DAILY DIGEST, 5/24: California urged to end water grab on Scott River; Mule Creek State Prison agrees to clean up polluted discharges; How hot is California going to get this summer?; How California averted painful water cuts and made a Colorado River deal; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Delta Conservancy Board from 9am to 1pm. Agenda items include an Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Adaption Grant Program Update; Consideration of Amendment to Budget of Ecosystem Restoration and Climate Adaption Grant Program Agreement for Ulatis Creek Habitat Restoration Project; Community Enhancement Grant Program Update; Consideration of Award of Climate, Access, and Restoration (CAR) Grant Funds for the Central Harbor Park and Boat Launch Facility Upgrade Implementation Project; and Consideration of Award of Nature Based Solutions: Wetland Restoration Grant Funds for Wetland Mosaic Landscape on Webb Tract Project. Agenda and remote access links available here.
  • MEETING: SAFER Drinking Water Program: Advisory Group from 10am to 3pm. The Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) Advisory Group will hold its second meeting of 2023Agenda items include discussions on the draft funding process for Operations & Maintenance, draft Needs Assessment, draft priorities for the Fund Expenditure Plan, and SAFER program updates. Click here for the agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: Where to Start: Tapping Into Federal Funding Opportunities for Community Water Projects from 10am to 11am.  The recently passed federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL), and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) present an immense opportunity to address current and emerging needs around watershed health, infrastructure improvements, and conservation programming.  Determining the best approach to accessing these funding and financing opportunities does not have to be a daunting and complex undertaking. WaterNow Alliance will host a 1-hour virtual webinar for utility and community leaders, sharing an overview of the opportunity for communities to leverage these funds to support their priorities, hear about community approaches to prioritizing and pursuing these funding sources, and learn more about upcoming opportunities from the USBR’s WaterSMART program.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: EPA EJ Funding and Technical Resources & Experiences of an Indigenous Community-Based Non-Profit – Part 1 from 11:30am to 1:00pm. This webinar will highlight many of the U.S. EPA environmental justice financial and technical resources available to federally recognized tribes, state recognized tribes, tribal and/or indigenous community-based non-profits, and others. The webinar will also include the experiences of an indigenous organization working to promote and address environmental and human health issues in communities, their experiences forming a community-based non-profit, key lessons learned, recommendations for those interested in and/or working to become a non-profit, and an overview of their work and ways of operating. Click here for more information and to register.
  • WEBINAR: Living on Borrowed Time – How will Colorado River Water Users Implement Needed Cuts? from 12pm to 1:30pm.  Time is passing quickly on the Colorado River. Water users are scrambling to complete negotiations in the next few months on short-term cutbacks needed to protect Lake Mead.  Just around the corner, a more drastic reckoning looms as Seven Basin State negotiations begin shortly on a seminal 20 to 30-year agreement to take effect in 2026.  Due to this year’s abundant snowpack, conservation measures currently under development may be enough for Lower Basin states to get through 2026 without drastic cuts.  For longer-term agreement, water use will be dramatically altered.  Approaches that Lower Basin states will consider include using the existing water priority system and sharing cuts more equitably across the board.  Water Dialogue panelists will explore different approaches to making cutbacks, the role of native American tribes in the process, and efforts to create a healthy and sustainable river basin including habitat mitigation and more Grand Canyon beneficial flows.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: What’s new with water in the Sierra? from 2pm to 3:15pm.  Andy Sawyer, Assistant Chief Council with the California State Water Board will share recent developments in California water rights management, drought response with a focus on in-stream flow protection, and water quality certification for hydroelectric projects. He’ll also chat about Delta water quality planning and how it will affect rim dams and areas upstream.  Alex Leumer, Environmental Attorney and Policy Consultant for California’s Power in Nature 30×30 initiative will review the role of freshwater in achieving the state’s 30×30 conservation goals, and will discuss the relationship between land and water protection. She will provide an update on water issues in the California legislature this session, including modernizing water rights, and increasing fines and enforcement of illegal water diversion.  Click here to register.
  • ONLINE EVENT: Thelma Hansen Symposium to explore the future of water in agriculture from 4pm to 5pm.  Presentations include Focus on regional water quality, Nitrate, pesticides, and sustainable groundwater quality management in agricultural landscapes, and New regulations affect water quality management in Ventura County.  Click here to register.
  • PUBLIC MEETING: Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.  Valley Water is nearly two years into the seismic retrofit work at Anderson Dam and has made significant progress on building the outlet tunnel next to the dam. The tunnel is a crucial part of the project and will allow Valley Water to increase the rate at which it can release water during major storms or emergencies.  As we continue to make progress, join us for a community meeting to learn about our work and next steps.  Attend in person at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey Rd. Morgan Hill, CA 95037, or attend remotely by joining Zoom via valleywater.zoom.us/j/84388466354. You can also view the meeting on Facebook through the Valley Water page: https://www.facebook.com/SCVWD/

In California water news today …

California urged to end water grab on Scott River

“The fight to maintain water levels in Northern California rivers for fish received a push after the Karuk tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations filed a petition with the California Water Resources Control Board seeking to permanently enforce minimum flows on the Scott River.  Located in Siskiyou County, California, the Scott River is a 60-mile tributary of the Klamath River and home to several trout and salmon species, including some of the last Southern Oregon-Northern California coho salmon – a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997.  “The fate of this population of coho salmon depends on whether or not we keep water in the Scott River,” said Karuk Tribe Council Member Troy Hockaday in a statement. “If we don’t act immediately, we could see this run of coho salmon disappear from the Earth in a few short years.”  … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Scott Valley ranchers, tribal members, teachers ask Governor to rescind drought restrictions

“Today, residents of Scott Valley, a small rural community in far-northern California, sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting that he rescind his 2021 drought proclamation for their area of the Klamath River basin. Now that drought has subsided in the area, locals are asking that the corresponding emergency drought regulations be lifted to prevent further damage to the area’s agriculture-based economy. The letter was signed by about 400 people, including members of the Shasta, Karuk, Yurok, and Pitt tribes, teachers, business owners, residents, and small family farmers and ranchers.  This past winter brought considerable relief in the form of rain and snow to the Scott River watershed, after three years of severe drought that prompted significant surface and ground water restrictions for the small family farms and ranches in the area. …  Yet despite this good water year, Scott Valley farmers and ranchers are, like last year, facing 30 percent reductions in groundwater use and possible limits on livestock water intake. … ”

Click here to read the full press release.

Mule Creek State Prison agrees to clean up polluted discharges

“On Thursday, May 18, 2023, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation entered into a consent decree to settle a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by the County of Amador. In a huge victory for the County of Amador and for the region’s clean water, the Department agreed to undertake $11 million in infrastructure improvements at Mule Creek State Prison. The improvements will provide much needed repairs to the prison’s wastewater collection system and two new bioswales to treat stormwater before it reaches Mule Creek.  The county initiated a Clean Water Act citizen suit against the Department in January of 2021. The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants to surface waters, except as authorized by a permit. The county’s lawsuit alleged that the prison discharges bacteria, pathogens, heavy metals, and other pollutants to Mule Creek in violation of the Clean Water Act permit covering the prison. … ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch.

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Amador County settle landmark clean water lawsuit with Mule Creek State Prison in Ione

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and the County of Amador have agreed to settle their consolidated lawsuits alleging violations of the Clean Water Act by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at Mule Creek State Prison.  Under the terms of the agreement, CDCR will repair or replace the prison’s stormwater and wastewater systems over the next seven years. The facts in the case were brought to the attention of the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2018, when they began receiving reports from local citizens describing brownish, steaming hot water discharging from the prison directly into Mule Creek.  Chris Shutes, CSPA’s Executive Director, said, “The Department of Corrections itself identified widespread leaks and capacity deficiencies in both sets of Mule Creek State Prison’s sewer lines. This settlement means the pollution by sewage from the prison will end. The pollution has affected prison grounds, the lands downhill from the prison, Mule Creek, Dry Creek, and in very high flows the Mokelumne and Cosumnes rivers and the Delta. This settlement will improve conditions for prison inmates and staff, for the City of Ione, for local landowners, and for Amador County.” … “

Click here to read the full press release.

California wants to store floodwaters underground. It’s harder than it sounds

“For much of the last few decades, when the sky didn’t produce enough water for his cows and crops, Dino Giacomazzi — like most farmers in California’s southern Central Valley — pumped it from the earth. Underground aquifers, vast bank accounts of stored water, were drained.  Now, after a historically wet winter, Giacomazzi and the state of California want to put some of that water back.  “It is a no-brainer, win-win, multi-benefit opportunity,” said Giacomazzi, standing on his Central Valley farm, which depends on groundwater to grow almonds, lettuce and tomatoes for pizza sauce.  More water stored underground means fewer flooded farms, and more water available to farmers like him during the next inevitable drought. … ”  Read more from WAMU.

El Niño is likely this year. How will it affect California weather?

“An El Niño is likely to develop in the coming months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, but California is expected to avoid the brunt of it. There’s a more than 90% chance that an El Niño will develop from May to June, NOAA stated in a May 11 update, persisting into the winter. And while it hasn’t been declared yet, David DeWitt, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Climate Prediction Center, said that it “probably will be declared soon.” According to the Water Education Foundation, an El Niño year often brings above-average precipitation, strong atmospheric rivers and wetter conditions to Northern California. As a result, this can cause floods and landslides. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

How hot is California going to get this summer? Here’s what experts say

Map showing higher than normal temperatures in majority of the southern, eastern and western states.“Californians can expect hotter-than-average temperatures this summer.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the weather for June, July and August will be warmer than normal.   The temperature map shows that in California, especially in northern parts of the state, there will be a 33% to 50% probability that temperatures will be above average.  The rest of the U.S. — with the exception of a few Midwestern states — can also anticipate a warmer summer. The map is color-coded and the darker the color, the higher the likelihood that it’ll be hotter than normal.  No portions of the country can expect below-normal summer temperatures.  Meteorologists can’t say for certain why this summer will be hotter, but they suggest several factors can contribute. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Officials warn residents to stay out of California’s faster, colder river waters

“Usually, Kent Hansen would describe rafting trips with American River Rentals as a “lazy float.” The company covers an easygoing 6x-mile stretch along the American River in Rancho Cordova. It’s typically so tranquil that guides aren’t necessary for the trips.  “We’re not to be confused with any whitewater rafting up on the South Fork, the Middle Fork or the North Fork of the American, where you definitely want to have a guide,” he said.   But this year, officials have noticed faster and colder river waters throughout the state as last winter’s snowpack begins to melt. Along the American River, you might now find signs discouraging visitors from boating, rafting and swimming in areas where those activities are usually the norm.  Hansen, who co-owns American River Rentals, said the company is temporarily closed. It usually stays open if river water flows remain under 8,000 cubic feet per second. In recent days, the river has run at levels as high as 15,000 CFS. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio.

Snowpack in the West is melting rapidly. Where will all that extra water go?

“It’s getting hot out West — and those scorching temperatures are rapidly thawing the incredible amounts of snowpack that accumulated in the mountain ranges over a very active wet season.  Now, water utility experts and environmental experts are working to ensure the freshwater running down the mountainsides won’t go to waste.  As the snow melts, many lakes and reservoirs in the region — which were previously drying up due to a megadrought that has plagued the region for decades — are now overflowing, or close to it. In the past weeks, flooding was present from Washington state, down the coast and eastward toward Colorado and Utah.  The excess water is spilling away, drowning agricultural fields and washing out to sea — a problem the region has not had to deal with in a long time. … Experts shed light on what will happen to all that extra water. … ” Continue reading at ABC News.

California-Nevada drought & climate outlook webinar summary: May 22, 2023

“According to the May 16 U.S. Drought Monitor, only 12.6% of California/Nevada is in drought, down from 99% at the start of the water year (October 2022). Drought primarily remains now in parts of southeastern California and southern Nevada, which did not receive above-normal precipitation. In Nevada, end of April observations reported that reservoirs were at 33% of capacity, which is 59% of average. Many of California’s major reservoirs are near or above historical averages. This webinar provided an overview of the current conditions and outlooks as well as wildland significant fire potential outlooks for the Great Basin and Central/Southern California and an overview of the new improved and expanded state pages on drought.gov. … ”  Read more from NIDIS.

As water levels drop, the risk of arsenic rises

“When John Mestas’ ancestors moved to Colorado over 100 years ago to raise sheep in the San Luis Valley, they “hit paradise,” he said.   “There was so much water, they thought it would never end,” Mestas said of the agricultural region at the headwaters of the Rio Grande.  Now decades of climate change-driven drought, combined with the overpumping of aquifers, is making the valley desperately dry — and appears to be intensifying the levels of heavy metals in drinking water.  Like a third of people who live in this high alpine desert, Mestas relies on a private well that draws from an aquifer for drinking water. And, like many farmers there, he taps an aquifer to water the alfalfa that feeds his 550 cows.  “Water is everything here,” he said.  Mestas, 71, is now one of the hundreds of well owners participating in a study that tackles the question: How does drought affect not just the quantity, but the quality, of water?  The study, led by Kathy James, an associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health, focuses on arsenic in private drinking wells. … ”  Read more from KFF Health News.

What is produced water?  Here’s what you need to know about wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations

““Produced water” is water that returns to the surface as wastewater during oil and gas production.  The water typically contains hydrocarbons from the deposit as well as naturally occurring toxic substances like arsenic and radium, salts and chemical additives injected into the well to facilitate extraction. These additives include carcinogens and numerous other toxic substances that have the potential to harm human health and contaminate the environment. The content and toxicity of produced water vary considerably, depending on the geology of the petroleum deposit.  Produced water is the largest waste stream from fossil fuel extraction. Methods to extract fuels from aging oilfields and unconventional, or fracked, shale formations typically require far more water than conventional operations. … ”  Read more from Inside Climate News.

The role of regulatory relationships in wastewater innovation

“Public water and wastewater utilities are increasingly struggling to meet society’s expectations.  Their basic infrastructure is aging, budgets are tight, and they face a barrage of stressors, from population growth to climate change and shifting regulatory expectations.  What’s more, in addition to performing their traditional function of protecting human health and water quality, many wastewater utilities are being asked to contribute to meeting other goals.  For example: increasing water supply reliability, enhancing wildlife habitat, or meeting community energy needs.  Achieving these goals will take innovation—the development, application, diffusion, and utilization of new technologies and management practices. … ”  Read more from the Legal Planet.

Strange sea ‘sailors’ wash ashore on coast

“A truly wild border is marked by the foaming waterline along every beach on the West Coast, where millions of animals thrive in the unseen ecosystems that exist in the Pacific Ocean. It is not unheard of to spot graceful seals, enormous whales and even the occasional great white shark in the churning waters off the San Mateo County coast. And much more lurks out of sight, just beyond the whitecaps where crabbing vessels cast their spotlights. A reminder of this unfathomable frontier arrived here earlier this month, when thousands of gelatinous blue blobs adorned with sails atop their bottle cap-sized bodies invaded the popular surf spot. …Do these beings deliver the sting of a jelly, for which they could easily be mistaken? Why have they appeared here, and why now?The most pressing question is the most basic: What in the world are these oceanic aliens? … ”  Read more from the Half Moon Bay Review.

Newsom seeks to streamline infrastructure projects

“Governor Gavin Newsom recently introduced a series of proposals to expedite infrastructure projects. The legislative package seeks to speed up the construction process while also streamlining permitting and court review. An executive order was also signed by the governor, establishing a strike team to accelerate clean energy projects. During a press conference, Newsom said that the action taken is simple, “it’s about saving time, and saving money, and addressing bureaucratic malaise.”  A total of 11 budget trailer bills are being introduced to the Legislature, focusing on eight fundamental principles. A key factor in the proposals is addressing the time-consuming process related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Legal challenges under CEQA would be limited to 270 to achieve a resolution. The action complements other recent efforts to reform CEQA. Newsom said the reason for approaching the issue with trailer bills is because “people want to see results.” … ”  Read more from Ag Net West.

Who’s ready? Scaling forest restoration requires strong partnerships

“In recent years, the conversation in California has shifted from whether to invest heavily in climate and wildfire resilience to how to most effectively invest and deploy resources across large, forested landscapes. Working at the scale of modern megafires and disturbances, across tens of thousands of acres, depends on a strong network of partners that are ready for significant, long-term investment. This concept of “readiness” is at the heart of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s (SNC) Landscape Investment Strategy.  Landscape grants, or block grants to restore an entire large landscape, present critical opportunities to accelerate the state’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan in California’s Sierra-Cascade region. Designed in partnership with SNC’s local, regional, state, and federal partners, the Landscape Investment Strategy calls for large block grants to forest partnerships to complement SNC’s existing Watershed Improvement Program (WIP) activities. … ”  Continue reading from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.

Emerging issues in evaluating wildfire impacts under CEQA: A resource guide

“California’s wildfire season now spans nearly the full calendar year. For California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) practitioners, this means the enhanced scrutiny of wildfire and evacuation impact discussions in CEQA documents is an emerging issue that compels more robust CEQA evaluation than has traditionally been afforded to this topic. This new emphasis comes from revisions to the CEQA Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), trial court filings, and appellate court decisions. This article is devoted to identifying useful resource documents that can assist local agency planners and CEQA consultants in addressing project review and impact analysis. This blog reviews the CEQA Guidelines and recent caselaw evaluating wildfire impact analyses, and includes additional planning resources for planners and CEQA practitioners. … ”  Read more from the Land Use Law Blog.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Oregon and California tribes celebrate 20th annual Salmon Run

“Every year for the past two decades, tribes along the Oregon-California border have come together for an event known as the Salmon Run. The four-day event finished on Sunday and was organized by the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley and Klamath Tribes.  Tribal members and other participants ran in relay style along the length of the Klamath River, about 350 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the river’s headwaters above Upper Klamath Lake.  Friday’s section of the run began in Weitchpec, CA. With trees towering overhead, dozens of people gathered in a circle next to the Klamath River, many wearing bright blue t-shirts saying “Salmon Run 2023″, as one tribal member sent the runners off with a song.  The event was founded 20 years ago after a fish kill in the Klamath River, where thousands of salmon died in a year of low water levels. … ”  Read more from Jefferson Public Radio.


Fight to get rid of California’s famous Hetch Hetchy Reservoir alive and well as it turns 100

Hetch Hetchy Reservior by Justin Gaerlan

“As California’s famous Hetch Hetchy Reservoir celebrates its 100th birthday, the fight to get rid of it is alive and well.  Spreck Rosekrans is with Restore Hetch Hetchy, a group dedicated to draining the reservoir and restoring it to its original state.  “This is the one time in history we’ve done something like this,” Rosekrans said.  If they had their way, the reservoir would be completely drained of its water.  “This is the one time we’ve taken away not just any national park, but Yosemite National Park, and we think it was a quirk of history,” Rosekrans said of the emergence of the reservoir. “It happened in 1913 and there’s a real opportunity to restore the valley.” … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.

Tiburon wetland slated for cleanup project

“Tiburon is embarking on a cleanup effort to clear a marsh of aquatic vegetation.  The Town Council awarded a $242,804 contract to Solitude Lake Management on May 17 for maintenance of Railroad Marsh, which is just north of Town Hall.  The project will involve removing and disposing of approximately 5,040 square yards of cattails and regrading the silt basin.  Town Manager Greg Chanis said the marsh is a flood retention basin that requires routine maintenance, especially after the abnormally wet winter.  “We have developed a long-term maintenance plan for the area which requires periodic vegetation removal on an ongoing basis,” he said. … ”  Read more from the Marin Independent Journal.

S.F. water and sewer bills: Supervisor wants to delay new rate increases

“San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí wants to delay the city’s adoption of new water and sewer rates over concerns that they would be too expensive for many people and that ratepayers didn’t have enough of a say in the process.  Safaí sent a letter Monday to the city’s public utilities commissioners asking them to postpone a vote scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on proposed new-three year rate schedules for water and sewer service, which are supposed to take effect starting in July. Commissioners went forward and approved the new rates anyway; Safaí said he would ask his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to consider rejecting them. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

EBMUD turns 100, celebrates a century of water service to the East Bay

“Today, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) celebrates 100 years of providing safe, reliable, affordable water service for the people of the San Francisco East Bay Area. As we commemorate a century of service, EBMUD reaffirms its enduring commitment to support our community, responsibly manage our shared natural resources and protect the environment.  In May 1923, East Bay residents voted to create a public water system to replace the many private companies that struggled to provide clean and reliable drinking water for a burgeoning region. On May 22, 1923, that vote established EBMUD.  As cities, towns and suburbs expanded across the East Bay’s shoreline and rolling hills, EBMUD set out to capture snowmelt and rain from the Sierra Nevada watershed of the Mokelumne River. … ”  Read more from EBMUD.

Will California thunderstorms extend into the Bay Area Wednesday?

“This week’s area of low-pressure and the “pseudo-monsoon” pattern that started earlier in the month will reel in another round of humidity and unstable air toward California on Wednesday. The combination of those two weather elements will quickly raise thunderstorms across Northern California capable of producing strong gusts, lightning and small hail — a few of them potentially springing up in and around the Bay Area. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.


The struggle for safe water continues for Boulder Creek residents

“The Big Basin Woods Subdivision residents have been living without proper drinking water and sanitation for almost three years. The small unincorporated enclave north of Boulder Creek has been battling with Big Basin Water Company, the area’s private utility provider, to get basic service.  California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has stepped in to refer the Big Basin Water Company (BBWC) into a public receivership to help bring its facilities into compliance and provide adequate services to a community in dire need.  Despite ongoing efforts to bring BBWC into compliance, residents are being held hostage by the bureaucratic process and left with unsafe water access. The potentially lengthy process may take months or even years to resolve this complicated matter. Residents here, however, need immediate solutions to an issue they say is a matter of “basic human rights.” … ”  Read more from Good Times Santa Cruz.

San Benito: Water district to receive two grants to support water resiliency

“The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the San Benito County Water District (SBCWD) will be awarded two grants to support water resiliency efforts in the county. The project that received funding, Accelerated Drought Response Project or ADRoP is centered around groundwater recharge efforts. To accomplish this goal, the SBCWD will be using what is called Aquifer Storage Recovery (ASR).  In ASR, recharge is by injection into a well (or wells) and the same well is then used for recovery. This typically occurs in wet years for recovery in dry years; the time between storage and recovery can range from months to decades.  The grants were issued from two separate DWR programs. … ”  Read more from Benito Link.

Saving Central California Coast Coho: Celebrating people and partnerships behind recovery

“What’s it like to work every day to save a species? NOAA Fisheries is working to recover five West Coast Species in the Spotlight. They are among nine species nationally that NOAA Fisheries has identified as facing a high risk of extinction, and where concerted recovery actions can make the difference.  Each species has unique recovery challenges. Central California Coast Coho salmon are affected by drought and warming water temperatures. Their recovery depends on providing adequate stream flows, especially during the dry season.  Erin Seghesio, NOAA Fisheries’ Central California Coast Coho Recovery Coordinator, shared with us why these species are worth saving, her proudest achievements to date, and where more work is needed. … ”  Read more from NOAA.

Farmers seek rebound after floods, virus hit lettuce crop

“Things were challenging enough for lettuce growers in Monterey County’s Salinas Valley before Mother Nature dealt a one-two punch in this year’s storms.  Farmers in 2022 had suffered an estimated $150 million in crop losses as impatiens necrotic spot virus—a destructive plant disease spread by thrips—moved from field to field.  Then this year, vast flooding from atmospheric storms damaged multiple crops, with lettuce growers suffering an additional $54.4 million in losses, according to figures released by the Monterey County agricultural commissioner.  The flooding is seriously testing lettuce farmers growing the signature crop in the Salinas Valley, renowned as “the Salad Bowl of the World.”  “We’re pretty dejected,” said Ryan Kelly, vice president and general manager of Boutonnet Farms. “Just getting your butt kicked all the time.” … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

EPA announces $173 million investment to strengthen drought resilience in Ventura

“At an event in Ventura, California, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox today announced two Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans totaling $173 million. With these loans, the City of Ventura will establish a new, local drought-resistant water supply to enhance the city’s resilience to climate change while creating good paying jobs.  “Here in Ventura, drought is a significant issue that threatens the security of this great community. The upgrades made possible by EPA’s $173 million WIFIA loans will help the city increase its water supply by an incredible 20 percent and strengthen the area’s economic vitality,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “This announcement demonstrates why water infrastructure investments are so central to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. Thanks to programs like WIFIA and the historic $50 billion for water under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is rebuilding essential water infrastructure to address community needs while creating good-paying jobs in the process.” … ”  Read more from the EPA.


‘Heed the closures’: Why the San Joaquin River is closed

“The Madera County Sheriff closed the San Joaquin River Monday, for the first time after a historically wet start to the year.  The Madera County Sheriff’s Office says it’s a significant risk to anyone who goes near the river.  “If you lose your footing on a steep or slick bank you can wind up in the water. You can lose fine motor skills within 10-15 seconds and succumb to hypothermia within an hour,” said Lt. Robert Blehm, part of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office’s dive team. … ”  Read more from Your Central Valley.

Harder raises alarm on potential mosquito infestation

“Earlier this month, Rep. Josh Harder (CA-9) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director about the public health threat posed by rapid mosquito population growth associated with standing water from floods. The Central Valley has dealt with historic flooding this year and is now bracing for more flooding when the snowpack melts this summer. An increase in standing water coinciding with mosquito season could be a perfect storm creating breeding grounds for dangerous mosquito species and causing upticks in Zika, West Nile Virus, and other mosquito-borne diseases.  “We all know the misery of getting eaten alive by mosquitoes when we’re walking the dog or watching our kids at the playground,” said Rep. Harder. “The last thing we need is to have those bites turn into a public health crisis. We have to prepare now to keep the mosquito population under control so we can enjoy our summers and keep our loved ones safe.”  In the letter, sent out May 18, Harder sought the director’s “guidance on how communities like mine can minimize mosquito population growth after large-scale flooding.” … ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal.

Dairies are returning to work after floods

“Dairy operators in Tulare and Kings counties say they are thankful to return to the normal rhythms of feeding, milking and calving after historic flooding in March burst levees and forced dairies to rapidly evacuate their cows.  The resumption of dairy activities is welcome news in two neighboring counties where milk and milk products are top commodities. Tulare County is the state’s leading milk and milk products producer. Kings County ranks fourth.  Peter de Jong, owner of Cloverdale Dairy in Hanford, evacuated 5,000 cattle over two days in pouring rain in March, a feat he and his staff say they never want to repeat. After spending most of April fortifying the Kings County dairy with 1.5 miles of elevated permanent berms, de Jong has slowly brought his livestock back. He said he expects his remaining 350 cattle to return soon from a relative’s dairy. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

Photos show Yosemite flooding as major river swells

“A warm spell has hastened the melt-off from Yosemite National Park’s nearly unprecedented snowpack and brought minor flooding to Yosemite Valley.  Over the past week, the Merced River has periodically spilled onto the valley’s roads, trails and campgrounds, and more on-and-off flooding is expected through the Memorial Day weekend. Yosemite Valley closed for two days in late April because of the flood risk, but park officials say they don’t expect to go that route this time. They’re advising visitors to be mindful of high water on roads and caution against getting too close to rivers and creeks. Already, two people caught in the swift currents of the Merced River had to be plucked out by rescue crews.

Project to raise Corcoran levee in Kings County nearing completion

“For weeks now, work on the 14-and-a-half-mile levee protecting Corcoran from flooding has been non-stop.  “Trucks back and forth. A lot of activity. There is so much going on,” said Mary Gonzales, a resident.  Gonzales remembers the fear and restless nights when Tulare Lake started filling up but says recently, there has been a lot of peace in the community thanks to the efforts by city and state officials.  “There is real hope. And not ‘we hear’ that they are coming to help. No, we are feeling real hope, especially with the governor coming to Corcoran,” explained Gonzales. … ”  Read more from KFSN.

Flood worries recede as levees, diversions stem Tulare Lake expansion

“California officials believe that tens of thousands of people living near Tulare Lake are unlikely to experience flooding this year, thanks to improving weather conditions and swift planning following a series of powerful storms that refilled the basin for the first time in decades.   The backstory: Tulare Lake in California’s Central Valley was once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, fed by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada each spring. However, the lake eventually went dry as settlers dammed and diverted water for agriculture. This year, the lake started to reconstitute after the Golden State was hit with a dozen atmospheric rivers packed with massive amounts of rain and snow. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.


Palmdale Water District ends drought water restrictions

“Given California’s wet winter and ample current water supplies, all drought restrictions enacted in the past two years by the Palmdale Water District have been lifted. The District Board of Directors voted unanimously on Monday to lift the restrictions by rescinding the Emergency Drought Regulations and the voluntary stage of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan. “My fellow board members and I are happy to end the restrictions that have been in place for the last couple of years,” board President Don Wilson said. “We appreciate our customers who responded to our call for conservation and cut back usage by up to 20%.” … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press.

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Along the Colorado River …

How California averted painful water cuts and made a Colorado River deal

“For months, California officials led by Gov. Gavin Newsom felt like they were at the bottom of a multistate dogpile in the closely-watched staredown over water rights across the American West.  Newsom and his top environmental aides viewed century-old laws as favoring them. And they tried to convince other states that California had already sacrificed by slashing its use. But they were getting crushed not only in the P.R. war, but in the delicate discussions taking place between the various states behind closed doors.  That all changed in a dramatic way on Monday, when California went from the main villain over dwindling Colorado River supplies to something of a surprise beneficiary. The joint plan presented alongside Arizona and Nevada and roundly viewed as a victory by California officials — as well as environmentalists and business leaders alike — proposes to hold off a water crisis for at least three more years. … ”  Read more from Politico.

At last, states reach a Colorado River deal: Pay farmers not to farm

“After a year of intense negotiations, the states along the Colorado River have reached a deal to solve one of the most complex water crises in U.S. history. The solution to this byzantine conundrum is deceptive in its simplicity: pay farmers — who collectively use 80 percent of Colorado River deliveries — to give up their water.  Representatives from Arizona, Nevada, and California announced on Monday that they had agreed to reduce their states’ collective water usage by more than 3 million acre-feet over the next three years. That equals around a trillion gallons, or roughly 13 percent of the states’ total water usage. Under the terms of the deal, cities and irrigation districts in these so-called “Lower Basin” states will receive around $1.2 billion from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, in exchange for using less water. Most of the reductions are likely to come from farming operations. … ”  Read more from Grist.

Why the new Colorado River agreement is a big deal — even if you don’t live out West

“Last summer, the Colorado River system was headed toward collapse. Its reservoirs were at historic lows and sinking dangerously close to “dead pool,” at which point water can no longer pass downstream through the dams.  The situation ignited a tense debate among Western states over who would turn down their taps. Would it be farmers? Or cities? Which ones? Something — or someone — would have to give to save the river, on which some 40 million people depend.  Now, those states have finally struck a deal. … ”  Read more from Vox.

Colorado River water sharing agreement likely dodges legal fight

“A messy Colorado River legal fight is much less likely in the near term now that the seven river basin states have reached consensus on how to conserve water amid a historic 23-year drought, legal observers say.  The consensus proposal respects water rights by relying mainly on voluntary conservation and “goes a very long way to avoiding what would have been costly and divisive litigation,” said Jay Weiner, of counsel at Rosette LLP, who represents the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe.  The Colorado River water conservation proposal announced Monday to cut at least 3 million acre-feet of water use in the basin through 2026 would prevent the Interior Department from needing to impose federally mandated water cuts that the states were trying hard to avoid. … ”  Read more from Bloomberg Law.

Editorial: Temporary Colorado River deal isn’t cause for celebration

The San Jose Mercury News editorial board writes, “The purportedly landmark Colorado River water supply deal announced Monday is hardly cause for celebration.  The three-year agreement between California, Arizona, Nevada and the federal government merely kicks the can down the road rather than directly confronting the growing water crisis.  The problem is simple: Water officials have for a century promised far more water than the Colorado River can provide. Climate change and the recent drought have exacerbated the situation, dropping the level of the river’s flows by about one-third in recent years. As a result, the nation’s largest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — may not be able to provide water and generate electricity for millions of Southern California, Arizona and Nevada residents.  Yet farmers, cities and irrigation districts continue to demand access to the supply guaranteed by their water rights contracts.  It’s against that background that Monday’s deal was struck. … ”  Continue reading at the San Jose Mercury News.

Commentary: Latest plan to save Lake Mead is imperfect — and maybe what the Colorado River needs

Opinion columnist Joanna Allhands writes, “The latest proposal to save Lake Mead solves nothing, long-term.  Its success relies on the premise that farmers, cities and tribes in Arizona, California and Nevada will volunteer, rather than being forced, to temporarily stop using significantly more Colorado River water than they have before.  Most of that saved water will come at a price.  And if the proposal works as envisioned, it would simply stabilize Lake Mead until the current rules to operate the lake expire in 2027.  Essentially, buying us time.  It may not be the best way to spend an estimated $1.2 billion in federal cash.  But it may be the best deal to move us forward. … ”  Read more from The Spectrum.

Commentary: The proposed Colorado River deal: A short-term band-aid for a long-term problem

Dr. Mark Gold, Director of Water Scarcity Solutions with NRDC’s People & Communities Program, writes, “Today, Arizona, California, and Nevada announced a proposal for modest reductions in water use from the Colorado River over the next three years. This proposal from the Lower Basin states to conserve an average of 1 million acre feet of water per year (MAFY) is substantially less than last year’s federal recommendation of 2–4 MAFY. It is also less than the January proposal from the six upstream states in the Colorado River Basin of approximately 1.5 MAFY.  Functionally, if the Biden administration accepts the proposal, all major decisions on long-term reductions in water consumption from the Colorado River that are necessary to prevent a crisis will be deferred until 2026 (the date when the Colorado River interim management guideline and drought contingency plans expire), despite the federal government spending more than $1 billion of taxpayer money in the short term.  How did such an urgent water crisis turn into such a modest response from the Lower Basin states? … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC.


Group says Lake Powell can and should be saved even with long-term drying trends

“Lake Powell has made headlines in recent years thanks to shockingly low water levels. Earlier this year, it reached its lowest level since filling up after Glen Canyon Dam was built.  Although the lake is expected to rise approximately 50 to 90 feet this year because of runoff from record snowpack, it won’t be enough fill the reservoir completely.  Still, the surge in water this year is welcome news to many people.  “We see that this year is really buying us time to solve these bigger problems,” said Ben Burr. “No one can take for granted that we might not revert back to more drought-like conditions.”  Burr is executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a non-profit group focused on protecting recreation access to public land and water. The group has tried to counter the claim that Lake Powell is disappearing and nothing can be done about it. … ”  Read more from Channel 2.

Creative co-funding for positive water impact

“The Pacific Institute and AMP Insights recently published a new report, Joining Forces: Innovative Co-Funding to Enhance Corporate Water Stewardship Impact in the Colorado River Basin.’ The report explores how leveraging corporate water stewardship spending with existing and emerging funding streams, referred to as co-funding, can increase positive water impact in the Colorado River Basin and beyond. It outlines innovative co-funding approaches, the challenges and limitations of specific approaches, and high-level recommendations that corporations can act on immediately.   The Pacific Institute’s Dr. Amanda Bielawski spoke with two of the report’s authors, Cora Snyder from the Pacific Institute and Davíd Pilz from AMP Insights, about the opportunities for creative co-funding for water stewardship projects in the Colorado River Basin. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute.

Snowmelt is swelling Colorado’s rivers, but much more snow is still waiting in the high country

“Floods, swollen rivers, road closures — Colorado’s spring runoff season is in full swing and much of the snow in the state’s mountains hasn’t melted yet.  Colorado saw higher-than-average snowfall build up on the Western Slope this year, a boon for irrigators and other water users who rely on the Colorado River Basin which spans Colorado, tribal lands, six Western states and parts of Mexico. But the snowmelt, with the help of recent weather, is leading to high runoff and its adverse impacts are popping up around the state like a game of whack-a-mole.  Beyond monitoring for mudslides and rockfalls loosened by rain and high runoff, the Colorado Department of Transportation is also watching bridges and roads for possible closures. … ”  Read more from the Colorado Sun.

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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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