The Delta has been embroiled in controversy about how to restore
a faltering ecosystem while maintaining its role as the hub of
the state’s water supply.
Issues include improving water system management, estuary health,
conservation efforts to protect the endangered Delta smelt, levee
fragility and the proposed twin tunnels, which will be put on a
statewide ballot in the future.
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
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.
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.
Has California overshot the runway? … There was a time
when our dams and aqueducts that allowed us to change the
course plotted by nature by not letting water be restricted to
water basins by physical barriers were considered a candidate
for of their wonders of the world. When it came to freeways, we
were the envy of the land. That was then and this is now. The
list of aging infrastructure that needs addressing is
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 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.]
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.
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
The lawsuit … argues that the changes undertaken by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries
Service are unlawful. Endangered species protections are
bedrock environmental law, and California leaders warned that
less protection will leave threatened species at risk of
extinction. California is leading the suit along with
Massachusetts and Maryland. Altogether, 17 states have signed
on, along with New York City and the District of Columbia.
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
The 2019 Water Summit, our annual
premier event, was held October 30, 2019 at a new
location along the Sacramento River in downtown Sacramento. Now
in its 36th year, the Water Summit featured top policymakers
and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and
viewpoints on issues impacting water across California and the
Embassy Suites Sacramento Riverfront
100 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
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
Every day during the winter and spring, pumping operations for
the state’s two largest water projects in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta are fine-tuned to comply with detailed
regulations via the Endangered Species Act. These same
regulations provide no similar guidance on what flows are
appropriate through the Delta and out to San Francisco Bay
during this critical time in the lifespan of species such as
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.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, thinks there is a better way to
find water solutions for California’s Central Valley and to
stop squandering water in wet years that’s needed in dry years.
His bipartisan water legislation unveiled Wednesday promises
federal support for storage and innovation projects to address
shortages that too often plague Valley agriculture and
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.
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some
high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the
federal government needs to build a controversial dam
project… And they can use state water quality standards to
limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for
Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for
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.
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots
and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than
old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and
reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by
strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat
the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing
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”.
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.
The paper, published in the Journal of Environmental
Management, suggests that eliminating outdoor landscaping and
lawns could reduce water waste by 30 percent.
It recommends importing water only when Los Angeles is not
in a drought, to build a surplus of water for dry years. The
paper also argues that groundwater basins that catch stormwater
could be used to recycle water. However, making these
improvements would require the cooperation of more than 100
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.
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Friday backed a bid by Sen.
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy (R-Calif.) to extend provisions in a 2016 bill to
shuttle more water from the Golden State’s wet north to farms
and cities in the arid south.
On Dec. 20, the Delta Stewardship Council will vote to
determine whether the tunnels project — officially known as
California WaterFix — complies with what’s known as the “Delta
Plan,” a set of policy goals, mandated by state law, that put
protection and restoration of the fragile estuary’s eco-system
on an equal footing with more reliable water supplies.
A long-debated water plan that could change the
course—literally—of water in California, will be up for a vote
by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) next month.
Originally scheduled for November, the vote has been postponed
until December 11, per California Gov. Jerry Brown and
Gov.-elect Gavin Newson’s request.
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.
This month’s elections may have mortally wounded California’s
chances for a long-delayed $23 billion water tunnel project.
… The project’s biggest cheerleader, Gov. Jerry Brown
(D), is leaving office because of term limits and his
successor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), lacks’ Brown’s enthusiasm
for the tunnels.
President Trump claimed Tuesday that California mismanages its
water resources, dismissing the possibility of drought and
accusing the state of sending water out to sea that could be
used to help farmers in the Central Valley. Trump also
threatened to withhold federal disaster dollars from
California, which he incorrectly claimed is impeding
firefighters’ access to water during wildfires.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
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.
Gavin Newsom and John Cox both drive zero-emission Teslas.
That’s about where the common ground ends between California’s
candidates for governor when it comes to the environment. …
Cox opposes as a “boondoggle” [Gov. Jerry] Brown’s $17 billion
proposal to move water from Northern California to Southern
California through twin tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta. … Newsom backs a one-tunnel option as more
California’s proposal to construct two massive tunnels
underneath the Delta northwest of the city to divert Sacramento
River water south would “devastate” Stockton and other
communities in and around the Delta, especially what a new
report refers to as “environmental justice communities” that
often have been ignored in the discussion around the tunnels.
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.
The estimated cost of the Delta tunnels project, Gov. Jerry
Brown’s controversial plan to re-engineer the troubled hub of
California’s water network, has jumped to nearly $20 billion
when accounting for inflation.
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.
Gov. Jerry Brown warned local water agency
officials throughout California on Thursday that unless
the delta tunnels project gets needed state and federal permits
soon and continues advancing, the major infrastructure project
may not happen in their lifetime.
After a five-hour packed public hearing, the board of Silicon
Valley’s largest water provider late Wednesday night put off a
closely watched vote until next week on whether to provide up
to $650 million to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan
to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta to make it easier to move water south.
A decision by California’s largest water supplier on April 10
ended months of uncertainty over its role in the funding of
California Water Fix, the state’s plan to build new water
conveyance infrastructure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
… Financing is not the only issue that needs to be addressed.
There is still a long list of regulatory and legal hurdles the
project needs to clear.
The “triple threat” of invasive rodent species has made its way
to the edge of the delta, officials said, putting the state’s
fragile water infrastructure at risk. The California Department
of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday that it had discovered the
nutria, a large rat-like mammal that inhabits wet, rural areas,
on agricultural land west of Stockton.
The destructive invasive swamp rodents known as nutria are
officially on the doorstep of one of the state’s most
critically important waterways. State wildlife officials
announced Tuesday that a nutria was killed on agricultural land
west of Stockton in San Joaquin County.
When the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
voted to finance the lion’s share of the delta tunnels project,
some on the board called it a bold stroke of leadership. The
delegations from Los Angeles and San Diego, however, called the
move alarming, financially risky and irresponsible.
The largest water district in California agreed Tuesday to fork
over nearly $11 billion to build two tunnels that will siphon
water south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a
major boost for Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project.
Does California need to revamp the way in which water is dedicated to the environment to better protect fish and the ecosystem at large? In the hypersensitive world of California water, where differences over who gets what can result in epic legislative and legal battles, the idea sparks a combination of fear, uncertainty and promise.
Saying that the way California manages water for the environment “isn’t working for anyone,” the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shook things up late last year by proposing a redesigned regulatory system featuring what they described as water ecosystem plans and water budgets with allocations set aside for the environment.
Faced with a shortage of money and political support after
seven years of work, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is
working on a plan to scale back one of his key legacy projects,
a $17 billion proposal to build two massive tunnels under the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move
water from Northern California to the south.
You might wish you had as much power to affect the environment
and the economy as the delta smelt. Enemies have blamed the
tiny freshwater fish for putting farmers out of business across
California’s breadbasket, forcing the fallowing of vast acres
of arable land, creating double-digit unemployment in
agricultural counties, even clouding the judgment of scientists
Deepen your knowledge of California water issues at our popular
101 Workshop and jump aboard the bus the next day to
visit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre
network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water
system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological
A throng of people, nearly 200 strong, came to this delta town
Thursday, many of them wearing work boots and ball caps, blue
jeans and plaid, and all of them hoping to learn something good
about Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to solve California’s water
delivery problems. The folks from the river towns and rural
communities along the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta didn’t
like what they heard about the plan that is being called
California’s ambitious plan to tunnel under the West’s largest
estuary has always had two primary goals: to restore imperiled
native fish and to improve water deliveries to farms and
cities. An early analysis by federal wildlife agencies,
however, indicates the project might make life worse for fish.
Two bills that would protect Delta levees and ratepayers were
passed in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on
Tuesday. Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s two bills — AB 732 and AB
791 — passed through their first hurdle.
Water Education for Latino Leaders is convening a statewide
educational water conference in Sacramento for California local
Local elected officials can make a difference for all
Californians by taking the necessary steps to understand the
dynamic of California water to assure adequate clean water for
our communities, protect our natural resources and our local
economies. WELL’s hope is to facilitate understanding towards
comprehensive long-term water policies that will sustain
California’s economy and quality of life.
The Water Education Foundation is an organizing partner.
A levee break reported Monday afternoon on the north bank of
the Mokelumne River levee near Lodi is being filled while crews
are sandbagging a second break on the river’s south bank, the
San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services reports.
After three days of king tides and massive rainfall, levees in
the Delta have begun to fail, flooding islands, duck clubs and
other land north of Pittsburg, an island owner and emergency
official said Thursday.
Federal officials on Friday approved short-term pumping limits
from the Delta that are higher than a team of experts had
recommended days earlier to protect imperiled fish. In theory,
the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could lead
to the first use of a controversial new law that allows higher
levels of pumping under certain circumstances.
The Delta smelt has survived 2016, but that’s about where the
good news ends. Surveys that wrapped up this month revealed no
real increase in smelt numbers despite a wetter year with more
freshwater flow in the Delta.
San Joaquin County residents and public officials alike voiced
opposition this week against a state plan to increase flows
from the Stanislaus River as well as increase allowable salt in
the southern San Joaquin Delta, stating the proposals could
have significant negative impacts on the region’s agricultural
The report’s findings were unequivocal: Given the current pace
of water diversions, the San Francisco Bay and the Delta
network of rivers and marshes are ecological goners, with many
of its native fish species now experiencing a “sixth
extinction,” environmental science’s most-dire definition of
Understanding the importance of the Bay-Delta ecosystem and
working to restore it means grasping the scope of what it once
was. 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).
Dr. Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed
Sciences, is the godfather of research on the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta. When he says it took John Sutter eight days to
wind his way from San Francisco Bay through the Delta to find
the narrow Sacramento River in 1839, you can bet that’s the
truth. … Now, water agencies have joined together again
to launch the River Arc Project.
After several years of unrelenting hyacinth invasions each
fall, it’s as if someone has finally peeled back that green
shag carpet and returned Stockton’s rivers to its people. …
And there is a general sense that a coordinated effort by state
and federal officials — along with a bit of help from Mother
Nature — is starting to make a difference.
It might have been sprinkling outside the Stockton Memorial
Civic Auditorium on Tuesday, but inside the building some of
the state’s brightest water experts were taking stock of
California’s enduring drought. As we enter into what could be a
sixth year of shortage, here are six lessons gleaned from
Tuesday’s forum sponsored by the nonprofit Water Education
When California officials got serious about building two giant
tunnels to divert freshwater out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, it didn’t take critics long to
propose alternatives. One of the first was a grassroots
scheme that, at first, seemed radical and counterintuitive: Let
winter floods retake vast parts of the San Joaquin Valley – the
very farmland that needs those Delta water diversions.
Evidence of what scientists are calling the planet’s Sixth Mass
Extinction is appearing in San Francisco Bay and its estuary,
the largest on the Pacific Coast of North and South America,
according to a major new study.
Tests have confirmed the presence of toxic cyanobacteria — also
known as “blue-green algae” — in south Delta waterways, state
officials said Thursday. The “extensive” bloom is present in
Old River and Grantline Canal, along Fabian Tract not far from
Tracy and Mountain House, the State Water Resources Control
Cooler temperatures seem to have finally subdued Stockton’s
stinky algae monster for 2016, but an expert warned the Delta
Protection Commission this week that, in general, toxic blooms
are getting worse.
California Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build two tunnels to
carry water across the state is only economically feasible if
the federal government pays for nearly a third of it, according
to a previously unreleased economic analysis.
San Francisco faces potentially drastic cutbacks in its water
supply, as state regulators proposed leaving more water in
three Northern California rivers Thursday to protect wildlife
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary, the linchpin
of California’s water supply.
Giant tunnels that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to build to haul
water across California are economically feasible only if the
federal government bears a third of the nearly $16 billion cost
because local water districts may not benefit as expected,
according to an analysis that the state commissioned last year
but never released.
The federal government and farmers on the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley may be close to signing off on another
controversial deal to clean up toxic runoff which, if left
unabated, could threaten the downstream 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
Offering a ray of hope in the struggle to save a tiny fish
enmeshed in California’s water disputes, state officials say
they have found a way to move around river water to produce
more food for hungry or starving Delta smelt.
Michael George has called the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
“highly important, highly complex, highly compromised.” George
serves as Delta watermaster, a position created as part of the
Delta Reform Act of 2009 to administer water rights in the
Delta, where there are some 2,800 separate water diversions.
California officials Tuesday released a detailed environmental
blueprint for Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial Delta tunnels
project, saying the $15.5 billion plan “minimizes potential
effects” on endangered fish species whose populations have
dwindled following decades of water pumping.
A group of commercial fishermen won a potentially significant
court ruling in the seemingly endless battle over California’s
water supply and the volumes of water pumped south through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Either there’s been a spill at the local pea soup plant, or
Stockton is suffering another nasty algae outbreak at the
downtown waterfront. … The algae problem also has come up
this week in Sacramento as state water officials begin
extensive hearings that may determine the fate of the proposed
Representatives of California Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama
administration began making their pitch for approval Tuesday to
build a pair of massive water tunnels under the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta.
By the time the Sacramento River winds its more-than-400-mile
course from the slopes of Mount Shasta past the state capital,
it’s well into its leisurely stride, running slowly by fields
of sweet corn, tomatoes and alfalfa. But this lazy stretch of
river, just south of Sacramento, is a metaphorical whitewater.
This week, Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial water project
is back in the public eye. State officials are launching a
marathon series of hearings for the “twin tunnels,” as they’re
known, that will ultimately decide the fate of the project.
When testimony begins Tuesday in a months-long hearing that
could decide the fate of the $15 billion Delta water tunnels,
amid all the acronyms and complexities and water-wonk jargon
there will be a simple, consistent theme: Trust. Or
Still swirling in controversy, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed
$15.5 billion re-engineering of the troubled Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta is heading into a critical phase over the next
year that could well decide if the project comes to fruition.
Crunch time starts Tuesday.
California officials don’t have to pay property owners to
access their land to conduct preliminary testing before
deciding whether to move forward with a $15.7 billion plan to
build two giant water tunnels to supply drinking water for
cities and irrigation for farmers, the California Supreme Court
ruled Thursday. … Officials promoting the tunnels will
present plans to state water regulators in hearings starting
In a win for the state, the California Supreme Court declared
Thursday that the state has the right to go on private property
for soil and environmental testing as part of a plan to divert
fresh water under or around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta on
its way to Central and Southern California.
A Southern California agency that provides drinking water for
19 million people officially became a substantial Delta
landowner for the first time Monday after escrow closed on its
$175 million purchase of several large islands.
Four islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and a
chunk of a fifth are now officially the property of the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, district
officials announced Monday.
Working from a bland, windowless office on the 13th floor of
the Resources Building, one of California’s newest state
employees focuses on the one issue from which all else flows,
water. Bruce Babbitt has signed on to help Jerry Brown fix what
the governor calls the California WaterFix.
In a failed effort to protect endangered fish, the federal
government decided without proper study to default to
restricting the giant pumps at the bottom of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta. So argues a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S.
District Court in Sacramento by a powerful consortium of water
A long-sought plan to restore the Delta’s ailing environment
and bolster the reliability of its water supplies was declared
invalid by a judge Friday, possibly throwing another wrench in
the governor’s plan for water tunnels through the region.
A judge clarified late Thursday that a sweeping 21st century
plan for the Delta is “invalid,” a decision applauded by Delta
advocates who had argued the plan didn’t go far enough to
protect the fragile estuary from massive water exports.
In a decision that could delay or complicate Gov. Jerry Brown’s
plan to build two huge tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a comprehensive
management plan for the estuary is no longer valid. … State
officials say they plan to appeal.
In California’s 3rd Senate District, two colors stand out: blue
and green. Blue for water, green for money. … The Brown
administration’s plan to build tunnels in the delta to carry
northern water south is the single most controversial issue in
Saying they wanted to go beyond what they’ve done in the past,
state officials resumed water hyacinth removal efforts at the
downtown Stockton waterfront earlier than normal on Wednesday
with the blessing of federal biologists.
State water regulators are proposing to dismiss a record
$1.5-million fine they intended to levy against a Northern
California irrigation district accused of ignoring
drought-related cuts in water diversions.
A judge has upheld major provisions of a state plan that lays
out a long-term strategy for managing the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, rejecting most complaints included in a cluster
of long-standing lawsuits.
A plan that was supposed to serve as a comprehensive roadmap
for the Delta through the year 2100 now must be partially
rewritten, after a judge this week ruled on complaints stemming
from no fewer than seven lawsuits.
A San Joaquin County Superior Court judge on Thursday cleared
the way for a Southern California water district to complete
its purchase of 20,000 acres of land in the Delta, ruling that
it was too soon to say how the property would be used.
Southern California’s largest water supplier can move ahead
with plans to buy sprawling farmland that could be used to help
build twin tunnels far to the north through the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta, a judge ruled Thursday.
Picking up on Sen. Ted Cruz’s criticism of environmental
protections for fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Carly
Fiorina, Cruz’s newly-announced running mate, moved Saturday to
reinforce his presidential campaign’s appeal to conservatives
and farm interests in the Central Valley.
In a setback for Delta advocates, a San Joaquin County Superior
Court judge on Friday declined to grant a restraining order
that would have temporarily blocked a Southern California water
agency from purchasing more than 20,000 acres of land in the
heart of the estuary.
Wild fish, including the endangered Delta smelt and Sacramento
winter-run salmon, have been hurt by a series of 20 state water
board decisions over three years to relax Delta water flow and
quality standards, according to the lawsuit by the National
Resources Defense Council, the Bay Institute and Defenders of
Two members of the state board that will play a crucial role in
the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant tunnels
through the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta rebuffed
demands from a south state water agency that they disqualify
themselves from upcoming hearings on the issue.
Just days after a powerful Southern California water agency
announced it was spending $175 million to buy five islands in
the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a coalition of
opponents has sued to demand environmental review of the
Declaring that the Delta “will not be the next Owens Valley,”
San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties — along with farmers and
environmental groups — sued Thursday to block a Southern
California water district from buying more than 20,000 acres of
farmland in the heart of the estuary.
Already viewed with suspicion and hostility in the north state
water community, the powerful Metropolitan Water District of
Southern California is broadening its reach by purchasing $175
million worth of real estate in the very hub of California’s
water delivery network: the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A major change took place in California water operations this
week, but you probably didn’t hear about it. Federal wildlife
officials ordered cutbacks in water diversions from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect salmon and steelhead.
Only a close look at the Middle River revealed anything amiss
in this part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Instead
of flowing north toward San Francisco Bay, as nature intended,
the Middle was headed south.
In response to dozens of pending protests, state and federal
officials asked for a two-month delay in hearings that could
decide the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial plan to
build two massive tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin
In a development that casts significant doubt on whether
Silicon Valley’s largest water district will help pay for Gov.
Jerry Brown’s $17 billion Delta tunnels plan, a majority of
Santa Clara Valley Water District board members now say they
want to put the issue to a public vote.
As lingering El Niño rains swell the state’s rivers, Democratic
Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined California House Republicans on
Thursday to demand that President Obama order more water to be
pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms in
the San Joaquin Valley.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants President Obama to order
an increase in water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to farms and cities to the south. … A dozen Republican
members of California’s House delegation sent a separate letter
calling on Obama to act.
On the surface, hearings in Sacramento starting this week will
determine whether a Delta water district with century-old water
rights pumped illegally for 12 days last summer — and whether
the district should be penalized $1.4 million as a result.
Promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown, the $15.7 billion project would
run giant twin pipes, each four stories high, underground for
35 miles and eventually pull thousands of gallons of water a
second from the stretch along the Sacramento River where
[Russell] van Loben Sels farms to cities and farms to the
In the darkest days of the drought last summer, when farmers up
and down the Central Valley feared the state would cut off
their water supply, a strange thing happened in the Delta.
Hundreds of growers agreed to voluntarily give up a share of
their extraordinarily reliable water supply, in exchange for
protection from the possibility of deeper, mandatory cuts.
Southern California’s giant water provider agreed Tuesday to
purchase about 20,000 acres of land in the Delta, a move one
Stockton-based advocacy group quickly called an “existential
threat” to the future of the estuary.
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
Water hyacinth, the invasive water weed that carpets San
Joaquin Delta channels in the warm season, choking out native
species, degrading water quality, blocking recreational boaters
and interfering with commercial ship traffic, holds promise as
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the
watershed that feeds them make up one of the world’s largest
estuary systems, a wildly varied tableau of beaches, river,
creeks, grasslands and tidal marshes.
Saying current water conditions pose particular peril for the
state’s tiny, disappearing Delta smelt, federal officials moved
to temporarily reduce water deliveries for farmers and millions
of other Californians.
A small state agency will soon begin the daunting process of
deciding whether to change the water rights for the state and
federal water projects, allowing them to divert some of their
water from the Sacramento River and bypass the Delta for the
Gov. Jerry Brown said he is preparing to wade into next year’s
crowded field of ballot battles, which could include proposing
a new effort on climate change or fighting off an initiative to
restrict infrastructure projects.
With rivers still flowing low, the freshwater Delta is once
more turning salty. Officials are already considering
installation of another emergency drought barrier in the Delta
in April, to keep that saltwater at bay.
The board of the Southland’s water importer Tuesday voted to
pursue the purchase of four farm islands in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta, the ecologically troubled center of
California’s sprawling water system.
The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California voted Tuesday to authorize its general manager to
negotiate options on the five islands, owned by a Swiss company
called Delta Wetlands Properties.
Southern California’s biggest drinking water supplier will seek
an option to buy 20,000 acres of river delta farm land east of
San Francisco, a deal that could benefit a controversial tunnel
project to carry Northern California water southward, the
agency said on Tuesday.
The word nutrients sounds like a good thing—they make our food
healthy, for example. But in our rivers, lakes, and bays,
nutrients can pose water quality challenges. … In the Delta,
nutrient pollution has contributed to the spread of invasive
aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and recurrent blooms of
the toxic blue-green alga Microcystis.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s response to the latest volley of opposition
to his plan to divert water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta lacked the cheekiness he exhibited in May, when he
playfully told his critics to “shut up.”
With the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta approaching
a critical stage, a group of Southern California water agencies
is working to buy four Delta islands, a move that has drawn
accusations that the parcels could be used to orchestrate a
south-state water grab.
As water wonks across the state hustled to beat a Friday
deadline to file formal comment letters on the proposed twin
tunnels, Gov. Jerry Brown offered a brief comment of his own,
calling opponents’ arguments “false” and “shameful.”
The Delta’s floating green menace has now forced the city of
Stockton to close its largest boat launch, another sign that
this year’s water hyacinth invasion is just as nasty — if not
more so — than last year’s.
Monday’s announcement was a blow for those hoping that an extra
$4 million dedicated to hyacinth control efforts and a more
aggressive schedule for applying herbicides would lead to
noticeable improvement in 2015.
The [Delta Protection Commission] project included the
commissioning of four scholarly essays about the Delta,
containing hundreds of pages of details that in some cases are
little-known even to those living there.
Delta advocates urged the faithful on Monday to write letters
to state officials before Oct. 30, when the window of
opportunity to formally comment on Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin
tunnels proposal is expected to close.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is one of the West’s most
important estuaries, and a critically important water source
for millions of Californians. … We interviewed Phil Isenberg,
vice chair of the Delta Stewardship Council and a member of
PPIC’s board of directors, about the state of the Delta.
A committee of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California is scheduled to meet today in closed session for
negotiations with Delta Wetlands Properties, the private
company that owns those four islands.
Two of California’s largest and most aggressive water agencies
have discussed buying four islands in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta, prompting accusations by environmentalists and
Delta farmers that the land purchases could be used to engineer
a south state water grab.
State officials applied this week for the latest in a series of
permits they need to build the twin tunnels beneath the Delta,
another indication of their intent to move forward with the $15
In the past two years, the lesser-known longfin smelt has
slipped down to the single digits in trawl surveys of Delta
fish populations. The dramatic downturn is likely a result of
the drought, as with the tinier delta smelt.
Operators of California’s giant state and federal water
projects are formally asking for permission to take at least
some of their water before it reaches the Delta, setting up
another bureaucratic hurdle that must be cleared if Gov. Jerry
Brown’s twin tunnels are ever to be built.
Federal and California agencies have filed some of the first
permit applications for a proposed project involving the
construction of twin 30-mile tunnels to help carry water from
the northern to southern and central regions of the state,
officials said Thursday.
In what researchers suspect is another troubling side effect of
the state’s epic drought, the Delta is exploding with algae
particles that in intensified concentrations could pose a
substantial threat to the central hub for California’s vast
water delivery network. The algae bloom is not limited to the
State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300
farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room
for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed
by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by
opponents of the tunnels.
In a sterile hotel conference room filled with the conversation
of consultants wearing dress shirts and ties, 31-year-old Jon
Michelsen abruptly stood on a chair, lifted his guitar and
began to sing about the “darkened forces of political control.”
Normally, rivers from interior California help push back that
saltier water and keep the Delta fresh, which is important for
people and fish alike. But this year the rivers are low, which
allows the Bay water to move toward the east and invade
portions of the tidally influenced estuary.
After yet another revision, the governor’s plan to build twin
tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta still makes no
economic sense. A closer look at the three types of economic
benefits claimed for the project to export water to Central
Valley farms and Southern California cities shows why it can’t
possibly justify its estimated $15 billion cost.
The activists are challenging revised environmental impact
documents released earlier this month as part of a
controversial, $15.5 billion plan to build two massive tunnels
in the north Delta to ship the water to pumping stations in the
south. … Known formally as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration recently renamed the tunnels
project the California WaterFix.
Ever since we crossed the first bridge into California’s delta,
I’ve been in a world that ambles and rambles and moves with the
river. … There are 1,100 miles of sloughs and tributaries and
55 islands surrounded by the water that California is fighting