Sonoma County Gazette, September 2015: Toxic Algal Bloom

Summer on the Russian River…..The Russian River appeared broad and full as photographed from the Monte Rio Bridge recently with camera’s eye facing downstream, however there were clues that the river was not as it seemed. A man was standing with his daughter in the middle of the river; the water barely covered their ankles. The green algae sparkled in the sun beneath the shallow surface of the water.   Numerous bathers hung out at the Monte Rio Beach that hot summer day, but only the dogs could swim there. Then, viewing the river from the upstream side, canoes could be seen negotiating the mats of algae drifting on the water’s surface. In close up, it was not a pretty sight.

Beaches posted Aug. 21st with Caution Warnings re: toxic blue-green algae…..On August 21st, a notice came through from the Sonoma County Department of Health Services stating: “Recreational users of the Russian River are encouraged to take precautions”. This was the first official notice for the Russian River citing toxic blue-green algae, and an issue of concern for Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC). The Klamath and Eel Rivers and Clear Lake have had serious problems with toxic algae. We spotted something similar in 2009, but its presence was never publicly declared, even while environmental conditions in the lower river strongly favored such an outbreak. (See RRWPC’s 2009 Photo Project at website: )