Never mind those earthquakes: Atmospheric rivers could put Sacramento 30 feet under water

July 9, 2019
Candice Wang
The Sacramento Bee

The biggest freshwater rivers on Earth don’t flow along the planet’s surface.

Instead, they surge and whip through the atmosphere thousands of feet above our heads, carrying 2½ times the amount of water that gushes through the Amazon River at any given time.

They’re called atmospheric rivers, or, more aptly, rivers in the sky.

These rivers are capable of burying Sacramento under 30 feet of water.

A research team led by Sasha Gershunov at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego published a new study on atmospheric rivers in Nature Scientific Reports this week that places atmospheric rivers under scrutiny as the driving cause behind California’s increasingly extreme, infrequent bouts of precipitation.

Gershunov’s team used 16 global climate models to analyze the expanding role of atmospheric rivers as contributors to precipitation in California. The results show that atmospheric rivers are getting stronger and wetter, and catastrophic events like the Great Flood of 1862 could happen again.

Read more here.

Aerojet Superfund Site Community Workshop

June 24, 2019

The Environmental Council of Sacramento has been providing guidance for the cleanup of this Aerojet superfund site for several years now. There is a workshop about the cleanup happening on July 10, 2019 that the public is invited to attend.

EPA Community Workshop Aerojet Area 40 Operable Unit 10 Cleanup (click here for the Fact Sheet) – July 10, 2019 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM – Folsom Community Center – 52 Natoma Street, Folsom, CA 95630

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invites you to participate in a workshop describing cleanup activities that will occur in August and September this year at Aerojet Area 40 OU-10, located east of and adjacent to Prairie City Road, south of Highway 50 and north of White Rock Road. The purpose of the meeting is to give a brief presentation on the cleanup, discuss the schedule and answer the public’s questions. In addition, there will a poster board session with subject matter expert available. If you have any questions, please contact Jackie Lane, Community Involvement Coordinator, at (415) 972-3236 or by email at lane[dot]jackie[at]epa[dot]gov.

Click here to access the Aerojet Area 40 Operable Unit 10 Remedial Action Plan.

Click here for past posts from us on the clean up of this property.

Comments re the Regional Water Authority (RWA) Planning Forum

On January 11, 2019, the Environmental Council of Sacramento and Habitat 2020, sent comments regarding the Regional Water Authority (RWA) Planning Forum.

Below is the content of our letter in full.


John Woodling
Executive Director
Regional Water Authority
5620 Birdcage Street, Ste 180
Citrus Heights, CA 95610

Subject: Regional Water Authority (RWA) Planning Forum

Dear Mr. Woodling,

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS), a 501c3 organization, and Habitat 2020, the Conservation Committee of ECOS, are partner coalitions dedicated to protecting the natural resources of the greater Sacramento region while building healthier, more equitable, economically thriving communities. ECOS-Habitat 2020 member organizations include: 350 Sacramento, AARP, Breathe California-Sacramento Emigrant Trails, Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, International Dark-Sky Association, Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Mutual Housing California, Physicians for Social Responsibility Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association, Sacramento Green Democrats, Sacramento Housing Alliance, Sacramento Natural Foods Coop, Sacramento Audubon Society, Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Sacramento Vegetarian Society, Save Our Sandhill Cranes, Save the American River Association, Sierra Club Sacramento Group, Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk, and the Sacramento Area Creeks Council.

ECOS/Habitat 2020 are heartened by the extensive work the Regional Water Authority (RWA) and its member organizations are doing to improve the Sacramento Region’s (Region) water reliability and security. The 2018 update of the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (“Plan”) provides a solid framework to guide the Region’s water purveyors and GSAs to improve interconnectivity; engage in water transfers, recharge and banking; plan for and manage the three American River Subbasins sustainably; and, ensure that the Region’s three river systems have sustaining flows, temperatures, and water quality; and, provide the needed habitat for the flora and fauna they support.

We understand that RWA has an established review group called the Planning Forum. ECOS/Habitat 2020 would be pleased to formally join this group. If this meets with RWA needs please include Ted Rauh as our contact point. Ted can be reached at tnrauh[at]att[dot]net or at (916) 261-8011.

We also understand that RWA is preparing to engage in a public awareness campaign to convey to elected officials, agency decision makers, opinion leaders, and the public, the importance of the projects and activities identified in the Plan and how the Plan lays out a prudent path for the region’s water future. We would be pleased to participate with RWA in the development and implementation of this campaign. ECOS/Habitat 2020 represent, or are affiliated with, most of the environmental and community based groups in the Region, and have strong ties with conservation and other public interest groups as well. We believe we can be of significant assistance. However, we believe several key issues need to be addressed to ensure the full success of outreach effort. If these issues are not addressed important aspects of the Plan may be called into question because of its failure to address the Region’s three groundwater subbasins equally and equitably.

Specifically, we strongly believe that each Subbasin needs to have comprehensive Subbasin descriptive modeling systems that assure accurate accounting and impact assessment of both recharge and pumping operations, and accurately describe the flows and elevations of groundwater through the Subbasin so that a Subbasin management approach can be carried out that is capable of responding to delayed changes within the Subbasin due to pumping and recharge operations, and responds to GDE and other triggers. RWA is in the process of establishing this type of modeling system for the North American Subbasin and is actively working with the other two Subbasins to adopt the same system or establish compatible systems. We fully support these efforts.

The Plan includes the potential for substantial water banking resulting from excess storm water runoff. We have received information from UC Water experts that this resource constitutes a real potential for our region. SAFCA is moving forward with a series of actions outlined in the Plan that can make significant quantities of excess storm water available over sufficient time frames to allow for selective regional groundwater recharge and banking under the right conditions. A critical step in satisfying some of these conditions is the completion of a thorough analysis of where within the Region the prime recharge and extraction zones are located. This analysis should include each area’s compatibility with existing land use and water management/conveyance constraints. This information will allow for appropriate modeling to be developed so that the actual storage, flow, and recovery potential of these groundwater resources can be fully understood. We understand that UC Davis is preparing a project plan to carry out this analysis that may be ready for funding in the near future. We think that a project to determine this information should be included within the Plan.

The above observations are not intended to deter RWA’s important planning and project management activities, but rather to point out several gaps that if not addressed, may diminish the extensive work that has already been done. Regardless of RWA’s ability to react to our suggestions, ECOS/Habitat 2020 stand ready to work collaboratively with RWA to communicate the importance of regional water security and the plans and projects that best lead the region toward this goal. We stand ready to meet with you and your staff to further explore these points and how we may assist in your Agency’s efforts to effect comprehensive water security that can benefit the environment. Robert Burness can be reached at rmburness[at]comcast[dot]net or 916-956-0365.

Sincerely,

Robert C. Burness
Co-chair of Habitat 2020

Ralph Propper
Board President of ECOS


Read the letter in PDF by clicking here.

Comments re American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan Update

On January 11, 2019, the Environmental Council of Sacramento and Habitat 2020, sent comments regarding the 2018 update of the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Below is the content of our letter in full.


Richard M. Johnson (Sent via email to johnsonr[at]saccounty[dot]net)
Executive Director of Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency
1007 7th St, 7th floor
Sacramento 95814

Subject: 2018 update of the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan

Dear Mr. Johnson,

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS), a 501c3 organization, and Habitat 2020, the Conservation Committee of ECOS, are partner coalitions dedicated to protecting the natural resources of the greater Sacramento region while building healthier, more equitable, economically thriving communities. ECOS-Habitat 2020 member organizations include: 350 Sacramento, AARP, Breathe California-Sacramento Emigrant Trails, Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, International Dark-Sky Association, Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, Mutual Housing California, Physicians for Social Responsibility Sacramento Chapter, Sacramento Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association, Sacramento Green Democrats, Sacramento Housing Alliance, Sacramento Natural Foods Coop, Sacramento Audubon Society, Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Sacramento Vegetarian Society, Save Our Sandhill Cranes, Save the American River Association, Sierra Club Sacramento Group, Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk, and the Sacramento Area Creeks Council.

We are heartened by the extensive work the Sacramento Area Flood Control Authority (SAFCA) and the Regional Water Authority (RWA) are doing to improve the Sacramento Region’s water reliability, security, and flood protection. The 2018 update of the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (“Plan”) includes SAFCA’s efforts to improve Regional flood control, provide for storm water management, and develop excess storm water recharge opportunities all in the face of increasing storm intensity and frequency due to the impacts of climate change. We are especially interested in SAFCA’s efforts to develop and promote the potential beneficial uses of excess storm water that moves down both the American and Cosumnes Rivers. Like SAFCA, we would like to see some of this water captured to restore aquifer levels and stored in the Region’s Subbasins for future use during periods of drought. SAFCA is commended for its success in securing the financial resources required to carry out its programs and projects in this vitally important area of flood protection.

We understand that one of the next steps to acquiring this excess storm water recharge resource is to complete a thorough analysis of where within the Region the prime recharge and extraction zones are located. This analysis should include the area(s) compatibility with existing land usage and water management/conveyance constraints. We understand that Dr. Graham Fogg of UC Davis is preparing a project plan to carry out this analysis and that SAFCA has already held discussions with the Cosumnes Subbasin GSAs on this same topic. A project or projects to carry out this work in both the South American and the Cosumnes Subbasins should be a high priority for inclusion within the Plan, and again, we hope that SAFCA will take a leadership role in working with the UC Davis Water Group and the appropriate GSAs to fund this important work.

We understand that RWA is preparing to engage in a public awareness campaign to convey to elected officials, agency decision makers, opinion leaders, and the public, the importance of the projects and activities identified in the Plan and how they lay out a prudent path for the region’s water future. SAFCA’s efforts will certainly be prominently featured in this public outreach effort. We hope to participate with SAFCA and RWA in this campaign. ECOS/Habitat 2020 represents most of the environmental and community-based groups in the Region and has strong ties with conservation and other public interest groups as well.

We note with keen interest the efforts SAFCA and others are making to work with the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority (SCGA) and the Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to join with the North American Subbasin GSAs to develop and adopt a comprehensive American River Basin descriptive modeling system (SacIWRM). The region wide adoption of SacIWRM will ensure accurate accounting and impact assessment of both recharge and pumping operations and accurately describe the flows and elevations of groundwater through and between each Subbasin. The SacIWRM will enable each Subbasin’s GSAs to adopt Subbasin management plans that are capable of responding to delayed changes within the Subbasin due to pumping and recharge operations, and respond to GDE and other triggers requiring GSA actions. We understand that SAFCA has volunteered to pay the additional costs the Cosumnes Subbasin GSAs will incur to ensure SacIWRM meets the Cosumnes Subbasin needs. We strongly hope that that the Cosumnes Subbasin GSAs will adopt the SacIWRM model and, if needed, accept SAFCA’s generous financial offer. We will engage with SAFCA and RWA in any way practical to assist in accomplishing this objective.

ECOS/Habitat 2020 stand ready to work collaboratively with SAFCA to communicate the importance of regional water security including appropriate storm water management, recharge, and flood protection; and the plans and projects that best lead the region toward this goal. We stand ready to meet with you and your staff to further explore these points and how we may assist in your Agency’s efforts to effect a comprehensive water security investment that can actually benefit the environment. If need be, please contact Robert Burness at rmburness[at]comcast[dot]net or 916-956-0365.
Sincerely,

Robert C. Burness
Co-chair of Habitat 2020

Ralph Propper
Board President of ECOS

CC via email: Tim Washburn, Director of Planning, SAFCA, washburnr[at]saccounty[dot]net


Read the letter in PDF by clicking here.

A Note From Our Treasurer: ECOS Needs Your Support

January 11, 2019

Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. I want to highlight some of the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s (ECOS) accomplishments last year, inform you about our plans for the New Year, and ask for your continued financial support—because ECOS would not exist without support from local environmental stewards like you.
We need your support. Please consider becoming a member – better yet with a recurring monthly donation of ten or twenty bucks a month (less than the price of going out to dinner!). You can become a dues-paying member and support our community by clicking here: https://www.ecosacramento.net/membership-account/membership/.

We accomplished a lot in 2018:
· ECOS wins lawsuit securing light rail funding. ECOS secured $40.5 million for the Sacramento Regional Transit Light Rail system by settling our lawsuit challenging the Caltrans Environmental Impact Report for the Capital City Freeway Improvement Project. This money will be used to complete double tracking to Folsom, purchase low floor train cars, and resume evening service on the Gold Line.
· ECOS organizes 29th annual Earth Day. On April 22, 2018, ECOS hosted Sacramento’s annual Earth Day celebration in Southside Park—the largest annual environmental event in Sacramento County. This event now draws over 3,000 visitors to live music, 150 nonprofit and crafts vendor booths, and the largest electric vehicle display and test-drive event in the Sacramento region. Thanks to our partners the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association and Charge Across Town, some 40 different electric vehicle models were displayed by owners and several hundred test-drives were conducted by regional EV dealers.
· ECOS advocates for underserved communities. In 2018, ECOS advocated for environmental protection in green spaces occupied by Sacramento’s growing homeless population and for expanded homeless services and transitional housing. In addition, ECOS established an Environmental Justice Committee within our organization to identify the priorities of underserved communities and help build networks in support of our mutual environmental interests, including the expansion of public transit, affordable infill housing, and living wages.
· Housing, housing, housing. With the economy continuing to improve, land use projects of increasing size and adverse environmental impact were proposed in Sacramento County last year. If the region does not accommodate the new urban housing market, sprawl will continue, threatening whatever habitat, agriculture and open space is left. So we have also paid a great deal of attention to the intensification of urban development in the region’s cities (Elk Grove, Roseville, Sacramento, Galt, Citrus Heights, West Sacramento, etc.) where the new urban housing market could be focused.

In 2019, ECOS will focus on future transportation funding options, Phase 2 hearings on the California WaterFix, local electric vehicle roll-out, environmental justice group empowerment, and local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act next year. You can support our work by becoming a member: https://www.ecosacramento.net/membership-account/membership/.

As you know, we are a small, local organization that operates on a shoestring budget and depends on the financial support of community members like you. ECOS does a lot with a little: we have an annual budget of just thousands of dollars; with more members and an expanded budget, we can serve the community better. We know you receive requests from many organizations and hope our decades of dedicated community service and proven success earn us a spot on your list. As always, we would be extremely grateful for your support.

Happy New Year!

Best Regards,

Earl Withycombe, ECOS Treasurer

P.S. There are many ways to support ECOS. Beyond your annual donation we encourage you to become a monthly sustainer, which give us the financial stability to do more. You can do this by visiting our website (https://www.ecosacramento.net/), and then clicking on “Donate” under “Support ECOS”. We also welcome volunteers for every aspect of our work – you’ll have fun and learn skills as you help our environment. Contact us at office[at]ecosacramento[dot]net.

Approval of the Alternative Plan to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan

On October 23, 2018, ECOS sent a letter to the California Department of Water Resources regarding the Approval of the Alternative Plan to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Below is the text of our letter. Click here to view the letter in PDF.

October 23, 2018

Karla Nemeth, Director
Department of Water Resources
1416 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Email: Janiene[dot]Friend[at]water[dot]ca[dot]gov

Re: Approval of the Alternative Plan to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) had previously expressed our concerns regarding the request to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) by Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority (SCGA) to approve an Alternative Plan to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) (See attachments 1 and 2). SCGA’s continued, largely passive, approach to groundwater management over the past several years has strengthened our view that SCGA’s GMP and current governance and finance structure do not constitute a legally adequate “alternative” to preparation of a GSP. The purpose of this letter is to further reinforce our opposition to SCGA’s request, and to urge DWR to quickly find that SCGA is not in compliance with SGMA, and, therefore should immediately begin preparing a GSP.

The County of Sacramento recently approved the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) which streamlines Federal and State permitting for covered developments and infrastructure projects while protecting habitat, open space, and agricultural lands. The HCP encompasses 317,655 acres of Sacramento County. Of this amount, 36,282 acres will become part of an interconnected preserve system and include important Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs). Twenty eight plant and wildlife species and their natural habitats have been targeted for conservation. The Sacramento Central Subbasin (Subbasin) is largely within the HCP’s boundary. Unfortunately SCGA did not actively participate in the development of the HCP. Nor has SCGA documented the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems within the Subbasin that are a critical part of SGMA and the GSP planning process. SCGA needs to establish a comprehensive monitoring program that will serve as a foundation for effective groundwater management and recharge programs. This program must be an accounting based water level and water quality framework that supports SCGA taking appropriate action when trigger points are reached. It is our belief that SCGA will only accomplish these important SGMA requirements when DWR directs it to develop and implement a GSP. Absent a GSP, the groundwater dependent ecosystems of the SSHCP preserve system will be at risk, which will place the entire SSHCP conservation strategy at risk.

SCGA’s continuing passive approach to groundwater management results means that it is not only neglecting problems but missing opportunities. ECOS has recently learned of the full import of the Sacramento Central Subbasin’s significance as a potential major storm water recharge area and groundwater resource for the water security of the Region. According to Dr. Graham Fogg of UC Water, the Subbasin is one of only two basins in the entire Sacramento Valley with currently identified geology which can readily accept large amounts of excess storm water as recharge. Dr. Fogg is developing a program of research to determine the optimal locations of the Subbasin’s recharge areas. Unfortunately, SCGA has not exerted any leadership in this critically important area of Subbasin management and is not currently working with Dr. Fogg on the research design. If SCGA were actively developing a GSP, the plan requirements necessitate that SCGA do the foundational work that will assist the Region’s water purveyors and other’s with key stakes in the Region’s water future, to move forward to develop and implement a major program of storm water recharge in the Subbasin.

Specifically, the GSP framework requires SCGA to fully document GDEs. This action will ensure Subbasin management decisions are not in conflict with GDEs and the HCP, including the siting and management of recharge and extraction facilities. The GSP framework requires that SCGA design and implement a Subbasin monitoring network that meets state standards and includes inter/intra basin coordination. The development of this monitoring system coupled with coordination between SCGA and neighboring subbasins is integral to the development of a Subbasin recharge program. Additionally the GSP requires management zones for GDEs. This planning effort will serve as the integration point between recharge and extraction zones, and the HCP and GDEs. SCGA’s development of a GSP will bring about proactive water quality and groundwater level monitoring and management (including GDEs and areas in the basin undergoing remediation). SCGA has not embraced a management role in these important areas but as part of the GSP process it will need to do so if significant recharge is to occur in the Subbasin. Finally, the GSP framework calls for the documentation of important land use considerations. Clearly, if SCGA were following the GSP process it would be actively identifying high priority storm water recharge areas within the Subbasin and working with local land use authorities to assure their preservation.

ECOS is aware of the importance of establishing one or more water banks as part of a comprehensive Subbasin groundwater recharge program. Dr. Robert Gailey of UC Water recently presented a discussion of the Regional groundwater recharge storage opportunities afforded by water banking as well as the issues the Region faces in bringing one or more banks into fruition. SCGA’s completion of a GSP will provide the monitoring and accountability framework and the Subbasin management structure necessary for the establishment of an excess storm water recharge program and water bank(s). Subbasin management, groundwater recharge, and water banking are new concepts and general public awareness of them is low. DWR’s GSP requirements compel SCGA to engage in community and stakeholder outreach and engagement. SCGA has not engaged in outreach and has not implemented an effective communication strategy. Both of these GSP requirements are essential to gaining community support for effective basin management.

We believe the above issues, coupled with earlier concerns we and others have raised, provide compelling reasons why DWR should reject SCGA’s Alternative Plan. We urge you to expeditiously take this action.


Sincerely,

Ralph Proper
President, ECOS

Rob Burness
Co-Chair of Habitat 2020

cc: Don Nottoli, Sacramento Board of Supervisors
Darrell Eck, Staff Engineer, Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority
Forrest Williams Jr., Chairman, Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority