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.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
They’re less slimy, and certainly less smelly, than a fish carcass would be. But the dry, brown pellets that biologists distributed Tuesday in a backwater channel of Dry Creek may prove to be the vitamin that once-prolific North Coast salmon streams need.
The goal is to simulate the nutritional boost that used to come from the decaying remains of adult fish, a critical natural supplement for coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and other wildlife.
The approach has shown promise in the Columbia River watershed over the past few years. It produced benefits last year in several tributaries of Sonoma County’s Austin Creek.
“This could be a piece in the missing puzzle of recovery,” said Bob Coey, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
via Bucket brigade seeks to revive Dry Creek with salmon pellets.
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.
With surge in pot gardens, experts warn of ‘staggering’ destruction of habitats, likelihood of North Coast streams running dry.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Streams in Northern California’s prime marijuana-growing watersheds likely will be sucked dry this year if pot cultivation isn’t curtailed, experts say.
“Essentially, marijuana can consume all the water. Every bit of it,” said state Fish and Wildlife Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, who specializes in salmon recovery and is working on a study of the issue. The findings, expected to be released soon, shed new light on a massive, largely unregulated industry in California that has been blamed for polluting streams and forests with pesticides and trash and for bulldozing trees and earth to make clearings for gardens.
A sharp increase in water-intensive pot cultivation, exacerbated by drought conditions, adds to the habitat degradation and threatens to undo decades of costly fish restoration efforts, Bauer said.
“The destruction of habitat is actually quite staggering,” said Patrick Foy, a spokesman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Last year, 24 North Coast salmon-bearing tributaries were reported to have gone dry, Bauer said, though not all were verified by the agency. Even without drought, there isn’t going to be enough water to meet the pot industry’s growing demand, Bauer said.
via Marijuana’s thirst depleting North Coast watersheds | The Press Democrat.
Matt Weiser, SACRAMENTO BEE
There’s at least one immediate benefit from the most recent storms that swept through California: Wildlife officials will temporarily stop transporting hatchery salmon by truck, and instead release those fish at the hatcheries following usual practice.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff will pause its trucking operation to take advantage of storm runoff in Battle Creek, which flows through the hatchery, and the Sacramento River. They will release the next batch of about 4.5 million young fall-run Chinook salmon at the hatchery instead, starting Friday.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will also release about 1 million endangered spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River from its hatchery near Oroville. It had planned to haul these fish by truck.
Releasing salmon at their hatcheries is the preferred practice because it allows the fish to “imprint” on that location so they can find their way back from the ocean in three to four years to breed as adults.
via Storm runoff to aid salmon migration – Environment – The Sacramento Bee.
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.
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.
Report, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
Sonoma Land Trust has been awarded a $691,644 grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP).
The purpose of this funding, together with a planning grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy in 2013, is to enable the removal of three barriers to the passage of steelhead on Stuart Creek as it flows through Glen Ellen to allow the fish access to critical spawning and nursery grounds.
In 2011, Sonoma Land Trust purchased three-and-a-half acres near the intersection of Highway 12 and Arnold Drive that includes a one-third-mile stretch of Stuart Creek. Stuart Creek is a major tributary of Sonoma Creek, which once supported the second largest steelhead trout run among Bay Area streams. However, most of the fish habitat in the Stuart Creek watershed has been largely inaccessible to threatened steelhead trout for decades because of the barriers.
Removing them and reestablishing the creek’s historic fish run has been identified by the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration as one of the highest priorities for recovering steelhead in the Bay Area – and is the goal toward which Sonoma Land Trust has been working since acquiring the property it subsequently named “Stuart Creek Run.”
via Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma News, Entertainment, Sports, Real Estate, Events, Photos, Sonoma, CA.
Jeremy P. Jacobs, GREENWIRE
Federal appellate judges today upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that a California water project imperils an endangered fish, in a ruling that judges acknowledge would have "enormous practical implications" for the state’s water management.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling that invalidated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion on the delta smelt, which concludes that the Central Valley Project and State Water Project pose a threat to the tiny fish.
Together, the two projects serve 200,000 water customers in Central and Southern California, including the country’s most diverse agricultural region.
via ENDANGERED SPECIES: Judges uphold federal protection for fish in dispute over Calif. water management — Thursday, March 13, 2014 — www.eenews.net.
Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST
Sonoma County Supervisors agreed to hire an environmental attorney last week to help defend the county against charges that local vineyard development is illegally destroying critical habitat of the California Tiger Salamander.
Sonoma County “routinely issues permits for vineyard development” that has destroyed salamander habitat in the Santa Rosa plain between Windsor and Petaluma, according to a lawsuit filed in January by California River Watch, the Sebastopol non-profit watchdog group that specializes in suing government entities for alleged non-compliance with environmental protection laws.
The California tiger salamander (CTS) was listed nearly 10 years ago as in danger of becoming locally extinct because of development in the Santa Rosa plain. Since then, pro-development advocates and environmental groups have clashed over the appropriate protections needed to keep the salamander from becoming extinct.
The suit filed by River Watch attorneys Jack Silver and Jerry Bernhaut accuses the county of permitting vineyard development that has resulted in violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) that prohibits any “take” or harming of a listed species.
via Legal battle brewing over California Tiger Salamander law – Sonoma West Times and News: News.