Newsletter, February 2013: Santa Rosa Discharge plans; Estuary update; Recycled Water

Dear RRWPC Supporter:

Many changes have been occurring lately in the Russian River environmental scene.  There is a great deal to report, so here we go.

City of Santa Rosa’s current programs & activities…..

  • The North Coast Regional Board released Santa Rosa’s draft wastewater discharge permit a few months ago; it is normally reviewed every five years and was last completed in 2006.  The permit regulates discharge of treated wastewater into Laguna tributaries between Oct. 1st and May 15th.  It also includes a Reclamation Permit that regulates wastewater irrigation practices.

RRWPC submitted a ten page letter expressing concerns regarding the summer irrigation program.  The Board will consider approval of the two permits on March 14th at their regular board meeting in Santa Rosa. (call Regional Board at 576-2220 for more information)  RRWPC comments and link to draft permit is at

  • Salt and Nutrient Plans and Nutrient Offset Proposals are in the works behind the scenes.  RRWPC submitted comments on an early draft of the Plan a few months ago but have not seen reply as yet.  Santa Rosa hired consultants to develop a plan that is required by the State’s Recycled Water Policy.  The main concern is accumulation of salts and nutrients in groundwater.   (We are just as concerned about surface water.)

Santa Rosa is required to establish nutrient offset projects to compensate for the nutrients in their wastewater discharges.  Three projects have already been approved by the Regional Board.  A committee has been set up to develop a nutrient credit plan where Santa Rosa would pay for nutrient removal projects developed by others and get credit in return.  Eventually, other cities may be able to partake in this program also. RRWPC has been invited to sit on the committee developing this plan.

State Agency invites RRWPC to be part of North Coast Design Team…..
Seeking input from a variety of Northwest Regional interest groups, RRWPC will be helping to plan Water Resource Management Objectives and Strategies, inter-regional relationships, and provide implementation recommendations.  We look forward to taking part in this process.

State Water Board approves Recycled Water Plan Amendment….
In spite of many RRWPC protests about their lack of monitoring endocrine disrupting chemicals in summer wastewater irrigation of urban landscapes, the State Board refused to address critical issues we raised.  Many articles and studies have been read that continually remind us of the risks to aquatic life, wildlife and humans of the many chemicals known to cause great harm at minute doses (especially to children, elders, those with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women).   **(See enclosed letter.)

We filed a last minute protest that was also largely ignored by the Board and we emailed another letter afterwards protesting some of their assertions made to justify their actions.  We also brought this up at the Regional Board two days later, and one Board Member pledged to do all she could to get officials to address this issue.  We had pointed out that the EPA was going to analyze recent scientific studies on low dose impacts and release a report at the end of the year about possible changes in risk assessment to address the problem.  We will continue to lobby Board members and policy makers on this issue. 

Estuary Project Legal Update…….
RRWPC is working with Sonoma County Water Agency and State Parks to develop an improvement project on the Coast at one of the State Beaches.  We also continue to work on replacing some seal protection signs. We will give further updates in our next mailer.

Regional Board Programs…..
The Regional Board is currently studying bacteria, nutrients and temperature in the Laguna and downstream.  We are especially concerned about nutrients and bacteria when summer river flows are low.  High nutrient content, along with high temperatures provide more algal blooms which in turn feed bacteria. Soon they plan a public workshop but we don’t have a date yet.   For info: call David Kuszmar at 707.576.2220.

RRCSD fees set to increase next April….
Sometime in February or March, the Water Agency will notify ratepayers of the Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD) of a fee hike by about 5%.   Residents can avoid fee hikes if enough people sign protest forms (usually on stiff bright orange paper).  Please sign one form for each property you own and mail back to the return address on form. We are currently charged about $1200 a year per hook up.  5% would add another $60 to the bill.  Please send in protest form(s) opposing very high fees.

Important Water Agency meetings coming up….
RRWPC learned recently of two important meetings to be held by Water Agency Board of Directors (Supervisors).  The first is February 19th from 3-5 pm at their office at 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa and the other April 2nd at he Luchessi Center in Petaluma.  Call Supervisor Carrillo to ask to have one in the West County also (707.565.2241).

Did you notice that our mailer is later than usual?
This year, RRWPC will mail out four mailers instead of our usual six.  We are sensitive to the fact that many of you are bombarded daily with mail from groups pleading for funds.  Last year we continued our more frequent schedule because there was a lot to report and we wanted to keep you informed.  Our most critical river issues will not be as active this year since the Recycled Water Policy Amendment has been resolved for the time being and the ‘Low Flow’ EIR will not be available until the end of this year.  We intend to send mailers in February, May, August, and November and hope that you will continue to support our efforts at the same level you have in the past.  The amount of time we spend won’t decrease as some new issues are now coming to the fore.

RRWPC must maintain our ability to send out target letters on key issues in a timely manner.  These letters have proven to be extremely successful and have had a significant impact on officials as they contemplate important decisions. Email is the fastest means of delivery, but many of you have not yet shared your email addresses with us.  To be effective, we need more of you to consider doing so.  We promise not to share your information with anyone, nor use it to send out unnecessary communications. You can write email address on enclosed card or send a brief message to .

RRWPC needs your continued support!
RRWPC will continue to take on difficult challenges this year. As usual, we are in need of donations of any size for mailers and other expenses. Please give as generously as you can, especially if you have not given in awhile.  Also, please pass this information on to other interested parties.

Condolences:  RRWPC sends condolences to the families and friends of four of our long time local supporters who passed on recently.  We honor Camille LeGrand, Jay Halcomb, Gordon Olson, and Bev Rowe.   They will be missed.  May they rest in peace.