Emergency Regulation Readopted by State Water Board

Brian German Agri-Business, Water

The California State Water Resources Control Board is continuing an emergency regulation curtailing the Scott and Shasta rivers. The regulation establishes minimum flow requirements to safeguard fish, secure supplies for human and livestock needs, and encourage voluntary efforts as alternatives to curtailments. While acknowledging the complex hydrology of the watersheds, Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel noted his hope that the regulation will help foster collaborative solutions. The Scott and Shasta rivers, vital tributaries to the Klamath River, face challenges from multiple years of drought, impacting water sources for Siskiyou County.

The regulation, readopted annually since 2021, also presents potential challenges for farmers and ranchers in the area. Questions have been raised about the ongoing curtailment’s impact on the agricultural community. Siskiyou County Farm Bureau President Ryan Walker expressed reservations, urging the board to reconsider the order due to its implications for due process and environmental review. Walked described the action as “nothing less than an authoritarian attempt to circumvent the legal protections afforded to the citizens of California.”

The emergency regulation, initially implemented in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s drought declaration, limits surface-water diversions and groundwater pumping. It prioritizes minimum flow recommendations from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, aiming to protect threatened fish species. However, it has also been met with concerns raised about potential delays in crucial projects, such as forest thinning, recharge initiatives, and water storage efforts.

Precipitation in the Klamath watershed exceeded historical averages over the past year. However, it fell short of record-breaking levels that were seen in other areas. As the state continues to grapple with water demands, the curtailment regulation remains a point of contention. While acknowledging the necessity to address environmental concerns, there is a growing sentiment among farmers and stakeholders that a more balanced and collaborative approach is needed to ensure a sustainable path forward for all interests.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West