Keywords:monitoring, pollutants, Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, sediment, water quality
The Salton Sea is shrinking. Currently the state’s largest inland body of water, as it dries up, the Sea poses a substantial threat...
The Salton Sea is shrinking. Currently the state’s largest inland body of water, as it dries up, the Sea poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment. Left unaddressed, desert winds will lift dust from thousands of acres of newly-revealed lakebed and blow it into population centers, agricultural areas and world-class resort economies.
This impending crisis is long in the making, a policy paralysis driven by years of government process without implementing a fix. There are clear, understandable and specific mitigation steps that should be taken immediately. The decisions California leaders make in the near future about this remote desert lake will determine whether this dismal scenario will be averted. The Commission urges the Natural Resources Agency to begin implementing shovel-ready projects and the Governor and Legislature to immediately begin planning and funding the next phase of Salton Sea projects while developing a long-term restoration plan. ...
When California signed the QSA, it agreed to mitigate the impacts on the Salton Sea caused by the water transfers. The state clarified its intent to restore the sea through the QSA’s implementing legislation. Experts testified it would be tens of billions of dollars cheaper to mitigate the impacts of a shrinking sea up front than to deal with the adverse impacts
Fulfilling California’s commitment to the Salton Sea is an element of maintaining the terms of the QSA, which provides water security to many Californians. Continued inaction, and the consequent public health and environmental impacts, could undermine political support for the QSA. Further, in the larger picture, California’s fulfillment of its commitments is critical to its ability to negotiate future difficult agreements. ...
Current plans call for the restoration of tens of thousands of acres of mainly intertidal habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun...
Current plans call for the restoration of tens of thousands of acres of mainly intertidal habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh. Restoration on this scale presents both formidable challenges and tremendous opportunities. As part of its legislatively mandated oversight of Delta science programs, the Delta Independent Science Board reviewed these habitat restoration efforts. We held discussions with individuals from state and federal agencies, NGOs, consulting firms, and universities. We were impressed by their dedication, enthusiasm, and knowledge, as well as by the scientific and institutional challenges they face.
Our findings and observations about the restoration efforts are grouped under a series of criteria for a successful restoration program. In such a program: the goals are clearly articulated; the design incorporates spatial and temporal context, adaptive management and flexibility, and monitoring; modeling is used in design and evaluation; planning and implementation are coordinated among projects; the necessary scientific expertise is available; and stakeholders are involved early and often.
Our findings and recommendations agree with those reached independently by National Research Council (NRC) panels. For convenience, as in the Delta Plan, we use "the Delta" to encompass both the statutory Delta and Suisun Marsh.
The Little Hoover Commission in a letter sent Friday to Governor Brown and the Legislature again renewed its call for urgent action at...
The Little Hoover Commission in a letter sent Friday to Governor Brown and the Legislature again renewed its call for urgent action at the Salton Sea to prevent a massive public health, environmental and economic disaster in Southern California.
Policymakers must replicate the effective approach taken to meet the state’s rewewable energy goals, wrote the Commission in its letter. Then, the Govenor gave a senior official the authority to do what it took to get projects through red tape at all levels of government. The model was remarkably simple: Get everyone together and get it done.
The letter results from continuing oversight to which the Commission pledged in its 2015 report, Averting Disaster: Action Now for the Salton Sea. The Commission held an April 2016 hearing to get an update on the state’s progress in strategically managing the Salton Sea. It heard from the assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy at the Natural Resources Agency, as well as stakeholders from local government and the environmental community.
The Commission’s letter acknowledges that momentum is building and that the state has made important progress in managing the sea, particularly with $80 million in funding in the Governor’s proposed 2016-17 budget. However, the Commission’s letter maintains that the state is not moving fast enough or allocating sufficient resources to prevent a disaster. Timelines have been delayed, short-term goals scarcely cover a fraction of exposed lakebed and much more than $80 million is needed to manage the sea.
How Reducing Flows Harms the Ecosystems of San Francisco Bay and Coastal Waters The Bay Institute’s major new study, San Francisco Bay: The...
The Bay Institute’s major new study, San Francisco Bay: The Freshwater – Starved Estuary, documents how the ecological health of San Francisco Bay and the nearby ocean is at high risk because large-scale water diversion in the Bay’s watershed severely limits the amount of fresh water that reaches the Bay and alters the timing of that flow. Inflow to the Bay from its Central Valley watershed now averages less than half of what it would be without diversions; in some years just one-third of the runoff makes it to the Bay. The result is a nearly permanent drought for the Bay’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. This radical alteration creates severe consequences for the Bay and marine ecosystems – and Bay Area residents pay the price.
The study shows how unsustainable diversion of the Bay’s freshwater inflow:
Dramatically cuts production of fish and shrimp that are the food source for marine mammals, like Orca Whales, and birds;
Allows pollutants to accumulate to dangerous levels and encourages blooms of toxic algae;
Reduces sediment supply to Bay Area wetlands and beaches;
Makes it easier for undesirable non-native species to successfully invade the Bay Estuary.
The San Francisco Bay Estuary is created by the mixing of fresh water from the Central Valley’s rivers with salt water from the Pacific Ocean. Dramatically reducing the inflow of fresh water generates cascading effects in the Bay’s watershed, the Bay itself, and coastal ocean waters.
The report’s major findings include:
On average, since 1975 more than half (53%) of runoff from the Central Valley watershed has been diverted, stored, or exported before it can reach the Bay – and in many years two-thirds or more of the Bay’s inflow is captured;
As a result of intensive water diversions, the Bay experiences catastrophically dry years almost half the time (only one “supercritically dry” year occurred naturally between 1975-2014, but the Bay experienced nineteen supercritical years during that period);
Numerous unrelated fish species – from sharks to salmon, from sturgeon to smelt – show strong positive correlations with Bay Inflow; many of these species are now endangered, and even commercially viable fisheries are in decline;
Predators that feed on flow-dependent fish and shrimp are feeling the pinch – for example, dwindling supplies of Central Valley Chinook salmon may restrict the recovery of the local Orca whale population;
Blooms of toxic “algae” (cyanobacteria) are becoming more frequent, and other pollutants are becoming more concentrated, as a result of reductions in freshwater flows from the Bay’s watershed;
Bay Area beaches and tidal wetlands are deprived of sediment that was once transported by high river flows.
The study reports that local businesses are likely to suffer from the Bay’s continued decline, including those related to commercial fishing and tourism. As our Bay, beaches, wetlands, and fish and wildlife populations deteriorate, the quality of life for many Bay Area residents will also be severely – and perhaps permanently – damaged.
The study identifies four important approaches to improving Bay inflows:
Update the State’s 21 year old water quality standards for the Bay Estuary to ensure adequate inflow
Require all those who divert water destined for the Bay, not just a subset, to contribute their fair share of fresh water to support benefits enjoyed by all Californians
Invest in local water supplies around the state including conservation, and recycling, that can generate millions of acre-feet of water and reduce reliance on water diverted from the Estuary and its watershed
Coordinate management of flows with wetland and beach restoration to more effectively protect shorelines
The study was prepared for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, a coalition of resource agencies, non-profits, citizens, and scientists working to protect, restore, and enhance water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in and around the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary, which also provided the majority of funding for the project.