The San Joaquin River, which helps
drain California’s Central Valley, has been negatively impacted
by construction of dams, inadequate streamflows and poor water
quality. Efforts are now underway to restore the river and
continue providing agricultural lands with vital irrigation,
among other water demands.
After an 18-year lawsuit to restore water flows to a 60-mile dry
stretch of river and to boost the dwindling salmon populations,
the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement is underway.
Water releases are now used to restore the San Joaquin River and
to provide habitat for naturally-reproducing populations of
self-sustaining Chinook salmon and other fish in the San Joaquin
River. Long-term efforts also include measures to reduce or avoid
adverse water supply impacts from the restoration flows.
Occasionally we read about our community’s comparatively low
education levels and the lack of good high-paying jobs that
require a higher education. Seldom is the connection drawn
between these related facts and the social and cultural
environment where we ask likely candidates to live. My wife,
now retired, was involved in employee recruitment and retention
at the business where she worked. Often in her efforts to
recruit highly educated professionals to fill vacancies at the
firm, the candidate or their spouse would state unequivocally
they have no intention of living in Bakersfield.
-Written by Stephen Montgomery, chairman of the
Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter.
A notice for the next round of state hearings on whether
there’s “loose” water on the Kern River prompted exasperation
from one attorney and a letter from a Bakersfield group
beseeching the state to change its focus. Like the last round
held December 9-10, the hearings set for March 15-18 and April
5 and 6, will not consider the public’s needs and how the
diversion of water may impact the environment, recreation,
drinking water, or quality of life – collectively known as the
“public trust.” Instead, the hearing notice states those public
trust issues will be considered at some point in the
A new report examines how erecting a small dam on Dry Creek
might reduce its role in Modesto-area flooding. Stanislaus
County Public Works will hold a Jan. 18 open house on the idea.
It does not have funding yet for the project, which could cost
as much as $48 million based on the consultant’s work. The
report looks at 11 possible sites where Dry Creek might be
impounded, generally in the Waterford area. It recommends four
of them for further study, which the county Board of
Supervisors could consider in the spring, Public Works Director
David Leamon said in an email Friday.
A project three decades in the making is nearly complete and is
scheduled to deliver a reliable source of drinking water to
Turlock residents by next year. The Regional Surface
Water Supply Project was formed in 2011 as the Cities of
Turlock and Ceres, in cooperation with Turlock Irrigation
District, to start the process of building a plant to deliver
treated Tuolumne River water to residents. The City of Turlock
has been working for 30 years to secure this alternate drinking
source, as its current drinking water supply is 100%
groundwater — and dwindling.
There’s a water fight brewing on the Kern River. The State
Water Resources Control Board’s handling of the conflict will
be telling for the future of California’s streams and
rivers. If the water board takes seriously its duty to
protect the public interest, this conflict could lead to better
water management statewide. … As with several California
rivers, every drop of water in the Kern River has been diverted
since the mid-to-late 1800s, destroying the wetlands and
draining the river. -Written by Karrigan Bork, an acting professor of
law and an associate director of the Center for Watershed
Sciences at UC Davis.
The battle to eliminate a destructive swamp rat in Central
California waterways is showing signs of improvement. However,
a state biologist says declaring victory is still years
away. Since 2017 the State Department of Fish and Wildlife
has tracked the nutria from Stockton to Mendota. It’s a very
destructive rodent that can tunnel through rivers, ponds, and
wetlands creating all kinds of problems. … Twenty nutria
trapped and euthanized in the final months of 2017. A year
later it climbed to 348, 489 in 2019, 1242 in 2020, and this
year the number finally took a downward trend at 674.
For nearly 100 years, since it was dammed and flooded to
provide a stable supply of drinking water to San Francisco
residents, Hetch Hetchy Valley has been off limits to campers,
boaters and fishers and is accessible to day visitors only
between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. … [Rock climber Lucho] Rivera wants
to open more eyes to Hetch Hetchy’s potential as a recreation
destination. To that end, he and [Mecia] Serafino, a
41-year-old climber and San Francisco native, recently joined
the board of directors at Restore Hetch Hetchy, a Berkeley
nonprofit with a singular mission: to persuade the powers that
be to drain the valley and reopen it to visitors.
Historically, the entire Central Valley of California was a
floodplain. In winter and spring, storm runoff and snowmelt
would spill over riverbanks, creating vast biologically
productive wetlands where aquatic life flourished. This
incredible productivity supported a huge fishery in the Central
Valley, where we once had one of the largest runs of Chinook in
the world. However, as modern day California was developed, the
Central Valley’s waterways were re-engineered and channelized
to control the floods and divert water for human uses.
Today, only 5% of Central Valley floodplains remain intact
and three of the four native Chinook salmon runs are listed as
threatened or endangered.
The state hearing on whether there is “loose” water on the Kern
River got started Thursday and was quickly snared in a thicket
of procedural issues, arcane water rights and water diversion
practices. After two very full days of testimony and legal
wrangling, the upshot is that there is no upshot, just yet.
Administrative Hearing Officer Nicole Kuenzi hasn’t decided
whether she’ll make a ruling on whether there is unappropriated
water on the river until completion of a second set of
hearings, which will look specifically at high-flow river
Land and waterway managers labored
hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly
rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their
water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing
some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore
the state’s major floodplains.
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
California is chock full of rivers and creeks, yet the state’s network of stream gauges has significant gaps that limit real-time tracking of how much water is flowing downstream, information that is vital for flood protection, forecasting water supplies and knowing what the future might bring.
That network of stream gauges got a big boost Sept. 30 with the signing of SB 19. Authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), the law requires the state to develop a stream gauge deployment plan, focusing on reactivating existing gauges that have been offline for lack of funding and other reasons. Nearly half of California’s stream gauges are dormant.
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.
Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona
governor and secretary of the Interior, has been a thoughtful,
provocative and sometimes forceful voice in some of the most
high-profile water conflicts over the last 40 years, including
groundwater management in Arizona and the reduction of
California’s take of the Colorado River. In 2016, former
California Gov. Jerry Brown named Babbitt as a special adviser to
work on matters relating to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and
the Delta tunnels plan.
The San Joaquin Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket, grows a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and
other agricultural products.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April
3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare
the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that
helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through
hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams,
reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin
rivers are the two major Central Valley waterways that feed the
Delta, the hub of California’s water supply
network. Our last water tours of
2018 will look in-depth at how these rivers are managed and
used for agriculture, cities and the environment. You’ll see
infrastructure, learn about efforts to restore salmon runs and
talk to people with expertise on these rivers.
New water storage is the holy grail
primarily for agricultural interests in California, and in 2014
the door to achieving long-held ambitions opened with the passage
1, which included $2.7 billion for the public benefits
portion of new reservoirs and groundwater storage projects. The
statute stipulated that the money is specifically for the
benefits that a new storage project would offer to the ecosystem,
water quality, flood control, emergency response and recreation.
For more than 100 years, invasive
species have made the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta their home,
disrupting the ecosystem and costing millions of dollars annually
The latest invader is the nutria, a large rodent native to South
America that causes concern because of its propensity to devour
every bit of vegetation in sight and destabilize levees by
burrowing into them. Wildlife officials are trapping the animal
and trying to learn the extent of its infestation.
Along the banks of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest
of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the
Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur
trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich
That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two
freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal
flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush,
settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape
and altering the habitat.