Newsletter, July 2011: Issue Updates

July, 2011

Dear RRWPC Supporter:
RRWPC water and wastewater issues are rather quiet for now. Within a few months, all that will change. In the meantime, we are developing a new and more comprehensive website for our organization. With no critical meetings or comment periods coming up soon, we offer our review of important issues we’ve been tracking.

Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD)…
Our last mailer went into considerable detail on RRCSD, so here is a brief update. The County received approximately 250 protest forms on fee increases, representing about 9% of the hook ups. We are sorry that more of you did not participate. While we may never get enough protests to stop the fee hike, we could send a more powerful message that ratepayers are fed up with the high costs of sewer. This in turn would help us challenge some of their decisions. Every March you will receive that orange form, usually announcing a 5% or 6% fee hike. We urge you to sign it next time and send in one protest for each parcel you own. Together we can make a difference.

The disinfection project is supposed to start July 11, 2011. The District will construct an ultraviolet system (UV Project), that will reduce the use of chlorine for wastewater disinfection. It will also ensure that the treatment plant meets California legal requirements for wastewater reuse as well as permit requirements for river discharge. Based on the type of construction methods required to build the UV Project, minimal traffic related impacts are anticipated as well as no road closures or alterations on Neeley Road this summer. Construction will occur weekdays between 7am and 4:30pm.

The Russian River County Sanitation District will hold a public tour of the Treatment Plant on August 6, 2011 from 10 am to noon. Registration deadline is August 1, 2011. Staff will discuss how the wastewater is treated; they will give update on Ultraviolet Disinfection Project; the District’s budget and rate process, and their Capital improvement project plans. Please contact Brad Sherwood to register at (707) 547-1927 or email to Leave your full name, street address and town, email address, and phone number, including area code. RRWPC will attend the tour and be asking questions. We will report back in our next mailer. (Space is limited, so if you want to go, please register soon. They will give directions when you sign up.)

Supervisors adopt Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP)….
Every five years the Directors of the Water Agency (Supervisors) adopt a new Urban Water Management Plan. RRWPC has recently written two lengthy articles on this topic for the Sonoma County Gazette in their June and July editions . To read the full articles (both on front page) please go to Sonoma County Gazette.

The main idea of the Water Agency’s plan is to project water supply availability for the next 25 years. Each water contractor provides separate information on their community’s water needs. In years when demand is greater than supply, water users will need to look to local sources, including conservation, recycled water, storage, and ground water withdrawal to meet their needs. The good news is that the Agency is predicting a much lower amount of water will be taken from the river in the coming years. For the last 18 years, they had been projecting the need for 101,000 acre feet, a giant increase from the 75,000 acre feet their current water rights allow. They now project a need for 80,000 acre feet to serve them until 2035. Since these are all estimates, there is no way to know for sure how it will work out, but it’s now going in the right direction.
The negative aspect to this is that the Agency is counting on the adoption of minimum flows for the lower river called for in the Biological Opinion. Their Plan assumes that some of that saved water will be used to meet contractor demand. RRWPC has been tracking that issue closely and provides further information on this topic in our section on the Temporary Urgency Change Order below and in future mailer letters to come.

Estuary Project: Final EIR….
The Water Agency is in the process of responding to comments received on the Estuary Project Environmental Impact Report. Originally we heard they would be ready in Spring, but now we have been told that we will have to wait until late summer, which is probably sometime in September. Once it is released, Directors of the Water District (Supervisors) will probably certify document and select project within a month. Then any legal action against it would have to be taken within 30 days of project selection. Our next mailer will come out in mid-September and we will know much more by then.

The first time the mouth of the river closes, the Water Agency will build a channel to keep the mouth closed for the rest of the summer in order to provide more fresh water habitat for steelhead fish. This will have repercussions for the rest of the river, depending on the level of flows upstream. We have volunteers who live in Jenner watching the mouth, and we are tracking flow levels at Hacienda in the Press Democrat.

Temporary Urgency Change Order……
The Biological Opinion requires that the Water Agency apply to the State every year for a temporary reduction of minimum flows, until the reduction is made permanent. In April of this year, the Agency submitted their Petition. RRWPC had numerous conversations with State Board staff about lowering flows from 125 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 70 cfs as measured at Dry Creek confluence and the Hacienda Bridge. State Board staff added some monitoring requirements in their Order to address our concerns.

Because of heavy spring rains this year and last, flows still remain very high. Last year they averaged about 263 cfs for the entire summer. In June of this year, flows averaged around 300 cfs at Hacienda. Last year we had a very cool summer and flows remained high throughout. This year we seem to be having much warmer weather. When that happens, the cities and agricultural users tend to use a lot more water and the flows go down much faster. Formerly, when flows of 125 cfs had to be met, water was released from Coyote or Warm Springs Dams to bring the water level to that point.
Now, with the minimum 70 cfs, they can keep more water behind the dams to be used by their water contractors and vintners and other water users while canoeists scrape bottom. The lower river also experiences more frequent bacteriological contamination and beach warnings when flows are very low. The Regional Board will be doing a pathogen study of the lower river this summer. They will try to determine where the pollution is coming from and when, where, and how often health standards are exceeded. We will do all we can to make sure these issues are fully addressed.

RRWPC needs your help!
Significant funds are needed to prepare for possible legal action on the Estuary issue. We would appreciate donations of any size for this purpose. Since we would have only thirty days to file an action after the project is approved, we need to move quickly once that happens. The Estuary Project may have a huge negative impact on the Lower River.
Please give as generously as you can, especially if you have not donated in awhile, and also pass this information on to other interested parties. The month and year of your last donation is next to your name on the label. RRWPC does not sell or loan our mailing list to anyone. You are welcome to contact Brenda with questions at