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Study Says Expansion of California’s Electric Grid Would Save Consumers $1.5 Billion

The manager of the state’s electric grid released studies Tuesday that show its proposed expansion would yield annual consumer savings of as much as $1.5 billion by 2030 and help with the state’s goal of 50% renewable energy by then.

The California Independent System Operator, which produced the nearly 700 pages of reports under a mandate by state lawmakers, said expanding its operations to include more Western states would result in a more efficient electric grid system.


OPINION: What You Should Know About the Sustainable Groundwater

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA, is comprehensive statewide groundwater legislation that went into effect Jan. 1, 2015. SGMA requires for the first time sustainable groundwater management throughout California. The legislation allows local agencies to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans specific to local conditions, however, if local agencies cannot or will not manage groundwater sustainably, the state will step in.

SGMA mandates that all high and medium priority groundwater basins in California must be managed sustainably over a 20-year implementation period. In Colusa County we have two groundwater basins subject to SGMA: the Colusa subbasin and the West Butte subbasin.

Farmers Pitted Against Fishermen in House

The plan to buoy historically low salmon populations imperiled by California’s historic drought made for a contentious hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill. House Republicans accused federal agencies of depriving farmers of water while the Golden State’s reservoirs sit full. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Maine Fisheries Service teamed up for the drought proposal debated at this morning’s hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.

California’s Drought May Be Easing, But Fight Over Water Persists

California Republicans are spreading out their bets in their annual effort to steer more water to the state’s farmers. In the absence of negotiations, such tactics matter most right now. Framed by a hearing Tuesday, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives will vote this week on whether to retain farmer-friendly California water provisions in an Interior Department funding bill for the fiscal year that begins in October. Whether this vehicle succeeds where others have failed will probably be known only after the November elections.


California, Federal Agencies Launch Effort to Save Endangered Fish

California wildlife agencies say the drought has pushed the endangered Delta smelt close to extinction. State and federal agencies announced Tuesday a joint effort to improve habitat conditions for the fish.

The plan is designed to prevent predators from eating the fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Most of those predators are not native. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will spend $4.2 million from the state budget to eradicate invasive aquatic weeds where predators lurk. The strategy calls for assessing the feasibility of adding sediment to certain zones in the Delta to create the turbid waters where smelt hide.

Rice Farms Receive Federal Help to Provide Waterbird Habitat

With habitat for California waterbirds drying up, conservation groups and rice farmers are collaborating to flood fields and enhance waterbird habitat on roughly 550,000 acres of California’s rice fields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is contributing $7 million, matched by partner agencies, for helping share farmers’ costs of implementing new practices that align rice growing with waterbird needs. “The idea behind the program is to provide the incentive for people to adopt new things and then do it on their own even without the payment,” program manager Alan Forkey said.


BLOG: Suit Challenges Delta Pumping Restrictions

In a failed effort to protect endangered fish, the federal government decided without proper study to default to restricting the giant pumps at the bottom of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

So argues a lawsuit filed Friday at the U.S. District Court in Sacramento by a powerful consortium of water agencies. They’re hoping for a larger share of Delta water. It’s the latest salvo in a political and legal dispute over how to manage the competing demands on the fragile estuary.


California’s Key Climate Change Program Aims for New Life

In advance of a political showdown in the state Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration made its first formal effort Tuesday to extend the life of the program central to California’s bid to combat climate change.

The California Air Resources Board, which is controlled by the governor, released a plan that would continue the state’s cap-and-trade program to cut carbon emissions beyond 2020, the date when the program currently expires. Cap and trade functions by forcing companies to buy permits in order to pollute, providing a financial incentive for power plants, oil refineries, manufacturers and other businesses to reduce their emissions.

Drought Triggers ‘Austerity’ Root System in Grass Crops

Grass species of crops adopt an “austerity” strategy and limits the development of its root system during times of drought, a study has revealed.

The results offer an insight into the little understood biology of roots and could help breeding effort to improve drought tolerance, say scientists. Many of the world’s key food and energy crops belong to the grass family and are often grown in drought-prone areas. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

California’s Climate Change Program: Jerry Brown Pushes Extension of Cap-and-Trade

California Gov. Jerry Brown has launched a campaign to extend some of the most ambitious climate-change programs in the country and ensure his environmental legacy when he leaves office in two years.

The centerpiece of the push is a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels by forcing manufacturers and other companies to meet tougher emissions limits or pay up to exceed them. The program has been one of the most-watched efforts in the world aimed at the climate-changing fuels.