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.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1 means the honeymoon
may be over with environmental groups who saw the bill as a
bulwark to protect California’s water quality and endangered
species from the Trump administration’s regulatory slashing.
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
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are leading
a new project with three other UC campuses to study the impact
of coastal flooding on disadvantaged communities in California.
… The effort will employ advanced simulation systems to
deepen understanding of increasing flood risks within the
state’s two most imperiled areas: Greater Los Angeles and the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
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.
Over the past decade, state and federal agencies have continued
to publish peer reviewed scientific research that largely
strengthens our understanding of how the volume, timing,
temperature, and quality of water – and the operations of
existing dams and water diversion facilities, including the
state and federal water projects – adversely affect salmon and
other fish and wildlife.
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
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 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…
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.
Although the $750 million represents a personal gift to Caltech
rather than a corporate gift from the Resnicks’ principal
corporate entity, The Wonderful Company, they’re engaged
through that company in some arguably unsustainable
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.
Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted he takes “a back seat to no one” on
environmental advocacy just before he vetoed the most
significant environmental-protection bill of the legislative
session. His rejection of Senate Bill 1 puts Newsom squarely at
odds with just about every major conservation group in the
state in fortifying defenses for endangered species against the
Trump administration’s efforts to weaken federal law.
Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Friday that would have
allowed California to preserve Obama-era endangered species
protections and water-pumping restrictions for the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta should they be dismantled by the
Trump administration, a move scorned by environmental groups
that have been among the governor’s most important political
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
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.
The lawsuit … argues that the changes undertaken by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries
Service are unlawful. Endangered species protections are
bedrock environmental law, and California leaders warned that
less protection will leave threatened species at risk of
extinction. California is leading the suit along with
Massachusetts and Maryland. Altogether, 17 states have signed
on, along with New York City and the District of Columbia.
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.
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
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was once one of the lushest
marshlands in the state. The peat-rich soil made it an ideal
place for some of the state’s first farms to pop up. Today,
scientists are hacking their way through thick brush to see if
restoring these marshes is a way to reduce carbon dioxide in
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
A project to restore a portion of Brentwood’s Marsh Creek got a
big boost with a new $1.4 million U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency grant. … The Three Creeks Parkway Restoration project
aims to improve the creek’s floodplain, provide quality habitat
for Chinook salmon and Swainson’s Hawk as well as expand
recreational opportunities in the area.
A rookie California lawmaker plans to haul a 20-pound rodent
carcass into Congress on Tuesday to press his colleagues for
money to fight an invasive species wreaking havoc on his
district. Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, hopes a hearing on his
bill will convince his colleagues that funding to stop invasive
nutria in California’s Central Valley is sorely needed …
At least 85 different federal laws and regulations affecting
California have been weakened or undermined by the Trump
administration since January 2017. … That’s why I, along with
many proponents, believe that Senate Bill 1 would safeguard our
When water is diverted from rivers, the remaining water moves
more slowly and warms more easily. Algae and bacteria thrive in
warm, stagnant water and are more likely to grow in excess,
increasing the chances of a HAB event.
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’s a big feat to get 65,000 people to do anything, let alone
spend three hours picking up soiled trash. Yet, state officials
are expecting around that number to turn out Saturday for the
35th annual Coastal Cleanup Day.
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.
Dr. Jim Cloern is a recently retired senior scientist emeritus
at the US Geological Survey who has spent his career learning
how estuaries respond to human activities and variability of
the climate system. In this brown bag seminar, Dr. Cloern gives
specific examples of how local, regional, and global scale
processes affect the San Francisco Bay and Delta.
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…
The Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed (FOMCW) are proud to
announce that Marsh Creek & Delta Cleanup Day which will take
place on Saturday, September 21. The event will be held between
9:00 am to 12:00 pm.
Last week, the Legislature acted to thwart President Donald
Trump on water matters by passing a bill to essentially
pre-empt the execution of federal environmental law. The
Metropolitan Water District opposed Senate Bill 1 because it
would have unleashed rounds of state-federal litigation, and
would have likely brought 13 years of effort to a halt. Gov.
Gavin Newsom has signaled he plans to veto the measure.
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.
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
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.
Because there are moral, aesthetic, and legal obligations to
provide fish with water in streams, biologists like me often
get asked the question “Just how much water do the fish need,
anyway?” This, of course, is the wrong question…
The common reed, Phragmites australis, is one of the most
invasive plants in the world, and its numbers are widespread in
Suisun Marsh. … Phragmites can change ecosystem structure by
increasing tidal habitat elevations and reducing overall
habitat quality, including disturbing the food chain by driving
out native plants in the Delta that support wildlife such as
waterfowl and the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
Facing fierce lobbying from well-financed water districts, the
bill’s author, Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego,
acknowledged Tuesday that the bill might get pulled from
consideration until next year.
Residential graywater offers up a huge potential for our city
to offset potable water use. 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
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
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
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.
A 10-acre island in Isleton, an hour south of Sacramento in the
California Delta’s fresh-water Seven Mile Slough, is changing
hands for $1.195 million. (SF’s median condo price is about
$1.25 million.) The buyer is Thai Tran, who owns a mini-chain
of Vietnamese pho restaurants in Sacramento, and listing agent
Tony Wood of KW Commercial says Tran and his family plan to
transform the property into a destination.
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.
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.
Crowfoot oversees a sprawling agency of 19,000 employees
engaged in the stewardship of the state’s forests and natural
lands, rivers and waterways, coast and ocean, fish and wildlife
and energy development. Now in its 36th year, the Water Summit
features a variety of policymakers, experts and stakeholders
discussing important topics in water across California and the
The small channel island near Brannan Island can be found about
one hour south of Sacramento in the Delta’s fresh-water Seven
Mile Slough, in Sacramento County. The marina and resort have
been in operation for more than 60 years.
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.
Last week, the Delta Stewardship Council held a public hearing
to review proposed changes to how spending decisions on the
maintenance of Delta levees are made, and the plan — known as
the Delta Levee Investment Strategy — has drawn criticism from
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 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.
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.
Nutria, a giant invasive rodent originally from South America,
might be the size of a beagle, but unlike a beagle you can’t
keep them in your home. The California Fish and Game Commission
is looking to correct a gap in the law that restricts what pets
may lawfully be owned by including nutria among the list.
While some residents are unconcerned each summer as the algae’s
trademark scum appears atop stagnant water in the bays around
town, many are worried about the algal blooms’ toxic effects.
The Discovery Bay Community Foundation (DBCF) has formed a
harmful algae bloom (HAB) subcommittee, partnering with
agencies across the state to help mitigate the epidemic.
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.
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
The successes and failures of Australia’s recent reform of the
Murray-Darling Basin hold valuable lessons for policy makers in
California and elsewhere who are likely to grapple with the
environmental repercussions of extreme drought in the future.
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.
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
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.
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.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS
One, documented dramatic decreases in wetland habitat around
San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and
nearly 450 other bays, lagoons, river deltas and coastal creek
mouths throughout the West.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rep. Josh Harder has focused much of his first year in office
on local issues such as water storage and the effects of almond
tariffs on Central Valley farmers. Now he is training his
attention on the nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent that has drawn
the ire of environmentalists, farmers and local officials
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.
There are major changes to the Clean Water Act (CWA) that some
believe will imperil numerous river systems, lakes and the
coasts. Ahead of these changes, several key U.S. waterkeepers
provided testimony to the Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and
Environment on Protecting and Restoring America’s Iconic
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.
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 city of Stockton is working to fix a broken bubbling system
that has caused an overgrowth of harmful algae along the
Stockton waterfront. People who work near the deepwater channel
believe the green sludge is preventing others from playing on
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.
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.
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
Naturalist and artist Obi Kaufmann has made a specialty of
pairing information-packed text with gorgeous art. …
Kaufmann’s second book, “The State of Water: Understanding
California’s Most Precious Resource,” has a narrower though
still ambitious focus: California’s rivers, lakes and
watersheds, their wildlife, and the ways in which we humans
have altered them.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Valley Water released draft
environmental documents for public comment on the San Luis Low
Point Improvement Project, which addresses water delivery
interruptions and proposes to maintain reliable and
cost-effective water supply.
Pacific salmon that spawn in Western streams and rivers have
been struggling for decades to survive water diversions, dams
and logging. Now, global warming is pushing four important
populations in California, Oregon and Idaho toward extinction,
federal scientists warn in a new study.
More than halfway through his term, experts say, the president
has had almost no lasting impact on California’s major
environmental rules despite making broad promises and
appointing former industry officials into top jobs. The reason:
California, a quasi-country with 40 million people and the
world’s fifth-largest economy, has been aggressively passing
its own state laws, filing lawsuits against the federal
government and cutting deals with other states and countries to
go around the Trump White House.
Water is key to everything in California. If you have control
of water in sufficient amounts you control your destiny. There
are three things on the horizon that city leaders had best pay
heed before they buy into the PG&E model regarding critical
and essential utilities and go for the money in the here and
now while ignoring long term consequences.
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.
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.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is arguably the most
extensively studied and monitored ecosystem in the world. This
has generated mountains of data on everything from the
locations of the smallest fish to the water quality conditions
of the largest reservoir. Knowing where to access the most
up-to-date information can be a real challenge, but fortunately
several online dashboards can help
The city of Stockton’s underwater bubbler system designed to
prevent algal blooms hasn’t been working for a little more than
a month. … The aeration system, which was installed in 2006,
pumps oxygen into the water to prevent stagnation. Stagnant
water, combined with hot temperatures, can lead to the growth
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
For many years, federal “biological opinions” for delta smelt
and winter run chinook salmon have dictated restrictions on
operations of the pumps, reservoirs and canals of the federal
Central Valley Project and State Water Project… Informed by a
decade of science and on-the-ground experience with what we
know has not worked, long-awaited new federal biological
opinions are finally nearing completion.
The Natural Resources Agency, California EPA, and California
Department of Food and Agriculture want the public’s input on
how best to manage and deal with an uncertain water supply in
the future. It seems every new administration in Sacramento
must deal with water issues in California that never seem to
A judge has rejected a San Joaquin Valley irrigation district’s
request to move a lawsuit against raising the height of Shasta
Dam to Fresno County. Westlands Water District, based in
Fresno, wanted to move the lawsuit against it to its home
county, but a judge has ruled the case will remain in Shasta
As we are enter another hurricane season, the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) is on its 12th short-term extension
since September 30, 2017. And after having $16 billion in debt
forgiven, it remains $24.6 billion in debt (Horn 2019). Many
people are asking, how did we get here?
At the same time the snowpack is dwindling, droughts are
expected to become more severe. One example: scientists predict
a strong likelihood that the Colorado River Basin will
experience a megadrought of 20 to 50 years in duration during
The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and
federal approval for a project that will expand a migration
corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s
main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain
restoration action on the West Coast…
The initial objectives of the restoration project were to:
improve habitat for the Delta smelt, reduce saltwater
intrusion, reduce submerged aquatic weeds and reduce invasive
non-native fish species that feed on native fish. Carl Wilcox,
a CDFW policy advisor explained the objectives are now more
broad and include accommodations for recreational and economic
activities that are key to the region’s residents.
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Many Delta problems are worsening. Climate change is raising
sea levels and temperatures, making floods and droughts more
extreme and will likely further alter the mix of species. State
legislation to end overdrafting of groundwater will increase
demands for water from the Delta from farmers in the San
Joaquin Valley struggling (mostly in vain) to find replacement
Federal biologists worked frantically this year to meet a
deadline to assess the environmental impacts of Trump
administration plans to send more water to Central Valley
farmers. But the biologists’ conclusion — that increased
deliveries would harm endangered Chinook salmon and other
imperiled fish — would foil those plans.
Groundwater overdraft is a major problem globally and has been
a persistent and growing problem in California for decades.
This overdraft is predominantly driven by the economic value of
water for agricultural production and cities.
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
A growing menace in the form of 15-pound swamp rodents is
threatening Delta waterways, and the state is throwing money,
hunting dogs and birth control at the invasive pests which have
the potential to destroy crops and wetlands.
More than 25 threatened spring-run Chinook salmon have returned
to the San Joaquin River so far this year, the first spring-run
salmon to swim up the river in more than 65 years. On Battle
Creek to the north, at least 50 endangered winter-run Chinook
salmon reintroduced in 2018 have also returned — the first to
return to the creek since dams built in the early 1900s blocked
and damaged their habitat.
American Biodiesel also admitted to tampering with monitoring
devices and methods that are designed to detect clean water
standards. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, employees’
tampering was done with the purpose of underreporting acid and
pollutant levels and volumes that otherwise would have exceeded
figures allowed by the city’s regulations.
Just days before federal biologists were set to release new
rules governing the future of endangered salmon and drinking
water for two-thirds of Californians, the administration
replaced them with an almost entirely new group … to “refine”
and “improve” the rules, according to an email obtained by
KQED. Environmental groups said the Department of
Interior is interfering with the science…
Faced with mounting opposition to its $315 million plan to
restore the tidal marshland on Franks Tract in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state has begun seeking input
from residents, boaters, fishermen and others on possible
While elected officials in Sacramento work to secure funding to
ensure that the levees along the San Joaquin River are
reinforced to be able to withstand a 200-year flood, the City
of Lathrop has been performing the work necessary to continue
development within the floodplain while that work is completed.
… The city has received financial backing from a number of
developers that don’t want to see development stop until the
costly repairs are mad.
The Aurora ship has been sitting vacant for years in San
Joaquin County. Its owner wants to move it to Isleton’s public
marina, refurbish it and open it up as a business. If it moves
to Isleton’s waterfront, the ship could be used to host
weddings and parties, be a bed and breakfast and provide a home
for the owner’s family to run the business.
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
Seeking to implement updated scientific methods to its
operations in the Golden State, the Bureau of Reclamation
released a draft environmental impact report on the coordinated
operations between the federal Central Valley Project and
California’s State Water Project on Thursday.
If we can make things just a bit easier and provide reliable
water and habitat, salmon in California can and will recover.
This understanding informed the State Water Resources Control
Board’s recent approval of a legally-required water management
plan to reverse the ecological crisis that threatens an
important coastal industry, drinking water for millions, and
the natural heritage of California.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
New legislation authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier,
D-Discovery Bay, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom,
calls for the development of a plan to deal with abandoned and
derelict commercial vessels in the Delta. A draft of that plan
is now available for review and public comment.
The California Water Commission held the first listening
session at its June meeting with a panel of water management
experts offering their perspectives on what a climate-resilient
water portfolio might look like.
Industry veteran Gloria Gray took the helm at the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California. In this interview, Gray
shares how she plans to steer the largest water supplier in the
nation through changing political priorities and climate
conditions to continue safeguarding the future of California’s
On June 28, farmers gathered in Los Banos to ask questions of
President Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue. GV Wire
took the opportunity to ask growers if they believed Trump was
doing enough to bring water to farmers. Generally, they said
they like how things are progressing.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
The standoff between Sacramento County and the California
Department of Water Resources over the Delta’s future took a
twist in June, moving from quiet canals and pear orchards along
the river to a courtroom in the central city. That’s where
county officials were granted a temporary restraining order
against DWR to halt what they call risky and illegal drilling.
An important blueprint for the success of farming in the
Central Valley is being developed to present to California
government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done
to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The
blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business
due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
The Newsom Administration and the State Legislature approved a
commitment of $70 million in the 2019-2020 State Budget for a
comprehensive series of innovative fish and wildlife habitat
enhancement actions identified in the collaborative Bay-Delta
Voluntary Agreement proposals. This is a significant, early
investment in the success of the Voluntary Agreements.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta historically has been an
agricultural paradise. But sometimes there is a disconnect
between the agricultural community and the urban culture. A
fourth generation farmer has made it her mission to reconnect
the two in hopes of inspiring the next generation to consider
farming as a career.
In their analyses, they write that the plan poses risks to
threatened fish; that the process is rushed; that they didn’t
receive enough information to provide a complete scientific
review; and that the Trump administration may be skewing the
science to make the environmental impact look less serious.
Delta smelt are poor swimmers. When they have to swim against
voluminous outflows, they struggle. They also lack endurance
for distance and swimming against currents. This was the result
of the taxpayer-funded swim performance test conducted more
than 20 years ago. Why is this important?
Although flooding hasn’t occurred in Clarksburg since the
construction of the levee system in the early 1900s, the
community is considered a moderate to high hazard flood area,
according to a county report. For that reason, a flood risk
reduction feasibility study has been prepared for the town
similar to those conducted for Yolo and Knights Landing with
funds from the California Department of Water Resources.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today was
awarded $8.5 million in funding over three years by the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy to expand its nutria
The Kern County Water Agency supports the state’s “reset” to a
one-tunnel approach because it is more cost effective and still
prepares California’s water system for earthquakes and climate
change while protecting the Delta’s fish and communities.
The Center for Biological Diversity and San Francisco Baykeeper
sued the Trump administration to force the addition of the
longfin smelt, the Sierra Nevada red fox and six other species
to the Endangered Species List… According to the lawsuit, the
agency had previously found the species worthy of endangered
species protections under the Obama administration but
the Trump administration had slow-walked the process…
After much speculation about whether Janet Nguyen might run for
one of Orange County’s hotly contested congressional seats in
2020, the Republican former state senator has thrown her hat in
a surprising ring. And she’s not alone. Nguyen is one of seven
people vying to fill a board of directors seat with the
Municipal Water District of Orange County.
The Bureau of Reclamation updated its 2019 allocation for the
Central Valley Project South-of-Delta, increasing the westside
water allocation to 70 percent of the contract total. Said
Mid-Pacific Regional Director Ernest Conant: “The late storms
provided an added boost to the already above average
precipitation for 2019. Snowpack throughout the state is still
about 150% of average for this time of year.”
Barbara Vlamis is smiling. Often, the executive director of the
Chico-based advocacy group AquAlliance wears a steely
expression, as her work involves David-versus-Goliath battles
against powerful interests—namely, government agencies and
water brokers. Now, she’s satisfied, even a bit celebratory.
Coastal communities should not rule out a sea-level rise in
excess of 6.5 feet, according to the study published this week
in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …
Should this worst-case scenario come to pass, good portions of
cities like New York City and Miami on the East Coast and Los
Angeles and San Francisco on the West Coast would be underwater
Although they spend their lives hidden beneath the surface,
fish are directly affected by the weather happening outside
their aquatic world. This is particularly true of species that
rely on watersheds in regions like California, where the
availability of water changes dramatically with the seasons.
The big conflicts are deeply interconnected and appear to be
reaching their climactic phases. How they are resolved over the
next few years will write an entirely new chapter in
California’s water history, changing priorities and perhaps
shifting water from agriculture to urban users and
With the administration’s leadership, representatives of
farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive
negotiations on a complex package of actions that would
increase river flows and improve fish habitats, collectively
called a “voluntary agreement.” A possible final agreement is
months away, but we are making progress.
In reality, the WaterFix could not increase water exports while
protecting the Delta ecosystem. That’s because California’s
snow and rainfall are highly variable, making it unlikely that
existing supplies can meet increasing water demands reliably
into the future. Plus, the science demonstrates that San
Francisco Bay’s fish and wildlife need more water, not less, to
flow from the Central Valley to the Bay.
When people think of natural disasters in California, they
usually think of earthquakes, drought or wildfire. But the
worst disaster to ever hit the Golden State was the Great Flood
of 1862. When people of European descent first arrived in
California, the native people told them tales of great deluges
in which the rivers overran their banks and large areas of land
were inundated. The newcomers paid little heed to these
stories, and often settled in low-lying areas with easy access
to water sources.
Following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to withdraw permits for
the proposed Twin Tunnels project in favor of a smaller single
tunnel, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Solano, issued a letter to the
governor expressing support for the decision while also
outlining alternative water plans.
Before California’s Central Valley became known as an
agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest
expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North
America. … Much of that landscape has been transformed into
farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a
unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local
governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide
resources for a variety of wildlife.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central
Valley Project, may update its 65% allocation for
south-of-delta agricultural contractors later this month. But
Lon Martin, general manager of the Los Banos-based San Luis
Water District, said landowners who are planting crops and must
secure water for the remainder of the year “cannot wait until
May and June to make decisions.”
DWR has not yet disclosed whether it intends to withdraw the
WaterFix bond resolutions, which are subject to numerous
challenges in litigation DWR filed to validate the bonds. It
remains unclear what will happen with the validation action now
that the project and cost estimates these items are based on no
Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the divisive twin tunnels project
Thursday, calming fears that have roiled the delta communities
and dominated California water politics for more than a decade.
It is a signature decision for the young administration.
The Newsom administration announced it is withdrawing permit
applications that the Brown administration had submitted to the
State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of
Fish and Wildlife, and several federal agencies. Instead, the
administration said it will begin environmental studies on a
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration officially pulled the plug
Thursday on the twin Delta tunnels, fullfilling Newsom’s pledge
to downsize the project to a single pipe as he attempts to
chart a new course for California’s troubled water-delivery
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center,
testified today (April 30, 2019) before the Assembly
Subcommittee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, at a hearing on
balancing water needs into the future in the San Joaquin
Valley. Here are her prepared remarks.
Yes, some fish died — including endangered Chinook salmon — but
overall rebuilding the Fremont Weir has done its job and saved
hundred of others. That was the response of Allen Young, public
information officer for the California Department of Water
Resources, after reports surfaced last week that at least 13
Chinook salmon and other fish couldn’t make it through the weir
designed to get them safely into the Sacramento River and died.
Local officials have put a renewed focus on making sure one of
the area’s crown recreational jewels – the San Joaquin River
Delta – is clear and operational. Over the weekend the
California Department of Boating and Waterways, in conjunction
with the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Office boating unit,
removed a sunken vessel from the San Joaquin River that has
been underwater for the past three years.
It’s an exceptional year for Sierra snowpack — 150 to 200% in
some places. Mountain snow is the main water source for
agriculture on the Valley’s west side. But those farmers are
getting just 65% of their allocation… Fresno County Farm
Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen says it’s frustrating that in a water
year this good, some farmers still can’t get enough of it to
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered key state agencies to
develop a blueprint for meeting California’s 21st-century water
needs in the face of climate change.The executive order
includes few details and doesn’t appear to set a dramatic new
water course for the state. Rather, it reaffirms Newsom’s
intentions to downsize the controversial twin tunnels project
in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, use voluntary agreements
to meet new river flow requirements and provide clean drinking
water to impoverished communities.
Senate Bill 1 … would encourage state agencies, such as
regional water quality control boards, Fish & Wildlife, the Air
Resources Board, and CalOSHA, to resist Trump administration
rollbacks by allowing them to consider applying federal
standards for protection in effect as of January 19, 2017, the
day before Donald Trump took office, and maintain them in case
he is re-elected next year.
An automated gate was supposed to open once water levels got
high enough to overflow into the bypass, allowing fish to swim
back into the Sacramento River. But in February … too much
water was pouring through the passage, eroding the structure.
Officials had to close the gate almost entirely, meaning fewer
fish could escape. The Department of Water Resources is now
facing an expensive upgrade to an already multimillion
structure to make it ready for the next rainy season.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, thinks there is a better way to
find water solutions for California’s Central Valley and to
stop squandering water in wet years that’s needed in dry years.
His bipartisan water legislation unveiled Wednesday promises
federal support for storage and innovation projects to address
shortages that too often plague Valley agriculture and
While all other Central Valley Project contractors’ allocations
were previously increased to 100% of their contract totals in
recent months, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday
that agricultural districts South-of-Delta will receive only
65% percent of their historic water allocation. … In light of
current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, Westlands Water
District officials said this minor increase in water allocation
In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a
familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing
developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately
become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is taking unprecedented
steps to combat President Donald Trump’s efforts to ship more
water to his agricultural allies in the San Joaquin Valley.
Saying Trump’s water plans are scientifically indefensible and
would violate the state’s Endangered Species Act, the state
Department of Water Resources on Friday began drawing up new
regulations governing how water is pumped from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state.
Despite a decades-long rescue effort, the tiny delta smelt
appears closer than ever to vanishing from its only natural
home, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Now, some worry it
won’t be long before the only place the once-abundant species
exists is within the confines of an artificial tank.
California is a wonderful place to study water. So many
interesting and important problems, thoughtful and insightful
authors, and much to be learned. Here is a selection of
readings (updated from a 2012 post) on California water.
The Department of Water Resources issued notice that it will
seek an updated environmental permit to operate the State Water
Project through a state-based approach in partnership with the
California Department of Fish and Wildlife. … Historically,
DWR has received environmental coverage for its pumping
operations through environmental parameters issued by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies
that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks
of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO
analysis of agency documents … Newly disclosed schedule
“cards” prepared by Interior officials for Bernhardt show more
than three dozen meetings with key players on California water
issues, including multiple lengthy meetings on specific
endangered species protections at the heart of his previous
For centuries, the Delta was a dynamic and rich ecosystem of
tidal wetlands, riparian forests, and vast seasonal
floodplains. But about 98 percent of the native habitat
disappeared after the Gold Rush and a population boom across
the Golden State.
In SB1, State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins provides a
compelling case to protect California’s air, navigable water,
drinking water and workers. … However, despite our
recognition that some in our state feel recent administrative
rulings and legislative changes to federal law may not be the
right prescription for California, we believe this legislation
is overbroad, duplicative and unworkable.
Assessing populations of fall-run Chinook salmon in
California’s Central Valley isn’t as simple as counting how
many adults have returned to a given stream to spawn. A process
known as “source-sink dynamics” may be concealing the fact that
certain populations are not self-sustaining.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday that it will
supply South-of-Delta growers with 65% of their contracted
water total. … Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who is a grower and
one of the top water policy experts in Congress, said that he
expected the initial west-side allocation in February to be
50%, followed by a 75% revise.
Federal and state water managers have coordinated operations of
the CVP and the parallel State Water Project for many decades.
… But this intergovernmental water policy Era of Good Feeling
(relatively speaking) has come to a sudden and dramatic end
with the ascension of the Trump Administration.
The California Farm Bureau delegation met last week with more
than 20 members of the California congressional delegation,
with a particular emphasis on members newly elected in 2018.
They met with U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, two days
before the Senate confirmed his appointment as the Cabinet’s
newest member. For the first time in several years, they
conducted a briefing for congressional staff members, to
describe key issues facing California farmers and ranchers.