It’s fitting that the Bay Area was named after Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment. After all, the San Francisco Bay Delta was historically one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth. Sadly, the estuary is now on the brink of ecological collapse. Starved of fresh water flow from rivers that feed the Bay, the salt balance has been altered dramatically, affecting everything from plankton to marine mammals and leading to toxic algae blooms that can make people sick and kill pets and wildlife. Problems extend up into the rivers that flow into the Delta.
Archive for date: November 5th, 2018
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Voters will decide Tuesday whether California borrows nearly $9 billion for water infrastructure projects in the state where its scarcity often pits city dwellers, farmers, anglers and environmentalists against one another. Proposition 3 would devote the money to storage and dam repairs, watershed and fisheries improvements, and habitat protection and restoration. It is the largest water bond proposed since California’s nonpartisan legislative analyst began keeping track in 1970.
The same black-and-white perspective that overshadows nearly all discussion on the water of the San Francisco Bay-Delta unfortunately briefly became San Francisco policy last week when the Board of Supervisors reflexively labeled the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission as being against restoring the health of the bay-delta’s ecosystem. In this narrative, one party incorrectly identifies restoring unimpaired flows as the only answer to declining fisheries. The other party disagrees, which instantly labels them as anti environmental. This in turn creates a false reality that stalls progress, widens divisions and reinforces a good guy/bad guy myth.
Before we even go there, yes it’s true that sometimes El Nino forecasts can be a total bust. Famously, the last big one did the exact opposite of what we were thinking. Around the world, the El Nino of 2015-16 was spot on, but not in California, and that is what we remember. With that out of the way, let’s look ahead to the current status of El Nino. For a quick primer, El Nino is when the central Pacific at the equator is warmer than normal. When this happens, it can alter some common patterns and you can get wet areas, and areas of drought. You could also get large fires in Indonesia and coral bleaching, among other phenomena.
The California Department of Water Resources has released a time-lapse video showing four months of daily construction progress from June 26 through October 31. The camera angle looks up the lower chute of the spillway from the diversion pool until mid-August, then shifts to the middle chute from August 15 to September 11, where roller-compacted concrete was placed,” DWR said in an Nov. 1, 2018, YouTube post with the video. “The timelapse video then resumes footage from the lower chute vantage point from mid-August through October 31.”
A rainstorm in mid-October provided the first significant relief from months of hot and dry weather – before the weather turned hot and dry once again. On average, the county gets about 10 inches of rain a year – far less than what is needed to sustain a $220 billion economy and 3.3 million people. With continued investments in water supply reliability and water-use efficiency, the county can continue to thrive. As residents look toward the rainy season, it’s worth taking stock of why there is sufficient water supplies for 2019 regardless of the weather.
There are several ticking time bombs in western water. The first is obvious. How much less water will fall from the sky because of climate change? Another big one is barely talked about and will take decades if not a century to end. How will bureaucrats, lawmakers and the courts deal with the rights of Native American tribes that have claims to water from the Colorado River? The Colorado is already suffering because states that rely on it — largely California and Arizona — are taking more out of the river than snow and rain put back in. After two decades of drought, this “structural deficit” is close to becoming a crisis for millions of Americans and Mexicans who depend on the river’s water.
San Diego’s proposed redevelopment of Mission Bay Park’s northeast corner could include significantly more marshland if city officials embrace new proposals from local environmentalists concerned about sea level rise. One proposal calls for 200 acres of marshland, more than double the 84 acres proposed by the city, which would limit acreage for new amenities and could require closure or shrinkage of Mission Bay Golf Course.