DAILY DIGEST, 5/17: California touts $60 million plan to revive Yuba River for salmon; How data science can get more grant funding for your water agency; Environmentalist sue PG&E for damage to Eel River fisheries; States near historic deal to protect Colorado River; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: California Water Commission beginning at 9:30am. Agenda items include Consideration of Action on Resolutions of Necessity for the Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Project (Big Notch Project); Consideration of Sites’ request to increase Early Funding Award Amount; Consideration of Revisions to Procedures for Resolutions of Necessity and Eminent Domain; and an Expert Panel on Desalination. Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • MEETING: Delta Independent Science Board from 10:30am to 12:30pm. The board members will discuss their upcoming reviews of subsidence reversal, food webs, and decision-making under deep uncertainty. Click here for the meeting notice and remote access instructions.
  • WORKSHOP: Salton Sea Management Program, Phase 1 beginning at 5pm.  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 as Tuesday’s workshop. Click here for the meeting notice.

In California water news today …

California touts $60 million plan to revive Yuba River for salmon

“California’s Yuba River, a vital breeding ground for salmon and other fish, could enjoy a new chapter as an expanded habitat under a new $60 million federal and state replenishment project.  Governor Gavin Newsom joined several state and federal leaders at Daguerre Point Dam in Marysville, to announce the new plan to remove obstacles and expand vital fish habitats in the river.  Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said at a briefing in front of the dam that the structure has not evolved since 1910, and is currently a complete barrier to sturgeon and lamprey that need more miles of habitat. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

California pledges to build channel for threatened fish to bypass Gold Rush-era dam

“California officials on Tuesday said they will spend about $60 million to build a channel along the Yuba River so that salmon and other threatened fish species can get around a Gold Rush-era dam that for more than a century has cut off their migration along the chilly waters of Sierra Nevada streams.  The project is the latest example of state and federal officials trying to reverse the environmental harms caused by the century-old infrastructure along California’s major rivers and streams. Those dams and canals allowed the state to grow into the economic powerhouse it is today. But they have devastated natural ecosystems that have pushed salmon — a species once so abundant it sustained Native American populations — to the edge of extinction. … ”  Read more from AP News.

Mixed reactions to the closed-door Yuba River negotiations

The South Yuba River Citizens League writes, “On May 16th , Governor Newsom, along with Yuba Water Agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) held a press conference announcing efforts to build a fish passage canal around Daguerre Point Dam and begin a reintroduction trap-and- haul effort around New Bullards Bar Dam. The term sheet released by CDFW makes it clear that this agreement is “… a non-binding framework for developing a Settlement Agreement…”  The South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) reaction to the announcement is mixed.  Interim Executive Director Aaron Zettler-Mann says, “We are frustrated that local and regional non- profits and partners, including SYRCL, were shut out of the negotiations and discussions to improve natural upstream migration and fish passage, while maintaining irrigation supply, at Daguerre Point Dam. Despite our attempts to collaborate, we and other non-profits and Tribes were not included as part of these negotiations.  Continue reading at YubaNet.


A rainy winter doesn’t mean California is out of the woods yet for wildfire season

“Characterized by wet winters and hot, dry summers, California has a Mediterranean climate. High levels of rain and atmospheric rivers across the state this winter have increased underbrush growth, scientists say, which could exacerbate the intensity and damage of this year’s wildfire season.   The variability of rainfall between seasons is a driving factor behind California’s wildfire season. Typically lasting from July through October (and fanned by the Santa Ana winds) California wildfires have made headlines in recent years for their size and intensity.  According to Chris Field, Ph.D. ’81, director of the Woods Institute and Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University, “We’ve seen bigger fires in the last few years than ever before in California in recorded history.” … ”  Read more from Stanford Daily.

Winter storms and flooding create “water mold” in some California crops

“This winter’s series of atmospheric rivers created pathogens that are attacking crops across California.  “Because of climate change, there is more moisture in the atmosphere,” said Professor Emeritus Dr. Michael Hoffman from Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions.  Crops like some almond trees are now covered in gumming and are being attacked by the pathogen “phytophthora.”  “They are known as water molds,” said UC Davis Ph.D. candidate for plant pathology Alejandro Hernandez Rosas.  Scientists told CBS13 phytophthora is usually a soil-borne disease that attacks the roots of trees, but now the water mold is attacking the leaves, branches and fruit itself. … ”  Read more from CBS News.

SEE ALSOCalifornia tomato growers still have trouble getting their fields dry, from Fresh Plaza

California agencies warn of potential summer floods as lake levels climb to full capacity

“As California agencies brace for possible summer floods, officials are warning visitors of Northern waterways to take precaution as record-breaking snow packs built up from winter storms continue to liquify.  Both Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta reported near-full capacity Monday.  Shasta Reservoir, the state’s largest man-made lake located on the upper Sacramento River near the city of Redding, is now higher than it has been in years.   As of May 15, Lake Shasta is 98% full and just a few feet shy of its 2019 high, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. Water levels have risen nearly 150 feet since the start of 2023. The lake, which has risen nearly 150 feet since the start of 2023, is so full right now that shoreline and trees are scarce, the Enterprise Record reported. … ” Read more from the USA Today.

Delta Flows: Flows, flood, conveyance, industry, future

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla writes, “2023 – the year that Restore the Delta has had to assertively and swiftly advocate for flood protection and flows simultaneously. Perhaps this is why we feel like we have completed an entire year’s worth of work in four months. We have not been afforded a great deal of time for reflection or for articulating where we see the realization of a healthy and restored Delta presently or in the future. Of course, the Delta Conveyance Project lingers on like the zombie that it is, poised to rise from the Delta peat soils and gobble up opportunities for future restoration of the estuary. So, let’s take a moment to catch everyone up. … ”  Read more from Restore the Delta.

How data science can get more grant funding for your water agency

“Water conservation is an essential component of sustainable water management, and state and federal agencies offer grants to encourage adoption of water-saving technologies and practices. However, to access these grants, water retailers must demonstrate how their projects contribute to water conservation goals. The smart use of data can help water retailers meet these grant requirements and make their applications more compelling.  To learn more, we reached out to Melissa Matlock. Melissa works as a Water Resources Specialist III at Western Municipal Water District where their Board of Directors recently thanked her for her outstanding achievements bringing in external funding in support of Western Water’s mission.  Melissa is also part of the California Data Collaborative where she previously chaired our Water Use Efficiency Data Action Team, overseeing efforts by the CaDC to develop easy-to-use tools to calculate water savings and track down efficiency opportunities. … ”  Read more from the California Data Collaborative.

Tire-makers under pressure as too much rubber hits the road

“Tire-makers are under pressure to almost literally reinvent the wheel as regulators turn their scrutiny to tire pollution that is set to surge with the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and threatens to undermine those cars’ green credentials.  When tire make contact with the road, tiny particles are abraded and emitted. The extra weight of EVs linked to their batteries means this little-discussed form of pollution – from an estimated 2 billion tire produced globally every year – is becoming a bigger problem. … This year, California is expected to be the first authority to demand tire-makers demonstrate they are seeking an alternative to 6PPD – a degraded form of which is lethal to some fish and has been found in human urine in South China. … ”  Read more from KFGO.

May revision of California budget boosts flood control support

“Governor Gavin Newsom released the May Revision of the 2023-24 State Budget last week. California is currently facing a $31.5 billion shortfall after enjoying a $97.5 billion budget surplus last year. Nonetheless, Governor Newsom seeks to bolster flood protection and response investments. The revised budget includes $290 million in new flood proposals. That is in addition to the $202 million already proposed back in January.  The bolstered flood response funding includes increased support for the California Small Agricultural Business Drought Relief Grant Program. The program would be expanded in scope to help support agriculture-related businesses impacted by recent storms. Governor Newsom proposes an additional $25 million from the General Fund for the program. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

Simple mapping can estimate beaver ponds’ nitrogen cycling

“A new study shows how simple mapping of a beaver pond’s depth and sediment can tell managers whether it’s a nitrogen source or sink, according to a press release from the American Geophysical Union.  Beaver ponds contain nitrogen, an essential nutrient that can become a pollutant when too much is present. Land managers need to know if beaver ponds are storing or releasing nitrogen, but chemical testing can be expensive.  The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, which publishes research on the interactions between biologic, geologic and chemical processes across Earth’s ecosystems.  Previous studies have found that nitrogen can be either higher or lower downstream from beaver ponds. But few studies have closely examined what happens to nitrogen within a beaver pond, leaving open the question of whether beaver ponds tend to be good or bad for nitrogen pollution and whether beavers should be reintroduced to the ecosystem. … ”  Read more from Stormwater Solutions.

NRCS California launches new migratory bird resurgence initiative

“The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is taking applications for the new 2023 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Migratory Bird Resurgences Initiative (MBRI) through June 15, 2023. California has $500,000 available statewide for agricultural producers.  “It is our mission to support producers in addressing their resource concerns as well as protect our wildlife, said NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “This new investment will help us provide technical and financial assistance to interested land stewards to protect and improve habitat for migratory species traveling along California’s Pacific Flyway.  The 2018 Farm Bill authorized NRCS to create MBRI due to a pressing need for migratory bird species. The EQIP MBRI is aimed at preserving, protecting, and improving waterfowl, shorebirds, neotropical birds, and other avian species in the Prairie Pothole Region and in key portions of the Pacific, Mississippi, and Central Flyways. … ”  Read more from the NRCS.

Burning Man becomes latest adversary in geothermal feud

“One of the darkest towns in America lies roughly 100 miles north of Reno, where the lights are few and rarely lit until one week each summer when pyrotechnics and LEDs set the sky and mountains aglow.  In tiny Gerlach, just outside the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, residents have watched the Burning Man festival grow over the last 30 years to a spectacle of nearly 80,000 countercultural hippies and tech billionaires, offering an economic lifeline for the unincorporated town. Now, Burning Man and Gerlach are more tightly aligned, joining conservationists and a Native American tribe in an alliance against a powerful adversary: Ormat Technology, the largest geothermal power company in the country.  Both Burning Man and Ormat share a vision for a greener future, yet neither can agree on the road to get there. … ”  Read more from the New York Times (gift article).

McCarthy presses bill to clean up forest, protect Giant Sequoias

“The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the “Save Our Sequoias” Act, which was recently introduced by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) to prevent further loss of Giant Sequoia trees.  Why it Matters: The bill would provide $90 million in funding for the restoration and conservation of sequoia groves, including prescribed burns and the removal of dead trees. The hearing also addressed the effects of climate change on the sequoias, with officials emphasizing the need for action to mitigate its impact.  Other concerns raised at the hearing included the need for increased public access to the sequoias and the impact of wildfire on the trees. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

SEE ALSODemocrats, environmentalists clash over a bill to save California’s sequoias, from the Washington Post

Fixing the forests problem in the US

The catastrophic 2020 wildfires in California burned nearly 4.4 million acres and killed 33 people. Carbon emissions from the fires exceeded reductions in emissions from the first year of COVID restrictions and economic slowdown.  Wildfires contribute significantly to the 24 percent of US emissions coming from forestry, agriculture, and land use. They create a suite of environmental problems: from high carbon emissions as trees and soils burn; to public health emergencies when wildfires hit towns and smoke affects distant cities; to water contamination compounding regional drought. Investing in forests, their managing agencies, and communities that care for and depend on them is vital to handling climate change and its attendant health and economic crises. … ”  Read more from Nonprofit Quarterly.

‘Snakes can swim!?’ Boater captures video of rattlesnake slithering across SLO County lake

“Headed to the lake this summer? You might want to keep your eye out for snakes in the water.  On a recent trip to Lopez Lake Recreation Area outside of Arroyo Grande, Janet Harshbarger was enjoying her time on a boat when she spotted something in the water: a snake swimming on the surface.  “I was driving (the) boat and husband notice something swimming across the water,” Harshbarger told The Tribune. “We were just south of the marina in the ‘no wake’ zone. So we weren’t moving fast. We decided to circle it and see what kind of snake and sure enough, it was a rattlesnake.” … ”  Read more from Yahoo News.

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In commentary today …

California’s water rights system is inequitable, inadequate, and possibly, about to change

Amanda Fencl, Western States Senior Climate Scientist, writes, “During a California State Assembly informational hearing earlier this year, there seemed to be consensus that California’s 19th century water rights system is not well suited to the social context and climate of the 21st century. Change is necessary and may be coming.  This outdated water rights system is based on historic and continued disenfranchisement and dispossession. It has persisted for more than a century, despite known inequities and increasing inadequacies in the face of climate change. It persists because powerful actors benefit from the current system and its haphazard enforcement, and they vehemently resist any proposed changes.  They can be convincing. After all, water rights seem overwhelming and complex. … Indeed, “it’s complicated” is not the end of this story; it’s only the beginning. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Better treatment for what is flushed down Bay Area toilets can help ease California’s perennial water crisis

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Algal blooms — multiplying faster than rumors posted on social media thanks to feasting off nutrient laden warm water — have been killing fish and aquatic plants life alike in the Delta as well as San Francisco Bay.  Besides being toxic to fish and humans, they also such the oxygen out of the water, starving fish as well as other aquatic plants of life giving oxygen.  Depending upon where they are found, they leave calling cards of various shades of putrid colors.  In the SF Bay, it is reddish-brown splotches on the water.  In the Delta, it is a slime-like greenish-blue.  Such poisonous botches have been documented in the extremely southeastern part of the Delta where the San Joaquin River flows past Mossdale Crossing park and the mouth of the Old River in the Lathrop area. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

Ag Vision seeks to secure state’s agricultural future

Karen Ross, Secretary of  the California Department of Food and Agriculture, writes, “It’s no secret that times are tough for many California farmers and ranchers. I have heard their stories and concerns over their livelihoods and the future of agriculture in the Golden State. I know that, for many, it’s hard to think beyond the immediate challenges at hand. While there is no silver bullet to address all they face, there is a new plan that will grow opportunity for farmers and ranchers, farmworkers, individuals and communities.  It’s called Ag Vision for the Next Decade, and it builds upon the existing good work of many in agriculture who are constantly adapting and serving as good neighbors and stewards of the land and natural resources. It’s a plan with numerous benefits. It connects farmers and farm products to local communities and builds bridges with urban audiences. It encourages innovation and training for the jobs of tomorrow to support farmworkers. And it takes aim at something we have heard time and again is important to the farming community: fostering smarter regulations. … ”  Continue reading at Ag Alert.

Fanning the Flames: State and federal policies have deepened California’s most pressing environmental challenges.

Shawn Regan, vice president of research at the Property and Environment Research Center, writes, “As pandemic restrictions eased across America last year, Californians faced other problems. Amid historic drought conditions, statewide mandates imposed strict water-conservation measures, backed by fines of up to $500 per day. Wildfires led to evacuation warnings near the state’s dense and overgrown forests. Power shortages from heat and fires resulted in a statewide grid emergency. And air-quality alerts kept some residents sheltered indoors from wildfire smoke so thick that it prompted school closures in parts of the state. The San Francisco Chronicle dubbed it the “cruelest summer yet,” adding drought, fires, smoke, and rolling blackouts to the list of reasons people were fleeing the state. While other states returned to a post-Covid normal, California was still reeling—not from the pandemic but from environmental policies that have left it parched and vulnerable to devastating wildfires. … ”  Read more from City Journal.

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Today’s featured article …

CALIFORNIA WATER PLAN: The state’s integrated plan for water management+

The California Water Plan is the state’s strategic roadmap for managing the state’s precious water resources equitably and sustainably. First developed in 1957, it has been continually updated to tackle the evolving issues and challenges of the day.

The latest update, expected mid-2024, will highlight sustainable water resource management, climate urgency, and the need to ensure that all Californians benefit from water planning and investments.  New for this update, the Plan will also include a chapter written by the Tribal Advisory Committee that will present the Tribal perspective and provide insights into how state and local entities can engage and collaborate with Tribes.

At the April meeting of the California Water Commission, Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of DWR’s Division of Planning, gave the Commission an overview of the latest iteration of the Plan.

Click here to read this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Wilsonart donates water rights to Steen Sports Park

“Last week, Steen Sports Park was notified that a generous transfer of water from Wilsonart International was finalized. After years of struggle to keep the park’s grass from dying and the playing surfaces playable, the park is finally going to see a sufficient amount of water to meet the demands of the playing fields.  “A lot of people have no idea what this actually means to the park,” said Scott White, Steen Sports Park’s Volunteer Executive Director. “We are a struggling non-profit trying to keep a 140-acre park open while still trying to recover from our founder and ‘doer of everything’ retiring, the COVID era, a vandalized front gate, a dry well, a bad pump, 20-year-old broken irrigation lines, run down equipment and inflation. Yea. Right now, this feels like everything to us.” … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News.

Environmentalist sue PG&E for damage to Eel River fisheries

“Although they’re destined to be decommissioned, two dams on Northern California’s Eel River owned by utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric are in such poor shape they’re preventing salmon from returning to their spawning grounds and nursery habitat, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.  The Eel River begins in Lake County and winds across three other counties through the coastal range until it empties into the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County. It’s currently dammed by two hydroelectric dams, the 130-foot Scott Dam, forming Lake Pillsbury, and the 50-foot Cape Horn Dam, holding back the Van Arsdale Reservoir. Together, they’re known as the Potter Valley Project, initiated in 1900 under the oversight of the Eel River Power and Irrigation Company. PG&E assumed control in 1930. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

SEE ALSO: Fishing and Conservation Groups Sue PG&E over Harms to Salmon and Steelhead on Eel River, from Friends of the Eel River


Some Tahoe campsites still buried in snow, closed ahead of Memorial Day weekend

“Lake Tahoe is slowly warming up ahead of the summer season, but not fast enough to clear out this year’s near-historic snowpack ahead of Memorial Day weekend.  “Up at my house at Tahoe-Donner, there’s still like ten-foot snowbanks” resident Jake Young said.  Young said he is enjoying the last few weeks on Donner Lake before the summer camping season kicks off. He said Memorial Day weekend is the first busy weekend of the summer season.  However, depending on where you go this year, you may be disappointed.  “A lot of the trails you may have been able to hike on last year, you probably won’t even be able to see this year,” Young said. … ”  Read more from CBS News.


Yuba Water Agency approves $39 million for power plant project

“In a unanimous vote, the Yuba Water Agency Board of Directors approved a $39.46 million budget on Tuesday for the Power Systems Headquarters facility, a power plant project which will allow current staff and future hires to work in an upgraded workspace. This facility will include an administrative building, warehouse, mechanics shop, covered equipment storage and a laydown yard. Officials believe that the addition of this power plant will help facilitate the needs of Yuba Water Agency and its personnel to best maintain the Yuba River Development Project and support the community and surrounding environment. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat.

USACE awards construction contract for the Sacramento Weir Widening Project

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District awarded a $172.9 million construction contract for the Sacramento Weir Widening Project to Granite Construction Company of Watsonville, California.  The Sacramento Weir Widening Project will add a new 1,500-foot-wide weir adjacent to the existing 1,950-foot-wide structure that has been in place for the last 106 years. The existing weir’s 48 manually-operated gates will remain intact, and the new passive weir expansion will allow excessive floodwater to spill out of the river channel and into the bypasses on its own. Lowering the level of the river during high-water events will reduce the flood risk for the Sacramento Metropolitan area, one of the most at-risk regions in the nation for catastrophic flooding. … ”  Read more from the Army Corps of Engineers.


PG&E plans could mean troubled waters for Sonoma County

“Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the utility that owns and operates the Potter Valley Project, is considering speeding up the removal of Scott Dam due to seismic concerns. This could lead to a decrease in the water level of Lake Pillsbury, the reservoir behind the dam, by as much as 26%.  The water availability is expected to be similar to the dry conditions experienced in 2020 and 2021, with the dam gates remaining open. This could have serious implications for local water users, including those in Sonoma County, as the project diverts water from the Eel River into the Russian River. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Gazette.

Sonoma County launches regional initiative to protect Russian River watershed

“The County of Sonoma launched a regional initiative today to unite government agencies, nonprofits, tribal partners and businesses around a set of common goals to protect the health of the Russian River and its surrounding watershed.  The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today approved an agreement formally creating the Russian River Confluence, an umbrella organization to promote collaboration among stakeholders along the 110-mile river that runs through Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  Fed by 238 streams and creeks, the Russian River watershed is a vital environmental and economic resource. It provides drinking water to more than 600,000 people, draws nearly a million recreational visitors annually, and plays a critical role in supporting the region’s agricultural sector. It also supports a rich habitat for wildlife, including 63 different species of fish. … ”  Read more from Sonoma County.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors allocates $3.9 million for seven water projects

“The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today awarded $3.9 million for seven projects addressing critical water resource challenges, including drought, flooding and sewage overflows.  The allocations complete an initiative launched by the board last June when it placed $5 million in a new Water Security Fund and held a public workshop to prioritize where the money should be invested.  “We know climate change is increasing the likelihood of extreme weather resulting in drought and flooding,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “The projects funded today will improve the county’s ability to withstand these extremes.” … ”  Read more from Sonoma County.


S.F.’s legendary Hetch Hetchy reservoir turns 100 this month. What’s in store for the next century?

“On May 24, 1923, San Francisco officials sent water thundering into a valley that Sierra Club founder John Muir described as a “​​one of Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”  Thus the controversial Hetch Hetchy reservoir was born – and 100 years later, some environmentalists still cherish the notion of restoring the temple by draining the valley, even as San Franciscans continue to rely, almost wholly, on its pure, high-quality water. “It’s a tough issue for people in San Francisco. Many people are, I would say, religiously attached to Hetch Hetchy (water),” said Spreck Rosekrans, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, an organization that continues today to advocate for Hetch Hetchy Valley’s restoration. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

Marin County water rates could see huge jump under proposal being considered tonight

“Some Marin County residents could see 20% increases to their water bills this summer if officials vote Tuesday evening to boost rates.  Marin Municipal Water District said the increase is needed because of rising costs and decreasing revenues — partly driven by people responding to calls for conservation and using less water.   The proposal includes rate increases for the next four years starting July 1. The average single-family customer would see their bimonthy bills — which are currently $138.66 — jump by $31.96 this summer, followed by a $20.48 increase in July 2024, $16.27 in 2025 and $11.43 in 2026. … ”  Read more from San Francisco Chronicle.


Santa Cruz: Water agencies work collaboratively on community resources

Bruce McPherson, a Santa Cruz County Supervisor; Fred Keeley, Santa Cruz’s Mayor; and Mark Smolley, Board Chair for the San Lorenzo Valley Water District, writes, “In Santa Cruz County there are seven separate water agencies that serve our community, each with different sources of water, customer demographics and infrastructure ages. As a result, each agency has different needs and approaches to operations and, until recently, operated largely independently of each other.  However, challenges posed by climate change including persistent drought, flooding and wildfires, as well as new state mandates for managing groundwater resources, have prompted agencies to work more collaboratively.  We believe this new, more regional approach to using community water resources is a big plus for water customers, as it provides an opportunity to use our precious water resources more efficiently while producing more reliable supplies and resilient infrastructure. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

EPA announces $128 million WIFIA loan to improve drinking water reliability in drought-prone Santa Cruz

“Today, in conjunction with Infrastructure Week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $128 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the City of Santa Cruz, California to upgrade their drinking water system to be more resilient to drought and climate change. With this WIFIA loan, EPA is helping the City of Santa Cruz protect its water supply and deliver safe, reliable drinking water to nearly 100,000 residents.  “Western cities like Santa Cruz know how finite a resource water can be and must manage accordingly to deliver safe, reliable drinking water to residents, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to investing in water infrastructure through existing programs like WIFIA and the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “With this WIFIA funding, the City of Santa Cruz is modernizing their drinking water treatment facility to be resilient to both drought and extreme rain impacts that the city has faced over the last few years.” … ”  Read more from the EPA.

New funding will help protect and restore the coastal wetlands at Elkhorn Slough

“If you’ve never visited the Elkhorn Slough, you should. It’s one of the most incredible places on the Central Coast to view wildlife—especially birds—and is home to the most extensive salt marshes in California south of the San Francisco Bay. It’s a haven for the natural world amidst our built environment, one that was nearly transformed into an industrial wasteland decades ago but for the efforts of environmental activists. But that’s another story—sort of.  David Schmalz here, with news to share about the Elkhorn Slough that will help this ecological treasure weather the effects of climate change, which is something I think about a lot, as it represents an existential threat to human civilization. I would argue most humans don’t think about it enough.  But that’s not the case at Elkhorn Slough, where a partnership between the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and nonprofit Elkhorn Slough Foundation has worked for decades to protect the ecological treasure. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Weekly.

Pajaro: Past. Present. Future.

“In the middle of the night, shortly after midnight on March 11, thousands of families were awoken to the news that the Pajaro River levee had breached and urgent evacuations were underway in Pajaro. Some were woken up by police and firefighters knocking on their doors or using their speakers to warn people of the coming flooding.  It was another tragedy facing the Central Coast, which had seen a tsunami, historic wildfires and record-setting atmospheric rivers in the first few months of the year. But for some, it was another broken promise of local and federal government officials. Just another flood caused by the Pajaro River, like the ones they had weathered before.  The flood of Pajaro on March 11 was not the first time the small agriculture community dealt with the consequences of a broken levee. … ”  Read more from KSBW.


Melting snowpack raising concerns over Merced River flooding

“Merced County officials are closely watching the Merced River as water levels continue to go up and down as snow melts.  The National Weather Service says water reached flood levels in Yosemite early Monday morning.  The Merced County Sheriff’s Office is now warning people to stay out of the Merced River.  “The water looks inviting. Folks, it’s not a game. Stay out of it. We’ve got it posted. I’ve declared an emergency situation with regard to anybody swimming in it. So, just stay out of the water,” said Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke. … ”  Read more from KFSN.

Battle of the berms: Farmers build maze of levees to protect land as snow melt heads for Tulare Lake

“Growers and water managers in the Tulare Lake area have been moving mountains of dirt to beef up levees and build entirely new ones as they brace for snowmelt this summer.  A string of storms in March battered the region, blowing out levees and overwhelming infrastructure as flood water plowed through homes, dairies and crops. The mad scramble to move dirt is in part to repair that damage but also to fend off future damage in the face of an historic snowpack that’s already swelling valley rivers.  “It’s turning into ‘Whoever has the biggest berm wins,’” said Craig Andrew, manager for Sandridge Partners, one of the largest landowners in Kings County. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Chevron scrambles to batten down oil fields amid threat of Kern River flooding

“Preparing for the threat of massive flooding during California’s “Big Melt,” federal engineers have been releasing more Kern River water from Lake Isabella than is flowing into the reservoir from the snowbound peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada.  The action is needed, officials say, to prevent water from spilling over the reservoir dam and sending floodwaters rolling into low-lying areas that include the city of Bakersfield, farm towns, Highway 99, and portions of Kern County’s famed oil patch — an intrusion that would risk significant ecological harm.   Now, with temperatures rising and river flows approaching an all-time record of 7,000 cubic feet per second, Chevron Corporation is taking steps to avoid an oil spill at its Kern River Oil Field in the event of catastrophic flooding. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.


Ridgecrest: Water District discusses adjudication and plans to handle LADWP overflow water

“The Indian Wells Valley Water District board of directors met for their regular monthly meeting on May 8. Among the many topics discussed, two of the most significant were the comprehensive adjudication and the ongoing plans to handle overflow water which the LADWP is releasing into the Indian Wells Valley. … Concerning the LADWP’s release of water, the Water District plans to direct the flow of water by building banks of sandbags. This will serve the primary purpose of protecting Navy land and assets from damage, while a secondary purpose is to create percolation pools where some amount of the water will hopefully make its way through the earth and rock and into the overdrafted IWV Groundwater Basin. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent.


Bring the trout home: Will steelhead return to Malibu Creek?

“Biologist Rosi Dagit dreams of seeing the Southern California steelhead trout return to the creeks of the Santa Monica Mountains.  Hundreds of years ago — before the local creeks were dammed, before the Spanish established their missions — the spotted pink, silver, and olive-colored fish, some more than two feet in length, were relatively abundant in Malibu Creek.  Like a salmon, the steelhead is born in freshwater, spends its life in the ocean, then returns to freshwater to mate. But unlike a salmon, it doesn’t have to return to its birthplace to spawn, and it doesn’t necessarily die after reproducing. It can swim back to the ocean and live to spawn another year. … ”  Read more from KCRW.


Preliminary Engineering Report to be done for New River Wastewater Treatment Plant

“The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved development of the New River Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) after being awarded $167,000 by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) U.S.-Mexico Border Rivers Program.  The ultimate goal of the PER, according to Imperial County Executive Officer Miguel Figueroa, is to determine best options for a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Imperial County to treat New River pollution from Mexico to ensure the river meets California Water Quality Standards.  Figueroa presented the project to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 16, leading the board to vote unanimously, without discussion, to approve of the report. … ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press.

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Along the Colorado River …

States near historic deal to protect Colorado River

“After nearly a year wrestling over the fate of their water supply, California, Arizona and Nevada — the three key states in the Colorado River’s current crisis — have coalesced around a plan to voluntarily conserve a major portion of their river water in exchange for more than $1 billion in federal funds, according to people familiar with the negotiations. The consensus emerging among these states and the Biden administration aims to conserve about 13 percent of their allocation of river water over the next three years and protect the nation’s largest reservoirs, which provide drinking water and hydropower for tens of millions of people. But thorny issues remain that could complicate a deal. The parties are trying to work through them before a key deadline at the end of the month, according to several current and former state and federal officials familiar with the situation. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

Bill to bring water back to Rio Verde Foothills heads to governor’s desk

“Hundreds of homes in Rio Verde Foothills have been without a reliable source of water since Scottsdale ended water sales to the community in January. Now, a bill headed to the governor’s desk could force Scottsdale to turn the taps back on.  HB 2441, sponsored by Republican House member Gail Griffin, would require large cities like Scottsdale to continue providing water for nearby communities like Rio Verde Foothills for at least three years. It would also require cities’ drought management plans to allow for such arrangements. The House and Senate both approved the bill this week, but it still needs final approval from the governor. … ”  Read more from KJZZ.

New report: Investing in Arizona’s water future

“As Arizona’s water crisis worsens due to extreme drought and overuse, more attention than ever is being directed toward addressing this critical issue. At the federal level, an influx of funding has become available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. And at the state level, the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) has just begun accepting proposals for its first allocation of $200M for water conservation projects.  While differing ideas abound, it is critical that our finite time and resources are dedicated to a combination of sensible and distributed multi-benefit projects that stand to bring genuine benefits to Arizonans and the environment. Single “silver-bullet” solutions are often unrealistic and obscure potential negative social, economic, and environmental impacts. … ”  Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund.

USGS: New online maps for exploring groundwater levels in Arizona

“New interactive maps that can address different questions about groundwater availability in Arizona were released today by the U.S. Geological Survey. Called the Arizona Groundwater Explorer, or AGEx, the maps provide water managers, decision-makers, and the public, information on historical, current, and change in groundwater levels in Arizona to help sustainably manage this shared resource.  “Groundwater is a critical water resource in Arizona, and mostly invisible,” said Fred Tillman, USGS research hydrologist and lead author of the study. “The AGEx maps allow people to visually explore groundwater levels in their areas of interest in the state, rather than deciphering information from databases.”  Depth-to-groundwater data for the maps were compiled from publicly available sources at the Arizona Department of Water Resources and USGS. The combined dataset contained 1,820,122 depth-to-groundwater measurements from 1891 through 2022 from 41,918 wells in Arizona. Data views were created from this dataset for 20 topics organized by three themes on the AGEx site. … ”  Read more from the USGS.

Interconnection brings Central Arizona economy to life

Mark Twain is credited with having said some variation of “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over.”  There’s plenty of fight in the Greater Phoenix economy thanks to decades of planning and execution by Salt River Project (SRP), the electric power and water utility serving central Arizona for the past 120 years. But the battles are kept to a minimum. A watershed entirely within your home state doesn’t hurt.  “SRP is all interior to Arizona,” says Salt River Project Chief Water Executive and Associate GM of Water Resources Leslie Meyers. “It’s still a Bureau of Reclamation project, but we have one project, one owner, and a multitude of folks we contract with and provide water to.”  On the March day I spoke with Meyers, snowflakes were falling in northern Arizona. They joined a huge snowpack that, combined with late-winter storms, had driven SRP to conduct several dam releases from the system it manages. … ”  Read more from Site Selection.

Lake Powell could rise 50 to 90 feet over the next few months

“Federal water managers say they believe Lake Powell will rise anywhere between 50 and 90 feet this spring and summer after the nation’s second-largest reservoir dropped to its all-time low again earlier this year.  The reservoir’s water level rose to 3,524.2 feet elevation by Tuesday, representing about 22.7% capacity. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials say that the water levels could rise to anywhere between 3,575 feet and 3,615 feet by the end of June, according to an outlook published last week. The most probable scenario is that the reservoir jumps to 3,590 feet elevation, or about 65 feet, by June, before dropping to 3,573.47 feet elevation by the end of the year. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News.

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In national water news today …

NOAA and NSF to create research center in response to insurance industry climate needs

“Whether you own a home, a business, or other assets, insurance is an important part of any budgetary calculation involving protection of property. While the insurance and reinsurance sector are at the forefront of translating weather and climate information into financial and societal risks, the industry’s focus has been on use of catastrophe models rather than incorporating climate change data and projections that can help characterize future conditions.  A new agreement between NOAA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support the creation of an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) focused on modeling catastrophic impacts and risk assessment of climate change to help better support the needs of the insurance sector.  “Traditionally, catastrophe modeling looks at past events while climate modeling looks to the future,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Sarah Kapnick, Ph.D. “We need a new and improved way of combining these approaches in order to address the challenges that are being accelerated by our rapidly changing climate. Combining climate and catastrophe models with the goal of producing better decision making tools is a game changer for the insurance, reinsurance and mortgage industries. … ”  Read more from NOAA.

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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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