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United States Bureau of Reclamation's New Melones Project Temporary Urgency Change Petitions

Temporary Urgency Change Petitions regarding Permits of the United States Bureau of Reclamation's New Melones Project on the Stanislaus River


    2016

    Summary:

    On April 1, 2016, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition to temporarily modify requirements in its water right permits for the New Melones Project.

    Due to the existing low storage levels in New Melones Reservoir, limited projected inflows and the junior nature of Reclamation's water rights for New Melones Reservoir, Reclamation does not appear to have adequate water in New Melones Reservoir under its water right permits to meet spring base flow and spring pulse flow requirements on the San Joaquin River at Vernalis this year as well as other requirements without depleting storage in New Melones Reservoir to unreasonably low levels. If storage in New Melones Reservoir is depleted, Reclamation's ability to meet flow, temperature control, and other water quality requirements later this year and in 2017 could be impaired. Reclamation does not propose to provide any water under its water rights for the New Melones Project to its water supply contractors for consumptive use purposes this year
    .
    The State Water Board is currently updating the San Joaquin River flow objectives, and may consider early implementation options to address flow compliance issues as part of that process.

    The State Water Board's Executive Director issued an Order approving most of the changes, finding that the modified flow levels with specified conditions strikes a reasonable balance between the need to provide flows for fish and wildlife in the spring and the need to maintain adequate storage to meet flow and other water quality requirements later in the year and going into water year 2017. Likewise, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have determined that Reclamation's proposed operations would be better for salmonids than releasing the volume of water required to comply with existing San Joaquin River flow requirements.

    A summary of the temporary changes and conditions of approval include:

    • A modified San Joaquin River spring pulse flow requirement between about April 15 and May 15 of 3,000 cfs at Vernalis, specifically requiring compliance with the NMFS Biological Opinion (BO) flow requirements and the provision of 75 thousand acre feet of additional flows from the Stanislaus River during the pulse flow period.
    • A modified spring base flow requirement following the pulse flow period through May 31 of 1,000 cfs.
    • A modified spring base flow requirement during June of 500 cfs.
    • A requirement that Reclamation submit a water right accounting for New Melones.
    • A requirement that Reclamation prepare and submit a proposal to address its compliance issues until the San Joaquin River flow objectives are updated and implemented.
    • A requirement for 415 TAF of carryover storage in New Melones at the end of September to ensure that storage is maintained for water quality and fisheries protection going into water year 2017.
    • A requirement that Reclamation meet Stanislaus River dissolved oxygen and October San Joaquin River pulse flow requirements as well as NMFS BO flow requirements this year.
    Monthly Accounting Updates (in compliance with Executive Director's letter dated January 19, 2017
      Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    2017 2/16 3/2                    

    Proposal Addressing Compliance Issues (condition 4 of April 19 Order):

    • Letter from the Executive Director to Reclamation, dated March 14, 2017
    • Letter from Reclamation, dated February 15, 2017
    • Letter from Executive Director to Reclamation, dated January 19, 2017
    • Letter from Reclamation, dated November 22, 2016

    New Melones Reservoir Accounting (condition 3 of April 19 Order):
    Petition Information:
    • Order, dated April 19, 2016
    • Email from the Department of Fish and Wildlife responding to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s request for concurrence, dated April 18, 2016
    • Email from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responding to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s request for concurrence, dated April 18, 2016
    • Email from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration responding to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s request for concurrence, dated April 15, 2016
    • Email from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation requesting concurrence regarding consistency with the federal Biological Opinions, dated April 15, 2016
    • Notice, dated April 14, 2016
    • Email from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rescinding the request to modify the Stanislaus River dissolved oxygen objective, dated April 14, 2016

    Temporary Urgency Change Petition, dated April 1, 2016
    Comments/Objections/Protests:

    Commenter(s)

    Submitted by

    Date

    California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, and AquaAlliance

    Bill Jennings

    4/27/2016

    San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority

    Jon Rubin

    4/15/2016

    The Bay Institute, National Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations/Institute for Fisheries Research

    Gary Bobker

    04/11/16


    Click on 2015 title bar to view the content.
    2015

    Summary:

    On June 17, 2015, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) filed a Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) to temporarily modify a condition of their water right permits for the New Melones Project which requires that Dissolved Oxygen (DO) be at or above 7.0 milligrams per liter (mg/l) in the Stanislaus River to protect cold freshwater fish habitat.

    On August 4, 2015, the State Water Board’s Executive Director issued an Order which conditionally approved the TUCP. In response to critically dry conditions associated with California’s ongoing drought, and the very low storage available in New Melones Reservoir, the Executive Director temporarily reduced the DO requirement to 5.0 mg/l at Ripon. To ensure that the change does not have unreasonable impacts on fish and wildlife and that the change is in the public interest, the Order includes a condition requiring Reclamation to develop and implement a plan approved by the Executive Director of the State Water Board for operations of New Melones Reservoir that reasonably protects fish and wildlife on the Stanislaus River this year. The Order also includes requirements that Reclamation evaluate and document the effectiveness of this year’s operations to protect fishery resources. The Order also includes a condition that requires Reclamation, in coordination with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (collectively fisheries agencies) and the State Water Board, to develop a plan to reasonably protect fish and wildlife on the Stanislaus River next year.

    Petition Information:
     

    Comments/Objections/Protests:

    Commenter(s)

    Submitted by

    Date

    Stockton East Water District

    Karna E. Harrigfield

    07/13/15

    The Bay Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations

    Gary Bobker

    07/13/15

    Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board

    Adam Luptz

    07/08/15



    Reconsideration:



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