North Coast Environmental Groups Issue Warning that Frost Protection Activities May Violate the Endangered Species Act

California River Watch, Coast Action Group, and Forest Unlimited have issued the attached letter to North Coast vineyard owners and operators that divert water for agricultural purposes in the North Coast. The letter warns that water diversions for frost protection could result in the “take” of threatened and endangered salmonids in north coast streams, not unlike what happened in 2008 in the Russian River watershed.

In April 20, 2008, biologists from the National Marine Fisheries Service were alerted to two fish strandings. One was a group of 10 young steelhead near Hopland and the second was 31 young salmonids in a tributary to the Russian River in Sonoma County. Despite numerous factors contributing to the 2008 strandings, including weather and water management problems, federal and state regulators blamed farmers. This 2008 event triggered the State Water Resources Control Board to issue frost protection regulations for the Russian River watershed that were later invalidated by the Mendocino County Superior Court. Given the severe drought conditions and anticipated agricultural frost protection needs, 2014 looks to be shaping up to be another challenging year for balancing economic interests with protecting threatened and endangered salmonids.

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