In 1988 CRSA filed a complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in regards to the environmental damage being done by over-pumping the Carmel River. In the complaint, CRSA offered the following remedies as a solution to the environmental damage:
- Rescue and rearing of fish stranded in the Carmel River.
- Irrigation of riparian vegetation.
- Release of more water from San Clemente Dam.
With the complaint filed, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD) was given two choices: either develop an Interim Relief Plan (IRP) or have the complaint go to hearing.
Rather than go to a hearing and by negotiating with CRSA, MPWMD adopted the 1998 Interim Relief Plan on September 12, 1988.
For the fish rescue portion, MPWMD agreed to dedicate one half of an aquatic biologist’s time for environmental maintenance at a cost of $ 30,000 annually and, in addition, create a $30,000 contingency fund for dry-year smolt transportation.
A three-part program was recommended to fulfill the rearing portion of the rescue/rearing program.
- Hire a professional aquatic biologist half time.
- Develop an instream rearing program during normal years. The plan was to create ponds (plastic or fiberglass) down-river from the San Clemente filter plant and put stranded fry from the lower river in those ponds. (There were also plans to add feed and nutrients to the river between San Clemente Dam and the Carmel Valley Village.)
- Develop a plan to capture down migrating smolts in dry years when they are prevented from reaching the ocean because of the river going dry.
Of interest related to the rescue/rearing program, the following quote appears on Page 11 of the IRP, “Cal-Am has agreed to dedicate the land subject to limitations on access. Start-up cost would be paid by the CRSA as well as the ongoing cost of feed ($15,000 to $20,000). CRSA would donate labor for maintenance of the rearing program and assist in the rescues.”
As the riparian irrigation portion does not directly impact fish, it is not a part of this recap.
The release of water from San Clemente Dam was to be accomplished by modifying the already existing MOU between Cal Am, the MPWMD, and the California Department of Fish and Game, (now called California Department of Fish and Wildlife or CDFW).
Although CRSA had been rescuing fish for years, the original complaint to the SWRCB and the subsequent IRP was the beginning of the formal rescue and rearing program on the Carmel River.