The rain and even a bit of snow keep on coming. Except for a 10-day dry spell at the end of January, the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a series of drenching winter storms that have watered gardens, fueled waterfalls, recharged reservoirs, and diminished the possibility of the ever-dreaded drought. In fact, all of California has been slammed with an onslaught of unsettled weather unleashing heavy snow and rain.
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They are giant conveyor belts of water in the sky, moisture-rich storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean a few times a year to fill California’s reservoirs… But distinguishing a good atmospheric river storm — a modest one that can help end a drought — from a catastrophic one that can kill people has been elusive. On Tuesday, that changed, as scientists published the first-ever scale to rank the strength and impact of incoming atmospheric rivers, similar to the way hurricanes are classified.
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31 deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and California.
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in July 2018.
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous state.
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most influential customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release, the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license begin this week, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board. The license surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.
The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
The rise of wind and solar power, coupled with the increasing social, environmental and financial costs of hydropower projects, could spell the end of an era of big dams. But even anti-dam activists say it’s too early to declare the demise of large-scale hydro.
A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal Friday that would require new construction contracts to be reviewed by the Legislature. The Legislative Delta Caucus says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the project should require more scrutiny from both the public and lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the ocean unimpeded.
San Diego is in the midst of spending roughly $3 billion on a massive new water treatment system, but city officials can’t or won’t tell customers how that will affect their water bills. New water recycling plants will eventually purify enough sewage to provide a third of the city’s drinking water. In December, Voice of San Diego asked the city to estimate how much customers’ bills will increase because of the Pure Water project. The city, after weeks of delay, finally declined last week to offer any estimate because “there is no simple calculation” they could perform.
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved extending the contract for water imported from Northern California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping for the Antelope Valley.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later extraction and use by California American Water for its Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a key part of the proposed replacement water supply portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s Carmel River pumping cutback order.