California’s rich agricultural productivity comes with a price.
The dry climate that provides the almost year-round growing
season also can require heavily irrigated soils. But such
irrigation can also degrade the local water quality.
Two of the state’s most productive farming areas in particular,
the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and parts of the Imperial
Valley in southern California, have poorly drained and naturally
The California Water Board released a Caution Advisory for
harmful algae blooms Monday in Lake Oroville. The blooms of
algae were discovered in the Middle Fork of the lake, according
to an advisory released on the board’s Twitter Monday.
Combat climate change, or clean up California’s water? Those
alarmed by the Legislature’s decision to dip into a greenhouse
gas fund to pay for clean drinking water may need to get used
to it: constitutional restrictions on spending that money are
set to expire in 2021. At issue is the decision to address one
environmental crisis—the lack of clean water for one million
Californians—with money set aside for fighting another: climate
State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) announced Monday she
has secured a $15 million one-time investment of General Funds
for the southern Central Valley. The funds will address failing
water systems that deliver safe clean drinking water to
California’s most vulnerable communities.
The City of Lathrop has taken another step towards achieving
the long-awaited goal of being able to discharge tertiary
treated wastewater into the San Joaquin River. With the
approval of the Lathrop City Council, the city is now in a
contract with Ascent Environmental to initiate the
environmental documentation necessary to acquire the permit to
discharge of water from the city’s water treatment plant into
the river – a move that could pay sweeping dividends to the
city in the future.
Fishing isn’t supposed to be as easy as dipping a hook into
water and pulling out a fish. I’m told it’s an exercise in
patience, and that you’ll often come home empty-handed. But
those insights do not describe my experience on a recent
camping trip near the Oregon border. There, in a reservoir on
the Klamath River, yellow perch—a species not native to
California — thrives in water made artificially still by Iron
An on-again, off-again effort by state regulators to better
protect the Russian River and its tributaries against failing
septic systems, livestock waste and other potential sources of
bacterial contamination is in its final stages, with hopes that
an action plan for the entire watershed will be approved this
August and go into effect next year.
Earlier this week, environmental activists and people who lack
access to clean water rallied on the capitol steps to urge
state lawmakers to act. Among them were longtime labor activist
Dolores Huerta and Susana De Anda, executive director and
co-founder of Community Water Center. She joins Insight to
discuss the issue of unhealthy water and its impact on
communities. UC Davis associate professor and faculty lead of
the Center for Regional Change, Jonathan London, discusses his
research on the regions and people who lack access to clean
Clean water is a human right, essential to good health and to
the resiliency of California. Yet, more than one million people
from every region of our state have unsafe water at home.
California is the fifth largest economy in the world, but for
far too long, the state has neglected the basic right to safe
Shorelines in South Bay San Diego will never be fully immune
from the sewage and chemical pollution that flows north from
Mexico over the border through canyons and the Tijuana River.
However, beach closures triggered by contaminated stormwater
and Tijuana’s leaky sewer system can be dramatically reduced…
That was the message last week from President Trump’s U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, which released the most
comprehensive blueprint to date…
The state issued a “no drinking” order for the 364 homes and
businesses because of elevated nitrate levels, a contaminant
linked to “blue baby” syndrome. Within a couple days, emergency
hookups to two neighboring agencies were in place, allowing
people to again drink the tap water. But that supply depends on
fire hoses that wind along roadsides – a connection all agree
has a short shelf life.
Assemblyman Adam Gray’s bill, which he calls the Inland
California Healthy Communities Act, would provide a good start
at the expense of a relatively few wealthy gamblers. … Smart
ones deduct gambling losses from state and federal income
taxes, costing California $320 million a year on the former.
That’s money we could keep by simply discontinuing state
deductions for wagering losses, Gray figures.
Local officials plan to huddle over the next few weeks to pick
a strategy to control the region’s cross-border pollution
problem. … Since April, more than 110 million gallons of
sewage-tainted water has flowed into the Tijuana Estuary in the
United States and out to the ocean.
Woodland’s water is cleaner and safer to drink than in the
past, according to the just-released 2018 Water Quality Report.
The report, presented to the City Council this week, shows
minimal levels of cancer-causing chemicals that were present
years ago when the city still relied on well water. Today the
city obtains its water from the Sacramento River after which is
treated and delivered to homes and businesses.
After decades of insisting otherwise and before the U.S.
Supreme Court has had a chance to rule on the issue, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took steps to limit its
interpretation of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) jurisdiction over
Local leaders and representatives of several federal agencies
met Wednesday to look for a solution to the ongoing sewage
spills contaminating the Tijuana River Valley and the shoreline
from Imperial Beach to Coronado.
A coalition of California residents affected by unsafe drinking
water held a symbolic “water strike” at the Capitol on
Wednesday, pressing lawmakers to fund a plan that would clean
up their water sources.
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.
By the State Water Resources Control Board’s estimates, more
than a million Californians don’t have safe drinking water
flowing through the pipes into their homes. … As Gov. Gavin
Newsom prepares to send his revised $213 billion budget to the
legislature for approval, a trailer bill proposes that the
legislature appropriate $150 million a year to a Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
The United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water
supplies, but new challenges constantly emerge. For example …
many farm workers in California’s Central Valley have to buy
bottled water because their tap water contains unsafe levels of
arsenic and agricultural chemicals that have been linked to
elevated risks of infant death and cancer in adults. … So I
was distressed to hear EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler tout
the quality of drinking water in the U.S. in an interview on
March 20, 2019.
After several failed attempts, there is momentum this
legislative session to establish a fund for small water
agencies unable to provide customers with clean drinking water
because of the high treatment costs. But several hurdles remain
before the June 15 deadline for the Legislature to pass a
budget — most precariously, a resistance among lawmakers to tax
millions of residential water users and others while California
enjoys a surplus of more than $21 billion.
Community activist Dolores Huerta joined local leaders in East
Bakersfield to urge elected leaders Tuesday to vote in favor of
legislation they say will ensure safe drinking water for
communities in the valley. Specifically, Huerta urged the
legislature to support what’s being termed the Safe and
Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It would be financed by the tax
payers, estimated to be a one dollar per month tax increase on
every water bill in California.
The Santa Clara stretches 84 miles and through two counties
from the San Gabriel Mountains to the ocean just south of
Ventura Harbor. Over the past 20 years, millions of dollars
have been invested to protect and restore the river, work that
some say has reached a tipping point.
A beach closure that has been in place for months for the
southern part of the Imperial Beach was extended Sunday to
include the city’s entire shoreline. The San Diego County
Department of Environment Health issued the order to close the
coastline to swimmers as a result of sewage-contaminated runoff
in the Tijuana River.
While there are all kinds of water safety issues to be aware
of, the State Water Resources Control Board wants the public to
know about one that may not be so obvious — freshwater harmful
algal blooms, or HABs. As California confronts the realities of
climate change, HABs have become increasingly common in rivers,
lakes and reservoirs, and they can be especially dangerous to
children and pets.
Slow moving plumes of potentially toxic water are sitting
underneath homes, businesses and schools throughout Arizona.
… While some cities like Phoenix do not use groundwater for
drinking water, much of the state does.
The Senate voted 37-1 on Wednesday to approve a bill that would
create a fund dedicated to improving the state’s drinking
water. But the bill is clear the money could not come from a
new tax on water bills. Instead, Senate leaders have signaled
their intention to use $150 million of existing taxpayer money
Contaminated groundwater is an ongoing problem in some of the
state’s poorest rural communities, particularly in the San
Joaquin Valley. One big threat is nitrate, caused mainly by
many decades of crop fertilization with chemical fertilizers
and dairy manure. We talked to Anja Raudabaugh of Western
United Dairymen about what can be done to address these
Cautiously, cautiously – that’s Napa County’s approach to
creating a watershed computer model that could someday
influence rural land use decisions in an effort to keep
contaminants out of city of Napa reservoirs. Given the stakes,
supervisors want stakeholders such as the wine industry and
environmentalists involved in various decisions.
Water is a currency in California, and the low-income
farmworkers who pick the Central Valley’s crops know it better
than anyone. They labor in the region’s endless orchards, made
possible by sophisticated irrigation systems, but at home their
faucets spew toxic water tainted by arsenic and fertilizer
Clean water is important, and there are a million people in the
Central Valley without access to it. But do we need a new tax
to pay for it? Maybe we don’t. Just last week, a state Senate
budget subcommittee eliminated Gov. Newsom’s recommendation for
a water tax and replaced it with a $150 million continuous
appropriation from the General Fund.
Many have gazed across its shimmering expanse and seen an idea
just as big to fix it. … So far, with the exception of
geothermal energy, none have seen the light of day.
But with new interest in Sacramento, the rough
outlines of immediate, medium range and long-term plans to
protect public health and restore wildlife are taking shape.
The funding allows CalTrout to develop a broad team of agency
partners to restore a 950-acre tidal marsh estuary surrounding
Cannibal Island, adjacent to the mouth of the Eel River. …
The goal of restoration is to transform the monotypic landscape
of diked and drained land back to a mosaic of natural habitats
and pasture with reconnected tidal slough channels and access
for aquatic-dependent species.
When the federal government reduced how much arsenic it would
allow in drinking water in 2006, the water system in Jim
Maciel’s Central Valley community was suddenly considered
unsafe to drink. Bringing that arsenic content back down to a
safe level required a lot of work, as he explains to a few
colleagues at a water leadership institute in Visalia.
In his February State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom
called the safe drinking water crisis — which is centered in
lower-income communities ranging from the coasts to the Central
Valley — “a moral disgrace and a medical emergency.” He’s
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.
People who live along the southern border all say the same
thing: When it rains, it stinks. The reason is a failing, aging
network of pipes that run from Mexico to wastewater treatment
plants in the U.S. When heavy rains fall, the pipes often break
and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not
only a putrid odor but public health and environmental
There are actions we can take today that will reduce the
pressure on struggling sea life and protect the industries and
communities that rely on a healthy ocean. … The Ocean
Resiliency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 69) tackles a range of
threats facing our fisheries, from fertilizer runoff that feeds
harmful algae to sediment flowing downstream from logging
operations that violate clean water rules, which can silt up
the spaces between rocks where baby salmon shelter and feed.
No family should have to live in a community in which the water
that comes from their taps puts their children’s health at
risk. Over the last several years, the state has authorized
millions of dollars for emergency actions and one-time patches,
but has shied from doing what’s necessary to sustainably solve
It’s true that a report published late last month in the
journal Environmental Health found a link between California
tap water and cancer. The study noted high levels of arsenic,
plus numerous other contaminants that may be more toxic in
combination than they are separately. … The problem is very
serious — but not necessarily statewide.
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…
Vertical farming also brings potential for solving our current
and projected water issues in California. By using hydroponic
system technology, water is constantly recycled and uses 98%
less water per item than traditional farming. Adopting this
technology would be greatly beneficial for our future,
considering that California’s agricultural sector uses 40% of
Across its multitude of neighborhoods, communities and
cultures, the City of Long Beach offers a diverse haven for
businesses and families to thrive. At the same time, the unique
location of Long Beach in Southern California places it at the
mercy of significant human health risks caused by both
environmental and man-made factors.
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.
While the state agency responsible for policing Los Angeles
County’s polluted urban and stormwater runoff boasts
significant progress in its monumental task, a National
Resources Defense Council report this week criticizes the
water-quality panel for lackluster enforcement.
It’s taken four years but fishermen along California’s North
Coast who have seen crab and salmon seasons truncated and even
closed altogether will finally see some relief after $29.65
million in federal disaster relief funding was approved by
Congress. It was in the 2015-16 year the Dungeness crab fishery
and the Yurok Chinook salmon fishery both collapsed due to poor
As the Klamath River Renewal Corporation announced that they’ve
contracted with a company for removal of four Klamath dams last
week, opponents continue to insist the organization is ill
prepared for the expense and consequences of removal.
An ambitious California irrigation drainage deal is now mired
deeper than ever in legislative and legal limbo, alarming
farmers, spinning government wheels and costing taxpayers money
with no relief in sight. Though nearly four years have passed
since the Obama administration and the Westlands Water District
agreed to settle their high-stakes drainage differences, the
deal remains incomplete. Progress, if there is any, can be
measured in inches.
Every day, an estimated 100 million gallons of runoff
contaminated with various pollutants flows through L.A.’s
massive storm drain system to foul our rivers, creeks and,
ultimately, our coastal waters. … Today, NRDC urged the
Newsom Administration to encourage the Los Angeles Regional
Water Quality Control Board to address this serious public and
environmental health threat.
We have a drinking water crisis in California—a crisis that has
disproportionately impacted disadvantaged neighborhoods and
communities of color for years. There is however hope as many
voices, from many different people, with various political
views, have now joined the fight to address this crisis.
A group of Democratic senators and San Diego County-based
congressional representatives sent a letter to multiple federal
agencies Tuesday urging them to address sewage runoff in the
Tijuana River … Local and state officials as well as
environmental activists have decried the condition of the
Tijuana River for years, which regularly causes beach closures
along the county’s coastline, particularly after heavy rain.
Imperial Irrigation District general manager Henry Martinez and
California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot have
reached an agreement in principle that the state will be
responsible for construction and maintenance of more than 3,700
acres of wetlands aimed at controlling toxic dust and restoring
wildlife habitat. In exchange, the water district will sign
easements for access onto lands it owns that border
California’s largest lake.
A U.S. appeals court is forcing the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) to make a final decision on whether it will ban
the use of a common pesticide linked to developmental disorders
in children. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on
Friday ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether it
will ban the use of chlorpyrifos across the country. The agency
has until mid-July to make its determination.
In a wide-ranging interview with KQED, California’s newly
confirmed top environmental regulator says ensuring safe,
affordable drinking water for all Californians is one of his
top priorities; China’s rejection of previously accepted waste
materials is a “crisis” that requires reforming the recycling
process; and that the same innovation the state has brought to
addressing climate change needs to be applied to developing
alternative, safer pesticides.
Here’s what we know. The lower Klamath dams and reservoirs do
not provide multipurpose water storage, flood protection, or
irreplaceable energy. What they do provide are major barriers
to fish migration, toxic blue-green algae and fish disease (C.
shasta). The dwindling fish populations are proof. We must move
forward with removing the dams and restoring the Klamath to the
free-flowing river it once was.
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
Residents are concerned a proposed project aimed at tackling
the pollution problem in the Tijuana River Valley will
ultimately negatively affect them. … Some residents voiced
they are not happy to hear about a proposal to build what they
have dubbed a “sewage pond” near their homes.
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.
Smith River Neighborhood Watch coordinator Joni Forsht began by
telling local Easter lily bulb growers that though the goal
wasn’t to put them out of business, she wanted them to change
their methods “as far as what you’re putting on the lily bulbs
and where it’s going.” But before Wednesday’s meeting was over,
the growers said they felt attacked.
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.
Prior to the installation of the system, the rain garden was
hardpan dirt, allowing all the rainwater—contaminated and
polluted with oil, gas, sediment, cigarette butts and plastic
wrappers—to drain directly into Orrs Creek and the Russian
River. The new garden is 3- to 5-feet deep and composed of
carefully constructed layers of soil and rock, allowing the
water to be cleaned mechanically and biologically filtering the
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
An invasive bamboo-like species called arundo is encumbering
the natural ecology of the Salinas River and increasing flood
risk to nearby farmland. But the conservation agency charged
with protecting the area recently secured nearly $3 million
from state coffers for the purpose of fighting the invasion.
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
Since 1993, the Lake Almanor community has been fortunate to
have representatives from the California Department of Water
Resources (CDWR) assisting in the testing and assessment of the
health of the lake and its tributaries. … The testers check
for water temperature at the test location, dissolved oxygen,
turbidity (amount of suspended matter in the water) and for
various metals and minerals.
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.
Officials met in Imperial Beach Friday to discuss the sewage
pollution that continues to plague South Bay shorelines —
shuttering beaches more than 100 days every year. The event was
billed as an “inaugural dialogue,” which in the future will
include a host of other binational issues, including climate
change and commerce.
Almost everyone who flies into San Francisco or San Jose
airport has seen it — a vibrant patchwork quilt of colorful
water. … As part of a huge effort called the South Bay Salt
Pond Restoration Project, the Cargill salt company has freed
almost 16,000 acres of their salt ponds.
Hot weather is on its way, and with it, potentially toxic
bacteria could bloom rapidly in California’s largest lake, the
Salton Sea, and other waters on the receiving end of runoff
from farms and golf courses or sewage spills. With temperatures
across the desert expected to climb high into the 90s by
Monday, experts say telltale signs will quickly appear.
A Geyserville property owner who launched a medical cannabis
farm has agreed to pay $245,000 in fines and penalties for what
Sonoma County prosecutors said was improper water diversion,
unpermitted grading and site work that harmed streams in the
Russian River watershed.
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.”
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.
The water tax will require a two-thirds vote in each house.
Democrats have that and a little to spare. Still, the governor
will need to use all his power of cajolery and coercion to win
passage of any tax increase.
After 10 hours, 12 minutes and more than five dozen public
speakers, supervisors … increased requirements for preserving
trees and replacing cut-down ones for vineyards and other
development in watershed areas, but decided against a complete
ban on projects on ground steeper than 30 percent.
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…
One video follows Matthew Sligar on a “typical 14-hour workday”
during the planting season. Another offers a step-by-step
explanation of how rice is planted in Butte County. In others,
he takes viewers on virtual tractor rides and demonstrates
important tools, like his autonomous agriculture drone. Sligar
doesn’t shy away from controversial topics, either, such as
weed and pest control management and water usage.
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.
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.
Fortunately, California has developed a forward-looking Central
Valley Flood Protection Plan to meet this challenge. In his
first state of the state address, Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted
the central tenet of the flood plan—investing in floodplain
improvements that give rivers more room to safely bypass flood
waters around cities and infrastructure.
The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other
Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade
the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have
been better served – and made more believable – by a show of
good faith rather than a show of force.
Decay festers all around at the Salton Sea, the vast inland
lake in Southern California that once hosted beauty pageants
and boat races in its tourist heyday. … But new life is
moving into the breach. At Bombay Beach, artists drawn by the
cheap prices and surreal setting have been snapping up lots and
crumbling buildings as gallery spaces.
Tom Steyer, the billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party
donor, took a break from trying to impeach President Donald
Trump on Friday to visit the eastern Coachella Valley and learn
about the water quality issues plaguing the region’s residents.
Several San Diego political and business leaders headed to
Mexico City Sunday to advocate for free trade and increased
infrastructure spending in Tijuana to stop sewage spills from
polluting local beaches.
For the second time in two months, officials had to stop
diverting river water into Lake Casitas this week when several
feet of sandy muck got in the way. … Officials blamed the
Thomas Fire, which burned much of the area upstream in December
2017. When rain slammed into scorched hillsides, debris
and sediment came down the river.
Parts of the bay are experiencing high levels of shoaling —
sediment buildup that shallows the water, putting boats at the
mercy of large waves. … The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation
and Conservation District called for a state of emergency in
February due to increased shoaling halfway across the channel
in the North Bay, a portion known as “Rock and Roll Alley.”
Bay Area anglers say they are pleased California State Parks is
drastically reducing the number of sites treated with
pesticides on the grass and weed-choked Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta. … The move to reduce spraying and pelleting on
parts of the Delta this year comes in the wake of last year’s
increased use of pesticides that anglers’s claim wiped out the
weeds, but also killed dozens of beavers, fish, turtles and
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 is a very worthy cause. But needed improvements can easily
be paid for with the state’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus
or with the billions in approved state water bonds. Imposing a
first-ever tax on something as basic as water is a horrible
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will
introduce a tax of up to $10 a month to water customers in
order to fund safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities.
Valley Public Radio has reported in the past about how many of
those communities are right here in the San Joaquin Valley. To
learn about Newsom’s plan, we spoke to Jonathan Nelson, policy
director at the Community Water Center.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has
left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea,
California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the
case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on
to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if
they change their minds. But with or without IID’s
participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton
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.
Chinook spawned here historically, but in 1957 Putah Creek was
dammed near Winters to divert water for Solano County. After
that, hardly any salmon made their way up the creek. Then a
lawsuit in the 1990s — and resulting restoration project —
finally gave the fish what they needed to return after all
He announced Wednesday his plans to charge water customers an
extra amount ranging from 95 cents to $10 a month — money that,
combined with fees on animal farmers, dairies and fertilizer
sellers, he projects would raise $140 million a year that could
be put toward testing wells, aiding public water systems and
treating contaminated water. The amount paid would depend on
the size of one’s water meter.
The problem is that removing the four dams will not restore
natural river flows. Those flows are, for the most part,
controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation which will
continue to divert Klamath River water to the Rogue Basin and
for federal irrigation in the Upper Klamath and Lost River
The idea of a recycled water plant project has been around for
more than 10 years, with the original idea coming from the
community. Through the years, staff has looked at various
locations, including a combined project with Naval Base
Coronado, and determined the golf course location to be the
SDSU researchers examine the effects of shrinking water
supplies in the Imperial-Mexicali Valley: The problems there
are as old as the urbanization of Southern California:
insufficient water to meet community demands and ecosystem
needs. The solutions, which could figure into future
policy-making, are both increasingly high-tech and surprisingly
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.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet
shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting
that the Trump administration is now pushing federal
legislation that would eliminate public health and
environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part
of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler
says that unsafe drinking water — not climate change — poses
the greatest and most immediate global threat to the
environment. In his first network interview since his
confirmation last month, Wheeler told CBS News chief Washington
correspondent Major Garrett that while the administration is
addressing climate change, thousands are dying everyday from
unclean drinking water.
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to charge California water customers up
to $10 per month to help clean up contaminated water in
low-income and rural areas, but he will face resistance from
some legislative Democrats hesitant to impose new taxes. …
Newsom wants to combine it with fees on animal farmers, dairies
and fertilizer sellers to raise about $140 million per year.
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.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
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.
Manteca is preparing to spend $14.3 million to make sure ground
water from five wells meet higher standards implemented by the
state of California when it comes to acceptable levels of
1,2,3-Trichloroprane — a Shell Oil and Dow Chemical product
used in certain soil fumigants area farmers used between 1950
and 1980 — that is found in drinking water.
It may be a unique situation when a dam removal might mean more
water for farmers instead of less, but the Klamath Basin is a
unique place. A report released last summer by the Bureau of
Reclamation (BOR) is leading more and more Basin farmers and
ranchers to believe that dam removal may have something big to
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.
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…
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.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked
by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour
the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get
airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already
suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
Environmental groups Monday asked a federal appeals court to
reconsider a ruling that struck down part of a high-profile
removal plan for four dams on the Klamath River in California
and Oregon, saying it set a precedent that would exempt dozens
of dams nationwide from meeting water quality standards.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on
Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark
Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder
more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead
from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed
on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the
multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board
took the step over the objections of the Imperial
Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest
allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
Rescues of unhealthy seals and sea lions have nearly tripled
for this time of year in Orange County, according to the
Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which this week took in its 41st
pinniped since the year began. … While the exact reason for
the increase in the number of strandings this year is unknown,
Higuchi said it could be tied to warmer ocean waters caused by
an El Nino weather pattern or excess stormwater runoff from all
of this winter’s rains.
The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to
speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water
from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a
move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science
and cuts the public out of the process. The decisions will
control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the
country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for
two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego,
and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.
Residents of Allensworth, a historic town established by a
former slave, have struggled with clean water access for
decades. … The community’s water system comes from two
blended wells, serving 521 residents with 156 connections. A
chlorination process removes most harmful bacteria, but the
water still tests high for arsenic, a known carcinogen that
damages the kidneys.
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.
Santa Rosa officials said Tuesday that managers at the city’s
wastewater plant have been forced to release at least 250
million gallons of treated sewage into two creeks and the
nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa amid record inflow to the facility
that began in last week’s storm. The three-day deluge pushed
more than five times the normal flow of wastewater and runoff
into the city’s Laguna de Santa Rosa plant. It was the highest
inflow ever recorded at the site, according to the city.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April 3-5, you will
meet farmers who will explain how they prepare the fields,
irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that helps feed
the nation and beyond. We also will drive through hundreds of
miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams, reservoirs and
groundwater wells that provide the water.
Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a special
board meeting late Friday that the federal Bureau of
Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought
contingency plan package include restoration of the Salton Sea.
They said federal officials will write a strong letter of
support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill
funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea, which
is California’s largest inland water body.
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.
The most eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant in the
Northern San Joaquin Valley will be Manteca’s by the time 2020
rolls around. Not only is the treated water returned to the San
Joaquin River meeting the latest standards established by the
state for water quality, but within six months or so methane
gas — a major byproduct of the treatment process that typically
has to be burned — will no longer contribute to valley air
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is researching how
cannabis cultivators who divert water from Mattole River
streams might be impacting the river’s fish and insect
populations… By fall 2019, the researchers will publish
findings on the full environmental effects of cannabis grows.
While the research is intended to “support efforts to
establish” sustainable cultivation levels, the study’s main
focus is analysis, said department representative Janice
Now stripped of its once vast wetlands and nearly sucked dry
from the overpumping of groundwater during the West’s
increasingly common droughts, the fertile valley is in need of
a reboot: Its aquifers have shrunk and the remaining water is
often contaminated with nitrate and salts. Citing a new water
law that will have major effects on water suppliers and
farmers, experts are calling for an “all hands on deck”
approach to fixing the valley’s water woes.
During the past two decades, the federal government’s spending
on sewer projects along the U.S.-Mexico border has declined
dramatically. The decrease in funding has left a long list of
needed sewer fixes unbuilt, while raw sewage and industrial
pollution have continued to pour into the New River, the
Tijuana River and other rivers that flow across the border.
Now, Congress has started to put more money toward combating
water pollution on the border.
The Board of Commissioners for the Humboldt Bay Harbor,
Recreation and Conservation District passed a motion to declare
a countywide state of emergency in light of shoaling, or
increased sedimentation, on Humboldt Bay near the channel
entrance — conditions that could persist for months, officials
said. … The shoaling stems from recent winter storms and has
brought activity on the bay to a halt…
As awful as the constant spills from Tijuana’s broken sewage
infrastructure have been for the Tijuana River and the San
Diego County-Baja California coast, new information suggests
they’re an even scarier health threat than previously thought.
Environmental groups, states, industry and conservatives are
watching the case closely, as its outcome could clarify or
narrow EPA’s historical interpretation of the types of
pollution discharges covered by the Clean Water Act. “This is
the most significant environmental law case in the last few
years,” said Beveridge & Diamond PC attorney John Cruden,
former head of the Justice Department’s environment division.
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.
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.
Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office continues to
operate under the 2013 Biological Opinion while a new document
is being created, along with the court-ordered injunction in
place to guide the Klamath Project.
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
The Siskiyou County Water Users Association received
confirmation that its writ of mandamus, filed with the U.S.
Court of Appeals in November, 2018, has been scheduled for the
docket early next month. The writ asks the court to compel the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rule on a motion the
SCWUA filed in April, 2018, which attempts to stop the transfer
of the dams’ ownership to the KRRC – the nonprofit formed to
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.
Felicia Marcus, whose push for larger river flows angered
farmers and community leaders in the Northern San Joaquin
Valley, won’t continue as chairwoman of the State Water
Resources Control Board. Gov. Gavin Newsom named Joaquin
Esquivel as chairman of the powerful water regulatory board.
… Laurel Firestone, co-founder of the Community Water
Center, was appointed as the replacement for Marcus.
… Firestone has been an advocate for addressing wells
contaminated with nitrates.
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
The Klamath Tribes have made it clear that we are not
interested in engaging in water settlement discussions.
However, we are very interested in discussions that will
protect and enhance our treaty resources.
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.
While unfamiliar to many consumers, dry farming is an age-old
practice that entails carefully managing soils to lock winter
rainfall into the top layers until it’s time to begin growing
crops during the spring and summer. As little as 20 inches of
rain – roughly the same amount that the Central Coast receives
each winter on average – can sustain crops in the months
without rainfall, with no need to add any extra water.
For generations, residents of the Southern California border
town of Calexico watched with trepidation as their river turned
into a cesspool, contaminated by the booming human and
industrial development on the other side of the border in
Mexico. As Washington debates spending billions to shore
up barriers along the 2,000-mile southwest border, many
residents in California’s Imperial Valley feel at least some of
that money could be spent to address the region’s public health
The coring project is the initial phase of a multiyear analysis
in partnership with the Utah Department of Environmental
Quality, the National Park Service and the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation. The agencies have set aside $1.3 million for the
study, about half going toward extracting the cores.
Numbers released by the Trump administration Friday show an 80%
drop in some penalties levied against polluters, the latest
sign that the Environmental Protection Agency has become a less
Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made
Klamath-Trinity spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing
under the California Endangered Species Act. The decision was
in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe
and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to
list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the
protections of a listed species.
The latest chapter in the long-running dispute over how to
manage water in the Klamath Basin is playing out in northern
California communities. … About two dozen protesters are
standing along Main Street in Yreka, the seat of Siskiyou
County, which lies just across Oregon’s southern border.
They’re holding signs saying “Stop The Klamath Dam Scams.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Maintaining functional wetlands in a 21st-century landscape
dominated by agriculture and cities requires a host of hard and
soft infrastructures. Canals, pumps, and sluice gates provide
critical life support, and the lands are irrigated and tilled
in seasonal cycles to essentially farm wildlife. Reams of laws
and regulations scaffold the system.
The recent burst of winter rains has helped drive endangered
coho salmon up to their spawning grounds in Lagunitas Creek,
with surveyors counting the highest number of spawners in 12
years. … Lagunitas Creek supports about 20 percent of
the remaining coho salmon between Monterey Bay and Fort Bragg,
making it a key recovery area for the threatened species.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State
Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, are extending outreach
to the cannabis cultivating community with presentations at
four permitting workshops in Northern California. The
presentations are ideally suited for cannabis cultivators,
consultants and anyone interested in the topic. SWRCB will
cover policy and permitting, and other important information.
Computers will be available for applicants to apply for water
rights and water quality permits.
The San Diego City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to
join a California lawsuit against the International Boundary
Water Commission (IBWC) over sewage flow from Tijuana, Mexico
into the United States. … The lawsuit alleges millions
of gallons of waste, including untreated sewage, trash,
pesticides and heavy metals have been discharged from the
IBWC’s treatment facilities in violation of the Clean Water
The City of Lathrop is one step closer to earning a permit that
will allow for the discharge of treated wastewater straight
into the San Joaquin River. … Currently the City of
Lathrop disposes of the effluent that is generated from the
Lathrop Consolidated Treatment Facility by storing it in basins
during the winter months, and then applying it to urban or
agricultural landscapes during the summer months.
Recent research has identified a genetic variation in
Klamath-Trinity spring-run Chinook salmon which is
upending prevailing scientific narratives about the
fish. Scientists are calling it the “run time gene,” as it
appears to be the factor which controls whether the salmon will
migrate in the spring, or fall. The research, spearheaded by
Daniel Prince and Michael Miller of UC Davis, is being utilized
by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council in
a renewed effort to list the Spring Chinook Salmon under the
state’s Endangered Species Act.
This is not quite anyone’s vision of the California dream,
popularly imagined as variations based on building a safe,
secure and successful life. … Instead, Imperial County is
emblematic of life for millions of people around the state who
live under an umbrella of bad air quality or who have
contaminated soil or lack access to clean water.
On our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, we will
visit this fragile ecosystem that harbors 400 bird species and
hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges
facing the sea, including managers of the Imperial Irrigation
District, the Salton Sea Authority and California’s appointed
“Sea Czar,” assistant secretary on Salton Sea policy Bruce
Last week, in the third meeting of the Board of Directors of
the San Lorenzo Valley Water District … the board voted 4-1
for a permanent ban on the use of glyphosate pesticides by the
district, keeping a campaign promise that remained
controversial right up to the board’s vote. “The residents in
our district have spoken — they do not want glyphosate … and we
don’t really know the true effects of glyphosate — how it will
affect all the little creatures in sensitive habitat,” said
Louis Henry, the newly appointed board chair.
The restoration site is one of three south of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the riparian corridor along the last
miles of the Colorado River. There, in the delta, a small
amount of water has been reserved for nature, returned to
an overallocated river whose flow has otherwise been
claimed by cities and farms. Although water snakes through
an agricultural canal system to irrigate the restoration sites,
another source is increasingly important for restoring these
patches of nature in the delta’s riparian corridor:
More than 1,000 birds died at a lake in Southern California
earlier this month, state wildlife officials announced Tuesday.
The birds – primarily migratory water fowls such as Ruddy
Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls – died
at the Salton Sea after contracting a contagious bacterial
disease known as avian cholera
A California appellate court recently continued the trend of
legislative and judicial expansion of the prevailing wage law’s
scope in Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc. The Second
District Court of Appeal found that … any tasks
involving some form of labor done under contract (and not
performed by agency employees) for irrigation, utility,
reclamation and improvement districts, and other districts of
this type is, except for public works projects of $1,000 or
less and operation of the irrigation or drainage system of any
irrigation or reclamation district, potentially subject to
prevailing wage requirements.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman today named
Ernest A. Conant director of the Mid-Pacific Region. Conant has
nearly 40 years of water law experience and previously served
as senior partner of Young Wooldridge, LLP.
For decades, the New River has flowed north across the
U.S.-Mexico border carrying toxic pollution and the stench of
sewage. Now lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento are pursuing
legislation and funding to combat the problems. “I feel very
optimistic that we’re going to be able to get some things done
on the New River issue,” said Assemblymember Eduardo
One in seven Americans drink from private wells, according to
the U.S. Geological Survey. Nitrate concentrations rose
significantly in 21% of regions where USGS researchers tested
groundwater from 2002 through 2012, compared with the 13 prior
years. … “The worst-kept secret is how vulnerable
private wells are to agricultural runoff,” says David Cwiertny,
director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects
of Environmental Contamination.
When it comes to water, the lifeblood of the Central Valley,
Democrats don’t have all the answers. So says freshman
Representative Josh Harder, suddenly one of the most powerful
Democrats in these parts. … “We need to make sure we’re
all working together to advance the agenda of the Central
Valley,” continued Harder, 32, of Turlock. “I was very
encouraged to see some of the measures the Trump
administration put forward on water.”
Citing what they say would be a disastrous decision for the
region, the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts
have joined with other members of the San Joaquin Tributaries
Authority (SJTA) in a lawsuit challenging the state’s right to
arbitrarily increase flows in the Stanislaus and two other
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s
most important positions regarding state water policy. One of
Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediate: State Water
Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this
Anticipating years of drought, officials built the Yuma
Desalting Plant in 1992 to treat agricultural runoff and
conserve water in Lake Mead. Over the past 26 years, however,
the plant has operated just three times while costing millions
of dollars to maintain.
Many Americans know the name Kesterson as the California site
where thousands of birds and fish were discovered with gruesome
deformities in 1983, a result of exposure to selenium-poisoned
farm runoff. Thirty-five years later, it is one of the oldest
unresolved water problems in the state.
For decades, cannabis has been grown
in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously
harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in
suburban tract homes.
In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as
marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to
gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the
state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized
for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.
The manager of a San Joaquin Valley water district seen as a
model for how to manage toxic agricultural runoff was jailed
last week in Fresno on charges of embezzlement and burying 86
drums of toxic waste on the water district’s property.
A key deadline has passed to solve the irrigation drainage
problem that caused massive bird deaths and deformities at
Kesterson wildlife refuge. But a Westlands Water District
official said Congress is still on track to pass legislation
benefiting both the district, which delivers water to farms
over an area the size of Rhode Island, and the federal
This year, the annual bill governing national defense policy
almost settled a three-decades-old conflict in California over
the drainage of toxic water from farm fields. Lawmakers
finished resolving the differences between the House and Senate
versions of the military bill, legislation that addresses troop
numbers and overseas operations, on Nov. 8.
His name is David Longly Bernhardt, and he’s worked as the top
lobbyist for California’s Westlands Water District, the largest
agricultural entity of its kind in the nation. … On Friday,
the Trump administration announced it was nominating Bernhardt
to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
On a mostly party-line 23-16 vote, the House Natural Resources
Committee approved the bill to settle the irrigation dispute
between the mammoth Westlands Water District and the federal
government. The measure relieves Westlands of a big
construction debt, and in turn shifts the burden for solving
the toxic drainage problem from the government to the water
A reported federal investigation that’s stalled part of a
California irrigation-drainage deal does not extend to the
small San Luis Water District in western Fresno and Merced
counties, a top district official said Wednesday.
The political terrain appears favorable for a
mega-million-dollar irrigation drainage deal, with Congress
still fully in Republican hands and California’s sprawling
Westlands Water District with influential allies. But there are
A key House committee on Wednesday approved a big irrigation
drainage deal with California’s politically potent Westlands
Water District, opening another front in the state’s ongoing
conflict over water, money and power.
The federal government and farmers on the west side of the San
Joaquin Valley may be close to signing off on another
controversial deal to clean up toxic runoff which, if left
unabated, could threaten the downstream Delta.
In an election year, despite the usual suspects rallying
against anything that would help Valley agriculture, the House
of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources has taken an
important step to advance bipartisan legislation codifying a
settlement between the federal government and the Westlands
A proposal to solve a long-running San Joaquin Valley
irrigation drainage dispute between the Westlands Water
District and the federal government is roiling a Congress
already hung up on other California water fights.
The politics of California water is becoming three-dimensional
chess in Congress as lawmakers balance competing anti-drought
ideas with a proposed San Joaquin Valley irrigation drainage
settlement that’s going to get bigger.
Clout can be defined in many ways. In California’s parched
Central Valley farmlands, it’s the ability to secure water. By
that measure, the giant Westlands Water District has just set a
whole new standard.
A Congress that has stumbled over a California water bill amid
record drought now faces a challenging new fight over
irrigation drainage. … In a federal court filing Wednesday,
the Justice Department provided both details and a roadmap for
the irrigation drainage settlement formally agreed to by
federal and Westlands officials the day before.