Home is the Lower River
After travelling south for over 80 miles, the Russian River makes a sharp right turn at Forestville and heads west for about 25 miles where it flows into the ocean at the town of Jenner. Mark West Creek and Laguna de Santa Rosa are major watersheds that converge with the Russian River at the river bend.
The ambiance of the lower Russian River has changed relatively little in the last forty years. Visitors come here from all over the world to experience our paradise. The waterway is thickly lined with giant redwoods for most of its westerly course, and summer cabins are hidden on hillsides, riverbanks, and in deep interior canyons. About two thirds of the former cabins have been converted to full time use over the last 25 years.
The Russian River used to be one of the three greatest Steelhead fisheries on the North Coast. Fishermen flocked here from far and wide every winter to fish. It is only in the last fifty years, that their numbers have been decimated, and the Endangered Species Act has stepped in to play a major role in river management. It is one of RRWPC’s major concerns however, that proposed projects to save the fish may be too little, too late, and may cause more harm to the watershed than bring protections for the fish.
The river also serves as a water supply source for about 600,000 urban dwellers in Sonoma County and Marin, as well as providing a source of water for extensive grape growing activities throughout the region. This has led to more focus on improved conservation, wastewater reuse, and better management of groundwater resources, to name a few. Yet, there is still much to be done.
And there is a dark side to all this. This area of extraordinary natural beauty and extensive natural resources is also extremely fragile. It is subject to large floods, massive slides, falling trees, high water tables, water quality problems, etc. It is concern for this fragility that has motivated RRWPC to devote our life’s work over the last 32 years to preservation of the lower Russian River watershed. This website is testimony to that concern and represents our recent work to preserve it from the influences that would turn it into something less than what it is.
Sonoma County Gazette, June 2015: The DroughtYou might want to consult a Ouija board to find out when the drought will end or even when it started. We have been getting very confusing signals not only from weather patterns and rainfall amounts, but also from the people who track them. Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) claims we are in the fourth year of drought, but rainfall numbers don’t necessarily bear that out. On the other hand, Lake Pillsbury and Lake Mendocino are definitely ‘low’ now, even though, according to the State’s calculations, they have had a ‘normal’ rain year.
Erratic rainfall averages during the last four years….As an example, Santa Rosa normally gets an average of 32” of rain each season. In 2012, Santa Rosa got 37.58” for entire year according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. In 2013, they had 4.85”, in 2014: 34.66”, and in the first five months of 2015: 4.33”. So according to the numbers, in the last four years we have had two normal years, one very dry year, and this year is definitely lower than normal but we don’t know final numbers yet. Read More >>
Sonoma County Gazette, May 2015: Updates needed on Toxics LawsWe are surrounded by toxins in products so familiar that we can forget to take precautions with use. The new Sonoma County Recycling Guide lists common household toxics needing to be stored, used, and disposed of with care, such as antifreeze or other auto fluids, fuels such as gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil, along with paint thinners, solvents, and wood finishes. Pesticides and weed killers are included also.
In the kitchen and bath dwell assorted cleaners, cosmetics, drain openers, aerosol sprays, and of course pharmaceuticals. Medications ending up in the waste stream at very low levels continue to be biologically active and capable of causing harm to humans, pets, fish and other aquatic life coming in contact with it. Even most effluent passing through advanced wastewater treatment systems such as reverse osmosis and advanced membrane technology, retain remnant toxins. Experts have stated that no existing treatment technologies eliminate all toxins. Read More >> Read More >>
Newsletter: February 2015Problematic waste disposal long time concern for local officials…. The history of lax septic management in West Sonoma County has been considered problematic for many years because of a very difficult environment that includes sliding slopes, big floods, high ground water, and towering trees that shake and sometimes fall during heavy winds. The mostly substandard lots can contain inadequate septic systems, especially on steep hillsides and river banks, that may leak during heavy rains (other times also) ending up in the Russian River.
Conventional sewer has not proven to be the best way to go in our very constrained and volatile west county environment partly because of the extraordinary construction costs and limited financial assistance. (Several years back, plans for both Monte Rio sewer system and Camp Meeker/Occidental came in at $22 million each for about 600 hookups.) Numerous leaders have tried to address the problem for some communities and have mostly failed. Occidental has been out of compliance with their permit for almost 20 years and are now under orders to build a new system by 2017. Russian River County Sanitation District has a tertiary system that needs expensive Read More >>
Sonoma County Gazette, February 2015Two Great American Heroines…. Theo Colborn died a month ago at the age of 87. She was the Rachel Carson of our time, a tireless advocate in the field of endocrine disruption, also referred to euphemistically these days as contaminants of emerging concern (CEC’s). But these concerns have been emerging for the last 50 years or more and it is our impression that not enough has been done in that time by elected representatives and governmental agency officials to address the issue, while humans beings, wildlife, and aquatic life, usually unknowingly, are paying the price for this neglect.
Rachel Carson taught us about the devastating effects of pesticides, especially DDT, on songbirds and other creatures, and was severely chastised for her views by some, while given hero status by others. Carson challenged the belief that man could and should control nature with poisonous products, and she spoke extensively of the price to be paid for our assault upon the land in order to control the ‘pests’. She tragically died from breast cancer in 1964 at the age of 57. Many other pesticides have replaced DDT since then, but the problem of toxicity of our soils, waterways, food, fish and wildlife, etc. have remained. Read More >>