California should take lead on wetlands protections

From SF Chonicle March 12, 2017

Botanist, Rhiannon Korhummel, (left) and Biologist Stephanie Freed, with WRA Environmental Consultants assess the quality of the wetlands habitat neat the Sears Point Restoration site on the edge of San Pablo Bay in Novato, California on Tues. April 19, 2016. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Botanist, Rhiannon Korhummel, (left) and Biologist Stephanie Freed, with WRA Environmental Consultants assess the quality of the wetlands habitat neat the Sears Point Restoration site on the edge of San Pablo Bay in Novato, California on Tues. April 19, 2016.

When the president made good on a key campaign promise Tuesday to roll back federal environmental rules on wetlands, cheers went up across farmlands. The acronym meant little to city dwellers, but the promise to “repeal WOTUS” — a staple at Trump rallies — had secured much of the rural vote for Trump. Fearing rollbacks would weaken environmental protections for a state that has led the nation in environmental protections, Democratic legislators in Sacramento preemptively introduced a suite of legislation to “preserve” California.

WOTUS, or “waters of the U.S.,” refers to a rule intended to clarify the scope of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act, which tries to keep pollutants out of drinking water and wetlands wet. The rule was developed after years of public comment and a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. In 2015, the Obama administration finalized the rule, which defined the extent of federal jurisdiction over small streams and tributaries.

The rule is particularly tricky to interpret in California because many streams and wetlands are ephemeral — they flow or are wet only immediately after it rains. Think arroyos in Southern California and vernal pools — seasonal ponds in small depressions with distinct plant and animal life — that dot the Central Valley.

Farmers and ranchers, of course, are not against clean water. But they object to rules that they say are impossible to interpret and that interfere with agricultural practices. The California Farm Bureau stepped in and has led the charge to roll back the rule.

The rhetoric on both sides has been escalating since long before the final rule was issued, particularly on the opposed side, after San Joaquin Valley farmer John Duarte was accused in 2012 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of damaging vernal pools when he plowed to plant wheat.

To fight the promised Trump rollback, California Democrats borrowed a move straight from the playbook of Scott Pruitt, who had sued the U.S. EPA 13 times and called for its destruction before Trump named him EPA administrator. State Senate Democratic leader Kevin de León of Los Angeles has introduced Senate Bill 49, which would use existing federal environmental law as the baseline for state law “so we can preserve the state we know and love, regardless of what happens in Washington.”

The California Farm Bureau welcomed the president’s executive order Wednesday as a rollback of confusing federal rules.

The chest bumping is good political theater, but California has the power to exert its authority over wetlands. The state already uses federal environmental law as a template for state law. And federal law largely leaves authority to the state.

The state needs to invest in institutional muscle at the State Water Resources Control Board to enforce rules that protect the environment from those who would fill wetlands and dump pollutants into streams or seasonal streambeds.

Californians know the value of wetlands in flood control and wildlife habitat. We all want clean water. If these are the priority state leaders say they are, the state should step up.

Waters of the US Rule in Jeopardy

Trump to sign WOTUS order on Tuesday

By Annie Snider and Jenny Hopkinson, POLITICO Pro

02/27/2017 05:54 PM EDT

President Trump will sign an executive order tomorrow afternoon beginning the process of unwinding the Obama administration’s controversial Waters of the U.S. rule, according to an agricultural industry source.

Trump vowed during the campaign to eliminate “some of our most intrusive regulations, like the Waters of the U.S. rule,” as well as the climate rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.

The water rule is aimed at ending the confusion sparked by two Supreme Court decisions about which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Obama administration estimated its rule would increase by 3 percent the number of marshes, bogs and creeks covered by the 1972 law, but farmers, homebuilders, oil and gas companies and other industry groups called it a massive land grab.

Trump’s newly installed EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is slated to speak at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which was one of the rule’s most vocal opponents.

The executive order is unlikely to have an immediate effect, since a court put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. Moreover, withdrawing the rule would require the agency to go through the formal rulemaking process, with a proposal, notice and comment period, and a final rule. Environmental groups and states that support the rule would almost certainly mount a fierce legal battle to defend it. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear arguments over a related question.

To view online:

Your Input for the California Water Plan

To All,

This is a message from DPR on getting public input to help shape the California Water Plan.


Do you have opinions about sustainable water management in California?

Here is your opportunity to have your say and help shape the state’s overall water planning document.

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is working on Update 2018 of the California Water Plan (Update 2018). Central to this Update is an assessment of how effective current water actions (programs and projects) are in advancing sustainable water management in California. Your contributions to this assessment will help shape State government water policies and investment priorities in Update 2018. You are also welcome to share this survey with others.

For the purpose of this assessment, we ask that you respond to the survey questions from an overall statewide perspective – not at a regional, agency, or organizational level – based on your current knowledge and experience. There is an opportunity to elaborate your point of view in the comment dialogue boxes of the survey.

Before taking this survey, we ask that you first read two short online articles – the Water Management Effectiveness Framework Overview and the California Water Sustainability Brochure. The overview and the brochure will provide you context, definitions and the focus of the assessment, and they will assist you in responding to the survey questions.

It will take you about 15-20 minutes to complete the multiple-choice questions; and you may need more time to include written comments in the dialogue boxes. Your comments will be valuable for informing the findings of the California Water Management Effectiveness Assessment. The survey can be completed in multiple sessions and you can return to the survey where you left off provided that you use the same device and browser.

We thank you in advance for participating in the California Water Management Effectiveness Assessment survey.

Symposium: Contaminants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta

Please join us for an upcoming symposium at UC Davis, convened by the Delta Science Program and CMSI with additional support from the State Water Resources Control Board.

“Contaminants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta: Novel Tools and Approaches to Evaluate Effects of Multiple Stressors”

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017

8:30 am – 5:00 pm

UC Davis Student Community Center – Multipurpose Room

Corner of Shields and California Avenues

Davis, CA 95616

To access the full roster of speakers, the event schedule and to RSVP, please click HERE. The symposium is free and open to the public but we request that you RSVP by 1/26.

For more information, please click HERE


Nir Oksenberg, Ph.D

Science Communication

Delta Science Program

Delta Stewardship Council


Clean River Alliance’s New Year’s Message

January 1, 2017

Dear friends,

Now that we are in a new year and we ready ourselves for the work of 2017 it only makes sense to peek back into the past twelve months and add up our totally grass-roots, all-volunteer accomplishments.

This year, over 550 volunteers have removed 155,510 pounds of garbage from the Russian River watershed between Hopland and Jenner.  Of that total, about 45,000 pounds was collected, bagged and staged for us by a subset of dedicated volunteers who are currently living without houses. None of that trash will land on our beaches this winter, nor will it end up in the Pacific Ocean – ever.

Clean River Alliance has spent the year expanding our efforts and adding more events to our calendar.  These include:

  • A weekly town cleanup in Guerneville every Monday afternoon;
  • An outreach effort to our house-less neighbors through the Vets Connect program every Thursday at the Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall, followed by the pick-up of trash that has been bagged up and staged for us by those same neighbors in the lower Russian River;
  • The 29th annual Russian River Watershed Clean-up in September in collaboration with many other agencies and entities;
  • Other watershed projects to remove detritus left by beach-goers, tourists and campers;
  • And, continued outreach and education efforts to residents and visitors alike on the importance of clean waterways.

None of this would have been possible without the ongoing support of many agencies and entities that have provided us with access, encouragement, in-kind contributions and fiscal sponsorship.

Thanks to Don McEnhill and Russian Riverkeeper for their faith in us and undying support.  Thanks to the County of Sonoma, our Board of Supervisors and their staff-people, and the Sonoma County Water Agency for assistance when we ask, and for picking up the phone when we call.  Thanks to West County Health Center’s Homeless Outreach Team for its collaborative spirit and ongoing encouragement, and to West County Community Services for all it does and is trying to do.

Along with these collaborations, we have also been honored to partner with other local community groups and non-profit organizations.  Amongst these are the B-Rad Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, North County Community Services, our local schools and businesses and many more.

Mostly, thanks to our utterly dedicated volunteers, aka: The Garbage Patch Kids, who continue to show up even when it’s cold and wet and muddy.  Faced with the direst circumstances, they remain cheerful, understanding, passionate and compassionate.  They are our most valuable assets and with them we are a growing, thriving organization.

Please consider a contribution now so we can continue to grow and expand our efforts in the coming year.  To make a donation online, go to Make sure to include a comment noting that your donation is for Clean River Alliance.

You can also mail us a check to P.O. Box 536, Guerneville CA 95446.

And, if you would like to volunteer, or simply talk trash, call me at 707-322-8304. Visit our website and like us on Facebook!

With sincere appreciation and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Chris Brokate
And the crew of Clean River Alliance

Bay Delta Conservation Plan Comment

From Restore the Delta:

Today, the Delta Tunnels Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was released online.

As we mentioned yesterday, this document is not a green light for the Delta Tunnels but rather should be understood as the submission of homework by sponsoring agencies (California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) to be evaluated by state and federal regulators who will determine if proposal can meet environmental and water quality standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A feat no previous version of the proposal has achieved.

Whenever Governor Brown wants to make a bold pronouncement on the Delta Tunnels proposal, he turns to his loyal stenographer Dan Morain, editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee. As he does again today in this story, “Jerry Brown plunges ahead on twin tunnels.”

Here is the reaction to this story by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta:

“Governor Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee that Delta Tunnels proposal is based on the best scientific thinking. That is simply not true. He left out that fish do worse with the tunnels, and that millions of Delta residents will be left with degraded water that will not meet Clean Water Act standards.

“The Governor failed to remember the dangers for Delta residents associated with the project, from toxic algal blooms, to increased boron and selenium in drinking water, to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 600,000 new cars on the road each year from construction.

“This forgetting on Governor Brown’s part is reckless and dangerous as he makes his appeal to President-elect Trump to support the project. Governor Brown is supporting a project that will leave Stockton, California, a majority-minority city, and other Delta environmental justice communities with degraded water — all for the benefit of rich water exporters in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, and Silicon Valley. Shame on Governor Brown. What dishonest pandering!”

Stormwater Improvement Project to Consider

To All,

Stormwater pollution is a serious problem in many of your watersheds, and many of you are using green stormwater infrastructure projects to address it.  I wanted to share information about a project one of your fellow members, the Charles River Watershed Association, has implemented in Chelsea, Massachusetts so that you can learn from their experiences too.


Blue Cities: Stormwater Improvement Project for Mace Apartments, Chelsea

Project Overview

The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) installed bio-filters within the Mill Hill neighborhood in Chelsea, which sits on a small neck of land bounded by Chelsea Creek and Mill Creek. Like other Chelsea neighborhoods, the site consists mostly of residential buildings interspersed with industrial and commercial development. Given the high amounts of impervious pavement in the area, stormwater runoff is a major contributor to pollution levels in both creeks. After analyzing the impact of this site on the water quality in Mill Creek, CRWA selected this site as a pilot project for implementing green infrastructure retrofits and monitoring the results on both water quality improvement and run off reduction from the site.

Benefits to installing bio-filters
Installed three bio-filters in a parking lot at the Mace Apartment Complex at the intersection of Crescent Avenue and Clinton Street

  • Improved quality of water by filtering stormwater runoff prior to it discharging into Mill Creek
  • Provided comprehensive training on maintenance to Chelsea Department for Public Work and Chelsea Housing Authority maintenance staff
  • Provided opportunity for residents to be involved in project design and implementation

Challenges faced during construction and post construction monitoring

  • Bid process and construction contract award was challenging and very time consuming
  • The lowest bid contractors were inexperienced and required extra supervision
  • Post construction monitoring involved the use of automated sampling equipment that required a steep learning curve
  • Ongoing maintenance has been a challenge

Blue Cities

CRWA’s Blue Cities Initiative works to reengineer urban landscapes to incorporate the design of natural green corridors and infrastructure. By restoring urban greenscapes Blue Cities Initiative also reestablishes natural hydrology that replenishes groundwater, reduces the pollution of stormwater to the Charles River and reduces flood risk. For more information on Blue Cities visit

Bio filter in center vegetated island
Bio filter along Mill Creek and Clinton Street

River Watch’s 20th Year Celebration

On October 22, California River Watch celebrated its 20th year in being a citizen activist environmental organization to protect the waters of U.S. in Northern California and now all of California. At the celebration, an award was given to Alan Levine who has been actively protecting forests and watersheds locally, regionally and statewide.

Alan Levine responded with an appreciate letter:




Symposium: Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams, Dec. 3, 9-1 pm

You are invited to the 12th Annual Berkeley River Restoration Symposium Saturday 03 December 9a-1p, Rm 112 Wurster Hall.

This year’s symposium features a keynote talk by Scott McBain on ‘Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams: lessons over two decades’, along with presentations of original graduate student research on a variety of topics, and a panel discussion on issues raised by the presentations and new developments in the field.  The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required. We will publish and announce the registration link at a later date.

Keynote talk:
Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams:  lessons over two decades Most of our major rivers are dammed, and ecosystem restoration must be undertaken in this context.  How can we manage flow, sediment, and channel morphology on such highly regulated rivers to restore downstream fluvial processes, form, and biota?  Based on over two decades of experience, Scott McBain describes the application and progress on this approach, drawing from examples on the Trinity River, San Joaquin River, Tuolumne River and others. He concludes with a discussion on upcoming scientific and management challenges to future application of this approach.

Scott McBain is a fluvial geomorphologist with 25 years’ experience working on rivers in the western US. His specialty is developing flow and sediment management regimes downstream of dams that improve the physical processes and form necessary to rehabilitate and improve river ecosystems. Scott has participated in numerous large-scale river rehabilitation efforts, including the Trinity River in northern California, and the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the Central Valley of California, and the central Platte River in Nebraska.  Scott serves as President of McBain Associates, a consulting firm in Arcata CA that specializes in regulated river rehabilitation.

Re: Russian River Biological Opinion and RR Low Flow DEIR


The Biological Opinion was based on NMFS views (ratified by Cal Fish & Wildlife) of how to substitute fish-rearing habitat to compensate for all the human-imposed changes to the Russian River, (apparently, in my view) without having to face off with any landowners in the tributaries OR along the main stem (except for the very few places in Jenner that might get swamped). The agencies focused on the SCWA operations that could be detrimental for salmonids, because that is the only target with the funding and the authority to support a system project involving more than one segment of the system.

At the Introductory workshop in Monte Rio, Bob Coey told me that it’s mostly aimed at steelhead, because they rear throughout the system, and are not as dependent on tribs as the Coho. Of course, the DEIR states that it’s about ALL the salmonids, but nobody ever accused this project of having a consistent focus.

So why the timing on creating the ISRP?

We don’t know exactly whose idea it was. If it was Grant’s (or Jay’s) I have to wonder if the aim was to create a framework for testing the effects of lowering flows.  (They did not expect that ISRP would take this long.)

SCWA has already been lowering flows according to the Biological Opinion’s prescriptions, getting separate permission to do so under 1610 each year, as they described at the hearing.

So now is the time to implement a study of the initial effects, which could be based on the science that have been collected and reported piecemeal for several years.

SCWA took steps to improve the scientific studies, and programs for reporting them, after about 2010 or 2011, when the agency held the first major gathering of the various entities and Counties involved.  Efren was very newly in his Supes position, and I affronted him at that first program by reaming out SCWA staff for claiming that “the statistics” showed no changes in water quality.

I had read the initial reports that detailed all the water quality data they had gathered in prior years, which were so few and scattered that neither seasonal nor annual variations could be analyzed for any of the collection sites.   I demanded that SCWA explain what statistical tests they had found to use, since they had so few and inconsistent data, and of course they could not. I followed up with email and calls, and eventually they had to admit that they had no statistics.

Everything got put onto a more scientific basis after that, via funding for the RCDs. They started doing more consistent water quality sampling and studies of food chain species, etc.  Those data may be worth looking at to determine if they can form the basis for a preliminary evaluation.