Petitions Requesting Approval of Temporary Urgency Changes in Water Right Permits 12947A, 12949, 12950, and 16596 in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties

2 Documents in Project

Summary

SCH Number
2021050266
Public Agency
Sonoma County Water Agency
Document Title
Petitions Requesting Approval of Temporary Urgency Changes in Water Right Permits 12947A, 12949, 12950, and 16596 in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties
Document Type
NOE - Notice of Exemption
Received
Posted
5/13/2021

Document Description
The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) controls and coordinates water supply releases from the Coyote Valley Dam and Warm Springs Dam projects in accordance with the provisions of water rights Decision 1610, which the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted on April 17, 1986. Decision 1610 specifies the minimum instream flow requirements for the Upper Russian River, Dry Creek, and the Lower Russian River, which vary based on water supply conditions (Figure 1). Sonoma Water is filing a temporary urgency change petition (TUCP) requesting that the State Water Board make the following changes in the minimum instream flow requirements for the Russian River mainstem that are specified in Decision 1610 and Sonoma Water’s water right permits: (a) a Critical water supply condition minimum instream flow of 25 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the Upper Russian River from its confluence with the East Fork to its confluence with Dry Creek, and (b) a Critical water supply condition minimum instream flow of 35 cfs in the Lower Russian River downstream of its confluence with Dry Creek to the Pacific Ocean. The changes are necessary in order to maintain viable operations to support municipal use, protect listed salmon species, address water supply conditions at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, and prevent Lake Mendocino from declining to a storage level at which the reservoir may no longer be functional in light of the extremely dry hydrology the region has been experiencing since 2020.

Contact Information
Jessica Martini-Lamb
Sonoma County Water Agency
Lead/Public Agency
404 Aviation Blvd.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Phone : (707) 547-1903
Jessica.Martini-Lamb@scwa.ca.gov

Location

Cities
Cloverdale Healdsburg Ukiah
Counties
Mendocino Sonoma
Regions
Northern California
Other Information
The proposed action would occur in Mendocino and Sonoma counties at Lake Mendocino, in the Upper Russian River from Coyote Valley Dam/Lake Mendocino to the confluence with Dry Creek, and in the Lower Russian River from the confluence with Dry Creek to the Pacific Ocean. Figure 1 shows the minimum instream flow requirements for the Russian River system. Communities and cities along the Russian River include Ukiah, Hopland, Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Forestville, Mirabel Park, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio, Duncans Mills, and Jenner.

Notice of Exemption

Exempt Status
Emergency Project
Type, Section or Code
Sec. 21080(b)(4); 15269(b)(c)
Reasons for Exemption
A. Actions to Prevent or Mitigate an Emergency California Public Resources Code, Division 13, Section 21080(b)(4) provides that specific actions necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency are exempt from CEQA. The emergency conditions are demonstrated by current Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma storage levels. As of May 3, 2021, the water supply storage level in Lake Mendocino was approximately 36,883 acre-feet. This storage level is 33 percent of the summer water supply pool. As of May 3, 2021, the water supply storage level in Lake Sonoma was approximately 149,766 acre-feet. This storage level is 61 percent of the summer water supply pool. These emergency conditions also are demonstrated by Governor Newsom’s April 21, 2021, Proclamation of a State of Emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties due to drought conditions in the Russian River Watershed (Governor’s Drought Proclamation). Section 7 of the Governor’s Drought Proclamation suspends the requirements of CEQA for purposes of the State Water Board’s consideration of modifying reservoir releases, which would be a necessary element of an order granting the TUCP. In addition, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on April 27, 2021, proclaimed a local emergency due to drought conditions in the Sonoma County Operational Area and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors April 20, 2021, adopted a resolution declaring a local emergency and imminent threat of disaster in Mendocino County due to drought conditions. Sonoma Water staff estimate that without the proposed reductions in the minimum instream flow requirement for the Upper Russian River, Lake Mendocino could be drained by October 1. Reducing the Upper Russian River minimum instream flow requirement from 75 cfs to 25 cfs would improve storage at Lake Mendocino, but will not prevent Lake Mendocino from reaching predicted critical storage levels in the absence of other interventions. Water supplies sufficient to provide continuous flow and health and human safety needs are at risk in the Upper Russian River. Sonoma Water staff estimate water levels in Lake Sonoma are projected to decline to below 100,000 acre-feet by October 1 of this year if the existing minimum instream flow requirement of 85 cfs on the Lower Russian River is not reduced. With the requested temporary changes and Sonoma Water’s commitment to reduce diversions by 20 percent between July 1 and October 31, the projected storage level in Lake Sonoma is projected to remain above 100,000 acre-feet until November 1. Low water storage levels could affect drinking water supplies, agriculture, commercial and industrial business sectors, and recreation.
Exempt Status
Categorical Exemption
Type, Section or Code
State CEQA Guidelines 15307, 15308, 15301(i)
Reasons for Exemption
B. 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. The proposed temporary urgency change to Sonoma Water’s water right Permits 12947A, 12949, 12950, and 16596 are necessary in order to maintain viable operations to support municipal use, protect listed salmon species, address water supply conditions at Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, and prevent Lake Mendocino from declining to a storage level at which the reservoir may no longer be functional in light of the extremely dry hydrology the region has been experiencing since 2020. The Russian River Biological Opinion found that high flows in Dry Creek (above 90 cfs) were harmful to listed salmon, and limited the extent to which Sonoma Water could make releases from Lake Sonoma from June through October. Approval of the proposed temporary urgency change in the Lower Russian River is requested in order to avoid violation of the Incidental Take Statement contained in the Russian River Biological Opinion. Furthermore, if the upcoming Water Year 2022 is another dry year, carryover storage in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino will be crucial for the continued recovery of the Russian River salmonid fishery and for water supply reliability during 2022. C. Existing Facilities CEQA 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. The examples in subdivision (i) of Section 15301(i) specifically provide that the maintenance of streamflows to protect fish and wildlife resources is exempt. Sonoma Water’s request to change minimum instream flows would not expand Sonoma Water’s use or increase the water diversions available to Sonoma Water for consumptive purposes. The proposed changes in minimum instream flows would still be within the existing minimum instream flows established by Decision 1610.
Exempt Status
Other
Type, Section or Code
Exemption under Governor’s April 21, 2021 emergency proclamation (Sec. 7): Government Code section 8571
Reasons for Exemption
D. Governor’s Drought Proclamation Government Code section 8571 authorizes the Governor to suspend certain regulatory requirements, including CEQA, under emergency conditions. Section 7 of the Governor’s April 21, 2021, Drought Proclamation suspended CEQA to address “the acutely dry conditions in the Russian River Watershed” through the State Water Board’s consideration of modifications of reservoir releases “to ensure adequate, minimal water supplies for critical purposes.” The TUCP’s purpose is to modify the water-right terms that otherwise would require releases from Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma and is within the suspension of CEQA under section 7 of the Governor’s Drought Proclamation.
County Clerks
Mendocino Sonoma

Attachments

Notice of Exemption
NOE TUCP ADA OCR   PDF 2946 K

Disclaimer: The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) accepts no responsibility for the content or accessibility of these documents. To obtain an attachment in a different format, please contact the lead agency at the contact information listed above. You may also contact the OPR via email at state.clearinghouse@opr.ca.gov or via phone at (916) 445-0613. For more information, please visit OPR’s Accessibility Site.

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