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SACRAMENTO NWR:Partner-Developed Water Agreement to Benefit Wetlands and Fish
California-Nevada Offices , September 30, 2008
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Willow Creek Wetlands Enhancement Project Map (Map: USFWS)
Willow Creek Wetlands Enhancement Project Map (Map: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Principle partners in getting the water flowing to Willow Creek (from left) Jim Kirsch, water master; Brig. Gen. Jack McMills (retired); and Craig Isola, USFWS. (photo: USFWS).
Principle partners in getting the water flowing to Willow Creek (from left) Jim Kirsch, water master; Brig. Gen. Jack McMills (retired); and Craig Isola, USFWS. (photo: USFWS). - Photo Credit: n/a

by Craig Isola and Greg Mensik, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC)

Cooperation between the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a number of Conservation Partners has resulted in a Long-term Water Agreement that will provide beneficial instream flows for salmon and steelhead, while helping flood 3,500 acres of private wetlands protected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Conservation Easements.

In 1996, and again in 2001, the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) purchased and conveyed to BLM lands that included pre-1914 water rights on Battle Creek in Tehama County, California. BLM eventually determined that not all of the water right supply was needed to manage these new federal properties.  Federal, State and private entities have long been concerned about salmon and steelhead habitat quality in Battle Creek, as well as water supplies for private wetlands in the Willow Creek–Lurline Wildlife Management Area adjacent to Sacramento NWR.  Given these concerns, Sacramento NWRC, BLM and TPL proposed that 1,450 acre feet of the water be used conjunctively, providing instream benefits to salmon and steelhead in Battle Creek, while helping to flood 3,500 acres of federally protected wetlands “lower” in the Sacramento River watershed.

To facilitate this conjunctive water use, Sacramento NWRC and BLM worked with the Department of the Interior Solicitor’s Office to develop a Long-term (25 year) Agreement.  Under this agreement, BLM foregoes diverting its entire water right and allows 9cfs to remain in Battle Creek.  This action provides increased instream flows beneficial to threatened Spring-run Chinook and Central Valley Steelhead.  These flows then enter the Sacramento River and are diverted downstream at Glenn Colusa Irrigation District’s (GCID) “fish friendly” pumping facility.  In accordance with a Water Wheeling Agreement, GCID delivers the water to Sacramento NWRC, which conveys the water through refuge facilities to Willow Creek Mutual Water Company (WCMWC).  Finally, WCMWC is responsible for delivering the water to individual FWS Conservation Easement wetlands within the Willow Creek-Lurline Wildlife Management Area. 

To facilitate the water delivery, Sacramento NWRC, with the help of Dale Garrison of the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office and WCMWC, was awarded a North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grant.  In the Fall of 2007, the funding was used to construct new, and enhance existing, water conveyance facilities to deliver water from GCID to WCMWC.  Water delivery to protected wetlands commenced in September 2008.  The 1,450 acre feet of water will continue to be available annually to benefit salmon, steelhead and a myriad of wetland dependent wildlife, including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and threatened Giant Garter Snakes.  In addition, this innovative project helps to set a precedent and provide a model for future conjunctive use of water for natural resources.


Contact Info: Jennifer Stockton, 530-934-2801 x15, jennifer_stockton@fws.gov



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