Lawsuit challenges California groundwater pumping


Commercial fisherman have filed a lawsuit accusing California officials of not leaving enough water in a Northern California river for coho salmon.

The lawsuit filed Thursday says the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County allowed groundwater well permits that have depleted the Scott River.

The plaintiffs say the endangered coho salmon are now on the verge of extinction in the river.

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Desalination Nation

As a native Bostonian now living in New York, I became a little obsessed with the May 1 break in a massive water pipeline that serves many of the communities surrounding my old home . I called my family for important updates – Are you boiling your water? Are any coffee shops still open? – and rued the incredibly poor timing of a just days-old ban on the sale of bottled water in a suburban Boston town.

But as the emergency wore on, I thought that, as inconvenient as the break was, the nearly 2 million people affected by it all knew that the annoyances were temporary. Drinking water was still relatively plentiful in Massachusetts and a little bit of engineering would repair the pipeline and bring life back to normal in a matter of days.

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Desalination Plant Heads to Public Hearings

MONTEREY, Calif. — Water — or lack of it — has been a big issue for residents on the Monterey Peninsula.  This week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is looking for your input on a proposed seawater desalination plant north of Marina.

“We have such an immediate need for getting additional water here,” commented Marina resident Kevin Miller. 

That’s the driving force behind California American Water’s proposal for the plant.  They are following state orders to reduce demand on the Carmel River. 

Monterey resident Mike Casey said, “The resources are diminishing and I don’t see any other alternatives at this time.”

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New state agency tries to revive delta

Over the past 10 years, California spent more than $3.5 billion on an agency that failed to solve the water crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Now, the state is trying again – with a newly formed agency.
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Beverly Hills: Water Rates to Rise

Starting July 22, residents and business owners will see an increase in their water bills. Prices will go up 15 percent on average for Beverly Hills residential consumers during each of the next two fiscal years, said Shana Epstein, the city’s environmental utilities manager.

The City Council unanimously approved the rate hikes at its June 3 meeting to offset a price increase that supplier Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) is charging the city.

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June 24, 2010 (Santee) – California Attorney General Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown today filed a lawsuit on behalf of the California Native American Heritage Commission against Padre Dam Municipal Water District and its board of directors. The suit seeks a permanent injunction on construction of a proposed pump station, 2.5 million gallon reservoir, flow control facility and pipelines near Lake Jennings.  

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San Diego County Water Authority to explore doing desalination deal

The San Diego County Water Authority’s board agreed Thursday to consider striking its own deal to buy desalinated water from Poseidon Resources Corp.

The vote authorized Water Authority staffers to talk with Poseidon, which plans to build a desalination plant in coastal Carlsbad.

Poseidon already has an agreement with nine local water agencies, but it has stalled on financing problems.

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California raised the amount of water it will deliver to cities and farms this year after a string of abnormally late, heavy storms.

California raised the amount of water it will deliver to cities and farms this year after a string of abnormally late, heavy storms.

The state Department of Water Resources said Wednesday that it expects to supply its customers with 50 percent of the water they have requested – up from a 45 percent estimate in late May and a rock-bottom 5 percent estimate early in the year.

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Compromise accomplished in the clash over California Delta water use: Pumps keep pumping

Both sides knocked out negotiations this week striking a settlement that has farmers and fishermen leaving the table triumphant.  Water users celebrated the maximum permitted pumping of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta allowed by biological opinion. On the other hand, environmentalists were pleased that the pumping levels were not being placed above biological opinion and with the option for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to intervene in unforeseen circumstances.

The order has been filed that outlines the agreement.  It states the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project will jointly maintain operations of Old and Middle River flows so as “not to be more negative than -5,000 cubic feet per second.

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Effort to bring waves back to Long Beach gets a boost

The effort to bring waves back to Long Beach by dismantling the massive breakwater sheltering its shores is getting a boost from the federal government.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lending its support to a four-year, $8.3-million study on reconfiguring the breakwater and redirecting the mouth of the Los Angeles River.

The Corps’ decision, part of a 31-page report released Monday, is a victory for surfers and conservationists who have for years blamed the World War II-era, 2.2-mile rock barricade for trapping water pollution, weakening waves and making Long Beach one of the least popular and most polluted beaches in the region.

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Glendale Water officials: Be stingy

Beautiful Glendale

With summer temperatures starting to take hold, Glendale Water & Power has seen a slight increase in customer water usage, officials said.

Glendale customers recently logged a 3% increase in water use, worrying some officials that compliance with conservation rules might be waning as summer heat approaches. Irrigation throughout the region is limited to just three days a week. In Glendale, the ordinance led to an overall 18% drop in water usage.

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Bakersfield: Budget cuts leave county parks brown — and dry

Budget cuts and increased water costs have limited the amount of water the county’s using to irrigate its parks, leaving spots or whole swaths of parkland looking brown and drab.

The water used on grass and trees has been reduced to the point where they’re only receiving enough moisture to stay alive, county Parks & Recreation Director Bob Lerude said. The cutbacks have affected all parks.

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Low-flows this summer may not be quite so low

GUERNEVILLE — This summer won’t be as bad as last when a combination of drought, low flow and elevated bacteria levels had boaters and bathers wondering why the Russian River seemed a little less inviting.

“This year is nothing like last year,” National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Dr. William Hearn said last week at a Sonoma County Water Agency low-flow workshop in Guerneville.

“Last year was like nothing we’ve ever seen,” said Hearn, owing to unprecedented low water storage levels in Lake Mendocino behind Coyote Dam.

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are in much better shape this year after a wet winter, but the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) still has to reduce releases from Warm Springs Dam and Coyote Dam to comply with a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biological opinion that says high summertime flows in the River may be one reason why native salmon and steelhead are in danger of becoming extinct.

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Congressional Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Water Resources Research Amendments Act

On Thursday, June 17, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on H.R. 5487, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act of 2010.

The bill, submitted by Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Santa Fe Springs), would amend the Water Resources Research Act of 1984.  The original act authorizes and helps to fund research related to water resources by a designated research institute in each state and territory in a program managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.  The research institutes are primarily universities.

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Assemblyman Bill Berryhill Blasts AB 2775: Last Minute Bill Attempts To Fix Flawed Water Bond, But Misses The Mark

SACRAMENTO -Yesterday the two main authors of the water bond amended AB 2775 in an effort to “fix” the severely flawed $11.14 billion bond bill passed last September.  The bill deletes a provision of the bond that allows private entities to enter into a joint powers authority (JPA) that could manage surface storage projects. The bill is set to be heard Tuesday in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

It is believed that the bill has been introduced to address a concern that the bond could potentially provide taxpayer dollars to benefit private corporations, such as Paramont Farms, owned by Hollywood billionaire Stuart Resnick, who also controls the Kern Water Bank. 

But by prohibiting private entities from joining a joint powers authority to manage a surface storage project funded by the bond, Berryhill points out that this will further hurt the possibility of the bloated bond ever building surface storage – a criticism he has made all along. 

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Court of Appeal Finds Endangered Species Act Applies to State Agencies

The California Court of Appeal for the First District recently held that a state agency is a “person” for the purposes of section 2080 of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The court has, therefore, confirmed that the section’s provisions prohibiting the import, export, taking, possession, purchase, or sale of endangered or threatened species without a permit, as required by section 2081(a) of the CESA, apply to state agencies.

Kern County Water Agency v. Watershed Enforcers is part of the ongoing dispute over operation of the State Water Project that is presently being litigated in several different cases. This case arose from the operation of the State Water Project’s Harvey O. Banks pumping plant by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), which is a state agency. 

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Takings Clause in Florida Case

Ruling Important for California Water Agencies

Best Best & Krieger E-bulletin:

The U. S. Supreme Court waded into a thorny constitutional thicket by considering whether the courts, like other branches of government, are subject to the limitations of the Takings Clause of the U. S. Constitution when they change the definition of property. Under the Takings Clause, the government must pay compensation to a property owner when it “takes” his property for public use, as when it exercises the power of eminent domain. The Supreme Court has held that the Takings Clause also applies – and therefore a property owner is entitled to compensation – when the state excessively regulates his property, although the courts have not clearly defined how far the states can go in regulating property.  

The question raised in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection was whether the Takings Clause also applies when a state court restricts a property owner’s rights by changing the definition of property – that is, whether there can be a judicial taking of property. This is a very important issue in California and other states, particularly in the field of water rights regulation. The California Supreme Court held in 1983 in the famous Mono Lake case that the public trust doctrine applies to water rights, and therefore water users are subject to public trust limitations. If a judicial taking can occur, water users in California may be able to challenge the application of public trust principles to their rights, or at least seek compensation for the loss of their rights.  

The Supreme Court in Stop the Beach Renourishment unanimously decided Thursday, 8-0, that no taking had occurred because the Florida Supreme Court had not changed the definition of property. The Florida Supreme Court had held that the State of Florida owned the beach lands that suddenly emerged when the State filled beach erosions caused by hurricanes, and that the lands did not belong to the owners of beachfront property. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision was supported by the State’s “background principles of property law,” and thus the Florida Court had not changed the definition of property. (Justice Stevens, who owns Florida beachfront property, did not participate in the case.) 

In California, the state courts have in many cases defined property, and in some cases redefined it. In the water rights field, for example, the California Supreme Court many years ago adopted the doctrine of riparian water rights, and held that riparian rights have priority over appropriative rights – and thus limited the rights of appropriative users. More recently, the California Supreme Court held in National Audubon Society v. Superior Court that the public trust doctrine applies to, and therefore restricts, water rights. If a judicial taking can occur, water users in California whose rights are restricted by court decisions defining their rights would have the right to challenge the court decisions and seek compensation for the loss of their rights. Thus, the judicial taking doctrine has enormous significance for California and other states. 

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State hatcheries complete massive salmon releases

From the California Department of Fish & Game, this press release:

“The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) completed the release of 16.5 million young Sacramento Fall-Run Chinook salmon in northern California on June 15. The majority of the young salmon, called smolts, were placed into acclimation pens in San Pablo Bay prior to release, while others were released in rivers that flow to the bay. Smolts that survive to adulthood will return in two to four years to spawn in Central Valley rivers, boosting the recovery of the species in California waters.

“We hope this year’s above-average water flow and the use of a variety of release sites will improve the overall survival of the smolts and increase the return of adult salmon to their home rivers,” said Neil Manji, DFG Fisheries Branch Chief.

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DFG working through fish plant reports

State biologists gauging the environmental impact of hatchery-raised trout have approved stocking all 60 of the north state lakes, rivers and creeks they’ve examined.

Those include Lake Shasta, Trinity Lake and Eagle Lake.

“The 60 that they’ve chosen are the most used,” said Frank Galusha of Shingletown, editor of, an online outdoor news magazine.

But there are another 254 bodies of water that still need to be surveyed before the state will stock them with trout. A lawsuit by a pair of conservation groups prompted the review of how stocking trout affects 85 species — from other fish to frogs to songbirds — before the state can approve putting the fish into the water.

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Land Trust: Dam, lake would ruin protected places

Nevada County Land Trust and the Placer Land Trust officials said Monday the proposed reservoir would ruin their projects to conserve land along the river.

“Placer Land Trust has invested millions of dollars into preserving land in the Bear River corridor around Garden Bar,” the proposed location for the dam and reservoir, Executive Director Jeff Darlington said. “This dam project would destroy and inundate the conservation lands we are protecting.”

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