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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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 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.
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.
Site preparation activity for upcoming levee improvements along
the Sacramento River east levee will begin this week, kicking
off a five-year U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to upgrade
levees throughout the Sacramento region and widen the
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
House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
wants his committee to give him subpoena authority for multiple
possible investigations, but California Democrat Jim Costa may
vote against that as the panel considers whether Interior
Secretary David Bernhardt improperly influenced a decision to
send more water to his district.
Ducks Unlimited has received nearly $5.58 million to restore
603 acres of managed seasonal wetlands to tidal wetlands in the
Hill Slough Wildlife Area of the Suisun Marsh. The grant also
will fund research on greenhouse gasses in the wetlands.
In a recent exclusive interview, U.S. Agriculture Secretary
Sonny Perdue told Western Farm Press that the low-interest loan
will help fund projects associated with the off-stream storage
site in western Colusa County. … “The USDA is putting up
almost $500 million in rural development funds,” Perdue said.
The manipulation of rivers in California is jeopardizing the
resilience of native Chinook salmon. It compresses their
migration timing to the point that they crowd their habitats.
They may miss the best window for entering the ocean and
growing into adults, new research shows. The good news is that
even small steps to improve their access to habitat and restore
natural flows could boost their survival.
Votes of support by local jurisdictions bring the project one
step closer to reality. Reality is a costly giant tunnel that
would divert Sacramento River water bound for the
Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and transport the water directly
to Central Valley farms and urban users in the Bay Area and
The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are
pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final
spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco
Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but
without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final
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
In her address to the State of the Estuary conference, Felicia
Marcus spoke about the connections of the Delta to all
Californians and the importance of working together and more
broadly to solve the challenging problems before us.
We face an important opportunity to finally put the seemingly
permanent conflicts that have defined water and environmental
management in California behind us, but not if we let it drift
away. This new era of opportunity springs from a common
recognition that our ways of doing business have failed to meet
the needs of all interests.
The fracas over California’s scarce water supplies will tumble
into a San Francisco courtroom after a lawsuit was filed this
week claiming the federal government’s plan to loosen previous
restrictions on water deliveries to farmers is a blueprint for
wiping out fish.
The complaint says the Trump administration did not fully
consider scientific facts or logic, and arbitrarily concluded
that the projects would not have a damaging effect on
endangered fish species, including salmon and steelhead. …
The projects at issue divert water from the Sacramento and San
Joaquin Rivers to the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta, primarily for agricultural and municipal uses.
The California Department of Water Resources announced an
initial State Water Project allocation of 10% for the 2020
calendar year. According to a DWR announcement, the initial
allocation is based on several factors, such as conservative
dry hydrology, reservoir storage, and releases necessary to
meet water supply and environmental demands.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has given environmentalists
much of what they presumably want as it released a 610-page
draft Delta environmental report recently that calls for $1.5
billion in habitat restoration among other environmental
projects. … But as much as they cheered the lawsuit
announcement, environmentalists were aghast at the report
because the state plan will allow some additional water for
Reliable water is critical to every aspect of the economy as
more than 40 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts and
vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, much of that using
water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and its largest
reservoir — Shasta Lake.
California officials sent mixed signals Thursday when they said
they will sue to block a Trump administration rollback of
endangered species protections for imperiled fish — while also
proposing new water operations that mimic parts of the Trump
plan. The state moves reflect political pressure the Newsom
administration has been under as it confronts one of
California’s most intractable environmental conflicts — the
battle over the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…
Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff
has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper
Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program,
with immediate results observed… Within one week of opening
the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were
observed making use of it.
Initially, federal scientists wrote a draft report that found
increasing water exports would harm California’s native salmon
population, a species already imperiled. Those scientists were
reassigned. Now, the Trump administration and David Bernhardt
have released a new proposal, and guess what? Westlands can
grab even more water from the Bay-Delta.
Westlands Water District, Fresno-based agricultural water
district, is set to convert its temporary, renewable water
service agreements with the Federal government into a permanent
contract. And while Westlands is the first of its class to make
the switch, it certainly won’t be the last water agency to do
On Thursday (11/21) we may find out whether the California
Department of Water Resources (DWR) is proposing operations of
the State Water Project that are significantly more protective
than the Trump Administration’s biological opinions, or whether
DWR will be aligning with the Trump Administration.
Lawmakers should balance environmental concerns with concerns
for public welfare and economics, rather than completely
disregard either issue. Creative legislation allows for more
comprehensive solutions to problems.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is hitched to so many things.
Our estuary is a critical habitat for fish and wildlife, home
to millions of people, and the hub of our state’s water
delivery system. From the Sierra Nevada to the mouth of the San
Francisco Bay, what happens in one part of the Delta watershed
affects the entire estuary.
California is in trouble. We can’t keep the lights on, the
fires out, or the air clean. Worst of all, from my perspective
as a farmer, is that we’ve failed to keep the water flowing.
That may change, thanks to the Trump administration.
California’s perpetual, uber-complex conflict over water
progresses much like the tectonic plates that grind against one
another beneath its surface. In much the same way, interest
groups constantly rub on each other in political and legal
venues, seeking greater shares of the state’s water supply,
which itself varies greatly from year to year. And
occasionally, there’s a sharp movement that shakes things up.
Paul Souza is regional director of the Pacific Southwest
division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service… At the November
meeting of Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and
Stewardship Committee, Mr. Souza gave a presentation on the
recently released biological opinions for the long-term
operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water
Ponds at wastewater treatment plants are like magnets for birds
and bird-watchers, especially those along the migration flyway
in California’s Central Valley area. Among them is the Clear
Creek plant in Redding, along the Sacramento River, which
serves as its receiving stream.
The nation’s largest water agency signed an agreement that
legally bars it from participating in a controversial plan to
raise Shasta Dam, a move applauded by environmental groups that
fiercely opposed the proposal out of fears enlarging the
state’s biggest reservoir would swamp a stretch of a protected
Northern California river and flood sites sacred to a Native
Westlands has had water service contracts with the Central
Valley Project since 1963. But they were subject to renewal,
when the reclamation bureau could, at least in theory,
renegotiate terms. In contrast, the so-called repayment
contract the bureau now proposes to award Westlands would not
expire, permanently locking in the terms, including the amount
of 1.15 million acre-feet of water.
On the morning of Aug. 21, 2018, David Bernhardt, then the
deputy interior secretary, wanted to attend a White House
meeting on the future of a threatened California fish, the
delta smelt — an issue upon which Mr. Bernhardt had been paid
to lobby until he joined the Trump administration a year
before. … “I see nothing here that would preclude my
involvement,” he wrote ahead of the meeting…
The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first
contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural
water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a
lawyer and lobbyist. … Environmental groups say a permanent
deal would let California’s water contractors forgo future
negotiations before the public and environmental groups,
further threatening the survival of endangered native fish and
other wildlife that also need the water.
The effects of the last drought are still obvious in
California’s agricultural belt. … From this perspective, the
federal government’s plan to increase the storage capacity of
Lake Shasta, created by the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River,
is both sensible and compassionate.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t charge Central Valley
Project power customers disproportionately more than water
customers in order to fund its environmental efforts, the
Federal Circuit said Nov. 6. The law requires the Bureau to
charge customers in proportion to what they pay to fund the
network of dams, reservoirs, canals, and water power plants as
a whole, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Woodland city officials are continuing to build the case for
Cache Creek flood control, recently approving $900,000 for
another study that could be yet another downpayment on a
multi-million dollar project ultimately paid for by federal,
state and local governments.
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
In October, the Trump Administration released politically
manipulated “biological opinions” under the federal Endangered
Species Act that dramatically weaken protections for the
Bay-Delta, endangered fish species and commercially valuable
salmon runs. … However, in an uncharacteristically subdued
response, the Newsom Administration stated that it “will
evaluate the federal government’s proposal, but will continue
to push back if it does not reflect our values.”
Eight-hundred pages into the text of a lengthy new report,
federal biologists have quietly granted government water
managers permission to nearly exterminate an endangered run of
Sacramento River salmon so they can send more water south from
the river’s delta to farmers in the arid San Joaquin Valley.
Welcome to the Two States of California: one boasts one of the
largest economies in the world while another is shamed with
water rationing, third-world power outages, uncontrolled
wildfires, an ever-expanding homeless population riddled with
medieval diseases. This is the tale of the latter California
and the continued alarmism about its water.
The glaring light of extinction of the Delta smelt reveals
decades of treachery and deceit by corporate agribusiness,
metropolitan water districts, politicians and their
collaborators in the resource agencies charged by law to
protect wildlife species from extinction. The moral squalor
that has permitted this crisis is contemptible.
Freshman Democratic Rep. TJ Cox represents some of the farmers
who would likely benefit from the additional water. … Facing
what could be a tough reelection fight in 2020, Cox’s future in
Congress could depend on whether Bernhardt’s former client gets
what it wants.
On a cool and misty morning somewhere south of Redding,
California, jet boats roar across the tranquil Sacramento
River. Armed with tridents, machetes and poleaxes, it seems
akin to a scene from an action movie; except that “California
Department of Fish and Wildlife” is painted on the boats.
An environmental group, highly critical of a federal agency’s
newly proposed recommendations to protect endangered species in
the Delta, states that they would seriously harm those species
and their habitat. The new recommendations, released Oct. 22 by
the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, are to be
used as guidelines for operating the federal pumping plant in
The Trump administration last week launched an attack on the
health of San Francisco Bay and Delta and California’s salmon
fishing industry with new rules allowing big increases in water
diversions from this teetering, vulnerable ecosystem. … The
new Trump administration rules replace prior ones that weren’t
strong enough to protect salmon and other wildlife in the last
drought. They only make the situation worse.
Amid horrific wildfires and rolling blackouts, the Trump
Administration this week brought welcome relief to the Golden
State by allowing more water to be sent to farmers and folks in
the south. Will California liberals accept the deregulatory
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
California is providing health care to undocumented immigrants
while President Donald Trump wants to build a border wall, and
Gov. Gavin Newsom circumvented the White House with a side deal
on auto emissions standards. But when it comes to water, Trump
and California are closer than you might think.
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.
In a move that would boost water deliveries to San Joaquin
Valley agriculture and Southern California cities, federal
fishery agencies are weakening decade-old endangered species
protections for some of the state’s most imperiled native fish
The health of North America’s largest estuary, the San
Francisco Estuary, is showing some signs of improvement, but
much of the historic damage caused to the massive watershed has
either not improved or worsened, according to a new report.
The Delta smelt is such a small and translucent fish that it
often disappears from view when it swims in the turbid waters
of its home in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, it’s
also been disappearing from the Delta entirely.
A major fish restoration project is underway on private
property near Cottonwood. River Partners shared a video of new
side channels that are being built to help the recovery of
struggling wild salmon populations in the Sacramento River.
Agriculture is part of what makes our state’s economy strong
and helps provide for all our families, which is why it is
crucial that we do absolutely everything we can to protect our
state’s farms and allow them to operate without the fear of
major obstacles. California agriculture nearly faced such an
obstacle with Senate Bill 1, which would have placed harsh
regulations on water pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota
Water Authority announced the environmental reports, which
“analyze potential impacts of approving water transfers to
increase water reliability for those suffering shortages during
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.
Building on the Governor’s call to “position California to meet
broad water needs through the 21st Century” there are unique
opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to more effectively
integrate 21st Century infrastructure into our multi-benefit
water management approaches to help achieve resiliency.
A salmon habitat project will get underway Monday just outside
the city of Red Bluff. One of several such projects in the
North State, the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project will
offer protection for juvenile salmonids, including endangered
President Trump’s political feud with California has spread
collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which
have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their
autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on
weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most
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
How does one achieve temperature and flow targets for listed
species with such different requirements, while also meeting
the needs of human water users? A recent study sought to
achieve an equitable solution by using a multi-objective
approach to identify trade-offs and model an optimal dam
release scenario to meet the needs of salmon, sturgeon, and
California isn’t in an official drought and under mandatory
water conservation, but climate change means that saving water
is always crucial. That’s why a recent announcement should not
go unnoticed: The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation
District won state approval to deliver recycled water to
agricultural and habitat conservation land in the southern part
of the county.
There simply isn’t enough water in any given year to support
all of the crops and livestock, so farmers and ranchers depend
on groundwater pumped from deep, underground aquifers.
Groundwater, like oil, is a limited resource, and in California
it’s consumed at an alarming rate.
The Westlands Water District on Sept. 30 formally stopped its
environmental review of a $1.4 billion U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation plan to raise the 602-foot dam by another 18.5
feet. It is unclear what Westlands’ decision will mean for the
future of the project…
From mandatory drought restrictions to billions of dollars’
worth of drought-proofing projects, San Diego and the entire
West has for years had a complicated relationship with its
water – and it’s not going to get any easier or any cheaper any
The Trump administration has retreated on a plan to push more
water through the Delta this fall after protests from
California officials on the harmful impacts on endangered
Chinook salmon and other fish.
Santa Maria and several other Central Coast Water Authority
members are planning to claim an additional 12,214 acre-feet of
state water that was set aside decades ago. The move — which
would be funded by issuing a $42 million bond — would increase
Santa Maria’s annual right to state water from 17,820 to over
27,000 acre-feet each year.
Following losses in court, a Fresno-based irrigation district
has backed off its plans to do an environmental study on
raising the height of Shasta Dam. The Westlands Water District
announced Monday that it has stopped working on the report
because it could not meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s
schedule for the project.
By century’s end, Sacramento is expected to feel much like
Tucson or even Phoenix, Arizona, according to the state’s 2018
Climate Assessment for the Sacramento Valley. Daily
temperatures are projected to rise 10 F in the valley by 2100,
and the number of days topping 104 F are on track to increase
from four days a year to 40.
For years, the Interior Department resisted proposals to raise
the height of its towering Shasta Dam in Northern California.
The department’s own scientists and researchers concluded that
doing so would endanger rare plants and animals in the area…
But the project is going forward now, in a big win for a
powerful consortium of California farmers that stands to profit
If there is a hell for salmon, it probably looks like this.
There were many more golf balls in the water than salmon this
summer, whacked there by enthusiasts at Aqua Golf, a driving
range on the bank of the Sacramento River. Below the surface,
the gravel salmon need to make their nests had been mined
decades ago to build Shasta Dam, 602 feet tall and with no fish
passage. The dam cut off access to all of the cold mountain
waters where these fish used to spawn.
There are nut festivals. There are fruit and vegetable
festivals. Hot sauce and spicy food are cheered in other
places. There are wine and beer events. All are fun and bring
entertainment to our lives. But for all of that, there is
something extraordinary about Saturday’s Salmon Festival in
At the August meeting of the California Water Commission, Karla
Nemeth, Director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR),
spoke to the commissioners about the Department’s strategic
plan and the work underway on the Delta conveyance project,
which she noted nests into the strategic plan as a key feature
of what needs to be done to modernize the State Water Project.
Aurelia Skipwith, who is already a top official at the interior
department, formerly worked at the agrochemical giant Monsanto.
New revelations show she also has ties to the Westlands Water
District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing
against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere
with farmers’ demands for water in California.
Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about
to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink
agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of
acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other
non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change,
meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a letter to the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said the federal plan would harm
the nearly-extinct Delta smelt and other species. The state
said the plan would also hurt the mostly urban water agencies
that belong to the State Water Project, which might have to
surrender some of its supplies to compensate for the federal
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.
Trucking juvenile hatchery salmon downstream is often used in
the California Central Valley to reduce mortality during their
perilous swim to the ocean. But is it all good? Researchers …
published an article in Fisheries this month exploring the
history and implications of salmon trucking in a changing
When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you
don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there,
underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres —
is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land
going to come back up? I don’t know.”
Before all those thousands of miles of levees went in, the
Central Valley had one of the West Coast’s largest salmon runs,
with a million or more of these mighty fish returning each
year. A big reason for the salmon’s suc-cess was that the
valley was among the most extensive floodplains in the world.
It appears that Woodland is now in the “advancement” stage with
the Army Corps of Engineers willing to work on a plan for
longterm flood protection along the city’s northeast side.
However, the effort could just as quickly be reversed,
according to members of the City Council, if they don’t get
farmers on board with their efforts.
I’m writing to express our tribe’s dismay at Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s announcement that he plans to veto Senate Bill 1. …
Vetoing this bill will green-light President Trump’s plan to
divert even more water from our struggling rivers for
industrial agriculture. Many well-respected fish biologists and
environmentalists have concluded Trump’s attempt to ignore the
best science and rewrite the rules will essentially be an
“extinction plan” for Chinook salmon and other threatened fish.
Newsom has said he won’t approve Senate President Pro Tem Toni
Atkins’ bid for a legal backstop against environmental
rollbacks by the Trump administration. And Washington is poised
to reduce protections for endangered fish species in the
state’s largest watersheds. The result may be the heightened
regulatory uncertainty that opponents of the bill said they
hoped to avoid…
Recent years have brought severe droughts that have forced
farmers to become more efficient with water use. With nearby
Silicon Valley teeming with the promise of efficiency and
data-fueled intelligence, a natural relationship between
technology and agriculture has developed.
Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president
to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the
water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on
the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
The threats came in a dispute over reintroducing winter-run
Chinook salmon into the McCloud River, a pristine river above
Shasta Dam, as part of a federal plan approved under the Obama
administration to try to stave off extinction for the
critically endangered fish.
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.
Something is amiss on Sherman Island, a whale-shaped swath of
farm and grazing land at the confluence of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers. If you don’t know what ails the place, it
might be hard to pinpoint the problem.
There’s a lot to like about the Bay Area’s efforts to prepare
for sea level rise: the collaborative efforts, the detailed
studies and, laudably, the voters who are willing to tax
themselves with an eye to future needs. But if the long-term
threat is as grim as scientific projections indicate, local
experts say the region needs to respond with increased urgency
— an urgency that is at odds with the Bay Area’s often
cumbersome decision-making processes.
Newsom saw SB 1 as a mortal threat to something he’s been
supporting since shortly before he took office: a tentative
truce in California’s longstanding water wars. The truce
revolves around the flow of water in and out of the Delta from
California’s most important river systems, the Sacramento and
Efforts to increase recycled water use in California got a
significant boost this week with the State Water Board’s
issuance of an order authorizing the Sacramento Regional County
Sanitation District’s program to deliver an average of 45
million gallons per day of recycled water from the Sacramento
Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant …
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.
Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to veto a bill passed by California
lawmakers that would have allowed the state to keep strict
Obama-era endangered species protections and water pumping
restrictions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Newsom’s
intentions … comes less than 24 hours after state lawmakers
passed the sweeping legislation.
At the Association of California Water Agencies‘ spring
conference, a panel of lawyers covered the basics of the legal
framework for the Delta. The panel was billed as ‘All the
Acronyms You Need to Know”, but no 1.5 hour panel discussion
could possibly cover all that. However, the panel did a good
job of hitting the main ones and highlighting current issues.
Commodity prices across some crops, record cotton yields and
ample water supplies combined to catapult Fresno County’s gross
crop value to a record $7.88 billion in 2018, eclipsing last
year’s figure by over 12 percent, and besting the previous
record by nearly as much.
Fresno County farmers and ranchers shattered the yearly record
for the value of what they produced by nearly a billion dollars
in 2018. Despite below-average surface water supplies, their
crops and livestock totaled $7.888 billion last year, according
to the Fresno County Department of Agriculture’s annual report
Why do farmers pump the water under their land (which
California law clearly states belongs to them) in the first
place? Unfortunately, you’ll rarely read the answer to this
question in the press, but it is the most important part of the
The deadliest and most destructive
wildfire in California history had a severe impact on the water
system in the town of Paradise. Participants on our Oct. 2-4
Tour will hear from Kevin Phillips, general manager of
Paradise Irrigation District, on the scope of the damages, the
obstacles to recovery and the future of the water district.
The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of the structures in Paradise,
and 90 percent of the irrigation district’s ratepayer base. The
fire did not destroy the irrigation district’s water storage or
treatment facilities, but it did melt plastic pipes, releasing
contaminants into parts of the system and prompting do-not-drink
advisories to water customers.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in coordination with the California
Department of Water Resources, today announced its decision to
move forward with a restoration project to improve fish passage
and increase floodplain fisheries-rearing habitat in the Yolo
When the next drought rolls around, and it will, we could be
sitting pretty with healthy trees and landscapes using less
water from the Sierra than we do now. How could we accomplish
this? The answer is graywater, defined in California as the
discharge from laundry wash water, showers, and bathroom sinks.
We cannot advance the fight for environmental quality by
declaring that all science stopped on a specific date. If it’s
dumb for the President to close his eyes to science, it’s
dumber for us to follow him down that rabbit hole.
We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts in leading discussions
with the United States Department of the Interior, public water
agencies and environmental groups to craft voluntary agreements
that will restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta while providing California with clean, reliable
When the salmon are healthy, the world is healthy. That means
the waters are clean and fast-running and the bottom gravel is
clean. It means the rivers … are pouring as they should into
our oceans, bringing nutrients and sediments into the salt- and
Senate Bill 1 has strong support from some of California’s most
influential environmental and labor organizations, including
some that helped get Gov. Gavin Newsom elected. But several of
California’s water suppliers and agricultural interests …
oppose the measure. This includes the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California, which has made SB 1 a top
Recently, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion
on the future of California water featuring Secretary Wade
Crowfoot, Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger, and
State Water Contractors General Manager Jennifer Pierre.
DWR is currently overseeing five habitat restoration projects
in Suisun Marsh. In October 2019, one of these projects, the
Tule Red Tidal Habitat Restoration Project – which converts
approximately 600 acres of existing managed wetland into tidal
habitat – is expected to finish construction.
Now, some are arguing that the bill should be stripped of its
longstanding provision applying the State’s own Endangered
Species Act to the operations of the federal Central Valley
Project. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.
In the Sacramento River near Redding this spring, water
districts, government agencies and others collaborated to
construct the Market Street Gravel Project to benefit fish. …
Reclamation District 108 Deputy Manager William Vanderwaal said
that to complete the $429,000 project, 12,000 tons of gravel
were placed into the river and developed as new spawning
habitat for chinook salmon and steelhead trout.
Get an up-close look at some of
California’s key water reservoirs and learn about farming
operations, salmon habitat restoration, flood management and
wetlands on our Northern California Water Tour Oct. 2-4.
Each year, participants on the tour enjoy three days exploring
the Sacramento Valley during the temperate fall. Join us as we
travel through a scenic landscape along the Sacramento and
Feather rivers to learn about issues associated with storing
and delivering the state’s water supply.
While researching the impacts of industrial site restoration on
aquatic ecosystems in the Coyote Creek watershed, a major
tributary in the southern San Francisco Estuary, scientists
with the University of California, Davis, observed surprisingly
high densities of reproductive adult smelt in the marshlands,
which were not previously known to be heavily exploited by the
Woodland is sitting atop what is essentially an underground
reservoir containing millions of gallons of freshwater. And for
much of the past three years, the city has been banking excess
water during the winter months to use during the summer when it
isn’t allowed to make withdrawals from the Sacramento River.
Senate Bill 1 is seen as a pre-emptive strike by California
lawmakers before the Trump administration ushers in new
biological opinions to alter water deliveries through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A state court of appeal has upheld a Shasta County Superior
Court decision to stop a Fresno-based water district from doing
an analysis of the effects of raising the height of Shasta Dam.
The Westlands Water District had asked the California Third
District Court of Appeal to overturn the lower court’s
preliminary injunction that ordered the district to stop work
on an environmental impact report.
Water deliveries in the Fresno Irrigation District typically
end in September, but they could last until November this year.
The extra deliveries will allow growers to not only irrigate
but also to bank some water for future use.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will host a
public comment session on California’s Water Future on
Thursday, September 5, 2019 in Fresno. … State agencies are
asking Californians to help shape a roadmap for meeting future
water needs and ensuring environmental and economic resilience
The Department of Water Resources is continuing to work on the
environmental planning and permitting to modernize State Water
Project infrastructure in the Delta. This effort is consistent
with Governor Newsom’s direction and support for a
single-tunnel project to ensure a climate resilient water
Here we provide an updated account of Suisun Marsh fishes to
show why the marsh is so important for conserving fishes in the
upper San Francisco Estuary in general…and why we continue to
be enthusiastic about working there.
Managing a river is no easy feat. Consider the needs for water
released at Shasta Dam into the Sacramento River: salmon need
cold water, sturgeon need warm water, and irrigators just need
water. Recent research shows that all three needs can be met in
all but the most drought-stricken years. How?
The latest assault on the Delta, which supplies roughly
one-third of the Bay Area’s water, is the Trump
administration’s efforts to gut the federal Endangered Species
Act. Removing protections in existence for nearly 50 years
threatens not only the Delta’s wildlife but also the quality of
its fresh water.
Farmers, experts and lawmakers are working to find more
sustainable ways to droughtproof farms and address the vexed
issue of water allocation. And it turns out many farmers and
water experts in California are looking to Australia for
answers as they face up to the biggest water reforms in the
history of the US.
Trump started promising more water to Central Valley growers
before he was elected. During a campaign stop in Fresno three
years ago, he dismissed the drought, then in its fifth year, as
a hoax and snorted at legal protections for endangered fish in
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
A panel of experts discuss how reactivating the floodplains can
provide habitat and food for native fish and for migrating
birds, and highlights the many projects and opportunities in
the Sacramento Valley.
Federal scientists pulled no punches in their report: The Trump
administration’s plan to send more water to San Joaquin Valley
farmers would force critically endangered California salmon
even closer to extinction, and starve a struggling population
of West Coast killer whales.
Commercial salmon catches have surpassed official preseason
forecasts by about 50%, said Kandice Morgenstern, a marine
scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Harvests have been particularly strong in Morro Bay, Monterey
and San Francisco, but weaker along California’s northern
Outside the walls of the lab lies an environment increasingly
unfit for fish like delta smelt. The Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, some 40 miles inland from the San Francisco Bay, is a
1,100-square-mile tidal marsh that for millennia teemed with
salmon, shellfish, tule elk, deer, and waterfowl — all of which
supported a Native American population of about 300,000 people.
The plan affecting Sacramento River tributaries has not been
released, but water-resource managers in the region said they
have been collaborating with government agencies and
environmental groups to develop voluntary agreements that would
accomplish the goals of the state board’s flows-only
The July 1 assessment, obtained by The Times, outlines how
proposed changes in government water operations would harm
several species protected by the Endangered Species Act,
including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as
well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on
In a paper published Tuesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology,
scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the
National Marine Fisheries Service used statistical modeling to
determine an optimal water management plan that would protect
both species and ensure other water users would benefit as
Westlands Water District says a preliminary injunction ordering
it to stop work on an environmental impact report may prevent
it from helping to pay for raising the height of the dam,
according to the appeal filed last week.
Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, the editor in chief of Estuary Magazine
and long-time Bay Area science writer, talks about the
resiliency of the largest estuary on the West Coast, the
challenges facing the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, and the
potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on the
San Francisco Bay.
With the last drought in the rearview and the next one
inevitable, the damaging run on groundwater has state water
agencies and lawmakers mulling whether to spend hundreds of
millions to patch up a federally owned canal. But critics say
doing so would amount to a clear bailout for the state’s
The City Council is split on how much to raise water rates over
the next five years to fund projects that will wean Santa
Monica off of imported water. … Bi-monthly water and
wastewater bills for single-family homes would increase by $23
on average under the lower rate structure and $36 under the
higher rate structure.
During the drought of 2012-16 landowners pumped more and more
groundwater to compensate for the lack of rain. Thousands of
wells ran dry. As a result, California passed a law requiring
water users to organise themselves into local Groundwater
Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased
flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models
show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.
This will especially affect the water supply in California and
here locally in the Santa Clarita Valley, where we have long
depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us
through our hot, dry summers.
Guests of Siren Island, a two-tiered wooden isle affixed with
four spindly maple tree branches, were relaxing in the
late-afternoon sun on the calm waters of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta. They took turns plunging their hands into
a steel basin of black lagoon mud then spreading it on one
another’s skin — limbs, torsos and faces.
The State Water Project helped make Kern County the number one
agricultural county in the nation and ensures Bakersfield
always has a clean, high quality supply of drinking water while
protecting our region against drought. The State Water Project
reflects our past generation’s drive to make California the
great state it is today.
Westlands Water District isn’t giving up on raising Shasta
Dam… The district, stopped in late July by a Shasta County
judge from conducting an environmental study on the impact of
raising Shasta Dam, filed a petition with the Sacramento-based
Third District California Court of Appeal on Monday to vacate
the trial court’s injunction.
Tomorrow, the Golden State’s Democrat-run, veto-proof
legislature returns from its summer break and is expected to
quickly take up S.B. 1, the “California Environmental, Public
Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” It has been proposed
for one reason: Donald Trump is president.
The Delta smelt is practically extinct in the wild already. So
could the Delta be repopulated by taking up the farmers’ offer
to “hatch and repopulate the fish,” as Jack Fowler says in
National Review? That certainly sounds like common sense!
Except that the Delta smelt war has never really been about the
Delta smelt at all.
Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the
United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply
from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read
the science — we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley,
one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions,
there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing.
Ventura started paying for its right to state water in 1971. On
Monday night, policymakers took the biggest step yet to being
able to access it. The Ventura City Council voted 6-0 to
approve a study certifying no major environmental impacts would
result from building the 7-mile pipeline near Camarillo. The
action means the city’s next move is hiring a consultant to
draft the interconnection’s final design.
In a weather anomaly verified for the first time, a weather
station in Siskiyou County recorded the highest annual
precipitation for California’s weather season. The weather
station at Stouts Meadow, located at an elevation of 5,400 near
the headwaters of the McCloud River, recorded 126.76 inches of
precipitation for the season.
San Joaquin County has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking
the state Department of Water Resources to abide by local
drilling permit requirements to protect wildlife and water
quality in accordance with California law.
A flexible, reliable water supply is essential to California’s
economy and to the job creation and job security goals of
California’s working families. … Of all the projects vying
for California’s attention, the proposed Sites Reservoir in
Northern California offers the most tangible benefits.
In California, money does grow on trees. Almonds constitute a
$5.6 billion industry, and 2.26 billion pounds were shipped
from California last year to be roasted and salted, or turned
into anything from frothy, barista-friendly almond milk to
marzipan sold on the streets of Berlin.
Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of
relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the
California WaterFix project, but that action also called for
the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The
first major step in that direction took place last week when
the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of
negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the
State Water Project (SWP)…
The Westlands Water District, which provides irrigation water
to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, was
working on a report assessing the environmental impacts of
raising the height of the dam. But a judge ruled Wednesday that
Westlands’ work violated a state law that prohibited local and
state agencies from participating in any projects that would
have an adverse impact on the McCloud River.
The five-year project will clear sedimentation and vegetation
to restore flow capacity of a four-mile stretch of the
state-maintained Elder Creek in Tehama County. With a goal of
clearing approximately one mile per year, the project reduces
flood risk for the nearby town of Gerber and surrounding
farmland, which includes fruit and nut orchards.
While it may not be obvious to some, sustainable groundwater
management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of
the Delta. Not only does the state’s most significant
groundwater use occur in regions that also rely upon water from
the Delta watershed, reduced reliance on the Delta and improved
regional self-reliance are central to many of the goals
outlined in the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan.
Sacramento remains one of the two most flood-prone cities in
the nation along with New Orleans, according to experts. Now
the River City faces a new water threat: homeless people
setting up camp on—and digging into—the 1,100 miles of earthen
levees that Sacramento and surrounding areas count on to
protect them from devastation.
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
On Monday, the state of California and a coalition of fishing
groups and environmentalists asked a judge to bar Westlands
from completing a crucial environmental report in hopes of
stalling the project. “Everything we see looks to be illegal,”
said deputy attorney general Russell Hildreth. At issue is a
stretch of the McCloud River that both sides agree would be
inundated by the project.
California has grown from 10 million to at least 40 million
since 1950, making it necessary to move water over long
distances to where people live and work. Close to two thirds of
the state’s population is bunched in a few water-dependent
If credibility were measured like rainfall, the Trump
administration would be in the midst of a prolonged drought —
as evidenced most recently in its handling of plans to send
more water to California’s Central Valley.
California is overdue for a mega-storm capable of drowning
coastal areas in 20ft (6m) of water at any moment. Experts are
preparing contingencies for wet weather so extreme it might
tear open a 300-mile-wide ocean across the US West coast. …
The devastation of such flooding could match the severity of
“big San Andreas earthquakes”, according to the USGS.