Policy Implementation

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) established this web page to provide certain information regarding the implementation of the Policy for Maintaining Instream Flows in Northern California Coastal Streams (Policy). The purpose of the web page is to keep interested persons informed of the State Water Board’s actions and to provide examples of activities that may be useful for prospective applicants, petitioners, or other parties. Additional information will be added as the State Water Board implements the provisions of the Policy.

Useful Supporting Documentation

Volume Depletion Approach Study. A study of the Volume Depletion Approach (VDA) described in Policy Appendix A section A.1.8.3 was completed on March 31, 2014. The purpose of the study was to determine whether the VDA effectively protects fishery resources and can be used to support use of the alternative regional criteria. The study concluded that the alternative regional criteria contained in the Policy are protective for Class III streams with less than 10% depletion, and up to 5% depletion in class II stream, but only protective with additional requirements for Class II streams between 5 and <10% depletion. Water right applicants may review the information to evaluate whether the VDA is applicable to their project and whether it is a preferable alternative to the criteria contained in Policy sections A.1.8.1 or A.1.8.2. For more information regarding the study and background, please visit the VDA study web page.

Scientific Basis Report. The primary objective of the Policy is to ensure that the administration of water rights occurs in a manner that maintains instream flows needed for the protection of fishery resources. Prior to adoption of the Policy, the State Water Board would consider the 2002 Draft Guidelines for Maintaining Instream Flows to Protect Fisheries Resources Downstream of Water Diversions in Mid-California Coastal Streams (2002 Draft Guidelines) for the purposes of water rights administration. As part of the overall review process for development of the Policy, the State Water Board commissioned the preparation of a Scientific Basis Report to (1) evaluate the technical basis and rationale behind the 2002 Draft Guidelines, (2) assess the overall protectiveness to anadromous salmonids from the 2002 Draft Guidelines, and (3) evaluate the technical basis and level of resource protectiveness provided by other alternative criteria and document the science forming the basis.

2002 Draft Guidelines. In developing the Policy, the State Water Board considered the 2002 draft “Guidelines for Maintaining Instream Flows to Protect Fisheries Resources Downstream of Water Diversions in Mid-California Coastal Streams” developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service (2002 Draft Guidelines). The 2002 Draft Guidelines were specifically developed pursuant to respective agency mandates and missions to protect and restore endangered and threatened anadromous salmonids and their habitats. The 2002 Draft Guidelines contained three elements governing restrictions on flow and an element governing restrictions on instream barriers. The 2002 Draft Guidelines also allow, under some circumstances, for site specific studies to be conducted as a means to evaluate whether additional water diversion, the presence of an on-stream dam, and/or a reduction in protective measures can be allowed without adversely affecting anadromous salmonids and their habitat. These same four elements and the option for site-specific studies were carried through into the development of the Policy.

Site-Specific Study (Policy section 2.2.2)

Site-specific studies may be conducted to obtain site-specific criteria that identify more precisely than the regionally protective criteria the instream flow needs of a particular location. When a site-specific study has been conducted pursuant to an approved study plan and a report of the study has been reviewed and accepted by the Deputy Director for Water Rights, the regional criteria will not be considered for parameters for which proposed site-specific criteria have been developed.

Project Status and Significant Actions
Application A032216 and Petition for License 10721 Southern Humboldt USD 2012 Mattole River Study
Application A031792 North Gualala Water Company 2012 North Fork Gualala River Study

Voluntary Modification (Policy section

The Deputy Director for Water Rights may approve one or more exceptions to the diversion criteria for all or part of an application. Prior to approving one or more exceptions to the diversion criteria, the Deputy Director for Water Rights must determine that, (1) the Applicant’s existing diversions under another valid basis of right will be reduced, and (2) the benefits to fishery resources of the reduction outweighs the potential impacts to fishery resources if application is approved.

Project Status and Significant Actions
Application A032372 Westminster Woods Information Received 03/30/2015
Exception Approved 05/05/2017

Case-by-Case Exception (Policy section 9.0)

The State Water Board may grant requests for case-by-case exceptions to specific provisions of the Policy upon a determination that (1) the exception will not compromise maintenance of instream flows and (2) the public interest will be served.Pursuant to Policy section 9.0, case by case exception requests shall contain:

  1. A detailed description of the reason for the request;
  2. The policy provisions that are involved;
  3. Documentation of the reasons why the exception will not compromise maintenance of instream flows in the policy area; and
  4. An explanation of how the public interest will be served by the exception.

The State Water Board will evaluate whether the request is reasonable and whether sufficient cause exists for an exception.

With respect to item 3, it is recommended that applicants document how their project is not associated with adverse effects identified in the Policy’s Scientific Basis Report.  For example, an applicant requesting an exception to Policy section 2.4.2 may consider providing supported reasons to show the requested onstream dam will not be associated with each of the adverse effects to salmonids discussed in chapter 8 of the scientific basis report.

Project Policy Provisions Status
Applications A033106 and A033107 Barbara Banke Sections 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 Request Received 04/30/2020
Application 32889 Treehouse Vineyards, LLC. Section 2.4.2 Request Received 12/14/2018
Application A032898 David Codding Section 2.4.2 Request Received 11/16/2018
CDFW Comments 02/15/2019
Applications A032563A and A032563B Robert Mann Section 2.4.1 Exception Partially Granted
(View Documents)
Application A032557 Humboldt Resort Section 2.4.1 Request Received 04/04/2016
CDFW Comments 02/13/2017
Request Denied 05/29/2018
Application A032424 Flocchini Estate LLC Section 2.4.2 Request Received 02/12/2016