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Lawsuit urges tighter regulation of well drilling

Carol Benfell, SOCONEWS

A Sacramento-based environmental group is suing to stop well drilling in the Russian River watershed until Sonoma County determines if the wells will steal underground water flows from the Russian River or its tributaries.

The lawsuit brought by California Coastkeeper says the county is failing its “public trust” duty to preserve and protect the Russian River for the common good. It asks the court to order a ban on the drilling until the county adopts the appropriate regulations.

“The county has to get squared away on how to keep water flowing in the Russian River,” said Drevet Hunt, an attorney for California Coastkeeper.

The county is taking the issue seriously, said Daniel Virkstis, a county spokesperson.

“The county is taking a hard look at the issues raised in Coastkeeper’s suit and knows they are of significant concern to the community and land owners,” Virkstis said.

There are more than 40,000 rural wells in Sonoma County. About 400 were drilled in the past two years alone, with no examination of their impact on the Russian River watershed, according to county records.

“Over-pumping groundwater has had and continues to cause significant harmful effects on the flow of the Russian River and its tributaries,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of California Coastkeeper.

“The current drought only makes this problem worse, and restricting surface diversions alone merely drives more groundwater pumping,” Bothwell said.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/lawsuit-urges-tighter-regulation-of-well-drilling/article_baf881b4-252b-11ec-9586-b79f43109cdb.html?

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Something to celebrate: Beavers return to Sonoma Creek

SONOMA ECOLOGY CENTER

It’s been a long summer of extreme drought conditions in Sonoma Valley. In what seems like a steady stream of dire news for our watershed one glimmer of good news stands out: beavers are moving back into Sonoma Creek.

The return of these charming dam builders isn’t quite breaking news – since 1993 beavers have slowly made a comeback in Sonoma Valley. But this year, in the middle of our peak dry season, their increasing presence is something for celebration. From the perspective of drought resiliency and water retention in our watershed we’re observing how beavers are a positive factor in keeping what water we do have flowing in our creek beds and reducing hydrological impacts of water rushing through the main stem of Sonoma Creek.

Their natural impulse to build dams and create ponds is a major factor in retaining refuge habitat for species that rely on water to survive. Beavers provide refuge habitat for endangered salmonids, crawdads, California roach, Sacramento suckers, frogs and the endangered California freshwater shrimp which rely on deep pools and submerged, structural habitat like fine tree roots which are often present in the structure of a beaver dam. Any animal, insect, or crustacean that requires water to live in our creek is something that benefits from the damming that the beavers do.

Read more at https://sonomaecologycenter.org/beavers-return/

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Restore the Delta resigns from Delta Conveyance Design & Construction Authority SEC

Dan Bacher, THE DAILY KOS

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, today resigned from the Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SCE), for the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCDCA).

“When our good faith efforts produce no results and are met with resistance, Restore the Delta will shift and move into a new direction to ensure that the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary is protected and restored for future generations,” she said.

“We have, therefore, resigned from the Stakeholder Engagement Committee, for the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority. We simply could not move the Department of Water Resources to work on true problem solving for the estuary. Read our letter to learn more,” she concluded.

Here is the full letter:
Continue reading “Restore the Delta resigns from Delta Conveyance Design & Construction Authority SEC”

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Upper Russian River flow decisions being delayed

Rollie Atkinson, SOCONEWS

The long-term picture for reliable water flows in the Russian River, above Healdsburg to Mendocino County, will remain uncertain for at least two more years, if not longer. The hold up stems from ongoing studies and multi-agency negotiations over the future of the Scott Dam on the Eel River and the century-old Potter Valley Project (PVP) that diverts Eel River water into the Russian River and Lake Mendocino.

On Sept. 2, the five-member Two-Basin Partnership asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a one-year abeyance to continue evaluations of a proposed takeover of the PVP from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) which has announced it will not renew its FERC permit after 2022. The Two-Basin Partnership is seeking removal of the Scott Dam but continued Eel River diversions into the East Fork of the Russian River. The proposal would add 288 river miles of access to salmon and steelhead while assuring an annual diversion of 62,500 acre/feet of water.

The partnership is citing a shortage of funds to operate the PVP and said last week “we have made substantial efforts but have not yet secured public and philanthropic funds for that work.” In May, PG&E declined to fund the project and by statute the utility is barred from seeking a new license.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/upper-russian-river-flow-decisions-being-delayed/article_a91725c4-1bbf-11ec-8e56-e7467a39b2f4.html?

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , , , ,

Coastal grape growers can use less water during drought

Emily C. Dooley, UCDAVIS.EDU

Study finds using less doesn’t compromise quality

    • Study sheds new light on how to mitigate drought effects
    • California coastal grape growers could cut irrigation water by half without affecting yield or quality
    • Replacing 50% of the water lost to evapotranspiration is most beneficial to grapes’ profile and yield

California grape growers in coastal areas can use less water during times of drought and cut irrigation levels without affecting crop yields or quality, according to a new study out of the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published today (Sept. 1) in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, show that vineyards can use 50% of the irrigation water normally used by grape crops without compromising flavor, color and sugar content.

It sheds new light on how vineyards can mitigate drought effects at a time when California is experiencing a severe water shortage and facing more extreme weather brought on by climate change, according to lead author Kaan Kurtural, professor of viticulture and enology and an extension specialist at UC Davis.

“It is a significant finding,” Kurtural said. “We don’t necessarily have to increase the amount of water supplied to grape vines.”

Read more at https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/coastal-grape-growers-can-use-less-water-during-drought

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City of Ukiah plans to defy state curtailment orders to deliver water to the coast

Justine Frederiksen, UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL

The city of Ukiah announced Tuesday that it plans to divert water from the Russian River in order to deliver water to residents of the Mendocino Coast, actions that would be in direct defiance of the curtailment orders imposed by the California State Water Resources Control Board in early August.

“We don’t agree that the water is not there, it is,” said Sean White, director of water and sewer resources for the city of Ukiah, describing the amount of water the city intends to make available to coastal residents as “very small amount” of water that is within the 1.4 cubic feet per second that the city describes as being allowed under its “water right that dates back to 1874.”

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors recently approved allowing qualified haulers to drive water from Ukiah to the coast — specifically the city of Fort Bragg, which coastal communities like the Village of Mendocino typically buy water from — but so far no qualified hauler as been identified as willing and able to perform the deliveries.

“I am sure they will find somebody,” White said Wednesday when asked if the discussions regarding the city providing water to the coast were in fact moot. If a hauler is indeed found and hired, White said the city would likely charge them three cents a gallon for what he estimated would be about 65,000 to 75,000 gallons a day, or about $2,000 worth of water.

Read more at https://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/2021/09/01/city-of-ukiah-plans-to-defy-state-curtailment-orders-to-deliver-water-to-the-coast/

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Healdsburg residents call for more specific Urban Water Management Plan

Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, SOCONEWS

The city of Healdsburg’s draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) is still a work in progress.

The sentiment was echoed by community members and city council members during a recent council workshop and review of the plan where people expressed concern that the plan is a bit too broad and doesn’t adequately consider climate change in its analysis.

There were also concerns centered around the data points used to inform the plan, especially water usage data, which is not segregated into single family home usage and multi family home usage.

“What we’ve assembled is forecasted demand and supply for a 25-year period. This is a really high-level overview of the city’s supply and demand needs,” Healdsburg Utility Director Terry Crowley said during the virtual, Aug. 23 city council work session.

The outlook for Healdsburg’s forecasted demand and supply levels doesn’t look too sunny. If there’s a single dry year the city may find itself in a position similar to what we’re experiencing now and considering population growth, by 2045, water supply would not meet demands particularly during the drier years.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_healdsburg/news/healdsburg-residents-call-for-more-specific-urban-water-management-plan/article_46760278-09c7-11ec-bd8b-fb9225707e59.html?

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California enacted a groundwater law 7 years ago. But wells are still drying up — and the threat is spreading

Rachel Becker, CALMATTERS

Called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA, the laws gave local groundwater agencies in critically overdrafted basins 26 years — until 2040 — to achieve sustainability and stop impacts of overdraft from worsening.

As drought worsens, there are few, if any, protections in place for California’s depleted groundwater. The new law gave local agencies at least 26 years — until 2040 — to stop the impacts of over-pumping.

Kelly O’Brien’s drinking water well had been in its death throes for days before its pump finally gave out over Memorial Day weekend.

It wasn’t a quiet death at O’Brien’s home in Glenn County, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Spigots rattled. Faucets sputtered. The drinking water turned rusty with sediment. In the end, two houses, three adults, three children, two horses, four dogs and a couple of cats on her five acres of land were all left with no water for their sinks, showers, laundry, troughs and water bowls.

As extreme drought spread across the state, O’Brien feared that the water underneath her property had sunk so low that it was out of the reach of her well.

“The whole time you’re going, ‘Oh please, let it be something else. Let it be a switch. Let it be the pump — let it be anything but being out of water,’” O’Brien said. She worried that she might have to take out a second mortgage to afford the thousands of dollars if her well had to be drilled deeper.

Soon O’Brien learned that other wells were failing around her. She heard about one neighbor to the north, another to the east. The list kept growing: She started a Facebook group for owners of dry wells to share their woes and resources, and it grew to more than 665 members.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2021/08/california-groundwater-dry/

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New UC Davis study finds dams are ineffective for cold-water conservation for salmon and trout

Dan Bacher, DAILY KOS

For many years, federal, state and corporate proponents of building more dams in California have touted cold water river releases provided by increased water storage behind dams as a key tool in “saving” struggling salmon and steelhead populations.

Yet a just published study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, Dams Ineffective for Cold-Water Conservation – 8/25/21, has found that dams are ineffective for the cold water conservation that is needed to preserved imperiled salmon, steelhead and other fish species.

”Dams poorly mimic the temperature patterns California streams require to support the state’s native salmon and trout — more than three-quarters of which risk extinction,” according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE by the University of California, Davis. “Bold actions are needed to reverse extinction trends and protect cold-water streams that are resilient to climate warming.”

The study helps identify where high-quality, cold-water habitat remains to help managers prioritize conservation efforts.

“It is no longer a good investment to put all our cold-water conservation eggs in a dam-regulated basket,” said lead author Ann Willis, a senior staff researcher at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and a fellow for the John Muir Institute of the Environment. “We need to consider places where the natural processes can occur again.”

Read more at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/8/26/2048396/-New-UC-Davis-Study-Finds-Dams-Are-Ineffective-for-Cold-Water-Conservation-for-Salmon-and-Trout

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , ,

Is it sustainable for Sonoma County to build new homes during an ongoing water crisis?

Ethan Varian, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Starting in 2023, the state wants Sonoma County to approve over 14,500 new homes for residents of all income levels over the following eight years.

Though no final target has been approved, officials in some of the county’s largest cities have made ramping up home construction a priority with the goal of alleviating the region’s shortage of affordable housing.

At the same time, though, the state is also mandating water cutbacks across the region during what is shaping up to be the worst local drought in more than four decades.

The two seemingly competing mandates have some questioning the wisdom of continuing to push growth in the face of a water crisis.

“How are we still approving new development in the midst of a two year drought with no idea what’s going to happen next year?” said David Keller, a Petaluma resident and Bay Area director of Friends of Eel River, a Eureka-based environmental advocacy group.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/north-bay-qa-is-it-sustainable-for-sonoma-county-to-build-new-homes-durin/