Neela Banerjee, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The Obama administration proposed a long-awaited rule on Tuesday to clarify that the Clean Water Act protects wetlands near rivers and waterways fed by seasonal thaws and rains — a decision that could particularly shield water sources in the West.
Proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the draft Waters of the U.S. rule is aimed at defining the scope of the Clean Water Act after two Supreme Court decisions in the last 15 years led to confusion about which waterways were under federal protection, said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
At issue is the status of waterways that do not flow year-round or are not permanent lakes, but streams that flow intermittently or after heavy rains, and riparian wetlands. Many small, intermittent waterways feed into drinking-water sources, especially in the West. Without protections, theses tributaries and wetlands could be polluted or filled in, as has happened since the Supreme Court decisions, environmentalists said.
"The health of our rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the smaller interconnected streams and wetlands that feed them," McCarthy said. "These places are where we get our drinking water. Our farmers rely on these vital waters to grow the fuel, food and fiber that feed our nation. Our businesses rely on abundant, usable water to manufacture."
via Clean Water Act proposal would protect more water sources in West – latimes.com.
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.
Lori A. Carter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Standing amid the marshes of Petaluma’s Shollenberger Park, Jeff McCreary points out the Northern shoveler ducks, the gadwalls, the cinnamon teals and the Canada geese.
And he’s confident that his organization, Ducks Unlimited, has had a positive influence on the waterfowl’s apparently contented existence in the wetlands, tucked between the Petaluma River and office parks.
McCreary, a Penngrove native who grew up in and around Petaluma, is the director of conservation programs for the nonprofit group that has helped conserve almost 5 million acres of land in the United States for waterfowl habitat.
via Conservation group aids Petaluma bird life | The Press Democrat.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Caltrans contractor likely filled in a wetland without the proper permits during construction work along Highway 101 south of Petaluma, Sonoma County officials said, an action that could trigger state and federal fines or efforts to restore the damaged environment.
The apparent violation — stemming from activity that began in late 2012 — has put a much-needed stockpile of construction materials essentially on hold pending environmental study, and could delay or drive up costs on a pair of Highway 101 widening projects totalling $87 million, according to the contractor, Ghilotti Bros.
via Sonoma County: Wetlands area damaged by Highway 101 contractor | The Press Democrat.
Jamie Hansen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A key piece in the puzzle of restoring wetlands in San Pablo Bay slid into place Friday with the purchase of the 1,092-acre Haire ranch on Skaggs Island.
The Sonoma Land Trust coordinated the $8.3 million purchase, something it has been trying to do since 2010.
“I’m kind of pinching myself,” said Wendy Eliot, conservation director at the trust. She described the ranch as the “holy grail” of conservation projects. “It’s a big day.”
via 1,000 acres added to Skaggs Island wetlands area | The Press Democrat.
Associated Press, THE SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER
A 50-year plan for the restoration of San Francisco Bay and other coastal wetlands was released Thursday by federal wildlife officials who call it the biggest effort to save tidal marshes outside the Florida Everglades.
The $1.24 billion plan for the Bay and a patchwork of tidal marshes in Northern and Central California calls for projects along 500 miles of the state’s 1,100-mile coastline, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said.
The plan is the result of 15 years of research and provides recommendations meant to save 17 struggling species of plants and animals, including the endangered California clapper rail, a bird. The plan was previously approved by the service, which has spent years reviewing and getting public comment. Funding will come from a mix of federal state and private sources.
Since the Gold Rush era, 90 percent of tidal marshes in the San Francisco Bay have been lost to development and contamination.
via Fish & Wildlife Service announces $1.24 billion plan for Bay Area wetlands | Other News | San Francisco | San Francisco Examiner.
Download the plan and USFWS press release here:
Vesta Copestakes, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
For the past almost 40 years, Forestville has fought one development plan after another on downtown property that runs along Front Street in the heart of downtown. Now, with the support of Sonoma County’s Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, the Forestville Planning Association, and a local investment group that includes the Bartolomei family, and a Yes vote from the Board of Supervisors, Forestville finally gets a plan everyone can live with.
Eight and one half acres of land will now be approximately 50% park and preserved wetlands with native habitat, and 50% developed land for mixed-use commerce. The land will also accommodate Sonoma County Regional Park’s trailhead to the West County Trail directly running into Forestville’s downtown. That a real boon to the parks, users of the trail, and downtown businesses.
via Forestville Open Space Grant Approved for Park.
Pond 7 of the old Cargill Salt Co. plant between Napa and Sonoma is an improbable sight: a lifeless salt flat spreading across more than 300 acres along the edge of the San Pablo Bay.
The surface is a twisted mass of filthy salt crystals, devoid of plants and avoided by the migratory birds that inhabit nearby marshes.
As long as the pond remains in this state, officials say, it poses a threat to the ecologically sensitive bay: should a rain storm flood the pond and breach the dirt banks, it could wash salt into the open water in concentrations high enough to kill fish and other wildlife.
via Water agency nears completion of Napa-Sonoma salt marsh pipeline | The Press Democrat.