You have several things going on here. I will try to speak to each one. As they effect all of our efforts I have copied some groups working on the same or similar issue in Sonoma County
Legal and Illegal Diversion and Fish Kill
We have been working on issues related to diversion, legal and illegal (unpermitted/unlicensed) and relationships with stream de-watering and related fishery impacts. That was the import of our meeting with the AG and the Division of Water Rights. This issue needs to be pursed on many fronts – Application (or lack of application) of AB 2121 and DFG code, enforcement actions, other Regional Board processes (including TMDLs), and project review (including cumulative impacts of one or several projects in a specific hyrdrologic unit -such as your Pelton House Case.
The first thing that needs to occur – is attendance and speaking up at the State Board frost protection workshop – Tomorrow (back to Sacramento). Illega (un-permitted diversion) and legal diversion should not be allowed to kill fish. Sonoma and Mendocino County flows concerned parties need to be at this meeting.
Then this issue, and related impacts from cumulative diversions (legal and illegal) effects on habitat loss and fish should be pursued by approaching all managing agencies – National Marine Fisheries, DFG, State Water Board (Division of Water Rights), Regional Board, and the AG’s office. This to be accomplished by making a paper case and calling – until you have established a relationship with the responsible parity (s) at the responsible agency.
This part of the job needs to be worked – continuously.
Pelton House Project – CEQA – and – the AG
Sonoma County has a habit of approving projects with Negative Declarations – that, on their face, have obvious potential individual and cumulative impacts and that should be subject environmental review – under CEQA – and undergo additional environmental analysis and mitigatory process. Counties, and other Lead Agencies, can get away with this – if not challenged.
CEQA mandates full disclosure for an “informed decision making process” by the public and participating responsible agency. Under CEQA mandate a project should include:
Project Description – The project, and all attributes related to the project should be fully and accurately described; including: history of past projects in affected area, potential future projects, assessment of Cumulative Impacts, environmental setting (location, soils, stream condition (including all diversions and domestic water sources), actions and activities to be undertaken, assessment of potential impacts from activities or actions, mitigations to limit adverse impacts from activities or actions linked to analysis of potential effectiveness of mitigations.
Consistency Review – Initial Study and EIR should make determination of project consistency with applicable code – Zoning Ordinance, General Plans, DFG Code, Water Code, and the Basin Plan
Project Changes – If significant changes are made to the project or mitigations after close of public comment, the project must be re-circulated to allow for additional agency or public review and comment.
In your case, you have a good file – complete with, specific site, scientific data, and professional opinion (with documentation of all the legal and illegal diversions in the watershed) to support the argument that there are continuing cumulative impacts related to this projects and other projects in the watershed, and that adverse impacts related to the project has not been fully assessed and mitigated – and thus should be subject to an EIR. You also have a good attorney. I expect you would prevail in court. It is a shame that it is necessary you have to go to court – these issues should be obvious to the County. Your legal challenge is in a court of Administrative Law. The whole case is based on solely on what is in the file (including your arguments) at this time.
Since Sonoma County has a pattern and practice treating these types of projects under Negative Declaration it probably would be useful to keep the AG in the loop regarding this failure on the part of the County of Sonoma to address CEQA issue. The best you probably would get is a letter from the AG to the County on this issue. It might help – in terms of getting the County to be good and or influence the legal process. This also, may help in moving the stream flows issue towards resolution.
Also, and enforcement action (or any action by the Division of Water Rights) for illegal diversion issue on your watershed may influence your case. This, in part, is why the Frost Protection Workshop should be attended.
If you need agency contact information – buz me back.
At the meeting we both attended in Sacramento, you gave me some advice as to what to realistically expect from the AG as regards our “poster child” case here in Knights Valley.
Below is my latest of 3 attempts (2 e-mails, 1 voicemail) to get some kind of discussion going with Raissa. No such luck to date.
Below is an article in this weekend’s Press Democrat about frost-protection salmon kills in the Russian River. I do hope Scott Wilson of DFG reads this as he stated “show us the dead fish and we will come!”.
[See featured article on main page, “Quick Drop in Water Level Kills Coho”]
I strongly disagree with the jist of the article in that it is pushing for more reservoirs. Where is the science behind this? Please keep in mind that the evaportion rate from reservoirs is about 20-25%!
Most water users would simply download from rivers and creeks a few days in advance of a frost or continually, leaving continually less water for fish habitat.
I grew up dryland farming of wine grapes in the Napa Valley. What have things come to? You would think these grape farmers are now growing lettuce the way they are screaming and kicking about water.
I would very much appreciate having a few words with you as regards the Pelton House. Please keep in mind that the applicants of the project filed for some 15% of all Sonoma County water rights applications to the SWRCB between 1990 and 2004. Enforcing an EIR on a project that is being piece-mealed in would go a long way in establishing a much needed precedent in this county. We are up against a deadline of April 27,2009 to file.
Thank you for listening.
Lisa Carr MD