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DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Water Board weighs incorporating climate change into new water rights permits; Forest management plans and the Creek Fire; Five dam alternatives proposed for expansion of Pacheco Reservoir; and more … – MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK | Water news


In California water news this weekend …

California weighs changes for new water rights permits in response to a warmer and drier climate

As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply. A report for the State Water Resources Control Board recommends tailoring new water rights permits to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.”  Read the article at Western Water here: 

Future of Sierra, Sequoia forests being decided now. How Creek Fire figures into plans

New forest management plans that could be in effect for the next 15 years in California’s Sierra Nevada are almost complete – using public comments made prior to the catastrophic Creek Fire that burned nearly a third of Sierra National Forest.  The aftermath of that wildfire – the largest single fire in California’s history – isn’t prompting big changes in national forest plan revisions that have been in the works for years, federal land managers said.  Officials said that’s because a previous draft released in 2019 already factored in the probability of future mega wildfires. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Future of Sierra, Sequoia forests being decided now. How Creek Fire figures into plans

Conviction for violation of Clean Water Act required knowing discharge “into water”

The Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for three counts of violations under the Clean Water Act because the district court failed to instruct the jury that the defendant needed to knowingly discharge material “into water” to convict. United States v. Lucero, No. 19-10074 (9th Cir. March 4, 2021).  In the summer of 2014, Lucero executed a scheme under which he charged construction companies to dump dirt and debris on lands near the San Francisco Bay, including wetlands and a tributary subject to the Clean Water Act. Although Lucero admitted to “walking the land” where the dumping happened, the period when the dumping occurred was unusually dry due to drought. The trial court found Lucero guilty on two counts of discharges into wetlands and one count of discharge into a tributary. … ”  Continue reading at the California Land Use & Development Report here: Conviction for violation of Clean Water Act required knowing discharge “into water”

ACWA-sponsored SB 323 passes committee hearing

ACWA-sponsored SB 323 (Caballero) passed out of the Senate Government and Finance Committee on March 25, following a hearing in which ACWA staff and members testified in support.  The bill passed out of the committee on a 4-1 vote and will next be heard by the Senate Standing Committee on Judiciary. A date for that hearing has not yet been scheduled. … ”  Read more from ACWA’s Water News here: ACWA-sponsored SB 323 passes committee hearing

In regional water news this weekend …

Sacramento: Warm weekend weather brings snowmelt, danger to area waterways

A big warm-up is expected for the last weekend of March. Afternoon high temperatures will be 10-15 degrees above average.  Saturday and Sunday highs will come close to 80 degrees for the valley and close to 60 degrees in the Sierra.  These warm conditions mean Sierra snow will be melting and moving downhill this weekend and over the next couple of months. Local waterways will be very cold and swift so even though most people won’t be swimming, those spending time enjoying the beautiful trails and recreation should be extra cautious. … ”  Read more from ABC Channel 10 here: Sacramento: Warm weekend weather brings snowmelt, danger to area waterways

Calaveras County: Vandals hit local water authority’s supply system

Vandals caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Calaveras County water authority’s supply system and now the public’s help is being sought to catch the suspects.  The crime occurred sometime during the weekend of Saturday, March 6th at the Utica Water and Power Authority’s (Utica) public water supply system east of Forest Meadows near the end of Pennsylvania Gulch Road in the Murphys area. Authority officials note that this is the only water supply for more than 10,000 residential, commercial and agricultural customers between Murphys and Angels Camp. ... ”  Read more from My Mother Lode here: Calaveras County: Vandals hit local water authority’s supply system

St. Helena set to impose penalties for exceeding water rations

The city is getting ready to impose new penalties for water customers who exceed their rations during St. Helena’s Phase II water emergency. On Tuesday the City Council told staff to bring the recommended penalties back for adoption at the April 13 council meeting. The new penalties would take effect May 1. Meanwhile, city officials will develop clear conservation targets and look at adjusting the city’s water management policies, including how water allocations are calculated. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here:  St. Helena set to impose penalties for exceeding water rations

Fixing a dysfunctional marsh on Sonoma Creek

Restoration projects, like species, evolve. The Sonoma Creek Enhancement Project, originally about mosquito control, has shown itself to be a boon to special-status tidal marsh wildlife as well. More than a decade of adaptive management actions made that happen.  The existing marsh, formed rapidly beginning in the 1960s by deposited sediment, lacked the dendritic channels of a mature marsh. High tides brought in water that pooled in a central basin and didn’t drain out, providing breeding habitat for mosquitos. The disadvantages of chemical treatment prompted land managers to look for alternatives. So in the 2000s, the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District teamed up with the US Fish & Wildlife Service (the land manager), Audubon California, and environmental scientists Daniel Gillenwater and Stuart Siegel to improve tidal circulation in the dysfunctional marsh. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Fixing a dysfunctional marsh on Sonoma Creek

Bay Area: Local salamander study could shed light on life in fire zones

With California now facing yearly threats of devastating wildfires, a Dominican University researcher is looking to salamanders as a potential indicator of the fires’ impact on wildlife.   In a bit of happenstance, a plot of land that researcher Obed Hernandez-Gomez had been visiting each year to count salamander populations burned in last year’s Woodward Fire in the coastal area of Point Reyes in west Marin County. He saw it as an opportunity to continue the counts, only now through the charred lens of the recent fires.  “So we have estimates of how many salamanders were here before and after the fire,” Hernandez-Gomez said. “It’s almost a silver lining.” … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Bay Area: Local salamander study could shed light on life in fire zones

Bay Area: Sediment paparazzi

As the Estuary faces drowning marshes due to rising seas, people want to see action – acres saved, walls built, marsh mice whisked to safety after crawling to the tip of the tallest gumplant. In terms of action, “sediment monitoring” doesn’t come immediately to mind. Monitoring is something you do after all the action is over, isn’t it? And as for “sediment,” well what’s all the fuss over some dirt and mud?  In fact, there is quite a fuss. ... ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Sediment paparazzi

Dutch Slough laboratory

For a hawk’s-eye view of one of the Estuary’s most ambitious restoration efforts, visit the Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Habitat Restoration Project’s YouTube channel. Drone-shot footage shows what the Department of Water Resources has been doing on 1,200 acres of former wetland, converted to pasture and subsided up to 15 feet, in the West Delta between Big Break and Jersey Island. After moving millions of cubic yards of soil to elevate the marsh plain, a team of engineers, scientists, and contractors led by project managers Katherine Bandy of DWR and Mark Lindley of Environmental Science Associates has carved channels and created a basin-and-range landscape on the Emerson and Gilbert parcels, the western two-thirds of the project site. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Dutch Slough laboratory

Proposed natural gas well at edge of Bay Area riles up opposition, at odds with state’s climate goals

A Brentwood company’s proposal to drill a natural gas well in Suisun Marsh has become the latest flash point in California’s quest to fight climate change and transition away from fossil fuels.  Sunset Exploration wants to search for a commercially viable amount of gas at the site of an abandoned well in the wetlands south of Suisun City. If the company finds enough fuel, the Solano County project could be operational for 20 years, connecting to a pipeline that would help heat homes and light stoves around the region. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here: Proposed natural gas well at edge of Bay Area riles up opposition, at odds with state’s climate goals

Valley Water evaluating five dam alternatives for proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir

In the face of climate change and severe weather, there is a risk of more prolonged droughts in California. Despite recent storms in March, Santa Clara County is now in a drought and it is unknown how severe it will get.  Valley Water remains focused on preparing for future dry and wet years through a variety of projects and programs, including the proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir in southern Santa Clara County. The project would increase the reservoir’s capacity from 5,500 acre-feet to up to 140,000 acre-feet, enough water to supply up to 1.4 million residents for one year. … ”  Read more from Valley Water here: Valley Water evaluating five dam alternatives for proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir

Early indicators of drought surface in Santa Cruz County

As cherry blossoms and calla lilies spring to life, the sun shines and rain showers begin to seem like a distant memory. Spring is here, and with it Santa Cruz County has begun to show early indications of drought, with little reprieve in sight.  Rainfall levels in the city of Santa Cruz and in the mountains are well below average. Loch Lomond is at a little more than 70% capacity and the San Lorenzo River is low for this time of year, according to officials. Several water agencies are considering implementing water-use restrictions — including rationing.  The region’s current drought conditions are less severe than elsewhere, though. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Early indicators of drought surface in Santa Cruz County

Mono County victorious in litigation protecting local habitat and resources

On March 8, 2021, the Alameda Superior Court issued an Order requiring the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to reverse its plan to eliminate water for wildlife habitat and scenic, recreational and economic resources on approximately 6,400 acres of land in Mono County — at least until such time as LADWP completes the required environmental review. The decision came as a result of a petition filed by Mono County and the Sierra Club under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Specifically, Mono County and Sierra Club sought to prevent damage to these valuable environmental and recreational resources resulting from a sudden and unanalyzed change in historic water management practices. … ”

Click here to read this press release from Mono County.

USC student tackles Kern River for media project

It may surprise you (it surprises me all the time) but a lot of young people are deeply interested in how our world runs.  Especially young people who also have a passion for journalism.  One of those young people, Jonathan Horwitz, a graduate fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, contacted me some months ago asking about water. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  USC student tackles Kern River for media project

Seawall protecting Laguna Beach home slated for demolition after legal battle

Legal efforts to preserve a seawall protecting a waterfront Laguna Beach home have been exhausted, as the state Supreme Court declined on Thursday, March 25, to hear the issue after trial and appellate courts ruled in favor of a state Coastal Commission order to tear down the protective structure.  The decision ends a 2½-year court battle.  “The lawsuit is over,” said Steven Kaufmann, lawyer who represents the owners cited by the Coastal Commission. “I expect the seawall will be removed.”  The fate of the house itself is not yet clear, but prospects appear grim. … ”  Read more from the OC Register here:  Seawall protecting Laguna Beach home slated for demolition after legal battle

California preparing for another drought? Local experts say the Coachella Valley is prepared

California has experienced another consecutive dry winter, which has some state officials concerned that we could face drought-like conditions as we head into the Summer season.  The state has adjusted its initial state water project allocation from 10% to 5%, but here in the Coachella Valley officials tell NBC Palm Springs we are prepared for the long-term.  “When I say long-term I mean 40 or 50 years. We look at how we are going to supply enough water to meet the demand of our customers, residences, businesses, agriculture, it’s really a long-term plan,” explained Katie Evans, Director of Communications and Conservation with the Coachella Valley Water District. ... ”  Read more from NBC Palm Springs here: California preparing for another drought? Local experts say the Coachella Valley is prepared

Santee Council gets update on Padre Dam’s big project

Padre Dam Water District wants to keep everyone in the loop about its massive sewage reclamation project, especially the city where the project is located — Santee. At its March 24 virtual meeting, the Santee City Council approved a legal agreement to work collaboratively with the joint powers authority that is overseeing the nearly $700 million program called Advanced Water Purification. … ”  Read more from the East County Times here: Santee Council gets update on Padre Dam’s big project

In people news this weekend …

Former Marin water official tapped to lead Madison Water Utility

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has appointed a former California water official to lead the Madison Water Utility. Krishna Kumar will become general manager of the utility June 1, the mayor’s office announced Tuesday.  Kumar retired in 2018 as general manager of the Marin Municipal Water District, where he served for six years. He previously worked in Sonoma County, California, including as general manager of the Valley of the Moon Water District. … ”  Read more from the Wisconsin State Journal here: California water official tapped to lead Madison Water Utility

Stockholm International Water Institute: Freshwater Thought Leader Sandra Postel awarded 2021 Stockholm Water Prize

Sandra Postel is awarded the Stockholm Water Prize 2021 for her long and outstanding work to make sense of complex water-related issues. As an author and educator, she has made important contributions to the understanding of some of the greatest challenges of our time and shown that we have the power to find sustainable solutions.  Sandra Postel is a leading authority and prolific author and communicator on international water issues. She has been hailed for her inspiring, innovative, and practical approach to promoting the preservation and sustainable use of freshwater. Throughout her career, Postel has tackled complex water problems in her books, articles, and lectures, with an aim to make them comprehensible to a wide audience. … ”  Continue reading at the Stockholm International Water Institute here:  Freshwater Thought Leader Sandra Postel awarded 2021 Stockholm Water Prize

From the Officer of the Governor:

Jacqueline Hostler-Carmesin, 65, of McKinleyville, has been reappointed to the California Fish and Game Commission

where she has served since 2013. Hostler-Carmesin has been Chief Executive Officer at Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria since 2010 and was Director of Transportation and Land-Use Planning there from 2007 to 2009. She was Roads Director at the Hoopa Tribal Roads Department from 2003 to 2007. Hostler-Carmesin held several positions at the Redwood Empire Aggregates Inc. from 1990 to 2002, including Payroll Administrator and Contract Administrator. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Hostler-Carmesin is an American Independent.

Samantha Murray, 44, of Del Mar, has been reappointed to the California Fish and Game Commission

where she has served since 2019. Murray has been Faculty and Executive Director of the Master of Advanced Studies Program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego since 2017 and Principal at Samantha Murray Consulting since 2015. She was Director of the Water Program at the Oregon Environmental Council from 2015 to 2016. Murray directed various programs at the Ocean Conservancy from 2007 to 2014 and was Conservation Director at the Golden Gate Audubon Society from 2005 to 2007. Murray was Assistant Director of Conservation at the Audubon Society of Portland from 2004 to 2005 and a Legal Intern at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in 2003. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from Lewis & Clark Law School. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Murray is a Democrat.

Erika S. Zavaleta, 49, of Santa Cruz, has been appointed to the California Fish and Game Commission

Zavaleta has been a Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department since 2016, where she was a Professor in the Environmental Studies Department from 2003 to 2016. She held multiple positions at The Christensen Fund from 2005 to 2007, including Consultant and Program Specialist for Landscape Ecology. Zavaleta was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley from 2001 to 2003. She is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and the Ecological Society for America; a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor; a member of the Society for Conservation Biology and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group and Invasive Species Specialist Group; an advisory board member at the Wildlife Conservation Society – Climate Adaptation Fund; and Associate Editor at Elementa. Zavaleta earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in biological sciences and a Master of Arts degree in anthropology from Stanford University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Zavaleta is a Democrat.

RIVERSPEAK PODCAST: Monty Schmitt: Water for the Navarro

In this episode, we hear from Monty Schmitt, senior project director of The Nature Conservancy’s Water Program. Monty’s years of creek hopping and frog chasing in his youth led him into a career as a water resources scientist and well-known specialist in salmon ecology. We’ll hear how his experience and expertise is translating into successful strategies for increasing flows and wild salmon populations in our California coastal watersheds.

EYES ON EARTH PODCAST (USGS): Landsat Water Atlas

Dr. Alan Belward has spent a lot of time thinking about the planet’s surface water. The former Landsat Science Team member uses satellite data to track changes to lakes, rivers, and streams, and recently published a book that uses Landsat data to tell some of those stories. In this episode of Eyes on Earth, we hear about some of the surprising things Belward and his team learned about how surface water has changed since the early 1980s and about the value and importance of remote sensing to the study of this critical resource.”

WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING PODCAST: High Altitude Oceans

Steve Baker writes, “The summit of Mount Everest is composed of a two hundred fifty-million-year-old ocean created limestone. Darwin found marine fossils at the 12,000-foot elevation in the Andes. It’s unlikely that the oceans rose up to these heights during prehistoric global warming events so what really happened? 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, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

In national water news this weekend …

A Republican wants to breach Snake River dams. Where are Democrats?

A sweeping proposal to remake the Pacific Northwest’s energy system to save its iconic salmon has been met with crickets on Capitol Hill and appears to have driven a wedge among environmental groups.  Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R) released a $33.5 billion proposal for the region in early February that would breach four dams on the Lower Snake River in eastern Washington — the subject of decades of litigation and the country’s most expensive endangered species boondoggle.  Simpson said breaching is necessary to give the river’s dwindling salmon runs a chance at survival. But in order to bring all the parties that rely on the dams to the bargaining table, he included many provisions and pots of money to, as he puts it, make everyone whole.  Some of those measures have rubbed environmental groups the wrong way. The Center for Biological Diversity’s Oregon policy director, Quinn Read, called it a “nonstarter” in a statement. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here: A Republican wants to breach Snake River dams. Where are Democrats?

America’s obsession with wipes is tearing up sewer systems

Even before the pandemic, Americans were already flushing far too many wipes into the sewer system. After a year of staying at home, the pipe-clogging problem has gotten worse.  Just ask Larry Hare, who says he immediately observed the change from his vantage point as the manager at a wastewater reclamation facility in Des Moines, Iowa.  Sewer backups are up 50%, and he attributes this to the flushing of wipes, which don’t break down in water like toilet paper. “We’ve always had the problem, but it just hasn’t been as big a problem as it is currently,” Hare said. … ”  Read more from Blo0mberg’s City Lab here:  America’s obsession with wipes is tearing up sewer systems

A pesticide widely used for mosquito control in Maryland and other states contains so-called forever chemicals — including a notorious compound phased out of U.S. production years ago due to health concerns — according to recent test results.  Testing ordered by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN) found per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in Permanone 30-30, an insecticide used by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) in its mosquito control efforts. The results come just weeks before the state is scheduled to begin its annual mosquito control spraying of 2,100 communities in 16 counties. ... ”  Read more from E&E News here:  Common mosquito pesticide packed with PFAS

Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

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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