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 only bi-national financial institution dedicated to funding
environmental infrastructure projects along the border unveiled
six possible solutions to slowing down the cross-border sewage
spills that routinely shut down southern San Diego’s beaches.
A new method to measure pore structure and water flow is
described in a study published in the journal Water Resources
Research. With it, scientists should be able to more accurately
determine how fast water, contaminants, nutrients and other
liquids move through the soil — and where they go.
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.
The proposed rule would re-write EPA’s existing Section 401
implementing regulations and significantly narrow the authority
of states and Indian tribes when acting on Section 401
Integration is especially hard, and unavoidably imperfect, for
organizing common functions across different agencies with
different missions and governing authorities. … Much of what
is called for in California water requires greater devotion of
leadership, resources, and organization to multi-agency
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
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 study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
San Diego County’s eroding coastline is causing significant
public safety, financial and political challenges. … But
those shoreline changes seem certain to become more serious and
frequent because of sea-level rise, yet the public at large
does not seem ready to make some hard decisions regarding
existing and future development along the coast.
A decade’s worth of junk including cars, refrigerators and even
goat carcasses that were illegally dumped into a West Marin
creek is being removed this week through a collaborative effort
between environmental groups, local businesses and government
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.
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
A plan to increase mining depths at a 920-acre sand and gravel
mining facility between Livermore and Pleasanton will be
reviewed next week during a public meeting where citizens can
learn more about the possible impacts to water quality, water
management and flood channels.
Mediterranean climates, like California’s, typically follow
boom and bust cycles, marked by a predictable shift between
cold and wet and hot and dry. But the changing climate will
amplify that pattern with weather that is, at times, wetter and
at other times hotter.
Waters covered by the Act, called “jurisdictional waters,” are
determined by the language of the Act and by court decisions
and administrative rulemakings interpreting that language.
Ongoing rulemaking efforts by the Trump administration, coupled
with several recent court decisions, make defining
jurisdictional waters very difficult.
In the past, California city planners have been largely
reactive, reconstructing boardwalks lashed by winter storms.
Now, with the long-term outlook for the coast coming into
focus, the California Coastal Commission is urging communities
from San Diego to Humboldt counties to revise their local
coastal programs to take comprehensive adaptive approaches…
The recent Ridgecrest earthquakes jolted less than 50 miles
away from Lake Isabella, where the Isabella Dam is in the midst
of a $600 million improvement project by the US Army Corps of
Engineers. How did the dam fare during the earthquakes, and how
much longer until the upgrades will be complete?
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.
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.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising
seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare
confluence of favorable winds and cooler water. This “sea level
rise suppression,” as scientists call it, went largely
undetected. Blinded from the consequences of a warming planet,
Californians kept building right to the water’s edge. But lines
in the sand are meant to shift.
The general rule of thumb had been that El Niño years — when
the sea surface in a region off the coast of Peru is at least 1
degree Celsius warmer than average — tend to have more
rainfall, and La Niña years, when that region is 1 degree
Celsius cooler than average, tend to have less rain. But that
simple rule of thumb doesn’t always hold true.
In a weather anomaly verified for the first time, a weather
station in Siskiyou County recorded the highest annual
precipitation for California’s weather season. The weather
station at Stouts Meadow, located at an elevation of 5,400 near
the headwaters of the McCloud River, recorded 126.76 inches of
precipitation for the season.
After a years-long drought and a major wildfire, rainstorms
brought a lot of ash and debris downstream over the past year
or so. … Now, Casitas officials hope to clear a
9-foot-high pile of silt, sand and gravel before the next
rainy season. Plans call for starting work in September, but as
of this week, the district had yet to receive permits required
by regional, state and federal agencies.
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
The California Coastal Commission has encouraged cities to
include a strategy called “managed retreat” in plans to prepare
for sea level rise. But the commission may be retreating from
that position. Del Mar is a prime example of a city where an
entire neighborhood is threatened by rising seas.
The five-year project will clear sedimentation and vegetation
to restore flow capacity of a four-mile stretch of the
state-maintained Elder Creek in Tehama County. With a goal of
clearing approximately one mile per year, the project reduces
flood risk for the nearby town of Gerber and surrounding
farmland, which includes fruit and nut orchards.
Water is indeed the most precious natural resource in the arid
West and from that perspective it should come as no surprise
that water-rights issues on Lake Tahoe and Truckee River have
been at the center of negotiation and controversy since
pioneers first settled the region.
Californians are worried about global warming causing severe
wildfires and consider the health of beaches and the ocean key
priorities, according to a new statewide survey focused on the
environment. … While the poll found significant concern about
rising seas and more extreme heat, it was at a lower level than
the preoccupation with wildfires.
The findings of Tom Corringham and Daniel Cayan, both of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of
California at San Diego, confirm the connections between
extreme weather events and El Niño…
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
Sacramento remains one of the two most flood-prone cities in
the nation along with New Orleans, according to experts. Now
the River City faces a new water threat: homeless people
setting up camp on—and digging into—the 1,100 miles of earthen
levees that Sacramento and surrounding areas count on to
protect them from devastation.
Thirty-two years ago, poet Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends
of the L.A. River, cut a hole in the chain link fence that
blocked our collective access to the Los Angeles River. He was
inspired by a vision of a re-wilded urban waterway brought back
to life for the benefit of the city’s residents and its urban
wildlife. Three years ago, the city of Los Angeles and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers took a big step toward that vision…
It is seen as a major move from one of the world’s biggest
credit ratings agencies that could have a significant impact on
how seriously climate risk factors are viewed by financiers.
Based in California, Four Twenty Seven scores physical risks
associated with climate-related factors and other environmental
issues, including heat stress, water stress, extreme
precipitation, hurricanes and typhoons, and sea-level rise.
John Reager is being honored for his work on the GRACE mission,
studying Earth’s water cycle by measuring groundwater, floods
and drought. This helps him and his colleagues study how
extremes of water vary with time and climate change.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been
diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the
District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future
use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was
also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
Customs and Border Protection commissioned a six-month study,
published earlier this year, of 42 samples from the river and
two culverts during dry, wet, post-rain, and standing water
conditions. … Justin Castrejon, a Border Patrol agent and
regional spokesman, said the report validated the claims of
agents who have complained of physical health ailments after
patrolling the affected areas.
One of the most visible aspects of the project happening now is
the construction of a much larger emergency spillway. Workers
will remove 2.8 million cubic yards of material to make room
for the spillway. That’s nearly as much material as it took to
build the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt…
Most people would not associate flood insurance with the
protection of endangered species. But over the past decade, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been the target
of multiple lawsuits alleging that the agency has violated the
Endangered Species Act by not considering the impacts of its
flood insurance program on endangered species and their
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
California is overdue for a mega-storm capable of drowning
coastal areas in 20ft (6m) of water at any moment. Experts are
preparing contingencies for wet weather so extreme it might
tear open a 300-mile-wide ocean across the US West coast. …
The devastation of such flooding could match the severity of
“big San Andreas earthquakes”, according to the USGS.
San Diego County officials are finalizing a list of projects
that could help fix the region’s sewage problems. Sewage flows
from Tijuana regularly foul San Diego’s ocean waters. That
prompted the state, the Port of San Diego, a clean water group
and several municipalities to sue the federal government to fix
To reduce flooding on roads near Novato Creek, a Marin County
flood control agency and a local environmental group are
partnering to upgrade flood control equipment and improve
wetlands in the Simmons Slough basin.
The community wanted to create flood relief for the people of
Hamilton City; The Nature Conservancy wanted to find a way to
restore native habitat. Area farmers wanted to reduce damages
from flows that scoured their property along the edge of the
river. The Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem
Restoration project was able to address these problems with one
Monsoon rains in the U.S. Southwest have increased in intensity
by as much as 11 percent since the 1970s, meaning more rain is
falling in less time, according to research by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The number of these rainstorms has
also increased 15 percent in the last half-century. The
scientists say the uptick is very likely due to global
During a recent trip to the Trinity River, I learned about the
many challenges facing its salmon and steelhead populations.
… But there is hope and evidence of progress in realizing
ecological benefits of the past. A holistic approach to habitat
restoration doesn’t rely on a single silver bullet solution,
but applies a comprehensive set of actions that rely on
collaboration between local tribes, federal and state agencies,
and local government agencies…
California regulators are teaming up with the United Nations to
develop “sustainable insurance” guidelines that would help
address climate-change-related disasters such as coastal
flooding and larger wildfires — the first such partnership of
its kind between the international organization and a U.S.
state, officials announced Tuesday.
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. has until August to address the
unauthorized discharge of mining waste into Permanente Creek,
which flows through Los Altos and Mountain View. San Francisco
Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and Santa Clara County
officials discovered the pollution during inspections of
Lehigh’s Yeager Yard conducted in April and May…
Drivers aren’t the only ones who face difficulties getting
through the Soscol Junction area at Highway 29 and Highway 221
– so do steelhead and that poses potential challenges for a key
county transportation project.
In the appeal, DWR included updated reimbursement requests
totaling an estimated $1.11 billion to cover costs of the
Oroville spillways emergency response and emergency recovery
efforts. Final costs won’t be known until all project work is
complete, according to DWR officials.
As we are enter another hurricane season, the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) is on its 12th short-term extension
since September 30, 2017. And after having $16 billion in debt
forgiven, it remains $24.6 billion in debt (Horn 2019). Many
people are asking, how did we get here?
The project is a part of the restoration of salmon habitat
stemming from the Central Valley Improvement Act and will take
place on the left bank of the Sacramento River at the East Sand
Slough… It reconnects the East Sand Slough to the Sacramento
River during minimal flows by excavating the main channel and
The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and
federal approval for a project that will expand a migration
corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s
main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain
restoration action on the West Coast…
Seal Beach residents got a look at what sea level rise could
mean to them, thanks to a city presentation showing that large
swaths of the small municipality could flood by 2050 and that
the odds of even greater inundation will increase throughout
the century. … There was also criticism that projections of
sea level rise showed flooding far sooner than was probable.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was one
surefire way for man to conquer nature in Southern California.
Build a dam. … But the water that was supposed to be held and
controlled sometimes overcame some of these great civil
Lake Tahoe is the fullest it’s been in nearly two decades.
Officials say the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line is
approaching the legal limit after snowmelt from a stormy winter
left enough water to potentially last through three summers of
Water in Lake Powell would come within inches of topping the
dam’s massive spillway gates as engineers frantically tried
everything they could think of, rigging 4-by-8 sheets of
plywood to extend the top of the gates and releasing more than
half a million gallons per second into the Colorado River.
The city’s evolving relationship with water is the subject of
the Historical Society of Long Beach’s new exhibit “Water
Changes Everything.” The free exhibit, which opened Friday and
runs through June 2020, shows how “water has determined the
history of Long Beach,” said Kaye Briegel, the long-time board
member who helped put the show together.
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
Monterey County’s Nacimiento Dam safety program is seriously
deficient with an outdated program document, insufficient staff
and a long list of outstanding dam safety repairs and
maintenance estimated to cost more than $50 million that needs
to be addressed in short order.
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
The updated guide contains dozens of best practices, grouped
into 15 main categories, that water and wastewater systems can
implement to reduce security risks to their IT and OT systems.
Each recommendation is accompanied by links to corresponding
While the San Simeon decision appeared quick and easy to make,
it had taken decades to get the issue to that point.
Commissioners and San Simeon representatives seemed equally
relieved to have finally come to an agreement that involves
getting within 10 years enough grant funds to move the plant
further from the coast.
Requirements to balance supplies in California groundwater
basins have refocused attention on how best to achieve
recharge, and on what’s known as the conjunctive use of surface
and groundwater supplies. Some irrigation districts have been
recharging groundwater in that manner for years or even
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
The three design schemes look totally distinct on paper and
come with different names — “Island,” “Soft Edge,” “The Yards”
— but they all have the same goal: restore wildlife habitat,
plant people-friendly landscapes and develop flood-control
strategies for a place that has been the subject of so much
neglect, speculation, dreaming and debate: the L.A. River.
The Eel River—once home to the state’s third-largest salmon and
steelhead runs, all of which are now listed as threatened―may
see the return of healthy fisheries in coming years. A unique
opportunity to remove a dam that blocks fish from reaching
spawning habitat has arisen. We talked to Curtis Knight,
executive director of CalTrout, about the situation.
Earlier this year, President Trump launched – by executive
order, of course – a new process designed to circumscribe
dramatically states’ longstanding authority to review
applications for federal permits for any activity that may
result in a discharge to a water body within a state’s
boundaries. That proposal is fundamentally flawed, both on its
merits and in the procedures USEPA is using to implement it.
New research shows that the extreme weather and fires of recent
years, similar to the flooding that has struck Louisiana and
the Midwest, may be making Americans sick in ways researchers
are only beginning to understand.
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
Assembly member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, authored AB 137, which
would prohibit people from altering the stability of levees or
bypasses, as well as prohibit people from living and camping on
the structures. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor
For years, the people of the Northern San Joaquin Valley have
been trying to get hydropower recognized for what it is: the
original source of clean electricity. Our efforts have been
stymied by people who feel entitled to decide what is, or
isn’t, green enough. That’s why I have begun the process of
modifying our state Constitution to recognize safe, abundant,
carbon-free hydropower as a reliable source of renewable energy
in our fight against climate change.
Between 1890 and 1910, almost 90% of Humboldt Bay’s salt
marshes, about 8,100 acres, were diked and drained for
agricultural uses or walled off from tidal inundation with the
construction of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. Now … the
earthen dikes are beginning to fail, both because they haven’t
been maintained and because they aren’t tall enough to hold
back the rising tides brought on by rising sea levels.
The Grand Jury’s main critique was that the water district’s
prediction that water service could be restored within three
days is too optimistic. The report suggests that two weeks to
six months without reliable water service is a more realistic
estimate in the aftermath of a major earthquake.
While elected officials in Sacramento work to secure funding to
ensure that the levees along the San Joaquin River are
reinforced to be able to withstand a 200-year flood, the City
of Lathrop has been performing the work necessary to continue
development within the floodplain while that work is completed.
… The city has received financial backing from a number of
developers that don’t want to see development stop until the
costly repairs are mad.
While the local sewerage agencies followed state and federal
law in reporting spills to governmental agencies, the public
wouldn’t necessarily know much about them. In this case, it has
taken Heal the Bay, a statewide environmental organization, to
dig them out of bureaucracies’ files.
People who fish for carp have a love for them, as I learned
when I joined my guides at the middle of the river in Long
Beach. Lauren Mollica, a former pro skateboarder who now works
primarily as a carpenter, has been fishing the L.A. River for
about a year, and she waxes rhapsodic about the scent freshly
caught carp leaves on one’s hands.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
Government scientists predict 40 places in the U.S. will
experience higher than normal rates of so-called sunny day
flooding this year because of rising sea levels and an abnormal
El Nino weather system. A report released Wednesday by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that
sunny day flooding, also known as tidal flooding, will continue
Crews are digging and removing 66,000 yards of dirt to make
room for an underground vault. It will be used to catch
rainwater during a storm in order to alleviate flooding around
the park. Behind the fence, crews are hauling away dirt.
Workers will eventually put the 6 million-gallon water vault 22
Rain – and plenty of it – was the big weather story in June,
adding to a record-breaking 12 months of precipitation for the
contiguous U.S. It’s the third consecutive time in 2019 (April,
May and June) the past 12-month precipitation record has hit an
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
The water is coming straight from the Sierra Nevada Mountains
and is very cold, which is causing some concerns people hoping
to get into the water. But, the water itself, when used what
it’s intended for, has a great impact in our Central Valley.
New to this year’s slate of water
tours, our Edge of
Drought Tour Aug. 27-29 will venture into the Santa
Barbara area to learn about the challenges of limited local
surface and groundwater supplies and the solutions being
implemented to address them.
Despite Santa Barbara County’s decision to lift a drought
emergency declaration after this winter’s storms replenished
local reservoirs, the region’s hydrologic recovery often has
lagged behind much of the rest of the state.
The Department of Water Resources released the final guidelines
for the Riverine Stewardship Program on July 1, 2019. The grant
program supports planning and implementation of projects that
restore streams, creeks, and rivers to enhance the environment
for fish, wildlife, and people.
A massive flow of fresh water is being released from Friant Dam
on Tuesday as Millerton Lake reached capacity. … Officials
are releasing 1,700-1,000 cubic feet per second into the San
Joaquin River. Stroup said Millerton Lake has received above
average snow melt forcing them to release the water to make
room for more run off.
Despite being on opposite sides of the immigration debate,
environmental groups who oppose border barriers generally
mirror cattle rancher John Ladd’s concerns about the river.
They say a wall or fence across the San Pedro could have
devastating consequences to its hydrology, as well as the
endangered species that call the river home.
Remember the parade of atmospheric-river storms that deluged
the Bay Area last winter, giving us the wettest rainy season in
20 years? There are a lot more of those on the way, scientists
say. But California will also experience more periods of
extreme dryness, according to a new study led by Scripps
Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water) has resumed
pre-construction activities in Alviso, California, delivering
on a long-made promise to protect shoreline communities in
Santa Clara County from devastating flooding.
It is a telling illustration of the precarious state of United
States dams that the near-collapse in February 2017 of Oroville
Dam, the nation’s tallest, occurred in California, considered
one of the nation’s leading states in dam safety management.
Wildfire and drought dominate the climate change debates in the
state. Yet this less-talked-about reality has California
cornered. The coastline is eroding with every tide and storm,
but everything built before we knew better — Pacific Coast
Highway, multimillion-dollar homes in Malibu, the rail line to
San Diego — is fixed in place with nowhere to go.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
The original treaty was implemented before the 1970 National
Environmental Policy Act, the 1973 Endangered Species Act and a
host of legal shifts that bolstered Indigenous rights… These
hallmarks of change emphasize the need to include environmental
protection and equity in an updated treaty.
In 2016 California’s rainy season kicked off right on schedule,
at the beginning of October. … By February there was so much
water filling Northern California’s rivers that Oroville Dam,
the tallest in the country, threatened to break after its
spillway and emergency spillways both failed. It was a wake-up
call. In just a few months California had gone from
five-year-drought to deluge, ending up with the second wettest
year on record for the state.
To find out what’s in Southern California’s oceans, Spectrum
News 1 went below the streets of Los Angeles into a storm drain
to track the flow of water. We’re diving into a question
scientists are facing: what is in L.A.’s water?
The lake visitors call the “gem of Chico,” the local go-to
location for a quiet and relaxing day trip on the waterfront,
is infested with toxic algae, officials say. The Butte County
Public Health Department warned people on Monday to stay away
from Horseshoe Lake after colonies of microscopic cyanobacteria
grew out of control…
A new bill is moving through the California Legislature that
may make it easier for veterans to get jobs within the state’s
water industry. Assemblymember Todd Gloria helped introduce AB
1588 to stem the phenomenon called the “silver tsunami”, in
which thousands of water workers are expected to retire from
the water industry in the coming years.
Rising sea levels caused by climate change are prompting the
city of Monterey to prepare for a worst-case scenario, which
could include waves flooding Cannery Row, wreckage of
underground infrastructure and threats to our protected
As the 2018-19 water year came to a close Sunday,
record-setting snowpack in the Sierras and above-average rain
means several reservoirs are near full capacity heading into
the dry summer months. Here’s a look at the past 12 months of
Parts of the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers are closed to
recreation. But the high water levels don’t just mean people’s
vacations are getting cut short. … Hilda Warren lives near
the river and says she’s starting to get worried, watching the
water levels rise day by day.
Before the threat of rising seas was widely understood,
California created an agency to protect its famous beaches from
overdevelopment. Now the state Coastal Commission is pouring
resources into a war against the effects of climate change, and
it could lead toward the removal of oceanfront homes.
Hermosa Beach, partnering with neighboring cities, was supposed
to receive the money from the State Water Resources Control
Board to help design and build the Greenbelt Infiltration
Project … meant to help clean the Herondo Drain Watershed,
which has consistently had elevated levels of bacteria. But the
city put the funding in jeopardy in March when the council
voted to dissolve a deal with neighboring cities and instead
find a new home for the project.
In order to address the impacts of climate change on the
state’s water resources, the Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has been developing its own comprehensive Climate Action
Plan to guide how DWR is and will continue to address climate
change for programs, projects, and activities over which it has
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
Del Puerto Water District and Central California Irrigation
District have developed the reservoir project without many
public concerns rising to the surface. That was until Patterson
city staff members showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. Maria
Encinas, a city management analyst, asked about a risk
assessment for adjacent communities like Patterson. A failure
in the dam on Del Puerto Creek, on the west side of Interstate
5, would appear to flood part of the city of 23,700, including
perhaps the downtown area in Patterson.
Although flooding hasn’t occurred in Clarksburg since the
construction of the levee system in the early 1900s, the
community is considered a moderate to high hazard flood area,
according to a county report. For that reason, a flood risk
reduction feasibility study has been prepared for the town
similar to those conducted for Yolo and Knights Landing with
funds from the California Department of Water Resources.
Slurries of mud increasingly threaten the water we drink. This
rush of sediment, known as “debris flow,” is a type of erosion
where mud and boulders in steep catchments suddenly tumble down
the stream channel, often traveling at speeds of several meters
per second. … Last year, California saw mudslides that
destroyed more than 100 homes and killed 21 people.
It took two consulting groups, but a project charter for the
Sierra Valley Flood Hazard Restudy Project is finished and now
approved by members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors
on Tuesday, May 14.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
Governor Newsom recently called for a state portfolio of
actions to manage water under rapidly changing climate and
other conditions. This post reviews the state of water
portfolio planning in California today.
A facility designed to increase water supply reliability for
the Inland area was dedicated in a light rain at the foot of
the hulking Seven Oaks Dam near Highland on Thursday, May 23.
Officials used a new concrete diversion box to move water
rushing from the dam to a new sedimentation basin and beyond.
The water is intended to spread out and seep into a groundwater
basin, which officials have said is historically low due to a
An investigation into the Bay Conservation and Development
Commission found mismanagement and disorganization so rampant
that the once-celebrated watchdog agency allegedly neglected
its primary responsibility — to protect San Francisco Bay. A
state audit of the regulatory agency known as the BCDC
describes slow and inefficient enforcement, a huge backlog of
cases and an inability to perform key duties.
In retrospect, it’s clear: We’ve misunderstood how rivers work.
They don’t follow wishful parameters of the Army Corps of
Engineers’ 100-year flood guidelines, or the routes we’ve
penciled in between levees, or even the climatic expectations
of the past. A national program that presumes we can
choreograph today the floods of tomorrow is fundamentally
flawed. It’s time to recognize that the rivers will have their
way. Therefore we need to get out of the way.
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.
There are more concerns over lake levels in Oroville as Butte
County leaders take initiative to explore alternative options
for safety measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR), a
leg of the State Water Project, manages the Oroville Dam. On
Wednesday, DWR officials remained adamant in saying they have
no plans to release water from the Oroville Dam spillway.
Called the Monterey Bay Opportunistic Beach Nourishment
Program, the plan entails hauling beach-quality sand from other
inland locations as a result of construction, development or
dredging projects. The sand would be added to stockpiles at
different locations and then be applied to dry sand areas above
high tide marks…
Legislation that would require the state to enhance its river
and stream gauging system has cleared the state Senate. … The
bill requires the Department of Water Resources and Water
Control Board to improve and enhance the monitoring system,
including filling those gaps that are found, as well as assess
a funding source to complete the work.
The idea is simple, the task gargantuan: Remove 1.7 million
cubic yards of sediment to return the circa 1920 dam to full
functionality, protecting Pasadena, South Pasadena, Highland
Park and other northeast Los Angeles communities downstream —
including the Rose Bowl, Brookside Park and the Arroyo Seco
Parkway — from the potential flooding of a 100-year storm.
Coastal communities should not rule out a sea-level rise in
excess of 6.5 feet, according to the study published this week
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …
Should this worst-case scenario come to pass, good portions of
cities like New York City and Miami on the East Coast and Los
Angeles and San Francisco on the West Coast would be underwater
To Eastern Sierra residents, in most years, annual run-off
means the streams and canals rise and pasture lands start to
green-up. For Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,
run-off is the city’s life’s blood… So, how do they figure it
out? Eric Tillemans, LADWP engineer, gave the Inyo County Board
of Supervisors a beginner’s course in Run-Off 101 at a recent
While Belvedere officials consider a series of flood control
projects that could cost up to $27.1 million, the city has
appointed a new advisory committee that represents some of the
hillside homeowners who say that money shouldn’t come out of
their pockets. … An engineering consultant has designed
several iterations of the projects, which are meant to
safeguard the community from the forthcoming effects of
Our Headwaters Tour June 27-28 highlights the connection
between fire and water with an up-close look at the critical
role healthy Sierra forests play in water supply and quality
across California. We will also learn about a new initiative
between Yuba Water Agency, the California Department of Water
Resources and University of California, San Diego’s Scripps
Institution of Oceanography to study how atmospheric rivers
affect the location, duration and intensity of storms.
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
The combination of droughts and floods has given rise to a
process known as saltwater intrusion — what San Jose Mayor Sam
Liccardo refers to as his city’s greatest climate threat. …
In coastal regions like San Jose, overpumping allows seawater
to seep into the city’s aquifers, exposing local residents to
excess sodium in their drinking water. The problem is
compounded by sea level rise, which pushes seawater inland
toward the city’s filtration system.
Residents whose homes were flooded will not be eligible for
financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency
because state officials determined the amount of damage was
insufficient to qualify.
Two days of above-average spring rainfall in the North Bay have
forced Sonoma County officials to begin deflating the seasonal
dam across the Russian River, an about-face that comes less
than a week after the rubber dam was fully inflated to serve
the region’s drinking water system.
The West Marin ghost town of Jewell is set to be reclaimed by
nature this year with a $593,000 boost from the state. The
Olema-based Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, or SPAWN,
plans to use a grant to restore the historic floodplains on
Lagunitas Creek that once provided vital refuge for the now
dwindling populations of endangered coho salmon and other
The agency charged with monitoring water quality standards
throughout the Greater Los Angeles region found that local
cities have committed more than 2,000 water quality violations
within a five-year period, but the violators suffered little if
We’re likely seeing the effects of a batch of runaway arctic
air slinking far enough south to energize and reinvigorate the
subtropical jet stream. If true, we can thank the “relentless
grind” of warmth in the Arctic this month for our unusually
rainy May here in the Bay Area.
Napa County’s latest watershed symposium came at a time when
tensions are high over how to protect trees and reservoirs in
the area’s mountains. Close to 200 people from various
backgrounds came to Copia on Thursday for an A-to-Z look at
what’s happening in the watersheds. Scientists, elected
officials, wine industry members and citizen activists all
President Trump signed a disaster declaration Saturday for 17
Northern California counties that endured battering rains and
landslides this year, making them eligible for federal relief.
The move followed three emergency proclamations this year by
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who directed Caltrans to seek federal
assistance for a string of brutal February storms that doused
rural areas across the state, damaging roads and bridges.
The funding allows CalTrout to develop a broad team of agency
partners to restore a 950-acre tidal marsh estuary surrounding
Cannibal Island, adjacent to the mouth of the Eel River. …
The goal of restoration is to transform the monotypic landscape
of diked and drained land back to a mosaic of natural habitats
and pasture with reconnected tidal slough channels and access
for aquatic-dependent species.
Well, apparently we’re all about to die again. The internet
says so. And while the internet often says we’re all about to
die, and we don’t, for some reason people still unquestionably
believe the next scare to come down the information highway. So
it is with the latest local scare, involving the Oroville Dam
The Mountain View City Council approved the water district’s
18-foot-deep basin project in 2013 in exchange for the park
upgrades. Designed to accommodate a 100-year flood, the
McKelvey Park basin is one of two basin projects of the larger
Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project, which water district
officials claim will provide natural flood protection for
approximately 2,200 properties in Mountain View and Los Altos.
Federal engineers are raising alarms that a “significant flood
event” could breach the spillway of Southern California’s aging
Prado Dam and potentially inundate dozens of Orange County
communities from Disneyland to Newport Beach. After conducting
an assessment of the 78-year-old structure earlier this month,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was raising
the dam’s risk category from “moderate” to “high urgency.”
A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday to block the
Federal Emergency Management Agency from moving forward with
its plans to offer flood insurance to developers and property
owners in 100-year flood zones in California, finding that the
agency failed to consider effects development might have on
endangered wildlife in those areas.
The commission, created in 1965 and comprised of 27 members
appointed primarily by state and local officials, is supposed
to protect the environmental health of the bay. If they won’t
take their job seriously, Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislative
leaders and local officials should replace them with people up
to the task.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
has “neglected its mission” to protect the bay and surrounding
wetlands, the California state auditor reported Tuesday. The
commission, which issues permits for activities like boating,
dredging and dumping, has a backlog of 230 open enforcement
cases, some decades old.
Atascadero residents will likely be paying more for wastewater
services starting in just a few months. The last time
wastewater rates were increased in Atascadero, President Bill
Clinton began began his first term in office and Seinfeld was
one of the most watched shows on television.
Dig out that umbrella, and even the tire chains. It’s mid-May,
but a series of rare, winter-like storms will soak the Bay Area
and much of California through next week and bring up to 2 feet
of new snow to the Sierra Nevada.
The “backwash basins” were damaged during the flooding that
occurred because of the heavy rainfall in late February, and
they need to be repaired as soon as possible because they help
the city provide drinking water to its residents during the
peak demand months coming soon.
Rivers may seem especially appealing as the weather becomes
warmer in the spring and summer, but experts and local
officials warn that the waters may not be as welcoming as they
seem. The snowpack that accumulated during a wet and cold
winter is beginning to melt into rivers, making for extremely
cold water and fast currents. “It’s a very dangerous
combination,” said Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the state’s
Department of Water Resources.
Estimates vary, and can change as the water year progresses,
but the Kern River basin, the rivers and streams that collect
the water that flows into Isabella Lake and downstream toward
Bakersfield, is estimated to be at 172 percent of normal,
possibly more. And all that ice and snow is starting to melt,
big time. Are local water managers ready?
People who live along the southern border all say the same
thing: When it rains, it stinks. The reason is a failing, aging
network of pipes that run from Mexico to wastewater treatment
plants in the U.S. When heavy rains fall, the pipes often break
and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not
only a putrid odor but public health and environmental
There’s three roads that go up to the hill. Because of flooding
and mudslides, all three of them were blocked. So here we were,
an island. There was no way to get supplies. No way to get
medication. No way to get propane deliveries for heat. People
who work on and off the hill couldn’t go to their jobs. The
whole town was impacted, especially the businesses and
restaurants who depend on the tourism.
Forecasts are calling for a stretch of wet weather across the
Western United States, especially in Northern California, so
meteorologists and emergency officials are keeping watchful
eyes on river gauges and radar reports. All it takes is one
thunderstorm parked over a snow-covered area to wreak havoc
In response to a story that aired Thursday night on CBS13, the
City of Sacramento is now responding and creating a task force
to combat a growing public safety concern. Homeless campers are
carving into levees that protect Sacramento from flooding, a
break in the levee could be devastating.
After sunshine and pleasant weather grace California early this
week, a powerful storm system will barrel into the state during
the middle to latter part of the week. … By the time the
storm moves into the Four Corners region later on Friday, the
foothills of the Sierra Nevada and parts of Northern and
coastal California will receive between 1 to 3 inches of rain.
The hardest-hit locations may receive as much as 4 or 5 inches
When people think of natural disasters in California, they
usually think of earthquakes, drought or wildfire. But the
worst disaster to ever hit the Golden State was the Great Flood
of 1862. When people of European descent first arrived in
California, the native people told them tales of great deluges
in which the rivers overran their banks and large areas of land
were inundated. The newcomers paid little heed to these
stories, and often settled in low-lying areas with easy access
to water sources.
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
A new category of El Niño has become far more prevalent in the
last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries.
Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become
more intense. This new finding will arguably alter our
understanding of the El Niño phenomenon. Changes to El Niño
will influence patterns of precipitation and temperature
extremes in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Reforestation will improve watershed conditions by restoring
severely burned areas to forested conditions, reducing
sedimentation and turbidity, and improving water quality for
downstream users. It will also improve habitat by providing
stabilization that reduces erosion of stream banks and meadows.
Sometimes erosion can be caused by fallen trees or rodents, but
now they’re finding faults intentionally caused by homeless
people carving out campsites. … Tim Kerr, general manager for
the American River Flood Control District, said his engineers
find about two new trenches a month. The danger comes during
flood season when fast-moving water nears the top of a 22-foot
Only 37 percent of the world’s longest rivers remain unimpeded
and free-flowing from their source to where they empty,
according to a study published today in Nature. Free-flowing
rivers are ecologically crucial — replenishing groundwater,
bolstering biodiversity, and reducing the impacts of droughts
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
Before California’s Central Valley became known as an
agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest
expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North
America. … Much of that landscape has been transformed into
farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a
unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local
governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide
resources for a variety of wildlife.
Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary
growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary
statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law. As with
any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide
direct answers for every practical question which arises as the
law is put into place.
A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California
suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past
mistakes. California’s highly variable climate has made it a
crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.
Failing power lines and crumbling roads are just some of the
major issues highlighted in the American Society of Civil
Engineers’ 2019 report card. It’s an analysis that comes out
every six years, grading 17 different areas of infrastructure
including waterways, aviation and schools.
We’ve made it through most of the prime water season and have
had a few blockbuster winter storms. For many large reservoirs
in California the mission for reservoirs switches from flood
control to water storage and there isn’t much room left for
storage. All major Northern California Reservoirs are more than
90 percent full and many will reach capacity in a month or so.
Across its multitude of neighborhoods, communities and
cultures, the City of Long Beach offers a diverse haven for
businesses and families to thrive. At the same time, the unique
location of Long Beach in Southern California places it at the
mercy of significant human health risks caused by both
environmental and man-made factors.
Snowpack in every part of Colorado’s high country is sporting
layers of dust, according to a new statewide survey of the
state’s winter accumulation. … Dust is darker than snow. Just
like a black T-shirt on a sunny day, it absorbs more sunlight,
causing what’s underneath it to heat up more rapidly.
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear
River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver
water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for
the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
While the state agency responsible for policing Los Angeles
County’s polluted urban and stormwater runoff boasts
significant progress in its monumental task, a National
Resources Defense Council report this week criticizes the
water-quality panel for lackluster enforcement.
When concerned La Cañada residents attended a meeting in
December to learn about the county’s plans to remove more than
2.8 million tons of sediment from nearby Devil’s Gate Dam
starting this spring, fear and anxiety predominated. Many
hadn’t heard about the project and didn’t know diesel trucks
would haul sediment loads near schools and recreation areas in
hundreds of daily trips eight months out of the year for up to
The property, a peaceful meadow at 6,820 feet elevation
near Echo Summit, is also home to … a monthly event that
attracts hordes of reporters and photographers who tromp
through the property on snowshoes. … Carol Pearson would
usually watch the proceedings from the window of the small
cabin, built in 1938, where she’s lived the past 20 years. Now
Pearson, 67, has been displaced by fire. Her cabin burned to
the ground in a chimney fire April 12, killing one of her cats.
An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired
deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming
farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money
with no relief in sight. Though nearly four years have passed
since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District
agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the
deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be
measured in inches.