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, February 2015
Two 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. Read More >>
Sonoma County Gazette, November 2014
Urban Conservation Report Card: 20% goal not met…. Who’s paying attention? Most people served by public water systems are accustomed to turning on the tap and water flows out. Busy urban dwellers seldom ponder where their water is coming from, how it gets to their taps, or whether reservoir supplies are adequate. City planners generally rely on ‘paper water’ for new development, i.e., estimated projections of how much future water is expected to be available.
What motivates people to pay attention to water use? 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, October 2014
New sewer regulations on the way…..The North Coast Regional Board is gearing up to develop new septic regulations to satisfy requirements of AB 885, a controversial regulation in the making for over ten years and finally approved a few years ago. AB 885’s intent is to clean up waterways allegedly polluted by failing septics, and its implementation in our area relies on their assessment of bacterial problems in the lower Russian River, a process to be completed within two years.
Russian River Watershed Protection Committee supports requirements that provide assurance of environmental protections that address health concerns and beneficial uses, yet appropriately distributes responsibility for identified problems. Much of the human caused degradation in the lower river occurs upstream of Forestville, including the Laguna, and all should be clearly identified and addressed.
Besides septics, Regional Board staff has identified many other sources of bacterial contamination. The nature and scope of the problem must be scientifically analyzed and all contributing sources must be adequately quantified. Read More >>