Santa Rosa, CA – May 14, 2021 – The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) today filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) with the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce minimum instream flow requirements in the lower Russian River by requesting that the water year classification be temporarily changed from Dry to Critical, reducing the minimum instream flow requirement from 85 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 35 cfs. This action will preserve storage in Lake Sonoma and avoid violating the Russian River Biological Opinion Incidental Take Statement for Dry Creek. The Russian River watershed is facing severe drought conditions. Both the Governor and County of Sonoma have declared a drought emergency for the Russian River watershed.
Recognizing that the request is partially being driven by low storage levels at Lake Sonoma due to the drought, Sonoma Water is committing to reduce its diversions from the Russian River between July 1 and October 31 by 20 percent compared to last year, along with several other actions. In addition, the current order approving temporary changes to the upper Russian River expires July 26, which would result in the water year classification for the upper Russian River changing from Critical to Dry. Meeting a minimum instream flow on the upper Russian River of 75 cfs would drain Lake Mendocino by the middle of September.
Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Water Board of Directors Chair Lynda Hopkins said, “Sonoma Water is seeking immediate assistance from the State Water Resources Control Board to help preserve water in the Russian River watershed. Releasing less water from Lake Sonoma and reducing the amount of water pumped from the Russian River are critical methods to saving water for our communities and environment. It is equally critical that our community implement water saving measures. There is no water to waste and everyone in our community has a part in saving water during this drought. If you have a lawn, let it go brown or remove it. If you have a leak, fix it. Reduce your showers by two-minutes, or better yet, in this remote work environment who can smell you on a Zoom call? Drastic times call for drastic measures and we all need to contribute to beat this drought.”
Lower minimum flows will allow for less water to be released from Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino. The storage goal at Lake Mendocino is 20,000 acre-feet on October 1 (there is currently 36,831 acre-feet in Lake Mendocino). The storage goal for Lake Sonoma is greater than 100,000 acre-feet on October 1 (there is currently 147,804 acre-feet in Lake Sonoma).
Due to the tremendous uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the proposed temporary requested changes to prevent Lake Mendocino from declining to unsafe levels that could impair the availability of water released from Lake Mendocino for human health and safety needs, Sonoma Water may file an amendment to…