Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thousands of landowners along Sonoma County’s four major coho salmon spawning streams would be required to report their use of water from both surface sources and wells under proposed new state regulations intended to protect the highly endangered fish species.
The sweeping proposal, announced this week, is aimed at about 13,000 landowners in 113 square miles of the watersheds around four Russian River tributaries: Dutch Bill and Green Valley creeks in the west county, Mark West Creek north of Santa Rosa and Mill Creek west of Healdsburg.
The mandatory water reporting would be done via an electronic form that landowners would fill out online, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which called for the action to protect coho salmon.
The move represents a significant escalation of what had been a voluntary water conservation request of landowners along the same streams earlier this spring. But water regulators noted that state wildlife officials determined last month that those measures fell far short in protecting dry-season flows for salmon in what is now the state’s fourth year of drought.
“Swift action is necessary to protect their limited habitat and avoid extinction given the continuing dry conditions,” Barbara Evoy, a deputy director with the State Water Resources Control Board, wrote in a letter announcing the state’s proposal.
Some details, including the specific watershed boundary lines, will be determined by the water board, which is scheduled to consider the proposed regulation at its June 17 meeting.