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State restricts non-domestic water usage in Eel River Valley

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EUREKA- As the drought situation worsens across the state, ranchers and other commercial water consumers in Humboldt County are being told to stop using the water in the Eel River and the Van Duzen Tributary by the state Water Resources Control Board.

More than 100 letters were sent out to junior water rights holders of both rivers. In those letters, the rights holders were asked toimmediately stop diverting water” until conditions improve. Junior rights holders are those people who were given rights to use the river watersheds after 1914. On the list of recipients- ranchers, timber companies and even local community services districts.

Those who do not comply with the new orders will face substantial fines from the water resources control board.

County officials say that there are some exceptions to the list. If a junior rights holder uses the river as its sole water source for domestic purposes or is using the water for hydroelectric power they can continue their use. The Water Resources Control Board is asking all junior rights holders affected to submit paperwork provided to them indicating how these rules will impact their water usage.

“What people can do to work with them is to fill out the forms that the water board is asking them to do, to let them know whether or not they need it for domestic use, if they're using it, or if they have another water right that they can use instead,” said 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennel. “Those kind of things will settle the situation so that is what we're really recommending is people fill out those forms and let them know what their situation is.”

Officials say that municipalities that are senior rights holders will not be affected.

Rio Dell was among the cities that received a letter from the Water Resources Control Board. The Rio Dell City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday at 5 pm in the council chamber to discuss the letter and what it means for Eel River Valley residents.