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, January 2016Conflicting needs: drought, conservation, and inadequate housing….2015 has flown by so rapidly, we barely caught our breaths and now it’s gone. First and foremost, the year was marked by drought. Media filled us with daily messages to save water, exchange grass for cash, take shorter showers, turn off water when we brush, etc. It was even suggested that the dog be allowed to lick your dishes clean.
Contractor Conservation a great success….It worked! Each of Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) major contractors had been assigned conservation targets by the State Water Board. Because of extraordinary citizen efforts, targets were met and even exceeded by a significant amount. But now water rates are going up to maintain water infrastructure and cover costs of water delivery to compensate for decreased use. (Contractors include Santa Rosa, Petaluma, North Marin, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Windsor.) 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. 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: November 2015Where has this year gone?
Though it seemingly began only ‘yesterday’, 2015 now winds down as we take stock of RRWPC’s river protection accomplishments, and look to see where we head next. This year, as always, was filled with addressing various water concerns, including drought and conservation, toxic blue-green algae, excessive phosphorus, new septic and bacteria regulations, issues of toxins in wastewater and our environment, and irrigation runoff. We photographed river conditions, read and commented on lengthy documents, gave testimony to decision makers, actively participated in Sonoma County Water Coalition, wrote six articles for the Gazette, maintained our website and organization, and more.
RRWPC regularly attended Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities meetings, North Coast Regional Board Meetings, and Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) water contractor meetings and many others. We regularly track wastewater reuse (….badly in need of oversight), water supply and conservation (… getting better on conservation, but some cities quietly anticipate using water savings for new development), and numerous water quality issues, including our strong concerns about excessive river nutrients, Read More >>
Endocrine Disruption Reference List
Check out Environmental Health News for excellent source of latest environmental news articles.
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RRWPC sends out occasional important action alerts on issues we are tracking. To sign up for email list, please include your name and town and brief description of your concerns about the Russian River to us at RRWPC.