Ag Today December 23, 2019

California sues EPA over weakening of clean water rules [San Francisco Chronicle]

The bitter fight between state regulators and the Trump administration over clean water intensified Friday when California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and several other states sued the federal government for eliminating Obama-era protections for wetlands and streams across the country….The Trump administration announced in September that it would withdraw the Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS, making it easier for farmers, builders and industry executives to develop land at the headwaters of rivers, creeks and some navigable waters….The Obama rule infuriated the business community, which feared having to seek costly permits for even small projects like building a barn on land next to a protected pond or slough.


Kern River water is at the center of another legal battle [Bakersfield Californian]

The relative lull in lawsuits over Kern River water was broken Dec. 11 when Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District filed a complaint against the city of Bakersfield….But the reason for the fight can be summed up in a single acronym — SGMA….So, Rosedale, as well as Bakersfield and every other GSA, is anxiously counting its supplies in order to show the smallest deficit possible in their groundwater sustainability plans. The stakes are high. The size of a GSA’s deficit can mean the difference between farming as usual and having to take thousands of acres out of production. For valley cities, groundwater supplies equal continued growth.


Delta smelt: the tiny fish caught in California’s war with Trump [The Guardian]

…For conservationists and ecologists like Durand, the delta smelt are harbingers, their diminishing numbers a signal that the delta’s ecosystem is dangerously close to collapse. For California farmers with thousands of acres to irrigate and millions of dollars on the lines, the smelt are in the way – the state listed the species as endangered in 2009, and in effect constrained how much water can be pulled from the delta. Now, the creatures caught in the crossfire of the state’s water wars have all but disappeared, and biologists worry that newly empowered forces within the Trump administration could usher them into oblivion.


Young salmon get a new home near Sacramento River [Redding Record Searchlight]

Over the next few months, thousands of young salmon will be moving into Anderson River Park. Fisheries officials recently completed work building a channel that flows nearly a mile through the undeveloped portion of the park near the Sacramento River….Federal and state fisheries officials hope the channel becomes a “fish nursery” where young salmon, trout and steelhead are safe from predators, said Mike Cook, regional director for River Partners, a nonprofit group that works with federal and state agencies to restore wetlands and fish habitat.


Sierra sees best start to the snow pack since 2010 [San Francisco Chronicle]

With nonstop storms barreling across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges since Thanksgiving week, the snowpack is off to a healthy start. As of yesterday, the snowpack was 109 percent of average for this time of year, and 30 percent of the April 1 average….Last year, the snowpack was 82 percent of average on Dec. 19, and in 2017 it was 37 percent of normal. The last time the percentage was similar was in 2012 with 94 percent on Dec. 2019. The last time it was higher was in 2010 when the snowpack saw an especially impressive start at 169 percent of normal.


U.S. government says verdict in Bayer’s Roundup case should be reversed [Reuters]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department said a federal appeals court should reverse a lower court verdict finding Bayer AG liable in the case of a California man who blamed its Roundup weed killer for his cancer. The government said in a friend of the court brief filed on Friday that glyphosate, the weed killer’s active ingredient, is not a carcinogen and as a result a warning on the label was not required as California state law demands. The backing by the EPA and Justice Department comes days after Bayer asked a U.S. federal appeals court to throw out a $25 million judgment it was ordered to pay Edwin Hardeman. Bayer had denied its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.