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.
The Feather River Recovery Alliance has filed a motion to
intervene with the Department of Water Resources’ pending
application to re-license operation of the Oroville Dam. …
The motion requests that the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission reopen the licensing process that was conducted over
a decade ago, and prior to the community becoming aware of
safety concerns at the Oroville Dam.
The report by the Environmental Integrity Project released on
Thursday showed some 30 states have reduced funding for
pollution control programs, 16 of them by more than 20%. Forty
states, meanwhile, have cut staffing at environmental agencies,
half of them by at least 10%, the report showed.
The Supreme Court today will weigh in a closed-door conference
whether to take up a dispute over states’ role in water
permitting for pipelines, hydroelectric dams, and other
projects. … The question in the case is whether states
unlawfully extended their review time for a hydropower project
on the Klamath River. It’s an issue that has cropped up in
litigation over pipelines and other projects.
The City Council will certify the Water Quality and Flood
Protection Initiative at its Dec. 17 meeting after Alameda
property owners voted in favor of a fee hike. … The increased
fee will fund repairs and new pump stations, which is vital to
combat potential flooding as sea levels rise; improve lagoon
systems, enhance street sweeping procedures and maintain and
install new trash capture devices. These devices are key to
keeping the shoreline free of trash and other debris.
In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, researchers
found that from 1978 to 2017, atmospheric rivers accounted for
$42.6 billion in flood damage in 11 Western states — 84% of the
estimated total water-related damage of $50.8 billion. That’s
roughly $1.1 billion in damage done by atmospheric rivers every
As land around the Bay was developed, creeks were rerouted
underground through pipes called culverts for flood protection.
But in some spots, these hidden waterways can be brought back
up to the surface to provide habitat for wildlife and respite
for people. The Bay Area is a national leader in this type of
restoration, which is aptly called daylighting. And now we’re
undertaking our most ambitious such project yet.
The steady rain prompted the weather service to issue flash
flood watches through noon for burn areas across Santa Barbara
and Ventura counties, including the Cave, Maria and Easy fire
burn scars. … Rainfall totals of 1 to 2 inches are expected
for much of the region, but the San Gabriel Mountains could see
up to 3 inches of precipitation.
Rains caused storm drains to back up into Poway’s water
treatment facility, officials said. Crews are working around
the clock to clean and flush the system, which may take two to
five days before the water is declared safe. The county health
department ordered the closing of all restaurants in the city
and residents are being advised to boil their tap water before
drinking it or using it for cooking, city officials said.
There were questions about the gates that release the water
from Lake Oroville, even before the spillways broke up in
February 2017. Those questions never really got answered. The
focus was on fixing the obvious damage. We could get around to
talking about the gates after that. Maybe.
They’re like a continuous conga line of moisture streaming
across the ocean without interruption until they encounter an
obstacle such as the coast ranges in California. These
obstacles force the atmospheric river to start shedding its
burden of moisture.
For as far as I could see, east and west, the banks were
littered with plastic cups, fast-food containers, spray paint
cans and chip wrappers. It had rained a smidgen the day before,
the first wet weather of the season, and this was what had
washed downstream from the area west of downtown Los Angeles.
Through a variety of panel discussions, presentations and a
showcase of student research, the Re:Border conference is
exploring how San Diego State University and its regional
partners can contribute to innovative solutions for
water-related challenges in the transborder region.
Despite increased maintenance of Oroville Dam since the
spillway fell apart in February 2017, members of the
community-led Oroville Dam Ad Hoc Group have expressed concern
about the age and wear of mechanics within the spillway’s main
gates, citing similar failures on dams of the same era.
A bi-national conference at San Diego State University was
aimed at analyzing water resources in the Baja California and
San Diego border region where challenges include cross-border
pollution and water scarcity… Experts at the Reborder 2019
conference discussed ways to improve regional access to “a
secure and reliable water supply” through wastewater treatment
With winter rains on their way, officials worry a dam that
creates a small lake 17 miles west of Redding could collapse,
inundating downstream homes with up to 20 feet of water if
sediment and debris clogging two outlet pipes is not cleared.
Two 30-inch outlet pipes at Misselbeck Dam have been clogged
with silt and debris since last summer, forcing water from
Rainbow Lake to flow over the top of a deteriorated
Known as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), the
approach centers on using the latest forecast technology to
plan for the arrival of atmospheric rivers. Those are the
torrents of moisture in the sky that barrel into California
from the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers are critical to the
state’s water supply, accounting for as much as half of its
annual precipitation. But they can also cause catastrophic
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recognized the
Oroville Dam rebuild as one of 10 outstanding civil engineering
projects. Two runners-up and a winner will be chosen at the
2020 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement gala in
Washington D.C. on March 13.
Many of California’s watersheds are
notoriously flashy – swerving from below-average flows to jarring
flood conditions in quick order. The state needs all the water it
can get from storms, but current flood management guidelines are
strict and unyielding, requiring reservoirs to dump water each
winter to make space for flood flows that may not come.
However, new tools and operating methods are emerging that could
lead the way to a redefined system that improves both water
supply and flood protection capabilities.
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
Small shallow lakes dominate the world’s freshwater area, and
the sediments within them already produce at least one-quarter
of all carbon-dioxide, and more than two-thirds of all methane
released from lakes into our atmosphere. The new research,
published in the journal PNAS, suggests that climate change may
cause the levels of greenhouse gases emitted by freshwater
northern lakes to increase by between 1.5 and 2.7 times.
State transportation crews are wrapping up paving and drainage
improvement work along Highway 37 ahead of winter rains in an
attempt to avert flooding, which in two of the past three years
led to multiday closures of the critical North Bay commuter
The extra 90 cubic feet per second are designed, in part, to
attract salmon up the creek – and the flows start a little
later than in recent years due to the failure of state
Department of Fish and Wildlife pumps in the Yolo Bypass. Rich
Marovich, streamkeeper for the Solano County Water Agency
and Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, said because
it has been so dry this fall, the later release may be
The start of work on the restoration of the Bel Marin Keys
wetlands is another example of efforts to bring back the miles
of wetlands that, over the past century, have been lost to
development, other encroachments and years of sedimentation
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is hitched to so many things.
Our estuary is a critical habitat for fish and wildlife, home
to millions of people, and the hub of our state’s water
delivery system. From the Sierra Nevada to the mouth of the San
Francisco Bay, what happens in one part of the Delta watershed
affects the entire estuary.
Sasha Gershunov, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at
UC San Diego, is one of the nation’s experts on atmospheric
rivers. ARs are one of the planet’s most extreme weather
events, he said, and their impact on the state is both good and
bad. They’re a critical source of water for the Golden State’s
bountiful agriculture, thick forests and ecosystems, snowpack
and drinking supplies, dropping 50% to 60% of the entire
state’s annual precipitation.
A local coalition formed in the hopes of maintaining the most
important aspects of the Potter Valley Project is making
progress toward a two-basin solution, Janet Pauli told the
Ukiah City Council at its last meeting.
More than 7 million Californians live in places that are at
risk of flooding. But not every community is well prepared to
recover from floods. A new study, headed by experts at the
University of California, Irvine (UCI), is looking at how
flooding affects social inequality in flood-prone parts of the
state. We talked to project leads Richard Matthew and Brett
Sanders about the issue.
Even today, with all we know about the challenges posed by
climate change and sea-level rise, some cities seem determined
to continue to fill and develop their shorelines. One of the
most flagrant examples is taking place in the city of Newark…
The plan includes objectives such as recycling 100% of
wastewater along the coast by 2040, requiring the use of
nitrate removal technology at wastewater treatment plants,
establishing a state program for wetlands restoration and
creating a state fund to help coastal communities respond to
sea level rise without using harmful tactics like sea walls.
A living shoreline is an alternative to ‘hard’ shoreline
stabilization methods like rip rap or seawalls, and can provide
numerous benefits such as nutrient pollution remediation,
habitat, and buffering of shorelines from storm erosion and sea
level rise. … At the 2019 State of the Estuary conference,
Marilyn Latta from the Coastal Consevancy and Katharyn Boyer
from San Francisco State University gave a presentation on
living shoreline projects in the San Francisco Bay.
The streamlined permitting process is an important component of
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, as it
may assist Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in more
efficiently obtaining the necessary water rights to divert and
recharge water during high flow events.
The latest public relations effort cost California water
ratepayers $29,000 to produce an eight-page color advertising
insert that ran in recent days in six Sacramento Valley
newspapers including The Sacramento Bee. … Critics argue it’s
inappropriate for a state agency to be spending public money on
an advertisement that they say serves little purpose other than
to try to make the government look good.
On Thursday, the East Bay city of Newark will consider
approving 469 single family homes and 2,739 parking spaces at
the edge of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, on a 430-acre
parcel where conservation groups and state and federal agencies
have for decades hoped to restore wetlands. … The proposal
illustrates one way even straightforward and widely agreed-upon
regional climate solutions can fall apart at the local level…
The intensity of wildfires in places like California are a
symptom of climate change, experts say, but the whiplash effect
poses a different set of problems for humans and natural
systems. Researchers project that by the end of this century,
the frequency of these abrupt transitions between wet and dry
will increase by 25 percent in Northern California and as much
as double in Southern California if greenhouse gasses continue
Instead of pushing efforts to restore wetlands and wildlife
habitat to help our region become more climate resilient,
developers and city leaders are pushing to advance plans to
fill in Newark’s Bay shoreline. The proposed “Sanctuary West
Residential Project,” would build 469 luxury units along the
City of Newark’s shoreline on a 559-acre site…
The construction of dams on rivers worldwide has stopped the
natural flow of sand and silt to the sea—resulting in coastal
wetland loss and disappearing beaches—as well as preventing
fish from reaching vital spawning grounds. But when the
decision is made to remove a dam it can be remarkably
challenging. Just ask the people of Ventura, California, who’ve
been trying for 20 years…
While breaking this levee would seem like a catastrophe, state
and federal agencies intend to do just that. The purpose is not
to unleash some biblical, punishing flood, but rather to allow
nature to reclaim nearly 1,600 acres of wetland habitat.
A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open
records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or
unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and
Puerto Rico. … In California, six high-hazard dams were rated
as poor or unsatisfactory, including Oroville, which failed in
2017 and prompted mass evacuations downstream.
Much of California enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate where
the weather typically swings like a pendulum from warm, dry
summers to cool, wet winters. … While the pendulum has
always swung here, there’s evidence that its swings are now
getting more dramatic, and anyone who’s lived here in the last
few years has seen it firsthand.
Boeing worked with the state and installed a massive system of
plastic pipes, treatment systems and holding ponds meant to
filter and manage potentially toxic rainwater before it poured
downhill… Then the giant Woolsey Fire ignited at the
old laboratory… Flames destroyed plastic piping and tore
through the storm water system before ravaging another 94,000
acres as the fire stormed west to the sea, according to state
and Boeing records.
The lessons gained from the 2018 wildfires that swept through
Paradise, in Northern California, and along the Los
Angeles-Ventura County border in Southern California are still
being absorbed by water managers around California as they
recognize that the old emergency preparedness plans of
yesterday may not be adequate for the new wildfire reality of
Here’s the scariest part: What’s happening in California is not
an isolated problem. From saltwater-ravaged tunnels in New York
to flooding in Houston to water loss along the Colorado River,
it is clear that we did not design our infrastructure and
communities to manage our new climate realities. While Congress
and statehouses across the country debate how much to spend on
traditional repairs and maintenance, we ignore a more
fundamental question: What will it take to redesign our entire
approach to infrastructure for an era of climate insecurity?
Woodland city officials are continuing to build the case for
Cache Creek flood control, recently approving $900,000 for
another study that could be yet another downpayment on a
multi-million dollar project ultimately paid for by federal,
state and local governments.
On a secluded corner of Marywood Drive in Paradise sit two
vacant lots, side by side. The empty space used to hold
single-family residences surrounded by Ponderosa pines. That
was until the November 2018 Camp Fire — California’s deadliest
and most destructive wildfire — leveled the Butte County town
and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. Now, one year later,
these lots are being rebuilt by two Paradise natives, Christine
and Dave Williams, who bought the properties after the fire.
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
In response to concerns about power outages, wildfires and the
water used to put them out, local water officials unveiled
details of an emergency plan Tuesday, explaining how SCV Water
is prepared for emergencies.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is
expanding its effort to learn more about the water supply
potential of local stormwater capture with a new $7.5 million
pilot programapproved today by its board of directors.
Federal engineers have found that a dam protecting the high
desert communities of Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley and
Barstow falls short of national safety standards and could
erode and collapse in an extreme flood, inundating thousands of
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
A state agency cannot make the federal government dredge two
vital San Francisco Bay channels more frequently, a federal
judge ruled Monday, despite arguments that less dredging could
increase the risk of a container ship accident or oil spill.
Casting climate change as a direct threat to California’s water
security, a panel of experts on Tuesday said the state must
plan for the “new normal” by modernizing water infrastructure
before the next great disaster.
Jaime Bonilla was sworn into office Friday as governor of
California’s neighboring Mexican state. … In his first major
speech since taking office, Governor Bonilla promised to
address poverty, public safety issues and end cross-border
sewage flows within six months. Bonilla, a dual U.S.-Mexico
citizen, formerly served as an elected member of the Otay Water
District in Chula Vista.
The executive director of the San Mateo Resource Conservation
District was admiring the restoration of 8,000 feet of the
Butano Creek stream channel, the largest and most ambitious of
a series of projects the district is spearheading to stop
chronic flooding, bring back endangered fish and restore 28
acres of degraded wetlands at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
In the long run, the biggest news from Monday’s Bishop City
Council meeting may be that Los Angeles Department of Water and
Power could consider selling the land being used for waste
water discharge by both the City of Bishop and the Eastern
Sierra Community Service District.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it has changed
its risk characterization of the Mojave River Dam from low to
high urgency of action. The earthen dam was built in the 1970s
near the San Bernardino Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. It
was designed for flood control and is usually dry.
San Marcos will start construction of its Creek District this
year, with a $100 million plan to reduce flooding and improve
habitat and traffic flow, officials said at a public forum
earlier this week.
In order to take care of environmental concerns and maintain
our facilities in a safe and effective manner, we have
identified about 900 encroachments on public lands managed by
Valley Water that require resolution. … Valley Water has
implemented a new process to resolve these encroachments by
working with our community.
California regulations protecting wetlands and state waters
were approved by the State Water Resources Control Board and
will take effect on May 28, 2020. These new rules create a more
expansive and complex permitting scheme for developers, public
agencies and others with projects that may impact waters and
The Ojai Valley agency planned a roughly $1 million project to
clear part of a 9-foot pile of silt, sand and gravel from
its Robles diversion facility. … Without the work, Casitas
officials said they could face emergency shutoffs,
clogged fish screens and lost water this winter.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s
network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit
real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream,
information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting
water supplies and knowing what the future might bring. …
Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
Get ready for a surge of lawsuits over the Trump
administration’s decision to walk back Obama-era protections
for wetlands and streams. … The cases add a new dimension to
what could soon be a complicated legal quagmire over the Obama
administration’s WOTUS rule and the Trump administration’s
efforts to both erase and replace the regulation.
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense
Council, and nine other groups sued Oct. 23 in the U.S.
District Court for the District of South Carolina, accusing the
federal government of breaking the law in its rollback of the
2015 Clean Water Rule.
Santa Fe Dam is an element of the Los Angeles County Drainage
Area (LACDA) flood control system. Watersheds are more than
just drainage areas in and around our communities. They are
necessary to support habitat for plants and animals, and they
provide drinking water for people and wildlife.
Scientists examined 33 El Ninos — natural warming of equatorial
Pacific that triggers weather extremes across the globe — since
1901. They found since the 1970s, El Ninos have been forming
farther to the west in warmer waters, leading to stronger El
Ninos in some cases.
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.
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.
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
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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
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 …
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
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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.