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 Mercury News

‘This Earth, it’s all we have’: California Coastal Cleanup brings thousands of volunteers to shorelines

Eleven-year-old Gabriel Coleman and his friends Maarten and Merel dug through driftwood piled on the shoreline under the Dumbarton Bridge, doggedly on the hunt for pieces of plastic and other debris to fill their white trash bags. “With teamwork-makes-the-dream-work, we’ve been finding big pieces and small pieces all over,” Gabriel proudly explained. The trio from Newark was among thousands of volunteers who turned out Saturday for the 39th annual California Coastal Cleanup at 695 beaches, lakes, creeks and rivers throughout the state — including dozens of sites across every county in the Bay Area.

Aquafornia news California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services

News release: Tulare Lake updates

… The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) continues to work with state and local partners on monitoring Tulare Lake and surrounding waterways that still haven’t receded to pre-storm levels. Throughout the response period, Cal OES and local partners provided resources to aid residents affected by flooding in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. … Following months of coordinated efforts to combat flooding, Tulare Lake has significantly shrunk in size. 

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

South Lake resident continues to fight Tahoe Conservancy, still wants to see project success

The South Lake Tahoe resident who alleges his home was damaged by flooding caused by a California Tahoe Conservancy hopes the lawsuit he filed against the agency is quickly and peacefully wrapped up. The Conservancy acquired the Upper Truckee Marsh land between the Tahoe Keys and the Al Tahoe Neighborhood in the 1980s, although work didn’t begin on the project until the 2000s. The project ramped up in 2021 to dig new waterways through the marsh, place check dams along the waterways and put more water flow into Trout Creek. The goal of this work is to rewet the marshland so it can act as a natural filter for water flowing into Lake Tahoe, helping to increase lake clarity.

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Aquafornia news USA Today

Mosquitoes thriving in California after big storms and blistering heat

Potent winter storms, summer heat, and tropical storm Hilary have bred a surge of invasive, day-biting Aedes mosquitoes in California, spawning in some regions the first reported human cases of West Nile virus in years. The statewide rise has brought 153 West Nile reports so far, more than double last year’s, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Why the Forest Service is working to restore meadows in the Sierra

Kevin Swift, owner of Swift Water Design, has dedicated his career to restoring meadows in the Sierra Nevada — specifically one a few miles above Shaver Lake called the Lower Grouse Meadow, which was severely affected by the 2020 Creek Fire. … Swift and his team managed to restore this meadow by building small dams along a stream — replicating what animals would have done. To make dams, he says, think: “dirt lasagna.”

Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Los Cerritos Wetlands awarded multimillion-dollar grant

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority was recently awarded a $31,852,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy that will fund ongoing restoration efforts. According to wetland ecology expert Christine Whitcraft of California State University, Long Beach, restoring coastal wetland ecosystems is a crucial step in protecting the endangered wildlife that calls places like Los Cerritos home. 

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Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

Why Cox isn’t surprised with $1.5B price tag to mitigate Great Salt Lake dust

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says he isn’t surprised by a new report showing that mitigating dust from the Great Salt Lake would likely cost at least $1.5 billion in capital costs, but it highlights why the state is “so passionate about getting more water” into the drying lake. The Utah Office of the Legislative Audit General released a report on the state’s “critical vulnerabilities” this week, which notes Great Salt Lake dust mitigation is “estimated to be at a minimum $1.5 billion in capital costs with ongoing annual maintenance of $15 million,” increasing in cost as more of the lakebed is exposed.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The floodplains help juvenile salmon reach a healthy size for improved survival

As part of the Floodplain Forward Coalition, there are significant efforts to re-imagine and better use our system of flood control levees and bypasses, the farmlands in the historic floodplain, and oxbows and other features within the river to benefit salmon, birds, and agriculture while ensuring the flood protection system functions well when needed. By reactivating Sacramento River floodplains and allowing bypasses to connect to the river more frequently and for longer durations, the Sacramento Valley can better mimic historical flood patterns and reintegrate natural wetland productivity into the river ecosystem needed to promote salmon recovery while simultaneously improving flood protection and enhancing water security.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Why California rivers saw fewer harmful algal blooms this year

Outbreaks of harmful algal blooms have wreaked havoc on California river ecosystems for years. The toxic algae — a neon green layer of muck that floats atop water — thrives in warm, stagnant conditions brought on by drought.  Presence of this algae can make life difficult for other plants and fish in the river, and even cause concerns for humans that accidentally ingest or possibly breathe the area around it. But this year was different. Faster, colder river waters led to fewer outbreaks of the harmful algae throughout the state. 

Aquafornia news South Tahoe Now

South Lake Tahoe man sues the California Tahoe Conservancy after flooding of home

A South Lake Tahoe man is suing the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC) after his home was filled with water for 80 days this past winter. Damian Sowers, a lifelong local who lives on El Dorado Avenue, can now only visit the home his parents built 60 years ago. The house was filled with 16″ of water that came in from the Upper Truckee River during the heavy 2022-23 winter. The CTC started a restoration project in the Upper Truckee River Marsh in 2020 to correct old grazing and farming methods that straightened the river to have a drier meadow. The two-year-long project brought back water to the meadow, creating a healthier environment. Sowers said he believes in the project and is a proponent of the restoration, but he says the way it was done with check dams was ill-conceived and the project’s floodplain alterations were miscalculated by more than an order of magnitude.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Commentary: Here’s what makes the Great Salt Lake special, and why it’s in trouble

The Great Salt Lake is one of the most unique water bodies in the West. It’s the largest lake in the U.S. with no outlet to the sea. Water only leaves through evaporation, so salt enters and never leaves. Its tributaries, which include the Bear, Weber and Jordan rivers,  have scoured rocks and mountains, depositing them in the lake as minerals and salts over millennia. Those salty waters help critters like brine flies and brine shrimp thrive, which in turn support millions of migrating birds. A dazzling array of species fly in each year, including ibis, stilts, egrets, phalaropes, gulls, swans, pelicans, plovers and avocets. The lake also supports multi-million dollar industries.
-Written by columnist Leia Larsen. 

Aquafornia news CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

News release: Water shortages will limit waterfowl hunting at Shasta Valley wildlife area, other northeastern properties

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will reopen the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area in Siskiyou County to limited waterfowl hunting this season after a complete closure the past two seasons. Although many parts of California received record rainfall and snowpack during the winter and spring of 2022-23, northeastern California remained comparatively dry. As a result, only dry field hunting will be allowed for waterfowl hunting this season at the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area. The Northeastern Zone waterfowl season runs from Oct. 7, 2023, through Jan. 17, 2024. Hunting at the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area will be allowed on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

A year after Great Salt Lake’s record low, half the lake is left for dead

During the winter of 2022, Utah lawmakers on Capitol Hill boarded a pair of Black Hawk helicopters to tour something bleak: the sprawling exposed lakebed, drying mud flats and the water that remained at the Great Salt Lake, which had reached an all-time low. It inspired them to act. The following months saw a flurry of water conservation bills and millions of dollars dedicated to reversing the lake’s decline, including a $40 million trust. The Great Salt Lake sunk to a record low in the fall of 2022, and another round of water reforms followed. Then came a record-busting amount of snowpack in 2023 that many Utahns hoped would buy some time and stave off the lake’s collapse.

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado lawmakers, officials grapple with U.S. Supreme Court ruling on wetlands

The 2024 legislative session is likely to see lawmakers trying to figure out how to protect Colorado wetlands following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that applied a more stringent test on what should be considered one. A panel of legislators last month heard pleas from municipal and state officials to come up with a policy to continue to protect the state’s wetlands in light of Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, a case that redefined the terms by which a body of water can get protection under the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule.

Aquafornia news

Restoration efforts continue at Pothole Thumb Meadow in Yosemite

Pothole Thumb Meadow, a 5.65-acre groundwater-supported wetland located at the westernmost end of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, is undergoing restoration efforts. Yosemite’s wilderness restoration team took action during the fall of 2022 to address a significant issue—a large gully that had been impacting the meadow’s health. The origins of this gully date back to the late 1800s and can be attributed to various human activities, including non-native sheep grazing, ditching, road building, horseback riding, and camping. Initially, a small nick point formed, and as water flowed over it, it gained speed, eroding the soil. Over time, continuous erosion caused the nick point to migrate upstream, resulting in a gully that is now up to 5 feet deep and 15 feet wide.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Sick and dead birds at California’s Tulare Lake a wildlife disaster

Scientists and veterinarians are racing to prevent a wildlife disaster from getting worse in Tulare Lake, where hundreds of birds are dying from avian botulism in its stagnant waters.  The lake that reemerged in the San Joaquin Valley during winter flooding, which was partly brought on by snowmelt, after decades of dormancy has become a warm and stagnant breeding ground for toxins that cause paralysis and death. It’s common for avian botulism to strike water fowl when temperatures rise in summer and fall. But in 1983, the last time Tulare Lake emerged to such a large size after winter flooding, the disease killed more than 30,000 birds.

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Invasive mosquito species found in San Joaquin County

A mosquito breed known for carrying yellow fever and other diseases has been spotted in portions of the San Joaquin Valley. Last week, the San Joaquin County Mosquito and Vector Control District said high numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have shown up in traps around South Stockton, Manteca, Escalon and Ripon. The mosquitoes have also popped up in Butte and Glenn counties this summer. Like the majority of other mosquitoes that live here, Aedes aegypti are not native to the state. They’re also relatively new to California, having first shown up in traps in 2011, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

Aquafornia news Fast Company

What will it take to save the Great Salt Lake?

In the 1980s, the Great Salt Lake in Utah covered an area larger than Rhode Island. Now it has shrunk to less than half that size. Without major changes in local water use, it’s possible that it could dry up completely before the end of this decade. “Right now, the Great Salt Lake is on life support,” says Ben Abbott, an ecosystem ecologist at Brigham Young University. The ecosystem could collapse even before the water disappears. As the lake shrinks, the water is getting saltier, making it harder for the brine shrimp that live there to survive—and meaning that the 10 million birds that migrate through the area may soon have nothing to eat. The shrinking coastline means that former islands are now connected to land, and wildlife face new predators; this year, pelicans that used to raise young on one former island were forced to abandon it.

Aquafornia news Fox Weather

Doctors fear deadly fungal infection outbreak after Tropical Storm Hilary, monsoon flooding in West

Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hilary, storms from Jova and flooding from monsoon moisture have doctors on high alert in the Desert Southwest for a disease outbreak that can turn deadly if not caught. Valley fever, or Coccidioidosis, is a fungal infection. Humans and pets can get it just by inhaling dusty air. Fungus spores grow in dirt and soil and become airborne when wind, construction, digging and earthquakes disturb the soil. Wind carries the spores to noses and mouths. The spores thrive in the rain and multiply, according to notes in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. … This summer’s heat wave bakes the ground and dries out the soil. Thunderstorm winds blow the spores around.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Baby beaver sighting inspires hope for California comeback

Bill Leikam was reviewing footage from a wildlife camera he placed along a Palo Alto creekbed recently when something unfamiliar scampered across the screen. … Eventually, he recognized the mysterious creature as a critically important species that has long been missing from his beloved Baylands — a mammal that California wildlife officials have hailed as a “climate hero.” … For decades, developers, municipalities and farmers focused on beavers as a problem that required mitigation or removal. Now, the species known as Castor canadensis is seen as offering myriad benefits: It can help to mitigate drought and wildfires through natural water management; it is considered a keystone species for its ability to foster biodiversity; and it can restore habitat through its ecosystem engineering.

Aquafornia news Tahoe Daily Tribune

Invasive plant barrier installed at Taylor, Tallac marsh areas; Public reminded to stay out of fenced areas

Agencies restoring the Taylor and Tallac marsh areas have completed the installation of bottom barriers to remove 17 acres of invasive plants as part of the comprehensive restoration of one of the last natural wetlands in the Lake Tahoe Basin, the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced today. The collaborative project that began in December 2021 is one of the largest aquatic invasive species control projects ever undertaken in the Tahoe Basin. 

Aquafornia news Spectrum News

Los Cerritos Wetlands gets a cleanup

In late August 2023, the EPA removed federal protections for most of the wetlands in the country to comply with a recent Supreme Court ruling that reduced the power of the Clean Water Act. The Los Cerritos Wetlands is in the middle of a sweeping renovation project, done in partnership with the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority, Tidal Influence and the Aquarium of the Pacific. Volunteers meet for a few hours on the first Saturday of every month to pull weeds, break up cement, add mulch and plant plants. Cassandra Davis, the volunteer services manager at Aquarium of the Pacific, said wetlands play a crucial role in protecting local flora and fauna, filtering water and most importantly, wetlands help clean the air.

Aquafornia news Counter Punch

Blog: Migrating shorebirds ally with clean air activists in the Owens Valley

“The Owens Valley is nothing but a resource colony,” Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, tribal historic preservation officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, told me. … Bancroft’s office is a site of an historic struggle for historic preservation and not the only site or the only struggle against DWP in this valley. The largest, most unifying fight in the valley community has been to force DWP to reduce the amount of alkali dust from the dry Owens Lake, which, 20 years ago produced the worst air pollution in America. An unintended consequence of the campaign to make DWP comply with the state and federal Clean Air acts has been the arrival of increasing numbers of shorebirds in the reborn Owens Lake.

Western Water Nick Cahill California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater By Nick Cahill

New California Law Bolsters Groundwater Recharge as Strategic Defense Against Climate Change
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Designates Aquifers 'Natural Infrastructure' to Boost Funding for Water Supply, Flood Control, Wildlife Habitat

Groundwater recharge in Madera CountyA new but little-known change in California law designating aquifers as “natural infrastructure” promises to unleash a flood of public funding for projects that increase the state’s supply of groundwater.

The change is buried in a sweeping state budget-related law, enacted in July, that also makes it easier for property owners and water managers to divert floodwater for storage underground.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Restored Delta tidal marsh fights climate change and attracts wildlife, native species

Once eyed for thousands of homes, the recently restored Dutch Slough tidal marsh in east Contra Costa County is already flourishing as a new habitat for fish and wildlife, a living laboratory for scientists and one of the world’s strongest sinks for absorbing and storing carbon long-term. Led by the state Department of Water Resources, the ambitious $73 million project to restore 1,187 acres of freshwater Delta tidal wetlands near Oakley – one of the largest such projects in the state – is a little more than half finished. When it is completed, the scientists are hoping it will become a model for future restoration projects, climate change defenses and scientific research. … That’s important, because many scientists believe that capturing and storing carbon dioxide is one of the more cost-effective ways to combat global warming.

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Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Wetlands on the edge

It’s really easy to overlook and undervalue wetlands. Some are small or just don’t look very important. Others are enormous, and cause flooding issues for homeowners and growers. Some might even think wetlands are gross, worry about mosquitos and vector borne illness, or have never experienced what it’s like to be close to or inside of one. It’s uncommon to see a home or store positioned on a wetland (usually because it was drained), so perhaps they can also appear to be taking up valuable real estate better utilized for ‘human needs’. Naturally, wetlands require water, which means they compete with humans for the acre-feet we so often discuss in California water. Yet according to Constanza et al. 1997, ecosystem services for wetlands, compared to all other ecosystem types, are the most valuable on Earth.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

West Nile virus is a growing threat this summer in California. Here’s why

West Nile virus infections are on the rise this year in California after a particularly wet winter led to more mosquito reproduction, according to health experts. The state had 55 human cases of the virus as of Aug. 25. Five of them were fatal, according to the California Mosquito-Borne Virus Surveillance and Response Program. That’s more than double the 24 cases that had occurred in 2022 by late August of that year. In total in 2022, there were 207 cases and 15 deaths. Among California’s latest infections, a woman in Orange tested positive for the West Nile virus  this week, becoming the first human case in Orange County this year, according to the county Health Care Agency. The Orange resident wasn’t experiencing any symptoms.

Aquafornia news KCRA - Sacramento

What to know about West Nile Virus as cases increase in Northern California

West Nile virus cases have been increasing in Northern California. The West Nile virus is the most common and serious vector-borne disease in the state. There were 29 new West Nile Virus cases in humans last week, bringing the total for the year to 55 cases. Those cases have been reported in Glenn, Lake, Butte, Yolo, El Dorado, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Kings, Tulare, Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. On Wednesday, another human case in Roseville became the first this summer in Placer County. Five people with the virus have died, including one person in Sacramento County and another person in Yolo County.

Aquafornia news Northern California Public Radio

The Supreme Court slashed water protections – what now?

Whether or not Joni Mitchell thinks creeks are paradise, it became a lot easier to pave them over and put up a parking lot this year. “So in May, the US Supreme Court limited really the authority of the EPA, which is the Environmental Protection Agency, to regulate certain elements of our nation’s waterway,” Redgie Collins said. Collins is policy director at CalTrout. Streams, rivers, and wetlands of many forms, across the United States were dealt a serious blow this summer by the US Supreme Court in their ruling on the case of Sackett v EPA. “The federal backstops that were once present were really decimated by that made decision by the Supreme Court,” Collins said. This week, the EPA, their hands forced by the ruling, made official, rollbacks of protections for various “waters of the United States.”

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

States at the forefront of fights over wetlands protections after justices slash federal rules

… For decades, federal court battles have pitted environmentalists who want the Clean Water Act to protect more wetlands against industries seeking regulatory rollbacks. The high court’s May 25 decision favoring Idaho landowners Michael and Chantell Sackett curtailed powers of the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to limit wetlands destruction. It put states at the center of future fights over wetlands that defend against floods, purify water and support wildlife, analysts say.“The federal rollbacks are creating a vacuum. The states are going to have to step in and fill the void,” said Kim Delfino, president of an environmental consulting company and the former California director of Defenders of Wildlife.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Floodplain work could start on two San Joaquin Valley rivers as soon as this week after state funding was approved

The state approved funding for a range of floodplain projects in the San Joaquin Valley, clearing the way for work to potentially begin as soon as this week. The state budget included $40 million for floodplain restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley, which would let rivers spread out over large swaths of undeveloped land to slow the flow and absorb the water.  On August 24, the California Wildlife Conservation Board voted to spend $21 million of the funding which will be doled out to six on-the-ground projects and 10 planning projects, all overseen by the nonprofit River Partners. The rest of the money will be voted on in November at another board meeting and is proposed for two land acquisitions. 

Aquafornia news LAist

West Nile cases jump after California rains

What is going on? There have been four West Nile-related deaths in California this year, including the one confirmed case in San Bernardino County. Cases are being reported as far north as Lake County and as far south as Imperial. So far this year 55 people have tested positive — over half were reported just last week. What can I do? The solution is easy, simple and cheap: Wear insect repellent. It has the added bonus of fewer itchy mosquito bites as well as protecting your health. Stop mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near standing water. Dump any standing water around your house, such as in flower pots, tires or buckets to keep mosquitoes from breeding. Check and repair holes in screens to keep mosquitoes outdoors.

Aquafornia news CNN

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: EPA slashes federally protected waters by more than half after Supreme Court ruling

The Environmental Protection Agency and US Army on Tuesday released a new rule that slashes federally protected water by more than half, following a Supreme Court decision in May that rolled back protections for US wetlands. The rule will invalidate an earlier definition of what constitutes the so-called waters of the United States, after the Supreme Court ruled Clean Water Act protections extend only to “wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are waters of the United States in their own rights.” It could impact up to 63% of US wetlands by acreage and around 1.2 million to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams, an EPA spokesperson told CNN. An ephemeral stream is one that typically only has water flowing through it during and immediately after rain events.

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Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

News release: Ducks Unlimited’s scientific studies will help conserve Pacific Flyway waterfowl, habitats

Ducks Unlimited and its scientific partners have several studies planned or underway to study waterfowl and their habitats in the Pacific Flyway. … The lack of floodplain habitat for salmon and other migratory fish in the Sacramento Valley in California has contributed to their decline. As a result, there are proposals to manage floodplain habitats to benefit fish. This study, led by a team in Ducks Unlimited’s Western Region, will determine the effects of floodplain reactivation for fish on waterfowl and Sacramento Valley waterfowl hunting.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Floodplain restoration funding flows again

Floodplain restoration, halted by budget cuts, will resume now that the state reallocated funding. [Last] Friday morning, Chico-based River Partners announced that the California Wildlife Conservation Board approved $40 million for projects in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys… “This level of Central Valley floodplain investment is historic,” River Partners President Julie Renter said by email. “It will result in the transformation of over 4,000 acres, delivering improved flood safety, groundwater recharge, habitat for salmon and other imperiled wildlife, outdoor access for park-starved communities, restoration-related jobs to grow local economies, and so much more.”

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Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Utah town celebrates completion of Price River restoration project

After a century of getting dammed, diverted, moved out of its channel and, in some places, tapped completely dry, a big section of the Price River now flows free. The historic rail and mining town of Helper celebrated the completion of its river revitalization project this year. It marks the end of a decade-long effort to rid a seven-mile stretch of old piling structures impeding the river’s movement, along with concrete, junk and invasive plants choking the river’s banks. Residents and visitors can now fish, float and boat unimpeded through this increasingly popular tourist destination located halfway between Salt Lake City and Moab.

Aquafornia news Investigate Midwest

Three widely used pesticides driving hundreds of endangered species toward extinction, according to EPA

Today, the bumblebee is among more than 200 endangered species whose existence is threatened by the nation’s most widely used insecticides (one classification of pesticides), according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The endangered species range from Attwater’s greater prairie chicken to the Alabama cave shrimp, from the American burying beetle to the slackwater darter. And the star cactus and four-petal pawpaw are among the 160-plus at-risk plants. The three neonicotinoids — thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid — are applied as seed coatings on some 150 million acres of crops each year, including corn, soybeans and other major crops. Neonicotinoids are a group of neurotoxic insecticides similar to nicotine and used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. 

Aquafornia news Sonoma Index-Tribune

Highway 37 gets federal funding boost to lift it above rising sea levels

Rebuilding State Route 37 to elevate it above water in the face of rising sea levels got a welcome $155 million boost from the $1.2 trillion U.S. infrastructure Law of 2021, the California Transportation Commission announced this week. The two-mile Marin County section of the 21-mile commuter artery that runs alongside San Pablo Bay connecting Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties marks the beginning of a larger $4 billion project planned for the whole corridor. State transportation officials say work is expected to start in 2027 and end two years later. The $180 million project approved Aug. 18 by the state’s transportation commission will raise the roadway by 30 feet over Novato Creek by 2029, well above the projected year 2130 sea-level rise.

Aquafornia news Times Herald Online

Funding coming to elevate Highway 37

The state received a significant boost to its efforts with State Route 37 and San Pablo Bay last week with the infusion of $155 million in federal funding. The California Transportation Commission announced on Wednesday it formally allocated the funds to elevate a key section of State Route 37 to guard against future flooding on a vital regional corridor connecting Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties and enhance habitat connectivity for San Pablo Bay. The $180 million project will raise the roadway by 30 feet over Novato Creek by 2029 — well above the projected year 2130 sea-level rise. The $155 million allocation comes from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and is lauded by environmental groups and local leaders who have been calling for investments to support the long-term viability of state route 37.

Aquafornia news Union Democrat

Wetland restoration project underway in eroded area of Ackerson Meadow

A wetland restoration project is now underway in the 400-acre former herding area known as Ackerson Meadow, which was controversially added to Yosemite National Park in 2016, the National Park Service announced this week. Ackerson Meadow is on the west edge of Yosemite, on Evergreen Road in Tuolumne County, between Highway 120 and the entrance to Hetch Hetchy, and it borders Stanislaus National Forest land. Ackerson Creek flows into the South Fork Tuolumne River. Natural subalpine meadows there used to be magnets for cattle and sheep herders who sought grazelands when they were outside park boundaries. 

Aquafornia news California Local

Blog: How land reclamation hurts California’s environment

One of the most famous, though possibly apocryphal, quotes to come out of the Vietnam War appeared in a Feb. 7, 1968, Associated Press report. It quoted an unnamed “United States Major” explaining why U.S. forces leveled the Vietnamese town of Ben Tre—in one succinct, memorable turn of phrase: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” the major reportedly commented.  The quote lives on because, real or not, it seemed to perfectly encapsulate the absurdity of military logic. … But the quote didn’t apply only to the military. In fact, it could easily be applied to the large-scale public improvement project that built much of what California is today—via a process known as “land reclamation.” The reclamation projects of the late 19th and early 20th century turned the so-called swamps of California’s Central Valley into some of the country’s most fertile agricultural land—but in the process, destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the wetlands that were the natural habitat for hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and many other kinds of life.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

State is working to contain bird disease in flooded Tulare Lake

Avian botulism, a lethal disease for birds, has been found spreading throughout Tulare Lake. The disease is caused by bacteria that thrive in shallow, warm waters with decaying organic matter.  The bacteria that causes the disease is found naturally in wetland soil. But it doesn’t produce the toxin that causes the disease unless environmental conditions are right. As temperatures soared in the San Joaquin Valley over the past few months, Tulare Lake warmed, causing perfect conditions for the disease to spread.  Neighboring wildlife areas, such as the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, often have standing, shallow water for bird habitat.

Aquafornia news Ducks Unlimited

News release: Ducks Unlimited projects underway at popular Elkhorn Slough in California

The latest phase of a decades-long effort to help restore California’s largest tract of tidal salt marsh south of San Francisco Bay is underway this summer, thanks to the efforts of Ducks Unlimited and its partners at Elkhorn Slough.   For years, Ducks Unlimited has partnered with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation on the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to restore degraded salt marsh and surrounding habitats.   Meandering seven miles inland from the coast, the Elkhorn Slough sits at the center of California’s iconic Monterey Bay. Last century, the mouth of the sinuous waterway was relocated to create a harbor which resulted in stronger tides washing in and out of the slough. Instead of shallow salt marshes, the slough began to function as a bay. 

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Shell-shocking details about freshwater mussel reproduction

One of our favorite aspects to teaching is (occasionally) being able to really surprise a student. Many of the fun nature facts folks pick up nowadays come from TV, YouTube, social media, and other media outlets. But these outlets have an inherent bias: they focus on the charismatic species. That is, the species that are big, fluffy, and widely adored. Yet there are so many fascinating species and ecology in the lesser appreciated taxonomic groups (not to mention, focusing on charismatic species leads to inequitable conservation – Rypel et al. 2021). And often, learning about these overlooked species can really blow the mind! Today, we’d like to introduce you all to the fascinating reproductive behavior of freshwater mussels.

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

California Spent Decades Trying to Keep Central Valley Floods at Bay. Now It Looks to Welcome Them Back
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: Floodplain restoration gets a policy and funding boost as interest grows in projects that bring multiple benefits to respond to climate change impacts

Land and waterway managers labored hard over the course of a century to control California’s unruly rivers by building dams and levees to slow and contain their water. Now, farmers, environmentalists and agencies are undoing some of that work as part of an accelerating campaign to restore the state’s major floodplains.

Western Water By Alastair Bland

SIDEBAR: Creating A Floodplain Buffet for Salmon Smolts

Biologists have designed a variety of unique experiments in the past decade to demonstrate the benefits that floodplains provide for small fish. Tracking studies have used acoustic tags to show that chinook salmon smolts with access to inundated fields are more likely than their river-bound cohorts to reach the Pacific Ocean. This is because the richness of floodplains offers a vital buffet of nourishment on which young salmon can capitalize, supercharging their growth and leading to bigger, stronger smolts.

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.

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. 

Tour Nick Gray Jenn 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.

Long Criticized For Inaction At Salton Sea, California Says It’s All-In On Effort To Preserve State’s Largest Lake
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Dust suppression, habitat are key elements in long-term plan to aid sea, whose ills have been a sore point in Colorado River management

The Salton Sea is a major nesting, wintering and stopover site for about 400 bird species. Out of sight and out of mind to most people, the Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the desert lake from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and surrounded by clouds of choking dust.

The sea’s problems stretch beyond its boundaries in Imperial and Riverside counties and threaten to undermine multistate management of the Colorado River. A 2019 Drought Contingency Plan for the Lower Colorado River Basin was briefly stalled when the Imperial Irrigation District, holding the river’s largest water allocation, balked at participating in the plan because, the district said, it ignored the problems of the Salton Sea.  

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Western Water Colorado River Basin Map Gary Pitzer

‘Mission-Oriented’ Colorado River Veteran Takes the Helm as the US Commissioner of IBWC
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Jayne Harkins’ duties include collaboration with Mexico on Colorado River supply, water quality issues

Jayne Harkins, the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission.For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.

Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

When Water Worries Often Pit Farms vs. Fish, a Sacramento Valley Farm Is Trying To Address The Needs Of Both
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: River Garden Farms is piloting projects that could add habitat and food to aid Sacramento River salmon

Roger Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, with an example of a refuge like the ones that were lowered into the Sacramento River at Redding to shelter juvenile salmon.  Farmers in the Central Valley are broiling about California’s plan to increase flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems to help struggling salmon runs avoid extinction. But in one corner of the fertile breadbasket, River Garden Farms is taking part in some extraordinary efforts to provide the embattled fish with refuge from predators and enough food to eat.

And while there is no direct benefit to one farm’s voluntary actions, the belief is what’s good for the fish is good for the farmers.

Western Water Water Education Foundation

ON THE ROAD: Cosumnes River Preserve Offers Visitors a Peek at What the Central Valley Once Looked Like
Preserve at the edge of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta includes valley oak forests and wintering grounds for cranes

Sandhill cranes gather at the Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento.Deep, throaty cadenced calls — sounding like an off-key bassoon — echo over the grasslands, farmers’ fields and wetlands starting in late September of each year. They mark the annual return of sandhill cranes to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 46,000 acres located 20 miles south of Sacramento on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to the Delta

ON THE ROAD: Park Near Historic Levee Rupture Offers Glimpse of Old Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
Big Break Regional Shoreline will be a stop on Bay-Delta Tour May 16-18

Visitors explore a large, three-dimensional map of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Along the banks of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Oakley, about 50 miles southwest of Sacramento, is a park that harkens back to the days when the Delta lured Native Americans, Spanish explorers, French fur trappers, and later farmers to its abundant wildlife and rich soil.

That historical Delta was an enormous marsh linked to the two freshwater rivers entering from the north and south, and tidal flows coming from the San Francisco Bay. After the Gold Rush, settlers began building levees and farms, changing the landscape and altering the habitat.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Two Countries, One River: Crafting a New Agreement
Fall 2016

As vital as the Colorado River is to the United States and Mexico, so is the ongoing process by which the two countries develop unique agreements to better manage the river and balance future competing needs.

The prospect is challenging. The river is over allocated as urban areas and farmers seek to stretch every drop of their respective supplies. Since a historic treaty between the two countries was signed in 1944, the United States and Mexico have periodically added a series of arrangements to the treaty called minutes that aim to strengthen the binational ties while addressing important water supply, water quality and environmental concerns.


Looking to the Source: Watersheds of the Sierra Nevada
Published 2011

This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.

The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.


Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods (DVD)

This 30-minute documentary, produced in 2011, explores the past, present and future of flood management in California’s Central Valley. It features stories from residents who have experienced the devastating effects of a California flood firsthand. Interviews with long-time Central Valley water experts from California Department of Water Resources (FloodSAFE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Central Valley Flood Management Program and environmental groups are featured as they discuss current efforts to improve the state’s 150-year old flood protection system and develop a sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan for the Central Valley.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Delta Warning

15-minute DVD that graphically portrays the potential disaster should a major earthquake hit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. “Delta Warning” depicts what would happen in the event of an earthquake registering 6.5 on the Richter scale: 30 levee breaks, 16 flooded islands and a 300 billion gallon intrusion of salt water from the Bay – the “big gulp” – which would shut down the State Water Project and Central Valley Project pumping plants.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Maps & Posters

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.

Maps & Posters

Unwelcome Visitors

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explains how non-native invasive animals can alter the natural ecosystem, leading to the demise of native animals. “Unwelcome Visitors” features photos and information on four such species – including the zerbra mussel – and explains the environmental and economic threats posed by these species.

Publication Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map

Layperson’s Guide to the Delta
Updated 2020

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Delta explores the competing uses and demands on California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Included in the guide are sections on the history of the Delta, its role in the state’s water system, and its many complex issues with sections on water quality, levees, salinity and agricultural drainage, fish and wildlife, and water distribution.

Aquapedia background Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Map


Sacramento National Wildlife RefugeWetlands are among the most important and hardest-working ecosystems in the world, rivaling rain forests and coral reefs in productivity of life. 

They produce high levels of oxygen, filter toxic chemicals out of water, sequester carbon, reduce flooding and erosion, recharge groundwater and provide a diverse range of recreational opportunities from fishing and hunting to photography. They also serve as critical habitat for wildlife, including a large percentage of plants and animals on California’s endangered species list.

Aquapedia background California Water Map Layperson's Guide to California Water

Pacific Flyway

The Pacific Flyway is one of four major North American migration routes for birds, especially waterfowl, and extends from Alaska and Canada, through California, to Mexico and South America. Each year, birds follow ancestral patterns as they travel the flyway on their annual north-south migration. Along the way, they need stopover sites such as wetlands with suitable habitat and food supplies. In California, 90 percent of historic wetlands have been lost.

Aquapedia background

Central Valley Wetlands and Riparian Habitat

In the Central Valley, wetlands—partly or seasonally saturated land that supports aquatic life and distinct ecosystems— provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife.

Western Water Magazine

An Era of New Partnerships on the Colorado River
November/December 2013

This printed issue of Western Water examines how the various stakeholders have begun working together to meet the planning challenges for the Colorado River Basin, including agreements with Mexico, increased use of conservation and water marketing, and the goal of accomplishing binational environmental restoration and water-sharing programs.

Western Water Magazine

How Much Water Does the Delta Need?
July/August 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines the issues associated with the State Water Board’s proposed revision of the water quality Bay-Delta Plan, most notably the question of whether additional flows are needed for the system, and how they might be provided.

Western Water Magazine

Just Add Water? Restoring the Colorado River Delta
September/October 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines the Colorado River Delta, its ecological significance and the lengths to which international, state and local efforts are targeted and achieving environmental restoration while recognizing the needs of the entire river’s many users.