California Environmental Law and Policy Update - November 2014 #3

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

New dust control method ends L.A.'s longtime feud with Owens Valley

Los Angeles Times - Nov 14

The City of Los Angeles ended a bitter dispute with Owens Valley on Friday with the announcement of a truce in a decades-long dispute over water and dust. Under an agreement between the City and Owens Valley air quality regulators, Los Angeles will use a new, organic method of suppressing airborne dust from the dry bed of Owens Lake that involves using tractors to turn moist lake bed clay into furrows and basketball-sized clods of dirt. The clods will bottle up the dust for years before breaking down, at which point the process will be repeated. For nearly two decades, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has controlled dust at the dry Owens Lake by flooding most of the 110-square-mile lake bed to prevent choking dust storms in the valley. The new method, which replaces the flooding approach, will eventually save the Department of Water and Power enough water to supply 150,000 Los Angeles residents each year. The new solution is relatively inexpensive and nearly waterless, DWP officials said.

State urged to avert 'crisis' at Salton Sea

Imperial Irrigation District - Dec 18

On Tuesday, the Imperial Irrigation District submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board, calling on the State Board to modify its 2002 order approving what became the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement and the water transfers from the Imperial Valley to urban users in San Diego County and the Coachella Valley. IID argues in its petition that the water transfers were predicated on the State's statutory commitment to fund and implement a restoration plan for the Salton Sea, which has experienced declining water levels and windblown dust from dry exposed lakebed. The petition asks the State Board to require the state, the QSA parties and the Salton Sea Authority to participate in a facilitated dialogue that would identify the most realistic and durable funding mechanism for Salton Sea restoration. That process would last up to six months, after which, IID says, it will ask the State Board to condition water transfers on the State satisfying its restoration obligation at the Salton Sea.

High court allows Delta water contracts to be challenged

SFGate.com - Dec 17

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that permits environmental groups to continue their challenge to the government's renewal of 41 contracts--some with terms as long as 40 years--to supply farms and water districts with irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Natural Resources Defense Council's challenge focuses on the preservation of habitat for the delta smelt, a small fish found in Delta waters that has been listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. NRDC argues that federal law compelled a biological consultation by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The Supreme Court's decision preserves the Ninth Circuit's ruling and allows the case to proceed.

Altamont Pass poised to usher in next 30 years of wind power

San Jose Mercury News - Dec 14

An Alameda County planning board certified the final programmatic environmental impact report for Alameda County's portion of the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, as well as conditional use permits for two of the largest repowering projects in the area's history. The document allows for a maximum of 450 megawatts of energy production and about 281 total turbines, provided that wind energy companies adhere to strict conservation measures. In addition to certifying the landmark report, the board also approved permits for two major wind projects: NextEra Energy Resources' $180 million Golden Hills Project to install 48 wind turbines, generating 86 megawatts of wind energy across roughly 7 square miles, and EDF Renewable Energy's Patterson Pass Wind Project, which will generate close to 20 megawatts of energy with 7 to 12 turbines.

EPA and NOAA adopt restrictions on use of rice herbicide thiobencarb

EPA - Dec 20

On November 20, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, in cooperation with state agencies, rice growers and industry, announced an agreement to create federally enforceable restrictions of thiobencarb, an herbicide used on rice crops, to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead trout in California. EPA's action makes existing geographic use limits on thiobencarb federally enforceable by incorporating them into the pesticide label. These use limitations will be effective April 1, 2015. This action represents U.S. EPA’s first implementation of a NOAA Fisheries salmon and steelhead trout Biological Opinion.

 

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