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 rain years. The Biological Opinion, released in September, 2008, has regulatory powers and neither considered environmental impacts to the river between Forestville and Duncans Mills, nor was ever subjected to public environmental review.
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.
Current water issues gain steam….Russian River issues have become as complex and voluminous as the digitalized world we live in, sometimes moving as fast as a bullet train or as slow as a slug, suffering breakdowns from time to time, but persevering none the less. Some current water issues and activities include:
- Emergency water conservation requirements relaxed by the State for North Coast.
- Urban Water Management Plans about to be adopted and submitted to State.
- Fish Flow Project EIR (renamed “Sonoma County Water Agency’s Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project”) will address permanently lowering summer flows in Russian River to satisfy Biological Opinion.
Dear RRWPC Supporter:
So many Federal, State, and County decisions will be made this year concerning the Russian River; it’s hard to know where to start our report. Public input has not been welcome lately, as indicated by emergency declarations that eliminated environmental review for many State Orders by Governor Brown. Nevertheless, the water supply crisis on the North Coast has subsided for the time being, and conservation measures at least are now back under the control of local officials.