DWR Regulations to Guide Local Sustainable Groundwater Management Plans Approved by California Water Commission

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) regulations that will guide local groundwater sustainability agency management and regulation of California’s groundwater basins as outlined in the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act(SGMA) enacted by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2014 were approved by the California Water Commission today. The approved emergency regulations now will be filed with the Office of Administrative Law and go into effect June 2016.

“Today we reach a major milestone in California’s quest to sustainably manage groundwater,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “These regulations will help communities bring aquifers into balance and prepare for a changing climate and future droughts.”

Groundwater is vital to California and supplies over a third of the water Californians use, and as much as 60 percent or more in some areas during times of drought. SGMA requires local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Managing groundwater sustainably is a key element of the California Water Action Plan, the Brown administration’s five-year roadmap for building resilient, reliable water supplies and restoring important ecosystems.

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Groundwater Sustainability Moves Forward: Will Communities Be Left Behind?

By Jennifer Clary

On Wednesday, the California Water Commission approved emergency regulations for the implementation of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These regulations are a significant milepost in what will be a very long journey towards groundwater sustainability in California.

The regulations are intended to provide requirements for local agencies developing groundwater plans as well as identify the evaluation tools that will be used by the Department of Water Resources to determine if a local agency is making adequate progress towards sustainability.

Clean Water Action, along with dozens of environmental, environmental justice and local community organizations, provided extensive comments to help strengthen the regulations. We know from long experience that local engagement, transparent information, and a strong and accountable governance structure are the basic building blocks of strong institutions. This is especially important in the case of groundwater, which directly impacts the lives of millions of Californians and has been exploited for decades.

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This Logging Plan called Dogwood

What is left out of the Press Democrat article, “Logging Plan along the Gualala…” are at least two very important facts.

One is that there are good rules on the books that disallow companies to log into sensitive floodplains of rivers. However, Gualala Redwoods Timber (GRT) asked for and was granted exemptions to these rules.  Let me repeat, the very rules that would prevent destructive activities in any stream’s floodplain was exempted. Why?  Because Alden requested it, that’s why.

Who is Henry Alden?  No mention of the infamous Pacific Lumber after it was taken over by MAXXAM Corporation and logged the old growth redwoods of Humboldt until massive protests called Redwood Summer forced a deal to save a small part of it, called Headwaters Forest.

Doesn’t Alden’s history here with PL have some bearing on what is going on now in our forests of Sonoma County?  You would think so. For the Press Democrat, this history is invisible, a clean slate. Alden is doing a good job, right?  That is why Alden’s company, GRT, will soon be logging itself out of business and moving on to some other resource to mine and leaving in its wake a devastated river and community to pick up the pieces.

Larry Hanson, Board President
Forest Unlimited

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Logging Plan along Gualala River Faces Opposition


Gualala River floodplain redwood forest, near proposed logging

Gualala River floodplain redwood forest, near proposed logging

A disputed plan to log century- old redwoods along the Gualala River is running into stiff opposition from environmentalists who say the days of timber operations near North Coast streams, even on land long used for commercial logging, should be over.

Opponents of the proposed timber harvest in northwestern Sonoma County are again taking aim at a project they say poses potential harm to wildlife and plants. It would harvest trees on about 330 acres in the river’s flood plain.

The use of heavy equipment in such an area to handle and haul away downed trees is not appropriate and shouldn’t be allowed by the state, opponents say.

“It’s an ecosystem. It’s not just a tree farm,” said Chris Poehlmann, president of Friends of the Gualala River, a nonprofit group that has taken a tough stand on other logging and vineyard conversion projects in the watershed, home to greatly diminished runs of coho salmon and steelhead trout.

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California Water Commission Meet, May 18, 9:30 am

To All,

This is an important meeting to attend if you can.

Meeting of the California Water Commission

State of California, Resources Building
1416 Ninth Street, First Floor Auditorium
Sacramento, CA 95814
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Beginning at 9:30 a.m.

1.    Call to Order
2.    Roll Call
3.    Approval of April 2016 Meeting Minutes
4.    Executive Officer’s Report
The Executive Officer will report on various matters addressed since the previous Commission meeting.
5.    Commission Member Reports
An opportunity for members to disclose any meetings or conversations related to Commission business since the previous Commission meeting.
6.     Public Testimony
Although no formal Commission action will be taken, this is an opportunity for interested members of the public to address the Commission regarding items of interest that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction, but that do not specifically appear on the agenda.
7.    Update on State Water Project Critical Issues
DWR staff will provide an informational update on the construction and operation of the State Water Project per California Water Code §165.
Action Item: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation:  Consider Adoption of Final Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Regulations
DWR staff will present the Final Draft GSP Regulations for Commission consideration and adoption.
9.    Legislative Update
DWR staff will provide an update on State legislation relevant to the activities of DWR and the Commission.
10.    Briefing on Designing Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) by Michael Kiparsky
Dr. Michael Kiparsky of UC Berkeley will brief the Commission on a framework for evaluating GSA governance.
11.    Update on Program and Administrative Activities for the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP)

Commission staff will update the Commission on activities undertaken to implement the Water Storage Investment Program.
12.    Consideration of Items for the Next California Water Commission Meeting
13.    Adjourn
*The Commission may break for lunch as needed.*

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Action: Klamath National Forest Give-Away to Logging Industry

To All,

Call it “Christmas in May”; the Klamath National Forest is set to give a big gift to the logging industry at the expense of taxpayers, wildlife and watersheds.
Take Action Now. The Klamath National Forest is offering to “sell” old-growth forests for logging in the Middle Creek and Whites timber sales for as little as 50 cents per thousand board feet. To put this amount in perspective, timber trucks will roll out of the forest for less than the price of a cup of coffee. While 50 cents cannot buy a newspaper anymore, it can buy a lot of timber.

The cost of this giveaway is extraordinary.
First, these timber giveaways come at an extreme ecological cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the Westside Project may result in the “take,” which includes potential death, of up to 103 northern spotted owls. To put this number in perspective, 103 owls would be approximately 1-2 percent of all northern spotted owls in existence (at a time when owl occupancy is declining at nearly 4% a year). Furthermore, the clear cut timber sale is likely going to result in sediment pollution and landslides into Klamath River tributaries that provide critical coho salmon habitat. The coho population in the project area is on the brink of extinction and this project could be the final straw.

Second, these timber “sales” come at great cost to taxpayers. As a “deficit” sale, meaning that the revenue from the sale will not cover the costs incurred by the Forest Service in offering it, taxpayers are going to subsidize logging of northern spotted owl habitat and the degradation of critical salmon habitat. What’s more, taxpayers will also pay to clean up the mess after logging is completed. The Klamath National Forest estimates that it will cost $27 million to treat slash from logging and “reforest” after operations damage the chance for natural regeneration. In contrast, the Klamath National Forest estimated that the project will only bring in $800,000. In other words, taxpayers will be on the hook for over $26 million dollars.

National forests are our public lands. We shouldn’t give them away to appease the timber industry.

Click here to send a letter to the Forest Service and elected officials to stop the giveaway of our public forests.

From EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center), Arcata, California

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California is Failing to Protect Water Quality in the San Francisco Bay-Delta

October 29, 2015
Kate Poole

California is not just dragging its feet when it comes to updating and enforcing water quality standards for the beleaguered San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Instead, the State appears to be up to its neck in cement, paralyzed in its ability to enforce and update critical water quality standards for the largest and most important estuary on the west coast of the Americas. Despite requirements to update water quality standards every three years, the State has not meaningfully updated the standards for this estuary since 1995, and has not reviewed or updated them at all since 2006. In other words, the same water quality standards that led to the collapse of the Bay-Delta estuary and its fish and wildlife populations are still in place today. That’s why a group of national and local conservation groups, including NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Bay Institute, sent a letter today asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over the job of updating and enforcing safeguards for Bay-Delta water quality.

Nobody seriously questions the vital importance of maintaining water quality in the Delta, which is needed to protect drinking water quality for 25 million Californians, maintain the suitability of Delta water for irrigating more than 3 million acres of farmland, and sustain more than 700 species of fish and wildlife, including the salmon that form the backbone of the salmon fishery along much of the west coast. In fact, state law passed in 2009 directs the State to “improve water quality to protect human health and the environment consistent with achieving water quality objectives in the Delta” and to “restore the Delta ecosystem, including its fisheries and wildlife, as the heart of a healthy estuary and wetland ecosystem.”

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Conservation Groups sue EPA over Bay Delta water quality and salmon

April 23, 2016, Maven
From the NRDC:

Conservation groups filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today – on Earth Day – for failing to protect water quality in the San Francisco Bay-Delta under the Clean Water Act. This failure could result in several native fish species going extinct, toxic algal blooms becoming more common, and the loss of thousands of fishing jobs in California and across the West Coast that depend on healthy Central Valley salmon runs.

The lawsuit – filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Bay Institute, and Defenders of Wildlife – is in response to more than 20 decisions made by California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) over the last three years to weaken or waive water quality standards in the Bay-Delta. The SWRCB’s decisions have dramatically worsened water quality in the Bay-Delta. The result has been crashing fish populations, with several species declining to the lowest levels ever recorded, and others – such as the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon – suffering near-total mortality for two years in a row.

The salmon fishing industry has been hard hit by the SWRCB’s decisions to weaken water quality standards and the EPA’s failure to carry out its legally mandated oversight role. This year, fishery managers imposed severe restrictions on the salmon fishery because state and federal agencies have not adequately protected salmon in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and Bay-Delta during the drought.

“The San Francisco Bay-Delta is a national treasure on par with the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and the Everglades,” said Kate Poole, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “EPA cannot sit idly by while state regulators allow this great estuary, its fisheries and the thousands of jobs it supports to suffer death by a thousand cuts.”

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Greenland and Antarctic melt isn’t just raising seas — it’s changing the Earth’s rotation

By Chris Mooney
April 8, 2016

Earth from space

Sophisticated new gravity research suggests that changes in Earth’s climate may actually be having a stunning geophysical effect: slightly moving the location of the planet’s spin axis, or axis of daily rotation. In other words, even as the Earth spins on its axis in a west to east direction, completing a full rotation every 24 hours, that axis itself is also moving. This, in turn, means that the physical North and South poles are actually shifting, with the North Pole now drifting towards the United Kingdom.

And given that much of this is related to the loss of polar ice, a changing climate would appear to be at least partly —although perhaps not wholly — responsible. “If we lose mass from the Greenland ice sheet, we are essentially putting mass elsewhere. And as we redistribute the mass, the spin axis tends to find a new direction. And that’s what we mean by polar motion,” said Surendra Adhikari, a researcher with Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who conducted the work with his colleague Erik Ivins. The new research appeared Friday in Science Advances.

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Wild and harnessed, Eel River a vital, troubled North Coast watershed

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | April 10, 2016

The middle fork of the Eel River, Mendocino, California

The roar of water cascading over a 109-year-old concrete dam on the Eel River in Mendocino County was music to Janet Pauli.

“It should be a welcome sound for everybody on the North Coast,” said the longtime Potter Valley rancher, watching the river run down a remote canyon in the Coast Range, bound for the Pacific Ocean far away near Eureka.

Twelve miles the other way, the gates atop another dam had closed a week ago, and the Lake Pillsbury reservoir was filling fast with runoff from early spring rains, offering strong hope of a normal season after four years of drought for the multitude of people who depend on the Eel River for necessities and revelries, including water, wine grapes and stalking wild steelhead trout.

That group includes the 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties who get their drinking water from the Sonoma County Water Agency, ranchers and residents on the upper Russian River, and people along the Eel River as it courses nearly 200 miles through Mendocino and Humboldt counties, passing through nearly untouched wilderness, giant redwood forests, small towns, popular parks and attractions like the Benbow Inn near Garberville before it flattens in the coastal plain approaching the coast.

Most have no idea how these two dams and a mile-long tunnel through a mountain move about 20 billion gallons of water a year from the Eel River into the Russian River, crossing a geographically narrow but politically wide gap and inciting the North Coast’s version of California’s age-old water wars.

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