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
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
There was a glint in Michael Boland’s eyes as he watched cars
zooming along the Presidio Parkway over an ugly panorama of
broken asphalt, weeds and construction debris behind a
chain-link fence next to Crissy Field. The chief of park
development and visitor engagement for the Presidio Trust was
excited as he envisioned what the vacant lot was about to
become — a picturesque lagoon surrounded by walking trails,
vivid greenery and a spectacular view.
If we stand by and do nothing, California’s transportation
network will be disrupted, its economy will be jeopardized as
tech, manufacturing, tourism and ag industries falter, sandy
beaches lost, and coastal residents will be forced to relocate,
putting a strain on resources in inland communities. Yet many
Californians have been treating sea level rise as a distant
A Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and winemaker has agreed to
pay $3.76 million in penalties after his company bulldozed a
protected wetland and filled in a stream bed to build a
vineyard in Mendocino County, North Coast water regulators
San Joaquin County has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking
the state Department of Water Resources to abide by local
drilling permit requirements to protect wildlife and water
quality in accordance with California law.
The California Coastal Commission has encouraged cities to
include a strategy called “managed retreat” in plans to prepare
for sea level rise. But the commission may be retreating from
that position. Del Mar is a prime example of a city where an
entire neighborhood is threatened by rising seas.
Two of the most basic questions about biodiversity are “what is
it?”, which is the focus of taxonomists, and “where is it?”,
which is the realm of biogeographers. Understanding basic
patterns in the biogeography of an urban area is the focus of a
partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County. We call our project
Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA).
How do you assess and mitigate the cumulative environmental
impacts of future development? That’s the question that Marin’s
environmental planners and contracted scientists have been
analyzing in the San Geronimo Valley over the past decade,
particularly related to the area’s threatened fish populations.
Two Midwest Republican senators are pushing a bill to cement
changes made by the Trump administration to an Obama-era rule
designed to reduce water pollution, bringing a pet project of
the Trump administration to Congress. The Waters of the United
States (WOTUS) rule has long been controversial within the
The Trump administration has feuded with California over the
state’s sanctuary laws, its stricter standards on tailpipe
emissions, and the president’s declaration of a national
emergency at the border. But apparently there’s one dispute,
involving a certain fur-bearing mammal, that the federal
government apparently wants no part of.
Close to one thousand Los Angeles Zoo bred mountain
yellow-legged frogs and tadpoles will be released into a
tributary to Cooper Canyon, located in the Angeles National
Forest. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Los Angeles Zoo, and Forest Service will release the
tadpoles Aug. 14 …
A caravan of scientists, staffers and water watchers wound its
way through the maze of roads on Owens Lake last week in search
of answers: Are the dust control measures working and will this
project ever be done? The answers are yes and probably not,
California’s biggest river—the Sacramento—needs a lot of room
to spread in big water years. A floodplain project called the
Yolo Bypass allows it to flood naturally, while also providing
habitat for waterbirds, fish, and other aquatic species. We
talked to Ted Sommer, lead scientist for the Department of
Water Resources (DWR), about this versatile landscape.
Naturalist and artist Obi Kaufmann has made a specialty of
pairing information-packed text with gorgeous art. …
Kaufmann’s second book, “The State of Water: Understanding
California’s Most Precious Resource,” has a narrower though
still ambitious focus: California’s rivers, lakes and
watersheds, their wildlife, and the ways in which we humans
have altered them.
More than halfway through his term, experts say, the president
has had almost no lasting impact on California’s major
environmental rules despite making broad promises and
appointing former industry officials into top jobs. The reason:
California, a quasi-country with 40 million people and the
world’s fifth-largest economy, has been aggressively passing
its own state laws, filing lawsuits against the federal
government and cutting deals with other states and countries to
go around the Trump White House.
When Marian Parker first began to consider creating a field
guide for the Petaluma Wetlands, she had little way of knowing
the project would open a whole watershed of opportunity for
Petaluma’s wetland educational programs.
Katy Delaney pointed to an open patch of sediment at the base
of the canyon. A year ago, pools of cool water gleamed under
the sun and frogs basked on their banks. Now, a trickle of
water lazed through the mud. And the California red-legged
frog, whose fate had consumed eight years of Delaney’s life,
was nowhere to be seen.
The decades-long battle to determine the appropriate method to
rehabilitate the lagoon appears to have been settled between
government agencies and property owners, said Keith Greer, a
principal planner for the San Diego Association of Governments
during its June 28 board meeting.
The Department of Water Resources has secured final state and
federal approval for a project that will expand a migration
corridor for fish to the Yolo Bypass, the Sacramento Valley’s
main floodplain. The project is part of the largest floodplain
restoration action on the West Coast…
The Kings River is littered with trash, both in the water, and
in the wooded areas surrounding the river. We all know people
litter, and that can get caught in the River — but the Kings
is also tarnished by shopping carts piled up high, countless
tires stacked to form rubber walls, and even a truck, submerged
in the same water people swim in.
This month, a group of researchers working out of San Francisco
State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus received funding
for a five-year study to determine if restoring degraded
meadows to their former, more lush state could make these
ecosystems more effective tools for slowing the pace of climate
While California contemplates new dams for its thirsty future,
it’s also thinking about taking out old ones. Along with
advancing plans to demolish three dams atop the Klamath River,
there’s a movement to rethink and possibly take out a water and
power dam in the Mendocino County back country.
An Oregon-based sustainable certification organization, Salmon
Safe, encourages farms, vineyards, buildings and even golf
courses throughout Washington, Oregon, California and British
Columbia to mitigate their impacts on salmon habitat by doing
things like reducing pollution-heavy stormwater runoff. For a
brewery, that means getting its facilities certified or
sourcing ingredients from farms that have restored
salmon-inhabited streams and limited their use of water and
Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot discussed the
Governor’s water resilience portfolio and reiterated the Newsom
administration’s support for modernized conveyance in the
Delta. That was followed by a robust discussion that included
Delta conveyance, water storage, emerging contaminants and
PFAS, among other things.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday nominated a longtime
water-resources expert for a seat on the Metropolitan Water
District Board of Directors. Tracy Quinn serves as the
California director of water efficiency for the Natural
Resources Defense Council and has almost two decades of water
River towns can start by restricting floodplain development so
that people and property will not be in harm’s way. This will
create space for rivers to spill over in flood season, reducing
risks downstream. Proposals to raise and improve levees should
be required to take climate change and related flooding risks
Earlier this year, President Trump launched – by executive
order, of course – a new process designed to circumscribe
dramatically states’ longstanding authority to review
applications for federal permits for any activity that may
result in a discharge to a water body within a state’s
boundaries. That proposal is fundamentally flawed, both on its
merits and in the procedures USEPA is using to implement it.
Between 1890 and 1910, almost 90% of Humboldt Bay’s salt
marshes, about 8,100 acres, were diked and drained for
agricultural uses or walled off from tidal inundation with the
construction of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. Now … the
earthen dikes are beginning to fail, both because they haven’t
been maintained and because they aren’t tall enough to hold
back the rising tides brought on by rising sea levels.
In black and white, John Trotter documents the use of water
from the Colorado River, tackling the social, political, and
environmental impact of the way it’s dealt with. Spanning over
years and kilometres, his ongoing essay is a dire political
Proponents have said SB 1 will keep Trump from delivering more
water to farms, thereby harming endangered fish. That sentiment
is exactly what makes SB 1 so dangerous. It relies on the
worn-out trope that California’s water issues boil down to
“farms versus fish.”
There’s a new twist in the California-Trump brawl in the state
Legislature. It’s aimed at overriding the president’s power to
weaken environmental protections. Put simply, any federal
protections President Trump tried to gut would immediately
become state regulations in their original, strong form.
The Department of Water Resources released the final guidelines
for the Riverine Stewardship Program on July 1, 2019. The grant
program supports planning and implementation of projects that
restore streams, creeks, and rivers to enhance the environment
for fish, wildlife, and people.
Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water) has resumed
pre-construction activities in Alviso, California, delivering
on a long-made promise to protect shoreline communities in
Santa Clara County from devastating flooding.
We need a broad portfolio of solutions that includes storage
above and below ground, conservation, and other options such as
traditional recycled and potable reuse to help ensure we can
better manage this vital resource when the next inevitable
drought comes along. … One part of that solution is the
proposed Sites Reservoir.
Each of the selected projects strike at the heart of the Sierra
Nevada watershed improvement program, SNC’s large-scale
restoration initiative designed to improve ecosystem and
community resilience in the region.
With a big collective sigh of relief, Californians rejoiced
that we have largely recovered from 2012-2016 drought. But this
is not a time for complacency… This should thus be a time to
develop new and better strategies for reducing impacts of
severe drought on both natural and developed systems.
The Newsom Administration and the State Legislature approved a
commitment of $70 million in the 2019-2020 State Budget for a
comprehensive series of innovative fish and wildlife habitat
enhancement actions identified in the collaborative Bay-Delta
Voluntary Agreement proposals. This is a significant, early
investment in the success of the Voluntary Agreements.
As of June, PG&E has completed less than half of the 98
land transactions agreed upon in 2003. That interim planning
period has involved a careful selection process to find
stewards for each of the 1,000 or so parcels undergoing
transfer and lots of rubber-stamping from various government
entities. But PG&E’s second bankruptcy, which it entered
into this year, casts a pall of uncertainty over what’s already
been a difficult waiting game…
This event guided attendees on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.
The Obama administration violated the law when it issued its
embattled definition of “waters of the United States,” a
federal court ruled yesterday. In a long-awaited decision, the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sided
with three states and a coalition of agriculture and industry
groups that have been trying to take down the joint EPA and
Army Corps of Engineers rule since 2015.
Wastewater agencies produce highly treated water that is
increasingly being reused as a water supply. While it’s still
only a small portion of overall water use, the use of recycled
water has nearly tripled since the 1980s―and is continuing to
rise as water agencies seek to meet the demands of a growing
population and improve the resilience of their water supplies.
An investigation into the Bay Conservation and Development
Commission found mismanagement and disorganization so rampant
that the once-celebrated watchdog agency allegedly neglected
its primary responsibility — to protect San Francisco Bay. A
state audit of the regulatory agency known as the BCDC
describes slow and inefficient enforcement, a huge backlog of
cases and an inability to perform key duties.
Inside the Capitol’s corridors and pro-development quarters
around the state, CEQA is increasingly disparaged as a villain
in the state’s housing crisis. … New Gov. Gavin Newsom, to
fulfill his hyper-ambitious quota of new housing construction,
has called for fast-tracking judicial CEQA review of housing,
similar to that granted sports teams building stadiums. But the
act’s environmentalist defenders are pushing back.
On a former tidal marsh in Corte Madera that’s blanketed with
bay mud and overgrown with invasive grasses, Golden Gate Bridge
officials are planning a $2 million restoration project that
would bolster habitat for an endangered bird species displaced
by the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. The district has released the
results of an environmental study of the proposed project and
is accepting comments on the report until May 26.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
has “neglected its mission” to protect the bay and surrounding
wetlands, the California state auditor reported Tuesday. The
commission, which issues permits for activities like boating,
dredging and dumping, has a backlog of 230 open enforcement
cases, some decades old.
Elkhorn Slough has received a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of the Interior, which will be used to help restore
approximately 63 acres—about 83 football fields—of tidal
wetlands at the Slough. … Additional funds — equaling a $26.7
million — have been pledged by state and local governments,
private landholders, and conservation groups.
Set to expire in 2026, the current guidelines for water
deliveries and shortage sharing, launched in 2007 amid a
multiyear drought, were designed to prevent disputes that could
provoke conflict. … But as the time for crafting a new set of
rules draws near, some river veterans suggest the result will
be nothing less than a dramatic re-imagining of how the
overworked Colorado River is managed…
In April 2019, the California State Water Resources Control
Board unanimously approved a comprehensive new legal framework
for protecting California’s wetlands. California has lost
approximately 90% of its historic wetland areas, which have
important water quality, species habitat and other
environmental and economic benefits. … California has never
had its own comprehensive wetlands protection law.
Poseidon Water might be fighting for its desalination future in
Huntington Beach, but the corporation’s representatives will be
in front of the California Coastal Commission for an entirely
different matter on May 9: the restoration and conversion of a
90.9-acre salt pond to tidal wetlands and 34.6-acrer Otay River
floodplain site in San Diego.
California’s lawsuits have targeted the administration’s
policies on immigration, healthcare and education. But nowhere
has the legal battle had a greater impact than on Trump’s
agenda of dismantling Obama-era environmental and public health
regulations. In its rush to delay, repeal and rewrite rules it
considers unduly burdensome to industry, the administration has
experienced significant setbacks in court.
A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California
suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past
mistakes. California’s highly variable climate has made it a
crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.
The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted
Tuesday to allow access across its lands for critically needed
state wetlands projects at the Salton Sea, designed to tamp
down dangerous dust storms and give threatened wildlife a
boost. In exchange, California will shoulder the maintenance
and operations of the projects, and the state’s taxpayers will
cover the costs of any lawsuits or regulatory penalties…
Before California’s Central Valley became known as an
agricultural powerhouse, it contained one of the largest
expanses of streamside forest and wetland habitat in North
America. … Much of that landscape has been transformed into
farmland and urban areas, but at the Cosumnes River Preserve, a
unique partnership of nonprofits and state, federal and local
governments has conserved over 50,000 acres that provide
resources for a variety of wildlife.
These saltwater landscapes of the West are in a constant flux,
transforming from low salinity chartreuses and cyans to
alkaline magenta, finally settling into evaporated salty white
wastelands. Soaring in a small plane above the landscapes,
photographer Aya Okawa captures these unique ecosystems at
different stages of their progressions, as salt becomes more
In California, there are around 300 species at risk and 346
species in California, Nevada and Southern Oregon combined. A
handful of plants and animals have already disappeared from the
state, such as the Santa Barbara song sparrow and the the
California subspecies of the Grizzly Bear. … About a dozen
species are currently at risk of extinction, according to Dan
Applebee, an environmental scientist with the California
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Once one of most extensive wetland areas in North America, the
edges of the San Francisco Bay have become covered with farms,
industry, and urban areas, squeezing out the marches and their
animal and plant occupants. But at the lower end of the Napa
River, a remarkable effort is underway to undo a century and
half of damage to the once-thriving marshes.
With no parting glance at their devoted human caretakers, 142
rare red-legged frogs swam to freedom on Friday — one small
jump for the frogs but a giant leap for the threatened species.
Our official state amphibian, the frogs vanished from these
pristine mountain meadows 50 years ago.
Ted Kennedy sums up what he sees along the river in the Grand
Canyon: “It’s buggy out there.” That is to say, an experiment
to change the flow of water from a dam near the Arizona-Utah
state line appeared to boost the number of aquatic insects that
fish in the Colorado River eat. Scientists are hoping to better
understand those results with a second bug flow experiment that
started this month and will run through August.
With the Trump administration trudging ahead and re-writing
another Obama-era environmental law, wary California regulators
last month approved new protections for wetlands in the Golden
State. … Hoping to freeze the new wetlands rules, a coalition
consisting of several California water suppliers and the city
of San Francisco sued the water board late Wednesday in state
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call on Monday for a new comprehensive
water plan for California looks like a smart timeout on one of
the state’s trickiest and most intractable battlefronts. As
with many political hot potatoes, there is no way to make
everyone happy when it comes to water management, because the
sides have mutually exclusive goals…
While oysters and sea grasses may not immediately stand out as
defenders against sea level rise, a five-year test run using
oyster reefs and eelgrass beds in the waters off of San Rafael
has shown promising results. … Marshlands, reefs and other
natural habitats have proven to buffer shorelines from erosion
and powerful waves, but human development over the past two
centuries has resulted in a substantial loss of these natural
A 174-page environmental report released by the U.S. Interior
Department will expedite new extraction on roughly 1 million
acres of Central and Southern California, primarily in the
historical oil fields around Bakersfield and the deep petroleum
deposits near Santa Barbara but potentially in the Sierra
Nevada as well.
A federal official is attempting to “obstruct” the flow of
water to restore habitat at Walker Lake, the conservancy
responsible for administering federal restoration funds alleged
in District Court last week. After years of litigation, lawyers
for the Walker Basin Conservancy said that “at some point, the
court must put a stop to the federal water master’s
obstruction.” The receding desert lake outside of Hawthorne is
fed by the Walker River, which rises in California and snakes
through Western Nevada.
A new report paints a grim future for birds that rely on the
Salton Sea habitat. Audubon California-released
report uses bird-monitoring data from several different
sources to show just how the destruction of the Salton Sea
ecological habitat has decimated the populations of both
pelicans and cormorants endemic to the area.
Ten-acre Albion Riverside Park can get a lot done. The green
infrastructure built into the park can clean the stormwater
that goes through it, capture pollutants and release it into
groundwater basins. The price tag on the park is about $40
million. The new park sits on the old Downey Recreational
Center and the Swiss Dairy site, bringing new athletic fields
and more to the community.
For centuries, the Delta was a dynamic and rich ecosystem of
tidal wetlands, riparian forests, and vast seasonal
floodplains. But about 98 percent of the native habitat
disappeared after the Gold Rush and a population boom across
the Golden State.
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003
to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the
area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial,
long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While
politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has
drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the
thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
While you may have heard about the Trump administration’s
attempts to narrow the scope of Waters of the United States
(WOTUS), California is expanding its regulations, including
broadening the definition of wetlands subject to permitting
requirements. … Projects impacting California surface waters
and wetlands that are outside federal jurisdiction will now
need state authorization under new and more expansive
In Orange and Los Angeles counties, more than 90 percent of the
estuaries, lagoons and other coastal waters that existed in the
19th century have been lost to roads, buildings and other
development. But what remains provides a crucial habitat for
resident animals and migrating birds, including several
I am standing where stream flow begins, in a nameless tributary
of the Russian River to the east of Hopland, California. This
particular spot and location has been a grazing livestock
ranch, primarily sheep, going back more than 100 years. This is
one of thousands of spots in the watershed where water comes to
the surface, joins in a channel, and starts its path
Attorneys general from 14 states and the District of Columbia
on Tuesday vehemently opposed the Trump administration’s
proposal to roll back a regulation known as Waters of the
United States, a move they said would end federal oversight of
15 percent of streams and more than half of the nation’s
EPA won’t regulate any pollution to surface waters that passes
through groundwater. … If pollution travels through
groundwater, EPA says, it “breaks the causal chain” between a
source of pollution and surface waters. That could affect
regulation of pollution from a variety of sources, including
seepage from coal ash and manure management ponds, sewage
collection systems, septic system discharges, and accidental
spills and releases.
U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said on Monday she
would ban all fossil fuel extraction on federal land and in
coastal waters, setting herself apart from a crowded field of
Democratic hopefuls who have made climate change a central
campaign issue but have yet to outline specific policies.
The tall, bamboo-like plants clustered in dense thickets along
sections of the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley have long
attracted the attention of those who have strolled in that
area. Green and stately with long, sword-like leaves, they
belong to a species known as Arundo donax, or more commonly,
giant cane. … But the plant is a nuisance and local officials
have decided to do something about it.
Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill
they had originally blasted as a way for the state to
green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern
Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week. …
But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow
those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are
neutral on the bill.
The Yosemite toad is considered endangered, and its numbers are
falling. Scientists say the amphibian chytrid fungus is one
reason, but climate change also may contribute to some pools
drying up before tadpoles mature.
All along the lazy Lake County shorelines of creeks, ponds and
lakes you may be able to sneak up on Western pond turtles to
observe their slow-motion antics. … Besides watery places of
residence, however, they require a terrestrial habitat to
thrive. For instance, if the turtles’ resident pond or marsh
dries up seasonally or in a drought, they might end up living
outside of their aquatic environment for two-thirds of a year.
Bernhardt has a roster to fill, with gaping vacancies in key
positions. He’s got, by his own account, a departmental ethics
program to fix and an ambitious reorganization scheme that
critics decry or simply dismiss. He’ll have to cope with a
multibillion-dollar national parks maintenance backlog and
thread the needle with an offshore drilling plan. And as he’s
already discovered during his short stint as acting secretary,
he faces opposition from Democratic lawmakers in control of the
The Eastern Sierra snowpack that feeds the Los Angeles Aqueduct
was measured this month at 171% of normal and is expected to
meet 70 percent of the city’s annual water needs. The Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power said Friday the aqueduct
will flow at or near full capacity for much of the next 12
months, providing about 119 billion gallons (450.4 billion
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez
and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are
the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton
Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the
Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday
amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his
independence from the energy and water industry groups he long
represented as a lobbyist.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton
Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will
inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and
taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous
More than a decade in the making, a new state definition of
wetlands will likely take effect early next year—as will
procedures intended to protect them from dredge-and-fill
activities. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted
final amendments to the state wetland policy last week, after
including changes that moved it closer to its original intent
of limiting its application to agriculture.
“Flood-MAR” is a resource management strategy that uses flood
water for managed aquifer recharge (MAR) on agricultural lands,
working landscapes, and managed natural landscapes. At the
March meeting of the California Water Commission, a panel
discussed Flood MAR with a focus on using agricultural lands
for groundwater recharge.
All this reliance on an overallocated river has left its final
hundred miles as the ultimate collateral damage. Since the
early 1960s, when Glen Canyon Dam impounded the river near
Page, Arizona, it has rarely reached the Pacific Ocean. The
thread is frayed beyond recognition, leaving no water for the
Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies
agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert
lands. But it’s really about one thing: stopping the Cadiz
Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. …
The Cadiz project has been thoroughly vetted and meets an
important need. It’s time legislators let it proceed.
An increasing number of solutions to California and Arizona’s
long-term water problems now involve Mexico. Some of the ideas
are seemingly far-fetched, like a pipeline to bring water from
the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea in Imperial County.
Some are already happening, like Mexico agreeing to reduce its
water use in the event of a Colorado River shortage. … That
stands in contrast not only to recent threats by President
Donald Trump to shut down the border, but some existing water
The wetland is fed by a concrete canal that removes drainage
water from American farms across the border in Arizona. … But
there’s a problem. As the Colorado River basin heats up and
dries out like climate projections predict, Juan Butrón-Méndez
is concerned people will stop thinking of the water that flows
to the wetland as waste, find a way to use it and, in turn,
harm the Ciénega.
Our predecessors settled in a valley bordered by mountains that
increase the rainfall and help store water as melted snow
underground. They also experienced drought and, in response,
they thoughtfully set aside thousands of acres of land needed
to capture and replenish the primary source of the water they
Among other ramifications, the new procedures largely duplicate
(and in some respects are inconsistent with) federal
procedures, but add a significant new layer to the already
byzantine regulatory process for permitting projects that
involve fill of federal and state waters and wetlands.
San Diego officials are proposing a variety of upgrades to
Mission Bay Park’s Fiesta Island including new parks,
playgrounds, volleyball courts, marsh areas and habitat
preserves. The proposed master plan for the mostly undeveloped
470-acre island is envisioned as a balance between improving
the island and retaining its rural ambiance, city officials
His departments and agencies have moved to weaken or eliminate
dozens of protections, and the rollbacks are coming so fast
it’s not always possible for the state to keep up. It’s not for
lack of trying. On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control
Board approved new standards to protect California’s wetlands
and seasonal streams and ponds that are slated to lose their
current federal protection under the Clean Water Act as part of
the Trump administration’s rollbacks.
Under the Clean Water Act, states are allowed to enforce rules
more stringent than federal standards. On Tuesday, the State
Water Resources Control Board adopted rules that largely mirror
the federal regulations the Trump administration plans to
repeal. California’s new rules had been in the works since
2008, but the process took on added urgency when the Trump
administration announced its intention to relax federal
This week California’s State Water Resources Control Board
adopted important new rules to protect the state’s remaining
wetlands resources. Enacted after over a decade of Board
hearings, workshops and deliberation, those rules are overdue,
welcome and critically necessary. Their adoption is
particularly timely now, given the Trump Administration’s
wholesale assault on and erosion of federal programs designed
to protect our nation’s wetlands under the federal Clean Water
Our soggy spring has been a big boost to these so-called
“vernal ponds,” ephemeral bodies of water which play a critical
role in preservation of threatened and endangered creatures…
The team found larvae of the threatened California tiger
salamander in 28 of the 58 pools they monitor. The endangered
vernal pool tadpole shrimp was found in 49 of these pools.
That’s the third-highest tally in recent years.
New research finds that climate change is putting stress on
wetlands in the West’s Great Basin and that is putting pressure
on bird populations navigating the Pacific Flyway. Changing
water conditions linked to climate change are impacting the
wetland habitats that waterbirds rely on. The basin includes
most of Nevada and parts of Utah, Arizona, Oregon and the
eastern edge of California.
Now EPA and the Corps want to hear directly from members of the
public — including farmers, ranchers, landowners and others who
may be subject to regulation — to make sure the new Clean Water
Rule provides clear and easily understood guidelines. But with
the comment period on the proposed new rule closing on April
15, there’s no time to lose.
Mexican and American officials met in Mexico City this week to
talk about fixing a costly set of problems that have sprung up
along the border: failing sewer systems that send raw sewage
spilling into rivers. … Roberto Salmón, Mexico’s commissioner
of the International Boundary and Water Commission, said border
cities from Tijuana to Matamoros need a total of about 10
billion pesos, or $520 million, “just to bring the sanitary
systems up to speed, to correct the problems.”
As Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld oversees the state’s efforts to
fight climate change, protect air and water quality, regulate
pesticides and toxic substances, achieve the state’s recycling
and waste reduction goals, and advance environmental justice.
… Blumenfeld joined TPR for an exclusive interview to discuss
the administration’s priorities…
To prepare for the dry years that will come again as well as an
uncertain future, healthy mountain watersheds will be key to
our water supply. While the importance of forests to these
watersheds is well known, new research suggests that meadows
are valuable too. Meadows are like sponges, soaking up snowmelt
in the spring and releasing it through the dry season.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial
Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal
legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were
left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
California regulators voted Tuesday to strengthen state
safeguards for thousands of wetlands and streams that are about
to lose federal protections in a Trump administration rollback
of the Clean Water Act. … The new state rules will insulate
California from Washington’s efforts to drop regulations that
prevent the destruction of isolated wetlands and seasonal
The use of public art to bring about social change created the
interactive art event called the “Bombay Beach Biennale” on the
shores of the Salton Sea. Organizers hope to bring attention to
the long-ignored environmental issue facing the region, once
one of the premier tourist destinations in Southern California.
Modern interpretations of the public trust are said to have
originated from a sixth-century Roman law that asserted, “[b]y
the law of nature these things are common to mankind — the air,
running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”
Alongside auto wrecking yards and shipping centers off state
Route 905, a pop-up world has emerged with some of the
strangest creatures to swim in six inches of water. Here
aquatic plants grow next to cacti, and animals that have waited
for decades in the dust come to life. In this Otay Mesa
preserve are some of San Diego’s vernal pools, fleeting water
bodies that appear and vanish over the course of a season.
On Saturday officials held a grand opening ceremony for the
$44-million Albion Riverside Park — the city’s newest
greenspace. The triangular six-acre site next to the L.A. River
at Spring Street includes playing fields, walking trails,
restrooms, playgrounds, parking and an outdoor fitness center.
But the park will also do double-duty as a giant filter to
clean storm drain water before it flows in the adjacent L.A.
In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, which included a
program designed to preserve the nation’s dwindling wetlands.
This federal program has never been wholly successful in
achieving that goal. … California has the ability to fill
this alarming regulatory gap, at least here in the Golden
Conservationists and weekend volunteers have toiled in the
Bolsa Chica Wetlands for years, weeding out invasive plants and
replanting native vegetation squeezed out by the invaders. …
Now, these wildlife custodians are expanding their botanical
battle across Pacific Coast Highway to the sand dunes of Bolsa
Chica State Beach. After all, no matter how many enemy plants
are removed from the wetlands, ocean winds will carry more
seeds from non-native plants growing in the dunes.
Nearly 2 million acres designated as critical habitat for three
imperiled frog species survived a court challenge Wednesday by
California farmers. The Fish and Wildlife Service had
designated the land in 2016 under the Endangered Species Act to
protect two high-altitude species — the mountain yellow-legged
frog and the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog — as well as
TPR interviewed Martha Davis, a co-author on the Sustainable
Landscapes on Commercial and Industrial Properties in the Santa
Ana River Watershed report, about the potential for landscaping
changes to capture stormwater, reduce flooding, and improve
water quality. … Davis also comments on California water
policies under the new Governor Newsom administration. A brief
excerpt of the report follows the interview.
Democrats and their allies are moving to push back against a
former lobbyist and frequent foe of California
environmentalists who is on his way to becoming the next
secretary of the Interior Department. They don’t have the power
to block Trump nominee David Bernhardt, but they do have far
more ability to oppose his agenda than they had for the last
two years, when he served as the powerful deputy secretary of
“The community is miserably divided,” said Napa County
Supervisor Diane Dillon during a meeting on Tuesday. Dillon and
her four fellow board members were tasked with crafting and
approving the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance, a
controversial new law that seeks to conserve trees and forested
areas while improving water quality for the many creeks that
feed the Napa River.
This may be the bleakest shoreline in the Bay Area, and it
isn’t just the industrial infrastructure that gives character
to this place. Floating trash has collected along the docks,
and the waters are contaminated by the loading and unloading of
vast amounts of fossil fuels. A sign posted to a piling warns
fishers not to eat anything they catch here.
Major new efforts to manage runoff and protect existing homes
and businesses will be needed. Sea level rise will also affect
water management in other ways. One area is wastewater
treatment. Throughout coastal California and particularly in
the San Francisco Bay Area, wastewater and stormwater treatment
takes place in facilities that are currently at or near sea
level. Water supply will also be affected. Many coastal
aquifers will see increases in salinity …
In California, [Jerry] Schubel saw an opportunity to turn the
energy, food and water issues facing the state into a
sustainable model showing how people can live in harmony with
the Earth and the ocean, and thrive. That model required deep
collaboration, a commitment to educational resources for the
public and an aquarium willing to take a risk.
As the Sacramento River rose in late February and early March
due to a series of storms, it spilled over and flooded several
hundred acres of recently planted fields south of Hamilton
City. Just the way it was planned. The river poured through a
gap that had been opened in the old J Levee and flooded a
habitat restoration project between the riverbank and a new
levee that had been built, set back from the river a mile or
State officials are throwing up legal barriers to some
high-stakes attacks. … They are refusing to issue permits the
federal government needs to build a controversial dam
project… And they can use state water quality standards to
limit Washington’s ability to boost irrigation supplies for
Central Valley agriculture by relaxing federal safeguards for
It’s inevitable. Every year, big swaths of California will
burn. The question now that spring is here is how bad it will
be. If recent history is any guide, this year’s wildfire season
could be grim, despite a new push by state officials to keep
flames at bay. For all of its lush redwood forests and
snow-capped peaks, most of the Golden State is semi-arid… And
a shifting climate has been delivering ever hotter summer
The directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted
Thursday to start exploring the feasibility of a
demand-management program as part of a larger effort to manage
falling water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and avoid
violating the Colorado River Compact.
Water gives us life, and water does not come easily to
California. It made sense to invite it to stay a while and help
nurture our Gravensteins, our white figs and pear. So I’ve
spent months cutting back bramble and digging out blackberry.
The creek has become my workout video. I spend mornings
contemplating the flow of water and noticing what mushrooms
grow in the leaf litter, what animal prints inscribe the mud.
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
Small mountain streams and the vibrant ecosystems they support
were hit hard by the historic California drought of 2012 to
2015. Researchers monitoring aquatic life in Sierra Nevada
streams observed significant declines in the numbers of aquatic
insects and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates during the
Move over global warming or cooling, California has a new
environmental disaster called groundwater. And where there’s an
emergency, we have ambulance-chasing regulators and lawmakers
with bureaucratic fixes. Why are we having groundwater
problems? It’s plain and simple: Groundwater is replacing
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea
this week to promise that this time, things will be different
and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water
body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin
Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the
lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime
experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to
family members who still live in the area, as well as the
communities around the lake.
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north
shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about
what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about
the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here.
The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop
at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the
public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to
the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
Every year, millions of waterbirds migrating from Alaska to
Patagonia take a break from that epic journey to rest, eat and
breed in a stretch of wetlands spanning six Western states
called the Great Basin. A warming climate has made that
migration more challenging by altering how mountain snowmelt
flows into the network of lakes and rivers stretching from the
Sierra Nevada to the Rockies, according to a new study.
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
Otters, birds, and turtles might be the last animals you would
expect to find living next door to the Interstate 680
toll-plaza. But, tucked between the freeway, an oil refinery
and a wastewater facility hides an oasis on the mend. … The
21-acre constructed wetland is in the middle of an industrial
zone and is part of the Mt. View Sanitary District Wastewater
Treatment Plant. “It’s the very first wetland on the west coast
to use treated wastewater to create wetlands,” explained
district biologist Kelly Davidson.
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control
Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state
officials about their progress addressing the many issues
related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these
officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress
at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
A move by the Environmental Protection Agency could revive the
contentious plan to develop 1,400 acres of Redwood City
shoreline owned by Cargill Salt, which operates an industrial
plant there. The EPA removed one barrier to development earlier
this month by ruling that the area is not subject to
restrictions in the federal Clean Water Act. That puts the EPA
at loggerheads with environmentalists, who want to convert the
land back to tidal wetlands.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of
migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific
Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They
are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed
and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in
Nature’s Scientific Reports.
A sprawling stretch of salt ponds on the western edge of San
Francisco Bay, once eyed for the creation of a virtual
mini-city, is back at the center of debate over regional
development after the Trump administration this month exempted
the site from the Clean Water Act.
Poseidon is a bad deal for ratepayers. The study by the experts
at MWDOC ranked Poseidon dead last among local water projects
based on cost. Even after demanding a $400 million subsidy
financed by Southern California water users, Poseidon’s water
is still overpriced, costing twice per gallon as much as some
of the conservation, recycling and rainwater projects already
in development around our region.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency
plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is
pushing legislation that would exempt its work from
environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what
has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought
negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health
and ecological disaster.
The chances for passage this year of legislation to jump-start
serious water planning in New Mexico, including by pumping
millions of dollars into the effort, evaporated last week when
a Senate committee tabled a key bill.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an
important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The
remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a
management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is
two years overdue and still months away from completion. The
Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating
faster than it’s being replaced…
Hundreds of Bakersfield agriculture, oil and political leaders
came together March 7 to examine the challenges and
opportunities associated with providing California residents
and businesses with a secure, reliable supply of clean water.
Lest the wet winter create a sense of complacency around one of
the state’s most vital needs, specialists from various fields
urged collective attention to the costly and increasingly
complex problems that surround sourcing, storing and conveying
A bill introduced by a state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San
Francisco) that will address ocean acidification and water
quality issues has been introduced and it’s being supported by
a wide variety of stakeholders. Senate Bill 69, authored by
Wiener, is aimed at reducing land-based sources of pollutants,
the restoration of wetlands and the sequestration of greenhouse
gases and to protect wildlife and keystone species.
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.
It’s not often that communities in California and Louisiana
face similar water challenges. California is better known for
having too little water and Louisiana too much – both
challenges exacerbated by climate change. But record-setting
wet winter weather led both states last week to release
significant amounts of water from reservoirs and rivers to
prevent flooding, underscoring the need for new approaches to
build climate-resilient communities across the country.
Death Valley, the hottest and driest place in North America,
isn’t exactly known for record rainfall or pop-up lakes
stretching as far as the eye can see. But after a massive storm
lashed the desert with rain and brought chilly temperatures
through Southern California, that’s exactly what happened,
according to photographer Elliott McGucken. He was trying to
get to Badwater Basin, where he thought there could be
flooding, when he saw the giant lake.
On February 14, 2019, the California Office of the State Fire
Marshall (“OSFM”) published long awaited draft regulations to
reduce the volume of pipeline oil spills in coastal areas. The
proposed regulations, which implement AB 864 (2015), will
impose substantial and costly burdens on companies that own and
operate pipelines within California near environmentally and
ecologically sensitive areas
The federal government issued the final permit Friday allowing
the Rosemont Mine to be built despite written EPA warnings that
the mine will pollute surface water and shrink, if not dry up,
two nationally important streams. … The EPA’s regional office
also warned that the mine’s cutoff of stormwater flows into
neighboring streams and its groundwater pumping will
significantly degrade federally regulated water bodies.
In this edition of In Depth we take on two water topics. First,
there’s growing concern that a lot of the rainwater we’ve been
getting is just going down the drain and out to sea. We plumb
the depths of California’s water system to find out where it’s
coming up short and what can be done to fix it. Then, new
research suggests that the historical link between wet winters
and less severe fire seasons has broken down. We discuss why
even in the rainiest of years, we still can’t count out
A long battle over development of the Cargill salt ponds in
Redwood City may soon return after the EPA declared the site
exempt from the federal Clean Water Act — causing concern by
environmentalists and the city’s mayor. The Environmental
Protection Agency announced its decision earlier this month,
effectively removing one of several barriers to development of
the 1,400-acre Bayside property.
For a region so crucial to the growth of California as we know
it today, you might think there would be libraries full of
books about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And yet, as UC
Merced scholar Gregg Camfield wrote several years ago, the most
obvious thing about the literature of the Delta “is how little
there is.” Advocates of the largest estuary on the west coast
of the Americas are trying to collect those scattered bits and
pieces in a new anthology of the Delta.
When congress passed the CWA in 1972, they made it clear in
documents accompanying the legislation that they supported “the
broadest possible constitutional interpretation” of protected
waters of the United States.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors are exploring what it’d take
to bolster the county’s authority in issuing groundwater well
permits. Following a report about groundwater conditions in the
Adelaida region of the North County on Feb. 26, the Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to have its staff look at how it
could increase the level of review and discretion the county
has over approving or denying well applications.
California farmer Brenton Kelly still remembers how the Cuyama
Valley used to be. The valley, located in California’s Central
Coast region, has long been home to an abundance of wildlife.
Historically, the land has been used for cattle pastures, and
featured “beautiful rolling grassy hill” and an “amazing
wildflower show,” according to Kelly. These days, however, the
land has been taken over by large commercial farms and
vineyards, Kelly said. … Among some of the corporations that
have expanded into the region in recent years is an unlikely
investor — the Harvard Management Company. HMC, the
University’s investment arm, oversees Harvard’s nearly $40
Conditions are right for spectacular blooms throughout the
California desert this year, experts say. The benefits of rain
are endless, especially in Southern California, where
drought-like conditions often persist for months on end. Thanks
to this year’s significant rainfall, the annual wildflower
blooms are set to be quite spectacular, according to Jorge
Moreno, information officer for California State Parks.
The Crossroads Open Space soccer field in Santa Maria is filled
with water thanks to the most recent storm. Located on S.
College Dr., the field also serves as a basin to collect storm
runoff. The city says the water will soak into the ground,
recharging the groundwater basin.
What better way to decompress from a stressful federal
government job than by trekking 2,600 miles on foot from Mexico
to Canada? That’s what Jared Blumenfeld, the new head of the
California Environmental Protection Agency, did three years
ago, setting out on the arduous and beloved Pacific Crest Trail
that traces California’s searing deserts, rugged mountains and
You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater
aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the
North Coast. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They
aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled
areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals
benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds
creeks and streams. Humans tap into aquifers through wells used
for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go
there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around
the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and
that’s changing bird populations.
Dam by dam, owners of smaller hydroelectric projects around the
West look at them with a cold eye as relicensing looms. Created
with optimism a century ago, dams are now seen as fish-killers
and river-distorters. New energy sources are getting cheaper.
After decades of operation, owners approach relicensing knowing
that, if they are to continue generating a single watt of
electricity, they must fix the problems.
Scientists found that wet winter weather, historically a
predictor of more modest California fire seasons, is no longer
linked to less damaging fires. The link between more rain and
less fire fell apart thanks to modern fire management and
accelerating climate change, the study said. “It’s going to be
a problem for people, for firefighters, for society,” said
study co-author Alan Taylor, a Pennsylvania State University
California’s Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland body of
water, formed when a dam broke. It stayed alive fed by
agricultural water runoff. Today, it’s water supply is slowing,
and the sea is drying up and losing its place as a fishing and
recreation hotspot. But … the Salton Sea is finding new life
as haven for artists.
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Andrew R. Wheeler to be the
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, giving
oversight of the nation’s air and water to a former coal
lobbyist and seasoned Washington insider. … The vote, 52-47,
went mostly along party lines and underscored partisan
divisions over the Trump administration’s continued commitment
to repealing environmental regulations under Mr. Wheeler.
The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region
and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in
a time of great change. The valley produces more than half of
the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated farming is the
region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.
Stress on the valley’s water system is growing. Local water
supplies are limited, particularly in the southern half of the
A judge sentenced a self-described “dirt broker” convicted last
week of illegal dumping in federally protected San Francisco
Bay wetlands to thirty months in prison, a U.S. Justice
Department spokesman said Monday. On Thursday, a jury convicted
Carmel resident James Lucero on three counts of unpermitted
filling of wetlands and tributaries, violating the Federal
Clean Water Act.
The Yolo Bypass is central, both geographically and in
importance, to California’s water supply and flood protection
system, according to Bontadelli. However, proposed
modifications to the Bypass to enhance habitat for
out-migrating endangered winter and spring-run young salmon
means the it will be key to the continued pumping of water
south for agriculture and urban users.
A wide-ranging bill that revives a popular conservation
program, adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, expands
several national parks and creates five new national monuments
has won congressional approval. … The bill would permanently
reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which
supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across
the country. The program expired last fall after Congress could
not agree on language to extend it.
With stepped-up stormwater capture programs, the Pacific
Institute said in a 2014 study, Southern California and the Bay
Area could boost the state’s water supply by 420,000 acre-feet
annually. That’s enough water to meet the needs of
Every day, millions of gallons of water loaded with
arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most
contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding
streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press
has found. That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting
drinking water sources in Colorado, Montana, California,
Oklahoma and at least five other states.
In another sign Southern California is having its wettest
winter in years, Mystic Lake has risen again in the rural,
agricultural valley between Moreno Valley and San Jacinto. The
ephemeral body of water was largely absent the past decade
February storms have almost eliminated drought conditions from
California. The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that
just over 67 percent of the state is totally free of any level
of dryness. Just under 30 percent is classified as abnormally
dry, and less than 4 percent remains in either moderate or
Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency released
its enforcement data for fiscal year 2018, and in many key
areas data continued to show a downward trend in the civil and
criminal punitive measures meted out to large polluters. And on
Tuesday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced it
will hold a hearing next week to investigate the Trump EPA’s
“troubling enforcement record.”
One week after an atmospheric river storm pounded Northern
California, causing flooding, mudslides and traffic headaches,
another one appears to be forming in the Pacific and is set to
arrive early next week. Computer models show the storm
hitting Monday or Tuesday, with the North Bay and parts of
California farther north taking the brunt, although that could
change, experts say.
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and Assemblywoman Laura
Friedman, D-Glendale last week introduced SB 307, which seeks
to ensure “that any future water transfers from groundwater
basins underlying desert lands do not adversely affect the
California desert’s natural or cultural resources,” according
to a bill fact sheet.
Recent rains allowed surface water in the Mojave River to flow
through the city for the first time in eight years, signaling
good news for recharge in regional aquifers, according to
Mojave Water Agency officials.
If the Trump administration wanted to increase California’s
water supply by the most cost-effective means possible, it
would immediately drop its attempt to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5
feet. It would instead put $1.5 billion — the cost of the
proposed Shasta enlargement, in 2019 dollars — toward a
completely different approach to water supply: watershed and
We mostly blunder through sociological thinking on
environmental management. The book highlights the costs
of this blundering in terms of environmental efficacy,
distraction and waste of human time and resources, and
expansions of controversy for already-hard environmental
At the end of 2017, several local rice farmers teamed up with
researchers for a pilot program known as “Fish in the Fields”
through the Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit research
and natural resource policy group, to see what would happen
when fish were introduced to flooded rice fields. Now in its
second year of experiments, researchers have concluded that it
works, with methane – a climate-changing byproduct of rice
agriculture much more detrimental than carbon dioxide – being
reduced by about two-thirds, or 65 percent, in flooded fields
that had fish in them.
Many no longer recall the Great Midwest Flood despite its
record-breaking precipitation, flooding and $13 billion price
tag. Sure, 1993 seems like a long time ago, but I believe the
reason the flood has left most people’s memory is because, over
the last 25 years, the nation has experienced one devastating,
record-breaking flood after another. Our memories are diluted
by the frequency of such events.
Too often, entrenched conflicts that pit water user against
water user block efforts to secure a sustainable, equitable,
and democratic water future in California. Striking a balance
involves art and science, compassion and flexibility, and
adherence to science and the law. Felicia Marcus is a public
servant unknown to many Californians. But as she concludes her
tenure as chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, we
owe her a debt of gratitude for consistently reaching for that
The Trump administration’s proposal might seem simpler to
follow on wetlands because it wouldn’t protect those that are
dry most of the time and don’t connect to larger downstream
waters. But navigating the definition could be confusing when
it comes to wetlands that do connect to streams that are dry
during parts of the year.
The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by
reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving
ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to
revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat
for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.
There may be more in the sewage-tainted water that regularly
spills over the border from Tijuana than many San Diegans
realize. The cross-border pollution also contains potentially
dangerous industrial and agricultural chemicals, according to a
draft report compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
that was circulated to officials throughout the region on
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said
in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty
Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens
the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The
Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s
entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that
passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
Farmers, water managers and government agencies agree:
Groundwater sustainability is critical for California. But
achieving it could bring significant changes to the state’s
agricultural landscape, according to speakers at a Sacramento
gathering of water professionals.
Ominous predictions about the desert lake’s ecological
collapse are beginning to occur. You can see this sea
up close during our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1,
when we will visit the fragile ecosystem and hear from several
stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea.
Lawmakers from both parties said the bill’s most important
provision was to permanently reauthorize the federal Land and
Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and
outdoor recreation projects across the country. The program
expired last fall after Congress could not agree on language to
Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots
and climate-protection powerhouses that cost far less than
old-fashioned gray infrastructure of levees, dams and
reservoirs. They provide highly-effective flood safety by
strategically spreading floodwater. Floodplain forests combat
the effects of drought by recharging groundwater and increasing
California’s San Joaquin River Delta is in danger of being
overrun by voracious beagle-sized rodents. The state has a plan
to deal with them, but it’s going to take a lot of time and
money. Nutria, a large South American rodent, have become an
invasive species in several states, including Louisiana,
Maryland and Oregon.
A year after Colorado River imports were diverted to urban
areas from farms draining into the lake, dire predictions about
what would occur are coming to pass. A long-predicted, enormous
ecological transition is occurring this winter.
According to the government, the proposed rule is also
consistent with the statutory authority granted by Congress,
legal precedent, and executive orders. Notably, the proposed
definition would eliminate the process of determining whether a
“significant nexus” exists between a water and a downstream
traditional navigable water.
After more than a decade of drafting and editing, California is
poised to finally update its wetlands regulations this spring.
The effort, which began after a pair of Supreme Court decisions
limited federal wetlands protections, could be finalized just
in time to insulate the state from a Trump administration
proposal restricting which wetlands and waterways are protected
by the Clean Water Act.
In September of 2018, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) released the report, “Managing Drought in a Changing
Climate: Four Essential Reforms”, which asserted there are five
climate pressures affecting California’s water… The report
recommends four policy reforms: Plan ahead, upgrade the water
grid, update water allocation rules, and find the money.