Another federal deadline passed Monday for seven states in the U.S. West to wrap up work on a plan to ensure the drought-stricken Colorado River can deliver water to the 40 million people and farms that depend on it. The states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — have been working for years on drought contingency plans. But Arizona and California have missed two deadlines set by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and still have work to do.
Archive for date: March 5th, 2019
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The Golden State’s had a harsh winter. Between October 1 and March 3, most California weather stations across the state were reporting greater-than-normal amounts of precipitation. And the state’s snowpack has grown to be the fifth largest in 40 years, with up to 25 feet of powder in some places. It’s needed moisture after a six-year-long drought from 2011 to 2017 and last year’s dry winter. Snowpack and reservoirs are stocked right now. But persistent rain has flooded many areas, including towns along Northern California’s Russian River. In Guerneville, residents paddled around after the river swelled to 45 feet high. Rain, floods, and mudslides have also wrecked homes and roads in areas across the state.
The real-world implications of Gov. Newsom’s rejection of the twin tunnels project became more apparent last week as the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requested and were granted a 60-day stay of hearings with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). “We agree that the SWRCB water rights hearing should be stayed while the state determines what project it wishes to pursue,” said Osha Meserve, a Sacramento-based environmental attorney representing counties, local agencies and environmental groups opposed to WaterFix. “We are urging an open and transparent process to assess alternatives to the twin tunnels concept rejected by the Governor that could be more readily implemented.”
Local water agencies say both of these things are true: The drought is over for most of California, and southern Santa Barbara County has water shortages. Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin recommended that the county Board of Supervisors terminate its proclamation of a local emergency due to drought conditions, which has been renewed every 60 days since January 2014. The drought emergency relates to climate conditions, and public peril and safety, and this winter’s rainfall amounts and snowpack indicate that the drought is over, he said at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
Lake Oroville has risen by about 10 feet over the past few days while outflows from the Hyatt Powerplant have held steady. This comes as the state Department of Water Resources announced on Friday that releases from the powerplant were being increased from 1,750 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cfs. The lake level on Monday afternoon was 811 feet elevation, which is 65 percent of its total capacity. Ten-day projections show the lake reaching 835 feet on March 14, according to DWR. The department has said it does not anticipate that it will utilize the Oroville Dam spillway anytime soon; however, crews have been making preparations in case its use becomes necessary.
Daytime protests weren’t enough to stop the Poway City Council from approving a set of rate hikes on water and sewer services in the city. The proposal, which passed unanimously, calls for a 4.5-percent increase on the water commodity use rate, a 7.5-percent hike on the fixed water meter charge, and 3.25 percent increases on the sewer commodity rate and the sewer service charge. “What goes up never comes down in terms of taxes, or water,” Poway resident Jason Chynn said. “They just go up, up, up, and never come back down.”
California will see more soaking rain and feet of Sierra snow into midweek as another storm tapping an atmospheric river of moisture moves into the state. Radar and satellite show the latest Pacific storm is beginning to nudge into the West Coast as of early Tuesday. Flood watches have been issued by the National Weather for the burn areas of southwest California, including Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Evacuations have been ordered by Santa Barbara County for anyone in a debris flow risk area near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire burn areas.