May 2, 2018

The country’s tiniest falcon—the stunning American kestrel—is declining throughout the United States, and California seems especially hard hit: Kestrel numbers during the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory’s annual autumn migration counts declined from nearly 800 in 1997 to just 300 in 2017.

“Kestrels in California have been on a long downward trend since 1950 at least,” says GGRO Director Allen Fish, citing several potential reasons for the decline, including predation by other raptors. Pesticides destroy important food sources for kestrels and also sometimes poison the birds themselves. Rodenticides and insecticides work their way up the food chain and cause secondary poisoning, as do heavy metals like selenium, mercury, and lead. Loss of nesting sites is another problem: kestrels are cavity nesters and...
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Though a tiny and low-lying treatment plant on the San Leandro shore is facing increasing regulation of nutrients and rising sea levels, it’s got a path to adaptation thanks to the region’s taxpayers.

This April, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority awarded the first round of Measure AA grants, including $539,000 for San Leandro’s water pollution control plant. The plant, which is surrounded by blue- and white-collar communities, recently completed upgrades that allow the repurposing of a retired treatment pond. The money will pay for plans, designs, and permit applications necessary to convert the pond to a wastewater treatment marsh and buffer zone between the plant and the advancing Bay—a critical improvement, since...
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Updated guidance synthesizing the best available science on sea-level rise projections and rates for California—including advances in modeling and improved understanding of the potential impact of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets—is now available from the California Ocean Protection Commission.

The State of California Sea-Level Rise Guidance 2018 Update is the second update to guidance originally released in 2010. It is based on the scientific findings of the OPC Science Advisory Team’s 2017 report, “Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-Level Rise,” which noted among other findings that California may be particularly vulnerable to sea level rise stemming from ice loss in Antarctica. The guidance “provides a bold, science-based methodology for state and local governments to analyze and assess...
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Nutria — giant South American rodents—are breeding in the San Joaquin Valley and are on the brink of invading the Delta, where they could wreak havoc, as they have done in Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay and the Pacific Northwest.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, nutria have extremely destructive feeding habits that often lead to severe soil erosion, in some cases converting marsh to open water. Nutria also burrow into banks and levees, creating complex dens that extend as much as 6 meters deep and 50 meters into the bank, often causing severe streambank erosion, increased sedimentation, levee failures, and roadbed collapses. The rodents, which can weigh more than 20 pounds and are often mistaken for...
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Eighteen years after local stakeholders adopted the Putah Creek Accord to guarantee minimum flows and other enhancements, birdlife is flourishing in the Creek’s Riparian Reserve, highlighting the restoration of what was once a dried-up ditch.

Former U.C. Davis post-doc Kristen Dybala and her colleagues recently reported in Ecological Restoration on a project that monitored populations of breeding species, mostly songbirds, at the Reserve and 13 other sites along lower Putah Creek from 1999 through 2012. Some sites had seen active restoration efforts to benefit native fish; others had not. Overall, birds seemed to respond to the modified flow regime, with positive trends for 27 species and greater community diversity. Seven riparian-dependent species showed increases in...
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Infrastructure improvements could provide safe drinking water to tens of thousands of Californians currently living without it, but funding such improvements remains a challenge.

Many communities in rural, unincorporated San Joaquin Valley are served by water systems high in nitrates and arsenic, or private wells not subject to inspection. But according to a new UC Davis study, about 99,000 valley residents live near public systems with clean water and could access it if service extensions, piping and other infrastructure improvements were implemented. Pending state legislation would create a fund for such projects through fees imposed on water districts. While the bill faces opposition from...
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Napa County voters will weigh in on the fate of the county’s remaining oak woodlands this June, when they cast ballots on Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative.

“Ninety-five percent of oaks on the valley floor are gone and we want to do a better job reducing deforestation on the hills” initiative co-author Jim Wilson, told the Bay Area Monitor. “Our hillsides are beautiful and also filter rain, keeping water clean as it replenishes aquifers.” Most of Napa’s oak woodland loss is due to vineyard development, and the county General Plan projects that another 3,000 acres of woodland will be converted to vineyard by 2030. Current protections require...
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And Also…

In the Fate of the Delta Smelt, Warnings of Conservation Gone Wrong New Study Improves Measurement of Crop Water Use in the Delta Accidents Waiting to Happen: Coal Ash Ponds Put Our Waterways at Risk
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The San Francisco Bay-Delta is named in the federal Clean Water Act as one of 28 “estuaries of national significance." For over 20 years, the San Francisco Estuary Partnership has worked together with local communities and federal and state agencies to improve the health of California’s most urbanized estuary.

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