2021 Temporary Urgency Change Petition
June 16, 2021
The Russian River Watershed is experiencing a second consecutive year of extremely dry conditions, with Water Year 2021 being the driest year and Water Year 2020 being the fourth driest in the Ukiah Valley since 1893.
Sonoma Water has projected that Lake Mendocino would drain to its reservoir model’s dead pool storage level by October 1, 2021, without its additional proposed temporary changes. An urgent need also exists for the proposed change in minimum instream flow requirements on the Lower Russian River. Lake Sonoma is at its lowest storage level since it began storing water in 1984. Sonoma Water predicted Lake Sonoma could decline to below 100,000 AF by October 1, 2021, without additional mitigation measures.
On May 14, 2021, Sonoma Water filed Temporary Urgency Change Petitions (TUCPs) with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), Division of Water Rights (Division) requesting approval of changes to the subject permits pursuant to California Water Code section 1435. The TUCPs requested temporary reductions to the Russian River instream flow requirement terms of the subject permits, to address the current dry conditions in the Russian River Watershed and the extreme low storage conditions in Lake Mendocino, and to avoid potential violations of the Incidental Take Statement contained in the 2008 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Biological Opinion.
On June 14, 2021, the State Water Resources Control Board issued a Temporary Urgency Change Order as follows:
The minimum instream flow requirements in the Russian River shall be modified as follows:
- Minimum instream flow in the Upper Russian River shall remain at or above 25 cfs, as measured on a five-day running average of average daily stream flow;
- Minimum instream flow in the Lower Russian River shall remain at or above 35 cfs, as measured on a five-day running average of average daily stream flow;
- Sonoma Water shall pass through or release sufficient water to maintain a continuous, instantaneous streamflow of no less than 15 cfs in the Upper Russian River and no less than 25 cfs in the Lower Russian River at all times.
The order includes significant monitoring for water quality and availability of aquatic habitat for salmonids, including continuous monitoring of temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and specific conductivity at multiple stations from Calpella to Jenner.