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State Water Resources Control Board Denies Petition for Permanent Instream Flow Regulation in Shasta River Watershed

cover photo: Shasta Lake, public domain

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has recently made a decision that has significant implications for the Shasta River watershed. On February 16, 2024, the Board formally denied a petition that sought to establish permanent instream flow requirements for the watershed. This petition, which represented the collaborative efforts of several environmental and conservation groups, was submitted on January 17, 2024.

The groups involved in this petition included the California Coastkeeper Alliance, Friends of the Shasta River, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Water Climate Trust, Shasta Waterkeeper, Save California Salmon, and the Environmental Protection Information Center. These organizations have been at the forefront of advocating for the health and sustainability of California’s waterways, particularly in light of the mounting challenges posed by climate change and increased water demand.

Under California law, the SWRCB was obligated to respond to the petition within a 30-day window. In its response, the Board pointed to several ongoing efforts that influenced its decision to deny the petition. Among these efforts are emergency regulations that took effect on February 1st, an August 2023 hearing that addressed flow issues for both the Shasta and Scott Rivers, and initiatives stemming from the California Water Action Plan and the newly unveiled California Salmon Strategy.

The SWRCB’s decision underscores its commitment to a comprehensive approach to managing water resources in the state. While acknowledging the concerns raised by the petitioners regarding the need for instream flow requirements to support ecological health and sustainability, the Board has determined that initiating a rulemaking proceeding at this juncture is not appropriate.

The Board’s rationale is grounded in its ongoing work to address flow constraints in the watershed. The emergency regulations and recent hearings are part of a broader strategy to manage water resources in a way that balances ecological needs with those of various stakeholders, including agricultural interests, municipalities, and indigenous communities.

The SWRCB’s approach reflects an understanding that water resource management is a complex and dynamic challenge that requires adaptive strategies. The California Water Action Plan and California Salmon Strategy are indicative of the state’s proactive stance on these issues, offering frameworks for ensuring water reliability and restoring vital salmonid populations.

While the denial of the petition may come as a disappointment to those advocating for immediate regulatory action, it is important to recognize that the SWRCB is actively engaged in addressing water resource challenges in the Shasta River watershed and beyond. The Board’s ongoing efforts demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions that are both effective and considerate of the myriad interests at play.

As stakeholders continue to navigate the complexities of water management in California, it is essential to maintain open lines of communication and collaboration. The health of California’s rivers and streams depends on a collective effort to develop sustainable practices that will benefit current and future generations.

For more information on the SWRCB’s initiatives and decisions regarding water resource management in California, please visit their official website or contact their public affairs office.

mailto: [email protected]

Stay tuned for further updates on water management policies and their implications for California’s natural resources.

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