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, August 2016
Low flow on its way….Ready, set, go! Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is off and running towards permanently lowering minimum Russian River summer flows forever. Once this occurs, the risk of water quality degradation that includes increased algae and possibly toxic algae, is a virtual certainty, along with all the other problems that entails.
The river now suffers from excessive temperatures and excessive phosphorus and the only condition holding algae somewhat in check is summer flows. Yet the Biological Opinion requires minimum flows in the lower river to be cut by as much as 50% between May 15th and October 15th. Minimum summer flows at Hacienda were historically set at 125 cubic feet per second (cfs); the proposed change can bring that down as low as 60 cfs. Not only is algae likely to increase at that level, but any other unmonitored and unregulated toxins in the river can become more concentrated and also provide greater risk.
Biological Opinion set the stage…..The Biological Opinion was released by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2008. It described Russian River habitat changes needed to Read More >>
RRWPC Newsletter, October 2016: Fish Flow Project & Direct Potable Reuse
In 38 years of tracking water quality issues and reading environmental impact reports (EIRs), Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC) recalls only one EIR that surpassed the size, weight and number of volumes of Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) Fish Habitat Flows and Water rights Project (Fish Flow Project), released on August 19th, 2016.
That was Santa Rosa’s Subregional Long Term Wastewater Project in late 1996, a 24 volume document that cost about $16 million, and proposed as the preferred project 20% wastewater discharges (5% being the previous limit.) into the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Russian River. Because the listing of three salmonid fish species as threatened occurred about that time, and due to much goading from the public, they ended up pumping most of the wastewater to the Geysers.
Document heavy in more ways than one….The Fish Flow Project EIR consists of seven volumes, weighs almost 22 pounds, sits almost a foot high when stacked on a table, and has over 3500 pages. Read More >>
RRWPC Newsletter, August 2016
Fish Flow Project (low flow) is about to begin….The long awaited Fish Flow Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), will be released Friday, August 19, 2016, and include a 60-day comment period ending on October 17, 2016. Subsequently, staff will respond to comments before a final version is approved. The project proposes to lower Russian River summer flows up to 50% and will be in effect each year between May 15th and October 15th through 2023 and probably extended through 2040.
The National Marine Fishery Service’s (NMFS’s) Biological Opinion (BO), includes a requirement that Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) reduce lower river minimum summer flows to as low as 60 cubic feet per second (cfs). In the past, minimum flows* between 1986 through 2008 were usually 125 cfs during normal Read More >>
RRWPC Comments to State on Direct Potable Reuse (Toilet To Tap), 11-23-2016The purpose of this letter is to provide comments on the Report to the Legislature on the Feasibility of Developing Uniform Water Recycling Criteria for Direct Potable Reuse and recommendations from expert and advisory panels on that topic. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this report.
RRWPC Background….Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC) is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation founded in 1980. For about the last eight years, we have been tracking and commenting on the issue of wastewater reuse (specifically regarding tertiary wastewater irrigation) to both your Board and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. During that time, RRWPC has submitted Read More >>
Endocrine Disruption Reference List
Check out Environmental Health News for excellent source of latest environmental news articles.
Join Email Action List!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. You can also help us out by donating to our effort.
Quotes from RRWPC documents or copies of whole documents should include full acknowledgement of group name, website address, title of article or letter, author, and date of work. Unless otherwise noted, Brenda Adelman is author.