May 2013, Newsletter: Estuary, Fees, and Recycled water

Spring is here; temperatures have warmed; the river area is spectacular, and we are raring to go.  There is so much to tell you in a limited space; we won’t waste any time!

Estuary Project Update…….

As promised in RRWPC’s legal settlement with Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), an annual community meeting will be held on Thursday, May 16th at the Monte Rio Community Center (adjacent to paved beach parking lot) from 6 pm to 8:30 pm, to update citizens on the project’s progress. Please try to attend and also pass the word to neighbors and friends about the meeting.  The agenda will include information on fish counts, water quality and jetty studies, harbor seal monitoring and summer project plans.  Unfortunately, SCWA does not plan to discuss ‘low flow’, in spite of our request.

Please email Grant Davis, general manager of SCWA, and Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo, (also SCWA Board of Director member)  asking them to please include an update on the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (i.e., low flow) as part of the agenda.  This summer flows may decrease 45% down to 70 cubic feet per second (cfs)  from the 125 cfs normally maintained.  RRWPC is concerned that they have refused to discuss this item, even though low flow is required by the Biological Opinion.  Please send emails expressing your concern, and also raise this issue during public comment.

RRCSD fees set to increase next year; Meeting May 21st….

On April 1st, the Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD) mailed out the first issue of the Russian River County Sanitation District News. (If you are a rate payer in the District, and have not received this pamphlet, contact Manuel Olivera at (707) 526-5370 for information.)

Starting July 1, 2013, annual fees will increase $42 or 3.5% to $1,253.  The fee is charged on your County tax assessment bill that goes out in October.  The pamphlet gives information on how the money is spent.  RRWPC has supported past improvements to the disinfection system and supports current improvements addressing nutrient pollution.  The system is still very deficient in storage and irrigation capacity, so expenses are bound to keep increasing over the coming years to address those problems.

The last page of the pamphlet is a protest form that has legal status.  If you sign and return it before May 21st, when public meeting will be held, and if half the ratepayer parcels protest, than the fee cannot be imposed. Please read information in the publication carefully. Residents can avoid fee hikes if enough people sign protest forms.  Please sign one form for each property you own and mail to SCWA return address.

Recycled water  issues and State legislation…..Good News!!

Last year we wrote extensively on AB 2398, a recycled water bill that would have removed legal restraints on over-irrigation.  It would have allowed large amounts of wastewater to run off into significantly impaired streams with impunity and would have curtailed the ability of water quality regulators to enforce limits.  Because of our efforts, and those of others, the Bill was removed from consideration last June.

Recently we learned of AB 803, which contained many of the same offensive provisions of 2398, and was a follow-up to last year’s legislation.   We wrote an article on this for the May 1st issue of the Sonoma County Gazette (on our website at  Soon after we submitted the article, we learned that the 17 page Bill had been stripped to 1.5 pages, and the terms that had concerned us most had been removed.

RRWPC had talked to several people behind the scenes about this Bill, and while we don’t know what impact our work had on the results, nonetheless, we are thrilled with the outcome.  The legislation was going to essentially remove most of the Regional Water Board’s authority to regulate wastewater discharges in the summer, when human contact is high and streams are far more vulnerable because of low flows.  It also would have allowed much higher discharges before spill reporting would be required.

City of Santa Rosa’s draft discharge permit soon to be released…..

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 reviewed 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 had submitted a ten page letter expressing concerns regarding the summer irrigation program.  The permit was supposed to have been heard at the Board’s March meeting was delayed until the August meeting.  In the meantime, Regional Board Staff decided to issue a revised draft permit containing some major changes.  They are required to have a new comment period which will probably start in mid-May.

One of our greatest concerns is not just wastewater running off into waterways, but all of the natural and unnatural contaminants coming with it such as sediments, excessive nutrients from fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals.  The City is required to meet no net increase of nutrients into the Laguna, which is severely impaired from too much nitrogen and phosphorus, and they are required to compensate for any nutrient discharge by completing projects that remove nutrients in other locations.  They appear to be trying to wiggle out of this requirement, but we won’t know what will happen until we see the draft permit.

We want to ask you to submit a letter regarding these concerns, but we don’t have enough information on permit contents as yet to include in this letter.  We will send information by email to those who have given us email addresses.  If you have not done so as yet, we hope you will send us your email address on the response card so we can keep you up to date between mailers; as our next letter won’t go out until August.

RRWPC needs your continued support!

As you can see from this letter, 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.

Donations to our organization have slipped since our last mailer; sending them out less frequently has appeared to diminish the number of responses we receive as well as the level of financial support.  Please review the date on your envelope next to your name, and if it’s earlier than 2012, please consider donating at this time. You can donate with the card and envelope included in this mailer, or you can go to our website at and contribute through Paypal.  We hope to hear from you soon.   Of course, we welcome contributions from recent donors as well.  Thank you for your support!