Devastating floods are almost annual occurrences in the West and
in California. With the anticipated sea level rise and other
impacts of a changing climate, particularly heavy winter rains,
flood management is increasingly critical in California.
Compounding the issue are man-made flood hazards such as levee
stability and stormwater runoff.
Elizabeth Castillo looks on as her daughter Reynata plays with
children at a playground near the Los Angeles River in Long
Beach, California, in mid-October, hoping one day the river
will be clean enough to kayak on. … In the last half-century,
the LA River served primarily as flood control infrastructure,
but open space and wildlife advocates fomented a movement to
make it wild and accessible to all.
Alameda property owners are being asked whether they are
willing to pay more to maintain and upgrade the city’s aging
stormwater system. … The reason? The city’s stormwater fund
is running a $1 million annual deficit and the system needs
about $30 million in upgrades, including at its pipe stations,
some of which date to the 1940s…
Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for much of the
U.S. this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
… Drier-than-average conditions are most likely for
Louisiana, parts of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and
Oklahoma as well areas of northern and central California.
Two top officials at the California Coastal Commission blasted
Del Mar this week for continuing to reject “managed retreat” as
an option to deal with sea level rise, saying they hope the
city will reconsider its stance.
Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of
unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in
U.S. cities of all sizes. … Still, with only a handful of
exceptions, “water systems aren’t designed to focus on health,
they’re focused on cost-containment,” says Seth Siegel, whose
book “Troubled Water,” released this month, examines the
precarious state of water infrastructure in the U.S.
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
The White House has begun reviewing a plan to change the way it
issues environmental permits for infrastructure projects. If
the proposal is finalized, it could speed up National
Environmental Policy Act reviews for roads, bridges, ports,
pipelines, power lines, Internet trunks, and water systems.
The state Department of Water Resources and Butte County
announced the settlement Tuesday, more than two years after
spillways at the Oroville Dam crumbled and fell away during
heavy rains. The repairs resulted in heavy truck traffic that
damaged Butte County roads. Butte County sued in August 2018.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Critical U.S.
infrastructure is dilapidated and unsafe. Regulation is week,
and enforcement is weaker. Everyone agrees on the need for
action, and climate change will only make the problem worse.
but no one seems to do anything about it. Sadly, this has
become a familiar story. Take dams for instance.
The ample rainfall in Marin County this past water year has
acted as a double-edged sword. While the storms that touched
down in the winter and spring filled reservoirs and moistened
vegetation, they also created more fire fuel that is now
beginning to fully dry out during what firefighters are calling
a critical period in the fire season.
The project includes improvements along more than 3 miles of
dirt roads, repairing culverts and building erosion control
features designed to reduce sediment flow into the creek. The
aim is to protect gravel nests, called redds, where female
salmon and steelhead lay their eggs, suffocating the eggs as
well as clogging the gills of adult fish…
Lake Mendocino made it through a typically long, hot summer
with an abundance of water and now, thanks to an ongoing
experiment with high-tech weather forecasting, the reservoir
can retain more water through the winter, benefiting people,
fish and farmers along the Russian River.
A tiny fiberglass island is bobbing up and down in the San
Francisco Bay right now. From far away, it looks like a beluga
whale poking through the water. Up close, it looks like a
misshapen raft. In reality, it’s a buoyant structure known as
the “Float Lab,” which is designed to foster a floating
The number of wildfires burning across the western United
States over the past 6 decades has been steadily increasing,
and those fires are growing larger and more severe, especially
in mountain areas where more than 65% of clean water resources
for the West’s 75 million people originate. What happens when
fires intersect water resources is the subject of two new
papers in Hydrological Processes.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are leading
a new project with three other UC campuses to study the impact
of coastal flooding on disadvantaged communities in California.
… The effort will employ advanced simulation systems to
deepen understanding of increasing flood risks within the
state’s two most imperiled areas: Greater Los Angeles and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency officials are
calling on Congress to investigate the Trump administration’s
“inappropriate threat of use of EPA authority” against the
state of California over recent environmental policies.
Drainage in Southern California was built around getting storm
water to the ocean quickly, but we now know that slowing down
these flows and encouraging water to soak into the groundwater
basin is preferable.
Concerned that rising waves will flood runways and buildings in
the coming years, officials at San Francisco International
Airport are moving ahead with a $587 million plan to build a
major new sea wall around the entire airport.
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
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.
The removal of the Upper York Creek Dam will not begin in 2019
as previously planned, but the project is still on schedule to
be complete by the end of 2020. … The city now plans to do
both phases in 2020, after last-minute design changes failed to
win regulatory approval in time for the 2019 construction
season ending Oct. 31.
Success Dam is now Richard L. Schafer Dam. The dam, which has
shielded the San Joaquin Valley floor from Sierra snowmelt
while providing much-needed irrigation water to Tulare County
farmers since 1961, was rechristened in a crowded ceremony
along Lake Success last week. Schafer has served as the Tule
River Water Master since 1963.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
Environmental groups that have long pushed to bring down a huge
dam along the Colorado River are suing the federal government,
alleging it ignored climate science when approving a 20-year
operating plan for the dam near the Arizona-Utah border.
California’s senators have asked the Environmental Protection
Agency’s watchdog to investigate whether the agency abused its
enforcement powers when it accused San Francisco of improperly
dumping waste into the ocean.
Anthony Burdock, Project Manager for the Isabella Dam Safety
Modification Project, presented a program outlining
catastrophic dam failures and how those failures were used to
mold the dam safety regulations that now govern the nation’s
dams, including Isabella Dam.
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
Russian River communities impacted by the 2019 flood may soon
see some help, as a budget trailer bill signed last week by
Gov. Gavin Newsom promises $1.5 million to the area that
suffered 100 landslides and slipouts and faces at least $155
million in damage.
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
A new “green infrastructure” project under construction along
the western side of the block is designed to slow down that
process by detoxing the water through soil and plants and
pumping a purified product back out to the creek. The project,
a whopping seven years in the making, is part of a $4 million,
When you look at a farm, do you think about nutrient rich soils
or cover crops growing between rows? When you look at a marsh,
do you see the submerged layers of sediment created by years of
plant litter piling up? Probably not. But those parts of
well-managed agricultural lands and wetlands store a lot of
carbon, and that’s increasingly important as climate change is
forcing society to consider ways to lower carbon emissions…
A new white paper released today by the Southern California
Water Coalition aims to further the discussion through its
provision of nine case studies of successful stormwater capture
projects from California to New York.
The final of six yearly Comprehensive Monitoring Reports
performed by The Bay Foundation based on detailed scientific
monitoring data prove the Project wholly succeeded in meeting
its goals, performance standards and success criteria, and
requires no supplemental work.
A Phoenix company wants to build two hydroelectric dams less
than five miles from the eastern border of Grand Canyon
National Park, submerging several miles of the Little Colorado
River and the endangered fish habitat it protects.
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
Now that the San Francisco Giants’ underwhelming season is
over, the team has big off-season plans — at least in terms of
real estate. Construction should begin this winter on the first
phase of the remake of the team’s parking lot south of McCovey
Cove along Third Street, including a 5-acre waterfront park
with tide pools open to waders and a bayside lawn capable of
holding 5,000 people.
Elected leaders from around the San Diego region met with the
Trump administration on Tuesday to ask for help stopping the
sewage-tainted water that regularly flows in the Tijuana River
across the border with Mexico. Specifically, regional leaders
tried to persuade federal authorities to fund a more than
$400-million plan to capture and treat the pollution…
This is supposed to be a beautiful beach, but instead it looks
like a disaster area because a sea wall built about a decade
ago to protect homes has failed. Now property owners are
spending millions to fix it.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was once one of the lushest
marshlands in the state. The peat-rich soil made it an ideal
place for some of the state’s first farms to pop up. Today,
scientists are hacking their way through thick brush to see if
restoring these marshes is a way to reduce carbon dioxide in
One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has
webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth
that could be mistaken for carrots. … The swamp rodents,
called nutria, are setting off alarms in California.
Arctic ice is melting faster than expected and is contributing
to a global climate crisis that will include stronger storms,
longer droughts and an alarming increase in the marine heat
waves that recently ravaged the ocean ecosystem along the West
Coast, an international panel revealed Wednesday.
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
The mayor of this beach town, which abuts Tijuana, Mexico at a
point that is visible by a border wall marking the two
countries, is fed up with sewage and toxic chemicals flowing
into the United States, and he is heading to Washington, D.C.,
to ask the Trump administration to do something about it.
A dozen kayakers paddled down the tree-lined, sandy-bottomed
Los Angeles River in late August, running their hands through
sycamore and willow leaves and gliding over carp and steelhead
trout as traffic noise from the nearby 405 Freeway buzzed
A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent
carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for
money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his
district. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, hopes a hearing on his
bill will convince his colleagues that funding to stop invasive
nutria in California’s Central Valley is sorely needed …
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
Before all those thousands of miles of levees went in, the
Central Valley had one of the West Coast’s largest salmon runs,
with a million or more of these mighty fish returning each
year. A big reason for the salmon’s suc-cess was that the
valley was among the most extensive floodplains in the world.
Claims by President Donald Trump on Wednesday that discarded
drug needles in San Francisco are making their way through the
city’s sewage system and into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific
Ocean were widely blasted the following day by experts who say
he has no idea what he’s talking about.
It appears that Woodland is now in the “advancement” stage with
the Army Corps of Engineers willing to work on a plan for
longterm flood protection along the city’s northeast side.
However, the effort could just as quickly be reversed,
according to members of the City Council, if they don’t get
farmers on board with their efforts.
Dr. Jim Cloern is a recently retired senior scientist emeritus
at the US Geological Survey who has spent his career learning
how estuaries respond to human activities and variability of
the climate system. In this brown bag seminar, Dr. Cloern gives
specific examples of how local, regional, and global scale
processes affect the San Francisco Bay and Delta.
From New York City to coastal California, a poison-producing
living slime is overtaking waterways and shorelines, killing
pets, ravaging tourism markets and making its way into local
drinking water. So far this year, algae has been implicated in
dog deaths and illness in California, Georgia, North Carolina
A report that the homeless living along the San Gabriel
Riverbed may have contaminated the water supply has city and
water officials scrambling to spread the message that the water
in the east San Gabriel Valley is safe to drink, officials
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has more non-native species
than native ones, and its estuary is considered the most
invaded in the world. We talked to Jim Cloern—an emeritus
scientist with the US Geological Survey and an adjunct fellow
at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about this challenge.
Something is amiss on Sherman Island, a whale-shaped swath of
farm and grazing land at the confluence of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers. If you don’t know what ails the place, it
might be hard to pinpoint the problem.
There’s a lot to like about the Bay Area’s efforts to prepare
for sea level rise: the collaborative efforts, the detailed
studies and, laudably, the voters who are willing to tax
themselves with an eye to future needs. But if the long-term
threat is as grim as scientific projections indicate, local
experts say the region needs to respond with increased urgency
— an urgency that is at odds with the Bay Area’s often
cumbersome decision-making processes.
Valley Water is looking for volunteers to aid with cleaning up
local waterways in Santa Clara County. … In addition to
contaminating water, and harming birds and wildlife, waste and
debris can block our creeks potentially causing flooding,
according to Valley Water.
There’s no certain answer as to how the nutria population
re-emerged after being declared eradicated in California
decades ago but the population is spreading and causing serious
concern. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was recently
awarded $10 million to wipe out the large, invasive rodents and
that effort is now well underway.
At the Association of California Water Agencies‘ spring
conference, a panel of lawyers covered the basics of the legal
framework for the Delta. The panel was billed as ‘All the
Acronyms You Need to Know”, but no 1.5 hour panel discussion
could possibly cover all that. However, the panel did a good
job of hitting the main ones and highlighting current issues.
The tropical Pacific Ocean probably won’t be particularly warm
or cool this winter, climatologists said Thursday, depriving
forecasters of their best clue to how much snow will pile up in
the Cascade Range and the rest of the Northwest.
The common reed, Phragmites australis, is one of the most
invasive plants in the world, and its numbers are widespread in
Suisun Marsh. … Phragmites can change ecosystem structure by
increasing tidal habitat elevations and reducing overall
habitat quality, including disturbing the food chain by driving
out native plants in the Delta that support wildlife such as
waterfowl and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years of drought and the dramatic
decline in water levels at the river’s key reservoirs have
pressed water managers to adapt to challenging conditions. But
even more extreme — albeit rare — droughts or floods that could
overwhelm water managers may lie ahead in the Basin as the
effects of climate change take hold, say a group of scientists.
In 2015, the Board of Supervisors gave initial approval to a
$58 million shoreline protection program to protect SFO from
sea-level rise. But on Wednesday, the board’s Budget and
Finance Committee approved an updated program that will now
cost $587.1 million. City officials attributed the increase to
new sea-level rise estimates and guidelines issued by the State
The flood insurance program has been plagued for years by
outdated maps of at-risk flood zones and billions of dollars in
accumulating debt, compounded by rising sea levels and
increasingly powerful storms strengthened by warming oceans.
… The result is that insurance premiums fail to reflect the
true risks to properties…
The Trump administration rolled back a key provision of the
Clean Water Act on Thursday, doing away with protections for
many wetlands and streams across the country… The repeal of
the Waters of the United States rule, however, will not
directly affect landowners and businesses in California. State
regulators in April passed a sweeping wetlands policy that
secured state oversight of California’s waterways…
The Colorado River Basin’s 20 years
of drought and the dramatic decline in water levels at the
river’s key reservoirs have pressed water managers to adapt to
challenging conditions. But even more extreme — albeit rare —
droughts or floods that could overwhelm water managers may lie
ahead in the Basin as the effects of climate change take hold,
say a group of scientists. They argue that stakeholders who are
preparing to rewrite the operating rules of the river should plan
now for how to handle these so-called “black swan” events so
they’re not blindsided.
In March, newly-elected Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger)
proposed a $400 million windfall to finance repairs for the
canal under Senate Bill 559… But the bipartisan bill, much
like canal it was designed to fix, is sunk — for now. The bill
failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote before the Sept. 13
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday, Sept. 10, approved $5 million for a stormwater pilot
project to determine the best and most efficient way to capture
the tens of billions of gallons of rainwater that flow off
roofs and pavement each 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
In a new effort to balance California’s water needs, Gov. Gavin
Newsom has directed state agencies to prepare a water plan
known as the California Water Resilience Portfolio that
includes “a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient
Water managers across the state face new and more extreme
challenges as the climate warms—from balancing the sometimes
conflicting needs of urban, agricultural, and environmental
water users to reducing risks from fires, floods, and droughts.
We talked to Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County
Water Agency, about how his agency is approaching these
challenges comprehensively, at the scale of the entire
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
The Friant-Kern Canal, which delivers water to farms and
communities on the east side of the Valley, is literally
sinking in some areas due to groundwater pumping. And with one
week to go before the California legislature wraps up its 2019
session, many hope the state will help fund the canal’s repair.
More than $670 million in water projects … are options under
a draft plan for helping get the Salinas Valley Basin to
sustainability by 2040. A draft Salinas Valley Basin
groundwater sustainability plan includes 13 projects ranging
from Salinas River invasive species eradication … to a
seawater intrusion barrier using a series of wells to head off
saltwater contamination …
Construction has begun on the first phase of a five-year, $180
million flood control protection project for the historic Upper
Llagas Creek watershed, from Gilroy to north Morgan Hill. …
Funds for the project are from Measure B, the Safe, Clean Water
and Natural Flood Protection Program, as well as other state
and federal sources.
Over the past 200 years, California has lost 97% of its wetland
habitat. The Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, part of the UC’s
Natural Reserve System, represents about 3% of what remains of
California’s coastal wetlands. Due to a century of draining for
land use and land development, the marsh has dwindled to 230
As the old saying goes, if you can’t go through something, go
around it. And at an estimated cost of $357 million, the Friant
Water Authority is contemplating a 30-mile parallel canal to
circumvent the portion of the Friant Kern Canal that has been
negatively affected by subsidence.
As a region, Humboldt County has the “highest rate of relative
sea level rise” on the United States’ West Coast, according to
data compiled by the county’s planning and building department.
The data indicate that even one meter of sea level rise would
top nearly 60% of the structures protecting Humboldt Bay’s
Passed by voters in November 2018, Measure W—the Safe, Clean
Water Program—imposed a 2.5 cent/sq. ft. parcel tax on
impermeable surface construction in LA County and is set to
provide upwards of $300 million annually to support stormwater
and clean water infrastructure projects. TPR spoke with Katy
Young Yaroslavsky, on the Board of Supervisors’ recent approval
of the Measure W Implementation Ordinance…
Crowfoot oversees a sprawling agency of 19,000 employees
engaged in the stewardship of the state’s forests and natural
lands, rivers and waterways, coast and ocean, fish and wildlife
and energy development. Now in its 36th year, the Water Summit
features a variety of policymakers, experts and stakeholders
discussing important topics in water across California and the
For perhaps the first time in 80 years the California State
Lands Commission … faced a decision this summer between
competing ideas for the same parcel. The commission staff
announced at the end of August that it will enter negotiations
to lease a shoreline parcel for a park in Burlingame,
potentially shaping the way the lands commission considers sea
level rise in its decision-making, and the way the Bay
shoreline is developed in the future.
The only bi-national financial institution dedicated to funding
environmental infrastructure projects along the border unveiled
six possible solutions to slowing down the cross-border sewage
spills that routinely shut down southern San Diego’s beaches.
A new method to measure pore structure and water flow is
described in a study published in the journal Water Resources
Research. With it, scientists should be able to more accurately
determine how fast water, contaminants, nutrients and other
liquids move through the soil — and where they go.
Last week, the Delta Stewardship Council held a public hearing
to review proposed changes to how spending decisions on the
maintenance of Delta levees are made, and the plan — known as
the Delta Levee Investment Strategy — has drawn criticism from
Last fall, the district began construction on a project to
remove sediment from the Littlerock Dam reservoir to increase
its storage capacity, but the winter rain flooded the
construction site and halted work for more than six months.
After decades of costly floods — and 65 years after Congress
first approved it — construction on Santa Clara Valley Water
District’s flood control project along the Upper Llagas Creek,
is finally happening.
The intent of the Salton Sea restoration is to mitigate losses
of habitat for wildlife as the Salton Sea shrinks. However,
mitigating lost habitat by replacing it with something harmful
does not result in any benefits to wildlife; in fact, it makes
things worse by creating a new exposure pathway that subjects
wildlife to contaminants.
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?
Restoration of nearly 1,600 acres of wetlands near Bel Marin
Keys is set to begin this year after the approval of $20
million in funding on Thursday. The state Coastal Conservancy
voted unanimously during its meeting in Sausalito on Thursday
to allocate the money to begin the first phase of
Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America,
might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t
keep them in your home. The California Fish and Game Commission
is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets
may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.
Most people pass by storm drains day in and day out, giving
little thought to them as conduits to local waterways — and
ultimately, the Russian River in much of Sonoma County. An
alliance of local cities, special districts and the county
wants to change that. The coalition has launched a regional
campaign to raise public awareness about the link between
surface streets and local creeks…
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
More than 60 elected officials and environmental and community
groups throughout the Bay Area are urging Redwood City
officials to reject proposals to develop the Cargill salt ponds
and rather have them restored as wetlands.
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
While wildfires have gotten much of the attention in California
as consequences of climate change, it’s really rising sea
levels that will likely wreak the most damage. With more than
25 million people living near the coast, some $150 billion
worth of property is at risk.
The proposed rule would re-write EPA’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations and significantly narrow the authority
of states and Indian tribes when acting on Section 401
Integration is especially hard, and unavoidably imperfect, for
organizing common functions across different agencies with
different missions and governing authorities. … Much of what
is called for in California water requires greater devotion of
leadership, resources, and organization to multi-agency
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.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
San Diego County’s eroding coastline is causing significant
public safety, financial and political challenges. … But
those shoreline changes seem certain to become more serious and
frequent because of sea-level rise, yet the public at large
does not seem ready to make some hard decisions regarding
existing and future development along the coast.
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
An unprecedented survey has revealed the loss of about 85
percent of historical tidal wetlands in California, Oregon, and
Washington. The report, published today in PLOS ONE, also
highlights forgotten estuary acreage that might now be targeted
Guests of Siren Island, a two-tiered wooden isle affixed with
four spindly maple tree branches, were relaxing in the
late-afternoon sun on the calm waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta. They took turns plunging their hands into
a steel basin of black lagoon mud then spreading it on one
another’s skin — limbs, torsos and faces.
A plan to increase mining depths at a 920-acre sand and gravel
mining facility between Livermore and Pleasanton will be
reviewed next week during a public meeting where citizens can
learn more about the possible impacts to water quality, water
management and flood channels.
Mediterranean climates, like California’s, typically follow
boom and bust cycles, marked by a predictable shift between
cold and wet and hot and dry. But the changing climate will
amplify that pattern with weather that is, at times, wetter and
at other times hotter.
Waters covered by the Act, called “jurisdictional waters,” are
determined by the language of the Act and by court decisions
and administrative rulemakings interpreting that language.
Ongoing rulemaking efforts by the Trump administration, coupled
with several recent court decisions, make defining
jurisdictional waters very difficult.
In the past, California city planners have been largely
reactive, reconstructing boardwalks lashed by winter storms.
Now, with the long-term outlook for the coast coming into
focus, the California Coastal Commission is urging communities
from San Diego to Humboldt counties to revise their local
coastal programs to take comprehensive adaptive approaches…
The recent Ridgecrest earthquakes jolted less than 50 miles
away from Lake Isabella, where the Isabella Dam is in the midst
of a $600 million improvement project by the US Army Corps of
Engineers. How did the dam fare during the earthquakes, and how
much longer until the upgrades will be complete?
Other than talking of a “planned retreat” from the water and
bluffs, local government has a hard time getting its head
around this crisis. Like so many of our regional problems —
traffic, homelessness, housing — each government unit feels
somewhat powerless on its own. And with no accountability, the
real work is negligible. Meanwhile, California crumbles.
Marin residents living in the Ross Valley will see a 3%
increase in the annual stormwater drainage fee to finance flood
control projects. … Following the 3% increase, homeowners
will be paying $149.28 annually. The Ross Valley has been
dogged by flooding over the past century.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising
seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare
confluence of favorable winds and cooler water. This “sea level
rise suppression,” as scientists call it, went largely
undetected. Blinded from the consequences of a warming planet,
Californians kept building right to the water’s edge. But lines
in the sand are meant to shift.
The general rule of thumb had been that El Niño years — when
the sea surface in a region off the coast of Peru is at least 1
degree Celsius warmer than average — tend to have more
rainfall, and La Niña years, when that region is 1 degree
Celsius cooler than average, tend to have less rain. But that
simple rule of thumb doesn’t always hold true.
In a weather anomaly verified for the first time, a weather
station in Siskiyou County recorded the highest annual
precipitation for California’s weather season. The weather
station at Stouts Meadow, located at an elevation of 5,400 near
the headwaters of the McCloud River, recorded 126.76 inches of
precipitation for the season.
After a years-long drought and a major wildfire, rainstorms
brought a lot of ash and debris downstream over the past year
or so. … Now, Casitas officials hope to clear a
9-foot-high pile of silt, sand and gravel before the next
rainy season. Plans call for starting work in September, but as
of this week, the district had yet to receive permits required
by regional, state and federal agencies.
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
The California Coastal Commission has encouraged cities to
include a strategy called “managed retreat” in plans to prepare
for sea level rise. But the commission may be retreating from
that position. Del Mar is a prime example of a city where an
entire neighborhood is threatened by rising seas.
The five-year project will clear sedimentation and vegetation
to restore flow capacity of a four-mile stretch of the
state-maintained Elder Creek in Tehama County. With a goal of
clearing approximately one mile per year, the project reduces
flood risk for the nearby town of Gerber and surrounding
farmland, which includes fruit and nut orchards.
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
Thirty-two years ago, poet Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends
of the L.A. River, cut a hole in the chain link fence that
blocked our collective access to the Los Angeles River. He was
inspired by a vision of a re-wilded urban waterway brought back
to life for the benefit of the city’s residents and its urban
wildlife. Three years ago, the city of Los Angeles and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers took a big step toward that vision…
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
The findings of Tom Corringham and Daniel Cayan, both of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of
California at San Diego, confirm the connections between
extreme weather events and El Niño…
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
Sacramento remains one of the two most flood-prone cities in
the nation along with New Orleans, according to experts. Now
the River City faces a new water threat: homeless people
setting up camp on—and digging into—the 1,100 miles of earthen
levees that Sacramento and surrounding areas count on to
protect them from devastation.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
Customs and Border Protection commissioned a six-month study,
published earlier this year, of 42 samples from the river and
two culverts during dry, wet, post-rain, and standing water
conditions. … Justin Castrejon, a Border Patrol agent and
regional spokesman, said the report validated the claims of
agents who have complained of physical health ailments after
patrolling the affected areas.
To reduce flooding on roads near Novato Creek, a Marin County
flood control agency and a local environmental group are
partnering to upgrade flood control equipment and improve
wetlands in the Simmons Slough basin.
One of the most visible aspects of the project happening now is
the construction of a much larger emergency spillway. Workers
will remove 2.8 million cubic yards of material to make room
for the spillway. That’s nearly as much material as it took to
build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt…
Most people would not associate flood insurance with the
protection of endangered species. But over the past decade, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been the target
of multiple lawsuits alleging that the agency has violated the
Endangered Species Act by not considering the impacts of its
flood insurance program on endangered species and their
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
California is overdue for a mega-storm capable of drowning
coastal areas in 20ft (6m) of water at any moment. Experts are
preparing contingencies for wet weather so extreme it might
tear open a 300-mile-wide ocean across the US West coast. …
The devastation of such flooding could match the severity of
“big San Andreas earthquakes”, according to the USGS.
San Diego County officials are finalizing a list of projects
that could help fix the region’s sewage problems. Sewage flows
from Tijuana regularly foul San Diego’s ocean waters. That
prompted the state, the Port of San Diego, a clean water group
and several municipalities to sue the federal government to fix
The community wanted to create flood relief for the people of
Hamilton City; The Nature Conservancy wanted to find a way to
restore native habitat. Area farmers wanted to reduce damages
from flows that scoured their property along the edge of the
river. The Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem
Restoration project was able to address these problems with one
Monsoon rains in the U.S. Southwest have increased in intensity
by as much as 11 percent since the 1970s, meaning more rain is
falling in less time, according to research by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The number of these rainstorms has
also increased 15 percent in the last half-century. The
scientists say the uptick is very likely due to global
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. has until August to address the
unauthorized discharge of mining waste into Permanente Creek,
which flows through Los Altos and Mountain View. San Francisco
Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Clara County
officials discovered the pollution during inspections of
Lehigh’s Yeager Yard conducted in April and May…
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…
California regulators are teaming up with the United Nations to
develop “sustainable insurance” guidelines that would help
address climate-change-related disasters such as coastal
flooding and larger wildfires — the first such partnership of
its kind between the international organization and a U.S.
state, officials announced Tuesday.
Drivers aren’t the only ones who face difficulties getting
through the Soscol Junction area at Highway 29 and Highway 221
– so do steelhead and that poses potential challenges for a key
county transportation project.
In the appeal, DWR included updated reimbursement requests
totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover costs of the
Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery
efforts. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is
complete, according to DWR officials.
As we are enter another hurricane season, the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) is on its 12th short-term extension
since September 30, 2017. And after having $16 billion in debt
forgiven, it remains $24.6 billion in debt (Horn 2019). Many
people are asking, how did we get here?
The city’s evolving relationship with water is the subject of
the Historical Society of Long Beach’s new exhibit “Water
Changes Everything.” The free exhibit, which opened Friday and
runs through June 2020, shows how “water has determined the
history of Long Beach,” said Kaye Briegel, the long-time board
member who helped put the show together.
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 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…
Seal Beach residents got a look at what sea level rise could
mean to them, thanks to a city presentation showing that large
swaths of the small municipality could flood by 2050 and that
the odds of even greater inundation will increase throughout
the century. … There was also criticism that projections of
sea level rise showed flooding far sooner than was probable.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was one
surefire way for man to conquer nature in Southern California.
Build a dam. … But the water that was supposed to be held and
controlled sometimes overcame some of these great civil
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it’s been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is
approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter
left enough water to potentially last through three summers of
Water in Lake Powell would come within inches of topping the
dam’s massive spillway gates as engineers frantically tried
everything they could think of, rigging 4-by-8 sheets of
plywood to extend the top of the gates and releasing more than
half a million gallons per second into the Colorado River.
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.
The updated guide contains dozens of best practices, grouped
into 15 main categories, that water and wastewater systems can
implement to reduce security risks to their IT and OT systems.
Each recommendation is accompanied by links to corresponding
While the San Simeon decision appeared quick and easy to make,
it had taken decades to get the issue to that point.
Commissioners and San Simeon representatives seemed equally
relieved to have finally come to an agreement that involves
getting within 10 years enough grant funds to move the plant
further from the coast.
Monterey County’s Nacimiento Dam safety program is seriously
deficient with an outdated program document, insufficient staff
and a long list of outstanding dam safety repairs and
maintenance estimated to cost more than $50 million that needs
to be addressed in short order.
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
The three design schemes look totally distinct on paper and
come with different names — “Island,” “Soft Edge,” “The Yards”
— but they all have the same goal: restore wildlife habitat,
plant people-friendly landscapes and develop flood-control
strategies for a place that has been the subject of so much
neglect, speculation, dreaming and debate: the L.A. River.
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.
Earlier this year, President Trump launched – by executive
order, of course – a new process designed to circumscribe
dramatically states’ longstanding authority to review
applications for federal permits for any activity that may
result in a discharge to a water body within a state’s
boundaries. That proposal is fundamentally flawed, both on its
merits and in the procedures USEPA is using to implement it.
For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have
been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the
original source of clean electricity. Our efforts have been
stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or
isn’t, green enough. That’s why I have begun the process of
modifying our state Constitution to recognize safe, abundant,
carbon-free hydropower as a reliable source of renewable energy
in our fight against climate change.
New research shows that the extreme weather and fires of recent
years, similar to the flooding that has struck Louisiana and
the Midwest, may be making Americans sick in ways researchers
are only beginning to understand.
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
Assembly member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, authored AB 137, which
would prohibit people from altering the stability of levees or
bypasses, as well as prohibit people from living and camping on
the structures. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor
While elected officials in Sacramento work to secure funding to
ensure that the levees along the San Joaquin River are
reinforced to be able to withstand a 200-year flood, the City
of Lathrop has been performing the work necessary to continue
development within the floodplain while that work is completed.
… The city has received financial backing from a number of
developers that don’t want to see development stop until the
costly repairs are mad.
Between 1890 and 1910, almost 90% of Humboldt Bay’s salt
marshes, about 8,100 acres, were diked and drained for
agricultural uses or walled off from tidal inundation with the
construction of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. Now … the
earthen dikes are beginning to fail, both because they haven’t
been maintained and because they aren’t tall enough to hold
back the rising tides brought on by rising sea levels.
The Grand Jury’s main critique was that the water district’s
prediction that water service could be restored within three
days is too optimistic. The report suggests that two weeks to
six months without reliable water service is a more realistic
estimate in the aftermath of a major earthquake.
People who fish for carp have a love for them, as I learned
when I joined my guides at the middle of the river in Long
Beach. Lauren Mollica, a former pro skateboarder who now works
primarily as a carpenter, has been fishing the L.A. River for
about a year, and she waxes rhapsodic about the scent freshly
caught carp leaves on one’s hands.
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.”
Government scientists predict 40 places in the U.S. will
experience higher than normal rates of so-called sunny day
flooding this year because of rising sea levels and an abnormal
El Nino weather system. A report released Wednesday by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that
sunny day flooding, also known as tidal flooding, will continue
Crews are digging and removing 66,000 yards of dirt to make
room for an underground vault. It will be used to catch
rainwater during a storm in order to alleviate flooding around
the park. Behind the fence, crews are hauling away dirt.
Workers will eventually put the 6 million-gallon water vault 22
While the local sewerage agencies followed state and federal
law in reporting spills to governmental agencies, the public
wouldn’t necessarily know much about them. In this case, it has
taken Heal the Bay, a statewide environmental organization, to
dig them out of bureaucracies’ files.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
Rain – and plenty of it – was the big weather story in June,
adding to a record-breaking 12 months of precipitation for the
contiguous U.S. It’s the third consecutive time in 2019 (April,
May and June) the past 12-month precipitation record has hit an
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.
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
Despite being on opposite sides of the immigration debate,
environmental groups who oppose border barriers generally
mirror cattle rancher John Ladd’s concerns about the river.
They say a wall or fence across the San Pedro could have
devastating consequences to its hydrology, as well as the
endangered species that call the river home.