California drought restrictions lifted in Russian River area

Sonoma County vineyards

Ray Waldbaum checks the water level in the well at his home in the Mayacamas Mountains in Santa Rosa. The water level has dropped 10 feet since May.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

California regulators have ended mandatory water cutbacks along tributaries of the Russian River, but will continue to require property owners to report how much water they use.

The State Water Resources Control Board said ample rainfall eliminated the need for the emergency restrictions, which were enacted last summer to help protect juvenile salmon in creeks feeding into the Russian River in Sonoma County.

The board voted Tuesday to renew only the informational portion of the emergency orders, for another nine months, while eliminating the mandatory cutbacks that had prohibited residential car washing and lawn watering.

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The original orders, enacted in August on about 12,000 parcels along four creeks, had created a furor among residents, who argued that vineyards should not have been left out of the cutbacks.

In December, the board issued more than 1,881 complaints, each of which could result in a fine of $500 per day, against property owners who did not fully comply with the requests for information on their water use. 

About half the recipients -- 923 -- have since completed the information requests, according to the board. More than 500 complaint notices either elicited no response, were returned undelivered or were rejected by property owners, according to the board. The board also withdrew about 100 complaints.

One parcel owner has requested a public hearing, which has been postponed indefinitely.


Twitter: @LATgeoffmohan


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