Posted on Categories WaterTags , Leave a comment on Opinion: Dams are not the answer to long-term water woes

Opinion: Dams are not the answer to long-term water woes

Kathryn Phillips, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
The Bee’s editorial praising bipartisanship on the updated water bond (“A rare sighting of bipartisanship – on water no less,” Aug. 15) rightly saluted state Sen. Lois Wolk for her good work in trying to keep bond funds away from the ill-conceived Delta tunnels. But the piece got it wrong when it implied that the Delta tunnels issue was the only part of the bond that created concerns for Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
The new bond, like the one it replaced, is written to enable extraordinarily expensive dams that will provide negligible benefit to the public, won’t resolve our water supply problems and will irreparably damage the environment. It was written this way because the Legislature’s Republicans and San Joaquin Valley Democrats threatened to withhold votes needed to get the bond bill passed unless they got money for the dams.
Sierra Club was founded by John Muir in 1892. Muir formed the organization to advocate for the preservation of the natural treasures that dot our great nation. He fought hard against the damming of one of California’s most breathtaking wild areas – Hetch Hetchy Valley – which was drowned by water bound for San Francisco’s urban dwellers in 1923.
Since that time, Sierra Club has stood for a common-sense approach to resource management that respects and works in concert with nature’s majesty, not against it.
We recognize that the final bond package has many positive elements for Californians and our state’s natural areas. But spending $2.7 billion — more than one-third – of the $7.5 billion bond funds on an old-school, unsustainable approach to water management just doesn’t make sense.
The world is much different today than during the dam-building heyday in the 20th century. Climate disruption has begun and precipitation patterns are already changing. New dams won’t respond to that. The sooner the special interests that drive dam development in this state recognize this 21st-century reality and focus instead on moving aggressively to enable regional resiliency through conservation, efficiency, recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater management and the like, the better off we will all be.
Kathryn Phillips is director of Sierra Club California.
via Another View: Dams are not the answer to long-term water woes – Viewpoints – The Sacramento Bee.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Five myths about California’s drought

Five myths about California’s drought

Richard Howitt and Jay Lund, THE WASHINGTON POST

California is experiencing its third-worst drought in 106 years, resulting in idled cropland and soaring water prices. Since the state produces almost 70 percent of the nation’s top 25 fruit, nut and vegetable crops, California’s pain could soon hit the rest of the country through higher food prices. Will conservation and new water-saving technologies be enough to weather this dry period? Let’s consider five myths about the California drought.

1. California knows how to manage droughts. California is lurching through this drought like a man who thinks he is so rich he doesn’t have to balance his checkbook. Much of the state’s agriculture is relying on unmonitored pumping of more groundwater from aquifers, a backup source of water during droughts. This could hurt the sustainability of crops in future droughts, since the aquifers will be threatened if there is not enough replenishment in wetter years. No one in California knows exactly how much water is being drawn from the state’s aquifers, because the pumping of underground water is not measured or recorded by state or federal agencies, or by any private party. However, two bills are pending in the state legislature that could bring some transparency and logic to the use of underground water.

continue reading via Five myths about California’s drought – The Washington Post.

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


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 Mendocino County seeking changes at Coyote Dam

Mendocino County seeking changes at Coyote Dam


The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is getting ready to send a letter to Congressman Jared Huffman supporting a bill that would compel the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rethink the way it runs the Coyote Valley Dam, and how much water can be stored in Lake Mendocino throughout the year.

Huffman last month introduced House of Representatives Bill 3988, called the Fixing Operations of Reservoirs to Encompass Climatic and Atmospheric Science Trends Act, which would let local sponsors of any of the Corps’ reservoir projects throughout the nation ask the Corps to find better ways to operate the reservoir in question. The bill would require the Corps to respond and give it three years to do a study.

The ACOE runs the Coyote Valley Dam during flood control season (November through April) using a formula and graph drawn in 1959. Local officials, including the Board of Supervisors, say that doesn’t allow Lake Mendocino to store enough water to ensure a steady supply the rest of the year, because the Corps uses that decades-old rule curve to instead release over the dam and down the Russian River any water in the lake that rises above a set flood control limit.

via Mendocino County seeking changes at Coyote Dam – Ukiah Daily Journal.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Local Organizations, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on 4-million gallon water basin proposed for Montini Preserve pasture

4-million gallon water basin proposed for Montini Preserve pasture


A bucolic 9-acre pasture grazed by cows on Sonoma’s northwest edge has become an unlikely battleground of late, pitting local government officials who want use it to manage flood and drought concerns against neighbors who say the county promised to preserve it forever in its natural state.

The pasture, protected by what is known as a conservation easement, is the southern point of the 98-acre Montini Preserve, which spans the oak-studded hills above it. The Sonoma County Water Agency is eyeing the pasture for a $4 million detention basin big enough to hold almost 4 million gallons of water.

The proposal has a group of area residents up in arms.

The project would demonstrate “a blatant disregard for the imperative to preserve and conserve” the property, said Mary Nesbitt, who lives on Montini Way next to the pasture.

The neighbors contend, too, that the site is in other ways unsuited for a detention basin, and that the Water Agency and county have pursued the project without properly involving the public.

via Neighbors riled up over Montini Preserve water basin plan | The Press Democrat.