Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Clearlake man faces arson charges over Clayton Fire

From the AP via Redding.com:
A California man was arrested Monday on arson charges for allegedly sparking a wildfire that exploded over the weekend, destroying more than 175 homes, business and other structures in a Northern California town, authorities said.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said Damin Anthony Pashilk, 40, of Clearlake was arrested Monday on 17 counts of arson and is in jail. He is suspected in numerous fires in Lake County over the past year.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said the blaze in the town of Lower Lake has caused over $10 million in damages and left dozens of families homeless.
The full story is here.

As I reported today, the fire has burned a winery in downtown Lower Lake as well as vineyard, walnut orchard and grazing land.

Urban water agencies' 'stress test' results mixed

From the State Water Resources Control Board:
The State Water Resources Control Board today posted “stress tests” submitted by water suppliers to demonstrate whether they have adequate supplies to withstand three additional dry years. Water suppliers that pass their “stress test” will not face a state-mandated conservation standard through January 2017, but are expected to keep conserving water to build long-term drought resilience.

“We created the ‘stress tests’ so that local agencies could demonstrate their ability to supply water under extended drought conditions, so we could step back from our unprecedented 25 percent water conservation mandate with some confidence,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus. “Demonstrating adequate preparation for drought through developing supplies like local storage, recycling, groundwater banking and other means is great. Sharing that information with customers in an accessible way is also a critical piece of developing consumer comfort and confidence. Being prepared, however, is not a license to abandon conservation, because one thing we know is we can’t know what next year or the next will bring.”

In addition to releasing the “stress test” data, the State Water Board issued nine Informational Orders to water suppliers whose “stress test” submissions were incomplete or inadequate. The nine suppliers that received Informational Orders have 30 days to provide additional documentation, and failure to comply could result in a return to a supplier’s March 2016 conservation standard, monetary penalties, or both.

Of the 379 suppliers that submitted “stress tests,” 36 indicated that they would face a supply shortage in 2019 and will be required to meet a conservation standard equal to the shortage amount. Thirty-two suppliers did not submit “stress tests” and will retain their March 2016 conservation standards through January 2017.

A significant purpose of the stress test was to give the public a picture of the water supplies their water agency was relying on. Because many “stress test” submissions were incomplete, unclear, or appeared to not follow instructions properly as originally submitted, State Water Board staff has spent significant time engaging with water suppliers to make their analysis more clear and complete. However, the staff did not independently research and verify the accuracy of the submissions.

Going forward, the State Water Board will investigate allegations that “stress test” submittals are inaccurate. The Board reserves the right to reject submissions found to be significantly erroneous or misleading. The State Water Board will also closely monitor conservation levels through the end of the year and will prepare a proposal to return to state-mandated conservation levels in February 2017 if drought conditions persist and statewide conservation levels falter significantly.

“Last year, with the lowest snowpack in 500 years after three terrible drought years, and less than impressive response to our earlier calls for conservation, we needed to step in and mandate specific conservation targets to prepare in case we had yet another record bad year in a row,” said Chair Marcus. “Thankfully, this year we received a modest reprieve, and saw improved water supplies for most urban areas. Just as important, we also saw that agencies and the public had stepped up to accomplish impressive conservation.

“So, we’ve stepped back and let local communities step back in to take responsibility for maintaining adequate conservation levels -- if they can demonstrate adequate supply. We commend the many water suppliers that passed their stress tests who also have stepped up to demonstrate a strong commitment to continued conservation, just as we are concerned about those who are trumpeting preparation or supply and intentionally or unintentionally sending an anti-conservation message.”

According to State Water Board analysis, water suppliers such as the city of Sacramento, which submitted a well-documented “stress test” and elected to maintain restrictions on outdoor irrigation, deserve credit for showing leadership. Other water suppliers, such as the city of Burbank, which saved 27.8 percent in June, and the Dublin-San Ramon Services District, which saved 32.5 percent, have continued promoting conservation and expanded public access to recycled water for irrigation.

In addition, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, San Jose Water Company, Yuba City, Beverly Hills, Lemoore, and Eastern Municipal water districts, and many others submitted A-grade stress tests and also kept conservation levels high. The State Water Board has required continued reporting of conservation results and will monitor the results, while being prepared to step back in with mandatory targets if necessary depending upon water supply conditions and water conservation levels.

In addition to monitoring conservation levels, the State Water Board is working closely with the Department of Water Resources and other state agencies to develop long-term water use efficiency standards, as directed by Executive Order B-37-16, which will be applicable across California. These new standards will provide for improved water conservation and efficiency in the years ahead based on climate, population, and business types, rather than percentage reductions off a given baseline. The new standards will also include permanent prohibitions on wasteful water use, improved drought planning, and enhanced leak detection and repair requirements.

The adopted regulation also keeps in place the specific prohibitions against certain water uses. Those prohibitions include watering down a sidewalk with a hose instead of using a broom or a brush, or overwatering a landscape to where water is running off the lawn, over a sidewalk and into the gutter. Prohibitions directed to the hospitality industry also remain in place.

Prohibitions against homeowners associations taking action against homeowners during a declared drought remain as well. State Water Board staff will be following up with urban water suppliers who have certified a three-year supply to ensure that local enforcement of the prohibitions is being reported in the monthly water data each urban water supplier sends showing how much water is delivered to customers every month.

More information on the Board action today can be found here.
Here is a water board fact sheet about the stress tests.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Water board to discuss urban 'stress test' Tuesday

From the State Water Resources Control Board:
On Tuesday, August 16, the State Water Resources Control Board will hear an update on the Emergency Urban Water Conservation Regulation Self-Certification “Stress Test” process that will explain urban water suppliers’ new self-certified conservation standards.[...]

You can watch the Board Meeting and the self-certification item (No. 9) on the California Environmental Protection Agency’s webcast page.

Another hot and muggy week ahead in north state

The latest update from the National Weather Service in Sacramento, which provided the graphic::
Low to moderate risk of heat-related illnesses for sensitive groups
Potential for new fire starts due to lightning

Forecast Confidence
High for heat
Low for thunderstorm potential

Timing and Strength
Hot weather with Valley highs near 95-107 through Thursday, cooler for Friday - weekend
Mountain thunderstorms possible each afternoon/evening Tuesday into the weekend. Highest potential Wednesday - Friday.

Weather Summary
Hot weather will continue through Thursday before a cool-down is expected for the weekend. Monsoonal moisture may surge north, beginning Tuesday and continuing into the weekend. This may allow for isolated
thunderstorms to develop over mountainous terrain each afternoon and evening, with the highest potential Wednesday - Friday. There is the potential for new fire starts due to lightning and gusty winds with any storm that forms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Chico State team wins national animal science contest

From the College of Agriculture at California State University-Chico:
A team of animal science students from California State University, Chico made history by winning the American Society of Animal Science’s (ASAS) Academic Quadrathlon at the ASAS annual meeting July 18–19, 2016 in Logan, Utah. The team of Julie Allen, Heather Foxworthy, Kenzie Wattenburger and Joel Wisniewski qualified for the competition by winning the Western Section Academic Quadrathlon in April. It was the first time a non-land-grant university won the regional competition and competed at the national level.

The team was coached by animal science professors Kasey DeAtley and Patrick Doyle. “This is an incredible accomplishment for our students, and it’s a testament to the excellent hands-on education they received at Chico State, including experience working with several different livestock species at the University Farm,” DeAtley said.

The Academic Quadrathlon is a grueling two-day event in which the team works together to compete in four separate competitions consisting of a hands-on practicum, a written exam, a quiz bowl and an oral presentation.

The CSU, Chico team was followed by Texas A&M University in second place, Purdue University in third, and the University of Rhode Island in fourth.

It was the third national win for a CSU, Chico College of Agriculture team in the 2015–2016 academic year. In October, the Food Marketing Team won the Food Distribution Research Society’s Student Case Competition in Philadelphia, followed by a first place finish in February for the Rangeland Cup team at the Society of Rangeland Management meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Experts say managed grazing benefits forests

From the California Farm Bureau Federation's Food and Farm News:
Livestock grazing can reduce fuel for wildfires, but analysts say the number of animals allowed to graze on federal land in California has dropped significantly. Federal agencies have changed their policies, restricting areas on which cattle, sheep and other livestock may graze. University of California researchers say well-managed grazing can decrease vegetation that fuels wildfires, and grazing management has become increasingly sophisticated.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Twin tunnels backers make pitch to water board

Groups supporting Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to build two bypass tunnels around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta say they're making a big push during the State Water Resources Control Board's round of hearings on the project.

From the Californians for Water Security:
This week, groups representing hundreds of thousands of businesses, labor unions, water agencies, engineers and farmers from across the state will offer statements to the State Water Resources Control Board in support of the California WaterFix, the plan to update the state’s aging water infrastructure. [...]

Below are highlights of the supportive statements that will be offered.

Kris Rosa, Silicon Valley Leadership Group:

“The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, representing more than 400 of the Silicon Valley’s most respected employers, supports the California WaterFix because the water provided to our region and the state through this system is vital to our economy. Santa Clara County receives much of our clean drinking water from this source, and we must work to ensure the safety of this vital water supply.”

Orville Thomas, CA Alliance for Jobs:

“We represent more than 2,000 heavy construction companies and 80,000 union construction workers from Kern County to the Oregon border and strongly support the California WaterFix. This project will protect and create nearly one million jobs across California.”

Julian Canete, CalAsian Pacific Chamber of Commerce:

“CalAsian Chamber members total more than 600,000 API-owned businesses, which generate over $181 billion in annual revenue and employ more than 900,000 Californians. Our organization supports the California WaterFix because with a modern pipeline and by moving the system underground, this project will mitigate the effects of climate change and natural disasters. It will also protect our clean water supplies from salt water contamination and improve the Delta ecosystem by bringing back more natural flows to protect fish and wildlife.”

David Grau, Ventura County Taxpayers Association:

“We believe the CA WaterFix best serves taxpayers’ interests by securing reliable water supplies at an affordable rate. Currently, 75% of Ventura County’s population relies heavily on our state’s antiquated water distribution system, and this percentage could actually increase to virtually 100% as adjacent communities struggling with extreme drought conditions, including the cities of Ventura and Ojai, may take their state water allocations for the first time in history. The 25 million California residents reliant on this unfinished, mid-20th century system deserve better and as a state we can and must do better to stabilize this critical water supply!”

John Cooper, Associated General Contractors of California:

“The Associated General Contractors of California is more than 1,000 members strong who are contractors, specialty, and associate member companies and represent the full spectrum of the construction industry. We support the California WaterFix because it will offer the state flexibility to capture and store more water during times of heavy rainfall. With WaterFix, we will be able to keep supplies steady as the state and economy grow. It will also create nearly 119,000 new construction jobs and $7 billion in employee compensation.”

Joseph Cruz, California State Council of Laborers:

“Representing 65,000 union members working in the heavy construction industry across the state, the California State Council of Laborers is proud to support the California WaterFix and its goal of helping meet California's long-term water supply needs. By moving our water underground and using gravity instead of depending on dirt levees, WaterFix will be a more reliable system that can protect water supplies from major earthquakes, floods and climate change.”

Bryan Starr, Orange County Business Council:

“The Orange County Business Council, representing 300 of the state's largest employers, and more than 250,000 employees across Southern California supports the California WaterFix because it is vital to our economy to protect this essential water source. Water reliability is absolutely paramount to the sustainability of California’s economy. Any period of time, if ever brief, of water delivery system failure will have catastrophic impacts on California’s economy. The CA WaterFix is absolutely necessary to prevent system failure!”

Charley Wilson, Southern California Water Committee:

“The Southern California Water Committee, representing 200 member organizations throughout Southern California including businesses, local government, water agencies and farmers support the California WaterFix because without it, we’ll be faced with even deeper water supply cuts. This plan will let us capture and store more water during large storms – if WaterFix had been in place earlier this year, we would have captured enough water to supply nearly 3 million people with water for an entire year.”

Tracy Hernandez, Los Angeles County Business Federation:

“The Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) is made up of more than 155 business organizations representing 275,000 employers with over 3 million employees throughout LA County. We support the CA WaterFix because our outdated system does not allow us to move and store water efficiently when we have abundant rain and snow. As much as 75% of water supplies for the city of Los Angeles come from this source, and we cannot afford to neglect such an important infrastructure to our region and the state.”

About Californians for Water Security (CWS):

CWS is a growing coalition of more than 12,000 California citizens and more than 175 organizations representing business leaders, labor, family farmers, local governments, water experts, environmentalists, public safety officials, infrastructure groups, taxpayer associations, and others who support the plan to fix California’s broken water distribution system. The Governor’s plan was drafted after nearly a decade of scientific review and analysis by leading water experts and conservationists and has received input from leading scientists and engineers. The coalition is waging an active advertising, grassroots lobbying, social media and public advocacy campaign to support this important project to fix our aging water distribution infrastructure and improve water reliability and security throughout the state.

Monday, August 1, 2016

State ag board to discuss pot regulations, GMO labeling

From the California Department of Food and Agriculture:
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will hold a discussion on the state’s regulatory and licensing framework for medical cannabis on August 2 in Sacramento. The board will also be discussing GMO labeling following the recent passage of federal legislation. The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the California Department of Food and Agriculture – Main Auditorium, 1220 N Sacramento, CA 95814.

“California’s agricultural diversity continues to grow as medical cannabis production enters the regulatory arena,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “In state government, we are working in collaboration with other agencies to develop a robust framework that protects consumers, growers and the environment.”

Last year, California passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that allows the commercial cultivation and sale of medical cannabis. Several state agencies, including the Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Public Health, Department of Pesticide Residue and the California Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation have an integral role in developing the regulatory framework that will be in place by January 1, 2018. This meeting provides an opportunity for each department to give an update on current progress.

Invited speakers include: Steve DeAngelo, Arcview Group; Dan Grace, Dark Heart; Hezekiah Allen, California Growers Association; Nate Bradley, California Cannabis Industry; Amber Morris, California Department of Food and Agriculture; George Farnsworth, California Department of Pesticide Regulation; Asif Maan, California Department of Public Health; and Lori Ajax, California Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.

The board will also be hearing about the labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs) with representatives from Just Label It! and the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food.

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representatives and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.

All meetings are open to the public and attendance is welcome. This meeting will be streamed online here.