Newsom rolls back California drought restrictions after remarkably wet winter

Newsom rolls back California drought restrictions after remarkably wet winter

On the heels of one of California’s wettest winters on record, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that he will roll back some of the state’s most severe drought restrictions and dramatically increase water supplies for agencies serving 27 million people.

Among the rescinded items is Newsom’s call for a voluntary 15% reduction in water use, issued amid drying conditions in July 2021. He declared a statewide drought emergency that October.

The governor also rescinded a March 2022 order requiring urban water suppliers to activate Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, which indicates a shortage of 20% and prompts increased conservation actions.

Newsom made the announcement at a ranch in the green Dunnigan Hills in Yolo County, north of Sacramento, where rice and almond farmers were celebrating the wet winter and have been able to recharge some groundwater supplies this season for crops.

But Newsom stopped short of declaring that the drought is over, saying some parts of his drought emergency order remain important as California adapts to volatile weather patterns and the looming possibility of another long dry spell.

“It’s incumbent upon us to continue to maintain our vigilance and maintain some provisions of the executive order to allow for fast tracking of groundwater replenishment projects, stormwater capture and recycling programs here in the state of California,” he said.

Provisions around wasteful use will remain in place, including prohibitions on watering lawns within 48 hours of rainfall and using hoses without shut-off nozzles. A ban on watering nonfunctional turf at commercial and industrial properties is also unchanged.

The remarkable turnaround comes after California’s driest three years on record left reservoirs drained and water supplies drastically reduced.

A series of drenching storms at the start of this year helped ease some of the most extreme drought conditions in the state, refilling rivers and reservoirs and delivering near-record snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

State water agencies — which were girding to receive only 35% of requested supplies from the State Water Project this year — will now get 75%, officials from the Department of Water Resources said. The State Water Project is a vast network of reservoirs, canals and dams that acts as a major component of California’s water system.

“We’ve been able to do this because of the series of winter storms that have really provided robust flows throughout the system,” said John Yarbrough, assistant deputy director at DWR.

At a 35% allocation, the agency would have delivered about 1.4 million acre-feet of water to its 29 member agencies, Yarbrough said. The increase will “more than double that amount” to about 3.1 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons.

The allocation could increase even more in April, Yarbrough said. However, he and other officials stressed that the governor’s emergency proclamation was being modified — not removed.

“We’re modifying it as opposed to eliminating it because first, there are portions of the state that continue to experience acute water shortages,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. That includes the Klamath Basin in far Northern California and portions of Southern California that depend on the Colorado River, he said.

“We’re also maintaining yet modifying the proclamation because there are continued emergency impacts and drought conditions across the state, including … communities and households that lack drinking water coming out of their taps,” Crowfoot said.

Still, the change was welcome news after a grueling, bone-dry three years wrought devastation on the lives and businesses of millions of Californians.

In 2022, significant cuts in water deliveries saw irrigated farmland shrink by 752,000 acres — cutting crop revenues by $1.7 billion and costing an estimated 12,000 agricultural jobs.

The number of dry wells soared, particularly in the Central Valley, as farmers continued to suck supplies from the ground to make up for reduced allocations, often leaving the state’s most vulnerable residents with little water and even less recourse.

Frank Ferriera pulls a handful of fresh water from a large open pipe at his farm.

Frank Ferriera pulls a handful of fresh water from a large open pipe at his farm in Visalia, Calif. The wet winter this years recharged farmland and wells.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Urban areas also saw unprecedented water restrictions that led to one- and two-day-a-week outdoor watering limits for 7 million people in Southern California, among other rules.

The region’s massive water wholesaler, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, lifted some of its restrictions last week, however local water suppliers may still have regulations in place.

Newsom administration officials said provisions centered on groundwater supplies will also remain in place, including those that enable the state to assist communities with dry wells and respond to emergencies as needed.

The provisions reflect that “we continue to have a groundwater drought, a groundwater deficit,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Despite the surface water surplus, deficits in groundwater won’t be remedied by a single wet year, he said.

Crowfoot said removing the 15% voluntary reduction is part of a larger goal to move away from numeric targets and focus on a “more durable approach” to making conservation a way of life.

“It’s not about going back to normal anymore — it’s really adjusting to a new normal, and that is intensifying extremes,” Crowfoot said. He said he would not declare the drought over.

“If we declared the drought over and removed any emergency provisions, we would be unable to quickly and effectively provide support where those conditions still exist,” he said, such as providing bottled water supplies to communities whose wells have run dry.

Such “climate whiplash” behavior — or swings between extreme wetness and dryness — was exemplified by the recent storms, including deadly blizzards in the San Bernardino Mountains and devastating flooding in Monterey County and the Central Valley.

Water managers said they are working to boost the state’s ability to capture and store water and to modernize infrastructure under the governor’s Strategy for a Hotter, Drier California, unveiled last August. Those efforts include recent moves to divert more than 600,000 acre-feet of water from the swollen San Joaquin River to help replenish groundwater basins in the Central Valley.

But state officials also acknowledged that Southern California’s other major source — the Colorado River — remains in dire condition.

The river is a water lifeline that supplies about 40 million people, but drought and overuse have left its reservoirs dangerously low, with water managers warning that Lake Mead could soon drop below its lowest intake valve and effectively cut off supplies for the American West.

Federal officials have ordered California and six other states to drastically reduce their use of that river, but so far no agreement has been reached.

California, meanwhile, has received a bounty unlike any in recent memory.

Nearly 65% of the state is no longer in drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows. Just three months ago, almost 100% of the state was mired in some form of dryness.

By Friday, statewide snowpack was 227% of normal for the date. Snowpack in the southern Sierra was 283% of normal — an all-time record.

California’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, were at 78% and 82% of capacity, respectively.

Yet another storm system could drop more rain and snow on the state early next week, forecasters said.

Times staff writer Ian James contributed to this report.

Source link

Worry and suspicion reign as once-dry Tulare Lake drowns California farmland

Worry and suspicion reign as once-dry Tulare Lake drowns California farmland

Sixth Avenue used to cut through miles of farmland. Now, the road has disappeared under muddy water, its path marked by sodden telephone poles that protrude from the swelling lake. Water laps just below the windows of a lone farmhouse that sits alongside the submerged route.

Thousands of acres of cropland have been inundated in this heavily farmed swath of the San Joaquin Valley. And the water just keeps rising.

For the first time in decades, Tulare Lake is reappearing in the valley, reclaiming the lowlands at its historic heart. Once the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River, Tulare Lake was largely drained in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the rivers that fed it were dammed and diverted for agriculture.

This month, after a historic series of powerful storms, the phantom lake has reemerged. Rivers that dwindled during the drought are swollen with runoff from heavy rains and snow, and are flowing full from the Sierra Nevada into the valley, spilling from canals and broken levees into fields that usually teem with lucrative plantings of tomatoes, cotton and hay.

“This is unreal,” said Mark Grewal, an agronomist who has worked on the area’s farms since 1979, surveying floodwaters that stretched to the horizon. “I’m just amazed at how fast it filled.”

Mark Grewal, a farming consultant, stands on a flooded road near Corcoran.

Mark Grewal, an agricultural consultant, stands on a flooded road near Corcoran, where Tulare Lake is reappearing and inundating thousands of acres of farmland.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Along with awe, Tulare Lake’s sudden reemergence has fueled conflict in one of California’s richest agricultural centers, as the spreading waters swallow fields and orchards and encroach on low-lying towns. In a region where the major agricultural landowners have a history of water disputes, the floods streaming into Tulare Lake Basin have reignited some long-standing tensions and brought accusations of foul play and mismanagement.

Residents in rural towns such as Alpaugh and Allensworth fear their homes won’t be prioritized for protection from the rising waters. And as the water has overwhelmed canals, tensions have flared over where the floods should be directed, and which farmland should go under first.

“When there’s this much water, nobody wants it,” Grewal said. “The growers want to keep it off their land.”

More water is set to come rushing into the basin in the coming weeks from the rivers that feed it — the Kings, St. John’s and Tule, among them — sending flows coursing through the network of canals that crisscross the lake bottom.

“All of the arteries are full, and they’re going to get fuller,” Grewal said. “It could be as big or bigger than ’83.”

That was the lake’s last high point, when heavy rain and snow unleashed runoff that, according to Grewal’s records, covered about 82,000 acres. During that refilling, and a smaller reappearance in 1997-98, Grewal managed farmland for J.G. Boswell Co., the area’s largest landowner. He now runs his own consulting business, working with growers in the U.S. and internationally.

The resurgent lake has already flooded more than 10,000 acres of farmland, Grewal said, and will continue expanding over the next two months as historic snowpack in the Sierra Nevada melts and flows to the valley.

Near the town of Stratford, Grewal drove along an elevated roadway through fields that usually produce tomatoes and where water now pooled in the dark rows of lakebed soil.

“This is all going to go underwater,” he said.

Approx. boundaries of Tulare Lake, between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

(Paul Duginski / Los Angeles Times)

In previous flood years, Grewal said, levees were typically cut open in an agreed-upon order, sending water from one enclosed “cell” to another, and filling the lake bottom in an orchestrated way. This time, he said, there have been delayed responses and more levee breaches than in the past.

“The flood isn’t being handled properly,” said Grewal, noting he works with one grower who has 2,400 acres of pistachio trees choking underwater. “It’s a mess, because there are breaks everywhere.”

In one mysterious incident, Jack Mitchell of the area’s Deer Creek Flood Control District alleged that someone had intentionally cut open a levee with a backhoe in the dark of night. He says he knows who did it, but the report hasn’t prompted an investigation.

Elsewhere, Mitchell said, the Boswell company at one point used a massive piece of equipment as a barrier, keeping Mitchell’s crew from cutting into a levee to send water flowing toward the basin bottom and away from towns. “It’s silly the way they’re doing it,” he said at the time. “It wants to go to the lake, and they won’t let it go.”

The Kings County Board of Supervisors stepped in to settle the dispute, ordering Boswell’s managers to cut a levee and send water toward the lake bottom — and into their fields and those of other growers — rather than trying to pump the water up to higher elevation areas.

“They weren’t really happy with me,” said Supervisor Doug Verboon. “To have someone come and tell them what they have to do is not good for them. But what it did was, it opened a line of communication. So now we’re speaking to each other and sharing ideas.”

Boswell representatives did not respond to emails from The Times requesting an interview.

Over the years, the company has built levees on the old lakebed bottom to control floodwaters. “The idea is that you want to flood the least amount of acres the highest you can to minimize losses,” Grewal said.

A truck navigates through a flooded pistachio grove near Corcoran.

A truck navigates through a flooded pistachio grove near Corcoran.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Local responsibility for flood control in the basin is split among about a dozen reclamation districts, which are controlled by landowners. State officials have visited the area to discuss response efforts. Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth told the news website SJV Water that she and her team are assessing the state’s authority to intervene, if needed, to help “deal with the challenges we’ve already seen emerging in the last 10 days.”

Verboon said one issue that has complicated matters is bad blood between the Boswell company and John Vidovich, who also owns vast acreage in the basin. Their disputes, some rooted in disagreements over water rights, have led to litigation, and Verboon said they have refused to talk to each other.

“We all pay the price when they’re fighting,” Verboon said. But he said he anticipates the flooding, which is set to worsen in the coming weeks, could spur the two camps to “work together to move this water out of here.”

During the 1983 floods, Grewal said, a decision was made to take a large portion of the water that was rushing in and divert it to Southern California cities. “They pumped a million acre-feet to L.A. that would have gone to the lake,” he said. “Boswell paid for that, just to dewater the lake faster.”

Farms in the lake’s footprint rely on a mix of water from irrigation canals and groundwater. In many years, limited surface supplies have led growers to heavily pump from wells. As the aquifer has dropped, the land has been sinking. In parts of the watershed, that has altered where water flows.

Jairo Estrada, left, and Juan Espinoza work to get one of their family's car off their flooded property in Allensworth.

Jairo Estrada, left, and Juan Espinoza work to get one of their family’s car off their flooded property in Allensworth.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

In an interview, Vidovich did not address the flood response. He said some of his company’s almond and walnut orchards have flooded, and that “you just have to hope that the trees get enough oxygen that they survive.”

Other farmers have echoed the concern, saying if water remains on orchards as temperatures rise, the roots will rot and kill the trees.

In low-lying Allensworth, residents have used shovels and tractors to build berms, trying to prevent ditches from overflowing and sending water toward their homes. Its leaders have appealed for more help from county and state officials, as well as the adjacent railroad. Despite an evacuation order, many residents have said they plan to stay to try to defend their homes.

“The real spirit of Allensworth, to me, is to help the people that are in need in our community,” said Melvin Santiel, the pastor of Allensworth Christian Church. “And we have to do it because we don’t have anybody that’s going to come and help us.”

Santiel said he’s concerned that some growers have been trying to keep water off their lands, and that canals and levees have suffered from a lack of maintenance. “California infrastructure was not ready for this,” Santiel said. “We have to come up with a major plan, because this water’s not going to stop.”

Grewal said he thinks Allensworth will be in danger when the snow melts, and “they need to leave.”

Storm clouds leave a dusting of snow on the mountains at the edge of the vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Storm clouds leave a dusting of snow on the mountains at the edge of the vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley. Snowmelt from heavy snowfall in the peaks that ring the valley are expected to exacerbate local flooding.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Tulare Lake’s return, he said, could put valuable land out of commission for as long as two years, reducing production of tomatoes, pima cotton, safflower and alfalfa. He said he expects farmworkers will need to relocate, and prices of processed tomatoes and other products will rise.

Nevertheless, the region’s large growers have weathered past floods and will survive this one, Grewal said. And the bounty of water will bring a meaningful boost to supplies.

In satellite images of the San Joaquin Valley, the footprint of the old lakebed stands out as a darker, grayish area in the patches of farmland. In the days before the damming of rivers, the lake could stretch for 790 square miles, four times the size of Lake Tahoe, with depths of 30 feet.

Before white settlers arrived in the Central Valley in the 1800s, Tulare Lake was the center of life for the Native Yokut people who lived by its shores and along the rivers. Then farmers began diverting water and claiming land in the lake bottom.

More than a century later, members of the Santa Rosa Rancheria of the Tachi Yokut Tribe live near what was once the lake’s north shore. The tribe’s leaders have agreed to diversions that will channel some of the floodwaters onto their lands, easing pressure on the system while also helping to recharge groundwater.

The lake’s rise is “just a very small reminder of what was once here,” said Leo Sisco, the tribe’s chairman.

The phantom lake, which the tribe calls Pa’ashi, remains central to their spiritual beliefs. Their traditional songs include passages that say when the water rises, “that’s the lake telling us, ‘OK, it’s time for you guys to get out of here now,’ ” said Robert Jeff, the tribe’s vice chairman.

“So that’s when our people would pack up,” Jeff said, “and we’d head to the mountains, to our other villages, until the water receded.”

“It’s time to move to higher ground,” he said.

Times staff writer Jessica Garrison contributed to this report.

Source link

UCLA goes from brilliant to broke as history cruelly repeats itself vs. Gonzaga

UCLA goes from brilliant to broke as history cruelly repeats itself vs. Gonzaga

Not again. Not again. Not again.

Two years later, another deep Gonzaga dare.

Two years later, another desperate UCLA stare.

Two years later, another dagger.

This can’t keep happening, can it? Gonzaga can’t keep beating UCLA in the final seconds of an NCAA tournament game with a basket out of nowhere, can it?

The unimaginable became real. The unthinkable became the incredible. The worst kind of UCLA history just repeated the hell out of itself.

With six seconds left in their Sweet 16 brawl Thursday at T-Mobile Arena, moments after the Bruins had fought back from a second-half collapse to take a one-point lead, Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther hit a 32-foot jumper from the top of the key to steal an unbelievable win, smother a raucous crowd, and stoke the sorriest of memories.

Dancing Zags. Crumpled Bruins. Season over. Just like that.

On the verge of victory against their most bedeviling of rivals, UCLA had suffered a 79-76 loss to end their real national title hopes with the rerun of a heartbreak.

“He hit a big shot,” said a pale and weary Jaime Jaquez Jr. “And we lost.”

Bruins fans have heard this before.

Two years ago, in the final second of overtime in the national semifinals, the Zags’ Jalen Suggs hit a 40-footer to do the exact same thing, and how incredibly weird and unimaginable is that?

Although, two years ago, UCLA was a big underdog and the daunting defeat was the beginning of a three-year trek back to national relevance.

Thursday was different. For the senior trio of Jaquez, Tyger Campbell and David Singleton, it was not an exciting beginning, but the unsightly end of the road.

These Bruins were favored. These Bruins had taken a 13-point halftime lead. These Bruins had taken a one-point edge six seconds before Strawther’s shot on a three-pointer by freshman Amari Bailey.

Unlike two years ago, by being outscored by 16 points in the second half, the Bruins flat blew this game.

Their fight, so powerful for so long, suddenly faded.

Their teamwork, so smooth for so many seasons, suddenly broke.

Their experience, so important for this veteran team seemingly headed to the Final Four, suddenly deserted them.

UCLA Bruins guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) struggles to shoot late in the game

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. struggles to put up a shot late in a 79-76 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

After brilliantly racing to that halftime edge, UCLA stumbled, staggered and finally collapsed in a loss that ended with Strawther’s bomb but actually occurred long before that.

A game that was seemingly in control careened into the darkest of ditches in the last 20 minutes with the Bruins having no idea how to save themselves. A gleaming effort became a smoking wreckage filled with bricks, bad defense and regrets.

They couldn’t make a shot, missing 11 straight at one point in the second half, going 11 minutes, 16 seconds without a field goal.

“We ran some really good sets … we got some really good looks … we just weren’t able to knock them in,” Campbell said.

UCLA couldn’t stop Gonzaga’s veteran center Drew Timme, as he owned them for 36 points and 13 rebounds.

Said Timme: “We’re warriors.”

Said Jaquez: “We tried our best to stop him, we didn’t get it done.”

The Bruins stopped sharing the ball, jacking up wild shots in hastened possessions. They stopped battling for second chances, submitting to the equally tough and veteran Zags.

“Lot of open shots didn’t go down … wide-open shots,” said coach Mick Cronin, who also complained about the officiating. “We got a very tough whistle.”

Maybe the injuries finally caught up with them.

Their best defensive player was wheeling around on a scooter. Their best big man was sitting on the bench in street clothes. They were counted out when they lost Jaylen Clark for the season and were counted out even more when they lost Adem Bona for chunks of this tournament and guess what? Maybe the experts were right.

Bona would have guarded Timme. And Clark, not a wandering freshman Dylan Andrews, would have guarded Strawther tighter before that winning shot.

But maybe it was more than the injuries. Maybe Jaquez and Campbell finally grew weary of shouldering the heaviest of load, as they shot a combined 17 of 41 from the field. In particular, Campbell and Singleton didn’t make a basket in the second half.

Gonzaga was feared as a UCLA-deflating powerhouse, with a nation-leading 11 consecutive wins and the kind of veteran talent that would severely test UCLA’s resolve.

Turns out, that’s exactly what happened.

The Bruins finished the first half with a 46-33 lead and a 9-1 edge in the turnover battle with an amazing seven steals.

But Gonzaga fought back in the second half, riding Timme and Malachi Smith, winning the battle underneath, tying it at 59-all midway through the half.

UCLA was suddenly missing everything. Gonzaga was suddenly grabbing everything.

Smith hit a floater that gave Gonzaga a 61-59 lead with 8:52 left and suddenly the cries of “U-C-L-A” from a Bruins crowd that dominated the building were replaced with, “Let’s Go Zags!”

The battle raged for those final eight minutes, Gonzaga actually taking a 10-point lead before Jaquez repeatedly drove and scored and brought UCLA back. Almost. Six seconds left.

All that was left was for a Gonzaga guard to throw in a miracle from the deep and hurl UCLA into the depths.

Again? Again.

Source link

Jubilation turns into heartbreak as UCLA loses to Gonzaga again in NCAA tournament

Jubilation turns into heartbreak as UCLA loses to Gonzaga again in NCAA tournament

From on top of the college basketball world to deflated, momentarily back on top only to be heartbroken once more.

There couldn’t have been a bigger swing of emotions than UCLA experienced in the span of a few breathless minutes Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena. That it came against a most aggravating antagonist compounded the agony.

The severely short-handed Bruins lost a 13-point lead to Gonzaga early in the second half of their NCAA tournament West Region semifinal, falling behind by 10 with just 2 minutes 40 seconds left. They stormed back, surging ahead by one on Amari Bailey’s fearless three-pointer with 14 seconds left.

All that, only to be undone by another dagger shot through the heart.

Two years after Jalen Suggs, there was Julian Strawther.

Trailing his teammates, Strawther took a flip pass from Hunter Sallis and buried a 32-footer with six seconds left to lift third-seeded Gonzaga to a 79-76 victory over the second-seeded Bruins.

Amid the silent devastation of UCLA’s locker room, all the Bruins sat at their lockers wearing blank stares to go with the game jerseys they did not want to take off a half hour after the game ended.

“It’s pretty hard, coming back like that,” UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell said of not being able to complete the comeback in what might have been his final college game. “Yeah.”

UCLA (31-6) had two last chances to save its season. It couldn’t convert either.

His team down by two points, Campbell had the ball stripped for a rare turnover and the Bruins fouled Strawther, who missed the first free throw before making the second with three seconds left. The Bruins’ inbounds pass went to big man Kenneth Nwuba at midcourt, where he flung a pass to Campbell for a three-pointer at the buzzer that was off the side of the rim.

For the second time in three years, the Bruins’ season ended in the cruelest fashion against the same opponent. For a tantalizing moment, it had seemed they might have persevered through it all. That late 10-point deficit quickly disappeared thanks to a 14-3 run ending in Bailey’s three.

“All I was thinking was, get a stop,” Bailey said. “I mean, that’s what got us back in the game.”

Gonzaga called timeout. The Bruins realized they had not accomplished anything.

“I mean, there’s 12 seconds left on the clock,” UCLA senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. said after finding his form anew in the final minutes and finishing with 29 points and 11 rebounds. “This is March. Anything can really happen.”

And did. UCLA coach Mick Cronin lamented that his defenders sagged off Strawther on his last shot after playing him tightly all game. After exhaling deeply, Gonzaga (31-5) will face fourth-seeded Connecticut in the regional final Saturday after the Huskies routed Arkansas by 23 in the earlier semifinal.

Gonzaga guard Malachi Smith grabs a rebound on a missed shot by UCLA guard Tyger Campbell.

Gonzaga guard Malachi Smith grabs a rebound on a missed shot by UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, front, late in the game.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther scores the winning basket on a three-pointer.

Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther scores the winning basket on a three-pointer in the final seconds of a 79-76 victory over UCLA in the Sweet 16.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

What started so well couldn’t have ended any worse for UCLA. Before their late push, the Bruins missed 11 consecutive field goals over an 11-minute stretch. Campbell and shooting guard David Singleton combined to miss all nine of their shots in the second half.

By the time Jaquez made a driving layup and was fouled with 1:14 left, his team was down 72-66 and in desperation mode.

“Coach was telling us we have to score on each possession or the game’s over,” Singleton said, “so that’s what we did.”

The Bruins were outshot, 47.2% to 30%, in the second half while giving up 14 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points. Gonzaga’s Drew Timme was a bulldozer around the basket, finishing with 36 points and 13 rebounds.

Jaquez’s big night was supplemented by Bailey (19 points) and Campbell (14 points, nine assists). It wasn’t enough for a team facing a deficit of sorts before tipoff. His team already missing top defender Jaylen Clark because of a leg injury, Cronin also did not play freshman center Adem Bona after he aggravated his shoulder injury against Northwestern in the second round. Backups Nwuba and Mac Etienne struggled to defend Timme amid a series of pump fakes and drop steps leading to easy baskets.

In the game’s early going it looked like the Bruins might end their Gonzaga hex, the Zags having prevailed in the last two NCAA tournament meetings between the teams in addition to a 20-point rout here last season. Cronin had shielded himself from the memory of Suggs earlier this week when he rewatched the 2021 Final Four loss, pressing pause before Suggs’ 40-footer banked off the backboard and through the net.

In a huge surprise, the teams played a frenetic first half and the pace favored UCLA. That’s because the Bruins were doing most of the running, their nine forced turnovers leading to 15 points.

Campbell pumped both arms in excitement after missing a jumper in the final seconds of the first half, an acknowledgment of his team’s nearly perfect play. The scoreboard told the story: UCLA 46, Gonzaga 33.

The lead would not hold up, Gonzaga finding more March magic. For the Bruins, there was only more suffering to come against the team that has delivered so much this time of year.

Source link

Scientists uncover startling concentrations of pure DDT along seafloor off L.A. coast

Scientists uncover startling concentrations of pure DDT along seafloor off L.A. coast

First it was the eerie images of barrels leaking on the seafloor not far from Catalina Island. Then the shocking realization that the nation’s largest manufacturer of DDT had once used the ocean as a huge dumping ground — and that as many as half a million barrels of its acid waste had been poured straight into the water.

Now, scientists have discovered that much of the DDT — which had been dumped largely in the 1940s and ‘50s — never broke down. The chemical remains in its most potent form in startlingly high concentrations, spread across a wide swath of seafloor larger than the city of San Francisco.

“We still see original DDT on the seafloor from 50, 60, 70 years ago, which tells us that it’s not breaking down the way that [we] once thought it should,” said UC Santa Barbara scientist David Valentine, who shared these preliminary findings Thursday during a research update with more than 90 people working on the issue. “And what we’re seeing now is that there is DDT that has ended up all over the place, not just within this tight little circle on a map that we referred to as Dumpsite Two.”

These revelations confirm some of the science community’s deepest concerns — and further complicate efforts to understand DDT’s toxic and insidious legacy in California. Public calls for action have intensified since The Times reported in 2020 that dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, banned in 1972, is still haunting the marine environment today. Significant amounts of DDT-related compounds continue to accumulate in California condors and local dolphin populations, and a recent study linked the presence of this once-popular pesticide to an aggressive cancer in sea lions.

With a $5.6-million research boost from Congress, at the urging of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), numerous federal, state and local agencies have since joined with scientists and environmental nonprofits to figure out the extent of the contamination lurking 3,000 feet underwater. (Another $5.2 million, overseen by California and USC Sea Grant, will be distributed this summer to kick off another 18 months of research.)

The findings so far have been one stunning development after another. A preliminary sonar-mapping effort led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography identified at least 70,000 debris-like objects on the seafloor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, after combing through thousands of pages of old records, discovered that other toxic chemicals — as well as millions of tons of oil drilling waste — had also been dumped decades ago by other companies in more than a dozen areas off the Southern California coast.

“When the DDT was disposed, it is highly likely that other materials — either from the tanks on the barges, or barrels being pushed over the side of the barges — would have been disposed at the same time,” said John Lyons, acting deputy director of the EPA’s Region 9 Superfund Division. He noted that the new science being shared this week is critical to answering one of the agency’s most burning questions: “Is the contamination moving? And is it moving in a way that threatens the marine environment or human health?”

In recent months, Valentine, whose research team had first brought this decades-old issue back into the public consciousness, has been mapping and collecting samples of the seafloor between the Los Angeles coast and Catalina.

Analysis of the sediment so far shows that the most concentrated layer of DDT is only about 6 centimeters deep — raising questions about just how easily these still-potent chemicals could be remobilized.

“Trawls, cable lays could reintroduce this stuff back up to the surface,” Valentine said. “And animals feeding — if a whale goes down and burrows on the seafloor, that could kick stuff up.”

David Valentine and his postdoc bring a sediment sample up from the seafloor.

Postdoc Sebastian Krause, left, works with David Valentine, a principal investigator at UC Santa Barbara, to retrieve a tube of sediment collected from the seafloor where DDT waste was dumped into the ocean decades ago.

(Austin Straub / For The Times)

On a chilly winter morning in between two storms, Valentine and a team of students boarded the RV/Yellowfin and set out to collect more seafloor samples along key points of a hot-spot map that they’ve been piecing together.

As his students sliced and cataloged each layer of mud, they gasped in wonder at the tiny worms, snails and sea stars that lived so deep under the sea. They squinted at each tube that came out of the water and laughed apprehensively when asked about all the chemicals they were possibly holding in their hands.

“The goal is to collect as much mud as possible so that we don’t have to come back out every time we have a question,” Valentine explained as the ship’s mechanical pulley churned for the eighth time that day. “We are starting to build a really exceptional data set … that will help us understand the time history of how things were transported, how they were transformed, and what their ultimate fate is.”

Seafloor samples are organized into multiple jars in David Valentine's lab.

Sediment samples — collected from the seafloor where DDT was dumped decades ago off the coast of Catalina — are organized into jars in a lab at UC Santa Barbara.

(Austin Straub / For The Times)

Other scientists have also been chipping away at the many pieces to this deep-ocean puzzle.

Thursday’s research updates included plans for the next Scripps mapping expedition, which will scan the seafloor with advanced sonar technology and also take hundreds of thousands of photos. Microbiologists shared their latest studies into whether deep-sea microbes could possibly help biodegrade some of the contamination, and chemical oceanographers discussed the many ways they’ve been trying to identify “fingerprints” that could help determine where the DDT is coming from — and how and if it’s moving.

Biological oceanographers, marine ecologists and fisheries scientists also started to connect some dots on the various organisms they’ve found living in the contaminated sediment, as well as the midwater species that could potentially move the chemicals from deeper waters up closer to the surface.

All of them noted that there were uncomfortably high concentrations of DDT and DDT-related compounds in the samples they studied. Even the “control” samples they tried to collect — as a way to compare what a normal sediment or fish sample farther away from the dumping area might look like — ended up riddled with DDT.

“This suggests to us, very preliminarily, that there’s some connection potentially — there’s connectivity in these deep food webs across the basins and across the system,” said Lihini Aluwihare, a marine chemist at Scripps.

On top of all this research, the EPA has been developing its own sampling plan, in collaboration with a number of state and federal agencies, to get a grasp of the many other chemicals that had also been dumped into the ocean. The hope, officials said, is that the groundbreaking science now underway on the deep-ocean DDT dumping will ultimately inform how future investigations of other offshore dump sites — whether along the Southern California coast or elsewhere in the country — could be conducted.

Mark Gold, an environmental scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council who has worked on the DDT problem since the 1990s, said that as he listened to the latest research discoveries, he couldn’t help but think that “our nation’s ocean dumpsites all have horrible contamination problems. And yet they are unmonitored.”

There are also more shallow areas off the Palos Verdes coast and at the mouth of the Dominguez Channel that have been known DDT hot spots for decades. Figuring out how to clean up those contaminated areas in an underwater environment has been its own complicated saga.

For Katherine Pease at Heal the Bay, an environmental group that has been making sure the public remains engaged on this issue in substantive ways, these latest revelations have been eye-opening.

This is, after all, what it truly means to live with a forever chemical. After all these decades, scientists are still uncovering new and unsettling surprises about the full extent of the contamination.

“We’re still grappling with this legacy of treating the ocean as a dumping ground,” said Pease, Heal the Bay’s science and policy director. “And the public — whether they’re folks that like to fish … or people who like to swim and visit the ocean — we all need to understand the history that went on, as well as the impacts. And partly that’s to learn … to make sure that we’re able to protect our public health, but also to think about how we are treating the ocean now, as well as into the future.”

Source link

Lucas Hnath conjures up the eerie, sensationally acted 'The Thin Place' at Echo Theater Co.

Lucas Hnath conjures up the eerie, sensationally acted 'The Thin Place' at Echo Theater Co.

Parapsychology — that inquiry into mental phenomena beyond the reach of psychology — is a perfect subject for the theater, where audience members have been trained to suspend their disbelief.

Lucas Hnath, one of the most adventurous American playwrights working today, tests the occult waters in his eerily gripping play “The Thin Place,” now receiving its California premiere in a sensationally acted Echo Theatre Co. production at Atwater Village Theatre.

Hilda (an enigmatically sprightly Caitlin Zambito) has been dabbling with extra-sensory perception since she was a girl. Speaking directly to the audience, she recalls the mind-reading games her grandmother played with her long ago in the hope of establishing a form of communication that could continue after her death.

Hilda’s home life is troubled. Her mother doesn’t like the “demonic activity” Hilda’s grandmother encourages and eventually kicks her out of the house. Unstable, Hilda’s mother fears that she herself is possessed. One day, when Hilda is an adult, she just disappears.

Not long after her mother vanishes, Hilda visits Linda, a medium who plies her trade in the living rooms of affluent wine drinkers. This spiritualist, played to turbulent perfection by Janet Greaves, knows how to put on a show. She relates information about Hilda that she has no business knowing.

How does she do it? She listens, tuning into her inner intercom, where the spirits of the dead line up to speak. Hilda’s grandmother seems delighted for the chance to send messages once again to her granddaughter, even if it involves a colorful third party.

Hilda and Linda become intimate friends — the exact dimensions of which remain opaque. Suspecting that she may also have the gift, Hilda wants to learn the ins and outs of the psychic profession. But Linda doesn’t like talking shop.

Temperamentally, the two women couldn’t be more different. Linda, who’s British and middle-aged, is bossy, loud and streetwise. Hilda is watchful, girlish and a bit fey. If you were to judge by appearances, otherworldly Hilda might seem to be the one with access to “the thin place,” which she describes as that borderland “where the line between this world and some other world is very thin.”

Linda’s bravado occasionally suggests a tawdry fortune teller background. But she may be the most honest character in the play. She debunks her “magic” to Hilda, explaining that what she does is a trick not all that different from psychotherapy, except what she offers “actually works.” She’s in the business of giving reassurance and relieving guilt, but she wishes Hilda would stop poking her nose behind the curtain.

Hnath, the shapeshifting author of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” and “Dana H.,” is right at home in the supernatural genre, which is becoming increasing popular in the theater, as evidenced last fall by “2:22 — A Ghost Story” at the Ahmanson Theatre and “The Brothers Paranormal” at East West Players. His approach is philosophical — questioning the line between truth and fabrication.

Is Linda a master manipulator or might she have some genuine occult talents that she doesn’t fully understand? Does Hilda’s awareness of Linda as a con artist only intensify her belief in her own access to mysterious realms?

Moving effortlessly between narration and dramatization, “The Thin Place” mixes the quotidian with the uncanny to stylish effect. Hnath, able to refashion any dramatic form in his own image, never fails to find unexpected storytelling angles to make the familiar unfamiliar and vice versa.

As Linda listens to voices on the other side, Hnath’s unerring ear compels us to lean forward and take in what his characters are saying. The silence in the theater becomes overwhelming — a sign that the actors are making contact not only with the material and each other but also with the audience.

Directed by Abigail Deser, the production (handsomely minimalist in its design) works to get the audience in the right frame of mind before the play even begins. Theatergoers are asked as they enter to write the name of someone they’ve lost on a piece of paper, which will then be collected and perhaps used in the show.

Zambito’s Hilda singles out members of the audience for interaction. She notices resemblances between certain attendees and her grandmother. When Hilda talks about her past, she does so almost in a whisper, as though sharing spooky secrets she knows will echo with our own.

A man pours a woman a drink while another woman looks on.

Justin Huen, Corbett Tuck and Janet Greaves in the Echo Theater Company’s production of “The Thin Place” by Lucas Hnath.

(OddDog Pictures)

The play expands in its middle section, ushering in two additional characters: Sylvia (Corbett Tuck), Linda’s wealthy patron, and Jerry (Justin Huen), Linda’s American cousin. The occasion is a party to celebrate Linda’s visa, which Jerry has helped her obtain by getting her a job as a political consultant. (Linda’s ability to read a room of strangers turns out to be an invaluable campaign skill.)

The boisterous party chat doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but Hnath nabs the grandiose personalities in the room. Hnath has Linda and Sylvia arguing ferociously one minute, then acting like best friends the next. It’s a perfect depiction of a relationship that’s colored by money and psychological dependence.

The ending takes a strange turn as Hilda courageously ventures into the thin place. The conclusion isn’t wholly satisfying, but perhaps because the play can’t possibly remove the veil between the natural and supernatural worlds.

The wonder of the acting — all four performers are eccentrically alive — compensates for the thinness of this tantalizing drama. Hnath creates thematic intrigue, but his plot doesn’t back up the story’s ambiguity as effectively as, say, Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw,” the high-water mark of literary horror, manages to shore up the psychology in parapsychology.

“The Thin Place” has vivid characters, a dashing minimalist flair and just enough intelligent substance to make you wish it had a touch more.

‘The Thin Place’

Where: Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 24

Tickets: $34; pay-what-you-want Mondays

Contact: (310) 307-3753 or

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Source link