Governor Newsom Eases Some Drought Restrictions
The dozen atmospheric rivers that have hit the State of California since late December have gone a long way toward alleviating the state’s historic three-year drought, with the U.S. Drought Monitor now classifying roughly half of the State as drought-free. In light of “improved conditions,” Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday issued an Executive Order terminating many of the drought restrictions imposed by his administration in recent years. Among those restrictions terminated is the 15% voluntary water conservation target and the requirement that water agencies implement ‘level 2’ of their drought contingency plans.
The Executive Order maintains several drought restrictions, particularly for water supplies which have not been sufficiently replenished during recent storms. For instance, orders imposing drought restrictions within the Klamath River basin and Colorado River basin remain in effect, as do the Governor’s emergency orders governing groundwater supplies.
The Governor’s drought emergency proclamation covering all California counties likewise remains in effect, enabling state agencies’ “drought response and recovery efforts to continue,” according to a press release from the Governor’s office. Additional details are also available via a fact sheet released by the Newsom Administration.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) on Friday also reacted to the favorable water supply forecast by announcing that the agency “now expects to deliver 75 percent of requested water supplies [to State Water Project Contractors], up from 35 percent announced in February” and the highest allocation since 2017. For more information, see DWR’s press release, here.
The Newsom Administration has taken several executive actions in response to the unprecedented series of winter storms recently, including issuing an executive order earlier this month suspending certain water rights statutes and wildlife protection laws until June 1 to allow for the “diversions of flood flows” to reduce flood risk and accelerate groundwater recharge.
CDFW Collars Two Whaleback Pack Wolves
On Friday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that it had collared two wolves belonging to Siskiyou County’s Whaleback Pack one week prior, on March 17.
The capture-and-collar effort was enabled by use of “a contracted helicopter and capture crew and fixed-wing aircraft from CDFW’s Air Services Unit.” The aerial unit was able to track the Whaleback Pack “through intermittent signals coming from [breeding male] OR85’s original collar,” which had previously been believed to be non-functioning.
CDFW was able to replace OR85’s collar with a new radio-collar unit and additionally collared a 97-pound yearling male from the Whaleback Pack’s 2021 litter.
The Whaleback Pack has been identified as the cause of 26 livestock depredations across 24 incidents in the past year, with many more suspected kills reported to CDFW. With two Whaleback wolves now collared, CDFW will be better able to warn ranchers of wolf activity near their operations and will be better able to confirm suspected depredations by the pack.
No other wolves in California are currently fitted with functioning collars. A Quarterly Wolf News Update also issued by CDFW on Friday notes that a collar attached to wolf LAS09F of the Lassen Pack “ceased functioning on August 19, and there are no other functioning collars in the pack.” According to CDFW, “Ground capture attempts to collar additional wolves will resume later this spring.”
43 Counties Remain Under Winter Storm State of Emergency
Governor Gavin Newsom has proclaimed states of emergency to exist in 43 counties throughout the State resulting from the series of severe winter storms which have hit California in recent weeks. The proclamations activate the California National Guard and tap “All agencies of the state government” to assist in disaster response and relief efforts in the counties designated as suffering a state of emergency. President Joe Biden has similarly approved a federal Emergency Disaster Declaration for impacted counties. For more information, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
Biden WOTUS Rule Takes Effect
The Biden Administration’s revised “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) Rule took effect last week in California and 47 other states after a Texas judge declined to issue a nationwide injunction against the Rule’s implementation. Accordingly, CCA cautions members against conducting activities that alter water flow without first consulting with technical assistance providers. There are several ongoing lawsuits challenging the 2023 WOTUS Rule, and a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. EPA could also impact or nullify portions of the Rule. For additional details, see last week’s edition of Legislative Bulletin.
USDA APHIS Extends Comment Deadline for Animal Disease Traceability Rule
Last week, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a 30-day extension for public comments on the agency’s Proposed Rule regarding the “Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison.” Comments will now be accepted through April 19. The Proposed Rule would require that eartags “be both visually and electronically readable in order to be recognized for use as official eartags for interstate movement of cattle and bison” and would apply to all sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older, all dairy cattle (as defined) and all cattle used in rodeo or other recreational events. For more information, see the January 23 edition of Legislative Bulletin or listen to Season 3 Episode 3 of the Sorting Pen podcast featuring Dr. Tom Talbot.
SWRCB Conditionally Suspends all Shasta River Curtailments through April 30
On Wednesday the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced that, in light of predicted precipitation and snowpack, all curtailments within the Shasta River watershed are suspended through April 30.
The suspension of curtailments is conditioned upon two factors. First, minimum flows must be met at the Yreka gage (minimum flows are set at 105 cubic feet per second (cfs) through Friday and 70 cfs throughout April). Second, water rightsholders with suspended curtailments must work with the Watermaster and SWRCB “as appropriate to manage flows.”
As announced in last week’s Legislative Bulletin, curtailments within the Scott River watershed remain suspended through at least midnight this Thursday.
As a reminder, the SWRCB has suspended its prohibition against “inefficient livestock watering” within the Scott and Shasta River watersheds provided diverters comply with the conditions previously detailed in Legislative Bulletin. For additional details, review the Scott River and Shasta River Watersheds Drought Response webpage.
Finally, previously-reported water rights curtailment suspensions and conditional curtailments remain in effect for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Russian River, Deer Creek and Mill Creek watersheds.
UC Rangelands Survey for Farmers and Ranchers in California
From UC Rangelands
California Ranchers: We invite you to participate in a survey about California ranchers’ and farmers’ concerns, perceptions, information, and education needs related to changing climate conditions and adaptation. This survey is part of a research study funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and conducted by researchers at UC Cooperative Extension, UC Davis, and the USDA California Climate Hub. Survey results will be used to develop extension and education programs for farmers and ranchers.
Participation is voluntary and responses will be kept confidential; responses will be aggregated and shared in reports, academic papers, and presentations.
We expect the survey to take approximately 20 minutes. As a thank you, you can choose to enter a drawing to win one of forty $50 gift cards to Amazon (details at the end of survey).
Click here to take the survey.
For any questions about this survey or study, contact Leslie Roche, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tapan Pathak, email@example.com, Vikram Koundinya, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Namah Taku-Forchu, email@example.com.