In response to the ongoing state-wide drought, the County of Humboldt on Wednesday convened its first meeting of a multi-agency drought task force. The purpose of the task force is to document drought damages in the county, identify needs and potential solutions to water shortages, promote inter-agency cooperation to relieve effects of the drought, and communicate funding opportunities and related procedures to address identified issues.
In January, with California facing water shortfalls in the state's driest year in recorded history, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. proclaimed a state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for drought conditions. By July, a total of 50 emergency proclamations had been made to the state from city, county, and tribal governments, as well as special districts, including the County of Humboldt, the City of Rio Dell, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe and Karuk Tribe.
“We can’t stop the drought from happening, and all of our agencies play a role in helping our community get through it,” said Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey. “But the solutions have to begin with the people of this county, by conserving and getting water from the appropriate sources. If we all work together we have a better chance of making it through this drought with as little impacts as possible.”
Locally, surface water curtailment letters were sent to junior water rights holders, including Alderpoint County Water District, the City of Rio Dell (rescinded in August), and Scotia Community Water District (pending due to having possible senior water rights). Several municipal water systems are considered vulnerable, including Casterlin School in Blocksburg, Garberville Sanitary District and Westhaven Community Services District. Some tribal water districts are also considered vulnerable, including Bear River, Hoopa Valley, Karuk (in Orleans), Smith River, Table Bluff, Trinidad Rancheria and Yurok.
In Eastern Humboldt County, agencies are concerned that the third consecutive year of below average rainfall, combined with the Bureau of Reclamation’s recent decision to withhold water releases on the Trinity River could lead to a mass fish kill similar to 2002.
The Board of Supervisors in July proclaimed a local emergency caused by prolonged drought in Humboldt County. The Board recognized that severe drought conditions in Humboldt are causing water shortages in communities, greatly increased wildfire activity, diminished water for agricultural production, degraded habitat for fish and wildlife species, and increasing concern for future water access and availability.
“The drought is a community problem and it’s going to take our entire community to deal with it,” said Chairman of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Rex Bohn. “It is great to see so many stakeholders coming together, from the cities, states and federal agencies, special districts, the tribes, to private landowners. We're all working on this critical issue that affects so many people in so many ways.”
The task force will meet regularly and add more members to the group. Specifically, it will seek those who:
•have a primary role in public water management;
•have a primary role in emergency response; and/or
•represent a municipal entity or community currently experiencing water shortages, failures or imminent threats.
Currently, the task force includes representatives from the following stakeholder groups:
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office
Humboldt County Board of Supervisors
Humboldt County Office of Education
Garberville Sanitary District
Willow Creek Community Services District
Office of US Rep. Jared Huffman
California Department of Water Resources
Office of Calif. Sen. Noreen Evans
Office of Calif. Ass. Wesley Chesbro
Department of Health & Human Services
US Fish & Wildlife
Indian Health Services
City of Rio Dell Public Works
American Red Cross
NOAA/National Weather Service
City of Rio Dell
California Office of Emergency Services
Hoopa Valley Tribe
US Forest Service
Humboldt County Administrative Office
Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District
Regional Water Quality Control Board
Westhaven Community Services District
UC Cooperative Extension
Humboldt County Public Works
State Water Resources Control Board
California Department of Water Resources
“Brown is the New Green” slogan
Save our water tools in your home
Save Our Water connects Californians with daily drought tips and news via www.SaveOurWater.com. Save Our Water’s Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram are also great resources for Californians looking to join the effort to save water.
Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste. Save Our Water is a partnership between the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Department of Water Resources – for more ways to save and to learn more about the Save Our Water program, visit SaveOurWater.com.
News release from the State Water Resource Control Board for August 1st implementation for all Californians to conserve water: