Possible grave harm to lower river from extremely low flows

From: Brenda Adelman <rrwpc@comcast.net>
Date: Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 12:42 PM
To: Lynda Hopkins <Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org>
Cc: Grant Davis <grant.davis@scwa.ca.gov>, “Boland-Brien, Samuel@Waterboards” <Samuel.Boland-Brien@waterboards.ca.gov>, “Matt St. John” <MStJohn@waterboards.ca.gov>

Lynda:   The article in the link below conveys part of my concern about what is happening with water policy by the Water Agency and the growth policy of their contractors that will have major impacts on the lower river. We not only have a ‘critical dry’ designation on flows now (allowing flows as low as 25 cfs at Hacienda), but, with so little rain in the forecast,  it is likely it will be extended for the entire summer.  Nowhere have I seen assessments of how much new water supplies will be required by the 5000 to 7000 new units permitted in SR, not even mentioning development in other contractors’ cities.  In effect, they will be using water that could be used by those of us who live downstream and by recreation that is the base of our economic activity.  The word ‘recreation’ was not mentioned once during the whole drought meeting that was put on last week by SCWA.  There has been absolutely no consideration of recreation, even though it is protected in Decision 1610 as a beneficial use.  Yet the picture of the massive 164 unit development on former Water Agency property at a time when severe cutbacks of river flow are occurring in our area gives the picture of the truth of where things are going.  ‘Demand hardening” will happen quickly when so much dense housing is happening during a short time period.


I am including an article from the PD that never appeared in my west county edition that I was aware of and was passed on to me by a friend.  You probably know about this.  While building affordable housing is normally a good thing, the project pictured in this link is only one of many, many new dense apartment complexes built recently and in the plans for the future.  There are 7 and 8 story structures also planned for the downtown area for which they have permits already.


I was watching the Town Hall Drought workshop put on by SCWA a week ago and didn’t understand why you and/or James Gore  didn’t seem to be involved at all.  I sent out an email to our supporters about what I saw evolving in terms of drought policy and also a letter to the editor of the PD.  I don’t know if they will print it, but I attach it above.  I think it strongly conveys our concerns in only 200 words.  (Screen shot of email I sent out is second attachment above.)  I don’t know if many people will write you letters but I wanted you to know about this.

I am not aware that you have spoken on this issue.  I know that the Agency is trying many ways to expand water resources.  I have concerns about some of them as I mention. I have no idea if specifics will be given BEFORE projects are instituted.  Lately, decisions have become emergencies and can be rendered without pubic input.   Also, while I am on top of this now, the vast majority of people are not getting the message about all the growth that may be sucking up lower river water supply.  It’s not only the recreation I am concerned about,  although I am sure you will hear a lot more during summer, but it‘s the water quality and the potential for problems with toxic algae that also worries me.  Also, whatever unmonitored toxins exist in the river will become much more concentrated and possibly more lethal.  The water will be hotter still and with excessive phosphorus in the water all summer (I have Water Agency studies that back this up.) we may have expansive algal matts preventing water activities.  Those who want relief from urban heat may now have to travel much further to have that experience.

I am hopeful that you will find out about the amount of growth happening now and how it impacts the water supply. It’s happening everywhere I look; Santa Rosa must have loosened building requirements in order to let so many monstrous buildings to go up so fast.  While I am willing to go before the MAC with these concerns, I am mostly hoping that you might be able to take direct action of some kind on this issue.  For one, I would like to know where the water will come from THIS YEAR for all the new growth that has already happened and will be happening this summer.  I know that water contractors have allocations for normal rain years that they can call upon, but I’m not clear on whether cut backs for drought are adequate to protect the lower river.  The fish in the mainstem never get much attention during recreation period because between late June and early September, there’s normally not much movement by the fish, probably because of the over-heated water and migration generally does not occur at these times.

If it is determined that we are in dire straits for this year and we must put up with severely constricted flows, we ask you to consider higher releases from Lake Sonoma  this summer starting May 20th to cover Memorial Day weekend, for the times when recreation is most prevalent.  If flows could reach 60 cfs over the weekends on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, that would be a huge help.   Brenda

PS:  While I haven’t read it yet, just days ago a report came out describing the situation with cyanobacteria in the Russian River.  While I don’t believe we have had serious problems recently, the conditions of low flowing, hot, nutrient rich water are perfect for an infestation of toxic algae.  I have also been looking at the 2020 version of the report on water quality for fish (2021 version to be released soon) by Sonoma Water staff and that too is very revealing of degraded river conditions, especially in summer.