DAILY DIGEST, 5/23: What the Colorado River deal means for California; Pacheco Dam project dealt another setback; Big melt may be less dramatic – and damaging – than initially thought; Dan Walters: California taxpayers on the hook to save two unhealthy western rivers; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • PUBLIC MEETING: South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Stakeholder Forum & Public Meeting from 9:30am to 12:00pm.  Join a virtual meeting for the Stakeholder Forum and the public to learn about the Restoration Project’s latest construction work and science, and offer your feedback. Click here for more information and to register.
  • WEBINAR: Machine Learning for Rivers: How Data Science Can Inform Water Mgmt. from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Stream gages only cover about 10% of rivers in the state, and 70% of watersheds have no active gages and no history of gages. But with recent advances in data science and machine learning, we will soon be able to answer these questions for most rivers in California. In this talk we will present the results of our machine learning pipeline that converts monthly precipitation and temperature data into natural or unimpaired stream flow predictions for >95% of the rivers in California.   We will also present some initial results from our efforts to predict both unimpaired and impaired (actual) flows at the daily time-step from 2000 to the present. The presentation will conclude with a Q&A session where the audience can interact with the speakers to explore the implications of predicting river flows with machine learning.  Click here to register.
  • ONLINE EVENT: Thelma Hansen Symposium to explore the future of water in agriculture from 4pm to 5:30pm.  Presentations include Long-term forecasting of trends in California water management and Groundwater level changes and water well drilling along California’s Central Coast and around the globe.  Click here for the full agendaClick here to register.
  • GRA SoCAL BRANCH: The Importance of Groundwater to the People and Ecosystems of the Pacific Islands from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.  The Pacific Ocean is host to more than 30,000 islands, the vast majority of which are small, remote, and vulnerable to climate variability. Groundwater plays an important role in the resilience of these isolated environments. On many islands, groundwater has long been the only reliable source of drinking water.  Sea level rise will disrupt and potentially overwhelm some of these incredibly unique and biologically critical ecosystems. An improved understanding of hydrogeologic systems and their interactions with marine life surrounding Pacific islands will be essential for strategic adaptation to increased settlement, climate change, and sea level rise.  Click here to register.

Deal on the Colorado River …

Colorado River deal: What does it mean for California?

“After nearly a year of intense negotiations, California, Nevada and Arizona reached a historic agreement today to use less water from the overdrafted Colorado River over the next three years.   The states agreed to give up 3 million acre-feet of river water through 2026 — about 13% of the amount it receives. In exchange, farmers and other water users will receive compensation from the federal government.  The Biden administration has been pushing the states since last spring to reach an agreement to cut back on Colorado River water deliveries. The three-state deal is a historic step — but it is not final: The U.S. Interior Department must review the proposal. And everything will have to be renegotiated before the end of 2026.  In California, the agreement would mostly affect the water supplies of farmers in the Imperial Valley. Coming up with a plan to fairly cut water use has created tensions between farms and cities and between states, especially California and Arizona. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Colorado River states strike deal to save water, hydropower

“Colorado River states announced a deal Monday that would reduce water deliveries to California, Arizona and Nevada to ensure enough water remains in major reservoirs to preserve hydropower generation in the drought-plagued river.  State officials from the three Lower Basin states announced their agreement Monday in a letter to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, following nearly a year of contentious negotiations about how to share the pain of reductions in water use. The Biden administration touted the “historic” proposal, which would require the federal government to give $1.2 billion to the three states and other users taking cuts.  The cuts would be shared by both farmers and municipalities, which tap the river for drinking water. Although the deal would represent significant reductions in water use, an unexpectedly wet winter staved off the need for more aggressive reductions in the Lower Basin. Record snowpacks and subsequent spring runoff have boosted water levels in the river basin and its reservoirs. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

States dependent on Colorado River required to conserve unprecedented amount of water in deal

“The Biden administration has reached a landmark deal with states dependent on the Colorado River to conserve water amid the decadeslong drought.  The three Colorado River lower basin states — California, Nevada and Arizona — will be required to conserve an unprecedented 3 million-acre-feet of water through 2026, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced in a press release Monday.  The deal is voluntary among the three states and will prevent the need for federal intervention to mandate cuts.  The Interior Department is temporarily withdrawing the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) proposal published last month in light of the states’ voluntary conservation proposal. … ”  Read more from ABC News.

California emerges as big winner in Colorado River water deal

“Monday’s historic Colorado River agreement represents a big win for California, which only months ago was embroiled in a bitter feud with Arizona, Nevada and four other Western states over how to dramatically reduce their use of water supplies in the shrinking riverThe proposition, which came after months of tense negotiations, would see the three states in the Colorado’s lower basin conserve about 3 million acre-feet of water from the river by 2026 — a 14% reduction across the Southwest that amounts to only about half of what could have been imposed by the federal government had the states not come to an accord.  “It’s a win for California, but it’s a win for the entire basin that, once again, after a year of acrimony, we are at least now on the same page going forward,” said Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Editorial: Colorado River water deal gives California another reprieve. For now

The LA Times editorial board writes, “The Colorado River deal announced Monday is more of a temporary reprieve than a solution to plummeting water supplies. The deep water cuts for California, Arizona and Nevada will tide over thirsty residents and farmers only until the end of 2026.  The real reckoning comes when operating agreements expire for Lake Mead, which feeds the Colorado’s water to Southern California and the two other lower-basin states, and Lake Powell, which regulates the flow into Lake Mead while serving Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.  The agreement among the seven states gives California, especially, some additional time (although very little) to prepare for a drier future, including a much steeper permanent reduction in its allotment of Colorado River water. Many of the projects that will be needed to replace diminished river supplies are well into the planning, approval and financing stages, including recycling projects that allow all that precious water to be used multiple times. We’ll need even more locally generated supplies and water-saving measures to meet the needs of a state with an increasingly arid climate. … ”  Continue reading at the LA Times.

Commentary: The Colorado River is still in peril

Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion editor, writes, “Nature gifted Colorado River states a little extra time to preserve that waterway’s dwindling resources, by dousing the region with record rain and snow this winter. Unfortunately, the states might once again be failing to use nature’s gifts wisely.  The Biden administration on Monday announced a deal that calls for Arizona, California and Nevada to cut their water usage by 3 million acre-feet over three years, or 13% of their allowance. (An acre-foot is how much water it takes to flood an acre with a foot of water, which should be enough to serve two typical households per year.) The deal means the federal government won’t have to impose draconian cuts on the states, a cudgel it wielded last month, which would have meant significant pain for farmers and cities in either Arizona or California, depending on the approach taken. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg (gift article).



Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil:

“The consensus alternative agreed to with our partners across the Lower Basin will produce exactly the short-term stability to the Colorado River system we need. Through federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and additional non-compensated contributions by the Lower Basin states, and thanks to this year’s wet winter, the near-term risks facing lakes Mead and Powell will be avoided. We are grateful Reclamation has agreed to analyze this consensus plan, and we are hopeful it will emerge as the preferred alternative.   This plan calls for all Colorado River water users to share in the effort to use less water. In Southern California, that means we will continue to need businesses and residents to be as efficient as possible with their water use. The recent wet winter across California and the Southwest certainly provided a much-needed lifeline, but it didn’t absolve us from the responsibility of addressing the changing climate and long-term drought that are permanently reducing the amount of water in the Colorado River. We must all do more to use less.

Click here to continue reading this statement.

“The consensus plan announced today is a major step in the right direction. But once the agreements are finalized, we must turn our attention to the much greater challenge ahead: developing long-term, post-2026 solutions to the imbalance on the river. Only by working together through collaboration and negotiation were we able to develop today’s short-term solutions that will immediately leave water in lakes Mead and Powell and avoid lengthy legal battles. We must continue that collaborative and cooperative approach as we begin the critical work ahead.”

Director Gloria Cordero, Colorado River Board of California board member representing Metropolitan Water District:

“We appreciate the teamwork and unity of our California partners and collaboration throughout the Colorado River Basin. Continued collaboration at all levels is key as we move forward to solve the challenges facing the Colorado River.”

Director Marty Miller, Chair of the Metropolitan Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Colorado River:

“This consensus agreement on the Colorado River will lessen the risk of litigation which would only stall and inevitably hurt the river and our ability to undertake critical long-term planning.”

Imperial Irrigation District General Manager Henry Martinez:

“IID is pleased that the Lower Basin States have come to consensus with the development of a plan that is based on voluntary, achievable conservation volumes that will help protect critical Colorado River reservoir elevations, and in particular Lake Mead, which IID is reliant upon for 100% of the Imperial Valley’s water supplies,” said Henry Martinez, IID General Manager.  This proposed near-term action alternative is expected to outperform the alternatives proposed in the existing Draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement. Martinez continued, “We look forward to Reclamation fully analyzing the Lower Basin Plan as the preferred alternative for near-term implementation, so that Basin wide discussions can pivot to post-2026 operational guidelines to address longer-term Colorado River system operations and the anticipated continued decline of the hydrology within the basin.”

Click here to continue reading this statement from the Imperial Irrigation District.

The Lower Basin Plan is consistent with California’s voluntary conservation proposal offered through the Colorado River Board of California in October 2022, and proposes 1.6 million acre-feet of conservation from California over the next four years. For its part, IID continues to anticipate increasing its temporary, voluntary, and compensated conservation volumes by 250,000 acre-feet per year for the Lower Basin proposal, contingent upon development of a federal funding agreement through Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Basin System Conservation and Efficiency Program. This conservation proposal was facilitated by the recent $250 million federal Salton Sea funding commitment from Reclamation using funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

“IID wishes to commend all parties involved in the development of the Lower Basin proposal, and offer its appreciation to Reclamation for its early commitment in support of the Salton Sea to help make these conservation commitments possible by ensuring the accelerated implementation of dust control and habitat projects to protect our community’s health and local environment,” said Martinez.

JB Hamby, Chairman of the Colorado River Board of California and IID Board Vice President, stated in a May 22, 2023 news release that, “California and our partners in Arizona and Nevada have developed a plan that results in better protection for the Colorado River system than other action alternatives identified in the current Draft SEIS released last month by Reclamation. The Lower Basin Plan will generate unprecedented volumes of conservation that will build elevation in Lake Mead, make strategic use of the improved hydrology, and build upon partnerships within and among states, urban water agencies, agricultural irrigation districts, and Basin Tribes who rely upon and share the Colorado River.”

In addition to IID, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Palo Verde Irrigation District, the Coachella Valley Water District, the Fort Yuma Quechan tribe, and the Bard Water District are anticipated to assist in meeting California’s conservation volumes and utilize IRA funding. Arizona and Nevada water users have committed to conserve the balance of the 3 million acre-feet of voluntary conservation, in addition to their existing shortage reduction volumes and contributions under the 2007 Interim Guidelines and 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.

The Lower Basin Plan is endorsed by the governors of California, Arizona and Nevada.

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla

“We applaud the proposal agreed to by California, Arizona and Nevada and the federal government to conserve 3 million acre-feet of water over the next three years from the Colorado River.  Southern California’s communities and farmlands depend on the Colorado River. Unfortunately, climate change and a historic drought in the West have reduced the average annual flow of the river and dropped water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell to 25 percent of their capacity.  “The proposal by the lower basin states could help ensure that these reservoirs continue supplying water and hydropower through 2026, while the seven basin states and the Interior Department consider plans to protect Colorado River water supplies over the long-term.  This proposal shows the commitment that California has to saving the Colorado River system. Our state will continue to work with the upper and lower basin states to maintain this critical source of water.”

Charley Wilson, Executive Director of the Southern California Water Coalition

“After a tough couple of years, we’re having a deluge of promising news when it comes to California water. Southern California depends on striking the right equilibrium between vital water supplies from the Colorado River, the State Water Project and through local supplies such as recycled water, desalination, and groundwater and increased water use efficiency. This conservation plan, created through collaboration and not litigation, is critical to securing our water future.  At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. As a state and a region, we need to manage our water resources responsibly to ensure that we have enough water to meet our needs today and in the future. This consensus-based deal struck by the three governors and supported by all seven states is an essential step to help this critical resource and ensure that our communities have a reliable, safe water supply.”

Pacheco Dam Project suffers setback …

Huge Santa Clara County dam project dealt another setback

“In the latest stumble for plans to build a massive $2.8 billion dam in Southern Santa Clara County near Pacheco Pass, a judge has ruled that the Santa Clara Valley Water District violated state environmental laws over the dam’s preliminary geological work.  The ruling could lead to further delays on the proposal to construct the largest new dam in the Bay Area since Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County was built in 1998.  The district, based in San Jose, wants to build a 320-foot-high earthen dam on the North Fork of Pacheco Creek in the rugged canyons about 2 miles north of Highway 152 near the border of Henry W. Coe State Park.  The idea is to take water the district now stores nearby in the massive San Luis Reservoir and pipe it to a new Pacheco reservoir, filling it during wet years.  But the project has faced major hurdles and may never be built. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News (gift article).

Court rules Valley Water violated CEQA, mandates environmental review for new Pacheco Dam project

“The Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled on May 18th that the Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water), the agency pushing for construction of the controversial new $2.9 billion Pacheco Dam project, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by relying on inapplicable exemptions to avoid proper environmental review.  “The court’s decision mandates that Valley Water now perform proper environmental review of the project’s impacts before proceeding further with the extensive field investigations,” according to a press release from the Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition.  The coalition filed the CEQA petition in June 2022, which was later amended to include the Amah Mutson Tribal Band and Sierra Club. The Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition works to protect the unique biological, cultural and other resources of the Diablo Range, and Santa Clara County ratepayers. … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos.

Court rules Valley Water violated CEQA, mandates environmental review for Pacheco Dam Project

“Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled on May 18th that the Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water), the agency pushing for construction of the controversial new $2.9 billion Pacheco Dam project, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by relying on inapplicable exemptions to avoid proper environmental review. The court’s decision mandates that Valley Water now perform proper environmental review of the project’s impacts before proceeding further with the extensive field investigations.  The Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition filed the CEQA petition in June 2022, which was later amended to include the Amah Mutson Tribal Band and Sierra Club. The Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition works to protect the unique biological, cultural and other resources of the Diablo Range, and Santa Clara County ratepayers. The Coalition believes the massive new Pacheco Dam would put Santa Clara ratepayers at severe financial risk, because of its massive cost, uncertain schedule, and ultimately limited additional water supply, all without solving Silicon Valley’s priority water challenges. … ”  Read more from Business Wire.

Tulare Lake flooding …

California’s once-dead Tulare Lake is nearly as large as Lake Tahoe

“Tulare Lake, the historical lake that surprisingly reemerged in the San Joaquin Valley with this year’s wet weather, could grow to a peak of 182 square miles next week, nearly the size of Lake Tahoe.  Even so, the new state flood projections released on Monday don’t call for the worst-case scenarios that had anticipated the lake getting much bigger, inundating more fields of cotton, tomatoes and pistachios as well as the Kings County city of Corcoran.  The slow melting of snow from the nearby Sierra Nevada and efforts to capture the mountain runoff are the reason for a smaller-than-expected bump in lake size. The lake was about 160 square miles early this month.  “We have been very lucky as to how this has played out,” said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “Our greatest fear was that a hot storm would come on top of this snowpack, and that has not happened.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

Big melt may be less dramatic – and damaging – than initially thought

“State flood responders are still planning for the worst, but newly released inundation models are predicting a less dramatic and damaging snow melt as California heads into the summer months.  On the Kern River, predictions are now showing releases from Isabella Dam can be maintained at 7,750 cubic feet per second, or less, throughout the rest of May and June, according to new figures released by the Department of Water Resources.  That’s down from a possible high of more than 9,200 cfs, which could have swamped homes in low lying areas east of Manor Street, as well as Highway 178 through the Kern River Canyon, according to Kern County first responders. Those areas and the highway are still being closely monitored.  For the old Tulare Lake bed, the new models could mean water elevations are likely to peak at 181 feet by May 31, according to Mehdi Mizani, deputy flood manager for DWR, who spoke during a briefing on Monday. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

California battles a ‘ghost lake’ – and its own political divisions

“The water stretches all the way to the horizon, white clouds reflected on its surface, as shorebirds caw and fish jump. Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that only two months ago, there was no lake here at all.  Until recently, this land was covered with pistachio trees – acres of them, along with cotton, tomatoes, and other crops. Now it’s all under water, with just a few half-submerged tractors and the roof of a shed hinting at what the fields around Corcoran looked like before 2023’s record rainfall.  “Everyone was praying for rain, and now everyone’s praying for it to stop,” says Corcoran Deputy Police Chief Gary Cramer. He briefly excuses himself to stop some people from driving past the “closed road” sign. “Every time I come out here,” he adds, “the water just gets higher.”  Since Tulare Lake appeared this spring, it has grown to 100 square miles – making it one of California’s top five largest lakes. And it’s about to get bigger. … ”  Read more from the Christian Science Monitor.

DWR uses Kern River intertie to redirect flood water from Tulare Lake

DWR is now using the Kern River Intertie near Bakersfield to reduce the amount of flood waters heading to Tulare Lake. Photo taken on May 20, 2023 when in use.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is using a unique piece of State Water Project (SWP) infrastructure for the first time since 2006 to reduce the amount of flood waters going into Tulare Lake in the Central Valley. At the request of the Kern River Watermaster, the Kern River Intertie is now redirecting flood flows at a rate of 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Kern River to the California Aqueduct to lower flood risk in Tulare Lake and for downstream communities in Tulare County. The Intertie is located west of Bakersfield near where Highway 119 crosses the Aqueduct. While there is no immediate flooding or public safety concerns, timely use of the Intertie is critical to help prevent additional floodwater from exacerbating flooding in Tulare Lake as river flows increase. … ”  Read more from DWR News.


Newsom’s infrastructure plan …

Enviros fume as Newsom looks to sidestep regulations for water projects

“Gov. Gavin Newsom is slowly becoming more emboldened to go toe-to-toe with some of his closest allies in pursuit of advancing critical infrastructure forward.  The battle centers on circumventing environmental rules frequently relied upon by activists to sue and block massive projects.  Driving the News: Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to fast-track hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of construction projects throughout the state, including a pair of large water endeavors that have been delayed for years. California officials have pursued the water projects in the drought-prone state. One would construct a giant tunnel to carry large amounts of water beneath the natural channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to drier and more populous Southern California. The other would be a massive new reservoir near the tiny community of Sites in Northern California that could store more water during deluges for delivery to farmers. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun

Newsom’s clean projects speed-up could impact Delta Tunnel project

“Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on May 19 a plan to build out California’s clean and green future faster, but some local leaders aren’t thrilled with what it could mean for the controversial Delta Tunnel project.  Newsom and the state Department of Water Resources have shown support for the $16 billion project to convey water from the Delta down to southern California, a concept tossed around since the 1980s. The current iteration downsizes the project from two tunnels to one.  The governor hopes to speed up construction, expedite court reviews, streamline permitting and California Environmental Quality Act processes and start a climate projects financing program — all to expedite clean infrastructure projects across the state. … ”  Read more from The Record.

Gov. Newsom to expedite water, clean energy projects delayed by his own politics

“California Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that he now is seeking to fast track water, storage and clean energy projects delayed by environmental lawsuits and the byzantine  permitting process. This may be a great move however, Newsom has approved and implemented the policies impeding these important projects for decades.  So why flip now?  Apparently, the White House beckons Newsom as he tries to appear moderate – that much is patently obvious.  But the more pressing question is Why not remove the environmental impediments to building all water storage, water delivery, and housing projects if it is so important in these cherry-picked projects? … ”  Read more from the California Globe.

Commentary: Newsom’s vow to ram tunnel project thru bigger threat to Delta than climate change

Dennis Wyatt, editor of the Manteca Bulletin, writes, “Either the science is wrong or Gov. Gavin Newsom has no idea of what he is doing.  On Friday, to much fanfare, Newsom, vowed to fast track water and green projects.  That means cutting off the boa constrictor like tentacles of the California Environmental Quality Act enacted into law in 1970. It has since morphed beyond its original intent thanks to the ever expanding blob known as the state bureaucracy, court decisions, and subsequent sessions of the California Legislature.  Newsom, like any politician worth their salt, isn’t allowing a good disaster go to waste.  Citing drought-related issues and climate change, Newsom wants to gut the bloated approval process CEQA has created.  This includes a dubious $20 billion or more endeavor known as the Delta Tunnel. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin.

In other California water news today …

California advances bill banning hedge fund water profiteering

“California lawmakers advanced a bill that would prohibit hedge funds and other institutional investors from buying and selling agricultural water resources for financial gain.  Under the measure, which passed the State Assembly by a 46 to 17 vote on Monday afternoon, speculation or profiteering by investment funds in the sale, transfer or lease of water rights on agricultural land would be considered a waste or unreasonable use of water.  In a legislative analysis, the bill’s sponsor, California Assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat, cited a recent Bloomberg Green investigation that showed how institutional investors have purchased agricultural land and used diminishing groundwater supplies to grow almonds and pistachios at a significant profit, drawing down aquifer levels as nearby household wells dried up. … ”  Continue reading at Bloomberg (gift article).

Safeguarding the future of California’s freshwater ecosystems

“Climate change is transforming California’s ecosystems, threatening vital habitat for many native species. There is an increasing likelihood that many species will be lost. That’s why Ted Sommer, former lead scientist for the California Department of Water Resources, and Jennifer Harder, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, are joining forces this year as our 2023–24 PPIC CalTrout ecosystem fellows. We recently asked them to tell us more about what they’ll be working on, which they’ve dubbed the “Ecofutures” project, and what might appear in a series of policy briefs they will write. Q:  Tell us about the Ecofutures project—what is it, and why is it important? … ”  Continue reading at the PPIC.

Slurping-up salmon and steelhead: What mark-recovery studies reveal about avian predation

“Salmon and trout face numerous threats on their long and perilous journeys from their birth rivers and streams to the ocean. Predation, often by non-native fish, is a major source of mortality in out-migrating salmonids. Another obstacle these young fish face that is not discussed as frequently is predation from the sky. Birds, especially waterbirds that nest in a colony, are skilled hunters when it comes to pecking away at vulnerable juvenile fish populations. What makes salmonids so susceptible to being eaten by these bird species, and what can fisheries scientists learn from these interactions? The authors of a literature review published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management addressed these questions by digging through more than 20 years of published studies to see what factors influence avian predation on juvenile salmonids. They found that the susceptibility of salmon to becoming bird food is influenced by many factors, including the bird species, the salmon species, and the environment. By taking a broad look across multiple bird and salmon species in different settings (marine versus freshwater), this synthesis found commonalities among predator-prey interactions, as well as important differences that determine whether juvenile salmon will get consumed by birds. … ”  Read more from FishBio.

BLM reminds the public to recreate responsibly on rivers, recreation sites

“The Bureau of Land Management would like to remind the public to recreate responsibly as summer approaches and visitors start recreating on California rivers, in day-use areas, and when fishing, boating, swimming or performing other forms of water recreation. According to recreation.gov, water-related accidents are among the most common cause of death in some of our nation’s most visited parks, forests and waterways.  “Visitor safety is always BLM’s priority,” said BLM California State Director Karen Mouritsen. “We welcome all visitors to recreate responsibly on your public lands.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Land Management.

Purple sea urchins are devouring California’s kelp forests, but scientists are working to put the ecosystem in balance.

“From the rocky bluffs of Mendocino Headlands State Park, California’s North Coast appears almost postcard perfect: A salty breeze tempers the blazing sun, the sapphire sea crashes and swirls against the shoreline, and a golden retriever gallops toward the surf.  But beneath the waves, something is wrong.  Kelp forests as lush and impressive as the towering redwoods that grow farther inland once dominated these nearshore waters. A type of seaweed, kelp attaches to rocky surfaces on the ocean floor and, like trees and terrestrial plants, grows upward toward the sunlight. In fact, some experts call it “the sequoia of the sea.” It’s an appropriate nickname: Stems of bull kelp (the dominant species north of Santa Cruz County) can soar more than 100 feet high, and its canopies—the frond-like blades that tangle on the ocean surface—are visible from space. … ”  Read more from The Nature Conservancy.

Huge prehistoric-looking creature spotted in California lake. Take a look — if you dare

“At first, Carlos Rubio couldn’t figure out what he saw beneath the water of Lake Ralphine in a California park.  “At first I thought it was a boulder moving in the water,” Rubio told KGO.  Video posted to Reddit by Rubio shows a large, rock-like object moving under the water in the Howarth Park lake in Santa Rosa.  “I realized it was a pretty big snapping turtle,” Rubio told KGO. He said the turtle appeared to be about the size of a spare tire. … ”  Read more from Yahoo News.

Lab-grown meat likely worse for environment than retail beef, UC Davis research suggests

“UC Davis researchers found that lab-grown meat is likely to leave a larger carbon footprint than retail beef, raising questions of the benefits of cultured meat production. Bucking popular belief that lab-produced meat could be “more environmentally friendly than beef” because it’s thought to use less land, water and greenhouse gases, the preprint, not-yet-peer-reviewed study found “the global warming potential of lab-based meat is four to 25 times greater than the average for retail beef,” a Monday news release stated.  To put it simply, cultured meat is lab-produced meat using animal cells. Food developers can use cells from livestock, poultry seafood or any other animal in the food production process, according to the FDA. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

California fire season predicted to be shorter and less intense

“After years of massive, destructive wildfires, California and much of the American West may see a shorter and more manageable wildfire season thanks to an extraordinarily wet winter.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state has only just begun to see a historic snowpack melt into streams and rivers, and the flows could be high for many weeks. The agency’s Southern California coordination center reported in a briefing Monday that most of California has seen below normal temperatures since Oct. 1. These conditions have helped about 68% of the state exit drought conditions within three months — a feat that would have required two or three wet years otherwise. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

How a drought affects trees depends on what’s been holding them back

“Droughts can be good for trees. Certain trees, that is.  Contrary to expectation, sometimes a record-breaking drought can increase tree growth. Why and where this happens is the subject of a new paper in Global Change Biology.  A team of scientists led by Joan Dudney at UC Santa Barbara examined the drought response of endangered whitebark pine over the past century. They found that in cold, harsh environments — often at high altitudes and latitudes — drought can actually benefit the trees by extending the growing season. This research provides insights into where the threats from extreme drought will be greatest, and how different species and ecosystems will respond to climate change. … ”  Read more from UC Santa Barbara.

More than two dozen cities and states are suing Big Oil over climate change – they just got a boost from the US Supreme Court

“Honolulu has lost more than 5 miles of its famous beaches to sea level rise and storm surges. Sunny-day flooding during high tides makes many city roads impassable, and water mains for the public drinking water system are corroding from saltwater because of sea level rise.  The damage has left the city and county spending millions of dollars on repairs and infrastructure to try to adapt to the rising risks.  Future costs will almost certainly be higher. More than US$19 billion in property value, at today’s dollars, is at risk by 2100 from projected sea level rise, driven by greenhouse gas emissions largely from the burning of fossil fuels. Elsewhere in Honolulu County, which covers all of Oahu, many coastal communities will be cut off or uninhabitable. … ”  Read more from The Conversation.

Return to top

In commentary today …

Dan Walters: California taxpayers on the hook to save two unhealthy western rivers

“The Klamath River begins in Oregon, draining the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, and slices through the northwestern corner of California before flowing into the Pacific Ocean.  The Colorado River begins in Colorado, draining the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, before meandering southwesterly and emptying into Mexico’s Sea of Cortez – if there’s any water left after California and other states have tapped the river for irrigation and municipal supplies.  Although hundreds of miles apart, the two rivers share a common malady: So much of their waters were impounded or diverted that they became unhealthy.  The two rivers also share something else: Taxpayers, rather than those who manipulated the rivers for profit, are footing the bill for restoring their flows. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

State-level cybersecurity preparedness needed to protect critical CA infrastructure

State Senator Melissa Hurtado writes, “During testimony to the California State Senate, cyber-security expert Dr. Tony Coulson outlined the concerns that California must contend with in order to protect its critical infrastructure sectors.  “California needs the ability to coordinate effectively for cyber-attack responses. A cyber-attack is not just a possibility, but a probability, stated Dr. Coulson, outlining why the state needs to enhance it cyber-attack preparedness.  After input from security experts, I am carrying Senate bill SB 265, which directs the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal-OES) and the California Cybersecurity Integration Center (Cal-CSIC) to prepare a multi-year outreach plan to assist critical infrastructure sectors specifically in efforts to improve cybersecurity. … ”  Continue reading at GV Wire.

Bad legislation

Don Wright with Water Wrights writes, “We hear about laws being passed that make no sense. According to ETags it is illegal in California for a woman to drive wearing a house coat. Idiot Laws states it’s illegal to play drums on the beach in Santa Monica or to let horse manure pile up higher than six feet in San Francisco. It’s also illegal to wax your car with used underwear in the City by the Bay or walk your lion without a leash. And we all know for some reason or other it’s against the law in California to hunt animals from a moving vehicle unless you’re going after whales.  If the legislation coming out of Sacramento were graded on the criteria of harmful, unintended consequences it would receive an “F” average – provided you believe harmful is bad for the citizens and not just the cost of doing government. … There are three bills making their way through the legislative process in Sacramento that would upend California’s economy, domestic food supply and the relation between those who govern and those who are governed by handing water rights over to the State Water Resources Control Board. Who are the authors and where do they come from? … ”  Read the full commentary at Water Wrights.

Yuba River – Plan for new fish facilities at Daguerre Point Dam

Tom Cannon writes, “On May 16, 2023, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Yuba Water Agency announced a plan to design and build a fish bypass at Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River.  At present, the dam has fish ladders on both ends of the dam that don’t work well. The plan’s conceptual design is for a bypass channel that would allow fish to circumvent the existing dam; the plan would retain the dam. The plan would reconfigure the diversion works at the dam’s south end and add effective fish screens to the agricultural diversion infrastructure at both ends of the dam. … The bypass concept is one of several designs that could reduce existing problems at Daguerre. In addition to passage improvement, the concept could accommodate fish collection and segregation, and may be a feasible location for a conservation hatchery.  Several key elements should be added to this bypass plan … ”  Read more at the California Fisheries blog.

Return to top

Today’s featured article …

FEATURE: Voluntary Agreements Could Make the Delta a Better Place for Fish—Provided They’re Done Properly

By Robin Meadows

The State Water Resources Control Board, which both allocates surface water rights and protects water quality for people and wildlife, is proposing a new approach to setting flow standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The Delta drains about 40 percent of California, including much of the Sierra Nevada, and supplies fresh water to two-thirds of the state’s population and millions of acres of farmland. This water hub is also home to hundreds of native species as well as a migratory corridor for salmon and birds.

Under the existing approach, the State Water Board establishes the Delta inflow and outflow standards designed to protect fish and wildlife. Under the new approach—called voluntary agreements—these Delta flows would be determined collaboratively by government agencies as well as by the local water agencies that supply users. …

To learn more about the Delta ISB’s assessment of the scientific underpinnings of voluntary agreements in the Delta, Robin Meadows spoke with Lisa Wainger, a University of Maryland environmental economist who chairs the Delta ISB.

Click here to read this article.

Return to top

In regional water news and commentary today …


Bureau of Reclamation increases Klamath Project water allocations

“Increased water supplies will be provided by the Bureau of Reclamation for Klamath Project contractors, but Klamath Basin water users say they remain disappointed and that the increases are lower than needed.  In making the announcement, BOR regional director Ernest Conant said that based on improved spring hydrology and updated forecasts, water supply allocations from Upper Klamath Lake increased from 215,000 acre-feet to 260,000 acre-feet. Allocations from the Gerber and Clear Lake reservoirs remains at 35,000 acre-feet from each reservoir. The updated 2023 allocations are based on analysis of existing hydrologic conditions and inflow forecasts from the California Nevada River Forecast Center and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News.

Ambodat facility produces another generation of endangered c’waam and koptu

“C’waam (Lost River sucker) and koptu (shortnose sucker) are two species of fish unique to Upper Klamath Basin, and both were once a plentiful food source for the Klamath Tribes. However, in the last 50 years, the population of these fish has been decimated from degradation of their habitat, the rivers they spawn in, and the lakes where they live.  Ambodat is a Klamath Tribes’ facility involved in fish rearing of endangered c’waam and koptu, a water quality lab, a staff that conducts environmental monitoring for water quality and hydrology, and habitat restoration. The facility is located a couple of miles from downtown Chiloquin across from the Sprague River. Alex Gonyaw is Ambodat’s senior fish biologist overseeing the c’waam and koptu propagation project, and assisted by a supporting staff that includes Charlie Wright, James Esqueda, Brandi Travis, Eddie Mitchell, and Carlie Sharpes. They are a dedicated group with a mission to save the koptu and c’waam from extinction. … ”  Read more from Klamath Falls News.


Beach space shrinks as Lake Tahoe water levels rise

“After heavy snow this winter, water levels at Lake Tahoe are rising.  “The lake right now is up about four feet from last year,” said Allen Wooldridge, the Tahoe Region Manager for Nevada State Parks.  “That translates into about 20 to 30 feet at Sand Harbor of less beach space.”  Sand Harbor is one of the more popular beaches at Lake Tahoe and that means space this summer will be even more crowded. … ”  Read more from KOLO.

Tahoe Trout Farm receives historical designation, plaque

“In an “extraordinary session” on Thursday, South Lake Tahoe’s 77 year old trout farm was “well and truly dedicated” to be preserved by the Native Sons of the Golden West. More than 100 NSGW members joined community members and public figures such as South Lake Tahoe City Council member Tamara Wallace, South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce’s Duane Wallace, Lake Tahoe Historical Society’s Paula Peterson, several members of Daughters of American Revolution and, of course, the long time owners and operators of the trout farm, Jim and Jacky Vallier.  “With over 1,500 dedications to date, historical preservation of the state of California is taken very seriously,” said newly elected NSGW President George Adams. … ”  Read more from the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


Water releases from Folsom Lake to make American River more dangerous, officials say

“The American River is expected to be even more dangerous this week due to a larger amount of water being released from Folsom Lake.  Waterways have already been flowing faster than usual due to California’s record snowfall melting, sending more water down the state’s waterways, prompting warnings from Northern California officials.  With the releases increased to 15,000 cubic feet per second Monday and Tuesday, Sacramento Regional Parks is warning people to not enter the American River. … ”  Read more from Fox 40.


North Bay farmers still concerned about drought effects and heavy rains

“The El Nino effect produced by the warming of the north Pacific Ocean generated a heavy rain pattern in early 2023 not seen for several years in California. These storms delayed the planting season in some areas and contributed to rising food prices, while increasing costs for farmers still recovering from high feed prices incurred during the drought. …  Andrew Smith, Sonoma County Agriculture Commissioner, said while we have not received the benefit of such substantial rainfall in recent memory, heavy rain is a mixed blessing and can cause plants to mildew. The presence of fungus in soils requiring farmers to treat these conditions or risk crop losses. … “The good news is that heavy rains filled our rivers, lakes and reservoirs helping to recharge Sonoma County’s three groundwater basins,” Smith added. … ”  Read more from the North Bay Business Journal.

Napa growers see ag harvest jump 20 percent in value

“In spite of near crippling water shortages last year, the agricultural sector in Napa County had pretty much a bumper year. That’s according to the county’s annual crop report released this week.  “We did have a productive year, our total ag production value for 2022 was eight hundred ninety four million, two-hundred ninety five thousand, five-hundred,” said Tracy Cleveland, Napa County’s agricultural commissioner. That was an increase of 19.9 percent, that’s a good increase, for sure,” Cleveland added.  The bounty, however, wasn’t universal. Declines were recorded in a number of sectors, including cut flowers, nursery plants, livestock and poultry. At the same time, the value of fruits and vegetables grew.  Fires in years past, and another in a series of dry years played a role, Cleveland said. … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media.


Oakland water district’s time capsule could end up buried beneath the sea

“A time capsule buried near the base of the Bay Bridge on Monday to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the East Bay Municipal Utility District could be underwater at its own centennial, swamped by the ravaging effects of climate change.  Containing historic items — including a fossil recently found in one of the district’s watersheds, Monday’s edition of the East Bay Times and a letter from the board of directors — the five-foot-long iron pipe-shaped capsule is meant to embody the rich history of the water district, commonly known as EBMUD.  The chosen location, a maintenance facility in West Oakland that previously served as the utility’s headquarters, is symbolic of the challenges EBMUD faces in the coming century. Just 13 feet above sea level, climate models predict this part of Oakland could be underwater in another 100 years. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

Fremont’s vernal pools return with the wet winter

“As Spring makes way for Summer, the vestiges of an abundantly wet winter show in the shrinking pools of water — known as vernal pools — in the fields behind Fremont’s Auto Row. The pools are nature’s version of a pop-up, filling-up when the skies drop their rain — drying up when the rain is gone.  This year’s returning pools were encouraging for biologists after three years of drought, when the pools didn’t form at all, leaving the eggs of the pools’ seasonal critters languishing in the dry soil.  “Because there’s no pooling, no water, no precipitation,” said Aiding Kakouros, a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, “we didn’t have full pools.”  But Kakouros, who has studied these pools in the Warm Springs area of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge for years, this year’s winter of frequent atmospheric rivers and storms brought these seasonal wetlands roaring back. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area.


Monterey Peninsula water district loses second court battle

“Legal challenges to a Monterey Peninsula water district’s ratepayer fee that dates back a least a decade reached fruition Friday when a judge ruled against the district for a second time.  Monterey County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta ruled Friday on a motion by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District for a new trial after Panetta earlier ruled against the district in a lawsuit brought by the Monterey Peninsula Taxpayers Association over a fee the district has been charging taxpayers.   If the district is stopped from collecting the fee, called a water supply fee, it could have a huge impact on district revenues at a time when the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is partnering with Monterey One Water to invest in the Pure Water Monterey expansion project, which the district says could supply enough water to the Monterey Peninsula for the next few decades. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.


$2 million claim in overtime dispute latest trouble for Central Valley water district

“Two former employees of a troubled west side water district are hoping to convince a Fresno County jury that their former employer cheated them out of nearly $2 million of unpaid overtime while managers engaged in alleged illegal activities and corruption. Imani Percoats and Chris Bettencourt had a future at the Panoche Water District, an agency that straddles 38,000 acres in Fresno and Merced counties. Hired in 2006 as canal men, they were responsible for making sure farmers, domestic users and industrial customers got their water deliveries. The work was hard and the hours long.  But when it came time to getting paid for the numerous overtime hours they logged, the water district’s managers, who would later come under fire by state officials for mismanagement, didn’t always add the extra hours to their paychecks. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee. | Read via Yahoo News.

San Joaquin River closed in Madera County as snowpack melts

“The San Joaquin River will be closed starting Monday in Madera County as fast-moving currents continue to raise concerns.  Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue announced the river will be closed from Millerton Lake and the Friant Dam to the Merced County Line.  Closures along the river in Merced and Fresno counties still remain in place. … ”  Read more from ABC 30.

Merced River in Yosemite reaches flood stage

“The Merced River in Yosemite Valley has reached flood stage, the National Weather Service said.   At Pohono Bridge, at the valley’s west end, the river was at 12.08 feet early Monday. Ten feet is considered “minor flood stage.” The forecast for this week does not predict the river will reach the “moderate flood stage” of 12½ feet, at which Northside and Southside drives would be closed to traffic.  At Happy Isles, at the valley’s east end, the river was at 8.4 feet, a few inches above the minor flood stage of 8. Moderate flood stage there is 10 feet. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.


City of Santa Clarita expected to take over water factory

“Calling the move another “milestone” in moving forward for the Vista Canyon development, the city is expected to take control of a water-recycling plant at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.  The move calls for the city to spend about $3.5 million for a five-year contract with PERC Water Corp. for the company to continue operations for the plant, which is part of the “net zero” infrastructure of the 1,100-home project northeast of Highway 14 and Lost Canyon Road, according to its developer.
“The great benefit to the community I think is we’re transitioning it over to the city as expected in ownership, and it will provide … what’s considered a net-zero water project,” said Jim Backer, CEO of JSB Development, which built Vista Canyon, “which means the water factory’s going to produce more water on an annual basis than the entire project will use.” … ”  Read more from The Signal.

Plans move forward to tear down Rindge Dam in the Santa Monica Mountains

“A nearly century-old dam in the Santa Monica Mountains has moved a step closer to coming down — a change officials say would reconnect miles of Malibu Creek.  Getting rid of the dam would allow passage for endangered steelhead trout, replenish downstream beaches and help the watershed recover. But first, officials have to look at what would happen downstream.  Around 780,000 cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the 100-foot wall complicates things, said R.J. Van Sant, senior environmental scientist for the California State Parks’ Angeles District. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.

Return to top

In national water news today …

NOAA index tracks how greenhouse gas pollution amplified global warming in 2022

Image“Greenhouse gas pollution from human activity trapped 49 percent more heat in the atmosphere during 2022 than those same gases did in 1990, according to an annual NOAA report.  NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, known as the AGGI, tracks increases in the warming influence of heat-trapping gases generated by human activity, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and 15 other gases. The AGGI converts the complex scientific computations of how much extra heat these gases capture, also known as radiative forcing, into a single number that can easily be compared to previous years.  “The AGGI is derived from highly accurate measurements of greenhouse gases in air samples collected around the world,” said Vanda Grubišić, Ph.D, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML). “It continues to rise despite international efforts to curb emission of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels that seem to be falling short of their targets.” … ”  Read more from NOAA.

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