a function of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act passed in 2014, which requires water agencies to manage their area’s water supply and plan for the future. 2023’s survey deadline already passed, but swift future participation is essential to keeping efforts on track and within budget.  The present version of the resolution, however, was not unanimously favored. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

Where We Stand: Asphalt plant threatens Feather River, communities

Feather River Action writes, “According to a public notice published May 10th, 2023, Hat Creek Construction Company, contractor for Caltrans, is planning to construct a “temporary” asphalt plant directly adjacent to the Feather River in Delleker, 2000 feet south (and upwind) of the Delleker residential area, and only 500 feet from homes in the Iron Horse community across the river. The operation would run from April to November, from 6am to 6pm, up to 24 hours/ day for 3 years (but probably longer) mainly to supply Caltrans with asphalt for its Highway 70 repaving project.  The project would generate at least 150 round trip truck trips per day, all crossing the railroad at an uncontrolled crossing, risking accidents and derailments, including possible oil spills directly into to the river. Even in the best case scenario, the plant would pollute the land and the river, which provides drinking water to more than 27 million Californians. … ”  Continue reading at Plumas News.

Voices of Lower Sacramento River Watershed: He-Lo Ramirez

“In a recent interview with CalTrout, He-Lo Ramirez, a member of the Mechoopda Tribe and Director of the Office of Environmental Planning and Protection for the Tribe, shared his deep-rooted connection with the lower Sacramento River watershed and the vital role it plays in the Tribe’s cultural heritage and survival.  “We’ve been stewards of the land for thousands of years, managing and living off of the biodiverse ecosystems we purposefully stewarded. It’s disheartening to see the changes brought about by 150 years of colonization,” shared He-Lo . He painted a vivid picture of the watershed’s history, saying, “This area used to be a sprawling wetland, teeming with waterfowl, salmon, and other diverse species. Waterways including Big Chico Creek, Butte Creek, and Sacramento River would flood, giving life to a thriving ecosystem.” Unfortunately, the ecological richness of the lower Sacramento River watershed has been significantly altered by man-made structures like levees and dams, leading to decreased waterfowl and salmon populations. “The irony,” He-Lo pointed out, “is that the fertile soils of the Sacramento and Central Valley owe their richness to thousands of years of natural flooding.” … ”  Read more from Cal Trout.

These Sacramento programs could save you up to $3,000 on water and electric upgrades

“As weather heats up in Sacramento and you wrap up spring to-dos, these rebates from the city and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District could help you make energy- and water-efficient upgrades to your home. The rebates, which the the city and SMUD detail on their websites, range from roughly $100 to $3,000 for single family homes. Here are some options, the eligibility and application requirements … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.


The Pacific Northwest is crazy hot. Here’s how weather there will impact the Bay Area today

“An unusual, extremely strong high-pressure system over the Pacific Northwest is forecast to send rounds of  hot, unstable air toward California on Tuesday. This cranked up air mass will then settle over the Central Valley, quickly spilling into parts of the Bay Area.  Weather models predict that the marine layer will shield most of the bayside, but there is a chance this hot air could breach some of that defense by Tuesday afternoon.  Depending on where you are in the Bay Area, Tuesday will be marked by yet another surge of hot, dry air — similar in some ways to the weather setup from this past weekend. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pleasanton council to review comprehensive water supply alternatives list

“Pleasanton’s water supply is back on the City Council agenda with staff presenting an update on the city’s water supply alternatives study during Tuesday’s public meeting including a comprehensive list of options to produce the city’s groundwater pumping quota. … The council had originally begun looking at constructing a water treatment and rehabilitation facility, known as the PFAS Treatment and Wells Rehabilitation Project, to treat and rehabilitate wells 5, 6 and 8 in Pleasanton and to create a new centralized treatment facility for PFAS treatment, disinfection and fluoridation.  However, the council voted to push pause on that project on Sept. 6, 2022 in order to evaluate other options, mainly due to a $46 million price tag on the project. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly.


Southern California steelhead remain endangered

“Despite being heralded as one of the most adaptive and hardiest of fish, plus conservation efforts dating back to the 1990s, the health of Southern California steelhead has gone from bad to worse. Human activity in conjunction with climate-related threats such as drought and wildfire have left the species with staggeringly low adult numbers, especially among populations that migrate between salt and fresh water — which are at high risk of disappearing altogether.  The Southern California steelhead will stay on the federal Endangered Species list subsequent to a review of its status in the recently released 2023 five-year plan from National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. Although most West Coast steelhead species are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Southern California steelhead is the only one to reach endangered status. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.


Flooding concerns rise with Valley temps expected in high 90s all week

“High temperatures in Fresno and other Valley locations will remain in the upper 90s throughout the week, the National Weather Service says.  Meanwhile, overnight lows are expected in the mid-60s.  NWS Hanford says that an upper-level ridge over Canada is driving temperatures 15 degrees hotter than what is customary for the Valley this time of year.  The hotter-than-normal temps also are accelerating a huge Sierra snowmelt and raising flooding alarms. NWS issued a Flood Watch for Yosemite National Park on Sunday that will be in place through at least Friday. … ”  Read more from GV Wire.

Rabbit rescue: volunteers saved hundred of bunnies from floodwaters in California

“With record-breaking storms wreaking havoc throughout California, even rabbits need rescuing.  For months, a team from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has navigated the Central Valley looking to rescue from rising floodwaters stranded riparian brush rabbits, a small, brown, and white creature listed as an endangered species.  The five team members used canoes and motorboats to rescue rabbits in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge from sunrise to past sundown, as per Phys.org.  Some are stranded on high ground, on tree branches, or on bush branches. They are then transported to higher ground as the river level rises and floods the area. … ”  Read more from Nature World News.

Yosemite warns of ‘extremely dangerous’ effects of flooding

“California’s Yosemite National Park has issued a warning of the “extremely dangerous” effects of flooding as the Merced River continues to rise.  In a statement posted on May 15, the park reiterated that it remains under a flood warning as the river reaches flood stage. It is expected to stay at that level for the next few days.  A record amount of snowpack accumulated in California over the winter months and into early March, as storms battered the state. That snowpack is now melting as temperatures start to rise, causing higher-than-average water flows at the park. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.


Success fueling Lahontan cutthroat trout recovery in Silver Creek

“Amid the intense, physically demanding native trout restoration work taking place in the fall of 2022 on Silver Creek, Mono County, Nick Buckmaster allowed himself a momentary indulgence.  A senior environmental scientist supervisor with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Buckmaster paused long enough to imagine himself camped on the banks of Silver Creek within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, perhaps on vacation, maybe in retirement. It was a warm, summer evening in his mind’s eye, and Buckmaster was casting a dry fly to rising wild and native Lahontan cutthroat trout in the 14- to 16-inch size class.  Such a scenario would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.


Environmental group sues to block drilling of 15 oil wells off Long Beach coast

“An environmental group that was already suing the state for allegedly “rubberstamping” oil-drilling permits is now challenging the recent approval of 15 wells in Long Beach.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit May 11 that seeks to rescind approval of the Long Beach wells, which are in the harbor on the oil island Grissom, and of six wells in San Luis Obispo County northeast of Pismo Beach.  The center’s suit against California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, alleges the agency didn’t offer any chance for public comment before granting the well permits, and that it based its approvals on outdated environmental reviews that don’t adequately address the known harms of oil operations, including air and water pollution and emission of greenhouse gasses. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Post.

After landslide, an Orange County beach town finds itself between a bluff and a hard place

“On a rather cool spring day in late April, Amy Behrens was strolling through the manicured grounds of Casa Romantica, a historic San Clemente landmark known for its panoramic ocean view, when she heard a low rumble.  As she looked on in shock, a portion of the steep sandstone cliff underlying the cultural center crumbled toward the beach below, dragging with it portions of Casa Romantica’s iconic ocean terrace and resplendent walkways planted in bright coastal flora.  “I watched the bluff erode right in front of my eyes,” said Behrens, executive director of the nonprofit group that operates Casa Romantica. … The Casa Romantica landslide is the latest in a season of crumbling cliffs in California following a winter of remarkably wet and powerful storms. More than 700 landslides were reported statewide in January alone, according to the California Geological Survey. … ” Read more from the LA Times.


How will La Jolla fare in the next El Niño? Infrastructure, sea lions and more may be impacted by storms

“With the sun finally emerging recently after a cool, wet winter and early spring, the storms that may lie ahead next winter aren’t what most people want to think about. But meteorologists are forecasting that an El Niño year is probably coming, bringing more storms, and La Jolla and other coastal communities may need to brace for impact.  La Jolla’s coast experienced damage during the storms of recent months, and with its older infrastructure, coastal geography and ocean ecosystem, local experts are watching the El Niño signs carefully.  El Niño is a phenomenon centered in the tropical Pacific Ocean in which jet streams get pushed farther south than they normally would be, bringing wetter weather to areas that don’t usually get it, according to Art Miller, an oceanographer at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.  “In California and down into San Diego, we would get anomalously wet conditions,” Miller said. “If it was not an El Niño year, that same storm might hit Oregon.” … ”  Read more from the La Jolla Light.

EPA And USIBWC join Mexico in announcing funding for infrastructure projects to address transborder sewage

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) joined Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Agua (CONAGUA) and the Comisión Estatal de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana (CESPT) to announce funding for two wastewater infrastructure projects. These projects will reduce the risk of spill of up to 60 million gallons per day of untreated wastewater in the Tijuana River Watershed. The U.S. and Mexico will each contribute approximately half of the nearly $30 million cost.  “We are proud to celebrate this binational achievement,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “EPA has worked closely with the USIBWC, a wide range of stakeholders, and our Mexican counterparts to move forward on the joint U.S.-Mexico commitments outlined in the EPA-CONAGUA Statement of Intent and IBWC Treaty Minute 328 signed last summer. Today’s announcement means tangible progress toward reducing the pollution that affects our shared border communities.” … ”  Read more from the Coronado Eagle & Times.

Return to top

Along the Colorado River …

Graphs show rise in Lake Mead’s water levels

“Lake Mead’s levels have risen as planned, after a large amount of water was released from the Glen Canyon Dam.  The Glen Canyon Dam forms Lake Powell, the huge Colorado River reservoir that lies between Arizona and Utah.  Following a few months of extremely wet weather seen across the southwestern U.S., the Bureau of Reclamation carried out a High Flow Experiment (HFE) between April 24 and 27, releasing up to 39,500 cubic feet per second of water from the Glen Canyon Dam.  That’s a lot more water than usual, and the water volumes released from the dam ranged from 8,033 to 14,631 cubic feet per second. From the Glen Canyon Dam, the water flowed through the Grand Canyon, and down to Lake Mead, which lies between Nevada and Arizona. It also replenished sandbars and beaches as it went down. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.

As the Colorado River dries up, a documentary satirizes — and examines — the greed that got us here

“The topic of water, with its life-giving nature, political gravity and free flowing beauty, is an issue that strikes close to the hearts of many. Whether it’s the river through your town that you float on in the summer, a lake where you picnic, or the small stream where you hunt for crawdads, most everyone has a body of water to which they feel connected.  In the Southwest, whether you feel it or not, that body of water is the Colorado River.  As filmmakers from the West Coast, our appreciation for the Colorado River flowed from our love of the Willamette River and Pacific Ocean, which nourished us growing up.  As Colorado College students living on the Front Range, we began research for Rivers Run Out, aware of our reliance on the river but naive to many of the complexities of issues in the Colorado River Basin. Throughout the process of making this documentary, we have been humbled by our own privilege; we have felt this in our consistent and unquestioned access to water, and in the ways we’ll be affected by these problems in the future. … ”  Continue reading from Colorado PBS.

Return to top

In national water news today …

Black, Hispanic Americans more likely to have PFAS chemicals in drinking water

“Black and Hispanic communities in the United States are more often poor — and also more likely to have harmful levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water, a new study reveals. Sources of PFAS pollution — including major manufacturers, airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants and landfills — are disproportionately sited near watersheds that serve these poorer communities, Harvard researchers found. “Our work suggests that the sociodemographic groups that are often stressed by other factors — including marginalization, racism and poverty — are also more highly exposed to PFAS in drinking water,” said study co-author Jahred Liddie. He is a PhD student in population health sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston. … ”  Read more from US News & World Report.

Who said recycling was green? It makes microplastics by the ton

“Research out of Scotland suggests that the chopping, shredding and washing of plastic in recycling facilities may turn as much as six to 13 percent of incoming waste into microplastics—tiny, toxic particles that are an emerging and ubiquitous environmental health concern for the planet and people.  A team of four researchers measured and analyzed microplastics in wastewater before and after filters were installed at an anonymous recycling plant in the United Kingdom. The study, one of the first of its kind, was published in the May issue of in the peer-reviewed Journal of Hazardous Material Advances.  If the team’s calculations are ultimately found to be representative of the recycling industry as a whole, the scale of microplastics created during recycling processes would be shocking—perhaps as much as 400,000 tons per year in the United States alone, or the equivalent of about 29,000 dump trucks of microplastics. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News.

When disaster strikes, is climate change to blame?

Last November the spring weather in South America jumped from cold to searing. Usually at that time of year people would have been holding backyard barbecues, or asados, in the lingering evening light. But on December 7 the temperature in northern Argentina, near the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay, hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the hottest places on Earth. The heat exacerbated a three-year drought, baking the soil and shriveling vast wheat crops before harvest.  As the Argentine government restricted wheat exports and warned people to stay indoors, a small team of scientists from around the globe logged on to Zoom. They belonged to the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group, a collaboration of climate researchers that Friederike Otto and Geert Jan van Oldenborgh formed in 2014 to address a persistent, nagging question: Is climate change making extreme weather worse and, if so, by how much? The group’s ambitious goal is to provide straight answers almost as quickly as disasters strike—for the public, the media and policy makers, as well as for emergency managers and urban planners trying to understand how to prepare for the next severe event. … ”  Read more from Scientific American.

Return to top

Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

NOTICE of 180-Day Temporary Permit Application T033368 – Kern County

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