An ecosystem includes all of the living organisms (plants,
animals and microbes) in a given area, interacting with each
other, and also with their non-living environments (air, water
Ecosystems are dynamic and are impacted by disturbances such as a
drought, an extraordinarily freezing winter, and pests.
Longer-term disturbances include climate change effects.
Ecosystems provide a variety of goods and services upon which
people depend. Ecosystem management emphasizes managing natural
resources at the level of the ecosystem itself and not just
managing individual species.
The California Legislature was the first in the country to
protect rare plants and animals through passage of the California
Endangered Species Act in 1970. Congress followed suit in 1973 by
passing the federal Endangered Species Act.
Many no longer recall the Great Midwest Flood despite its
record-breaking precipitation, flooding and $13 billion price
tag. Sure, 1993 seems like a long time ago, but I believe the
reason the flood has left most people’s memory is because, over
the last 25 years, the nation has experienced one devastating,
record-breaking flood after another. Our memories are diluted
by the frequency of such events.
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
In increasingly arid regions such as the western U.S., water
managers are learning that careful management and restoration
of watershed ecosystems, including thinning trees and
conducting prescribed burns, are important tools in coping with
a hotter, drier climate.
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
The City of Ventura and its water customers have relied on the
Ventura River as a primary source of drinking water for more
than a century. Today, however, the region’s water supply is
changing as the Ventura River watershed faces new, complex
challenges. To protect our local water resources and safeguard
the watershed for the future, we must change our approach to
managing it now.
What may be the nation’s largest dam removal project—delayed
for years by regulatory and legal disputes of a utility,
stakeholders and states over licensing and environmental
permits—now may have new momentum after a hard-hitting January
federal appeals court ruling. Kiewit Infrastructure West,
Granite Construction and Barnard Construction are shortlisted
for the $400-million project to design and deconstruct four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in California and
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.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
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.
Over the past two years, scared off by the anticipated costs of
storing water there, Valley agricultural irrigation districts
have steadily reduced their ownership shares of Sites. The
powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
is nearly as big an investor in Sites as all of the Sacramento
Valley farm districts combined. Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to
contribute another $4.2 million to help plan the project.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a
management approach that integrates flood control,
environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency
manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We
talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the
lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management”
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said
in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty
Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens
the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The
Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s
entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that
passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
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
If you try to figure out the total water stored in the Sierras,
you run into a methodological wall. There’s no good way to get
there directly. Starting about two decades ago, a small
group of scientists suggested a new solution: What if they
could measure the water cycle from space?
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received
confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S.
Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the
docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the
SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer
of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to
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.”
Climate change is fundamentally transforming the way we manage
water in the Western U.S. The recent Fourth California Climate
Change Assessment lays out the many pressures facing water
managers in California in detail. One key take-away of that
Assessment is that past climate conditions will not be a good
proxy for the state’s water future, and smarter strategies are
needed to manage California’s water.
The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District
today approved the lease agreement, which will last 30 years
after an initial 3-year period set aside for vetting and
permitting the company. … But some fishermen and
other county residents voiced skepticism about how closely the
company has been vetted, as well as criticism of the district’s
swift decision to sign onto the lease.
Ominous predictions about the desert lake’s ecological
collapse are beginning to occur. You can see this sea
up close during our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1,
when we will visit the fragile ecosystem and hear from several
stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a
seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water
supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling
southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the
north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously
on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve
water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of
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.
Connie Bakken opened her bedroom window Sunday morning and
didn’t quite believe her eyes. Bakken lives in a Rancho
Bernardo home that overlooks a creek just west of Matinal
Circle. What she saw – the creek where she loves to watch
turtles and crabs live naturally turn into a deep, unnatural
An effort is underway to hire a full-time watershed coordinator
focused on forest management projects in the Yuba River
Watershed and a grant from the Yuba Water Agency could help.
… The coordinator would work with public and private
landowners to plan and coordinate projects within the
watershed, including a biomass facility in Camptonville and a
forest health project in the north Yuba Watershed.
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
Two years after California’s historic drought came to an end,
the sweeping die-off of the state’s forests has slowed, yet
vast tracts of dry, browning trees continue to amplify the
threat of wildfire, federal officials reported Monday. About
18.6 million trees died in 2018, mainly the result of
dehydration and beetle infestation, according to new estimates
from the U.S. Forest Service. That pushes the total number of
dead since 2010, shortly before the five-year drought began, to
147 million. It’s a toll not seen in modern times.
The new report, “Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and
Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed,”
explores how landscape conversion on commercial and industrial
properties can reduce water use, increase stormwater capture
and groundwater recharge, improve water quality, and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use.
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not
interested in engaging in water settlement discussions.
However, we are very interested in discussions that will
protect and enhance our treaty resources.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and
largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using
that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in
current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states
that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID
is putting in play: A demand that the federal government
provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered
Water sustainability continues to be a complex issue and will
require young, innovative minds to tackle it. This was the
theme of the 2019 Innovators High Desert Water Summit, held
Friday at High Desert Church. Hosted by the Mojave Water
Agency, the event was titled “How Generation Z Will Save the
Future of Water in California.” About 320 students, parents,
and teachers from schools all over San Bernardino County
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would
establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure
water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of
the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge
comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility
that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It
hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million
to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban
areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about
what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous
ecological transition is occurring this winter.
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis
in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental
Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the
study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
California’s San Joaquin River Delta is in danger of being
overrun by voracious beagle-sized rodents. The state has a plan
to deal with them, but it’s going to take a lot of time and
money. Nutria, a large South American rodent, have become an
invasive species in several states, including Louisiana,
Maryland and Oregon.
For generations, residents of the Southern California border
town of Calexico watched with trepidation as their river turned
into a cesspool, contaminated by the booming human and
industrial development on the other side of the border in
Mexico. As Washington debates spending billions to shore
up barriers along the 2,000-mile southwest border, many
residents in California’s Imperial Valley feel at least some of
that money could be spent to address the region’s public health
The court said in its ruling that the timber sale project might
“illegally and irreparably” harm aquatic resources with
increased sedimentation, could violate the Northwest Forest
Plan’s restrictions on large snag removal from a
late-successional reserve, and could violate the National
Environmental Policy Act for failing to analyze the effects of
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to
manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern
California communities. … About two dozen protesters are
standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou
County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border.
They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made
Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing
under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision was
in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe
and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to
list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the
protections of a listed species.
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
According to the government, the proposed rule is also
consistent with the statutory authority granted by Congress,
legal precedent, and executive orders. Notably, the proposed
definition would eliminate the process of determining whether a
“significant nexus” exists between a water and a downstream
traditional navigable water.
A notice published recently in the Federal Register is not
sitting well with Imperial Irrigation District. That
notice, submitted by the Department of Interior through the
Bureau of Reclamation and published on Feb. 1, calls
recommendations from the governors of the seven Colorado River
Basin state for protective actions the Department of Interior
should take in the absence of a completed drought contingency
For every one of the nearly two dozen people who spoke at a
public hearing Wednesday in Arcata, removing the dams is both
necessary and overdue. Fishing populations have been depleted
and stretches of the river have become toxic because it doesn’t
flow freely, attendees said at the D Neighborhood Center public
hearing. Members of various state agencies, including the state
Division of Water Rights and the state Water Resources Control
Board, listened and took notes. The agencies’ draft EIR is the
latest step in a process spanning many years.
The site experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it
was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and
nuclear facility, as well as other chemical and radioactive
contamination over the years. Denise Duffield, associate
director of Physicians for Social Responsibility … said
the plan calls for cleaning up only 38,000 of the 1.6 million
cubic yards of soil the Energy Department says are
contaminated and not remediating most of the contaminated
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the
Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for
property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of
whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking
whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among
Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the
federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the
dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The
path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region
now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31
deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with
California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately,
in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad
bargain with the Trump administration and special interests.
It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
San Diego County has agreed to pay nearly $700,000 for a
pipeline rupture that dumped raw sewage into a San Diego River
tributary. The spill sent about 760,000 gallons of sewage into
Los Coches Creek in February and March 2017, violating the
federal Clean Water Act, among other state and federal rules.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts
over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water
diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus
and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12
decision have touched off debate on what exactly could
restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon
populations and what it will cost for Central Valley
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
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest
that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which
clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking
an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel
betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move
mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t
On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on
Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the
newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee. The
chair is the result of a long career championing environmental
protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license
begin this week, according to a news release from the
California State Water Resources Control Board. The license
surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four
PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in
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
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.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing
Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five
climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report
recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water
grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to
block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for
the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release,
the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted
last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it
would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon
in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western
Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for
the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made
their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas
Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of
Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
A partnership between Monterey One Water and the Monterey
Peninsula Water Management District, the project is designed to
produce up to 3,500 acre-feet of highly treated water per year
to the Peninsula for injection into the Seaside basin and later
extraction and use by California American Water for its
Peninsula customers. … The recycled water project is a
key part of the proposed replacement water supply
portfolio for the Peninsula to offset the state water board’s
Carmel River pumping cutback order.
A $500,000 program to mitigate for destruction of artificial
habitat created by Placer County Water Agency canal leaks has
ended. The Water Agency started working in the mid-2000s to fix
ongoing leaks along its canals and confronted a problem of its
own doing. The leaks had created what state Environmental
Quality Act standards defined as artificially established
wetlands and habitat for wildlife.
A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over
a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal
Friday that would require new construction contracts to be
reviewed by the Legislature. The Legislative Delta Caucus
says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the
project should require more scrutiny from both the public and
lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are
still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to
be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than
they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently
recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural
runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the
The rise of wind and solar power, coupled with the increasing
social, environmental and financial costs of hydropower
projects, could spell the end of an era of big dams. But even
anti-dam activists say it’s too early to declare the demise of
Six years after it was stricken by a wasting disease off the
northern California coast, the sunflower sea star – one of the
most colorful starfish in the ocean – has all but vanished, and
the domino effect threatens to unravel an entire marine
ecosystem. The cause of the sea star’s demise is a
mystery, but it coincided with a warming event in the Pacific
Ocean, possibly tied to the climate, that lasted for two years
ending in 2015. … Scientists are wondering if the freak
warming anomaly, disease and their adverse effects are sign of
things to come.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a
last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the
plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but
Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of
documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with
massive river rights has yet to sign off on the
agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the
formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should
A proposed statewide rule would curb the use of a controversial
weedkiller linked to the death of more than a thousand trees
near Sisters, but some environmentalists are concerned it
doesn’t go far enough. The rule, which could be in effect
by spring, would prohibit using herbicides containing
aminocyclopyrachlor in wildlife management areas, swamps,
canals, sage grouse habitat and many other natural
environments, while maintaining temporary restrictions on use
in right-of-ways for roads, highways, railroad tracks, bike
paths and more.
A new approach to flood management around the San Francisco Bay
could trim maintenance costs for water agencies, restore
habitat for endangered species, and help protect against rising
seas. What links the three? Sediment. Winter storms push
sediment down creeks that flow into the Bay and, long ago,
these waterways fanned out when they reached the edge. Sediment
settled there, nourishing tidal baylands — salt marshes and
mudflats that are rich in wildlife, and also buffer the shore
from storm surges, the highest tides, and sea level rise. Today
few of these low-lying tidal baylands remain.
Twenty-three early to mid-career water professionals
from across California have been chosen for the
2019 William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class, the Water
Education Foundation’s highly competitive and respected career
development program. The class will spend the year examining
the impact wildfires have on the supply and quality
of water resources in California.
These red-state GOP governors are not taking aim at
greenhouse-gas emissions like their blue-state Republican
counterparts. Still, environmentalists should not dismiss their
momentum on water. In several states won by Trump, water,
literally a chemical bond, is also proving a bond that brings
disparate people, groups, and political parties together around
shared concerns for the Everglades, the Great Lakes, the
Colorado River, and other liquid life systems.
There’s one tempting proposition for western water managers
currently feeling the pressure to dole out cutbacks to users
due to the region’s ongoing aridification — inducing clouds to
drop more snow. The practice showed up in a recent agreement
among Colorado River Basin states, and investment is expanding,
with water agencies in Wyoming and Colorado for the first time
putting funds toward aerial cloud seeding, rather than solely
relying on ground-based generators.
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.
Any day now, eel-like parasites with sucker mouths will wiggle
up San Luis Obispo Creek and build underwater nests in the
creek bed to spawn. … These ancient, jaw-less fish, which
look like something out of a bad horror movie, are called
Pacific lampreys. This is the third year in a row that the
lampreys are in San Luis Obispo. That’s after they suddenly
vanished for nearly a decade, leaving scientists bewildered.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts
are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to
relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a
large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the
California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to
take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to
remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean?
Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the
history of the river’s development; negotiations over division
of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and
a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
California wildland managers said Tuesday they want to speed up
logging and prescribed burns designed to slow wildfires that
have devastated communities in recent years. After the
deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history,
officials are scrapping 12 years of efforts and starting anew
on creating a single environmental review process to cover
projects on private land, such as cutting back dense stands of
trees and setting controlled fires to burn out thick
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that
forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by
an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of
native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a
“statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent
of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are
likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and
watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout
on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for
removal in the golden state.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
A federal appellate court decision issued on January 25, 2019
will affect the relicensing of hydroelectric dams on the
Klamath River and efforts to accomplish dam removal under an
existing settlement agreement.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
The recent burst of winter rains has helped drive endangered
coho salmon up to their spawning grounds in Lagunitas Creek,
with surveyors counting the highest number of spawners in 12
years. … Lagunitas Creek supports about 20 percent of
the remaining coho salmon between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg,
making it a key recovery area for the threatened species.
A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which
currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath
River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic
which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory
requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River
for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa
Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the
removal of several Klamath River dams.
The rainwater collection system is broken at the environmental
research station on a remote, rocky Pacific island off the
California coast. So is a crane used to hoist small boats in
and out of the water. A two-year supply of diesel fuel for the
power generators is almost gone. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
personnel ordinarily would help with such problems. But they
haven’t been around since the partial federal government
shutdown began a month ago…
Mission Bay is a microcosm of the worldwide battle being waged
to save remaining dwindling wetlands. That battle is being
played out locally with ReWild Mission Bay, a project of San
Diego Audubon and its partners to enhance and restore wetlands
in Mission Bay’s northeast corner. ReWild Mission Bay’s
proposal is to enhance and restore more than 150 acres of
wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay, including the
enhancement of 40 acres of existing tidal wetland
Last week, in the third meeting of the Board of Directors of
the San Lorenzo Valley Water District … the board voted 4-1
for a permanent ban on the use of glyphosate pesticides by the
district, keeping a campaign promise that remained
controversial right up to the board’s vote. “The residents in
our district have spoken — they do not want glyphosate … and we
don’t really know the true effects of glyphosate — how it will
affect all the little creatures in sensitive habitat,” said
Louis Henry, the newly appointed board chair.
Recent research has identified a genetic variation in
Klamath-Trinity spring-run Chinook salmon which is
upending prevailing scientific narratives about the
fish. Scientists are calling it the “run time gene,” as it
appears to be the factor which controls whether the salmon will
migrate in the spring, or fall. The research, spearheaded by
Daniel Prince and Michael Miller of UC Davis, is being utilized
by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in
a renewed effort to list the Spring Chinook Salmon under the
state’s Endangered Species Act.
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
The restoration site is one of three south of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last
miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small
amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to
an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been
claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through
an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites,
another source is increasingly important for restoring these
patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor:
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.
More than 1,000 birds died at a lake in Southern California
earlier this month, state wildlife officials announced Tuesday.
The birds – primarily migratory water fowls such as Ruddy
Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls – died
at the Salton Sea after contracting a contagious bacterial
disease known as avian cholera
A Dallas-based engineering firm is being tapped to help design
California’s plan to bolster its water supply system. Jacobs’
initial $93 million contract is for preliminary and final
engineering design of a 15-year program known as California
WaterFix. The Golden State’s largest water conveyance project
carries a $17 billion pricetag. WaterFix, slated to begin this
year, will upgrade 50-year-old infrastructure dependent on
levees, which the state said puts clean water supplies at
risk from earthquakes and sea-level rise.
In an unprecedented move, the Water Resources Control board
voted in December to require water users to leave more water in
the lower San Joaquin River to improve water quality and help
fish. “This decision represents the water board taking its job
to protect the public trust and our fisheries more seriously,”
said Regina Chichizola, salmon and water policy analyst for the
Institute for Fisheries Resources.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named
Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has
nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served
as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not
indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most
pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that
it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing
a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes
conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable
water. The first step should be to announce the
twin-tunnels effort is dead.
A diver in California has stumbled on an unexpected source of
plastic waste in the ocean: golf balls. As the balls degrade,
they can emit toxic chemicals. And there appear to be lots of
them in certain places underwater — right next to coastal golf
courses. … Thus began a Sisyphean task that went on for
months: She and her father would haul hundreds of pounds of
them up, and then of course more golfers would hit more into
For decades, the New River has flowed north across the
U.S.-Mexico border carrying toxic pollution and the stench of
sewage. Now lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are pursuing
legislation and funding to combat the problems. “I feel very
optimistic that we’re going to be able to get some things done
on the New River issue,” said Assemblymember Eduardo
One in seven Americans drink from private wells, according to
the U.S. Geological Survey. Nitrate concentrations rose
significantly in 21% of regions where USGS researchers tested
groundwater from 2002 through 2012, compared with the 13 prior
years. … “The worst-kept secret is how vulnerable
private wells are to agricultural runoff,” says David Cwiertny,
director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects
of Environmental Contamination.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley,
Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman
Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful
Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re
all working together to advance the agenda of the Central
Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very
encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump
administration put forward on water.”
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow
requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a
percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this
‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on
farms, communities throughout California and the environment.
We join many other water agencies in our belief that
alternative measures …
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
Locally, the primary impacts of climate change on people can
broadly be broken into four categories: sea level rise,
drought, flood and wildfire. The good news is, work and
planning are already well underway to mitigate impacts, though
it’s hard to say how much of an effect the measures will have,
and how much those agencies – and their constituents – will be
willing to spend on them. But this much is clear: Local, state
and federal agencies are taking climate change seriously, and
treating it like the potentially existential threat that it is.
The never-ending fire season stems largely from a years-long
drought that gripped much of California before easing in 2017.
An estimated 129 million trees died from a lack of nutrients
and infestations from bark beetles, leaving hillsides and
forests dappled with kindling. The results have been grim.
Record-setting fires have swept across the state, killing more
than 100 people in two years. All told, nearly 900,000 acres
burned in 2018 on land Cal Fire patrols. That’s more than
triple the five-year average.
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
An ambitious new multicampus, multipartner consortium led by
the University of California, Davis, and the UC Working Lands
Innovation Center is taking on that challenge with the goal of
finding ways to capture billions of tons of carbon dioxide and
bring net carbon emissions in California to zero by 2045. The
consortium has received a three-year, $4.7 million grant from
the state of California’s Strategic Growth Council to research
scalable methods of using soil amendments — rock, compost and
biochar — to sequester greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in
Most of the native habitat in California’s San Joaquin Desert
has been converted to row crops and orchards, leaving 35
threatened or endangered species confined to isolated patches
of habitat. A significant portion of that farmland, however, is
likely to be retired in the coming decades due to groundwater
overdraft, soil salinity, and climate change. A new study
… found that restoration of fallowed farmland could play a
crucial role in habitat protection and restoration strategies
for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and other endangered
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
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today
released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive
resource and guide for conservation planning in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050. The framework
provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches
to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape.
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500
acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to
allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side,
DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to
neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the
completion of construction of a levee to protect existing
infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat
restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the
interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West
Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it,
simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is
essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over
twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing
before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on
the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the
Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.
Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes
again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or
The primary byproduct of desal is brine, which facilities pump
back out to sea. The stuff sinks to the seafloor and wreaks
havoc on ecosystems, cratering oxygen levels and spiking salt
content. … Researchers report today that global desal
brine production is 50 percent higher than previous estimates,
totaling 141.5 million cubic meters a day, compared to 95
million cubic meters of actual freshwater output from the
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.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is
slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy
future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to
spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an
investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate
structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged
commissioners not to give them a bailout.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
The House approved legislation that would fund and reopen the
Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest
Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by
Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and President Trump to
end the partial shutdown. … Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring any of
the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal
between Trump and Democrats on the president’s demand for
border wall funding.
Standing on a stone bridge overlooking Lagunitas Creek in west
Marin County, giddy onlookers observed a male coho salmon
swimming upstream toward a nesting area guarded by a female.
… This year’s salmon spawning season so far appears to
be a mixed bag, with some locations, such as Lagunitas Creek,
showing robust activity, and others, including the Russian
River in Sonoma County, falling short of expectations.
Plans for the removal of three dams on the Klamath River in
California cleared another regulatory hurdle when state
officials released a draft environmental impact report that
found no significant long-term water quality concerns.
A coalition of groups interested in salmon recovery —
California Sea Grant’s Russian River Salmon and Steelhead
Monitoring Program (CSG), Russian River Coho Salmon Captive
Broodstock Program and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation
District (RCD) — are working together and with local landowners
to see if unexplored areas of these local watersheds might hold
the key to the recovery of native coho salmon populations.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC
issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The
environmental document essentially looks at what changes a
licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of
those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded
a new license.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s
latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on
Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s
cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the Public
Policy Institute of California, spoke recently about
managing freshwater systems with ecosystem water budgets. “I
will argue that drought, because of the way we have modified
this system, is the major bottleneck ecologically,” he said.
“Step 1 has to be thinking about drought: how to mitigate
drought and how to deal with drought – that is plan for,
respond to, and recover from drought. We don’t do that at
all, even though we just had this big drought.”
The U.S. Interior Department is facing three lawsuits filed by
three environmental groups who allege its plans for the
200,000-acre Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
along the Oregon-California border violates several federal
laws. A fourth complaint from six farms and agricultural
groups alleges the agency has unlawfully exceeded its authority
by restricting leases of refuge land for agricultural purposes.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has named Jared Blumenfeld, a
former Obama administration official and longtime environmental
advocate as the new secretary of the California Environmental
Protection Agency. Blumenfeld, 49, of San Francisco, will run
the agency, known as Cal-EPA, which oversees a broad range of
environmental and public health regulations statewide, on
topics that include air pollution, water pollution, toxics
regulation, pesticides and recycling.
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 Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has spent
five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
guidelines. Several changes to the Guidelines address two
hot button topics: global climate change and statewide
affordable housing shortages. Many of the changes will
significantly alter the application of CEQA to future projects.
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.
The long road to recovery in the town of Paradise starts with
removing millions of tons of charred rubble left in the Camp
Fire’s wake. But the question remains: Where will it all go?
Disaster officials are scrambling to secure a place to sort and
process the remnants of nearly 19,000 structures destroyed in
the wildfire that began on Nov. 8 and killed 86 people. The
mammoth undertaking has been slowed by staunch opposition in
nearby communities eyed as potential sites for a temporary
scrapyard, which would receive 250 to 400 truckloads of
concrete and metal each day.
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:
California’s top snow surveyors, in the Sierra Nevada on
Thursday with measuring poles and electronic sensor data,
concluded that the state’s frozen water supply is just
adequate, at best. The water content of the snowpack is 67
percent of the long-term average for this time of year,
according to the first official measurements of 2019
taken by the California Department of Water Resources.
In 2014, plant biologists with the California Department of
Agriculture reported an alarming discovery: native wildflowers
and herbs, grown in nurseries and then planted in ecological
restoration sites around California, were infected with
Phytophthora tentaculata, a deadly exotic plant pathogen that
causes root and stem rot. While ecologists have long been wary
of exotic plant pathogens borne on imported ornamental plants,
this was the first time in California that these microorganisms
had been found in native plants used in restoration efforts.
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.
The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control
Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four
hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River.
The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by
California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes,
water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the
basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust
responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s
farming and ranching heritage.
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.
CANCELED: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold one hearing to
provide interested parties the opportunity to present data,
views, or information concerning the proposed rule changes
affecting wetlands and ephemeral waters.
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.
In the process of removing the San Clemente Dam in 2015,
workers created a pristine route for the Carmel River, complete
with step pools and nicely arranged boulders. Winter floods
have since transformed the river route into anything but
pristine, but the “messy” course has been good for the native
Two weeks after the Tubbs fire tore through Sonoma County,
Michelle Halbur drove up the familiar winding road to
Pepperwood Preserve so she could see what had become of it. The
weary ecologist knew that the fire had scorched most of the
3,200 acres of protected land just north of Santa Rosa, as well
as several buildings on the property.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
The giant Douglas fir hit the water with a great splash just as
a powerful gust of wind from the Chinook helicopter rotors blew
across the river…. The charred trunk, weighing as much
as 25,000 pounds, was one of 300 fire-damaged trees that the
[Yurok Indian] tribe and its partners strategically placed in
the South Fork of the Trinity River this past week in an
attempt to alter the current, scour out accumulated sediment
and restore long-lost salmon habitat in the river.
Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the many varieties of insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam, in Northern Arizona near the Utah border, disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry and their loss directly affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.
An hour’s drive north of Sacramento sits a picture-perfect valley hugging the eastern foothills of Northern California’s Coast Range, with golden hills framing grasslands mostly used for cattle grazing.
Back in the late 1800s, pioneer John Sites built his ranch there and a small township, now gone, bore his name. Today, the community of a handful of families and ranchers still maintains a proud heritage.
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.
In the decades since President George H.W. Bush pledged a goal
of “no net loss” of U.S. wetlands, this uniquely American mix
of conservation and capitalism has been supported by every
president since then, growing the market for wetlands
mitigation credits from about 40 banks in the early 1990s to
nearly 1,500 today. Investors include Chevron and Wall Street
firms, working alongside the Audubon Society and other
environmental groups. Now the market is at risk.
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.
Warmer days — and nights. Rising sea levels. Less water
available in summer. A report released Wednesday by state
officials says climate change is affecting California’s
ecosystem already in ways great and small.
It’s the Golden State’s first-ever undercover plant
investigation — and a tale of amazing obsession, where vigilant
authorities, passionate plant lovers and an irked postal
customer discovered that foreign thieves are slipping into
California’s wild landscapes, fueling a budding black market in
the lucrative exotic plant industry.
As we continue forging ahead in 2018
with our online version of Western Water after 40 years
as a print magazine, we turned our attention to a topic that also
got its start this year: recreational marijuana as a legal use.
State regulators, in the last few years, already had been beefing
up their workforce to tackle the glut in marijuana crops and
combat their impacts to water quality and supply for people, fish
and farming downstream. Thus, even if these impacts were perhaps
unbeknownst to the majority of Californians who approved
Proposition 64 in 2016, we thought it important to see if
anything new had evolved from a water perspective now that
marijuana was legal.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
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.
Despite the heat that often
accompanies debates over setting aside water for the environment,
there are instances where California stakeholders have forged
agreements to provide guaranteed water for fish. Here are two
examples cited by the Public Policy Institute of California in
its report arguing for an environmental water right.
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.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
The Interior Department said Thursday it is withdrawing
protections for 10 million acres of federal lands used by the
threatened sage grouse to open it up for energy development.
… The proposal would affect less than one-tenth of 1
percent of sage grouse-occupied range across 11 states from
California to the Dakotas, officials said.
Estuaries are places where fresh and
salt water mix, usually at the point where a river enters the
ocean. They are the meeting point between riverine environments
and the sea, with a combination of tides, waves, salinity, fresh
water flow and sediment. The constant churning means there are
elevated levels of nutrients, making estuaries highly productive
Machine Gun Flats Lake sits placidly in a natural depression on
what was once an Army training area. It is one of about 45
vernal pools on Bureau of Land Management land on Fort Ord,
teeming with life after an exceptionally wet rainy season, and
a welcome sight after years of drought.
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.
Zooplankton, which are floating
aquatic microorganisms too small and weak to swim against
currents, are are important food sources for many fish species in
the Delta such as salmon, sturgeon and Delta smelt.
A tributary is a river or stream
that enters a larger body of water, especially a lake or river.
The receiving water into which a tributary
feeds is called the “mainstem,” and the point where they come
together is referred to as the “confluence.”
With a holding capacity of more than 260 billion gallons, Diamond
Valley Lake is
Southern California’s largest reservoir. It sits about 90
miles southeast of Los Angeles and just west of Hemet in
Riverside County where it was built in 2000. The offstream
reservoir was created by three large dams that connect the surrounding
hills, costing around $1.9 billion and doubling the region’s
water storage capacity.
In an effort to help maintain the balance between freshwater
habitat and flood protection, the Monterey County Resource
Management Agency brought in special crews to work at the
Carmel Lagoon area Monday.
A bill that would put in place efforts to restore the North
Coast’s disappearing oak woodlands made it through the state
Assembly unanimously Wednesday and now faces the gauntlet of
the state Senate floor and various committees before reaching
Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Wildlife advocates scored a major victory Tuesday when
Mendocino County agreed to terminate its contract with the
federal agency that helps ranchers kill predators such as
mountain lions and coyotes that feast on livestock.
President Barack Obama plans to designate three national
monuments in California on Friday, setting aside nearly 1.8
million acres for permanent conservation and bringing to
fruition Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s years-long effort to
protect some of the desert’s most treasured landscapes and
Worsening drought conditions may be doing more damage to
forests in California and throughout the West than their
ecosystems can handle, causing a spiral of death that could
have a devastating impact, a U.S. Forest Service study
Interest in the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, also known as the
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, is so brisk that the Yolo Basin
Foundation has had to turn away schools that seek to introduce
students to the environmental value of the more than
[Glen] Lewis, the open space ranger for the Muir Heritage Land
Trust, wondered what John Muir would think if he could look out
today at the panorama of modernity around Martinez, which, back
in the famous naturalist’s day, consisted of fruit orchards
almost as far as the eye could see.
The sound of splashing drew me to the stream. A dark finned
back cut the surface. Salmon? … The scene I’m [Peter
Moyle] recalling from December was not the Sacramento
River or some other salmon highway, but a lowly back alley long
associated with carp and suckers: Putah Creek, my hometown
stream west of Sacramento.
Anticipating such a dry future, in January the Public Policy
Institute of California (PPIC) brought together agency
officials, policy makers, and a variety of stakeholders came
together to discuss how the state could be made more resilient
to drought. … In this panel discussion, Chuck Bonham,
Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife; Sandy
Matsumoto, The Nature Conservancy; Dr. Peter Moyle, Professor
of fish biology at UC Davis; and Tim Quinn, Executive Director
of the Association of California Water Agencies discuss how to
best manage ecosystems in a drought.
Environmental groups thunder from the margins that the
protection of rivers, trees, and soil is necessary to keep the
world economy from a spectacular derailment. Business
executives and government officials are taking note – green is
good for the land, and it is just as good for the economy.
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. did not remove all the oysters and clams
from the water at Point Reyes National Seashore prior to
vacating the government-owned property last week, National Park
Service officials said this week in a finding confirmed by
underwater videos shot for The Press Democrat.
For up to nine months, Abby will raise her little adoptee, and
when 671 is ready, she will be released into a protected inland
salt marsh called Elkhorn Slough, just off Monterey Bay. That’s
where 671 will set to work to preserve the estuary, says Tim
Tinker, who tracks otters for the U.S. Geological Survey.
California needs a new environmentalism to set a more effective
and sustainable green bar for the nation and even the world.
… Rather than insist on blocking human use to protect nature
– a largely quixotic quest now – environmental reconciliation
works in and with unavoidably human habitats. A vivid example
of this integration is the planned rejuvenation of the Los
For decades, California’s management and restoration of salmon
and trout populations have focused on principles rooted in
coastal redwood streams, mostly fed by rainfall runoff. These
concepts portray ideal salmonid habitat as deep pools, shallow
riffles and “large woody debris,” such as fallen trees and
limbs. Recent studies on spring-fed streams challenges this
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
This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
region and details their importance to California’s overall water
picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges,
including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational
impacts, climate change, development and land use.
The report also discusses the importance of protecting and
restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance
quantity. Examples and case studies are included.
20-minute version of the 2012 documentary The Klamath Basin: A
Restoration for the Ages. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues related to complex water management
disputes in the Klamath River Basin. Narrated by actress Frances
For over a century, the Klamath River Basin along the Oregon and
California border has faced complex water management disputes. As
relayed in this 2012, 60-minute public television documentary
narrated by actress Frances Fisher, the water interests range
from the Tribes near the river, to energy producer PacifiCorp,
farmers, municipalities, commercial fishermen, environmentalists
– all bearing legitimate arguments for how to manage the water.
After years of fighting, a groundbreaking compromise may soon
settle the battles with two epic agreements that hold the promise
of peace and fish for the watershed. View an excerpt from the
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes
extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of
dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern
California’s little-known New River has been called one of North
America’s most polluted. A closer look reveals the New River is
full of ironic twists: its pollution has long defied cleanup, yet
even in its degraded condition, the river is important to the
border economies of Mexicali and the Imperial Valley and a
lifeline that helps sustain the fragile Salton Sea ecosystem.
Now, after decades of inertia on its pollution problems, the New
River has emerged as an important test of binational cooperation
on border water issues. These issues were profiled in the 2004
PBS documentary Two Sides of a River.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features
a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San
Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows
and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam
to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the
history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The
map text explains the many issues facing this vast,
15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration;
agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are
descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement,
and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife