One thing that's dried up lately is the number of doom-and-gloom stories about California's drought. All it took was a little rain -- okay, a lot of rain -- with more on the way. Also, a new federal report didn't hurt any.
From the LAT's Joe Serna: "The good news is tempered by the fact that the entire state remains in some degree of drought and more than three-quarters of it, about 78%, is in “extreme” drought, the second-highest category available, the report said."
"In addition, the state’s major reservoir capacities are still below normal."
Meanwhile, the Merc's Paul Rogers notes that federal drought watchers say there's a good chance we're in for three months of wet conditions. "There is a 75 percent probability of average or above average precipitation between January and the end of March for California, according to a new report by federal scientists -- the first time in five years such a wet outlook has been predicted in the state during the first three months of a year."
"Pacific Ocean temperatures, which are warmer than normal, along with satellite imagery and computer models, are showing a greater likelihood of low-pressure systems, which can draw storms to California, Baxter said. There still is also a 65 percent chance of mild El Niño conditions developing this winter, which could further increase chances."
In the Delta east of San Francisco, home to about half of California's water supply and the location of the 1939 flick "Huckeberry Finn" with Mickey Rooney, there's been another change in the plan to drill tunnels and move more water south: Say goodbye to the big pumps.
From the Bee's Matt Weiser: "The massive water diversion tunnels proposed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have undergone another major design change aimed at appeasing local residents: The three intakes planned on the Sacramento River will no longer require pumps."
"Instead of giant electric pumps, the plan now calls for water to enter the three huge intakes by gravity flow. This, in turn, means most tall buildings can be eliminated at each intake. And there will be no need for permanent new high-voltage power lines. New power lines are still required to serve the tunneling machines, but these would be considered temporary: They would be removed after the 10-year construction period."
Back in the state Senate, there's yet more turmoil under the upper house's new leader, Kevin de Leon. He removed the top staff of a committee that opposed legislation he carried last year, saying he wanted to emphasize his views on climate change. This time, there was no budget-linked rationale, as when the Senate laid off 39 staffers a few weeks ago.
From the LAT's Patrick McGreevy: "De Leon, who took over leadership of the Senate in October, has this week terminated Kellie Smith as chief consultant of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. He also has removed Jacqueline Kinney as the panel’s principal consultant. The terminations were separate from the previous layoffs of 39 other staffers for budget reasons."
"Smith and Kinney were replaced by two experts in climate change issues to reflect De Leon’s emphasis on that area, according to Dan Reeves, his chief of staff."
“He wanted the committee to have a greater focus on renewable energy and the green economy, and he felt like he needed to have a different set of resources to help the committee drive the agenda forward,” Reeves said.
From the LAT's Marc Lifsher: ""I've had a really good run," Peevey told a standing-room-only, clapping crowd. He said he was proud of achieving his goal of being "the greenest commissioner in the history of this commission" and of creating programs that became models for other states and nations."
"But Peevey's departure occurred amid widespread concern over the commission's failure to focus on safety. Calls for his resignation or removal had been growing since the 2010 explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. natural gas transmission line that killed eight residents and destroyed 38 homes in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno."