NEWS WORTH NOTING: State Water Board streamlines permitting process for diversions of floodwaters to underground storage; CVPIA completes Rio Vista Side Channel Fish Habitat Project; Reclamation awards funding to two CA projects to develop water marketing strategies

State Water Board streamlines permitting process for diversions of floodwater and other high flows to support groundwater sustainability

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

In an effort to expedite its water right permitting process, the State Water Resources Control Board announced today it has streamlined requirements for applicants seeking to divert surface water to underground storage during floods and other high flow conditions.

The new measures are expected to directly benefit groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and associated local entities striving to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and replenish overdrafted groundwater basins.

The changes, which have no impact on existing laws and regulations, simplify the permitting pathway for capturing water during high flow events and storing that water underground, a process known as recharge. The streamlined approach also reduces application filing fees and annual permit and license costs.

“Achieving groundwater sustainability is one of California’s most pressing water management challenges,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “With a more variable hydrology expected, it’s critical that we prepare to capture floodwaters and other high flows, increase groundwater recharge, and better prepare for the effects of climate change. These permitting revisions will help make that process more nimble and efficient, while still protecting fish and senior right holders.”

California depends on groundwater for a third of its annual water supply, and significantly more during droughts. Parties who divert to underground storage and choose this less complicated approach must meet certain criteria and comply with a water availability analysis that monitors diversion of high flows during the winter.

Within the December-to-March time frame, applicants can choose between two diversion triggers: (1) when a river or stream’s daily flows exceed the 90th percentile and no more than 20 percent of the total stream flow is taken; or (2) a flood control agency determines actions are needed to protect the public.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in 2015, empowers local agencies to manage groundwater resources for long-term sustainability. The long-term planning requirement provides a buffer against drought and climate change and contributes to reliable water supplies, regardless of weather patterns.

New groundwater recharge projects will likely be proposed and implemented by many GSAs as part of sustainable groundwater management.  The new streamlined recharge permitting measures are designed to help GSAs obtain water right permits faster to help meet timelines for achieving sustainability.

GSAs also are encouraged to pursue “umbrella” permitting to cover dozens and possibly hundreds of diversion locations in a watershed and large areas of use, such as a water district. This makes broadscale recharge, particularly on agricultural lands, more feasible. It allows a water right holder to manage the diversion, storage and extraction of water on a landowner-by-landowner basis, from one high flow event to the next, or from year to year, without additional approvals from the Board. This enhances efficiency in permitting and annual reporting, gaging and measurement requirements, and accounting.

The State Water Board intends to hold an informational item on the streamlined permitting pathway as part of its regularly scheduled board meeting on November 19.

Information about recharge and underground storage can be found on the State Water Board website.

CVPIA completes Rio Vista Side Channel Fish Habitat Project in Tehama County

Work on the Rio Vista Side Channel Habitat Project in Red Bluff has been completed, marking another milestone for the Upper Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program, with immediate results observed. Within one week of opening the side channel, endangered winter‐run Chinook juveniles were observed making use of it. The program is part of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) – a federal program of the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The project converted a seasonal side channel (River Mile 248) into nearly one acre of new aquatic habitat by excavating down an average of 5 feet to allow Sacramento River waters to flow around ‘Ski Island’, as some of the locals call it, year‐round. This habitat will be a refuge for juvenile salmonids before they migrate out to the ocean: providing protective cover, slower flows, and sources of food. The project also includes native riparian planting and other habitat features.

The Rio Vista Side Channel is the fourth side channel project to be completed through the CVPIA’s Upper Sacramento River Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Program in the last four years, and continues the work of improving spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids in the Sacramento River below Keswick Dam. The project was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and had a wide variety of partners including the California Department of Water Resources, Resource Conservation District of Tehama County, Sacramento River Forum, Geographical Information Center‐ Chico State University, water districts from the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors (Reclamation District 108, Glenn‐Colusa Irrigation District, Provident Irrigation District, Princeton‐Codora‐Glenn Irrigation District, Sutter Mutual Water Company, River Garden Farms, Natomas Mutual Water Company), Tehama Colusa Canal Authority, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and a cooperative private landowner.

Bureau of Reclamation awards $2 million to ten projects to develop water marketing strategies

The Bureau of Reclamation today announced awards totaling $2 million to ten projects to establish or expand water markets or water marketing activities. When non-federal cost-share contributions are included, these projects will accomplish more than $4.6 million in water marketing planning activities.

The awards will go to projects from a diverse range of entities, including irrigation and water districts, states, tribes, cities and counties, and other districts with water delivery authority. The entities are located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Oregon, and Utah.

“It is always a good day when Reclamation can combine funding and resources with those of local water partners to achieve a common goal,” said Avra Morgan, Program Coordinator for Water Marketing. “Water marketing strategies empower communities by helping water managers meet demands efficiently in times of shortage, which ultimately helps prevent water conflicts.”

Water markets support the President’s memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West. Water marketing refers to water rights transactions and includes the lease, sale or exchange of water rights undertaken in accordance with state and federal laws between willing buyers and sellers. Learn more at: https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/watermarketing/index.html.

Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with States, Tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about the program.

A complete description of the selected projects is available at: https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/watermarketing/index.html.

The selected projects are:

Central Arizona Water Clearinghouse (Arizona) — Reclamation funding: $200,000; Non-federal funding: $442,680

Voluntary Seasonal Fallowing Water Conservation Project (Arizona) — Reclamation funding: $54,089; Non-federal funding: $54,089

Water Marketing Strategy for the Colorado River Indian Reservation (Arizona) — Reclamation funding: $184,250; Non-federal funding: $210,890

Kaweah Sub-basin Water Marketing Strategy (California) — Reclamation funding: $400,000; Non-federal funding: $432,000

Mojave Water Agency Long-Term Water Management/Water Banking Program (California) — Reclamation funding: $200,000; Non-federal funding: $400,000

Western Slope Demand Management Water Marketing Strategy Evaluation (Colorado) — Reclamation funding: $315,721; Non-federal funding: $361,344

Water Marketing Strategy for Garden City and Finney County (Kansas) — Reclamation funding: $139,900; Non-federal funding: $139,900

Harney Basin Groundwater Marketing Development Evaluation (Oregon) — Reclamation funding: $50,000; Non-federal funding: $55,000

McLennan County Water Marketing Strategy Groundwater Replenishment Credits and Groundwater Augmentation Rate (Texas) — Reclamation funding: $75,000; Non-federal funding: $82,500

Utah Statewide Water Marketing Development Strategy (Utah) — Reclamation funding: $400,000; Non-federal funding: $438,252

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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