Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up.
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday will consider a petition to list spring run Chinook salmon on the Upper Klamath-Trinity River as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the Fish and Game commission accepts the petition, which was submitted by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in July 2018.
While campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised a cheering Fresno crowd he would be “opening up the water” for Central Valley farmers… Trump took one of the most aggressive steps to date to fulfill that promise Tuesday by proposing to relax environmental regulations governing how water is shared between fish and human uses throughout the Central Valley.
An assortment of groups … joined the legal fray in courts over the State Water Board decision in December to reduce water diversions for farms and cities from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. The emotions leading up to the Dec. 12 decision have touched off debate on what exactly could restore a severely impaired delta estuary and depleted salmon populations and what it will cost for Central Valley communities.
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.
The California Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit to block by the State Water Resources Control Board’s plans for the lower river flow of San Joaquin River. In a press release, the Farm Bureau said that the Board’s plan , which was adopted last December, “misrepresents and underestimates the harm it would cause to agricultural resources in the Central Valley”.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
On Tuesday, the Democratic members of the House Committee on Natural Resources elected Huffman to serve as chair for the newly established Water, Ocean and Wildlife Subcommittee. The chair is the result of a long career championing environmental protections and, for Huffman, it’s both an honor and a welcome added responsibility.
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated David Bernhardt, the former top lobbyist for a powerful Fresno-based irrigation district, to run the Department of the Interior, raising renewed questions about whether he’d try to steer more California water to his former clients. … Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which serves farmers in Fresno and Kings counties and is one of the most influential customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
The winter rains have caused the biggest surge of coho salmon in a dozen years in the celebrated spawning grounds of western Marin County, one of California’s last great strongholds for the embattled pink fish. At least 648 coho this winter made their way against the current up meandering, forested Lagunitas Creek and its many tributaries on the northwestern side of Mount Tamalpais, according to a new census by biologists.
In a step to secure water supplies well into the future, the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors unanimously approved extending the contract for water imported from Northern California for another 50 years, to 2085. The contract with the state Department of Water Resources for State Water Project water … accounts for 50% or more of the district’s water supply. It is becoming especially important as a result of the court settlement that sets limits on groundwater pumping for the Antelope Valley.
All eyes were on Arizona this week as state lawmakers took a last-minute vote on their part of the pact. They approved the plan Thursday afternoon, just hours before the deadline, but Arizona officials still haven’t finalized a variety of documents. In addition, a California irrigation district with massive river rights has yet to sign off on the agreement. On Friday, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman … said the agency would start the formal legal process of soliciting comments on how it should impose cuts.
Details of the Sacramento River portion of the SWRCB’s plan are still preliminary, but we expect the required water releases to be higher for the Sacramento River, and its tributaries, than they are for the San Joaquin River. SWRCB staff is currently recommending that between 45 and 65 percent of the natural runoff of northern California rivers be allowed to flow to the ocean unimpeded.
The tiny town of Arbuckle in Northern California sank more than two feet in nine years. The revelation comes from a new survey that tracked subsidence — the gradual sinking of land — in the Sacramento Valley between 2008-17. Located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, Arbuckle (pop. 3,028) sank more than any other surveyed area. … Subsidence has long been an issue in California, but its recent acceleration was likely fueled by an extreme drought that plagued California between 2012-16.
A $500,000 program to mitigate for destruction of artificial habitat created by Placer County Water Agency canal leaks has ended. The Water Agency started working in the mid-2000s to fix ongoing leaks along its canals and confronted a problem of its own doing. The leaks had created what state Environmental Quality Act standards defined as artificially established wetlands and habitat for wildlife.
California’s Imperial Irrigation District will get the last word on the seven-state Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans. And IID could end up with $200 million to restore the badly polluted and fast-drying Salton Sea. Thursday, as the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline set by a top federal official, all eyes had been on Arizona. But lawmakers there approved the Colorado River drought deal with about seven hours to spare. IID, an often-overlooked southeastern California agricultural water district, appears to have thrown a last-minute monkey wrench into the process.
By this time next year, 21 critically over-drafted groundwater basins in California must submit plans to the state’s Department of Water Resources for how to bring their basins back into balance. With this major deadline looming, it’s crunch time for water managers and their consultants – some of whom will begin releasing draft plans in the next six to eight months seeking required public comments.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.
The Bureau of Reclamation, the Interior Department’s Western water bureaucracy that saw its dam-building heyday in the 1960s, has risen in stature once again in the Trump administration. Reclamation has flexed its muscles on Colorado River drought management plans… And it has been the administration’s key player in trying to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to deliver more water to California farmers, squeezing the state and forging ahead on a dam project California says it doesn’t want.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a drought contingency plan Thursday afternoon, six hours ahead of the deadline set by a key federal official for the state to act or face having its Colorado River water supply determined by her.That came despite objections from some legislators who questioned why the state will allow Pinal County farmers to once again pump groundwater for their crops and will also provide cash to help them do it.