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Executive Summary for June 1st

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments around the West, including toxic pesticides from cannabis grows, a key election in the Colorado River’s future and the ongoing battle over Hetch Hetchy.

Published on June 1, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Toxic Pesticide Concerns From Illegal Cannabis Grows

Recreational cannabis may be legal now in California, but that hasn’t stopped black-market farming, and water quality and wildlife are paying the price.

The Associated Press reported this week that an “alarming increase” in toxic pesticides used at illegal grows in California is causing the state and federal government, two entities that have been at odds over the regulation of cannabis, to team up to try to combat the problem.

The federal government will spend $2.5 million to target illegal operations in the state, many of which are believed to be using Carbofuran, a highly toxic pesticide that can contaminate streams and rivers, kill wildlife and pose a health threat to people.

Mourad Gabriel, executive director and senior ecologist at Integral Ecology Research Center, has been studying the environmental impact of illegal grows and found that the use of Carbofuran has increased 380 percent since 2012 and 40 percent of water samples taken downstream from illegal grows show contamination. The pesticide, which is illegal in the U.S., is so potent a quarter of a teaspoon could kill a 300-pound bear, Gabriel told the AP.

Legal Battle Over Hetch Hetchy Continues

A group that is fighting to have Hetch Hetchy reservoir drained and the valley in Yosemite National Park restored, got its day in court (again), this week.

Restore Hetch Hetchy tried six years ago with a ballot initiative to convince California voters that the reservoir, which is part of the water system from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and helps provide water from 2.6 million people in the Bay Area, should be drained. But voters didn’t go for it.

Then the group mounted a legal challenge a few years ago that was defeated in a lower court, but has now been taken up the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno.

Restore Hetch Hetchy believes the valley is as beautiful as the much-heralded nearby Yosemite Valley, and that the dam should be removed and Hetch Hetchy valley restored. The group has argued that SFPUC could use reservoirs lower down in the water system for storage and doesn’t need Hetch Hetchy.

“But San Francisco’s deputy city attorney, Aileen McGrath, argued the statute of limitations on the dam project expired in 1928, and it’s not reasonable to challenge it now after the city has spent billions over the decades to build and maintain it,” reported ABC30. “The judges in Fresno will decide if a lower court or the State Water Board should be able to revisit the case and determine the future of the Hetch Hetchy Valley.”

Imperial Valley Election Impacts Colorado River

California voters will head to the polls on June 5 and those in southern California’s Imperial Valley will have a chance to impact the future of the Colorado River.

The Desert Sun reported this week that three of the five seats on the Imperial Irrigation District board are up for grabs in next week’s election and the district possesses the single largest share of Colorado River water, making it a big player as Colorado River stakeholders are enmeshed in drought contingency negotiations.

“Local farmers are opening their wallets to influence the results,” the Desert Sun reported. “The outcome could change the way IID manages its water, with ripple effects across the Southwest, from big cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix to agricultural areas like the eastern Coachella Valley.”

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