When a market for trading water rights opened in central Nebraska last year, one of the initial bidders wasn’t a corn farmer, or even a water user at all in the traditional sense. It was the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, a conservation group investing to replenish the region’s major river, the Platte. By buying some water and then not using it, the group is allowing more to stay in the river. The move bucked tradition, for sure. Typically, water rights aren’t traded at all or they are swapped among farmers.
Archive for date: March 8th, 2017
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Two weeks after Butte County asked for the federal government’s intervention on the Lake Oroville problem, the state got around to filing a response. The five pages in the state’s response can be summarized in three words: Go pound sand. It’s exactly the type of response we’d expect from the state Department of Water Resources. As we’ve documented many times over many years on this page, the state doesn’t like to answer to anybody when it comes to operation of the Lake Oroville hydroelectric project.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and requested federal aid for parts of California hard hit by winter storms. The emergency declaration applies to 53 of California’s 58 counties, including all in the Bay Area. The order mobilizes the state’s Office of Emergency Services to the affected areas and directs the Department of Transportation to seek federal relief for damaged roads and highways.
This picture from NASA’s Earth Observatory shows how much land in California’s Central Valley is sinking, due primarily to the drawing of groundwater during periods of drought. Heavy rains have fallen on many parts of the state this winter, but the image above is a reminder of the lingering effects of drought, even in wetter times. As the legend at the bottom of the picture suggests, the yellowest areas are those with the greatest degree of subsidence (the term for sinking land) and the bluest areas are those with the least.
Fueled by a parade of “Pineapple Express” storms, California is in the midst of its wettest water year in 122 years of record-keeping, according to federal scientists. Between October 2016 and February 2017, California averaged 27.81 inches of precipitation, the highest average since such records began being kept in 1895, according to data released Wednesday by the National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The dramatic spillway failure at Oroville Dam sparked a national conversation around the status of dams throughout the West. But dams are just one small part of the “gray” infrastructure designed to control flows, hem in rivers and transport water around the state. California’s flood and water-management system needs an overhaul to address everything from eroding levees to parched Central Valley aquifers and collapsing ecosystems.
Oroville Dam’s heavily damaged main spillway is expected to resume releasing water a little more than a week from now as levels continue to rise in the reservoir. The state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday that the battered concrete spillway is likely to begin water releases around March 17. At that point, the level in Lake Oroville is expected to have risen to 865 feet. That’s well below the point at which water would go over the adjacent emergency spillway, but several feet above the comfort level established by DWR acting director Bill Croyle.
During one of this winter’s frequent storms, sheets of rainwater spilled from roofs, washed across sidewalks and down gutters into a sprawling network of underground storm drains that empty into the Los Angeles River channel. Normally a thin flow of treated sewage, the river swelled with mocha-colored runoff. For a time it poured into the Pacific Ocean at a rate of nearly 29 million gallons a minute.
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee passed a proposed $3.5 billion water and parks bond measure Tuesday, with members calling for an assurance that if approved by California voters in 2018, the funds would be equitably distributed throughout the state. The bond, Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, includes $500 million for flood protection investments that were just added after the recent floods to address the state’s urgent needs.