The California Legislature was the first in the country to
protect rare plants and animals through passage of the California
Endangered Species Act (CESA) in 1970, Congress followed suit in
1973 by passing the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The federal ESA aims to, “protect and recover imperiled species
and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”
The state ESA states that, “all native species of fishes,
amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, invertebrates, and plants,
and their habitats, threatened with extinction and those
experiencing a significant decline which, if not halted, would
lead to a threatened or endangered designation, will be protected
Imperiled species are defined as follows: “Endangered” if it is
in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion
of its range and “threatened” if it is likely to become an
endangered species within the foreseeable future.”
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
Salmon are swimming back into the Lagunitas Creek watershed.
Not only is that a natural phenomena, but it is a sign that
hard work at restoring habitat and promoting greater public
awareness are paying off.
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are
pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final
spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco
Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but
without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final
An all-out attempt to save the historic coho salmon runs
through Muir Woods intensified this year as the National Park
Service began a creek restoration and habitat enhancement
program in the famous redwood grove.
Two wildlife advocacy groups Wednesday announced their intent
to sue the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation
District, as well as other regional and federal government
agencies, for allegedly putting a fish species’ habitat at risk
with the release of water from the Seven Oaks Dam.
There’s new hope for an endangered California frog that has
vanished from half of its habitat. The state Fish and Game
Commission on Wednesday approved protections for five of six
populations of the foothill yellow-legged frog.
A new study from UC Davis, published in the Canadian Journal of
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, offers a glimmer of hope, with
a caveat. It found that salmonids can likely thrive in slightly
warmer waters, provided they eat like bodybuilders trying to
bulk up for a competition.
In August, the Lake County Board of Supervisors passed a
resolution of intent to join this group, now being called the
Two-Basin Partnership. But Lake County was recently denied
entry, with the partnership citing “expediency” concerns and
saying it would not admit any more members.
It came as a bittersweet surprise to biologists and government
agencies monitoring the steadily shrinking Salton Sea’s slide
toward death by choking dust storms and salt. Thousands of
acres of exposed lake bed have become, of all things, the
unintended beneficiaries of lush marshlands that are homes for
endangered birds and fish at the outlets of agricultural and
urban runoff that used to flow directly into the Salton Sea.
Butano Creek runs through the sleepy little farm town of
Pescadero, just down the road from San Francisco and over the
hill from the heart of Silicon Valley. This modest creek once
connected endangered native salmon and steelhead to their
historical spawning and rearing habitats through Pescadero
Marsh. But the channel filled with sediment over time,
ultimately blocking the connection to the Pacific for many
Dr. Rachel Johnson is a research biologist with the NOAA’s
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Davis with over 15
years’ experience working on various aspects of conservation
and fisheries biology. In this presentation from the 2019 State
of the Estuary conference, Dr. Johnson discussed the importance
of developing a holistic framework among aquatic ecosystems and
The report by the Environmental Integrity Project released on
Thursday showed some 30 states have reduced funding for
pollution control programs, 16 of them by more than 20%. Forty
states, meanwhile, have cut staffing at environmental agencies,
half of them by at least 10%, the report showed.
The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference
whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water
permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other
projects. … The question in the case is whether states
unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project
on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in
litigation over pipelines and other projects.
After a dry fall, the first storms of the winter kicked off the
annual migration of coho salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the
streams where they spawn. Over 10 inches of rain fell on Lake
Lagunitas last week… Streamflows are now high enough to allow
endangered central California coast coho to migrate.
The bitter drought validated scientists’ warnings that despite
longstanding endangered species protections, the state’s
outdated and overtaxed water management plans are failing in
the face of climate change. … A report released Thursday by
the Public Policy Institute of California recommends the state
stop prioritizing individual species recovery plans and adopt
holistic management methods that improve entire freshwater
While local tribes celebrated a federal appellate court ruling
last month upholding their senior water rights on the Klamath
River, a trio of threats facing the Trinity River combine to
paint a foreboding picture for local salmon populations.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
In her address to the State of the Estuary conference, Felicia
Marcus spoke about the connections of the Delta to all
Californians and the importance of working together and more
broadly to solve the challenging problems before us.
Rather than physically move water hundreds of kilometers across
earthquake country between Northern California and San
Bernardino, the plan involves reallocating water virtually,
just as you would electronically transfer funds from one bank
account to another. Once the Chino Basin Program is
operational, in times of drought the southern region can draw
water from the new reserve instead of from the State Water
Project… That will mean water impounded by Oroville Dam can
be released into the Feather River, benefitting endangered
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
Most of the Trump administration’s lawsuit challenging
California water management rules affecting the San Francisco
Bay Area has been paused indefinitely so a state court can
consider parallel claims the government filed there. Both suits
target changes the State Water Resources Control Board made to
the “water quality control plan” covering the Bay Area and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
CalTrout has identified Scott Dam, which impounds Eel River
water in Lake Pillsbury, as one of five aging dams it considers
“ripe for removal,” especially in the wake of PG&E’s
license surrender. There is, however, a potential middle course
backed by Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based nonprofit
that has long called for the dam’s removal.
The work, which started in August, focused on restoring natural
habitat for the fish by removing boulder walls called ripraps
along the creek banks and placing large pieces of trees into
the creek. The riprap walls … channeled the water into a
swift current during the rainy season, which scoured away
salmon eggs and salmon fry that were attempting to survive the
long year-and-a-half in freshwater.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
California’s water policy community continues to be embroiled
on how best to manage what remains of California’s native
aquatic ecosystems, particularly for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta and its tributaries. One aspect of this controversy is
the dedication and use of habitat and flow resources to support
Frogs are delaying another wastewater treatment facility
project, this time at the South San Luis Obispo County
Sanitation District in Oceano. The South SLO County Sanitation
District members are working to upgrade the nearly 50 year old
facility, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is
concerned construction could impact the California red-legged
frog, a species on the verge of being endangered.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Over the past three decades, a shoreline lagoon and a historic,
natural lake have been restored. Hundreds of thousands of
native plants — some of them endangered — have been planted.
Indigenous wildlife has returned, and an ancient creek
ecosystem was freed from underground pipes, exposing hidden
streams and ponds that once quenched the thirst of American
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
There’s a war over the future of water on the Monterey
Peninsula and it’s taking place in the board chambers of half a
dozen state and local government entities. It’s also taking
place on social media and in the press.
Exactly what the Potter Valley Project will look like in the
future is not set in stone. The partnership is committed to
identifying solutions that meet the needs of the communities
and wildlife affected by the project’s operations.
Lots of stories circulate about the unethical actions of
Bernhardt and Gov. Newsom’s reluctance to fight Trump on water
— stories about Bernhardt’s effort to get rid of scientists who
concluded the new Trump Water Plan jeopardizes endangered
species in the Delta. Then there’s his work to give Westlands a
permanent water contract to irrigate poisoned selenium-ridden
lands… What’s not being covered: the impact these projects
will have on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, and Newsom’s
reluctance to stop them.
Researchers in Canada and the U.S. investigated potential
reductions in streamflow, caused by groundwater pumping for
cannabis irrigation, in the Navarro River in Mendocino County,
California… Reporting in the journal Environmental Research
Communications, they note the combination of cannabis
cultivation and residential use may cause significant
streamflow depletion, with the largest impacts in late summer
when streams and local fish species depend most on groundwater
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff
has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper
Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program,
with immediate results observed… Within one week of opening
the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were
observed making use of it.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
In Napa County, adjacent to Sonoma and the source of perhaps
the most expensive cabernet sauvignon outside of Bordeaux,
activists are pushing back against a steady conversion of
woodland into new vineyards. Kellie Anderson, an independent
watchdog who has harried local officials for years to step up
enforcement of environmental laws, says the county’s planning
department has ignored numerous violations by grape growers.
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
On Thursday (11/21) we may find out whether the California
Department of Water Resources (DWR) is proposing operations of
the State Water Project that are significantly more protective
than the Trump Administration’s biological opinions, or whether
DWR will be aligning with the Trump Administration.
The water coalition has been meeting since 2018 and started
under the facilitation of Alan Mikkelsen, senior adviser to
Secretary of the Interior on water and western resources. …
The coalition aims to address challenges to fisheries, water
supply, and waterfowl and forest health.
The start of work on the restoration of the Bel Marin Keys
wetlands is another example of efforts to bring back the miles
of wetlands that, over the past century, have been lost to
development, other encroachments and years of sedimentation
The extra 90 cubic feet per second are designed, in part, to
attract salmon up the creek – and the flows start a little
later than in recent years due to the failure of state
Department of Fish and Wildlife pumps in the Yolo Bypass. Rich
Marovich, streamkeeper for the Solano County Water Agency
and Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, said because
it has been so dry this fall, the later release may be
For the past two centuries, California has relied heavily on
the natural resources of the North Coast region, exploiting its
pristine watersheds for agriculture and its forests for timber.
… Now the Yurok are working with local and state
organizations to revitalize the forests, rivers and wildlife, a
comprehensive feat requiring collaboration among community
leaders up and down the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
Lawmakers should balance environmental concerns with concerns
for public welfare and economics, rather than completely
disregard either issue. Creative legislation allows for more
comprehensive solutions to problems.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spent months working with the
National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to mitigate potential harm to endangered sucker fish in
Upper Klamath Lake, as well as threatened coho salmon in the
lower Klamath River. … However, the bureau now says it
received “erroneous data” from an outside source during
consultation, meaning it must scrap the plans and start over
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
At issue in the proposal posted yesterday by the EPA is the
threshold level of atrazine, the second most widely used
herbicide in the U.S. Manufactured by Syngenta, atrazine is
primarily used in agriculture as a weedkiller on crops. It is
not authorized for use in the European Union, as the body said
there wasn’t enough data to prove it wouldn’t have a harmful
effect on groundwater.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
Two months after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana
farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness,
authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup
costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were
diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of
fertilizer and rodenticide.
Native American tribal water rights are guaranteed by the
federal government to the extent that endangered species, like
salmon in the Klamath River, aren’t placed in danger, according
to a court decision on Thursday.
The novel and rapidly evolving challenges of global climate
change will test the adaptability of all species, and some will
be hit harder than others. Identifying the species and
populations most vulnerable to climate change is critical to
target restoration and adaptation efforts for those closest to
the brink. With this in mind, climate vulnerability
assessments, which are an effective method of evaluating the
relative risk faced by different populations, were recently
applied to Pacific salmonids
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
An unlikely coalition in California — including
environmentalists, law enforcement agents, politicians,
wildlife ecologists and representatives of the legal cannabis
industry — have joined forces to try to reduce these illegal
operations and the environmental threat they pose.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
After touring film festivals in two dozen cities across the
country, the documentary, Visions of the Lost Sierra, will be
released online Wednesday for all to view. … Visions is a
short film exploring how the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork
Feather River has connected communities and inspired outdoor
enthusiasts for generations.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin
River… Much of the water upstream is diverted for
agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river
no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end
… greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it
through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San
Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the
state’s two great arteries … is detached from its heart.
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
Today, annual salmon runs in Eel River that once may have
totaled a million or so adults consist of a few thousand.
Lamprey eels, too, have dwindled. Now, there is serious talk of
removing Scott Dam, owned by PG&E since 1930. For fishery
proponents, such a river makeover is the optimal way to revive
the Eel’s salmon runs.
On October 15th, an excavator trundled out onto the narrow
isthmus of land separating the freshwater Tule Red pond from
Suisun Bay and began digging. As the salty water from Grizzly
Bay began to pour through the breach, the 460-acre pond felt
the push and pull of the tides for the first time in a century,
beginning its transition back into marsh habitat.
A species of frog made famous by a Mark Twain short story has
delayed construction on Morro Bay’s new sewer plant, even
though the protected amphibian hasn’t been spotted anywhere on
the site in years.
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
Authorities seized more than $1.5 billion worth of illegally
grown marijuana plants in California this year — an amount an
industry expert said is roughly equal to the state’s entire
legal market — as part of an annual eradication program,
officials said Monday. … Law enforcement raids often find
illegal farms that have dammed or diverted public streams and
dumped dangerous pesticides including carbofuran, methyl
parathion and aluminum phosphate…
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
Prosecutions of environmental crimes dropped to historic lows
under the Trump administration last fiscal year and one legal
expert believes that could endanger public health. “There’s a
risk that unenforced violations could lead to fires, leaks,
spills, and contamination,” said Ethan Elkind, climate program
director at the University of California, Berkeley School of
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Prior to a commission meeting earlier this year, the Commission
hadn’t met since 2010, according to Curtis Anderson, commission
member representing the California side of the river. …
“We’re seeing if we can be helpful by at least providing
information and providing an opportunity for people to raise
concerns concerning the Compact itself,” Anderson said.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
Almost 50 years after the Lahontan cutthroat trout was listed
under the Endangered Species Act, agencies are investing in a
game-changing, fish-friendly infrastructure project at Derby
Dam to help bring back the legendary fish to the Truckee River.
Announced on Sept. 11, 2019, construction of a fish passage
structure will allow Lahontan cutthroat trout to complete their
natural migration, swimming back and forth between Pyramid Lake
and historic spawning grounds.
Most of the Klamath Basin suckers testing the waters of Upper
Klamath Lake this summer in floating net pens are thought to
have died during a federally-funded summer pilot project. When
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited the pens on the lake
last week to release them into the wild, 10 of the 1,000
endangered fish were found alive…
Today’s noisy partisan divide concerns me and makes the thought
of meaningful collaboration across parties seem impossible.
However, the largest river restoration project in history,
spanning the California-Oregon border, tells a hopeful story
offering a blueprint for political, conservation and economic
The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the
end. But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of
four dams at the center of the fight. The dams on the Lower
Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for
killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable
energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a
growing tab for environmental mitigation.
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
Los Padres ForestWatch has sued the Department of Interior, the
Bureau of Reclamation, and the Santa Maria Valley Water
Conservation District, charging that Twitchell Reservoir dam
operations are inflicting serious ongoing damage to the
steelhead trout, a federally endangered species, that rely on
the Santa Maria River.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
The health of North America’s largest estuary, the San
Francisco Estuary, is showing some signs of improvement, but
much of the historic damage caused to the massive watershed has
either not improved or worsened, according to a new report.
A smaller run is expected to return this year because of the
lower number of spawning adults recorded a few years ago…
Coho salmon spend about a year and a half in freshwater and a
year and a half in the ocean before returning to freshwater to
spawn and die. What’s encouraging researchers more is how well
the newly hatched coho from last season are surviving.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
Imperial County is seeking to declare a public health
emergency at the Salton Sea … aiming to force Gov. Gavin
Newsom and federal officials to free up emergency funds
and take immediate action to tamp down dangerous dust.
For more than 20 years, California pondered what to do about
steelhead in the Santa Ynez River. On Sept. 17, the State Water
Resources Control Board finally made a decision. It voted to
pass an order that will increase water releases from Lake
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
A major fish restoration project is underway on private
property near Cottonwood. River Partners shared a video of new
side channels that are being built to help the recovery of
struggling wild salmon populations in the Sacramento River.
Alicyn Gitlin, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club’s
Grand Canyon Chapter, said the project would threaten an
endangered species, interfere with the Grand Canyon’s already
degraded hydrology and damage sites held sacred by two Arizona
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1 means the honeymoon
may be over with environmental groups who saw the bill as a
bulwark to protect California’s water quality and endangered
species from the Trump administration’s regulatory slashing.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
Fish in San Geronimo Creek are again the source of litigation.
… For the average Marinite to know what’s at stake, fish
proponents and the county need to answer three obvious but, so
far, unanswered questions.
California’s largest inland lake, the Salton Sea, lies in the
Imperial and Coachella valleys. The lake, which is more than 50
percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean, is becoming more salt
than water because it’s essentially evaporating. The lake and
the area that surrounds it — once hotspots for tourism and
wildlife — have essentially become ghost towns.
A staggering number of Chinook salmon are returning to a
California river that hasn’t sustained salmon for decades due
to agricultural and urban demands, giving biologists hope that
threatened fish are finally spawning in their native
grounds without human help.
Over the past decade, state and federal agencies have continued
to publish peer reviewed scientific research that largely
strengthens our understanding of how the volume, timing,
temperature, and quality of water – and the operations of
existing dams and water diversion facilities, including the
state and federal water projects – adversely affect salmon and
other fish and wildlife.
For E. Joaquin Esquivel, California has made great strides in
fighting climate change and transitioning to a cleaner energy
sector. Now, he said, it’s water’s turn. “Water, I think, is
ready for that moment,” said Esquivel, the chairman of the
California State Water Resources Control Board who took over
from longtime chair Felicia Marcus in February.
A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside
the city of Red Bluff. One of several such projects in the
North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will
offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered
On a biological scale, 20 years is like the blink of an eye —
if not faster. But for San Francisco marine biology
researchers, 20 years is priceless in what it can tell about
the changing nature of the bay’s wildlife, especially in the
face of a changing climate.
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
The Oregon Court of Appeals won’t resolve a dispute over the
impact of Klamath basin wells on surface waters due to newly
imposed regulations in the area. The appellate court has
dismissed the case because it’s moot and unworthy of review
after the Oregon water regulators adopted different rules
governing surface water interference from wells in the Upper
Klamath basin earlier this year.
Although the Water Board made clear that they are not, at this
time, issuing notices of violation, the letters serve as a shot
across the bow to an industry that is beginning to appreciate
the importance of compliance with environmental regulations and
portends more significant enforcement efforts in the near
To optimize mitigation for impacts to wetlands, other
wildlands, and at-risk species, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife is developing a program called the Regional
Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS). … Each RCIS
identifies top conservation needs, such as habitat for
From mandatory drought restrictions to billions of dollars’
worth of drought-proofing projects, San Diego and the entire
West has for years had a complicated relationship with its
water – and it’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper any
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
To help protect endangered fish and other critters that rely on
the Ventura River for habitat, migration and procreation, the
city of Ventura has agreed to better monitor and reduce its
water draw in dry times. The city will also take steps to
remove barriers for steelhead trout to make the journey to and
from the sea…
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and
the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN, concerns
the protection of endangered coho salmon and threatened
steelhead trout in streams in Marin’s San Geronimo Valley.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
The Center for Biological Diversity has taken what appears to
be a preliminary step toward suing Marin County over its
supplemental environmental impact report to the Marin
Countywide Plan, which focuses on potential cumulative impacts
to salmonids from development in the San Geronimo Valley.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a new
plan to reduce water temperatures for endangered fish in the
Upper Klamath and Lost River watersheds, though it could come
at a price for farmers and ranchers.
There are nut festivals. There are fruit and vegetable
festivals. Hot sauce and spicy food are cheered in other
places. There are wine and beer events. All are fun and bring
entertainment to our lives. But for all of that, there is
something extraordinary about Saturday’s Salmon Festival in
Excessive grazing harmed the Paiute’s habitat, and the
introduction of invasive species such as rainbow trout drove
the fish out of the river. “It has been gone from this
landscape for a really long time,” said Chuck Bonham, director
of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. And it might
have never returned without the unlikely intervention of Basque
shepherd Joe Jaunsaras.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
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.
A plan to remove four dams on the Klamath River – one of the
most ambitious river restoration projects ever attempted – is
either mocked or praised depending on the audience. It will
expand salmon habitat or destroy a fishery. The only certainty
is that lives will change forever.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
Sea otters are a keystone species in their native coastal
environments. They prey on small herbivorous sea creatures like
sea urchins, which can lead to more kelp and healthier seagrass
in an area. But after being hunted for their fur to near
extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, otter populations
along the California coast are still struggling.
Trucking juvenile hatchery salmon downstream is often used in
the California Central Valley to reduce mortality during their
perilous swim to the ocean. But is it all good? Researchers …
published an article in Fisheries this month exploring the
history and implications of salmon trucking in a changing
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
By any reckoning, the steelhead trout won a significant legal
victory this week, along with CalTrout and the Environmental
Defense Center, which have been arguing the case for two
decades. But it remains uncertain exactly how much more water
will have to be released downstream from Lake Cachuma to create
a habitat wet enough along the main stem of the Santa Ynez
River for the federally endangered fish to wage a meaningful
All of September, crews have been dumping rocks into the bed of
the river to create an ideal habitat for salmon to spawn. Dams
along the American River cut off access to the salmon’s natural
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Our beaches, bays and waterways are central to who we are as
San Diegans and to our unique way of life. But in a heavily
urbanized region clean water doesn’t just happen; it takes hard
work and stewardship.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The threats came in a dispute over reintroducing winter-run
Chinook salmon into the McCloud River, a pristine river above
Shasta Dam, as part of a federal plan approved under the Obama
administration to try to stave off extinction for the
critically endangered fish.
Last week, the Legislature acted to thwart President Donald
Trump on water matters by passing a bill to essentially
pre-empt the execution of federal environmental law. The
Metropolitan Water District opposed Senate Bill 1 because it
would have unleashed rounds of state-federal litigation, and
would have likely brought 13 years of effort to a halt. Gov.
Gavin Newsom has signaled he plans to veto the measure.
State officials have ordered increased water flows on the Santa
Ynez River in Santa Barbara County to protect steelhead trout,
which are endangered in Southern California. The State Water
Resources Control Board action follows two decades of legal
efforts to address long-term declines in native fish
populations in the Santa Ynez.
Salmon and steelhead that were once abundant in this great
watershed are now at risk of extinction, a preventable disaster
that can be averted by moving forward with the planned removal
of four aging hydroelectric dams. While the Klamath River was
once the third-largest salmon producer on the west coast, its
fish runs have been declining for decades.
Removing the four aging hydroelectric dams from the river would
significantly improve ecological and geomorphic conditions
throughout the Klamath watershed and play a key role in
returning salmon to stable population levels.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
The Trump administration, under Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt, is finalizing plans to rip up restrictions on
diverting Northern California water to its friends in the
agricultural industry in the dry western San Joaquin
Valley. However, some of the state’s biggest water
districts oppose SB 1, hoping Trump administration efforts will
translate into increased water diversions.
The western pond turtle in Butte County is currently shaking in
its shell, due to habitat alteration and introduced species
that are killing off the local reptile. … The turtle is being
evaluated for listing as threatened or endangered, according to
California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials.
Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the
bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego,
acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from
consideration until next year.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the California
Department of Water Resources, today announced its decision to
move forward with a restoration project to improve fish passage
and increase floodplain fisheries-rearing habitat in the Yolo
We cannot advance the fight for environmental quality by
declaring that all science stopped on a specific date. If it’s
dumb for the President to close his eyes to science, it’s
dumber for us to follow him down that rabbit hole.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
If you see something hopping around in Big Chico Creek, chances
are it could be the foothill yellow-legged frog. This frog is
currently being evaluated by the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife to possibly be placed on the state’s endangered
This delivery, on top of water already being provided, comes at
a critical time for fall waterfowl migration, and has become
available through extensive coordination and efforts by Klamath
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Recently, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion
on the future of California water featuring Secretary Wade
Crowfoot, Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, and
State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre.
According to a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson,
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has identified existing
groundwater wells construction contractors can use. In
addition, the contractor has proposed drilling new wells along
the border for the wall project. Currently, the construction
contractor estimates needing about 84,000 gallons of water per
day for the project.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
While researching the impacts of industrial site restoration on
aquatic ecosystems in the Coyote Creek watershed, a major
tributary in the southern San Francisco Estuary, scientists
with the University of California, Davis, observed surprisingly
high densities of reproductive adult smelt in the marshlands,
which were not previously known to be heavily exploited by the
Senate Bill 1 is seen as a pre-emptive strike by California
lawmakers before the Trump administration ushers in new
biological opinions to alter water deliveries through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A state court of appeal has upheld a Shasta County Superior
Court decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from doing
an analysis of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam.
The Westlands Water District had asked the California Third
District Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s
preliminary injunction that ordered the district to stop work
on an environmental impact report.
Critics say the plan, out for public comment through Sept. 25
before final adoption by the Utah Division of Water Resources,
goes too easy on the surging St. George metro area, where daily
per-capita water use exceeds 300 gallons — a high number some
officials say is deceiving. The plan looks for a 16% reduction
averaged across the state by 2030 and up to 20% in much of
Here we provide an updated account of Suisun Marsh fishes to
show why the marsh is so important for conserving fishes in the
upper San Francisco Estuary in general…and why we continue to
be enthusiastic about working there.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is
considering listing the Northern California Summer Steelhead,
which lives in portions of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as
an endangered species.
Moderator Kathleen Schock spoke with advocates on both sides of
the issue, John Harris of Harris Farms and Kim Delfino with
Defenders of Wildlife. Dr. Lisa Bryant, Assistant Professor of
Political Science at Fresno State also joined the conversation.
Many wild southern sea otters in California are infected with
the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, yet the infection is
fatal for only a fraction of sea otters, which has long puzzled
the scientific community. A study from the University of
California, Davis, identifies the parasite’s specific strains
that are killing southern sea otters, tracing them back to a
bobcat and feral domestic cats from nearby watersheds.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
After four years, San Francisco Zoo officials wrapped up a
successful reintroduction program Monday by releasing the last
of more than 1000 red-legged frogs into Yosemite National Park.
The zoo began partnering with the National Park Service and
Yosemite Conservancy in 2015 to reintroduce the threatened
frogs back into Yosemite National Park…
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
A controversial environmental report that could lead to new
rules on property changes along San Geronimo Creek was
certified by the Marin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The supplemental environmental impact report evaluates the
potential for future development in the San Geronimo Valley
watershed and identifies … impacts to the survival of coho,
steelhead and chinook salmon.
The headwaters of Blue Creek is also among the tribe’s most
sacred sites, said Gene Brundin, a member of the tribe’s
cultural committee. The stream begins at a place called Elk
Valley near Chimney Rock and its cold water ensures the
viability of the salmon runs, he said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has increasingly
cracked down on commercial boat operators who escort passengers
into MPAs to illegally catch everything from rockfish to bass
to yellowtail. Wardens issued 1,053 warnings and 686 citations
for illegal fishing in the protected areas in 2017, according
to the agency’s most recently available data. That’s up
dramatically from 2013, when wardens gave out just 396 warnings
and issued 327 citations.
Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax
revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force
California’s agriculture industry to scale back. However, the
shift from farm to solar is controversial — it can alter the
pastoral landscape and take some of the most fertile soil in
the world out of production at a time when the global
population is soaring.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
Although more fundamental ESA reform is needed, last week’s
action yielded modest and common-sense improvements to
implementation of an imperfect law. New efficiencies, clarity,
and transparency will serve the purposes of the ESA and the
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
Immigration law, tailpipe emissions and farm pesticides are on
the list that Sacramento takes up in defiance of the Trump
administration. Leaders elsewhere take note and join the cause.
Now comes the latest test: a chance for California to stop a
serious weakening of wildlife preservation laws embodied in the
45-year-old Endangered Species Act.
A dozen conservationists gathered eagerly around the edges of
some shallow pools above a waterfall in the Angeles National
Forrest. They watched with anticipation as about a thousand
Southern mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles and three adult
frogs enjoyed their first few minutes of life in the wild.