Ag Today March 1, 2019

Winter storms wash away drought, enlarge snowpack [Redding Record Searchlight]

California is drenched and its mountains are piled high with snow amid a still-unfolding winter of storms that was unimaginable just a few months ago. Drought conditions have almost been eliminated, hills blackened by huge wildfires are sporting lush coats of green, and snow has fallen in the usually temperate suburbs of Southern California, where chilly conditions have made jackets and scarves the rule….The California Department of Water Resources reported Thursday that the Sierra snowpack is now 153 percent of average to date….Where it hasn’t snowed, there has been rain, and a lot of it. Nearly 21 inches (53.3 centimeters) of rain fell in 48 hours this week near the Northern California wine country city of Guerneville, where the Russian River was slowly receding Thursday after extensive flooding.


Man drowns in Humboldt County floodwaters [KQED, San Francisco]

A dairy farm worker drowned in the floodwaters of Humboldt County’s Eel River Delta on Wednesday night while trying to get to his home where three children were trapped inside, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Dept. officials said….The victim was wading from a dairy barn to his home through up to five feet of water, when he was swept away by the fast-moving current….Two adults and one child tried to rescue the man by driving a tractor through the floodwaters. But the tractor stalled in the high water, and they lost sight of the victim,…


Trump’s interior secretary misusing post to aid California water district, complaint says [McClatchy News Service]

Complaints are mounting against Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt over allegations he used his position to help the interests of his former lobbying client, California’s powerful Westlands Water District. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations by partaking in decisions directly related to his past lobbying work, resulting in rules that would free up more river water to Fresno-based Westlands and weakening protections for certain endangered fish populations. It’s not the first of such complaints against Bernhardt, stemming from a report in the New York Times.


Editorial: Metropolitan Water District’s ‘generous’ Colorado River offer hurts Salton Sea hopes [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

In the grand chess match that has been the seven-state effort to craft a comprehensive Colorado River drought contingency plan, L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District just made a move to take the Imperial Irrigation District completely out of the game….The MWD offer to cover the 250,000 acre-feet of water that IID would be expected to leave in Lake Mead if it falls to a critical level in coming years (the pact runs to 2026) is an interesting development, to say the least….The sea’s future is a real calamity currently in progress. We believe the $200 million federal funds request was a fair one and the IID board’s use of its strong water rights position to try to win it was a shrewd move.


Senate confirms acting EPA chief for permanent role [Associated Press]

The Senate on Thursday confirmed former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite concerns by Democrats and one Republican about regulatory rollbacks he’s made in eight months as the agency’s acting chief. Senators voted 52-47 to confirm Wheeler, who was nominated by President Donald Trump after former administrator Scott Pruitt resigned last year amid a series of ethics allegations. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate environment committee, called Wheeler “uniquely qualified” to lead EPA and said that under Wheeler the agency is putting forward proposals that “both protect our environment and allow the country’s economy to flourish.” But Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Wheeler was failing to protect the environment and human health and was “nominated to unravel and undo the environmental protections that are now in place.”


Opinion: Scientists look for methane solutions [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

…Many of these ranches are in rural low-income communities. Declines in U.S. milk prices threaten the livelihood of many family-owned farms. Many are concerned that the added burden of meeting California methane reduction goals could drive dairy owners out of business….Scientists at Moss Landing Marine Labs aquaculture center hope recently initiated research will have the potential to revitalize the dairy industry while simultaneously propelling the algal aquaculture industry and simultaneously reducing U.S. dairies carbon emissions. Recent research has shown that changes in feeding strategies, such as supplemental seaweed feed additives (used at 1-2 percent of feed material) can reduce methane production from cattle by up to 99 percent.