Archive for the ‘Delta & Environment’ Category

State withdraws twin tunnel WaterFix approvals, initiates planning, permitting for smaller single tunnel

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Photo: CA Dep’t of Water Resources

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today is taking formal steps to withdraw proposed permits for the WaterFix project and begin a renewed environmental review and planning process for a smaller, single tunnel project that will protect a critical source of water supplies for California.

Today’s actions implement Governor Gavin Newsom’s direction earlier this year to modernize the state’s water delivery infrastructure by pursuing a smaller, single tunnel project through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The project is needed to protect water supplies from sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion into the Delta, as well as earthquake risk. It will be designed to protect water supply reliability while limiting impacts on local Delta communities and fish.

This action follows the Governor’s recent executive order directing state agencies to develop a comprehensive statewide strategy to build a climate-resilient water system.

“A smaller project, coordinated with a wide variety of actions to strengthen existing levee protections, protect Delta water quality, recharge depleted groundwater reserves, and strengthen local water supplies across the state, will build California’s water supply resilience,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

DWR Director Karla Nemeth took action today to rescind various permitting applications for the WaterFix project, including those in front of the State Water Resources Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and federal agencies responsible for compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Documents related to these actions are available here.

DWR will work with local public water agencies that are partners in the conveyance project to incorporate the latest science and innovation to design the new conveyance project, and work with Delta communities and other stakeholders to limit local impacts of the project.

Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), co-chair of the California Delta Legislative Caucus, issued the following statement today after the state Department of Water Resources officially withdrew its permit application to build the twin tunnels.

“It’s very encouraging that after all these years we are finally being heard by the Governor’s Office. The withdrawal of the permit application acknowledges that alternative solutions have been either overlooked or ignored. I look forward to working with the Governor and Secretary Crowfoot to build a comprehensive water plan that is a benefit for all Californians.”

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After 65 Years, salmon are returning to the San Joaquin River

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Spring-run Chinook. Photo by Bureau of Reclamation.

By Nick Cahill, Courthouse News Service

Surviving an exhaustive maze of manmade barriers and hungry predators, a hardy group of salmon have beat the odds and returned to spawn in one of California’s most-heavily dammed rivers.

Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River. The dam impounds Millerton Lake, 15 miles north of Fresno, California. (Nick Cahill/CNS)

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says for the first time in over 65 years, threatened spring-run Chinook adult salmon have returned to the San Joaquin River near Fresno to complete their life cycle. The return of the hatchery-reared fish marks a huge milestone for a billion-dollar undertaking to revive an ancient population of salmon that disappeared in the 1940s with the opening of Friant Dam.

Officials announced that at least five adult spring-run Chinook born in fish hatcheries and released into the wild several years ago, have made the 370-mile trek from the Pacific Ocean back to the San Joaquin River.

Don Portz, who oversees the fish restoration program for the bureau, says the salmon that have been caught in nets prove that the joint-effort by the feds and state is going in the right direction.

“This is monumental for the program,” Portz said in a statement. “It’s a clear indication of the possibility for these fish to make it out of the system as juveniles and then return as adults in order to spawn.”

For years California’s second largest river teemed with salmon, providing food for Native American tribes and then settlers during the 1800s. But as the Gold Rush died down, Californians headed south and found the Central Valley ripe for farming.

Chinook salmon equipped with tracking tags being readied for release into the San Joaquin River in California. (Nick Cahill/CNS)

In their pursuit of water, farmers and government agencies ended up damming the river dry in some parts by the 1940s. Water was divvyed up and delivered in canals to farmers for crops like almonds and cotton, but the native salmon species and their spawning habitat vanished. Today, parts of the river go dry during certain times of the year and other sections have manmade barriers that prevent salmon from reaching their spawning beds.

Thanks to a nearly two-decade-long lawsuit fought by the National Resources Defense Council, things are changing on the San Joaquin. A settlement reached in 2006 with the federal government set goals of restoring native fish populations to “good condition” without overtly damaging water suppliers’ take of the river; the state and federal government plan to spend over a billion dollars to restore flows, wetlands and fish to the river.

The five Chinook captured this month returned from the ocean on their own, but had to be transported by researchers in a 500 gallon tank to bypass manmade barriers. The biologists confirmed that the fish were from a California hatchery because they were missing a small rear fin.

The five adult salmon and any others that may return will hold in the cool water below Friant Dam for the summer, before hopefully spawning in the fall.

“Now, that’s worth a toast!,” tweeted Kate Poole about the salmon’s return, senior director at the NRDC.

The long-term goal is to update the barriers to allow fish to swim upstream in the future without being transported, Portz said. Restoration efforts are meant to help spring and fall-run Chinook, Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon.

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Antioch High Earth Team, County Public Works to host Earth Day event at Upper Sand Creek in Antioch Saturday

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Contra Costa County Public Works will host an Earth Day event at Upper Sand Creek on Saturday, April 20 from 9am – Noon.  The event will take place at 6600 Deer Valley Road in Antioch.

Join the Earth Team interns of Antioch High School, Supervisor Diane Burgis, the Contra Costa County Flood Control District, Contra Costa Resource Conservation District, and Friends of Marsh Creek as they celebrate Earth Day.

Spend the morning in the beautiful Upper Sand Creek watershed, exploring an area that is usually closed to the public. In 2013, the Flood Control District held the first planting event to celebrate the completion of the detention basin. Come see for yourself how much the basin has changed.

Participants will help with removing invasive species, plant new oak trees, learn how to protect the environment around them and compete in a trash pickup.

The students will be showing off the skills they’ve learned over the year they spent interning with Earth Team.

Activities will include:

  • Trash Talking Showdown – Join a team to see who can pick up, and properly identify, the most trash.
  • Help remove invasive species and plant the volunteer nursery native plants – Since the initial planting in 2013, a lot has changed with the volunteer nursery, but we still need your help to keep it going!
  • Learn about water quality sampling, your local creeks and what you can do to keep them clean!

You can sign up at  Earth Day is celebrated around the world. It is a day celebrating environmental protection and raising awareness of how our actions affect the environment.

What to Bring:

  • Waiver, filled out and signed.
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Gloves
  • Reusable Water Bottle

Why Earth Day?

Every year Earth Day is celebrated around the world. It is a day celebrating environmental protection and raising awareness of how our actions affect the environment.


Are there minimum age requirements to enter the event?

Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. All volunteers under the age of 18 must have a waiver signed by their parent or guardian.

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Frazier supports Gov. Newsom’s announcements on high speed rail, Delta Tunnels

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Assemblyman Jim Frazier

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, released the following statements on Tuesday after California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his first State of the State Address before a joint session of the Legislature.

“Governor Newsom inherited a high-speed rail project that is a mess. He showed he is ready to step up and take the reins as a leader, recognizing there needs to be wholesale changes. I appreciate his realistic and common-sense approach to this project.

The governor also has a soft spot in his heart for the intellectually and developmentally disabled and recognizes that we need to step up our game to better support the special needs community.”

The governor also announced he will appoint a new member to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, with the expectation the new appointee will become chair. Frazier responded with the following statement:

“I applaud the decision to appoint Lenny Mendonca to the High-Speed Rail Authority Board with the governor’s intention that Mendonca become chairman. An investigation by State Auditor Elaine Howle revealed a pattern of repeated failures at the Authority, under the direction of current Chairman Dan Richard, with hundreds of millions in cost overruns and a lack of honesty and transparency. That is just one reason I have been advocating for a change in leadership. I have high hopes for Mr. Mendonca to lead the High-Speed Rail Authority to complete the scaled down project the governor outlined in his State of the State Address today. A change of leadership at the HSRA was long overdue.”

Regarding Newsom’s announcement on scaling back the twin Delta tunnels to a single tunnel project, Frazier, whose district encompasses a large portion of the Delta, issued the following statement:

“I’m grateful Governor Newsom has been willing to listen to local stakeholders in the battle for the future of the Delta. His unequivocal denunciation of the twin tunnels project is a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with the governor to convince him there are alternative water delivery solutions that are economical and can be delivered in a timely manner, nullifying the need for even a single tunnel.”

Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

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Supervisors promote solar energy development in rural areas, parking lots, freeway cloverleafs

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

Forgive $5.8 million in library book late fees dating back to 1995; Honor Choice in Aging’s Debbie Toth who serves Antioch’s Bedford Center as Board Chair Recipient

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors flashed the green light for Contra Costa County Development and Conservation Department (DCD) officials to conduct additional studies on how solar power can be expanded, especially in the Far East environmentally sensitive Delta areas of Bethel Island and Jersey Island.

Supervisors also allowed county planners to study the feasibility of identifying underutilized parking lots countywide that could be used as solar farms in partnership with MCE, the main electricity provider for unincorporated Contra Costa County and the cities of Concord, Danville, Martinez, Oakley, Pinole, Pittsburg, and San Ramon.

Freeway cloverleafs are also on the DCD’s list of potential new sites for renewable energy.

“Fifty to eighty percent of the county could be used for renewable energy,” Jody London, a DCD official, told supervisors.  London said solar energy represents 85 percent of the renewable energy that could be developed on rural land.  The remaining 15 percent would be energy generated from wind power or biomass.

London said the county could also expand solar energy by issuing more permits to homeowners to install solar panels on roofs.

The house rooftop option drew the support of District 3 Supervisor Dianne Burgis of Brentwood, whose district also covers Bethel Island and Jersey Island.  “I’d be open to option one,” she said.  “We have so many rooftops in Contra Costa County.  I’d like to work with MCE.”

Board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill cautioned DCD staff that she was uncertain the DCD recommendation concerning 450-acre Jersey Island as a potential solar power farm might run into opposition from the island’s owner, the Ironhouse Sanitary District.

London said she would look into that issue.

“We support development of solar energy on brownfield sites, parking lots and infill areas such as freeway cloverleafs,” Bill Chilson of the Mount Diablo Audubon Society wrote in a letter to the supervisors.  The environmental organization opposes wind and solar development in the Delta agricultural and wildlife areas, Chilson wrote.

Juan Pablo Galwan, Save Mt. Diablo Land Use Manager, criticized the plan, writing:

“Advances in solar technology may increase the frequency of collocation or allow an area of land to concurrently be farmed and produce solar energy without negatively impacting or perhaps even increasing crop productivity.  However, currently the most likely scenario is that solar development removes land from most or all ties of agricultural production for the duration of lease which may last several decades.  Therefore, the county renewable energy policies should not encourage solar development on viable agricultural land.”

A $47,000 grant from the California Strategic Growth Council developed the energy study for the County.

Supervisors Approve $362,505 State Grant for 2020 Census

The county is getting ready for the 2020 census and took its first step when supervisors unanimously accepted a $362,505 County-Option Outreach Agreement grant from the state.

The grant will aid the county in developing communications and outreach strategies that will target both geographic and demographic populations who are least likely to respond to the 2020 census.

Barbara Rivera of the Contra Costa County Administrators Office said the upcoming census will be the first one where Californians can respond by going online, but this raised cyber security issues from Julia Marks of the Asian Law Caucus.  “There is a lot fear over confidentiality,” said Marks.

Choice in Aging’s Debbie Toth Honored as Board Chair Recipient

Debbie Toth, the Chief Executive Officer of Choice in Aging, was honored by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Mitchoff, as Board Chair Recipient for 2018.

Mitchoff, of Pleasant Hill, selected Toth, who was named CEO of Choice in Aging in 2012 that serves 600 senior citizens in residential facilities at the Bedford Center in Antioch and the Mt. Diablo Center in Pleasant Hill, for being an advocate for senior access to housing, health and transit.

Mitchoff, who was re-elected to the District 3 supervisorial seat in June, cited her personal experience with her mother as a key factor in nominating the CIA’s Chief Executive Officer for the award.

After Tuesday’s meeting, it is expected District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond will be elected as Chair of the Board   when supervisors reconvene at their next regular meeting slated for January 15, 2019.

Supervisors Forgive $5.8 Million in Library Book Late Fees Dating Back to 1995

A week after the Board of Supervisors made the historic move to eliminate the practice of collecting overdue book and material fees, they approved on a 5-0 vote to discharge about $5,800,100 from public library patron accounts.

The agenda consent item did not attract public comment.

The bookkeeping item covers uncollected fees dating back to 1995 to the present, County Librarian Melinda Cervantes wrote in a report to the Board.  “Of this amount, 73 percent is the value of materials, not cash outstanding.”  There is no financial impact on the county general fund.

Last week supervisors adopted the library commission’s recommendation to cease the collection of overdue book fines beginning Jan. 1, 2019 based on the recommendations in a policy titled Project Equitable Access with the goal of ensuring everyone has access to library materials.

To view the entire meeting agenda, click here.

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34th Annual Coastal Cleanup needs volunteers in Antioch Friday and Saturday

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018


The 34th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, the state’s largest volunteer event, is going to take place on Saturday, September 15th, 2018. The Kayak trip will be on Friday, 14th September 2018. The event is expected to draw more than 70,000 volunteers who will combat marine debris at over 800 locations throughout the state by removing the trash that has accumulated on California’s beaches and inland shorelines over the past year. Get out there, join the effort in Antioch. There are two locations to choose from: Antioch Marina and Prewett Park. Select your location when you complete your registration, here.

The 5th Annual Kayak Cleanup will be held on Friday, September 14 – click here for more information.

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Body found on Delta levee Saturday identified as missing boater from Daly City

Monday, May 7th, 2018

One fisherman was rescued from the river near the Antioch bridge by Contra Costa Sheriff’s Marine Patrol, Saturday, April 28, 2017. Screenshot from NBC Bay Area.

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, at approximately 2:11 PM, Contra Costa County Marine Patrol Deputy Sheriffs responded to a report of a body on the levee at False River near the San Joaquin River. Deputies arrived on scene a short time later and recovered the body.

The Coroner’s Division took custody of the male body. He was later positively identified as 39-year-old Johnson Ng of Daly City. Ng is the missing boater who fell from a vessel on April 28, 2018.

According to an ABC7 news report, “Initial reports from deputies said two men were on a boat trying to set an anchor to start fishing when a wake came along. The wake hit the boat, the men fell off and they did not have life jackets on, according to sheriff’s officials. A passing boat rescued one of the men.”

An autopsy will be held to determine the cause of death.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Supervisor Glover wants investigation into possible radioactive materials deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill in Pittsburg

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Keller Canyon Landfill. Photo courtesy of Comanco.

Matter to be heard at next Tuesday’s Board meeting

Supervisor Federal Glover has directed Contra Costa County Staff at next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to provide the Board with an update concerning the allegations of malfeasance by Tetra Tech EC Inc. at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The allegations concern possible radioactive materials being deposited at landfills across the state including possible contaminated material that might have been sent to the Keller Canyon Landfill.
“I am very concerned about these allegations and want a full report from staff on this issue,” Glover stated.  Healso said that he expects County staff to follow up with further review of the issue after the Board meeting next Tuesday.

“I want staff to thoroughly investigate these allegations and determine whether or not the Keller Landfill was sent contaminated material,” Glover continued. “I want to make sure the residents of Contra Costa County are protected and that this matter is fully addressed.”

He said that the matter will be heard in front of the Board of Supervisors during its regularly scheduled session starting at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2018 in the Board Chambers at 651 Pine St., Martinez.

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