November 2015 Newsletter

Where has this year gone?

Though it seemingly began only ‘yesterday’, 2015 now winds down as we take stock of RRWPC’s river protection accomplishments, and look to see where we head next. This year, as always, was filled with addressing various water concerns, including drought and conservation, toxic blue-green algae, excessive phosphorus, new septic and bacteria regulations, issues of toxins in wastewater and our environment, and irrigation runoff. We photographed river conditions, read and commented on lengthy documents, gave testimony to decision makers, actively participated in Sonoma County Water Coalition, wrote six articles for the Gazette, maintained our website and organization, and more.

RRWPC regularly attended Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities meetings, North Coast Regional Board Meetings, and Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) water contractor meetings and many others. We regularly track wastewater reuse (….badly in need of oversight), water supply and conservation (… getting better on conservation, but some cities quietly anticipate using water savings for new development), and numerous water quality issues, including our strong concerns about excessive river nutrients, unregulated toxins and endocrine disruption. We had a comment letter published in a prestigious journal (Environmental Health Perspectives: June, 2015) on the latter topic.

Regarding growth that will probably use up conservation savings, Rohnert Park has the most ambitious development plans, and recently completed a new sewer pipeline that will serve most of the 5600 new housing units that have already been approved. Current landscape irrigators appear to allow large amounts of wastewater runoff in summer, and Laguna creek channels west of the city are clogged with invasive plants and excessive algae. While there is need for new housing, a recent Press Democrat article claimed that only 25% of potential homebuyers can afford median priced homes now and developers usually don’t care to build inexpensive housing. A Water Agency study on reliability of Lake Mendocino water supply projected that with more drought and global warming, new development could put us in dire straits with water supply.

Unregulated toxins, endocrine disruption, and wastewater reuse a concern…..

RRWPC is very concerned about the many unregulated toxins in our water, especially those causing endocrine disruption. These chemicals are everywhere unfortunately, and some have huge impacts at minute doses to both humans and wildlife, if not adequately monitored and controlled. Furthermore, many benign chemicals are combined in the wastewater treatment process to form new chemicals, which are not benign. No one can explain the extent to which these chemicals may be dangerous to public health, since they are not even known, let alone monitored. We strongly suggest you read the article in the November, 2015 issue of the magazine, In These Times entitled, “Why the United States Leaves Deadly Chemicals on the Market”. (forwarded to those on our email list)

The first limited monitoring program in the Russian River for a broad range of these chemicals will be commenced early next year. Board members and staff credited RRWPC publicly for providing the impetus for this study. No one knows exactly what will be uncovered, but we will keep you apprised of the findings.

Bacteria TMDL Delayed…

Regional Water Quality Control Board recently called off their decision on the Bacteria TMDL that was moving on the fast track. We include a new letter with this mailer that explains part of the issue and which you can mail in if you agree. We also have a Gazette article on our website and will post our comment letter explaining concerns.

Estuary Project Settlement Terms moving forward…..

We continue to track terms listed in our Stipulated Settlement Agreement with Sonoma County Water Agency resulting from our legal action on the Estuary Project. So far, new seal protection signs have been installed at Jenner Beach, and two of the four trails at North Salmon Creek Beach were repaired and rehabilitated as a result of our effort.

RRWPC thanks our supporters this holiday season….

This is the time when we thank all who have supported us this past year, including our Board of Directors (Sherrie Althouse, Nichae Blume, Dave Blanchard, Dennis O’Leary, and Brenda Adelman), numerous mailer volunteers, and all of you who contribute to sustain our efforts. Our enclosed donor list acknowledges those who gave $20 or more between November 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015. RRWPC is grateful to all for your loyal support. Donations coming in after Oct. 31st, will appear in next year’s donor list.

We thank Russian River Senior Center staff for allowing us to use their space to assemble our mailers. We thank Mary Anne Sobieraj and Dave Blanchard for website upkeep and Mark Wiley for helping to keep our computers functioning smoothly. We thank Dennis O’Leary for serving as Secretary and especially thank Sherrie Althouse for serving as treasurer for many years. We also thank publisher Vesta Copestakes of Sonoma County Gazette, for regularly publishing our articles. The November, 2015 issue contains our article on Regional Board’s proposed Bacteria/Pathogen regulation.

2016 promises to be a busy year for RRWPC….

RRWPC will follow numerous critical issues next year including the Fish Flow Project regarding permanent lowering of summer flows. The environmental impact document has been due out for almost two years now and has lately been promised for early 2016. Other critical issues that we expect to be quite active include: septic regulation and bacteria issues, especially as applied to lower Russian River, new water quality studies on bacteria and nutrients, and mandatory conservation policies to protect summer flows. If we don’t have major rainfall this winter, the fifth year of drought will be an escalating concern. We plan to track SCWA’s Urban Water Management Plan that will explain how limited water supplies will provide for contractor growth projections.

Please join our action email list!

Those who already shared their email addresses with RRWPC are participating in our action list and receive important announcements on issues coming up between mailers, such as sending letters of support when time is short. We do not share email address lists and use them exclusively for important announcements and calls to action. If you want to take part, please put email address on a donor card if you are sending in a contribution, or just send email to asking to be on list. With low flow issue heating up soon, it is critical that as many of you as possible are on our email list.

RRWPC needs your support!

RRWPC anticipates taking on numerous challenges next year. We need your continued help and appreciate donations of any size. We rely on 4 mailers a year for all of our fiscal support. Those who have not responded for over 3 years (see date on mailer envelope) will be taken off our list in early January if you do not contribute before then. Contact us at for further information. Please pass this information on to other interested parties. Thank you and:    Have a wonderful holiday season!