Russian River Flows to be Reduced by up to 50%

This is a big heads up on proposed low flow implementation that could permanently impact our river. There are several beaches that now have had toxic algae blooms.


Kyla Brooke



River Friends:

On August 19, 2016, the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) will release the long awaited Fish Flow Project Environmental Impact Report (EIR). There will be a 60-day comment period (to October 17, 2016), during which you will have your ONLY opportunity to express concerns about this proposed PERMANENT reduction of summer river flows by up to 50%. (Normal summer flows are 125 cfs at Hacienda; Fish Flow Project will reduce summer flows down as low as 60 cfs FOREVER) The document will be posted on their website. Only a limited number of hard copies will be available for sale. Contact Ann Dubay (SCWA) for further information.

This project is required by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ostensibly facilitate the creation of a lagoon at the Estuary, which would provide habitat for juvenile Steelhead, a threatened species. Project goals are in effect between May 15 and Oct. 15, and can be implemented after the mouth closes naturally. Yet NMFS failed to consider that the mouth rarely opens (or stays open) in the months of July and August. SCWA data indicates that in the last 20 years, the mouth was breached only five times in July and two times in August. Wave action creates the force to close the mouth, but low river flows appear to do little to lengthen the closure. (Mouth closes most often in October and November.) SCWA has failed to implement the project, but for one time, during six years of attempts. In other words, they will lower summer flows forever in the hope that someday they may be able to implement project for short periods of time.

If this project succeeds in moving forward, conditions are ripe for proliferation of algae in the lower river, and possibly TOXIC blue green algae as well (a common occurrence in the Eel and Klamath rivers). The lower river has excessively high temperatures and phosphorus, (according to agency monitoring data) and lowering flows in these circumstances can greatly exacerbate algal bloom conditions. This would be a risk for human and environmental health and can be deadly for dogs. Such conditions might exacerbate issues with bacteria, and possible concentration and bio-magnification of toxic substances as well. Only future monitoring will define to what extent toxins are an issue. Once this EIR is authorized by Supervisors, it goes to the State Water Board, an entity likely to approve the Supervisor’s action. (Please see attached press release that came through right before sending this message out.)

The other part of the story is that SCWA, in their 2015 Urban Water Management Plan which describes water availability for contractors’ General Plan growth and development, ASSUMES low flow proposal will be approved, and will subsequently assure adequate water supplies in Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino to serve all General Plan Growth projections. Contractors include: Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Windsor, City of Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, Petaluma, North Marin Water District, and Marin Municipal Water District (with whom they have a separate contract). Contractors have recently bragged about what good shape they are in with water supplies as they anticipate a new housing boom and more funds from water sales (at increased rates), while cutbacks in conservation are now the norm.

None of SCWA’s other plans have analyzed impacts of their actions on the lower river environment and communities along the lower river. These included Dry Creek Habitat Projects to slow flows from Lake Sonoma, groundwater projects advocating aquifer storage of ‘surplus’ winter water for summer shortages, the Biological Opinion, Estuary Project, Urban Water Management Plans, etc.

The Water Agency announced they will hold an OPEN HOUSE to take questions on the Fish Flow Project EIR on August 24th at the Monte Rio Community Center between 4 pm and 8 pm. This is only five days after the release of the document (likely to be quite lengthy and complex). Staff will meet with people one by one and answer their questions. Of course, there is inadequate time to formulate those questions. In the past, questions and responses were never recorded or distributed, and the rest of the community would not have the benefit of the interchange. Because of the importance of this action, we are requesting that the Agency hold a regular community meeting format in September, including information on the contents of the document and publicly answer questions so that all could hear the response. We recommend that this meeting take place around 6 pm or on a Saturday morning in Monte Rio several weeks after release of the document. (WE NEED TIME TO ABSORB ALL THE INFORMATION IN DOCUMENT!)


1. Send email soon to Ann Dubay (SCWA staff-email address above) asking that SCWA hold a group community meeting at Monte Rio (NOT an Open House) in late afternoon or early evening in September, after people have had time to examine the document and formulate questions. Please copy Supervisor Efren Carrillo with your message at If you can send me a separate email to informing me you sent email, it would be a big help. I can get you on my list to keep you informed.

2. An alternative approach, since we are not sure they will agree to an extra meeting, is for most people to show up at the August 24th open house at 5:30. We are hoping that if a large crowd of people showed up at the same time that day, we might persuade staff to hold a regular meeting format. (Of course then they may not hold an additional meeting in September. This is a gamble either way. I suggest that people show up on the 24th and then demand an additional meeting.) If you ask to be put on Ann’s list, you will be informed as to what they decide.

3. There is one public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on this massive project: September 13th at 3 pm (Tuesday) in Supervisor’s Chambers in Santa Rosa. We are hoping a lot of people will attend and protest LOW FLOWS!

4. Let us know if you can help circulate flyers in lower river communities. We want to get the word out.

5. I would welcome opportunities to speak to groups about this project in late September (I need time to absorb information in document.) Contact me if interested (

Please forward this information to anyone who might be interested. We need to give it broad circulation. Thank you!

RRWPC is building a legal fund, so donations of any size will be most welcome. You can donate through PayPal at our website ( ) or send a check of any size made out to RRWPC and mail to P.O. Box 501, Guerneville, CA 95446. Please let me know by email if you are able to help with this effort.

Brenda Adelman

Brenda Adelman
Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446
RRWPC Website:

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Water Boards logo



This is a message from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, North Coast Region (1).

For Immediate Release
Date: August 4, 2016
Contact: Scott Alonso, 707.565.6625, office/707.867.6564, cell

Blue-Green Algae Toxins Detected in Russian River
DHS to Post Caution Signs at Public Beaches

Santa Rosa, Calif. – During the week of August 1st, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) began detailed water testing throughout the Russian River. On Thursday, August 4, DHS received test results indicating that a low-level of blue-green algae toxins are present in certain areas of the river. In accordance with state guidance, the level of toxin present is enough to trigger the posting of “Caution” signs. Signs in both English and Spanish will be posted at all ten public beaches along the Russian River.

“We have been watching conditions like the water temperature and visually monitoring the river,” said Dr. Karen Holbrook, Sonoma County Deputy Public Health Officer. “When we noted conditions were present that could support rapid growth of algae, including blue-green algae, we started laboratory testing.” Although, the most recent results do not trigger restrictions of recreational activity at the river, the results do indicate there could be a risk to pets and children in particular. “We want to inform people using the Russian River to take steps to protect themselves, their families and especially their pets.” Dogs like to eat things and are known to preferentially seek out blue-green algae. Be aware of this in deciding how you supervise your dog.
“Caution” is the lowest of three levels of state recommended advisory signage (“Caution” ”Warning” and “Danger”). The Russian River is open for recreational use. However, the public should be advised that potentially harmful algae may be present. Care should be taken to keep children and pets away from algae, and prevent them from drinking river water.

Signs will include these recommendations:
· Stay away from algae in the water.
· Keep children away from algae in the water, on the shore and in isolated side pools.
· Do not drink river water or use for cooking.
· Do not let pets drink the water, or eat scum on the shoreline.
· For fish caught here, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking.
· Rinse off thoroughly with clean water after river play, particularly children and pets.

Weekly laboratory testing will continue until two successive weeks of negative test results. River conditions will be monitored until they no longer support the rapid growth of blue-green algae.

Public Contact Information:
If you have concerns regarding your or your family’s health, contact your healthcare provider. If you have concerns regarding your pet’s health, contact your veterinarian. Be sure to tell the medical professional about possible contact with blue-green algae.

For questions regarding the status of the Russian River go to the website listed below or call the recorded beach hotline at (707) 565-6552.

• DHS Environmental Health and Safety Blue-Green Algae Website:
The following websites provide more information on blue-green algae and harmful algal blooms:

• California Cyanobacteria and Harmful Algal Bloom (CCHAB) Network:

• State Water Resources Control Board:

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Russian River Water Level Predictions

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