DAILY DIGEST, 5/25: EPA authority to regulate wetlands clobbered by Supreme Court; CA legislature could make overdue changes to water rights if these three bills pass; Delta Tunnel plan touted by Newsom gets push-back from Congress member; California snowlines on track to be 1,600 feet higher by century’s end; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • MEETING: Delta Stewardship Council meets beginning at 9:00am. Agenda items include the Delta Lead Scientist Report; Possible reappointment of the Delta Lead Scientist; and an update from DWR on the West False River Drought Salinity Barrier Project. Click here for the meeting notice and remote access instructions.
  • MEETING: Wildlife Conservation Board beginning at 10am. Agenda items include an informational item on funding status and many presentations on projects. Click here for the full agenda and remote access instructions.
  • WEBINAR: Soil Moisture Seminar Series: USDA Perspectives on Monitoring and Assessing Drought Impacts and Fire Risk from 11am to 12pm.  Data coordinated through the National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network will provide vital support in monitoring, assessing, and planning for the impacts of drought, particularly for decision-makers in areas currently lacking accessible data. In addition to Congressional mandates to the USDA to incorporate soil moisture information into the production of the United States Drought Monitor, lawmakers have prioritized the need to make Western states more resilient to drought and fires. Additional knowledge of soil moisture conditions under forest canopies will significantly improve the ability to assess these risks, and activities are currently underway to make in-situ soil moisture data accessible to users in all fields. This seminar will detail current activities and future plans being championed within the USDA for improving soil moisture monitoring, with an emphasis on forested areas.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: PFAS: Managing Increased Samples and New Regulatory Requirements from 1pm to 2pm.  The emergence of new contaminants such as PFAS has widely affected water and wastewater agencies. Despite playing no role in releasing PFAS into the environment, cities and water agencies must find ways to remove it from their local water supplies. From increased demands for PFAS analysis to new regulatory requirements, hear from professionals at the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District on how they are managing these complex conditions while maintaining high standards of water quality in their communities.  Click here to register.
  • CDFW Beaver Restoration Informational Meeting from 2pm to 3pm.  The meeting will provide a broad overview of CDFW’s Beaver Restoration Program, including its purpose, objectives, tasks, and timelines. Additionally, the meeting will address the implementation of pilot and future beaver translocation projects, development of a beaver co-existence toolkit, and policy updates. The meeting will conclude with a public question and answer session. Future public workshops will be scheduled to discuss human-beaver coexistence strategies and the process for developing and requesting beaver translocation projects.  Join the Zoom Webinar;Passcode: 930661 orJoin via phone: (216) 706-7075 (USA Toll) OR (866) 390-1828 (Toll-free); Conference code: 663759
  • ONLINE EVENT: Thelma Hansen Symposium to explore the future of water in agriculture from 4pm to 5:30pm.  Presentations include Economics of water in California agriculture and Water Markets: the importance of good design.  Click here to register.
  • WEBINAR: Harnessing Our Greatest Life Force: Swim with Us Through Water Data for the Nation from 6pm to 7:30pm.  Learn how to explore all USGS water data, from historical to present day, check the status of near real-time water conditions nationwide, receive personalized alerts of changing water conditions, and automate unique, customized displays of water data.  Click here to join Teams meeting.

In California water news today …

EPA authority to regulate wetlands clobbered by Supreme Court

“Limiting the government’s authority to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act, the Supreme Court ended a nearly two-decade-old dispute Thursday.  The ruling from the court was unanimous, with the justices affirming summary judgment in the suit by Chantell and Michael Sackett against the Environmental Protection Agency.  “For more than a half century, the agencies responsible for enforcing the Act have wrestled with the problem and adopted varying interpretations,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.  He continued: “When we addressed the question 17 years ago, we were unable to agree on an opinion of the Court. Today we return to the problem and attempt to identify with greater clarity what the Act means by ‘waters of the United States.’” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.


Commentary: California legislature could make overdue changes to water rights if these three bills pass

Amanda Fencl with the Union of Concerned Scientists writes, “For the first time in several decades, policy makers in Sacramento seem poised to actually do something about California’s dysfunctional water rights systems. There are three promising policies winding their way through the Legislature this session. All three bills just made it out of the committee review process, and are slated to be voted on by June 2. These incremental changes are a long-overdue start toward addressing California’s outdated and unjust water rights system.  The package of water rights bills before the Legislature offers critical updates to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (“Water Board”) ability to make informed and timely water management decisions and build climate resilience for the future for everyone in the state. … ”  Continue reading at the Equation.

Delta Tunnel plan touted by Newsom gets push-back from Congress member

“California’s long-discussed “Delta tunnels” project is on the front-burner again.  Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced sweeping legislation that would fast-track infrastructure projects across the state. That announcement included the latest version of a tunnel project in the Delta, which would divert Sacramento River water and ultimately send it to Southern California.  Congressman Josh Harder, who represents the Stockton area and has been opposed to the Delta tunnels project for five years, is speaking out against the governor’s move. … CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with Harder to learn more about his effort to stop the Delta tunnel project. … ”  Read more from Capital Public Radio.

State Water Contractors release whiteboard video on managing California’s water through climate change

“Today, the State Water Contractors released a video about managing California’s limited water resources through the impacts of climate change. California’s climate whiplash – switching back and forth between long periods of drought to short-lived and flashy storm events – is our new normal, and one we need to better prepare for to secure the water that supports our homes, farms and businesses.  That means building, maintaining and upgrading our state’s water infrastructure through smart projects like the Delta Conveyance Project, Sites Reservoir, and improved San Joaquin Valley conveyance. It also means adjusting the way we manage water to be more responsive to the forecasting data that the experts at California’s Department of Water Resources are tracking on a daily basis. … ”  Read more and watch video from the State Water Contractors.

California unlikely to run short of electricity this summer thanks to storms, new power sources

“California regulators say the state is unlikely to experience electricity shortages this summer after securing new power sources and a wet winter that filled the state’s reservoirs enough to restart hydroelectric power plants that were dormant during the drought.  The nation’s most populous state normally has more than enough electricity to power the homes and businesses of more than 39 million people. But the electrical grid has trouble when it gets really hot and everyone turns on their air conditioners at the same time.  It got so hot in August 2020 that California’s power grid was overwhelmed, prompting the state’s three largest utility companies to shut off electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes for a few hours over two consecutive days.  The state’s electrical grid was strained in part because of a severe drought that left reservoirs at dangerously low levels, leaving little water available to pass through hydroelectric power plants. … ”  Read more from KEYT.

California snowlines on track to be 1,600 feet higher by century’s end

“This winter produced record snowfall in California, but a new study suggests the state should expect gradually declining snowpacks, even if punctuated with occasional epic snowfalls, in the future.  An analysis by Tamara Shulgina, Alexander Gershunov, and other climate scientists at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggest that in the face of unabated global warming, the snowlines marking where rainfall turns to snow have been rising significantly over the past 70 years. Projections by the researchers suggest the trend will continue with snowlines rising hundreds of meters higher by the second half of this century.  In the high Southern Sierra Nevada range, for instance, snowlines are projected to rise by more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) and even more when the mountains get precipitation from atmospheric rivers, jets of water vapor that are becoming an increasingly potent source of the state’s water supply. … ”  Read more from UC San Diego.

How we can all be guardians of the Delta: What the Delta Stewardship Council heard at their tribal listening session

Delta Stewardship Council Chair Virginia Madueño and Tribal Liaison Brandon Chapin write, “Before colonial and American expansion, California’s Delta watershed was occupied by the original guardians of the Delta. These were the Native Peoples of the numerous villages and Tribes of the Bay Miwok, Coast Miwok, Plains Miwok, Maidu, Nisenan, Ohlone, Patwin, Pomo, Wappo, Wintun, and Yokuts. Today, those original villages and Tribes are represented by many local tribal groups that still have a deep connection to the Delta watershed from Mount Shasta to the Tulare Basin. As the Council works towards its mission of achieving the coequal goals, we must partner with Native American Tribes to ensure their lived experiences and perspectives are heard and reflected in our shared work to create a more resilient Delta. … We want to share some of what we heard from these tribal representatives, both for our recollection and for all who have their own connection to the Delta. … ”  Read more from the Delta Stewardship Council.

Delta Conservancy Board approves $24 million for wetland restoration, community access, climate resiliency projects

“The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy Board on Wednesday approved $24 million for two projects that will restore wetlands, improve community access, and support climate resiliency in Contra Costa County.  Under the larger of the two projects, the Board unanimously approved up to $20.9 million in grant funding for the Wetland Mosaic Landscape on Webb Tract Project proposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. During the two-phase project, Metropolitan will design and construct up to 3,500 acres of managed, flooded wetlands and up to 1,500 acres of rice fields on Webb Tract, located in the northeastern portion of Contra Costa County and owned by Metropolitan.  The grant funding for this project was made possible by the Amended Budget Act of 2022, which provided the Delta Conservancy with a general fund allocation of $36 million for projects that support Nature Based Solutions: Wetland Restoration. … ”  Continue reading from the Delta Conservancy.

Radio: Toxic lead levels at CA child care facilities

“The Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are more than 9 million lead pipes (which is a significant source of lead contamination) in drinking water across the United States.  It’s a problem that gained a national spotlight after the Flint, Michigan water crisis which began in 2014. Shortly after, California became the first state in the country to make a commitment to remove all of its lead service lines. But the lead pipe problem still persists. That problem is highlighted in a new report mandated by state law and focuses on potential lead contamination in the drinking water of state-licensed childcare facilities. The report revealed that drinking water at almost 1,700 childcare facilities across California (roughly 1 in 4) exceeded the amount of lead the state allows in drinking water. It suggests some of California’s youngest may have been exposed to contaminated water for decades. To gain a better understanding, Insight invited Susan Little with the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit that sponsored the report, onto the program.” Listen to radio show at Capital Public Radio.

Groundwater resilience and agriculture competitiveness through climate-adaptive multibeneficial managed aquifer recharge

“Groundwater, a crucial freshwater source for humanity, is found underground in aquifers — porous rock or sediment saturated with water. It is underneath our feet and invisible, everywhere and nowhere at once. But this “invisible” resource can help fight climate change, and we cannot afford to wait. As the world spotlights groundwater by “Making the invisible visible” on behalf of the U.N., a promising and innovative approach to sustainable groundwater management and resilience — managed aquifer recharge (MAR) — is gaining fame. The concept of purposeful underground water storage has been around for more than a century. But it has been gaining renewed attention and fresh prominence since the late 20th century as our worldwide climate crisis has intensified. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News.

Farmers face a soaring risk of flash droughts in every major food-growing region in coming decades, new research shows

“Flash droughts develop fast, and when they hit at the wrong time, they can devastate a region’s agriculture.  They’re also becoming increasingly common as the planet warms.  In a new study published May 25, 2023, we found that the risk of flash droughts, which can develop in the span of a few weeks, is on pace to rise in every major agriculture region around the world in the coming decades.  In North America and Europe, cropland that had a 32% annual chance of a flash drought a few years ago could have as much as a 53% annual chance of a flash drought by the final decades of this century. The result would put food production, energy and water supplies under increasing pressure. The cost of damage will also rise. A flash drought in the Dakotas and Montana in 2017 caused US$2.6 billion in agricultural damage in the U.S. alone. … ”  Read more from The Conversation.

El Niño is back. What does that mean for an already overheated California?

Justin S. Mankin, a geography professor at Dartmouth College, and Christopher W. Callahan, a doctoral candidate in geography at Dartmouth, write, “During the El Niño of 1983, Californians counted their blessings. The warm Pacific waters sloshing eastward certainly brought heavy spring rains and record snow. But the state largely escaped the flood risks being frantically managed farther east.  That spring, engineers famously resorted to plywood to add just a few more inches to the 710-foot-high Glen Canyon Dam as they struggled to prevent the second-largest reservoir in the United States from being overtopped by El Niño-swollen waters. Back in California, a top flood official noted that it was “luck,” not preparation, that spared the state a similar fate. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

For beleaguered homeowners and their insurers, the fire next time could be a flood

“The West’s fires and floods of recent years share two common features beyond their immediate harms: they are disasters exacerbated by climate change, and they have wrought havoc with the insurance industry’s barriers against homeowner losses — barriers that in some cases weren’t so strong to begin with.  Industry research papers and officials’ testimony before Congress make it clear that the data-driven insurance business is in trouble. Its actuarial models are based on the disasters of the past, which may not be dependable models when budgeting for those of the future, nor for keeping the companies solvent. … ”  Read more from … & the West.

How does sea level rise challenge modern notions of property lines?

“Here in California, a landmark law (dubbed the Coastal Act) declared decades ago that the beach is a public treasure that must be shared by all. … Along the California coast, the public trust is delineated by the mean high tide line. The state, and therefore the public, has rights to most land covered and uncovered by the tide (i.e., the beach), as well as lands that were historically below the tide line but have since been artificially drained or filled (i.e., wetlands).  These lines in the sand were all fine and good when we still had ample sand to go around. But sea level rise has made things a lot more complicated: What happens when the tide line starts to move inland because of climate change? At what point does private property become public property — and how do we draw that line? … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

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Today’s featured article …

SCIENCE SPOTLIGHT: New study looks at stressors that impact presence or absence of Delta smelt

At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen spotlighted a study funded by the Delta Stewardship Council, State Water Contractors, and the Department of Water Resources that leveraged decades of monitoring data to test competing hypotheses about how combinations of stressors impact the presence or absence of Delta smelt in locations throughout the Delta.

Native fish in the Delta have been dealing with many challenges, including loss of habitat, loss of flows, competition and predation by invasive species, diminished food supply, loss of turbidity that helps them evade predators, and entrainment in Delta pumps.

“Often the science community has grappled with these changes by trying to understand how varying amounts of any one of these stressors impacts one or more life stages of native fish species,” said Dr. Larsen.  “These studies contribute valuable information, but they often leave unanswered questions about how interactions between these stressors impact fish or about which are really driving the concerningly low levels of fish populations in the Delta.  For example, perhaps there is an apparent relationship between non-native predators and fish populations.  But if flows were higher, perhaps this relationship would have negligible importance.”

Click here to continue reading this article.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Tribes on the Klamath River struggle to save their salmon and way of life in the face of a changing climate

“Stretching from the volcanic Cascades of Southern Oregon to the Pacific Ocean in California, the Klamath River is intrinsically linked to the health of its surrounding communities, businesses, and environment. These communities include Native Americans, farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners, recreationists, and fishermen.  For thousands of years, the bounty of nature on the Klamath River served as the foundation for the health and culture of native tribes living here. The Klamath was once the third largest salmon-producing river on the West coast, teeming with what seemed to be a never-ending abundance of fish.  Long before contact, salmon runs were the common thread uniting Tribal communities throughout the Klamath River Basin. … Now with the dramatic effects of a changing climate making a devastating advance on our natural world, the once abundant salmon are reaching a tipping point as water quality and fish health rapidly declines. … ”  Read the full story at the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

First Klamath River dam to be removed by end of summer

We are thrilled to share that (de-)construction for removal of the Klamath River dams is well underway. Copco 2, the first of four lower dams slated to be removed, will be removed by the end of September, according to Mark Bransom, CEO of the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. In a recent interview with KDRV, Bransom explained that contractors will drill small holes into the large concrete structure of the dam, pack those holes with explosives, and then detonate them. This will enable crews to break up larger pieces of concrete into smaller pieces that are more easily managed by their equipment. … ”  Read more from Cal Trout

Reclamation releases surface flushing flow

“Shortly after sunrise on April 19, employees of PacifiCorp and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) opened all six outlet gates along with nine of the spillway bays on Link River Dam, initiating this year’s “surface flushing flow” for the Klamath River. Within a few hours flows out of Upper Klamath Lake reached over 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), where they would remain for the next 72 hours. Shortly after the increase in releases at Link River Dam, a similar adjustment was made at Iron Gate Dam, increasing downstream releases to over 6,000 cfs. The flow of the Klamath River at the Pacific Ocean was approximately 35,000 cfs at the time.  Altogether, Reclamation released approximately 50,000 acre-feet of water from Upper Klamath Lake to support this year’s surface flushing flow. … ”  Read more from the Herald & News.

Klamath groundwater update – Oregon expecting critical groundwater area designations

“On May 4, staff from the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) gave a presentation to members of the Klamath Water Users Association about the State’s long-term monitoring of groundwater levels in and around the Klamath Project. OWRD receives funding from the Bureau of Reclamation for this monitoring, in addition to the routine well monitoring it conducts, and the presentation was part of the grant requirements. According to OWRD, there are approximately 55,000 acres irrigated with groundwater in and around the Klamath Project. Many of these water rights are “supplemental” to established surface water sources, meaning that groundwater may only be used when surface water is unavailable, for example when Reclamation allocates insufficient water from Upper Klamath Lake, like this year. … ”  Read more from Herald & News.

The Karuk Tribe, PCFFA call on water board to mandate Scott River flows, avert extinction event

“On May 23, the Karuk Tribe and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) filed a petition with the California Water Board asking it to set and enforce a minimum streamflow standard for the Scott River.  The Scott River, a tributary to the Klamath, is home to several species of salmon and steelhead trout. Notably, the Scott supports most of the remaining ESA listed Southern Oregon-Northern California Coho left in the world, according to a press release from the Tribe and PCFFA.  This Petition is brought under the Petition Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article I, section 3 of the California Constitution, both of which permit citizens to petition the government for redress of grievances.  Upon receipt of such a request, the agency has 30 days to either schedule the matter for a hearing or deny the petition in writing, with reasons given for any such denial. If adopted, this would be the first permanent year-round stream flow regulation has been established in this manner. … ”  Continue reading at the Daily Kos.


Lake Almanor, Bucks Lake above normal water levels this summer

“Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that water levels for Lake Almanor and Bucks Lake are projected to be higher than normal this summer due to above normal precipitation and snowpack this season. Bucks Lake’s water level is expected to remain high through the summer due to limited releases.  The company reported the lake level projections on Monday at a virtual meeting, held to review and discuss PG&E’s planned water operations for Lake Almanor and Bucks Lake for the remainder of the year.  PG&E plans its operations to balance recreation, the environment, electric power generation and other needs. With above-average precipitation and well-above-average snowpack for the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade mountain ranges, Lake Almanor is expected to be about 4 to 5 feet above normal this summer. … ”  Read more from Yuba Net.

Commentary: Canyon Dam is built to withstand quakes

Jeffrey Bachhuber, director of Geosciences at PG&E, writes, “A May 13 article, “Professor says Thursday’s earthquake took place in fault zone not considered active” regarding the May 11, Magnitude M 5.5 Lake Almanor earthquake contains some inaccuracies regarding the local fault systems and activity levels, and potential risk to Canyon Dam and other nearby Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) assets. I appreciate that the professor quoted in the article took the time to follow up with the paper to retract some of his statements after doing some additional research.  This newspaper earlier and fairly reported that the quakes caused no damage to Canyon Dam or other PG&E hydropower facilities in Plumas and Butte counties. However, the information in a follow-up article about these quakes being unexpected or surprising are not accurate. … ”  Continue reading at the Oroville Mercury Register.

Tahoe could see dangerous thunderstorms over Memorial Day weekend

“As many Golden State residents plan on heading to the mountains for vacation, the National Weather Service is warning of dangerous thunderstorm activity in California’s Sierra Nevada, including the Tahoe Basin, through Memorial Day weekend.  “If you’re planning a hike or camping trip in the mountains this week or upcoming weekend, don’t get caught in a thunderstorm unprepared!” the weather service said in a message posted on Twitter on Wednesday. … ” Read more from SF Gate.

Rapids — and rafting — roar back to life as Sierra Nevada snowpack melts

“After years of drought, rivers across California are flowing fast and furious. The record-setting melting snowpack is pushing water down from the mountains. The deluge has caused billions in damages to some farms and communities in parts of central California, but it’s good news if your business is whitewater rafting. Joshua Yeager of member station KVPR takes us to the Sierra Nevada mountains on the upper Kern River. … ”  Read more or listen from WUNC.


New salmon restoration project in Redding creates hope for the endangered fish

“A new salmon habitat has been created on the Sacramento River in Redding thanks to an improvement act providing millions and partnerships between state, local, and tribal partners.  The Kapusta Open Space Side Channel Project was built on the Sacramento River near the Kapusta Open Space to protect the endangered chinook salmon. Wednesday representatives from all over came to celebrate. … ”  Read more from KRCR.

Be Well Prepared to ensure safe and reliable drinking water

Bruce Houdesheldt writes, “As snow melts and water flows from the ridgetop-to-the-rivermouth this spring, the Sacramento Valley is Watching Groundwater Levels Recover in the Sacramento Valley and working to Ensure Access to Safe Drinking Water for All California Communities.  We truly appreciate the Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently establishing a new program: Be Well Prepared, a new tool to help communities dependent on groundwater prepare for potential impacts to household water supplies, which include domestic well owners and residents that use and maintain their own well. The goal with the program is to empower domestic drinking water well users by providing the information and resources they need to maintain a safe and reliable household water supply.  This program is an important tool and will support the North State Drinking Water Solutions Network, which NCWA convenes to serve as a forum for all interested parties to share information and coordinate efforts related to ensuring that all communities in the Sacramento River Basin have access to safe drinking water. … ”  Read more from the Northern California Water Association.


Marin, Sonoma agricultural report details preparedness for next drought

“Thanks to significant rainfall over the past several months, the North Bay region has rebounded well from the drought that ravaged Marin and Sonoma county agricultural businesses from 2019 to 2022. Reservoirs, creeks, and other freshwater sources that feed farms and ranches – and thus feed humans  –are well-stocked again. Now, the agricultural community is analyzing its response to the emergency.  A new report showcases the creative solutions used to adjust to the extreme dry conditions during those three years. The counties of Marin and Sonoma collaborated on the report with more than a dozen local, state, and federal partners.  “Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Extreme Dry Conditions” can be found on the University of California Extension (UCCE) website. … ”  Read more from Sonoma County.


Pleasanton: Contaminated wells OK’d for summer use

“The city council, during its regular May 16 meeting, authorized the reinstatement of the Pleasanton’s contaminated city wells during peak-demand periods.  Although Zone 7, the region’s water wholesaler, currently supplies all of Pleasanton’s water, concerns about whether the connections between Zone 7 and Pleasanton can handle high summer demands have sent the city in search of ways to cover the supply shortfall created last November, when moving state health targets for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — also known as forever chemicals — caused the city to shut down its groundwater wells. PFAS can cause health problems in people, such as immune-system suppression and some cancers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). … ”  Read more from the Independent.


San Benito: State grants aim to improve local water storage recovery

“The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the San Benito County Water District (SBCWD) will be awarded two grants to support local water resiliency efforts.  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 occurs 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. … ”  Continue reading at the San Benito Free Lance.

Nearly $4 million worth of grants awarded to San Luis Obispo County water projects

“The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) last week awarded five local agencies a combined total of $3.8 million for water projects in San Luis Obispo County.  DWR awarded $1.2 million to the city of Morro Bay for its Water Reclamation Facility. The funds will go toward the facility’s indirect potable reuse component.  The city of Pismo Beach will receive $1 million for phase 1 of Central Coast Blue, a recycled water project for Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande. Elsewhere in South County, the Oceano Community Services District will receive $600,000 for Water Resource Reliability Program projects. … ”  Read more from Cal Coast News.

The Central Coast has seen a lot of extreme weather since KSBY went on the air 70 years ago

“The Central Coast is no stranger to bad weather. In the 70 years KSBY has been on the air, the area has seen everything from extreme cold conditions and snow to blazing hot temperatures… from the extremes of drought to the swells of flooding.Here is a look back at some of the most significant weather the Central Coast as seen in 70 years … ”  Read more from KSBY.

Key funding comes through from EPA to boost water supply in Ventura

“Ventura has been awarded federal loans covering half the costs for a program to convert treated wastewater into safe drinking water and reduce discharges of effluent into the Santa Clara River estuary.  Speaking at a news conference Tuesday at the city’s water reclamation plant, officials said the venture will benefit the environment, boost water supplies by up to 20% and protect the community against drought.  The financial award is a “monumental milestone,” Ventura Mayor Joe Schroeder said at the invitational event where federal, state and city officials celebrated the nearly $174 million in funding and promoted the benefits of the project called VenturaWaterPure. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star.


Water Whiplash: Extreme adventure — and danger — on rivers flowing with snowmelt

“As of May 24, the snowpack in the Southern Sierra Nevada is more than four times the average for this time of year. As the snow melts and low-lying parts of the San Joaquin Valley brace for flooding, this week’s episode focuses on the bodies of water that will transport all that snowmelt: Rivers.  In this interview, Kerry Klein speaks with KVPR reporter Joshua Yeager about some of the upstream businesses benefitting from all this water, as well as the extreme danger that has forced the closure of most riverfront areas in the Valley.”  Read the transcript or listen to the show at KVPR.

Farmers say new WOTUS regulations could hurt family owned farms

“In January, the Environmental Protection Agency made some changes to the definition of the waters of the United States (WOTUS), under the Clean Water Act.  To simply this, it means this rule is an attempt to narrow down which bodies of water will be federally regulated. Its purpose is to protect small streams and wetlands in the United States from harmful chemicals and pollution.  Farmers in Kern County are expressing concern about these changes, who say it is causing confusion and could hurt small locally owned farms. … ”  Read more from Bakersfield Now.


The 2023 Mono Lake level forecast

“Each spring the Mono Lake Committee’s team of Mono Basin modelers and hydrology experts uses the lake level on April 1 together with the Mono Basin snowpack numbers and similar-year hydrological statistical data to produce the Mono Lake Committee lake level forecast for the runoff year ahead. You can download the full May 15, 2023 Mono Lake level forecast here.  At the end of last year Mono Lake had fallen to 6378.4 feet above sea level due to very dry weather and dry runoff conditions. Winter precipitation was abundant and then raised the lake to 6379.99 feet on April 1, 2023.  April 1 is the start of the current runoff year; record-high snowpack and expected record runoff classify this as an “Extreme-wet” year type. The graph below shows the range of likely Mono Lake elevations for April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. The range of projections is produced by the Mono Lake Committee’s modeling of hydrologic sequences using 1983, one of the wettest years in the historical record, plus an additional increment for the expected runoff volume exceeding 1983. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.

Stream Ecosystem Flows mean big water in Lee Vining Creek

“Warm days are rapidly melting high country snow and increasing the flow of water in Mono Lake’s tributaries. As of this week, Lee Vining Creek is flowing in full force past the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) diversion dam. All water arriving at the diversion facility continues through the dam and on downstream because DWP shut down its water diversions on Sunday, as required in the science-based Stream Ecosystem Flow requirements that the Mono Lake Committee and partners worked for more than a decade to establish.  The high flows build healthy stream systems and are essential to the stream restoration program that is designed to heal the damage caused by decades of excessive and damaging DWP water diversions. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.


Petition to Protect: Court issues injunction against CDFW’s Ballona restoration

“Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant overturned the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Environmental Impact Report’s certification for the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project in a ruling seen as a victory by environmental groups opposing the project. This decision prevents CDFW from continuing any work on the restoration until it regains certification and complies with the California Environmental Quality Act.  This ruling comes as part of four lawsuits made by environmental groups against CDFW, who alleged the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project would fail to protect wildlife in the area and that the project was misrepresented as a restoration effort when in fact, it would have devastating effects to the local ecology. In light of the lawsuits’ similarities, Chalfant ordered he would address all complaints in one hearing. His decision applies to all four cases. … ”  Read more from The Argonaut.

Tunneling project from Carson to San Pedro gets $441 million boost of government funding

“There are still miles to go — 4.5 to be exact — but on Tuesday, May 23, senior officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts gathered to celebrate an influx of state and federal money for the project, which will replace two underground aging wastewater pipes running from Carson to San Pedro.  So far, the Clearwater underground tunneling project, which will carry cleaned and treated wastewater, has completed 2.5 miles and is now under North Gaffey Street, near the softball diamonds just north of Home Depot.  It will make a turn on Capital Drive and end at Royal Palms Beach, anticipated to happen in 2025. … ”  Read more from the Long Beach Press Telegram.

With forecasts for a sweltering summer, L.A. vows to improve response to extreme heat

“With forecasts calling for warmer-than-average temperatures across California this summer, officials in Los Angeles are vowing to do more to protect residents from extreme heat, one of the deadliest consequences of human-caused climate change.  City officials said they are launching the “Heat Relief 4 L.A.” campaign to help spread the word about the dangers of extreme heat, which disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color, as well as pregnant women, homeless people and the elderly.  Among the city’s top priorities are installing more cooling centers and hydration stations to provide relief on hot days, as well as investing in cool pavement projects and trees to help combat the urban heat island effect, mayor Karen Bass said during a news conference Wednesday. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.


Tijuana Estuary Tidal Restoration Program II Phase I Restoration Update

“he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announces that the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Tijuana Estuary Tidal Restoration Program II Phase I (TETRP II Phase I) Final Environmental Impact Statement has been issued.  To review the ROD, go to: https://trnerr.org/about/public-notices/.  The ROD, which was prepared in accordance with 40 CFR § 1505.2, documents the USFWS decision and rationale for selecting Alternative 2, as described in the TETRP II Phase I Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR), for implementation. Under Alternative 2, approximately 68 acres of coastal wetlands and 15 acres of native transitional and upland habitat will be restored within the Tijuana Estuary … ”  Continue reading at the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

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Along the Colorado River …

Nearly $1 billion sought by California desert water agencies to save Colorado River

Photo by Nikola Knezevic on Unsplash

“The Biden Administration is finalizing agreements to pay an estimated $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to prop up the Colorado River system that provides 40 million people with water. California desert water districts who are entitled to the most river water are vying for nearly $900 million of those funds, according to interviews with key negotiators and funding announcements to date.  In exchange, they would leave nearly 1.4 million acre-feet of water in Lake Mead, one of two massive reservoirs along the river. That’s almost half of the nearly trillion gallons that California, Nevada and Arizona officials on Monday told federal authorities they could collectively conserve through 2026. That proposal and related environmental reviews must still be approved by federal officials. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

SEE ALSO: Biden-Harris Administration Continues Commitment to Protect the Stability, Sustainability of Colorado River Basin, press release from the Department of the Interior.

Western states finally strike Colorado River deal. But the hard work has only just begun

At one of Los Angeles’s main water treatment plants a few miles north of the Port of Los Angeles, a small-scale facility is demonstrating what might be part of the solution to the region’s water woes. The Pure Water Southern California Demonstration Plant facility uses membrane bioreactors, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet radiation to process about 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater a day, further purifying it into something clean enough to use in industry, replenish the region’s groundwater, and potentially put back into the city’s drinking water system.  For now, the treated water is simply flushed back into the ocean. 500,000 gallons wouldn’t make much difference anyway—the city’s overall water usage is about a thousand times larger than what the little pilot project can deliver. But there are plans underway to massively scale up to recycle 150 million gallons of water a day, which would make a dent in the city’s water problems. … ”  Read more from Time Magazine.

SEE ALSOWestern states floated a Colorado River deal. What happens after the Band-Aid comes off?, from the LA Times

Stanford’s Buzz Thompson on Colorado River deal and ongoing challenges

“On May 22, a tentative deal to reduce water use by entities drawing from the Colorado River was reached, averting near-term potential disaster and predictions that the river could all but stop. While still pending federal approval, the deal marks a breakthrough in fraught negotiations for water in the drought-stricken region. Here, Professor Buzz Thompson, a global expert on water and natural resources who has served as Special Master for the United States Supreme Court in Montana v. Wyoming, discusses the agreement—and challenges still facing the millions of people, creatures, plants, and ecosystems that depend on the Colorado for water.  [Thompson represents an entity that owns Colorado River water rights.] … ”  Read the Q&A at Stanford News.

Editorial: Celebrate the Colorado River deal. Then get to work.

The Washington Post editorial board writes, “Millions of people across the American West can breathe a sigh of relief this week. On Monday, after months of negotiations, the seven states in the Colorado River Basin announced a deal with the Biden administration on use of the waterway. The Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada agreed to conserve 3 million acre-feet of water over the next three years — amounting to 13 percent of their total apportionment — with the administration compensating them for three-quarters of the savings. This would total about $1.2 billion in federal grants from the Inflation Reduction Act. The agreement is a boon for the 40 million people who rely on the river for drinking water and electricity as well as the significant but dwindling populations of flora and fauna the basin supports. But the work to save the Colorado River from catastrophic overuse cannot end here. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post.

Humpback chub: The tale of a Grand Canyon native fish species

“The Grand Canyon is renowned for its geological structures and historic human explorations, but less is known of the endemic fish – the humpback chub – that adapted to survive the grueling pre-dam conditions of the Colorado River.  To truly understand the challenges and what’s at stake for the humpback chub, ADWR staff explored the Grand Canyon through the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program for 10 days in mid-June of last year. The rafting trip began at Lees Ferry and took out at Diamond Creek. ADWR participates in the program as a Colorado River Basin State representative.  The Canyon has sustained species for millions of years. It also has plenty of ne’er-do-wells: Stocked rainbow trout wait patiently for lunch leftovers… New Zealand mudsnails litter the banks where nonnative vegetation had often overtaken the shoreline. Native flannel mouth suckers, meanwhile, investigate the shallow waters while bighorn sheep graze on the beaches. Fossils in the canyon walls and 50,000 year-old packrat mittens provide evidence of prehistoric life in the Grand Canyon. Past and present, the canyon teems with life.  Our trip focused not only on the ecosystem, but also its anthropological history. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

Tucson signs agreement to use less Colorado River water

“Mayor Regina Romero signed a multi-year agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation through the Central Arizona Project, significantly reducing Tucson’s water allocations from the Colorado River by up to 110,000 acre-feet.  The voluntary deal offers the City of Tucson $400 per acre-foot as compensation for every unit conserved, in exchange for signing the Conservation Implementation Agreement (CIA.)  The agreement falls under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.  Director of Tucson Water John Kmiec said critical infrastructure projects to reduce water loss and encourage conservation are on the horizon. He said will turn back 50,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead this year. … ”  Read more from Arizona Public Media.

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In national water news today …

Majority of U.S. adults worry ‘a great deal’ about drinking water pollution

“An ongoing national poll has found that most adults in the country are significantly worried about contaminated drinking water — results that are notably higher for minority consumers.  “Over the past two decades, Gallup has consistently found that Americans worry more about pollution of drinking water than other environmental concerns,” Gallup reported. “In response to Gallup’s annual environmental polls from 2019 to 2023, 56% of Americans overall said they worry ‘a great deal’ about pollution of drinking water. However, that sentiment was expressed by 76% of Black adults and 70% of Hispanic adults, compared with less than half (48%) of White adults.” … ”  Read more from Water Online.

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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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