Estuary Project DEIR Outline of Issues

February 1, 2011

Estuary Project DEIR:  Key Issues


The issues listed here represent RRWPC concerns about the Estuary Project DEIR.   No attempt has been made to cover all issues.  It is assumed that many other issues will be raised.  The purpose of this work is to help organize our thoughts about the main issues of concern, primarily having to do with water quality, flows, project description, and process (CEQA).  Please feel free to add or subtract issues to meet your own needs and opinions.  We welcome all suggestions for consideration.  This is just a rough draft and not meant to be comprehensive.  It might not make complete sense within very short phrases.

  • Project Description:

o      Long term viability of project unclear: considered an experiment

o      potential harm upstream inadequately addressed

o      narrow focus of project on Estuary and mostly one species (Steelhead)

o      scope of project inadequate (only to Duncans Mills)

o      project is more of a management program with unknown possible long term consequences

  • Temporary Urgency Change Petitions & Orders:

o      no CEQA review (or mitigations) with Temporary Orders

o      no CEQA review for lower river (Forestville to Duncans Mills) in Estuary DEIR even though NMFS recommended it

o      Dick Butler of NMFS in Scoping letter of June 22, 2010 stated (attachment in back of DEIR):  “We believe that it is reasonable that the EIR for the Estuary Project consider the effects of flow changes associated with interim flow changes (associated with the TUC petitions) and use existing information to address the effects of these interim changes on the environment and resources such as recreational boating.”

  • D1610:

o      flood issue inconsistent

o      no real justification for Hacienda low flow

o      unclear how minimum flows will be maintained in wet years

o      contradiction in that in some DEIR sections it’s considered necessary and in other sections changes to D1610 are irrelevant


o      Bifurcation issue:  D1610 and Fish Flow Project EIRs should be studied together

o      many contradictions in DEIR as written & not consistent

o      written and worked on by 23 different people, some of whom seem very unfamiliar with the area (especially Recreation Section)

o       excessive repetition in and between sections

o      virtually ignores impacts to lower Russian (Forestville to Duncans Mills)

o      provides very little scientific data for conclusions

o      uses Estuary studies for rivers with different circumstances (smaller and less urban development)

o      this is really a management program and not a “project”

  • Low flow:

o      impact on recreation and local economy not addressed

o      low flow so water can back up to Vacation Beach (or further)/creating lake:  deeper water with less movement

o      flood issue may really be higher up the river although not addressed

o      assumption that because it will stay within customary range, it’s not necessary to address

  • Biological Opinion:

o      natural flows/altered meaning after 100 years of human impact

o      how will project success be measured?

o      no NEPA review of BO

o      NMFS prioritized alternatives without scientific/NEPA justification

o      doesn’t differentiate between variable flows from May to October

o      doesn’t account for acclimation of other species to “degraded” conditions

o      doesn’t account for loss of deep cool holes where salmonids used to congregate to avoid warm water

  • Jenner flood issue & breaching:

o      no Jenner buildings flood under 9’/ project will be kept at 7’ to 8’

o      why is low flow necessary for Jenner flood issue?

  • Water quality issues:

o      bacteria & nutrients in Estuary  & lower river & inadequate monitoring

o      existence of undefined “natural” conditions used as excuse not to mitigate

o      problems with high temperature not adequately addressed for upstream although admitted it will impact Estuary

  • Toxins:

o      bio-magnification & cumulative impacts

o      sediments studies?

  • Regional Board’s Laguna and lower river tmdl program for nutrients and bacteria: (SCWA inadequate nutrient monitoring data in 2009)

o      DEIR indicates problems with nutrients in Estuary

o      Regional Board will conduct extensive studies this summer/DEIR needs to consider these

  • Long term impacts on other species and biological diversity

o      wildlife (birds & mammals),

o      crustaceans,

o      47 other fish species in Estuary

  • Groundwater impacts/Sweetwater WD, etc.:
  • Seals:

o      Possible loss of Harbor Seal haul-out at Jenner

o      Cumulative impacts of 18 possible maintenance activities (x 2 days?) could disturb/disrupt seals and pupping activities

  • Recreation:

o      only looks at government owned facilities

o      impacts during construction activities will disrupt/up to 36 days in four months (2x 18) on beach

o      impacts to recreational beaches upstream will be major/claims high water levels would be a benefit (partly true perhaps) so don’t need to address

o      surfing at mouth will probably be eliminated

o      many impacts not addressed

o      did not speak to any local citizens who recreate or run recreation facilities or who own lodging facilities on the river

I hope this rough outline draft is helpful.   There may be some inaccuracies, so let me know if you spot something.   Also, I didn’t quite finish going through DEIR yet.   Realize that this is a work in process and you can add your own points to it or rearrange it altogether.   Brenda