SUBJECT: DIVISION OF WATER RIGHTS PROPOSAL ON ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN ON PENDING WATER RIGHT APPLICATIONS WITHIN THE RUSSIAN RIVER WATERSHED
DISCUSSION: Division of Water Rights (Division) staff have prepared a Staff Report that outlines an approach for acting on 80+ water right applications within the Russian River watershed. A copy of the Staff Report was distributed to the Board Members and the public in August 1997. These pending applications request rights to divert a total of about 49,000 acre-feet of water per annum.
Similar to many coastal streams, there are concerns regarding the overall condition of coho salmon and steelhead within the Russian River watershed. The National Marine Fisheries Service has listed coho and steelhead as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In response to the concerns regarding these endangered species, the State Water Resources Control Board held two public workshops to provide interested parties with an opportunity to provide comments and recommendations regarding measures that should be taken to protect the fishery resources. As a result of those workshops, the Division adopted a "multi-staged"strategy to address issues in the Russian River watershed. The attached Staff Report represents the completion of major elements of that strategy.
Division staff has conducted an evaluation of pending applications and measures needed to protect the fishery resources. To assist in that effort, the Division developed a hydrologic model and developed a methodology to determine the flow regime needed to protect coho and steelhead. Based on that analysis, Division staff concluded that adequate water is available for appropriation in the winter but no water is available for appropriation in the summer. Accordingly, Division staff recommend approval of pending applications in the tributaries for winter diversion and/or storage, with the inclusion of the following terms that are designed to protect fishery resources:
. Allowable season of diversion of December 15 to March 31;
. Minimum bypass flow equal to 60% of the average annual flow;
. Limitations on the maximum rate of diversion;
. Prevention of barriers to fish passage;
. Construction of fish screens; and
. Establishing a method to demonstrate compliance with the bypass terms.
In addition, Division staff recommends that all tributaries within the Russian River watershed be declared as Fully Appropriated Streams from April 1 through December 14, in accordance with Water Code section 1205, et seq.
On August 15, 1997 the Division distributed copies of the Staff Report to approximately 800 interested parties. On September 16, 1997 Division staff held an informal workshop in Santa Rosa to answer questions relating to the Staff Report and to provide an opportunity for parties to offer comments on the recommendations contained in the Staff Report. About 100 people attended the workshop; about 30 parties made presentations and/or asked questions of Division staff. In addition, the Division has received about 10 phone calls and about 15 comment letters. (Copies of those letters and the Division's letters of response have been forwarded to the Board Members for their information.) Attached is a brief summary of the major comments regarding the recommendations contained in the Staff Report and staff's response to those concerns.
POLICY ISSUES: Should the Division of Water Rights proceed with the processing of water rights as outlined in the staff report?
FISCAL IMPACT: This activity is included within the Division's authorized budget.
REGIONAL BOARD IMPACT: Division staff will continue to coordinate with staff of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, in the development of watershed management plans and review the progress of SCWA's formal consultation process with the National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
STAFF RECOMMENDATION: Unless directed otherwise, Division staff will proceed with processing pending applications as outlined in the Staff Report.
(Note: Staff Report not available electronically -- contact Ernie Monoa (916) 657-1947
Comment: A comprehensive management plan for the watershed is needed.
Response: Staff agrees and is cooperating in the efforts of other agencies to develop watershed management plans. In addition, the SWRCB is actively involved in the Governor's Watershed Protection and Restoration Council (WPRC) established in Executive Order W-159-97 in August of this year. This council is charged with providing oversight of State activities aimed at watershed protection and enhancement, including the conservation and restoration of anadromous salmonids in California.
Comment: The SWRCB should take action to address problems caused by other activities such as gravel mining, timber management practices and sedimentation caused by land use practices.
Response: The SWRCB has limited jurisdiction in many of these other areas. Other agencies are addressing some of these issues. The SWRCB and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will work with other agencies and groups through the WPRC process to address these concerns.
Comment: The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) has concerns regarding the reservation of 8,000 acre-feet in Mendocino County on the main stem of the Russian River
Response: Division staff has sent a letter to SCWA that provides a detailed response to SCWA's concerns. Staff has advised SCWA that they need to develop additional data and perhaps petition the SWRCB to change past decisions if they want these issues addressed beyond the response provided in the letter. This is a "separable"issue; the Division can process applications in the tributaries and could defer action or reserve jurisdiction on pending applications on the main stem.
Comment: The proposed season of diversion prohibits direct diversion for frost protection during the spring. There are no other feasible economic and environmental sound methods to provide frost protection.
Response: Maintaining adequate flow in the spring is important for several critical life-stages of coho and steelhead. There are alternative methods to achieve frost protection through means other than direct diversion of stream flow. Those methods may be more costly, but should be exercised where direct diversion of water will adversely affect the habitat of endangered species.
Comment: Are the proposed conditions a rigid set of guidelines?
Response: No, but they provide a framework for evaluation of pending applications. Staff will review each project on a case-by-case basis and recommend appropriate terms and conditions. In addition, staff will prepare the appropriate environmental document to define measures necessary to mitigate potential environmental impacts. The Russian River Staff Report will be used as part of the staff analysis developed in resolving water right issues.
Comment: The City of Santa Rosa and SCWA are developing a water recycling project and recommend that the SWRCB require applicants to use recycled water.
Response: Water Code section 13550 states that the use of potable domestic water for non-potable uses is a waste and unreasonable use of water if recycled water is available as determined by the SWRCB. The SWRCB can order any person or entity to use recycled water or cease using potable water if the SWRCB makes specific findings and a hearing is held. The Division encourages the use of reclamation water and will evaluate the use of reclaimed water on case-by-case basis for the pending applications. Also, SCWA may petition the SWRCB to act under the provisions of Water Code Section 13550 in cases where existing potable water uses should be changed to recycled water.