Is California about to formally declare an end to its five-year drought? After abundant winter rainfall and snow accumulation, state officials plan an announcement about California’s “drought status” within the next week, said Doug Carlson, spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources. Exactly when the statement will come is still unknown, as is when and if the State Water Project will increase its current allocation of 60 percent of its 29 member water agencies’ requested supplies, Carlson said.
Archive for month: March, 2017
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In these elevated locations, the prefrontal winds lifted the low-level subtropical moisture over California’s mountain ranges and cooled it approximately 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit for each 1,000 feet of elevation. This process is called the saturated adiabatic lapse rate, which wrings out the moisture from the heavens like squeezing a wet sponge or mop — in other words, orthographic enhancement. Rainfall amounts in the Santa Lucia Mountains have been breathtaking. Rocky Butte has logged 79 inches; typically this station receives about 40 inches a year.
Citing potential security risks, state and federal officials are blocking the public’s ability to review documents that could shed light on repair plans and safety issues at crippled Oroville Dam. One of the secret reports is a memo from an independent panel of experts brought in to guide state officials’ repair plans. Another confidential document is labeled a “Project Safety Compliance Report.” The secrecy on the part of state dam operators prompted state Sen. Jim Nielsen to call for an immediate oversight hearing.
The fractured spillway at Oroville Dam has forced the state to spend tens of millions of dollars on emergency repairs, with millions more to come. Here’s another potential cost: a slice of California’s water supply. Dam operators are expected to run Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir, at lower-than-usual water levels this summer as they wrestle with the complicated and lengthy task of fixing the dam’s broken spillway.
High river flows have restricted boaters from many areas of the San Joaquin Delta. The large snowpack and runoff that is to follow this spring could keep South and Central Delta sloughs and channels closed to boats until late spring or early summer. The San Joaquin Office of Emergency Services (OES) continues to keep the San Joaquin River closed below Stockton, affecting Discovery Bay in the west with speed restrictions. The entire South Delta is basically shut down to recreational boating.
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the Salton Sea Task Force released a ten-year plan to protect habitat and human health for the state’s largest inland lake that has been plagued by decreased flows, drought and rapidly increasing salinity and pollutants. Exposed playa, or lakebed, along the sea’s shores create toxic dust, as many locals have developed respiratory illness in the Imperial Valley. Tiny particulate matter is exposed on the playa and carried through the air as dust into Riverside and Imperial Counties.
As California water officials confirmed Thursday that the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada remains well above average, pressure was mounting on the state to lift emergency water restrictions that have been in place for two years. The snowpack across the mountains is now 164 percent of average, a closely watched marker in the nation’s most populous state — and biggest economy — where one-third of all the drinking water comes from snow-fed reservoirs.
Two years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown stood on a patch of bare Sierra dirt that should have been covered in feet of snow and declared the state was in a “historic drought.” Things couldn’t be more different this year as the state enters the traditional start of its long dry season. On Thursday, the state recorded 94 inches of snow where Brown stood in 2015 at the Phillips Station off Highway 50 in the Sierra. Melted down, that would be the equivalent of 46 inches of water. The readings represent 183 percent of the long-term average at that particular measuring station.
The skies were gray, snow was falling and it was bitterly cold when state snow survey chief Frank Gehrke made his monthly march out to a deep pillow of snow in the Sierra Nevada town of Phillips on Thursday morning. He plodded across the white mounds, plunged his metallic pole into the powder beneath him, pulled it out and made his proclamation: 94 inches deep. The 2016-17 winter created one of the largest snowpacks in California’s recorded history and it’s loaded with enough water to keep reservoirs and rivers swollen for months to come.
Republicans from arid Western states have set their sights on making dam-building easier. Led by California Representative Tom McClintock, lawmakers from Wyoming, North Dakota, Arizona, and Colorado introduced a bill last week that would try to force federal agencies to complete complex environmental studies for dam-building plans within a year. But many water scientists, river law experts, and regulators say House Resolution 1664, which is sponsored by California Republican Congressman Tom McClintock, presents an unrealistic timeframe given that any major modern dam proposal includes dozens of detailed scientific, engineering, and safety studies running to thousands of pages.