Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on State may curtail rights to upper Russian River water

State may curtail rights to upper Russian River water

Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Forced by drought to take dramatic action, California officials are poised to curtail rights to draw water from the Russian River above Healdsburg for the first time anyone can recall.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Janet Pauli, a Mendocino County rancher who sits on the boards of multiple water organizations.

The state Water Resources Control Board could begin ordering people with junior appropriative water rights — generally those issued by the state after 1914 — to stop drawing water from the river as early as Monday, officials said. The date initially was April 15, but the board postponed making a decision on the Russian River. It did move forward, however, on creating new regulations to curtail water use on three Sacramento River tributaries and the Scott River in Siskiyou County to ensure there is sufficient water in those streams to protect salmon and steelhead.

via State may curtail rights to upper Russian River water | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on Are limitations on abalone harvest making an impact?

Are limitations on abalone harvest making an impact?

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Word on the street is that new restrictions designed to curtail the abalone harvest off the Sonoma Coast this year have dampened enthusiasm for the sport enough to keep some would-be divers at home.

But that was difficult to believe amid the mobs of abalone divers who funneled through a California Fish and Wildlife checkpoint off Highway 1 north of Jenner on Sunday.

Nearly 670 people in 262 vehicles submitted to inspections to ensure they thoroughly complied with catch limits, documentation and minimum size regulations, state Fish and Wildlife officials said.

via Are limitations on abalone harvest making an impact? | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Turning water Into wine: An “unreasonable use” of water in California?

Turning water Into wine: An “unreasonable use” of water in California?

Richard Frank, LEGAL PLANET

On May 1, a California appellate court in San Francisco heard arguments in a case that is likely to affect how broadly–or narrowly–California’s State Water Resources Control Board can apply the state’s most powerful water law.

The case, Light v. California State Water Resources Control Board, involves a challenge by wine grape growers in the Russian River watershed of Northern California to a SWRCB rule limiting growers’ ability to divert water from the Russian River in order to spray their vineyards for frost protection purposes.  The Board adopted its “Frost Protection Regulation” in 2008, following complaints from federal wildlife officials that the grape growers‘ water diversions during cold spells resulted in rapid lowering of Russian River water levels and the resulting death of migrating salmon in the river.  (Federal biologists estimate that the growers’ 2008 diversions resulted in the deaths of 25,000 salmon, several species of which are threatened with extinction.)

The Board expressly relied on Article X, section 2 of the California Constitution in issuing and enforcing the regulatory limits on Russian River water diverted for frost protection purposes.  Enacted in 1928, Article X, section 2 proscribes the “waste or unreasonable use” of California’s water resources.  The Board cited this constitutional provision as authority to apply its Frost Protection Ordinance to almost all diverters of water from the Russian River and its tributaries, as well as to hydrologically connected groundwater.

via Turning Water Into Wine: An “Unreasonable Use” of Water in California? | Legal Planet.

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 Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Bucket brigade seeks to revive Dry Creek with salmon pellets

Bucket brigade seeks to revive Dry Creek with salmon pellets

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.

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 Forests, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Marijuana's thirst depleting North Coast watersheds

Marijuana's thirst depleting North Coast watersheds

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.

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Storm runoff to aid salmon migration

Storm runoff to aid salmon migration

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.

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.