Reasons for Exemption
A. Actions by Regulatory Agencies for Protection of Natural Resources and the Environment CEQA Guidelines Sections 15307 and 15308 provide that actions taken by regulatory agencies to assure the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of a natural resource and the environment are categorically exempt from CEQA. If approved, the proposed changes in Russian River minimum instream flow requirements will increase available rearing habitat in the upper Russian River and provide a lower, closer to natural inflow to the estuary between late spring and early fall, thereby enhancing the potential for maintaining a seasonal freshwater lagoon that
could support increased production of juvenile steelhead. NMFS' Russian River Biological Opinion states that these changes are necessary to avoid jeopardizing the continued existence of the listed species.
B. Existing Facilities
Guidelines Section 15301 (i) provides, generally, that the operation of existing facilities involving negligible or no expansion of use beyond that existing at the time of the lead agency's determination is categorically exempt from CEQA. Subdivision (i) of Section 15301 specifically includes maintenance of streamflows to protect fish and wildlife resources. Sonoma Water's petition to the SWRCB to change to the instream flow requirements specified in the Russian River Biological Opinion does not request and will not expand Water Agency use or increase the water supply available to Sonoma Water for consumptive purposes. The proposed change in Russian River minimum instream flow requirements still will be within the existing operational parameters established by Decision 1610.