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.
It’s a growing threat that sneaks in with the tide. Sea levels
here in the Bay Area are expected to rise by a foot or more
over the next several decades, potentially overwhelming levees
and seawalls around the Bay. But now an environmental group
says one of the most powerful weapons we have to fight back, is
being literally, thrown away. … [T]ons of sediment that are
dredged out of the Bay every year and barged out sea, or dumped
in deep water … could be the perfect solution to bolster the
wetlands that surround the Bay.
The Yuba Water Agency manages water storage and deliveries to
downstream customers while having a hand in preserving fish
habitats and recreational areas. Currently, the agency has
already begun doubling its reservoir releases at a time when
visitors to the river are also expected to go up. Due to
the time of year, those releases from upstream reservoirs are
dictated by irrigation needs of downstream growers.
There’s just one week left to register for our Water 101
Workshop, which offers a primer on the things you need to know
to understand California water. One of our most popular events,
this once-a-year workshop will be held as an engaging online
event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday,
San Diego hiking enthusiasts might have to share part of their
favorite trail with a cement mixer for the next year. The San
Diego County Water Authority is building a massive
5-million-gallon concrete water storage tank, called a flow
regulatory structure. You will never see it once it’s
completed. One of the hiking trails in the northwest corner of
Mission Trails Regional Park is closed and there are trail
detours on other parts. … Construction began in February
as the pandemic took over California. It’s expected to take
another year to complete. As of Friday, more than a dozen
concrete pillars were sticking up out of the ground like a
building straight out of Ancient Rome.
Here’s a look at the nation’s top 10 cities with the most
properties at risk of flooding, according to 2020 data from the
First Street Foundation’s First National Flood Risk
Assessment. Flooding is a huge problem in America and is
only getting worse as global warming increases the frequency
and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, and the warmer
atmosphere holds more water, leading to more rainfall. Warmer
temperatures also trigger winter snow to melt faster and
earlier. Flooding in the United States is likely to cause
some $20 billion in damages this year and cost as much as $32
billion by 2051, according to research from First
Street. Sundae took a look at the nation’s top 10
cities with the most properties at risk of flooding… #10. San
Jose … #5. Fresno … #3. Sacramento…
The Rancho California Water District received a nearly $3.5
million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency
which will fund up to 75% of Phase 1 of the Vail Dam Hazard
Mitigation Project. Phase 1 has already begun and includes
pre-construction activities such as design, environmental
compliance and permitting to upgrade the dam at Vail Lake,
located east of Temecula. Vail Lake, a reservoir with water
storage capacity of approximately 45,000 acre-feet or 14.7
billion gallons of water, was acquired by Rancho Water in 1978
and is an component of Rancho’s diversified water supply
portfolio for providing water supplies to over 150,000 urban
and agricultural water users in the cities of Temecula and
Murrieta, and the surrounding areas.
A year ago, when stay-at-home orders were a newly disorienting
fact of life, I started taking long walks through my
neighborhood on L.A.’s Westside. Wandering south from Palms
into Culver City, I realized I live near a huge concrete
channel — a creek, trapped in place — with a bike path along
the water, and a view of oil pumpjacks rising and falling atop
the Baldwin Hills. There were beautiful murals, too, showing a
healthy, thriving waterway. They were hashtagged
#KnowYourWatershed. And the more I admired them, the more I
realized that I did not, in fact, know my watershed, despite
growing up not far from here. -Written by Sammy Roth, a Los Angeles Times staff
Despite its semi-arid climate, characterized by mild, moist
winters and hot, dry summers, the area in and around Fresno,
California, has experienced numerous flood events. From
elevations reaching 5,000 feet in the Sierra-Nevada mountain
range, streams carry runoff from a 175-square-mile area flow
onto the valley floor, where they periodically inundate
farmland and urban development, including downtown
Fresno. Storm flows have caused local streams and canals
to overflow an average of once every four years since
1953. In the early 1950s, a group of citizens banded
together to find solutions to the area’s increasing storm water
Restoration projects, like species, evolve. The Sonoma Creek
Enhancement Project, originally about mosquito control, has
shown itself to be a boon to special-status tidal marsh
wildlife as well. More than a decade of adaptive management
actions made that happen. The existing marsh, formed
rapidly beginning in the 1960s by deposited sediment, lacked
the dendritic channels of a mature marsh. High tides brought in
water that pooled in a central basin and didn’t drain out,
providing breeding habitat for mosquitos. The disadvantages of
chemical treatment prompted land managers to look for
Much like when tech money reshapes an historical neighborhood,
a beaver’s move downtown can cause the locals to worry. In
Napa, the animals’ sprawling waterfront complexes create
worrying pools along the riverbank, while the native
cottonwoods are whittled down and threaten landowners’ roofs.
It seems destined that two species known for their
environmental engineering would struggle to live in unison.
However, municipalities like Napa and Martinez in Contra Costa
County have learned to live with their beavers, and the
upcoming California Beaver Summit aims to set the record
As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state
officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting
system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate
change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water
supply. A report by the State Water Resources Control Board
recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to
California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable
enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s
When the first European explorers arrived in California’s
Central Valley, they found a vast mosaic of seasonal and
permanent wetlands, as well as oak woodlands and riparian
forests. What remains of those wetlands are still the backbone
of the Pacific Flyway; along with flooded agricultural fields,
they support millions of migrating waterbirds each
year. According to a just-released study from Audubon,
tens of millions of land birds rely on the Central Valley as
well… But today, the situation is dire. More than 90% of
wetlands in the Central Valley – and throughout California –
have disappeared beneath tractors and bulldozers.
-Written by Samantha Arthur, the Working Lands Program
Director at Audubon California and a member of the
California Water Commission.
[F]or those who live in the legal Delta zone – some 630,000
people – the braided weave of the Sacramento and San Joaquin
Rivers and their maze of associated wetlands and levees
provides a place of home, community, and recreation. And, as a
recent study by the Delta Stewardship Council shows, climate
change is tugging on the watery thread holding it all together.
… The council’s overview reveals a grim outlook for the
millions of people that are tethered to the region’s water:
drought similar to that experienced in 2012-2016 will be five
to seven times more likely by 2050. This will result in more
severe and frequent water shortages and, as the report bluntly
states, “lower reliability of Delta water exports.”
While a supermajority of Americans finally believe we are
warming the world, a 2020 Yale Climate Opinion survey shows
that most people still aren’t very worried about it.
… But Californians do. Reeling from a decade of
record-shattering drought, heat waves, and wildfires, people in
the Golden State overwhelmingly tell Public Policy Institute of
California pollsters that the effects of global warming have
already begun. Indeed … researchers can now link climate
change with some of today’s extreme events [including the
wild swings in precipitation that cause intense rainstorms at
one end and severe droughts at the other] beyond a
Water is one of the most valuable resources on the
planet — we need it to survive, to stay clean
and healthy, to grow food, to run businesses, to
support ecosystems, and so much more. And yet clean,
accessible, abundant water is often taken for granted, in
part because its cost rarely reflects its true value. But
anyone who has spent even a day, or a few hours, without
access to water knows its vital importance. Still today
over 2.2 billion people globally lack
access to safe drinking water.
The Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, California’s state clean
water law, passed in 1969 and became the model for the 1972
federal Clean Water Act. Nearly half a century after passage of
the landmark federal law, it is time for both the state and the
nation to assess progress and chart a new course. Once again,
California is leading the way with Assembly Bill 377, a new
bill introduced by Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).
Although new legislation is needed, the existing federal and
California clean water acts have produced successes that should
be celebrated. -Written by Terry Tamminen, president of 7th
Generation Advisors and founder of Santa Monica
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will
likely hire a contractor for the sweeping Lower Walnut Creek
Restoration Project that aims to improve both flood control and
conditions for wildlife and recreation. County staff recommends
the board approve a deal with Four M Contracting, which came in
with the lowest bid on the project, at $11.285 million. The
Winters-based civil engineering firm specializes in wetland
enhancement projects and the creation of wildlife habitat.
Today, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) sent a letter with
Rep. Jerry McNerny (CA-9) requesting new federal funds for the
Lower San Joaquin River Flood Risk Management and Feasibility
Study projects. The $36.5 million in requested funds would go
toward the Army Corps of Engineers and San Joaquin Area Flood
Control Agency’s critical flood damage reduction efforts. If
implemented, the project will protect 165,000 Valley residents,
reduce annual property damage by 84%, and increase the
resilience of 262 critical infrastructure sites, 12 of which
are essential to daily life in the Valley. The project is
expected to yield $7 for every $1 of taxpayer money invested.
Amid a drought, Napa County is preparing to protect more than
2,000 city of Napa properties from the next flood. The county
learned earlier this year that the stalled Napa River flood
control project will receive $48.3 million in federal funds.
That has local flood control officials talking about the final
round of projects. Step one has been meeting with officials
from the federal partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, by
Zoom. Four flood control projects totaling about $94 million
are to be done with a mixture of federal, local, developer and
Through collaborative projects, birds and endangered fish are
returning to areas they once reared in more than 100 years ago.
Partnerships among farmers, conservationists, universities, and
state and federal agencies are proving that by reactivating our
historic floodplains and using our bypasses during key times of
the year, we can create high-quality habitat that produces safe
haven and up to 149 times more food for salmon than the river.
These key projects demonstrate some of the work being done on
the wet-side of the levee.
In the latest effort to protect Coyote Valley, a Palo Alto
environmental group has closed three deals totaling $16.5
million to purchase 331 acres in the scenic expanse of rural
land on San Jose’s southern edges … The three properties
purchased in the most recent deals, left undeveloped, also will
be used to provide natural flood protection for downtown San
Jose. The idea is that when Coyote Creek is flooding, as it did
in 2017, causing $100 million in damage, its waters can be
deliberately spread over the open area to seep into the
groundwater table instead of all rushing downtown into
Mother Nature proved again in late January that the force of
torrential rainfall and surging water can undo about a decade’s
worth of difficult, expensive habitat conservation work. The
Santa Rosa Creek project completed in October in Cambria was
designed to stabilize the path of the creek in a vulnerable
North Coast area, while protecting its bank and its eponymous
roadway. Devin Best, executive director of the Upper
Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation District (RCD), said
the district worked with landowners “to preserve their property
and also maintain the road so it doesn’t wash away.”
In the Capital Region, water determines destinies. The
10-county area is both plagued by drought and one of the
country’s most at-risk regions for catastrophic flooding. The
physical existence of Sacramento and surrounding cities and the
viability of the region’s heavily irrigated agriculture depend
on water resources engineers like Mary Paasch.
The $1.9-trillion relief package signed by President Biden on
Thursday includes $350 billion in aid for states and local
governments, on top of the billions allocated for schools,
transit agencies, health departments and “critical” state and
tribal infrastructure projects. … [T]he funding could be
spent preparing for the next disaster. As we emerge from this
public health emergency, there is surely another emergency
around the corner — and it’s probably going to be connected to
climate change, be it wildfires, flooding or drought.
California has a tremendous backlog of infrastructure and
environmental work to do to make the state more resilient to
climate change and extreme weather.
Today marks the anniversary of the deadliest man-made disaster
in California history. It’s a largely forgotten event
which killed hundreds of people in Ventura County. On March
12th, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending a wall of
water more than 50 miles from the Santa Clarita area through
the Santa Clara River Valley. More than 400 people died.
The water surged through parts of Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula
and Ventura in the middle of the night. It was later
determined that the newly complete dam collapsed because of a
combination of issues with the terrain, and design.
For decades, the Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City have
stretched into the San Francisco Bay like a blank slate. What’s
to come of them? The Cargill corporation sees the outline of a
new housing development, while environmental groups see a
restored wetland habitat. David Lewis and his group Save the
Bay recently joined a lawsuit against the former Trump
administration’s EPA in a back-and-forth battle over whether
the area falls under federal protection.
Climate change and other environmental pressures are already
putting the pinch on water resources in California, the
Southwest and other arid parts of the world. Over-tapped
groundwater, rivers and lakes are forcing water managers to
find new supplies. Some of these can be costly, like treating
wastewater for drinking water. Or they can come with a hefty
price tag and outsized environmental footprint, like
desalination or new dams. There’s another option on the
table, though: stormwater. If we do the accounting right,
runoff from precipitation is a cost-effective supplementary
water resource, experts say.
A bipartisan group of California lawmakers is confronting
pollution problems along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in
the Tijuana River Valley between San Diego and Tijuana. Several
House members who represent Southern California introduced a
bill called the Border Water Quality Restoration Act. Similar
legislation was presented last week in the U.S. Senate. If
approved, it will give the Environmental Protection Agency the
authority to coordinate all federal, state, and local agencies
when planning construction and infrastructure projects to
mitigate pollution in waterways throughout the southern border.
California is home to a diversity of coastal ecosystems like
tidal marshes, seagrass beds, and estuaries. These ecosystems
provide flood and storm protection, healthy habitats for fish
and birds, and recreational spaces. They may also play an
important role in addressing climate change. A new COS
and Natural Capital Project study in Global
Environmental Change investigates the carbon sequestration
potential of habitats along the California coast and details
pathways incorporating carbon-capturing habitats into climate
The U.S. levee system — once considered the second largest
piece of the country’s infrastructure ”rivaled only by the
highway system” — is now nearly a century old and failing
inspections far more often than it passes them. Only one in 25
federal levees are rated Acceptable. … Those systems can
be found nationwide, from the Sacramento region in California
to the south Florida seaboard; from Appalachia to North Dakota
to the Mississippi River Valley. And the people who
maintain those vulnerable levees say their problems are
remarkably similar: systems that are too old and far too
expensive for locals to fix, much less replace.
Marin County plans to reroute a Bolinas Lagoon creek as part of
an effort to prevent flooding along Highway 1, prepare for
sea-level rise and restore habitat for threatened species. The
county’s Bolinas Lagoon Wye Wetlands Project aims to redirect
Lewis Gulch Creek closer to its historic route and raise a
nearby road to allow the creek more room to wind and flow
during winter storms. The project would also restore
floodplains at the northern end of the 1,100-acre Bolinas
Lagoon that were lost over more than a century as wetlands made
way for roads and pastures.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Sacramento District
selected Kleinfelder and Stantec to provide engineering
services for levee improvements on the Sacramento River in
Northern California. The design project consists of
seepage/stability improvements along the Sacramento River East
Levee (SREL) downstream of the American River confluence in
Sacramento. The project is part of the ongoing modernization of
Sacramento’s aging flood infrastructure system.
Experts in coastal science and policy at UC Santa Cruz are
teaming up with researchers at UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego,
and the U.S. Geological Survey to address the many challenges
of adapting to climate change along California’s coast.
… California’s iconic shoreline, from its communities
and beaches to coastal wetlands and intertidal habitats, is
increasingly threatened by coastal hazards such as extreme
flooding and erosion associated with climate change, sea level
rise, storms, and El Niño events.
Sacramento is typically ranked first or second in the country
for the risk of flooding….This year, the California-Nevada
River Forecast Center is forecasting a low potential for
flooding due to spring snowmelt.
Looking back over the past 30 years, the Northern California
Water Association has grown into an organization that the early
founders can be extremely proud of. The men and women who had
the foresight and passion to start the organization should be
given a large amount of gratitude. What now is a
high-level organization that fosters water management for
multiple beneficial uses, sprung from very humble beginnings.
Human fingerprints are all over the world’s freshwater. A new
study published Wednesday in the journal Nature shows that
while human-controlled freshwater sources make up a minimal
portion of the world’s ponds, lakes, and rivers, they are
responsible for more than half of all changes to the Earth’s
water system. … Climate change already looms large over the
world’s freshwater supply. Major sources of drinking water,
like the Colorado River, have less water and are flowing
more slowly due to climate change—even as they face increasing
demand from our water-hungry farms and cities. Rainfall itself
is becoming more erratic in some locations, such as
The US Green Building Council Central California (USGBC-CC) has
received a grant from the San Joaquin River Conservancy
(Conservancy) to commence planning for a Native American and
Environmental Resource Center at the San Joaquin River. The
project will enable public access and create an Indigenous and
Environmental Resource Center at the Circle V property located
on the San Joaquin River, outside of Fresno in Madera County.
The USGBC-CC received final approval for the grant funding as
part of the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe
Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Fund and the Safe
Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River
and Coastal Protection Fund of 2006 from the Wild Life
In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase modified a short, 30-mile stretch
of the western border to be the midline of the Colorado River.
The Mexican and U.S. governments soon realized that when these
rivers shifted across their floodplains, questions about
national jurisdiction arose. For example, an exasperated U.S.
agent reported that “the lower Colorado … alters its channel
from time to time, cutting off a large stretch of land on one
bank and depositing the soil on the other or leaving its old
bed and tearing through a large piece of silty bottom land to
form a channel some distance away.” The agent went on to
complain that these movements made it difficult to determine
which land fell on which side of the line…
How do you factor in climate change? It can be a worrisome
question, yet, it’s one that rightfully so demands an answer. A
question that seems to loom over us, especially those who work
within and on behalf of the environment. Yet, it might be
difficult to notice the effects of climate change on Putah
Creek. A walk along the creek exposes you to native riparian
habitat and birds aplenty. Surely, the Chinook salmon return to
their historic spawning habitat along Putah Creek could only
signal a more healthy and stabilized habitat. -Written by Alli Permann, Putah Creek Council Education
The organization River Partners teamed up with California State
Parks and Butte County Resource Conservation District on
Thursday to host a flood plain restoration and
reforestation event. The event was called the
Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park Riparian Restoration
Project and was held near the Pine Creek Access point of the
Sacramento River in Chico.
Today, Ceres’ Director of Water, Kirsten James is speaking to
Betty Yee, who was first elected as California State Controller
in November 2014 – a position that serves as the state’s chief
fiscal officer. She also chairs the California Franchise Tax
Board and serves as a member of the California Public
Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State
Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards, representing a
combined portfolio of nearly $500bn. She speaks about how her
experience managing the world’s fifth-largest economy has
shaped her thoughts on climate and water risk.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following
statement on being named chairman of the Appropriations
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. This subcommittee
has jurisdiction over funding levels for the Department of
Energy, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation
and other federal agencies related to our nation’s energy and
water infrastructure programs.
Many of my best days as a lawyer were spent driving through the
Sacramento Valley and north Delta with George Basye (always in
his Volvo). As George neared his retirement, he wanted to
ensure that I, as the successor to a number of his clients,
understood the foundations of his client relationships.
George seemingly knew the history of every quarter section of
land up and down the Valley. He had a deep affection not
only for the landscape but, most important to George, for the
individuals and families who had settled and reclaimed the land
and built the agricultural economy of the region.
A restoration project for the long-suffering Ballona Wetlands
is moving forward after the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife certified the final Environmental Impact Report for
the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve last year. Years
of neglect, human impact, and development took a toll on the
wetlands for years. The project aims to remove invasive
plants and leftover fill from the development of Marina Del
Rey, re-establish a functioning floodplain, and create natural
levees for flood protection against sea level rise.
Despite objections from some of the same landowners who have
complained for nearly a decade that their property is being put
at risk, the Woodland City Council has advanced its Lower Cache
Creek Flood Feasibility Study. Acting this past week, the
council voted unanimously to put the financial well-being of
residents and businesses first in adopting an environmental
impact report which favors a multi-million dollar project to
divert Cache Creek floodwaters.
San Diego officials plan to spend the next five months
analyzing what size tax increase city voters would likely
support in November 2022 to pay for projects that boost flood
prevention and water quality. The ballot measure would be the
first opportunity for San Diegans to vote to raise taxes on
themselves to tackle an estimated $6 billion infrastructure
backlog that city officials began calling San Diego’s No. 1
challenge eight years ago.
A few weeks after [California's late-January] storm, in early
February, eight scientists with a research consortium called
the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network, or MARINe, hiked
towards a beach smothered by one of the Big Sur debris flows.
The sour smell of decomposing creatures hit them. A few turkey
vultures nipped at the sand. There were dead sea stars,
chitons, and likely hundreds of dead black abalone. In a
previous visit to this site, scientists were able to count 150
black abalone or “abs” in a small 50-meter area, with hundreds
left uncounted. A fraction of the site’s population remained.
In 1955 he joined Downey, Brand, Seymour and Rohwer in
Sacramento, becoming a partner in 1958 and specializing in
water and natural resources law. He represented the California
Central Valley Flood Control Association and over 30
reclamation, levee, water, and irrigation districts and mutual
water companies in the Sacramento Valley. He was actively
involved in negotiations leading to the water right settlement
agreements between the Sacramento River water users and the
United States in 1964. He formed the North Delta Water Agency
and negotiated the agreement in 1981 between that Agency and
the State of California, protecting water quality and uses
within the northern half of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Home to just under 2,000 people, the history of Hamilton City
includes many flooding events and several near misses. One of
the primary reasons for this susceptibility to flooding has
been the town’s reliance on a substandard and undersized levee
called the “J levee” – a levee that does not meet any USACE
Climate change is impacting the whole Earth, including the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. There are some big challenges
ahead as the region changes over the next 30 years. In order to
adapt to a world with increased flooding, drought, wildfire and
intense heat, we need to start by understanding what’s going
on. But where to begin? The Delta Stewardship Council is
hosting a climate resilience scavenger hunt as part of its
Delta Adapts initiative…. Now through Feb. 26,
participants can complete as many activities as possible and
submit their findings online.
Despite the challenges of working through a pandemic, river
restoration practitioners continued to pursue dam removal
projects in 2020 to revitalize local economies and communities
and reconnect 624 upstream river miles for fish, wildlife and
river health. Sixty-nine dams were removed in 2020 across 23
states, including: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont,
Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
It is the 35th anniversary of one of the costliest and
devastating storms in the history of Northern California. From
Feb. 11 to Feb. 20, 1986, a series of three storms, each
stronger than the previous, brought record-setting rain that,
in some areas, overwhelmed flood control measures. In the end,
the storms claimed 13 lives, and the damage was estimated at
$400 million. The storm also brought eventual changes to
California’s existing flood control system.
Modern forecasting methods fueled by advances in understanding
and predicting atmospheric river storms have enabled U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE) operators to better optimize water
resources at Lake Mendocino, a Northern California reservoir. A
multi-agency report issued Feb. 4, 2021, describes how
these forecasting tools have helped operators increase the
lake’s dry season stores of drinking water, improve its ability
to alleviate flood risk, and enhance environmental conditions
in the downstream Russian River to support salmonid
Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure
of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction
improvements … the overwhelming majority of California dams
are decades past their design life span. And while earthquakes
still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive
collection of dams, experts warn that these aging structures
will be challenged further by a new and emerging hazard:
“whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change.
The flash flood that killed dozens of people and left hundreds
missing in the Himalayas of India on Sunday was far from the
first such disaster to occur among the world’s high-mountain
glaciers. In a world with a changing climate, it won’t be the
last. Shrinking and thinning of glaciers is one of the most
documented signs of the effects of global warming caused by
emissions of greenhouse gases … Over the long term,
there are concerns about what the loss of
glaciers will mean for billions of people around the world
who rely on them at least in part for water for drinking,
industry and agriculture.
This report outlines the current use of National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) S2S products and services,
and how NOAA plans to improve the usability and transference of
data, information, and forecasts. It will serve as a guidepost
for NOAA planning and execution, as well as to inform the
public and NOAA’s stakeholders on its efforts on subseasonal
and seasonal forecasting…. and recommends a western U.S.
pilot project to support water management.
[FEMA] intends to provide federal financial assistance … to
the Santa Cruz County Flood Control and Water Conservation
District, Zone 7 in Santa Cruz County, California, to install a
sheet pile wall through the center of the existing Pajaro River
levee adjacent to the southern edge of the Watsonville
Wastewater Treatment Plant. The proposed action would protect
the plant flooding if the levee is compromised by river
erosion, slope failure, and seepage.
The California Department of Water Resources has secured $308
million in funding to pay for reconstruction and repair work
that has been done on the Oroville Dam’s spillways. The funds,
released by FEMA, are in addition to the $260 million that the
agency provided for repairs on the lower portion of the dam’s
main spillway. Repair work on the damaged emergency and main
spillways has been ongoing for nearly four years following
February 2017’s spillway crisis. The $308 million announced
Monday was at first rejected but later approved by FEMA
following an appeal from the DWR last year.
After a particularly wet week, Californians shouldn’t hang up
their snow shovels and raincoats just yet. Those in Southern
California should expect 1 to 8 inches of snow to fall in the
mountainous areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties between
late Tuesday and Wednesday night, said Kathy Hoxsie, a
meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, one-quarter to one-half of an
inch of rain is forecast to fall, with 3/4 inches expected in
the foothills, Hoxsie said.
In anticipation of the first big storm of the winter, the
Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) on Tuesday, January
26, 2021 will begin the process of deflating its rubber dam
located in the Russian River near Forestville. Sonoma Water
routinely deflates the rubber dam when Russian River flow
forecasts show the river reaching 2,000 cubic feet per second
(cfs) in order to prevent damage to the rubber dam from the
high flows. The forecasted winter storm this week is expected
to raise river flows above 5,000 cfs by Thursday.
There is an adage in California that goes, “Whiskey is for
drinking and water is for fighting over.” But instead of
fighting, the California Water Commission (CWC) is looking for
opportunities to hear from local agencies on water
infrastructure projects. The CWC recently wrapped up a series
of public workshops intended to determine the opportunity for a
state role in financing water conveyance projects that meet the
challenges of a changing climate.
Today, 95% of the Central Valley’s historical floodplains are
cut off from the river by levees. Built in the early 1900s to
combat devastating floods, levees and bypasses were constructed
to corral mighty rivers and push water quickly through the
system. Even before invasive species, large rim dams, and Delta
water export facilities were introduced into the system, salmon
populations started to dramatically decline with the
construction of the levees. Simply put, the levees prevented
Chinook salmon from accessing their primary food source.
If you look deep into the eyes of a fish, it will tell you its
life story. Scientists from the University of California,
Davis, demonstrate that they can use stable isotopic analysis
of the eye lenses of freshwater fish—including threatened and
endangered salmon—to reveal a fish’s life history and what it
ate along the way. They conducted their study, published today
in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, through
field-based experiments in California’s Central Valley. The
study carries implications for managing floodplains, fish and
natural resources; prioritizing habitat restoration efforts;
and understanding how landscape disturbances impact fish.
A storm that pounded Northern California with rain, snow, wind
and mud rolled southwards on Thursday, prompting flood warnings
and threats of mudslides in areas burned bare by wildfires. An
atmospheric river of moisture from the Pacific Ocean was
expected to dump 1 1/2 to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain in
Southern California from Thursday night into Saturday, with
winds up to 50 mph (almost 81 kph), according to the National
Weather Service. But threats also remained in portions of
central and Northern California.
The largest body of water in Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir is
nothing to scoff at. Found in the southern portion of the
state, Blue Mesa Reservoir is 20-miles-long, home to 96 miles
of shoreline, and constrained by a 390-foot-tall dam. However,
before this man-made reservoir and popular outdoor recreation
spot existed, the area was home to a thriving mountain town
that has since been wiped off the map.
A bid by Kern County farmers to take Kings River floodwater
officially got underway Tuesday as state regulators hashed out
procedures and next steps with the various parties. An initial
hearing had been set for April 15, but may now be pushed back
to July, depending on how Administrative Hearing Officer Nicole
A strong storm system brought heavy rain and powerful winds to
the Bay Area late Tuesday, increasing the risks of mudslides
and flash floods that have already prompted evacuations in some
parts of Northern California. An atmospheric river barreled
into the West Coast, causing flooding, evacuations and dropping
snowfall in the Sierra. In some places, including San Benito
County and Big Sur, the storm was expected to bring up to 10
inches of rain by Wednesday.
Federal officials, showing how rapidly the Biden administration
is overhauling climate policy after years of denial under
former President Donald J. Trump, aim to free up as much as $10
billion at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to protect
against climate disasters before they strike. The agency, best
known for responding to hurricanes, floods and wildfires [such
as those that struck California last year], wants to spend the
money to pre-emptively protect against damage by building
seawalls, elevating or relocating flood-prone homes and taking
other steps as climate change intensifies storms and other
Flood damage attributed to climate change over a period of
three decades has cost the United States nearly $75 billion
according to a Stanford study released earlier this month,
Stanford News reports The study estimates blames climate change
for more than a third of the estimated $199 billion in damages
caused by floods related to climate change from 1988 to 2017,
the report aid.
The biggest storm of the season is barreling down on Northern
California. The Sacramento region could see up to 3 inches of
rain this week – perhaps doubling the amount of rain we’ve
received for the entire winter season – as an extreme storm
arrives Tuesday afternoon. The cold, wet system will bring
dangerous winds to the region, localized flooding and up to 80
inches of snow – yes, that’s nearly 7 feet – to the summits on
Interstate 80 and Highway 50.
Our 2020 Water Leaders class completed its year with a
report outlining policy recommendations for adapting California
water management to climate change. The class of
23 up-and-coming leaders from various stakeholder groups
and backgrounds – engineers, attorneys, planners, farmers,
environmentalists and scientists - had full editorial
control to choose recommendations.
Winter weather is finally arriving in Northern California. And
after weeks of dry, warm conditions and growing drought
concerns, it’s coming in hard. Forecasters say a sizable storm
— the first significant atmospheric river event to hit the
greater Bay Area this winter season and likely the biggest
storm in at least 12 months — will soak much of California
starting Tuesday night, continuing Wednesday, and bringing wet
roads, downed trees, power outages and the possibility of
After 10 days of protests, Britain’s Parliament did a
surprising thing: Its members approved a proposal to declare a
state of emergency in response to the rapidly overheating
planet. And while the U.K. was the first country to do so, it
wasn’t the last. Today, at least 38 countries around the world
— including the whole of the European Union, Japan, and New
Zealand — and thousands of towns, cities, and counties have
issued some kind of resolution declaring climate change a
crisis. … A week into his term, President Joe Biden is
already under pressure to do the same.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates
that around 13 million Americans are living within a 100-year
flood zone. But over the last few years, researchers have found
that the government’s estimates are far lower than the ground
realities…. In a study published in the
journal Land Use Policy, researchers estimated that by 2050,
the number of houses in high-risk wildfire zones might increase
by nearly one million in California alone.
Baltimore may be a continent away from San Francisco, but the
coastal cities have at least one thing in common: rising seas.
Both are seeing more flooding, more shoreline erosion and more
battered infrastructure, and both want the oil industry to pay
for the damage. They blame fossil fuels for the global warming
that’s causing sea level rise. On Tuesday, Baltimore will lead
the campaign to recoup billions of dollars from oil companies
in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County officials released their
preliminary master plan for the river “reimagined” to
support both ecosystems and people who live along [the LA
River's] 51-mile corridor. … The long-awaited plan
— the result of five years of input from community residents,
organizations and people like renowned architect Frank Gehry —
will provide a foundation as the region balances its duty to
protect properties from flooding with the need for more access
to natural environments.
Dams built long ago to control floods or ease river transport
are gaining attention as a potential zero-carbon electricity
source in the US, as environmentalists and the hydropower
industry drop their longstanding antagonism in the face of
climate change. Hydroelectricity is like wind, solar and
nuclear power in that it emits no planet-warming carbon
dioxide, yet hydro capacity has not grown for decades after big
dams became impossible to build.
Large swathes of land in densely populated parts of the world
are subsiding rapidly as a result of groundwater depletion.
Paired with rising sea levels caused by global warming, this
could place many coastal cities at risk of severe flooding by
California has lost more than 90% of its wetlands since the
arrival of European settlers. Wetlands play an increasingly
crucial role in absorbing excess water and protecting coastal
and inland communities from flooding. They also provide
critical habitat for wildlife, including a variety of species
found nowhere else on Earth, some of which are at risk of
blinking out of existence…. we’ve identified three critical
lessons California has to offer the world to improve
restoration on a global scale… -Written by Julie Rentner, president of River Partners, and
Manuel Oliva, CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science.
Increasingly strong storms are responsible for more than a
third of the nation’s flood costs, swelling the tab by billions
of dollars a year as climate change continues to fuel more
extreme weather, according to new research at Stanford
University. The research, which is among the first to put a
price tag on heavier rainfall, found that the changing weather
is responsible for $75 billion of the cumulative $199 billion
of U.S. flood damage between 1998 and 2017. … Many of
the losses over that period were in California.
Water levels at the coastal mouth of the Russian River had
declined by late Thursday afternoon, eliminating the threat of
flooding in the town of Jenner, according to a release from
Sonoma Water, the county water agency. High waves pounded the
Sonoma Coast for days, creating a large mound of sand that
sealed the mouth of the river. The waves’ intensity initially
kept Sonoma Water from sending a heavy equipment operator to
dig a channel that would release the water from the river into
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has calculated the risk
for every county in America for 18 types of natural disasters,
such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, volcanoes
and even tsunamis. And of the more than 3,000 counties, Los
Angeles County has the highest ranking in the National Risk
In an attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change that
are attacking Long Beach, the city has put together a
comprehensive Climate Action and Adaptation Plan with input
from scientists, business people, city leaders and the
public…The mammoth document and its appendices clocks in at
more than 900 pages and tackles the main challenges of climate
change: drought, sea level rise and flooding, extreme heat and
Parts of the world economy may have been on pause during 2020,
dampening greenhouse gas emissions for a while. But that didn’t
slow the overall buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which
reached its highest level in millions of years. If
anything, research during the year showed global warming is
accelerating…As polar ice melts more quickly, sea level rise
also accelerates…The acceleration could be felt especially
strongly along the West Coast, where sea level is starting to
rise much faster than in recent years, according to NASA.
USACE Sacramento District has a proven track record of facing
challenges head-on. When 2020 brought with it the Novel
Coronavirus, the District responded quickly to address the
needs of a rapidly changing work environment…This year marked
the start of major construction on the [American River Common
Features] project, and the pandemic hit just as crews were
mobilizing, meaning both USACE and its contractors faced
unexpected public impacts.
David Thurman Ford passed away peacefully on December 13, 2020
following 16 months of treatment for acute myeloid
leukemia… Ford had an illustrious career that began in
1978 as a hydrologic engineer at the US Army Corps of
Engineers, Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) in Davis,
California. In 1990 he founded David Ford Consulting Engineers,
Inc (DFCE) which specialized in a variety of water resources
and flood forecasting projects with the California Department
of Water Resources, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency,
the Central Valley Hydrology study, and various districts of
the US Army Corps of Engineers…
Local and state officials in California vowed Thursday to serve
as a united front as they seek state funding to mitigate the
anticipated devastating impacts of sea level rise on the Golden
State’s coast in the years to come.
The latest map that shows habitable properties in Montecito,
Summerland and Carpinteria at risk of debris flows or flooding
from a storm will be released this week by Santa Barbara
County officials. …The map will be utilized by local
emergency managers to determine the portions of the community
that would be evacuated this winter if necessary, according to
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, it was a
wake-up call for Bay Area Council members, who were glued to
coverage of the devastation from their tenth floor offices near
San Francisco’s Ferry Building… They asked themselves if the
disaster unfolding 3,000 miles away could strike here too.
[They] realized the answer was yes when they learned about the
Great Flood of 1862, the worst in California’s recorded
In California’s contentious water battles, finding points of
agreement is a challenging task as diverse interests compete
for a steadily dwindling, essential natural resource. By
pulling together these diverse interests, we found a way to
make progress towards improving what is arguably California’s
hardest-working floodplain, the 60,000-acre Yolo Bypass. -Written by Jim Provenza and Gary Sandy, Yolo County
Supervisors, and Robin Kulakow, founder of the Yolo Basin
For Daniel Swain, climate scientist at UCLA, weather is an
obvious inroad into engaging people on climate change, as
people are way more likely to respond to a fire or flood at
their doorstep than a chart of rising emissions…Swain studies
why extreme events are changing, how we’re experiencing them,
and what we can do to adapt to a new, disaster-prone world.
This year, he released papers tying flood
exposure and autumn wildfires in California to
The fire that rampaged through the San Lorenzo Valley in August
and September burned hotter and destroyed more acreage than
anyone in these rugged, rural and breathtaking mountains can
remember…Now the region is bracing for more devastation, in
the form of potentially deadly debris flows caused by winter
The Biggs-West Gridley Water District, Ducks Unlimited and the
Bureau of Reclamation recently announced the completion of
Phase II (of five total phases) of the water supply project for
the world-renowned Gray Lodge Wildlife Area.
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent Executive Order
(N-82-20) reinforced the urgency of accelerating “nature-based
solutions to our climate and extinction crises.”…The
forthcoming Delta climate vulnerability assessment is
innovative and essential, but it is only a first step.
Lake Mendocino currently sits at 712 ft above sea
level… That’s very low. But despite years of dry
conditions … it’s not the lowest the lake has ever been.
Thanks to a new set of satellite technologies and water
management techniques dubbed FIRO, or Forecast Informed
Reservoir Operations (pronounced FEE-roh), the lake is still
more than a dozen feet above its record low.
Mike Hoover, a Santa Barbara geologist, wants to remind us of
the Medieval Drought, the epic dry period that held California
and the West in its grip for 400 years, beginning in 950 CE….
It was so bad, he said, that it may have led to malnutrition
and warfare among the prehistoric Chumash.
Investigating historic debris flows is paramount to get insight
on which areas of Santa Cruz County could be at risk this
coming winter and beyond. California Geological Survey
scientists working with Santa Cruz County, and the U.S.
Geological Survey, are tracking what triggers debris flows
using drones, rain gauges and cameras.
The consolidated Oroville Spillway cases are currently
scheduled to go to trial in April of 2021. A large judgement
for monetary damages could potentially bankrupt the State Water
Project, according to filings by the Department of Water
By burning and brushing, nurturing important plants and
keeping lands around their homes clear of dead brush and
debris, Native peoples carefully stewarded the lands to sustain
the biodiverse ecologies California is known for. Their
work resulted in a richly productive landscape that provided
food and habitat for not only humans but many land, air and
water animals. That included the salmon, a staple of tribes in
the West for millennia. All that changed when California became
a U.S. state in 1850.
Alfalfa is proving in University of California studies to be
remarkably resilient when flooded with large amounts of water
early in the year to refill ground depleted by deficit
irrigation, or to recharge groundwater drawn down by pumping.
Marin County flood planners are turning to Santa Venetia voters
to help pay for an estimated $6 million project to upgrade the
timber-reinforced berm that protects hundreds of homes from
The Kings River Conservation District, along with co-applicant
Tulare Lake RCD, received this grant to help remove invasive
species and debris from levees and riverbank along the Kings
River, improve water flow, strengthen flood protection,
increase carbon capture, and improve delivery of clean water to
Westlands Water District announced Wednesday that it recently
completed the Lower Yolo Restoration Project, which restored
the habitat for fish and other wildlife species in part of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. … The land had been previously
used for cattle grazing, and now it has transformed into tidal
marsh, riparian and upland buffer habitat.
The Corcoran-based Tulare Lake RCD and co-applicant Kings River
Conservation District, based in Fresno, were awarded $1,165,644
for the Kings River Conservation District Channel Improvement
Project. With this grant, the partners will remove invasive
species and debris from the 2,500 acres of levees and
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District and its
partner, the California Department of Parks and Recreation,
Angeles District, are one step closer on a project to restore
Malibu Creek’s ecosystem after receiving support from the
Corps’ top brass.
“King tides are about one-to-two feet higher than an average
tide, and it turns out that is about what we expect to see in
California in the next few decades from sea level rise,” said
Annie Cohut Frankel of the California Coastal Commission. “We
invite the public to look at how these high tides are impacting
our public beaches, our beach access ways, wetlands, roads and
other coastal infrastructure.”
A marine construction barge that apparently became stuck in the
mud at low tide in the Petaluma River on Saturday was inundated
by the rising tide overnight, becoming partially submerged and
leaking fluids into the tidal slough… Moving the barge out of
the navigation channel was expected to be a long-term
challenge, and a problem for large boats just starting to use
the river again after its recent, long-awaited dredging.
Scientists expect flooding to get worse because weather
extremes are growing as the climate crisis worsens globally,
said UCLA Climate Scientist Daniel Swain. … Waiting to
systematically address flooding issues, like California’s done
with wildfire, could mean breaching of levees, Central Valley
wide flooding and even flooding in areas like Los Angeles as
the climate crisis worsens, said Swain.
Whatever came down in the first rains of the season was a mere
drop in the bucket. The precipitation, the first for the rain
year that began Oct. 1, measured .15 inches in downtown
Sacramento, according to the National Weather Service. That
puts the city at 8 percent of normal for rainfall this year,
according to weather service records… A new storm system
is coming on Tuesday night, with showers continuing on into
Thursday, forecasters said.
A 19-month study of the safety of the Oroville Dam project has
found no “unacceptable risks.” The Department of Water
Resources released its Comprehensive Needs Assessment on Oct.
30, and notes its findings generally agree with those of an
Independent Review Board and a regular five-year review by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…
Burning rice straw after harvest was a traditional and
economical practice that was phased out in 2000. … The side
effect is it has created millions of acres of seasonal wetlands
in the rice-growing region of the state – and with a variety of
conservation contracts, provided additional income for growers
whose costs rose when straw burning was prohibited.
Communities across the United States and the globe rely on
clean water flowing from forested watersheds. But these water
source areas are impacted by the effects of wildfire. To help
water providers and land managers prepare for impacts from
wildfire on water supplies, the U.S. Geological Survey is
working to measure and predict post-fire water quality and
A team of experts released their findings Monday, concluding
that no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville
Dam. The report goes on to say that the largest earthen dam in
America is safe to operate. However, the Oroville Dam is not
completely in the clear.
The California Coastal Commission has been issuing policy
guidelines for sea level rise for the last six years. … The
commission is now taking the first steps toward rethinking some
of its current policies and looking at the state as a whole,
realizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to ways
of adapting to sea level rise.
The U.S. Geological Survey announced the completion of a new
mobile tool that provides real-time information on water
levels, weather and flood forecasts all in one place on a
computer, smartphone or other mobile device. The new USGS
National Water Dashboard, or NWD, provides critical information
to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public…
The Department of Water Resources presented Climate Science
Service Awards to four early-career scientists with the
University of San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
These partnerships fuel innovations that help DWR and other
water agencies respond to water supply and flood-risk
The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes has
recently launched new tools focused on forecasting the
Atmospheric River scale. The new tools, offer a 7-day forecast
and review of the past 7 days for the Atmospheric River scale.
By experimenting with how salty ocean water mixes with fresh
water within Suisun Marsh, the California Department of Water
Resources has found a way to improve habitat conditions for
endangered delta smelt within the upper San Francisco Estuary.
Just weeks after the Bobcat fire ravaged the San Gabriel
Mountains, state and federal biologists are racing to salvage
as many federally endangered species as possible before storms
could inundate the animals’ last outposts with mud and debris.
… “This may be the last time in my life that I see wild
mountain yellow-legged frogs in the last best place for them,”
said biologist Robert Fisher…
The Suisun Resource Conservation District has been awarded
$454,624 for the first phase of the Suisun Marsh Fish Screen
Rehabilitation Project. … American Canyon in July received a
$450,000 Measure AA grant for the American Canyon Wetland
Wildlife in the upper Putah Creek watershed was devastated by
the LNU Complex Fire, which started on Aug. 17, was finally
extinguished on Oct. 2, and grew to be the fourth largest in
California history. However, the oak woodlands in this region
have evolved with fire, and with natural resiliency and a
little support from local agencies, recovery is expected.
Judith Marshall joined the corps’ Portland office in 2011 to
manage several projects, including the agency’s 13 dams in the
Willamette River Basin. She quickly learned the corps was out
of compliance with several major environmental laws for
virtually all of them. She got nowhere when she raised her
concerns to her supervisors. Then she was harassed and bullied.
Now Marshall is blowing the whistle.
The pesky 3-foot-long, buck-toothed nutria is getting the
better of California. The large rodent is chewing up rivers and
wetlands and threatening to mow down farmland and
infrastructure, and the state is struggling to contain
it. Relief may be on the way.
DWP officials said the undertaking of a new spillway gate
structure to control flow from the lake through Rush Creek and
into Mono Lake will be one of the largest environmental
restoration projects in the Mono Basin.
California tends to be wetter than normal during the El Niño
phase of ENSO, and dryer during the La Niña phase.
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation affects California
rainfall similarly. Since the two cycles run at different
rates, sometimes they compete and cancel each other out, but
when they are in synch, we get severe drought or inundation.
“Pineapple Express” or “Atmospheric River” are terms you may
hear often. But what do they mean, really? DWR Climate Change
Program Section Chief, Elissa Lynn, gave a presentation on
DWR’s Water Wednesdays live educational series where she
discussed these storm systems, what they mean for California,
and their impact on the state’s water reservoirs.
When driving over the Yolo Bypass in the winter, one can’t help
but notice the flooded fields. … Historically, the area used
to be wetlands and floodplain habitat, but now, farmers grow
rice there. After harvest, the fields are flooded to not only
help decompose the leftover rice straw but also, as a surprise
to many, recreate a surrogate habitat for many area wildlife,
most notably birds.
Recognizing the central role that atmospheric rivers play in
both flood risk and water supply – two of Yuba Water’s core
mission areas – the agency is investing in new research and
tools to better understand, forecast and manage for these
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains a
database of all the nation’s dams and their risk levels, raised
the risk classification for the Mojave Dam in San Bernardino
County, California, to high. The 200-foot-high earthen dam was
built in 1971 and, if it fails, threatens communities as far
away as 140 miles.
The future of our existing dams, including 2,500 hydroelectric
facilities, is a complicated issue in the age of climate
change. Dams have altered river flows, changed aquatic habitat,
decimated fish populations, and curtailed cultural and treaty
resources for tribes. But does the low-carbon power dams
produce have a role in our energy transition?
After the river was concretized, Indigenous People, activists,
and environmental organizations demanded the restoration of the
L.A. River and its tributaries back into a functioning natural
river ecosystem. Now with the climate crisis, we can no longer
afford to have a concretized river system that solely provides
The proposed structure will span the width of the existing
channel and feature an operable weir crest gate that can be
raised for diversion to the intake structure and lowered to
bypass diversions. An engineered roughened channel will be
constructed in the section of the stream directly downstream of
the diversion structure for future fish passage. The new intake
will be equipped with a trash rack and fish screens.
In a review of Feather River fall-run Chinook salmon in
September 2019, I described their status through the 2018 run
and expressed optimism for the 2019 run. My assessment proved
overly optimistic, as the 2019 run numbers came in lower than
expected. The lower-than-expected returns appear to be the
consequence of the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway failures.
It won’t take much, and the Pass Area as we know it may look
dramatically different come wet weather this fall and winter.
That’s according to public safety officials from various
Riverside County agencies who are working to get the word out
about the danger of “flood after fire.”
Five California Conservation Corps (CCC) crews are assisting
Butte County Public Works and Department of Water Resources in
making sure that the watershed is protected from potential rain
water run-off from homes burned in the North Complex Fire.
California has experienced record-breaking wildfires in 2020
with more than 4 million acres burned, increasing the risk of
flash flooding along with mud and debris flows to communities
and homes downslope of burn areas. The impacts caused by
wildfires can be drastic when it comes to flood risk.
Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast
tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors
within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain
though it into the Pacific Ocean. Lately, however, scientists
say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive…
Dam failure, though rare, can cause catastrophic destruction of
property and lives. Repairing hazardous dams can help, but
simply removing them can be a better, more cost-effective
option with accompanying environmental benefits … a mere
five states account for half of all removals: Pennsylvania
(343), California (173), Wisconsin (141), Michigan (94), and
What geologists call vertical land motion—or subsidence and
uplift—is a key reason why local rates of sea level rise can
differ from the global rate. California offers a good example
of how much sea level can vary on a local scale. “There is no
one-size-fits-all rule that applies for California,” said Em
Blackwell, a graduate student at Arizona State University.
Most states are doing a mediocre job – and some even a poor one
– of managing shorelines and preparing for sea-level rise,
according to a new study by the Surfrider Foundation.
California, on the other hand, is a “shining example” and has
excelled in responding to changes along the coast, earning the
only “A” grade in the nation — but the report found there are
still areas that need improvement…
Contra Costa County Flood Control Division officials told the
Oakley City Council recently that they’re still assessing the
issues of concern caused by beavers that built a dam in an area
of Marsh Creek near Creekside Park earlier this year. At the
time, the city and county received a lot of backlash from the
community and beyond because the county’s answer to the problem
was to kill two beavers that built the dam.
The fires burned thousands of square miles of land and left
scorched and barren hillsides vulnerable to an especially
dangerous fast-moving type of landslide that scientists call
“debris flow.” Known less formally as mudslides, these flows
are typically triggered by short, intense storms and can send
tides of soil, ash, vegetation, rocks and even cars and homes
careening downhill, destroying everything in their path.
Working over the last year, construction crews expect to
complete a new 2-mile levee near Novato in the coming weeks. It
will allow bay waters to eventually reclaim nearly 1,600 acres,
or about 2.5 square miles, of former tidal marshes that had
been diked and drained for agriculture and development during
the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Now in its second year, a long-term project intends to learn
whether rice farming in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta can
succeed economically while helping to preserve the region’s
uniquely carbon-rich peat soils.
The Del Puerto Water District is set to vote Wednesday on
approving a final environmental impact study on a much-disputed
storage reservoir in western Stanislaus County. … According
to proponents, the reservoir storing up to 82,000 acre-feet
will provide more reliable water deliveries to farmers south of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta… Water pumped from the
nearby Delta-Mendota Canal would be stored behind the dam.
In the world of groundwater recharge, not all dirt is created
equal. Where, when, how much and how fast water can best be
recharged into the Central Valley’s severely depleted aquifers
has become a critical question. A new tool aims to help answer
those questions at the field-by-field level or up to an entire
Experts say it’s likely not a matter of if, but when, intense
rainfall triggers mudslides that threaten the properties and
lives of thousands of people in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The
area has seen these disasters before: In January 1982, the Love
Creek mudslide killed 10 people near Ben Lomond. But the CZU
Lightning Complex, larger than any fire in the region’s
recorded history, created an unprecedented hazard.
In 2011, heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains filled the Colorado
River, lifting reservoirs—and spirits—in the drought-stricken
U.S. Southwest. The following year, however, water levels
dropped to nearly their lowest in a century… Now, scientists
say they may have come up with a potential early warning system
for the Colorado’s water levels—by watching temperature
patterns in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, thousands of
The solutions are not just about spending money, but changing
how we do coastal development — fewer expensive seawalls and
roads, and more “living shorelines” and coastal parks that can
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken a dramatic
step to encourage communities to use environmentally friendly
features such as wetlands for flood protection instead of
building sea walls and levees.
Protecting intact peatlands [such as those in California] and
restoring degraded ones are crucial steps if the world is to
counter climate change, European researchers said Friday. In a
study, they said peat bogs, wetlands that contain large amounts
of carbon in the form of decaying vegetation that has built up
over centuries, could help the world achieve climate goals like
the limit of 2 degrees Celsius of postindustrial warming that
is part of the 2015 Paris agreement.
A University of Arizona researcher is leading a National
Science Foundation project that is integrating artificial
intelligence to simulate the nation’s groundwater supply for
the purpose of forecasting droughts and floods. [One aim,
the researcher said, is to] “come up with better forecasts
for floods and droughts in the upper Colorado River Basin…”
In the new study, scientists at The University of Texas at
Austin in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists
found that leading climate projections used by the state
strongly agree that climate change will shift the timing and
intensity of rainfall and the health of the state’s snowpack in
ways that will make water management more difficult during the
On the heels of a historic drought, at the beginning of the
implementation of historic groundwater legislation, and in
light of potential flooding, Porterville will have more water
in the future and a larger dam to prevent it from damaging the
Congress has given final approval to a bill that would take on
nutria, a giant rodent threatening waterways in the Central
Valley and beyond. … The measure, HR 3399, would provide $12
million to California and several other affected states for
nutria control, research and related efforts.
A federal judge ruled Monday that a sprawling collage of salt
ponds in Redwood City is subject to protection under the Clean
Water Act — going against a previous decision by the
Environmental Protection Agency that would have eased
development along the bay.
Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an
environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that
could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and
California condor. This time, the species teetering on the edge
of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and
the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River
flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a
Valley Water this week began draining Anderson Reservoir in
preparation for a seismic retrofit of the body’s dam in east
Morgan Hill, but Gov. Gavin Newsom also vetoed a state Assembly
bill that would have expedited the project that the water
district has been planning for more than 10 years.
In California’s Placer County, an unusual partnership between a
county water utility, the U.S. Forest Service and
environmentalists is taking on the work to prevent catastrophic
fires on more than 11,000 hectares in the northern Sierra
Nevada Mountains. The partnership arose from the ashes of
2014’s King fire.
Californians are understandably focused on the wildfires that
have charred more than 3 million acres and darkened our skies –
forcing us to find masks that protect us from both COVID-19 and
smoke. But Californians should also pay attention to the
multiple hurricanes that have devastated the Gulf Coast this
season. These disasters have much in common.
Extended weather outlooks are providing some hope for
fire-scorched Northern California. Weather models are starting
to show greater agreement on the possibility of moisture making
its way into Northern California by the second half of next
week, the National Weather Service said.
Assessments of the worst-case scenario predict the Bay may rise
a damaging 1.9 feet by 2050 and as much as nearly 7 feet by
2100. Restoring even a fraction of the Bay’s lost wetlands
would provide long-lasting benefits.
Three Coachella Valley high schoolers kayaked across the Salton
Sea Saturday to raise awareness about the social and ecological
crisis unfolding as California’s largest lake continues to
shrink and toxic dust from its shores pollutes the air.
The proposed ecological wetland park at Alameda Point, known as
DePave Park, is another step closer to becoming a reality. On
Sept. 15, four members of the city council gave thumbs up to
moving forward with seeking a $2 million grant to pay for a
master planning process.
No California communities are more shaped by water than those
in the Delta. Water surrounds communities like
Stockton. Water shaped our history and still shapes our
economy, quality of life, culture, and is essential for a
healthy environment. And for our communities,
water-related disasters are devastating. We see proof of that
The last time Mt. Tamalpais had a major wildfire was in 1929.
In 1930, Marin’s population was 41,648. Today it’s more than
258,000. … As with many other utilities, the Marin Municipal
Water District is updating its treatment plants. It is unclear,
from a technology and science perspective, whether our
community treatment plant could handle sediment runoff from a
big rainstorm after a catastrophic, climate-driven wildfire.
Earlier this summer, American Rivers released a new report,
Rivers as Economic Engines, detailing how the right investments
in water infrastructure, natural infrastructure and river
restoration can create jobs, strengthen communities and address
longstanding injustices. … We are calling on Congress to
invest $500 billion over 10 years to create the
transformational change we need when it comes to ensuring clean
water and healthy rivers for everyone.
The Embarcadero faces severe threats, with regionwide
repercussions from both earthquakes that could undermine the
city’s seawall and a rise in bay waters that could flood
downtown streets and inundate BART and Muni tunnels, according
to an exhaustive new study from the Port of San Francisco.
For years, a stretch of Chorro Creek near Hollister Peak ran
through active farmland, where its flow was diverted for
irrigation and its banks were shored up by levees, blocking the
water’s natural access to its floodplain. … After nearly two
decades of planning and fundraising, the Estuary Program and
its partners recently completed a major restoration of the
Work on a long-planned effort to reduce flood risk and improve
safety for businesses and residents in the Ross Valley is
underway as workers move dirt and debris to create a flood
retention basin at the former Sunnyside Nursery outside of
When fires burn up vegetation, the charred remains become
hydrophobic—meaning they repel away any water. The soil is also
very dry, which counterintuitively makes it harder for water to
infiltrate. … Fires can also destroy the natural clumps in
soil, increasing their erodibility. Altogether, this means that
water is hitting the ground with more force and the soil is
unable to suck it up.
New mapping of salt concentrations in the world’s oceans
confirms what physics and climate models have long suggested:
Global warming is intensifying Earth’s water cycle, speeding up
the rate at which water evaporates in one area and falls as
rain or snow somewhere else. That intensification has enormous
implications because it worsens droughts and increases extreme
rainstorms and flooding.
One of the most severe examples is the San Lorenzo Valley Water
District, which serves parts of inland Santa Cruz County, in
central California. More than 7 miles of an HDPE plastic water
supply pipeline were destroyed in the CZU Lightning Complex
Fire, according to Rick Rogers, the district manager.
Zone 7 Water Agency’s failed flood control system needs a total
revamp from the ground up, according to a consultant hired by
the agency. The system can’t be saved by adding touches here
and there. It will need a whole new rethinking, and will be
expensive, said Eric Nagy, a principal with the firm Larsen,
Wurzel & Associates in Sacramento.
The idea was to lower the flows while temperatures were still
warm enough to dry out the caddis larvae. That required buy-in
from local merchants and the Bureau of Reclamation, local
tribes and others. They were able to do it, and on Aug. 27, the
first of two flow reductions took place. When the river
dropped, people pitched in for a day of river cleanup.
The San Francisco Bay-Delta is literally threatened from all
sides: rising sea levels from the ocean, disruptions to
sediment supply from upstream, and within the Bay-Delta itself,
development and other land use changes have left only a tiny
fraction (5%) of marshland untouched. … A recent study by
scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey used historical
streamflow and sediment data to predict what will happen to the
Bay-Delta under varying levels of climate change.
California is on track to get drier over the coming decades.
But that doesn’t mean the golden state’s water woes come only
from too little rain. In a new study, researchers at UC Santa
Barbara and UCLA warn that flooding potential associated with
extreme precipitation events is set to sharply increase.
At the August meeting of the Delta Independent Science Board,
the new members joined with the outgoing members for
reflections and discussion to bring the new members up to speed
on the Delta ISB’s ongoing work.
There is something in the water on planet Earth. A study
published Wednesday reveals climate change has amplified the
water cycle, which explains the more frequent extreme weather
patterns in recent years.
The most pressing risk is debris that could clog the San
Lorenzo River near River Street and Highway 1 where water
enters the city’s system, said Santa Cruz Water Director
Rosemary Menard. The San Lorenzo River is the city’s largest
water source. It represents about 45% of the water supply.
If current predictions hold, the entire Palo Alto Baylands
could be submerged by the middle of the century because of sea
level rise, a destructive predicament that would threaten both
the sensitive habitat and the critical infrastructure in the
nature preserve. To prepare for rising tides, the city is
moving ahead with the creation of a new Sea Level Adaptation
For the first time in years, boats will soon be able to travel
freely again down the Petaluma River. … Once a vibrant
waterway, Petaluma River is now silted in, full of mud. Lt.
Colonel John Cunningham says the river hasn’t had a full
cleaning by the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 20 years.
Americans support far more aggressive government regulation to
fight the effects of climate change than elected officials have
been willing to pursue so far, new research shows, including
outright bans on building in flood- or fire-prone areas — a
level of restrictiveness almost unheard-of in the United
States…in California and elsewhere, officials continue to
approve development in areas hit by fires.
Climate change could deliver more silt, sand and pollution to
the San Francisco Bay-Delta, along with a mixed bag of other
potential consequences and benefits, according to a new study
in the AGU journal Water Resources Research, which publishes
research articles and commentaries providing a broad
understanding of the role of water in Earth’s natural systems.
A multimillion dollar water project in the heart of Northridge
is on the fast track to becoming a reality. The Aliso
Creek-Limekiln Creek Restoration Project at Vanalden Park is
aimed at reducing pollutants in city waters by treating
stormwater and urban runoff from Aliso and Limekiln creeks and
an open channel storm drain.
California EcoRestore is an initiative started in 2015 under
the Brown Administration with the ambitious goal of advancing
at least 30,000 acres of critical habitat restoration in the
Delta and Suisun Marsh by 2020. … At the August meeting of
the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, Bill Harrell, gave
an update on the Eco Restore program and the progress that has
been made over the past five years.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday the agency
would pay for more water treatment south of the border, and
work with San Diego to control trash coming into the United
States from Mexico by way of the Tijuana River. Wheeler made
the announcement during a visit to Southern California, a
region long plagued by sewage, water, trash, and other
contaminants flowing from Mexico.
The owner of a Suisun Bay island violated the federal Clean
Water Act when he destroyed marshland by building a levee and
dumping dredged material while building duck-hunting ponds, a
federal judge ruled Wednesday. The ruling is the latest in a
years-long battle between regulators and John Sweeney, who owns
an island in Suisun Bay, a tidal channel and marsh area
northeast of San Francisco.