The California Drought is Over!

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The Sacramento River in the California Delta is super full and is going to remain running high through June.

It’s official: the State of California declared the drought is over. Driving to Los Angeles in the rain, I enjoyed the green hills all the way through the San Joaquin Valley. After years of seeing scary empty reservoirs, it is thrilling to see all the signs of a very wet year.

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Pyramid Lake is part of the State Water Project and stores water until it continues its journey to SoCal water users. When deliveries are low, the level drops. This year the reservoir is full again.

On my way to Los Angeles I stopped at the top of the grapevine at the Vista del Lago visitor center to look at Pyramid Lake. It is thrilling to see how full it is and to see someone recreating.

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San Luis Reservoir is also part of the water delivery system in California. Water is  pumped from near Santa Nella into this reservoir to store it to keep a water supply for irrigation and people throughout the summer. Levels have been restored!

This blog post first appeared on Adventures of American Julie (americanjulie.com).

Arundo Control Results in Terrific Wildlife Habitat

This invasive plant is focus of Delta Conservancy program.

Arundo monoculture along a levee bank offers little wildlife benefit

The Solano Resource Conservation District is working with private landowners in the Cache Slough area to control Arundo. Arundo is a non-native plant introduced to stabilize levees. It provides D+ habitat, so the Delta Conservancy applied for a grant with the Department of Water Resources to work on eradicating non-aquatic invasive plants. The Solano RCD was given funds to work with local private farmers and ranchers to replace Arundo with a complex of native plants along irrigation canals.

In situations where the adjacent land is used for grazing livestock it also requires an investment in fencing and watering troughs to move intensive animal use off the area. This improves the health of the livestock and limits direct access to the ditches to only pulse grazing. The RCD has been working for 4 years now with a few cooperating landowners.The Arundo still wants to come back, so there are no quick fixes. It reminded me of my never ending battle with crabgrass in my garden. At the same time the native plants are getting established and doing quite well even in the drought.

Arundo replace with diversity of native plants--better for grazing and wildlife.

This conservation practice, if applied on a larger scale, could have a larger beneficial impact to the health of the sloughs and waterways in the Delta. Already you see more bird life and other critters.

These are not natural streams but they can still be managed to improve livestock health and provide wildlife benefits.

An irrigation ditch before livestock fences are built to control access.

This is a great example of how incentives for private landowners helps to offset the costs of changing how they do business. These changes are a win-win-win for everyone: better livestock, better environment, better soil and water management. And that is a win for all of us.

After fencing and restoration.

After fencing and restoration.

Salmon Safer on the Sacramento River

Knights Landing Outfall Gates operated by Reclamation District 108.

Knights Landing Outfall Gates from the Sacramento River side.

The construction project to place structures on the Knights Landing Outfall Gates to exclude salmon is almost complete. I recently went to the event when the gates were installed. Congratulations Reclamation District 108 on getting something built.

The drainage water from Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District and the Colusa Basin Drain enters the Sacramento River or continues down the Ridge Cut at Knights Landing. Most of the drainage water comes out in the fall when rice fields are drained before harvest. At this time salmon are swimming up the Sacramento River to spawn and some of them are attracted to the flows and head up the Drain. Unfortunately, if they go over the Outfall Gates they are permanently separated from the river where the spawning beds are located and lost to the wild salmon population.

People watching the gates being installed to keep salmon from entering the Colusa Basin Drain.

People watching the gates being installed to keep salmon from entering the Colusa Basin Drain.

In November the construction will be complete. Then the only place where salmon can enter the Colusa Basin Drain will be through the Yolo Bypass Toe Drain and up the Wallace Weir. The Department of Water Resources is designing a permanent structure for Wallace Weir that will also exclude salmon. Reclamation District 108, who operates the Knights Landing Outfall Gates and is managing this project, has also agreed to manage the Wallace Weir construction.

Gate is lowered into place.

Gate is lowered into place.

It is crazy to hear about the challenges of permitting a project that is built primarily to benefit an endangered species—winter run salmon. You can build a Walmart with a negative declaration under CEQA, but you have to spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the environmental work to permit something just for the betterment of the environment. Go figure.

3 Reasons to Check Out Bay-Delta Live

BayDeltaLive.com

1.  You will join a community of scientists, policymakers and people who care about the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The purpose of BDL is to create a community where the scattered information held by hundreds of organizations and individuals will be made more accessible and easier to find. The platform of Bay-Delta Live enables BDL to offer more and more data, photos and stories as community members share information. Join the www.BayDeltaLive.com community and share your data and stories. Sign up for push notifications and receive news on new datasets and reports.

2.  Bay-Delta Live is the richest trove about this sensitive and vitally important ecosystem. Bay-Delta Live (BDL) is a data hub of information committed to

  • Free access to information
  • Data collaboration, and
  • Open and transparent sharing.

Take a virtual tour of www.BayDeltaLive.com. Click on the Help button on the top bar and watch videos helpful to users.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been studied, measured, manipulated, and yet not all of the data is easily accessible. BDL aggregates and displays relevant information about the Delta, including CDEN and CDEC data sets.

3.  You can create your own visualizations and maps using data provided by state agencies and others.

You can also download the free iPhone app “Bay Delta Live” to have this same information at your fingertips on your iPhone or iPad.

BDCP Morphs Into California WaterFix and EcoRestore

www.californiawaterfix.com

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has pivoted away from a Habitat Conservation Plan with 22 Conservation Measures to an update of the water conveyance facilities in the Delta with the required mitigation for the impacts of that project. This is often shortened to “the tunnels” but is actually California WaterFix. The proposed project creates dual conveyance with intakes on the Sacramento River near Hood and a new pumping plant at Clifton Court connected by tunnels. The design is meant to provide resilience with continuing sea-level rise and seismic risk but mainly to stop the negative effects of reverse flow in the Delta on native Salmon and Smelt. No one outside of the state and federal agencies believes it but it is not necessarily going to result in more exports to people and farms outside of the Delta; it does however have the potential to stop the continuous cutbacks on exports due to endangered species regulations.

There remains a plan to restore habitat but on a much smaller scale than the BDCP. It may grow in time but the initial 30,000 acres is primarily to meet the existing Biological Opinions for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project. This program is called EcoRestore.

You have the opportunity to comment on both of these programs in the new public document released on July 10. See the except from the Department of Water Resources’ announcement:

60-Day Public Review and Comment Period Extension Announced
Lead state and federal agencies have extended the public comment period by 60 days for the BDCP/California WaterFix Partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIR/SDEIS). The comment period began on July 10, 2015 and now concludes on October 30, 2015. This extension gives the public more time to consider refinements and changes that have been made since the 2013 Draft EIR/EIS and provide comments.

Written Comments may be submitted via:

Building a Brand: California Delta Logos

The Delta Conservancy and the Delta Protection Commission engaged the creative people at Augustine Ideas to research and develop possible logos that will “brand” the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. The challenge is designing a logo that resonates with residents and is inviting to people outside the region. Four ideas have been developed to express: “At the heart of California, the Delta is an undiscovered place to escape, explore and wander. Rare and special–an abundance of natural resources, to be cared for and appreciated.”
The four logos are in a PDF here.  You can provide feedback in a survey here.
This will be available to brand products and services that originate from the Delta–from wine to boating adventures. It may also be used if California’s Delta receives a National Heritage Area designation.
It is distinct from the Discover the Delta brand that is associated with the Discover the Delta Foundation and visitor’s center in Rio Vista.

Discover the Delta's logo is on the sign in the foreground.

Discover the Delta’s logo is on the sign in the foreground.

Creating cuisine from invasive species

One of the stressors to the ecosystem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are invasive species, introduced plants and animals that crowd out native species.  This problem is not unique to the Delta. Almost every part of the settled earth struggles with this because it is primarily people in their infinite wisdom who introduce these plants or animals. When I was in Portland I read how the local chefs participated in a challenge to create dishes using the invasive species found in the Columbia River.

Chinese mitten crab

Chinese mitten crab

I forgot about it until I recently read this story in Grist about a sushi chef in Connecticut who is using invasive species to replace diminishing bluefin tuna.

Could we do the same with Delta invasives?

Water hyacinth salad?

Mitten crab cakes?

Check out the complete list of invasive species in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for more potential cuisine.