More Water Cuts Seen|for Northern California

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – With drought so severe even Northern California rivers are shrinking, the state water regulator is considering more cutbacks to protect salmon and other protected species.
     The State Water Resources Board will hold a hearing next week to discuss emergency regulations for Russian River tributaries to protect juvenile Coho salmon and steelhead trout threatened by low water and warm temperatures.
     The emergency measures would ramp up water conservation in the region to spare fish from low oxygen levels.
     “While there are no abundance estimates for steelhead in the Russian River watershed, their numbers have declined substantially and Central California Coast steelhead are likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future,” the water board said Tuesday.
     The water cuts already ordered won’t be enough to supply the cold water juvenile fish need to congregate during the summer. Four Russian River tributaries would be affected, affecting 113 square miles and 13,000 landowners in Northern California.
     Business and residents would be barred from ornamental lawn watering and water fountains and decorative ponds prohibited. Farmers and commercial users would face more restrictions on water diversion and groundwater pumping.
     The water board said that in the 1950s commercial fisherman harvested an average of 13,000 Coho salmon during the river’s peak run. By the 2000s, as few as two Coho salmon were recorded in the same watershed.
     The Russian River runs 110 miles through Mendocino and Sonoma counties before emptying into the Pacific Ocean 80 miles north of San Francisco. The water board will vote on the proposed emergency measure June 17, which if approved would become effective June 29.

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