WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for May 28 – June 2: Saving sturgeon, West False River drought barrier, new water rights legislation, dramatic weather swings ahead, and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

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This week’s featured articles …

FEATURE: Sturgeon Arose During the Jurassic—Can They Survive the Anthropocene?

Written by Robin Meadows

Sturgeon have been around far longer than humans—a jaw-dropping 200 million years to our comparatively short 6 million—and survived the cataclysm that terminated the age of dinosaurs. But can these ancient fish survive the age of people?

New insights into the secret lives of these little-known fish, as well as into their increasing vulnerability, suggest ways of strengthening protections for sturgeon in California.

All 27 remaining species of sturgeon live in the northern hemisphere and all are at risk. Threats include overfishing, poaching for their caviar, and dams that block access to their spawning grounds. Fish in the San Francisco Bay are also threatened by harmful algal blooms called red tides, which release toxins that can kill aquatic life.

Continue reading this article.

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: West False River Salinity Barrier Project

California is highly prone to droughts, and droughts are expected to increase in frequency as climate change impacts intensify.  In times of severe drought, the amount of water stored in the upstream reservoirs may not be enough to hold back the saltwater that pushes into the Delta along with the tide from the San Francisco Bay. If the saltwater intrudes into the central Delta, it can hinder the ability to extract freshwater from the Delta for municipal use, cause Delta water to become unfit for farming, and impact aquatic habitat.

To combat severe drought conditions in 2015 and 2021-22, the Department of Water Resources constructed a temporary barrier in the West False River in the Central Delta.

These previous barriers were built as an emergency response under the Governor’s emergency drought orders. Given the success of the barrier in reducing the intrusion of saltwater into the Delta, the Department of Water Resources circulated an environmental impact report (EIR) last year that would cover two installations of the barrier over a period of ten years. The EIR is anticipated to be finalized this fall.

At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Robert Trang, supervising engineer with the Department of Water Resources, updated the Council on the project.

Click here to read this article.


This past month has seen the much-anticipated ablation of this year’s record-breaking snowpack.  The big resulting news was that it did not translate into the Statewide record-breaking flood that many in the media were predicting, at least not yet.

No, what has happened is that many Sierra watersheds, particularly in the central and northern parts of the State have simply used the natural storage reservoirs of the landscape to buffet this year’s historic spring freshet.  The surface depressions, shallow perched aquifers, moisture-rich mosses/wetlands, bogs, as well as deep seepage losses, etc., all contributed to both store and attenuate this year’s runoff pulse.

Click here to continue reading the Reservoir Report.

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In California water news this week …

Slew of water bills swirl around Sacramento

“Senior water rights holders have arguably the sweetest deal in California water. They often have ironclad deals and some even get access to substantial water during the worst of drought.  But three new bills in the state legislature are taking aim at senior water rights in an attempt to level the playing field.  The bills propose expanding the authority of the state Water Resources Control Board.  Senior water rights date back to before 1914, when there was no permitting or state water authority yet.  For years, advocacy groups have decried the water rights system and demanded changes. Some of those changes could become reality if legislators and the governor approve the current bills. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

Dramatic weather swings are headed to California. Here’s what to expect in June

“The curling of the jet stream — an atmospheric stream of fast-moving air with speeds over 100 mph that travels thousands of miles — over the Pacific Ocean has triggered recent shifts in California’s spring weather patterns. Californians have seen leaps from snowmelt-inducing heat waves in the Sierra Nevada to marine layer clouds that stretch from the Bay Area to Sacramento.  Temperature and humidity swings should become more dramatic across the Bay Area and most of California in June as the transition to El Niño continues to shift the balance of wind patterns in the atmosphere. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle (gift article).

First drought, then flood. Can the West learn to live between extremes?

“The shadows were long and the wind across the flatlands fierce as trucks and ATVs began pulling into Chepo Gonzales’s yard one afternoon this March. “Did you double up your socks today?” Gonzales teased one of the arrivals, a man who complained about cold feet during the previous night’s patrol. Another man leaned out the window of his truck and offered a more serious status report: “There’s a lot of water out there, but it’s flowing north.”  There was so much water, in fact, that across the state it was spilling over the banks of rivers and bursting the walls of levees. For more than a week, Gonzales and his neighbors had been doing their rounds three to four times a day, looking for signs of danger along the various creeks and canals that surrounded Allensworth, a small town of houses, trailers and barns tucked amid the vast, flat farms of the San Joaquin Valley in central California. … ”  Read more from the New York Times (gift article).

California Snowpack: Here’s how much Sierra snow melted in May

“The snowpack in the Sierra peaked during the second week of April, but cooler-than-average weather held off any major melting until May.  On May 1, the Central Sierra, which includes the Lake Tahoe basin, had 49.3 inches of water within the snow. On May 31, that snowpack water content was down to 25.5 inches.  That is 330% of the average snow water content for that region on May 31. Snowpack measurements at the end of May were closer to what would be expected on April 1, the anticipated annual peak of the snowpack. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Millerton Lake can drain, fill six times over with registered snowpack, officials say

“Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig took to social media to put into perspective how much water is being released from the Friant Dam–to try and stay afloat of what is expected to come due to the melting snowpack.  According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam is releasing 10,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) into the San Joaquin River. On the other hand, Millerton Lake is receiving more than 15,000 CFS, so essentially there is more water coming in than going out.  They expect the reservoir to reach full capacity in July, to its stress level elevation. This brings the possibility of spilling over the top. … ”  Continue reading at Fox 26.

Central Valley flooding offers birds bountiful water; Will it also poison them?

“After struggling through years of punishing drought, California waterfowl and flocks of migrating birds are now enjoying a rare bounty of water as winter storms and spring snowmelt submerge vast tracts of Central Valley landscape.  But even as birders celebrate the return of wet conditions along portions of the Pacific Flyway, experts worry that this liquid bonanza could ultimately poison tens of thousands of the avians as temperatures rise and newly formed lakes and ponds begin to evaporate.  The concern: botulism.  “Botulism occurs naturally in the soil and in the Tulare basin,” said John Carlson, president of the California Wildfowl Association. “When the water temperature heats up during the summer and gets stagnant, the botulism really kind of booms, and you can have multi-thousand-bird die-offs.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via AOL News.

High-tech mapping of Central Valley’s underground blazes path to drought resilience

“A new underground mapping technology that reveals the best spots for storing surplus water in California’s Central Valley is providing a big boost to the state’s most groundwater-dependent communities.  The maps provided by the California Department of Water Resources for the first time pinpoint paleo valleys and similar prime underground storage zones traditionally found with some guesswork by drilling exploratory wells and other more time-consuming manual methods. The new maps are drawn from data on the composition of underlying rock and soil gathered by low-flying helicopters towing giant magnets. … ”  Read more from Western Water.

New research offers clarity on actual water use by agriculture

A lush agricultural scene in San Luis Obispo County in Central California. Photo by John Chacon / DWR

“Recent scientific work by the California Bountiful Foundation, the 501(c)(3) science and research arm of the California Farm Bureau, has found that California farmers and ranchers use only 15% of the total water the state receives.  These findings, now available on the California Bountiful Foundation website under Research and Studies, offers a data-based analysis of water use of California agriculture, the largest food producing sector in the U.S. The data contradicts stereotypes often repeated on the share of water used for agriculture.  A policy brief and peer-reviewed scientific publications will follow to memorialize this work, said Dr. Amrith Gunasekara, director of science and research for the California Farm Bureau. … ”  Read more from Valley Voice.

DWR uses genetic technology to help identify endangered fish

“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is using the latest genetic technologies to more accurately identify endangered fish at the State Water Project pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Along with improved accuracy to quickly determine whether a fish is endangered, the new technology has the additional benefit of preventing unnecessary reduction in water capture which makes that water supply available for Californians.  “DWR is using the best available science to improve our operations to balance both environmental and community water needs,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “As we adapt to climate extremes with more uncertainty about how much water will be available, it is critical to use these innovative approaches in our water management practices.” … ”  Read more from DWR News.

California Invasive Species Week June 3-11: Here’s how you can get involved

Invasive species are non-native organisms (plants, animals, or microbes) that establish, quickly reproduce, and can negatively affect our water, health, native plants and animals, agriculture, and economy.   The San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem is recognized as one of the world’s most-invaded estuaries. Prevention is the most effective strategy in managing invasive species. However, hundreds of invasive plants and animals have already been established in California and are spreading each year.  Join others across the state to help stop the spread of invasive species! From June 3 through June 11, state and local agencies will be hosting discussions, activities, and volunteer opportunities as part of California Invasive Species Action Week.”  Click here for more information on how you can get involved.

State Water Resources Control Board considering amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan to incorporate tribal beneficial uses

“The San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary Water Quality Control Plan (Bay-Delta Plan) is currently undergoing its periodic review of updates and amendments by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). Tribal representatives have requested the incorporation of recognized Tribal Beneficial Use (TBU) definitions to the Bay-Delta Plan. If these definitions are incorporated in the Bay-Delta Plan, the SWRCB must also amend or establish water quality objectives and implementation programs to achieve and maintain water quality sufficient for these designated beneficial uses. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

State Water Board readopts decorative grass watering ban on business and government properties

The State Water Resources Control Board has readopted an emergency regulation that bans using drinking water for watering decorative grass (also referred to as nonfunctional turf) in commercial, industrial and institutional areas throughout the state.
The State Water Board’s readoption of this regulation signals the real need fo
r Californians to continue using water wisely, and it aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 2023 executive order affirming that the multiyear drought continues to have significant, immediate impacts on communities with vulnerable water supplies across California. Although conditions have improved, they have not abated severe drought conditions that remain in some parts of the state, including those with groundwater basins that are depleted. … ”  Read more from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Supreme Court rules on wetlands. Here’s how it affects California environment protections

“Wetlands in California will stay largely protected despite a ruling Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court that limited the authority of federal regulators. The justices ordered that Clean Water Act safeguards only apply to “wetlands with a continuous surface connection” to bodies of water, a narrowed definition that followed years of legal disputes. While the decision reduces the federal government’s reach, California has its own rules for the ecosystems within the state. And they aren’t changed by the court action, said E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “We saw these challenges coming and we were able to adapt,” Esquivel said in an interview. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee. | Read via Yahoo News.

Bills would protect utilities from Superfund PFAS liability

“In September 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed listing certain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act — the law governing the federal contamination remediation program commonly known as Superfund. The move heightened concerns among municipalities and utilities that they could be held liable for CERCLA cleanups other entities have to undertake as a result of PFAS that they have passively received from upstream sources that were discharged as part of normal operations.  Responding to these concerns, Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., introduced several bills in early May that would protect drinking water, wastewater treatment, solid waste, recycling, and compost facilities, as well as agricultural producers, from CERCLA liability pertaining to PFAS. … ”  Read more from Civil Engineering Source.

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In commentary this week …

Dan Walters: The stakes for Newsom’s big plan to streamline big California projects

“Gavin Newsom is fond of proclaiming “big hairy audacious goals,” having borrowed the term from a book on successful corporate leadership.  However, he has not been particularly successful in delivering on his promises of bold, transformative action – such as single-payer health care for all Californians or constructing 3.5 million new housing units.  The hairiest and most audacious of Newsom’s goals is converting California’s massive economy – the fourth largest in the world, according to recent estimates – into one that booms while reducing its carbon footprint to zero in the next 22 years.  It would involve, among other things, shifting 30 million cars and trucks from gasoline or diesel power to electricity or hydrogen and abolishing gas-fired power plants in favor of solar, wind or thermal generation. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Newsom’s CEQA changes scorn the people most affected

Columnist Thomas Elias writes, “It looks at times as if Gov. Gavin Newsom is trying to imitate Jerry Brown as he tries to gut California’s main environmental protection law, at least for large infrastructure projects like reservoirs, road and bridges.  Brown certainly did reduce the clout of the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, usually pronounced “see-qua”) during his fourth and final term as governor, mainly clearing the way for large spectator sports facilities like the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center in San Francisco, the Inglewood SoFi Stadium that’s now home to both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and the rapidly rising Inglewood basketball arena under construction for the Los Angeles Clippers.  “We have proven we can get it done for stadiums,” said Newsom, “so why…can’t we translate that to all these other projects?” It’s clear he doesn’t want the very people who figure to be most affected by these changes to have any voice in their fate. … ”  Continue reading from the Ventura County Star.

How the game is played in Sacramento

Columnist Susan Shelley writes, “The California Legislature is a waste of money and space.  Every year, the Legislature goes through the motions of passing laws through its regular process, appearing to be a deliberative body. Actually, it’s a dead body. The real decisions are made in back rooms and regulatory agencies, where the public is excluded or ignored.  One aspect of this decayed process is on display in Sacramento right now. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a package of legislation to streamline infrastructure projects. “Streamline” is a word used in Sacramento when government officials want to override their own strangling mess of regulations and requirements, but only for certain people or projects, not for everything and everybody.  It’s best understood as a fundraising technique. It’s quite streamlined in that regard. … ”  Continue reading at the OC Register.

California water proposal has dark, hidden currents

Jerry Hill, a former state senator and assemblyman, writes, “When’s the last time you thought about where your water comes from? If you aren’t steeped in water policy, it’s fair to assume you may not appreciate the complexities of managing our water systems. But what’s vital to know is that water is the essential building block to ensure prosperous, healthy communities.  This resource ensures housing gets built, people can afford groceries and local businesses can offer good jobs. Legislation introduced in Sacramento creates uncertainty that threatens these underpinnings of our economy.  As a former legislator, I trust that my former colleagues had the best intentions in putting these policies forward, but residents should be aware that these bills are far reaching and will create dramatic changes that increase costs. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News. | Read via SiliconValley.com

California must realign its priorities for water usage

Chirag G. Bhaka, California Director of Food & Water Watch, writes, “The massive snowpack in the Sierras looming over California’s Central Valley has shifted the state’s water focus from years-long drought to the threat of devastating flooding. But both of these seemingly opposite perils have a common origin and mandate a common solution. To achieve water stability and sustainability, the state must realign its priorities by putting people and communities over the profiteering industries that are driving the water and climate crisis.  For the last 20 years, California has been mired in a historic dry period, punctuated by a few short bursts of strong storms and heavy precipitation. This winter’s deluge is consistent with that pattern, one which scientists predict will become more extreme as climate change accelerates — longer droughts and increasingly severe storms. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

California’s snow is melting and it’s a beautiful thing

Andrew Schwartz, the lead scientist and station manager at the University of California, Berkeley, Central Sierra Snow Lab, writes, “My fellow Californians often remark that the weather in this state feels like it has been reduced to two seasons, both defined by natural disasters: In summer and fall, huge, intense wildfires rip their way across dry land, while winter and early spring bring intense atmospheric rivers with heavy rainfall, floods and landslides along with winds that take down trees.  The weather extremes here are so common, and climate change is so in your face, that many people now just expect to jump from one natural disaster to the next. And this pessimism means it’s hard to enjoy it when — for once — nature deals us a good hand. But this year, after several brutal years of fighting drought, we finally got the water that we have so sorely needed for so long. We damn well better enjoy it. … ”  Continue reading at the New York Times.

Editorial: Another chance for North Coast river deal

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial board writes, “North Coast residents don’t have a direct stake in Colorado River allocations.  But there are unmistakable parallels between the over-tapped Colorado River and the parched future in parts of Sonoma and Mendocino counties if the upper Russian River is allowed to go dry.  Moreover, a new water-sharing deal that required rival Colorado River users to overcome their differences renews hope that a compromise is possible here in Northern California.  There are vast differences in scale between the rivers, but the stakes are the same – fulfilling a basic human need. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Whatever happened to adaptive management?

Tom Cannon writes, “The big hype over the past several decades in the Central Valley has been Adaptive Management.  Whatever happened to it?  Did we forget about it, or simply take it for granted?  Did we rebrand it, morph it into something else?  I wrote a “white paper” on the topic for CALFED over 20 years ago.  My version was more about conducting experiments to address unknowns to help inform management decisions.  The Delta Stewardship Council holds a forum every two years on Adaptive Management.  This year, the forum delves into governance.  Presenters and participants are from Delta governments and those who would like to participate in Delta government.  Topics include equitable adaptation, governance systems and needs, and human dimensions of adaptation and governance.  While that all is nice, it is not what I am looking for to manage the Delta ecosystem.  I am more for the older definition.  We need answers. … ”  Read more at the California Fisheries blog.

Flood notes

Trudy Wischemann, a land/water note-taker, writes, “In a phone conversation with Tulare Lake Basin geographer Bill Preston last month, I found myself saying “I wonder how long the poor are going to take being flooded out.”  “What do you mean?” he challenged, something he often has to do in our conversations.  I’d been reading the flood stories from Planada in Merced County, Cutler-Orosi, Allensworth and Alpaugh in our watersheds. Corcoran, out in Kings County, Boswell’s company town, was fortifying itself, protected by high berms monitored by armed guards at night. These other small communities, homes to people with fewer resources, were caught by floodwaters breaking through weak places in aging levees, most without warning. Many people lost everything they had: their homes, furniture, clothing and food; their cars, their means of making a living. … ”  Continue reading at the Foothills Sun-Gazette.

If we can’t bring water to the crops, we should bring crops to the water

Jennifer Sensiba writes, “There’s a very interesting image floating around social media now that makes a point I’ve been trying to make for years about the Colorado River. … As the flowchart shows, it’s really foolish to blame things like golf courses for the water shortage. Even if every golf course and swimming pool were permanently closed, most of the problem would still remain. Even cutting out all municipal and industrial uses would leave much of the shortfall unsolved.  Even among agriculture, which accounts for the majority of water use, things are not all equal. Plants like cotton, wheat, and corn just don’t use that much water in the region, leaving the brunt of the water usage up to livestock feed crops, with alfalfa being a big part of it.  What makes the problem even more strange is that 20% of the livestock feed crops get exported to places like China and Saudi Arabia, so we’re basically exporting 10% of the water in the Colorado River overseas when we’re short of domestic needs. … ”  Read the full commentary at Clean Technica.

President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, US taxpayers shouldn’t pay big agribusiness’ water bills

The Hoopa Valley Tribe writes, “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accuses President Joe Biden of “playing politics” with the U.S. debt limit by saying, “We got to get moving . . . we can’t spend more money next year, we have to spend less than the year before.” Yet, on his watch, the Speaker is giving a pass to his Central Valley agribusiness constituents on more than $400 million dollars they owe the U.S. Treasury for environmental damages!  How did we get here? …

Click here to continue reading from the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Making our water safe and affordable

Larry Levine, Senior Attorney and Director, Urban Water Infrastructure, People & Communities Program for the NRDC, writes, “Every community needs safe drinking water to protect public health and to sustain the local economy. And every single person needs access to safe water just to survive—for drinking, cooking, bathing, sanitation, and, as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, simply keeping our hands and homes clean to prevent disease.   Yet, in many communities, water fails to meet safe drinking water standards, which are often too weak to begin with and must be strengthened. This exposes millions of people to toxic chemicals like lead and the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. Communities of color and lower-income communities disproportionately bear the brunt.   At the same time, in every community, there are people—often many people—who struggle to afford their water and sewer bills and face severe consequences. … ”  Continue reading at the NRDC.

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In regional water news this week …

Popular section of Truckee River in California closes for surprising reason

“There will be no commercial rafting on a popular California section of the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe in coming months, and the reason may surprise you.  The flow on the 5-mile stretch of river running between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows is too low for rafting — so low that rocks are jutting out of the water. It’s not what you would expect after an unusually wet winter that recharged reservoirs and piled up an epic snowpack. Here’s the deal: The U.S. District Court Water Master, which manages water supplies in Lake Tahoe and on the Truckee River, is not releasing water from Lake Tahoe at the Lake Tahoe Dam. This avoids flooding the reservoirs, such as Pyramid Lake and Boca Reservoir, downstream, Truckee River Rafting, the largest rafting company on the river, said. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Plan underway to raise Folsom Dam to store more water in the lake

“Big crowds were out at Folsom Lake on Memorial Day, and with a record-breaking snowpack, the lake is now nearly full. But there’s also a large amount of water being released downstream  There’s now a plan underway to store more water in the lake, and that involves raising Folsom Dam. … Now, efforts are underway to help store more of this water during wet years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to raise Folsom Dam by three and a half feet. The plan also requires raising eight earthen dikes that surround the lake’s perimeter.  Work has already been completed on one of the dikes, and this year, construction is beginning along the western shoreline. … ”  Read more from CBS Sacramento.

Tribe taps Sonoma County wineries, farms to save Russian River water

“To hear water stakeholders tell their stories, the connection to the Russian River is every bit as personal and spiritual as it is professional in nature.  Take, for instance, Dry Creek Rancheria Tribal Chairman Chris Wright.  The Pomo Indians tribal leader is spearheading a major grant-funded, multi-million-dollar, drought-resistant water capture plan. He hopes it will spark interest from Healdsburg-area wineries and farms in a 7,000-acre area to help with the water supply that keeps the Russian River economic microcosm going.  The benefits are threefold — from water consumers and fisheries to wineries and other agriculture businesses at “ground zero” in the valley.  And the stakes are high, as drought periods have turned up over the past few decades, prompting concern among local farmers and water agencies. … ”  Read more from the North Bay Business Journal.

State approves Sonoma Water’s request for temporary changes in Russian River flows

“The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) recently approved a request by the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) to modify Russian River instream flows.  The Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) filed by Sonoma Water in April, and approved by the State Board on May 19, amends Sonoma Water’s water rights permits and State Board Decision 1610 in order to comply with the 2008 Russian River Biological Opinion and to enhance salmonid habitat in Dry Creek and the mainstem Russian River. … “The Russian River watershed is recovering from three years of consecutive drought and these changes are a key tool in managing the water supply for more than 600,000 people and the environment in Sonoma and Marin counties.” said Sonoma Water Director Chris Coursey. … ”  Read more from the County of Sonoma.

The Russian River paradox: A deep dive into flow reduction and its ecological implications

“The Russian River, a lifeline for Sonoma County’s diverse ecosystem and a source of water for over 600,000 residents, is at the center of a controversial decision that has sparked a heated debate about water management, ecological preservation, and economic vitality.  The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) recently approved a request by the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) to reduce the river’s instream flows. This decision, coming after a period of record rainfall, has raised eyebrows and sparked concerns among environmentalists, local communities, and skeptics who question the logic behind reducing the flow of a river to benefit its ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Gazette.

Environmental nonprofits sue Sonoma County over groundwater well regulations

“Two environmental groups are suing Sonoma County over new regulations governing groundwater wells.  California Coastkeeper Alliance and Russian River Keeper, both nonprofits, say the county’s new well ordinance does not sufficiently protect waterways from depletion. The groups filed the suit Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court.  “It really does not reduce existing pumping and for any new wells there is no assurances that groundwater pumping and the stream flows will come into balance,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director for California Coastkeeper Alliance.  The suit reopens a debate over how the county should regulate new wells and limit their impact on the region’s major rivers and feeder streams.  The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the new ordinance in April. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (gift article).

After the algal bloom cleared out of Lake Merritt, the nudibranchs came to party in droves

“If you lay an old towel right down in the gull poop on Lake Merritt’s dock, sweep away the food wrappers and other detritus, hang your head over the side of the dock, and peer into the murk, a wondrous underwater forest awaits you.  This forest is thick with slippery green sea lettuce, and pocked with “trees” that are not plants at all, but colonies of tiny animals that, in their youth, stuck themselves to the sides of the dock and claimed it as their home. They waft in the current, grabbing or sucking prey from the water as it floats by. Hardly anyone has much of a backbone here; it’s mostly invertebrates, with a few visiting fish. Some of their names are familiar (mussels, barnacles, sea anemones, sponges) and some might not be (bryozoans, hydrozoans, tunicates), but each has its place in this aquatic landscape.  I’ve been coming here for years to photograph and learn about this forest, avoiding the poop and assuaging the fears of the concerned strangers who think I’ve either died or lost my cell phone. And last year, Lake Merritt’s dock turned out to be a courtside seat for me to observe the succession of species following an ecological apocalypse—the harmful algal bloom of August 2022. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature.

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.

State asked to stop diverting iconic Mono Lake’s water to Los Angeles

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

“As trickling snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada slowly raises Mono Lake — famed for its bird life and outlandish shoreline mineral spires — advocates are pressuring state water officials to halt diversions from the lake’s tributaries to Los Angeles, which has used this clean mountain water source for decades.  Environmentalists and tribal representatives say such action is years overdue and would help the iconic lake’s ecosystem, long plagued by low levels, high salinity and dust that wafts off the exposed lakebed. The city of Los Angeles, they argue, should simply use less water, and expand investments in more sustainable sources – especially recycled wastewater and uncaptured stormwater. This, they say, could help wean the city off Mono basin’s water for good.  Geoff McQuilkin, the Mono Lake Committee’s executive director, said the lake will probably rise another four feet in 2023 — reason, as he sees it, to double down and halt exports. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Judge orders halt to Ballona Wetlands restoration project

“A California Department of Fish and Wildlife plan to introduce tidal flows into the Ballona Creek wetlands has come to a screeching halt after a judge ruled recently that the agency’s environmental impact report on the project failed to adequately account for flood risks.  In a May 17 decision, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ordered the agency to set aside its certification of the final EIR for the project because it “failed to disclose and analyze flood control design parameters” associated with proposed levees and other infrastructure.  In response to four lawsuits filed by environmental groups, Chalfant ordered the agency to suspend any project activity in the 600-acre West Los Angeles ecological refuge and prepare a new “legally adequate” environmental impact report “if it chooses to proceed.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

Assembly bill would require countywide vote for Fallbrook, Rainbow to exit San Diego County Water Authority

“An Assembly bill introduced late last week would require a countywide vote before two agricultural districts in north San Diego County could leave the San Diego County Water Authority.  Assembly Bill 530, introduced Thursday by Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, would amend California’s Water Authority Act, to require a majority vote in both the separating district and the county to complete a detachment. The Fallbrook Public Utility District and the Rainbow Municipal Water District are seeking to join the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County in hopes of securing lower-cost water for farmers. … ”  Read more from the Times of San Diego.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE of availability of a draft order denying petitions for reconsideration of SWRCB approval of the 2022 Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan

NOTICE of Petition for Temporary Transfer per Various Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation License and Permits

NOTICE of Preparation and Scoping Meetings for an Environmental Impact Report for the Kerckhoff Hydroelectric Project Relicensing

DELTA STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL: Certification of consistency filed for Prospect Island Tidal Habitat Restoration Project

NOTICE: U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Sackett – Army Corps Approved Jurisdictional Determinations (AJDs) Paused

NOTICE of Water Quality Certification Application for Removal and Decommissioning of the Kanaka Powerhouse for the Kanaka Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 7242) License Surrender

NOTICE of Water Quality Certification Application for Merced River Agricultural Diversion and Fish Habitat Enhancement Project

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