Date is set for hearing prompted by dead fish in the long meandering Kern River case

Kern River combatants are headed back to court where a local advocacy group hopes to force the City of Bakersfield to goose up flows, which were cut to a trickle leaving piles of dead fish west of Bakersfield.

The hearing is set for May 9 at 8:30 a.m. in Division J before Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp.

St. Helena Residents are Paying for Inept Government Services, Not Water

Residents of St. Helena have seen their water bills soar to more than twice the county’s average over the last 23 years with minimal improvement of services. Proposition 218 requires utility rate studies every five years as justification for rate increases. In St. Helena, these studies have shown consistently that the city is in desperate …

Group files motion to compel city to comply with order for more water in Kern River

Frustrated with the amount of water dribbling down the western reach of the Kern River, plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit over the river filed a motion Tuesday asking the judge in the case to intervene.

The motion says the City of Bakersfield has not maintained flows required to keep fish in good condition, particularly in the areas of the river from Allen Road westward.

Dead fish piling up in pockets along the western reach of the Kern River concern Bakersfield residents; may prompt return to court

“More of the river has dried up, and the smell of death goes on for miles from the dead fish carcasses throughout the riverbed… It’s almost unbearable out there.” Flows reaching the McClung Weir, about 3 miles west of Allen Road, have, indeed dropped. They had been about 14 cubic feet per second in January. But through most of March, they’ve gone down to about 5 cfs.

Dead end river: Fish carcasses starting to pile up in stagnant pools at the Kern River’s western end

The injunction doesn’t say how much water should be kept in the river, leaving that issue to be negotiated by the city, the plaintiffs and other parties in the suit, including agricultural water districts with rights and contracts to river water.

Until those negotiations are complete, the city announced it would keep enough water in the river so that 5 cubic feet per second reaches McClung weir. But residents like Vegas, and the plaintiffs, feel that’s just not enough water.

Judge dismisses two claims, keeps key pieces of Kern River lawsuit intact

A motion that challenged four claims made in a lawsuit against the City of Bakersfield over how it operates the Kern River got a half-and-half ruling from Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp Monday evening.

However, the heart of the lawsuit – that Bakersfield breached its duties under the Public Trust Doctrine by dewatering the river through town – will remain intact.

Judge leans toward dismissing some – but not key – actions in ongoing Kern River lawsuit

Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp let the battalion of attorneys in court Wednesday know he was inclined to drop at least one cause of action in the ongoing lawsuit brought by several public interest groups against the City of Bakersfield for dewatering the Kern River.

But he likely won’t dismiss one of the lawsuit’s key claims – that Bakersfield has a duty to protect the river under the Public Trust Doctrine.

Governor Newsom Launches California’s Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future

“To restore populations of salmon amidst hotter and drier weather exacerbated by climate change, Governor Newsom announced California’s first strategy to protect the iconic fish species for generations to come. …The state’s Salmon Strategy specifies the six priorities and 71 actions to build healthier, thriving salmon populations in California.” [Read More] “Historically, salmon populations returning to California rivers were estimated to …

“Where’s the river?” Bakersfield lowers required Kern River flows pending interim flow agreement

Required flows down the Kern River channel were lowered by the City of Bakersfield on Monday as officials have collected more data on how much water is actually needed for the river to get west of town, according to an email from the City Water Resources Department. On Monday, the city notified Kern River interests that it was changing that flow requirement so that water passing McClung would “not exceed 20 cfs.”

New Kern River hearing set and the J.G. Boswell Company fears water in the river for fish will jeopardize its massive ag holdings

The J.G. Boswell Company fears its agricultural interests – and possibly even the City of Corcoran – could be in jeopardy if water is allowed to remain in the Kern River for fish, according to its request to be admitted as a party to a lawsuit brought by local and statewide public interest groups

That’s just one of several new actions in the ongoing fight over river water.

They Abducted a River in California. And Nobody Stopped Them.

“During California’s most recent drought, officials went to great lengths to safeguard water supplies, issuing emergency regulations to curb use by thousands of farms, utilities and irrigation districts. It still wasn’t enough to prevent growers in the state’s agricultural heartland from draining dry several miles of a major river for almost four months in 2022, …

Repairs to Isabella Dam power plant completed; Kern River flows to ramp back up

“Repairs to a damaged tunnel inside the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam were completed Saturday, just seven days after the project began, according to an attorney for Water Audit California, a public interest group suing to keep water in the Kern River. Releases from the dam had been reduced to about 100 …

Isabella power plant operators have a plan to make repairs without drying up Kern River

“Engineers with Isabella Partners, which operates the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam, believe they’ve found a way to make repairs to the plant without drying up the lower Kern River for weeks on end. If successful, water levels will drop from where they are now, but the river won’t go totally dry. …

Historic fish flow ruling on the Kern River wasn’t intended to expand Bakersfield’s water rights, according to judge

Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp made one thing clear during the latest hearing on the twists and turns of the Kern River’s flow: He did not intend to expand the City of Bakersfield’s water rights under his November ruling that mandated enough water must remain in the river channel for fish populations.

Army Corps approves cuts to Isabella Dam releases as groups look for ways to protect Kern River fish flows and legal maneuvers expand

“The Army Corps of Engineers approved a request by operators of the power plant at the base of the dam to drastically cut water releases between Dec. 18 and Jan. 7 for a planned repair project to the plant. Under the approval, releases would drop from between 500 and 700 cubic feet per second down to …

USACE approves request to temporarily reduce Isabella Dam flows

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has approved a request from Isabella Partners to reduce Isabella Dam water releases following a review and analysis by the USACE Sacramento District. Isabella Partners made the request so that they can safely perform maintenance within their power plant property at the base of the dam. USACE’s approval provides …

Significantly Reduced Flows Could Impact Kern River Soon

“The Lake Isabella Dam is operated by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. However, the power plant that is directly south of it, which is powered by the water released by the dam, is owned by a separate entity, Isabella Partners. Recently, Isabella Partners put in a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to …

Isabella Dam power plant repairs could cut Kern River flows causing a “massive fish kill”

“Anticipated repairs to the power plant at the base of Isabella Dam could cause a “massive fish kill” along the length of the Kern River as flows would have to be cut to almost nothing for weeks. Isabella Partners, which operates that power plant, submitted a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to cut …

Kern County judge approves injunction that limits Bakersfield’s use of Kern River water

A Kern County judge has approved a preliminary injunction, to limit the amount of water from the Kern River the city of Bakersfield can use. The injunction will prevent the now-flowing Kern River from returning to the dry state it was in last year.

Court Grants Preliminary Injunction to Keep Water in the Kern River

Finding that Plaintiffs’ are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim, and after weighing potential harms to the respective parties in this case, the Court concluded that the California Legislature has already considered competing uses of water when it passed Fish and Game Code, section 5937 and thus determined that enough water must be allowed to remain in a waterway, that at a minimum, keeps fish in good condition.

‘We’ve now got a seat at the table’: City of Bakersfield ordered to halt excess pull of water from Kern River to protect wildlife

“A Kern County judge has granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit by citizen water advocacy groups, filed against the City of Bakersfield and its water usage.  To ensure protection of fish and other river wildlife, the city is prohibited from using more water than it needs.”

Kern County judge considers injunction to halt Bakersfield’s water distribution amid environmental lawsuit

“A Kern County Superior Court judge is considering whether to issue an injunction that would prevent the city of Bakersfield from distributing water in the Kern River until the lawsuit is settled.”

Kern River legal wrangling raises questions about how – or whether – the river can serve the needs of people, fish and ag

“Kern County Superior Court Judge Gregory Pulskamp came back several times during an Oct. 13 hearing to what he saw as a “major issue” in the dispute over keeping water in the Kern River – its plumbing.”

Five UC Berkeley-led projects awarded California Climate Action Grants

Five UC Berkeley-led projects will receive a total of $13.9 million in grants to advance research that builds climate resilience and equity in California, including mitigating wildfire risk, ensuring the equitable distribution of water and improving K-12 climate justice education… The largest of the Climate Action Matching Grants, a nearly $8.2 million investment, will fund …

Litigation is taking California’s public trust doctrine from the waterfront to the forefront

California courts have long recognized the state’s duty to protect its tidelands, navigable waterways, and submerged lands (i.e., the land below the high tideline) under the common law public trust doctrine. However, California’s public trust doctrine has operated more as a background principle, than an independent force of law for most of its history… he courts have seen a growing number of cases alleging that cities, counties, or other trustee agencies failed to consider the indirect impacts of their decisions on the public trust uses or values.

State and federal agencies want fish ladder restored on Merced River

Two powerful state and federal agencies have stuck their toes, so to speak, into an ongoing lawsuit against Merced Irrigation District demanding the district reopen a long defunct fish ladder. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service both sent letters to Merced Irrigation District after Water Audit California sued the …

Honoring Rich Marovich for his 21 Years of Public Service

HONORING RICH MAROVICH ON HIS 21 YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE HON. JOHN GARAMENDI of california in the house of representatives Monday, November 7, 2022 Mr. GARAMENDI. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Rich Marovich for his 21 years of service with the Solano County Water Agency. Through his work as streamkeeper of Putah Creek, …

Marovich receives honors, Salmon Festival returns

“The annual Winters Salmon Festival returned on Saturday, Nov. 5, after not being held since 2019 due to the pandemic. The Salmon Festival celebrates the annual return and migration of the fall-run Chinook salmon to the lower Putah Creek habitat. Many attendees walked along the creek in hopes of glimpsing the salmon as they made …

Napa’s Lake Marie dam to release water for fish under 1915 law

“The Lake Marie reservoir, created in the late 19th century as part of a Napa State Hospital water mini-empire, might in the 21st century help locally rare steelhead trout. Water Audit California has used lawsuits to try to gain more water from local reservoirs for downstream fish habitat. In this case, the California Department of …

Lake Marie Flows to Provide Improved Fish Habitat

A settlement agreement ending litigation between the California Department of State Hospitals and Water Audit California that was announced today will improve conditions for fish in Cayetano Creek while allowing Skyline Park visitors to continue to enjoy Lake Marie as a hiking destination. This resolution is representative of two principles: we can manage what we measure, and we can always do better. This settlement is the next step in Water Audit’s Napa Valley remediation program that has so far included securing dam bypasses from Kimball, Rector, Bell Canyon dams, and the removal of obstructions to spawning in Garnet and York Creeks.

“Rewatering Napa’s Rivers”

The American Bar Association’s Natural Resources & Environment vol 36 no 1 contained “Rewatering Napa’s Rivers” by Karrigan Bork and Amber Manfree. The article describes the history of California’s legislative efforts to protect fisheries, the structural failures which led to non-enforcement, and the role of private entities like Water Audit in effecting the will of …

The California Water Model: Resilience through Failure

“A review of 170 years of water-related successes in California suggests that most successes can be traced directly to past mistakes.  California’s highly variable climate has made it a crucible for innovations in water technology and policy.  Similar water imperatives have led to advances in water management in other parts of the world.  A close …

Mount Veeder winery wins Napa County approval

The Planning Commission last week approved the 20,000-gallon-a-year winery. The planned 4,638-square-foot building at 2072 Mount Veeder Road will replace a house and barn that burned in the 2017 Nuns fire… Water Audit California, meanwhile, urged the county to deny the application. Grant Reynolds of the group wrote that Pickle Canyon Creek runs through the …

Re “Fire, Drought and Heat Scorch the Land of Reds and Whites”

“The current scale of wine production, driven in part by global business interests, is impossible to support as the megadrought continues. It is time to accept this new reality, to get our land use and water policies in order, and to focus on learning from people who are pouring their time, money and energy into finding new and more sustainable ways to live with our changing environment.”

Scorched, Parched, and Now Uninsurable: Climate Change Hits Wine Country

“In Napa Valley, the lush heartland of America’s high-end wine industry, climate change is spelling calamity. Not outwardly: On the main road running through the small town of St. Helena, tourists still stream into wineries with exquisitely appointed tasting rooms. …But drive off the main road, and the vineyards that made this valley famous — …

Indigenous people gather in St. Helena to honor Napa River

“Descendants of the Pomo, Mishewal Wappo and other native peoples gathered at Wappo Park on Sunday to pay tribute to the Napa River through speech, song and prayer. “Life is water and water is life,” said Sal Garcia-Pinola, a member of the Pomo. Sunday’s gathering took place amid a severe drought that has resulted in …

So much for the Public Trust

“If there is going to be another lawsuit, I suspect it will involve commercial development vs. public trust if or when development of any kind in St. Helena can even be considered given our critical water crisis. I truly hope I am wrong about that, particularly considering the significant amount of general fund money and …

Napa County sued over care of Napa River

“Water Audit California is suing to make Napa County increase oversight of groundwater pumping for vineyards, wineries, and other uses, claiming that the pumping affects the Napa River. The lawsuit said the county has a “public trust” duty to care for the river. The idea is that too much groundwater pumping from wells can keep …

City of St. Helena reaches agreement with water watchdog group

“The City of St. Helena has agreed to monitor local groundwater levels and stream flows, averting a potential lawsuit from an environmental advocacy group. Following months of negotiations, the city and Water Audit California released a joint statement Friday announcing the city will collect monthly water levels and annual extraction totals for local wells and …

By a 3-2 vote, Napa County agrees Bremer Winery barn can stay

“Bremer Family Winery found a bright spot in its long tussle with the county over what’s legal on the Deer Park property — it can keep a masonry barn and a bathroom built within a stream setback. In an appeals hearing on Dec. 8, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to overturn a Planning Commission …

Water environmental group threatens Calistoga with lawsuit, again

“CALISTOGA — Stemming from litigation dating back to 2008, the City of Calistoga is confronted again with a long-standing threat from an environmental group over the operation of Kimball Dam. Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered a letter to the City of Calistoga on Monday criticizing the city for not fulfilling its …

Environmental group threatens to sue St. Helena over groundwater extraction

“ST. HELENA — An environmental advocacy group is threatening to sue the City of St. Helena over its handling of groundwater. Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered a letter to the city on Monday criticizing its use of the Stonebridge wells for municipal use and “a pattern of exercising no discretion” in …

Small Dam, Big Deal: York Dam Removed in Napa Valley

“The recent removal of the sediment-filled York Dam in Napa County has reconnected two miles of steelhead trout habitat that has been blocked for over a century. While the dam itself was small and non-functional, it took nearly 30 years to accomplish removal. Thousands of barriers to stream flow and fish passage similar in size …

York Creek Dam Removal Sets Stage For Environmental Restoration In Napa

“In a quiet corner of Napa County, tucked away in the hills above its famous valley, a bucolic trickle of a creek is now flowing free after languishing behind a dam for more than a century. The waters of York Creek began their unabated journey to the Napa River on Sept. 14 for the first …

Napa County gives split decision in Bremer winery stream case

“Another Bremer Family Winery brouhaha, this one over a barn and other structures built too close to a stream, landed in the laps of Napa County planning commissioners with the subtlety of a live grenade. The Planning Commission on Wednesday decided by separate votes that two structures can stay and two must go. John and …

St. Helena City Council awards $3.2 million contract for York Creek dam removal

“The St. Helena City Council awarded a $3.2 million contact this week to an Arcata firm to remove the Upper York Creek Dam. McCullough Construction will be charged with notching the dam, restoring the creek’s aquatic habitat, and removing an illegal barrier to fish passage that the city first agreed to remove in 2006. Work …

[Napa Vision 2050] Water Audit California: Bremer Family Winery

“On June 23, 2020, Water Audit California sent the following extraordinary letter to the Napa County Planning Commission, staff, county counsel, and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The authors raise a number of issues regarding the processing of the Bremer matter that should be of concern to all of us. We feel compelled …

Watershed forum looks to defuse Napa County water issues

“Various environmentalists are saying that the old adage about “water being for fighting over” doesn’t have to apply to Napa County. The group called Water Audit California has used lawsuits to pry water releases from local reservoirs for fish and has threatened a groundwater-related lawsuit against Napa County. The group last week co-sponsored a forum …

Napa County’s winery streamlining plan faces legal threat

“Napa County intends to cut red tape for what it deems to be modest winery expansion requests, even though a group called Water Audit California warned of possible legal action. County officials said the goal is simply to move consideration of more routine decisions from the Planning Commission to county staff, such as adding a …

As Yountville reservoir falls, state studies supply – and possible water purchases from Napa

“YOUNTVILLE — Even with California’s lengthy drought in the rear-view mirror, the reservoir feeding Yountville and the Veterans Home of California is running low. Just how low may determine what the town – and state regulators – do to curb water use and boost supplies as the dryness of summer approaches. New monitoring equipment at …

After environmental lawsuit, St. Helena agrees to bypass more water into creek

“ST. HELENA — The City Council has approved a short-term plan to bypass more water from Bell Canyon Reservoir into Bell Creek, in response to a lawsuit claiming that the city has degraded fish habitat in the creek by historically capturing too much water in the reservoir. The council also approved contracts to install equipment …

St. Helena threatened with lawsuit over stalled dam removal

“ST. HELENA — An environmental advocacy group that sued the city last year over water diversion at Bell Canyon Reservoir is now threatening a separate lawsuit over the long delay in the removal of the Upper York Creek Dam. Grant Reynolds of Water Audit California, a public benefit corporation, wrote a letter to the city …

City of St. Helena sued over water diversion

“An environmental advocate who filed a claim against the city of St. Helena in May has now sued the city for allegedly failing to bypass enough water into Bell Creek. According to a lawsuit filed Aug. 10 in Napa Superior Court by Water Audit California, the city has violated state regulatory limits on the diversion …