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City of St. Helena looks to keep recent rainfall for municipal use

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City of St. Helena

The City of St. Helena is seeking to keep some of the rainwater that fell during the late October storm for city use instead of bypassing it all into Bell Creek.

During a closed session meeting on Nov. 1, the council directed staff to petition the California State Water Resources Control Board in hopes of keeping some of that rainfall in Bell Canyon Reservoir, despite a requirement in the reservoir's permit that rainfall before Nov. 15 must be bypassed into the creek.

City Attorney Ethan Walsh announced the move during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The storm dropped about 10 inches of rain onto the Bell Canyon watershed, where Bell Canyon Reservoir had stood at 28%, with 25% set aside for firefighting.

“The city opened its bypass valves to maximum capacity as soon as it was safe to do so after the arrival of the storm inflows and maintained that (release) at maximum capacity during the rains and then at the rate of inflow thereafter,” Walsh said. “But even with those releases, the reservoir remains at approximately 76.7 percent full.”

“This additional water could be crucial to the city’s ability to meet the health and safety needs of the community, particularly in light of the current prolonged state of drought that we find ourselves in,” Walsh added.

The city’s urgency petition will be posted online, Walsh said. The water board is expected to respond within 30 days.

St. Helena remains in a Phase II water emergency.

Pam Smithers and Mariam Hansen shot videos showing the effects of Sunday's storm on the Napa River and the flood project, which performed as designed.

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You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or

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