The Sacramento River is California’s
largest river, providing 35 percent of the state’s developed
water supply. The river helps support the valley’s millions of
acres of irrigated agriculture and is home to wildlife and a
range of aquatic species, including rearing habitat for 70
percent of all salmon caught off the California coast.
Once called “the Nile of the West,” the Sacramento River drains
the inland slopes of the Klamath Mountains, the Cascade Range,
the Coast Ranges and the western slopes of the northern Sierra
Nevada. The river stretches some 384 miles from its headwaters
near Mount Shasta to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
At the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council,
councilmembers heard briefings on the activities of the Delta
Protection Commission and the Delta Conservancy, and an update
on the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.
The decades-long battle over an effort to raise the height of
Shasta Dam took another turn Thursday when the Trump
Administration released a new environmental report on the plan,
just five years after completing a similar study.
The COVID-109 pandemic isn’t slowing work aimed at moving
arguably the most cantankerous water project ever proposed in
California since voters overwhelmingly rejected the Peripheral
Canal in 1982 — the Delta Tunnel Project. … The State
Department of Water Resources is currently preparing an
environmental impact report on the project. At the same time
they are also seeking all required state and federal approvals.
The San Francisco Bay-Delta is among the most intensively
studied ecosystems in the world. Numerous long-term fisheries
monitoring programs have been conducted there since the late
1950s, but differences in the methods, scope, spatial coverage,
and timing of these surveys make it difficult to compare and
combine the data collected.
Droughts are common in California. The drought of 2012-2016 had
no less precipitation and was no longer than previous
historical droughts, but came with record high temperatures and
low snowpack, which worsened many drought impacts.
Saving our planet will require unprecedented focus and
investment from every sector of our society and all levels of
government — especially the federal government. Yet when it
comes to the San Francisco Bay — a national treasure and the
lifeblood of our region, producing over $370 billion in goods
and services annually and supporting more than 4 million jobs —
the federal government has been complicit in its deterioration.
At the July meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta
Lead Scientist Dr. John Callaway updated the Council on the
latest scientific developments, discussing three papers that
highlight the multi-faceted approach that is needed to address
the Delta’s ecosystem; he also previewed upcoming events and
provided the By the Numbers Report.
The Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee is
comprised of high-ranking members of 18 state, federal, and
regional agencies… At the July 2020 committee meeting,
members heard presentations on the Central Valley Project
Improvement Act and the state’s new Incidental Take Permit and
how those programs utilize principles of ecosystem-based
Nearly 230 wildlife species depend on Sacramento Valley rice
fields for food and a resting place, including the giant
gartersnake, a threatened species. Although it has “giant” in
its name, this creature is, at most, five-feet long. These
snakes are heavily dependent on rice fields for their survival;
having lost most of their earlier habitat – traditional
In 2003, Congress passed The Nutria Eradication and Control
Act, which established a fund to help Maryland and Louisiana
battle the animals. Recently, the House of Representatives
passed bipartisan legislation that now allows California to
also receive support. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Zone 7 Water Agency directors authorized General Manager
Valerie Pryor to negotiate an agreement with Napa County’s
water division to buy some of its surplus water this year — a
move that could open doors for similar deals in the future. A
need to meet local water demand for the next few years prompted
Zone 7 to act at its regular meeting July 16.
The nearly $2-billion EchoWater project aims to meet a 2010
requirement issued by California and local authorities. They
have called for cleaner discharge into the Sacramento River by
2023 from the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in
Elk Grove. With 21 projects, the EchoWater program’s largest
components are now under construction and, despite
complexities, remains on track to complete major work in 2022.
As part of a settlement reached with fishing and environmental
groups, the California State Water Resources Control Board says
it will increase transparency and conduct heightened
evaluations when deciding water quality standards and flow
limits for the state’s critical waterways. …
Environmentalists celebrated the deal as a “landmark
settlement” that stands to boost protections for fish by
improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the San
The latest proposal would trim the budget by $2 billion and the
storage capacity by about 300,000 acre-feet, according to Jerry
Brown, the new executive director of the project. Sites would
use existing canals for conveyance rather than build new
pipelines. The plan also eliminates a pumped-storage system for
generating and storing energy during high flow events. He said
the business case for that element of the project “just didn’t
“I secured provisions in this bill to authorize and expedite
construction of flood protection and aquatic ecosystem
restoration projects, address harmful algal blooms in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and give local agencies greater
flexibility in using federal Army Corps funds to meet local
Earlier this year, the California Almond Board released a
report regarding the acreage of almond trees that have reached
bearing age and another with totals including young trees.
These reports paint a stark picture of an unsustainable
industry that threatens the Bay-Delta ecosystem and
California’s salmon fishing jobs.
This brown bag seminar was part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. … The candidate
and presenter is Jessica Rudnick. Rudnick arrived at UC Davis
in 2016 after completing her master’s in ecology and has since
been a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman says
she’d like to see more cooperation from California officials as
talks aim to resolve a legal dispute over competing biological
opinions governing the management of their respective water
The most apparent observation I had after developing the
comments was the substantial amount of work that has been
undertaken in the Sacramento Valley to complete habitat
projects and advance science for Chinook salmon recovery in the
last 5 years.
The large and rapid variations in rainfall recorded in the LSC
stalagmites demonstrate that climate in Northern California is
sensitive to changes happening elsewhere in the world, and that
rainfall in this area may be capable of increasing or
decreasing in response to relatively small changes in global
The net pen program allows the young fish to leapfrog what
would be a 250-mile river journey to the ocean, where the
salmon would face thousands of water pumps, reverse currents in
the Delta, and the chance of poor water quality and a
procession of predators…
The Fremont Weir Adult Fish Passage Modification Project, which
began modified operations in January of 2019, successfully
allowed thousands of migrating fish to pass between the
Sacramento River and Yolo Bypass in its first year of
This brown bag seminar is part of the selection process for a
California Sea Grant Extension Specialist who will be hired
jointly with the Delta Stewardship Council. The position with
the Delta Stewardship Council will provide leadership in
advancing collaborative partnerships and initiatives and in
catalyzing and implementing social science research to inform
management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region of
U.S. District Court Judge Dale Drozd of the Eastern District of
California, who is based in Fresno, denied environmental
groups’ request for an injunction that would have required the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the CVP, to reduce
water allocations as needed to manage water temperatures in the
Sacramento River below Shasta Dam. The groups sought more cold
water for spring- and winter-run chinook salmon.
Get ready… here comes the true California water cycle: It
begins with headlines and quotes warning of pending disaster
based on what could, might, maybe, or possibly happen over the
state’s water infrastructure.
On June 24, 2020, the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of California denied the preliminary
injunctive relief requested by a coalition of fishery and
environmental groups regarding the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
operations of Shasta Dam and Reservoir, and related temperature
management actions on the upper Sacramento River.
The Delta is changing much faster than we can respond to, and
if we want to start to get ahead of things, we need to think
about what changes lie ahead and what managers and decision
makers will need to manage those changes. That was the topic
for the second Science Needs Workshop hosted by the Delta
Science Program which brought together Jennifer Pierre with the
State Water Contractors, Paul Souza with the US Fish and
Wildlife Service, and Campbell Ingram with the Delta
Last week, on the flanks of Mount Lassen, the partnership of
the Western Rivers Conservancy and the Lassen National Forest
completed a project that protects a crucial 1,150-acre
property, and a significant branch of South Fork Antelope
Creek, a rare stronghold for salmon and steelhead in the
Sacramento River system.
Hatcheries operated by the California Department of Fish and
Wildlife in the Central Valley just completed the final release
of young Chinook salmon raised this year. More than 20 million
young salmon, called smolts, raised in four state-run
hatcheries were released in various locations throughout the
Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems, the Delta, San Pablo
Bay and into a coastal net pen.
Documents obtained by SN&R reveal that the director of the
joint powers authority leading the Delta water diversion
effort, under the supervision and current financing of the
state Department of Water Resources, is getting paid $47,000
every month—twice as much as Gov. Gavin Newsom and
significantly more than President Trump.
The creation of the Council was, in many ways, an experiment in
governance by the California State Legislature and
Schwarzenegger administration to address years of gridlock over
how to manage the Delta’s limited natural resources and chart a
science-based path forward for future management. After ten
years with the Council, I can say, with conviction, the
experiment is working.
After being docked for three months due to COVID-19
restrictions, the Department of Water Resources relaunched its
research vessel monitoring program, the Sentinel. It was the
first time since the 1970s that DWR didn’t have a monitoring
vessel taking field samples in the waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Estuaries.
As California confronts increasing water challenges, the most
equitable statewide solution from a social justice perspective
is the single-tunnel project proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom,
known as the Delta Conveyance Project.
After years of planning, McCloud’s Lower Elk Spring house
replacement project will get underway soon as the Department of
Water Resources has selected this project for the draft
recommended funding list. The current wooden structure with
corrugated roof will be replaced with a concrete vault to
insure protection from erosion and habitat contamination.
Mount Shasta is a community that prides itself on clean water.
In the past when water-related issues have come before City
Council, meetings are often crowded to the point of
overflowing. It is surprising, then, that one of the most
important water topics in our city receives so little
attention. I’m talking of course about Mount Shasta’s storm
Over the years we have spent a lot of effort helping fish to
spawn on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, yet occasionally a
project comes along that requires us to do exactly the
opposite. … While this may seem a bit odd, considering recent
efforts to bolster salmon populations in the basin, we were
tasked with preventing spawning in a small area of the
Sacramento River in order to facilitate the construction of a
new bridge at Jelly’s Ferry near Red Bluff, California.
The report, recently released by the city, shows minimal, or
“zero,” levels of cancer-causing chemicals and dissolved solids
that were present as little as four years ago when the city
relied on well water. Today the city obtains its water from the
Sacramento River after which it is treated and delivered to
homes and businesses.
While tens of millions of pounds of food has been destroyed or
buried in the ground during the coronavirus slowdown, a band of
California’s farmers is claiming they can’t produce enough food
to feed Americans, and they’re using the pandemic as leverage
to grab more of the West’s scarce water.
With supplies curtailed from California’s largest water
projects, farmers have been reducing acreage, water districts
have been working to secure additional supplies, and everyone
has been keeping an eye on the continued dispute between state
and federal governments on managing the Delta.
Imagine taking a kayak out on the water all day as a full-time
job. Well, that’s exactly what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service employees from the Red Bluff office do for a portion of
the year. The work is critical for surveying Clear Creek for
the presence of steelhead, rainbow trout and late-fall Chinook
salmon nests known as redds.
The Solano County Water Agency has filed an appeal with the
Delta Stewardship Council regarding the consistency
determination submitted by Westlands Water District for the
Lower Yolo Ranch Restoration Project. The letter points out
that there are numerous existing agricultural and municipal
water supply intakes in the Yolo Bypass Cache Slough Complex
that will be impacted…
Water pollution in San Francisco Bay, California has reduced
significantly due to the reduction in traffic, according to a
recent study in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
The toxic particles emitted by cars, in fact, fall into the
surrounding waters, inlets and on the coast for miles.
The Bureau of Reclamation executed another set of
congressionally-mandated contract conversions with Central
Valley Project contractors pursuant to the Water Infrastructure
Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. … These completed
contract conversions include the City of West Sacramento and
four contract assignments for Westlands Water District.
A note from another former colleague the other day prodded me
into some rethinking — as with everything in this economic
crisis, partly in light of the need for California to think
small. By which I mean, think local.
Grimes and Knights Landing are among three projects that have
been selected to receive grant funding under the second phase
of the Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction Program,
according to the California Department of Water Resources.
California and federal water regulators are trying to quickly
resolve their legal dispute over competing biological opinions
governing the management of their respective water projects, a
top state official says. The talks are proceeding after Gov.
Gavin Newsom filed suit in February to nullify new federal
opinions that would ease restrictions on surface water for San
Joaquin Valley growers.
After only 6 months post-construction completion and levee
breach at the Tule Red Tidal Restoration Project, longfin smelt
have returned. The 420-acre restoration site converted wetlands
managed primarily for waterfowl to tidal wetlands for the
benefit of dwindling native fish populations including Delta
smelt, longfin smelt, Chinook salmon and the food web that
Two factors are believed to weigh heavily on the Delta smelt’s
fate. The biggest is the reduction in fresh water in the Delta
since water started flowing southward via the California
Aqueduct in the 1960s. … The other threat to Delta smelt are
larger fish particularly non-native striped bass and largemouth
bass that were introduced to the Delta by man.
A local non-profit is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and
a Southern California water district, over a long term water
transfer program. AquAlliance works to protect the Sacramento
River watershed. It is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit that
charges the proposed transfer would send too much water out of
Northern California and would cause severe impacts on area
communities, farms, and the environment.
In letters addressed to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and
Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Association of California Water Agencies
is urging state and federal officials to rejoin talks on
voluntary agreements to address ecosystem needs in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Following spring storms, the Bureau of Reclamation today issued
updated allocations for Central Valley Project contractors for
the 2020 contract year. … The allocation for south-of-Delta
agricultural water service contractors is increased from 15% to
20% of their contract total. Municipal and Industrial water
service contractors south-of-Delta are now allocated 70% of
their historic use, up from 65%, or health and safety needs,
whichever is greater.
On the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $19 billion in
budget cuts to his 2020-2021 budget, two of California’s
environmental protection agencies filed a request to fund a
lawsuit against the Federal government over its boost in water
supplies sent to the San Joaquin Valley.
The conflict over California water, often compared to a war,
rather resembles a geological process. As along an earthquake
fault, surface spasms come and go. The latest twitch is an
injunction momentarily halting some Trump Administration water
plans. But the underlying pressures are a constant. They never
stop exerting themselves.
Members of a committee designed to ensure Delta communities and
tribal groups have their say in a proposed, life-changing
tunnel project have been told to work through the coronavirus
pandemic—or be left out of the process. Some committee members
also claim that state officials misrepresented that fact to one
of the most important commissions monitoring their efforts.
Developed by The Economist based on research by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, analysts created a chart to
show the projected number of coronavirus cases with and without
protective measures. This single image effectively conveys
what’s at stake, and it inspired me to consider how we can
modify communications about scientific findings related to the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, especially as we adapt to limited
in-person interactions during these extraordinary times.
The 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan’s Investment
Strategy looked at … retooling the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Drainage District to provide a small continuous funding stream
for ongoing expenditures of the flood management system. At the
April meeting of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board,
consultants discussed the upcoming feasibility study.
A judge issued a preliminary injunction in two lawsuits brought
against the administration by California’s Natural Resources
Agency and Environmental Protection Agency and by a half-dozen
environmental groups. The order bars the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation until May 31 from going ahead with expanding the
amount of water it pumps from the San Joaquin Delta through the
federal Central Valley Project.
An ambitious plan to build the largest new reservoir in
California in 40 years to supply water to homes and businesses
from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, along with Central Valley
farmers, is being scaled back considerably amid questions about
its $5 billion price tag and how much water it can deliver.
During the marathon hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Dale
Drozd hinted the environmental groups’ requests for a ruling by
May 11 will be a tall task. Not only is the case complex and
involves dozens of parties, he said the chaos caused by the
pandemic is impeding the court’s ability to move swiftly.
At the April meeting of the Central Valley Flood Protection
Board, Board members heard an informational briefing on the
Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage
Project being planned for the Fremont Weir. Referred to as the
Big Notch, this project will construct a gated notch at Fremont
Weir to create seasonal floodplain habitat for juvenile fish as
well as to improve migration for adult fish.
The California Environmental Quality Act scoping period
concluded on April 17, 2020 after an extended 93-day public
comment period. DWR is reviewing all submitted comments and
will publish a scoping report summarizing the information this
For us, better science is the only path that can achieve those
two important goals. Unfortunately, as the state completed its
new permitting effort at the end of March, a decade of research
was largely ignored in favor of political objectives that
impose unjustified restrictions on the State Water Project …
Environmental groups in California on April 29 challenged in
court the state Dept. of Water Resources decision not to
include a proposed 40-mile tunnel in its most recent
environmental assessment needed to reauthorize long-term
operation of the State Water Project—a 700-mile system of dams
and aqueducts that moves water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to areas in the south.
In mid-April of 2020, Restore the Delta hosted a webinar where
they discussed the history of water planning and the voluntary
agreements, including their numerous concerns. … Before
addressing the main topic of the webinar, Executive Director
Barbara Barrigan-Parilla noted that there are many in the Delta
who aren’t on the webinar due to lack of reliable internet
service in rural communities, affordability issues, and/or lack
of access to devices.
California water agencies yesterday sued the state over
endangered species protections they claim threaten their
ability to provide water to more than 25 million residents and
thousands of acres of farmland. … At issue is water shipped
from California’s water hub, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta east of San Francisco, south via the State Water Project,
a massive system of dams, canals and aqueducts.
Dr. Laurel Larsen, an expert in hydroecology, landscape
dynamics, complex environmental systems, and environmental
restoration, was unanimously appointed by the Delta Stewardship
Council on Thursday as lead scientist. Most recently, Dr.
Larsen has served as an associate professor in the Department
of Geography and Civil and Environmental Engineering at the UC
From the moment he took office, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he
wanted to bring peace to California’s water wars. But now, more
than a year later, most of the warring factions are united
against his plan for governing the Delta. Three of the most
powerful groups in California water sued the state this week
over Newsom’s two-month-old plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The Sites Project Authority plans to recirculate an
environmental document for the proposed Sites Reservoir after
project leaders modified plans recently to right size the
project proposed for Colusa and Glenn counties. The reservoir
capacity will be reduced from 1.8 million acre feet capacity to
from 1.3 to 1.5 million acre feet.
On the campaign trail in 2016, President Trump swung into
California’s agricultural hub and vowed to deliver more water
to the drought-ridden state’s farmers. … Three years into his
administration, Trump is now opening the floodgate to deliver
on that promise, setting up the most intense water war between
the federal government and California in the state’s history.
A fundraising campaign is underway for a salt marsh restoration
effort near Martinez that a local nonprofit preservation group
sees as both an educational opportunity and a small component
in improving the ecology of the Contra Costa County shoreline.
Over the past several months, the Authority has undertaken a
rigorous Value Planning effort to review the project’s proposed
operations and facilities in an effort to develop a project
that is “right sized” for current participants while still
providing water supply reliability and enhancing the
environment.The process has resulted in a project that includes
facilities and operations that are different than originally
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a motion
Tuesday evening seeking to stop implementation of new Federal
environmental guidelines aimed at boosting water supplies for
the Central Valley and Southern California from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The whole San Francisco Bay ecosystem—that enormous estuary
with its maze of bays, rich delta, and associated rivers and
streams—is in the midst of an ecological calamity. Decades of
dam building and water extraction to quench the thirst of
California’s growing population and the needs of its mighty
agriculture industry have starved the state’s waterways, as
well as the bay itself, of crucial freshwater supplies. As a
result, the entire estuary is under enormous stress.
Two separate letters sent to President Donald Trump and members
of Congress highlight the importance of providing support for
enhancing water management, particularly in light of the
tumultuous conditions created by COVID-19.
President Donald Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom may
have set aside their incessant squabbling over most issues to
cooperate on the pandemic, but they are poised for showdown
over who controls the state’s vital water supply.
Voluntary agreements in California have been touted as an
innovative and flexible way to improve environmental conditions
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed
it. … Yet, no one said it would be easy getting interest
groups with sometimes sharply different views – and some, such
as farmers, with livelihoods heavily dependent on water — to
reach consensus on how to address the water quality and habitat
needs of the Delta watershed.
Yolo Basin Foundation’s Board of Directors announced this week
that Chelsea Martinez has been named the Foundation’s new
executive director. … Martinez joined the Foundation in 2017
as the Community Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator and has grown
and sustained the Foundation’s volunteer base to over 200
volunteers as well as helped to increase community involvement
in its programs.
U.S. Representative T.J. Cox, Senator Dianne Fenstein and
Represenatives Jim Costa, Josh Harder and John Garamendi on
Thursday called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Gov.
Newsom to come up with a coordinated effort to manage the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
Voluntary agreements in California
have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve
environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide river flows
and habitat for fish while still allowing enough water to be
diverted for farms and cities in a way that satisfies state
The flagship of DWR’s Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP),
the Sentinel is used as a floating laboratory that monitors
water quality and ecosystem biology in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Estuaries.
Groundwater science is taking on a new urgency as California
and other regions around the world face growing threats from
drought—and are increasingly drilling wells to make up for
missing rain and snow. Globally, aquifers are “highly stressed”
in 17 countries that hold one-quarter of the world’s
population… Water and food supplies for billions of people
are under threat. California is a case study in the challenges
of protecting those resources.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a water allocation
update Monday and it had disappointing news for some San
Joaquin Valley farmers, as well as wildlife refuges. The San
Joaquin River Exchange Contractors saw their allocation cut
from February’s announced 100% to 75%, which is their contract
minimum. Wildlife refuges likewise were reduced from 100% to
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday voted to sue the state of California over a permit one
state agency granted to another at the end of March. The permit
is related to operations of the State Water Project, which
serves 27 million people and irrigates 750,000 acres of
How critical are Sacramento Valley floodplains for a vibrant
fishery? A California Fish and Game Bulletin from 1930 gives us
a clue. The report documents the Sacramento River commercial
salmon catch declining from 6 million pounds in 1918 to less
than 1 million pounds by 1927.
The state recently got a new permit for water delivery
operations from its wildlife agency. In the past, that kind of
authority came from adhering to federal rules. Now, with a
dispute between the state and federal government over water
management and endangered species act protections, the state
issued its own permit. Critics of the state’s move say they
plan to file lawsuits.
Several Congressional leaders sent a letter to Governor Gavin
Newsom expressing disappointment in the decision to issue an
incidental take permit for long-term operations of the State
Water Project. … The letter was signed by Representatives
Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, Ken Calvert, Tom McClintock, Doug
LaMalfa, and Paul Cook.
The agreement pays Antioch $27 million, which guarantees that
they will be able to utilize its 150-year old water rights and
remain in the Delta for the long-term. The $27 million, in
addition to $43 million in State grants and loans, completes
the financing for the $70m Brackish Water Desalination Plant.
Southern Resident killer whales have long pursued the biggest
and most nourishing Chinook salmon from coastal Pacific waters.
Chinook salmon fishing is also a mainstay of the West Coast
economy, generating nearly $72 million in income last year. Is
there room for both? The answer is yes, with safeguards.
At the 2020 California Water Law Symposium, a panel discussed
the history of the project. Speaking on the panel was Chief
Caleen Sisk with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Doug Obegi with the
Natural Resources Defense Council, and Darcie Houck who is
currently General Counsel with California Energy Commission,
but formerly represented the Winnemem Wintu Tribe when she was
in private practice.
The water transfers could occur on an annual basis sending
water from willing sellers north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta to water users south of the Delta and in the San
Francisco Bay Area. Based on annual approvals, the transfers
could occur through 2024. In addition, the transfers could
occur by various methods, including groundwater substitution,
cropland idling, reservoir releases and conservation.
Taking advantage of recently approved rules, the federal
government is quickly following through on President Donald
Trump’s promise to quiet environmentalists and “open up the
water” to California farmers. … The pumps in the south of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta aren’t just whizzing during
what will likely end up being classified a “critically dry”
hydrological year, they are churning — and killing — endangered
salmon during a critical migration period.
According to the Washington Post’s fact checker, as of January,
2020, President Trump had made 16,241 false or misleading
claims during his first three years in office. Sadly, this lack
of regard for truth seems to be trickling down and infecting
the Trump Administration’s management of the federal Central
Valley Project in California, one of the largest water storage
and diversion projects in the country.
Unprecedented efforts by leaders at the state and national
level have led to the kind of cooperation that will provide
valuable benefits to water users and the environment. I know
because that’s what we’ve been doing in the Sacramento Valley
for many years. The kinds of success we’ve achieved can be
replicated in other parts of the state.
A new set of water regulations aimed at protecting California’s
native fish came down from the state earlier this week to near
universal condemnation from both agricultural and environmental
water folks. The regulations are contained in a 143-page
“incidental take permit” issued by the state Department of Fish
and Wildlife …
The group leading the effort to build a new off-stream
reservoir in Northern California recently hired a new executive
director. The Sites Project Authority Board of Directors
selected Jerry Brown, who previously served as general manager
of Contra Costa Water District, overseeing the operations and
management of a large water system with more than 500,000
The rules take the form of a state Fish and Wildlife Department
permit that will govern State Water Project deliveries from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta… But the permit does not
explicitly control the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central
Valley Project, which exports Delta water to San Joaquin Valley
farms. That means the two big government pumping operations
will likely adhere to different standards — possibly allowing
the federal project to boost deliveries at the expense of the
Two lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s
authorization of plans to increase water pumping from the
Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds will be moved from the
Northern District of California to the Eastern District of
California, a federal judge ruled.
Vallee and his team are here to maintain an array of
hydrophones used to track migrating native fish. The work is
part of a multi-agency effort to provide more timely and
detailed information about the movements of salmon, steelhead,
and sturgeon in the Central Valley. Deploying hundreds of
listening stations across the watershed, the program lets
scientists follow thousands of tagged fish as they navigate
from hatcheries and headwater streams toward the Pacific Ocean.
The nature of Butte County’s concerns over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
scaled back Delta tunnel project was made clear last Tuesday,
when Supervisor Debra Lucero questioned a staffer from the
state Department of Water Resources.
As discussed below, in the case of west coast salmon, the
scientific evidence is clear that the replacement assumption
has proven faulty as the total abundance of salmon declined at
the same time the propagation and release of hatchery salmon
Burgeoning populations of anchovy and a healthy crop of
California sea lion pups reflected improved productivity off
parts of the West Coast in 2019. However, lingering offshore
heat worked against recovery of salmon stocks and reduced
fishing success, a new analysis reports.
The new rules allow the federal Central Valley Project to kill
100 percent of baby winter run Chinook salmon below Shasta Dam
for three years running. Chinook salmon live for three
years, so authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to kill every
endangered winter run for three years amounts to an extinction
plan for this species.
Because the State and Federal water managers coordinate
operations of the State Water Project and Central Valley
Project, the State Water Contractors argue that dumping the
biological opinions governing those operations and restarting
the process would create “uncertainty in water supply
availability, potentially affecting the [State Water
Contractor] members’ water supplies from the SWP.”
Over the past month, DWR has been holding scoping meetings in
the Delta and select locations throughout the state. At
meetings in Walnut Grove, Stockton, Clarksburg and Brentwood, a
diverse group of farmers, fishermen, elected officials,
climate/social justice activists, economists and engineers came
out in force to oppose what is often referred to as the
The 2020 ocean abundance projection for Sacramento River fall
Chinook, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries, is
estimated at 473,200 adult salmon, higher than the 2019
forecast. However, the Klamath River fall Chinook abundance
forecast of 186,600 adult salmon is lower than the 2019
forecast and will likely result in reduced fishing opportunity
in the areas north of Pt. Arena…
If our state wants to remain economically competitive, it must
re-engineer the troubled estuary that serves as the hub of
California’s elaborate water-delivery system — the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The best and most viable
way to do this is via the single Delta tunnel project proposed
by Gov. Gavin Newsom…
The Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District celebrated its 100-year
anniversary in February, according to a press release. The
district’s water rights were established in 1883, one of the
earliest and largest water rights on the Sacramento River, and
it was formally organized on Feb. 21, 1920.
It was a busy time for California water issues last month when
Trump visited the San Joaquin Valley, signed the Record of the
Decision on the biological opinions which govern the operations
of the state and federal water projects (along with another
Presidential memo), which was promptly followed by the state
filing of a lawsuit the next day. … So not surprisingly, the
voluntary agreement was top of the agenda the following week at
the February meeting of Metropolitan’s Bay Delta Committee.
The Sacramento splittail is a lovely, silvery-white fish that
lives primarily in Suisun Marsh, the north Delta and other
parts of the San Francisco Estuary (SFE; Moyle et al. 2004).
The name comes from its unusual tail, in which the upper lobe
is larger than the lower lobe. It is a distinctive endemic
species that for decades has fascinated those of us who work in
If you live in Southern California or Silicon Valley, you might
be surprised to learn that your local water district (a member
agency of the State Water Contractors) is siding with the Trump
Administration, and defending Trump’s plan to increase water
diversions, despite the widespread acknowledgement that this
plan is likely to drive salmon and Delta smelt extinct.
The study by economists David Sunding and David Roland-Holst at
UC Berkeley examined the economic impact of two types of
restrictions to water supplies for ag: on groundwater pumping
as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and
future reductions in surface water due to regulatory processes
by the state and federal government.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District awarded a
$64 million construction contract on February 14 … for nearly
three miles of levee improvements along the Sacramento River
East Levee. This project will kick off major construction in
the region to complete approximately $1.5 billion of work to
upgrade levees along the American and Sacramento Rivers as well
as widening the Sacramento Weir and Bypass.
The message was loud and clear for state water officials at a
public meeting Monday evening in Redding: Don’t send any more
water south through a proposed Delta tunnel project. A group of
more than 100 Native Americans rallied on the lawn of the
Redding Civic Auditorium before they marched into a scoping
meeting held inside the Redding Sheraton Hotel across the
The Trump administration on Friday awarded a permanent water
delivery contract to the country’s largest agricultural
district, brushing aside environmentalists’ concerns about
California’s uncertain water future in the face of climate
change. At issue is irrigation water that flows through the
Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project to the Westlands
Water District, a Rhode Island-sized agricultural powerhouse
and former client of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
While this February could be the driest February on record, one
year ago most farmers didn’t know when it would be dry enough
to work their fields. This sums up the argument for additional
water infrastructure for surface supplies…
On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation delivered its own
salvo to the Newsom administration – it was pushing forward
pre-construction work on raising Shasta Dam. … A push to
raise the dam was made possible by the same law that delivered
new biological opinions – the Water Infrastructure Improvements
for the Nation (WIIN) Act, approved in the waning days of the
The Interior Department on Friday awarded the nation’s largest
farm water district a permanent entitlement to annual
irrigation deliveries that amount to roughly twice as much
water as the nearly 4 million residents of Los Angeles use in a
year. … The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the
federal project, also signed permanent contracts on Friday with
a handful of municipal districts that it supplies.
California’s complaint challenges the biological opinions
issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National
Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)
as well as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s EIS and record of
decision completed pursuant to the National Environmental
A rally before the start of the Department of Water
Resources’(DWR) public scoping meeting for the Delta Conveyance
Project (DCP) set the tone for the event — residents of East
County were in no mood to consider another tunnel project in
Turns out President Donald Trump is no match for another
California drought. Less than a week after Trump told San
Joaquin Valley farmers in Bakersfield that he was taking bold
steps to increase their water supply, his administration
announced Tuesday farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin
Valley may only receive about 15 percent of their contracted
water supply for the upcoming growing season.
The future of the complicated network of waterways and canals
that supplies millions of Californians with water daily could
be murky at best, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
warned Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a letter Monday.
President Trump believes he “got it done” in fixing
California’s troubled and contentious water system. What he
actually produced is another wrecking-ball delay and a lawsuit
to try to halt his lopsided solution.
Farm groups are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to work with the
federal government on water deliveries even as California
followed through Thursday on its threat to sue to nullify
biological opinions that could bring increases in surface water
for San Joaquin Valley growers.
A day after President Trump visited the Central Valley to
celebrate a boost in water for California farms, state
officials sued to block the additional water deliveries.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a lawsuit filed Thursday,
maintains that new federal rules designed to increase pumping
from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta fail to protect
salmon and other endangered fish in the delta estuary.
The Colusa Groundwater Authority, the California Department of
Water Resources and The Nature Conservancy have partnered to
conduct an on-farm, multi-benefit demonstration program for
growers in two select project locations around Colusa County.
An attempt to list as an endangered species a plant found only
in Shasta County could put it in the middle of a controversy
over raising the height of Shasta Dam. The California Fish and
Game Commission is expected to vote Friday on whether to accept
a petition to list the Shasta snow-wreath as an endangered
species under state law.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a pre-emptive strike against President
Donald Trump, said Wednesday he plans to sue Trump’s
administration to block a controversial plan to increase water
deliveries to the San Joaquin Valley. Newsom’s office said he
“will file legal action in the coming days … to protect
highly imperiled fish species close to extinction.”
In the latest update, the cost of implementing the voluntary
agreements has soared by over $4 billion to a whopping $5.3
billion. Governor Newsom failed to mention the enormous and
growing costs in his oped praising the voluntary agreement
During President Trump’s visit to California this week, the
commander in chief who campaigned on a pledge of shipping more
water to Central Valley farms plans to stop in Bakersfield to
boast about a promise kept. … But what confounds some who are
worried that Trump’s water plan could undermine the environment
is how little the state has done to stop Washington.
Hoisting the spoils of victories in California’s hard-fought
water wars, President Donald Trump is directing more of the
state’s precious water to wealthy farmers and other agriculture
interests when he visits their Republican Central Valley
It’s time for Gov. Gavin Newsom to own up on water policy. He
can either play nice with a roughshod plan from President Trump
to divert crucial water flows or craft his own blueprint that
balances both wildlife and California’s economy.
There are many reasons for the shift, from rising incomes
overseas and a shortage of farm labor to scarcity of water for
irrigation. But as expected, the bottom line is the bottom
line: growers generally plant what sells best.
President Trump will splash into California’s perpetually
roiled water world next week when he drops by the southern San
Joaquin Valley city that’s home to his biggest House booster
and proximate to some of the state’s biggest dilemmas. With his
expected visit to Bakersfield, Trump can affirm support for
increased irrigation water deliveries, troll Democratic Gov.
Gavin Newsom and reward House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
(R-Calif.) in his hometown.
More than $188 million in flood risk management work for
Northern California were outlined in two separate budget
releases on February 10, adding to an already robust Sacramento
District workload. … Continued upgrades to Natomas Basin
levees leads the way with $131.5 million.
Reps. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) and TJ Cox (D–Fresno) joined fellow
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee to grant
wide-ranging subpoena power to the committee’s chair, Raul
Grijalva (D–Ariz.)… A key inquiry likely to be explored by
Grijalva … is to dig into the Trump administration’s issuance
of new biological opinions governing the Central Valley
State water officials offered an early look at the downsized
California WaterFix project earlier this month, and
conservationists and far-traveling indigenous tribes say they
still believe it has the potential to permanently alter life in
and around the Delta.
The Department of Water Resources has partnered with the UC
Davis J. Amorocho Hydraulics Laboratory to find innovative ways
to investigate fish-protection technology within California’s
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary.
Recently, the Department of Water Resources posted a short
video providing an overview of the California Environmental
Quality Act and the preparation of environmental documents for
the Delta Conveyance Project. The video was narrated by Ken
Bogdan, Senior Staff Counsel for the Department of Water
Resources; this post is based in part on the video, with extra
information added from internet sources and the Notice of
The EIR scoping meetings for the single-tunnel delta conveyance
facility (DCF) began this week. My comments focus on two
critical areas where DWR appears to be repeating their mistakes
of their past despite the Newsom administration’s stated
intention of taking a fresh approach
In the coming weeks and months, the Newsom administration,
water users and conservation groups will continue to refine a
framework for potential voluntary agreements intended to
benefit salmon and other fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee is scheduled
to vote on a resolution granting Committee Chair Raul Grijalva
(D–Ariz.) wide-ranging subpoena power over the Interior
Department. One inquiry in the hopper: a closer look at the
process that yielded the Trump Administration’s
freshly-released biological opinions governing the
federally-operated Central Valley Project.
This means that the numbers used for the three gages in Tehama
County have different levels for what is considered flood
monitor stage when there is the possibility of flooding, as
well as the level that is considered to be flood stage, said
Cindy Matthews, a senior service hydrologist with the National
Last week, Newsom unveiled a compromise framework that would
enhance flows through the Delta by up to 900,000 acre-feet a
year and restore 60,000 acres of habitat for wildlife,
particularly salmon, facing decline or even extinction due to
The governor’s newest proposal signals Newsom may be softening
his fight against Trump, but opening another battle. Newsom may
have traded a court fight with Trump for a legal battle with
the very environmentalists the Democratic administration has
seen as allies.
California’s governor revealed a plan on Tuesday that would
keep more water in the fragile San Joaquin River Delta while
restoring 60,000 acres of habitat for endangered species and
generating more than $5 billion in new funding for
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last year lost a major partner
willing to help pay for raising the height of Shasta Dam, but
that hasn’t stopped the agency from going forward with the
project. The federal agency continues to look for new partners
after the Fresno-based Westlands Water District backed out, and
the bureau continues to do “pre-construction” and design work
on the dam.
Since 2016, the Yolo County Resource Conservation District has
been leading a project to improve flood escape for wildlife,
implement agriculture-compatible restoration, and engage the
public. This effort will create five miles of cover for
wildlife escaping flood events, enhance year-round habitat for
migratory birds, pollinators and other wildlife…
Time and time again seemingly well-intentioned initiatives and
repeated attempts to develop a comprehensive water management
solution have failed, despite cautionary tales. However, 2019
witnessed the horizon of a new initiative called the Voluntary
Agreements that could do what few, if any, past plans, efforts,
or reports could do – unite water management and develop
The problem with the theory is that a delta tunnel (state
officials like to call it a “conveyance”) would yield all those
benefits only if it were one piece of a larger complex of
projects, policies and agreements to keep water flowing through
the overly depleted San Joaquin River and limit the volume and
timing of water diversions. And those other parts of the puzzle
simply aren’t there.
A single almond takes about three and half litres of water to
produce. Most almonds – an estimated 82 per cent – are grown in
drought-afflicted California, where it constitutes a
multibillion-dollar industry. The number of almond orchards has
doubled in the last 20 years in California.
For decades, California’s coastal aquifers have been plagued by
invading seawater, turning pristine wells into salty ruins. But
the state’s coastal water agencies now plan to get more
aggressive in holding back the invasion by injecting millions
of gallons of treated sewage and other purified wastewater deep
We are on the brink of a historic accomplishment in California
water to resolve longstanding conflicts through comprehensive
voluntary agreements that substitute collaboration and creative
solutions for perpetual litigation. For anyone to abandon this
transformative effort in favor of litigation would be a tragic
The Newsom administration appears to be a house divided on
water, as competing interests pull it in opposite directions.
The main flash point is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a
threatened estuary and source of water for a majority of
Since July, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and State
Water Contractors have engaged in fruitless negotiations over
how to pay for a single-tunnel Delta Conveyance Facility. On
December 23, right before the holidays, DWR made their 6th
proposal to the State WaterContractors with a major shift in
At a panel discussion hosted by California Natural Resources
Secretary Wade Crowfoot, the panelists discussed how by
spreading out and slowing down water across the landscape can
provide multiple benefits year-round by allowing farmers to
cultivate the land during the spring and summer, and provide
habitat for fish and wildlife in the fall and winter months.
Now Trump’s team is set to impose new environmentally damaging
Bay-Delta water diversion and pumping rules. … These new
rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing
wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to
a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin
Response to Wednesday’s action by the California Department of
Water Resources to initiate an environmental impact report for
a tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta was
not popular with the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
Even though water districts and cities throughout the San
Bernardino Valley rely on local rainfall and mountain runoff
for about 70 percent of their water supply, local supplies are
not enough. The region relies on Sierra snowmelt from Northern
California to meet the remaining 30 percent.
The Central Valley fall-run population is a fraction of its
historic size and continues to face challenges as a result of
factors that range from loss of habitat and changing ocean
conditions to pressures from predation and harvest in
freshwater and the ocean. Even under good environmental
conditions, fall-run Chinook face a slew of challenges over the
course of their lives.
As Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration attempt to
establish a comprehensive and cohesive water policy for the
state, officials are seeking public input on the draft water
resilience portfolio released earlier this month. The document
was issued in response to Newsom’s April 2019 executive order
directing his administration to inventory and assess a wide
range of water-related challenges and solutions.
At the December meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council,
Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the San Francisco Estuary
Partnership, briefed the Council on the 2019 update to the
State of the Estuary report. She began with some background on
With virtually no public notice, state officials quietly gave
away a significant portion of Southern California’s water
supply to farmers in the Central Valley as part of a deal with
the Trump administration in December 2018. One year later, it
remains unclear why the California Department of Water
Resources signed the agreement…
California’s governor has restarted a project to build a giant,
underground tunnel that would pump billions of gallons of water
from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern part of
the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Wednesday
issued a Notice of Preparation for the project, which is the
first step in the state’s lengthy environmental review process.
Severe droughts have happened simultaneously in the regions
that supply water to Southern California almost six times per
century on average since 1500, according to new research. The
study is the first to document the duration and frequency of
simultaneous droughts in Southern California’s main water
sources—the Sacramento River basin, the Upper Colorado River
Basin, and local Southern California basins.
As they walked to the river’s edge holding baby salmon in cups,
second graders warned the tiny fish of predators before gently
setting them free into the water. Two classes from Oakdale
Heights Elementary School took part in a salmon study that came
to a close Friday at Riverbend Park in Oroville.
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.
Biologists, heavy equipment operators, government agencies, and
non-profits all working together. Hopefully, they’re major
steps toward restoring the endangered chinook salmon winter run
in the Sacramento River.
Slogging through thick mud may not be everybody’s idea of a
rewarding morning, but for a handful of dedicated volunteers,
it meant helping Mother Nature thrive. The Solano Land Trust’s
“Citizen Science Volunteer” program was at Rush Ranch Friday to
plant native plants around an area that has undergone major
tidal marsh restoration project…
The river barreled over, sinking the streets of Sacramento in
6-feet of water. It was streaming fast, flooding the hotels and
houses of Gold Rush migrants hoping to find fortune in the
bountiful land of California.
What started as a plan for a fun trip down the Sacramento Rver
turned into a storytelling mission for Mitch Dion and his
friend Tom Bartels, who set out to interview farmers,
politicians and others who were impacted by the river.
Consistent with the science developed over the last three
decades, the Newsom administration is pursuing comprehensive,
watershed-wide solutions that address the numerous factors that
limit the abundance of native fish in the Delta. These types of
solutions are the ones that are most likely to achieve the
state’s co-equal goals of the 2009 Delta Reform Act…
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.
California water policy leaders say balancing the supply of
groundwater by implementing the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, or SGMA, and addressing policies related to
water supply and water quality, will continue to be priority
issues in 2020.
The Sites Project Authority is hoping to make substantial
progress on the off-stream water storage project proposed for
Colusa and Glenn counties in the new year and will look to hire
a new leader at the beginning of 2020 to help with the next
The fish’s growth rates peaked at average water temperatures of
61.8 degrees fahrenheit, and what Lusardi calls an “unheard of”
maximum weekly temperature of 70. So, how did the cold-water
fish survive the warmer temperatures? There was enough food —
aquatic invertebrates like freshwater shrimp or mayflies — in
the water to compensate for the rise in temperature.
A broad coalition that includes the California Chamber of
Commerce and labor, business, environmental, community and
water leaders recently announced the formation of Californians
for Water Security (CWS). The mission is to support the
construction of a single tunnel to funnel water from Northern
California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to users
The new guidelines call for diverting more water from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to agribusiness and urban
areas further south. Barbara Barrigan-Parilla with the group
Restore the Delta, says despite Newsom indicating he was going
to sue over the new federal guidelines, that hasn’t happened
The governor’s apparent willingness to play into the hands of
monied, agri-business players at the expense of the health of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta remains the biggest
mystery of his short tenure. It also threatens to trash his
reputation as a strong protector of California’s environment.
Despite efforts over decades, the Delta’s delicate ecosystem
and species continue to decline. … At the 2019 ACWA Fall
Conference, Vice Chair of the State Water Board DeDe D’Adamo,
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, and Delta
Stewardship Council Susan Tatayon gave their thoughts on moving
forward in the Delta in this panel discussion moderated by the
Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Director
The idea is to make this sort of wildlife friendly farm
replicable elsewhere in the Delta. As part of that vision, the
Nature Conservancy has a program called BirdReturns, in which
staff identify farmland that would ideally be flooded for
migratory birds. The group then “rents” that land from farmers
for the duration of the birds’ stay, making it profitable for
farmers even when it’s fallow.
Despite efforts over decades, the Delta’s delicate ecosystem
and species continue to decline. … At the 2019 ACWA Fall
Conference, Vice Chair of the State Water Board DeDe D’Adamo,
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth, and Delta
Stewardship Council Susan Tatayon gave their thoughts on moving
forward in the Delta in this panel discussion moderated by the
Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Director
Environmental groups, tribes and upstream water users in
California yesterday sought to block a permanent water delivery
contract between the Interior Department and the Westlands
Water District. At issue is a proposed deal between Westlands,
an agricultural powerhouse in California’s San Joaquin Valley,
and the Bureau of Reclamation in which Westlands pays off its
debt to the government to guarantee deliveries in perpetuity
without future contract renewals.