The last drought’s behind us, which means the next one’s on the way. With summer here to remind Californians what it’s like to be hot and thirsty we fired three big questions at Bettina Boxall, the Los Angeles Times’ most experienced water reporter. She answers in these short videos.
Archive for date: June 28th, 2017
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The controversial water diversion tunnels proposed in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta may be the biggest waterworks up for review anywhere in the world. And this $17 billion project requires a variety of permits and approvals before construction can begin. Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to start building in 2018, but there are many steps ahead before a single bucket of dirt can be shifted. There are environmental impact studies, federal and state endangered species permits, federal dredging permits and an eminent domain process to acquire land – all still in the works.
The blaring headlines this week said the biological opinions issued by the federal government gave what could be a final green light to the California WaterFix. Wrong. There is no green light for this $15 billion boondoggle. The agencies only examined phase one, which is limited to the construction of the Delta twin tunnels themselves and the expansion of Clifton Court Forebay – not the project’s real environmental danger of actually moving water through the tunnels. This will require reviews for six more project components – constructing, monitoring, maintaining and mitigating the three intake facilities, as well the water operations plan.
Right on cue, the Kings River in Central California is over its banks in the middle of summer as California’s record snow pack becomes liquid and flows downhill as part of the fact of life that snow melts. Pine Flat Reservoir, which stores one million acre feet of water from the Kings River for users in the south-central portion of the San Joaquin Valley, fell to about 10 percent of capacity during the damaging drought.
For engineer Christopher Neudeck, the levee reinforcement near Discovery Bay is just one small piece of a giant challenge left by an extraordinary winter. “If that levee were to fail, the lake, the golf course, the commercial area in here, that would all go under water” says Neudeck, pointing to a map of Discovery Bay in his Stockton office. The last time KPIX covered his team at work was mid-winter, repairing a delta levee that almost failed on Tyler Island. Now it’s late June, and a new risk is flowing along California’s levees. The state is experiencing what Neudeck calls a “very unusual year. The snowpack has been really prolonged.”
Once upon a time, Californians would have no excuse to complain about a drought. Some 8,200 years ago, the area was wet and stormy for a stretch of about 150 years. The uncharacteristically rainy period accompanied a climate anomaly which took place at the same time, first discovered in Greenland ice cores in 1997. The “8.2 ka” event took place during the Holocene (aka the last 11,000 years or so) which was once thought to be a pretty uneventful time, climate-wise. The soggy new findings were published recently in Scientific Reports.
President Donald Trump’s nomination of a Bureau of Reclamation veteran to head the agency with primary responsibility on the Colorado River won the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and a cautious reaction from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, both Republicans. Brenda Burman is an excellent choice with a strong background in Western water issues, Tipton’s office said. Much of the river’s course in Colorado runs through Tipton’s 3rd Congressional district. “There is no question that Ms. Burman has significant expertise and history in Western water issues, particularly in the Colorado River Basin,” Gardner said in a statement.
To help showcase how California Friendly™ plants beautify homes and businesses, the Metropolitan Water District has unveiled a new monthly video featuring different types of watersaving garden on the agency’s water conservation webpage, bewaterwise.com. The two-minute videos will showcase a specific plant each month to educate gardeners across the region that being California Friendly can be easy and beautifying. California Friendly describes native and non-native plants that use less water, require minimal maintenance and can
better withstand drought conditions.