Karuk Tribe natural resources spokesperson Craig Tucker joined
John Howard to talk about the historic agreement, its impact on
the region’s Salmon fisheries, and the potential for
replication in other places where dams are contested.
Twenty years ago, the Colorado River’s hydrology began tumbling
into a historically bad stretch. … So key players across
seven states, including California, came together in 2005 to
attack the problem. The result was a set of Interim Guidelines
adopted in 2007… Stressing flexibility instead of rigidity,
the guidelines stabilized water deliveries in a
drought-stressed system and prevented a dreaded shortage
declaration by the federal government that would have forced
water supply cuts.
HR 8775, the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental
Protection Act, would create an interagency working group
called the Salton Sea Management Council to coordinate projects
around the lake’s receding shoreline.
Ryan Dorsey, Rivera’s former boyfriend, filed the lawsuit
Tuesday on behalf of her son, who was four at the time. In it,
Dorsey claims the United Water Conservation District, which
operates Lake Piro, as well as Ventura County and the boat
rental company failed to properly warn against the dangers of
swimming in the lake and to provide adequate safety equipment
on the rented pontoon boat.
The California Natural Resources Agency recently announced the
investment of almost $50 million in Proposition 68 funding for
projects to promote salmon recovery. More than $220 million in
Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 funds have also been dedicated
for multi-benefit flood protection projects in the past two
years that will benefit salmon.
The Trump Administration Thursday released the Shasta Lake
Water Resources Investigation Final Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement to increase water storage capacity in the
Shasta Lake reservoir by 634,000 acre-feet,
On Nov. 17, California, Oregon, PacifiCorp, and the Yurok and
Karuk Tribes announced a new agreement with the Klamath River
Renewal Corporation to reaffirm KRRC’s status as dam removal
entity and provide additional funding for the removal of four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. The agreement is the
latest development in a decade-long effort…
Current estimates of young salmon lost to the south Delta pumps
are based on a smattering of studies from the 1970s and should
be updated, according to a new analysis. “They don’t represent
current operations,” says Ukiah-based consultant Andrew Jahn,
lead author of the analysis reported in the September 2020
issue of San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science.
Work crews have been busy this week along Twin Cities Road near
Courtland. They are conducting core sampling, the first step in
drafting an environmental impact report for a tunnel plan known
as the Delta Conveyance Project.
Early season storms typically sweep a slurry of debris from
streets and sidewalks into rivers, creeks and bays. This year,
the fall flush not only contains the usual gunk, waste experts
say, but a whole lot of discarded PPE — or personal protective
equipment, the detritus of the pandemic.
Millions of people across our nation, and countless millions
throughout the world depend on California’s farms and ranches
for the food they eat every single day. California leads the
nation as the country’s largest agricultural producer and
exporter and serves as a vital link in the world’s food supply
For a city built in an arid desert basin in Nevada, the USA’s
driest state with around 10 inches of rainfall a year, this
doesn’t sound too surprising. But the climate emergency and
recent droughts have changed the complexion and urgency of the
The lower Colorado River Basin, which is primarily in Arizona,
is projected to have as much as sixteen percent less
groundwater infiltration by midcentury compared to the
historical record. That’s because warming temperatures will
increase evaporation while rain- and snowfall are expected to
remain the same or decrease slightly.
An annual search for a tiny endangered and contentious fish in
the sprawling California Delta has once again come up empty.
The state’s annual Fall Midwater Trawl found no Delta smelt in
September’s sampling of the critical waterway. … Hoping to
reverse the trend, Westlands Water District and the California
Department of Water Resources announced completion of a Delta
habitat restoration project on Wednesday.
Rangeland ecologists at the University of California, Davis,
found that when ranchers invest even one week a year in
practices that keep cows away from creeks — like herding,
fencing and providing supplemental nutrition and water — they
can improve riparian health by as much as 53 percent.
Two key projects that the bond measure was passed to help fund,
Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Reservoir, have stalled.
Without the public breathing down their neck in a severe
drought, the state has managed to treat the reservoirs as back
America’s largest dam removal project has been brought back to
life with a new agreement among California, Oregon, tribes and
a utility owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. The decadeslong
effort to remove four dams on the Klamath River in Northern
California that have had a devastating impact on salmon runs
had appeared in danger following an unexpected July regulatory
The Kern County Water Agency board of directors voted
unanimously to approve an agreement with the Department of
Water Resources to pay $14 million over 2021 and 2020 as its
initial share of the early planning and design phase for what’s
now being called the Delta Conveyance Facility.
How did two of the most important waterfowl refuges in the
United States reach such a sad state? The decline of the Tule
Lake and Lower Klamath refuges was a hundred years in the
making. There are no villains here; rather it is simply a tale
of too little water to go around on an arid landscape.
For decades it’s been an environmental jewel wedged between the
urban sprawl of Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Rey. But now the
Ballona Wetlands State Ecological Reserve, home to diverse
plant and animal wildlife, has become a battleground for
conservationists and other activists.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and his Oregon counterpart signed a landmark
deal Tuesday to take control of four aging dams targeted for
removal on the Lower Klamath River, an agreement designed to
push the controversial $450 million plan over the finish line.
… The agreement “ensures that we have sufficient backing” to
get the four dams demolished, said Chuck Bonham, director of
the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Opposition is building against San Diego’s dream of erecting a
$5 billion pipeline to the Colorado River in the name of
resource independence. The pipe, which wouldn’t produce savings
for ratepayers until at least 2063, faces its next trial on
Thursday, when water managers meet to vote on spending another
$1.7 million to do the next planning step.
The U.S. Geological Survey is in the beginning stages of
learning more about this river via an expanded and more
sophisticated monitoring system that aims to study details
about the snowpack that feeds the river basin, droughts and
flooding, and how streamflow supports groundwater, or vice
A research team from California State University, Chico will
continue its exceptional work to re-establish juvenile salmon
and salmonid habitats along the Sacramento River, after
learning it would continue to be funded by the United States
Bureau of Reclamation.
The last three administrations have been active in Klamath
Basin issues regardless of political party. Negotiations for a
basin-wide agreement began under the Bush Administration and
continued under the Obama Administration until faltering in the
House of Representatives — though each president’s approach has
varied. Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm
Alliance, said Biden’s experience in the Obama Administration
could prove an asset, if he brings a similar approach.
The Yuba Water Agency is in the process of applying for a new
license to continue its hydroelectric operations along the Yuba
River, but agency leaders say some requirements issued by the
State Water Resources Control Board threaten the effort by
making it too costly. The agency filed lawsuits in state and
federal court Friday to essentially vacate the state board’s
requirements to obtain what is called a water quality
The creation of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency 50 years ago
challenged us to bring people together to pull this majestic
lake back from the brink. Today, TRPA is the backbone for 80
organizations and thousands of property owners working toward
the common goals of clean water, a healthy watershed and
A 19-month study of the safety of the Oroville Dam project has
found no “unacceptable risks.” The Department of Water
Resources released its Comprehensive Needs Assessment on Oct.
30, and notes its findings generally agree with those of an
Independent Review Board and a regular five-year review by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has signed a record of decision,
finalizing an environmental impact statement that gives
clearance for the Friant-Kern Canal project to proceed. The
canal needs repairs as a result of land subsidence.
Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have
run up against significant legal, financial and political
roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have
cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects
have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.
On the Oregon border lies Lower Klamath National Wildlife
Refuge. For over a century, visitors have flocked to Klamath’s
wild tule marshes and open waters to canoe, fish, bird watch
and hunt. … But this year, something sinister lies beneath
the Klamath Basin’s immense beauty.
To protect smelt and salmon, there need to be reasonable water
temperature standards in the Delta. The existing water
temperature standard in the lower Sacramento River above the
Delta is 68oF, but managers of the state and federal water
projects pay it almost no heed.
Three California Conservation Corps crews are working seven
days a week to help Napa County protect Lake Berryessa from
potential run-off from homes and other structures burned in the
LNU Lightning Complex Hennessey Fire.
For over a century, one of the most important salmon runs in
the United States has had to contend with historic dams – and
now four of them are set to be taken down….The dams built on
the Klamath River have been identified as one cause of the
drop in salmon numbers.
Getting water through a tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta would be pricey. So pricey, some Kern County water
districts were looking for an “off-ramp” by potentially selling
their main state water supply out of the county. The request
was shot down on Nov. 6 by the Kern County Water Agency, which
holds the contract for state water on behalf of 13 area water
California’s war with Washington over the environment will soon
come to an end. … President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to
act quickly to restore and strengthen dozens of protections on
public lands, water and wildlife. In addition, California’s
efforts to fight climate change will no longer face hurdles put
up by the White House, which has downplayed the global threat.
A team of experts released their findings Monday, concluding
that no urgent repairs are needed right now on the Oroville
Dam. The report goes on to say that the largest earthen dam in
America is safe to operate. However, the Oroville Dam is not
completely in the clear.
Communities across the United States and the globe rely on
clean water flowing from forested watersheds. But these water
source areas are impacted by the effects of wildfire. To help
water providers and land managers prepare for impacts from
wildfire on water supplies, the U.S. Geological Survey is
working to measure and predict post-fire water quality and
Burning rice straw after harvest was a traditional and
economical practice that was phased out in 2000. … The side
effect is it has created millions of acres of seasonal wetlands
in the rice-growing region of the state – and with a variety of
conservation contracts, provided additional income for growers
whose costs rose when straw burning was prohibited.
How wildfires can affect water quality are well documented. But
increasing—and increasingly intense—Western conflagrations are
leading to fears they also could constrict the water quantity
available in some of the nation’s most water-stressed
areas….“It’s absolutely a threat to our water supply—the
quantity and quality of the water that’s able to flow across
the landscape,” said Dave Eggerton, executive director of the
Association of California Water Agencies…
There’s a concept called “demand management” in the news in
Colorado, and here’s a simple definition: Landowners get paid
to temporarily stop irrigating, and that water gets sent
downstream to hang out in Lake Powell. It’s an idea long talked
about because of increasing drought and the very real danger of
both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping into “dead pool” where
no hydropower can be generated.
Recently the Santa Clarita Planning Commission approved a
project that would qualify as “backward planning”: planning
that pays no attention to modern issues, instead using methods
long abandoned by others. To me, as a member of the local
Groundwater Sustainability Advisory Committee, the worst of
these is the plan to concrete a portion of Bouquet Creek along
with the groundwater recharge areas on the property.
The California Coastal Commission has been issuing policy
guidelines for sea level rise for the last six years. … The
commission is now taking the first steps toward rethinking some
of its current policies and looking at the state as a whole,
realizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to ways
of adapting to sea level rise.
Clarity on which wetlands and waterways count as “waters of the
U.S.” or WOTUS, subject to federal oversight, has been elusive
for years. … Trump officials’ narrow definition … is facing
lawsuits in a half-dozen federal courts. New litigation is
guaranteed if Biden officials attempt to revert to the
Obama-era rule or craft their own program.
Why are our food producers, including many century-old family
farms with 100-year-old water rights, facing a shortage of
water? Because we drain Oregon’s largest lake to artificially
increase water supply in California.
A 2007 deal creating guidelines governing how Lake Powell and
Lake Mead are operated in coordination isn’t scheduled to
expire until 2026. But water officials in Colorado River Basin
states are already beginning to talk about the renegotiations
that will be undertaken to decide what succeeds the 2007
In autumn swarms of flying insects cloud the skies on the lower
Colorado River near Bullhead City, Ariz. Caddisflies are a
nuisance to recreationists who want to boat, swim or fish on
the river. So city officials have started an unprecedented
experiment to get rid of them.
Managing water resources in the Colorado River Basin is not for
the timid or those unaccustomed to big challenges. … For more
than 30 years, Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of
Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin Region, has been in the
thick of it, applying his knowledge, expertise and calm
demeanor to inform and broker key decisions that have helped
stabilize the Southwest’s major water artery.
The recent removal of the sediment-filled York Dam in Napa
County has reconnected two miles of steelhead trout habitat
that has been blocked for over a century. … Thousands of
barriers to stream flow and fish passage similar in size and
impact to York Dam are scattered throughout California,
contributing to population declines in native fishes and other
Voluntary agreements have been proposed as a collaborative,
modern and holistic alternative to the State Water Resources
Control Board’s staff proposed update to the Bay-Delta Water
Quality Control Plan. … Westlands and other public water
agencies are eager to reengage in the process to finalize the
voluntary agreements, as they offer the best path forward for
The U.S. Geological Survey announced the completion of a new
mobile tool that provides real-time information on water
levels, weather and flood forecasts all in one place on a
computer, smartphone or other mobile device. The new USGS
National Water Dashboard, or NWD, provides critical information
to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public…
A declaration suit filed in Superior Court in Sacramento by
attorneys for some of the leading environmental groups in
America accuses the California Department of Water Resources of
trying to prevent anyone in California from filing a court
action challenging … the financing of a single tunnel that
would be built under the Delta for 35 miles.
The federal government has approved plans to fix a sag in the
Friant-Kern Canal. The Bureau of Reclamation gave its approval
Tuesday – signing a Record of Decision giving environmental
clearance for the project – following action from the Trump
administration to invest about $5 million to study and begin
pre-construction work on the canal.
The Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes has
recently launched new tools focused on forecasting the
Atmospheric River scale. The new tools, offer a 7-day forecast
and review of the past 7 days for the Atmospheric River scale.
Storage projects partially funded by Proposition 1 should help
the state balance the swings in precipitation that characterize
the California climate… Yet, six years after the bond’s
passage, the water storage projects that will benefit from
Proposition 1 likely remain at least a decade away from
Local leaders, farmers and others in the Central Valley report
additional progress in addressing salinity in surface water,
and salt and nitrates in groundwater, in compliance with a
program adopted last fall by the State Water Resources Control
The Colorado State University Hydraulics Lab has been working
on the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion project for the last 11
months. … Designers of the dam project in California
contacted the university’s lab to produce a physical design
that will have the ability to raise an existing dam’s
The National Weather Service is forecasting a “major change” in
the weather across the Bay Area on Friday and through the
weekend, with temperatures dropping, winds kicking up and the
potential for rain.
Mexico is obligated under a 1944 treaty to deliver to the
United States a set amount of water from the Rio Grande and its
tributaries over a five-year period. … The last-minute
agreement signed Oct. 21 settles the conflict. Mexico will
transfer ownership of water stored in two border reservoirs to
the United States to make up the deficit.
As a rice farmer in Yolo County, Kim Gallagher should be used
to the sight of thousands of birds swarming her flooded fields
this time of year—but when she sees a flock take off,
scattering the sky with a confetti of fluttering wings, her
enjoyment is clear.
The Bureau of Reclamation has once again proposed raising
Shasta Dam, which is already the largest reservoir in
California, after several proposals in the past decade. Each
time, it has faced fierce public opposition from state
government, environmentalists, locals and Native Americans.
What’s in the Tijuana River? Ammonia, a byproduct of raw
sewage. Phosphorous, an ingredient in soaps and cleaners that’s
banned in the U.S. Metals used in the industrial plating
industry. Parasitic worms. And DEHP, a chemical added to
plastics. And of course, there’s poo.
The San Joaquin Valley and urban Southern California are worlds
apart in many ways. Yet each face growing water challenges and
a shared interest in ensuring reliable, affordable water
supplies to safeguard their people and economies. Both regions’
water futures could be more secure if they take advantage of
shared water infrastructure to jointly develop and manage some
The California State Water Resources Control Board and a group
of environmental organizations each have filed a petition for
review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit of
FERC orders finding that the Water Board waived its authority
under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to issue a water
quality certification in the ongoing relicensing of Merced
Irrigation District’s Merced River and Merced Falls Projects.
Judith Marshall joined the corps’ Portland office in 2011 to
manage several projects, including the agency’s 13 dams in the
Willamette River Basin. She quickly learned the corps was out
of compliance with several major environmental laws for
virtually all of them. She got nowhere when she raised her
concerns to her supervisors. Then she was harassed and bullied.
Now Marshall is blowing the whistle.
DWP officials said the undertaking of a new spillway gate
structure to control flow from the lake through Rush Creek and
into Mono Lake will be one of the largest environmental
restoration projects in the Mono Basin.
Global climate experts are predicting a moderate to strong La
Niña weather event this year, meaning a stormy season for most
parts of the world but possibly drier-than-normal conditions in
Lobbing another hurdle at California’s $16 billion plan to
tunnel underneath the West Coast’s largest estuary,
environmentalists on Thursday sued to freeze public funding for
the megaproject championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Led by Sierra
Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, a familiar
coalition of critics claim the cash-strapped state is pursuing
a “blank check” for a project that isn’t fully cooked.
When driving over the Yolo Bypass in the winter, one can’t help
but notice the flooded fields. … Historically, the area used
to be wetlands and floodplain habitat, but now, farmers grow
rice there. After harvest, the fields are flooded to not only
help decompose the leftover rice straw but also, as a surprise
to many, recreate a surrogate habitat for many area wildlife,
most notably birds.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a grant of $700,000
to Audubon California towards the stabilization, restoration
and enhancement of wetlands near the town of Bombay Beach, on
the Salton Sea.
Recognizing the central role that atmospheric rivers play in
both flood risk and water supply – two of Yuba Water’s core
mission areas – the agency is investing in new research and
tools to better understand, forecast and manage for these
The San Joaquin Valley and urban Southern California each face
growing water challenges and a shared interest in ensuring
reliable, affordable water supplies to safeguard their people
and economies. Both regions’ water futures could be more secure
if they take advantage of shared water infrastructure to
jointly develop and manage some water supplies.
At the Oct. 22 meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta
Watermaster Michael George gave a detailed presentation on
estimating water use in the Delta… He also discussed
implementation of the state’s policy of reducing reliance on
the Delta and provided updates on the preparations for the next
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains a
database of all the nation’s dams and their risk levels, raised
the risk classification for the Mojave Dam in San Bernardino
County, California, to high. The 200-foot-high earthen dam was
built in 1971 and, if it fails, threatens communities as far
away as 140 miles.
The future of our existing dams, including 2,500 hydroelectric
facilities, is a complicated issue in the age of climate
change. Dams have altered river flows, changed aquatic habitat,
decimated fish populations, and curtailed cultural and treaty
resources for tribes. But does the low-carbon power dams
produce have a role in our energy transition?
The tumultuous, years-long legal fight between farmer Michael
Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District — two of Southern
California’s powerbrokers — is now finished. On Wednesday, the
California Supreme Court declined Abatti’s petition for review,
leaving in place an appellate court’s decision that declared
IID the rightful owner of a massive allotment of Colorado River
The proposed structure will span the width of the existing
channel and feature an operable weir crest gate that can be
raised for diversion to the intake structure and lowered to
bypass diversions. An engineered roughened channel will be
constructed in the section of the stream directly downstream of
the diversion structure for future fish passage. The new intake
will be equipped with a trash rack and fish screens.
If all you’ve ever seen of the Fresno River is through Madera
as you drive over it on Highway 99, you’d be forgiven for
thinking it’s just a weed-infested, shopping cart collector
rather than a real river. But there’s a lot to this unobtrusive
waterway, which just made history as the first river in 40
years about to go through a rights settlement under the State
Water Resources Control Board.
Located right below Slab Creek Dam and Reservoir and priced at
$16.5 million … the project has two main functions. One
includes a recreational flow release on a nine-mile stretch
below the reservoir that will improve boating, rafting and
kayaking opportunities… The other release feeds water into
the powerhouse to drive the turbine.
In a review of Feather River fall-run Chinook salmon in
September 2019, I described their status through the 2018 run
and expressed optimism for the 2019 run. My assessment proved
overly optimistic, as the 2019 run numbers came in lower than
expected. The lower-than-expected returns appear to be the
consequence of the 2017 Oroville Dam spillway failures.
Researchers at the Plumas National Forest in Northern
California received a startling result: Sticks and logs they
gathered from the forest floor to assess wildfire risk had a
moisture level of just 2%. The reading was the lowest ever
recorded in 15 years of measurements at a site in the forest’s
southwest corner. It also was a warning: The area was
tinderbox-dry and primed to burn.
Reclamation, working with the Sacramento River Settlement
Contractors and federal and state fish and wildlife agencies,
are implementing fall water operations to benefit salmon
populations in the Sacramento River.
After the river was concretized, Indigenous People, activists,
and environmental organizations demanded the restoration of the
L.A. River and its tributaries back into a functioning natural
river ecosystem. Now with the climate crisis, we can no longer
afford to have a concretized river system that solely provides
As the state looks at investing in water infrastructure to ward
off the most detrimental of droughts effects on the State, it
must consider projects that support the environment, as well as
people and farms.
The lake is particularly small and low right now for a few
reasons, said Matt Graul, the East Bay Regional Park District’s
chief of stewardship. Wildcat Creek runs dry in the rainless
months of summer and early fall, but has been hit harder than
ever since the Bay Area received less rainfall than typical
last winter. Once the rains start and fill the creek, there
should be water again in the lake, he said.
At the October meeting of the California Water Commission,
Aaron Fakuda representing Temperance Flat Authority and Bill
Swanson, Principal Engineer with Stantec discussed the
project’s status with the Commission.
Adrian Harpold and his team are conducting a field study on the
impact of wildfire on the Illilouette Creek watershed in the
Yosemite wilderness area in California. They’re looking at how
much water makes it to streams for people and downstream
agriculture after a fire, and how much water stays in the
Hundreds of years ago, a giant lake — Lake Cahuilla — in
southern California and northern Mexico covered swathes of the
Mexicali, Imperial, and Coachella Valleys, through which the
southern San Andreas Fault cuts. … If the lake over the San
Andreas has dried up and the weight of its water was removed,
could that help explain why the San Andreas fault is in an
It won’t take much, and the Pass Area as we know it may look
dramatically different come wet weather this fall and winter.
That’s according to public safety officials from various
Riverside County agencies who are working to get the word out
about the danger of “flood after fire.”
Kristine Diekman is a professor of art, media and design at Cal
State San Marcos, where she teaches media theory and
production, and sound studies. She’s also a media artist
working in documentary and experimental film, new media and
community-based media. Since 2014, Diekman has been working on
a digital media project, “Run Dry,” which tells the story of
the water crisis in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Radically transformed from its ancient origin as a vast
tidal-influenced freshwater marsh, the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta ecosystem is in constant flux, influenced by factors
within the estuary itself and the massive watersheds that drain
though it into the Pacific Ocean. Lately, however, scientists
say the rate of change has kicked into overdrive…
Completely dry riverbeds, record low flows, and diminished fish
populations — that’s what staff and volunteers from a local
environmental nonprofit found when they surveyed tributaries of
the Eel River earlier this month.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi has filed an official objection to a
plan backed by Sonoma County and his House Democratic colleague
Jared Huffman to remove Scott Dam on the Eel River and drain
Lake Pillsbury, a popular recreation spot for nearly a century.
Members of local tribes, fishermen and conservationists are
calling on Warren Buffett to undam the Klamath. People across
the country joined members of the Karuk, Yurok, Klamath and
Hoopa Valley tribes on Friday for a day of action to get the
attention of Buffett, the owner of Pacific Power and the
Klamath River dams…
At least 700 sub-adult and adult winter-run Chinook salmon
(winter Chinook) returned this year to Battle Creek. …
Establishing another self-sustaining population in a second
watershed (in addition to population in Sacramento River), such
as Battle Creek, is a high priority and a major component of
the Central Valley salmonid recovery plan.
In the absence of appropriate management, excessive livestock
damage can occur in sensitive habitats such as riparian areas
that provide drinking water, forage, and microclimates sought
by free-ranging livestock. … Fortunately,
conservation-grazing management strategies can reduce the
likelihood of livestock damage to riparian areas.
With California’s worst wildfire season on record still raging,
experts from across the state are calling for a $2 billion
investment in the next year on prevention tactics like
prescribed burns and more year-round forest management
The Friant Water Authority on Thursday approved the final
environmental review for a massive project to fix a 33-mile
segment of the Friant-Kern Canal despite continued questions
about funding and other concerns expressed by some Friant
Dam failure, though rare, can cause catastrophic destruction of
property and lives. Repairing hazardous dams can help, but
simply removing them can be a better, more cost-effective
option with accompanying environmental benefits … a mere
five states account for half of all removals: Pennsylvania
(343), California (173), Wisconsin (141), Michigan (94), and
Del Puerto Water District directors approved a final
environment study Wednesday on a 82,000 acre-foot reservoir
near Patterson. … The reservoir is proposed to increase
reliability of water deliveries to thirsty farms and improve
management of groundwater. The project in a canyon just west of
Patterson has stirred debate. It would inundate part of scenic
Del Puerto Canyon and raises fears the dam near Interstate 5
could fail, flooding the city of 23,000.
Virtual rallies will be held Friday at the utility’s
headquarters in Portland and in Buffett’s hometown of Omaha,
Neb., according to a Save California Salmon news release. A
rally will also be held in Seattle, home of the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation, the top shareholder in Buffett’s
Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. Berkshire Hathaway Energy is
PacifiCorp’s parent company.
Working over the last year, construction crews expect to
complete a new 2-mile levee near Novato in the coming weeks. It
will allow bay waters to eventually reclaim nearly 1,600 acres,
or about 2.5 square miles, of former tidal marshes that had
been diked and drained for agriculture and development during
the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A slew of Bakersfield locals told board members how much an
actual, wet river means for residents. Speakers asked board
members to make the Kern a priority and finally allocate
unappropriated water on the river that has been in limbo at the
board for the past 10 years.
The Del Puerto Water District is set to vote Wednesday on
approving a final environmental impact study on a much-disputed
storage reservoir in western Stanislaus County. … According
to proponents, the reservoir storing up to 82,000 acre-feet
will provide more reliable water deliveries to farmers south of
the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta… Water pumped from the
nearby Delta-Mendota Canal would be stored behind the dam.
Experts say it’s likely not a matter of if, but when, intense
rainfall triggers mudslides that threaten the properties and
lives of thousands of people in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The
area has seen these disasters before: In January 1982, the Love
Creek mudslide killed 10 people near Ben Lomond. But the CZU
Lightning Complex, larger than any fire in the region’s
recorded history, created an unprecedented hazard.
As the Colorado River Basin’s managers wrestle with thorny
questions around the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a colleague
who works for a Lower Colorado River Basin water agency
recently asked a question that goes to the heart of the future
of river management: With land in the Lower Colorado River
Basin, why doesn’t Utah have a Lower Basin allocation?
Congressman John Garamendi, who represents the northern half of
Lake County, on Friday submitted a formal comment to the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission opposing removal of Scott
Dam on the Eel River at Lake Pillsbury and demanding that Lake
County have an equal seat at the table for determining the
future of Potter Valley Project and the lake.
ACWA on Oct. 15 submitted “A Roadmap To Achieving the Voluntary
Agreements” to Gov. Gavin Newsom and top members of his
Administration that calls on the state to take the necessary
steps to re-engage on Voluntary Agreements regarding the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and its tributaries.
In 2011, heavy snows in the Rocky Mountains filled the Colorado
River, lifting reservoirs—and spirits—in the drought-stricken
U.S. Southwest. The following year, however, water levels
dropped to nearly their lowest in a century… Now, scientists
say they may have come up with a potential early warning system
for the Colorado’s water levels—by watching temperature
patterns in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, thousands of
It all started with a 2002 state law demanding quake-resilient
water delivery. Nearly $5 billion later, San Francisco has
retrofit the system from Hetch Hetchy to the city, just now
crossing the finish line on the shore of Lake Merced.
Aquatic ecologist Steve Lee is concerned that abundant water
may not always be part of the Sonoma Valley story. … So Lee’s
rebuilt home was designed to capture the runoff, and store it
in a series of 5,000-gallon gravity-fed tanks. He’s got 11 of
them scattered across his property, harvesting water from the
house, barn and pool.
A team of scientists from the California Department of Water
Resources are working with federal and state partners to
embrace the challenge of overseeing the implementation of one
of the most complex endangered species permits in California
A new California Biodiversity Collaborative will help determine
how to carry out an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom
aimed at conserving 30% of California’s land and marine areas
by 2030—and agricultural organizations said they would
participate to assure the collaborative recognizes stewardship
efforts carried out on the state’s farms and ranches.
A critical piece of the Clean Water Act, known as Section 401,
allows states and tribes to work with the federal government to
ensure that rivers are protected and that projects meet the
needs of local communities. Unfortunately, the Environmental
Protection Agency recently created new rules for how states and
tribes can use their authority under Section 401.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday created what he called a
“subcabinet” for federal water issues, with a mandate that
includes water-use changes sought by corporate farm interests
and oil and gas. … The first priority set out by the
executive order is increasing dam storage and other water
storage, long a demand of farmers and farm interests in the
West in particular. That includes California’s Westlands Water
District, the nation’s largest agricultural water district.
The industry that operates America’s hydroelectric dams and
several environmental groups announced an unusual agreement
Tuesday to work together to get more clean energy from
hydropower while reducing the environmental harm from dams, in
a sign that the threat of climate change is spurring both sides
to rethink their decades-long battle over a large but
contentious source of renewable power. The United States
generated about 7 percent of its electricity last year from
hydropower, mainly from large dams built decades ago, such as
the Hoover Dam, which uses flowing water from the Colorado
River to power turbines.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a
$108 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act
(WIFIA) loan to the Stockton Public Financing Authority to help
modernize the city’s wastewater treatment facility and reduce
nitrogen discharges to the San Joaquin River.
The North Complex Fire has burned a large portion of Lake
Oroville’s watershed. This could lead to hazardous water
quality after winter rains run all of that sediment into the
lake and the effects could last decades. However, how water
quality could be affected by the fire is still largely unknown.
The South Fork Eel River is considered one of the highest
priority watersheds in the state for flow enhancement projects.
Forested tributaries like Redwood Creek provide refugia habitat
for threatened juvenile coho salmon but suffer from the
cumulative impacts of legacy logging and unregulated water
If certain hay species retain more nutrients than others when
on low-water diets, then ranchers know their cattle will
continue to eat well as they evaluate whether they can operate
their ranches on less H20…. Any water saved could be left in
the Colorado River, allowing it to become more sustainable,
even as the West’s population grows and drought becomes more
Prescribed burning … targets brush, grasses, and other
accumulated vegetation, along with dead and downed trees, to
improve ecosystem health and reduce the fuels that power
wildfires. … “We’re trying to encourage a cultural shift in
our relationship with wildfire,” says Sasha Berleman, a fire
ecologist who runs a prescribed burn training program based in
the San Francisco Bay Area. “Fire isn’t going away, so let’s
change how we’re living with it.”
Unbeknownst to many, some voters will pick five new members of
the Board of Directors of the Westlands Water District. GV Wire
had a chance to speak with two of those… Both offered
insights into how Westlands can change its reputation, how
farmers can change their approach, and what their biggest
adversaries are in the fight for water.
A new experiment is looking into how drought conditions, like
we’re currently in, can affect water traveling downstream in
the Colorado River. The pilot project involved shepherding
water from a high mountain reservoir to the Colorado-Utah state
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently
launched an environmental justice community survey to gather
input to inform Delta Conveyance Project planning. The survey,
entitled, “Your Delta, Your Voice,” seeks direct input from
communities that may be disproportionately affected by the
Protecting intact peatlands [such as those in California] and
restoring degraded ones are crucial steps if the world is to
counter climate change, European researchers said Friday. In a
study, they said peat bogs, wetlands that contain large amounts
of carbon in the form of decaying vegetation that has built up
over centuries, could help the world achieve climate goals like
the limit of 2 degrees Celsius of postindustrial warming that
is part of the 2015 Paris agreement.
Join us as we guide you on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
The Forest Service’s use of herbicides and pesticides has
raised occasional alarm from environmental groups, which point
to the chemical’s potential to harm wildlife or water supplies,
or to have long-term effects on people who apply them. In some
regions, they say, scarcely a tree-planting project occurs
without the use of chemical herbicides.
A team of scientists at Utah State University has developed a
new tool to forecast drought and water flow in the Colorado
River several years in advance. Although the river’s headwaters
are in landlocked Wyoming and Colorado, water levels are linked
to sea surface temperatures in parts of the Pacific and
Atlantic oceans and the water’s long-term ocean memory.
Despite that reduction in flow, total storage behind Glen
Canyon and Hoover dams has dropped only 2.6 million acre feet.
That is far less than you’d expect from 12 years of 1.2 maf per
year flow reductions alone. That kind of a flow reduction
should have been enough to nearly empty the reservoirs. Why
hasn’t that happened? Because we also have been using less
In the new study, scientists at The University of Texas at
Austin in collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists
found that leading climate projections used by the state
strongly agree that climate change will shift the timing and
intensity of rainfall and the health of the state’s snowpack in
ways that will make water management more difficult during the
Newsom, who made the announcement in a walnut orchard 25 miles
outside of Sacramento, said innovative farming practices,
restoring wetlands, better managing forests, planting more
trees and increasing the number of parks are all potential
tools. The goal is to conserve 30% of the state’s lands and
coastal waters in the next decade as part of a larger global
Water providers in California face myriad challenges in
sustainably providing high quality drinking water to their
customers while protecting the natural environment. In this
blog post, I explore the stresses
that surface and
groundwater quality challenges pose for California’s
retail water agencies.
On the heels of a historic drought, at the beginning of the
implementation of historic groundwater legislation, and in
light of potential flooding, Porterville will have more water
in the future and a larger dam to prevent it from damaging the
A relatively new water budgeting platform appears to be working
well for producers in Kern County. The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water
Storage District has worked with multiple stakeholder partners
to develop the Water Accounting Platform to help growers more
accurately track water use.
The bill, which was written by state Sen. Ben Hueso, also aims
to address some of the binational challenges in managing the
watershed. The plan that the California EPA is putting together
will create a framework for how California can work with the
Mexican and U.S. governments.
Reclamation has identified a significant seismic risk problem
at Shasta Dam that may preclude the enlargement of Shasta Dam
in a safe manner. … In addition … modeling disclosed by
Reclamation to NRDC (see last page of this link) indicates that
enlarging Shasta Dam would reduce the water supply for State
Water Project contractors by an average of 14,000 acre feet per
Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an
environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that
could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and
California condor. This time, the species teetering on the edge
of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and
the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River
flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a
The day the gates closed on the Shasta Dam in 1943,
approximately 200 miles of California’s prime salmon and
steelhead spawning habitat disappeared. Although devastating
for all four distinct runs of Central Valley Chinook salmon,
the high dam hit the Sacramento winter-run Chinook the hardest.
In California’s Placer County, an unusual partnership between a
county water utility, the U.S. Forest Service and
environmentalists is taking on the work to prevent catastrophic
fires on more than 11,000 hectares in the northern Sierra
Nevada Mountains. The partnership arose from the ashes of
2014’s King fire.
San Diego County Water Authority is looking into the
possibility of building a pipeline (aqueduct, more accurately)
to get its water directly from the Imperial Valley instead of
indirectly through the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in Los
Angeles. SDCWA and MWD have a history of litigation about how
much MWD can charge for transporting water from Lake Havasu
through MWD’s Colorado River Aqueduct to reservoirs in northern
San Diego County.
Californians are understandably focused on the wildfires that
have charred more than 3 million acres and darkened our skies –
forcing us to find masks that protect us from both COVID-19 and
smoke. But Californians should also pay attention to the
multiple hurricanes that have devastated the Gulf Coast this
season. These disasters have much in common.
U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34
million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a
threatened trout species to return to some of its native
spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century.
Construction of the side channel with fish-friendly screens is
a major step toward someday enabling Lahontan cutthroat trout
to make the same 100-mile journey — from a desert lake
northeast of Reno to Lake Tahoe atop the Sierra — that they did
before the dam was built in 1905.
The Georgetown Divide Public Utility District reported Sept. 23
that its release of 2,000 acre-feet of water from Stumpy
Meadows Reservoir to be transferred to the Westlands Water
District has been successfully completed.
Linking floating solar panels with hydropower could produce the
equivalent of 40% of the world’s electricity, according to a
new study by researchers at the Department of Energy. … The
study provides the first global look by federal researchers at
the technical potential of the hybrid concept.
Southern California Edison crews will be able to restart some
releases from lakes in the San Joaquin River watershed after
the Creek Fire overran much of the area through September. …
Those releases, which flow into Millerton Lake, mean farmers
from Fresno to Arvin will be able to continue irrigation.
The SSJID board has been pursuing a replacement tunnel after
sorting through options to substantially increase the
reliability of water flows as well as reducing costly annual
maintenance work that puts crews at risk. … The 13,000-foot
tunnel is now projected to cost more than $37 million. SSJID
would cover 72 percent of the cost and Oakdale Irrigation
District 28 percent…
If you look closely in the waters of Deer Creek, near Nevada
City, Calif., something strange may catch your eye; lying in
globules amongst the gravel is quicksilver, or liquid elemental
mercury. Carrie Monohan, head scientist for the Sierra Fund,
lives next to Deer Creek, and became concerned about mercury
contamination in the waterways when she pulled liquid mercury
from the water in a turkey baster.
The recent downgrade in the forecast for the flow of water in
the Colorado River should be a death punch to the proposal to
build a new pipeline out of Lake Powell. The pipeline was
already a major threat to Las Vegas and much of the rest of the
Southwest; now the threat risk is heading off the charts.
According to river flow data, there is currently almost no
water flowing into Walker Lake, a common condition. Today,
where the riverbed meets the lake is an ooze of mud. The lake
is all but biologically dead. But a decades-old public trust
lawsuit made a move forward in its glacial process through
federal courts last week, and advocates are hopeful Walker
Lake, a cornerstone of the regional economy and ecology, can
one day be revived.
On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation joined its partners,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Farmers Conservation
Alliance, to celebrate the completion of the Derby Dam Fish
Screen Project. The infrastructure modernization project at
Derby Dam will provide Lahontan Cutthroat Trout access to
natural spawning grounds for the first time since 1905.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have
provided funding to fix the ever-sinking Friant-Kern
Canal. SB 559 would have required the Department of Water
Resources to report to the legislature by March 31, 2021, on
federal funding for the Friant Water Authority or any other
government agency to restore the capacity of the Friant-Kern
Canal. The bill would also have required DWR to include a
proposal for the state to pay up to 35 percent of the cost of
In December, the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors
will be asked to support a motion to fund a portion of the
planning costs for the Delta Conveyance Project. In preparation
for the upcoming vote, staff began a series of presentations
for the special committee on the Bay-Delta to prepare the
directors for the vote.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday added his signature to a new law
that orders the formation of a commission to study the
feasibility of lithium extraction around the Salton Sea. Local
politicians hope the commission will lead to the creation of a
green economy around the state’s largest lake, which is a
geothermal hotspot. It was one of several bills focused on
California’s environment that Newsom dealt with this week.
Assessments of the worst-case scenario predict the Bay may rise
a damaging 1.9 feet by 2050 and as much as nearly 7 feet by
2100. Restoring even a fraction of the Bay’s lost wetlands
would provide long-lasting benefits.
Tensions between Mexico and the United States over water
intensified this month as hundreds of Mexican farmers seized
control of La Boquilla dam in protest over mandatory water
releases. The protesters came from parched Chihuahua state,
nearly 100 square miles of land pressed against the U.S.
border, where farmers are opposing the delivery of over 100
billion gallons of water to the United States by October 24.
Called the Three Creeks Parkway Restoration, the $9 million
project will yield two acres of floodplain and a canopy of
riparian trees set in nearly 4.5 acres of grassland and oak
woodland. Construction began in May and is scheduled for
completion at the end of the year…
When Jay Rowan learned in late April that trout in California
hatcheries were exhibiting strange symptoms, he had been the
hatchery production manager for California’s Department of Fish
and Wildlife for less than a month. Already forced to rejigger
operations after the coronavirus lockdowns, Mr. Rowan began to
worry that a second crisis was on the way.
Fifty years ago this week, the Bakersfield City Council
committed an audaciously historic act. On Monday evening Sept.
28, 1970, council members decided to sue Tenneco West for a
slice of the Kern River.
In June, the Trump administration’s new version of which waters
are protected under the Clean Water Act took effect. The new
rule is an about-face from the Obama-era regulations, and
Arizona state regulators are trying to make sense of it.
Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir will soon be nearly
empty, and will stay that way for the next 10 years. Under
orders from federal dam regulators, the Santa Clara Valley
Water District will begin a project to drain Anderson Reservoir
on Thursday, the first step in a $576 million effort to tear
down and rebuild its aging dam.
The collaborative design process for the Franks Tract Futures
project brought initially skeptical local stakeholders on board
and is being hailed as a model for future initiatives. Yet
major uncertainties remain as interested parties explore the
challenges of implementing a complex redesign of a big chunk of
Among the people forced to flee the Creek Fire were workers who
keep the vast network of hydroelectric dams running. Eric
Quinley, general manager of the Delano-Earlimart Irrigation
District, worried some of his table grape growers might not get
enough water in the future to finish up the growing season.
In the middle of a pandemic, an economic recession, and
everything else that 2020 is throwing at us, in early August
the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) filed a
lawsuit against every Californian to authorize spending an
unlimited amount of money … for an as yet undefined Delta
The day after Congress passed a bill that included potential
consequences to PacifiCorp if it reneged on an agreement to
remove four Klamath River dams, the Yurok Tribe’s senior water
policy analyst urged people to “make noise in anyway that you
After 27 years of starts and stops, a lawsuit brought by state
regulators, a court order, a long-running federal fine and the
threat of further legal action from environmentalists, the old
earthen dam is finally being removed in order to restore a
portion of the creek to a more natural state.
When the Creek Fire erupted on Sept. 5 and chewed through the
forest toward Southern California Edison’s Big Creek power
system, little did anyone know how that might affect grape
growers in Delano nearly a month later.
Some of the largest users of the Ventura River recently
released their proposal to settle litigation and potentially
stave off a water-rights adjudication. The plan includes
multiple habitat restoration projects intended to help
endangered steelhead trout, but largely avoids any changes to
water use. Before it goes to a judge, however, other parties
likely will weigh in, including the state.
Regional water conservation groups and a Clark County
commissioner welcomed a request by Utah officials Thursday to
extend the federal environmental review of a controversial plan
to divert billions of gallons of water from the Colorado River
to southwest Utah.
The mayor of Imperial Beach and governor of Baja California are
in a public spat over cross-border sewage spills. Gov. Jaime
Bonilla has held three separate press conferences this month
demanding Mayor Serge Dedina apologize for his public
criticisms of Mexico’s inability to stop sewage from flowing
into the United States.
Samples with confirmed cyanobacteria were collected at three
locations on the Mad River spurring local Public and
Environmental Health officials to warn community residents to
keep themselves and their pets out of the water.
Just as they did more than two generations ago, Kern County
farmers are looking to another Central Valley river to the
north to refill their groundwater shortfall. But this time
around, natives in the Kings River watershed are “sharpening
their knives” to fight off what they say is a desperate water
Lawyers representing Mineral County and the Walker Lake Working
Group announced this week they intend to take a water rights
case with broad implications back to federal appeals court to
ask whether Nevada can adjust already allocated water rights to
sustain rivers and lakes long-term.
The Klamath Basin used to be the third most important
salmon-bearing watershed in the Pacific Northwest. Now, only a
fraction of those runs remain. The multiple reasons for their
decline are complex and interconnected, but they all have to do
with how water moves through the system.
Although droughts may not garner as much attention as acute
extreme events like hurricanes, floods or fires, their
multidimensional effects are vast. … A multi-year drought in
California has seen the number of breeding waterfowl dip 46%
below average as wetlands shrink and dry up.
The monsoon season — that period from mid-June through
September that each year brings rains to the Mojave Desert and
other areas of the Southwest from the tropical coast of Mexico
— has been a dud this year. Las Vegas is in the middle of a
record-breaking stretch without rain, and residents should be
prepared for it to stay that way, scientists say.
Three Coachella Valley high schoolers kayaked across the Salton
Sea Saturday to raise awareness about the social and ecological
crisis unfolding as California’s largest lake continues to
shrink and toxic dust from its shores pollutes the air.
Stanford scientists have identified a new kind of “landfalling
drought” … that can potentially be predicted before it
impacts people and ecosystems on land. … They
found that droughts that make landfall in the region have been
associated with certain atmospheric pressure patterns that
reduce moisture, similar to the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge”
pattern that was one of the primary causes of the 2012-2017
Behind the apocalyptic wildfires in California and Oregon,
another ominous trend is creeping across the globe: Everywhere
in the world, trees are dying, with the biggest trees going
first. Entire forests are threatened worldwide.
Climate change is driving the scale and impact of recent
wildfires that have raged in California, say scientists. Their
analysis finds an “unequivocal and pervasive” role for global
heating in boosting the conditions for fire. California now has
greater exposure to fire risks than before humans started
altering the climate, the authors say.
Last week, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state’s
fundamental obligation to protect natural resources for future
generations did not allow it to reallocate water rights issued
under state law. The decision appeared to rule against
litigants pushing to restore Walker Lake, where the use of
upstream water rights has decreased the amount of water that
reaches the lake.
In Utah, there is a significant effort underway to build a
water delivery pipeline from Lake Powell to transport part of
Utah’s Colorado River entitlement to Utah’s St. George area. As
the federal environmental review for the proposed Lake Powell
Pipeline in Utah continues, Utah’s six fellow Colorado River
Basin states weighed in as a group, cautioning that unresolved
Scientists have published a global water quality database
detailing the health of nearly 12,000 freshwater lakes, almost
half the world’s freshwater supply. Compiled by researchers at
York University, in Canada, the database offers water quality
information on lakes in 72 countries and all seven continents,
All of Santa Barbara’s beaches and creeks are designated as
“impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act. … The council
voted 7-0 to send its proposed changes to stormwater runoff to
the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board… The
list of changes are extensive, and are proposed over four tiers
based on various types and levels of new construction
development. They involve landscape changes and stormwater
treatment for new impervious construction.
A new documentary — “Miracle in the Desert: The Rise and Fall
of the Salton Sea” — takes a crack at the growing public health
issue, drawing on archival footage to tell the tale of a lake
that was largely forgotten by the government even before its
shorelines began receding.
We analysed data reported by the Bureau of Reclamation and the
U. S. Geological Survey that describe the primary inflows to
Lake Powell and the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and
Lake Mead, as well as the losses from both reservoir and the
releases from Hoover Dam. … The significance of the
uncertainties we identify can be measured by reminding the
reader that the annual consumptive uses by the state of Nevada
cannot exceed 300,000 acre feet/year…
The combination of drought conditions and heat waves, which can
make wildfires more likely, is becoming increasingly common in
the American West, according to a new study. The results may be