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Lake Mead and Lower Colorado River to Remain in Tier Zero Shortage for 2021

The Colorado River millennial mega-drought continues, despite robust snowpack last winter. Above-average temperatures in spring resulted in a paltry 57% runoff, nowhere near enough water to refill the reservoirs that remain half-empty. Based on these conditions, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently determined that 2021 will be a “tier zero” year under the Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan, with reduced water deliveries for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico.

Long Criticized for Inaction at Salton Sea, California says it’s All-In on Effort to Preserve State’s Largest Lake

The Salton Sea in California’s far southeast corner has challenged policymakers and local agencies alike to save the desert lake – a vital stop for migrating birds – from becoming a fetid, hyper-saline water body inhospitable to wildlife and a source of choking dust. The state of California, long derided for its failure to act in the past, says it is now moving full-bore to address the sea’s problems, with ambitious plans for wildlife habitat and dust suppression. Skeptics say addressing the sea’s issues is vital not only for the sea and surrounding communities, but for management of the Colorado River as well.

Filling Trump Void, California Steps in to Protect Birds, Wetlands

The Trump administration has rolled back dozens of long-standing environmental protections. Now California is trying a new tack: Writing its own rules.

Cooper’s Hawk Chick Gets Special Handling near Pipeline 5 Project

A Cooper’s hawk chick and its nest received special attention after being discovered recently near a San Diego County Water Authority construction project.

Environmental surveyors spotted the nest on March 27 south of Gopher Canyon Road during the Pipeline 5 repair project in Moosa Canyon in North San Diego County.

Cooper's Hawk chick-Pipeline 5-May 2020-habitat

Cooper’s Hawk Chick Gets Special Handling near Pipeline 5 Project

A Cooper’s hawk chick and its nest received special attention after being discovered recently near a San Diego County Water Authority construction project.

Environmental surveyors spotted the nest on March 27 south of Gopher Canyon Road during the Pipeline 5 repair project in Moosa Canyon in North San Diego County.

Water Resources staff worked with construction and right-of-way staff to minimize and monitor work activities in the nest area.

Conservation strategy protects wildlife, environment

Limiting disturbance to the Cooper’s hawk chick and nest is part of the Water Authority’s commitments to its Natural Communities Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan, or NCCP/HCP.

The NCCP/HCP plan, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game in December 2011, provides goals, guidelines, and specifications that comprise the Water Authority’s Conservation Strategy for biological resources within its San Diego County Service Area and a portion of southwestern Riverside County.

When the repair work was completed, Water Resource staff contacted the nonprofit group Bloom Research Inc. and biologists with Bio-Studies Inc., who are studying raptors in Southern California.

“I met with biologist Dustin Janeke May 25th at the nest location and the single chick was retrieved by climbing approximately 35 feet up the nest tree and carefully placing it in a travel bag and bringing the chick down,” said Summer Adleberg, Water Authority environmental biologist.

Cooper’s hawk chick data check

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Biologist Dustin Janeke, with Bio-Studies, Inc. of Escondido, is banding the Cooper’s hawk chick on May 25. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

 

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The timing of banding is important. The Cooper’s hawk chick’s band is big enough to allow its leg to grow to full adult size. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Adleberg said biologists collected data from the chick, including approximate age, size, sex and overall health, and they attached a USGS band to the bird’s right ankle. The band has a unique eight digit code that is entered into a federal bird banding database.

In general, bird banding allows scientists to study the Cooper’s hawk migration, behavior, survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

If this bird is ever encountered again in the future, the band number will provide information as to exactly where and when this bird was banded. Pete Bloom, of Bloom Research Inc. is studying the natal dispersal behavior of raptors throughout Southern California. Biologist Janeke with Bio-Studies is a permit-authorized volunteer assisting Bloom’s research projects.

The ‘chick check-up’ showed the Cooper’s hawk was a male estimated to be 2-3 weeks old, weighed about two ounces, and it had started developing tail and wing feathers, with a wing about 2 inches long.

When the data collection was completed, the chick was returned to its nest. Adleberg said the chick was expected to stay in the nest for another 2 to 3 weeks before it fledged and moved out on its own.

Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg-Cooper's Hawk Chick-WNN

Following data collection, Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg takes the Cooper’s hawk chick back to its nest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Reservoirs, Lakes Remain Closed to Fishing Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Although San Diego County’s lakes and reservoirs remain closed to fishing and other recreational activities for safety reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff and volunteers continue to work. Crews are maintaining facilities, providing security, and sharing photos of wildlife and native blooms enjoying the arrival of spring.

Watching California’s Wildlife Online Surges During Shelter-In-Place

Many nature webcams in California are seeing record traffic and interest this past month, as people bracing against the coronavirus pandemic look for virtual escapes from the doldrums of life indoors.

Along with the rest of California's lakes and reservoirs, Lake Jennings is currently closed to fishing. Photo: Lake Jennings

Reservoirs, Lakes Remain Closed to Fishing Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Although San Diego County’s lakes and reservoirs remain closed to fishing and other recreational activities for safety reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff and volunteers continue to work. Crews are maintaining facilities, providing security, and sharing photos of wildlife and native blooms enjoying the arrival of spring.

Popular overnight campsites remain open at Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Popular overnight campsites remain open at Santee Lakes, operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Popular overnight campsites remain open at Santee Lakes, owned and operated by the Padre Dam Municipal Water District.

“Camper well-being is important to us and Santee Lakes didn’t want to displace people,” said Melissa McChesney, Padre Dam communications manager. She said that includes long-term campers who spent winter at the lake.

“It is important to note that Santee Lakes is not promoting recreation at this time, and the day use section of the park is closed,” said McChesney. “The park is able to provide a safe alternative to any RVers currently on the road in California because we have full electric, water, sewer and WiFi at each site. Santee Lakes is currently only taking reservations for self-contained RVs.”

Campers can reserve space for a maximum of six months. McChesney said campers should still shelter in place and practice physical distancing at the 300 campsites and 10 cabins.

At Santee Lakes, campers can also enjoy spring birdwatching. Two hundred and thirty different bird species have been spotted at the lake.

Nature takes flight at Lake Jennings

Two of the three resident bald eagles at Lake Jennings. Photo: Lake Jennings

At Lake Jennings, Recreation Manager Kira Haley says eight volunteers continue to live and work from their campground homes in recreational vehicles and campers. She said their days remain “pretty typical” even though they see more wildlife and not people.

“Our volunteers handle emerging maintenance, take calls from the public, and provide security,” said Haley. “They’re happy to be there, not having interaction with people during this time.”

Although new camping reservations are closed, Haley said campers currently at the Lake Jennings campgrounds were allowed to finish their stay. She said only one person, from out of state, will be the only camper at the entire park through the end of April.

A wood duck and her ducklings swimming across Santee Lakes. Photo: Santee Lakes/Facebook

Haley and her volunteers are sharing photos of the active wildlife and plant growth on social media. Currently, there are three bald eagles at the lake.

On the Lake Jennings Facebook page, Haley noted with a photo of a bald eagle in flight, “Lake Jennings Social Distancing: Always keep an eagle’s wingspan between you and others.” According to National Geographic, a bald eagle’s typical wingspan measures from six to eight feet – the recommended social distancing minimum.

According to National Geographic, a bald eagle’s typical wingspan measures from six to eight feet – the recommended social distancing minimum. Photo: Lake Jennings/Facebook

City of San Diego lakes and reservoirs closed until further notice

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Paddleboarders will have to wait to get on Lake Hodges. The City of San Diego has closed all reservoirs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: City of San Diego

The City of San Diego’s reservoirs and lakes are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The city closed the reservoirs to the public on March 18 to protect the public and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The nine water supply storage reservoirs are operated by the City’s Public Utilities Department.

Salton Sea Partners Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Lake’s Condition

IMPERIAL — Representatives from Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County took to the air Friday to get a keen view of California’s largest and most troubled lake.

Coordinated by Audubon California, the flights took off from Imperial County Airport Friday morning, flying over the perimeter of the Salton Sea. Passengers witnessed the decline of the receding lake and viewed the IID’s and the state’s dust mitigation projects and Audubon’s proposed new project, Bombay wetlands.