Record June rainfall forces big spill releases at Libby Dam

The Columbia Basin BulletinJune 29, 2012The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ramped up flows from Libby Dam even higher to prevent Lake Koocanusa from reaching full pool, but the higher flows continue to cause flooding at Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The dam has been releasing water at powerhouse capacity of 25,000 cubic per second, but flows from its spillway and sluice gates were increased from Read More…

Central Valley flood protection plan approved

The Sacramento BeeBy Matt WeiserJune 29, 2012A new flood protection plan approved Friday for California's Central Valley takes a firm stand against rules by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that could require all trees and shrubs to be stripped from levees in the region.The new Central Valley Flood Protection Plan will guide regional flood-safety improvements for the forseeable future and must be Read More…

High bacteria levels in WA waters, not found in OR, ID

OPBJune 28, 2012Environmental regulators have detected high levels of fecal coliform in one of the Northwest’s most important areas for growing food.Fecal coliform can come from sources like sewer connections and livestock manure that washes into streams. The bacteria have become a yearly occurrence in 13 water bodies in central Washington’s Yakima Valley. In farmland, it’s made worse by Read More…

Contested McClure reservoir expansion project inches forward

Merced Sun StarBy Joshua Emerson SmithJune 26, 2012 After years of frustration, Merced Irrigation District officials continue to push for a $40 million reservoir expansion project, which would have brought in roughly 360,000 acre-feet of extra water over the last 30 years, according to data from the district. "This project is incredibly important to MID growers and to our community as a whole," Read More…

MID weighs releasing sale contract, but critics vocal

Modesto BeeBy Ken CarlsonJune 25, 2012 As district leaders decide today whether to release a revised water-sale proposal, Modesto Irrigation District officials were pushing aside concerns raised by the city of Modesto and farmers regarding the 2,240 acre-foot sale to San Francisco. MID board President Tom Van Groningen said Monday evening that the board will decide at its meeting today whether Read More…

Why is Hydropower Relicensing So Complicated?

KQED NewsBy Molly SamuelJune 25, 2012 When most of the dams in California were built, there were few, if any, safety or environmental regulations governing how they operated. Now most hydropower projects, whether they’re owned by local agencies or power companies, need licenses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. (Federal projects don’t require FERC licenses.) Licenses Read More…

Debate over fire retardant toxicity rages in West

The Sacramento BeeJune 21, 2012Forest Service officials insist firefighting won't be hindered by new rules meant to prevent millions of gallons of retardant dropped onto scorched landscapes each year from poisoning streams and killing fish and plants.The agency rules that resulted from a lawsuit require drops to come no closer than 300 feet from streams and lakes except when human safety is at Read More…

Is hydroelectric power a ‘renewable’ energy source?

KQED NewsBy Craig MillerJune 20, 2012It’s a fair question and one that a reader posed during our recent series on “Water and Power” in California. Hydro has its virtues. It’s clean, once it’s built; producing hydropower creates no significant greenhouse gas or other emissions. And it’s certainly “renewable” as long as the water flows. But it’s not without its environmental Read More…

California’s selenium time bomb keeps ticking

Huffington PostBy Glen MartinJune 20, 2012Jon Stewart ran a typically risible segment last week about a distinctly unfunny story: the discovery of a two-headed trout in an Idaho watershed, the result of selenium contamination from phosphate mining operations by the J.R. Simplot Co. The bit reprises, in a far funnier way, an earlier New York Times piece on the issue by Leslie Kaufman. A Read More…

Rethinking hydropower

KQED NewsBy Molly SamuelJune 18, 2012Just so we all start on the same page: there are a lot of dams in California. People have been building dams here since the Gold Rush, and though the dam building boom of the first half of the 20th century is long-over, the dams are still here.This animation shows all the dams in California. To see a breakdown of which ones are connected to hydropower projects Read More…