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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Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry

Our leaders thought fracking would save our climate. They were wrong. Very wrong.

By Bill McKibben
March 23, 2016

Fracking Texas

A fracking well in the Eagle Ford Shale region, near Karnes City, Texas. (AP Photo / Aaron M. Sprecher)

Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong.

There’s one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a “price on carbon” or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest “carbon reductions.” But in the last few weeks, CO2’s nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4.

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CO2 levels make largest annual leap in 56 years – NOAA

By Alex Pashley

The last time the Earth saw such a sustained increase was over 11 millennia ago, says US agency

A strong El Nino and fossil fuel emissions caused the record increase said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A strong El Nino and fossil fuel emissions caused the record increase, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Credit: Pixabay)

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide last year rose by the biggest margin since records began, according to a US federal science agency .

Fossil fuel burning and a strong El Nino weather pattern pushed CO2 levels 3.05 parts per million on a year earlier to 402.6 ppm, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, NOAA said on Wednesday.

“Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist at NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”

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Klamath Dams to Come Down

March 21, 2016
by Victoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Chair

For many years one of Redwood Chapter’s top priorities has been the removal of four geriatric hydroelectric dams that are impeding fish passage and impairing water quality on the Klamath River, while sedimentation has reduced their capacity for electric generation.  Retrofitting the dams to provide fish passage for salmon, steelhead and other fish as required by re-licensing authorization would be prohibitively expensive, making removal a more viable alternative for the customers and stockholders of dam owner PacifiCorp.

In 2009, a stakeholder process (in which the Sierra Club did not participate) resulted in the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) by which dam removal was linked to upstream water rights allocations and other considerations. Members of the California and Oregon Congressional delegation then introduced legislation to implement the agreements, but after several years of Congressional inaction they expired at the end of 2015.

Now we are delighted to be able to announce that dam removal seems to be back on track. Early in February the state of California, PacifiCorp and the federal government announced an agreement-in-principle to move forward with an amended version of the KHSA through the administrative process governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), using existing funding and on the same timeline.

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2016 National Monitoring Conference, May 2-6, Tampa FL

Please visit the 2016 National Monitoring Conference Website to view the draft conference agenda.  The Conference-at-a-Glance and Concurrent Session Details, including speaker names and presentation titles, are available on the Agenda page  for planning and registration purposes.  This national forum is designed for all water stakeholders, including federal, state, tribal and local water professionals, non-profits, academia, and volunteer citizen scientists.

Conference registration is still open, and there are a number of excellent field trips and extended sessions that can be added to your itinerary.  We’ve added a limited number of hotel rooms at three nearby hotels in the downtown Tampa area that are all at the 2016 GSA Per Diem rate.

Please be sure to visit the conference website for additional conference information, and feel free to send any inquiries to

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World Water Day, March 22, 2016

To All,

White House will Host Water Summit on Building a Sustainable Water Future in the United States.

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – World Water Day – the Administration will host a White House Water Summit to raise awareness of the national importance of water, and to highlight new commitments and announcements that the Administration and non-federal institutions are making to build a sustainable water future.

Nearly 200 water experts, representing the full spectrum of interests (e.g. industry, technology developers, utilities, states and tribes, water associations, environmental advocacy, philanthropy), are expected to attend. EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg will moderate a panel on Innovative Finance and Water Infrastructure Solutions. Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, will also attend. The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. EDT to approximately 12:30 p.m. EDT and be livestreamed at

World Water Day: The power of water and jobs
On World Water Day, people everywhere show that they care and that they have the power to make a difference. They get inspired by information and use it to take action and change things. This year many will focus on the power that water and jobs have to transform people’s lives. Nearly all jobs are related to water and those that ensure its safe delivery. But today, millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change. Read More

World Water Monitoring Challenge
WWMC is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies.

WWMC grew out of the World Water Monitoring Day program in 2012. While an official “day” continues to be observed each year on September 18, the broader “challenge” encourages people everywhere to test the quality of their waterways, share their findings, and protect our most precious resource. The program runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) until December 31.

The primary goal of World Water Monitoring Challenge is to educate and engage citizens in the protection of the world’s water resources. Many people are unaware of the impact their behaviors have on water quality. Conducting simple monitoring tests teaches participants about some of the most common indicators of water health and encourages further participation in more formal citizen monitoring efforts.

2016 CA Citizen Monitoring Calendar (Free download of a years’ worth of water and environmental occasions.)

Erick Burres
Senior Environmental Scientist (Specialist)

Clean Water Team – Citizen Monitoring Coordinator
CWQMCN: Facilitator
Safe-to-Swim Work Group:  Co-Facilitator

Clean Water Team c/o LARWQCB
320 West 4th Street, Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90013

213-576-6788 O
213-712-6862 C

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Under the influence? How the wine industry dominates Sonoma County election campaigns

February 19, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun
A Sun exclusive by By Will Parrish

For at least two decades, Sonoma County officials have sided with the wine industry in nearly every major political dispute. The reason? The industry dominates the county’s economy – and financially dominates county election campaigns.

Last spring, Sonoma County supervisors Efren Carrillo, James Gore, and Susan Gorin traveled to Sacramento to meet with some of California’s highest-ranking regulatory officials: California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, Secretary of Fish and Wildlife Charles Bonham, senior staff members at the State Water Resources Control Board, and State Water Resources Control Board member Dee Dee D’Adamo.

‏The subject of the closed-door session was a pending drought-related emergency order governing water use in four sections of the Russian River watershed, which the state and federal governments had deemed crucial to the survival of the endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout. According to Supervisor Gore, in an interview with me last year, the specific focus of the conversation was to determine “what we could do to achieve the goal of water in the creeks for coho.”

‏Soon after, the Water Board announced the terms of the regulatory order, which spans 270 days – and remains in effect as of this writing. It applies to an estimated 13,000 Sonoma County residents. It forbids watering of lawns. It places limits on car washing and watering residential gardens. It does not, however, place mandatory limits on water used by irrigated vineyards, which are arguably the main recent cause of the iconic fish species’ perilous decline in the four areas in question.

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