Voluntary Drought Initiative

NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are among the federal and state agencies that recognize the severe constraints the 2014 drought is likely to have on agriculture and fish in California. The Voluntary Drought Initiative (Initiative) expresses the agencies' intentions to work with water users in high priority areas throughout the state to reduce the combined effects of the drought on agriculture, salmon, and steelhead. Please see the California Voluntary Drought Initiative for additional details.

Overview

The Initiative seeks to develop temporary, voluntary water conservation and in-stream flow agreements with water users in high priority salmon and steelhead rivers and streams. The priority watersheds include Mill, Deer, and Antelope creeks in the Central Valley; as well as the Scott, Shasta, and Russian rivers. These are the watersheds where the risk of drought-related effects to federal and state listed fish, as well as non-listed state species, are of greatest concern.

Each agreement under the Initiative describes targeted stream and river flows considered by NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to be the lowest flows necessary to support the survival of fish in the specific stream or river reaches they address, based on the best available scientific information. The Initiative also includes a framework for applying Endangered Species Act Section 9 enforcement standards, and respective state enforcement, in the withdrawal of water from salmon and steelhead-bearing rivers. For example, NOAA Fisheries will consider participation in the Initiative an important mitigating factor if the participant takes listed fish species while withdrawing water or carries out other actions that may affect fish passage.

The Initiative does not replace the California State Water Resources Control Board's authorities or independent actions that it may pursue related to the drought, including emergency curtailments. It seeks to protect mutual interests through voluntary partnerships. Water users who contribute voluntary minimum in-stream flows to priority salmon and steelhead rivers and streams can help improve the likelihood that listed fish will survive the drought. 

For more information on the Initiative's voluntary agreements, please contact:

Howard Brown, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Central Valley Area Office: Howard.Brown@noaa.gov or  916.930.3608

David Hines, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region California Coastal Area Office: David.Hines@noaa.gov or 707.575.6098

Jim Simondet, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region California Coastal Area Office: Jim.Simondet@noaa.gov or 707.825.5171