CA Water Board prioritizes fish

coho salmonAs severe drought conditions in California continue to worsen, state officials have started to roll out with new regulations to prioritize various water interests.

On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted new emergency regulations to protect endangered and threatened fish. Low flows in four tributaries of the Russian River cause “high temperatures, low oxygen levels and isolated pools of water that can kill fish,” such as the coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Starting July 3, roughly 13,000 properties in the watersheds of Dutch Bill Creek, Green Valley Creek, Mark West Creek and Mill Creek will be subject to “enhanced conservation measures” in addition to the existing statewide water restrictions. As reported by the Press Democrat, residents are subject to the following rural water rules:

  • “No watering lawns, washing driveways and sidewalks, washing motor vehicles, filling or refilling decorative ponds and fountains, and no use of water in a fountain or water feature not part of a recirculating system.
  • “No watering of landscapes (trees and plants, including edible plants) that causes runoff onto adjacent property or non-irrigated areas or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.
  • “Limits landscape watering to two days per week and only from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  • “Sets no limit on use of graywater — from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, clothes washing machines and laundry tubs as well as captured rainwater — for lawn and landscape irrigation, washing motor vehicles and use in decorative ponds, fountains and other water features, except for prohibition of irrigation runoff or application within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.”

“This is a very extreme situation,” said Corinne Gray, a senior environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “There are already fish dying in the streams.” Gray told the SWRCB that the fish merely required a “trickle of water” between pools on the four creeks.

Farm representatives attending the meeting claimed parts of the measure were regulatory overreach. Text in the emergency measure enforces these new regulations “regardless of water seniority.”

This kind of enforcement has led to lawsuits against SWRCB. Just this week, the Banta-Carbona Irrigation District challenged water restrictions imposed by the state board, the first of potentially many more suits to come.

It remains to be seen whether the state board has the right to overrule century-old rights to water.

3 comments

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  1. Will
    Will 20 June, 2015, 13:00

    Is it just me or is the water situation here sounding more “fishy” with each passing day, no pun intended!

    It is absolutely incredible that we are in this position to begin with. Water storage, water recycling and accessing primary water capabilities should have been done decades ago. The state of California just didn’t “fall” into a desert (4) years ago.

    Reply this comment
  2. desmond
    desmond 21 June, 2015, 11:58

    Of course, the Governor, hence known as Emperior Fallus, goes along with all this.

    Reply this comment
  3. spurwing Plover
    spurwing Plover 24 September, 2015, 22:57

    Just like the Klamath Basin incdent back in 2001 when their unconstitutional cutting off of the water over some dumb fish

    Reply this comment

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