There is a very important meeting this Monday night (May 15th) on the Estuary Project at the Monte Rio Community Center from 6 pm to 7:30. Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) will give updates on their studies. Supervisor Hopkins will also be there and the meeting will include time for public comment. We hope you will attend; showing community interest is critical. The Water Agency has recently submitted petition to the State Water Board to implement low flow again this summer but we don’t think they will put that on the agenda unless people ask them about it.
While the meeting is supposedly about the Estuary Project (maintenance of a sand bar to retain a closed mouth) it is ultimately about low flow also. In order to try to sustain a closed mouth, low flow is the management tool to make it happen. The Water Agency has also claimed concern about flooding properties in the Estuary that could force them to breach the river mouth. It just hasn’t happened in July or August. There is no good reason for low flow in those two months.
The Estuary Project is only in effect between May 15 and October 15. July and August are the critical months to stop this project and the rationale for implementing it has not been present (most of the time the mouth is open, breaching and flooding does not occur, and the project can’t take place):
- In the seven years of attempting this project, it has worked only once for one week (June 2010): for this we have paid with seven consecutive years of summer low flow.
- False reasons are being given for implementing this project. SCWA breaching and closure events (July-August only) have not been happening during that time:
o No July-August closures or breaches in years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014, and 2015.
o No August closures or breaches in years: 1999, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2016. (Single August closure between 2001 and 2016 was in 2004.)
o SCWA breached the mouth in August only 3 times in 1995 and 1997 and none after that.
o July closures took place in 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2016 for a total of 44 days over 16 years (average of 2.75 per year). Of those years, only breach by SCWA was in 2008.
o Numerous times when flows were low (August, 2009 for instance) but mouth did not close. Closures are usually a result of ocean conditions, not river conditions.
Some Biological Opinion (BO) assumptions about mouth activity may have been valid many years ago, but for the last 15-20 years, conditions appear to have changed and many of the BO assumptions are turning out to no longer be valid. Yet they are invested in this low flow plan to the detriment of the Russian River and the community. We don’t know how this will end up, but we suggest you ask the Water Agency questions about July/August mouth closures, breachings, and flows. Also ask what buildings have flooded in July/August in the last 20 years (We think the number is NONE!)
Finally, the Estuary Project DEIR clearly stated that SCWA can do the Estuary Project WITHOUT low flow.
Hope you can attend. If you can’t go and want to send a note about your concerns and/or questions: contact Ann Dubay at Ann.DuBay@scwa.ca.gov or me at email address below.
Hope to see you Monday night! PLEASE PASS THE WORD!