SACRAMENTO - A workshop to be held Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. in the Joe Serna, Jr. (Cal EPA) Building (1001 I Street) Sierra Hearing Room will mark a significant step toward consistent management and wise use of northern California's water resources.
The result of a formal petition filed by Trout Unlimited (TU) and the National Audubon Society's Peregrine Chapter of Mendocino County, the workshop is designed to create a process to ensure that adequate water is left in streams for steelhead and coho salmon, as required by state law and the public trust doctrine.
The petition complements legislative progress that was initiated by TU last year that resulted in the passage and signing of Assembly Bill 2121, which requires the Water Board to develop instream flow guidelines for certain coastal streams by 2007. Those streams are located from Marin County northward to the Mattole River, and include the Russian River watershed, and Napa County tributaries to San Pablo Bay.
There is currently no coordinated inter- or intra-state agency policy or procedure to deal with an onslaught of almost 300 applications for new diversions, or for making complicated water allocation decisions that adequately consider demand while balancing the needs of fish and wildlife.
As a consequence, many water right applications have been before the board for more than 10 years without a single final agency decision. In addition to the administrative backlog and regulatory uncertainty that currently exists, in many watersheds unauthorized water diversions are widespread. Research conducted in preparing the petition found that some small watersheds had unauthorized water diversions as high as 77 percent.