DAILY DIGEST, 9/18: ‘Unprecedented times’ threaten to bring down CA’s salmon industry; Charts show what might be in store w/El Niño; The ‘Big Melt’ could have been much worse; Nice rice price buoys Butte County growers; and more …

In California water news today …

‘Unprecedented times’ threaten to bring down historic California industry

Salmon trollers. Photo by Jennifer Gilden.

“On summer days in Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Harbor, people usually line up to buy king salmon direct from the source. But with the California salmon fishing season closed for the first time since 2009, the only kind for sale on Thursday was frozen, from Alaska.  “Once you eat the wild salmon, you stop buying them from the supermarket because the taste is totally different,” said customer Valeria Fedotova of Pacifica, who is a regular during the salmon season but comes only occasionally now that nothing local is available. The salmon season that usually runs from May to October was closed because of a cascade of issues starting with the drought, which impacted this year’s fish when they were babies three years ago. The closure also follows several limited seasons for Dungeness crab fishing, another mainstay that historically took place from November to June, which could potentially  be shortened again in the upcoming months. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SEE ALSOBay Area commercial fishers struggling under weight of recent catch restrictions, from KTVU

El Niño typically means wet California winters. These charts show what might be in store

“The official arrival of El Niño conditions raises fears for another wet California winter. But these conditions don’t guarantee that the state will face torrential downpours and floods, as it did during the infamous El Niño winters of 1982-83 or 1997-98, experts say. “That, I think, is one of the huge misconceptions,” said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services and adjunct professor at San Jose State University. Though El Niño typically brings wetter than average weather to California, and La Niña generally brings drier than average conditions, the opposing climate patterns don’t guarantee any particular weather, and individual years often buck the trend. Last winter, for example, coincided with La Niña but brought historic downpours and snow across the state.  … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Back Forty: California’s ‘Big Melt’ was a disaster. It could have been much worse.

Teresa Cotsirilos writes, “California’s San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, and earlier this year it was thrown into chaos. First it was hit by a barrage of atmospheric rivers, which eventually dumped 57 feet of snow in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Then, in April, that historic snowpack started to melt, and the runoff pooled in the valley’s basin. Tulare Lake, which was drained and planted more than a century ago by powerful agricultural interests, began to reappear. Residents of the valley’s small cities and towns scrambled to protect themselves, piling sandbags around their houses and building makeshift berms around their communities. Today, Tulare Lake is almost the size of Lake Tahoe, and it could take years for the waters to subside.  While the runup to the Big Melt received national attention, the valley’s local newsrooms produced some of the crisis’ most nuanced coverage — and SJV Water, a scrappy, two-person nonprofit news site based in Bakersfield, was particularly prolific. … Last week, I talked to reporter Jesse Vad about his experience covering the Big Melt and its ongoing impact in the region. … ”  Read more from the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

California weather: Get ready for a wild midweek swing

“Fall officially begins Friday night, and Northern California will certainly feel the changing of the seasons this week. A mix of weather conditions is in store from the Bay Area to the Sierra Nevada.  The Bay Area will see partly cloudy skies with seasonal temperatures through Wednesday, but changes are coming for the second half of the week. By Thursday, north winds are expected to clear out skies and elevate the fire risk in the Sacramento Valley. However, these winds will bring chilly air to the mountains, possibly cool enough for the first snowflakes of the season in the high Sierra. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Future ancestors of freshwater fishes in California

“We are living in the Anthropocene, an era being defined by global mass extinctions caused by humanity. While on-going and impending extinctions of birds and other terrestrial vertebrates gain the most attention, the situation with freshwater fishes (and other freshwater organisms) is as bad or worse, partly because many freshwater extinctions are nearly invisible events, hidden by murky waters (Moyle and Leidy 2023). The extinction threat is especially high for obligatory freshwater fishes including many species endemic to California (Moyle and Leidy 2023). The ultimate cause is competition between people and fish for clean water. People are winning the competition at an accelerated rate, assisted by invasive species and global warming[1] and by the by continued expansion of the human population and its demands (Rypel 2023). The freshwater fish fauna of California is thus already on its way to becoming simplified and homogenized (Moyle and Mount 2007, Leidy and Moyle 2021). … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog.

Robots grow leafy greens at futuristic indoor farm

“A startup named Plenty is pioneering a new way to grow leafy greens – inside a high-tech indoor farm run almost entirely by robots!  I recently got to tour their facility in Compton, California to see how it works and sample the produce. Spoiler alert: it was some of the freshest and most flavorful lettuce I’ve ever tasted!  So how does Plenty grow vegetables without sun, soil, or even human hands touching the plants? It’s a highly automated process that looks more like a factory than a traditional farm.  It starts with seeds being robotically planted and moved into a giant eight story nursery room to germinate. The rooms are lit by LEDs and optimized for each specific crop. … ”  Read more from KTLA.

Feds award $1 billion to plant trees, combat extreme heat, including $100 million for California

“California is among the states that will share in more than $1 billion in federal funding to help plant trees in an effort to mitigate extreme heat and combat climate change, officials announced last week.  The Golden State will receive about $103 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, which will go toward 43 grant recipients across Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and other California communities for tree planting and maintenance, urban canopy improvements and other green efforts.  The funding comes from President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act and marks the act’s largest investment to date in urban and community forests, officials said. In all, 385 grant proposals in all 50 states were selected to receive funds, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

‘Watershed moment’: California enters climate litigation fray

“California, a top oil-producing state, is suing the oil majors and an influential ally — making it the latest and largest player among a growing number of local governments looking to hold fossil fuel companies financially accountable for the effects of climate change.  The lawsuit, filed Friday in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, accuses five of the world’s largest oil companies and their subsidiaries, along with the industry trade association the American Petroleum Institute, of waging a campaign to mislead the public about the dangers of burning fossil fuels.  “Oil and gas companies have privately known the truth for decades — that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change — but have fed us lies and mistruths to further their record-breaking profits at the expense of our environment,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D). “Enough is enough.” … ”  Read more from E&E News.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Nice rice price buoys Butte County growers

Improved rice prices helped buoy the Butte County, Calif., crop report in 2022, amidst a catastrophic year for rice plantings across much of the Sacramento Valley growing region.  Butte County rice farmers were able to plant much of their land to rice that year, while their neighbors on the west side of the valley left most of their land fallow due to an unprecedented cut in surface irrigation deliveries from the Central Valley Project. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press.


Sea-level rise in the Bay Area

“For more than 150 years, a tidal bench mark underneath a pier off the Presidio has been measuring the sea level in the San Francisco Bay. It’s been there since the Gold Rush and is the longest-running tidal gauge on the West Coast. According to that gauge, the sea level in the bay rose about 10 inches between the mid-19th century and the final years of the 20th century.  But since then, according to what are now upward of a dozen tidal monitors scattered across Alameda, Contra Costa, and other Bay Area counties, the sea has been rising at a rate never seen before. … ” Read more from Diablo.

Pleasanton council set for final debate on water rate increase proposal

“The Pleasanton City Council is expected to make a final decision Tuesday on whether to increase the city’s water service rates, which city officials have said is long overdue to effectively operate the municipal system but vocal residents have argued is too steep and too muddled of a proposal.  Mayor Karla Brown told the Weekly last week that she is still weighing out public discourse against the increase and the necessity of raising the costs in order to properly fund the city’s water enterprise fund. She said that while the city doesn’t agree with the “handful of residents who are challenging the new rates using creative extrapolation,” she remains open to hearing out residents’ concerns. … ”  Read more from Pleasanton Weekly.


Nacimiento, San Antonio dams will get $17 million for safety projects

“Last Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 104, which, among other things, provides $17 million of funding for dam safety projects at Nacimiento and San Antonio Reservoirs, which are owned and operated by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Following the failure of the Oroville Dam spillway, the California Department of Water Resources, Division of Safety of Dams, initiated a state-wide reassessment of dams and found, along with many others, Nacimiento and San Antonio to have deficiencies requiring attention, according to a report by the governor. Construction of the dams, which were completed in 1957 and 1967 respectively, was entirely locally funded, as has been the subsequent decades of operation and maintenance. … ” Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News.

Leaks or seeps? Big tar balls abundant on Santa Barbara beaches

“A big, black raft was bobbing among the waves at Loon Point on Tuesday, headed for the shoreline midway between Summerland and Carpinteria. “I thought it was a kelp bed floating toward the beach,” said Jon Vaccaro, who watched as the giant mass washed up, breaking into thick gobs of smelly tar as the waves dumped it along the beach.  Once the petroleum mess had come ashore, Vaccaro said he considered going for a swim through a clear spot, but the ocean was left with a foamy brown color flecked with bits of goo that stuck to his legs. Instead, he took photos of what he estimated to be a football-field’s length of gooey tar, sending them to the Indy and wondering if the “cork” mentioned in Callie Fausey’s story about re-abandoning oil wells off Summerland might be responsible. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.


More water recycling to help Inland Empire Utilities Agency boost supplies

“In its latest move in support of its ambitious plan to boost wastewater reuse and reduce reliance on imported water, California’s Inland Empire Utilities Agency recently hired the program management firm Jacobs to manage the expansion of its recycled water system. By enabling the IEUA to purify wastewater to an advanced level, the expansion will help the agency increase local groundwater supplies within Southern California’s Chino Basin and conduct indirect potable reuse on a larger scale.  In a related milestone, the environmental engineering firm Brown and Caldwell recently announced the completion of the preliminary design of the new advanced water purification facility that will anchor the IEUA’s expansion of its recycled water system. … ” Read more from The Source.

Water district opens dual-use facility

“Cherry Valley Water District (BCVWD) and the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District celebrated the completion of its dual-use Beaumont Line 16 water conservation and flood protection project with a ribbon-cutting attended by local water industry partners and elected officials.  The $7.6 million project constructed a system of percolation ponds (stage 1, which was constructed beginning in 2005) at northeast corner of Brookside and Beaumont avenues in Beaumont and the recently completed flood control infrastructure that enables the facility to capture and recharge local stormwater (stage 2). … ”  Read more from the Record-Gazette.


San Diego expected to approve water-rate hikes of almost 20 percent

“San Diego water bills would rise nearly 20 percent under a rate-increase proposal the City Council is scheduled to consider Tuesday.  The increase, which city officials began studying last fall, would be the first comprehensive rate hike approved by the council in nearly eight years. It would include a 10.2 increase this December and an 8.75 percent jump in January 2025.  City officials say they need additional revenue increases to cover rising costs for imported water, upgrades to thousands of aging pipes and a long list of short-term and long-term capital projects. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Lindo Lake getting a closer look by county, community

“Hoping to push along a healthy future for one of Lakeside’s most scenic places, residents and members of a Lindo Lake committee met last month with staff of the county Department of Parks and Recreation to talk about a proposed multimillion-dollar improvement plan.  The county has been taking community input for the past year about Lindo Lake Park’s biggest needs. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

What would happen if Tijuana sewage crisis is declared an emergency?

“Saying this is “a pivotal moment that calls for resolute action,” all 18 mayors in San Diego County sent a letter last week to Gov. Gavin Newsom imploring him to declare a state of emergency over the decades-long sewage crisis at the border.  It is the latest in a string of pleas from local, county, state and congressional leaders demanding an immediate and forceful response from the governor and President Joe Biden to the constant contamination from the Tijuana River Valley that has closed beaches, imperiled residents’ health and jeopardized the South Bay economy. … ”  Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Along the Colorado River …

Will Lake Mead water levels rise again? What we know about El Niño

“Last week, Lake Mead water levels started to even out after experiencing a steep increase for the last five months, but it isn’t expected to last for long.  After years of drought, Lake Mead, which is in Nevada and Arizona, reached drastically low levels last summer, prompting fears that a dead pool—the point where water levels are too low to flow downstream—would occur much sooner than originally thought. Water levels started to recover this year because of above-average precipitation and snowpack that melted throughout the summer.  The lake has since recovered more than 20 feet, supplemented at times by excessive rainfall such as that from storm Hilary in August. AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva told Newsweek that he doesn’t expect the lake to rise much more this water year, which ends September 30. … ”  Read more from Newsweek.

Las Vegas authorities want to know how much water companies use before letting them move in

“If a business wants to move or expand to Las Vegas, it’s going to have to shell out information on its proposed water usage.  Greater Las Vegas officials want to help the regional economy grow, but they also want to protect water sources in the region. This includes a tool that outlines the water companies that want to move to the area will use with their operations, Insider reported.  Officials will rank incoming businesses by analyzing how it will benefit the region, versus the amount of water that it may use up, Insider reported. The Southern Nevada Water Authority first needs to examine how much consumptive water a new or expanding business would use. By “consumptive water,” it means the amount of water that the state won’t reclaim from the company’s operations. This includes water used in products that are sold. … ”  Read more from Gizmodo.

Colorado: Confusion persists about Wolf Creek reservoir in Rio Blanco County

“People in northwest Colorado are confused about the purpose, need, and size of the Wolf Creek Reservoir. That’s according to a situation assessment report prepared by The Langdon Group as part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plan for additional public engagement about the project.  “There’s a lot of conflicting information and a lot of conflicting understandings, and it was our job to capture that, so the BLM knows where do we need to provide clarity as we go into the process of evaluating this application on public land,” said Kelsea MacIlroy, a project manager with The Langdon Group. “I hope the word that you took away from this is ‘confusion.’” … ”  Read more from Aspen Journalism.

Ranchers’ water solutions panel draws in rural audience

“When Colorado rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh came to Telluride to talk about water, there was a bit of surprise — “The event Tuesday evening for Colorado Water Trust was standing-room only,” she said.  Daughenbaugh, who traveled to town from the Elk River Valley near Steamboat Springs, said the hospitality in Telluride during her visit was “wonderful.”  She was one of four ranchers in Telluride on Sept. 12 to deliver a panel discussion on “Water, drought and the future of agriculture in the West” hosted by the Colorado Water Trust and the Telluride Foundation. … ”  Read more from the Telluride Daily Planet.

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In national water news today …

Dams worldwide are at risk of catastrophic failure

“After two dams in northeastern Libya failed, thousands of people are dead, thousands more are unaccounted for, and tens of thousands are displaced in the city of Derna and surrounding towns. The dams along the Wadi Derna river valley collapsed amid Storm Daniel, a Mediterranean cyclone that dropped up to 16 inches of rain over parts of the North African country in a single 24-hour period this week. The same record-breaking storm also inundated Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, causing devastating flooding across the region of those nations before making landfall in Libya. … ”  Read more from Scientific American.

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More news and commentary in the weekend edition …

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
  • California water rights verification bill, SB 389, passes Senate and advances to Governor’s Desk
  • DAN WALTERS: Water rights reformers scored only a minor victory in the Legislature
  • California lawmakers pass bill requiring schools to test for lead in drinking water
  • Sustainable Conservation accelerates California restoration projects with the launch of its new website
  • California’s remote wilderness is getting polluted by balloons. Here’s how bad it is
  • California sues giant oil companies, citing decades of deception
  • Army Corps of Engineers rushes to repair Pajaro River levee before winter rains
  • Two Central Coast reservoirs will get $17 million repair their dams
  • A messy aftermath: Residents concerned about debris, erosion on Mokelumne River
  • CV-SALTS: Salt and nitrate control programs breaking new ground
  • Ridgecrest: Water District board unwilling to voice support for Groundwater Authority imported water pipeline
  • Arizona considers using effluent water credits
  • And more …

Click here for the weekend digest.

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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

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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