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With rain in forecast, state water board lifts a third of Russian River restrictions

The outlook for rain has prompted state water regulators to lift restrictions on about one-third of the Russian River water rights curtailed earlier in the summer because of limited supplies in Lake Mendocino and the rest of the system.|

The outlook for rain has prompted state water regulators to lift restrictions on about a third of the Russian River water rights curtailed earlier this summer due to limited supplies in Lake Mendocino and the rest of the system.

The State Water Resource Control Board is restoring 294 water rights in the watershed as of Saturday because of a storm expected to bring up to 2½ inches of precipitation to upper elevations beginning Saturday night.

The board’s staff expects next week to revisit the status of the remaining 596 water rights still curtailed after Saturday to see how much rainfall materializes and how it’s affecting the watershed, said Sam Boland-Brien, supervising engineer with the Division of Water Rights.

Lake Mendocino, which feeds the upper Russian River from accumulated rainfall and runoff, as well as diversions from the Eel River through Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Potter Valley powerhouse, has been losing storage fast.

On Thursday it held 42,765 acre-feet, just under 50% of its total storage capacity, or about 63% of a seasonal supply level set by the Sonoma County Water Agency.

It has lost 15% of its storage in the six weeks since the end of July, when deliveries of Eel River water through the power plant were cut to a fraction of their previous level.

The water board had imposed three rounds of curtailments this summer, the third year of drought, but made some adjustments last month, as well.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan (she/her) at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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