Invasive species, also known as exotics, are plants, animals,
insects, and aquatic species introduced into non-native habitats.
Without natural predators or threats, these introduced species
Often,invasive species travel to non-native areas by ship,
either in ballast water released into harbors or attached to the
sides of boats. From there, introduced species can then spread
and significantly alter ecosystems and the natural food chain as
they go. Another example of non-native species introduction
is the dumping of aquarium fish into waterways.
Invasive species also put water conveyance systems at risk. Water
pumps and other infrastructure can potentially shut down due to
large numbers of invasive species.
California Rep. Josh Harder needed a way to convince the U.S.
House of Representatives to pay attention to his speech about
invasive species during a meeting in February. So he brought in
a hefty rat carcass and laid it on the table next to him. The
taxidermied rat … convinced the House to unanimously
pass a bill that supports eradication efforts in states
infested with nutria, large rodents also known as swamp rats
that are native to South America.
We want to know if removing carp can improve water quality and
reduce harmful algal blooms, HABs. Carp are widely known to
bioturbate sediments where previously deposited nutrients like
phosphorus are bound. Re-suspension of phosphorus by carp leads
to HABs, creating an interesting link between fish and human
The feasibility study refers to removal of Scott Dam as a
foregone conclusion. The reason being salmon and steelhead are
not able to access spawning grounds above the dam. This area is
a small percentage of the overall spawning habitat of the Eel
River watershed. … A fish ladder around Scott Dam makes much
Roland Knapp, research biologist at the University of
California Sierra Nevada Aquatic Laboratory, explained that a
fish-less habitat along with increased resistance to chytrid
fungus can allow populations to rebound and increase. Knapp’s
research findings have shown the frogs being able to adapt to
the disease over time. … “I have a lot of hope. I wouldn’t
have said that 10 years ago.”
Billions of invasive Mysis shrimp, introduced in the 1960s as a
food source for native trout, live in Lake Tahoe, where they
have almost eaten to extinction the native zooplankton that
historically helped keep the lake blue and clear.
The Bureau of Reclamation will begin using mussel-sniffing dogs
to inspect boats on the weekends this summer to help protect
New Melones Lake from invasive-aquatic species, such as quagga
or zebra mussels.
Discovery Bay residents are growing irritated with invasive
aquatic plants and the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down weed
abatement. While the town can be the ideal place to enjoy a
vacation lifestyle year-round, this spring’s crop of weeds is
ruining the bays and inhibiting movement around docks on the
west side of town.
Large rodents native to South
America, nutria began causing alarm along rivers and other
waterways after being rediscovered in California in 2017.
Most concerning, nutria have the potential to damage levees and
tidal wetland restoration sites
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, California’s water hub, from their extensive burrowing
and voracious appetites.
California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways on
Thursday announced plans to control aquatic invasive species in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Beginning April 20, the DBW
will start herbicide treatments on floating aquatic vegetation
such as water hyacinth and alligatorweed, and submersed aquatic
vegetation such as Egeria densa and curlyleaf pondweed.
Given the historical resources dedicated to monitoring and
studying striped bass in the San Francisco Estuary, the
question must be asked: Why don’t we know more about what
they’re doing in the Pacific Ocean?
It is well known that warm water fish (bass and bluegill) have
diminished wild trout populations at Lake Tahoe. … However,
getting rid of the illegally planted warm water fish isn’t
altogether realistic, and the real agenda is only hinted at:
Protection for recently planted Cutthroat trout, declared as
the only ‘worthy’ fish allowed in the lake.
Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA) brought someone special with him to
push his nutria eradication bill on the House floor: a stuffed
giant “swamp rat” he obtained from the USDA nicknamed Nellie.
When Nellie was alive, she lived in Annapolis, Maryland.
The decision ends a 1996 policy that committed the state to
sustaining a population of about 1 million striped bass in the
Delta and other California waterways. They’re voracious,
nonnative predators that can weigh as much as 60 pounds.
They’re especially popular among anglers. It’s unclear exactly
how many striped bass are in the state, but the number is
believed to be fewer than 300,000.
If you live in Discovery Bay or the surrounding Delta area,
harmful algae blooms (HAB) are a well-known and unwelcome
presence each summer, but several local organizations are hard
at work, actively searching for a solution to the pernicious
In California’s never-ending water and fish wars, the striped
bass doesn’t get nearly the publicity as its celebrity
counterparts, the endangered Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
Yet the striped bass is at the heart of a protracted fight over
California’s water supply, 140 years after the hard-fighting
fish, beloved by anglers, was introduced here from the East
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is a highly invasive aquatic
plant that has the capacity, by forming dense mats that
restrict dissolved oxygen levels, to disrupt many of the
water-based activities that are synonymous with Lake County.
The factors causing the decline of many fish and fisheries in
the upper San Francisco Estuary have made their management
controversial, usually because of the correlation of declines
with increased water exports from the Delta and upstream of the
Delta… To address this problem better, the California Fish
and Game Commission is developing new policies for managing
Delta fish and fisheries, with a special focus on striped bass.
These changes will be substantial, multi-faceted, and often
rapid. Some changes will be irreversible. Many changes are
inevitable. Some will say today’s Delta is doomed. It will be
important for California to develop a scientific program that
can help guide difficult policy and management discussions and
decision-making through these challenges.
The people who guard the gulls that nest on Mono Lake’s islets
in the eastern Sierra Nevada have used dynamite, electric
fences and lawsuits to protect the birds from wily coyotes and
diversions of water to Los Angeles. … Now, the gulls are
facing a botanical invader they may not be able to overcome:
thickets of invasive weeds that have engulfed most of their
Dr. Rachel Johnson is a research biologist with the NOAA’s
National Marine Fisheries Service and UC Davis with over 15
years’ experience working on various aspects of conservation
and fisheries biology. In this presentation from the 2019 State
of the Estuary conference, Dr. Johnson discussed the importance
of developing a holistic framework among aquatic ecosystems and
Studies suggest that in the US alone, the introduction of
invasive mollusks into local ecosystems costs more that USD 6
billion per year. In an attempt to respond to this problem, the
state of California (which is perhaps one of America’s most
environmentally conscious states) has introduced the ‘Marine
Invasive Species Act’.
Through financial support from various grant funding, CDFA is
implementing a five-phase process for nutria eradication that
consists of survey, knockdown, mop-up, verification, and
surveillance. CDFW staff have been working the landscape by
dividing areas into 40-acre grids to ensure that nothing is
President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out an
aggressive plan Tuesday to ship more water from the Delta to
farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, a move that’s certain to
trigger lawsuits by environmentalists concerned about
endangered fish species.
Community members, supported by staff from the League to Save
Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Resource Conservation District and California
State Parks, have wrapped up a three-year effort to survey the
Upper Truckee River for aquatic invasive plants.
A recent “Sunday Morning” Moment of Nature highlighted brook
trout in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California (see below).
With their bright red and orange abdomens, orange fins trimmed
in black, and sides sprinkled with yellow and red dots, they
flash through the water like little jewels.
Invasive fish species have long been a challenge for scientists
in the Grand Canyon because they attract fishermen but can
devour threatened native species. Now, the National Park
Service is ready to try a new approach to keeping things in
balance: pay fishermen and women to harvest one of the worst
offenders, the brown trout.
Pulling weeds is not usually a great way to start a party. But
filling a dumpster with invasive species was just the right
activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Tijuana River
Action Month on Saturday.
Just how far will Gov. Gavin Newsom go in his high-profile
fight with the Trump administration over environmental
protections? The next few months will provide an answer, as
Newsom is forced to take a stand on Trump rollbacks in a
long-contested battleground — the Northern California Delta
that helps supply more than half the state’s population with
drinking water and fills irrigation canals on millions of acres
One of the most recent threats to California’s environment has
webbed feet, white whiskers, shaggy fur and orange buck teeth
that could be mistaken for carrots. … The swamp rodents,
called nutria, are setting off alarms in California.
A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent
carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for
money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his
district. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, hopes a hearing on his
bill will convince his colleagues that funding to stop invasive
nutria in California’s Central Valley is sorely needed …
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has more non-native species
than native ones, and its estuary is considered the most
invaded in the world. We talked to Jim Cloern—an emeritus
scientist with the US Geological Survey and an adjunct fellow
at the PPIC Water Policy Center—about this challenge.
There’s no certain answer as to how the nutria population
re-emerged after being declared eradicated in California
decades ago but the population is spreading and causing serious
concern. The Department of Fish and Wildlife was recently
awarded $10 million to wipe out the large, invasive rodents and
that effort is now well underway.
The common reed, Phragmites australis, is one of the most
invasive plants in the world, and its numbers are widespread in
Suisun Marsh. … Phragmites can change ecosystem structure by
increasing tidal habitat elevations and reducing overall
habitat quality, including disturbing the food chain by driving
out native plants in the Delta that support wildlife such as
waterfowl and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
UC Davis researchers have seized on a new explanation for the
continued dinginess of Lake Tahoe’s blue waters — tiny invasive
shrimp. … To make Tahoe shrimp-free, the researchers are
proposing to remove the crustaceans with trawlers and to mass
market Omega-3 fatty acids extracted from the catch.
Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America,
might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t
keep them in your home. The California Fish and Game Commission
is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets
may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.
As the sun sets across Lake Tahoe, UC Davis researcher Brant
Allen and his team lower their sonar machine into the lake.
Thousands of little purple dots rise across the screen as they
cross the lake. … It’s not fish or Tahoe Tessie; it’s a horde
of tiny mysis shrimp, which researchers think have been making
the lake murkier since they were introduced in the 1960s.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
Native to South America, nutria pose a “triple threat” to
California’s future. The large, rat-like creatures are a
top-rated agricultural pest that threatens the state’s nearly
$50 billion farm economy. They destroy critical wetlands needed
by the native wildlife, like the Los Banos Wildlife Area, and
pose a public safety risk as their destructive burrowing can
damage water infrastructure like levees and canals.
Lake Tahoe, with its iconic blue waters straddling the borders
of Nevada and California, continues to face a litany of threats
related to climate change. But a promising new project to
remove tiny, invasive shrimp could be a big step toward
climate-proofing its famed lake clarity.
The initial objectives of the restoration project were to:
improve habitat for the Delta smelt, reduce saltwater
intrusion, reduce submerged aquatic weeds and reduce invasive
non-native fish species that feed on native fish. Carl Wilcox,
a CDFW policy advisor explained the objectives are now more
broad and include accommodations for recreational and economic
activities that are key to the region’s residents.
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
The rapid proliferation of the quagga mussel has major
implications for power plant reliability. The U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation installed a groundbreaking solution at Parker Dam
in Arizona that virtually eliminated the invasive species from
hydropower cooling systems.
This tour travels deep into California’s water hub and traverses the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The tour will make its way to San Francisco Bay and includes a ferry ride.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
Besides choking out much-loved natives such as the golden
poppy, which is the state flower, Ward’s weed is a wildfire
hazard. Each year it dies off and turns into a brown mass of
thin, dry brush, like a tiny tumbleweed, that can go up in
flames with a spark.
The tall, bamboo-like plants clustered in dense thickets along
sections of the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley have long
attracted the attention of those who have strolled in that
area. Green and stately with long, sword-like leaves, they
belong to a species known as Arundo donax, or more commonly,
giant cane. … But the plant is a nuisance and local officials
have decided to do something about it.
An invasive bamboo-like species called arundo is encumbering
the natural ecology of the Salinas River and increasing flood
risk to nearby farmland. But the conservation agency charged
with protecting the area recently secured nearly $3 million
from state coffers for the purpose of fighting the invasion.
Conservationists and weekend volunteers have toiled in the
Bolsa Chica Wetlands for years, weeding out invasive plants and
replanting native vegetation squeezed out by the invaders. …
Now, these wildlife custodians are expanding their botanical
battle across Pacific Coast Highway to the sand dunes of Bolsa
Chica State Beach. After all, no matter how many enemy plants
are removed from the wetlands, ocean winds will carry more
seeds from non-native plants growing in the dunes.
For the past year the state’s worked to eradicate the rodents
for a second time. The rodents were brought to California in
the 1900s for the fur trade and fur farming. “[The] challenge
is we keep looking and we keep finding more nutria,” said Peter
Tira with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“However, we do know there’s about 1.8 million acres of
suitable nutria habitat. This is the largest nutria eradication
ever attempted in the United States.”
Bay Area anglers say they are pleased California State Parks is
drastically reducing the number of sites treated with
pesticides on the grass and weed-choked Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta. … The move to reduce spraying and pelleting on
parts of the Delta this year comes in the wake of last year’s
increased use of pesticides that anglers’s claim wiped out the
weeds, but also killed dozens of beavers, fish, turtles and
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
More than 400 nutria have been captured in the first year of an
effort to eradicate the invasive South American rodent from
California. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said
Monday the semi-aquatic rodents were trapped in five counties
in the San Joaquin Valley. Nutria are an agricultural pest,
destroy wetlands critical to native wildlife and threaten water
delivery and flood control infrastructure through destructive
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
A pilot program that used ultraviolet light to combat aquatic
invasive plants has shown promising results. Results from the
program, which was deployed in Lakeside Marina in the summer of
2017, show the use of ultraviolet-C light successfully killed
submerged aquatic plants, according to the Tahoe Resource
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has been battling the
destructive Nutria for two years. State biologists believe it
will be another three years before they win the war against the
pesky rodent. The nutria is considered a triple threat to
Valley wetlands, agriculture and water delivery systems.
A pilot program that used ultraviolet light to combat aquatic
invasive plants has shown promising results. Results from the
program, which was deployed in Lakeside Marina in the summer of
2017, show the use of ultraviolet-C light successfully killed
submerged aquatic plants, according to the Tahoe Resource
They are a semiaquatic South American rodent a bit smaller than
a beaver. Females can give birth three times a year and have up
to 12 babies each litter. They are really good at tearing up
crops, burrowing tunnels into levees, and other destructive
behavior that is tough on farmers. And they’ve been discovered
in California’s San Joaquin Valley, a major food-producing
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
One tunnel or two, neither idea adds a drop of the water to
needs of the nearly 40 million people who call California home.
The tunnels simply divert existing water supplies while putting
in severe jeopardy the largest freshwater estuary west of the
Mississippi River, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that
juts into the western edge of Stockton. Clearly, there must be
better solutions. Three approaches leap to mind: storage,
conservation and desalination.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture, working in
cooperation with the Shasta County Agricultural Commissioner’s
Office, has eradicated two hydrilla infestations within the
cities of Redding and Anderson, ending a quarantine that began
on July 18, 1996. Hydrilla, an invasive aquatic weed, was last
detected in Shasta County in 2006.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said
… the agency intends to work constructively with the
Newsom administration on developing a WaterFix project “that
addresses the needs of cities, farms and the
environment.” But Kightlinger expressed frustration that
the project will be delayed even more.
At long last, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta
twin-tunnels boondoggle is dead. Good riddance. Gov.
Gavin Newsom made that official Tuesday during his State of the
State address, calling instead for a smaller, single-tunnel
approach that would include a broad range of projects designed
to increase the state’s water supply. Bravo. It’s a
refreshing shift from Gov. Jerry Brown’s stubborn insistence
that California spend $19 billion on a project that wouldn’t
add a drop of new water to the state supply.
Two experts from Stanford’s Water in the West program explain
the potential impacts on the future of water in California of
the proposed plan to downsize the $17 billion Delta twin
tunnels project. … Leon Szeptycki, executive director
of Stanford’s Water in the West program, and Timothy
Quinn, the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Water in the West,
discussed the future of water in California and potential
impacts of a tunnel system.
In a major shift in one of the largest proposed public works
projects in state history, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on
Tuesday announced he does not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s
$19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to make it easier to move
water from the north to the south. “Let me be direct about
where I stand,” Newsom said. “I do not support the twin
tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already
been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”
The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District
today approved the lease agreement, which will last 30 years
after an initial 3-year period set aside for vetting and
permitting the company. … But some fishermen and
other county residents voiced skepticism about how closely the
company has been vetted, as well as criticism of the district’s
swift decision to sign onto the lease.
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.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts
over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water
diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus
and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12
decision have touched off debate on what exactly could
restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon
populations and what it will cost for Central Valley
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised
a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the
water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the
most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday
by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how
water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the
Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with
California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately,
in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad
bargain with the Trump administration and special interests.
It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are
still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to
be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than
they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently
recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural
runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the
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.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District made a grave
miscalculation in suing the State Water Board over
the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. By alienating the
remnants of the environmental community who have supported them
in recent years, they are jeopardizing future projects and
funding measures that will require voter approval.
Water issues are notoriously difficult for California
governors. Just look at former Gov. Jerry Brown’s floundering
tunnels proposal for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Yet two factors suggest that Gov. Gavin Newsom must make water
In an unprecedented move, the Water Resources Control board
voted in December to require water users to leave more water in
the lower San Joaquin River to improve water quality and help
fish. “This decision represents the water board taking its job
to protect the public trust and our fisheries more seriously,”
said Regina Chichizola, salmon and water policy analyst for the
Institute for Fisheries Resources.
A Dallas-based engineering firm is being tapped to help design
California’s plan to bolster its water supply system. Jacobs’
initial $93 million contract is for preliminary and final
engineering design of a 15-year program known as California
WaterFix. The Golden State’s largest water conveyance project
carries a $17 billion pricetag. WaterFix, slated to begin this
year, will upgrade 50-year-old infrastructure dependent on
levees, which the state said puts clean water supplies at
risk from earthquakes and sea-level rise.
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.
The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed flow
requirements for rivers that feed the Delta based on a
percentage of ‘unimpaired flows… If approved, this
‘unimpaired flows’ approach would have significant impacts on
farms, communities throughout California and the environment.
We join many other water agencies in our belief that
alternative measures …
Since taking office Jan. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not
indicated how he intends to approach one of the state’s most
pressing issues: water. Newsom should signal that
it’s a new day in California water politics by embracing
a more-sustainable water policy that emphasizes
conservation and creation of vast supplies of renewable
water. The first step should be to announce the
twin-tunnels effort is dead.
Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the
region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts
have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries
Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to
arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other
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.
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.
After more than three years, 104 days of testimony, and over
twenty-four thousand pages of hearing transcripts, the hearing
before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on
the proposal to construct two tunnels to convey water under the
Delta (aka California WaterFix) is almost completed.
Probably, that is: there could be more if the project changes
again to a degree that requires additional testimony and/or
In an attempt to block the state’s plan to divert more water
toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and away from the
Bay Area, the Santa Clara Valley Water District has filed a
lawsuit arguing the project could significantly reduce the
local water supply. If the plan advances, the water district
might have to spend millions of dollars to obtain alternate
water supplies and pull up more groundwater.
The State Water Resources Control Board proved back on Dec. 12
that it wasn’t listening to a single thing anyone from our
region was saying. By voting to impose draconian and
scientifically unjustifiable water restrictions on our region,
four of the five board members tuned out dozens of scientists,
water professionals and people who live near the rivers.
Mount, a senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the Public
Policy Institute of California, spoke recently about
managing freshwater systems with ecosystem water budgets. “I
will argue that drought, because of the way we have modified
this system, is the major bottleneck ecologically,” he said.
“Step 1 has to be thinking about drought: how to mitigate
drought and how to deal with drought – that is plan for,
respond to, and recover from drought. We don’t do that at
all, even though we just had this big drought.”
Jon Rosenfield: Last month the State Water Resources Control
Board finally required increased flows from three San Joaquin
River tributaries, as the first step in a process to update
water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay
estuary. The board opted for weaker environmental
protections in order to reduce impacts to agribusiness and San
Francisco, ignoring the potential for changed agricultural
practices and investment in sustainable water use to ease or
eliminate the impact of reduced water diversions.
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:
In 2014, plant biologists with the California Department of
Agriculture reported an alarming discovery: native wildflowers
and herbs, grown in nurseries and then planted in ecological
restoration sites around California, were infected with
Phytophthora tentaculata, a deadly exotic plant pathogen that
causes root and stem rot. While ecologists have long been wary
of exotic plant pathogens borne on imported ornamental plants,
this was the first time in California that these microorganisms
had been found in native plants used in restoration efforts.
Prompted by the collapse of fish populations, the State Water
Resources Control Board is trying to prevent humans from
totally drying up these rivers each year. The regulators’
lodestar for how much water the rivers need is the amount of
water a Chinook salmon needs to migrate.
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.
Merced County sweet potato farmer Stan Silva hadn’t even heard
the word “nutria” until a few months ago. He’s still never seen
one, but he’s worried about the damage these 20-pound rodents
with big orange buck teeth could do in California if they’re
not eradicated. “It would be devastating,” Silva says. “They
can basically ruin the ag industry here — they get in your
fields, burrow into your canal ways, your waterways.” They can
also tear up crops and levees, making the state’s water
infrastructure more vulnerable.
The U.S. Senate approved a compromise policy Wednesday on
dumping ship ballast water in coastal ports and the Great
Lakes, a practice blamed for spreading invasive species that
damage the environment and the economy. The plan, part of a
$10.6 billion Coast Guard budget authorization bill, includes
provisions sought by environmentalists as well as the cargo
The tiny black dots on the soggy leaf that Emily King plucked
out of Mount Diablo Creek the other day did not look very
threatening, but the UC Berkeley biologist knows well how looks
can be deceiving. King, 25, has spent the past year and a half
studying the smaller-than-tick-size specks, a dreaded sight for
researchers familiar with what an infestation of New Zealand
mud snails looks like.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife hit a milestone
in its ongoing efforts to control the state’s nutria
infestation on Friday morning when they successfully trapped
Nutria number 300 at a pond in Merced County. … The
department is currently expanding its operations in San Joaquin
County, and is concerned by several reports of nutria on the
doorstep of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, a critical
region for California’s agricultural infrastructure.
Having been hauled thousands of miles from across the country,
a pontoon boat bound for a weekend on Lake Tahoe pulls into the
Alpine Meadows Watercraft Inspection Station. It’s one of
roughly 8,000 motorized vessels that were inspected during this
past boating season, and one of more than 5,000 that did not
meet Lake Tahoe’s Water Inspection Program’s standards of being
clean, drained and dry.
For years, state boats have sprayed thousands of pounds of
herbicides into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to kill
invasive aquatic weeds. And, for years, California officials
have insisted they closely monitor their chemical use to
protect the ecologically fragile estuary and the drinking and
irrigation water the Delta supplies to millions of
Californians. A pending court case casts fresh doubt on those
The intense drought in the Southwest is threatening
Colorado water supplies beyond just the lack of rainfall. State
wildlife officials report a record number of boats carrying
invasive mussels coming into Colorado from out of state. And
the arid summer and winter could be to blame.
Blindly feeling along a section of fabric mat underneath the
water’s surface at Lakeside Marina, a diver grabs a U-shaped
piece of rebar and begins hammering away. At only a handful of
feet below the water’s surface visibility drops to zero, making
work difficult, but it’s an essential job in what could be a
vital piece in the puzzle to solve Lake Tahoe’s aquatic
invasive species problem.
Wading into the water along the rocky shore off Aramburu Island
in Richardson Bay, Brian Cheng reached 3 feet under water and
pulled up an algae-covered rock. “Here we go,” he yelled as he
splashed ashore soaking wet and pointed out a tiny snail on the
underside of the rock. “And, we got a bonus,” he said,
gesturing toward a cluster of yellow gelatinous egg capsules.
Since 2010, Boating and Waterways has put more than 14,000
gallons of Roundup into the Delta, according to a McClatchy
review of data provided by the agency. The Roundup
treatments are part of a concerted effort to kill nonnative
aquatic plants, which have become so pervasive in the Delta
that NASA scientists can see them from space.
An 8-year-old chocolate Labrador named Popeye is patrolling
Lake Nacimiento this weekend, using his sensitive sniffer to
protect the reservoir from a dangerous invader. He and his
friends — Nemo, Captain, Noah and Sinbad — are the Mussel Dogs,
a group of Labs, a mutt and a German Shepard specially trained
to inspect boats for invasive species and protect California’s
waterways from quagga and zebra mussels.
Nearly three months ago, a Delta farmer from Roberts Island
delivered the carcass of a dead nutria to the desk of Tim
Pelican, San Joaquin County’s agricultural commissioner. It was
the first of two nutria discovered in the county in April.
An invading army of moths is stripping the leaves from aspen
trees around Lake Tahoe, and state officials are seeking the
public’s help to document the problem. White satin moths are a
non-native defoliator of aspens, cottonwoods, willows and other
Sixty percent of California’s developed water supply
originates high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our water
supply is largely dependent on the health of our Sierra forests,
which are suffering from ecosystem degradation, drought,
wildfires and widespread tree mortality.
We headed into the foothills and the mountains to examine
water issues that happen upstream but have dramatic impacts
downstream and throughout the state.
GEI (Tour Starting Point)
2868 Prospect Park Dr.
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.
DNA analysis confirmed this week that stowaway shellfish
intercepted at the Lake Mendocino boat ramp early this month
were invasive quagga mussels, as initially feared. The finding
by state Fish and Wildlife personnel validates just how close
the region came to confronting a destructive scourge.
For more than 100 years, invasive species have made the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home, disrupting the
ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually in
remediation. The latest invader is the nutria, a large rodent
native to South America that causes concern because of its
propensity to devour every bit of vegetation in sight and
destabilize levees by burrowing into them. Wildlife officials
are trapping the animal and trying to learn the extent of its
A specially trained dog named Noah is receiving well-deserved
praise after preventing a mussel-infested watercraft from
launching Saturday in Lake Mendocino — a frighteningly close
call that public officials say underscores the need for
long-delayed, full-time measures to protect regional reservoirs
and critical infrastructure from exposure to the destructive
For more than 100 years, invasive
species have made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home,
disrupting the ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually
The latest invader is the nutria, a large rodent native to South
America that causes concern because of its propensity to devour
every bit of vegetation in sight and destabilize levees by
burrowing into them. Wildlife officials are trapping the animal
and trying to learn the extent of its infestation.
For more than 100 years, invasive species have made the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home, disrupting the
ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually in
remediation. … Even though invasive plants and animals long
have been known to exist in California’ water hub, tracking
their extent in an area as large as the Delta — 738,000 acres —
is an uneven task that could benefit from greater coordination
and funding, a panel of experts recently told the Delta
Independent Science Board.
Lake Tahoe continues to be a test site for new technology aimed
at controlling aquatic invasive plants. The latest example is
the use of a device called a “bubble curtain” in the Tahoe Keys
neighborhood, according to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, which
is working with the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association to
combat invasive plants that have overrun the channels in the
We traveled deep into California’s
water hub and traverse the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the
state’s water system and is California’s most crucial water and
ecological resource. The tour made its way to San Francisco Bay,
and included a ferry ride.
Before the midday heat had set in, Jeff Cann and Tim Kroeker
were out of their Dodge pickup, trudging through waist-deep
water in waders and rubber boots. The two wildlife biologists
had come to this vast expanse of sun-soaked Central Valley
wetlands on a recent morning to check in on the first traps
that California has authorized in its nascent effort to hunt —
and exterminate — the nutria.
The organism, responsible for the catastrophic decline of the
Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog and 200 other species, emerged
from East Asia in the early 1900s and is spreading by the pet
trade and the expansion of global trade, according to an
international research consortium of 38 different institutions.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reached an agreement with
the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to provide $1 million in
federal funding to help combat invasive aquatic species that
harm the health and clarity of Lake Tahoe.
The “triple threat” of invasive rodent species has made its way
to the edge of the delta, officials said, putting the state’s
fragile water infrastructure at risk. The California Department
of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday that it had discovered the
nutria, a large rat-like mammal that inhabits wet, rural areas,
on agricultural land west of Stockton.
The destructive invasive swamp rodents known as nutria are
officially on the doorstep of one of the state’s most
critically important waterways. State wildlife officials
announced Tuesday that a nutria was killed on agricultural land
west of Stockton in San Joaquin County.
About the size of a beagle, they can quickly turn a lush green
marsh to a wasteland. … They are called nutria, and right now
they’re starting to spread through the waterways leading into
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the ecologically fragile
network of sloughs and rivers that functions as the heart of
California’s flood-control and water distribution system.
Last winter’s drought-busting wet weather was a boon for
reservoirs and parched landscapes, but not so much for some
invasive species in San Francisco Bay, according to a long-term
study by Tiburon-based researchers. All that fresh water
that poured into the bay was bad news for certain invaders,
which have turned up in droves in recent decades from around
the world, often in ships’ ballast water.
Tahoe Resource Conservation District is three years into a
long-term aquatic invasive species eradication project on the
Truckee River — and the progress is encouraging. TRCD is
working to eliminate Eurasian watermilfoil from a 3-mile
stretch of the Truckee River, starting above the Tahoe City dam
and continuing down to Alpine Meadows Road.
This tour traveled deep into California’s water hub and traversed
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 720,000-acre network of
islands and canals that supports the state’s water system and is
California’s most crucial water and ecological resource. The
tour made its way to San Francisco Bay and
included a ferry ride.
Governors of 19 Western states are pressing the federal
government to do more to prevent the spread of damage-causing
invasive mussels from infected federally managed waterways.
… The governors say they’re particularly concerned about
the mussels reaching the Columbia River Basin, Lake Tahoe, and
the Colorado River Basin above Lake Powell.
For months, regional water officials were prevented from
recharging drought-depleted water basins in the San Gabriel
Valley and southeast Los Angeles County because they feared an
infestation of an invasive shellfish that could destroy local
Like a scene in a horror movie where the evil creature keeps
coming back, invasive green crabs in the Seadrift Lagoon at
Stinson Beach just won’t seem to die. … Green crabs are
native to Europe and were introduced in the early 1800s to the
East Coast of the United States, and finally made their way to
San Francisco Bay in the late 1980s, possibly via ballast water
There’s an invasion plaguing the coastal waters of Southern
California. Waves of tiny interlopers spark havoc at fisheries,
clog municipal water pipes and frustrate boaters who must
dislodge buckets of sea crud.
Estuaries are places where fresh and
salt water mix, usually at the point where a river enters the
ocean. They are the meeting point between riverine environments
and the sea, with a combination of tides, waves, salinity, fresh
water flow and sediment. The constant churning means there are
elevated levels of nutrients, making estuaries highly productive
With a blue bandanna tucked under his hat and draped
across his neck to protect him from the sun, Gordon Fidler of
Palm Desert walked slowly over the terrain at Joshua Tree
National Park, eyes peeled for tumble mustard – a weed invading
an area of Keys View and threatening the natural wildlife.
… Invasive plants – or weeds – create fire hazards,
crowd out native plants and consume water and nutrients,
depleting food sources for the habitat such as the desert
A troublesome invasive species is
the quagga mussel, a tiny freshwater mollusk that attaches itself
to water utility infrastructure and reproduces at a rapid rate,
causing damage to pipes and pumps.
First found in the Great Lakes in 1988 (dumped with ballast water
from overseas ships), the quagga mussel along with the zebra
mussel are native to the rivers and lakes of eastern Europe and
western Asia, including the Black, Caspian and Azov Seas and the
Dneiper River drainage of Ukraine and Ponto-Caspian
Pyramid Lake is now infested with ecosystem-altering Quagga
Mussels after state officials found six of the non-native
freshwater mollusks Thursday in a tunnel that connects the lake
with another body of water along the state’s water delivery
After several years of unrelenting hyacinth invasions each
fall, it’s as if someone has finally peeled back that green
shag carpet and returned Stockton’s rivers to its people. …
And there is a general sense that a coordinated effort by state
and federal officials — along with a bit of help from Mother
Nature — is starting to make a difference.
It was a good plan: Bring in hungry beetles that feed only on
nonnative salt cedar trees to get a handle on a hardy, invasive
species that was crowding riverbanks across the West and
leaching precious water from the drought-stricken region.
Two types of yellow-legged frogs, and a kind of toad found in
Yosemite National Park, won extra protection Thursday when
federal authorities declared nearly 3,000 square miles in
California’s Sierra Nevada mountains as critical habitat for
the endangered animals.
California wildlife agencies say the drought has pushed the
endangered Delta smelt close to extinction. State and federal
agencies announced Tuesday a joint effort to improve habitat
conditions for the fish.
Saying they wanted to go beyond what they’ve done in the past,
state officials resumed water hyacinth removal efforts at the
downtown Stockton waterfront earlier than normal on Wednesday
with the blessing of federal biologists.
For [J.D.] Richey and the anglers, it was a successful weekday
outing, resulting in a bounty of fish dinners to come. More
broadly, the scene put them smack in the center of yet another
Central Valley river conflict, one that pits “good” fish
against “bad” fish, farmers against anglers, and without enough
fresh water to allow them all to thrive.
When the Tahoe Keys were created in the 1960s they became Lake
Tahoe’s largest commercial marina. … It’s possible that no
one could have foreseen that those warm, shallow channels would
one day be home to Tahoe’s most dense population of invasive
Eleven years ago, it was a major threat to San Francisco Bay. A
fast-growing, non-native plant that spread in dense thickets up
to 7 feet tall was exploding out of control, overrunning
wetlands, threatening birds, wildlife and even the public’s
view of the water.
Water hyacinth, the invasive water weed that carpets San
Joaquin Delta channels in the warm season, choking out native
species, degrading water quality, blocking recreational boaters
and interfering with commercial ship traffic, holds promise as
The discovery of an invasive mudsnail downstream of the Table
Mountain Boulevard bridge in Oroville, has prompted state
officials to urge Feather River users to decontaminate
equipment. … Officials are also setting up decontamination
protocols to keep the mudsnails from entering the nearby
Feather River Fish Hatchery.
Tuolumne County has received a $70.4 million grant to restore
part of the Rim fire zone, build a plant that turns wood into
energy and building materials, and create a center for job
training and other services.
An invasive species of snail that is able to self-reproduce by
the hundreds and outcompete native species has been discovered
for the first time in Humboldt State University’s College
Creek, and there is no known method to stop its exponential
The Delta’s floating green menace has now forced the city of
Stockton to close its largest boat launch, another sign that
this year’s water hyacinth invasion is just as nasty — if not
more so — than last year’s.
Monday’s announcement was a blow for those hoping that an extra
$4 million dedicated to hyacinth control efforts and a more
aggressive schedule for applying herbicides would lead to
noticeable improvement in 2015.
A federal appeals court ordered the government Monday to
rewrite its regulations on ballast water discharges from ships,
one of the leading culprits in the spread of invasive species
across U.S. waterways.
[Gary] Rogers, 72, is a first responder of sorts in the war on
water hyacinth. He patrols the Delta several times a week,
investigating those backwater sloughs where the alien scourge
is known to incubate.
Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Idaho are the only
states in the West still free of invasive quagga and zebra
mussels. State officials want desperately to keep the mussels
out of blue-ribbon trout streams and pristine mountain
The $250,000 plan, sponsored by the Tahoe Keys Property Owners
Association (TKPOA), released on Tuesday for comment, tackles
an issue that other methods during the past 25 years have
failed to address to remove non-native invasive species that
choke parts of the Tahoe Keys lagoons.
Federal agriculture officials are spending nearly $60 million
this year to help combat the beetles, bollworms and other bugs
that have the potential to wreak havoc on American crops, with
California and Florida taking the biggest share.
Reclamation has released for public review environmental
documents for the proposed zebra mussel eradication project for
San Justo Reservoir, the Hollister Conduit and the San Benito
County Water District’s distribution system. The proposed
treatment is to use potash which has been shown to be effective
in killing zebra mussels.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial
plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide
swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports
cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.
A 300-yard stretch of the Tuolumne River near Hughson shows one
of the many impacts of the ongoing drought. The river is thick
with water hyacinth, a plant that chokes the flow to the point
where it looks like you could walk across it.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Friday asked Nevada
lawmakers to support Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommended budget
to fund a total of $750,000 a year to protect Lake Tahoe from
invasive aquatic species.
Government-sanctioned tests of equipment designed to cleanse
ship ballast water of invasive species are seriously flawed
because they don’t determine whether the systems will remove
microbes that cause gastrointestinal illnesses, scientists said
Goodness gracious, politicians and state officials are abuzz
these days about the water hyacinth problem in the Delta waters
around Stockton. … Which begs the questions: Where was this
fervent reaction in 2013? And 2012? And 2011? And 2010?
Recent storms have mostly cleared Stockton waterways that were
hijacked by hyacinth the past two months, but officials at a
standing-room-only town hall meeting Monday said it’s important
to stay focused on the future.
The lake of [Jay] Hall’s memory is dead, its salmon all but
vanished in the past decade – a collapse so swift that
fisheries biologists have likened it to driving off a cliff.
For a brief few decades, those biologists had turned this Great
Lake into a Pacific chinook factory, taking a wildly popular
sport fish from faraway ocean waters and setting it loose to
gorge upon the swarms of invasive alewives that had decimated
native fish species.
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated a large part of
Japan almost four years ago is still causing trouble, not only
for Japan, of course, but also for the Northwest coastline. The
biggest threat isn’t radioactive particles from the Fukushima
power plant meltdown, though some has recently shown up on this
side of the Pacific, but potential invasive species hitching a
ride on debris that’s been out in the ocean these few years.
State officials said the weather is playing a role in ridding
the delta of a stubborn water weed that has plagued Stockton’s
Waterfront, but added that the state is also upping its efforts
to finish off the pesky plant.