Water diversion and low summer water flow become subject of increasing concern
EUREKA- The issue of water diversion combined with low water flow in our rivers and streams was brought before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning. Several agencies came together to address the issue and figure out how both the county and the state could help solve the problem.
“We are having streams that are being de-watered and some reports of fish being killed, and people are running out of water,” said water rights coordinator for the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.
Experts say right now we are in a water drought similar to the one last seen in the early 2000's, and the county along with the state are trying to come up with a solution that will encourage people to store water in the winter months compared to the summer months in order to protect our local fisheries.
Sanctuary Forest Director Tasha McCorkle said, “We have water scarcity problems like we have never seen before, and there is no water downstream for the fish."
Supervisor Estelle Fennel added, “If people could store there water in the early season and use it in low flow times, that would have less impact on the fisheries."
Officials said one way to offset impacts on fisheries is to store water for use in the low flow season, but there are some barriers in the way of making that happen, the expense and the permitting process. State water rights law requires all people diverting surface waters to file an application that includes the amount of water diverted, your location, and your reason for diversion, but many people say the process is too costly and difficult.
State Division of Water Rights Environmental Scientist Matthew McCarthy said, “The more voluntary participation we receive from areas, the less likely we are to take enforcement action."
The enforcement action could lead to fines of up to $500 per day, but if the county and the state can address some of these obstacles, it could ensure protection to our region's fisheries and wildlife.
Fennell said, “We have tax breaks for people who manage forests, we have tax breaks for people who manage agriculture, and now we're talking about a benefit to the fisheries and I think that deserves attention too."