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April 20, 2016  |  Written by Richard S. Deitchman

Bureau of Reclamation Files Temporary Urgency Change Petition Regarding San Joaquin River Flow Objectives

On April 1, 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) requesting modification of certain San Joaquin River flow objectives and Stanislaus River dissolved oxygen permit objectives that are the subject of Water Rights Decision D-1641 (D-1641). In particular, the TUCP seeks to modify requirements in Reclamation’s water right permits for the New Melones Project due to low storage levels in the New Melones Reservoir. Water Code section 1435 allows the State Board to grant a temporary water right change for an “urgent need” provided it can be made without injury to other lawful users of water, without unreasonable effect upon fish, wildlife, or other instream beneficial uses of water, and provided the change is in the public interest. The State Board held a workshop on April 5, 2016 to receive comments on the TUCP, and provided notice of the opportunity for written objections or comments on April 14, 2016.

In D-1641, the State Board amended the water right license and permits for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project to require the projects to meet certain objectives in the Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta Estuary (Bay Delta Plan). The TUCP requests: an adjustment in the flow requirements at Vernalis during the April and May pulse flow period; an adjustment for the base flow requirement during April through June; and a relaxation of the Bay Delta Plan’s dissolved oxygen objective to limit, in part, the amount of water released from New Melones Reservoir. The TUCP indicates that exceptionally dry conditions in 2014 and 2015 have resulted in exceptionally low reservoir storage, creating severe challenges to meet water supply obligations, provide cold water for fisheries resources, and to comply with all D-1641 objectives. Reclamation believes conservation of upstream reservoir storage will better allow it to meet all of its obligations in Water Year 2017 and the requested modifications will not impact other water users or fish, wildlife, and instream beneficial uses.

Anyone may file an objection or comment on the TUCP. As of the date of publication of this Alert, the State Board has not set a deadline for comments on the TUCP. For more information on the TUCP and other water rights matters, please contact Richard S. Deitchman at (916) 446-7979 or rdeitchman@somachlaw.com.

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