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.
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the
public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who
may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water
Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with
the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April
15, there’s no time to lose.
A fierce battle by Berkeley firefighters to prevent a gas-tank
explosion succeeded in averting a potential disaster this week
— but an apparently deadly aftereffect is that hundreds of fish
were killed when water and retardant foam from the firefight
flowed into a nearby stream.
One video follows Matthew Sligar on a “typical 14-hour workday”
during the planting season. Another offers a step-by-step
explanation of how rice is planted in Butte County. In others,
he takes viewers on virtual tractor rides and demonstrates
important tools, like his autonomous agriculture drone. Sligar
doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, either, such as
weed and pest control management and water usage.
In an era of high population growth and sprawling urban and
wildland development, fire and flood disaster officials have to
plan in advance for post-fire problems… One strategy
California and Colorado are working on is to build political
alliances that combine forestry, water and land issues so that
lawmakers at the state and even the federal level are provided
with a more powerful, holistic view of the problems.
On Tuesday, Napolitano, D-El Monte and U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez,
D-Norwalk asked a House Appropriations subcommittee to funnel
$100.4 million into the Army Corps’ construction and dam safety
correction budget for fiscal year 2020, citing the Whittier
Narrows Dam in Pico Rivera as a leading contender for at least
part of that funding.
California received some good news on Tuesday for the state’s
water supply: The Sierra Nevada snowpack is well above normal,
at 162 percent of average. This amount of snow is thanks to the
more than 30 “atmospheric rivers” that brought storms this
winter and spring. Chris Orrock, with the California Department
of Water Resources, says … this is the fourth largest amount
of snow in recorded history.
It worked. Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway reopened
for business Tuesday morning, releasing a gentle sheet of water
into the Feather River for the first time since the 2017 crisis
that sent 188,000 people fleeing for their lives. … It was a
far cry from the scene two years ago, when the massive sinkhole
in the spillway turned water releases into an angry, boiling
Alongside auto wrecking yards and shipping centers off state
Route 905, a pop-up world has emerged with some of the
strangest creatures to swim in six inches of water. Here
aquatic plants grow next to cacti, and animals that have waited
for decades in the dust come to life. In this Otay Mesa
preserve are some of San Diego’s vernal pools, fleeting water
bodies that appear and vanish over the course of a season.
If it seems that wildfires are burning nearly all the time
these days, that there’s no longer a definable fire season in
California, you’re right. Fourteen of the 20 most destructive
fires in state history have occurred since 2007, and California
has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago.
It’s been a big year for snow in the Sierra Nevada range. This
is the time of year—April 1—when the snowpack is typically at
its peak and on Tuesday, when surveyors do their monthly manual
survey, they’re likely to find a snowpack at about 160 percent
of the average.
Hermosa Beach City Council has scrapped a large stormwater
infiltration project slated for the southern end of city’s
greenbelt, after more than a year of opposition from residents.
City officials will look for a new home for the project, meant
to ultimately reduce bacteria in the Santa Monica Bay, but
could potentially forfeit nearly $3.1 million in grant funding
from the State Water Resources Board.
Lawmakers are considering spending $150 million to fund new
high-tech measurements of the snowpack using lasers. … The
new hi-tech approach is meant to help water managers know
exactly how much water they can expect in water runoff from the
snowpack – and when that runoff will arrive in reservoirs,
rivers, and streams.
Officials predict they might need to open the gates to move
water that accumulated during the wet winter season from the
reservoir down into the Feather River. … Amy Rechenmacher, an
associate professor of engineering practice at USC, said the
spillway’s use is going to be a big test for the agency and
engineers who worked on the project.
Decay festers all around at the Salton Sea, the vast inland
lake in Southern California that once hosted beauty pageants
and boat races in its tourist heyday. … But new life is
moving into the breach. At Bombay Beach, artists drawn by the
cheap prices and surreal setting have been snapping up lots and
crumbling buildings as gallery spaces.
Fortunately, California has developed a forward-looking Central
Valley Flood Protection Plan to meet this challenge. In his
first state of the state address, Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted
the central tenet of the flood plan—investing in floodplain
improvements that give rivers more room to safely bypass flood
waters around cities and infrastructure.
For the past year the state’s worked to eradicate the rodents
for a second time. The rodents were brought to California in
the 1900s for the fur trade and fur farming. “[The] challenge
is we keep looking and we keep finding more nutria,” said Peter
Tira with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“However, we do know there’s about 1.8 million acres of
suitable nutria habitat. This is the largest nutria eradication
ever attempted in the United States.”
For the second time in two months, officials had to stop
diverting river water into Lake Casitas this week when several
feet of sandy muck got in the way. … Officials blamed the
Thomas Fire, which burned much of the area upstream in December
2017. When rain slammed into scorched hillsides, debris
and sediment came down the river.
Parts of the bay are experiencing high levels of shoaling —
sediment buildup that shallows the water, putting boats at the
mercy of large waves. … The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation
and Conservation District called for a state of emergency in
February due to increased shoaling halfway across the channel
in the North Bay, a portion known as “Rock and Roll Alley.”
Five months after voters approved a bond measure to protect the
waterfront from earthquakes and flooding from sea-level rise,
San Francisco plans to start using the first batch of funds.
Next week, The City is expected to introduce to the Board of
Supervisors for approval a proposal to use $50 million of the
$425 million Embarcadero Seawall Earthquake Safety general
obligation bond approved by more than 80 percent of the voters
One month after destructive flooding tore through Sonoma
County, residents are waiting for the state to decide if it
will ask the federal government for a disaster declaration — a
move that they say can bring them much-needed financial aid.
Russian River environmental watchdog Brenda Adelman accepted a
water stewardship award from California’s North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board last month in a ceremony at NCRWQCB
headquarters in Santa Rosa.
Spearheaded by the San Mateo Resource Conservation District,
with additional support from California State Parks and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project
aims to re-establish more than a mile of the historic creek
channel, remove 45,000 cubic yards of sediment and restore more
than 10 miles of habitat for threatened steelhead trout and
endangered coho salmon.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
Whitewater rafting businesses are holding out hope of getting a
safe landing area near the Ward’s Ferry bridge over the
Tuolumne River, as a condition of relicensing the Don Pedro
hydroelectric project. At a Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission hearing Tuesday in Modesto, speakers said an
existing takeout for rafts on the Tuolumne, upstream from Don
Pedro Reservoir, is under water because of dam operations. And
the options for getting boats out of the water are not safe.
The California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced late
last week that eight organizations have received a total of
$1.85 million in grants to hire watershed coordinators to help
in building local capacity to improve forest health. … Areas
identified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection as being most at risk of catastrophic wildfires were
given priority for the grants.
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
Duane Waliser of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory … says as
the climate warms, atmospheric rivers are projected to grow
wider and longer. Powerful ones are also expected to become
more frequent. That could increase water supply in some places.
“But on the other hand, atmospheric rivers come with flood
potential as well, so they’re sort of a double-edged sword, so
The town of roughly 1,000 people is located in the north-east
part of the county and surrounded by active waterways. It has
flooded multiple times in the past. Goals of the study included
reducing the risk of flooding while enhancing habitat
restoration and providing safe access to the river, according
to Sabatini’s presentation.
Major new efforts to manage runoff and protect existing homes
and businesses will be needed. Sea level rise will also affect
water management in other ways. One area is wastewater
treatment. Throughout coastal California and particularly in
the San Francisco Bay Area, wastewater and stormwater treatment
takes place in facilities that are currently at or near sea
level. Water supply will also be affected. Many coastal
aquifers will see increases in salinity …
Water may cascade down Oroville Dam’s rebuilt spillway next
week for the first time since a massive crater formed in its
nearly half-mile long surface two years ago — a major milestone
in the saga that triggered the evacuation of 188,000 people and
a $1.1 billion repair job to the country’s tallest dam. A storm
forecast to hit this week is expected to fill Lake Oroville to
the point that state dam operators might need to open the
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
More than 400 nutria have been captured in the first year of an
effort to eradicate the invasive South American rodent from
California. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said
Monday the semi-aquatic rodents were trapped in five counties
in the San Joaquin Valley. Nutria are an agricultural pest,
destroy wetlands critical to native wildlife and threaten water
delivery and flood control infrastructure through destructive
Water managers are shifting from flood control to water storage
at reservoirs across California. Folsom Lake is at roughly 70
percent capacity, with about twice the amount of inflow as
outflow. “Some of the challenges we have — there are water
demands that are always increasing at Folsom, we have snowpack
that’s large, we have weather storms that come in,” said Todd
Plain with Bureau of Reclamation.
As the Sacramento River rose in late February and early March
due to a series of storms, it spilled over and flooded several
hundred acres of recently planted fields south of Hamilton
City. Just the way it was planned. The river poured through a
gap that had been opened in the old J Levee and flooded a
habitat restoration project between the riverbank and a new
levee that had been built, set back from the river a mile or
The intense nature of wildfires is undeniable, and while most
people want nothing but to get as far away as possible, artist
Jeff Frost decided that wasn’t an option. … His video and
sound installation, “California on Fire,” showcases 350,000
photographs from more than 70 major wildfires, taken over the
period of five years. The 25-minute video shows just a glimpse
of what Frost experienced behind the lens, and how many people
have been affected during the fires.
In places like Oakland, flooding will occur not just at the
shoreline, but inland in areas once considered safe from sea
level rise, including the Oakland Coliseum and Jones Avenue,
where [UC Berkeley professor Kristina] Hill and her students
now stood, more than a mile from San Leandro Bay. In fact, she
added, rising groundwater menaces nearly the entire band of
low-lying land around San Francisco Bay, as well as many other
coastal parts of the U.S.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to
California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help
nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve
spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry.
The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings
contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms
grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
Water levels and flows on area rivers are looking similar to
conditions in 2017 when there were more than double the water
rescues compared to average years. “Everyone should treat the
river like a wild animal,” said Stanislaus Consolidated Fire
Protection District Captain Jeff Frye. “Enjoy it from afar.”
Another round of soaking winter weather is on the horizon for
the West Coast, with a series of storms expected to impact the
region through midweek. … “Unsettled weather will continue
across the West Coast this week as more rain and mountain snow
targets Northern California, Oregon and Washington,” according
to AccuWeather Meteorologist Max Vido.
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
A “landmark” initiative aimed at restoring Carmel River
floodplain habitat and helping reduce flood risks for homes and
businesses along the lower part of the river and lagoon has
reached a key phase with the release of its environmental
An engineer with 20-plus years experience working on dams fears
the Oroville dam could be in trouble again. He says the same
problem which led to the failure of the main spillway in 2017
is still happening. … Now, expert Scott Cahill told News
Radio KFBK, water can be seen seeping from the foot of the dam
and dozens of points along the new spillway.
The problem is that removing the four dams will not restore
natural river flows. Those flows are, for the most part,
controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which will
continue to divert Klamath River water to the Rogue Basin and
for federal irrigation in the Upper Klamath and Lost River
Officials from the California Department of Water Resources,
the Public Policy Institute of California and the Water
Education Foundation will join regional water managers and
federal agency representatives at the daylong event, “Moving
Forward Together: From Planning to Action Across the Watershed“
at Cal State Fullerton.
FEMA said that a wide range of pre-existing problems
contributed to the deterioration of both the upper and lower
sections of the massive concrete spillway. The agency argues
that federal law, regulations and policy restrict payments only
to work needed to fix damage stemming from a declared disaster.
Water storage at New Melones Reservoir in southeastern
Calaveras County is currently at 84 percent of its 2.4 million
acre-feet capacity – 35 percent higher than its 15-year average
for March… Although the dam’s emergency spillway has never
been tested, Reclamation has been proactively releasing water
in anticipation of snowpack runoff.
To put it bluntly, there’s a chance that a portion of “Capitola
by the Sea,” as it’s sometimes known, could become “Capitola in
the Sea.” The city of Santa Cruz’s Climate Adaptation Plan,
published in 2018, estimates climate change, caused by
greenhouse gas emissions, will result in about 28 inches of
sea-level rise along the Central Coast by 2060.
As the sea level rises, it could impact more than the
California coastline. The rising water could impact the
Sacramento region. Some researchers said the rise could
threaten levees in the area and increase the risk of flooding
throughout the Delta and the Sacramento Valley.
A collection of legislators are taking another shot at getting
state money to repair the canal carrying water to thousands of
farms and several cities along the Valley’s eastside. … The
bipartisan supported legislation will secure California’s water
supply by investing $400 million in general funds to repair
subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal caused during the historic
Climate advocates say an overhaul of the nation’s flood
insurance program being unveiled by the Trump administration
will spur communities around the country to better plan for
extreme weather, but could drive up costs for some homeowners.
… It will tie premiums to the actual flood risk facing
individual homes nationwide starting in October 2020. The
current system sets prices based largely on whether a home is
inside or outside of the 100-year flood plain.
Ninety-one years ago this week, the worst civil engineering
failure in California history killed more than 450 people when
a wall of water carved a path of staggering destruction from a
canyon north of Los Angeles to the coast.
With rising tides threatening to submerge the Palo Alto
Baylands by mid-century, city officials agreed on Monday
they need to explore new barriers — both physical and
legislative — to protect coastal area from sea level rise.
These measures will be approved as part of a new Sea Level Rise
Implementation Plan, a document that Public Works staff are in
the process of putting together and that could have significant
ramification for properties around the Baylands.
Addressing concerns that include floods, droughts, wildfires
and state regulations on river flow, two state officials
advised farmers and ranchers to remain engaged in those and
other natural-resources issues. At the California Farm Bureau
Federation Leaders Conference in Sacramento last week,
California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot
said his top priorities include water and wildfire protection.
A move by the Environmental Protection Agency could revive the
contentious plan to develop 1,400 acres of Redwood City
shoreline owned by Cargill Salt, which operates an industrial
plant there. The EPA removed one barrier to development earlier
this month by ruling that the area is not subject to
restrictions in the federal Clean Water Act. That puts the EPA
at loggerheads with environmentalists, who want to convert the
land back to tidal wetlands.
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could
affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join
forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into
Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
By allocating $1 million last week toward a creek restoration
project set to rejuvenate threatened and endangered species and
reduce flooding in Pescadero, county officials locked in
funding needed to begin a dredging effort experts expect will
give the Butano Creek a chance to reset.
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control
Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state
officials about their progress addressing the many issues
related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these
officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress
at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
Our rules, cobbled over time from various state water right
decisions or federal biological opinions, are too rigid. …
Things are done by an aging book. We are not adapting our
management based on testing new hypotheses collaboratively
advanced by stakeholders who are willing to celebrate the
results regardless of outcome.
Water is coming out from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River.
The dam is at about 82 percent of capacity, and the warm
weather is melting the mountain snow. Michael Jackson, area
director for the Bureau of Reclamation, says the flow out of
the dam is being increased. Flood releases don’t usually start
until April, so the extra water is good news for valley
growers, with extra irrigation water available.
Dozens of computer coding teams from around San Joaquin County
were tasked to create an app in roughly seven hours. The issue:
following the destruction caused by the malfunction of the
Oroville Dam in February 2017 and the evacuation of more than
180,000 people, could there be an app that can track dam
leakage, seismic activity and other structural impacts and
communicate with the appropriate individuals to help deter
The statewide snowpack has reached 160 percent of its annual
year-to-date average and the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra
Nevada can be seen from Highway 198. … But, if you think
that’s a lot of rain, think again. Sunday marks the 113th
anniversary of the 1906 flood, which filled Visalia’s downtown
streets with about a foot of water. The water didn’t dissipate
for 10 days.
Otters, birds, and turtles might be the last animals you would
expect to find living next door to the Interstate 680
toll-plaza. But, tucked between the freeway, an oil refinery
and a wastewater facility hides an oasis on the mend. … The
21-acre constructed wetland is in the middle of an industrial
zone and is part of the Mt. View Sanitary District Wastewater
Treatment Plant. “It’s the very first wetland on the west coast
to use treated wastewater to create wetlands,” explained
district biologist Kelly Davidson.
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
The waters are getting warmer due to more heat being kept in
the atmosphere from excess carbon dioxide from the burning of
fossil fuels. … When the earth heats up, so do the waters in
the Arctic where the polar ice caps and sea ice are melting.
This excess water flows down into rivers, streams and bays
where people live. The result: Sea levels rise, causing
flooding to coastal cities.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of
migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific
Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They
are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed
and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in
Nature’s Scientific Reports.
They are a semiaquatic South American rodent a bit smaller than
a beaver. Females can give birth three times a year and have up
to 12 babies each litter. They are really good at tearing up
crops, burrowing tunnels into levees, and other destructive
behavior that is tough on farmers. And they’ve been discovered
in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a major food-producing
Heavy snowfall this winter is expected to delay the seasonal
opening of many Yosemite tourist attractions, including
Yosemite Valley campgrounds, Half Dome’s climbing cables and
Tioga Road into the high country, park officials announced
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her
energy to issues associated with management of the Colorado
River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the
Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Now her career is taking a
different direction. Harkins was appointed last August to take
the helm of the United States section of the International
Boundary and Water Commission, the U.S.-Mexico agency that
oversees myriad water matters between the two countries…
The Glory Hole’s inlet is 72 feet in diameter and the outlet
shrinks down to 28-feet wide. Right now, the water is coming
out at 3,800 cubic feet per second. Just in case you are
wondering, that is enough water to fill an Olympic-sized pool
every 23.2 seconds.
A countywide effort to manage sea level rise is beginning to
coalesce. In recent months, San Mateo County officials have
taken steps to form a new government agency to address coastal
erosion, flooding, storm water infrastructure and sea level
A sprawling stretch of salt ponds on the western edge of San
Francisco Bay, once eyed for the creation of a virtual
mini-city, is back at the center of debate over regional
development after the Trump administration this month exempted
the site from the Clean Water Act.
Blockbuster claims in a lawsuit that a racist, sexist, corrupt
culture contributed to the near-catastrophic failure of
Oroville Dam two years ago can go forward, a Sacramento judge
ruled Thursday. The decision … sets the stage for what
plaintiffs’ attorneys vow will be a deep dive into claims of a
poisonous work culture that nearly disastrously compromised the
nation’s tallest dam.
Last month, we broke ground on a long overdue revamp of the
West Fontana Channel. … It was created in the 1970s after the
County of San Bernardino got serious about flood control
following the devastating flooding that occurred in 1969. But
unlike Day Creek, San Sevaine and other flood control
facilities, the West Fontana Channel was never fortified with
concrete to ensure it could handle all of the fast-moving
runoff it gets inundated with after heavy storms.
A bill introduced by a state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San
Francisco) that will address ocean acidification and water
quality issues has been introduced and it’s being supported by
a wide variety of stakeholders. Senate Bill 69, authored by
Wiener, is aimed at reducing land-based sources of pollutants,
the restoration of wetlands and the sequestration of greenhouse
gases and to protect wildlife and keystone species.
When an atmospheric river meets mountainous terrain like the
Sierra Nevada, the water vapor condenses and becomes rain or
snow. Strong atmospheric rivers can bring about floods and
landslides, but the water and snowpack they leave behind
provide California with 25 to 50 percent of its yearly
precipitation in just a few days.
Recent rains have left the San Joaquin Valley’s reservoirs in
better shape, but groundwater depletion and the resulting
ground subsidence continue to beset farmers and water managers.
What will this year hold? … Your best opportunity to
understand the challenges and opportunities of this vital
resource in the nation’s breadbasket is to join us on our
Central Valley Tour April 3-5.
The city of Sacramento has approved a $2.9 million contract
that will allow construction of a new sewage vault underneath
McKinley Park. The goal of the project is to provide a place to
store sewage during wet weather, when stormwater runoff — and
wastewater — can end up in the same place, and overflow can
send it all into East Sacramento’s streets.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River
basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over
35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January —
coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the
project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely
following what happens next.
In the most extensive study to date on sea level rise in
California, researchers say damage by the end of the century
could be far more devastating than the worst earthquakes and
wildfires in state history. A team of U.S. Geological Survey
scientists concluded that even a modest amount of sea level
rise — often dismissed as a creeping, slow-moving disaster —
could overwhelm communities when a storm hits at the same time.
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
The water within the Paradise Irrigation District is clean. The
trouble is, the infrastructure within the district may not be,
according to Paradise Irrigation District’s Kevin Phillips.
“The water is clean but some of the pipes are contaminated,
that’s why (contamination) is so random,” he said. “One service
line can be contaminated, but the one next door isn’t. If the
water were contaminated, then it would be everywhere.”
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in
excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County
supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the
effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community
Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the
Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked
by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour
the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get
airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already
suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
California’s recent drought may have officially ended, but the
state’s water data drought remains in full effect. Shockingly,
we don’t always know the answers to basic questions such as how
much water is available in our state, let alone where and when.
That’s why improving California’s woefully deficient stream
gage network should be a top priority for the state.
Death Valley, the hottest and driest place in North America,
isn’t exactly known for record rainfall or pop-up lakes
stretching as far as the eye can see. But after a massive storm
lashed the desert with rain and brought chilly temperatures
through Southern California, that’s exactly what happened,
according to photographer Elliott McGucken. He was trying to
get to Badwater Basin, where he thought there could be
flooding, when he saw the giant lake.
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana
face similar water challenges. California is better known for
having too little water and Louisiana too much – both
challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting
wet winter weather led both states last week to release
significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to
prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to
build climate-resilient communities across the country.
California’s state water agency is set to appeal a federal
determination that some of the Oroville Dam’s reconstruction
costs are ineligible for reimbursement. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency last week approved an additional $205 million
for the project, on top of the $128.4 million it sent last
year, according to the state Department of Water Resources. But
FEMA officials told the state they likely won’t fund some
portions of the 2-year, estimated $1.1 billion rebuilding
effort that followed the Oroville Dam’s near-failure in
Santa Monica will experience more frequent droughts and coastal
flooding, hotter temperatures and poorer air quality as the
world’s climate changes throughout the next century. However,
officials said the city’s geography and the City of Santa
Monica’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) will shield
residents from some of the impacts of climate change. The plan,
released last month, describes how the city will ensure
residents have affordable water during droughts, contain sea
level rise and deal with high heat days.
Rising temperatures, rising sea levels and a disappearing
snowpack were part of a scary story told to SCV Water Agency
officials recently as they learned the effects of climate
change over the next 100 years. … The latest climate
assessment was intended to advance “actionable science” that
would serve the growing needs of state and local-level
decision-makers from a variety of sectors.
In the midst of the wet winter storms bringing rain and snow to
California this year, you might not expect drought preparations
to be among the state’s current priorities. And yet, they need
to be. In this post, I’ll explore why to set the stage for a
blog series that explores what the state can do to prepare for
the more frequent and intense droughts we expect in
California’s future. The series draws on work my colleagues and
I did for California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment.
The Sacramento Valley’s flood management system is a good
example where a portfolio of actions has greatly reduced flood
damages and deaths, with relatively little management expense
and attention in a highly flood-prone region. This case also
illustrates how the many individual flood management options
presented in the table can be assembled into a diversified
cost-effective strategy involving the many local, state, and
federal parties concerned with floods.
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem
to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin
Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate
water game, the words are inextricably linked.
The Napa County Planning Commission is sending the
controversial, draft Water Quality and Tree Protection
Ordinance back to the Board of Supervisors with a few
recommended changes, but no sea change in direction.
Commissioners heard from about 50 speakers on Wednesday. Some
warned that too many additional environmental restrictions will
hurt farming. Some said that bold action is needed to protect
drinking water and combat climate change.
A “major problem” in southeast Tulare County forced hundreds of
people out of their homes and endangered thousands of animals.
… Tulare County Sheriff’s Department was sent scrambling to
notify residents in the area of Strathmore that Frazier Creek
Canal spilled over and water levels were rising. Frazier Creek
is directly linked to the Friant-Kern Canal. … Friant-Kern
Water Authority officials later determined the flooding wasn’t
caused by “overtopping” of the Friant-Kern Canal’s banks. The
issue was drainage from Frazier Creek.
For a region so crucial to the growth of California as we know
it today, you might think there would be libraries full of
books about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And yet, as UC
Merced scholar Gregg Camfield wrote several years ago, the most
obvious thing about the literature of the Delta “is how little
there is.” Advocates of the largest estuary on the west coast
of the Americas are trying to collect those scattered bits and
pieces in a new anthology of the Delta.
Millions of Californians could end up with higher water bills
after the Trump administration on Friday announced that federal
emergency officials aren’t going to reimburse the state for
$306 million in repairs to Oroville Dam stemming from the 2017
spillway crisis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said
federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems that
existed prior to a massive hole forming in the dam’s concrete
spillway in February 2017…
Oregon’s dam safety regulations are getting an overhaul, for
the first time in nearly a century. A bill pending in the
Legislature would rewrite the laws governing construction,
inspections and enforcement authority for hundreds of
state-regulated dams. The bill would increase the state’s power
to force owners of aging, dangerous dams to do maintenance and
make repairs. And it would require state approval and oversight
of all new dam construction and removal of old dams.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a $35 million
contract to continue the Sutter Basin Project – strengthening a
stretch of Sutter County levees. The project will allow repairs
to continue on approximately five more miles of the Feather
River west levee between Tudor Road and Cypress Avenue in south
Sutter County, according to a press release from the corps.
A long battle over development of the Cargill salt ponds in
Redwood City may soon return after the EPA declared the site
exempt from the federal Clean Water Act — causing concern by
environmentalists and the city’s mayor. The Environmental
Protection Agency announced its decision earlier this month,
effectively removing one of several barriers to development of
the 1,400-acre Bayside property.
Rescues of unhealthy seals and sea lions have nearly tripled
for this time of year in Orange County, according to the
Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which this week took in its 41st
pinniped since the year began. … While the exact reason for
the increase in the number of strandings this year is unknown,
Higuchi said it could be tied to warmer ocean waters caused by
an El Nino weather pattern or excess stormwater runoff from all
of this winter’s rains.
In this edition of In Depth we take on two water topics. First,
there’s growing concern that a lot of the rainwater we’ve been
getting is just going down the drain and out to sea. We plumb
the depths of California’s water system to find out where it’s
coming up short and what can be done to fix it. Then, new
research suggests that the historical link between wet winters
and less severe fire seasons has broken down. We discuss why
even in the rainiest of years, we still can’t count out
We love our Russian River for its eternal beauty, its nurturing
forces, its quenching properties, its recreation and play and
its renewing spirits. We love our river — except when we don’t.
And right now we are distraught over the destruction its
breached muddy torrents visited upon us yet again.
Recent plans to enlarge California’s Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet
have raised concerns over possible cultural and ecological
implications on wildlife among the Winnemem Wintu people and
environmental groups alike. … The change in flood patterns
would likely affect vital sacred sites for the Winnemen Wintu
Puberty Ceremony for young women, according to the Winnemem
Wintu website. The project would also relocate roads,
railroads, bridges and marinas, according to a fact sheet from
the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los
Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the
Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant by 2035 signals an end to the
era of addressing water shortages by importing water from
far-flung places and initiates a long-anticipated era of
reusing locally available supplies. The shift will require L.A.
residents to understand both the necessity of the plan and the
technology that will produce safe water.
The Crossroads Open Space soccer field in Santa Maria is filled
with water thanks to the most recent storm. Located on S.
College Dr., the field also serves as a basin to collect storm
runoff. The city says the water will soak into the ground,
recharging the groundwater basin.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $205 million
to reimburse California for the Oroville Dam spillway
reconstruction costs, the state Department of Water Resources
announced Thursday. … However, FEMA has notified DWR that it
doesn’t think some of the reconstruction costs are eligible for
Behind the initial damage toll of $155 million from last week’s
Russian River flood is some positive news: only 35 homes and
businesses have been red-tagged as uninhabitable. After the
last major Russian River flood, in 2006, 66 homes and
businesses were red-tagged. … The steadily declining numbers
reflect three decades of progress in fortifying river
communities to withstand floods, most notably an ongoing
program to elevate homes.
The Success Dam Enlargement Project, headed by the US Army
Corps of Engineers, has been working its way towards
construction since October 2018. … On Tuesday morning the
timeline was published, and it reveals that construction on the
Success Dam Enlargement Project will begin in mid 2020. Until
then, plenty of work is scheduled to happen before construction
Swollen rivers and creeks fed by atmospheric-river storms
caused flooding with both short-term and long-term impacts for
California farmers. Mary Ann Renner, a dairy farmer in the
Humboldt County town of Ferndale, said the flood from the Eel
River was not the worst she’s seen—but was close.
While handing out at the Guerneville Safeway store $50 grocery
gift cards to residents affected by last week’s flood, Jeniffer
Wertz was forced to turn away several people Sunday after
running out of cards. “It was heartbreaking,” said Wertz, a
volunteer for the nonprofit Russian River Alliance. For people
whose homes, cars or businesses were damaged by the worst
flooding along the Russian River in two decades, local
nonprofit leaders say, the need for financial help is
Heavy rains this winter will help replenish groundwater
aquifers and benefit projects that use excess surface water to
recharge groundwater basins. At the California Department of
Water Resources, planners focus on a voluntary strategy known
as Flood-MAR, which stands for “managed aquifer recharge.” The
strategy combines floodwater operations and groundwater
management in an effort to benefit working landscapes, and
could also aid local groundwater agencies as they implement the
state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Water is starting to seep down the rebuilt Oroville Dam
spillway. California Department of Water Resources officials
said Wednesday this is common and will not affect the operation
of the dam’s gates, which are not watertight. … Both
spillways at the 770-foot earthen dam, the nation’s tallest,
collapsed in February 2017, forcing nearly 200,000 people
downstream to evacuate.
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater
aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the
North Coast. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They
aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled
areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals
benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds
creeks and streams. Humans tap into aquifers through wells used
for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses.
Deadly severe wildfires in California have scientists
scrutinizing the underlying factors that could influence future
extreme events. Using climate simulations and paleoclimate data
dating back to the 16th century, a recent study looks closely
at long-term upper-level wind and related moisture patterns to
The moment a lone duck was sucked into a 200ft-deep drain at a
reservoir in northern California – and reportedly survived –
has been captured on video. Known locally as the “Glory Hole”,
the giant spillway is designed to capture excess water at Lake
Berryessa reservoir in Napa County. Rick Fowler, the lake’s
water resources manager, filmed the bird as it drifted towards
the fast-swirling vortex and dropped down into the hole.
Former Interior Secretary and Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt
will be the distinguished speaker at the 2019 Anne J. Schneider
Memorial Lecture on April 3 at the Crocker Art Museum in
downtown Sacramento. Babbitt’s talk is titled “Parting the
Waters — Will It Take a Miracle?”
The state Department of Water Resources announced that releases
from the powerplant were being increased from 1,750 cubic feet
per second to 5,000 cfs. Ten-day projections show the lake
reaching 835 feet on March 14, according to DWR. The department
has said it does not anticipate that it will utilize the
rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway anytime soon; however, crews have
been making preparations in case its use becomes necessary. The
spillway becomes usable once water reaches its gates at 813
feet, which should happen Tuesday morning.
Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s
wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250
million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the
nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility
that began in last week’s storm. The three-day deluge pushed
more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff
into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant. It was the highest
inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.
The dramatic shift from dry to wet this winter hints at what’s
to come. Scientists predict that California’s total
precipitation will remain close to constant in the future, but
it will fall in a shorter window of time, with more of it as
rain. The state will also experience greater variability—more
very wet and more very dry years. These findings highlight the
need to capture rainfall and improve aging infrastructure.
Here’s what to expect from California’s wet seasons, now and in
The Sacramento Valley’s flood management system is a good
example where a portfolio of actions has greatly reduced flood
damages and deaths, with relatively little management expense
and attention in a highly flood-prone region. This case also
illustrates how the many individual flood management options
presented in the table can be assembled into a diversified
cost-effective strategy involving the many local, state, and
federal parties concerned with floods.
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the
West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created
with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers
and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper.
After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing
that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of
electricity, they must fix the problems.
The announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti last month that Los
Angeles will recycle all the wastewater produced at the
Hyperion plant by 2035 signals an end to the era of addressing
water shortages by importing water from far-flung places and
initiates a long-anticipated era of reusing locally available
supplies. The shift will require L.A. residents to understand
both the necessity of the plan and the technology that will
produce safe water.
Just months before the Woolsey Fire, Las Virgenes Mutual Water
District had joined CalWARN, a mutual assistance system set up
for water utilities. General manager Dave Pedersen had heard
about it from a neighboring agency. Before dawn Nov. 9, the
district requested emergency generators. Within a few hours,
they had gotten a response.
The powerful storm that swept over Sonoma County last week
caused an estimated $155 million in damage to homes,
businesses, roads and other public infrastructure, county
officials announced Saturday. The updated assessment came at
the end of a week marked by the largest flood on the lower
Russian River in nearly a quarter century. Guernville and other
riverside communities took the heaviest blow, but flooding
elsewhere — in Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Geyserville — led to
widespread damage countywide.
Around 3,000 Santa Barbara County residents are being told to
evacuate their homes once again this week. Rainstorms
forecasted starting Tuesday are expected to be severe enough to
potentially cause debris flows and mudslides, especially with
Four new voting members, each appointed by representatives of
the Delta region, would be added to the Delta Stewardship
Council if a bill authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier becomes
law. … Frazier introduced Assembly Bill 1194 this week. It
would increase the voting membership of the council to 11
But the river remains an unpredictable force, one that could
give rise to even more destructive floods in an era of
increasingly extreme weather, experts say. … County
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins has her sights on the opportunities to
tame floodwaters in the river’s middle reaches, starting near
Windsor and upstream, where it broadens and meanders more
freely in a floodplain less constricted by roads and other
When California’s new governor announced during his February 12
State of the State address that he didn’t support WaterFix as a
two-tunnel behemoth, he received a loud burst of applause. Yet,
in the next breath, when Newsom added he supported a one-tunnel
version, no applause followed. That’s partly because the
one-tunnel announcement hasn’t alleviated fears of people
living on the north side of the estuary. Hood, Clarksburg and
Courtland property owners still face the very real possibility
of being hit with eminent domain.
California is drenched and its mountains are piled high with
snow amid a still-unfolding winter of storms that was
unimaginable just a few months ago. Drought conditions have
almost been eliminated, hills blackened by huge wildfires are
sporting lush coats of green, and snow has fallen in the
usually temperate suburbs of Southern California. … The
California Department of Water Resources reported Thursday that
the Sierra snowpack is now 153 percent of average to date.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday in
Sonoma County, a day after disastrous flooding from the Russian
River left numerous communities across Northern California
inundated. The governor’s order, which included Lake, Amador,
Glenn and Mendocino counties, allows Caltrans and local
government agencies to request immediate assistance from the
Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program and
the Office of Emergency Services.
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) said Senate Bill 559,
will “help secure California’s water supply by investing $400
million toward restoring lost (delivery) capacity on the
Friant-Kern Canal, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s most
critical water delivery facilities.” … The $400 million would
be appropriated from the state general fund to the Department
of Water Resources to administer the repairs.
To help build leadership capacity and acquire water management
tools for valley communities, Self-Help Enterprises invites
water board members and staff, water leaders, and residents
from rural communities to participate in the 2019 Rural
Communities Water Managers Leadership Institute. The six-month
program is scheduled for March through August, with sessions
held one Saturday per month at Self-Help Enterprises in
A Northern California river flooded 2,000 homes, businesses and
other buildings and left two communities virtual islands after
days of stormy weather, officials said Wednesday. The towns of
Guerneville and Monte Rio were hardest hit by water pouring
from the Russian River, which topped 46 feet (13 meters) late
Wednesday night. It hadn’t reached that level for 25 years and
wasn’t expected to recede again until late Thursday night.
California has been blessed with a wet winter this year. That’s
been good news for the California plants, animals, and humans
that rely on water to survive and recreate. But lots of
precipitation now doesn’t necessarily mean that California will
have lots of water when it needs it. That’s because what
matters is not only how much water we get, but when and how we
The southern Sierra Nevada is expected to see a pair of storm
systems in the coming days that could create “significant
flooding” over several burn scars in the area, according to
weather officials. … Next week’s storm, which is expected to
hit the area midweek, is the primary source of concern. “That
storm could bring between 2 and 5 inches of rain,” said Kevin
Durfee, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If
those rain amounts do materialize, we could be looking at some
significant flooding over the burn scars, and rising water
levels in rivers and streams.”
The Russian River has surpassed flood levels after an
extraordinary 48 hours of rainfall, and by Wednesday morning
the waters had blocked all roadways into and out of the town of
Guerneville. By 6 a.m., all routes out of the 4,500-person town
of Guerneville were blocked by the rising water, which was
creeping closer to 41 feet — nine more than the flood level of
32 feet — with an additional five feet expected.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in
importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection
system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed
modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for
out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon
means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water
south for agriculture and urban users.
All eyes have been on the Colorado River recently with
headlines across the west announcing the progress – or lack
thereof – of the efforts of the seven basin states to reach
agreement on the Drought Contingency Plan. So is the Colorado
River in crisis? At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute
conference, Dr. Brad Udall’s keynote presentation focused on
answering that question.
On their to-do list is determining how to spread costs from
wildfires in “an equitable manner” and considering whether the
state should create a special find to cover wildfire costs.
They face a tricky task with an array of competing interests,
chief among them how to balance wildfire costs between
utilities, their shareholders and their customers.
Most of the active volcanoes lie in Northern California. The
report warns a future eruption would have far-reaching adverse
impacts on natural resources and infrastructure vital to the
state’s water, power, natural gas, ground and air
transportation and telecommunication systems.
Los Angeles County officials are proposing to take ownership of
40 miles of flood-control channels along the Los Angeles River
from the federal government in order to expedite maintenance
and water conservation improvements as climate change increases
the frequency of extreme weather.
Rains over the past several weeks have caused erosion to a
recently improved portion of levee along the east side of the
Feather River and protecting Marysville. But officials say the
damage is superficial and doesn’t pose a threat to public
With stepped-up stormwater capture programs, the Pacific
Institute said in a 2014 study, Southern California and the Bay
Area could boost the state’s water supply by 420,000 acre-feet
annually. That’s enough water to meet the needs of
The Board of Commissioners for the Humboldt Bay Harbor,
Recreation and Conservation District passed a motion to declare
a countywide state of emergency in light of shoaling, or
increased sedimentation, on Humboldt Bay near the channel
entrance — conditions that could persist for months, officials
said. … The shoaling stems from recent winter storms and has
brought activity on the bay to a halt…
This is among the hottest of Napa County’s hot potatoes. That’s
because it strikes such nerves as possible, further constraints
on new vineyard development in local hills and a perceived need
in some quarters to do more to protect water quality in local
If you stand on a fragile levee of the Sacramento River these
days and watch the chocolate brown water rushing toward the
delta only a few feet under your boots, one can’t help but
wonder why the state and federal governments aren’t capturing
more of this precious resource. Why is all but a tiny fraction
heading out to sea?
Rep. Grace Napolitano, a Democrat with a district office in El
Monte, sent a letter Wednesday, Feb. 20, urging the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to make safety repairs at Whittier Narrows
Dam its highest budgetary priority in light of an assessment
that the barrier could fail in the event of a very large, very
At the March 29th Santa Ana River Watershed Conference in
Orange County, the PPIC’s Ellen Hanak will put the
top managers of the watershed’s five major water districts
on the hot seat to uncover the region’s latest innovations and
find out what the next generation of integrated water
management planning looks like.
When it floods in California, the culprit is usually what’s
known as an atmospheric river—a narrow ribbon of ultra-moist
air moving in from over the Pacific Ocean. Atmospheric rivers
are also essential sources of moisture for western reservoirs
and mountain snowpack, but in 1861, a series of particularly
intense and prolonged ones led to the worst disaster in state
history: a flood that swamped the state. What would happen if
the same weather pattern hit the state again?
Noting the Klamath River’s history as the West Coast’s
third-largest salmon-producing river, the City Council’s letter
states that they believe a “free-flowing Klamath will
revitalize” both the commercial and recreational fisheries,
creating jobs and bringing revenue to the community.
One week after an atmospheric river storm pounded Northern
California, causing flooding, mudslides and traffic headaches,
another one appears to be forming in the Pacific and is set to
arrive early next week. Computer models show the storm
hitting Monday or Tuesday, with the North Bay and parts of
California farther north taking the brunt, although that could
change, experts say.
Lake Oroville, currently at 773-foot elevation, could rise to
780-785 feet by the end of the month based on current
projections. DWR and crews with Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.,
the contractor for the spillways construction project, would
remove equipment from the main spillway if the lake elevation
reached 780 feet.
At a Town Hall Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael)
told the large crowd filling nearly every available seat in the
Ukiah Valley Conference Center about a possible future for the
Potter Valley Project that would remove the controversial dam,
but preserve the water supply the Ukiah Valley has depended on
for more than a century.
In 2014 Santa Monica embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. … The
switch has been accomplished through an extensive plan that
encompasses small measures like toilet replacements, household
rain harvest barrels and aggressive conservation to large
measures like cleaning up contaminated groundwater, capturing
street runoff and recycling water.
In another sign Southern California is having its wettest
winter in years, Mystic Lake has risen again in the rural,
agricultural valley between Moreno Valley and San Jacinto. The
ephemeral body of water was largely absent the past decade
February storms have almost eliminated drought conditions from
California. The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that
just over 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level
of dryness. Just under 30 percent is classified as abnormally
dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or
We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry
events in California—and of rapid transitions between the
two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas
concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented
precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s
existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection
Although it might sound absurd to those who still recall five
years of withering drought and mandatory water restrictions,
researchers and engineers warn that California may be due for
rain of biblical proportions — or what experts call an
ARkStorm. … In heavily populated areas of the Los
Angeles Basin, epic runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains could
rapidly overwhelm a flood control dam on the San Gabriel river
and unleash floodwaters from Pico Rivera to Long Beach, says a
recent analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A landslide that dumped about 6 million cubic yards of rock and
debris across California Highway 1 near near Big Sur,
California, in May 2017 was the result of drought followed by
deluge, a team of scientists say. … The
researchers determined that water replaces air in the tiny
spaces between soil particles, which greatly increased the
pressure on those particles, speeding up the rate of collapse.
When 2019 started, California’s snowpack was at 67%. Now it’s
at over 136% and rising. The atmospheric rivers that are
dumping rain along coastal California are also dumping massive
amounts of snow in the state’s Sierra Nevada.
Many no longer recall the Great Midwest Flood despite its
record-breaking precipitation, flooding and $13 billion price
tag. Sure, 1993 seems like a long time ago, but I believe the
reason the flood has left most people’s memory is because, over
the last 25 years, the nation has experienced one devastating,
record-breaking flood after another. Our memories are diluted
by the frequency of such events.
At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with
researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields”
through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research
and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen
when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its
second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it
works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice
agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being
reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields
that had fish in them.
Major dams in California are five times more likely to flood
this century than the last one due to global warming, a new
study finds, possibly leading to overtopping and catastrophic
failures that threaten costly repairs and evacuations. That
means Californians can expect more disasters like the Oroville
Dam, whose overflow channel failed in 2017 after days of
flooding had filled state reservoirs to 85% of their capacity.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said
in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty
Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens
the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The
Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s
entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that
passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
An atmospheric river storm that walloped the Bay Area on
Thursday, causing traffic snarls, flood scares and at least one
major mudslide that wrecked homes and cars, has finally left
Northern California. … The biggest storm of the winter
so far also delivered something quite valuable: a boost to the
Sierra Nevada snowpack to 102 percent of its historical
average for April 1. In other words, California already
has the equivalent of an average winter’s snow supply, with six
weeks still left to go in this year’s winter rain and snow
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a
management approach that integrates flood control,
environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency
manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We
talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the
lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management”
Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
announced that El Niño — the periodic warming of the tropical
Pacific Ocean, with weather consequences worldwide — has
officially arrived. El Niño typically peaks between October and
March, so it’s pretty late in the season for a new one to form.
This year’s El Niño is expected to remain relatively weak, but
that doesn’t mean this one won’t be felt — in fact, its
cascading consequences already in motion.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, introduced a bill in Congress to
remove a provision from the Water Resources Development Act of
1986 to allow presidents to divert disaster recovery funds
during a declared state of emergency. In January, during
the government shutdown, senior Defense department officials
reportedly discussed with President Donald Trump the
possibility of using a portion of funds set aside by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers for civil works projects to fund 315
miles of barrier along the Mexican border.
The wet weather broke a daily rainfall record in Sacramento,
with 1.6 inches of rain recorded at the Sacramento Executive
Airport over 24 hours. But the state’s network of flood-control
dams and levees appeared to handle the deluge without major
problems. The National Weather Service issued a flood
warning Wednesday morning for the Sacramento Valley, and it was
expected to remain in place until 6 p.m. Thursday as heavy and
moderate rainfall was forecast to continue through Thursday.
Lawyers representing the state Department of Water Resources
will make their case Friday for striking portions of lawsuits
over the spillway crisis filed by the city of Oroville, several
farms, businesses and other plaintiffs. The state is arguing
that certain “inflammatory and irrelevant” allegations should
be removed from the lawsuits, including allegations about
racist actions, sexual harassment and petty theft by DWR
employees and conspiracy to cover up or destroy documents.
Work will soon begin on a $6 million effort to upgrade Oxnard’s
wastewater treatment plant. The City Council this week awarded
a contract to the Livermore-based GSE Construction Co. to
upgrade facilities that are at the highest risk of
failure. The project includes repairing settling tanks known as
primary clarifiers, bio towers that filter waste and other
A powerful “atmospheric river” storm is expected to pummel
Northern California starting Tuesday night and deliver heavy
rain, gusty winds, downed trees, power outages and rough
driving conditions Wednesday and Thursday. … The storm
should bring up to 5 feet of new snow in the Sierra Nevada,
forecasters said. The National Weather Service announced
flash-flood and high-wind warnings for the Bay Area, along with
Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots
and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than
old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and
reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by
strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat
the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing
The new report, “Sustainable Landscapes on Commercial and
Industrial Properties in the Santa Ana River Watershed,”
explores how landscape conversion on commercial and industrial
properties can reduce water use, increase stormwater capture
and groundwater recharge, improve water quality, and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use.
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis
in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental
Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the
study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
The Department of Water Resources reported last week that the
surface level of most of the Sacramento Valley wasn’t dropping,
which is incredibly good news. But it’s the kind of news that
most people can not appreciate.
California’s San Joaquin River Delta is in danger of being
overrun by voracious beagle-sized rodents. The state has a plan
to deal with them, but it’s going to take a lot of time and
money. Nutria, a large South American rodent, have become an
invasive species in several states, including Louisiana,
Maryland and Oregon.
Runoff from the Ventura River gave Lake Casitas some
much-needed relief over the past several weeks until about five
feet of muck got in the way. … Dubbed “a critical
shutdown,” work to clear the buildup is expected to take
through the weekend. With the forecast calling for more
rain, Casitas officials said they were trying to finish as
quickly as possible.
Just over half the city’s infrastructure needs are in the
city’s Public Utilities Department, which is responsible for
sewage, water and the city’s ambitious water recycling program,
Pure Water. The city expects to have all the money it needs in
those areas because they are funded by water and sewer rates.
The picture is far less rosy for infrastructure that has less
reliable revenue sources. The city is short $719.8 million for
stormwater infrastructure — by far the biggest unfunded capital
need in the city.
In the past, cyclical erosion would naturally occur —
wintertime storms washed sand out to sea, while summer swells
deposited it back on the beach. Besides climate change
melting ice at the poles and causing sea levels to
rise, strong storms such as those seen over the last few
days can also pull sand out to sea. But there are also the hard
structures that are having an impact, such as construction
inland that stops the natural flow of sand down creeks and
riverbeds to the beach.
For the first time, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and collaborating
institutions have documented the transition of a stable,
slow-moving landslide into catastrophic collapse, showing how
drought and extreme rains likely destabilized the slide. The
Mud Creek landslide near Big Sur, California, dumped about 6
million cubic yards (5 million cubic meters) of rock and debris
across California Highway 1 on May 20, 2017.
Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete
spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear
it open. Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of
Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never
forget. A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck
down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete
as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag
testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in
Sacramento Superior Court.