Opinion: Voluntary Agreements are a Better Plan for California

Gov. Gavin Newsom has consistently expressed support for successful completion of voluntary agreements as a path forward in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. The California Natural Resources Agency and California Environmental Protection Agency recently described collaborative, voluntary agreements as a “game changer” for the environment. We strongly agree, and stand ready in bringing proactive decision makers to the table for the management of water in the Delta and its tributaries.

Water Portfolio Lays Out State’s Long-Term Plans

Farm organizations welcomed a new water planning document from state agencies while they analyzed the document’s proposed strategies.

Titled the California Water Resilience Portfolio and released last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration described the document as an effort to guide water management in a way that works for people, the environment and the economy.

Portfolio Tour July 2019

California Agencies Release Draft Water Resilience Portfolio

Three California state agencies today released a draft water resilience portfolio intended to help the state manage more extreme droughts and floods, aging infrastructure, declining fish populations and other challenges.

The California Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s April 29, 2019 executive order calling for a portfolio of actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

“The portfolio approach to water supply reliability is a significant advance in how our most precious resource is managed statewide, in line with our long-term strategy in San Diego County,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “As we review the details of the new plan, we will continue collaborating with the state agencies and other partners to turn this vision into a reality that benefits our region.”

Water Portfolio Tour July 2019

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure on July 18, 2019. Photo: Water Authority

State agency leaders tour water infrastructure in San Diego County

Several state officials visited San Diego County on July 18, 2019 to assess the region’s water projects as part of their role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel got a first-hand look at investments to diversify the region’s water supply, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

“San Diego is a great example of the challenges and complexities of managing water supply, as we look to supercharge water resiliency in California,” said E. Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, Calif. State Water Resources Control Board, after the July tour of water infrastructure.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio encourages ‘collaboration within and across regions’

“This draft portfolio has been shaped to provide tools to local and regional entities to continue building resilience and to encourage collaboration within and across regions,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot in a news release from the three agencies. “At the same time, state government needs to invest in projects of statewide scale and importance and tackle challenges beyond the scope of any region. Taken together, the proposed actions aim to improve our capacity to prepare for disruptions, withstand and recover from shocks, and adapt from these experiences.”

The draft release comes after several months of public input, and listening sessions, including comments from the San Diego County Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Draft Water Resilience Portfolio outlines more than 100 integrated actionable recommendations in four broad areas:

  • Maintain and diversify water supplies

    State government will continue to help regions reduce reliance on any one water source and diversify supplies to enable flexibility amidst changing conditions. Diversification will look different in each region based on available water resources, but the combined effect will strengthen resilience and reduce pressure on river systems.

  • Protect and enhance natural ecosystems

    State leadership is essential to restore the environmental health of key river systems to sustain fish and wildlife. This requires effective standard-setting, continued investments, and more adaptive, holistic environmental management.

  • Build connections

    State actions and investment will improve physical infrastructure to store, move, and share water more flexibly and integrate water management through shared use of science, data, and technology.

  • Be prepared

    Each region must prepare for new threats, including more extreme droughts and floods and hotter temperatures. State investments and guidance will enable preparation, protective actions, and adaptive management to weather these stresses.

Major Reser

Federal, state, and local governments have built separate systems of dams, reservoirs, and conveyance facilities to move water to cities and farms and provide flood protection. This map, from the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, shows the largest such facilities. Graphic: State of California

To develop the portfolio, state agencies conducted an inventory and assessment of key aspects of California water, soliciting broad input from tribes, agencies, individuals, groups, and leaders across the state.

“From Northern California to the Central Valley and the South, Californians from cities, farms, and other sectors are working together to develop innovative solutions to the climate-related water challenges that the state is already experiencing and that are expected to worsen,” said California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This draft portfolio is an important step toward building resilience to ensure the long-term health of our water supplies and ecosystems.”

Public comments on draft portfolio

The public will be able to submit written feedback on the draft portfolio through February 7. A final water resilience portfolio will be released soon after that.

“State agencies are only one set of water decision-makers in California,” California Secretary for Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said. “Continuing to improve our water systems relies on collaboration across all groups of water users and all stakeholders. Accordingly, feedback on this draft will be important to refining and finalizing our portfolio.”

Chollas Creek Restoration Project Gets Boost From State

After several hours of rain Tuesday morning, water rushed through a section of Chollas Creek in the City Heights neighborhood.

The area is fenced off now. But in the coming years, City Heights residents, who have some of the fewest park access in the county, will be able to enjoy the creek up-close thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency.

Bruce Wilcox honored by members of the Salton Sea Authority

Salton Sea Authority Honors Bruce Wilcox for Years of Service

The Salton Sea Authority honored out-going Assistant Secretary of Salton Sea Policy Bruce Wilcox during the Authority’s October 24 board meeting. Wilcox was at the meeting when the Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution recognizing his efforts to improve the Salton Sea.

He was appointed to serve as assistant secretary within the California Natural Resources Agency in 2015 and assigned to work on Salton Sea restoration efforts. His appointment followed the formation of the Salton Sea Task Force.

Under his leadership, Wilcox helped guide the Salton Sea Management Program, the state’s phased approach to restoration at the sea. The program is intended to guide investments to protect public health and improve the ecosystem of the Salton Sea.

Restoration plans include the 3,770 acre Species Conservation Habitat project on the southeastern shore, a wetlands project at Red Hill Bay, also on the southeastern side, and the proposed 3,000-acre North Lake project on the northern end of the sea.

Salton Sea Restoration Program is moving forward with a restoration project to benefit migratory birds.

A major habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea is set to start that would enhance habitat for migratory birds and cover more exposed sea bed. Photo: Water Authority

Bruce Wilcox advances Salton Sea restoration

In accepting the resolution in his honor, Wilcox said there were positive steps forward toward implementing the projects. He also said he hopes to stay involved with the Salton Sea. During his tenure as the first Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, Wilcox worked tirelessly to advance restoration of the sea.

The California Natural Resources Agency is working to implement the Phase 1 10-year restoration program but is also looking at other mid-term and long-term restoration efforts. Arturo Delgado, who formerly worked on Salton Sea issues under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has been appointed as the new assistant secretary assigned to the Salton Sea.

Dust suppression projects planned

During a recent two-day summit on the Salton Sea held at the Palm Desert campus of University of California, Riverside, Delgado announced plans for 9,000 acres of dust suppression projects at the sea, an attempt to meet missed annual targets for addressing exposed playa over the first three years of the restoration program. The first 200 acres of dust suppression projects, to be located near where the New River flows into the sea, could get under way before the end of this year.

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors recently declared a local state of emergency at the Salton Sea. County officials say the move is intended to speed up the permitting process for restoration projects and get additional federal and state funding to improve the health of the sea.

Editorial: California Governor Newsom Must Defend Delta

Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t flinched in fighting President Trump when it comes to loosening pollution rules in a smoggy state or punishing immigrants seeking protection. But he’s oddly noncommittal when it comes to a federal water grab that rewards thirsty farmers and Southern California cities.

Last week, federal rule makers followed White House dictates and issued looser restrictions on diversions from the state’s prime water faucet, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Southern California Water Portfolio

This region has made tremendous strides toward diversifying its water portfolio. In Riverside County, groundwater desalination is moving forward to take full advantage of all available sources of water. Plans for Water Banking, which will take Northern California water imported during wet years to restore local aquifers for use during dry years, are also progressing.

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego’s Water Portfolio Approach ‘Model for California’

State officials Thursday toured San Diego County water infrastructure to get a first-hand look at the region’s successful water portfolio approach for supply diversification.

California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel were here to assess the region’s water projects as part of their new role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

Jim Madaffer tweet on water portfolio tour July 2019

Portfolio approach benefits region

“The region is proof that the portfolio approach works,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies continue to develop local projects and explore opportunities that would benefit the region, the state, Mexico and the Southwest.”

At a luncheon meeting and panel discussion at University of California, San Diego following the tour, the agency officials joined a group of more than 150 people to hear how the portfolio approach can help California and the Southwest meet water supply challenges.

Along with the Water Authority Board of Directors, elected officials, business, community and state and local leaders gathered in an auditorium at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on the La Jolla campus.

Jim Madaffer and Water Portfolio approach

“The state needs to look at a global approach to managing water,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer.

Madaffer said during the meeting that San Diego’s portfolio approach has been successful in increasing the region’s water supply reliability through diversification and innovation.

“The Water Authority’s model is one that can be replicated across the state to help ensure a secure water future for all Californians,” said Madaffer.

State agency leaders echoed Madaffer’s comments.

“San Diego has been a leader in the water portfolio approach,” said Wade Crowfoot. “We have to make the investments to build regional water resilience as part of the Governor’s order to develop a portfolio to manage water in California.”

Water resilience portfolio for 21st century 

The Water Authority invited the officials to visit after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order in April, directing state agencies to “prepare a water resilience portfolio that meets the needs of California’s communities and environment through the 21st century.”

In his May letter to Newsom, Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19, and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

Newsom’s order also directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.”

California officials tour San Diego County water infrastructure

State and Water Authority officials before aerial and ground tour of regional water infrastructure. Photo: Water Authority

The California Natural Resources Agency, the California EPA, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Finance, were directed by Gov. Newsom to, among other tasks, “identify key priorities for the administration’s water portfolio moving forward.”

“Governor Newsom wants us to think long and broadly on water,” said Crowfoot. “He wants us to get away from the silos and conflicts on water in California – the mindset of environment groups versus farmers, north versus south, urban versus rural – and work together on water resiliency.”

Significant investments in regional water strategy

“The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have made significant investments in the last two decades to diversify our water supply, creating a portfolio of resources to support our region’s 3.3 million people and $231 billion economy,” said Madaffer.

During the tour, the officials got a first-hand look at some of those investments, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir

The Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir are a cornerstone of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Emergency and Carryover Storage Project, helping to protect the region from severe water supply shortages. Photo: Water Authority


San Vicente Dam

The Water Authority is exploring a battery storage project at the San Vicente Reservoir that would generate clean energy to help meet California’s climate goals. Photo: Water Authority

Global Warming creates water supply challenges

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research meteorologist Dan Cayan told the audience that temperatures and dry spells will increase in California in the future, making water storage, conservation, and forecasts even more critical.

“Global warming climate models show the Sierra Nevada snow pack will be 50% less in 2090 than today’s average April 1 snowpack,” said Cayan.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography research meteorologist Dan Cayan said temperatures and dry spells are expected to increase in California, making water storage, conservation and forecasts even more critical. Photo: Water Authority

Cayan said observations and climate model projections indicate climate change is occurring and will grow stronger. California should expect 1.5-2 degrees Fahrenheit warming by 2050, he said.

New regional pipeline study

Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dan Denham described a new study that will explore the viability of a regional pipeline to transfer water from the Colorado River to benefit multiple users in San Diego County and across the Southwest.

The pipeline system is one of a handful of ideas being discussed by San Diego County water leaders to enhance partnerships and solutions that make sense locally and more broadly as part of Governor Newsom’s Water Portfolio Program to develop resiliency statewide.

Map indicates three potential routes for a proposed regional pipeline system that would move Quantification Settlement Agreement water directly from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. Two of the routes (the light blue and purple lines) follow a southern route. The third proposed route, (shown in both a yellow and darker blue line) follows a northern path. Graphic: Water Authority

Creating a pipeline to transfer Colorado River water to the San Diego region has been studied periodically over decades.

But the new study is focused on how a regional pipeline could provide multiple benefits as part of a long-term water management strategy for California and the Southwest.

The expanded review will consider a system that could create much-needed storage opportunities for the Imperial Irrigation District that could support agriculture while addressing critical issues like the Salton Sea and the need for more renewable energy development.

Gavin Newsom Appoints Oakland Man To Lead Natural Resources Agency

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed the leader of an Oakland water philanthropy to be the next secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. Wade Crowfoot will lead the agency that oversees state parks, the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, among other offices, Newsom announced Friday. Crowfoot, 45, was CEO of the Water Foundation, an organization with offices in Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles that helps fund efforts to improve water management, from 2016 to 2018. Before that, Crowfoot worked as a deputy cabinet secretary and senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, and as a senior environmental adviser to Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco.