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.”
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
An environmental impact report that could lead to new rules on
property changes within 100 feet of San Geronimo Creek and its
tributaries was approved by the Marin County Planning
Commission on Monday. The new regulations are aimed at
protecting the habitat of endangered coho salmon and steelhead
The Trump Administration last year proposed to combine the
responsibilities of both the NMFS and the USFWS under one
federal roof. This would promote more efficient, effective, and
coordinated management of all ESA responsibilities for
anadromous and freshwater fish in Western watersheds, from the
highest reaches of our headwaters to the Pacific Ocean.
The project is a part of the restoration of salmon habitat
stemming from the Central Valley Improvement Act and will take
place on the left bank of the Sacramento River at the East Sand
Slough… It reconnects the East Sand Slough to the Sacramento
River during minimal flows by excavating the main channel and
The initial objectives of the restoration project were to:
improve habitat for the Delta smelt, reduce saltwater
intrusion, reduce submerged aquatic weeds and reduce invasive
non-native fish species that feed on native fish. Carl Wilcox,
a CDFW policy advisor explained the objectives are now more
broad and include accommodations for recreational and economic
activities that are key to the region’s residents.
As a small business owner who leads fishing tours for anglers
from within and beyond the region, I understand that taking
these dams out may lead to a short-term dip in business. But
the long-term benefits of dam removal outweigh the near-term
costs to my family and my livelihood.
The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and
federal approval for a project that will expand a migration
corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s
main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain
restoration action on the West Coast…
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
Winter-run Chinook’s need for cool temperatures has meant
recent catastrophic losses when temperatures got too high, but
a few recent studies have altered our understanding of this
species’ temperature tolerance. This new knowledge may allow
water managers to actually release less cold water overall,
while still improving winter-run survival.
An Oregon-based sustainable certification organization, Salmon
Safe, encourages farms, vineyards, buildings and even golf
courses throughout Washington, Oregon, California and British
Columbia to mitigate their impacts on salmon habitat by doing
things like reducing pollution-heavy stormwater runoff. For a
brewery, that means getting its facilities certified or
sourcing ingredients from farms that have restored
salmon-inhabited streams and limited their use of water and
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
The quake struck outside of Ridgecrest, but it was also felt
about 150 miles to the east, at Devils Hole, a detached 40-acre
area of Death Valley National Park that is across the
California border in Nevada. That shaking is shown in a
remarkable video released by the National Park Service. The
clip shows water violently sloshing around, rising and falling
10 to 15 feet, according to a park estimate.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
More than 25 threatened spring-run Chinook salmon have returned
to the San Joaquin River so far this year, the first spring-run
salmon to swim up the river in more than 65 years. On Battle
Creek to the north, at least 50 endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon reintroduced in 2018 have also returned — the first to
return to the creek since dams built in the early 1900s blocked
and damaged their habitat.
In the 1990s, he played a central role in some of the country’s
biggest environmental decisions. … He could have chosen to
wrap up his career when he left office at the end of the
Clinton administration in 2001. But Babbitt has
remained actively engaged in issues he cares about.
Fish die-offs in freshwater lakes are an increasing threat in
California, and experts say climate change is to blame. … In
a 2014-2017 report, the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife found that high summer temperatures were not only
worsening the quality of the water, but drying out freshwater
bodies that hosted endangered species.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will decide July 15 if
California American Water will be permitted to build its $329
million desal plant. The supervisors will be hearing appeals
brought by Public Water Now and the Marina Coast Water District
challenging the county Planning Commission’s decision to allow
Cal Am to proceed with this seriously flawed venture. There are
some major problems with the proposed plant.
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
A longtime court case involving the shutoff of water to
multiple water users in the Klamath Basin in 2001 attracted
wide-ranging attention from Pacific Northwest-based
organizations and those within the legal community in
Washington, D.C. Nearly 90 minutes of oral arguments were heard
Monday at the U.S. Court of Appeals at the Federal Circuit.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
The California condor’s dramatic recovery from near-extinction
was aided by removal of toxic substances from the land, which
accumulated in animals whose carrion they ate. But that
recovery may be threatened in coastal condors by DDT-related
contaminants in marine mammals, according to a preliminary
study led by an San Diego State researcher.
A vintner in Northern California is upgrading a concrete fish
barrier to return native salmon and steelhead to valuable
spawning habitat that has been blocked for nearly a century. A
cooperative “Safe Harbor” agreement between the landowner
Barbara Banke, proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, and NOAA
Fisheries … fostered the improvements.
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
The golf course property, now earmarked by its nonprofit owner
the Trust For Public Land for “rewilding” after a fierce
community battle over its future, sits in the headwaters of the
Lagunitas Creek watershed. The watershed … is a spawning and
rearing ground for coho salmon and steelhead trout, both of
which are on the endangered species list.
In their analyses, they write that the plan poses risks to
threatened fish; that the process is rushed; that they didn’t
receive enough information to provide a complete scientific
review; and that the Trump administration may be skewing the
science to make the environmental impact look less serious.
This event guided attendees on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
Cadiz is using Three Valleys Municipal Water District in
eastern Los Angeles County and the Jurupa Community Services
District in Riverside County to co-sponsor what they’re calling
a “peer review” of its groundwater plan, written by four
The Center for Biological Diversity and San Francisco Baykeeper
sued the Trump administration to force the addition of the
longfin smelt, the Sierra Nevada red fox and six other species
to the Endangered Species List… According to the lawsuit, the
agency had previously found the species worthy of endangered
species protections under the Obama administration but
the Trump administration had slow-walked the process…
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his allies have
filed a lawsuit to stop Federal water users from participating
in the raising of Shasta Dam, a federal dam. … Plain and
simple, this is a lawsuit waged against Central Valley farmers.
Barbara Vlamis is smiling. Often, the executive director of the
Chico-based advocacy group AquAlliance wears a steely
expression, as her work involves David-versus-Goliath battles
against powerful interests—namely, government agencies and
water brokers. Now, she’s satisfied, even a bit celebratory.
Recently-appointed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has
rescinded a letter of support that Obama-era Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell wrote in 2016. … Matt Cox is with the Klamath
River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit formed to implement
the dam removal agreement. He says rescinding Jewell’s letter
has no legal effect.
For years fisheries experts have watched the number of
winter-run Chinook salmon dwindle as they suffered through
drought and adverse conditions in the Sacramento River. But
this year a small crop of the endangered salmon have made their
way back from the ocean to return Battle Creek in southern
Shasta County, something that hasn’t happened in some 25 years.
And officials hope the fish are the beginning of a new run of
salmon in the creek.
A bill that could block a Los Angeles-based water supply
company from pumping water out of a Mojave Desert aquifer
passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday,
extending the yearslong fight over whether the environmental
impact of groundwater extraction merits additional scrutiny.
Although they spend their lives hidden beneath the surface,
fish are directly affected by the weather happening outside
their aquatic world. This is particularly true of species that
rely on watersheds in regions like California, where the
availability of water changes dramatically with the seasons.
California must defend our scarce and sacred resources … The
legislation, authored by Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside,
authorizes state agencies to conduct independent review of the
Cadiz project, restoring safeguards eliminated at the federal
level and ensuring any pumping from underneath Mojave Trails
and protected desert lands is sustainable.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
The lawsuit against the Fresno-based Westlands Water District
was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on Monday. State
officials have for years maintained that raising the height of
the dam would violate the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because a
higher dam would further inundate the McCloud River, in
violation of state law.
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
State officials tasked with debris cleanup say they have been
directed not to enter an estimated 800 burned Butte County home
sites within 100 feet of a waterway. They’ve been told to wait
for representatives of several state and federal agencies to
reach an agreement on environmental assessment guidelines.
Volunteers and government employees hauled water to two tanks
for desert bighorn sheep in the Old Dad Peak area of Mojave
National Preserve April 30. … Four groups of storage tanks
with drinker boxes in the Old Dad Peak area support close to
100 desert bighorn sheep, according to the NPS. There are no
springs or natural water sources in the area, so the sheep
depend on humans who provide water.
In Ukiah Thursday, at least two dozen people who depend on the
Potter Valley Project for their farming operations gathered at
the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds to hear an update on the
facility’s future. “New information to come shortly, and a lot
of work still to do,” said Janet Pauli, chairwoman of the
Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, a Joint
Powers Authority that is exploring the possibility of acquiring
the facility that Pacific Gas and Electric owns, but has
Various parties have recently claimed that the Klamath River
Compact Commission has authority over the proposal to remove
four dams in the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. … This
argument, while creative, is wrong. The Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (or FERC) will decide whether the
proposed dam removal is in the public interest.
The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board will hold
workshops Thursday and Friday in Newport Beach about proposed
copper regulation in Newport Bay. … Copper enters the water
via “anti-fouling” paint on boat hulls. … But water experts
say the copper also harms the gills and nervous systems of fish
and kills invertebrates that other marine animals feed on.
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
California’s lawsuits have targeted the administration’s
policies on immigration, healthcare and education. But nowhere
has the legal battle had a greater impact than on Trump’s
agenda of dismantling Obama-era environmental and public health
regulations. In its rush to delay, repeal and rewrite rules it
considers unduly burdensome to industry, the administration has
experienced significant setbacks in court.
California wildlife authorities say new facilities built at the
state’s Kern River Hatchery will allow breeding of Kern River
rainbow trout that will be planted throughout the Kern River
Basin. The program will allow the territory to be stocked with
its native fish rather than domesticated strains.
In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346
species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A
handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the
state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the
California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. … About a dozen
species are currently at risk of extinction, according to Dan
Applebee, an environmental scientist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
DWR has not yet disclosed whether it intends to withdraw the
WaterFix bond resolutions, which are subject to numerous
challenges in litigation DWR filed to validate the bonds. It
remains unclear what will happen with the validation action now
that the project and cost estimates these items are based on no
Once one of most extensive wetland areas in North America, the
edges of the San Francisco Bay have become covered with farms,
industry, and urban areas, squeezing out the marches and their
animal and plant occupants. But at the lower end of the Napa
River, a remarkable effort is underway to undo a century and
half of damage to the once-thriving marshes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the divisive twin tunnels project
Thursday, calming fears that have roiled the delta communities
and dominated California water politics for more than a decade.
It is a signature decision for the young administration.
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear
River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver
water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for
the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
With no parting glance at their devoted human caretakers, 142
rare red-legged frogs swam to freedom on Friday — one small
jump for the frogs but a giant leap for the threatened species.
Our official state amphibian, the frogs vanished from these
pristine mountain meadows 50 years ago.
The Newsom administration announced it is withdrawing permit
applications that the Brown administration had submitted to the
State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of
Fish and Wildlife, and several federal agencies. Instead, the
administration said it will begin environmental studies on a
As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve
contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last
week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill
prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.
At first blush, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest action on water
seems fanciful and naive. But it has logic and conceivably
could work. Newsom wants to reexamine practically everything
the state has been working on — meaning what former Gov. Jerry
Brown was doing — and piece together a grand plan for
California’s future that can draw the support of longtime water
Yes, some fish died — including endangered Chinook salmon — but
overall rebuilding the Fremont Weir has done its job and saved
hundred of others. That was the response of Allen Young, public
information officer for the California Department of Water
Resources, after reports surfaced last week that at least 13
Chinook salmon and other fish couldn’t make it through the weir
designed to get them safely into the Sacramento River and died.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
Part of sustaining salmon populations is improving the survival
and fitness of young salmon as they grow for weeks to months
before out-migrating to the Ocean. … This year, UC Davis
Center for Watershed Sciences and California Trout have four
different studies over approximately 100 miles using floating
cages with baby salmon inside.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to
develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water
needs in the face of climate change.The executive order
includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new
water course for the state. Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s
intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements
to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking
water to impoverished communities.
An automated gate was supposed to open once water levels got
high enough to overflow into the bypass, allowing fish to swim
back into the Sacramento River. But in February … too much
water was pouring through the passage, eroding the structure.
Officials had to close the gate almost entirely, meaning fewer
fish could escape. The Department of Water Resources is now
facing an expensive upgrade to an already multimillion
structure to make it ready for the next rainy season.
Senate Bill 1 … would encourage state agencies, such as
regional water quality control boards, Fish & Wildlife, the Air
Resources Board, and CalOSHA, to resist Trump administration
rollbacks by allowing them to consider applying federal
standards for protection in effect as of January 19, 2017, the
day before Donald Trump took office, and maintain them in case
he is re-elected next year.
Surviving an exhaustive maze of manmade barriers and hungry
predators, a hardy group of salmon have beat the odds and
returned to spawn in one of California’s most-heavily dammed
rivers. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says for the first time
in over 65 years, threatened spring-run Chinook adult salmon
have returned to the San Joaquin River near Fresno to complete
their life cycle.
For years, experts in conservation and climate science have
urgently pursued two parallel paths—one to interrupt a
large-scale extinction event, the other to avert a runaway
climate crisis. Now, an international group of scientists is
proposing a third way that marries the two in an ambitious plan
they hope will save the species that make our planet so
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
For the first time ever, a fish survey that’s conducted
every autumn by the state turned up zero Delta smelt,
considered an indicator species that demonstrates the health of
the entire Delta ecosystem. Once the most abundant fish in
the entire estuary, the smelt population has collapsed to the
point where not one fish was found in the California Department
of Fish and Wildlife’s 2018 Fall Midwater Trawl, the lowest in
While all other Central Valley Project contractors’ allocations
were previously increased to 100% of their contract totals in
recent months, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday
that agricultural districts South-of-Delta will receive only
65% percent of their historic water allocation. … In light of
current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, Westlands Water
District officials said this minor increase in water allocation
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
For centuries, the Delta was a dynamic and rich ecosystem of
tidal wetlands, riparian forests, and vast seasonal
floodplains. But about 98 percent of the native habitat
disappeared after the Gold Rush and a population boom across
the Golden State.
Despite a decades-long rescue effort, the tiny delta smelt
appears closer than ever to vanishing from its only natural
home, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Now, some worry it
won’t be long before the only place the once-abundant species
exists is within the confines of an artificial tank.
Local river protection groups and a state regulatory board are
protesting what they characterize as an attempt by Nevada
Irrigation District to circumvent the federal law. At issue is
the relicensing process for NID’s Yuba Bear hydroelectric
project — which includes French, Faucherie, Sawmill and Bowman
lakes and Rollins Reservoir, as well as four powerhouses.
Here’s what we know. The lower Klamath dams and reservoirs do
not provide multipurpose water storage, flood protection, or
irreplaceable energy. What they do provide are major barriers
to fish migration, toxic blue-green algae and fish disease (C.
shasta). The dwindling fish populations are proof. We must move
forward with removing the dams and restoring the Klamath to the
free-flowing river it once was.
By the 1930s, the Leslie Salt Company had consolidated over a
dozen small producers into the world’s largest industrial salt
production company, and half of the South Bay’s extensive
marshes, whose ducks and salmon once far outnumbered humans,
were gone. Now, the south San Francisco bay shoreline’s next
mammoth transformation is well underway: a 50-year project to
return the salt ponds back to the bay, restoring them once
again into tidal marsh for the first time in 150 years.
The Department of Water Resources issued notice that it will
seek an updated environmental permit to operate the State Water
Project through a state-based approach in partnership with the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … Historically,
DWR has received environmental coverage for its pumping
operations through environmental parameters issued by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
A trio of federal wildlife management agencies said Friday that
listing the Northern California summer-run steelhead on the
Endangered Species Act may be warranted, but said more public
input is needed before a final determination is made.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
Balancing fisheries restoration and water-supply reliability is
central to a water struggle playing out in Mendocino, Lake,
Sonoma and Humboldt counties after Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
withdrew its application to relicense the Potter Valley
Project, leaving the now “orphaned” project in the hands of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of
the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades.
… But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling
(relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end
with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
If farmers cannot prove that they are replenishing the amount
of groundwater as they are taking out, they are not going to be
allowed to use the groundwater pumps. … Temperance Flat would
provide additional storage opportunities—up to an additional
1.2 million acre-feet—and will allow farmers to have carryover
water from year to year. This will carry the farmers through
the dry years, and it will give the allowance to stabilize the
A total of 300,000 salmon were released into the Sacramento
River on Saturday. Half were dropped at their usual location at
Coleman Fish Hatchery near Anderson in Shasta County, and the
other half were released 75 miles downstream, at Scottys
Landing on River Road near Chico. Surgeons fit the fish with
tiny radio transmitters so they can more easily study their
survival chances and homing instincts.
At least 11 Democratic senators asked the inspector general to
investigate a range of claims against Bernhardt … The
inspector general also received a request from Democratic Sens.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut, asking the office to examine whether Bernhardt
played a role in the department’s handling of endangered
species in the San Francisco Bay Delta…
All along the lazy Lake County shorelines of creeks, ponds and
lakes you may be able to sneak up on Western pond turtles to
observe their slow-motion antics. … Besides watery places of
residence, however, they require a terrestrial habitat to
thrive. For instance, if the turtles’ resident pond or marsh
dries up seasonally or in a drought, they might end up living
outside of their aquatic environment for two-thirds of a year.
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key
positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics
program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that
critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a
multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and
thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s
already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary,
he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the
Even as winter and early-spring storms have filled reservoirs
to the brim and piled snow on Sierra Nevada mountaintops, state
and federal officials say they’re limited in how much water
they can send south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Farmers, by trade, are experts in sustainability and by
extension common sense. Growers along with 1.5 million Northern
San Joaquin Valley residents could end up on the receiving end
of an economic Armageddon perpetuated by the state Department
of Water Resources on behalf of the threatened Chinook salmon.
The Yosemite toad is considered endangered, and its numbers are
falling. Scientists say the amphibian chytrid fungus is one
reason, but climate change also may contribute to some pools
drying up before tadpoles mature.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
When Babbitt speaks, people take notice, and he didn’t
disappoint before a packed house at the annual Anne J.
Schneider Lecture April 3 in Sacramento, offering thoughts on
some of California’s thorniest water issues and proposing a
Bay-Delta Compact, a kind of grand bargain to end persistent
conflict surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Will hatchery-raised salmon have a better chance of surviving
their journey to the Pacific Ocean and back if they get a
75-mile head start? That’s the question a three-year study
hopes to answer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and four
partner organizations. The plan Saturday is to release 180,000
salmon fry into the Sacramento River 75 miles downriver from
the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) ripped the State Water
Resources Control Board on Tuesday for arguing that the harm
caused by the Bay-Delta Plan to the drinking water of
disadvantaged communities is not “significant”. Gray’s comments
came as his legislation, Assembly Bill 637, cleared the
Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee
with bipartisan support.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid.
Pumping rules in the Delta on Nov. 30, for example, are very
different than those 24 hours later, regardless of the weather.
… Simply put, we are stuck in yesterday’s way of regulating
New research finds that climate change is putting stress on
wetlands in the West’s Great Basin and that is putting pressure
on bird populations navigating the Pacific Flyway. Changing
water conditions linked to climate change are impacting the
wetland habitats that waterbirds rely on. The basin includes
most of Nevada and parts of Utah, Arizona, Oregon and the
eastern edge of California.
Our soggy spring has been a big boost to these so-called
“vernal ponds,” ephemeral bodies of water which play a critical
role in preservation of threatened and endangered creatures…
The team found larvae of the threatened California tiger
salamander in 28 of the 58 pools they monitor. The endangered
vernal pool tadpole shrimp was found in 49 of these pools.
That’s the third-highest tally in recent years.
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate
dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast
it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for
lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control
Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands
and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their
current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of
the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
A previously unreleased invoice indicates that David Bernhardt,
President Trump’s choice to lead the Interior Department,
continued to lobby for a major client several months after he
filed official papers saying that he had ended his lobbying
activities. The bill for Mr. Bernhardt’s services, dated March
2017 and labeled “Federal Lobbying,” shows, along with other
documents, Mr. Bernhardt working closely with the Westlands
Water District as late as April 2017, the month Mr. Trump
nominated him to his current job, deputy interior secretary.
After closing for renovations three years ago, the Kern River
Fish Hatchery opened to visitors March 25 with expanded
abilities to take in, raise and grow trout. … Hatchery
Manager Tony Holland said a team of state employees and
volunteers plan to hike in August to a remote creek somewhere
in the southern Sierra Nevada in search of genetically pure
Kern River rainbow trout.
When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December
to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction
of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue
voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw
this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the
executive director, and many of the activist staff.
Now that the federal government has filed its own lawsuits
against an unimpaired-flows plan for San Joaquin River
tributaries, farmers and other parties to the lawsuits wait to
learn where they will be heard–and prepare for a lengthy court
battle. California Farm Bureau Federation … filed its own
lawsuit against the unimpaired-flows plan in February…
Current water sharing proposals fail to achieve the balance
needed to restore our salmon runs. Meanwhile, additional
massive increases in Delta diversions are planned by the Trump
administration under these agreements, which would make
conditions for salmon even worse. This is a formula for
extinctions and the end of salmon fishing in California. There
is no support for this proposal among fishermen or
Alongside auto wrecking yards and shipping centers off state
Route 905, a pop-up world has emerged with some of the
strangest creatures to swim in six inches of water. Here
aquatic plants grow next to cacti, and animals that have waited
for decades in the dust come to life. In this Otay Mesa
preserve are some of San Diego’s vernal pools, fleeting water
bodies that appear and vanish over the course of a season.
In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which included a
program designed to preserve the nation’s dwindling wetlands.
This federal program has never been wholly successful in
achieving that goal. … California has the ability to fill
this alarming regulatory gap, at least here in the Golden
An oversight at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery
resulted in the death of some 390,000 fall Chinook salmon this
week. Water was shut off to one of the hatchery’s raceways and
wasn’t turned back on during fish-tagging operations Thursday
The city is suiting up for construction of a new facility later
this year that will purify recycled water to create a new,
local source of drinking water for residents by 2022. Pure
Water Oceanside is a water purification system that aims to
reduce the city’s reliance on imported water, improve
groundwater resources, increase local water supply and
strengthen the city’s resiliency to drought and climate change
in an environmentally sound process.
Nearly 2 million acres designated as critical habitat for three
imperiled frog species survived a court challenge Wednesday by
California farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service had
designated the land in 2016 under the Endangered Species Act to
protect two high-altitude species — the mountain yellow-legged
frog and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog — as well as
Turning the tables on California, the Trump administration sued
Thursday to block the state’s ambitious plan to reallocate
billions of gallons of river water to salmon and other
struggling fish species. … The State Water Resources Control
Board voted in December to reallocate the flows of the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries. The move is designed to help
steelhead and salmon by taking water from San Joaquin Valley
farmers and a handful of cities.
Spearheaded by the San Mateo Resource Conservation District,
with additional support from California State Parks and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project
aims to re-establish more than a mile of the historic creek
channel, remove 45,000 cubic yards of sediment and restore more
than 10 miles of habitat for threatened steelhead trout and
endangered coho salmon.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
This may be the bleakest shoreline in the Bay Area, and it
isn’t just the industrial infrastructure that gives character
to this place. Floating trash has collected along the docks,
and the waters are contaminated by the loading and unloading of
vast amounts of fossil fuels. A sign posted to a piling warns
fishers not to eat anything they catch here.
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some
high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the
federal government needs to build a controversial dam
project… And they can use state water quality standards to
limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for
Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before
the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing
additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While
the administration found the deal would not have a significant
impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection
of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it
will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
The problem is that removing the four dams will not restore
natural river flows. Those flows are, for the most part,
controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which will
continue to divert Klamath River water to the Rogue Basin and
for federal irrigation in the Upper Klamath and Lost River
The Trump administration has fast-tracked a process to deliver
more water to farms. But an investigation by KQED reveals those
changes are raising alarm among federal employees. In this
interview, we speak with KQED science reporter Lauren Sommer
about why, and what’s at stake.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea
this week to promise that this time, things will be different
and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water
body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin
Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the
lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime
experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to
family members who still live in the area, as well as the
communities around the lake.
Good news for state water contractors: The State Water Project
allocation just doubled from last year’s estimate for the 2019
water year. The California Department of Water Resources
announced that the allocation has increased from 35 to 70
percent for most state water contractors. The department
transports state water to 29 contractors, including the Kern
County Water Agency.
By allocating $1 million last week toward a creek restoration
project set to rejuvenate threatened and endangered species and
reduce flooding in Pescadero, county officials locked in
funding needed to begin a dredging effort experts expect will
give the Butano Creek a chance to reset.
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to
Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and
breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states
called the Great Basin. A warming climate has made that
migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt
flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the
Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study.
A move by the Environmental Protection Agency could revive the
contentious plan to develop 1,400 acres of Redwood City
shoreline owned by Cargill Salt, which operates an industrial
plant there. The EPA removed one barrier to development earlier
this month by ruling that the area is not subject to
restrictions in the federal Clean Water Act. That puts the EPA
at loggerheads with environmentalists, who want to convert the
land back to tidal wetlands.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. …
Things are done by an aging book. We are not adapting our
management based on testing new hypotheses collaboratively
advanced by stakeholders who are willing to celebrate the
results regardless of outcome.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of
migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific
Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They
are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed
and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in
Nature’s Scientific Reports.
West Side agriculture, the diverse industry which is the
background of the local economy, faces an array of challenges
in the year ahead. … Water continues to be an uncertainty for
growers served by federal agencies such as the Del Puerto Water
District which runs along the I-5 corridor, despite heavy snow
packs and filling reservoirs.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the water allocation
for South-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural
water contractors has been increased from 35 percent to 55
percent. The increase is an improvement for the farmers and
farmworkers in the Westlands Water District, but, given the
healthy hydrological conditions throughout the state, today’s
announcement is a disappointment.
The city of Oceanside is receiving more than $2.6 million in
federal funding to increase its local water supply and to
reduce brine discharge into the ocean. The city will receive
$2.623 million in funding from the Bureau of Reclamation’s
WaterSMART’s Desalination Construction Projects under the Water
Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), subject
to federal appropriations.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more
water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a
unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and
ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an
old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of
protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key
part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot
concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams
California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit
their natural surroundings and communities.
Poseidon is a bad deal for ratepayers. The study by the experts
at MWDOC ranked Poseidon dead last among local water projects
based on cost. Even after demanding a $400 million subsidy
financed by Southern California water users, Poseidon’s water
is still overpriced, costing twice per gallon as much as some
of the conservation, recycling and rainwater projects already
in development around our region.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency
plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is
pushing legislation that would exempt its work from
environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what
has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought
negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health
and ecological disaster.
A week after the Marina Planning Commission unanimously
rejected a key desalination project permit, California American
Water has filed an appeal of the decision to the Marina City
Council. On Wednesday, Cal Am filed the appeal to the council,
arguing the planning commission erred in its denial of a
coastal development permit for parts of the proposed desal
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an
important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The
remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a
management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is
two years overdue and still months away from completion. The
Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating
faster than it’s being replaced…
On March 6, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) issued a public
Environmental Assessment on the Operations Plan for the Klamath
Irrigation Project. … It will definitely decide how many
Chinook salmon people have for harvest for Tribal members and
commercial fishermen. It could also return us to the days where
84-92 percent of the juvenile salmon died in the Klamath River
and reignite the Klamath River water wars…
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in
excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County
supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the
effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community
Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
It won’t arrive in time for this wet winter, but hopes are
rising that Central Valley politicians will soon deliver on one
of their top political goals in recent years: investment in
California water storage. Bills introduced last week by
Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,
would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project
toward a series of reservoir projects, as well as repairs to a
canal serving Kern County farmers.
A bill from Sen. Bill Dodd that would increase legislative
oversight of the controversial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
WaterFix project and allow for more public scrutiny has cleared
its first committee hurdle. The action comes less than a month
after Gov. Gavin Newsom said he wants to scale back the project
proposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown to a single tunnel.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River
basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over
35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January —
coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the
project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely
following what happens next.
A proposal to add 187 new steam-injected oil wells and a new
natural gas pipeline in West Cat Canyon will be considered by
the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission when it meets
Wednesday in Santa Maria. Project opponents have said they
intend to stage a demonstration outside and speak against the
project that would have significant impacts on biological,
surface water and groundwater resources and would increase
noise, according to the environmental impact report.
Environmental groups Monday asked a federal appeals court to
reconsider a ruling that struck down part of a high-profile
removal plan for four dams on the Klamath River in California
and Oregon, saying it set a precedent that would exempt dozens
of dams nationwide from meeting water quality standards.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to
California this year, you might not expect drought preparations
to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need
to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a
blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for
the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in
California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and
I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
Every spring, a group called the Pacific Fishery Management
Council gets together and looks at the salmon forecasts from
the Puget Sound all the way down to the Sacramento River in
California….The Sacramento River runs are expected to rebound
a bit, but the Klamath and Columbia River forecasts are lower
than last year.
When then-candidate Donald Trump swung through California in
2016, he promised Central Valley farmers he would send more
water their way. Allocating water is always a fraught issue in
a state plagued by drought, and where water is pumped hundreds
of miles to make possible the country’s biggest agricultural
economy. Now, President Trump is following through on his
promise by speeding up a key decision about the state’s water
supply. Critics say that acceleration threatens the integrity
of the science behind the decision, and cuts the public out of
Rescues of unhealthy seals and sea lions have nearly tripled
for this time of year in Orange County, according to the
Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which this week took in its 41st
pinniped since the year began. … While the exact reason for
the increase in the number of strandings this year is unknown,
Higuchi said it could be tied to warmer ocean waters caused by
an El Nino weather pattern or excess stormwater runoff from all
of this winter’s rains.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if
dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any
water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson,
Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the
doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water
managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought
Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce
water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a
reliable water supply.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in
Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the
state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as
well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon
a common frustration among many valley Republicans that
billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed
rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin
again, this time more intelligently.” Rules enacted a decade
ago that were intended to protect California’s iconic salmon
and Delta smelt populations aren’t working and federal agencies
are now in the process of modernizing them, this time using
much better science.
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama
Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central
Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife.
Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and
featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing
wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the
land has been taken over by large commercial farms and
vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that
have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely
investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the
University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together Thursday to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
water across the Golden State.
For California’s salmon fishermen, the downstream effects of
political decisions in Washington are too obvious to ignore.
It’s not merely a question of profit for us. We are the
stewards of the public fisheries resources who rely on their
long-term health for our existence. The viability of our future
can be challenged by who is in power in Washington, no matter
who they are.
A recently completed study on the cost effectiveness and
financial risk of proposals to meet water supply demands
through 2050 concludes that the controversial Poseidon
desalination project in Huntington Beach would produce more
water than the Orange County basin needs and cost ratepayers
far more than alternatives such as recycling and capturing
Water is now flowing freely along a 480-foot stretch of San
Francisquito Creek after Stanford University removed the aged
Lagunita Diversion Dam. … Removing the 8-foot-high structure
now allows water to flow freely downstream to support
endangered-fish-species habitat in the creek. San Francisquito
is home to a population of the Central California Coast
Distinct Population Segment of steelhead.
The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to
speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water
from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a
move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science
and cuts the public out of the process. The decisions will
control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the
country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for
two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego,
and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go
there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around
the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and
that’s changing bird populations.
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the
West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created
with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers
and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper.
After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing
that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of
electricity, they must fix the problems.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the
twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of
hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
The extra water from Shasta Lake would raise the lake by an
estimated 20 feet, inundating the McCloud River, which is
protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. That piece of
legislation was designed to protect the trout that heavily
populate those waters. And it’s not just state law that speaks
out. One of the provisions of the 1992 Central Valley Project
Improvement Act is to protect fisheries up and down the state’s
major rivers. Raising Shasta Dam now would only be possible by
overturning those two laws.
Working under a less-than-four-year deadline, Soquel Creek
Water District is fine-tuning the ‘where’ of its planned water
recycling plant construction. On Tuesday, district officials
will recommend the board split the Pure Water Soquel project
between two sites, with tertiary treatment at the city of Santa
Cruz’s Wastewater Treatment Facility and advanced purification
at the controversial new site in Live Oak.
The current dilemmas boil down to this: As the state punishes
cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle for environmental
degradation, it is simultaneously pursuing an aqueduct project
in the Central Valley that environmental groups claim will
cause ecological harm of massive proportions. This project
stands to benefit the “big ag” industry, which California’s
newly legal cannabis companies are increasingly participating
A four-year restoration project on James Creek in Mendocino
County has led to “the return of spawning coho salmon to the
upper reaches of a tributary of Big River,” the Mendocino Land
Trust announced. The project was a collaboration between the
Land Trust, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and
Jackson Demonstration State Forest, and “initial
post-restoration informal surveying has already shown increased
coho salmon spawning activity.”
Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a special
board meeting late Friday that the federal Bureau of
Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought
contingency plan package include restoration of the Salton Sea.
They said federal officials will write a strong letter of
support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill
funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea, which
is California’s largest inland water body.
Four new voting members, each appointed by representatives of
the Delta region, would be added to the Delta Stewardship
Council if a bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier becomes
law. … Frazier introduced Assembly Bill 1194 this week. It
would increase the voting membership of the council to 11
Think California should build a lot more dams to catch these
deluges? Forget it. … There’s one dam being planned north of
Sacramento in Colusa County that makes sense: Sites. There are
also some dam expansion projects that could work. But
California is already dammed to the brim. Every river worth
damming has been. And some that weren’t worth it were dammed
One tunnel or two, neither idea adds a drop of the water to
needs of the nearly 40 million people who call California home.
The tunnels simply divert existing water supplies while putting
in severe jeopardy the largest freshwater estuary west of the
Mississippi River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that
juts into the western edge of Stockton. Clearly, there must be
better solutions. Three approaches leap to mind: storage,
conservation and desalination.
Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David
Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the
interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful
Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center
filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by
partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying
work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to
Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain
endangered fish populations.
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Andrew R. Wheeler to be the
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, giving
oversight of the nation’s air and water to a former coal
lobbyist and seasoned Washington insider. … The vote, 52-47,
went mostly along party lines and underscored partisan
divisions over the Trump administration’s continued commitment
to repealing environmental regulations under Mr. Wheeler.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen
short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive.
Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni
of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has
insight as to why those involved with the project are still
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the
Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend
city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the
notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests
of the community.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in
importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection
system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed
modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for
out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon
means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water
south for agriculture and urban users.
A judge sentenced a self-described “dirt broker” convicted last
week of illegal dumping in federally protected San Francisco
Bay wetlands to thirty months in prison, a U.S. Justice
Department spokesman said Monday. On Thursday, a jury convicted
Carmel resident James Lucero on three counts of unpermitted
filling of wetlands and tributaries, violating the Federal
Clean Water Act.
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region
and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in
a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of
the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the
region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.
Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water
supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the
An international team of biologists is setting out into some of
the roughest waters in the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of
winter to try to solve the fundamental mystery of Pacific
salmon: What determines whether they live or die? Perhaps the
most critical, but least known, part of the salmon life cycle
is the few years the fish spend on the high seas, gaining
energy to return to their home rivers and spawn.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is researching how
cannabis cultivators who divert water from Mattole River
streams might be impacting the river’s fish and insect
populations… By fall 2019, the researchers will publish
findings on the full environmental effects of cannabis grows.
While the research is intended to “support efforts to
establish” sustainable cultivation levels, the study’s main
focus is analysis, said department representative Janice
This is a classic endangered species, a small, ordinary-looking
fish with a peculiar common name, for a fish, which is followed
by a very long, if somewhat poetic, scientific name (try saying
it out loud a few times). It is perhaps appropriate that this
unusual California fish is associated with the official state
Hundreds of thousands of threatened red coho and hook-jawed
Chinook salmon used to swim here, nearly 200 miles from where
the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. … But by the
2000s, their numbers had dwindled to just a few dozen adults
each year. Since size largely determines whether juvenile fish
survive, conservation organizations have been interested in
this particular property, which includes the entire 2.2-mile
length of the Big Springs Creek and 7.5-miles of the Shasta
River, for decades.
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these
days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the
delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but
wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing
more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction
heading out to sea?
Now stripped of its once vast wetlands and nearly sucked dry
from the overpumping of groundwater during the West’s
increasingly common droughts, the fertile valley is in need of
a reboot: Its aquifers have shrunk and the remaining water is
often contaminated with nitrate and salts. Citing a new water
law that will have major effects on water suppliers and
farmers, experts are calling for an “all hands on deck”
approach to fixing the valley’s water woes.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s references to water in his first State of
the State address were brief and a bit patchy, but they were
enough to make fiercely competing factions each believe the new
governor had their backs. But water policy in California is
never that easy.
This year, the water agency plans to inform farmers and the
community about not only the amount of water the Tuolumne River
Watershed has received so far this year, but also will provide
information regarding the final license application for Don
Pedro, which first began eight years ago, and the ongoing legal
battle surrounding the State Water Resources Control Board’s
decision to implement 40 percent unimpaired flows along the San
Joaquin River and its tributaries for the betterment of fish.
Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in 2012 filed a
14-page lawsuit demanding the Fish and Wildlife Service
protect the American eel as a threatened species under the ESA.
Bernhardt filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of a
California-based organization called the Center for
Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, also known as
CESAR. CESAR was, in fact, a group spun together by
conservatives with roots in Western farming and the Bush
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in
Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the
top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts
on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and
find out what the next generation of integrated water
management planning looks like.