Lower Yuba River Accord

One of Yuba Water’s most important investments in fisheries is the Lower Yuba River Accord, which established higher, more protective instream flow requirements for salmon and steelhead and improved habitat conditions in the lower Yuba River. The multi-agency, landmark agreement also established a $565,000 annual commitment from Yuba Water for scientific fisheries studies and created a River Management Team that evaluates flows and implements fishery studies.

The Yuba Accord is a model settlement agreement that provides meaningful benefits for both fish and wildlife purposes, and water supply reliability for irrigation, hydropower generation and recreation. The Yuba Accord also provides significant benefits for the people of Yuba County and California.

Implemented in 2008, the Yuba Accord resolved decades of controversy around instream flow requirements for the lower Yuba River. Instream flow is the rate of water flow required for fish, recreation and water use at different times of the year at specific locations. Yuba Water worked with a broad coalition of agricultural, environmental, and fisheries organizations, including state and federal agencies, to develop the agreement.

The Yuba Accord includes three separate but related agreements: a fisheries agreement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and certain non-governmental organizations, a water purchase agreement with the California Department of Water Resources, and conjunctive use agreements with local water and irrigation districts. Learn more about each of these agreements below.

Fisheries Agreement

The Yuba Accord’s Fisheries Agreement established significantly higher minimum instream flow requirements during specified periods of the year, as well as a collaborative monitoring and evaluation program for the lower Yuba River and its fisheries. The agreement continues to protect and improve salmon and steelhead habitat along the 24 miles of the lower Yuba River and provides about 100,000 acre-feet of water on average each year for fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta and for cities and farms throughout the state. Signatories to the agreement include the California Department of Fish and Game, South Yuba River Citizens League, Friends of the River, Trout Unlimited, The Bay Institute and Yuba Water.

Conjunctive Use Agreement

The conjunctive use agreements enable Yuba Water’s member units and their landowners and well owners to participate in the Yuba Accord’s Groundwater Substitution Water Transfer Program. Under this program, partnering irrigation districts pump groundwater as a substitute supply for the agency’s surface water deliveries in dry years. This allows Yuba River water to stay in the river during dry years, benefitting fish and wildlife species and water users in areas of need throughout California. The groundwater basins are recharged in wetter water years and monitored closely.

Water Purchase Agreement

Water transfers are a crucial element of the Yuba Accord that benefit the environment, increase statewide water supply reliability and generate revenue for Yuba Water’s flood risk reduction and water supply projects. The Water Purchase Agreement allows Yuba Water to sell water that is already being released for the benefit of fish to others in the state who need it. The agreement includes surface water releases from New Bullards Bar Reservoir and voluntary groundwater substitutions by Yuba Water’s member units. A groundwater substitution means a water user agrees to transfer surface water diverted under a surface water right to another water user and instead pump groundwater that is sustainably managed through Yuba Water’s approved groundwater management program and monitoring of groundwater levels.

Results

The Yuba Accord has directly resulted in higher instream flow requirements for salmon and steelhead on the lower Yuba River. Each year, about 100,000-acre-feet of water on average flows out of the lower Yuba River and benefits fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta estuary, and cities and farms throughout the state. The Yuba Accord is a model settlement agreement that provides meaningful benefits for both fish and wildlife purposes, and water supply reliability for irrigation, hydropower generation, and recreation.

Yuba Accord Flow Schedules

In the early 2000s, researchers and biologists determined that the greatest overall stressor to fish in the lower Yuba River was elevated water temperatures during the summer and fall months. To address this stressor, the group worked with hydrology specialists and engineers to develop the Yuba Accord flow schedules with a focus on flows that promote cooler water temperatures.

The Yuba Accord flow schedules are calculated and adjusted in February, March, April and May, based on DWR’s Bulletin 120, a publication issued four times a year containing forecasts of seasonal runoff and the previous year’s carryover storage in New Bullards Bar Reservoir, to determine the amount of water available to provide for fisheries and other beneficial uses. The final May schedule remains in place until the following February.

Yuba Accord flows are measured at the Smartsville gauge, below Englebright Dam, and the Marysville gauge, downstream of Daguerre Point Dam on the lower Yuba River.

Marysville Gauge (cfs)

Sched.Oct.
1-15 16-31
Nov.
1-30
Dec.
1-31
Jan.
1-31
Feb.
1-29
Mar.
1-31
Apr.
1-15 16-30
May
1-15 16-31
Jun.
1-15 16-30
Jul.
1-31
Aug.
1-31
Sep.
1-30
Total Annual Volume (AF)
1500  5005005005005007001000  10002000  20001500  1500700600500574,200
2500  500500500500500700700  8001000  1000800  500500500500429,066
3500  500500500500500500700  700900  900500  500500500500398,722
4400  400500500500500500600  900900  600400  400400400400361,944
5400  400500500500500500500  600600  400400  400400400400334,818
6350  350350350350350350350  500500  400300  150150150350232,155

*Indicated flows represent average volumes for the specified time period. Actual flows may vary from the indicated flows according to established criteria.
*Indicated Schedule 6 flows do no include an additional 30,000 acre-feet available from groundwater substitution to be allocated according to established criteria. 

Smartsville Gauge (cfs)

Sched.Oct.
1-15 16-31
Nov.
1-30
Dec.
1-31
Jan.
1-31
Feb.
1-29
Mar.
1-31
Apr.
1-15 16-30
May
1-15 16-31
Jun.
1-15 16-30
Jul.
1-31
Aug.
1-31
Sep.
1-30
Total Annual Volume (AF)
A700  700700700700700700700      -   -        -   -        ---700-
B600  600600550550550550600      -   -        -   -        ---500-

*Schedule A used with Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Marysville.
*Schedule B used with Schedules 5 and 6 at Marysville.

Lower Yuba River Management Team

The Yuba Accord is informed by best available science, supported by the Lower Yuba River Management Team, which evaluates flows and implements fishery studies.

Focused on science, the RMT has developed robust active research and a state-of-the-art monitoring and evaluation program for the lower Yuba River. Guided by the RMT, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission staff perform a suite of fish population data collection activities to study adult upstream migration, spawning, juvenile rearing and out-migration life stages of Chinook salmon and steelhead. Additional RMT activities include the identification of potential habitat restoration and enhancement measures in the river.

The RMT includes Yuba Water, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, South Yuba River Citizens League, The Bay Institute, Trout Unlimited, California Department of Water Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the River, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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