Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Farm groups applaud action to rescind WOTUS

Farm groups are applauding the Trump administration's move to scrap the "Waters of the U.S." rule. From the National Corn Growers Association:
The following is a statement from Texas farmer Wesley Spurlock, president of the National Corn Growers Association, in response to today’s announcement of the proposal to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) Rule:

“The goal of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the integrity of the nation’s waters. The 2015 rule moved us further away from that goal. Repealing it is an important first step toward providing farmers the certainty and clarity we have long desired.

“We are thankful this Administration is working to draw clear lines in terms of what is and what is not jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act. In doing so, they will enable farmers to implement best management practices such as grass waterways and buffer strips without the burden of bureaucratic red tape or fear of legal action. These types of land improvements have enormous water quality benefits, such as reducing sediment and nutrient runoff—a win for farmers and the environment. Government should be making these actions easier, not more difficult.

“We salute the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for their efforts. We stand committed to working with these agencies as they develop a new rule that defines jurisdictional boundaries in clear terms that are inclusive of the realities of farming.”

Earlier this year, President Trump issued Executive Order 13778, directing EPA and USACE to review the final 2015 WOTUS rule, and publish for notice and comment a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule, as appropriate and consistent with law. Today’s announcement is the next step in that process.
From the National Potato Council:
The National Potato Council (NPC) supports today’s proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would rescind the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA) proposed by the Obama Administration in 2015.

“NPC applauds the proposed rule, which seeks to remedy an unnecessary federal overreach,” said John Keeling, CEO and EVP of NPC. “NPC has gone on record as a strong supporter of reducing regulatory burdens that inhibit growers’ ability to farm. Revoking this flawed WOTUS proposal is a positive step toward that goal.”

The 2015 rule massively expanded the scope of the CWA to areas of the U.S., including farms, that are unrelated to its original goals and thereby subjected growers to potential regulatory jeopardy. In response, federal courts had stepped in to prevent immediate implementation of the WOTUS Rule and NPC is pleased that the Administration followed through on rescinding the rule.

“We urge the Administration and Congress to implement the CWA and other environmental regulations in a manner that protects America’s resources while limiting unintended consequences on activities that are unrelated to those goals,” said Mr. Keeling.
The Capital Press' Carol Ryan Dumas is preparing a detailed story on the move and reactions. Watch for it at CapitalPress.com.

Monday, June 26, 2017

California WaterFix plan gets key federal permit

From the state Department of Water Resources:
Federal agencies responsible for the protection of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today provided biological opinions on the proposed construction and operation of California WaterFix. These biological opinions allow WaterFix to continue moving toward construction as early as 2018. This important project is designed to ensure a reliable water source for 25 million Californians while affording environmental protections for multiple species that depend upon the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“We are poised to take action to better protect our state water supplies and native fisheries,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “After 10 years of study, analysis, dialogue and scientific inquiry, we have come to a shared vision—and feasible approach—for how best to meet the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”

The proposed project includes new water intakes on the Sacramento River near Hood and dual 35-mile-long tunnels to carry water to the existing south Delta pumping plants for the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP). Both biological opinions found the construction and operations of WaterFix as proposed would not jeopardize the continued existence of ESA-listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat for those species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) implement the ESA, with NOAA Fisheries primarily responsible for marine species and the Service for land and freshwater species. Under the ESA, other federal agencies must consult with the Service and NOAA when their activities have the potential to impact federally endangered or threatened species.

The biological opinions analyze the effects to ESA-listed species, including the threatened Delta smelt, endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened spring-run Chinook salmon, threatened North American green sturgeon, threatened California Central Valley steelhead and endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales, which depend heavily on Chinook salmon for food.

The Service biological opinion is available here, and the biological opinion from NOAA Fisheries is here.

The biological opinions recognize the uncertainty inherent in the dynamic ecology of the Delta and include a strong adaptive management component, where research, monitoring, and real-time tracking of fish populations and other factors will guide future operation of the new intakes.

“The wisest thing to do in the face of uncertainty is to monitor constantly, test hypotheses regularly, adjust operations accordingly, and reassess,” said California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Acting Director Bill Croyle. “In the Delta, we always will be adjusting to improve resiliency and protect the environment. What won’t change is our compliance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.”

DWR owns and operates the SWP. The 29 public agencies contracting to receive SWP water serve more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated agricultural land.

The biological opinions are important components of the analysis of the environmental effects of WaterFix. The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released in December 2016 include measures to avoid or minimize impacts that could arise from the proposed project.

Once the EIR has been certified through completion of the California Environmental Quality Act process, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to consider whether to issue an “incidental take” permit for the construction and operation of WaterFix under the California Endangered Species Act.

These biological opinions will also be considered by permitting agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board in its hearing now underway on a petition by DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to allow for the change in points of diversion to add three new intakes on the Sacramento River as part of WaterFix. WaterFix would not change the volume of water to which the SWP and CVP are entitled to divert, but would add additional diversion points in a more environmentally protective place that also is easier to safeguard against natural disaster such as earthquake and sea-level rise due to climate change.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lawmakers urge Brown to intervene to fund levee repairs

From a news release:
Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) and Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba) today asked Governor Brown once again to directly intervene to fund urgent levee repair needs. Below is an excerpt from the letter to Governor Brown:

“In the aftermath of the recent spring storms, levees throughout the region saw significant damage. Having toured the Feather River and personally witnessed the long stretches of crumbled river banks and levees as a result of the drastically fluctuating water releases from the Oroville Dam, we can attest to the critical need for $100 million in additional funding for serious infrastructure repairs for flood control.

“A break in any of these critical repair sites along the levee system have the potential to devastate the region and require hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of emergency repairs. In addition, the state bears liability for avoidable catastrophic damage as a result of levee repairs (see Paterno v. State of California).

“The current funding, touted by your staff, is woefully inadequate. Moreover, the $50 million re-purposed from last year has largely already been accounted for.

“California’s levees protect millions of lives, farmland and wildlife habitat. With the fall rainy reason only a few months away, Northern California desperately needs an additional $100 million in funding to avert further damage to the state’s levees.

“We respectfully ask you to directly intervene and fund the bi-partisan request of $100 million in this year’s budget to shore up our levees.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LaMalfa calls for unity, announces 2018 re-election bid

A statement from Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
We have seen some rocky times in DC and around the country since my January swearing in and the Inauguration of President Trump. We have much to be optimistic about, but I also notice a very deep division in our country that seemed to play out today in the horrendous shooting that occurred at this mornings practice for a bi-partisan charity baseball game. I give thanks and prayerful hopes of healing for the victims of the shooting and our brave Capitol Police who were there this morning.

Hopefully we can learn from this in time to curb the division and come back to the unity that helps America to be its best. We can accomplish so much more when we are united in purpose.

I've always been results oriented. This year my focus is on water storage, highways, putting in place a health insurance system where people have choices and can afford them, improving America’s necessary military strength around the world and bringing jobs back here to Northern California.

In making my decision to run for re-election in 2018, I see so much potential in what can be achieved for the American people and the North State in parallel with the Trump White House. We are pushing a roll back of crushing regulations that are stealing our water and property rights. As well we must achieve needed tax reform so American businesses can be competitive and families can keep more of what they have worked hard to earn.

So many of you have expressed your prayers and support for me and for what my colleagues are working to achieve back in Washington DC. The optimism of January may have been tempered in some peoples minds by the headlines of the day and deep division. Yet I still hold that optimism, knowing that even if we have tough times, that we together are tougher and can push through.

For today, please know I am doing okay and will remain undaunted in pushing forward for the goals I’ve been proud to champion. Soon I’ll be calling on you for your endorsement and support I will need to move forward and seek re-election in 2018.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement. I ask also for your prayers for Congress for safety, wisdom and discernment. Please keep our law enforcement in your prayers, who protect us here at home and our Military, who protect us abroad.

God Bless America[.]

We're having a heat wave: What to expect as 100s arrive

As it appears now, the summer of 2017 will be ushered in by the first protracted heat wave of the season. Here is the outlook from the National Weather Service:
High pressure builds across northern California this week, continuing into the weekend. High temperatures Friday and into the weekend will increase heat related illnesses for those exposed to prolonged outdoor heat, especially the elderly, children, and other sensitive groups.

Long outdoor exposures will increase chances for heat related illness, especially for sensitive groups
Heat stress to livestock with limited relief from heat overnight
Area waterways running very cold & fast, increasing risk for hypothermia, water rescues

Forecast Confidence

Timing and Strength
Near to above normal across interior northern California Today-Thursday.
High temperatures going much above normal with increasing risk for heat related illnesses late this week and into the weekend.
Valley highs reaching the 100 degree mark Friday, hotter Saturday-Monday
Very warm overnight temperatures, 70 or above for many locations
Farmers are being advised to prepare. Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation and chief operating officer of Farm Employers Labor Service, advises that CalOSHA will be enforcing the Heat Illness Prevention standard for outdoor employment. According to Little, the standard includes the following requirements:
--Water must be "fresh, pure, suitably cool" and located as close as practicable to where employees are working, with exceptions when employers can demonstrate infeasibility.
--Shade must be present at 80 degrees, and must accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods, plus those on site who are taking meal breaks.
--Employees taking a "preventive cool-down rest" must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness, encouraged to remain in the shade and not ordered back to work until symptoms are gone. Employees with symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.
--High-heat procedures, triggered at 95 degrees, have been tightened. Employers must ensure "effective" observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. In a provision exclusive to agriculture, employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours during high-heat periods.
--Emergency response procedures must include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.
--Acclimation procedures must include close observation of all employees during a heat wave—defined as temperatures of at least 80 degrees. New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.
As I reported yesterday, the heat wave may hasten snowmelt into reservoirs that are in many cases already more than 90 percent full. Shasta Lake, for instance, is at 95 percent of its capacity and 113 percent of its historical average.

Keep watch at CapitalPress.com for updates on weather impacts as the summer gets going.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Public meetings to discuss Shasta Dam fish passage

From a news release:
The Bureau of Reclamation will hold two public scoping meetings to gather information from other agencies, interested parties, and the public on the scope of alternatives for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Shasta Dam Fish Passage Evaluation (SDFPE) project. The SDFPE project evaluates the near-term actions of reintroducing Federally-listed endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and potentially spring-run Chinook salmon to tributaries above Shasta Dam. The near-term goal is to increase the geographic distribution and abundance of the listed fish. The long-term goal is to increase abundance, productivity, and spatial distribution, and to improve the life history, health, and genetic diversity of the target species.

The public scoping meetings on the EIS are scheduled for:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825, Federal Building, Cafeteria Room C-1001.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., 20814 Mammoth Drive, Lakehead, CA 96051, Lakehead Lions Club.

The EIS will assess impacts associated with the implementation of the near-term activities identified under Action V in the National Marine Fisheries Service Reasonable and Prudent Alternative from the 2009 Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Long-term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. Action V includes a Fish Passage Program to evaluate the reintroduction of Federally-listed Chinook salmon and steelhead to three dams operated by Reclamation: Shasta, Folsom, and New Melones.

In 2016, Reclamation released a Draft Pilot Implementation Plan. This Pilot Plan provided a general overview of winter-run Chinook Salmon reintroduction to historical habitats in the Study Area. In 2017, Reclamation prepared a Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment as part of the planning process to evaluate and disclose potential environmental effects associated with the SDFPE’s implementation of a Pilot Study to assess the feasibility of the reintroduction of Federally-listed Chinook salmon in tributaries above Shasta Lake. These documents can be found at https://www.usbr.gov/mp/BayDeltaOffice/shasta-dam-fish-pass.html.

Written comments are due by close of business Friday, July 28, 2017, and should be sent to Carolyn Bragg, Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, 801 I Street, Suite 140, Sacramento, CA 95814. You can also submit public comments at the public scoping meetings, email cbragg@usbr.gov or faxed to 916-414-2439. For additional information, please contact Bragg at 916-414-2433 (TTY 800-877-8339).

Farm Bureau takes a look at Sites Reservoir proposal

The California Farm Bureau Federation's AgAlert is doing a three-part series on water projects applying for Proposition 1 funds. This week, reporter Christine Souza highlights the planned Sites Reservoir. She writes:
In the middle of a severe drought in November 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond that set aside $2.7 billion for the public benefits of new water storage projects. Now, project proponents have less than two months to finalize applications for bond funds, which can be used for attributes such as ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control, emergency response and recreation.

Among the projects competing for bond funding is the proposed Sites Reservoir, an offstream storage project that has been studied for close to 40 years. To be located west of Maxwell in Colusa and Glenn counties, Sites would provide a storage capacity of 1.8 million acre-feet of water and an annual yield of 500,000 acre-feet—additional surface water for cities, farms and the environment that proponents say would also help relieve pressure on groundwater. It carries an estimated construction cost of $4.4 billion.

Project proponents say Sites Reservoir offers a number of advantages.

"Sites Reservoir is well placed to provide significant benefits both to the Sacramento Valley in terms of our agriculture economy, as well as provide public benefits to the fisheries such as to the Sacramento River for our four runs of salmon and water for wildlife and birds in the Pacific Flyway," said Thad Bettner, general manager for the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.
Her full story is here.

Here is my latest update on the state's process for vetting proposed water bond projects.