California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System expanded for the first time in 13 years in June when Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation protecting 37 miles of the upper Mokelumne River.

California’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System expanded for the first time in 13 years in June when Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation protecting 37 miles of the upper Mokelumne River.

It was the culmination of a long struggle for the Jackson-based Foothill Conservancy and other river advocates. Four years ago, a Mokelumne bill was approved by the state Senate but killed by a parliamentary maneuver  that blocked a vote in the Assembly. Despite significant support in Calaveras and Amador counties, the bill was opposed by local water agencies concerned about the potential impact on their water rights. In 2015 Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) successfully proposed a state study of the...
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Vital and Vulnerable? Delta Contemplates Climate Change

With its pivotal role in California’s ecology and economy, the Delta’s ability to adapt successfully to climate change and sea level rise will have an enormous influence on how well the state as a whole adapts. “Most of the climate vulnerability work in the Delta so far has focused on water resource management, not the array of other potential impacts,” says Delta Stewardship Council’s Kate Anderson. In May, the Council issued an RFQ for an assessment of the Delta’s potential...
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Glimmers of Baywide Intent

“Bay Restoration is a race against time,” says San Francisco Restoration Authority Chair Dave Pine. “That’s why it’s so important to bring the regulatory agencies together to fast-track the permitting process.” The Restoration Authority, overseeing projects funded by Measure AA, took a step forward this June by approving funding for a Regulatory Integration Team. BCDC and six other organizations, including the US Army Corps of Engineer, the US EPA, federal and state wildlife agencies, and the state Water Board, joined...
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Permitting Made Easier?

“Bay Restoration is a race against time,” says San Francisco Restoration Authority Chair Dave Pine. “That’s why it’s so important to bring the regulatory agencies together to fast-track the permitting process.” The Restoration Authority, overseeing projects funded by Measure AA, took a step forward this June by approving funding for a Regulatory Integration Team. BCDC and six other organizations, including the US Army Corps of Engineer, the US EPA, federal and state wildlife agencies, and the state Water Board, joined...
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Two-Way Bay: Estuary Leaders Reflect on Resilience

This 8-minute film interviews eight directors of water quality, restoration, and environmental programs around the San Francisco Estuary about their experience of the 2017-2018 Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge.
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Not the Last Word on Buckler

In January, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board appealed December decisions by a Solano Superior Court Judge concerning Point Buckler and its owner John Sweeney. The decisions voided $3.6 million in fines and cleanup and restoration requirements that the two agencies had imposed on Sweeney for dumping and excavation in Suisun Bay, and draining tidal wetland, without authorization. “If this decision sets precedent, we’re in real trouble,” says Erica Maharg...
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Scrutinizing the Margins

Cold water, essential for the life cycle of Chinook salmon, is all too often in short supply along the Sacramento River. A primary cause: California’s massive water conveyance system, using reservoirs, dams, and hydroelectric plants to divert water and deliver power to farms and cities. “When we started releasing water in spring, we let cold water out too early. None was left by fall, when salmon really needed it,” says USBR hydraulic engineer Tracy Vermeyen. Two clever innovations have been...
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A wide-ranging Habitat Conservation Plan that could eventually protect up to 4800 acres of endangered species habitat in the Bay Area is the linchpin of a November agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Under the agreement, FWS issued the utility a 30-year incidental take permit for operations and maintenance activities in the nine Bay Area counties. The HCP includes strategies to avoid, minimize, and offset potential direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of PG&E’s O&M and minor new construction activities on 32 threatened or endangered species. The parties are hailing the landscape-scale plan as an improvement over the project-by-project process they previously operated under, as it will enable PG&E to complete projects more quickly...
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The battle of Point Buckler Island isn’t over yet.

In January the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board appealed decisions by a Solano County Superior Court Judge voiding $3.6 million in fines and cleanup and restoration requirements that the agencies imposed on the island’s owner for dumping excavation spoil in Suisun Bay and draining tidal wetland without authorization. The agencies held that due to the failure of previous owners to maintain levees, the interior of the island had become tidal...
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All In for One Water

As climate change threatens to upend precipitation patterns and disrupt water supplies, agencies are increasingly searching for ways to wring more benefits out of every drop. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is seeking to take integrated water management planning to the next level through its One Water initiative. “The idea of One Water is to manage all water — treated water, groundwater, stormwater, flood water, water for habitat, species and Baylands — as one resource,” says the District’s Brian...
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Broad buy-in is the hoped for result of a proposed new landscape-level vision for conservation of the Delta.

For decades, government agencies, stakeholders, scientists, and planners have tried to develop a common vision for the future Delta, only to be stymied by environmental and economic politics. A new paradigm developed by diverse interests, however, proposes six regional conservation strategies to be achieved through collaborative, phased projects tailored to the needs of each sub-region, with a priority on improving public lands first. Proponents of the new framework say long-term conservation of the Delta is not a choice but an...
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The California Legislature has made state history by passing SB-5, which acknowledges the importance of parks and climate-change resiliency for some of California’s most disadvantaged communities.

“Park access should not be considered a luxury. It is a right,” says Mary Creasman, California Director of Public Affairs for The Trust for Public Land. The bill—known as the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018—recognizes the importance parks play in a community’s quality of life as well as the lack of access to them in urban and disadvantaged communities. The bill provides definitions of “disadvantaged” and “severely disadvantaged” communities and provides...
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Indecision Point

The Delta Stewardship Council endorses the “Delta Plan Amendments for Conveyance, Storage Systems, and the Operation of Both.” The council was created in 2009 but given no say over the pending dual tunnels plan. The state was pushing a grand program called the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. However, the BDCP was abandoned in 2015 in favor of two new, independent programs: EcoRestore and California WaterFix (popularly known as the twin tunnels). Rather than adopt a new policy on conveyance, the council...
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Prepping for Sea Level Rise—Who’s on First?

On an uncommonly sultry Thursday evening at the end of August several dozen people gathered in a grove at San Mateo’s Coyote Point, sipping beer and listening to a presentation on sea level rise by staff from San Mateo County’s Office of Sustainability. Then, accompanied by the sound of gunshots from a nearby firing range, everyone trooped down to the Bay’s edge, where temporary markers indicated how high the water would rise under three different scenarios. In the most dire projection, water...
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Simultaneous lawsuits filed against 37 fossil fuel companies by Marin and San Mateo Counties, along with the City of Imperial Beach, over sea level rise may open new front in climate battle.

 The suits, filed in California Superior Court, seek compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies for the ongoing harm that oil, gas and coal cause by contributing to global warming and sea level rise. A 2009 Pacific Institute study calculated that San Mateo has more property and people at risk from sea level rise than any California county, while in Marin more than 12,000 homes, businesses and institutions, with an assessed value of $16 billion could be at risk from...
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Flood Plan Boosts Floodplain

The 2017 update to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, to be released later this summer, radically revises the flood control strategies that have prevailed for more than a century. The plan recognizes the connections between the flood system, the water system and the ecosystem, and relies less on levees and more on floodplain restoration to upgrade the state’s aging and inadequate flood control infrastructure.
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Wetland Protections in Transition

Environmentalists are heading warily into the fall following two regulatory developments that they fear may cramp efforts to protect California’s wetlands. In June the State Water Resources Control Board released a draft document overhauling wetlands protection procedures but leaving open the question of exactly which wetlands are eligible for protection. In the same month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that landowners may mount court challenges to U.S. EPA or Corps of Engineers jurisdictional determinations before a permit is issued, potentially...
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Buckler Brouhaha

There’s a big dispute over a small island at the edge of the Suisun Marsh. John Sweeney, the current owner of Point Buckler Island via a limited liability corporation, faces enforcement action by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board for diking and draining a tidal wetland and dumping excavation spoils in Suisun Bay. The extensive work he did was subject to regulation by state and federal agencies, and no authorization...
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The Most Under-Regulated Facility

When miners trudged up the northeast slope of Black Mountain in the Cupertino foothills in the late 1800s and began picking away at the rock to get at limestone deposits, they probably weren’t thinking about water or air quality. And when Henry J. Kaiser took over the quarry in 1939, turning it into the largest producer of Portland cement in the U.S., the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were still several decades away. The Kaiser Permanente Cement Plant...
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Pivot or Pirouette?

Droughts and water shortages, dry creeks, heat waves, snowpack loss, sea level rise, bigger floods, species at risk, scarcer funding for public works and restoration projects, and California’s ever-growing population—as Jeff Mount put it in The New York Times recently, it’s a frightening, uncertain new world. How are Bay-Delta resource managers responding to these changes? Are we pivoting away from old institutional and decision-making structures that need to change or dancing in circles?
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