Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State regulators are asking about 650 landowners along Sonoma County’s four major coho salmon spawning streams to voluntarily reduce water diversions to protect the drought-imperiled fish species, which is hanging on after nearly going extinct in the Russian River two decades ago.
Letters issued jointly by the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were mailed this week to the landowners — primarily rural residents as well as some grape growers — along Dutch Bill and Green Valley creeks in the west county, Mark West Creek north of Santa Rosa and the Mill Creek system west of Healdsburg.
Survival of the coho is “at a precarious junction” in the fourth year of “the worst drought in recorded California history,” read the letter, signed by Scott Wilson, a regional manager with the wildlife agency, and Barbara Evoy, deputy director of the water board’s division of water rights.
“Every week is critical for these endangered salmon,” the letter stated, outlining steps — including use of alternative water sources, curbing lawn irrigation, installing low-flow household devices such as toilets and washing machines and releasing spare reservoir water — to maintain stream flows from May 1 through November or later.
“The fish need a minimum amount of water flow to live and these steps and cooperation are necessary for them to succeed,” the letter said.
The move amounts to the agencies’ first drought-related action this year on local stream use. It seeks voluntary commitments from 654 landowners to cut back on water drawn from coho breeding streams feeding into the Russian River. But the letter also warns that if voluntary actions are insufficient, the state could halt water diversions, a step known as curtailment that was imposed last year on the upper Russian River and other dwindling waterways on the North Coast and in the Central Valley.
Read more via State seeks voluntary cut in stream diversions from | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa residents have already satisfied the state’s water conservation requirement and simply “need to keep it up” as the weather warms and the urge to water lawns resumes, a city official said Monday.
“We’re asking our customers to keep implementing the water-saving habits they have picked up,” said Jennifer Burke, deputy director of water and engineering services.
Santa Rosa was the only one of 11 North Bay cities and water agencies that came out ahead of the revised conservation standards issued Saturday by the State Water Board, which is implementing Gov. Jerry Brown’s demand for a statewide 25 percent cut in water consumption this year.
State regulators have focused on watering lawns and landscaping, which consumes about 1 million acre feet of water a year, enough to fill Lake Sonoma, the North Bay’s largest reservoir, four times.
Two weeks ago, the water board announced draft conservation targets for more than 400 urban water suppliers, giving Santa Rosa a 20 percent goal, just 2 percent higher than the 18 percent water savings achieved since 2013. The goals were revised after water providers complained that draft ones failed to give enough weight to previous conservation efforts. New tiers were established based on usage data from the months of July, August and September instead of just September. The revised standards cut the city’s target to 16 percent, 2 percent lower than the current conservation rate.
Burke said it was “good to see the state has taken into account the conservation efforts of previous years.”
Rohnert Park, Windsor and the Sweetwater Springs Water District also qualified for the 16 percent target, replacing the 20 percent standard but still larger than their water savings to date: 11 percent for Rohnert Park and 15 percent for Windsor and Sweetwater Springs, which serves the lower Russian River area.
Sonoma and Healdsburg took hits from the revised standards, bumped up to 28 percent from 25 percent.
Sonoma faces the largest challenge, a 13 percent gap between the revised target and the 15 percent conservation it has achieved since 2013. Healdsburg, credited with 17 percent water savings to date, faces an 11 percent gap.
Read more via Santa Rosa comes out ahead of revised water | The Press Democrat.
Tom Philpott and Julia Lurie, MOTHER JONES
Almonds: crunchy, delicious, and…the center of a nefarious plot to suck California dry? They certainly have used up a lot of ink lately—partly inspired by our reporting over the past year. California’s drought-stricken Central Valley churns out 80 percent of the globe’s almonds, and since each nut takes a gallon of water to produce, they account for close to 10 percent of the state’s annual agricultural water use—or more than what the entire population of Los Angeles and San Francisco use in a year.
As Grist’s Nathanael Johnson put it, almonds have become a scapegoat of sorts—"the poster-nut for human wastefulness in California’s drought." Or, as Alissa Walker put it in Gizmodo, "You know, ALMONDS, THE DEVIL’S NUT." It’s not surprising that the almond backlash has inspired a backlash of its own. California agriculture is vast and complex, and its water woes can’t hang entirely on any one commodity, not even one as charismatic as the devil’s nut almond.
And as many have pointed out, almonds have a lot going for them—they’re nutritious, they taste good, and they’re hugely profitable for California. In 2014, almonds brought in a whopping $11 billion to the state’s economy. Plus, other foods—namely, animal products—use a whole lot more water per ounce than almonds.
So almonds must be worth all the water they require, right? Not so fast. Before you jump to any conclusions, consider the following five facts:
1. Most of our almonds end up overseas. Almonds are the second-thirstiest crop in California—behind alfalfa, a superfood of sorts for cows that sucks up 15 percent of the state’s irrigation water. Gizmodo’s Walker—along with many others—wants to shift the focus from almonds to the ubiquitous feed crop, wondering, "Why are we using more and more of our water to grow hay?" Especially since alfalfa is a relatively low-value crop—about a quarter of the per acre value of almonds—and about a fifth of it is exported.
It should be noted, though, that we export far more almonds than alfalfa: About two-thirds of California’s almond and pistachio crops are sent overseas—a de facto export of California’s overtapped water resources.
READ MORE VIA Here's the Real Problem With Almonds | Mother Jones.
Robin Gordon, THE WINDSOR TIMES
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors signed an agreement on Tuesday with the Lytton Rancheria of California that supports a tribal housing project west of Windsor and outlines parameters around the development.
The 124-acres of land owned by the Lytton Band of Pomo is slated for 147 housing units and, a community building, roundhouse and, in the future, may include a winery and resort.
County officials said that agreeing to the terms before the land is taken into trust would help ensure best management practices when the county no longer has control. The tribe agreed to $6.1 million in mitigation payments for impacts to roads, administrative costs, woodlands and parks surrounding the Windsor River Road property.
“This is something that was in no way spelled out before. Any kind of work that they do on the location now has to fit county code and general plan reviews. We have had examples around the country where a tribe has moved their lands into trust and then there is no interaction whatsoever, it annexes out of the jurisdiction of the county and then you have no way to deal with impacts,” Supervisor James Gore said.
The memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the county and the representatives of the tribe outlines the county’s relationship with the tribe and the importance of coming to an agreement that addresses land use, environmental impacts and their mutual goals.
“This is a big deal, let’s be honest, this is a very big deal. We talk about this as a memorandum agreement but it is also important to realize who has authority over what when we get into discussions with the county…the tribe has certain rights to take legally owned land into trust and govern that land outside of the local jurisdiction and governments,” Gore said.
Currently the tribe is in the processes of transferring the land out of fee-based property status and into a federal trust. Typically, once the land is taken into trust, no property taxes are paid and local zoning laws no longer apply. Through this agreement, the tribe agrees to develop lands consistent with Windsor’s General Plan and the County General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.
Read more at: County, Lytton tribe sign agreement – The Windsor Times: News