Supreme Court’s Murky Clean Water Act Ruling Created Legal Quagmire

Lawyers rarely agree on anything, but here’s an exception: They all say the Supreme Court bungled Rapanos v. United States, a major wetlands case, almost five years ago.

Attorneys representing all interested parties say lower court judges, regulators, the business community and individual landowners continue to suffer as a result of the confusion sown by the justices whose main job is to provide clarity in the law.

The case concerned the efforts of Michigan landowner John Rapanos to develop a property that, much to his dismay, was designated as a wetland. He hadn’t applied for a permit and was subsequently the target of U.S. EPA civil and criminal enforcement actions.

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Water: Upbeat first assessment of year’s supplies



The rainy season isn’t over yet, but California farmers already have reasons to be optimistic about the 2011 harvest.

A torrent of early winter storms and higher-than-expected water left from 2010 prompted federal regulators Tuesday to issue an upbeat first assessment of the year’s water supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the sprawling network of pipes and pumps that bring water to Central Valley farmlands and some urban customers in the Bay Area, expects to deliver as much as 100 percent of the water supplies requested.

“The new year starts with an encouraging water supply forecast, thanks to the precipitation delivered by Mother Nature,” David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/18/BARH1HARF6.DTL#ixzz1Bh1HaBxh

California seeks to slash chromium-6 in tap water

California, often an environmental trendsetter, is proposing a strict public health goal to reduce chromium-6, a probable carcinogen, in tap water following a recent report about its prevalence in 31 U.S. cities.

The state, which proposed an initial goal in late 2009, issued a draft version last week of a much stricter voluntary standard for the chemical that was made famous in the 2000 Hollywood movie Erin Brockovich. It’s now seeking public comment before finalizing its goal.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to set a limit for chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, in tap water. In 2007, the National Institutes of Health reported strong evidence that the chemical caused cancer in laboratory animals when consumed in drinking water.

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Water Shortage Threatens Livelihood For Many In The Imperial Valley

Some experts say there is a fifty per cent chance that Lake Mead, the giant reservoir behind the Hoover dam, could dry up in the next few decades. That grim gamble is a sobering possibility for us here in San Diego since Lake Mead stores Colorado River water, a prime source of water for much of southern California.

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Oil and Water Don’t Mix with California Agriculture

KERN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

From the “Petroleum Highway” — a rutted, dusty stretch of California State Route 33 — you can see the jostling armies of two giant industries. To the east, relentless rows of almonds and pistachios march to the horizon. To the west, an armada of oil wells sweeps to the foothills of the Temblor Range.

Fred Starrh, who farms along this industrial front, has seen firsthand what can happen when agriculture collides with oil. On an overcast February day, he drives his mother-of-pearl Lincoln Town Car down a dirt road through his orchards. Starrh Farms has 6,000 acres of pistachios, cotton, almonds and alfalfa. Starrh proudly points out almond trees planted 155 to the acre with the aid of lasers and GPS. At the edge of his land, he pulls up beside 20-foot-high earthen berms, the ramparts of large “percolation” ponds that belong to a neighbor, Aera Energy.

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New reservoir to save water from escape to Mexico

Nearly a month after water filled the Warren H. Brock Reservoir near the Arizona-California border for the first time, the project’s builders got the news they wanted: It didn’t leak.

So, they pulled the plug and let all the water out.

Emptying the reservoir, dug out of the sand dunes about 25 miles west of Yuma, was as much a part of the final construction test as filling it and watching for leaks. This reservoir was built to be in motion: Get the water in, wait a few days, get the water out.

The $172 million project is an attempt to seal decades-old leaks in the Colorado River‘s water-delivery system by capturing the dribbles lost downstream to Mexico when farmers in Arizona and California don’t take water they ordered, usually because rain filled the need.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/28/state/n101810S80.DTL#ixzz16ipr6nxJ

California looks for a way to save the delta, quench residents’ thirst

Nearly three decades after a proposed delta bypass was killed by voters in a divisive initiative battle, the idea is back in vogue.

Pumping water from the delta’s southern edge has helped shove the West Coast’s largest estuary into ecological free fall, devastating its native fish populations and triggering endangered species protections that have tightened the spigot to San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities.

The mounting delta problems, along with the potential threats of a rise in sea level and a major earthquake, have turned the attention of state and federal agencies to an “alternative conveyance”: either a canal or, more likely, a 40-mile water tunnel system that would be the nation’s longest, some 150 feet beneath the delta.

Read more: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2010/11/29/1387624/california-looks-for-a-way-to.html#ixzz16h8ZZgEK

California American Water Urges Customers to Protect Themselves from People Posing as Utility Workers

CORONADO, Calif., Nov 10, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — California American Water is reminding customers to check for identification before allowing utility workers onto their property or into their home.

Normal operations do not require our employees or contractors to enter customers’ homes or backyards unannounced unless the customer has contacted the company for a specific service issue or has a water main or service line running through their backyard. Residents should never allow access to individuals who are unable to produce proper company identification.

“We are committed to the safety and well-being of our customers as well as our employees,” said company president Rob MacLean. “Accordingly, we are reminding residents to follow a few simple steps we’ve provided for them to ensure that only authorized employees are granted access to their property.”

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Election focus on western water, willing workers

Finding water and willing workers to produce the nation’s crops are turning out to be big issues in this election period, especially in congressional, Senate and governors’ races.

In California, these are key issues in the governor’s race and the Senate race. The Republican candidates are pushing for guest workers and for fair allocation of water for growers. The Democrat Senate incumbent, Barbara Boxer, and Democrat governor candidate Jerry Brown are taking hits for not doing more on water and worker issues.

Even television comic Stephen Colbert got involved in the labor issue, with a jokey appearance before a Congressional committee. Colbert even went into the fields and harvested produce. It all sounds like an old-time folk tune, “Colbert picked corn, and we don’t care.” Still, his appearance brought out dozens of TV cameras.

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Some ideas about water are all wet

The local environmental club keeps urging me to stop “wasting water” – to take shorter showers, for instance, and to water my lawn less often. But how is it possible to waste water when it’s constantly being recycled through evaporation and rain?

It’s true: Thanks to the hydrologic cycle, we drink and bathe in the same H2O that rained on the dinosaurs. And, theoretically at least, the Earth has more than enough for all of us: According to Brian Richter, co-director of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Freshwater Program, human activities – agriculture, manufacturing, bathing, drinking and so on – consume only about 10 percent of the planet’s available freshwater supply.

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First-of-its-kind study finds alarming increase in flow of water into oceans

UCI-led team cites global warming, accelerated cycle of evaporation, precipitation

Irvine, Calif. — Freshwater is flowing into Earth’s oceans in greater amounts every year, a team of researchers has found, thanks to more frequent and extreme storms linked to global warming. All told, 18 percent more water fed into the world’s oceans from rivers and melting polar ice sheets in 2006 than in 1994, with an average annual rise of 1.5 percent.

“That might not sound like much – 1.5 percent a year – but after a few decades, it’s huge,” said Jay Famiglietti, UC Irvine Earth system science professor and principal investigator on the study, which will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He noted that while freshwater is essential to humans and ecosystems, the rain is falling in all the wrong places, for all the wrong reasons.

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State water board to vote on proposal requiring Malibu to install its first central sewer system

Septic tanks and leach pits could soon be endangered commodities in Malibu.

On Tuesday, the State Water Resources Control Board is slated to vote in Sacramento on a proposal to require the coastal community to install its first central sewer system, cease permits for new septic setups and phase out hundreds of existing small-scale systems by 2019.

Chronic pollution in Malibu Creek and Lagoon and Surfrider Beach — and repeated failures by Malibu to address the problem — spurred the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board last November to propose the septic ban for a large area of central and eastern Malibu. The state board typically supports regional panels’ recommendations.

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The Dry Garden: Predictions of La Niña winter

Autumn and early winter are traditionally considered planting season in Southern California because nature can be expected to cooperate. As days shorten and rains come, seeds germinate, newly transplanted saplings deepen their roots and established plants awaken from dormancy.

Yet not all years are created equal, and this coming planting season has all the hallmarks of a tricky one.

National Weather Service predictions for a La Niña cycle are becoming less tentative and more ominous. That means ocean temperature trends in the equatorial Pacific have shifted to the opposite of last winter —  a way that augurs drought.

How dry our rainy season might be is unknowable; this brooding La Niña might even produce a wet year, but the odds are stacked sharply against that. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert, 82% of the La Niñas since 1949 have had below-average rainfall. “Some are way below average,” he said. “This is a strong La Niña. It really tilts the scale. It’s an 80% to 90% probability of a dry winter.”

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California Licenses World’s Biggest Solar Thermal Plant

California regulators have licensed what is for the moment the world’s largest solar thermal power plant, a 1,000-megawatt complex called the Blythe Solar Power Project to be built in the Mojave Desert.

By contrast, a total of 481 megawatts of new solar capacity was installed in the United States last year, mostly from thousands of rooftop solar arrays, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

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Congresswoman Grace Napolitano Headlines Joint WRD And County Sanitation Districts Press Event

Federal Funds Awarded to Help Develop Local Water Supplies

Lakewood, CA /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-38th) today announced the award of $300,000 in 2010 WaterSmart funding to the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD). At a joint press conference with officials from WRD and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Napolitano said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) award will be used to develop WRD’s Groundwater Basin Master Plan.

“WRD’s grant application was among the highest rated in the country,” Napolitano said, “reflecting the national importance of developing local water supplies in our region to reduce reliance on increasingly vulnerable and expensive imported supplies from Northern California and the Colorado River.”

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Desert hydroelectric power project awaits federal decision

By JANET ZIMMERMAN
The Press-Enterprise
 

In the future, when Inland residents flip a light switch or turn on an air conditioner, the power could come from a desert hydroelectric plant that would create and store energy.

Federal regulators are considering a license application for the proposed $1 billion-plus Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project east of Joshua Tree National Park. The 1,100-acre plant would be housed at the abandoned Kaiser iron-ore mine, near where another group wants to build the world’s largest landfill.

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Comment:

The Feds shouldn’t get involved. It’s California’s power plant and California’s electricity. We’re a big state. We can take care of ourselves.

California Drought is No Problem for Kern County Oil Producers

Farming accounts for the lions’ share of water use in Kern County and 88 percent of the Kern County Water Agency, according to Creel. This is not surprising when one looks at a map of the San Joaquin Valley. In spite of the valley’s desert conditions, the region has been transformed by these massive irrigation projects into a Cartesian gridwork of farms. Today, irrigated farmland and grazing pastures account for more than half of Kern County’s 8,100 square miles.

But there is another big water user in Kern County – the oil industry. In spite of the dwindling production from its aging oilfields, Kern County still accounts for 10 percent of the U.S.’s domestic oil production. While occupying a far smaller land footprint than the county’s agricultural users, the Kern County oil industry consumes a staggering volume of water. According to the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, Kern County oil companies injected 1.3 billion barrels of water and steam into the ground in order to produce 162 million barrels of oil a year.

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Something’s not right about this California water deal

A lawsuit by water agencies and environmental groups contends the Kern Water Bank transaction was essentially a gift of public property to private interests and therefore violates the state constitution.

August 18, 2010|Michael Hiltzik
Students of California’s history of gold and oil rushes know it’s filled with examples of profiteering, conspiracy, influence-peddling and other chicanery.

So there’s no reason the story should be any different with that liquid gold of the 21st century, water.

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Comment: It’s not surprising that powerful private interests would manipulate the government to their advantage. The solution is to end the tax-subsidies while privatizing all water ownership, development an distribution.

Water Management: The Path to a Better Future

Last year, I read a Wall Street Journal report that water managers in 36 states expect shortages by the year 2013. Why? The reasons are complex, but in a nutshell, the supply can’t keep up with the demand.

The world’s population tripled in the 20th century, and according to the World Water Council, the use of renewable water resources has grown six fold in that timeframe. Within the next 50 years, the world’s population is expected to increase by another 40 to 50 percent. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water. But overall, little has been done to address this crucial issue. Consider the Clean Water Act of 1972. Although it was put into place to create an era of technological innovation in the United States, the promise is still largely unfulfilled. More progress has been made in Europe, with the EU Water Framework Directive, but there is still much to be done.

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Comment: The way to deal with “shortages” is with market pricing. That is, privatize water.

Elite Science Panel Wades Into Calif. Water War

TRACY, Calif. — Scientists tasked with unraveling one of the nation’s most vexing environmental puzzles started their first field trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at a fish processing facility here near one of the estuary’s major water-pumping stations.

Assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists — 15 experts in estuarine ecology, hydrology, fisheries science and water resources engineering — were gathering information for a series of reports that could influence management of the West Coast’s largest estuary for decades to come.

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