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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?”
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.
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 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 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
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
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
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Thursday marks two years since the first hole opened up in the
Oroville Dam Spillway, triggering an emergency that forced the
evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. … The new emergency
spillway is covered with roller-compacted concrete that looks
like a giant staircase. It is one of the biggest changes during
the reconstruction of the spillway project.
With another potential government shutdown on the horizon,
President Donald Trump remains coy about whether he’ll declare
a national emergency to fund the border wall he promised during
his 2016 campaign. This week, he told reporters that he
could use that power and divert money from the Army Corps of
Engineers. Democrats worry that could mean taking money away
from ongoing projects in Northern California, like raising
Anyone who has been on Balboa Island during a hard rain knows
the streets can flood. The city of Newport Beach is
considering replacing the island’s 1930s-era drainage system
with several automated below-ground pumps. That would save on
labor and costs associated with manually opening the tide gates
at the end of streets and sending out portable pumps and
slicker-clad city workers to dump excess storm water into the
In 70 years, San Francisco as we know it could look drastically
different. Gentrification, development and the other forces of
urban change we fret about may be mere trifles compared to the
drastic effects of climate change, including the rise of sea
levels and erosion, scientists say. By 2100, rising sea
levels could displace more than 480,000 people along the
California coast and result in property losses upwards of $100
billion if no preventative measures are taken, according to a
2009 study by the California Climate Change Center.
With each storm, the rain-swollen Russian River is washing away
more of a steep, muddy bank perilously close to River Road near
Geyserville, prompting Sonoma County supervisors to approve
Tuesday an emergency repair estimated at $250,000. Should the
river wipe out the road, about 400 residents of Alexander
Valley, a famed wine grape growing area, would be cut off from
a connection to Highway 128 leading southwest to Geyserville
and Highway 101.
Just as Carpinteria was finishing its draft ocean adaptation
report, the State of California put out some gloomy news:
Sea-rise levels were now expected to rise 10 feet by 2100, not
5 feet. Carpinteria will be holding an all-residents-invited
workshop on February 12 to discuss the findings and
A countywide effort to address sea level rise is gaining
momentum after San Mateo County supervisors took steps to form
a new government agency to manage flooding, sea level rise,
coastal erosion and stormwater infrastructure this week. By
expanding the San Mateo County Flood Control District’s
responsibilities … officials have looked to facilitate
coordination between jurisdictions as they set their sights on
a new set of challenges for water infrastructure projects.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing
Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five
climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report
recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water
grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing
extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville
Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from
the various member organizations overseeing them.
… Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and
Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas
near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
A new approach to flood management around the San Francisco Bay
could trim maintenance costs for water agencies, restore
habitat for endangered species, and help protect against rising
seas. What links the three? Sediment. Winter storms push
sediment down creeks that flow into the Bay and, long ago,
these waterways fanned out when they reached the edge. Sediment
settled there, nourishing tidal baylands — salt marshes and
mudflats that are rich in wildlife, and also buffer the shore
from storm surges, the highest tides, and sea level rise. Today
few of these low-lying tidal baylands remain.
The strongest Pacific storm of the season will lash California
through Saturday with high winds, feet of Sierra snow, and
heavy rain that could trigger flash flooding, debris flows and
rockslides. If that wasn’t enough, another colder storm is
waiting in the wings behind this first system.
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that
forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by
an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of
native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a
“statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent
of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are
likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and
watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout
on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for
removal in the golden state.
What was supposed to be a great flood control project that kept
homes safe in the South Bay has turned into a nightmare for
many homeowners. Repair crews continue to work on Ridgemont
Drive in San Jose, where they are replacing brick pillars
residents claim were damaged by the pounding to the flood
control project along the Silver Creek. Homeowners are footing
the bill for the repairs and say someone else should be paying.
Congressmen John Garamendi and Doug LaMalfa have reintroduced
legislation to provide farmers access to discounted rates under
the National Flood Insurance Program. The
bipartisan Flood Insurance for Farmers Act of
2019 (H.R.830) would also lift the de
facto federal prohibition on construction and repair of
agricultural structures in high flood-risk areas designated by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts
are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and
Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to
relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a
large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the
California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to
take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to
remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean?
Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come
January storms bolstered a drought-stressed Lake Casitas, but
officials say burned hillsides continue to cause problems to
capturing water. About 8 inches of rain fell near Casitas
Dam in January. That pushed the area slightly above normal for
this time of year… But now, as rain slams
into burned hillsides, debris and ashy muck floods
into the diversion facility along with the water.
It took more than a decade to create, but a revised state
definition of wetlands and procedures to protect them from
dredge-and-fill activities requires still more work to make the
plan more clear and to reduce its impact on farmers, ranchers
Early last year, construction started on a $90 million project
to build seven miles of setback levees and floodplains to
protect Hamilton City from floods on the Sacramento River. …
The new barriers are much farther from the riverbanks—as far as
a mile away in places. In some respects, the concept is
absurdly simple: During heavy rains or spring snowmelt, rivers
need room to expand; moving levees back from riverbanks
provides it. Setback levees not only reduce the need for newer
and larger dams and levees, but also restore the natural
Sonoma County water officials, under order from the state to
improve the capacity of their sewage system, say a valve
malfunction and leaky pipes resulted in a string of spills this
month that released 2.7 million gallons of waste and
stormwater, some of which flowed into local creeks and San
The city of San Diego decided Tuesday to back California Atty.
Gen. Xavier Becerra’s lawsuit that seeks to hold the Trump
administration accountable for sewage and other toxic flows
that routinely spill over the border from Tijuana and foul
beaches as far north as Coronado. The City Council voted
unanimously in closed session on Tuesday to join the legal
action. Councilman Chris Cate was absent.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
The proposed tunnel path stretches 35 miles from west of Elk
Grove to just below Discovery Bay. The tunnels would take water
from three intakes along the Sacramento River to existing
aqueducts south of Discovery Bay, and then the water will be
sent to Southern California. Along the proposed path, there are
at least 22 levees that would sit above the tunnels….
The concern is not so much the levees themselves, but the kind
of soil that is below the levees.
New data released measure changes in land subsidence in the
Sacramento Valley over the past nine years, finding the
greatest land surface declines in Arbuckle. According to the
Sacramento Valley GPS Subsidence Netwook Report and
accompanying fact sheet … land in the Arbuckle area has sunk
2.14 feet compared with baseline measurements recorded in the
same location in 2008, according to a press release from the
Department of Water Resources.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
City leaders met with Oregon state legislators this past week
to discuss the earliest stages of funding an $80 million
plan to fortify the city’s water system and ensure drinking
water is free from harmful algal toxins. The need for
cleaning out cyanotoxins and developing a backup water
system became apparent to city officials last summer when Salem
experienced a month-long drinking water crisis.
Unable to cope with wildfire claims, PG&E made good on its
vow to file for bankruptcy Tuesday, launching a perilous
journey with major implications for ratepayers, investors,
state officials and the thousands of California wildfire
victims who are suing the utility. Citing “extraordinary
financial challenges” and a rapidly deteriorating cash
position, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent PG&E
Corp. sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an electronic
filing shortly after midnight.
A new NASA study shows that warming of the tropical oceans due
to climate change could lead to a substantial increase in the
frequency of extreme rain storms by the end of the century. The
study team, led by Hartmut Aumann of NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California, combed through 15 years of
data acquired by NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS)
instrument over the tropical oceans to determine the
relationship between the average sea surface temperature and
the onset of severe storms.
From 1,000 feet above, you can see surf pounding long sequences
of seawalls and riprap rocks protecting homes, the ocean
sometimes appearing to threaten structures, despite the
installed barriers. Where there are cliffs with no homes, the
waves gnaw away at the bluffs, moving the beaches at their base
farther inland. The extreme king tides of the past few days
occur only once or twice a year, but they offer a glimpse of
what normal tides will be eventually be doing daily as the
result of rising sea levels.
The nutria invasion of California continues. Greg Gerstenberg,
a biologist and nutria operations chief with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, said 372 nutria had been
trapped in the state as of Jan. 10. Bruce Blodgett, executive
director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, wants
farmers and others who maintain levees to be aware.
With four straight days of rain, the Los Angeles River has come
alive. Thanks to Measure W, which was passed by voters last
November, projects will be funded and infrastructure will be
built to capture, treat and recycle all this rain
water. Measure W is predicted to raise $300 million per
year for L.A. County off a new property tax for what is called
impermeable areas. That would be the driveway of your house,
concrete patio or anything that stops water from going into the
Southern California Edison — fighting dozens of legal claims
related to the Montecito mudslides that followed the Thomas
fire — is putting the blame on Santa Barbara County and
Caltrans for failing to prepare for deadly debris flows they
knew were inevitable.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named
Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has
nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served
as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
Heavy rains this week left Lake Mendocino, the North Bay
region’s second-largest reservoir, with an extra 2 billion
gallons of water that until now officials would have been
obliged to release into the Russian River and eventually the
Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a $10 million program that blends
high-tech weather forecasting with novel computer programming,
the Army Corps has the latitude to retain an additional 11,650
acre feet of water, and Lake Mendocino has now impounded a
little more than half that much.
Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for
people and crops in the future. … Glaciers represent the
snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing
rivers of ice. … But in a warming climate melting outstrips
accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice.
Because of the potential of massive flooding, the Army Corps of
Engineers is rushing to begin a $500-million repair project for
Whittier Narrows Dam, classified as the highest priority of any
of the 13 “high risk” dams in the country. Nearly three
years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers elevated the
risk of failure from “high urgency” to “very high urgency”
after a re-inspection revealed a greater threat of erosion and
breach that would cause massive downstream flooding to one
million Southern California residents in the event of a severe
Locally, the primary impacts of climate change on people can
broadly be broken into four categories: sea level rise,
drought, flood and wildfire. The good news is, work and
planning are already well underway to mitigate impacts, though
it’s hard to say how much of an effect the measures will have,
and how much those agencies – and their constituents – will be
willing to spend on them. But this much is clear: Local, state
and federal agencies are taking climate change seriously, and
treating it like the potentially existential threat that it is.
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue
necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based
water district to begin construction to raise the height of
Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the
state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress,
which this year came under control of Democrats. In a
letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State
Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta
Dam would violate state law.
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today
released the Delta Conservation Framework as a comprehensive
resource and guide for conservation planning in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through 2050. The framework
provides a template for regional and stakeholder-led approaches
to restoring ecosystem functions to the Delta landscape.
Most of the native habitat in California’s San Joaquin Desert
has been converted to row crops and orchards, leaving 35
threatened or endangered species confined to isolated patches
of habitat. A significant portion of that farmland, however, is
likely to be retired in the coming decades due to groundwater
overdraft, soil salinity, and climate change. A new study
… found that restoration of fallowed farmland could play a
crucial role in habitat protection and restoration strategies
for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard and other endangered
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles,
videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon
like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry
Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years,
you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow
with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each
winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the
state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting
go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
The confluence of California’s two great rivers, the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin, creates the largest estuary on the West
Coast of the Americas. Those of us who live here call it,
simply, the Delta. It is part of my very fiber, and it is
essential to California’s future. That’s why we must save it.
Arcadis has announced it will partner with Kiewit
Infrastructure West and PERC Water to serve as the progressive
design-build team for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Project (SWIP) in the City of Santa Monica, Calif. Currently,
the city partially relies on imported water to meet its
water needs. This project will allow the city to take a major
step toward water independence, supporting existing programs
designed to create a sustainable water supply
Rising sea levels are not only going to increasingly flood
parts of Long Beach, but could leave the most vulnerable
neighborhoods uninhabitable within a generation or two,
according to a city presentation Monday night that drew more
300 residents concerned about the city’s — and their own —
The McCormack-Williamson Tract restoration project, a 1,500
acre site, lowers the levees on the north side of the island to
allow the river to overtop into the site. On the south side,
DWR will alleviate the surge flows that pose a risk to
neighbors by opening small holes in the levee. 2018 saw the
completion of construction of a levee to protect existing
infrastructure on the site, as well as progress on habitat
restoration plans. For the next phase, DWR will strengthen the
interior levees and take steps toward opening the site up to
The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood
protection possible isn’t yet complete, but the levees are much
better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of
the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency. After more than seven
years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine
announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the
California Department of Water Resources.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is
slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy
future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to
spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an
investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate
structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged
commissioners not to give them a bailout.
Southern California’s native scrublands are famously tough. …
They evolved along with long, hot summers, at least six
rainless months a year and intense wildfires. But not this much
fire, this often. The combination of too-frequent wildfires and
drought amplified by climate change poses a growing threat to
wildlands that deliver drinking water to millions.
Officials have given President Trump a plan to divert funds
designated for Army Corps of Engineers projects in California
and Puerto Rico to help pay for a wall along the southern
border, a leading member of Congress said Thursday.
… The projects include raising the height of Folsom Dam
on the American River in Northern California, protecting Lake
Isabella in Kern County from leaking as a result of
earthquakes, enlarging the Tule River and Lake Success in the
Central Valley and building shoreline protections in South San
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC
issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The
environmental document essentially looks at what changes a
licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of
those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded
a new license.
Registration is now open for the Santa Ana River Watershed
Conference set for March 29 in Fullerton. The daylong
event will be held at Cal State Fullerton. Join us to discuss
the importance of the Santa Ana River Watershed and how,
through powerful partnerships, resilient solutions can be found
to improve the quality and reliability of
the region’s water supply.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular
events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone
new to California water issues or newly elected to a water
district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to
gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious
natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of
Law in Sacramento.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is seeking to auction off its
Potter Valley Project hydropower plant, which contains two
reservoirs and dams, to a new operator. PG&E cited
increasing operation costs, a competitive energy market and
lower energy generation needs as reasons for its
decision. Questions remain as to what extent Marin County
water supplies will be affected by a potential change in
ownership and operation of the 110-year-old hydropower
plant more than 100 miles to the north.
A storm will slide into Southern California with soaking rain
by the weekend, putting burn-scar areas at a renewed risk for
life-threatening flooding and mudslides. People living
near or downhill of the Creek, La Tuna, Thomas, Woolsey and
Whittier burn areas should make sure they stay up to date on
the latest forecast and heed all evacuation issues that are
ordered by local officials.
Featuring artists, photographers, first-person narratives,
historical and scientific essays, long-form journalism and
fiction, the magazine revolves around the fascinating people
and wonders that make up the greater Bay – Delta region of
Crescent City Harbormaster Charlie Helms said he and
commissioners are worried about sediment being deposited in the
marina and the potential impact it could have on the commercial
fleet. A new environmental document predicts the level of
sediment released as a result of dam removal will be similar to
what the river carries downstream during an average year.
In February, following a string of severe natural
disasters in 2017, Congress provided a record $16 billion for
disaster mitigation — building better defenses against
hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes. Eleven months later,
the Trump administration has yet to issue rules telling states
how to apply for the money.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a few
miles west of Modesto, work crews removed or broke several
miles of levee last spring and replanted the land with tens of
thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs. It’s part
of a growing emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to
rivers so they can absorb floodwaters. This shift in
methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to
protect cities and towns.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state
governments released new climate change assessments that
outline the projected course of climate change and its
potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting
of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department
of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on
hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of
the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon,
Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the
result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too
sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
There’s every reason to expect that 2019 will be far better,
largely because of Measure W, which was passed by voters in
November. The initiative imposes a Los Angeles County parcel
tax that will generate $300 million per year to reduce
pollution from runoff and capture storm water to add to the
During severe winter storms, Cold Springs Creek above Montecito
turns into a torrent of mud, uprooted trees and shed-size
boulders as it drains three square miles of sheer mountain
front. The only thing protecting the people, homes and
businesses below is a low dam that the Army Corps of Engineers
built in 1964 at the mouth of the creek’s canyon, forming a
basin between the steep banks to catch the crashing debris.
A crew was out this week spreading grass seed and straw on
hillsides in west Redding to prevent erosion where the Carr
Fire burned last summer. So far the California Conservation
Corps crew has finished spreading erosion control on about 20
acres out of a planned 1,640 acres where work is planned.
Dam inspectors overlooked technical details during safety
evaluations that could have identified structural problems with
the Oroville Dam spillway before it broke during heavy rains in
February 2017, according to an assessment ordered by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC assembled an
independent, six-person panel to assess the safety inspections
that are required every five years for the roughly 2,500
hydropower facilities that FERC regulates.
The storm that pelted Southern California on Thursday flooded
roadways, triggered mud and debris flows in the burn areas of
Malibu and dumped several inches of snow on mountain passes,
shutting down the 5 Freeway through the Grapevine for much of
the day. … Since the start of the water year on Oct. 1,
downtown Los Angeles has received more than 4 inches of rain —
more than the average amount of precipitation for this time of
year and significantly more than last year, when about 1/10 of
an inch of rain fell.
At the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers, a
winter of heavy rains could inundate about 1,200 acres of
riverside woodland for the first time in 60 years. That’s by
design: Here, a few miles west of Modesto, work crews removed
or broke several miles of levee last spring and replanted the
land with tens of thousands of native sapling trees and shrubs.
Not long after the Gold Rush of 1849, California became a state
and made its capital in Sacramento. It seemed a logical choice.
The city was served by the two of the state’s biggest rivers,
the Sacramento and American, at a time when a lot of goods and
people moved via river traffic. It was somewhat centrally
located. But, there was the occasional flood. Every spring, the
snowcap in the Sierras melts, leaving a significant amount of
water in the Central Valley, where Sacramento sits. The city
engineered a levee system to control the seasonal flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin advertising for
bids on a Feather River West Levee construction project
estimated at $77 million. According to a staff report published
earlier this year by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board,
the project would make improvements to approximately 4.9 miles
A cold front that brought wind and heavy rain to California on
Thursday unleashed debris flows in fire-ravaged neighborhoods,
triggering evacuations and school closures as crews up and down
the state rescued people trapped in homes and cars and, in one
case, a man clinging to a tree in the Los Angeles River.
A storm moving into California on Thursday brought rain that
threatened to unleash debris flows in wildfire burn areas and
snow that could cause travel problems in the Sierra Nevada. A
watershed emergency response team worked in the area of
Paradise to identify spots that could be prone to flash floods
California will see widespread rain and heavy Sierra Nevada
snowfall through midweek, potentially bringing travel problems
and raising the risk of damaging runoff from wildfire burn
scars, forecasters said Tuesday.
The financially imperiled federal flood insurance program is
days away from expiring, but the insurance industry and other
advocates said they hold out little hope that Congress will
solve the program’s problems anytime soon.
First came fire. Now the floods? With late-season wildfires
increasingly common in California, the twinning of the two
catastrophes is becoming an alarmingly regular fear. Officials
in both Northern and Southern California are planning this week
for the possibility of a second set of disasters while still
battling the flames of the first.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
Marysville is one step closer to being the most protected city
in the Central Valley from flooding, experts say, with the
recent completion of a stretch of slurry wall in part of the
ring levee project. Last week, crews completed a portion
of the Marysville Ring Levee project – Phase 2A North – located
between the 10th Street and Fifth Street bridges.
Federal regulators are raising new concerns about the troubled
Oroville Dam, telling California officials their recently
rebuilt flood-control spillways likely couldn’t handle a
mega-flood. Although the chances of such a disastrous storm are
considered extremely unlikely — the magnitude of flooding in
the federal warning is far greater than anything ever
experienced — national dam safety experts say the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission’s concerns could have costly
repercussions for California.
State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam
flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will
be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete
chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels
rise. Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.
Two-hundred members of the California Conservation Corps from
as far away as San Diego and Fortuna descended on a Delta levee
bordering southwest Stockton’s Van Buskirk Park on Tuesday to
practice their flood control skills. … CCC
Communications Director Dana Howard, also on hand to observe
Tuesday’s training exercise, took the opportunity to announce
the recent opening of the Corps’ first newly constructed
facility in Northern California in decades.
Just because El Niño may be lurking
off in the tropical Pacific, does that really offer much of a
clue about what kind of rainy season California can expect in
Water Year 2019?
Will a river of storms pound the state, swelling streams and
packing the mountains with deep layers of heavy snow much like
the exceptionally wet 2017 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30,
2017)? Or will this winter sputter along like last winter,
leaving California with a second dry year and the possibility of
another potential drought? What can reliably be said about the
prospects for Water Year 2019?
At Water Year
2019: Feast or Famine?, a one-day event on Dec. 5 in Irvine,
water managers and anyone else interested in this topic will
learn about what is and isn’t known about forecasting
California’s winter precipitation weeks to months ahead, the
skill of present forecasts and ongoing research to develop
In recent decades, San Franciscans have embraced the reborn
Embarcadero waterfront as kind of front yard, and at noon on a
weekday it crowds with tourists, skateboarders, entrepreneurs
and other locals. But underneath wheels and feet, three and a
half miles of seawall is cracking and crumbling, vulnerable to
rising waters or a major earthquake.
Scientists are becoming more adept at linking climate change to
worsening storms, even in real time, but federal officials
aren’t using that information to help prepare for natural
disasters. The study of how global warming makes extreme
weather more intense or more frequent—called attribution
science—has evolved rapidly.
Federal, state and local officials issued the warning Wednesday
at a press conference in Santa Barbara, adjacent to Montecito
where a January debris flow from the Thomas Fire burn scar
devastated homes, killed 21 people and left two missing.
Less than a year after a roaring mudslide left 23 people dead
or missing in Montecito, state and federal officials will
gather in Santa Barbara County on Wednesday to issue a warning
to all Californians: Massive summer wildfires have left many
communities facing an increased risk of flooding. The
announcement, part of California Flood Preparedness Week, comes
as the state’s wet season is quickly approaching.
When it comes to flood fighting, the men and women who’ve
worked for Levee District 1 have seen it all – from tragedy to
triumph. Those still around have plenty of stories to tell. The
public will have an opportunity to hear some of those stories
during the district’s 150th anniversary celebration on Oct. 26.
The district is responsible for operations and maintenance of
16.15 miles of levee spanning from Pease Road to Marcuse Road
in Sutter County.
State officials said today [Oct. 18] they are “racing” to
implement erosion control measures before the start of the
rainy season on hills left bare by the Carr Fire. … [Clint]
Snyder [assistant executive officer, Central Valley Regional
Water Quality Control Board] said the erosion control is
focused on protecting human life and property, preserving
drinking water sources in the Sacramento River and wildlife.
About 130 private property owners around Lake Shasta could be
forced to move if a plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam goes
forward. That was just one of the pieces of information that
came out of a community meeting about the project Monday night
in Lakehead. … About 90 people attended the meeting to hear
from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials about how Lakehead
residents and business owners will be affected if the height of
the dam is raised 18½ feet.
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway
A state of emergency was declared for the bayfront
community of Belvedere after investigation of a damaged seawall
revealed the problem is larger than the city had realized.
Consulting engineers told the city late last month it should
act immediately to prevent the seawall along Beach Road — which
protects the area from flooding — from shifting any further or
collapsing into San Francisco Bay.
Whether fire or earthquake, mudslide or drought, natural
disaster is an inextricable part of the California experience.
And just as it upended Francis’s life, disaster threatens to
snarl the next governor’s plans. Emergency response is rarely
discussed as a campaign issue, but once in office, a governor’s
on-the-ground handling of unexpected catastrophe and its
immediate aftermath can define his legacy, for good or bad.
The state Department of Water Resources still expects to meet
its quickly approaching Nov. 1 deadline to have all concrete
placed on the Oroville Dam’s main spillway. Crews began by
placing permanent concrete slabs at the bottom of the spillway
of the nation’s tallest dam, making their way to the top. Now,
the upper chute is about three-quarters of the way complete,
DWR reported in a moderated media call on Wednesday.