Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on EPA Says Delta water tunnels could violate federal environmental law, harm fish

EPA Says Delta water tunnels could violate federal environmental law, harm fish

CBS, SF BAY AREA

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say California’s $25 billion plan to build an enormous pair of twin tunnels system to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to other parts of the state may violate federal environmental law and harm endangered fish.

In a 43-page letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service released on the EPA’s website on Thursday as part of the agency’s official public comment to the state’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the federal agency said it is concerned that the BDCP as currently proposed “may result in violations of Clean Water Act water quality standards and further degrade the ecosystem.”

via EPA Says Delta Water Tunnels Could Violate Federal Environmental Law, Harm Fish « CBS San Francisco.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on California water bond headed to voters

California water bond headed to voters

Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

California voters will be asked to authorize $7.5 billion to bolster the state’s water supply, infrastructure and ecosystems in November, as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday struck a long-sought deal to move a new water bond to the ballot.

An extraordinary drought that has strained California’s water supply spurred a concerted push for a new water bond. Lawmakers moved to replace an $11.1 billion previously slated for the ballot, convinced that voters would reject it.

Instead, voters will see a $7.5 billion measure that contains significantly less money for Delta restoration. The final sum represents a compromise both from Republicans, who called for $3 billion for surface storage projects, and from Brown, who sought an overall total closer to $6 billion.

via Water bond headed to voters – Capitol Alert – The Sacramento Bee.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on The politics of the world’s most hydrologically altered landmass

The politics of the world’s most hydrologically altered landmass

Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

California is the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet, a distinction it first attained in the early-mid-20th century. The Hoover Dam (on the Colorado River), which began operation in 1936, was the largest dam in the world at the time of its completion. With regard to the world’s biggest concrete river plugs, Shasta Dam (upper Sacramento River) rated second only behind Hoover when finished in 1945.

The US federal government and California state governments capture more than 60 percent of the water run-off within the state’s 1,585 square miles, exporting roughly 80 percent to the state’s $44 billion dollar agribusiness sector. Many of these monocrop plantations — unrelenting swaths of sameness – improbably span the desert and semi-desert landscapes of the San Joaquin, Coachella, and Imperial Valleys. Were it a country, the Golden State would be the sixth leading agricultural exporter in the world.

Now, though, California is in the throes of its worst drought since first developing its gargantuan modern plumbing system. In fact, according to research UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram conducted using the climactic data stored by old-growth tree rings, this is probably the most parched the state has been since the year 1580.

From the perspective of California’s natural ecosystems, the consequences of diverting so much water into “factories in the fields” (to borrow Carey McWilliams’ phrase), not to mention suburbs and desert megalopolises (read: Los Angeles and San Diego), have been catastrophic. With less water to go around, the state’s rivers, creeks, streams, birds, protozoa, insects, wetlands, riparian woodlands, cyclops, daphnia, fresh-water shrimp, salmon, trout, indigenous people, rafters, and others detrimentally impacted by the state’s network of constipated rivers are now in even more desperate need of relief.

What they are getting is exactly the opposite. If California political and business leaders have their way, the state will soon embark on the largest dam- and canal-building binge since the State Water Project of the 1960s and ’70s.

via The Politics of the World’s Most Hydrologically Altered Landmass | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Well water under strain across California

Well water under strain across California

Matt Weiser, SACRAMENTO BEE

A new analysis of groundwater levels across California has found historically low water levels in thousands of wells in all areas of the state, another telltale of the drought’s intensity.

The report by the California Department of Water Resources, released Wednesday, was ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown as part of his January emergency drought proclamation. It analyzes thousands of wells across the state, based on available data submitted by well drillers and owners.

In examining about 5,400 wells that represent a subset of the total, about half have shrunk since 2008 to water levels lower than any seen over the preceding century.

The San Joaquin Valley is particularly hard hit, where wells are commonly used to irrigate large farms when water diverted from rivers becomes unavailable. Many of those wells have groundwater levels as much as 100 feet lower than historical norms, according to the report. Many wells in the Sacramento Valley, the Sonoma Valley and the Los Angeles basin have shrunk as much as 50 feet.

via Report: Well water under strain across California – Our Region – The Sacramento Bee.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Environmental protections waived for emergency drought measures

Environmental protections waived for emergency drought measures

Matt Weiser, SACRAMENTO BEE

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a sweeping new emergency drought proclamation, cutting red tape for a variety of government functions to help water agencies find new supplies, and to press the public to use water carefully.

“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in a statement.

The governor first proclaimed a drought emergency Jan. 17. This second proclamation goes further by waiving compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and the state water code for a number of actions, including water transfers, wastewater treatment projects, habitat improvements for winter-run Chinook salmon imperiled by the drought and curtailment of water rights.

via Gov. Brown orders more emergency drought measures – Delta – The Sacramento Bee.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Environmentalists slam Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill

Environmentalists slam Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill

Carolyn Lochhead, SFGATE.COM

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s revised drought bill is coming under increasing attack from the left even as the California Democrat tries to woo Republicans to speed the bill’s passage through the Senate without committee consideration.

More than a dozen environmental groups, including Sierra Club California, Audubon California, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a letter late Monday demanding changes to the revised bill, S.2198.

Feinstein has been pressuring state and federal water agencies to provide maximum pumping of the season’s March rains to provide relief to San Joaquin Valley farms, despite the dire straits of migrating salmon. Feinstein dropped $300 million in spending on drought relief projects to lure Senate GOP votes.

The letter from 13 environmental groups said they have “significant concerns” with the new Feinstein bill that “have not been remedied.” The groups expressed alarm that the legislation could help roll back environmental protections for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta ecosystem if it reaches a conference with a bill passed by House Republicans in February that would end the San Joaquin River restoration and permanently allocate more water to farmers.

via Environmentalists slam Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill – Politics Blog.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags Leave a comment on The water revolution California needs

The water revolution California needs

The state must follow Australia’s example and fundamentally change the way water and water rights are managed.

Wade Graham, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

This year’s drought has thrown California into a sudden tizzy, a crisis of snowpack measurements, fish-versus-people arguments and controversial cuts in water deliveries. But in reality, crisis is the permanent state of water affairs in the Golden State — by design, because our institutions keep it that way.

California has 1,400 major dams, thousands of miles of aqueducts and pumps so powerful they lift water nearly 2,000 feet over the Tehachapis. The state uses enough water in an average year to support, in theory, 318 million Californians (and their lawns and dishwashers), more than eight times the actual population of 38 million.

Even with the gargantuan re-engineering of nature, there is never enough water. How could there be, when according to the calculations of fishing and environmental advocates, the state has granted more than five times as many water rights claims as there is water in our main rivers, even in a good year? When our Gold Rush-era laws all but compel water-rights holders to use as much water as they can, as fast as possible, lest they lose their entitlements?

via The water revolution California needs – Los Angeles Times.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on Trucking of Sacramento River salmon starts Monday

Trucking of Sacramento River salmon starts Monday

Matt Weiser, SACRAMENTO BEE

More than 12 million juvenile hatchery salmon will get a truck trip downstream starting Monday to help them circumvent the harmful effects of drought on the Sacramento River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the plan Friday, as a way of bolstering survival rates for the fish. The Sacramento River, compromised by California’s persistent drought, is too low to provide adequate food and protection from predators, potentially jeopardizing a crop of fish that supports the state’s commercial and recreational salmon fishing industries.

Agency spokesman Steve Martarano said it will take 22 days to transport all the fish in tanker trucks from Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff. The first salmon will be trucked in a trial run on Monday, with additional shipments continuing Tuesday, if all goes well. Each delivery will deposit the fish back into the Sacramento River near Rio Vista.

via Trucking of Sacramento River salmon starts Monday | Central Valley | Modesto Bee.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on California’s water pathology

California’s water pathology

Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

March 5: Speaking at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s once-every-other-month meeting in the north Santa Rosa burbs on January 30th, California State Water Resources Board member Steven Moore characterized California’s drought as a natural disaster of epic proportions.

“This is our Hurricane Sandy,” he told the North Coast’s five regional board members.

In spite of a few solid drenchings in the past week, as well as a relatively wet February across much of California, the drought is indeed leading to some serious dislocations in many areas of the state, especially for farmers.

We have San Joaquin Valley almond farmers pulling thousands of acres of trees and chipping them to sell to power plants.  Cattle ranchers in Bakersfield and elsewhere in the region are selling their stocks en masse as grasslands dry up and hay prices stratify.  Fields across the US’ most prolific agricultural region lie fallow.

The idea that the drought is a natural disaster, as opposed to a human-engineered catastrophe (or, better yet, a capitalist-engineered one), papers over the real causes of the state’s water crisis: California’s insanely wasteful and destructive water system.

via California’s Water Pathology | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on Water war boils down to farmers vs. fishermen

Water war boils down to farmers vs. fishermen

George Skelton, Capitol Journal, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Don’t blame the little fish. And don’t call it the Central Valley.

Both comments, repeated incessantly, were irritants during President Obama’s visit to parched California farm country last week.

The president was there—in the San Joaquin Valley—to cuddle with water hogs.

The hogs are large growers who use lots of water, have just about run out and are angry because they’re being denied other people’s. And they keep complaining that the government is favoring a little "bait fish" over farmers.

Yes, regulators have been holding back some delta water in recent years to save the smelt, a finger-sized fish that is used not as bait but as a canary.

That is, the smelt is viewed by biologists as a canary in a coal mine, an indicator of ill health for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a source of drinking water for 24 million people and irrigation for 3 million acres.

So goes the smelt, so goes the delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of America, north or south. The smelt’s decline signals, among other things, increased pollution, salinity and devastation caused by giant fish-chomping pumps.

via Water war boils down to farmers vs. fishermen – latimes.com.