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River-flow report stirs controversy: Response deadline extended

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has extended to April 16 the deadline to respond to the agency’s draft in-stream flow recommendations for the Lower Ventura River and Coyote Creek.
The stated goal of the report, released Feb. 26, is to determine what levels of flow in the river are necessary to keep it in an unimpaired condition for endangered Southern California steelhead.
Three of the largest water users in the Ventura River Watershed — the city of Ventura, Ventura River Water District and Meiners Oaks Water District — have all sent response letters to CDFW regarding the recommendations.
All three letters state there’s not enough water in the river to meet Fish and Wildlife’s recommendations.
“The flows that they’ve recommended for steelhead are not available in the river most of the time, so they set these recommended flows that we cannot achieve,” said James Kentosh, vice president of Meiners Oaks Water District.
CDFW’s recommended flows significantly exceed natural, historic flows during all but four months of even the wettest of years, Kentosh told the Ojai Valley News. “If every human being stopped using water in the valley, those flow recommendations would still only be enough a fraction of the time,” he said.
Furthermore, the amounts of water necessary to supplement natural flows to reach recommended flows are too large, according to Bruce Kuebler, board president of VRWD.
Supplemental amounts range between 16,600 acre-feet in wet years to 36,300 acre-feet in dry years, stated the District’s April 7 response to Fish and Wildlife. “Those amounts exceed the mean annual runoff from the entire watershed,” the letter said. “The total water use by Casitas Municipal Water District is currently about 12,000 acre-feet a year.”
The city of Ventura agreed, stating in its response letter to CDFW dated April 6, that had its flow recommendations been in place, “human extraction of water within the watershed would have to be prohibited between 67.1% to 81% of the time since 1930.”
The response letters also took issue with the flow recommendations not reflecting actual conditions in the watershed, not taking into account habitat factors that impact steelhead, and not recognizing steps already being taken or being proposed to enhance flows in the river, such as the proposed “physical solution.”
According to Kentosh, CDFW’s flow report is missing a clear and consistent discussion of the goals leading to the recommendations. “Ideally, Fish and Wildlife would sit down and look at the river and they would try to figure out what’s wrong with the fish and what can we actually, physically do, rather than just spit out this wish-list of flows that can’t be achieved,” he said. “They’re going through this process and it’s just baffling where it’s going to end up.”
On March 26, Fish and Wildlife extended the 30-day public input period from March 29 to April 16.
Comments on the recommendations can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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