The following is a press release issued by the City of Ukiah:
On June 7th, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a new framework for a voluntary water sharing program among water users in the Upper Russian River watershed. The program is the first of its kind in California. The City of Ukiah played a leading role in developing this program, and believes it is a major step toward a brighter future for our community in the Ukiah Valley. The City appreciates the leadership from the Water Board in enabling this vision. The program offers an alternative to the region-wide curtailment orders that were issued by the Water Board in 2021, and instead offers greater flexibility for water rights holders to adapt to changing conditions and reallocate their allowance to other users as needed.
“This is a voluntary program that preserves the legal framework for water rights in California,” said Phil Williams, Special Counsel to the City of Ukiah. “The City of Ukiah may end up providing some of its water to the program, but the benefits include helping our region avoid the broad curtailments we experienced in 2021. The City of Ukiah is a key part of the solution for the challenges we face regarding water supply in our community.”
The Ukiah City Council is set to vote on formal participation at its meeting on June 15th.
The members of the State Water Resources Board applauded the program, and State Water Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel stated that he was “very impressed” with the framework and appreciated the continuity of the effort in empowering water rights holders to engage productively in the system in a new way to meet shared goals. “It is projects like this and moments like this that give me hope,” he said, noting that the program advances a common vision for administering water rights in a successful way. Vice Chair Dorene D’Adamo noted that she appreciated seeing stakeholders working together to understand a complicated situation and do better, and how the community-based leadership that was needed to craft this framework should provide lessons for other areas of the state.
Other participants included Devon Boer with the Mendocino Farm Bureau, John Nagle with the Sonoma Resource Conservation District, Beth Salomone with the Russian River Flood Control District, Adriane Garayalde, Laurel Marcus with Fish Friendly Farms, and Terry Crowley with the City of Healdsburg, among others. Several other organizations spoke in support of the program at the June 7th hearing including Russian Riverkeeper, Sonoma Water, and California Farm Bureau.
More information about the program can be found here.