‘Better pay attention to your mail’

That’s some free legal advice from Delta water attorney Dante Nomellini.

Nomellini pointed out at a meeting last week that farmers or other water users who fail to respond to curtailment notices could face fines.

It’s true that the State Water Resources Control Board ultimately decided that senior water rights holders — those whose rights predate 1914, or whose land directly abuts a river — are not subject to emergency rules bypassing the normal curtailment process.

But those growers may still receive notices telling them to stop taking water. The difference is that the normal, lengthier appeals process will be available to them.

“We’re not out of it yet, but it appears there won’t be a slew of threats against the pre-1914/riparian water right holders until the irrigation season is over,” said another Delta water attorney, John Herrick. “That’s an optimistic view of it.”

Still, Nomellini added, “You’d better pay attention to your mail from now on. Anything that looks like it might relate to water could have a penalty associated with it” for failing to respond.

“…The excuse that my wife didn’t pick the mail up, or my husband got it in his pickup and didn’t look at it,” might not hold water, he said.

(That’s my pun, not Nomellini’s.)

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What’s on tap — week of July 21 and beyond

Tuesday, July 22: Stockton East Water District weekly board meeting. Noon, 6767 E. Main St., Stockton. Agenda available here.

Wednesday, July 23: San Joaquin Bike Coalition’s weekly ride. 7 p.m. behind the Empire Theater in Stockton. Anyone with basic bike riding skills welcome. More details here.

Thursday, July 24: Community workshop on Stockton’s general plan. Share your views how the city should grow into the future. 6 p.m., City Hall, 425 N. El Dorado St. More details here.

Friday, July 25: Delta Stewardship Council meeting. Agenda includes discussion of Delta flows and salinity issues. Agenda available here.

Saturday, July 26: Guided photo walk, Cosumnes River Preserve. One-mile loop trip takes visitors through wetlands and riparian forest. 9 a.m., visitor center. More details here.

Saturday, July 26: Wildlife paddle tour, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. 8 a.m. View river otters, egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, beavers and turtles while learning about the refuge. The tour takes place in an area that is normally off-limits. More tours scheduled throughout August and September. More details here.

Friday, Aug. 1: Evening opportunity! Wildlife paddle tour, Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. 6 p.m. View river otters, egrets, herons, hawks, pelicans, beavers and turtles while learning about the refuge. The tour takes place in an area that is normally off-limits. More tours scheduled throughout August and September. More details here.

Saturday, Aug. 2-Sunday, Aug. 3: Woodbridge Wilderness Area open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The area is typically open the first three weekends of each month. Explore a quarter-mile of Mokelumne River frontage. Free. More details here.

Saturday, Aug. 9: Electronic waste collection event hosted by Onsite Electronics Recycling. 9 a.m., San Joaquin Delta College Shima 2 parking lot. More details here.

Saturday, Aug. 9: Full-moon “bat paddle” at the Cosumnes River Preserve. Visitors will paddle to the Franklin Bridge to watch 70,000 Mexican free-tail bats fly out into the sky at sundown. Space is limited; RSVP required. More details here.

Tuesday, Aug. 12: Class, “California Camping Basics.” 7 p.m., Stockton REI. Class will cover camping essentials, gear and equipment, and locations. More details here.

Wednesday, Aug. 13: Green Team San Joaquin meeting, hosted by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. Guest speakers are James Bohon, assistant sacretary of rthe California Environmental Protection Agency, and the city of Stockton’s David Stagnaro, who will talk about Stockton’s Climate Action Plan. 9 a.m., 445 W. Weber Avenue Suite 220.

Monday, Aug. 25: Sierra Club meeting. Theme: “Diary of a Steelhead Trout: From River to Sea and Back Again.” Stacy Luthy, a marine biologist and coordinator of Friends of the Lower Calaveras River, will talk about how rivers connect to the ocean and the fish that make the journey. 7 p.m., Central United Methodist Church, 3700 Pacific Avenue in Stockton.

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Not quite Sally Savewater, but…

San Joaquin County has launched a new drought website, sjcsavewater.org, which is intended to give residents practical advice and conservation tips.

That info might be especially important now that state officials have approved penalties of up to $500 a day for those who waste water.

The county has also produced a $9,000 commercial that you might have already seen on TV. I’ll post it here, if my technologically-challenged fingers can manage the task.

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The drought, in context

My initial, layperson’s take on today’s drought report:

1) This is a billion-dollar drought — the report predicts $1 billion in crop revenue loss across California, to be exact — but consider the fact that the state enjoys $45 billion in crop revenue in a typical year. So, put in context, the revenue loss this year amounts to 2.2 percent. (These numbers are all laid out on page 15 of the report.)

Jobs: The drought may eliminate 7,500 of them, but in an average year California provides 200,000 ag jobs. So the drought accounts for about a 3.8 percent decline in jobs.

This is important perspective. The drought is terrible. Is it really “crippling” to the state as a whole?

2) The most alarming numbers to me have nothing to do with job loss or revenue decline. They have to do with actual water use.

The new report projects the state will lose 6.6 million acre-feet of water this year, one-quarter of the water that would normally be available. A 25 percent decline.

And yet, when you account for increased groundwater pumping, the state will lose “only” about 1.5 million acre-feet of water, reducing the impact from a 25 percent decline to a 6 percent decline in water supply.

That shows how heavily we’ll be relying on precious groundwater. That reliance may help keep the jobs and revenue losses that I mentioned earlier relatively small, but certainly raises questions about the long-term sustainability of our aquifers.

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‘It is a lost heritage’

Vernal Falls. Photo by Implosiveblue/Wikimedia

Reader Bob Shellenberger laments Stockton’s somewhat severed connection to Yosemite National Park.

He writes:

“California’s two major tourist attractions in the late 1800s were the Calaveras Grove of Big Trees and Yosemite (originally Yo Semite) Valley. The route to both went through Stockton. To visit Yosemite, you either took ‘the train of cars’ to Stockton or came by river boat (my favorite). From Stockton another railroad extended as far as Milton. From there, it was by stage coach to Chinese Camp and the Big Oak Flat route on to Yosemite.

“Stockton was, indeed, the original gateway to Yosemite and the city reflected its pride in this association. The appellation Yosemite was once in common use throughout the city, and, as noted, still includes the name of one of Stockton’s streets.

“It is a lost heritage. Thanks for remembering.”

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When pigs swim

Shonda Taliaferro spotted this charming pig on the Delta the other day.

And where else could it possibly happen, of course, but Hog/Spud Island?

“Between Windmill Cove and Lost Isle on the north side of the bank,” Shonda told me on Twitter. “Piglets too!”

“I think she lives there,” Shonda added. “There is another adult male that we saw on the Fourth but got no pics.”

This city boy knows nothing about pigs. But I’ve been to Hog/Spud Island and there ain’t nothin’ out there. Can someone guess where this pig came from, and why it’s so fond of swimming in the river?

(Perhaps the dude tossing food into the water can answer that question…)

Photo by Shonda Taliaferro

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Apologies to the smelt

Delta smelt. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A reader called me out yesterday for using the term “infamous” to describe the Delta smelt.

“Infamous,” of course, is not synonymous with “famous.” From Webster’s New World College Dictionary: “Infamous: (adj) Having a very bad reputation; notorious; in disgrace or dishonor.”

Some might find that word appropriate in describing a fish that has crimped, to some extent, California’s water supply.

Others honor the smelt as representative of the well-being of the Delta as a whole.

So, yeah, poor choice of words. But it’s not the first time I’ve gotten in trouble on this subject.

A few years ago I referred to the smelt as a “minnow.” Mind you, I put careful thought into that one. Scientifically speaking, the smelt is not a minnow. I knew that. But my dictionary — my infallible, perfect dictionary — told me it would be acceptable to use “minnow” in generally characterizing any small fish.

The angry emails came from fish biologists in the morning.

“Please stop devaluing nature in your writing,” one wrote. “To say the smelt is ‘a minnow with little ostensible value’ is just not good journalism.”

I stand by the “little ostensible value” part. The smelt has little apparent or clearly evident value to the general public. That is not the same thing as flatly saying it has no value.

Anyway, I never called the smelt a “minnow” again. It’s just not worth the confusion. And it’s not as precise as it could be.

At least I tried to be precise, in that case.

“Infamous” smelt? That’s just sloppy.

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Targeting the tunnels

San Joaquin County’s official comments on the twin tunnels project can be found here.

Supervisors voted 4-0 today to submit these comments and to reaffirm their opposition to the project (the supes first voted to oppose the tunnels in 2012, before the tunnels had even been formally proposed).


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Ambitious man, unassuming grave

We were cruising around the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma last week — (it’s a long story) — when we stumbled on this tombstone:

That’s “Brown” as in Edmund “Pat” Brown, architect of the State Water Project that fuels California’s trillion-dollar economy.

The governor’s resting place is relatively modest, compared with a nearby cavernous marble mausoleum and finely carved columbariums bearing the names of some of San Francisco’s most prominent Catholics. (Joe DiMaggio’s grave is only a moment’s walk up the hill from Brown’s).

Certainly, the simple, black tombstone — adorned only with the governor’s last name, and a cross — stands in contrast with the complex and intricate water delivery system for which Brown is best known.


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Stockton ‘must step up’

Photo courtesy Dale Stocking

Just because Stockton can pump Delta water after all this summer, the city can and should do more to conserve water, says environmentalist Dale Stocking.

His words:

I believe Bob (Granberg, assistant director of the Municipal Utilities Department) and the City are giving the wrong message when they indicate that Stockton will not have a severe water problem now that the Delta Water Supply Project can again begin pumping…
I support the DWSP; however, Stockton and all of California need to begin reducing all water use.
We have stopped watering our lawn areas but are still watering the ornamentals.  I have put the last three years Cal Water usage on a spreadsheet and will be measuring how much water we save not watering just the lawn area.  Hopefully, it will be significant.
Bottom line, Stockton must step up and really work at lowering elective water usage.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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