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Southern California Water Agency Signs $175 Million Deal to Buy Delta Islands

Southern California’s most powerful water agency said Monday it has struck a $175 million deal to buy five islands in the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a move that has sparked accusations throughout the Delta and Northern California of a south-state “water grab.”

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California revealed the details of its agreement to buy the islands from Delta Wetlands Properties, a company controlled by Swiss financial services conglomerate Zurich Insurance Group.


OPINION: MWD Rate Hike Harms Water Authority, San Diegans

It’s been 25 years since the San Diego County Water Authority decided to broadly diversify its supplies. The authority’s experiences dealing with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California during a severe drought led officials to believe they urgently needed additional sources of water to avoid disaster in a future drought. This triggered a harsh response from the giant water wholesaler. Upset that its largest customer was publicly questioning MWD’s trustworthiness, MWD paid $400,000 to a public relations company for what The Los Angeles Times called a “clandestine effort to discredit San Diego County water leaders.”

OPINION: Met’s Fiscal Practices Underscore the Importance of Local Water Projects

On Tuesday, the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected to approve more rate hikes and more illegal rates. The illegal rates alone will overcharge San Diego County water ratepayers more than $135 million over the next two years – not counting the additional and disproportionate costs imposed by MWD’s new scheme for water treatment charges. In addition, MWD will not reduce the property tax rate as prescribed by state law.

El Niño Slightly Improved the Drought but Didn’t Bust it

For the past few months, we’ve used the KPBS Drought Tracker to tell you how much rain and snow El Niño has been bringing to California. Now that we’ve reached the end of what turned out to be a fairly average wet season, where does California’s drought stand now?

We’ve limited our focus to California’s wettest months, which stretch from October to the beginning of April. We could still see some rain in coming weeks, but California’s traditionally defined wet season is now over.

This Will Be the Biggest Dam-Removal Project in History

These days, when dams in the U.S. make news, it’s often concrete getting blasted, not bedrock. And last week, the biggest dam-removal project in history got a crucial endorsement.

Federal officials, the states of Oregon and California, and the utility PacifiCorp signed a pair of agreements opening the way for removal of a whopping four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, which flows from Oregon through Northern California. “It’s certainly the most significant dam removal and restoration project ever undertaken,” says Steve Rothert, California regional director of American Rivers, an environmental advocacy group.

Weak Storm System Expected to Bring Showers Wednesday, Thursday

April showers that fell over the weekend are likely to occur again in Northern California starting Wednesday night.

A low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska is predicted to push a fast-moving cold front southward through the north state, according to the National Weather Service. The return of showers is expected to continue through Thursday.

But the system is likely to deliver only a tenth to two-tenths of an inch of rain to the Sacramento area, said Tom Dang, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


‘Godzilla’ El Niño is Dead

Over the past few weeks, the equatorial Pacific has been cooling. The extreme tropical temperatures that broke records earlier this winter have waned, and El Niño, though still present, is a shadow of its former Godzilla self. It signals a possible shift to the Pacific’s other phase, La Niña.

The strength of El Niño is measured by how abnormally warm the ocean water is in the equatorial Pacific. El Niño can be classified as “very strong” if surface waters are running at least 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average for at least three months in a row.

Federal Government to Probe State Spending on Delta Tunnels

The Interior Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into possible funding irregularities involving the proposed delta tunnels, a $15 billion plan to dig giant twin pipes to siphon water directly from the Sacramento River and send it underground to farms and cities in the southern part of the state.

The decision, made public Monday, came after a nonprofit called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint alleging that federal money intended to go for fish and wildlife was spent instead on planning for the tunnels.

BLOG: Time to Manage Reservoirs Differently

Some California reservoirs are releasing vast amounts of water even though the drought continues. This wouldn’t be necessary if water managers used new weather and streamflow forecasting tools, says Rob Hartman, hydrologist-in-charge of the California/Nevada River Forecast Center

It might be difficult to believe, but California’s water-supply reservoirs are not managed according to the weather. In the midst of the state’s ongoing drought, reservoirs in recent weeks have been releasing huge quantities of water, as seen recently at Folsom Reservoir on the American River near Sacramento.