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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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 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 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 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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.