Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Clean storm drains seen as key to safeguarding Russian River


Most people pass by storm drains day in and day out, giving little thought to them as conduits to local waterways — and ultimately, the Russian River in much of Sonoma County.

An alliance of local cities, special districts and the county wants to change that.

The coalition has launched a regional campaign to raise public awareness about the link between surface streets and local creeks in hopes people will think again about allowing litter, pet waste and other pollutants to escape down the drain and into the Russian River watershed, home to salmon and steelhead trout and a wide range other aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.

The $60,000 Streets to Creek campaign is intended to promote the fact that storm drains are basically extensions of creeks and streams. Anything left on or in the street — dripped motor oil, pesticide residue, discarded trash or cigarette butts — is basically left to be washed into the river.

“There is surprisingly little awareness about where storm drains actually flow to,” said Andy Rodgers, executive director of the Russian River Watershed Association, a stewardship group formed in 2003 by Sonoma and Mendocino counties, eight cities and the Sonoma County Water Agency. “There’s a number of folks who have the impression that all water goes to the wastewater treatment plants. Other people don’t really think about where it goes.”

Case in point: On Aug. 10, three people living in a motorhome were caught by a neighbor emptying a 50-gallon tank of raw sewage into a storm drain in Santa Rosa’s Junior College neighborhood.


Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Plans to curb Green Valley Creek flooding

Plans to curb Green Valley Creek flooding


The Sonoma County Water Agency has released details of the agency’s Green Valley Creek flood control plans to reduce chronic wet weather flooding of Green Valley Road near Graton.

“Last year Green Valley Road was closed for over three weeks due to flooding,” said Lynda Hopkins, who as Fifth District county supervisor also serves as a Water Agency director. “The project would make Green Valley Road safer for the communities who rely on it, as well as the fish and wildlife who rely on the creek.”

When the creek floods, high water on the roadway cuts off access to the Graton community from the west, causing disrupted traffic on Green Valley and Graton roads.

The agency’s Green Valley Creek High Flow Channel Project will remove sediment in the creek west of Graton and restore the creek banks with native vegetation. The Water Agency released a draft initial study and Negative Declaration for the project on June 22. The public is invited to comment on the project before a July 24 deadline.

(An electronic copy of the draft environmental study is available at )


Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Op-Ed: The promise of protection for the Atascadero Marsh

Jeffrey W. Holtzman, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County General Plan’s promise of protection for the Atascadero Marsh is one step closer as county officials consider measures to help make the promise a reality. The challenge is whether we as a community have the foresight and political will to protect one of our most sensitive wetlands against the intense wave of vineyard and winery development while still maintaining a healthy and hearty wine industry.
Sonoma County has the capability to meet this challenge because there are tens of thousands of acres appropriate for growing grapes that are not in sensitive wetlands and we have a community commitment to an environmental ethos that values sustainability and sound planning.
The wetlands zone emanating along either bank of Atascadero Creek in the Sebastopol and Graton area is one of only a handful of freshwater marshes recognized in the general plan as important biotic zones. Wetlands are essential in order to manage floods, reduce pollution, recharge aquifers, and to provide a habitat for the flora and fauna that so enriches the lives of all Sonoma County residents and visitors.
Of particular significance is the prospect of restoring historical populations of endangered salmon and to encourage and nurture new nurseries in a habitat well suited for this purpose. Countless public and private organizations have spent millions of dollars and undertaken Herculean efforts to stave off the extinction of salmon in Sonoma County. Enacting the proposed changes to establish a Biotic Habitat zone in the Atascadero Marsh will support and strengthen community efforts to protect salmon rather than continuing to allow development that undermines these efforts.
The time to act is now, as a series of unfortunate, ill advised and sometimes illegal activities — driven primarily by intense pressure to develop the area into vineyards and wineries, have acted to degrade the Marsh. A permit granted here, an exemption granted there, and soon you have death by a thousand paper cuts unless action is taken.
Read more at: Close to Home: The promise of protection for the Atascadero Marsh | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Flowing again, Russian River’s creeks open for spawning coho salmon

A three-day storm has pumped up drought-stricken creeks throughout the Russian River watershed, opening a watery door to the winter spawning run of imperiled coho salmon and serenading rural residents with the sound of rushing water.
All 22 coho spawning tributaries of the Russian River were open Monday, and eight adult coho had made it up Dry Creek to the fish hatchery at Warm Springs Dam, proof that the critical run was under way, said Eric Larson, environmental program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Bay-Delta Region.
Creeks that were cut off from the river, with a trickle of water at best between shallow pools, had fast-moving, chocolate-brown water on Monday after the storm dropped nearly 1.5 inches of rain on Santa Rosa over the weekend and rain kept falling Monday.
“We’re very excited,” Larson said, adding that scientists were also anxious to see how many coho will ultimately return to spawn in the creeks where they hatched three years ago.
This season’s run of the endangered species is critical because it is the first generation of coho born during California’s drought, which has threatened a broad effort, dating back to 2001, to bring coho salmon back from the verge of extinction.
Read more at: Flowing again, Russian River’s creeks open for spawning | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County Water Agency update on Occidental wastewater treatment

Sonoma County Water Agency update on Occidental wastewater treatment

On January 7, about 40 people gathered at the Union Hotel for a meeting to discuss the beginning of the design process and environmental analysis for the proposed Occidental County Sanitation District (District) Recycled Water Project (Project). The meeting to discuss the Notice of Preparation was the first step in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.  Attendees asked more than two dozen questions. This was no surprise. For the past 18 months, ratepayers and people living in the outlying areas have regularly attended community meetings on the issue, asking hard questions and proposing a variety of ideas to help minimize rate increases while beneficially using the recycled water.
In a nutshell, here is the problem: The District’s current treatment plant on LuDan Road is an old, inadequate system that needs upgrading. The plant currently treats water to a secondary level. In addition, the District is under a cease-and-desist order to end the discharge of recycled water into Graham’s Pond by January 1, 2018 . The pond, which drains into Dutch Bill Creek, is currently used to store recycled water.

  • To solve the problem, the District is proposing to do the following:Upgrade treatment to a tertiary level, plus any changes that will allow for discharges into Dutch Bill Creek from October 1-May 15.  Discharges can only be equivalent to 1% of the flow of Dutch Bill Creek. This means that storage options will be needed.
  • The Project is currently contemplating two possible treatment sites:  The existing lift station (Occidental-Camp Meeker Road) or the existing treatment plant (LuDan Road). Disinfection and filtration would be included in the treatment process. Disinfection could be by either chlorine or ultra-violet light.
  • The recycled water would be used to irrigate agricultural operations in the Harrison Grade area to offset current well water use and the trucking of water from other watersheds.
  • A recycled water pipeline would be constructed to a property on Morelli Lane. Dutton Vineyards is building a pond on this property, and would like to store and use recycled water for irrigation. The District is also interested in other storage and irrigation options along the pipeline route to beneficially use the recycled water.
  • While a pipeline route is identified in the Notice of Preparation (NOP) that the District released, the actual route could vary after design work is conducted and a treatment location is determined.
  • The project also contemplates a truck-filling station at the CDF fire station on Acreage Lane.
  • Once a preferred project has been identified through the design process, the project will undergo CEQA review. A draft document that identifies the proposed project and any potential impacts and mitigation measures to avoid or minimize those impacts will be made available to the public for review and comment.
  • In order to meet the January 2018 deadline, the project is on a tight timeline. Comments on the Notice of Preparation (which was released in December) were due by January 22. The next step is the preparation of an environmental document. At the same time, the District is hiring a design consultant to further develop the project, including determining the best location for treatment and a specific pipeline route. By 2017, we hope to have a complete design and for construction to be underway.

Please email if you are interested in being added to the District’s email list. In the meantime, check our webpage, for environmental documents, project facts, and timeline and information about recycled water.
via Sonoma County Water Agency Update on Occidental Wastewater Treatment.

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Work on Hobbs vineyard conversion halted by county

Work on Hobbs vineyard conversion halted by county


The Sonoma County Ag commissioner’s office has ordered work stopped at the site of the Paul Hobbs vineyard conversion on Watertrough Road after a complaint of water runoff in the wake of storms earlier this week.

County and Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) officials investigating the complaint found that sediment had been washed into the creek on the property and further that Hobbs had cleared riparian vegetation along the creek.

via Work on Hobbs vineyard conversion halted by county – Sonoma West Times and News: News.