Coast Action Groups nails it: Russian River Drought Conditions – State Water Board Authority

Why is the state not stopping illegal water diversions on the Russian River?  Big wine gets a pass…..

Russian River Drought Conditions – State Water Board Authority


Dear Erik
I am bringing issues to your desk (when I know you have plenty to deal
with).  They are not new.  They have been there for a long time.
Now; Drought conditions, and long term water rights issues, are elevated
to the point that the Division of Water Rights needs to really look at
issues and take actions necessary to protect and remedy ongoing and future
water diversion issues that are exacerbating current flow and water
In 2004/2005 Trout Unlimited delivered a Petition to the State Water Board
directed at addressing issues related to illegal and unauthorized
diversions (many hundreds of which exist in the Russian River drainage
basin).  These illegal and unauthorized  diversions can be directly linked
to reduced flows and water availability (including groundwater supplies).
All beneficial uses are affected by these illegal and unauthorized
diversions and mismanagement (Where authority to manage is vested in the
State Water Resources Control Board (Division of Water Rights – and State
Code – Water Code, DFG Code, CEQA, and the Public Trust).
The State Board (Division of Water Rights) did review the Petition,
noticed the need for remedy and embarked on Policy and Programs
(including: noticing of unauthorized diverters of responsibility, AB 2121,
Stream Flow Maintenance Policy, Ground Water Sustainability Act – plans
and prioritization, Frost Protection rules, etc.).  The State Water Board
(Division of Water Rights) did notice their responsibility to manage –
Under the State Public Trust Doctrine, State Water Code, Appeals Court
Decisions recognizing State authority on connected ground water, and
stated authority to enforce noted in the various policy and program
language iterations.
In fear of the potential of enforcement the Russian River Property owners
offered a water management plan in the form of Best Management Practices
to be employed – as management and conservation measures. Very little has
occurred in terms of following the BMPs and there is no ongoing validation
of conformance (by any diverter) to the the offered management scenario.
Yet, and given all that has occurred in on these issues since 2004/05 –
very little action or exercise of authority has occurred. We are in the
middle of drought.  Urban users are being asked to limit use where we all
know and understand that the big users (many unauthorized) diversions are
of agricultural use.  Who is monitoring them? Who is bringing them into
permitted status – so it can be determined who is diverting and how much?
With a grip on these issues there is no hope of assuring judicious use and
protecting beneficial uses.
Take a look at the Ukiah Valley GSA (plan).  That sustainability plan is
relying  on recharge from Lake Mendocino (Coyote Dam) discharges to
recharge their ground water basin.  It is not even their water.  The Ukiah
Valley has limited water rights on that water (90% owned by Sonoma
County). Though there are many diversion along the river (drawing from
surface and subsurface flows).  How many diverters and the level of use is
totally uncontrolled.
Prompt fixes are in order.
I would love to hear back from you on this.
Alan Levine
Coast Action Group
Affiliate of Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance
(707)  542-4408
Alan Levine
Coast Action Group
Affiliate of Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance