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.
RRWPC Comments on Dry Creek Draft EIR, August 25, 2015(Email sent to Sonoma County Water Agency.)
Thank you for the opportunity to enter comments into the record for the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project Draft EIR. For the most part, we believe that this project is worthwhile, although we wish the degradation making this project necessary had not occurred in the first place. We would also have preferred that property owners who inflict damage to the environment over the years and who create the need for such projects, would be held accountable and required to pay for their own mistakes (or at least contribute). But that is not at issue now.
Our comments will focus on four main issues that we believe were not addressed in this EIR. They are the issues of dam releases and creek flow as they affect the lower Russian River, and the potential release and resulting transport of toxins, nutrients, and bacteria into the Russian River. We mentioned most of these in brief at the hearing before the Board of Supervisors on August 11, 2015. Read More >>
Sonoma County Gazette, November 2015: New Septic Regulations Coming….
Proposed bacteria regulations may impact river housing…..Reassuring words from Regional Board Staff during the meeting in Monte Rio on September 22nd, went something like this, “No one will lose their home because of new septic regulations meant to protect the health of those who recreate in the river.”
But why did few people in the audience believe these words? While the regulators’ goal was not meant to remove people from their homes, proposed standards aim to keep all bacteria out of the Russian River but for those contributed by wild animals, probably an impossible standard to meet. Regarding the funding of this task, while the agency provided a list of potential funders for septic replacement and repair, low-income homeowners know it’s very difficult to actually obtain those funds without obligating themselves to major debt.
At that same meeting, concerned citizens pleaded with Regional Board staff for a map designating high priority areas. They were told it wouldn’t be provided. Read More >>
Sonoma County Gazette, September 2015: Toxic Algal BloomSummer on the Russian River…..The Russian River appeared broad and full as photographed from the Monte Rio Bridge recently with camera’s eye facing downstream, however there were clues that the river was not as it seemed. A man was standing with his daughter in the middle of the river; the water barely covered their ankles. The green algae sparkled in the sun beneath the shallow surface of the water. Numerous bathers hung out at the Monte Rio Beach that hot summer day, but only the dogs could swim there. Then, viewing the river from the upstream side, canoes could be seen negotiating the mats of algae drifting on the water’s surface. In close up, it was not a pretty sight.
Beaches posted Aug. 21st with Caution Warnings re: toxic blue-green algae…..On August 21st, a notice came through from the Sonoma County Department of Health Services stating: “Recreational users of the Russian River are encouraged to take precautions”. This was the first official notice for the Russian River citing toxic blue-green algae, and an issue of concern for Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC). Read More >>
Newsletter: August 2015Low flow and Rohnert Park Water…. The Russian River appeared broad and full as we photographed from the Monte Rio Bridge recently, facing downstream, however there were clues that it was not. A man was standing with his daughter in the middle of the river; the water came barely to their ankles. The green algae sparkled in the sun beneath the shallow surface of the water. Many people hung out at the Monte Rio Beach on this hot summer day, but only the dogs could swim there. Then, viewing the river from the upstream side of the bridge, we could see canoes floating among the mats of algae drifting on the water’s surface. In close up, it was not a pretty sight.
Current downstream river conditions and the Estuary Project….Monte Rio water levels rise when the mouth is closed, but as of mid-August the mouth had been open for almost two months, allowing very low flows. This condition was supposed to contribute to summer mouth closures, but it hasn’t, and the Estuary Management Project required by the Biological Opinion (BO) to create a fresh water environment for juvenile steelhead fish, has not been successfully implemented since BO’s release in 2008. Read More >>