The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on Friday that the EPA’s 2015 power plant wastewater pollution rule was not stringent enough, siding with environmentalists. Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan ruled in favor of various environmental groups that portions of the wastewater rule regulating legacy wastewater and liquid from impoundments were “unlawful.”
Casey Hashimoto, general manager of the Turlock Irrigation District since 2010, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of 2019. The leader of one of Stanislaus County’s largest water and power providers disclosed his plans at the morning board meeting. Hashimoto, an electrical engineer, joined TID in 1985 and was an assistant GM for 10 years.
A bill that would authorize the federal government to enact a drought plan for Colorado River basin states in times of shortage has passed Congress and is on its way to the White House for the president’s signature. … Its aim is to protect water users from deep losses and keep the reservoirs and river healthy.
PG&E’s announcement it would no longer seek a new license to operate the complex set FERC’s “orphan project” process in motion… Prospective licensees have until July 1 to file applications with FERC. … A new licensee must be able to pay for the continued maintenance and operation of all project facilities and be capable of monitoring and complying with regulatory requirements arising from the project’s impacts.
Officials predict they might need to open the gates to move water that accumulated during the wet winter season from the reservoir down into the Feather River. … Amy Rechenmacher, an associate professor of engineering practice at USC, said the spillway’s use is going to be a big test for the agency and engineers who worked on the project.
Whitewater rafting businesses are holding out hope of getting a safe landing area near the Ward’s Ferry bridge over the Tuolumne River, as a condition of relicensing the Don Pedro hydroelectric project. At a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing Tuesday in Modesto, speakers said an existing takeout for rafts on the Tuolumne, upstream from Don Pedro Reservoir, is under water because of dam operations. And the options for getting boats out of the water are not safe.
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to climate change.
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most, it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir. But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal water consumption?
Dozens of computer coding teams from around San Joaquin County were tasked to create an app in roughly seven hours. The issue: following the destruction caused by the malfunction of the Oroville Dam in February 2017 and the evacuation of more than 180,000 people, could there be an app that can track dam leakage, seismic activity and other structural impacts and communicate with the appropriate individuals to help deter another disaster?
To better understand how vineyard and housing development could affect its Upvalley water sources, the city of Napa may join forces with the county on a study of runoff and inflow into Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir.
A state environmental group is calling for the removal of an old dam on the Eel River, contending it threatens the future of protected salmon and steelhead while acknowledging it is a key part of the North Bay’s water supply. Scott Dam, a 138-foot concrete dam erected in 1922, is one of five aging dams California Trout asserts are “ripe for removal” to benefit their natural surroundings and communities.
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 offer.
A system that transfers and diverts water from the Eel River basin has been in Pacific Gas and Electric’s control for over 35 years, but the utility’s bankruptcy filing in January — coupled with its interest in either selling or abandoning the project — has Humboldt County officials intent on closely following what happens next.
Still unconvinced Klamath River dam removal wouldn’t result in excessive silt at Crescent City Harbor, Del Norte County supervisors are asking the nonprofit organization behind the effort to set aside mitigation dollars. With a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed Community Development Director Heidi Kunstal to draft a letter to the Klamath River Renewal Corporation with its request.
It won’t arrive in time for this wet winter, but hopes are rising that Central Valley politicians will soon deliver on one of their top political goals in recent years: investment in California water storage. Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project toward a series of reservoir projects, as well as repairs to a canal serving Kern County farmers.
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon a common frustration among many valley Republicans that billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
Millions of Californians could end up with higher water bills after the Trump administration on Friday announced that federal emergency officials aren’t going to reimburse the state for $306 million in repairs to Oroville Dam stemming from the 2017 spillway crisis. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems that existed prior to a massive hole forming in the dam’s concrete spillway in February 2017…
Oregon’s dam safety regulations are getting an overhaul, for the first time in nearly a century. A bill pending in the Legislature would rewrite the laws governing construction, inspections and enforcement authority for hundreds of state-regulated dams. The bill would increase the state’s power to force owners of aging, dangerous dams to do maintenance and make repairs. And it would require state approval and oversight of all new dam construction and removal of old dams.
Plenty of snow in the Sierra and lots of rain just about everywhere else in California have helped alleviate drought conditions across the state. But there’s also another positive byproduct of the wet winter — a likely boost in the amount of hydroelectricity in California’s energy mix.
Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Rules enacted a decade ago that were intended to protect California’s iconic salmon and Delta smelt populations aren’t working and federal agencies are now in the process of modernizing them, this time using much better science.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation Thursday to repurpose federal funding for the high-speed rail project. The Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act would take funding from the high-speed rail project and use it for water infrastructure projects in California and the West… McCarthy’s proposed legislation is cosponsored by every Republican member of the California Congressional Delegation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $205 million to reimburse California for the Oroville Dam spillway reconstruction costs, the state Department of Water Resources announced Thursday. … However, FEMA has notified DWR that it doesn’t think some of the reconstruction costs are eligible for reimbursement,
Deadly severe wildfires in California have scientists scrutinizing the underlying factors that could influence future extreme events. Using climate simulations and paleoclimate data dating back to the 16th century, a recent study looks closely at long-term upper-level wind and related moisture patterns to find clues.
Water is starting to seep down the rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway. California Department of Water Resources officials said Wednesday this is common and will not affect the operation of the dam’s gates, which are not watertight. … Both spillways at the 770-foot earthen dam, the nation’s tallest, collapsed in February 2017, forcing nearly 200,000 people downstream to evacuate.
The moment a lone duck was sucked into a 200ft-deep drain at a reservoir in northern California – and reportedly survived – has been captured on video. Known locally as the “Glory Hole”, the giant spillway is designed to capture excess water at Lake Berryessa reservoir in Napa County. Rick Fowler, the lake’s water resources manager, filmed the bird as it drifted towards the fast-swirling vortex and dropped down into the hole.
This past December, DWR reconnected electricity to the Ronald B. Robie Thermalito Pumping-Generating Plant in Oroville, a major step towards returning the plant to full operation. A fire in November 2012 destroyed the plant’s operating capacity, requiring closure of the facility and its disconnection from the state’s electrical grid. …
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.
The state Department of Water Resources announced that releases from the powerplant were being increased from 1,750 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cfs. Ten-day projections show the lake reaching 835 feet on March 14, according to DWR. The department has said it does not anticipate that it will utilize the rebuilt Oroville Dam spillway anytime soon; however, crews have been making preparations in case its use becomes necessary. The spillway becomes usable once water reaches its gates at 813 feet, which should happen Tuesday morning.
It’s a treasure that is all too easy for Palo Alto to take for granted — an abundant supply of pristine water that flows from the Sierra Nevada snowpacks and passes through the Hetch Hetchy system before splashing out of local showers and faucets. Palo Alto is one of 25 cities that belong to the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), which manages the member cities’ supply agreement with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. … Even so, the cities don’t always know which projects they’re helping to fund.
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive. Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has insight as to why those involved with the project are still optimistic.
It has occurred to me that the rush to remove the dams on the Klamath River is lacking in a whole host of ways, and I commend city Councilman Jason Greenough for being at least open to the notion that the dam removal might not be in the best interests of the community.
The water gushed from a valve near the base of the Loveland Reservoir’s dam at 146,300 gallons per minute, cascading into the Sweetwater River below. The impressive sight near Alpine … marked the start of an ongoing transfer of water from the Loveland Reservoir to the Sweetwater Reservoir, where the water will be treated by the Sweetwater Authority and later supplied to the water agency’s customers in National City, Chula Vista and Bonita.
Follow along on our water tour of the Lower Colorado River – and keep up with any of our tours and events – through our social media channels. We’ll post updates on our Twitter account @WaterEdFdn about people, issues and places as we travel along the Lower Colorado River from Hoover Dam to the Coachella Valley Feb. 27 through March 1.
All eyes have been on the Colorado River recently with headlines across the west announcing the progress – or lack thereof – of the efforts of the seven basin states to reach agreement on the Drought Contingency Plan. So is the Colorado River in crisis? At the 2019 California Irrigation Institute conference, Dr. Brad Udall’s keynote presentation focused on answering that question.
At a Town Hall Tuesday night, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) told the large crowd filling nearly every available seat in the Ukiah Valley Conference Center about a possible future for the Potter Valley Project that would remove the controversial dam, but preserve the water supply the Ukiah Valley has depended on for more than a century.
Rep. Grace Napolitano, a Democrat with a district office in El Monte, sent a letter Wednesday, Feb. 20, urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make safety repairs at Whittier Narrows Dam its highest budgetary priority in light of an assessment that the barrier could fail in the event of a very large, very rare storm.
When operating, Sites Reservoir will provide significantly more water during drier periods, to become a new drought-management tool to address California’s water management challenges into the 21st century and beyond. Innovative and environmentally sound, Sites Reservoir will provide water to enhance the environment when it can provide greater benefits and provide a resilient and reliable supply of water for our communities, farms and businesses.
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.
The interrelated nature of water issues has given rise to a management approach that integrates flood control, environmental water, and water supply. The Yuba Water Agency manages its watershed in this kind of coordinated manner. We talked to Curt Aikens, the agency’s general manager, about the lessons they’ve learned from this “integrated management” approach.
Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that El Niño — the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, with weather consequences worldwide — has officially arrived. El Niño typically peaks between October and March, so it’s pretty late in the season for a new one to form. This year’s El Niño is expected to remain relatively weak, but that doesn’t mean this one won’t be felt — in fact, its cascading consequences already in motion.
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.
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 decommission them.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID is putting in play: A demand that the federal government provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered Salton Sea.
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
The Colorado river crisis ought to be upsetting markets. The U.S. waterway supports some $4 trillion in GDP and at least $1.3 trillion in stock value across seven U.S. states. The river was already virtually tapped out last century, and continuing troubles have now led the federal government to step in to help manage its water use. Yet investors have barely caused a ripple.
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.
Workers were patching Oroville Dam’s weathered concrete spillway, nearly four years before a massive crater would tear it open. Michael Hopkins, an employee at the Department of Water Resources, alleges he saw something he would never forget. A legally deaf woman was assigned to drive a truck down the spillway and listen for hollow sounds in the concrete as her colleagues performed what’s known as “chain drag testing,” Hopkins wrote in a declaration filed last week in Sacramento Superior Court.
In the event that water elevation decreases below 1,050-feet, officials have developed a plan to address operational needs. Due to the government shutdown, the public wasn’t able to provide comment on the low water plan for Lake Mead. So an extension has been provided through Feb.15.
Extreme wildfires in California threaten more than homes in the Golden State. … Under California law, a utility is liable for property damage if its equipment caused a fire, regardless of whether there was negligence. Given that, some are asking whether utilities can survive in the nation’s most populous state.
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.
They are giant conveyor belts of water in the sky, moisture-rich storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean a few times a year to fill California’s reservoirs… But distinguishing a good atmospheric river storm — a modest one that can help end a drought — from a catastrophic one that can kill people has been elusive. On Tuesday, that changed, as scientists published the first-ever scale to rank the strength and impact of incoming atmospheric rivers, similar to the way hurricanes are classified.
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.
Public meetings seeking comment on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for surrender of the Lower Klamath Project license begin this week, according to a news release from the California State Water Resources Control Board. The license surrender is one step toward the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River, three of which are in California.
Several areas of the Oroville Dam and lake are undergoing extensive renovations and improvements, and the Oroville Recreation Advisory Committee met Friday to hear reports from the various member organizations overseeing them. … Aaron Wright of the California Department of Parks and Recreation said that several of the recently reopened areas near the dam have received a good amount of traffic.
Solar and wind companies, concerned that PG&E will be paying them less or even nothing in the future, have launched a preemptive strike, asking federal regulators to step in to protect their deals with PG&E. PG&E is one of the largest buyers of renewable energy in the country, driven by the ambitious climate change goals California has adopted.
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.
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.
Five dams across California – including one in Lake County that forms Lake Pillsbury – have been listed as key for removal by an advocacy group in the effort to stop the extinction of native salmon and steelhead. In response to what it calls a “statewide fish extinction crisis,” which indicates 74 percent of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout species are likely to be extinct in the next century, the fish and watershed conservation nonprofit organization California Trout on Tuesday released its list of the top five dams prime for removal in the golden state.
The 32-page Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of significant Colorado River events.
After many years of hard work, North Coast dam removal efforts are now rapidly accelerating. On Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced that it is pulling the application to relicense the Potter Valley Project, a series of two dams and a large diversion on the Upper Eel River. On Feb. 6, the California Water Resources Control Board is coming to Arcata to take comments on their final 401 (Clean Water Act) permit to remove four dams on the Klamath River. What does this all mean? Are we really about to see the Eel and Klamath River dams come down?
Tucked inside PG&E’s mammoth bankruptcy filing is a company request that the judge in the case approve payment of $130 million in cash incentive bonuses to thousands of PG&E employees, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records made public on Tuesday.
Avoiding a long-expected crisis on the Colorado River, a water source for 40 million people, is coming down to a final few days of frenzied negotiations. A 19-year drought and decades of overuse have put a water shortfall on the horizon. If California and six other states, all with deeply entrenched interests, can’t agree on a plan to cut their water consumption by Jan. 31, the federal government says it will step in and decide the river’s future.
In Arizona, the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan now hinges on the approval of tribal nations. The plan is meant to levy water cuts to seven Western states in order to prevent the river and its reservoirs from reaching critical levels — but after a state lawmaker introduced legislation that undermines parts of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement, the tribe has threatened to exit the plan. Without tribal buy-in, Arizona’s implementation design will collapse….
The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to enlarge California’s biggest reservoir, the iconic Shasta Dam, north of Redding, by raising its height. It’s a saga that has dragged on for decades, along with the controversy surrounding it. But the latest chapter is likely to set the stage for another showdown between California and the Trump administration.
A federal court of appeals ruled Friday that PacifiCorp, which currently owns and operates several dams along the Klamath River, can no longer continue to use a controversial tactic which has allowed the company to avoid implementing mandatory requirements meant to protect the health of the Klamath River for over a decade. The decision marks a victory for the Hoopa Valley Tribe, who filed the lawsuit, and may expedite the removal of several Klamath River dams.
With bankruptcy looming, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is citing “challenging financial circumstances” as one of the reasons why it’s backing off from renewing its federal license for two of its hydroelectric dams. PG&E told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday that it would no longer try to renew the license for its Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project on the Eel River in Mendocino and Lake counties. The move raises a fresh set of questions about how the company plans to maintain its aging network of 169 hydroelectric dams in California amid its financial crisis.
Zone 7 Water Agency directors have voted to renew their participation in two water storage projects so that the water wholesaler can continue to plan for more alternative water sources during droughts. The board voted unanimously to participate in phase 2 of the Sites Reservoir project, a JPA formed in 2010 to create a reservoir 75 miles northwest of Sacramento. … Also, by a unanimous vote, directors committed up to $355,000 for a second phase of participation in the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir in southeastern Contra Costa County.
Arizona’s water leaders and lawmakers are running out of time to complete the state’s Drought Contingency Plan, a blueprint for how Arizona water users would share a likely shortage on the Colorado River. … There are a lot of moving parts to understand and a lot of concepts that may seem overwhelming. Here are the things you need to know in advance of the Jan. 31 deadline to finish the plan.
Uncertainty surrounding electric utilities in California has led a major rating agency to downgrade Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., citing the ongoing threat of climate change-driven wildfires and Pacific Gas & Electric’s potential bankruptcy. S&P Global Ratings’ actions on Monday made clear the concern is not limited to PG&E in Northern and Central California.
Without a change in how the Colorado River is managed, Lake Powell is headed toward becoming a “dead pool,” essentially useless as a reservoir while revealing a sandstone wonderland once thought drowned forever by humanity’s insatiable desire to bend nature to its will. … Absent cutbacks to deliveries to the Lower Basin, a day could come when water managers may have little choice but to lower the waters that have inundated Utah’s Glen Canyon for the past half-century.
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.
At least one state agency has indicated it will not issue necessary permits to allow federal officials and a Fresno-based water district to begin construction to raise the height of Shasta Dam. In addition to facing opposition from the state, the project could also face fresh hurdles from Congress, which this year came under control of Democrats. In a letter to the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, the State Water Resources Control Board says raising the height of Shasta Dam would violate state law.
The draft legislation compiled by the Department of Water Resources looks similar to how water leaders described the measures at a Drought Contingency Plan Steering Committee meeting last week. … But the legislation as drafted barely delves into the nitty-gritty details of a far more complex intrastate agreement that Arizona water users have been hashing out for months.
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles, videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years, you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
Nasdaq, along with Veles Water and WestWater Research, has announced the launch of the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O), the first of its kind water index that benchmarks the price of water in a way that supports price discovery and enables the creation of a tradable financial instrument.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California … began what is being referred to as “defensive withdrawals” from Lake Mead. Remember, Lake Mead is severely low, and if L.A. takes all of the water they’ve been allotted, it will trigger emergency supply restrictions for everyone else. So, why are they doing this with the agreement deadline so close? The Show turned to Debra Kahn who covers California environmental policy and broke the story for Politico Pro.
Climate change helped fuel the deadly fires that prompted California’s largest power company to announce Monday that it would file for bankruptcy. … In a grim twist, the bankruptcy of PG&E Corp. could now slow California’s efforts to fight climate change.
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged commissioners not to give them a bailout.
California began 2019 with lower-than-average snowpack measurements — just 67 percent of the year-to-date average. Recent storms pushed that total to 90 percent as of Friday. With more precipitation on the horizon, forecasters predict snowpack measurements will “meet or exceed” the year-to-date average by the end of the week.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter. Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can see it right now.”
The Colorado River may not look like it, but it’s one of the world’s largest banks. The river is not only the source of much of the American West’s economic productivity – San Diego, Phoenix and Denver would hardly exist without it – but its water is now the central commodity in a complex accounting system used by major farmers and entire states. … This month, the nation’s largest water agency, the Metropolitan Water District, began what amounts to a run on the bank.
Up against a federal deadline to approve a Colorado River drought plan — a “generational change” in Arizona water management — four key legislators say they’re optimistic they’ll meet it. Led by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Mesa Republican, they see the Legislature as ready — finally — to officially endorse the plan. That’s even though competing water interest groups still have highly visible disagreements about it.
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor told the business community Friday in previewing the speech that kicks off the legislative session.
Plans for the removal of three dams on the Klamath River in California cleared another regulatory hurdle when state officials released a draft environmental impact report that found no significant long-term water quality concerns.
With a federal deadline to sign a Colorado River drought deal three weeks away, Arizona water managers are still grappling with several unresolved issues that could get in the way of finishing an agreement. The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.
Registration is now open for the Santa Ana River Watershed Conference set for March 29 in Fullerton. The daylong event will be held at Cal State Fullerton. Join us to discuss the importance of the Santa Ana River Watershed and how, through powerful partnerships, resilient solutions can be found to improve the quality and reliability of the region’s water supply.
Last week, the relicensing effort reached a milestone when FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement. The environmental document essentially looks at what changes a licensee has proposed for a specific project, the impacts of those changes and provides conditions they must meet if awarded a new license.
First, the good news: The negotiators of Arizona’s Drought Contingency Plan have crafted the most detailed, concrete proposal to date laying out how Arizona will deal with expected cutbacks to its supply of Colorado River. Now, the bad: The partial shutdown of the federal government is squeezing these negotiators.
One of the Water Education Foundation’s most popular events, Water 101 offers a once-a-year opportunity for anyone new to California water issues or newly elected to a water district board – and anyone who wants a refresher — to gain a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resource. It will be held Feb. 7 at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.
Gov. Doug Ducey used his second inaugural speech Monday to exhort lawmakers and others with a claim to Colorado River water to approve a drought contingency plan before a solution is imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s simple: Arizona and our neighboring states draw more water from the Colorado River than Mother Nature puts back,” the governor told his audience. “And with critical shortfall imminent, we cannot kick the can any further.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Water District’s Planning & Stewardship Committee, officials said that with no Drought Contingency Plan in place (Arizona being the hold out), they are beginning to draw down their storage in Lake Mead. “If there is no Drought Contingency Plan, we don’t want to leave potentially half a million acre-feet or more locked up in Lake Mead if we go into shortage,” said General Manager Jeff Kightlinger.
Southern Nevadans will see few noticeable consequences from a soon-to-be-finalized drought contingency plan for states that get most of their water supply from the Colorado River, according to a Southern Nevada water resources expert.
A coalition of environmental groups has called on California members of Congress to prioritize the San Luis (B.F. Sisk) Dam seismic remediation over federal funding for new California dams. San Luis Dam is in a very seismically active area. Independently reviewed risk assessments for Reclamation have shown that a large earthquake could lead to crest settlement and overtopping of the dam, which would result in large uncontrolled releases and likely dam failure.
A team of researchers concludes that the ongoing drought across the western U.S. rivals most past “megadroughts” dating as far back as 800 A.D. — and that the region is currently in a megadrought. Using tree ring data as a proxy for drought conditions, the researchers say the current drought ranks fourth worst among comparable 19-year periods of megadroughts of the past 1,200 years.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
Each year, several thousand weather forecasters, researchers and climate scientists from all over the world gather for the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting to exchange ideas to improve weather prediction and understanding of climate change. This year, due to the partial federal government shutdown, hundreds of scientists will not attend the conference set to begin this weekend in Phoenix.
Colorado River water managers were supposed to finish drought contingency plans by the end of the year. As it looks now, they’ll miss that deadline. If the states fail to do their job, the federal government could step in. Luke Runyon, a reporter with KUNC who covers on the Colorado River Basin recaps what’s been happening and why it’s so important.
In the latter half of 2018, both the federal and state governments released new climate change assessments that outline the projected course of climate change and its potential effects on water resources. At the December meeting of the California Water Commission, staff from the Department of Water Resources and the Delta Stewardship Council were on hand to present an overview of the newly released assessments.
The report issued by California’s State Water Resources Control Board marks a key step in a decade-long effort to remove four hydroelectric dams and restore the health of the Klamath River. The dam-removal project is part of a broader effort by California, Oregon, federal agencies, Klamath Basin tribes, water users and conservation organizations to revitalize the basin, advance recovery of fisheries, uphold trust responsibilities to the tribes, and sustain the region’s farming and ranching heritage.
A new study out of Stanford University finds that 10 percent of the total carbon dioxide spewed from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for power generation this century is the result of states turning to fossil fuels when water was too sparse to spin electrical turbines at dams.
After decades of arguments and court challenges, a landmark agreement supported by states, tribes and federal agencies is expected to change how water is spilled at Columbia and Lower Snake River dams to boost the survival of young salmon while limiting the financial hit to hydropower.
Alvin Thoma’s youngest son was born the year his employer, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., began the process of renewing the license for its Upper North Fork Feather River hydropower facility in northern California. His son is 19 years old now. The facility, however, is still undergoing relicensing. … And federal help isn’t coming quickly.
UPDATE: President Trump signed this bill into law on Oct. 23, 2018. Read our story from September, when the House of Representatives first passed the bill. The companies trying to build a massive hydroelectric power plant on the doorstep of Joshua Tree National Park got one step closer to their objective last week.
The federal agency that had been handling the permitting process for the Lake Powell Pipeline announced Thursday it doesn’t have jurisdiction to handle the entire project on its own. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission submitted an order indicating it would only consider permitting for the hydroelectric facilities proposed for the project, and not the remaining 89 miles of connecting water delivery pipelines, although it would continue as the lead agency in charge of environmental analysis.
The House of Representatives unanimously approved America’s Water Infrastructure Act, a sprawling bill that would authorize and fund projects across the country, from bridge repairs to school drinking fountain replacements.
A California Senate committee voted to advance a bill that would breathe life into a hydropower project near Joshua Tree National Park, following an intense hearing in which labor unions and the project’s developer urged lawmakers to support the bill. Assembly Bill 2787 barely passed in the Senate’s energy and utilities committee on Monday, four days before this year’s legislative session ends.
Amy Haas recently became the first non-engineer and the first woman to serve as executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission in its 70-year history, putting her smack in the center of a host of daunting challenges facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.
Yet those challenges will be quite familiar to Haas, an attorney who for the past year has served as deputy director and general counsel of the commission. (She replaced longtime Executive Director Don Ostler). She has a long history of working within interstate Colorado River governance, including representing New Mexico as its Upper Colorado River commissioner and playing a central role in the negotiation of the recently signed U.S.-Mexico agreement known as Minute 323.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start construction by a key deadline this week — but a bill in Congress could give the company another six years to start work on the project.
Cal-ISO projects 51,947 megawatts of generation will be available to serve demand this summer. … However, by late summer hydroelectric production is expected to be down by about 1,300 megawatts compared with 2017.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start construction by a key deadline this week, in what critics of the controversial project are calling a serious setback.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced its interest in selling two currently non-active hydroelectric projects at Kern Canyon and the Tule River. The Kern Canyon project is located east of Bakersfield. The dam was damaged in a rockslide in January 2017.
Talks are scheduled to begin this week in Washington, D.C., to modernize the document that coordinates flood control and hydropower generation in the United States and Canada along the 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) Columbia River.
Eight years ago, Marin County created a new kind of public power agency in California — over the strenuous objections of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. … Community choice allows local governments to band together in something like a buyer’s club for electricity, purchasing in bulk from operators of power plants, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and solar facilities. Each community choice program’s governing board sets its own electricity rates.
The managers of California’s electrical grid warned Wednesday that the state is facing tight power supplies this summer, due in part to a drier winter that is reducing available hydro power. Some Californians could be forced to turn down their air conditioners, hold off on doing their laundry or make other sacrifices in the name of energy conservation.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
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This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
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The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, would define hydropower as a renewable energy source and streamline the way projects are licensed, with primary authority granted to a single federal agency. Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday, 257-166.
The success of solar and wind energy in California is having a surprising side effect: It may be undercutting revenue for hydroelectric dams, the longtime stalwart of “green” energy in the West. Four years ago, officials at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), which manages electricity demand across the state, identified a phenomenon called the “duck curve.”
Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion hydropower project. The plant, proponents say, would help boost renewable energy use in Southern California and lower greenhouse gas emissions. But park officials fear the hydropower project could draw down local groundwater levels and harm wildlife.
The San Diego County Water Authority wants to find somebody to develop an energy storage facility at the San Vicente Reservoir, nestled among the Cuyamaca Mountains near Lakeside. And officials are not only confident they can find a number of potential candidates willing to fully develop the project, they expect to entertain proposals in the range of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa doesn’t want a new license issued for Oroville Dam until some safety questions are answered and some commitments are made to local government. LaMalfa, R-Richvale, sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur requesting the delay.
The growth in renewables has been fueled by scores of new wind turbines and solar farms. Recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of heavy snow and rain in Western states last winter also provided a boost.
As President Donald Trump dithers on the fate of the Paris climate deal, California and other western states are banding together to reduce carbon emissions and save hundreds of millions of dollars — and now a Canadian province will join them. … BC Hydro operates 31 hydroelectric power plants, which could help California and other western states bring more solar and wind power online.
California’s brutal five-year drought did more than lead to water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and greenhouse gases, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Californians’ electricity costs jumped by a combined $2.45 billion from 2012 to 2016 because of severe shortages of cheap hydroelectricity, according to an estimate released Wednesday by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy think tank.
Citing the near disaster at Oroville Dam, a group of congressional Democrats is pushing the government’s watchdog agency to investigate federal oversight of dam safety regulations. … Separately, the California state Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee will hold an oversight hearing on Oroville next Tuesday [April 25].
Federal officials have concluded that infrastructure for a proposed hydropower project — which would tap billions of gallons of groundwater in the California desert, just outside Joshua Tree National Park — wouldn’t be especially harmful to the environment.
After slowing to a trickle during the past five years of punishing drought, hydroelectric power in California is poised to make a major comeback this spring and summer, thanks to the wet winter. Across Northern California, hydroelectricity producers say their reservoirs are brimming at levels not seen in decades.
California’s years-long drought put hydroelectric power flat on its back. But one of the cleanest and cheapest energy sources may be poised for a comeback as the state has been drenched with rain and its mountains blanketed in snow in recent months.
There are 1.7 million cubic yards of rubble at the bottom of the Diversion Pool, effectively splitting it into two bodies of water. The plan with the spillway shut off, according to the California Department of Water Resources, is to remove enough of it to clear a channel and get the water that is backed up on one side of the rubble to flow between the two sides.
[Oroville] Dam operators gradually scaled back water releases to zero over a six-hour period, providing breathing room for construction crews trying to clear debris from a badly choked Feather River channel and restart the dam’s critically needed hydroelectric plant.
Oroville Dam operators plan to halt water releases from the dam’s battered spillway Monday in order to ramp up efforts to remove a debris pile that’s preventing them from restarting a hydroelectric plant.
Water releases through the damaged main spillway at Oroville Dam were scaled back Thursday to allow crews to reach and remove a pile of debris that has built up at the bottom of that chute, officials said.
Feeling confident they’ve created sufficient empty space in Lake Oroville for the time being, state Department of Water Resources officials said they reduced spillway outflows so they could address another looming challenge: restarting the dam’s hydroelectric plant, which can release additional water when operational.
NextEra Energy Resources is working to build a massive hydropower plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park, bringing the weight of one of the country’s biggest renewable energy companies to a controversial project that critics say would harm wildlife and diminish an underground water supply critical to the park.
Whiskeytown Lake, a major reservoir in the foothills of the Klamath Mountains nine miles west of Redding, was built at the site of one of Shasta County’s first Gold Rush communities. Whiskeytown, originally called Whiskey Creek Diggings, was founded in 1849 and named in reference to a whiskey barrel rolling off a citizen’s pack mule; it may also refer to miners drinking a barrel per day.
As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, the Imperial Valley receives its water from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Rainfall is scarce in the desert region at less than three inches per year and groundwater is of little value.
Hydropower in the United States is primed for a shakeup. On one hand, utilities and governments are tearing down old dams with increasing frequency. … On the other hand, lawmakers and officials are keen to wring more power from rivers.
Earlier this year, in an announcement that has become more routine around the world, Suy Sem, Cambodia’s minister of mines and energy, declared a moratorium on the construction of big hydropower dams until at least 2020. … Cambodia joins a lengthening list of nations around the world that are reassessing big hydropower dams in an era when wind and solar power are less expensive, much easier to build, less damaging, and far less vulnerable to droughts and floods.
Joshua Tree National Park is working to annex more than 25,000 acres of important wildlife habitat to protect it from potential development, even as it appears increasingly likely those lands will surround a massive hydropower plant.
Federal burdens dampen California’s hydroelectric power potential, PG&E and Turlock Irrigation District officials told lawmakers Tuesday. … In 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law two bills intended to streamline the approval process for small hydroelectric projects.
Endangered salmon blocked for nearly a century from hundreds of miles of the Klamath River in Oregon and California are expected to return en masse under unusual agreements signed Wednesday to tear down four hydroelectric dams.
… Humboldt County residents will have two opportunities to voice their views and hear information on the relicensing of four PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River once slated for removal by the Klamath Basin agreements.
A defunct iron ore mine near Joshua Tree National Park, a site once considered for the world’s largest landfill, has sold for $25 million to a company that wants to develop a hydroelectric project there.
A controversial proposal to build a hydropower plant in the shadow of Joshua Tree National Park cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, in a surprising development that frustrated conservationists but encouraged some renewable energy advocates.
Salmon leap over rocks and other small obstacles as they swim up the Tuolumne River to spawn every fall. But they cannot surmount the 110-foot-tall dam that created La Grange Reservoir, much less the 585-foot dam just upstream at Don Pedro Reservoir.
Flying over the Sierra Nevada as California entered its fourth year of drought, the state’s energy chief looked down and saw stark bare granite cloaked in dirty brown haze – not the usual pristine white peaks heaped with snow that would run the state’s hydroelectric dams for the year.
Two major developments in the [Yuba County Water] agency’s history were coming to a head — the application for a new license that will determine how the water project is run for the next 50 years and the takeover of the operation of the project’s hydropower plant.
This 28-page report describes the watersheds of the Sierra Nevada region and details their importance to California’s overall water picture. It describes the region’s issues and challenges, including healthy forests, catastrophic fire, recreational impacts, climate change, development and land use.
The report also discusses the importance of protecting and restoring watersheds in order to retain water quality and enhance quantity. Examples and case studies are included.
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an overview of the geography and history of the river, historical and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was agreed to.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick.
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues.
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.
Hydroelectric power is generated by the ability to turn falling water into electricity and in California accounts for about 15 percent of the state’s power supply annually.
Hydroelectric power is produced when water turns a turbine connected to a generator. This water is stored behind a dam at elevation. Gravity causes water to drop toward a turbine propeller. The falling water turns the turbine which produces power through the connected generator.
In California, the State Water Project provides water for 25 million Californians and irrigation water for an estimated 750,000 acres of farmland. Along the way, it supports industries from agriculture to high tech that make the state a global economic powerhouse.
The Yuba Accord is a landmark agreement that balances the interests of environmental groups, agriculture, water agencies and hydroelectric operators relying on water from the Yuba River. A tributary of the Feather River, the Yuba is located north of Sacramento.
Pieced together after two decades of lawsuits, the Yuba Accord allows for fresh water flows to support native fish while also providing water for hydropower, transfers and irrigation. The Accord took effect in 2008 after two years as a pilot project.
Though seemingly a long-way from California’s Central Valley, the Trinity Dam helps supply irrigation water for Valley farmers and for hydropower production.
Constructed in the far northwest of California in the 1950s, Trinity Dam and Lewiston Dam, just downstream, increased the federal Central Valley Project’s storage capacity by more than 2.5 million acre-feet.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy requirements associated with water use and the means by which state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge and improve the management of both resources.
Diverting water for farms and cities, generating hydro-electric power, supplying an ever-growing urban population and protecting endangered species have all shaped the development and management of the Colorado River we know today. How to sustain the system and build a resilient future for what is known as the “lifeline of the Southwest” is the task facing the region and the river’s multiple users.
Hydropower generation is prevalent in the West, where rapidly flowing river systems have been tapped for generations to produce electricity. Hydropower is a clean, steady and reliable energy source, but the damming of rivers has exacted a toll on the environment, affecting, among other things, the migration of fish to vestigial spawning grounds. Many of those projects are due to be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.