DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Will a pending water rights bill on Gov. Newsom’s desk be a game changer? It depends; Lawmakers pass bill requiring schools to test for lead in drinking water; CA wilderness polluted by balloons; CV-SALTS: Salt and nitrate control programs breaking new ground; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Will a pending water rights bill on Gov. Newsom’s desk be a game changer in California water? It depends

Tower Bridge over Sacramento River. Photo by DWR.

“A water rights bill that made it through the Legislature this year is, arguably, a much weakened version of its original form, but the fact that it addresses senior rights at all is a significant step, according to experts.  Senate Bill 389, which clarifies the state Water Resources Control Board’s ability to investigate senior water rights, passed both the Assembly and Senate as of September 12.   The bill, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica,) originally faced an onslaught of opposition from the agriculture industry, with about 200 agencies and organizations that came out against the bill.  But after lawmakers worked with the opposition and committed to a significant reworking of the bill, SB 389 sailed through both houses and is expected to become law. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.

California water rights verification bill, SB 389, passes Senate and advances to Governor’s Desk

“On September 12, the California State Senate approved SB 389, legislation by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) that gives the State Water Resources Control Board the power to verify pre-1914 and riparian water rights. … Bill proponents, including a coalition of environmental, science, fishing and climate justice groups and the Karuk Tribe, said the bill is needed because the Water Board “presently lacks the tools to promptly investigate and determine whether senior water right claims are inflated or represent the amounts that the claimants have the right to divert and use. Reforms allowing the Water Board to verify these claimed water rights could make water available for more junior water rights holders and, in times of scarcity, continue to provide for fishery and other key beneficial uses.” … ”  Read more from the Daily Kos.

DAN WALTERS: Water rights reformers scored only a minor victory in the Legislature

“A centerpiece of California’s perpetual political and legal wrangling over allocation of water is the complex array of rights that stretch back to the earliest years of statehood in the 19th century.  Simply put, those who claimed water before 1914, when the state assumed legal control, have “senior rights” that traditionally have entitled them to virtually unlimited supplies even when other users face cutbacks during drought.  The state Water Resources Control Board has made occasional efforts to curtail diversions by senior rights holders when supplies are tight but its legal right to do so is unclear with water rights in conflict with other laws declaring the larger public’s interest in overseeing “beneficial” water use. … ”  Read more from Dan Walters at Cal Matters.

California lawmakers pass bill requiring schools to test for lead in drinking water

“California lawmakers have passed a bill that would require kindergarten-to-12th-grade schools in the Golden State to test for brain-damaging lead in all drinking water outlets.  Assembly Bill 249 would require community water systems that serve schools built before 2010 to test all potable water outlets for lead, and to report results to the school, educational agency and state water regulators. Outlets exceeding lead levels of 5 parts per billion would have to be shut down immediately. Testing would be required before 2027, and would also apply to preschools and child day care facilities on public school property.  The measure, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), passed in the Senate and the Assembly this week. It now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for a final decision. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

SEE ALSO:  Why thousands of California schools could face stringent tests for lead in drinking water, from the Sacramento Bee

Sustainable Conservation accelerates California restoration projects with the launch of its new website

“Sustainable Conservation, a California-based non-profit, is proud to announce the launch of an innovative new website to increase the capacity and speed of restoration efforts for our waterways and imperiled species. Navigating California’s rules and regulations can be just as time-consuming and expensive for environmentally beneficial projects as it is for traditional development. The new website will serve as a comprehensive resource for restorationists in California to save time and financial resources while facilitating efficient, impactful, and collaborative restoration projects that benefit ecosystems and communities alike.  Regulatory approval of environmental restoration projects can be slow, complex, and expensive. Sustainable Conservation’s Accelerating Restoration program works with state and federal agencies in California to simplify the permitting process, while maintaining strict environmental standards, so more restoration can be done now, not years from now, to help our wildlife and communities thrive. … ”  Read more from Sustainable Conservation.

California’s remote wilderness is getting polluted by balloons. Here’s how bad it is

“Avid hiker Alyssa Johnston was exploring a trail in the High Sierra when something in the distance caught her eye. She approached the bright colors and realized they were Mylar balloons — and did not belong in the wilderness.  Mylar balloons, which have a metallic coating and are filled with helium, have become a concern for biologists and nature lovers, disrupting the enjoyment of outdoor spaces and posing harm to wildlife. Their ability to travel long distances in the air means they are polluting extremely remote areas, although responsible balloon shops are working to educate customers on safe disposal.  Johnston has pulled balloons out of lakes numerous times. Often, she said, “they’ll just disintegrate and I’m just trying to pick up all the little pieces because it’s this beautiful, pristine lake and then now you have this ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon.” … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

California sues giant oil companies, citing decades of deception

“The state of California sued several of the world’s biggest oil companies on Friday, claiming their actions have caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and that they deceived the public by downplaying the risks posed by fossil fuels.  The civil case, filed in superior court in San Francisco, is the latest and most significant lawsuit to target oil, gas and coal companies over their role in causing climate change. It seeks creation of an abatement fund to pay for the future damages caused by climate related disasters in the state.  The lawsuit targets five companies: Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron, which is headquartered in San Ramon, Calif. The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group based in Washington, is also listed as a defendant. … ”  Read more from the New York Times.


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In commentary this weekend …

Is the disaster in Libya coming soon to an aging dam near you?

“The collapse of two dams in Libya, unleashing torrential floodwaters that left at least 3,000 people dead and over 4,200 still missing, was both predicted and preventable. And they won’t be the last big dams to collapse unless we remove and repair some of the aging and obsolete structures that are long past their expiration date. … Details are still emerging, but the Libya dam collapses appear to have been caused by poor maintenance, and by poor monitoring of reservoirs that were overwhelmed by a huge rainstorm. Critical warnings were issued last year about the dams’ deteriorated state and the repairs needed to avert such a scenario, yet no action was taken.  Similar disasters are waiting to happen around the world. … ”  Read more from the New York Times.

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In people news this weekend …

Promotions, passings, profiles – submit people news items to maven@mavensnotebook.com.

Orange County Water District General Manager Michael Markus to retire

“General Manager Michael (“Mike”) R. Markus has announced his retirement, effective January 26, 2024, after a distinguished career in water resource management spanning 45 years.  “It has been an absolute privilege to lead an organization that is a global leader in its industry,” said Mike Markus. “From groundwater management to water recycling and water quality, OCWD has driven innovation and set the gold standard for many projects and programs. This is a testament to the board and the dedicated staff who work to fulfill our mission to provide a safe, reliable water supply.” … Markus’ visionary leadership and implementation of large-scale water projects like the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) have been recognized by the water and engineering community world-wide. Most notably, he received the USC Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award and the international 2009 Säid Khoury Award for Engineering Construction Excellence. … ”  Read the full press release here.

Westlands Water District announces Jon Rubin, the District’s Assistant General Manager and General Counsel, has tendered his resignation

“Today, Westlands Water District announces Jon Rubin, the District’s Assistant General Manager and General Counsel, tendered his resignation. Rubin’s final day with the District will be on September 22. The District is incredibly appreciative of Rubin’s service to Westlands and its landowners and grateful for his steady leadership over the years.  “We’d like to thank Jon for his dedication and commitment to Westlands,” said Allison Febbo, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “Jon tirelessly advocated for the District and our landowners by navigating us seamlessly through complicated legal and public policy issues. While he will leave a void, we were fortunate to have him and are grateful for his leadership over the years.” … ”  Read more from the Westlands Water District.

SEE ALSO: Shakeup continues at Westlands as another high level executive steps down, from the San Joaquin Valley Sun

Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District General Manager, Thaddeus Bettner, announces resignation

“Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) General Manager Thaddeus L. Bettner announced his plans to resign from his position, effective September 22, 2023. The District is extremely appreciative of Bettner’s leadership, dedication, and outstanding service to the District and the Sacramento Valley, and extends to him best wishes going forward. … “When Thad joined GCID, I was immediately impressed with his knowledge, humility, honesty, work ethic and loyalty to the District. Thad became a resource not only for GCID but other entities in the Sacramento Valley,” said Director Don Bransford, who served as the President of GCID from 1992-2022.  “Many of those agencies have looked to Thad to help in efforts to protect water rights and enhance water supplies, grow partnerships, protect agriculture and working landscapes, and improve the environment.”  “Thad has been a pleasure to work with and our District has been fortunate to have him as Manager. He has helped get us through some of the most challenging times we have faced as a District and landowners,” added GCID Board member Pete Knight. … ”  Read more from the Glenn Colusa Irrigation District.

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Podcasts …

WE GROW CALIFORNIA: Do Californians really want conservation as a way of life?

Darcy and Darcy are on opposite sides once again! This time they take their respective stands on the State Water Resources Control Board’s staff recommendations to make Conservation a Way of Life for all Californians, regardless of water supply or availability. This new effort will put all Urban water agencies on a budget determined by SWRCB staff.   Darcy and Darcy discuss whether these efforts make a difference, if they detract from the water infrastructure investments that need to be made, and if this is how California’s economy will not only survive but thrive.

KQED CALIFORNIA REPORT: Restoring meadows in Sierra Nevada a key to healthy ecosystems

When you think of a meadow, what comes to mind? Probably a peaceful expanse of grass and flowers straight out of a postcard. A perfect place to have a picnic or read a book. But meadows are also key to the health of forests And in the Sierra Nevada most meadows have been degraded or lost.   Reporter: Kerry Klein, KVPR

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In regional water news this weekend …


Butte County meadowfoam earmarked for conservation

“Continuing a big week for federal funding flowing into the north state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that $7 million has been earmarked to preserve Butte County meadowfoam.  The grant will go toward acquiring three parcels with vernal pools, totaling 174 acres. Joanna Gilkeson, a Sacramento-based representative of the service’s Pacific Southwest Region, said USFWS could not identify the properties or their location — explaining that they’re “private lands from willing, pro-active sellers and have not yet been acquired, so we’re unable to share that level of detail at this time.”  The announcement came Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the week, Butte County agencies received $11 million in grants for groundwater sustainability projects and $10 million for agriculture projects. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record.


Santa Cruz reports vandalism along San Lorenzo River levee

“A significant amount of rock that provides San Lorenzo River levee armoring and flood protection has been displaced, according to a release from the city of Santa Cruz.  The city is calling the displacement an act of vandalism. Unpermitted plantings have been installed and the city has started the repair of the damage.  The city manages the San Lorenzo River flood control channel under an operations and maintenance agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as per the release. Large rocks known as “rip rap” can be found along the inboard side of the levee that provide protection against erosion during high-flow events. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Army Corps of Engineers rushes to repair Pajaro River levee before winter rains

“With the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, repairs to the Pajaro River levee system, damaged by last winter’s storms, are underway.  Mark Strudley, the executive director of the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency, is one of many working on the project.  “What they’re doing is they’re removing at least 400 feet of temporary fill that they put within the levee system to plug the hole that was created in March. So they’re removing this material. They’re going to use that material to fill up some of the scour that was created as that flood water flowed across the agricultural fields here and then they’re going to be bringing in new material to rebuild this levee system and make it very firm and strong,” Strudley told KPIX. … ”  Read more from CBS San Francisco.

Two Central Coast reservoirs will get $17 million repair their dams

“A bill signed Wednesday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom allocated $17 million to fund dam safety projects at Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio after an assessment by state water resources agency found safety problems. The state money will be used to rehabilitate the Lake Nacimiento “plunge pool” over the next four years, according to a news release from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, which owns and operates the north SLO County lake.  The $17 million will also be used for the design and permitting of a replacement spillway at the Lake San Antonio in Monterey County, the release said. The dam at Lake Nacimiento was built in 1957 using local funds and has been maintained without state support, up until now, the release said. … ”  Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Calleguas Municipal Water District (CMWD) agreement received

“The Public Works and Transportation Committee, Tuesday, September 12, received and filed the completion of Calleguas Municipal Water District (CMWD) Agreement A-7814.  The Salinity Management Pipeline (SMP) is a recycled water conveyance distribution system for agricultural users on the Oxnard Plain.  “The provisions of the SMP were included in the agreement,” she said. “As part of the Hueneme Pipeline phase two project, the agreement disconnected services from the SMP.”  She said the SMP has been operated by the CMWD as a brine disposal pipeline since 2021. … ”  Read more from the Tri-County Sentinel.


A messy aftermath: Residents concerned about debris, erosion on Mokelumne River

“Residents of a senior community in east Lodi want to know which agency is responsible for removing downed trees from the Mokelumne River.  Joyce and Mike Tracy said the heavy storms that hit Lodi at the beginning of the year caused three trees to fall into the river in March, blocking water flow downstream. As a result, water levels have risen to the top of the riverbank, causing damage to properties in the Casa de Lodi community at 29 Rio Vista Drive. “Debris is coming from upriver and stopping there because it has nowhere to go,” Joyce Tracy said. “It’s really starting to smell. I’ve seen a surfboard, a tire, a bumper with a license plate. It’s just getting ridiculous.” … ”  Read more from the Lodi News-Sentinel.

CV-SALTS: Salt and nitrate control programs breaking new ground

“More than mid-way through 2023, both the Salt and Nitrate Control Programs are both entering new territory.  The Salt Control Program is developing an innovative framework and data management tools in its long-term effort to assess and solve one of the Central Valley’s most challenging water quality issues.  The Nitrate Control Program is also working with scientists on a new framework to help them understand nitrate contamination sources and long-term solutions in the area. Its Management Zones are also simultaneously readying their implementation plans for public comment, launching Priority 2 Basin coverage, and continuing to work on outreach, water testing, and delivery for families in need. … ”  Continue reading this update from CV-SALTS.

Lindsay catches up on water management

“After years of trying to fix the myriad of water issues in Lindsay, the city has caught up on three fourths of their problems and has plans in place to maintain the water system in the future.  On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Lindsay City Council voted to take steps to continue improving the city’s water system in order to fix ongoing problems. In their plans to get the water system up to par, the city focused on issues that were discovered in its water feasibility study conducted in May. “We have a document that identifies the available water supplies for the existing and future needs of the city,” director of city services and planning Neyba Amezcua said at the meeting. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette.


Ridgecrest: Water District board unwilling to voice support for Groundwater Authority imported water pipeline

“At the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board meeting on Wednesday, the board discussed a pivotal decision their representative will need to make at the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board meeting. The IWVGA needs to vote on which funding source to use for its imported water pipeline, and the Water District representative is one of the five voting members of the IWVGA board.  However, at least two of the Water District board members thought the best course of action would be to abstain from the vote, because voting for either funding source would imply that the Water District supports the pipeline to import water from the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, which is IWVGA’s plan. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent.

The ancient bristlecone tree faces two major threats: bark beetles and us

“If you’ve ever traveled to Death Valley National Park, the bristlecone pine woodlands are a sight to see.  The oldest-known tree species in the world grows to 15 to 30 feet, but the contorted trees with their tightly packed pine needles are facing major threats: bark beetles and us.  Bark beetles are the size of a grain of rice and though they look anything but menacing, hordes of them can become an aggressive tree killer.  And our changing climate conditions are accelerating the rate at which bark beetles feast on the bristlecones, specifically in the Great Basin (that’s areas in the mountain ranges in eastern California, Nevada and Utah), according to recent research from scientists part of the USDA Forest Service. … ”  Read more from LAist.


Tübatulabal tribe celebrates homecoming with return of a slice of its ancestral lands

“Tribal members celebrated the return of more than 1,200 acres of their ancestral lands in the jagged hills above Weldon on Saturday in a ceremony marked with gratitude, emotion and prayer.  Chairman Robert Gomez opened the event by thanking a large number of people who helped find, purchase and deed the land back to the Tübatulabal tribe, which has called the Kern River Valley home for more than 5,000 years.  Western Rivers Conservancy was chief among those Gomez called out for their help in obtaining the land. Western Rivers, a non profit dedicated to restoring rivers, helped secure funding through the state  Wildlife Conservation Board and Sierra Nevada Conservancy and facilitated the handover of the land to the tribe. … ”  Read more from SJV Water.


Column: How border sewage funding became a big ball of confusion

Columnist Michael Smolens writes, “Earlier this month, more than a few people thought the money to address the border sewage spills had suddenly almost doubled.  It didn’t, but the confusion was understandable.  On Sept. 1, a letter from the federal government and statements by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Todd Gloria led some officials and news organizations to believe recently requested additional funding to fix the problem had been obtained. It hadn’t.  The temporary misunderstanding resulted from how the letter and statements were worded and presented, along with some shifts in financing for the border project. The plan centers on the rehabilitation and expansion of the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, which handles sewage flows from Tijuana. … ”  Continue reading at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Along the Colorado River …

Arizona considers using effluent water credits

“The Arizona Water Banking Authority is exploring the possibility of buying purified wastewater to distribute later – which would be unprecedented.  At the AWBA commission’s meeting on Sept. 13, new bank manager Rebecca Bernat asked whether she should look into the possibility of the bank using effluent water credits.  Until 2019, AWBA has only used excess Colorado River water long-term storage credits. That’s for the Central Arizona Project water stored in aquifers. Users can get the water later during a potential shortage by pumping it back out.  Now, there isn’t any excess CAP water left.  “It’s a different source for the bank,” Eric Braun, Gilbert water resources manager, said of the effluent storage. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Capital Times.

Arizona: As Rio Verde Foothills gets close to short-term solution, tough decisions remain

“At long last, nearly everything is in place to get water flowing to Rio Verde Foothills.  The unincorporated community’s standpipe district finalized an agreement with Epcor, a private water company, on Thursday evening. That, alongside an agreement with Scottsdale that was approved by city officials last week, means water should be coming soon.  “I am so ready to fill my tank,” said resident Karen Nabity.  But first, standpipe district leaders must figure out how to prioritize its members to comply with a 750-residence limit imposed by state lawmakers when they created the government entity. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Republic.

What Lake Mohave’s water level change means for Lake Mead’s future

“Lake Mohave is near capacity, and the healthy body of water could be good news for Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona.  Lake Mead has steadily risen throughout the spring and summer, jumping more than 22 feet from 2022 water levels. The rise is a hopeful sign after the lake experienced years of drought and reached drastically low levels last summer, prompting fears that a dead pool—the point at which water levels are too low to flow downstream—would occur much sooner than originally thought.  Meteorologists expect that Lake Mead could level off at 34 percent full and stop its upward trek until the winter months when precipitation is expected to return. Downstream, if the smaller Lake Mohave fills to capacity, it’s a sign that Lake Mead could see another increase in water levels. … ”  Read more from the Newsweek.

Minimum releases in Glen Canyon Dam raised for boater safety

“Federal water officials have increased the minimum amount of water that can be released hourly from Glen Canyon Dam to increase boater safety in the Colorado River.  The adjustment is from 5,000 to 6,000 cubic feet per second through Sept. 20. Officials say low flows could present challenges for those operating larger, motorized vessels below the dam. During daytime hours, the river’s maximum flows will be 8,000 CFS. … ”  Read more from KNAU.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Request for Proposals for 2024 Nonpoint Source Grant Program

NOW AVAILABLE: Nitrate Control Program, Management Zone Implementation Plans

NOTICE of 180-Day Temporary Permit Application T033391 – Sutter County (corrected)

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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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