News Feature | July 22, 2014

Frost Protection: Water Regulators Vs Farmers

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The California courts handed water regulators a big win in June on the question of how farmers divert water during the wintertime. 

"A state appeals court has restored the authority of California water regulators to direct reductions in cold-weather sprays by grape growers and other waterfront farmers along the Russian River that have led to deaths of endangered species of salmon," the San Francisco Chronicle reported

The court "upheld state rules" on the issue, the Santa Rose Press Democrat reported

Frost protection rules are "intended to prevent diversions for frost protection from causing salmonid mortality due to rapid decreases in stream stage that can strand small, developing fish," according to California water regulators. 

"Too many growers drawing directly from the watershed at the same time may reduce flows in ways that are harmful to salmonids. Therefore, effective and timely management of pumps and application becomes essential," they explained. 

The rules had been tossed out two years ago by a judge who called them "constitutionally void" and "invalid." California's First Appellate District court reversed that decision in June. 

"A Mendocino County judge previously ruled that the state Water Resources Control Board lacked authority to restrict longtime users of river water. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco disagreed, saying the board has the power to prohibit growers from 'using water in an unreasonable manner' and to decide whether the protection of wildlife habitat outweighs growers' commercial needs," the report said. 

Water regulators praised the decision. 

“The board is pleased with the court's unanimous decision upholding the Russian River frost protection regulations,” said Michael Lauffer, the water board's chief counsel, per the report. 

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "River_Amata_2013_March_6," Liga_Eglite © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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