A decade ago, Guy McCaskie would stand on the shore of the Salton Sea and marvel at the vast masses of birds that congregated on the water and flew overhead. Nowadays he looks out over the lake and is saddened by how few birds he sees. Most of the American white pelicans have disappeared. So have most of the double-crested cormorants and eared grebes. McCaskie said these types of birds are vanishing because they can no longer find enough fish or other food in the lake.
Archive for date: June 12th, 2017
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Kaylee Pineda likes to be outdoors. She rides her bike, plays Little League baseball and enjoys swinging on the monkey bars at school. But when the wind picks up and the air turns hazy, she knows she needs to stay indoors. The dust can suddenly trigger her asthma and leave her gasping for air. “I feel like my chest tightens,” Kaylee said. “My heart starts pumping.” Kaylee, who is 9 years old, uses an inhaler every morning before going to school and every night before going to bed.
The Salton Sea is a disaster in slow motion. For more than a century, California’s largest lake has been sustained by Colorado River water, which irrigates Imperial Valley farms and drains into the lake. But the Salton Sea will start shrinking rapidly at the end of this year, when increasing amounts of river water will be diverted from farms to cities. As the lake’s shorelines retreat, thousands of tons of lung-damaging dust are expected to blow from the exposed lakebed, polluting the Imperial Valley’s already-dirty air.
Travelers driving through parts of the Sierra Nevada on Sunday were treated to some unexpected June weather: Snow. Chain controls were in effect on Sunday and overnight in Donner Pass on Interstate 80, but have since been lifted. A tweet from the National Weather Service in Sacramento said 5 inches of snow fell in Kingvale, in the Northern Sierra. Parts of Highway 50 and Lake Tahoe also received a dusting of snow. “That’s the one thing about the Sierras – it’s unpredictable,” said Caltrans spokeswoman Deanna Shoopman. “The weather can just change at the drop of a hat.”
A heat wave is expected in Southern California at the end of this week, but forecasters are not anticipating temperatures to break records. Temperatures will be about 15 degrees higher than average in the Antelope Valley, with highs in the mid-100s forecast for Lancaster and Palmdale. In downtown Los Angeles, temperatures are expected peak in the mid to upper 80s while coastal areas will reach the mid to upper 70s. In the San Fernando Valley, temperatures could reach up to 96 degrees on Thursday and 100 degrees on Friday.
From lead contamination to sewage spills, concerned neighbors say they are fed up with water problems in San Diego, and on Saturday, they took their frustrations straight to the source. Dozens packed the California Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting, arguing for what they say needs to fixed. Several neighbors took to the open mic to raise issues over industrial waste, toxic medical waste and sewage contaminating local waterways. Many residents were still angry about millions of gallons of sewage pumping in from Mexico spills and forcing the closure of local beaches.
Area Assemblyman James Gallagher called it frustrating, misprioritization and a “dereliction of duty.” Gallagher and state Sen. Jim Nielsen last week were unable to persuade a legislative committee to allocate $100 million for levee repairs. During the legislative budget subcommittee’s meeting, the state’s chief deputy director for the Department of Finance noted that a “compromise” was made in instead providing Proposition 1 funds. But Gallagher said that “compromise” won’t do much to repair damaged levees all over the state, including one in Yuba City. Rather, the $111 million portion of the budget is earmarked for capital projects and environmental mitigation.
State Public Utilities Commission officials are seeking input on whether to conduct new hearings on California American Water’s proposed Monterey Peninsula desalination project to address a number of issues, potentially including an updated project demand forecast and desal plant sizing evaluation that could lead to a smaller initial plant that could be more easily expanded as demand grows in the future.
Near the southeastern shore of the Salton Sea, hot steam bubbles up from the earth and gurgles out of mud volcanos, rising into the air. This active geothermal zone runs along the San Andreas Fault, where geologic forces allow the Earth’s natural heat to rise near the surface, creating one of the world’s most powerful geothermal hot spots. The energy reservoir extends beneath the Salton Sea, where underwater vents release steam that rises in boiling circles of bubbles on the lake’s surface.
Monitor, patch, watch and then monitor. This is the fundamental problem with California’s failing water infrastructure. Nearly 200,000 evacuees downstream of Oroville Dam witnessed how this failed government approach can impact their lives. My review of inspection reports shows a pattern of monitoring, delayed action and patchwork maintenance at Oroville Dam, including painting cracks to track their growth. This is not the first time the “monitor” strategy has endangered north state communities. In 1986, a levee failure in Yuba County destroyed nearly 3,000 buildings and killed two people.