The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
(Delta) is California’s most crucial water and ecological
resource. The Delta is formed by the Sacramento River flowing
south to meet the north-flowing San Joaquin River just south of
Sacramento, where the rivers mingle with smaller tributaries and
tidal flows, and move out into San Francisco Bay.
More than a century ago, farmers began building a network of
levees to drain and “reclaim” what was then a marsh. The lands
were pumped dry and the marsh was transformed into productive
island farms, mostly below sea level.
Today, the Delta is a 700-mile maze of sloughs and waterways
surrounding more than 60 leveed tracts and islands. It is the hub
of California’s two largest surface water delivery projects, the
State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
The Delta provides a portion of the drinking water for 25
million Californians and provides the $36 billion agricultural
industry with irrigation to 4.5 million acres.
The Delta estuary is the largest on the west coast of North
America with more than 738,000 acres in five counties. An
estimated 80 percent of the state’s commercial fishery species
live in or migrate through the Delta, and at least half of its
Pacific Flyway migratory water birds rely on the region’s
San Francisco rightly prides itself on being an environmental
leader. Given this deep commitment to protecting the
environment, the city’s water agency — the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission — should be a leader in smart, sustainable
water policy. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. But
Mayor London Breed now has a once-in-a-decade chance to turn
the SFPUC in a new direction by appointing a progressive,
visionary new general manager who reflects the city’s values.
San Francisco’s Bay-Delta ecosystem and the Central Valley
rivers that feed it are in steep decline… -Written by John McManus, president of the Golden State
Salmon Association, and Kate Poole, the water lead for the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
As wildfires, heat waves, water scarcity and threats to
wildlife intensify in the West, California’s effort to confront
these environmental crises now has support in Washington, a
stark change from the past four years. Even as former President
Donald Trump spent his final days in office on the sidelines,
lamenting his election loss, his administration continued to
roll back environmental conservation and gut climate
California water issues are notoriously complicated by a
massive diversity of users, ecosystems, applications and
futures. Indeed, water in the Delta has been described as
a “wicked problem” indicating that these problems cannot
be ignored and defy straightforward characterization and
solutions. Below we highlight how a Swiss cheese model might be
applied to vexing long-term declines in native fish populations
California’s tussle with federal authorities over water
operations will get a second look under the new administration
of President Joe Biden. The 46th president plans to sign a
number of executive orders, including one that instructs agency
heads to review actions taken under President Donald Trump that
“were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment,
unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in
the national interest.” On the list for both the departments of
Commerce and Interior is a review of new biological opinions
adopted in 2019 governing water delivery in California.
California Water Service (Cal Water) has completed a multiphase
infrastructure project in the Magnolia area of Stockton that
will keep critical water infrastructure in the area safe and
reliable. The upgrade will ensure customers, firefighters, and
nearby medical facilities continue to have the water they need
for their everyday and emergency needs.
Recent fish surveys confirm what many biologists, ecologists,
and water experts have known for some time – Delta smelt remain
on the brink of extinction. Zero Delta smelt were found in the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recent Fall
Midwater Trawl Survey. Even the Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring
Program, which is specifically designed to capture the tiny
fish, only successfully caught two Delta smelt from September 8
to December 11, 2020.
While they remain hopeful the rest of winter will provide much
more rain and snow, water resources managers in the Sacramento
Valley are preparing for the potential for a dry year. While
the prospect of a dry year is always jarring and challenging,
we have confidence in the experience and knowledge that our
water resources managers gained in 2014-15, and the strategies
this region has implemented since that time to prepare for a
For the third year in a row, the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife found zero Delta smelt in the
agency’s 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey throughout
the Delta. The 2- to 3-inch-long Delta smelt,
found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is an indicator
species that reveals the overall health of the San Francisco
Bay-Delta Estuary. It was once the most abundant fish
in the entire estuary, numbering in the millions. Now it’s
on the verge of extinction in the wild.
Under Proposition One, passed by the voters in 2014, the Delta
Conservancy was allocated $50 million for ecosystem restoration
in the Delta. Currently, the Conservancy has awarded
funding to 29 projects for about $39 million of that $50
million with a potential ecological benefit on up to 8,000
acres as a result.
The forthcoming Biden administration is California’s best — and
perhaps only — hope for solving vexing water issues that have
largely been put on hold for more than a decade. It should be
clear that state leadership is incapable of crafting a
comprehensive water strategy. The California Department of
Water Resources continues to push for pumping additional water
from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at the
expense of its immediate and long-term health. -Written by the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury
California’s plans to build a new tunnel to move water from the
northern Delta to the thirsty, populous south of the state
advanced a step Tuesday, when a key partner agreed to help fund
some of the effort.
The Delta Science Program is conducting a survey to understand
perceptions of the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB)
and usage of Delta ISB reviews among Sacramento-San Joaquin
The Metropolitan Water District likely won’t pick up the slack
to cover planning costs for the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta tunnel. That’s a huge shift from MWD’s “all in” support
of the previous tunnel project.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnel plan has nothing to do
with ecosystem restoration or environmental justice. It would
burden environmental justice communities and increase water
bills in the State Water Project service areas. Another massive
over-budget state mega-project based on 19th century thinking
cannot address current challenges. Persisting in this $16
billion-plus, 20-year construction folly will only further
degrade our waterways, ecosystems and communities. [Opinion column written by Kathy Miller and Chuck Winn, San
Joaquin County supervisors.]
Over the past three years, a team of scientists from
universities, NGOs, and state agencies across California have
been working to provide guidance on how to better manage river
flows for freshwater ecosystems throughout the state. A key
product of this effort is the California Environmental Flows
Framework (Framework), a guidance document and set of tools to
help managers and stakeholders develop environmental flow
recommendations for California’s rivers.
Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain though it into the Pacific Ocean.
Lately, however, scientists say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive, fueled in part by climate change, and is limiting the ability of science and Delta water managers to keep up. The rapid pace of upheaval demands a new way of conducting science and managing water in the troubled estuary.
California leaders are considering fixes including a massive
water tunnel endorsed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to stabilize
exports. But local communities, where livelihoods such as
farming, fishing and tourism are wed to the water, don’t
welcome the intervention. They feel under attack. So do
the dreamers, dropouts and unconventional sorts who have made
this outpost their home.
Congress has given final approval to a bill that would take on
nutria, a giant rodent threatening waterways in the Central
Valley and beyond. … The measure, HR 3399, would provide $12
million to California and several other affected states for
nutria control, research and related efforts.
In December, the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors
will be asked to support a motion to fund a portion of the
planning costs for the Delta Conveyance Project. In preparation
for the upcoming vote, staff began a series of presentations
for the special committee on the Bay-Delta to prepare the
directors for the vote.
Called the Three Creeks Parkway Restoration, the $9 million
project will yield two acres of floodplain and a canopy of
riparian trees set in nearly 4.5 acres of grassland and oak
woodland. Construction began in May and is scheduled for
completion at the end of the year…
In the middle of a pandemic, an economic recession, and
everything else that 2020 is throwing at us, in early August
the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) filed a
lawsuit against every Californian to authorize spending an
unlimited amount of money … for an as yet undefined Delta
Through a partnership with the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Law Enforcement Division – DWR is able to
provide funding for Luna, a seven-year-old German Shepard who
is trained to protect her handler, apprehend suspects, and
detect various threats to Delta species and environments.
The collaborative design process for the Franks Tract Futures
project brought initially skeptical local stakeholders on board
and is being hailed as a model for future initiatives. Yet
major uncertainties remain as interested parties explore the
challenges of implementing a complex redesign of a big chunk of
Bright-green blotches of algae have been popping up all over
the Delta since early summer, from Discovery Bay to the
Stockton waterfront, befouling the air and poisoning the water
with toxins that can sicken or even kill humans and animals.
Veteran Delta watchers believe that this year’s harmful algal
blooms may be the worst ever, and worry that some features of
Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently released Water Resilience
Portfolio for California will aggravate the problem.
No California communities are more shaped by water than those
in the Delta. Water surrounds communities like
Stockton. Water shaped our history and still shapes our
economy, quality of life, culture, and is essential for a
healthy environment. And for our communities,
water-related disasters are devastating. We see proof of that
Results from the model showed potential increases in large flow
events and sediment transport over the next century. While
increased suspended sediment loads may have some negative
effects, such as contaminant transport, increased sediment can
improve fish habitats and help sustain wetlands in the
First in the Everglades and now in California, I aspired to be
a part of the team of scientists peering into and unraveling
that complexity, such that water management decisions could be
made with improved awareness of likely outcomes.
In 2012 a team of salmon researchers tried a wild idea: putting
pinky-sized Chinook on a rice field in the Yolo Bypass, a vast
engineered floodplain designed to protect the city of
Sacramento from inundation. … Now, after nearly a decade of
testing fish in fields, a new paper in San Francisco Estuary
and Watershed Science outlines lessons learned as well as next
steps in managing floodplains for salmon.
California’s Delta Watermaster Michael George is responsible
for administering water rights within the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta, which supplies drinking water to more than
25 million Californians and helps irrigate 3 million acres of
farmland. For him, the development of OpenET signals an
exciting opportunity for the future of water in the West.
For this reason, public water agencies and DWR have publicly
negotiated amendments to their long-term water supply contracts
in order to better plan the future of their local water supply
portfolios. … The State Water Contractors applaud this
coordinated and collaborative effort, which provides
flexibility for single and multi-year non-permanent water
transfers and exchanges.
Floodplains were the historic rearing areas for juvenile
salmon, and the remaining floodplains in California are an
important food-rich habitat as present-day salmon grow and
attempt to survive their trip out to the ocean. We sat down
with Hailey Wright, a Department of Water Resources
environmental scientist, to discuss the salmon lifecycle and
her work designing and implementing projects in the Yolo
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt writes that
a “Grand Bargain” in California water is needed to end the
“political culture of deferral” and allow major water projects
to advance. On the contrary, what’s needed is an adult
regulator that will make hard choices that water users refuse
A major expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir took a step forward
with release of the final feasibility report by the U.S. Bureau
of Reclamation that concluded the initiative is economically
viable. The reservoir is owned and operated by the Contra Costa
Water District, and the project will increase its capacity by
more than 70% when complete.
At the August meeting of the Delta Independent Science Board,
the new members joined with the outgoing members for
reflections and discussion to bring the new members up to speed
on the Delta ISB’s ongoing work.
The San Francisco Bay-Delta is literally threatened from all
sides: rising sea levels from the ocean, disruptions to
sediment supply from upstream, and within the Bay-Delta itself,
development and other land use changes have left only a tiny
fraction (5%) of marshland untouched. … A recent study by
scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey used historical
streamflow and sediment data to predict what will happen to the
Bay-Delta under varying levels of climate change.
Restoring specific “functional flows” would better support fish
migration and spawning, water quality, dry-season base flows,
and physical conditions that support aquatic species. A panel
of experts, moderated by PPIC senior fellow and study coauthor
Jeff Mount, discussed how to put this approach into practice.
We invite you to watch the event video.
The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District (Regional
San) is currently completing major upgrades to its wastewater
treatment plant. In anticipation of these upgrades, USGS
scientists are gathering data to establish baselines for
current nutrient levels and dynamics in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta (Delta).
Climate change could deliver more silt, sand and pollution to
the San Francisco Bay-Delta, along with a mixed bag of other
potential consequences and benefits, according to a new study
in the AGU journal Water Resources Research, which publishes
research articles and commentaries providing a broad
understanding of the role of water in Earth’s natural systems.
California EcoRestore is an initiative started in 2015 under
the Brown Administration with the ambitious goal of advancing
at least 30,000 acres of critical habitat restoration in the
Delta and Suisun Marsh by 2020. … At the August meeting of
the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, Bill Harrell, gave
an update on the Eco Restore program and the progress that has
been made over the past five years.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, like governors before him, wants to overhaul
how water moves through the delta. He’s proposing a 30-mile
tunnel that would streamline the delivery of water from the
Sacramento River, a bid to halt the ongoing devastation of the
delta’s wetlands and wildlife while ensuring its flows continue
to provide for the rest of the state. The pressures of climate
change on water supplies have only increased the urgency to
act. And the coronavirus pandemic and months of
shelter-in-place orders haven’t slowed the planning. ….The
tunnel, as much as anything, is the very symbol of the state’s
never-ending water wars.
Residents have until Wednesday to comment on a proposal for
restoring Franks Tract, a 3,000-acre flooded island in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to marshlands. … The preferred
concept that’s emerged after several public meetings would
restore about 1,000 acres to tidal marsh habitat and deepen
other areas to provide fill for the marsh. Community concerns
regarding navigation and recreation would also be addressed…
Waters of the Delta are in the midst of a tug-of-war. If
California is not careful, the largest inland delta on the
western coast of the North American continent will be damaged.
Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water
relationship that has a personally significant impact to your
Simply updating costs to this latest estimate ($15.9 billion in
2020 dollars is equivalent to $15 billion in the 2017$) reduces
the benefit-cost ratio for State Water Project urban agencies
from 1.23 to 0.92, and for agricultural agencies from 1.17 to
0.87. That’s a bad investment, but it is actually much worse
Tunnel proponents say they do not expect to operate the tunnel
at capacity, and it would be in use mainly to draw from the
periodic storms that send more water through the Delta out to
San Francisco Bay. But how much would that be? The usual answer
is: we will leave that to the experts.
Public health officials are urging boaters, swimmers and
recreational water users to be on the lookout for hazardous
blue-green algae blooms as warm temperatures persist. San
Joaquin County Environmental Health Department officials posted
advisory signs at local marinas warning people to stay out of
the water where toxic algae is present.
After months of relative quiet, Newsom’s administration
released a preliminary cost estimate for the scaled-back
project Friday: $15.9 billion for a single tunnel running
beneath the estuary just south of Sacramento. That’s nearly as
much as the old $16.7 billion price tag put on the larger,
Because the invasive 20-pound rodents pose a unique threat to
California’s wetlands, the state has expanded the Nutria
Eradication Program over the past year to a staff of 26 field
operatives 100% dedicated to exterminating the swamp rat.
Unlike just about everything else in the state, the war against
nutria has been almost entirely unaffected by the coronavirus
A single tunnel proposed to take water under the sensitive
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and deliver it to farms and cities
in the south could cost $15.9 billion, give or take, according
to an initial assessment discussed at the Delta Conveyance
Authority meeting on Thursday.
Despite challenges that remain in the Delta, we have made
progress over the last three years. I say we because it’s the
exceptional staff and broader Delta community who have made
such progress possible. Whether it be through collaborating,
funding science, integrating social science, embarking on
climate change initiatives, conducting independent peer
reviews, or communicating scientific findings, oh how far we’ve
One survival bottleneck that needs opening for salmon and
steelhead in the Central Valley is predation by non-native
fish. There is a long list of non-native and native predators
from which native fish need protection. The best protection is
to minimize native-nonnative habitat interactions. That can
best come from adequate physical-geographical habitat and
habitat water quality for natives while minimizing non-native
You may have never heard of John Vidovich, but his impact on
the day-to-day life of the average southern San Joaquin Valley
farmer is difficult to be understated. Vidovich is the owner of
Sandridge Partners, LP – a farmland investment firm that has
undertaken more than 100,000 acres of Valley farmland.
The San Francisco Estuary is a dynamic and altered estuary that
supports a high diversity of fishes, both native and
non-native. … Since the 1950s, various agencies and UC Davis
have established long-term surveys to track the status of fish
populations. These surveys help scientists understand how
fishes are responding to natural- and human-caused changes to
As a result, the appellate decision, which upheld the central
role of the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta water management and land use planning, remains intact
and is governing law.
The Ironhouse Sanitary District has released a video of how
residents of the City of Oakley and Bethel Island can utilize
the Recycled Water Fill Station. The station is open on
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Recycled
water can be used for the irrigation of lawns, plants, trees,
and vegetable gardens.
At the end of July, Gov. Gavin Newsom released his revised plan
for bringing long-term water security to all Californians. But
his announcement was overshadowed by San Joaquin County and
several Delta communities scrambling to confront the worst
cases of toxic algae blooms ever seen on local sloughs and
The COVID-109 pandemic isn’t slowing work aimed at moving
arguably the most cantankerous water project ever proposed in
California since voters overwhelmingly rejected the Peripheral
Canal in 1982 — the Delta Tunnel Project. … The State
Department of Water Resources is currently preparing an
environmental impact report on the project. At the same time
they are also seeking all required state and federal approvals.
Droughts are common in California. The drought of 2012-2016 had
no less precipitation and was no longer than previous
historical droughts, but came with record high temperatures and
low snowpack, which worsened many drought impacts.
You may have noticed them on trips down the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, small buildings, just 10 feet by 12 feet,
sticking up out of the water. Resembling sheds that you
typically see in a backyard; these buildings provide protection
for something slightly more important than the family gardening
tools and lawnmower.
At the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta
Lead Scientist Dr. John Callaway updated the Council on the
latest scientific developments, discussing three papers that
highlight the multi-faceted approach that is needed to address
the Delta’s ecosystem; he also previewed upcoming events and
provided the By the Numbers Report.
Gov. Gavin Newsom released strategies Tuesday to improve
drinking water quality, revive a stalled multibillion-dollar
tunnel and build new dams. Newsom says the sweeping water
portfolio will help the Golden State prepare for global warming
by reinforcing outdated water infrastructure and reducing the
state’s reliance on groundwater during future droughts.
In 2003, Congress passed The Nutria Eradication and Control
Act, which established a fund to help Maryland and Louisiana
battle the animals. Recently, the House of Representatives
passed bipartisan legislation that now allows California to
also receive support. The bill now heads to the Senate.
The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated
its support once again for the fishery releases proposed by the
Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. The action reaffirmed
FERC findings in February 2019 that dismissed pleas from
environmental and sport-fishing groups for much higher flows.
Toxic sludge is collecting in corners, around boats and
floating in patches through the Delta, turning the water bright
green. “We’re watching it every year, with climate change
becoming worse and worse,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla with
Restore the Delta. Barrigan-Parrilla said this year’s bloom is
the worst it’s ever been.
A century ago, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was a massive
wetland habitat. The construction of levees over the past 100
years has dried out these wetlands and converted them into
farmland, eliminating 95 percent of this important aquatic
habitat for fish. But scientists are finding out that given the
right conditions, nature can reclaim itself.
Looking at the water hyacinth’s lovely lavender flowers and
lush green leaves, it’s easy to see why it was brought here
from South America. But too much of a good thing can cause
trouble, and few things turn into “too much” as quickly as
water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes).
“I secured provisions in this bill to authorize and expedite
construction of flood protection and aquatic ecosystem
restoration projects, address harmful algal blooms in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and give local agencies greater
flexibility in using federal Army Corps funds to meet local
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman says
she’d like to see more cooperation from California officials as
talks aim to resolve a legal dispute over competing biological
opinions governing the management of their respective water
In five decades of public service Phil Isenberg has served as
mayor of Sacramento, a member of the Assembly, a lobbyist,
chairs of the Marine Life Protection Blue Ribbon Task Force,
the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, and, until 2016, the
Delta Stewardship Council. … In a two-part oral history with
Chris Austin, editor of Maven’s Notebook, Isenberg details the
myths and complexities of California water politics.
Over the last few decades the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta has experienced declines in phytoplankton productivity
and a shift in species composition resulting in observed
increases in harmful algal blooms (HABs).
The Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project, which
began modified operations in January of 2019, successfully
allowed thousands of migrating fish to pass between the
Sacramento River and Yolo Bypass in its first year of
For more than a decade, California’s governors have pushed for
“voluntary agreements” to establish rules for water diversions
by major urban and agricultural water districts, and to redress
their environmental impacts. Voluntary agreements crumbled
recently, after the state’s largest water districts walked away
from the table.
The project — managed jointly by California Division of Fish
and Wildlife, the Department of Water Resources and the
Department of Parks and Recreation — seeks to make changes in
Franks Tract with the goal of improving water quality,
providing enhanced recreational opportunities and improving the
ecology for the benefit of native and desirable wildlife.
After being docked for three months due to COVID-19
restrictions, the Department of Water Resources relaunched its
research vessel monitoring program, the Sentinel. It was the
first time since the 1970s that DWR didn’t have a monitoring
vessel taking field samples in the waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Estuaries.
The creation of the Council was, in many ways, an experiment in
governance by the California State Legislature and
Schwarzenegger administration to address years of gridlock over
how to manage the Delta’s limited natural resources and chart a
science-based path forward for future management. After ten
years with the Council, I can say, with conviction, the
experiment is working.
Encouraged by a recently vetted new method for creating carbon
offsets from wetlands, a flurry of new climate adaptation
projects on publicly owned islands strewn along the central
Delta corridor aim to defend against sea-level rise, restore
habitat, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With supplies curtailed from California’s largest water
projects, farmers have been reducing acreage, water districts
have been working to secure additional supplies, and everyone
has been keeping an eye on the continued dispute between state
and federal governments on managing the Delta.
This spring marked the fifth anniversary of the California
EcoRestore initiative, a coordinated effort across state
agencies to deliver 30,000 acres of restored fish and wildlife
habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, an immensely
important landscape that five years ago only had 5 percent of
its native habitat remaining.
California and federal water regulators are trying to quickly
resolve their legal dispute over competing biological opinions
governing the management of their respective water projects, a
top state official says. The talks are proceeding after Gov.
Gavin Newsom filed suit in February to nullify new federal
opinions that would ease restrictions on surface water for San
Joaquin Valley growers.
In letters addressed to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and
Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Association of California Water Agencies
is urging state and federal officials to rejoin talks on
voluntary agreements to address ecosystem needs in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The islands of the western
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are sinking as the rich peat soil
that attracted generations of farmers dries out and decays. As
the peat decomposes, it releases tons of carbon dioxide – a
greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere. As the islands sink, the
levees that protect them are at increasing risk of failure, which
could imperil California’s vital water conveyance system.
An ambitious plan now in the works could halt the decay,
sequester the carbon and potentially reverse the sinking.
The town of Fairfield is moving forward with a project to
better protect its wastewater treatment plant from large storms
and sea level rise. According to a press release from First
Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, the project will cost a total of
$7.4 million but $3.33 million will be funded through a grant
from the United States Department of Housing and Urban
Developments’ (US HUD) Community Development Block Grant -
Before the fur trade wiped out the majority of California’s sea
otters, thousands inhabited the west coast’s largest
estuary—San Francisco Bay. … It is well known that otters
perform an important role in coastal kelp forests by keeping
herbivorous sea urchins in check. According to a new study,
they have an equally important job in estuaries. The finding
suggests that reintroducing sea otters to estuaries could
benefit those ecosystems.
A San Francisco Bay Program Office would be established at the
Environmental Protection Agency to make grants for estuary
conservation and other water-related initiatives under a
modified version of H.R. 1132. The bill would authorize $25
million annually for the office for fiscal 2021 through 2025.
Dr. Jim Cloern is a recently retired senior scientist emeritus
at the US Geological Survey who has spent his career learning
how estuaries respond to human activities and variability of
the climate system. In this brown bag seminar, Dr. Cloern gives
specific examples of how local, regional, and global scale
processes affect the San Francisco Bay and Delta.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
In the past, California city planners have been largely
reactive, reconstructing boardwalks lashed by winter storms.
Now, with the long-term outlook for the coast coming into
focus, the California Coastal Commission is urging communities
from San Diego to Humboldt counties to revise their local
coastal programs to take comprehensive adaptive approaches…
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. has until August to address the
unauthorized discharge of mining waste into Permanente Creek,
which flows through Los Altos and Mountain View. San Francisco
Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Clara County
officials discovered the pollution during inspections of
Lehigh’s Yeager Yard conducted in April and May…
In 2013, a mass of unusually warm water appeared in the Gulf of
Alaska. Over the next three years, the Blob, as it became
known, spread more than 3,200 kilometers, reaching down to
Mexico. … As a result, there is now a void in the populations
of some species that were in their larval stages when the Blob
hit its crescendo.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration officially pulled the plug
Thursday on the twin Delta tunnels, fullfilling Newsom’s pledge
to downsize the project to a single pipe as he attempts to
chart a new course for California’s troubled water-delivery
One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after
taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources
Agency secretary. Then the governor laid out an ambitious
water agenda that Crowfoot is now charged with
executing. In a Western Water Q&A, Crowfoot
discussed what he expects to tackle, including scaling
back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and finding ways to make California more resilient to the
extremes of drought and flood that are expected to come with
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
For the first time ever, a fish survey that’s conducted
every autumn by the state turned up zero Delta smelt,
considered an indicator species that demonstrates the health of
the entire Delta ecosystem. Once the most abundant fish in
the entire estuary, the smelt population has collapsed to the
point where not one fish was found in the California Department
of Fish and Wildlife’s 2018 Fall Midwater Trawl, the lowest in
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
Climate change through the rest of the 21st century could be
much more threatening to coastal California than previously
anticipated, based on newly published research led by the U.S.
Geological Survey. The new numbers are dramatic: Dynamic
flooding in California could total more than $150 billion in
property damage … When factoring in population trends,
extreme scenarios could increase the total number of affected
Californians to more than 3 million.
Former Interior Secretary and
Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt will be the distinguished speaker
2019 Anne J. Schneider Lecture on April 3 at the Crocker Art
Museum in downtown Sacramento.
Babbitt’s talk is titled “Parting the Waters — Will It Take a
The event begins at 4 p.m. in the Crocker Art Museum’s Setzer
Auditorium. The lecture will be followed by a conversation with
Ellen Hanak, director of the Public Policy Institute of
California’s Water Policy Center, and a reception. Here
is where to sign up for the event, which is free.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, working with Republican
Doug LaMalfa of the First District, have introduced the Sites
Reservoir Protection Act to support building the reservoir and
other water infrastructure in the Central Valley. The act, also
known as House Resolution 1453, would direct the Bureau of
Reclamation to complete a feasibility study for the project in
Colusa and Glenn counties.
It’s a treasure that is all too easy for Palo Alto to take for
granted — an abundant supply of pristine water that flows from
the Sierra Nevada snowpacks and passes through the Hetch Hetchy
system before splashing out of local showers and faucets. Palo
Alto is one of 25 cities that belong to the Bay Area Water
Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which manages the
member cities’ supply agreement with the San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission. … Even so, the cities don’t always know
which projects they’re helping to fund.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in
importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection
system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed
modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for
out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon
means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water
south for agriculture and urban users.
The most eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant in the
Northern San Joaquin Valley will be Manteca’s by the time 2020
rolls around. Not only is the treated water returned to the San
Joaquin River meeting the latest standards established by the
state for water quality, but within six months or so methane
gas — a major byproduct of the treatment process that typically
has to be burned — will no longer contribute to valley air
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of
the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were
enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new
governor had their backs. But water policy in California is
never that easy.
In 2014 Santa Monica embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. … The
switch has been accomplished through an extensive plan that
encompasses small measures like toilet replacements, household
rain harvest barrels and aggressive conservation to large
measures like cleaning up contaminated groundwater, capturing
street runoff and recycling water.
San Joaquin Valley farmers on the east side will be getting
their full allocation of San Joaquin River water, while farmers
on the west side will be getting only 35 percent to start,
according to the 2019 initial water supply allocation released
Wednesday by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. … The
forecast prompted Westlands Water District, which covers
more than 1 million acres on the west side, to express concern
that the bureau is being too restrictive.
A single tunnel would perform almost as well as two tunnels,
particularly when operated in tandem with the existing pumps in
the south Delta. It would cost substantially less. And it would
give assurances to environmental groups and Delta residents
that the project would not create the large impacts many fear.
Environmental groups should take this opportunity to sign on to
a new approach for managing the Delta.
When operating, Sites Reservoir will provide significantly more
water during drier periods, to become a new drought-management
tool to address California’s water management challenges into
the 21st century and beyond. Innovative and environmentally
sound, Sites Reservoir will provide water to enhance the
environment when it can provide greater benefits and provide a
resilient and reliable supply of water for our communities,
farms and businesses.
A federal environmental analysis recommends relicensing the Don
Pedro hydroelectric project and accepts a Modesto and Turlock
irrigation district plan for well-timed flows to boost salmon
in the Tuolumne River. The flows, combined with other measures
to assist spawning and outmigrating young salmon, would commit
less water to the environment than a State Water Resources
Control Board plan that’s unpopular in the Northern San Joaquin
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against
water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable,
and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance
involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and
adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public
servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her
tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we
owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
… the agency intends to work constructively with the
Newsom administration on developing a WaterFix project “that
addresses the needs of cities, farms and the
environment.” But Kightlinger expressed frustration that
the project will be delayed even more.
Two experts from Stanford’s Water in the West program explain
the potential impacts on the future of water in California of
the proposed plan to downsize the $17 billion Delta twin
tunnels project. … Leon Szeptycki, executive director
of Stanford’s Water in the West program, and Timothy
Quinn, the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Water in the West,
discussed the future of water in California and potential
impacts of a tunnel system.
At long last, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
twin-tunnels boondoggle is dead. Good riddance. Gov.
Gavin Newsom made that official Tuesday during his State of the
State address, calling instead for a smaller, single-tunnel
approach that would include a broad range of projects designed
to increase the state’s water supply. Bravo. It’s a
refreshing shift from Gov. Jerry Brown’s stubborn insistence
that California spend $19 billion on a project that wouldn’t
add a drop of new water to the state supply.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced a bill in Congress to
remove a provision from the Water Resources Development Act of
1986 to allow presidents to divert disaster recovery funds
during a declared state of emergency. In January, during
the government shutdown, senior Defense department officials
reportedly discussed with President Donald Trump the
possibility of using a portion of funds set aside by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers for civil works projects to fund 315
miles of barrier along the Mexican border.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy led his California colleagues in
sending letters to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting a
substantial initial water supply allocation to Central Valley
Project contractors using authorities under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
Additionally, he and his colleagues from California also sent a
letter to the California Department of Water Resources calling
for an increase to the existing water supply allocation to
State Water Project contractors given current hydrological
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works
projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on
Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s
$19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move
water from the north to the south. “Let me be direct about
where I stand,” Newsom said. “I do not support the twin
tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already
been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered
farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin
Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water
Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin
Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board.
… Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water
Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus.
… Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells
contaminated with nitrates.
As a lobbyist and lawyer, David Bernhardt fought for years on
behalf of a group of California farmers to weaken Endangered
Species Act protections for a finger-size fish, the delta
smelt, to gain access to irrigation water. As a top official
since 2017 at the Interior Department, Mr. Bernhardt has been
finishing the job: He is working to strip away the rules the
farmers had hired him to oppose.
Questions about financial liability and concerns over weighted
votes among member agencies of the Central Coast Water
Authority prompted the Santa Barbara County Board of
Supervisors to take no action on transferring the state water
contract to that joint-powers agency. … CCWA has been
trying to have the contract reassigned since it was formed in
1991, but the Department of Water Resources would not agree to
the request because it was unclear if a joint-powers agency
could levy a property tax if a member defaulted on financial
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised
a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the
water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the
most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday
by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how
water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the
After more than a decade of drafting and editing, California is
poised to finally update its wetlands regulations this spring.
The effort, which began after a pair of Supreme Court decisions
limited federal wetlands protections, could be finalized just
in time to insulate the state from a Trump administration
proposal restricting which wetlands and waterways are protected
by the Clean Water Act.
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
Before I started my fellowship at the Delta Stewardship
Council, I knew precisely two things about the Sacramento–San
Joaquin Delta: 1) its approximate location and 2) that, in some
way, it involved water. Fortunately for me, the nature of my
fellowship as a science communicator allowed me to learn a
little about a lot over a short period of time.
The proposed tunnel path stretches 35 miles from west of Elk
Grove to just below Discovery Bay. The tunnels would take water
from three intakes along the Sacramento River to existing
aqueducts south of Discovery Bay, and then the water will be
sent to Southern California. Along the proposed path, there are
at least 22 levees that would sit above the tunnels….
The concern is not so much the levees themselves, but the kind
of soil that is below the levees.
Sonoma County water officials, under order from the state to
improve the capacity of their sewage system, say a valve
malfunction and leaky pipes resulted in a string of spills this
month that released 2.7 million gallons of waste and
stormwater, some of which flowed into local creeks and San
The City of Lathrop is one step closer to earning a permit that
will allow for the discharge of treated wastewater straight
into the San Joaquin River. … Currently the City of
Lathrop disposes of the effluent that is generated from the
Lathrop Consolidated Treatment Facility by storing it in basins
during the winter months, and then applying it to urban or
agricultural landscapes during the summer months.
Droughts and floods have always tested water management, driven
water systems improvements, and helped water organizations and
users maintain focus and discipline. California’s
2012-2016 drought and the very wet 2017 water year were such
A long-standing feud over who should pay a $650 million bill
for state water infrastructure reared its head Tuesday, as
board members of Santa Clara County’s regional water district
weighed whether to raise water bills or ramp up reliance on
Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted to renew their
participation in two water storage projects so that the water
wholesaler can continue to plan for more alternative water
sources during droughts. The board voted unanimously to
participate in phase 2 of the Sites Reservoir project, a JPA
formed in 2010 to create a reservoir 75 miles northwest of
Sacramento. … Also, by a unanimous vote, directors
committed up to $355,000 for a second phase of participation in
the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in southeastern Contra
The nutria invasion of California continues. Greg Gerstenberg,
a biologist and nutria operations chief with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 372 nutria had been
trapped in the state as of Jan. 10. Bruce Blodgett, executive
director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, wants
farmers and others who maintain levees to be aware.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District made a grave
miscalculation in suing the State Water Board over
the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. By alienating the
remnants of the environmental community who have supported them
in recent years, they are jeopardizing future projects and
funding measures that will require voter approval.
Water issues are notoriously difficult for California
governors. Just look at former Gov. Jerry Brown’s floundering
tunnels proposal for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Yet two factors suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom must make water
More water storage projects will not solve the basic fact that
the state’s finite amount of water is incapable of meeting all
of the demands. This deficit has been created primarily by the
transformation of a semi-arid area— the Central Valley — by an
infusion of water from northern California.
State water quality officials cautioned the public not to drink
or cook with untreated surface water from streams throughout
the Camp Fire burn area after bacteria and other contaminants
were detected in water samples. … Laboratory analyses of
surface water samples found concentrations of bacteria
(E.Coli), aluminum, antimony and some polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs) that exceeded water quality standards for
Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the
region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts
have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries
Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to
arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water
toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the
Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a
lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the
local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district
might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate
water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
Roughly 2 million gallons of wastewater spilled into a slough
in southern Sonoma County this weekend because of a leaking
pipe valve — but any ecological impact appears minimal,
officials said. … Workers were able to temporarily seal
the valve, which will remain out of service until it is fixed
or replaced, DuBay said.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
As his term as governor drew to a close, Jerry Brown brokered a
historic agreement among farms and cities to surrender billions
of gallons of water to help ailing fish. He also made two big
water deals with the Trump administration. It added up to
a dizzying display of deal-making. Yet as Gavin Newsom takes
over as governor, the state of water in California seems as
unsettled as ever.
Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control
Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin
River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update
water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay
estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental
protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San
Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural
practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or
eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.
Featuring artists, photographers, first-person narratives,
historical and scientific essays, long-form journalism and
fiction, the magazine revolves around the fascinating people
and wonders that make up the greater Bay – Delta region of
If you live on the West Coast, you may hear the term
“atmospheric river” thrown around. These massive, fast-moving
storm systems can transport more than 25 times the moisture as
flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River.
At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are
protected under the Clean Water Act. It’s also poised to
be a year of reckoning on the Colorado River, which supplies
water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland.
And it could also be a landmark year for water management in
California, with several key issues coming to a head.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
In February, following a string of severe natural
disasters in 2017, Congress provided a record $16 billion for
disaster mitigation — building better defenses against
hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes. Eleven months later,
the Trump administration has yet to issue rules telling states
how to apply for the money.
New California Gov. Gavin Newsom has previously said he
favors a scaled-down Delta tunnel project. Whether he
reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal
whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the
flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural
Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes
along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the
Trump administration — or fights it.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few
miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several
miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of
thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part
of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to
rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in
methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to
protect cities and towns.
Gloria Gray became chairwoman of the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California on Jan. 1 and made history,
though not for the first time. She has two big goals:
seeing through a controversial public works project to build
two new California water tunnels and ensuring her agency is
represented by a more diverse group of people.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state
governments released new climate change assessments that
outline the projected course of climate change and its
potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting
of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department
of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on
hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
Montgomery is known for fostering collaborative relationships
among stakeholders and as a leader in protecting and restoring
water quality within California and throughout the Southwest
and the Pacific Islands. He is currently serving as the
Assistant Director of the Water Division in the US
Environmental Protection Agency (Region 9).
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
The Colorado River Basin is more
than likely headed to unprecedented shortage in 2020 that could
force supply cuts to some states, but work is “furiously”
underway to reduce the risk and avert a crisis, Bureau of
Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman told an audience of
California water industry people.
During a keynote address at the Water Education Foundation’s
Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento, Burman said there is
opportunity for Colorado River Basin states to control their
destiny, but acknowledged that in water, there are no guarantees
that agreement can be reached.
Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.
And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.
For more than 100 years, invasive
species have made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home,
disrupting the ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually
The latest invader is the nutria, a large rodent native to South
America that causes concern because of its propensity to devour
every bit of vegetation in sight and destabilize levees by
burrowing into them. Wildlife officials are trapping the animal
and trying to learn the extent of its infestation.
Deep, throaty cadenced calls —
sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands,
farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each
year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the
Cosumnes River Preserve,
46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Along the banks of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest
of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the
Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur
trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich
That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two
freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal
flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush,
settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape
and altering the habitat.
John Callaway, the incoming lead scientist of the Delta Science
Program, was forthright in describing his initial reaction to the
idea of his new job.
“When I saw the position, I guess I can say my first reaction
was, ‘No way, I don’t want to get involved with all the crazy
overwhelming issues of the Delta,’” he said. “But I thought about
it more and thought it would be a great opportunity to get more
involved in the science/management interface.”
California state water regulators poised to boost instream
flows to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta acknowledged the
difficulty in finding the right measure of applied science to
benefit the ecosystem. “We need to look at multiple stressors,”
said Dorene D’Adamo, one of five members of the State Water
Resources Control Board who convened for a public meeting last
Wednesday on the science behind the proposed update of the
Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.
Understanding the importance of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and
working to restore it means grasping the scope of what it once
That’s the takeaway message of a report released Nov. 14 by the
San Francisco Estuary Institute.
The report, “A
Delta Renewed,” is the latest in a series sponsored by the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Written by
several authors, the report says there is “cause for hope” to
achieving large-scale Delta restoration in a way that supports
people, farms and the environment. SFEI calls itself “one of
California’s premier aquatic and ecosystem science institutes.”
Its marshes drained and diked, its rivers dredged and diverted,
today’s Delta has been called a “brittle skeleton” of what it
was 200 years ago. … But in a follow-up report published
today, those same experts with the San Francisco Estuary
Institute say there is still hope of bringing back at least a
portion of the largest estuary on the west coast of the
Water users in San Francisco and its suburbs face a day of
reckoning as state regulators move to leave more water in
California’s two biggest rivers in an effort to halt a collapse
in the native ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay and its
estuary, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Five years of drought have severely taxed California’s rivers,
reservoirs and groundwater. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta –
the hub of California’s water supply, an agricultural center
and a crucial ecological resource – hasn’t been immune from the
impacts of the prolonged drought.
At this free one-day briefing in Stockton
on Oct. 25, keynote speaker Jay Lund, Director of the UC Center
for Watershed Sciences, and other experts will
discuss the drought’s effects on the Delta.
Other confirmed speakers include Delta Watermaster Michael
Patrick George, Michelle Banonis, Manager of the Bureau of
Reclamation’s Bay-Delta Office, Michael Dettinger, senior
scientist and research hydrologist at USGS, and Peter Moyle, one
of the foremost experts on California’s freshwater fish.
Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium
525 N. Center Street
With a theme focusing on “Wave of Change: Breaking the Status
Quo,” the Water Education Foundation’s 34th annual Executive
Briefing will be held March 23 in Sacramento. The event will
examine new approaches to water management, tools to extend
supplies, plans to prepare for drought, and the intersection
between politics and policy.
This premiere water conference will offer you the
opportunity to hear from top policymakers and leading
stakeholders on key water topics:
Hilton Sacramento Arden West
2200 Harvard Street
California should take immediate actions to save the endangered
Delta smelt from extinction, a top fish scientist said recently.
Peter Moyle, distinguished professor emeritus in the Department
of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the University of
California, Davis, has been studying the health of California’s
native fish since 1969. He told an audience in Sacramento that
it’s time for stepped-up actions to save the Delta smelt, the
population of which has dropped to a historic low level.
In the Spring 2016 issue of the Water Education Foundation’s
Western Water, Writer Gary Pitzer delves into the dilemma of
balancing needs for the economy and the environment in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the importance of
transporting water to the south. Pitzer discusses the
California WaterFix, a $15 billion plan supported by the state
of California and the federal government that would involve a
major re-working of the Delta plumbing system.
As part of the latest push to restore the ailing Delta, a
646-acre wheat and corn farm here is expected one day to
metamorphose into a recreational and habitat oasis complete
with kayak launches, hiking trails and a home for endangered
Rising sea levels threaten not only structures around San
Francisco Bay and the Delta but the shoreline marshes critical
to the environmental health of the estuary, and the results
could be “catastrophic” if action is not taken, scientists
With its red and green synthetic turf, Destroyer Field at
Surface Warrior Park is meant to reduce water use at Naval Base
San Diego. The softball field needs occasionally to be combed,
but not watered or mowed.
Giant machines will be eating their way beneath the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, boring the twin tunnels that
would close a gap in the State Water Plan that his father
launched nearly 60 years earlier.
Fighting over water is a tradition in California, but nowhere
are the lines of dispute more sharply drawn than here in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands
and canals that is the hub of the state’s water system.
California is at high risk of permanently losing key species
and habitats in the West Coast’s largest estuary, the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay. …
Whatever words we choose, the decline of the Bay-Delta is part
of the global loss of biological diversity described in
Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Sixth
Extinction” – a tragedy that’s happening not just in coral
reefs and rainforests but right in our backyard.
The Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation
have submitted a request to the State Water Board, asking for
modifications to the revised March 5 Temporary Urgency Change
As Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, Randy Fiorini heads
the agency that is charged with developing and implementing a
long term plan for the Delta that will achieve the coequal
goals, and to do so through the use of best available science.
At the 2014 Bay Delta Science Conference plenary session, Randy
Fiorini outlined his vision for creating a winning team between
the Delta science community and policy makers that can work
together to address the problems facing the Bay-Delta.
Prior to joining the USGS last year, Dr. [Anke] Mueller-Solger
was the Interagency Ecological Program Lead Scientist for six
years. In this second speech from the plenary session of the
2014 Bay Delta Science Conference, Dr. Anke Mueller-Solger
talks about the changing state of California, new approaches to
resolving scientific uncertainties in the estuary, and how
scientists and policy makers can work together better through
collaboration and cooperation.
The 8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference, held October 28
through 30th, 2014 in Sacramento, brought together over 1000
scientists, managers and policymakers to hear the latest
research, understanding and ideas about the complex Delta
ecosystem. Click here for more coverage of the Bay Delta
Science Conference. Over the upcoming weeks, Maven’s Notebook
will be providing coverage of many of the sessions and
presentations at this year’s conference.
Since January of 2012, Dr. [Peter] Goodwin has served as the
Lead Scientist for the Delta Science Program. In this third
installment of speakers from the plenary session of the 2014
Bay Delta Science Conference, Dr. Goodwin talks about how far
the Delta science has since his appointment, listing six things
the Delta science community has learned in the past two years.
The Delta is no longer really a delta — or at least, it doesn’t
function like one, scientists conclude in a new report. … The
report by the San Francisco Estuary Institute, funded by the
state Department of Fish and Wildlife, is intended to help
guide future habitat restoration efforts in the Delta.
Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor will address the
8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference on October 28 at the
Sacramento Convention Center. Connor has been a leader at the
Interior Department on Bay-Delta issues since 2009, when he
became the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and
continues to be actively engaged in his current role.
The newest issue of Western Water magazine examines salinity in
the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta, a vital estuary and
critical juncture of the state’s water delivery system. Written
by the Foundation’s Gary Pitzer, the September/October issue
discusses the how salinity during drought is affecting fish,
wildlife and farms. … Read the excerpts from this issue.
Restoring the ecological health of the Delta is critical to
California’s water system. It’s also a prime reason why voters
should approve Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond on
the November ballot.
The newest issue of Western Water magazine examines salinity in
the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta, a vital estuary and
critical juncture of the state’s water delivery system. Written
by the Foundation’s Gary Pitzer, the September/October issue
discusses the how salinity during drought is affecting fish,
wildlife and farms. In wet years, dry years and every type of
water year in between, the daily intrusion and retreat of
salinity in the Delta is a constant pattern.
In wet years, dry years and every type of water year in between,
the daily intrusion and retreat of salinity in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta is a constant pattern.
The cycle of ebb and flood is the defining nature of an estuary
and prior to its transformation into an agricultural tract in
the mid-19th century, the Delta was a freshwater marsh with
plants, birds, fish and wildlife that thrived on the edge of the