Emergency Curtailments of Irrigation
On August 17th the State Water Resources Control Board approved unprecedented emergency drought curtailment regulations for both the Shasta and Scott Rivers.
The regulations are intended to ensure that enough water remains in the river for salmon to spawn, and to do that mandated modest reductions in irrigation diversions. The regulations occurred following a June emergency flow recommendation from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Friends of the Shasta River joined with Tribal and other allies in advocating for these measures. In particular, we played a critical role in researching and bringing to public attention the repeated de-watering of the river due to excessive diversions during a period of extreme drought. Our team also testified in a series of public meetings, providing a “pro-fish” perspective that has often been lacking from our basin.
After the public comment periods, the regulations took effect in early September. We saw a dramatic improvement in the river as flows increased. This was just in time for the Fall migration of Chinook salmon up the Shasta towards their spawning grounds.
We remain fearful, however, for the fate of threatened over-summering coho salmon which had to endure very poor conditions in the Shasta for much of the summer.
The situation on the Shasta this year has highlighted the need for permanent in-stream flow requirements. Because, while 2021 has been particularly bad, so much water is diverted that every year has become a drought year on the Shasta River, especially for threatened coho which are not getting the water quality and quantity they need due to ever-increasing irrigation demand. However, Chinook and other species have also declined in numbers. Their populations are far less than they should be and are insufficient to meet tribal needs, the commercial fishing industry and sports fishermen.
Over the next year we will be working with a coalition of allies in support of permanent in-stream flow mandates for the Shasta.