Topic: Wetlands



Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems in the world. They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of water, reduce flooding and erosion and recharge groundwater. They also serve as critical habitat for wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on California’s endangered species list.

As the state has grown into one of the world’s leading economies, Californians have developed and transformed the state’s marshes, swamps and tidal flats, losing as much as 90 percent of the original wetlands acreage—a greater percentage of loss than any other state in the nation.

While the conversion of wetlands has slowed, the loss in California is significant and it affects a range of factors from water quality to quality of life.

Wetlands still remain in every part of the state, with the greatest concentration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed, which includes the Central Valley. The Delta wetlands are especially important because they are part of the vast complex of waterways that provide two-thirds of California’s drinking water.

Aquafornia news Pasadena Star News

Oil wells in Bolsa Chica reserve could jeopardize wetlands

A steward of the Bolsa Chica wetlands, Kim Kolpin describes her panic earlier this month when she heard that oil was spilling off the shore of the habitat-rich park she has worked at since 1996. The 1,400-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach is home to 23 species that are endangered, threatened or of special concern. It’s treasured by birdwatchers for the nearly 300 feathered resident and migratory species, many of which lay their eggs there. 

Aquafornia news KUNC

Western settlers caused erosion in wet meadows. Now, volunteers are restoring these vital habitats

On a warm August morning, a group of volunteers gathers in the high desert about 20 miles outside of Gunnison, Colorado. Here, surrounded by sagebrush and armed with branches and stones, they are ready to help restore a critical wildlife habitat. Volunteers are here to work on a wet meadow restoration project. A wet meadow is a riparian area in the arid sagebrush landscape. … Volunteers like Payten Maness weave willow branches into protective barriers. The team will also build with sagebrush and stones collected nearby.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Lawyers confused over water jurisdiction after conflicting rulings

Water law experts disagree broadly about whether two federal court decisions vacating the Trump-era definition of the waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, applies nationwide as the Biden administration defines the term for itself. … The confusion stems mainly from at least four federal court rulings—two vacating the the Trump-era rule and two remanding without vacatur.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for our Northern California Tour; Water Summit just around the corner

Gain a deeper understanding of the state’s biggest watershed relied on by millions for drinking water during our Northern California Tour this Thursday. And don’t miss the Oct. 28 Water Summit where you will hear Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, and others discuss the drought now gripping California, what is being done in the short-term and what longer-term projects and partnerships are aiming to make the state more sustainable.

Aquafornia news California Natural Resources Agency

News release: California releases first-ever draft natural and working lands climate smart strategy

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), together with state agency partners, released a draft Natural and Working Lands Climate Smart Strategy that will guide and accelerate near- and long-term climate action across key California landscapes. The document is available for public feedback through November 9.

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Aquafornia news KCBX-San Luis Obispo

Study identifies Morro Bay Estuary as site to restore native oysters

A recent study identifies Morro Bay Estuary as a priority location for restoring the native Olympia oyster population through conservation aquaculture. It’s a project that unites shellfish lovers and conservationists on the Central Coast. April Ridlon, a post-doctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara, said oysters are not as charismatic as other marine organisms she has studied, but they are a foundation species — meaning they create a habitat for other animals that live on or near their shells. 

Aquafornia news KUNC

Colorado wildfire was no match for beavers

Deep in the Cameron Peak burn scar northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado, nestled among charred hills, lies an oasis of green – an idyllic patch of trickling streams that wind through a lush grass meadow. Apart from a few scorched trees on the periphery, it’s hard to tell this canyon wetland was surrounded by the largest wildfire just more than a year ago. Credit the industry of beavers.

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

Explore the water trail on the San Francisco Bay

The trailheads [of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail] span the gambit of habitats along the shore in the Bay and beyond. Launch into the Napa River at the semirural Cuttings Wharf trailhead. Explore marsh habitat and sloughs winding upriver, surrounded by hills, to the riverfront development along downtown Napa’s Main Street Boat Dock. From the sandy Encinal Beach trailhead in Alameda, glimpse harbor seals and California brown pelicans with the San Francisco skyline rising up next to you …

Aquafornia news The Sierra Fund

Blog: Protecting meadows as green infrastructure in the face of climate change

Meadows are hotspots for biological diversity and provide numerous ecosystem benefits, especially in relation to the land mass they cover, including flood attenuation, sediment filtration, water storage, water quality improvement, carbon sequestration, and livestock forage. Approximately 50% of meadows in the Sierra Nevada are known to be degraded, in large part due to land-use practices including overgrazing.

Aquafornia news Sonoma Sun

Beavers return to Sonoma Creek

It’s been a long summer of extreme drought conditions in Sonoma Valley. But in what seems like a steady stream of dire news for the local watershed the Sonoma Ecology Center finds one glimmer of good news stands out: beavers are moving back into Sonoma Creek. … The return of these charming dam builders isn’t quite breaking news – since 1993 beavers have slowly made a comeback in Sonoma Valley. But this year, in the middle of peak dry season, their increasing presence is something for celebration.

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Aquafornia news The San Francisco Examiner

The plan to cure sickly Lake Merced: Here’s how it works

Mondy Lariz spent his boyhood years learning how to fish at Lake Merced through a program sponsored by the San Francisco Police Department. It was a way to connect with the natural world, he said, and it kept him out of trouble. .. But as the surrounding golf courses and cemeteries began drawing from deep wells to irrigate their greens and urbanization crept into the area, water levels dropped dramatically. By the 1990s, many declared the lake dead.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California oil spill: A rare gem slicked with oil — again

Thirty-two years ago, in a triumph of ecological restoration, ocean water rushed into a small, newly restored marsh along the heavily developed coast of Huntington Beach. … The little tract of habitat known as Talbert Marsh provides a rare refuge for at least 90 species of shorebirds that forage and rest there — all within sight of oil platforms, barges and tankers off the coast. Now, for the second time in its short history, Talbert Marsh is slicked with oil.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

Birds, wetlands may bear early brunt of California spill

Since a pipeline spilled crude off the California coast this weekend, only a handful of oiled birds have been recovered in what environmental advocates said could be a hopeful sign for the region’s wildlife. But they said it’s too soon to know how many seabirds, marine mammals and other animals will ultimately be affected by the oily film covering marsh areas and floating on the ocean — or for how long. … [T]he biggest damage might be in the wetlands, a critical habitat for so many species …

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Crews race to limit damage from major California oil spill

Crews on the water and on shore worked feverishly Sunday to limit environmental damage from one of the largest oil spills in recent California history, caused by a suspected leak in an underwater pipeline that fouled the sands of famed Huntington Beach and could keep the beaches there closed for weeks or longer. Booms were deployed on the ocean surface to try to contain the oil while divers sought to determine where and why the leak occurred. On land, there was a race to find animals harmed by the oil and to keep the spill from harming any more sensitive marshland.

Aquafornia news KneeDeep Times

Dodging a bullet on the Highway 37 redesign

To help keep Highway 37 open despite heavy storms and rising tides, planners are assessing a wide range of options from elevating the road to rerouting it. But zeroing in on the right redesign may be trickier than anticipated. New research shows that, with sea level rise, protections for this troubled North Bay road can worsen flooding and economic damages as far away as the South Bay. The good news is that this work can also identify Highway 37 redesigns that avoid these catastrophic impacts. 

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Balancing birds, water and farms in California’s agricultural heartland

This year though, those cranes, geese and the millions of waterbirds that have followed the same pathway for thousands of years, are finding a stark landscape in the Central Valley, which stretches nearly 450 miles up California’s middle and hosts some of the nation’s richest farmland. With the vast majority of the state in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the habitat that these birds rely on in the Central Valley – our last remaining wetlands and the surrogate habitat created in agricultural fields like rice and alfalfa – have seen major cutbacks in water.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Postcards from the drought: Clear Lake’s edges still retreating

The water alongside the Clearlake Keys home of Michelle Figuera and her family normally would be above her head — she thinks about 10 feet deep. Instead, the canal is dry, clogged with invasive plants that lie in a vast, tangled mass — their tendrils reaching up and over the edge of the wooden dock, which now rests on land. During two years of drought, the water level in Clear Lake has fallen dramatically, retreating from the shoreline and rendering boat docks useless around the lake, including many public launches. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

U.S. lawmakers work to solve problem of disappearing Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake hit a record low this year, but it’s not the only salty lake that’s drying up. Utah Rep. Blake Moore, a Republican, teamed up with California’s Rep. Jared Huffman to introduce the “Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act” last week. The bipartisan legislation … would authorize $25 million over five years for the program, during a critical period where climate change is accelerating their decline….Moore’s bill would also attempt to rescue saline waters such as Oregon’s Lake Albert, Nevada’s Lahontan Wetlands and California’s Salton Sea and Mono Lake.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: California faces its new climate normal

California’s Mediterranean climate has gives it the most variable weather of any U.S. state, so it’s no stranger to catastrophic droughts and disastrous floods. … The latest science confirms that climate change has arrived and that we are in the middle of a megadrought. In August, 2021, a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that climate change is quickening and intensifying.  Even in a best-case scenario, global temperatures will likely rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Developing tools to model impaired streamflow in streams throughout California

Droughts are extreme, but not necessarily extreme events — at least not in the way we humans usually experience events as discrete, episodic occurrences. Droughts are continuous and exhausting; they can come out of nowhere and take us on a rollercoaster of waiting for precipitation to come, measuring when it does, and hoping it will be enough to keep our rivers flowing for human use and healthy ecosystems. Droughts may feel so extreme that they should be a rare occurrence, but they are a natural part of California climate. 

Aquafornia news Good Times Santa Cruz

Watsonville Wetlands Watch celebrates 30th anniversary

The extensive slough system that runs through the heart of the Pajaro Valley has become a cornerstone for local recreation, wildlife viewing, education and research.  These wetlands are home to various species of animals and plants, many rare and endangered. They help replenish groundwater, buffer the town from storm impacts and are popular spots for walkers, birdwatchers and scientists.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

Blog: Federal agencies head back to the drawing board on Clean Water Act jurisdictional rules…again

Wetlands management and related federal permitting is changing –AGAIN. If you or your organization seek wetlands or related permitting, then the latest changes in for “navigable waters” impact both regulators and the regulated community – and may change your approach. Projects that impact “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) from the Army Corps, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and states administering CWA permitting programs should look closely at these changes.

Aquafornia news KYMA - Yuma

Salton Sea restoration sparks debate

The Salton Sea has needed restoration for decades. Both Imperial County and Imperial Irrigation District (IID) agree something needs to be done, but the debate over precisely what action to take, is preventing much from happening at all. In 2003, it was agreed water would be transferred from the Salton Sea to San Diego and Coachella. Imperial County Superviso Ryan Kelley tells me, after the transfer the seabed turned to dust. The wind then carried that dust, and the harmful components in it, towards Valley residents.

Aquafornia news Farm Progress

EPA to release WOTUS rewrite by November

As the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers under the Biden administration tackle the re-writing of definition of what constitutes a waters of the U.S., EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the goal remains for “clarity, for certainty and for a durable rule” as the agencies will not be reinstating either the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule or the Clean Water Rule introduced in 2015 by the Obama administration.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Climate change lets mosquitoes flourish – and feast – in Los Angeles

Many try and fail to make it in L.A. But one group is proving unstoppable: mosquitoes, which have taken over Southern California and are driving the humans here crazy. New invasive, disease-bearing species originating from Asia and Africa are thriving in the increasingly long, hot and humid summers afflicting this region thanks to climate change, according to numerous public health officials. Their growing numbers are baffling and infuriating Angelenos, who, until recently, considered themselves largely exempt from the buzzing bloodsuckers that make summers miserable in much of the rest of the country.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: A holistic approach to water management in the Sacramento River basin – Ridgetop to river mouth water management

Water resources managers and the leaders in Northern California continue to advance Ridgetop to River Mouth water management … There are unique opportunities in the Sacramento River Basin to advance ridgetop to river mouth water management, which can best be envisioned by looking holistically at: 1) headwaters and forest health, 2) floodplain reactivation for public safety and fish and wildlife, 3) sustainable groundwater management (including groundwater recharge and banking), 4) healthy soils and farms; 5) safe drinking water; and 6) vital rivers and streams.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

Murders of environment and land defenders hit record high

Murders of environment and land defenders hit a record high last year as the violent resource grab in the global south continued unabated despite the pandemic. New figures released by Global Witness show that 227 people were killed in 2020 while trying to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems that their livelihoods depended on.

Aquafornia news Half Moon Bay Review

Harbor District approves ‘living shoreline’ bid

Since 1994, a 300-foot-long stretch of the West Trail, which provides beach access to Pillar Point, has substantially eroded and needed emergency repairs, according to a report from the San Mateo County Harbor District. Now the Harbor District is doing something about it. … The West Trail Shoreline Protection project calls for the development of a “living shoreline” along the beach. This strategy is meant to provide a more natural ecological solution to erosion and flooding by bringing in native vegetation that blends with the environment and has minimal hard armoring.

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Aquafornia news Oregonian

Water arrives at desperately dry Lower Klamath wildlife refuge

The Bureau of Reclamation began releasing water from the Klamath River to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 3. Advocates hope it will improve wetland habitat on the refuge for migrating birds this fall. Last week, California Waterfowl Association officially purchased approximately 3,750 acre-feet of water from Agency Ranch in the Wood River Valley, above Upper Klamath Lake, having announced the purchase and fundraising effort this spring. 

Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

After a dry year, water flows to Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge

For over a century, the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has been crucial habitat for birds on their grueling annual migrations between destinations as distant as Alaska and Mexico. … For years, the refuge has been last in line for scarce water, after farmers and endangered fish. As the drought deepened and wetlands dried out, the lack of water led to massive outbreaks of avian botulism, killing tens of thousands of ducks, geese swans and other migratory water birds. … Last week, that water started flowing into the refuge.

Aquafornia news Pasadena Star News

With sediment removed from Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena, here’s what it looks like

The controversial Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project is concluding a year earlier than expected. More work remains to be done on the project’s planned habitat restoration efforts, but local activists and public works officials are excited for the future. Years in the making, the excavation is the first time since 1994 crews were allowed to haul soil and debris out of the oldest dam in the county’s care.

Aquafornia news Malibu Magazine

Malibu’s endless lagoon problems

“The Lagoon is getting worse and worse every year,” said Andy Lyon, former Malibu city council candidate, surfer, and community activist. His concerns were validated on August 12, when the Los Angeles County Health Department issued a water quality warning, cautioning citizens to refrain from swimming, surfing, and playing in ocean waters at Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon due to potentially hazardous conditions, including exceeding bacteria standards, and to exercise caution where Malibu Creek discharges into the ocean and near discharging storm drains. 

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation launches prize competition seeking new ideas to improve sediment modeling in river systems

The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition to improve the model currently used to calculate the sediment transport rate in a river system. It is specifically looking for solutions to improve the execution speed of models that simulate river hydraulics, sediment erosion, transport, and deposition. Up to $300,000 is available to win during this two-stage prize competition. Up to four awards totaling $150,000 will be available in Phase 1, with the winner receiving $65,000. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Drought will imperil wildlife and people along the Pacific Flyway

The Central Valley’s rice fields and wetlands are widely heralded as key rest and refuel stops for millions of migratory birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway. The rice fields provide more than 50% of the diet for the ducks and geese during their fall and winter migration. To view rafts of waterfowl feeding on public wildlife areas or seeing thousands of geese taking flight from a rice field are indicators of a healthy environment and visual examples of how vital the Central Valley is to the Flyway. 
-Written by Jeff McCreary, director of operations for the Western Region, Ducks Unlimited, and Tim Johnson, president and CEO of the California Rice Commission. 

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Aquafornia news WBUR - Boston

First person: How drought along the Klamath River impacts migratory birds

The Klamath River flows some 250 miles from southern Oregon to Northern California. From its headwaters at Upper Klamath Lake, east of Medford, Oregon, the river rushes through trout habitat, forested mountains, farmland and salmon nurseries as it makes its way to the Pacific Ocean. Rather, the river usually rushes. But now, drought is desiccating almost the entire Klamath River basin, some 12,000 to 15,000 square miles. That’s an area approaching the size of the entirety of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.

Aquafornia news KCBX-San Luis Obispo

As Highway 46 improvement project impacts wetlands, CalTrans proposes Centennial Creek restoration

CalTrans plans to restore about four acres around the Centennial Creek bed in Paso Robles. David Best with the Upper Salinas-Las Tablas Resource Conservation district said he’s in favor of the plans, and believes it a win-win for residents in the area. … CalTrans is planning to provide around $1 million in funding to improve the creekbed but is asking for public comment on the proposal.

Aquafornia news UC Santa Cruz

News release: Enhanced wetland on UCSC’s Coastal Science Campus will benefit threatened frogs

The California red-legged frog is a threatened species that has been found on the UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus, but has not been known to breed there successfully. That may soon change with the construction of a small pond designed to enhance an existing seasonal wetland and provide potential breeding habitat for the native frog.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Collaborative efforts once again being used in the Sacramento Valley to benefit birds and the Pacific Flyway

At the end of the growing season, as the Sacramento Valley transitions from summer to fall, we shift from the agronomic season to the bird season as waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway begin to arrive as part of their annual migration. Birds and other species using the Pacific Flyway are reliant upon varied land uses in the Sacramento Valley that include ricelands and managed wetlands (both privately managed wetlands and public refuges and state wildlife areas) to meet their habitat needs.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Salmon program takes giant leap thanks to land donation

One farmer has single handedly ramped up the pace of a program trying to save native salmon in the San Joaquin River by donating a key sliver of land to the federal government. Connley Clayton donated about eight acres of his Madera County riverfront land to the government’s San Joaquin River Restoration Program. The land will provide crucial space for the government to build a passage that fish can use to swim around the Sack Dam, a significant impediment to salmon returning upriver from the sea.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Federal judge in Arizona throws out Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which affects wetlands

A federal judge Monday threw out a major Trump administration rule that scaled back federal protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the United States, reversing one of the previous administration’s most significant environmental rollbacks. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez wrote that Trump officials committed serious errors while writing the regulation, finalized last year, and that leaving it in place could lead to “serious environmental harm.”

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Some California water rights holders unaffected by cutoffs

Driving between her northern Central Valley rice fields with the family dog in tow, fifth-generation farmer Kim Gallagher points out the window to shorebirds, egrets and avocets fluttering across a thousand-acre sea of green flooded in six inches of water. … The nearly 500,000 acres of sushi rice grown in the Sacramento Valley each year serve as the wetland habitat for thousands of migrating birds along the Pacific Coast. Yet the crop also uses more water than most, and about half of the product is exported to countries including Japan and South Korea.

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Aquafornia news Western Water

Water-starved Colorado River delta gets another shot of life from the river’s flows

Water is flowing once again to the Colorado River’s delta in Mexico, a vast region that was once a natural splendor before the iconic Western river was dammed and diverted at the turn of the last century, essentially turning the delta into a desert. In 2012, the idea emerged that water could be intentionally sent down the river to inundate the delta floodplain and regenerate native cottonwood and willow trees, even in an overallocated river system. Ultimately, dedicated flows of river water were brokered under cooperative efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Water-Starved Colorado River Delta Gets Another Shot of Life from the River’s Flows
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Despite water shortages along the drought-stressed river, experimental flows resume in Mexico to revive trees and provide habitat for birds and wildlife

Water flowing into a Colorado River Delta restoration site in Mexico.Water is flowing once again to the Colorado River’s delta in Mexico, a vast region that was once a natural splendor before the iconic Western river was dammed and diverted at the turn of the last century, essentially turning the delta into a desert.

In 2012, the idea emerged that water could be intentionally sent down the river to inundate the delta floodplain and regenerate native cottonwood and willow trees, even in an overallocated river system. Ultimately, dedicated flows of river water were brokered under cooperative efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: New proposals to improve permitting for ecosystem restoration work

Substantial work occurs in the Sacramento Valley every year on projects to develop and enhance habitat for the region’s terrestrial and aquatic species.  In-stream salmon recovery projects, Pacific Flyway habitat improvements, floodplain reactivation and many other types of habitat projects all require environmental permits to be implemented.  There is general recognition that the work necessary to acquire these permits greatly increases the time and cost to get the projects done.  

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore California’s vital water hub during Sept. 9 virtual journey

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast, is a vital hub in California’s complex water delivery system as well as a rich farming region, an important wetlands area – and often, a source of conflict. Join us for an engaging online journey on Sept. 9 to go deep into the Delta and its 720,000-acre network of islands and canals that supports the state’s two large water systems - the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Aquafornia news YES! Magazine

The Colorado River runs again

In late spring, Antonia Torres González’ tears rolled freely at the rare sight before her: the Colorado River flowed again in what is usually a parched delta. Torres González, a member of the Cucapá tribe who grew up in the river delta, couldn’t help but relive memories of childhood romps in the once-lush waterway in northwestern Mexico. … On May 1, 2021, the river once again flowed in its delta thanks to an agreement between the United States and Mexico dubbed Minute 323.

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Aquafornia news Winters Express

Nature Nearby - What’s happening with this ‘extreme’ drought?

Summer is underway and that means splashing around Putah Creek, hiking, camping, and… heat domes? With this excessive heat, the thought on everyone’s minds is likely how does this severe drought affect water resources throughout California? The extreme temperatures coupled with the low snowpack in the Sierra have meant fast evaporation in many of the state’s reservoirs; not to mention a heat dome that has descended upon much of the United States bringing record breaking heat to even the most mild summer climates.

Aquafornia news Crosscut

Fish struggle to survive as water issues worsen in Klamath Basin

Another dry year is the last thing the suckers need. Two species of the bottom-feeding sucker fish that inhabit the Upper Klamath Lake and nearby rivers are struggling to survive after a century of water management in the Klamath Basin has all but drained the wetlands ecosystem where these fish once thrived. … Now, the suckers are on the brink of extinction. During the past century, wetlands surrounding Upper Klamath Lake were converted to farmland, while waters from the basin were allocated to irrigators.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California builds ‘Noah’s Ark’ as extinction looms

It was just before sunrise in July when the botanists Naomi Fraga and Maria Jesus threw on backpacks and crunched their way across a brittle alkaline flat in the hottest corner of the Mojave Desert. Their mission: to rescue a tiny plant teetering on the brink of extinction. … Today, the species [Nitrophila mohavensis] has dwindled to fewer than 150,000, and most of the plants that still sprout from this salt-white playa have stopped producing viable seeds — stressed victims of decreasing rainfall, rising temperatures and the loss of groundwater due to pumping.

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Aquafornia news Public News Service

Conservation groups press Congress to restore migratory bird protections

Conservation groups are pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would revive migratory bird protections dropped during the Trump administration. Last year, Trump’s Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a rule, which said companies that kill birds in the course of business, called an incidental take, would have to change their practices and/or pay for habitat restoration somewhere else. Jason Rylander, senior endangered species counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, said the Migratory Bird Protection Act of 2021 would reinstate those requirements, and not a moment too soon.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Advancing ecosystem restoration with smarter permitting: case studies from California

California’s ecosystems form the bedrock of the state’s wellbeing and prosperity. Yet many of these ecosystems—which are vitally important to the state’s water supply, agriculture, wildlife, and economy—are in dire health. Climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss threaten to further disrupt these natural systems and the benefits they provide. While the state urgently needs to speed the pace of ecosystem restoration, such projects often find themselves mired in regulations that were originally intended to prevent environmental destruction.

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Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Fish food on the floodplain with Jacob Montgomery

CalTrout’s Central Valley 2021 field season (Oct 1, 2020 – April 1, 2021) marked the much-awaited second year study of large-scale Fish Food export. For some brief background, the Fish Food export program is CalTrout’s novel management practice for transferring benefits of winter-flooded habitat that juvenile salmon can not get to, back to fish wedged between the river levee system. The Fish Food program is the compliment to the Nigiri Project. With Nigiri, we bring fish onto the floodplain, and with Fish Food, we bring the floodplain back to the fish.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Holtville’s Alamo River wetlands build in final push

Newly two decades in the making, the long-awaited Holtville Alamo River wetlands are that much closer to reality as the city seeks someone to build out the nearly $3 million project. The Holtville City Council on Monday, Aug. 9 approved advertising for constructions bids in a final push to finish the work that started in the early 2000s. 

Aquafornia news Herald and News

Emergency water delivery aims to help birds, fish at Tule Lake

Water is headed to a critically dry wetland unit on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge to combat avian botulism, thanks to an arrangement forged between various agencies and stakeholders in the Klamath Basin. Sump 1B, currently the only wet unit on the refuge, began rapidly losing water primarily due to evaporation and minimal irrigation diversions last month. Irrigators and waterfowl biologists had filled it earlier this summer using water drained from the refuge’s larger Sump 1A, the bottom of which had likely never been exposed to air for millions of years.

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Aquafornia news Edhat

Biodiversity imperiled

Woodlands along streams and rivers are an important part of California’s diverse ecology. They are biodiversity hotspots, providing various ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. But our land and water use have significantly impacted these ecosystems, sometimes in unexpected ways. A team of researchers, including two at UC Santa Barbara, discovered that some riparian woodlands are benefitting from water that humans divert for our own needs.

Aquafornia news Press Enterprise

Opinion: With climate imperiled, the Salton Sea needs us

California’s Coachella Valley is my home, made complete by the proximity and awe of the stunning Salton Sea. My community is proud of the traditions, unique desert landscape and vibrant culture that make our valley a special place. Yet as years pass and our leaders fail to act, the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake, is dying and people are getting sick. For decades, we have lived under a cloud of dangerous pollutants from the Salton Sea’s drying lakebed.
-Written by Conchita Pozar, a community advocate from the community of North Shore.

Aquafornia news UC Santa Cruz

News release: Salt marsh resilience compromised by crabs along tidal creek edges

Coastal marshes are vulnerable to erosion caused by rising seas, pounding waves, and tidal flows. In Elkhorn Slough, these vulnerabilities are made worse by superabundant crabs found at their highest densities along the estuary’s tidal creeks, according to a new study published August 8 in Ecosphere.

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

UN climate report puts focus on sea level rise threat to San Francisco Bay

Reading projections from the recent United Nations climate report is a like watching an invading army heading for San Francisco Bay, with rising tides threatening long sections of shoreline. … The Institute has produced detailed maps and projections of what those changes might look like. At a full five feet, cyclical flooding coupled with other impacts of climate change could begin to cause havoc in the Bay Area.

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Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

News release: Klamath Basin stakeholders collaborate to save fish and waterfowl

Today, Ducks Unlimited (DU) announced an agreement to deliver 10,000 acre-feet of water to mitigate severe drought conditions at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Tulelake, Calif. The agreement comes after the hydraulic analysis by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to recommend the diversion of water to save the only standing unit of wetland habitat in either Lower Klamath or Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuges this year. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Why is the Delta starving?

The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is one of the most-studied ecosystems in the world—and one of the most degraded. We spoke with PPIC Water Policy Center adjunct fellow and senior scientist emeritus James Cloern about his new study, which estimates just how much primary production (the largely photosynthesis-driven process that forms the base of the Delta’s food chain) has been lost—and how the state might restore some of it. 

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Opinion: The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Located in California’s Central Valley, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex is made up of six individual National Wildlife Refuges including Sacramento, Colusa, Delevan, Butte Sink, Sutter and a long stretch of the Sacramento River from Red Bluff south to Princeton. The complex adds up to 10,819 acres and was originally established by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 27, 1937, as a Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. Waterfowl using the Pacific Flyway to migrate currently and historically used the area as a winter refuge. Written by Kevin Deacon, a recent graduate of Tuleyome’s California Naturalist Certification course, and Kristie Ehrhardt, Tuleyome’s Land Conservation and Stewardship Program Manager.

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Lady of the Lake: Figuring out fish kills

A “fish die-off” is generally a natural phenomena and occurs in summer when low oxygen and warm temperatures causes large mortality in a localized population of fish. Fish die-offs can also happen in winter months when temperature stress can kill a fish population. We have seen winter die-off happen during extreme winters here in Clear Lake and her tributaries, especially to the fragile, small bait fish populations like the threadfin shad and silversides.

Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Biden Administration begins process of revising Waters of the U.S. rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced on Aug. 4, 2021, the start of a long anticipated rulemaking process to revise the regulatory definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).1 The WOTUS Rule sets forth the geographic reach of the agencies’ authority to regulate streams, wetlands and other water bodies pursuant to the CWA.

Aquafornia news Patch Palm Desert

Salton Sea priorities laid out by Supervisor Perez

As the new president of the Salton Sea Authority board of directors, Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez says he will guide “continued efforts to advance habitat and dust suppression projects” at the Sea, and he has laid out his priorities. At the June meeting of the Salton Sea Authority board of directors, Perez was elected by a unanimous vote to a one-year term as board president beginning July 1.

Aquafornia news Ag Information Network Of The West

Netafim brings drip irrigation technology to rice

Water conservation is on everyone’s mind in California agriculture, especially this year. One staple crop that may have potential for future water savings is rice. Netafim, who invented drip irrigation, is now applying that technology to rice, which is typically grown through flooding. Here’s chief sustainability officer John Farner.

Aquafornia news The Guardian

West Nile virus: another alarming side effect of US drought

The West Nile virus was once associated with higher humidity and moisture, conditions that help mosquitoes thrive. But a growing body of research has found that drought conditions – such as those being felt across the American west – could amplify its effects. States are already on alert. California reported its first death of the year in July. By the end of that month, the state’s department of public health (CDPH) had documented the virus in 4 people, 94 dead birds, 563 mosquito samples, 10 chickens and 1 horse.

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Aquafornia news Mad River Union

Wetlands and Creeks Committee takes part in Gateway ‘road show’

The City of Arcata Wetlands and Creeks Committee held its regular meeting by Zoom on Tuesday, July 20. The committee received a presentation by Community Development staff on the development of the Gateway Area Plan (Gateway Plan). The members then participated in an exercise to prioritize (and customize) their top three to five choices from a list of potential wetlands and creeks-related implementation measures for the Gateway Plan.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

ODOT to restore wetland with Klamath Tribes

If you’ve gone north out of Klamath Falls on Highway 97 in the last month, you might have seen the construction project on the southeast side of Upper Klamath Lake. The Oregon Department of Transportation is partnering with the Klamath tribes to restore 40 acres of former wetland into fresh habitat suitable for native flora and fauna including C’waam and Kaptu, two species of endangered suckerfish endemic to Klamath Lake. ODOT is involved with the project as part of their wetland restoration offset program.

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Aquafornia news Western Farmer-Stockman

Stricter controls sought against ag-based water pollution

Greater buffer zones around bodies of water and more consistent enforcement of water protection regulations are needed to reduce agriculture-based pollution in the Western U.S., a recent review from Oregon State University found. Prior research has shown that agricultural pollution, both from croplands and rangelands, is the cause of 48% of water-quality impairment in U.S. surface waters, which in turn disrupts habitat for fish and insects and reduces biodiversity in aquatic environments.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Geologists identify two methane-emitting strips hundreds of miles long in Siberia

Scientists have long been worried about what many call “the methane bomb” — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost. But now a study by three geologists says that a heat wave in 2020 has revealed a surge in methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from a different source: thawing rock formations in the Arctic permafrost. The difference is that thawing wetlands releases “microbial” methane from the decay of soil and organic matter, while thawing limestone — or carbonate rock — releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates … 

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Aquafornia news KUNC

Even in an epically dry year, water flows into parched Colorado River Delta

Seven years ago, a pulse of water on the Colorado River at the U.S.-Mexico border temporarily reconnected it to the Pacific Ocean. Scientists used the so-called “pulse flow” to study what plant and animal life returned to the desiccated delta along with water. Armed with that knowledge, scientists and conservation groups are trying a new and more targeted strategy to bring water back to the final 100 miles of the Colorado River this year. It’s an attempt to reconnect portions of the river left dry from decades of overuse, and it’s happening in one of the driest years the basin has ever seen.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

State cannot move forward on Lookout Slough until public access addressed

The Delta Stewardship Council has sided with a group that argued the state Department of Water Resources did not adequately address the issue of public access and recreational opportunities related to the Lookout Slough Tidal Habitat Restoration and Flood Management Project. … The group has been fighting to maintain land access to Shag Slough and the Liberty Island Ecological Reserve, which they said would be lost if the project moves forward as planned.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Bay View

The lost shores of Yosemite Slough

Once upon a time, a rich wetland flourished, nurtured by the tidal waters of San Francisco Bay. Sunrise crowned the glistening shoreline of a pristine channel of water that came to be known as Yosemite Slough. The word Yosemite originates from the native Miwok word for grizzly bear. Yosemite Slough was a marshland, a nesting area for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway and a sanctuary for endangered mammals. … Yosemite Slough originated in the lakes of McLaren Park streaming east through the Portola and Bayview Districts to enter San Francisco Bay. This is called a watershed.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Registration open for virtual journeys into key water regions this fall

Immerse yourself in California’s key water sources this fall with the Foundation’s schedule of engaging virtual tours.  Each tour event will run from 2:30-5:30 p.m. PT and includes: An overview presentation of the region’s critical topics; A guided video tour of key locations — farms, wetlands, dams and reservoirs, wildlife habitats — to gain a stronger understanding on a variety of water supply issues and the latest policy developments; Live Q&A with experts in chat rooms so participants can dive deeper into the topics, including the drought gripping California.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Long troubled Salton Sea may finally be getting what it most needs: action — and money

State work to improve wildlife habitat and tamp down dust at California’s ailing Salton Sea is finally moving forward. Now the sea may be on the verge of getting the vital ingredient needed to supercharge those restoration efforts – money. The shrinking desert lake has long been a trouble spot beset by rising salinity and unhealthy, lung-irritating dust blowing from its increasingly exposed bed. It shadows discussions of how to address the Colorado River’s two-decade-long drought because of its connection to the system.

Western Water California Water Map By Gary Pitzer

Long Troubled Salton Sea May Finally Be Getting What it Most Needs: Action — And Money
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's largest lake could see millions in potential funding to supercharge improvements to address long-delayed habitat and dust suppression needs

A sunset along the shoreline of California's Salton Sea.State work to improve wildlife habitat and tamp down dust at California’s ailing Salton Sea is finally moving forward. Now the sea may be on the verge of getting the vital ingredient needed to supercharge those restoration efforts – money.

The shrinking desert lake has long been a trouble spot beset by rising salinity and unhealthy, lung-irritating dust blowing from its increasingly exposed bed. It shadows discussions of how to address the Colorado River’s two-decade-long drought because of its connection to the system. The lake is a festering health hazard to nearby residents, many of them impoverished, who struggle with elevated asthma risk as dust rises from the sea’s receding shoreline. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

California’s water crisis comes for the birds

Empty wells. Salmon die-offs. Water thieves. The uncontrollable flames of monster wildfire.  In California, one of the worst droughts on record has touched off a kaleidoscopic range of emergencies, amplifying age-old resource conflicts as leaders call for conservation by cities, curtailments to farmers and coordination across the board. The interconnectedness of the state’s hydrology is especially apparent in one corner of the Sacramento Valley, where scarce water for farmers will also mean less for the migrating birds that make use of the same land. 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Seizing the moment – Preparing for next year with groundwater recharge opportunities

As water resources managers work hard this summer to deliver limited water supplies to cities, rural communities, farms, refuges and fisheries–while also providing essential hydropower for the state’s energy grid–there is increasing attention to prepare for the next water year. … As we think about water management opportunities for next year, there is an increasing focus on groundwater recharge … 

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Tour Nick Gray Jennifer Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants 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.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Sustainable Solano walk looks at prospect of flooding in Suisun City

The third and final Flood Walk, sponsored by Sustainable Solano, took 12 participants on a journey through the marshlands, by the docks and through some residential areas in Suisun City. All are spots that could be affected by flooding. … Sustainable Solano is a grassroots movement to unite people in working toward a future that is ecologically regenerative, and economically and socially supportive of local communities. 

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: Court allows Trump Administration Waters of the U.S. rule to remain

A South Carolina federal judge issued an order late last week allowing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the Trump administration’s “waters of the United States” rule, to remain in place while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers work on rulemakings to revoke and replace it. The final rule was issued in April 2020, redefining “waters of the United States” and narrowing the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

Aquafornia news Pasadena Now

Arroyo Seco Canyon project back before Council

A public hearing on an environmental impact report (EIR) on a controversial project that local preservationists say threatens fish living in a local stream is scheduled to go before the City Council on Monday. The Pasadena Water and Power Department (PWP) 0is seeking two conditional use permits (CUPs) to repair and replace facilities within the Arroyo Seco Canyon area that were damaged or destroyed by the Station Fire-related events of 2009. Preservationists say the project threatens trout that are swimming in streams in the area.

Aquafornia news San Luis Obispo Tribune

Pollution from old Avila Beach tank farm is seeping into tide pools. What should be done?

For years, petroleum hydrocarbons have been seeping from the groundwater beneath the old oil tank farm property in Avila Beach into tide pools below.  Much of the source of the pollution has been cleaned up, but an unknown amount remains. The question now is, what should be done with it and could over-aggressive remediation cause more harm than good?  The trickle of hydrocarbons — comprised of a mixture of diluted, broken-down gas from the tank farm — was discovered in May 2012 …

Aquafornia news Malibu Times

Water redirected to refill Legacy Park pond

Residents, along with the local population of Mallard ducks, Canada geese and coots will soon get their Legacy Park nature preserve back. The pond, which is normally kept full most of the year with storm runoff water, totally dried up this spring in the middle of duckling season. The statewide drought took its toll. Meanwhile, the construction of a new office park and shopping center—the La Paz project—right across the street was running into difficulties with groundwater as workers excavated a future underground parking garage. 

Aquafornia news Outdoor Life

California’s drought is threatening salmon and waterfowl

Millions of waterfowl and other birds are going to have a tough year due to the ongoing drought in the West. Not only is there less water for ducks and geese, but the agriculture fields these migrating birds depend on for food will be significantly smaller, which means less waste grain. … That potentially can negatively impact Pacific Flyway waterfowl flights and hunting this year. Farmers report only 25 percent of the fields usually flooded in autumn will have water. With reduced water, ducks and geese are impacted. They concentrate more and diseases and bacteria can spread more readily, including bird botulism.

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Aquafornia news State Water Contractors

Report: SWC Annual Science Report

Science is about more than data and research, it’s about teamwork. Collaboration is key, and the State Water Contractors are committed to working together with our partners in academia, government, non-profit and the private sectors to invest in California’s water future. The SWC and Member Agencies participated in multiple interagency and stakeholder working groups tasked with determining how to implement permit requirements, including the Spring-Run Chinook Salmon Juvenile Production Estimate Core Team and Delta Coordination Group for summer-fall habitat actions for Delta Smelt.

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Waterfowl across Sacramento region threatened by California drought

The future of millions of waterfowl that visit the region each fall could be up in the air if dry conditions continue. Fourth-generation rice farmer Brian McKenzie farms about 4,000 acres and his fields are filled with wildlife. … This year’s drought has decreased the number of birds and the number of acres farmed. … And that has many worried about what will happen to what is known as the Pacific flyway this fall.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: In California, who owns water rights is a mystery

As we careen deeper into drought, California will face increasing impacts to urban and agricultural economies, rivers and forests, and wildlife. In response, government agencies will need to determine how to allocate water among competing needs. Water users will scramble to buy and sell water — if they can — or reduce their use. But the current lack of information hobbles the ability to make difficult decisions about water management. For California to cope with persistent shortages, water rights data need to be accessible to decision-makers and the public.
-Written by Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute in the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Aquafornia news BBC Future

The beavers returning to the desert

Standing at the edge of a precipice, under a scorching sun in eastern Utah, you can see nothing but the state’s infamous red rocks and towering buttes for miles. … But if you happen to glance down at the dizzying depths of the canyon that lies at the bottom of the desert sandstone mountains, you’d see a lush oasis, blooming with green vegetation, the Price River snaking through the rock even on the hottest of summer days. And if you scrambled down, and watched patiently for long enough, you might even spot some beavers – the very architects of this thriving wetland landscape, smack bang in the middle of the desert.

Aquafornia news Daily Democrat

Yolo County decides on vision for Tule Canal/Yolo Bypass through stakeholder workshop

On June 24, Yolo County released a report on a recent design charrette for the Tule Canal in the Yolo Bypass. The two-day virtual workshop included 71 participants from a wide swath of stakeholders — farmers, policy makers, landowners, hunters, conservation scientists, educators, engineers and ecologists. Led by consultants Robert Suarez and Teal Brown Zimring, with generous funding from the State Water Contractors and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, the executive summary and full report are now available on Yolo County’s Delta e-library:

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

A Delta in distress

Global warming has already left its mark on the backbone of California’s water supply, and represents a growing threat to its first developed agricultural region, state experts have warned in a new study. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fuels California’s $3 trillion economy, including its $50 billion agricultural industry, sustains more than 750 plant and animal species and supplies 27 million people with drinking water.  But global warming is likely to destabilize the landscape that made the delta a biodiversity and agricultural hotspot …

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Aquafornia news The Denver Channel

‘The lifeline of the West’: The Colorado River’s 1,400-mile journey, explained

The Colorado River makes an impressive 1,400-mile journey from Colorado, all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border. It starts as snowpack in Rocky Mountain National Park in Northern Colorado and makes its way westward to Utah. The Utah portion of the river course starts on the Colorado Plateau before heading to Moab, where the water sweeps by Arches and Canyonlands national parks – both amazing landscapes eroded into canyons and mesas by the Colorado and Green rivers.

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Aquafornia news Stanford University Natural Capital Project

Sea-level rise solutions

Communities trying to fight sea-level rise could inadvertently make flooding worse for their neighbors, according to a new study from the Stanford Natural Capital Project. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how seawalls constructed along the San Francisco Bay shoreline could increase flooding and incur hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for communities throughout the region.

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Aquafornia news Engineering News-Record

California expands floodwater capacity

For more than 60 years, California officials and experts have discussed expanding the Sacramento River bypass and levee system. … In summer 2020, contractors broke ground on the first project to expand that capacity, the Lower Elkhorn Basin Levee Setback (LEBLS) project. The California Dept. of Water Resources is leading the design, construction and permitting of the $103-million project, which will widen the Sacramento Bypass and the east side of the Yolo Bypass. 

Aquafornia news Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal

Law Review: “A Clean Water Act, if you can keep it”

The Clean Water Act has traveled a successful but tortuous path. From combustible beginnings on the Cuyahoga River; through the Lake St. Clair wetlands; to reservoirs near the Miccosukee; and eventually discharged (or “functionally” discharged) off the Maui coast. With each bend, the nearly fifty-year-old Act has proven to be not just resilient, but among our most successful environmental laws. Much of that success stems from an effective enforcement structure that focuses more on treating pollutant sources rather than just impaired waters.
–Written by Sean G. Herman, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett LLP and an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University School of Law.

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Bird count shows what happens when Colorado irrigators use less water

In the gray light of dawn, hundreds of swallows darted over a pool of standing water in an irrigated field along the Colorado River. The birds were attracted to the early-morning mosquitos swarming the saturated landscape. … Across the Western Slope, birds and other wildlife have come to depend on these artificially created wetlands, a result of flood irrigation. But as the state of Colorado grapples with whether to implement a demand-management program, which would pay irrigators to temporarily dry up fields in an effort to send more water downstream, there could be unintended consequences for the animals that use irrigated agriculture for their habitat.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tahoe’s natural filters: Preserving, restoring wetlands essential to lake clarity

Every spring, the snow begins to melt and make its way down the mountains, across marshes and meadows, and through the 63 tributaries flowing into Lake Tahoe. … [T]he route that the water takes before eventually ending up in the lake is crucial to maintaining Tahoe’s famed clarity. Why, you might ask? It’s all about those SEZs. Stream environment zones are a Tahoe-specific term, meaning “an area that owes its biological and physical characteristics to the presence of surface or groundwater,” according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Meadows, marshes, streams, streambanks, and beaches are all examples of SEZs…

Aquafornia news Bay Nature

State funding helps secure new properties on the Eel River

Yet despite its ecological richness, very little of the land on either side of the [Eel River] has been protected, as 90 percent of this land remains in private hands, and very little of it is currently accessible to the public. This could change soon, however, if two ambitious initiatives to protect this wild country bisected by the Eel and make it accessible to the public come to fruition. And both those initiatives received a boost from the new state budget just passed by the California Legislature (and, as of this writing, still awaiting Governor Newsom’s signature). 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The collaborative steward

The rhythmic patter of hooves skimming the earth below was a sound Amy never tired of when she was young. Whether in the hot sweat-inducing summer or the bone-chill frost of winter in upstate New York, the sound was ever-present, because Amy was always riding. … Now as the Interim Director of the California Program at American Rivers, one of Amy’s central goals is to work with agricultural landowners to protect and improve habitat in wetlands and rivers.

Aquafornia news Yale E360

Once a rich desert river, the Gila struggles to keep flowing

The confluence of the tiny San Pedro River and the much larger Gila was once one of the richest locales in one of the most productive river ecosystems in the American Southwest, an incomparable oasis of biodiversity. The rivers frequently flooded their banks, a life-giving pulse … The confluence now is a very different place, its richness long diminished. A massive mountain of orange- and dun-colored smelter tailings, left from the days of copper and lead processing and riddled with arsenic, towers where the two rivers meet. Water rarely flows there, with an occasional summer downpour delivering an ephemeral trickle.

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Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Heat, drought conditions could bring more harmful algae to Sacramento waterways

Hot temperatures have many headed straight to local waterways to cool off, but experts say high heat and a bad drought this year can be ideal conditions for harmful algae. It’s an issue that’s not always top of mind. … According to state data, popular waterways in the immediate Sacramento area are safe. People headed to the American River or Folsom Lake for the Fourth of July are in the clear. But the state labels part of Discovery Bay near San Francisco as a danger area, with a warning not to swim or touch the scum on the water. 

Aquafornia news Malibu Times

The bureaucratic tangle behind getting water to Legacy Park

City officials are now working on a solution to the dry lake at Legacy Park. Many Malibu residents are bothered by the fact that the pond at Legacy Park has dried up in the drought, while at the same time a construction project for a new business park and shopping center across the street is unloading tens of thousands of gallons of water that is flowing into their construction site, channeling it into Malibu Creek…. That led Council Member Steve Uhring to the logical question: Why not put some of the water from the La Paz project into the pond across the street?

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Home is where the habitat is

The San Francisco Estuary (estuary) is sometimes called the most invaded estuary in the world, and for good reason. Through many avenues, hundreds, if not thousands, of species have been introduced to San Francisco Bay, the Delta, and their rivers. Some introductions were byproducts of human activity and include organisms that “hitchhiked” on the bottom of boats or as stowaways in ballast water carried by international shipping vessels. Others were deliberate and undertaken either legally by the government or illicitly by individuals for biocontrol, fisheries, or disposal of unwanted pets.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Investing in ecosystem restoration in the Sacramento Valley

Earlier posts here like this one by Grant Lundberg and this one by David Guy have done a great job of describing the virtues of floodplain restoration. The profound dedication of people like Julie Rentner and Jacob Katz inform and energize the work of the entire Floodplain Forward coalition that I’m proud to be part of.  But moving beyond plans to actually get work done on the ground is a task that needs broad support.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

U.S. Chamber official warned of climate danger in 1989

Twenty years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for climate science to be put on trial, an official from the powerful pro-business lobby group crafted what would prove to be a prescient message on global warming. Harvey Alter, who ran the Chamber’s resources policy department at the time, said in 1989 there was “broad consensus” that human-made climate change would likely have a disastrous impact on coastal communities and farmers. … “Wetlands will flood, salt water will infuse fresh water supplies, and there will be changes in the distribution of tree and crop species and agricultural productivity,” Alter said. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Conservationists receive another $8-million boost from state legislators for Banning Ranch acquisition

Conservationists are now at the $72-million mark of their $97-million goal to acquire Banning Ranch, a 384-acre property at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, and turn the oil field into a public park. The Trust for Public Land announced Monday that state legislators allocated $8 million to be put toward the purchase of the property. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) said in a Facebook post that she was “thrilled” to have secured the allocation in this year’s upcoming state budget. The budget is now on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Aquafornia news The Mercury News

Proposed wetlands park along San Francisco Bay gets a setback

The effort to change a former military aircraft taxiway along San Francisco Bay into wetlands has gotten a setback after the City Council balked at setting aside money to create a master plan for the $14 million project. Known as “DePave,” the park is proposed for the former Alameda Naval Air Station. It’s expected to feature walking paths and overlooks, where people can watch birds and harbor seals resting on floating platforms. Last year, the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously endorsed a draft “vision plan” for the future 16-acre park. The council also has broadly supported it, at least vocally.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Drought makes conditions worse for California’s declining native fishes

California is home to 131 kinds of native fishes that require freshwater for some or all of their life-cycle. Most of these fishes are found only in California and most (81%) are in decline (Moyle et al. 2015, 2020). Thirty-two (24%) are already listed as threatened or endangered by state and/or federal governments. Declines are usually the result of fishes losing the competition with humans for California’s water and habitat (Leidy and Moyle 2021). This competition is heightened by the ongoing severe drought.

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Aquafornia news World Economic Forum

Blog: 9 ways to clean up plastic waste from the world’s rivers

The Clean Currents Coalition – a global network of local projects – is on a mission to clean up the world’s rivers, using scientific solutions to address the problem of plastic waste … Pollution doesn’t respect international boundaries, making plastic waste in the Tijuana River Estuary, which forms the border between the US and Mexico, everyone’s problem. As the river is the sole source of clean drinking water for many people, California and Mexico-based environmental non-profit WILDCOAST, has erected a “Brute Boom” across the Los Laureles Canyon to collect debris. 

Aquafornia news TreeHugger

Blog: California water use threatens biodiversity in the long term

The diversion of water from the San Francisco Bay Delta, for example, is one of the forces famously driving the delta smelt to extinction. Now, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month shows another counterintuitive way in which human water use in California is putting its unique riverside woodlands at risk.  By diverting water in ways it would not otherwise flow, human management is providing some stream-side, or riparian, ecosystems with excess water that gives them a short-term boost, but undermines their long-term sustainability. 

Aquafornia news California Trout

News release: CalTrout awarded $7M to reconnect habitat on Santa Margarita River

We are excited to announce that a CalTrout project to Reconnect Habitat is moving forward thanks to grant funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) voter-approved Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant. This project is part of the South Coast Steelhead Coalition portfolio to recover this endangered trout from the brink of extinction.

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Aquafornia news Daily Mail Online

Stunning photos by Julian Lennon capture the eeriness of California’s landlocked Salton Sea

Competition for the title of most surreal location in America is hot, but the Salton Sea in California is undoubtedly a contender. And the eerie, post-apocalyptic feel of this bizarre body of water and the ghost-town settlements on its shoreline has been captured in a stunning newly released photo series by Julian Lennon, the son of Beatles legend John. The landlocked body of water is one of the world’s biggest inland seas and at 226ft (69m) below sea level one of the lowest places on earth.

Aquafornia news Coastal View

Opinion: We must work together to protect our water from agricultural waste

As science and policy director for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and a 14-year resident of Carpinteria, I appreciated Bob Franco’s June 16 letter to the editor, “Don’t drink the water,” for its effectiveness in raising awareness about an important pollution issue impacting Carpinteria’s local waterways.  Channelkeeper is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds. 
-Written by Ben Pitterle, Channelkeeper’s interim executive director and science and policy director.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Conservationists edge closer to Banning Ranch acquisition with $8-million grant from state

The dream of turning a 384-acre oil field at the mouth of the Santa Ana River into a public park and nature preserve grows closer to a reality by another $8 million, thanks to a grant from the state’s fish and wildlife department announced earlier this month. The $8-million grant for the purchase of Banning Ranch, given to the Trust for Public Land, is one of 28 projects — and one of three acquisition projects — selected to receive a grant this year. 

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Aquafornia news The Independent

Mining halted at “Lake A” in the Chain of Lakes

The move to end mining in a Tri-Valley lake became official this week. Alameda County planning commissioners on Monday approved plans for restoring the Eliot Quarry, where more than a century of rock mining in the unincorporated area between Livermore and Pleasanton will eventually be turned into lakes surrounded by open fields and recreation trails. … [T]he project will include the planting of native trees and shrubs, creating passages for fish, and reducing the amount of groundwater lost to San Francisco Bay by deepening the lake so it can hold more water. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 San Francisco

Rep. Jackie Speier backed $125 million bill first step towards restoring San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay may be one of the most famous stretches of waterway in the world, but when it comes to federal spending, it’s recently been one of the most overlooked. Hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to other areas like Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay during the Trump years. … This week, Speier took a big step towards turning the tide. Pushing through a $125 million Bay Restoration bill in the House. The money would be spread out over five years, and target projects that could be key to the Bay’ survival.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Kayak San Francisco Bay: How to spend an amazing day out on the water

I’ve spent my whole life near San Francisco Bay. But the amount of time that I’ve actually spent out on the water has been minimal — a few ferry rides, a dinner cruise or two, a trip to Alcatraz and back in grade school. That’s it. I like to blame my yacht-less friends, who have been amazingly inconsiderate over the decades and never bought fancy sailboats to take me out on the water. The real reason, of course, is that I’d never explored some relatively inexpensive ways to explore this area’s most famous feature. Turns out it’s pretty easy to do, especially if you like to paddle.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Watershed restoration is key to a climate-smart future 

California is in a megadrought, with its key reservoirs falling to their lowest points in history. Wildfire season is already here, and officials are bracing for yet another catastrophic year. Meanwhile, rural communities remain in desperate need of viable, sustainable economic futures. One climate-smart solution that addresses all these needs is watershed restoration.

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Aquafornia news The Revelator

Opinion: California’s opportunity to shape worldwide biodiversity policy

California, like the rest of the world, must wrestle with a hard truth: Our climate has changed. As we face another water-shortage crisis, we must acknowledge a sobering reality: We’re not in a drought. This is our new normal. And we need to adapt. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we can’t solve our drought, or the myriad other environmental crises, without protecting our ecosystems. And we can’t protect our ecosystems without acknowledging that this work is globally connected.
-Written by Assembly Member Laura Friedman, D-Glendale; LA-based environmental and social policy advisor Rosalind Helfand; and Mike Young, political and organizing director of the California League of Conservation Voters.

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Water Audit California sues St. Helena over water management

Water Audit California sued the City of St. Helena this week over its management of water. The watchdog group says the city is violating its “public trust” responsibilities relating to the Napa River and its aquatic habitat. It cites the city’s policies on groundwater pumping, well permitting, and water consumption by vineyards and wineries.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: He’s watching L.A. homelessness destroy the Ballona Wetlands

We had been walking for only a few minutes when Scott Culbertson stopped in front of a field of twisted, blackened bark. “I haven’t been here since the fire,” the executive director of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands told me, scowling at the destruction from behind dark sunglasses. Three months ago, this spot in the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Playa del Rey had been a stand of native willow trees and other vegetation where endangered songbirds would nest. Then, one sunny afternoon, a brush fire broke out and scorched five acres before firefighters could put it out.
-Written by Erika Smith, LA Times columnist.

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Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Court decision upholds $2.8 million fine, clears path for long-awaited restoration of Point Buckler Island

The California Supreme Court has denied review of the February appellate decisions in Sweeney v. Regional Water Board and Sweeney v. Bay Conservation and Development Commission, leaving in place key administrative orders against the Point Buckler Club for unauthorized levee construction and other environmentally harmful activities at Point Buckler Island. 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Monterey County officials greenlight Carmel River restoration

Monterey County elected officials on Tuesday gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to a $45 million restoration project at the mouth of the Carmel River that will provide a host of environmental benefits, including natural flood control for an area that has historically been hit hard by river flooding. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution that will move the project, called the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement, forward with the nonprofit Big Sur Land Trust as its key partner. 

Aquafornia news California Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: CDFW awards $39 million for ecosystem and watershed restoration, protection and scientific study projects statewide

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 28 projects to receive funding for projects to restore and protect multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects under its Proposition 1 grant programs. The awards, totaling $39 million, were made under CDFW’s 2021 Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant & Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program Proposal Solicitation Notice.

Aquafornia news Sierra Magazine

Blog: Can we save the San Joaquin’s salmon?

The intensive engineering of the river exacted a huge toll on its native ecosystems. No species suffered more than the Chinook salmon, whose epic migration from the Pacific Ocean to its spawning grounds in the High Sierra was cut short by numerous choke points, not the least of which was Friant’s impenetrable barrier of concrete. … Rife with compromises, [a 1988] settlement mandated that a mere half of the San Joaquin’s original flow be restored. The river’s many dams would remain, but alternative passages would be built and new spawning areas added in the lower river.

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Aquafornia news Grist

Living shorelines could help California coasts adapt to rising sea levels

[Scientists] are setting out to test an alternative path to protecting coastlines — one that involves using the ecosystems that already exist or once existed along the coast, instead of squeezing them out. [Katie] Nichols oversees Coastkeeper’s living shorelines program, a project in partnership with California State University, Long Beach, and California State University, Fullerton, that restores ecosystem structures like oyster beds and eelgrass meadows, which protect shorelines from waves, erosion, and sea-level rise.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California’s riparian woodlands at risk of decline

Riparian forests, those tree-filled regions running next to rivers and streams, host a breadth of important wildlife — but water management practices focused on meeting the needs of growing communities and agriculture may be putting their future in jeopardy. These woodlands serve to protect water quality and stream integrity, host wildlife and control flooding along water ways, but the ecosystems they support are in danger of failing in the coming decades.

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Aquafornia news U.S. EPA

News release: EPA announces $6 million for tribes to support wetlands and healthy watersheds

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced selections under two Clean Water Act (CWA) grant programs to support leadership of Tribes in protecting and restoring water resources. The agency anticipates awarding approximately $3 million to 18 Tribal nations and one Intertribal organization under the Tribal Wetland Program Development Grant competition and an additional $3 million in CWA Section 319 Tribal Competitive Grants to 32 Tribal nations to support projects to manage nonpoint source pollution.

Aquafornia news NewsWise

New research: Biodiversity ‘hotspots’ imperiled along California’s streams

A study of woodland ecosystems that provide habitat for rare and endangered species along streams and rivers throughout California reveals that some of these ecologically important areas are inadvertently benefitting from water that humans are diverting for their own needs. Though it seems a short-term boon to these ecosystems, the artificial supply creates an unintended dependence on its bounty, threatens the long-term survival of natural communities and spotlights the need for changes in the way water is managed across the state.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Carmel River floodplain project goes before Monterey County Board of Supervisors

A $45 million project that will partially reshape the area around the mouth of the Carmel River promises to increase flood control and restore the biodiversity in the area. Called the “Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement,” the nonprofit Big Sur Land Trust, Monterey County, the Monterey Regional Parks District and the state are collaborating to restore the historic floodplain of a portion of the Carmel River where it meets Highway 1. 

Aquafornia news Herald and News

Biologists, irrigators empty Tule Lake to improve habitat, fight disease

Once spanning 100,000 acres at the foot of the Medicine Lake Volcano, it’s unlikely that Tule Lake has been as low as it is now for millions of years. What used to be a massive network of open water and fringe wetlands is now essentially a giant mud puddle, spelling trouble for migratory birds that have used it as a rest stop for thousands of years. The solution, at least for now? Dry it up.

Aquafornia news The Desert Sun

Clock is ticking on dreams of saving Salton Sea with water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

Coachella Valley-based architect Nikola Lakic knows how to fix the withering Salton Sea. Or, at least he says he does.  Lakic believes it’s possible to import water from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez — or, perhaps, from the Pacific Ocean off the California coast — through a multi-billion-dollar system of pipes. He would construct mangrove habitat for natural water filtration, send desalinated water to geothermal plants and, amid all this, restore California’s largest lake. … Lakic is the author of one of 11 formal proposals for a “sea-to-sea” solution that the state of California is currently evaluating.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Ecosystem restoration and water management

Restoration implies returning to a prior state. A broken cup carefully glued, might appear nearly as whole as the original, but will always differ from the original.  Ecosystem restoration attempts to return an evolving web of interconnected species and physical processes to a prior state. This endeavor raises complex questions: what prior state should be the restoration target?

Aquafornia news Best Best & Krieger

Blog: EPA and Army Corps to propose repealing and replacing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced their intent to revise the reach of the federal Clean Water Act by changing the definition of “waters of the United States.” This move, announced yesterday, would reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule adopted during the Trump administration, which itself replaced a 2015 revision by the Obama administration.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Biden moves to restore clean-water safeguards ended by Trump

The Biden administration began legal action Wednesday to repeal a Trump-era rule that ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms. The rule — sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS — narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. It was one of hundreds of rollbacks of environmental and public health regulations under President Donald Trump, who said the rules imposed unnecessary burdens on business.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Suisun Bay island owner must restore land he disturbed to make room for duck hunters

The state Supreme Court rejected the appeal Wednesday of the owner of an island in Suisun Bay who has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in penalties and restore landfill he discharged into marsh waters to make room for duck hunters and a kite-surfing club. John Sweeney purchased the 39-acre island, Point Buckler, on the eastern edge of Grizzly Bay in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in 2011. It had been used by duck hunters for many decades until the 1990s, but regulatory agencies said levee breaches and neglect of the site had turned it into a tidal marsh. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: How water bonds plug spending holes

As California responds to yet another drought and prepares for a future of greater climate extremes, securing funding to boost the water system’s resilience is a top priority. One go-to funding source over the last two decades has been state general obligation bonds. In dollar terms, GO bonds play a relatively small role in water system spending, yet they punch above their weight when it comes to filling critical gaps. 

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Opinion: Stop fighting over water long enough to agree on just this

California’s water wars are legendary, complex and ongoing. To avoid getting too far in the weeds, media often boil it down to a dispute over who should have priority to a limited supply of water — people or fish. The real beauty of aerial snow surveys is that it’s one thing that farmers and environmentalists can agree on. 
-Written by Garth Stapley, The Modesto Bee’s Opinions Page editor.

Aquafornia news Union Democrat

Federal officials seek input for Ackerson Meadow restoration

Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest are seeking commentary from the public on their plan to restore wetlands in the Ackerson Meadow, which they said have been drained as a result of a century of domestic water diversion.  The plans include a complete fill of the gullies developed over the last century by ranchers and agriculturalists who utilized water flow, or the the installation of manmade beaver dams to partially restore the wetlands.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The Habitat Creator – Mary Kimball

In the two decades since the SLEWS program began, high school students, farmers and conservation volunteers have planted 142 miles of riparian hedgerow habitat. That is the equivalent of driving from Sacramento to Reno. From the moment you left downtown until you pulled into the Biggest Little City in the World, accompanying you along the way would be a seemingly infinite line of native trees, grasses, shrubs, and flowering forbs all in a single row. 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Ensuring high quality water for communities, ecosystems and farms

I am now working through my third drought as the Director of Water Quality for Northern California Water Association (NCWA), where I have learned the importance of broadening my perspective beyond my own tap in Roseville that brings delicious American River water into my home. A pillar in NCWA’s Strategic Plan and 2021 Priorities is to advance multi-benefit water management that supports nature-based solutions, which provide essential benefits for our economy, health and quality of life …

Aquafornia news Ingrained

Podcast/blog: Episode 22 – Nurturing Nature

The driest year California has experienced since the 1970s will have wide-ranging impacts in the West. In the Sacramento Valley, a reduced water supply will lead to about a 20 percent reduction in rice plantings. The loss of about 100,000 acres of rice fields has implications well beyond the farm level. The reduced plantings will impact rural communities that depend on agriculture as their foundation. It’s also a concern for wildlife, which greatly depend on rice fields for their habitat.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Salton Sea: “Why is it so hard to get something built on the ground there?”

It was a question asked of panelists discussing the Salton Sea on Tuesday, May 25. State and local officials were asked a number of questions about the drying sea during a one-hour online forum. The Red Hill Bay project that stalled after breaking ground in 2015 was one of the topics panelists discussed. 

Aquafornia news NBC Bay Area

As sea level rise threat grows, SF officials don’t have public plan to save sewers

Because Bay Area low-lying sewage treatment plants remain vulnerable to rising sea levels, government regulators told sewage facility managers to “provide a written plan for coping with SLR by the fall of 2021 – or they will be given a plan.”  The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit reached out to 10 “at risk” sewage treatment plants to see those plans. All except one provided extensive documents of their proposals, the cost to address them, and even provided tours of completed work. San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission replied to the Investigative Unit’s public records request that after a “diligent search for records…no records were found.”

Aquafornia news The (Vacaville) Reporter

Rockville Park serves as virtual link to water conservation lessons

Even in a year that has seen not much rainfall, students throughout Solano County have learned important lessons about their local waterways and the nature that surrounds them. Through its Watershed Explorers program, Solano Resource Conservation District has allowed elementary schoolers to connect virtually to their local watersheds and experience the sights and sounds of nature, all while making observations about what they have witnessed and receiving lessons from the program’s educators. 

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: Restoring habitat to support coastal communities – A look back at the Recovery Act—part 1

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, NOAA funded 125 habitat restoration projects in coastal areas throughout the country. … Through the Recovery Act, NOAA partnered with the [California Conservation Corps] to support more than 30 coastal habitat restoration projects. These projects benefitted threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead throughout coastal California. More than 200 corps members worked to open waterways to fish migration, stabilize stream banks, conduct project monitoring, and more.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: Wildlife Conservation Board funds environmental improvement and acquisition projects

At its May 20, 2021 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $23.5 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 35 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Group urges continued access to Liberty Island Ecological Reserve

The state plans to break [a levee at Shag Slough] in nine locations to create 3,000 acres of tidal wetlands. It has asked the county to vacate that section of Liberty Island Road that runs atop the levee. Taylor Dahlke, the leader of a group fighting to maintain land access to Shag Slough, the Liberty Island Ecological Reserve and the region in general told the Delta Stewardship Council on Thursday night that the state proposal violates the Delta Plan.

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy gets $10,000 grant from REI

The nonprofit San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy received a $10,000 grant for its Next to Nature program (N2N) from the REI Co-op. The program shows residents how to create sustainable landscapes that are beneficial for the environment. To show people how to develop eco-beneficial areas around their homes or businesses, the conservancy is working with locally based production company Condor Visual Media to put out six free webinars focusing on Landscape Site Design, Sustainable Gardening, Urban Green Infrastructure, Wildfire Risk Reduction, Water Management …

Aquafornia news KMPH

Will the nutria ever be wiped out in the Valley?

The swamp rat population in Central California is beginning to diminish. But a state biologist says elimination is still a few years away. FOX26 reporter Rich Rodriguez updates us on the nutria… one of Valley agriculture’s biggest enemies. The State Department of Fish and Wildlife has spent more than three years trying to round up and euthanize nutria.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Clean Water Act: EPA digs into WOTUS talks with enviros, ag

EPA’s Office of Water is kicking off quarterly meetings with agricultural and environmental groups to discuss the thorny issue of which waterways and wetlands qualify for federal protections.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Managing for fish and wildlife during a dry year in the Sacramento Valley

With the driest year in memory, the water resources managers and landowners in the Sacramento Valley are working hard to serve multiple benefits throughout the region with limited water supplies. This has required all hands-on deck and creative management within the region as all surface water supplies have been significantly reduced, with hundreds of thousands of farmland acres idled throughout the region, urban suppliers working with their citizens to implement various conservation measures to reduce water use and there will undoubtedly be challenges for domestic groundwater wells.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: State plans $30 million wall to stop saltwater intrusion into delta – drought fallout

In the latest chapter of California’s unfolding drought, state officials are planning to build a giant rock wall across a river in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to save the vital freshwater estuary from San Francisco Bay’s saltwater. The emergency measure is a page from last decade’s drought when the delta, a maze of sloughs and man-made channels east of the Bay Area, was at risk of becoming too salty to provide water to the nearly 30 million Californians who depend on it. As in 2015, the freshwater rivers that feed the 1,100-square-mile delta have gotten so low that they no longer counter the brackish flows that push in from the bay. 

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: Field note – The importance of partnerships with Andrew Braugh

The Shasta-Klamath Region organizes work around protecting California source water and volcanic aquifers, working with family farms to improve water management, and protecting legacy fly-fishing waters like the McCloud River, Hat Creek, and Fall River. In 2021, we are heavily invested in conservation projects in the Shasta and Scott watersheds. These key Klamath tributaries will be critical for recovering salmon populations in the Mid-Klamath Basin after dam removal.

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Aquafornia news Capitol Weekly

Climate change impact increasingly felt in California

More wildfires. Hotter days. Drought. Sea-level rise. Those conditions are an increasing reality in California, which is steadily becoming an altered state. But if the grimmest predictions of experts about our state and climate change become true, the conditions will become far worse.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Silent no more: Klamath Tribes gather to protect fish, homelands

A group of protesters gathered at Sugarman’s Corner in downtown Klamath Falls on Saturday, preparing to welcome a 25-car caravan of mostly Klamath Tribal members calling for solutions to the Klamath Basin’s water crisis. A man walked by the demonstrators, eyeing their signs with statements like “Peace and Healing in the Klamath Basin,” “Water Justice is Social Justice” and “Undam the Klamath.” 

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Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Floodplain restoration helps both fish and people where Tuolumne and San Joaquin meet

Out where the Tuolumne River joins the San Joaquin, an intriguing way of managing water is taking hold. Dos Rios Ranch is nine years into its restoration, a $45 million-plus effort across nearly 2,400 acres. It seeks to enhance flood protection, wildlife habitat and water supplies in one grand vision. Crews have reshaped former farm fields to mimic the floodplains that spread across much of the Central Valley in the time before dams and levees.

Aquafornia news PNAS

New research: Core Concept – Often driven by human activity, subsidence is a problem worldwide

Earth’s surface is ever changing. Sinkholes swallow neighborhoods, river deltas slowly slide beneath the waves, and fertile fields lose elevation as farmers draw large amounts of water for irrigation from underlying aquifers. [T]hese phenomena are known as subsidence … Building heavy structures such as homes, skyscrapers, and even entire cities also can trigger subsidence, explains Tom Parsons, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey in Moffett Field, CA. Recently, he used computer simulations to estimate the effect of San Francisco and its metropolitan area—where he and 7.75 million other people reside—on Earth’s crust. 

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Reconnecting the Colorado River to the Sea

The Colorado River is flowing again in its delta. This is a big deal for a river that has not flowed through its delta in most years since the 1960s, resulting in an ecosystem that is severely desiccated and devastated. Thanks to commitments from the United States and Mexico in the Colorado River binational agreement—Minute 323 –  35,000 acre-feet of water (11.4 billion gallons) dedicated to create environmental benefits will be delivered to the river from May 1 to October 11. The expectation is that this will create and support habitat for birds like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yuma Ridgway’s Rail, and Vermilion Flycatcher, and give life to the many plants and animals in this ribbon oasis of green in the midst of the Sonoran Desert.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

States ask Biden to trash Trump-era Clean Water Act change

With shrinking reservoir levels and a summer of water shortages impending, drought-ridden California on Wednesday pressed the Biden administration for more control over future infrastructure projects planned in the Golden State. California and a collection of states urged the federal government to drop a Trump-era rule that reduced states’ authority to deny permitting and licensing for things like new water infrastructure, oil pipelines, wastewater plants or development projects in wetland areas. The states claim the rule gives them little say over projects that could ultimately harm water quality and the environment.  

Aquafornia news McGill University

New research: Which animals will survive climate change?

Climate change is exacerbating problems like habitat loss and temperatures swings that have already pushed many animal species to the brink. But can scientists predict which animals will be able to adapt and survive? Using genome sequencing, researchers from McGill University show that some fish, like the threespine stickleback, can adapt very rapidly to extreme seasonal changes. … Stickleback found in different estuaries along coastal California provide a rare opportunity to study natural selection in real-time.

Aquafornia news NBC Palm Springs

Advocates warn about toxic fumes that could be emerging from the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea continues to be a big talker when it comes to lithium, but a long problem remains in and around the sea when it comes to toxic air. During our extensive coverage of the Salton Sea, we learned that toxic air is not only coming from dried-up parts of the sea, but other parts of the sea are now contributing to the toxicity. “It is not just the toxic elements that have been trapped by the water and now exposed as the sea recedes,” explained Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea Director with Audubon California. Ruiz has been working with researchers who have been studying the toxic levels at the Salton Sea.

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: Celebrating 50 years of internationally important wetlands

May is American Wetlands Month and this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. This intergovernmental treaty is focused on the conservation and wise use of important wetlands and their resources. … Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve … provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife species, including more than 100 species of fish, 500 species of invertebrates, and the region’s iconic southern sea otters. … Tomales Bay is a marine-coastal wetland consisting of estuaries, eelgrass beds, sand dune systems, and tidal marshes. 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for next week’s Lower Colorado River Tour

Only one week remains to register for our May 20 virtual Lower Colorado River Tour where you can hear directly from experts offering a range of perspectives on the most contested and meticulously managed river in the United States. Practically every drop of water in the Colorado River is already allocated, but pressure on the hard-working river continues to grow from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat and climate change.

Aquafornia news High Country News

The Gila River Indian Community innovates for a drought-ridden future

A riverbed that has been parched since the end of the 19th century — a portion of the historic lifeblood of the Gila River Indian Community — is now coursing again with water, luring things like cattails and birds back to its shores. … The revival of this small segment of the 649-mile (1045-kilometer) Gila River, which has served the tribes that make up the Gila River Indian Community — the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) — for roughly 2,000 years, was an added benefit of a grassroots infrastructure overhaul, known as “managed aquifer recharge,” or MAR, which aimed to restore the local groundwater basin. 

Aquafornia news Press Telegram

3 environmental groups take 3 positions on Poseidon desalination plant

Among attributes of the controversial Poseidon desalination plant proposed for Huntington Beach is the $1.5 million or so it would spend annually to keep the tidal inlet open at the Bolsa Chica wetlands, five miles up the coast from the project site. But as much as the money is needed there, the three non-profit groups dedicated to the wetlands’ preservation clash when it comes to support for the desalter plant. The state spent $151 million to create the inlet in 2006, restoring the estuary’s interaction with the ocean and revitalizing the wildlife habitat. The work has been a particular boon to the population and variety of birds.

Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press

County officials applaud new Salton Sea funding

Newly announced state funding for the Salton Sea is expected to maximize habitat outcomes and provide immediate economic relief to the community. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response and climate resilience proposal, which he announced Monday as part of his $100 billion “California Comeback Plan,” includes $220 million for the Salton Sea. At Tuesday’s Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, District 1 Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar wanted to know what is meant by providing immediate economic relief to the community and how this would occur. 

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Newsom Proposes $220M for Salton Sea

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response, and climate resilience proposal includes $220 million for the Salton Sea, and Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, applauded the announcement. Garcia, chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, stated in a press release from his office that the funding would maximize habitat outcomes and provide immediate economic relief to the community.

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: Voluntary agreements are a bad deal for California’s fish and wildlife

On Friday, a coalition of conservation groups, fishing organizations, stakeholders in the Delta, and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe sent this letter to the Biden Administration, urging the Administration not to endorse the so-called “Voluntary Agreements” for the Bay-Delta watershed. Unfortunately, the State of California continues to negotiate backroom deals with the biggest water users in the State that fail to protect and restore water quality in the Bay-Delta, threatening thousands of fishing jobs, farms and communities in the Delta, and the health of this watershed and its native fish and wildlife. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Could this $36 million Central Valley river restoration project help with California’s droughts?

As California enters what could be a record-breaking drought, a just-completed nine-year floodplain restoration project at the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers offers an ambitious attempt at one mitigation solution. At a 1,600-acre former dairy ranch called Dos Rios, the conservation organization River Partners removed berms that farmers had originally constructed to protect their alfalfa and wheat crops from the river. It turned fields into seasonal pools where endangered baby salmon and migratory birds can rest, and water can trickle down to refill aquifers.

Aquafornia news The Daily Californian

The Salton Sea: The worst lake you’ve never heard of

In 2020, the Salton Sea was described by Palm Springs Life Magazine as “the biggest environmental disaster in California history.” With the largest lake in California holding such a bleak title, it’s amazing how obscure its legacy is. Over spring break, we decided to go on a road trip to visit an eccentric settlement in the middle of the lower Colorado desert, known as a Slab City. This settlement is most well known for being a site of post-apocalyptic garbage art and a home for colorful nomads. Due to its libertarian ethos, it is billed as the “last free place in America.” 

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

In California’s farm country, climate change is likely to trigger more pesticide use, fouling waterways

Every spring, California farmers brace themselves for signs of wriggling organisms destined to launch multigenerational attacks on their crops. Many insect species survive the winter as eggs or larvae and then emerge in early spring as the first generation to feed and breed on millions of acres of California vineyards, orchards and row crops. Climate change will complicate farmers’ efforts to control these pests in complex and unpredictable ways. The most alarming consequence is apt to be ramping up pesticide applications, with broad implications for the safety of California’s waterways—just as the state gears up for a future filled with drought.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: River flows helps CA Delta estuary, fish — not wasted water

It’s that time of drought again. During one of the driest years on record, once again curtailing water deliveries to local farms, Fresno-area lawmakers wasted little time trotting out one of their favorite falsehoods. That every year, including the parched ones like 2021, California “wastes” millions of gallons of water by “flushing it to the ocean.” Central San Joaquin Valley residents have heard this declaration so often and for so long, from the mouths of politicians and parroted on talk radio, that many of us believe it’s true. 

-Written by Marek Warszawski

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Aquafornia news KESQ

Troubled waters: The Salton Sea Project, part 1 – Paradise lost

Just a short drive south of Palm Springs, you’ll find California’s largest lake. The drive along the circumference of the Salton Sea reveals surprising, majestic views unlike anything you’d expect to find in the desert. But for its impressive sights and size, the Salton Sea is not a household name, least of all in the very state it’s found. These days, if you travel along the increasingly shrinking shorelines, you’ll see suffering communities dotted with abandoned homes and lined with silent streets.

Aquafornia news KQED

The next big business in a warming world? Mud

In a hotter climate, dirt is a hot commodity. With sea levels expected to rise 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century, coastal communities are moving fast to construct major shoreline projects to protect themselves. As the size of these projects expands, the primary building materials — dirt and mud — are getting scarce. … [Parts of San Francisco Bay were] once used for industrial salt making, and giant evaporation ponds were built here more than a century ago. Now, its marsh habitat is being restored as part of the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. The old salt pond levees still stand between the bay and hundreds of thousands of people on the shoreline. But waves and weather have eaten away at them.

Aquafornia news U.C. Santa Cruz

New research: Long-term monitoring shows successful restoration of mining-polluted streams

Many miles of streams and rivers in the United States and elsewhere are polluted by toxic metals in acidic runoff draining from abandoned mining sites, and major investments have been made to clean up acid mine drainage at some sites. A new study based on long-term monitoring data from four sites in the western United States shows that cleanup efforts can allow affected streams to recover to near natural conditions within 10 to 15 years after the start of abatement work. The four mining-impacted watersheds—located in mountain mining regions of California, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana—were all designated as Superfund sites …

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Garden Highway Mutual Water Company completes fish screen project

In our latest effort to ensure that our water management and farming practices both protect and enhance environmental benefits in our area, Garden Highway Mutual Water Company (Garden Highway) recently completed a project to screen its diversion on the Feather River. This project allows us to protect Chinook salmon and other fish species from entrainment while diverting water year-round to irrigate crops and to provide Pacific Flyway habitat during the fall and winter months. The project was a cooperative effort between Garden Highway, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Reclamation U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Family Water Alliance.

Aquafornia news Comstock's magazine

Regenerating our soil

Regenerative farming practices integrate the entire ecosystem — building upon the relationships of the natural world — to simultaneously produce healthier, more abundant crops and restore the Earth’s natural resources. …  And restoring soil health and fertility produces more abundant, nutrient-dense crops that better resist pests and disease. It increases soil’s ability to filter and store water, reduce erosion and sequester carbon. And it builds a diversity and abundance of microbes that drive every function of soil.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Club

Beavers are firefighters who work for free

The beaver does more to shape its environment than nearly any other animal on Earth. They can cause incredible amounts of destruction to infrastructure; downing power lines, and blocking and rerouting waterways. But their dam-building also can improve water quality, reduce flood risk, and create the conditions for complex wetland habitats to form —providing refuge for wildlife and storing carbon in the process. 

Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: California is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Here’s why we are losing our biodiversity at an alarming rate.

California is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and the San Diego region is one of the most diverse in California, but we are losing our biodiversity at an alarming rate. The coming summer months and dry conditions are going to further hurt that richness of life here. Conserving our water resources directly and indirectly benefits our wildlife and is consistent with the overall conservation ethic in San Diego, which is why we need to prepare in case drought conditions worsen.

-Written by Chuck Bonham, director of the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California could get 600,000 acres of new federally protected wilderness

California could get 600,000 new acres of federally protected wilderness under legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate recently. The designation would ensure the lands remain free of development, vehicles and commercial activity. … It would also designate more than 583 miles of river — including 45 miles of San Gabriel River tributaries, as well as Little Rock Creek — as “wild and scenic rivers,” a protection that prohibits dams or new mining.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Do largemouth bass like droughts?

As we rapidly enter another drought, long-standing questions on ecological impacts of increased temperatures, reduced water levels and flows re-emerge. This reality recently reminded me of some of my own previous work looking at growth rate variations of largemouth bass in response to droughts in the southeastern USA (Rypel et al. 2009). Results from this work may be useful/interesting for biologists and managers in California considering similar questions.

Aquafornia news The Argonaut Newsweekly

In the weeds of controversy

Disagreement over restoring the Ballona Wetlands still remains high. Walter Lamb, president of the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, recently held a webinar to discuss why the current restoration plans are inadequate. The Land Trust disagrees with the assertions of organizations such as Friends of Ballona Wetlands, as they aren’t supported by available facts. Lamb based his talking points around Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order made on October 7, 2020, of protecting biodiversity and an announcement phasing out fossil fuels from September 23, 2020. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: How to save coastlines from climate change disasters

The frequency of natural disasters has soared in recent decades. Total damage topped $210 billion worldwide in 2020. With climate change, the costs attributed to coastal storms will increase dramatically. At the same time, coastal habitats such as wetlands and reefs are being lost rapidly. Some 20% of the world’s mangroves were lost over the last four decades. More than half of the Great Barrier Reef was degraded by bleaching in 2020 alone. In California, we have lost more than 90% of our coastal marshes.
-Written by Michael W. Beck, a research professor in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.​

Aquafornia news Water Foundation

Blog: Looming California Drought

This weekend’s rain in Northern California, while welcome, did little to address the dry conditions across our state. As the state’s recent dismal snow survey showed, we are in for tough times ahead. Less snow means lower reservoirs, less water in our rivers and streams, and more groundwater pumping. And that spells trouble, particularly for disadvantaged communities and sensitive ecosystems, which have historically borne the brunt of California drought in consequences like dry wells and salmon die-offs.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Putting wetlands to work for disaster recovery

No one will forget the intense challenges that 2020 brought us, from record-breaking hurricanes and wildfires to a global pandemic that devastated our economy and public health. As Congress and the Biden administration look to help our country rebuild and recover from these compounding crises, investing in nature presents an opportunity to deliver multiple benefits for communities, birds, and other wildlife. Audubon presents a new suite of policy recommendations for making our communities and wildlife more resilient to climate change, by putting our wetlands, barrier islands, and other ecosystems to work.

Aquafornia news U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Blog: Revitalizing California’s floodplains benefits people and wildlife

Throughout California’s history, rivers have been diverted, rerouted and contained by concrete. While these actions have brought agriculture and communities to arid land, and reduced large-scale flooding, it has also eliminated some of the natural benefits provided by untamed rivers. Today, efforts are underway to restore some of the natural riparian areas to the benefit of both humans and wildlife.

Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: Oroville Wildlife Area promotes migratory and native bird habitat

The nearly 12,000-acre Oroville Wildlife Area (OWA) in Butte County is a popular stopping place on the Pacific Flyway for migrating and native birds. After the Oroville Dam was completed in 1968, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) contracted with the then California Department of Fish and Game to operate the Oroville Wildlife Area for the preservation of fish and wildlife habitat. The OWA also includes DWR’s Thermalito Afterbay reservoir, a prime habitat for migrating waterfowl as well as several different Endangered Species.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

News release: Virginia Madueño appointed to the Delta Stewardship Council

California Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Virginia Madueño to serve as a member of the Delta Stewardship Council (Council) effective April 14, 2021. The compensation for this position is $50,497.

Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: Trump-era Clean Water Act rule takes effect in Colorado on April 23, 2021, while Colorado public officials renew efforts to craft a state-level dredge-and-fill permitting program

Following a temporary delay in Colorado federal court, the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) will now take effect in Colorado on April 23, 2021.  Under the NWPR, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers will no longer require permits for operations affecting certain categories of streams and wetland areas previously subject to the Clean Water Act.  

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: California law needs to catch up to sea level rise

[A]s massive a challenge as wildfire presents … a different climate crisis could rival it as a destroyer of the California dream: sea level rise. … AB 67 addresses state infrastructure. It would ensure that state agencies incorporate sea level rise estimates in the development of roads, ports, airports, water-treatment, desalination and power plants. In particular, it seeks to advance “natural infrastructure” such as restored estuaries, wetlands, dunes and sea grasses that could generate thousands of new “blue” jobs while reducing the impact of rising water at a lower cost than hardened structures such as seawalls. 
-Written by David Helvarg, an author and founder of Blue Frontier, an ocean conservation group.

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Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Battle lines set over proposal to drill for natural gas in Suisun Marsh

A new proposal to drill for natural gas in the East Bay has environmentalists up in arms, and not just because it’s a polluting fossil fuel. It’s the location that has people really upset. That’s because it’s in the Suisun Marsh, the largest marshland on the West Coast, a highly protected natural habitat for migratory birds, fish and wildlife. … A dozen environmental and community groups have submitted a letter opposing a plan by Brentwood-based Sunset Explorations to build an acre pad on private property in the marsh and drill an exploratory gas well there.