Newsom Pushes Private Seawater Desalting Plant Over Local and Environmental Opposition

When Gov. Gavin Newsom was photographed dining at an opulent Napa Valley restaurant during a surge in coronavirus cases, many Californians saw it as hypocrisy. For opponents of a planned $1-billion desalination plant along the Orange County coast, however, the optics were menacing.

The unmasked Newsom was celebrating the birthday of a lobbyist for Poseidon Water, which is close to obtaining final government approval for one of the country’s biggest seawater desalination plants.

Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Off On New Commission to Study Salton Sea Lithium Extraction

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday added his signature to a new law that orders the formation of a commission to study the feasibility of lithium extraction around the Salton Sea. Local politicians hope the commission will lead to the creation of a green economy around the state’s largest lake, which is a geothermal hotspot. It was one of several bills focused on California’s environment that Newsom dealt with this week.

These Teens Paddled Across the Salton Sea to Bring Awareness to the Lake’s Plight

Three Coachella Valley High Schoolers kayaked across the Salton Sea Saturday to raise awareness about the social and ecological crisis unfolding as California’s largest lake continues to shrink and toxic dust from its shores pollutes the air.

Panel Demands Answers on PFAS Cleanups, Alternatives

House lawmakers pressed top defense officials yesterday for more information on research and cleanup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. “I represent a community that has a number of PFAS contamination sites,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said during a hearing of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.

Is Climate Change Worsening California Fires, or is it Poor Forest Management? Both, Experts Say

Long before climate change severely parched California, priming it to burn at a record scale, federal foresters made an inventory of trees in the southern Sierra Nevada. The year was 1911, and the goal of the fledgling U.S. Forest Service was to document the amount of timber in the area. More than a century later, however, the historical data set proved invaluable to researchers with a far different purpose: assessing how much the forest, and the inherent threat of fires within it, had evolved.

Burrowing owls get a helping hand with new habitat from the Otay Water District. Photo: Otay Water District burrowing owl homes

Otay Water District Gives Burrowing Owl Homes a Makeover

Burrowing owl homes maintained by the Otay Water District received a modern makeover this year. As part of its ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, the District managed construction of new nesting burrows to encourage breeding.

Ten acres of the 240-acre, District-owned San Miguel Habitat Management Area reserve, or HMA, and mitigation bank in eastern Chula Vista is a dedicated native grasslands area where the new artificial burrows are located. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife has designated burrowing owls as a “Species of Special Concern.” They are also protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A burrowing owl in an old style burrow prior to remodeling. Photo: Otay Water Districr

A burrowing owl in an old style burrow prior to remodeling. Photo: Otay Water District

In 2019 with CDFW’s guidance, the District began planning for the retrofit of existing artificial burrows and installation of several new burrows with the most current burrow design, intending to allow for maximized breeding success. The project also enhances the value of the native grassland habitat by removing invasive plants that surround most of the artificial burrows.

“The District’s project to enhance the existing burrowing owl habitat is so important because the HMA is a protected area where the owls can safely live and breed,” said Lisa Coburn-Boyd, Otay Water District environmental compliance specialist. “Increasingly, in San Diego County, the burrowing owl population is declining because of habitat loss and fragmentation.”

Small raptors active during the day

Burrowing owls are small owls with bright yellow eyes. Unlike other owls, burrowing owls are active during the day.

Burrowing owls are also quite social. This small raptor lives among others of its own species in loose groups of up to several hundred individuals. They measure seven to 11 inches long and weigh five to nine ounces. Their diet consists of insects, small rodents, amphibian and reptile species, and carrion.

Burrowing owls will take over old mammal burrows as their homes. But in areas where small mammals aren’t present, they will also nest in shallow, underground, human-made structures.

Burrowing owl homes remodeled using new design

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Photo: Otay Water District

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Photo: Otay Water District

Originally, the District constructed 15 artificial burrows in 2003 as mitigation for impacts to burrowing owl burrows due to reservoir construction and the creation of the former Salt Creek Golf Course. The original burrows used an older design of the artificial burrows and their native grasslands habitat. Although the HMA had regular burrowing owl visitors during that time, breeding success was limited with no owl breeding pairs.

This year, the Otay Water District used the updated burrow design recommended by the CDFW and developed by the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The District retrofitted and enhanced five existing burrows and installed six new burrows. During construction of the burrows in January and February, two burrowing owls seemed interested in the construction. No breeding pairs have used the burrows this season. The District hopes they will be back to move into the newly completed burrows.

See burrowing owls on the San Diego Safari Park’s live webcam.

Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Clean Water Act Rollback

A recent flurry of litigation from around the state and across the country could have huge ramifications in California on the protection and distribution of scarce water resources.

On Eve of Trump Visit, Critics Ask Why Newsom Hasn’t Fought President’s Water Moves

During President Trump’s visit to California this week, the commander in chief who campaigned on a pledge of shipping more water to Central Valley farms plans to stop in Bakersfield to boast about a promise kept.

His administration has succeeded in rolling back protections for fish in California, opening the door to more pumping from rivers and streams, and more irrigation deliveries for the state’s vast agricultural economy.

The endeavor is no surprise for a president who has been supportive of industry and hopes to rally rural voters behind his re-election bid. But what confounds some who are worried that Trump’s water plan could undermine the environment is how little the state has done to stop Washington.

One Tunnel, Same Distrust

State water officials offered an early look at the downsized California WaterFix project earlier this month, and conservationists and far-traveling indigenous tribes say they still believe it has the potential to permanently alter life in and around the Delta.

The old version of California WaterFix, better known as the “twin tunnels,” was opposed by virtually every major environmental organization in the state, as well as fishing alliances, Delta businesses and groups concerned with the cultural and historic resources from Freeport to Walnut Grove.

Opinion: Cross-Border Sewage Spills Are an Emergency – It’s Time for the County to Treat Them Like One

We all know what rolls downhill and smells bad. Nowhere is it more true than in the Tijuana River Valley in southern San Diego County, where for years toxic cross-border sewage spills have created the biggest ongoing water pollution and environmental justice crisis in the United States. While some progress has been made in recent negotiations with Mexico to fund solutions, it could take years to realize significant improvements.