The Nature Conservancy is requesting to change the purpose of use and place of use of their adjudicated water rights in order to add the ability to reduce diversions and leave water instream to support instream beneficial uses.
Elevated water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels in the Shasta River watershed have resulted in the impairment of designated beneficial uses of water and the non-attainment of water quality objectives, primarily associated with cold water fish. This includes the migration, spawning, and early development of cold water fish such as coho salmon (Oncorhynchus ksutch), Chinook Salmon (O. tshawytscha), and steelhead trout (O. Mykiss). The coho salmon population in the Shasta River watershed is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act.
Water subject to the above referenced water rights is described as an important source of cold water in the region to support all life stages of the cold water fish mentioned above. Diversion of water for flood irrigation, which is the current practice for the above referenced water rights and is common in the region, increases water temperatures and decreases dissolved oxygen in the receiving waters. the Nature Conservancy plans to reduce diversions and dedicate water to instream beneficial uses in coordination with the Watermaster and fishery agencies based on a number of considerations, including natural flow conditions, water temperatures, and biological needs for fish and wildlife.
Class 1, 4, 7, & 8
Exempt under categorical exemptions for minor alterations to land and agency actions for protection of natural resources or the environment.
Existing facilities; Changes involve negligible or no expansion of use beyond what existed at the time the Division approved the change. The approved changes could all be exercised absent the approval except that the approval provides for enforcement of water remaining instream as against other diverters. Under the existing right, water need not be diverted for irrigation use and may be left instream for a given season (less than five years of nonuse). The approval does not expand any existing use; it quantifies the consumptive use portion of the right, which is less that the full entitlement of water, and is careful in only enforcing the instream dedication to that extent. In addition, the project meets the exemption for minor alterations to land (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 15304), which consists of "minor public or private alterations in the condition of land, water, and/or vegetation." While the area is not an "officially designated wildlife management area" or "fish production facility" under the example listed in subdivision (d) of the regulation, it will "result in improvement of habitat for fish and wildlife resources or greater fish production." The list of examples demonstrates the types of projects that fit this exemption, and the project is very similar to one of the examples. The project also meets the exemptions for actions by regulatory agencies for the protection of natural resources and the environment (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, §§ 15306 & 15308). These exemptions apply to actions authorized under state law to assure the "maintenance ,restoration, enhancement, or protection" natural resources and the environment. The very purpose of Water Code section 1707 is for "preserving or enhancing wetlands habitat, fish and wildlife resources" in the water. (Wat. Code, § 1707.) The project does not involve construction activities or relaxation of any standard allowing environmental degradation. Finally, this project is exempt from CEQA because it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that hte project will have a significant effect on the environment.