[env-trinity] Times Standard: Trinity River releases start Sunday: Supes to continue low flow discussion

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Sat Aug 24 10:13:53 PDT 2013


Trinity River releases start Sunday: Supes to continue low flow discussion
Catherine Wong/The Times-Standard
POSTED:   08/24/2013 02:24:50 AM PDT
UPDATED:   08/24/2013 02:24:50 AM PDT

With additional Trinity River flows ready to be released on Sunday, the Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday with representatives of state agencies and a group doing outreach in Southern Humboldt to discuss water storage issues along Humboldt County rivers in an effort to protect future fish generations.
”We're very relieved,” Board Chairman and 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said in response to a federal judge's ruling on Thursday that lifted a stay on the flows to protect Klamath salmon. “I'm proud of the collaboration between the county and tribes.”
The federal Bureau of Reclamation had authorized releases to begin Aug. 13, after deciding the additional water is needed to protect an expected run of 272,000 Chinook salmon. Central California irrigators and farmers sued and a federal judge in Fresno granted a temporary restraining that was lifted Thursday after he found the water was needed to stave off a repeat of the 2002 fish kill.
A special release approved last week in support of the Hoopa Valley Tribe's bi-annual Boat Dance Ceremony will begin from Lewiston Dam at around 8 a.m. Sunday. According to the bureau, the increased releases will raise flows gradually from the summer base of 450 cubic feet per second to a peak of 2,650 cubic feet per second by midnight.
The flows will begin to be gradually reduced Tuesday night to a rate of approximately 850 cubic feet per second. With Judge Lawrence O'Neill's ruling, releases from the dam will continue and vary from around 850 to 900 cubic feet per second until approximately Sept. 19, when flows will gradually be reduced back to 450 cubic feet per second.
Bureau Mid-Pacific Region spokesman Pete Lucero said the total amount of water released will be approximately 20,000 acre-feet over the next few weeks.
The dispute over the increased flows highlighted concerns surrounding Humboldt County's water rights and the protection of local rivers.
O'Neill acknowledged the letter of declaration Sundberg sent to the Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, asserting the government is legally obligated to annually provide water to Humboldt County.
”The record is not well developed on this issue,” O'Neill concluded. “Members of Congress from the Humboldt area wrote to the Secretary of the Interior requesting that the 50,000 AF allocation be put to use in supporting the flow augmentation. ...Yet, Federal Defendants (the Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of the Interior) have taken no position on this possible source of authority.”
Sundberg said the legal battle over the releases would have been avoidable if the Department of the Interior would honor Humboldt County's right to no less than 50,000 acre-feet of Trinity River water.
During Tuesday's meeting, supervisors will hear a presentation from state Department of Fish and Wildlife water specialist Jane Arnold, Matt McCarthy with the State Water Resources Control Board and Tasha McCorkle-McKee of Sanctuary Forest regarding private water rights and fisheries restoration in the county.
According to a county report, one way to offset impacts on local fisheries is to store water for use during a dry season. County Planning & Building Department officials said storage tanks that hold at least 5,000 gallons of water require private land owners to go through a sometimes expensive process to receive a permit. Before the building department will approve a permit, the landowner must prove that a home or other structure on the property is permitted -- a delicate issue in some areas of the county.
Supervisors Rex Bohn and Estelle Fennell said they added the presentation to the agenda because they would like to ease restrictions on private water storage.
”The water we're losing during high flows in the winter, we should be storing for the low flow months when we need it,” Bohn said.
Fennell said there is already a pattern and practice of storing water for private use in the county, and the issue has been in discussion for years.
”Traditionally, there have been limitations,” she said. “What we're seeing now is the community responding to help the fisheries and the environment. We have had a lot of people asking if they could get a tax break or more flexibility with permitting process.”
Bohn said he does not expect there to be any major changes made by the board before high flows this winter.
”We'd probably have a very tight deadline to have anything done for this winter,” he said. “But if we can get something in place, or at least the planning started, hopefully some people will preemptively get on board.”
If you go:
What: Board of Supervisors meeting
When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
Where: Supervisors chamber, first floor, Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St. in Eureka
The full agenda can be viewed online at co.humboldt.ca.us/board
Catherine Wong can be reached at 441-0514 or cwong at times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter and Tout @cmwong27.       
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