Lake Tahoe. Photo by Dave Schumaker

DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Lawmakers approve plan to strengthen oversight of water rights; DWR officials renew the push for Delta Conveyance Project; Why the California Forever dream would be a nightmare; Here’s what 7 states say about solving the West’s water crisis; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Lawmakers approve plan to strengthen oversight of California water rights

“California legislators have passed a bill that aims to close a long-standing loophole in the state’s water laws: Until now, regulators haven’t had clear authority to investigate the water rights of some of the biggest water users.  These senior water right holders, with claims dating to before 1914, use roughly a third of the water that is diverted, on average, from the state’s rivers and streams. They include cities and individual landowners, as well as agricultural irrigation districts supplying farms that produce nuts, rice and other crops.  The bill, Senate Bill 389, passed in a 50-17 Assembly vote on Tuesday and is expected to be among the bills presented to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing. … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via the Union Bulletin.

State Department of Water officials renew the push for Delta Conveyance Project

Tech moguls’ $17 million land offer spurned by California water officials

Conceptual drawing from the California Forever website (

“A historic cattle ranch in California’s Solano County has been a target of a secretive billionaire-backed group that’s been buying up large swaths of land to create a new city northeast of San Francisco.  The latest offer of $17 million, made in mid-July, by Flannery Associates LLC was for about 950 acres at a property known as Petersen Ranch, according to term sheets, proposals and emails obtained by Bloomberg News through the California Public Records Act. It was turned down by the local water agency, which owns the land.  “The Flannery group has approached the water agency on multiple occasions looking to purchase either the entirety or a portion of Petersen Ranch,” Chris Lee, general manager of the Solano County Water Agency, said by phone Friday. “All offers were rejected.” … ”  Read more from Bloomberg.

Column: Why the California Forever dream of a new city would be a nightmare

Columnist Carl Nolte writes, “The dream of a group of Silicon Valley investors has been all over the news lately — they want to build a new utopia called California Forever in Solano County on the edge of the Bay Area. It would be a dream city of 75,000 people, covering an area as big as two San Franciscos. … There are dozens of obstacles before the dream city can ever be built: The land is zoned for agriculture, not housing; the area has no reliable water supply; the area is full of wind power turbines, some of them 300 feet tall; there are slow-growth laws in Solano County; there is local opposition. The problems go on and on, a land-use nightmare.  But my nightmare is different. I think building a new city with 75,000 people in that part of the county would destroy one of California’s most important assets, the beautiful and underappreciated Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. … ”  Continue reading at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mines for climate-friendly technologies face growing water scarcity in the West

“Climate solutions like solar panels and electric cars require lots of minerals – copper, lithium, manganese. The U.S. plans new mines for these metals across the West. But as NPR’s Julia Simon reports, the country’s need for these metals can sometimes collide with the region’s lack of water.”  Listen or read transcript from NPR.

Assembly approves Sen. Dodd’s water shutoff protection bill

“The California Assembly has approved legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would expand provisions of his Water Shutoff Protection Act, ensuring more low-income Californians have uninterrupted access to essential drinking water, especially in times of skyrocketing costs.  “Access to water is a fundamental right,” said Sen. Dodd. “This bill enhances my previous legislation by covering people in smaller, rural communities who are struggling financially. It will allow them to continue using water for drinking, cooking and necessities such as washing clothes while they get caught up on missed payments. Now we are a step toward ensuring the tap does not get turned off just because someone falls behind on their bills.” … ”  Read more from Senator Dodd’s website.

Are drones the future of agriculture?

“Times are changing and with change comes new and exciting technologies. From chat GPT to surgical robots and self-parking cars, it seems no stone has been left unturned in an era of rapidly evolving innovations.  The farm industry is no different. In fact, some might say those in agriculture stand on the front lines of the most advanced STEM-related career fields and developments. In recent years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has become increasingly involved with farmers and their communities with a handful of ag-related programs including the NASA Acres Consortium which just launched in March. In addition to supporting key commodity crop growers, NASA Acres is dedicated toward working with smallholder farmers such as those in Maui County, Hawaii, and specialty crop growers in California. … ”  Read more from the Appeal Democrat.

EPA agrees to protect waterways from harmful ship discharges

“The Environmental Protection Agency agreed Friday to finalize nationwide standards that will protect U.S. waterways from the harmful effects of discharges from ships.  Under the agreement, the EPA must release its final standards on vessel discharges by Sept. 24, 2024. The standards are required by the Clean Water Act. … “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to address pollution from oceangoing vessels as required by the Clean Water Act has caused significant harm to aquatic ecosystems. One type of vessel pollution, ballast water, is widely recognized as a major pathway for the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species and human and animal pathogens,” the groups said in their complaint. “Non-native plants and animals, harmful algae, and diseases are carried in ballast water and cause great economic and environmental damage when they are subsequently released into and invade new waters.” … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

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In people news this weekend …

Promotions, passings, profiles – submit people news items to

Secretary Ross honored as Leader of the Year by California winegrape growers

“CDFA Secretary Karen Ross has been honored as the 2024 Leader of the Year by the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG).  Secretary Ross served as the first woman president of CAWG for 13 years before being named chief of staff for US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In 2011, Secretary Ross was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown as California’s Secretary of Agriculture, and she was reappointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019.  Her tenure at CDFA has been marked by significant progress in sustainability, food security, and agricultural innovation. Secretary Ross’ inclusive and collaborative approach to policymaking has made her a friend of stakeholders across the agricultural spectrum. Under her leadership, California’s agriculture industry has thrived while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns and ensuring the well-being of farmers throughout the state. … ”  Read more from Planting Seeds.

UC Merced’s Martha Conklin bids farewell to campus community

“Professor Martha Conklin started her career at UC Merced at the Castle Research Facility, and it began with a frightening surprise.  “I had a baby rattlesnake in my office,” she said. “The whole building was snake-infested before UC Merced moved in. But it’s a small thing — there were a lot of things to work out back then.”  Those were the early days, when the Castle facilities were the campus’s only facilities and were referred to as the “Wild West.” And like Annie Oakley before her, Conklin has been a trailblazer, both on campus and in the living laboratory that is the Sierra Nevada.  Of the initial eight non-administrative faculty members hired, Conklin was the first to arrive. She was the first female faculty member hired for the School of Engineering.

Lisa Lien-Mager appointed Deputy Secretary for Forest and Wildfire Resilience

Lisa Lien-Mager, of Davis, has been appointed Deputy Secretary for Forest and Wildfire Resilience at the California Natural Resources Agency. Lien-Mager has served as Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2021 and as Deputy Secretary for Communications there since 2017. She was Director of Communications at the Association of California Water Agencies from 2012 to 2017 and Communications Supervisor there from 2008 to 2012. Lien-Mager earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $186,000. Lien-Mager is a Democrat.

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Podcasts …

PODCAST: Who governs California water systems?

In this podcast episode, UC Berkeley student hosts Raneem Iftekhar and Ashley Duran share findings from their semester long project researching the governing boards of publicly owned water systems in Fresno County, San Diego County and the Bay Area and interview experts on what the findings mean for access to safe, affordable drinking water in California.

WHAT MATTERS: Mark Pestrella, Marty Adams, Anselmo Collins

Are you curious to learn more about how Infrastructure L.A. will affect Los Angeles’s water landscape?  In this episode of SCWC, we are joined by three esteemed experts from Los Angeles County Public Works and the LA Department of Water and Power.  They’ll provide cutting-edge insights into the implications of this ambitious undertaking for water supply management and beyond.

H2OMICS: Congressman John Duarte on the Water Infrastructure Modernization Act

U.S. Congressman John Duarte (CA-13) joined the H2OMICS podcast to discuss the Water Infrastructure Modernization Act. This bipartisan bill was introduced with Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego to boost water conservation infrastructure. A 4th generation farmer and California Central Valley native, Congressman Duarte brings a personal perspective to this important issue.

TAPPED: How water gets to (most of) us

Most of us get our water from a utility company, be it a large municipal one or a small private entity. This week, we look at the work that one small company does to keep the water flowing, and what happened when another utility had a big problem.

WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING: The United States Coast Guard 

On an average day, you could witness 64 search and rescues, the saving of twelve lives, the recovery of hundreds of pounds of cocaine off the streets, the investigation of thirteen marine accidents and response to ten pollution incidents. The United States Coast Guard is a unique arm of the government that promotes maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship. Water is a Many Splendor ’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.  Produced by Steven Baker, Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems,  530-205-6388

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In regional water news this weekend …


’30,000 Salmon’ closing celebration set

“The Morris Graves Museum of Art, at 636 F St., Eureka, will hold a closing celebration of Becky Evans’ Installation “30,000 Salmon” on Sept. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m.  Museum-goers will hear a dozen poems about rivers and dams, water and power, spawning and dying, salmon and community, and half a century of life upriver and downriver and on Humboldt Bay by Jerry Martien. Martien will be accompanied by Becky Evans, Fred Neighbor (guitar), Gary Richardson (bass) and Mike Labolle (percussion and trumpet). … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard.


Middle Truckee River Watershed Forest Partnership awarded $8M to lower wildfire risk

“The California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) awarded $8.3 million in grant funding to accelerate the pace and scale of forest management in the Middle Truckee River Watershed. The award was made to the National Forest Foundation representing the Middle Truckee River Water Forest Partnership.  Dan Alvey, National Forest Foundation California Program Manager – Tahoe, stated, “The synergy fostered by the Middle Truckee River Watershed Forest Partnership is at the core of this achievement. By uniting multiple organizations with a shared vision, the partnership exemplifies the power of collective action in addressing complex conservation challenges.” … ”  Read more from YubaNet.


Sacramento agency plans more flood-control maintenance. Here’s where work is scheduled

“Last winter, Sacramento faced a three-week series of atmospheric rivers that brought flooding across the Valley and downed trees and branches. As the region gets closer to another rainy season, Sacramento’s utility department is preparing by shoring up critical flood control infrastructure across the city. The maintenance is similar to work done in years past, according to a news release, and to work done in March. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Yolo County and Zamora Fire Protection District partner to fund new well project

“Yolo County and the Zamora Fire Protection District have entered into an agreement to ensure enhanced reliability of our region’s water supply and firefighting capabilities.  According to a local press release, the agreement results from a successful collaborative effort between the County’s Office of Emergency Services and the Department of Community Services with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to secure funding to address dry well concerns from the state’s Small Community Drought Relief Program. … ”  Read more from the Daily Democrat.


California’s Bay Area is an ideal location for a new navy shipyard

“In the rush to add naval capacity to the Pacific, the U.S. Navy has almost completely overlooked the Bay Area. Central California’s Cold War-era naval support facilities are long gone, but the Bay Area’s gritty and often-overlooked riverine waterfront offers interesting potential for a Navy desperate to bulk up in-theatre options for nuclear submarine maintenance.  Every Navy admiral and Washington stakeholder agrees the Navy’s overworked submarine fleet needs a new naval shipyard and more maintenance support. But Navy stakeholders, suffering from analysis paralysis and experiential bias, aren’t looking too hard for sites outside of the Navy’s existing network of superbases. … ”  Read more from Forbes.

Dredging OK’d for Surfers Beach in Pillar Point Harbor

“A long-awaited pilot project aimed at addressing erosion issues at Surfers Beach at Pillar Point Harbor has received approval from the California Coastal Commission. The approval for the Surfers Beach Pilot Sand Replenishment Project came at the commission’s Sept. 6 meeting and is aimed at addressing beach and bluff erosion around Surfers Beach that threaten its long-term use, along with improving surfing and boating conditions. The San Mateo County Harbor District will manage the project that will dredge and relocate around 100,000 cubic yards of sand along the inside of the Pillar Point Harbor east breakaway near the public boat launch area to create an estimated 1,000-foot long section of beach shoreline in the Surfers Beach area, according to a California Coastal Commission staff report. … ”  Read more from the San Mateo Daily Journal.


$7 million project begins to rebuild historic Northern California wharf wrecked in huge winter storms

“It was arguably the most dramatic image from the powerful storms that battered Northern California’s coastline in January: The Capitola Wharf, an 855-foot-long landmark that dates back to 1857, torn in half by pounding waves.  Now the seas are calm. And in a major rebirth for the seaside town whose economy depends on tourism and the beach, construction crews are set to begin work next week on a $7.7 million project to rebuild and reopen the wharf.  Workers will rip up and replace nearly all of the wooden decking and railings on the beleaguered structure. They plan to widen from 20 feet to 36 feet the half nearest to the shore that is particularly vulnerable to big waves. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.


San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex announces availability of Comprehensive Conservation Plan and draft Environmental Assessment

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex invites the public to provide comment on the complex’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan and draft Environmental Assessment, which will guide the purpose and management of the complex. The public comment period will be open for 45-days, from September 11, 2023 to October 26, 2023.  The completion of the CCP and draft EA is a priority for the refuge, and the refuge considers the availability of the CCP and draft EA an opportunity to seek community input for how the complex should be managed now in to the future, in partnership with local communities and the public.  The San Luis NWRC CCP includes the history of the refuge, current management activities and concerns, information about water acquisition and availability, refuge resources, future management goals and objectives and an overview of the plan’s implementation. … ”  Read more from the US Fish and Wildlife..

Refurbished ‘lake’ brings renewal to Lindsay water supply

“The city of Lindsay will soon have more and cleaner water thanks to a complete reconstruction of the Mariposa Catch Basin – the city’s neglected water reservoir at the western edge of town.  Located just behind the Burger King and the ARCO AM/PM near Highway 65 at West Hermosa Street, in recent years the Mariposa Catch Basin sat empty most of the time. It filled with water only when runoff was so great it threatened to overwhelm the city’s carrying capacity. In the lingering years of drought, that didn’t happen often.  “The city, when it rains, they’ve got to put their stormwater someplace,” said Michael Hagman, executive director of the Lindmore Irrigation District. “That basin would get maybe quarter or half full.” … ”  Read more from the Valley Voice.

Efforts intensify to assist avian botulism-affected birds at Tulare Lake

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), joined by state, federal and non-governmental organization partners, has intensified its response to help birds affected by avian botulism at Tulare Lake, contracting with the expert Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to provide emergency veterinary care. Avian botulism is caused by a toxin-producing bacteria that occurs naturally in bodies of water like Tulare Lake.  Tulare Lake, once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, reemerged from the pastures and agricultural fields in the southern San Joaquin Valley this year because of California’s extraordinarily wet winter and spring and is attracting water birds of all sorts. The lake is expected to attract millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other bird species as fall migrations get underway in earnest. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Santa Clarita: Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project Planning awarded $12 million

“Approximately $12 million for the Bouquet Canyon Creek Recovery Project was unanimously approved in a State Wildlife Conservation Board meeting on Aug. 24 after a decade of complaints from Bouquet Canyon residents.  “Receiving this grant will go a long way in improving public safety, restoring and preserving wildlife habitat, and enhancing the local water supply,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a press release. “Having successfully obtained this grant award for our county is also a testament to our persistent and unrelenting advocacy work. I am committed to bringing long-term relief to the residents of the area. Although this is a complex project involving state and federal partners, I won’t stop my advocacy work and support until the improvements are made.” … ”  Read more from The Signal.

Riverside County declares emergency over toxic dumpsite leak

“Riverside County officials declared a local emergency Tuesday in response to flooding and leakage of unknown materials from a toxic dumpsite.  Officials said flash flooding on Sept. 1 had caused a breach of the retaining berm at the Lawson Dumpsite on Torres Martinez tribal land near Thermal.  On Saturday, the leakage prompted evacuation warnings for three mobile home parks — the San Jose, Vargas, and Gamez communities.  “The Lawson Dump is considered to be the largest toxic dump in California and continues to threaten our communities,” said Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor, V. Manuel Perez. “This is a public health emergency in addition to the flash flooding damage that was worse for the eastern Coachella Valley than Hurricane Hilary. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

$83 million project prepares OC flood control channel for 100-year storm

“Flood control improvements unveiled Tuesday, Aug. 15, in Huntington Beach are part of a decades-long series of projects that federal and local officials say will improve flood protection in western Orange County.  The $83 million project transformed a section of the East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel from Warner Avenue near Springsdale Street to Goldenwest Street. Once a trapezoid shape with sloped sides, the man-made channel that moves storm water out to the ocean is now rectangular with vertical barriers along the sides to increase water capacity – where once it was rated for a 20-year storm it is now ready for a 100-year storm, officials said.  And these changes may save homeowners on their insurance. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

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Along the Colorado River …

Here’s what 7 states say about solving the West’s water crisis

“The conflict between Arizona and California looms over the Colorado River as seven states make their arguments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on how to manage the river.  Reclamation is working to build a new agreement as set of rules from 2007 nears expiration. The agency has released a segment of the comments, indicating that more will come “on a rolling basis.” So far, more than 700 pages of comments have been posted on Reclamation’s website, organized by official agencies, organizations and tribes.  8 News Now is reviewing the comments in a series of reports beginning today with a look at how states and Native American tribes see the situation. … ”  Read more from KLAS.

Can alfalfa survive a fight over Colorado River water?

“Dirt roads neatly bisect acres and acres of vibrant green plants here: short, dense alfalfa plants fed by the waters of the Colorado River, flowing by as a light brown stream through miles of narrow concrete ditches.  But on a nearby field, farmer Ronnie Leimgruber is abandoning those ditches, part of a system that has served farmers well for decades.  Instead, he’s overseeing the installation of new irrigation technology, at a cost of more than $400,000, and with no guarantee it will be as dependable as the open concrete channels and gravity-fed systems that have long watered these lands.  “People say this is the epitome of efficiency. I don’t know. I’ve had a lot of old timers tell me, ‘You’re crazy.’ You’re giving up a gravity flow system that’s worked for 100 years, that has no potential for breakdown,” Leimgruber explained on a tour of his farm earlier this year. … ”  Read more from E&E News.

Wyoming’s new Colorado River advisory committee is looking for long term solutions

“A few dozen people are bunched into a conference room in Rock Springs – a city that’s near the Green River, which is a headwater for the 40 million water users spread across six states south of Wyoming and in Mexico. Parts of the system reached historic low water levels last year, causing states to consider drastic measures to save water. The consensus is that everyone is going to have to learn to live with less.  People at the meeting are wearing ties, suits, but also, cowboy hats, hiking boots and even a few handlebar mustaches, in a nod to the different stakeholders of Wyoming’s water. They’re part of a committee that’ll try to protect some of that water for its users. … ”  Read more from Wyoming Public Radio.

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In national water news this weekend …

Congressional watchdog describes border wall harm, says agencies should work together to ease damage

“The construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border under former President Donald Trump toppled untold numbers of saguaro cactuses in Arizona, put endangered ocelots at risk in Texas and disturbed Native American burial grounds, the official congressional watchdog said Thursday.  A report released by the Government Accountability Office offers the first independent assessment of damage caused by the building of more than 450 miles ( 724 km) of wall while in-depth environmental reviews were waived and the concerns of Native American tribes went largely ignored in the rush to finish the barrier.  Now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Interior Department should work together to ease the damage, the GAO said. It recommended that the agencies coordinate to decide how much repair work will cost, how to fund it, and how long it will take. … ”  Read more from KPBS.

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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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