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?I?d say it will be back to normal,? said Terre Cochrane, caretaker at the Pillsbury Resort. ?In one night it went up eight feet, and today it?s going up an inch an hour.?

But the February rains that fed the lake, which sends some of its water to Lake Mendocino, is not enough to help residents in Ukiah or Healdsburg, which draw solely on still far-below-average Lake Mendocino for water.

</CW>It?s not enough to help those in Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma or even San Rafael, where restrictions on Lake Sonoma?s output will force conservation measures, even with plenty of water filling that lake west of Geyserville.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a formal drought proclamation Friday for the state.<NO1><NO> But the level of water conservation this summer depends entirely on where you live in the state?s complicated water grid.

?There still has to be some sort of conservation based on water availability, and our water availability will not be as much as it could be,? said Pam Jeane, the deputy director of operations for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Lake Mendocino on Friday held 43,000 acre feet of water compared to 80,000 acre feet at this time a year ago.

Jeane said she can?t foresee how Lake Mendocino could get near normal nor even calculate how much rain it would take to get there.

?I don?t see it happening,? Jeane said.

Lake Mendocino is filled by natural runoff from a smallish, 100-square-mile watershed plus an inflow from Lake Pillsbury of about 300 acre feet a day.

<CW-30>There is rain in the forecast, with the storm door opening and bringing about an inch of rain on Sunday and rain on and off for a week, said Steve Anderson of the National Weather Service.

</CW>?A large area of low pressure will be parked off the coast. As it spins it will bring in rain,? he said. ?They are not going to be flooding rains.?

Lake Mendocino is the primary water supply for users from Ukiah to Healdsburg and in a normal year provides 30 percent of the water for users from Windsor to San Rafael.

?The closer you get to the lake and the more you rely solely on Lake Mendocino, the worse off you are,? said Sean White, general manager of the Russian River Conservation and Flood Control District.

Lake Sonoma on Friday was at 211,300 acre feet, or 85 percent of its water supply pool.

<CW-30>That is plenty of water for the Water Agency?s major customers: Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma, Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon, North Marin and the Marin Municipal water districts.

</CW>But because of flow restrictions on Dry Creek to protect fish habitat, Lake Sonoma can only deliver 70 percent of those customers? demands, which will require conservation of up to 30 percent.

The cities and water districts will meet Monday morning as the agency?s Water Advisory Committee to begin considering what conservation measures to put in place.

The state Division of Water Rights on Friday also issued an advisory to growers who rely on water from the Russian, Sacramento and San Joaquin, Central Coast and Tule Lake watersheds to conserve water.

On Sunday, the Water Agency is expected to declare whether it is a ?dry? or ?normal? weather year, based on the amount of water that has flowed into Lake Pillsbury, which is blessed with a 300-square-mile watershed on the Eel River.

Jeane said it will be a close call. Lake Pillsbury as of Friday had received an inflow of 62,000 acre feet, with 65,000 acre feet as the cutoff between dry and normal.

But the calculation is a holdover from 25 years ago, when Lake Pillsbury was a major source of water to Lake Mendocino, providing 160,000 acre feet of water a year.

It has had little relevance for what has been happening in the Russian River watershed for the past five years, ever since the diversion into Lake Mendocino has been cut by a third.

?What was a governing system that was peculiar has gone from peculiar to dysfunctional,? White said.

If the declaration is ?dry,? the Water Agency can release as little as 75 cubic feet a second from Lake Mendocino, allowing it to get through the year with the expected conservation measures.

If the declaration is ?normal,? however, the Water Agency will petition the state to still allow the 75 cfs flows. A ?normal? year flow of 150 cfs would empty Lake Mendocino in four to five months.

<NO1>The state rules governing the North Bay water management system are scheduled to be reviewed, but any changes could involve more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies and take a decade to decide.

<NO><NO1>In the meantime, a consultant for the Round Valley Indian Tribe, a major critic of the diversions from Pillsbury into Lake Mendocino, last fall proposed a settlement to increase water deliveries to Lake Mendocino.

It includes additional water for the Russian River, a fish bypass at Scott Dam near Lakes Pillsbury, reimbursement to tribe for legal fees and a Round Valley fish hatchery.

?There is nothing that firm yet, more a matter of, ?Hey, there is willingness to talk,?<TH>? said Roland Sanford, general manager of the Mendocino County Water Agency. ?For the vast majority of us, we are definitely interested in talking, let us know when you want to get together and let us know the shape of the table.?<NO><NO1>

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com

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