The Solano County Project Essay
The Solano County Project is a project that "consists of a dam and storage reservoir on the Putah Creek at that the Monticello site, a diversion dam, main canal, and necessary waterways, laterals and drainage works." The "project would provide water to irrigate 83,000 acres and would alleviate shortages in domestic and industrial water supplies at a number of cites and important military installations” in and around Solano county. The Solano county project will affect Yolo, Solano and Napa counties. The affect on Yolo County is the affect the project will have on Putah creek due to the lack of water being released into the creek to support fish and game and wildlife. The affect the project would have on Solano County is that it will increase water capacity for domestic and private use within its county lines. And the affect on Napa County is that it will flood the Berresssya valley causing the creation of Lake Berryessa and forcing many to move outside of the Berressya valley. The project was approved by at 12-1 vote by Solano County but neither Napa nor Yolo counties were allowed to vote on the issue of this project.
The Solano County project according to Michael Stratus, Commissioner was outlined in March of 1948 as needed due to the rapid growth in the economy in the Solano areas. Without the project Stratus said that "the rapidly growing economy of the cannot be sustained." According to Warren the shortfall of water in the Solano county was 11,500 acre-feet in 1950 and it is expected to increase to 26,500 by 1970. Stratus also points out the need for the Solano County Project in terms of urban growth and growth in the counties "agricultural economy". In order to sustain rapid growth in the county and to be able to keep up with the growing population the Monticello Reservoir will be able to hold 1,600,000 acre-feet. Though the project would destroy the small Berryessa valley is was said that the project will "yield the greatest benefits to the greatest number of people." The inhabitants of Solano County will cover the cost of the Solano county project. Mostly industry and domestic inhabitants will cover most of the cost, thus farmers will pay the least amount. Thus the water is according to Solano owned by the county due to the payment.
The issues that have arrived due to the Order Amending Order WR 81-11 are Conditions 11, 12, and 13, all of which deal with State of California Water Board and the building of the Solano County project. Condition 11 of Decision 869, on April 15, 1970 "required that the Bureau release water to Putah Creek below Solano Diversion Dam to protect prior rights and maintain percolation to groundwater." In order to do so, the water board "adopted an interim fixed monthly release schedule for compliance with Condition 11 of Decision 869." The issues that arise with Condition 11 are that the flow of downstream water into the creek will affect well water for domestic use and irrigation for agriculture. Thus, after reviewing the water release schedule, the final order states that the schedule for releasing the water into the creek to "protect prior rights and percolation to the groundwater" was adequate. The Board found that the schedule that was created with the Decision 869 was correct and the best way to ensure that Condition 11 could be sustained. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence to deny or support the claim of groundwater recharging, due to the fact that the Bureau believes that collection of data would be inconclusive. This is stated in the Writ of Mandamus.
Condition 12 of Decision 869 states that "the Decision directed Bureau to undertake an investigation to determine the amount of water that must be released to Putah Creek to comply with Condition 11". The Writ of Mandamus states that the Bureau needs to "reinstate the 1970 normal and dry year schedule" which will allow Condition 11 to be fulfilled. The issue at hand here is the fact that the Bureau is not "currently required to conduct additional investigations to determine the quantity of water that should be released below the Putah Creek Diversion Dam (Order WR 79-14, order amending Condition 12.)." Yet, the Bureau is submitting data due to the April 16, 1970 order of records of depth to groundwater and estimates of changes in groundwater storage. The Bureau shall submit daily records of diversions to Putah South Canal and flows past the Putah Diversion Dam and keep records of the depth to groundwater in the spring of each year for the area influenced by Putah Creek between miles 4.0 and 11.0. In doing so there will be a better tracking of the percolation of the water through the measure of groundwater levels. It is through these measurements that one can tell if Condition 11 and its scheduled release is following through and allowing for the prior rights and percolation of the ground.
According to Condition 13 of Decision 869, the State Water Board of California would not have a limit to its discretion on "remand including the exercise of reserved jurisdiction to amend the 1970 release schedule in the future." Thus the Board will have overview and will have the ability to adjust the schedules accordingly to correspond with Condition 11. The problem with this is the fact that since there according to the board there is no way to measure the actually amount of groundwater (according to 1 of Order 79-14). Since this being the case how will the water board know when Condition 11 is not being met, and if and when the conditions are not being met?
Condition 11 and the issue about "Putah Creek below the Solano Diversion dam to protect prior rights..." Also becomes an issue because of the Board stating that "there is no conclusive way" to measure the groundwater levels. It is these levels that are important because they levels if not met can destroy Fish and Wildlife in the area destroying the "prior rights" of the animals and those who have depended on Putah creek for Fish and Game. Thus according to Order 81-11 term 24 to the Bureau's permits the requirement to meet with the Department of Fish and Game concerning releases of water to increase the Fishery resource in Putah Creek below the Diversion Dam was considered "not necessary." The fact that the Bureau have over looked Fish and Wildlife and the impact the water releases and groundwater would have upon the Wildlife show that this order will not be in compliance with Condition 11.
The issue with Putah Creek and the Solano project is the issue of public trust and its authority over the creek and what the impacts that the Solano project would have upon the creek and the public trusts. The public trust according Nat. Audburn v. Super Ct. Of Alpine city. "Applies to the rights in flowing waters as well as to rights in tidelands and lakeshores; it prevents any party from acquiring a vested right to appropriated water in a manner harmful to the interests protected by the public trust." The Fish and Wildlife in the Putah Creek are affected by the Solano project and its lack of down stream flow due to the need for water in Solano County. Due to the lack of water the rights of the Fish and wildlife are affected by this project therefore the prior rights of the animals. According to the Fish and Game code 5937 "the owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass through a fish way, or in absence of a fish way, allow sufficient water to pass over, around or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam. This being the case the Solano project has failed miserably to live up to these standards. The rights of the Fish and Game have been violated due to the lack of downstream water flow released from the dam.
The fact that the Solano County went ahead with the project without setting up a specific amount of water to be released from the dam does not follow the Fish and Game code 5937 and the Audburn Case.
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