It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the
Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend
city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the
notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests
of the community.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado
River – and keep up with any of our
tours and events –
through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our
Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about
people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado
River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through
The water gushed from a valve near the base of the Loveland
Reservoir’s dam at 146,300 gallons per minute, cascading into
the Sweetwater River below. The impressive sight near Alpine
… marked the start of an ongoing transfer of water from the
Loveland Reservoir to the Sweetwater Reservoir, where the water
will be treated by the Sweetwater Authority and later supplied
to the water agency’s customers in National City, Chula Vista
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.
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.
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
When operating, Sites Reservoir will provide significantly more
water during drier periods, to become a new drought-management
tool to address California’s water management challenges into
the 21st century and beyond. Innovative and environmentally
sound, Sites Reservoir will provide water to enhance the
environment when it can provide greater benefits and provide a
resilient and reliable supply of water for our communities,
farms and businesses.
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.
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.
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received
confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S.
Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the
docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the
SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer
of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and
largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using
that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in
current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states
that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID
is putting in play: A demand that the federal government
provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would
establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure
water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of
the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge
comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility
that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It
hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million
to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The
U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least
$1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The
river was already virtually tapped out last century, and
continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step
in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely
caused a ripple.
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.
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.
In the event that water elevation decreases
below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to
address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown,
the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan
for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will
consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the
Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under
the California Endangered Species Act. The California
Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and
Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by
the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in
They are giant conveyor belts of water in the sky,
moisture-rich storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean a few
times a year to fill California’s reservoirs… But
distinguishing a good atmospheric river storm — a modest one
that can help end a drought — from a catastrophic one that can
kill people has been elusive. On Tuesday, that changed, as
scientists published the first-ever scale to rank the strength
and impact of incoming atmospheric rivers, similar to the way
hurricanes are classified.
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the
Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for
property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of
whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking
whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest
that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which
clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking
an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel
betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move
mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license
begin this week, according to a news release from the
California State Water Resources Control Board. The license
surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four
PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in
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.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a
last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the
plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but
Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of
documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with
massive river rights has yet to sign off on the
agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner
Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the
formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should
Solar and wind companies, concerned that PG&E will be
paying them less or even nothing in the future, have launched a
preemptive strike, asking federal regulators to step in to
protect their deals with PG&E. PG&E is one of the
largest buyers of renewable energy in the country, driven by
the ambitious climate change goals California has adopted.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of
drought and water shortages that is threatening their future.
With an official water emergency declaration now possible,
farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less
water and survive. Third in a series.
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.
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the
history of the river’s development; negotiations over division
of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and
a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
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
Tucked inside PG&E’s mammoth bankruptcy filing is a company
request that the judge in the case approve payment of $130
million in cash incentive bonuses to thousands of PG&E
employees, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records made
public on Tuesday.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water
source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few
days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of
overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If
California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched
interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption
by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and
decide the river’s future.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now
hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to
levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the
river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but
after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines
parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement,
the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal
buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which
currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath
River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic
which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory
requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River
for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa
Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the
removal of several Klamath River dams.
With bankruptcy looming, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is citing
“challenging financial circumstances” as one of the reasons why
it’s backing off from renewing its federal license for two of
its hydroelectric dams. PG&E told the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday that it would no longer
try to renew the license for its Potter Valley Hydroelectric
Project on the Eel River in Mendocino and Lake
counties. The move raises a fresh set of questions about
how the company plans to maintain its aging network of 169
hydroelectric dams in California amid its financial crisis.
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge
California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam,
north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has
dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding
it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for
another showdown between California and the Trump
Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted to renew their
participation in two water storage projects so that the water
wholesaler can continue to plan for more alternative water
sources during droughts. The board voted unanimously to
participate in phase 2 of the Sites Reservoir project, a JPA
formed in 2010 to create a reservoir 75 miles northwest of
Sacramento. … Also, by a unanimous vote, directors
committed up to $355,000 for a second phase of participation in
the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in southeastern Contra
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time
to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a
blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely
shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of
moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem
overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance
of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
Uncertainty surrounding electric utilities in California has
led a major rating agency to downgrade Southern California
Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., citing the ongoing
threat of climate change-driven wildfires and Pacific Gas &
Electric’s potential bankruptcy. S&P Global Ratings’
actions on Monday made clear the concern is not limited to
PG&E in Northern and Central California.
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.
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake
Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially
useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland
once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to
bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries
to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may
have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated
Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
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.
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 draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water
Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the
measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee
meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted
barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more
complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been
hashing out for months.
Nasdaq, along with Veles Water and WestWater Research, has
announced the launch of the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index
(NQH2O), the first of its kind water index that benchmarks the
price of water in a way that supports price discovery and
enables the creation of a tradable financial instrument.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California …
began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from
Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A.
takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger
emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are
they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show
turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy
and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Climate change helped fuel the deadly fires that prompted
California’s largest power company to announce Monday that it
would file for bankruptcy. … In a grim twist, the bankruptcy
of PG&E Corp. could now slow California’s efforts to fight
California began 2019 with lower-than-average snowpack
measurements — just 67 percent of the year-to-date
average. Recent storms pushed that total to 90
percent as of Friday. With more precipitation on the horizon,
forecasters predict snowpack measurements will “meet or exceed”
the year-to-date average by the end of the week.
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought,
the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its
diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must
confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water
may be cut off.
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.
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech
Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a
drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal
intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of
urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor
told the business community Friday in previewing the speech
that kicks off the legislative session.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western
snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers
presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these
predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has
declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter.
Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told
the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western
U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can
see it right now.”
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the
world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of
much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego,
Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its
water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting
system used by major farmers and entire states. … This
month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan
Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River
drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water
management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic
they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa
Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to
officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water
interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about
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.
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.
Plans for the removal of three dams on the Klamath River in
California cleared another regulatory hurdle when state
officials released a draft environmental impact report that
found no significant long-term water quality concerns.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal
three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still
grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the
way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues,
some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’
concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up
funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to
pump more groundwater.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought
Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete
proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal
with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado
River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal
government is squeezing these negotiators.
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.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to
exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River
water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution
is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona
and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado
River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his
audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick
the can any further.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s
Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no
Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out),
they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake
Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t
want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more
locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,”
said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.
A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across
the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far
back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a
megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought
conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks
fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts
of the past 1,200 years.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a
soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states
that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River,
according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
A coalition of environmental groups has called on California
members of Congress to prioritize the San Luis (B.F. Sisk)
Dam seismic remediation over federal funding for new California
dams. San Luis Dam is in a very seismically active area.
Independently reviewed risk assessments for Reclamation have
shown that a large earthquake could lead to crest settlement
and overtopping of the dam, which would result in large
uncontrolled releases and likely dam failure.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers
and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the
American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange
ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of
climate change. This year, due to the partial federal
government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the
conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
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.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought
contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now,
they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job,
the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a
reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin
recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control
Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four
hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River.
The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by
California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes,
water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the
basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust
responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s
farming and ranching heritage.
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.
After decades of arguments and court challenges, a landmark
agreement supported by states, tribes and federal agencies
is expected to change how water is spilled at Columbia and
Lower Snake River dams to boost the survival of young salmon
while limiting the financial hit to hydropower.
Alvin Thoma’s youngest son was born the year his employer,
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., began the process of renewing the
license for its Upper North Fork Feather River hydropower
facility in northern California. His son is 19 years old now.
The facility, however, is still undergoing relicensing.
… And federal help isn’t coming quickly.
UPDATE: President Trump signed this bill into law on Oct. 23,
2018. Read our story from September, when the House of
Representatives first passed the bill. The companies trying to
build a massive hydroelectric power plant on the doorstep of
Joshua Tree National Park got one step closer to their
objective last week.
The federal agency that had been handling the permitting
process for the Lake Powell Pipeline announced Thursday it
doesn’t have jurisdiction to handle the entire project on its
own. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission submitted an
order indicating it would only consider permitting for the
hydroelectric facilities proposed for the project, and not the
remaining 89 miles of connecting water delivery pipelines,
although it would continue as the lead agency in charge of
The House of Representatives unanimously approved America’s
Water Infrastructure Act, a sprawling bill that would authorize
and fund projects across the country, from bridge repairs
to school drinking fountain replacements.
A California Senate committee voted to advance a bill that
would breathe life into a hydropower project near
Joshua Tree National Park, following an intense hearing in
which labor unions and the project’s developer urged lawmakers
to support the bill. Assembly Bill 2787 barely passed
in the Senate’s energy and utilities committee on Monday,
four days before this year’s legislative session ends.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power
plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start
construction by a key deadline this week — but a bill in
Congress could give the company another six years to start work
on the project.
Cal-ISO projects 51,947 megawatts of generation will be
available to serve demand this summer. … However, by late
summer hydroelectric production is expected to be down by about
1,300 megawatts compared with 2017.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power
plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start
construction by a key deadline this week, in what critics of
the controversial project are calling a serious setback.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced its interest in
selling two currently non-active hydroelectric projects at Kern
Canyon and the Tule River. The Kern Canyon project is located
east of Bakersfield. The dam was damaged in a rockslide in
Talks are scheduled to begin this week in Washington, D.C., to
modernize the document that coordinates flood control and
hydropower generation in the United States and Canada along the
1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) Columbia River.
Eight years ago, Marin County created a new kind of public
power agency in California — over the strenuous objections
of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. … Community choice
allows local governments to band together in something like a
buyer’s club for electricity, purchasing in bulk from operators
of power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and solar
facilities. Each community choice program’s governing board
sets its own electricity rates.
The managers of California’s electrical grid warned Wednesday
that the state is facing tight power supplies this summer, due
in part to a drier winter that is reducing available hydro
power. Some Californians could be forced to turn down their air
conditioners, hold off on doing their laundry or make other
sacrifices in the name of energy conservation.
We explored 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
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 was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges
facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent
drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water
managers and others are trying to face the future.
This three-day, two-night tour explored 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.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of
Washington state, would define hydropower as a renewable energy
source and streamline the way projects are licensed, with
primary authority granted to a single federal agency. Lawmakers
approved the bill Wednesday, 257-166.
The success of solar and wind energy in California is having a
surprising side effect: It may be undercutting revenue for
hydroelectric dams, the longtime stalwart of “green” energy in
the West. Four years ago, officials at the California
Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages electricity
demand across the state, identified a phenomenon called the
Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion
hydropower project. The plant, proponents say, would help boost
renewable energy use in Southern California and lower
greenhouse gas emissions. But park officials fear the
hydropower project could draw down local groundwater levels and
The San Diego County Water Authority wants to find somebody to
develop an energy storage facility at the San Vicente
Reservoir, nestled among the Cuyamaca Mountains near Lakeside.
And officials are not only confident they can find a number of
potential candidates willing to fully develop the project, they
expect to entertain proposals in the range of $1.5 billion to
Congressman Doug LaMalfa doesn’t want a new license issued for
Oroville Dam until some safety questions are answered and some
commitments are made to local government. LaMalfa, R-Richvale,
sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acting
Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur requesting the delay.
The growth in renewables has been fueled by scores of new wind
turbines and solar farms. Recent increases in hydroelectric
power as a result of heavy snow and rain in Western states last
winter also provided a boost.
As President Donald Trump dithers on the fate of the Paris
climate deal, California and other western states are banding
together to reduce carbon emissions and save hundreds of
millions of dollars — and now a Canadian
province will join them. … BC Hydro operates
31 hydroelectric power plants, which could help California
and other western states bring more solar and wind power
California’s brutal five-year drought did more than lead to
water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills
statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and
greenhouse gases, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Californians’ electricity costs jumped by a combined $2.45
billion from 2012 to 2016 because of severe shortages of cheap
hydroelectricity, according to an estimate released Wednesday
by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy think tank.
Citing the near disaster at Oroville Dam, a group of
congressional Democrats is pushing the government’s watchdog
agency to investigate federal oversight of dam safety
regulations. … Separately, the California state Senate
Natural Resources and Water Committee will hold an oversight
hearing on Oroville next Tuesday [April 25].
Federal officials have concluded that infrastructure for
a proposed hydropower project — which would tap
billions of gallons of groundwater in the California
desert, just outside Joshua Tree National Park — wouldn’t be
especially harmful to the environment.
After slowing to a trickle during the past five years of
punishing drought, hydroelectric power in California is poised
to make a major comeback this spring and summer, thanks to the
wet winter. Across Northern California, hydroelectricity
producers say their reservoirs are brimming at levels not seen
California’s years-long drought put hydroelectric power flat on
its back. But one of the cleanest and cheapest energy sources
may be poised for a comeback as the state has been drenched
with rain and its mountains blanketed in snow in recent months.
There are 1.7 million cubic yards of rubble at the bottom of
the Diversion Pool, effectively splitting it into two bodies of
water. The plan with the spillway shut off, according to the
California Department of Water Resources, is to remove enough
of it to clear a channel and get the water that is backed up on
one side of the rubble to flow between the two sides.
[Oroville] Dam operators gradually scaled back water releases
to zero over a six-hour period, providing breathing room for
construction crews trying to clear debris from a badly choked
Feather River channel and restart the dam’s critically needed
Oroville Dam operators plan to halt water releases from the
dam’s battered spillway Monday in order to ramp up efforts to
remove a debris pile that’s preventing them from restarting a
Water releases through the damaged main spillway at Oroville
Dam were scaled back Thursday to allow crews to reach and
remove a pile of debris that has built up at the bottom of that
chute, officials said.
Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in
Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water
Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they
could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s
hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when
NextEra Energy Resources is working to build a massive
hydropower plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park,
bringing the weight of one of the country’s biggest renewable
energy companies to a controversial project that critics say
would harm wildlife and diminish an underground water
supply critical to the park.
Whiskeytown Lake, a major reservoir in the foothills of the
Klamath Mountains nine miles west of Redding, was
built at the site of one of Shasta County’s first Gold Rush
communities. Whiskeytown, originally called
Whiskey Creek Diggings, was founded in 1849 and named in
reference to a whiskey barrel rolling off a citizen’s pack mule;
it may also refer to miners drinking a barrel per day.
As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world,
the Imperial Valley
receives its water from the Colorado River via the
All-American Canal. Rainfall is scarce in the desert region at
less than three inches per year and groundwater is of little
Hydropower in the United States is primed for a shakeup. On one
hand, utilities and governments are tearing down old dams with
increasing frequency. … On the other hand, lawmakers and
officials are keen to wring more power from rivers.
Earlier this year, in an announcement that has become more
routine around the world, Suy Sem, Cambodia’s minister of mines
and energy, declared a moratorium on the construction of big
hydropower dams until at least 2020. … Cambodia joins a
lengthening list of nations around the world that are
reassessing big hydropower dams in an era when wind and solar
power are less expensive, much easier to build, less damaging,
and far less vulnerable to droughts and floods.
Joshua Tree National Park is working to annex more than
25,000 acres of important wildlife habitat to protect
it from potential development, even as it appears
increasingly likely those lands will surround a massive
Federal burdens dampen California’s hydroelectric power
potential, PG&E and Turlock Irrigation District officials
told lawmakers Tuesday. … In 2013, President Barack
Obama signed into law two bills intended to streamline the
approval process for small hydroelectric projects.
Endangered salmon blocked for nearly a century from hundreds of
miles of the Klamath River in Oregon and California are
expected to return en masse under unusual agreements signed
Wednesday to tear down four hydroelectric dams.
… Humboldt County residents will have two opportunities to
voice their views and hear information on the relicensing of
four PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River once
slated for removal by the Klamath Basin agreements.
A defunct iron ore mine near Joshua Tree National Park, a site
once considered for the world’s largest landfill, has sold for
$25 million to a company that wants to develop a hydroelectric
A controversial proposal to build a hydropower plant in the
shadow of Joshua Tree National Park cleared a major hurdle
Wednesday, in a surprising development that frustrated
conservationists but encouraged some renewable energy
Salmon leap over rocks and other small obstacles as they swim
up the Tuolumne River to spawn every fall. But they cannot
surmount the 110-foot-tall dam that created La Grange
Reservoir, much less the 585-foot dam just upstream at Don
The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1964 created Lake Powell.
Both are located in north-central Arizona near the Utah border.
Lake Powell acts as a holding tank for outflow from the Colorado
River Upper Basin States: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The water stored in Lake Powell is used for recreation, power
generation and delivering water to the Lower Basin states of
California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Flying over the Sierra Nevada as California entered its fourth
year of drought, the state’s energy chief looked down and saw
stark bare granite cloaked in dirty brown haze – not the usual
pristine white peaks heaped with snow that would run the
state’s hydroelectric dams for the year.
Two major developments in the [Yuba County Water] agency’s
history were coming to a head — the application for a new
license that will determine how the water project is run for
the next 50 years and the takeover of the operation of the
project’s hydropower plant.
This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
region and details their importance to California’s overall water
picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges,
including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational
impacts, climate change, development and land use.
The report also discusses the importance of protecting and
restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance
quantity. Examples and case studies are included.
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current
state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an
overview of the geography and history of the river, historical
and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of
the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The
map text explains the many issues facing this vast,
15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration;
agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are
descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement,
and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including
the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text
explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson
rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery
restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many
of these issues.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven
Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The
Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch
map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s
apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for
urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an
overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada.
It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history
of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las
Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and
today’s water supply challenges.
Hydroelectric power is generated by the ability to turn falling
water into electricity and in California accounts for about 15
percent of the state’s power supply annually.
Hydroelectric power is produced when water turns a turbine
connected to a generator. This water is stored behind a dam at
elevation. Gravity causes water to drop toward a turbine
propeller. The falling water turns the turbine which produces
power through the connected generator.
In California, the State
Water Project provides water for 25 million Californians and
irrigation water for an estimated 750,000 acres of farmland.
Along the way, it supports industries from agriculture to high
tech that make the state a global economic powerhouse.
The Yuba Accord is a landmark agreement that balances the
interests of environmental groups, agriculture, water agencies
and hydroelectric operators relying on water from the Yuba
River. A tributary of the Feather River, the Yuba is
located north of Sacramento.
Pieced together after two decades of lawsuits, the Yuba Accord
allows for fresh water flows to support native fish while also
providing water for hydropower, transfers and irrigation. The
Accord took effect in 2008 after two years as a pilot project.
Though seemingly a long-way from California’s Central Valley, the
Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and
for hydropower production.
Constructed in the far northwest of California in the 1950s,
Trinity Dam and Lewiston Dam, just downstream, increased the
federal Central Valley Project’s storage capacity by more than
2.5 million acre-feet.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy
requirements associated with water use and the means by which
state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge
and improve the management of both resources.
Diverting water for farms and cities, generating hydro-electric
power, supplying an ever-growing urban population and protecting
endangered species have all shaped the development and management
of the Colorado River we know today. How to sustain the system
and build a resilient future for what is known as the “lifeline
of the Southwest” is the task facing the region and the river’s
Hydropower generation is prevalent in the West, where rapidly
flowing river systems have been tapped for generations to produce
electricity. Hydropower is a clean, steady and reliable energy
source, but the damming of rivers has exacted a toll on the
environment, affecting, among other things, the migration of fish
to vestigial spawning grounds. Many of those projects are due to
be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The vital importance of water in the West is a given. It is the
basis upon which everything moves forward – the burgeoning
subdivisions, the seemingly limitless acreage of fruits and
vegetables and the remaining stretches of wilderness that support
fish, fowl and wildlife. In addition to its life-sustaining
properties, water, more specifically the force of moving water,
plays a significant part of the nation’s power system by
providing an inexpensive, reliable and renewable generation
Those on the California water insider track know all too well the
fine line the state walks with regard to maintaining its water
supply. Hydrologic conditions put California at the mercy of the
weather and some are predicting this year could be the start of a
dry cycle not just for the state, but the Southwest as a whole.
Combine that with a regional dry spell in the Northwest and
California’s power woes, and a potential recipe for disaster
begins to solidify.