Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to shut down the Russian River to fishing in hopes of creating more favorable conditions for at-risk salmon and wild steelhead struggling months behind schedule to get upstream to spawn.
The move follows a recommendation made public last week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which won widespread support from the angling community and environmentalists for the move.
It affects the main stem of the river from Jenner to the confluence with the river’s east fork, north of Ukiah. The closure will remain in place through April 30, the tail end of the main spawning season.
via California bans fishing on Russian River amid drought | The Press Democrat.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The North Coast needs an additional foot of rain between now and May just to get back to drought conditions seen in 1977, and even then Lake Mendocino could still go bone dry by autumn for the first time in recorded history, water officials said Tuesday.
The warning stunned North Coast grape growers who packed a Cloverdale meeting hall Tuesday to discuss ways of saving their crops amid the worst drought any of them can recall.
None of the strategies, which ranged from installing more wind machines to covering ponds with plastic tarps to reduce evaporation, compared with what everyone agreed is the most pressing need: more rain and lots of it.
If Lake Mendocino runs dry, it could be disaster for growers, in particular those with vineyards along the upper Russian River. Many rely on water from Lake Mendocino for irrigation, as well as for frost protection.
“If you’re below Dry Creek, it’s going to be a bad year. If you’re above Dry Creek, it’s going to be a biblical year,” said Sean White, general manager of the Russian River Flood Control District.
via Drought conditions concern North Coast grape growers | The Press Democrat.
Wendy Krupnik, iGROW Blog
Hooray! Finally a little rain! I’m glad that I waited until today to post what I wrote yesterday, as this “much” (around a half inch) of rain was not expected. It was enough to wet my garden and will prompt some grass to grow in the fields – yea! BUT – we need to remember that we are behind on 2 season’s worth of rain. Although very welcome and helpful, a little rain does not end this drought.
The drought is now official, serious and already having devastating consequences, especially for animals – with local livestock and already endangered fish populations diminishing. And also for farmers, who may not have water to grow crops. Although most jurisdictions have not yet called for mandatory conservation, I think restrictions – with penalties – should be enacted. It is too easy for those not directly affected to go on running the tap until we all run dry. I’d like to suggest reviewing what Sara and I wrote in our January blogs about gardening during drought, as it is all still very relevant.
Birds are having a hard time as well. Several gardeners have commented that birds have been scratching up the soil like chickens do and sometimes eating crops more than usual this winter. I’m using row cover, strawberry baskets and chicken wire to protect plants. Consider providing water in a bird bath and bird seed to help the poor birds though this time.
via Gardening during drought | iGROW Sonoma.
California Natural Resources Agency, PRESS RELEASE
Click here to read the report.
As California experiences one of the driest winters on record, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the final California Water Action Plan, laying out goals and vision for the next five years. The plan will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems, and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.
At the direction of Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., a collaborative effort of state agencies, and nearly 100 substantive public and stakeholder comments formed a plan to set direction for a host of near- and long-term actions on water issues for the state.
“It is a tall order. But it is what we must do to get through this drought and prepare for the next,” said Gov. Brown in his 2014 State of the State address.
The Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget lays a solid fiscal foundation for implementing near-term actions for the plan, recommending $618.7 million in funding for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control, and integrated water management.
“As we work on emergency actions to manage through one of the driest winters on record, we are also taking proactive, long-term steps to prepare California for future droughts and flood,” said Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “Each decade brings improvements, but also significantly highlights what we can do better. The California Water Action Plan gives us clear focus and vision for the next five years.”
Final revisions to the draft plan, released in October, include an expanded section on drought response and a new effort focused on better management of Sierra Nevada headwaters that helps water storage and quality, and ecosystems. Public comment on the draft plan made it clear that California must better understand the economic and ecological harm of sustained dry weather. The Governor’s proposed budget would provide $472.5 million in Proposition 84 funds to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for integrated regional water management. The bond funds would leverage local and federal investment in projects that reduce demand, build supply, and offer additional benefits such as wildlife habitat and flood management. The budget also placed immediate emphasis on water and energy use efficiency and wetlands and coastal watershed restoration to further support the resiliency of water supply and ecosystems during this dry weather period.
The governor’s budget also would allow DWR to better monitor the groundwater resources that provide more than one-third of California’s supplies in dry years, and supports the development of a state backstop for sustainable groundwater management practices by the State Water Resources Control Board, should local efforts to do so not materialize.
“Together, the Governor’s proposed budget and this finalized plan provide the State with practical solutions to the state’s most critical problems; the proposals on groundwater are a good example,” said Cal/EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. “Data collection and monitoring are crucial to sustainable management of our unseen but incredibly important aquifers.”
All of the near-and long-term actions in the plan center on sustaining supplies of water for people, the environment, industry and agriculture. This year’s severe dry conditions highlight the stakes. Drought threatens to force the fallowing of hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, throw thousands of people out of work, and potentially raise supermarket food prices.
“Our severe dry conditions are alarming for California’s agricultural industry,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “In the near term, we must do all we can to keep our fields productive. In the long term, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the investments that will allow us to stay productive in the face of a changing climate.”
Key actions identified in the Plan include:
Make conservation a California way of life.
Increase regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government.
Achieve the co-equal goals for the Delta.
Protect and restore important ecosystems.
Manage and prepare for dry periods.
Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management.
Provide safe water for all communities.
Increase flood protection.
Increase operational and regulatory efficiency.
Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Coho salmon are trapped in the Russian River and urgently need a boost from Mother Nature.
Cut off by lack of rain from most of the small streams where they habitually spawn, the endangered coho face a ticking biological clock that could decimate this year’s reproduction.
“We know their time is running out,” said Nick Bauer, a biologist with UC Cooperative Extension’s coho monitoring program.
via Drought threatens coho salmon | The Press Democrat.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration Friday of a drought emergency in California does not immediately trigger new restrictions on water use on the North Coast, where officials already have begun asking people to voluntarily cut back their use.
Brown, speaking in San Francisco Friday, said California is in perhaps its worst drought since record-keeping began a century ago.
His proclamation states that drought and water shortage are creating “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property” in the state. The governor asked Californians to reduce their water usage voluntarily by 20 percent.
via Drought declaration underscores state's water woes | The Press Democrat.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sales of water storage tanks have spiked on the North Coast as rural residents, already faced with declining wells, springs and reservoirs, brace for what could be another drought year.
“They’re hoarding water,” said Rich Hutchison, a plumbing and electrical buyer for Friedman’s home improvement stores.
Water storage tank sales increased by about 40 percent at Friedman’s stores in December, he said. The Ukiah store alone sold 20 tanks in December, a 50 percent increase from the same time last year, Hutchison said.
via Dry conditions lead some on North Coast to store water | The Press Democrat.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Mendocino County Supervisors Tuesday unanimously declared a drought emergency, the first step in managing the county’s dwindling water supplies as rainfall continues to bypass the North Coast.
“It’s just really scary to see where we are with the water supply,” said Supervisor Carre Brown.
The emergency declaration includes creation of a committee to evaluate the drought’s effects on local water sources and draft a plan to lessen its impacts.
Wells are drying up and Lake Mendocino, a primary source of water in the Ukiah and Hopland valleys, is close to an all-time low following a year of record low rainfall. Just 7.67 inches of rain fell in the upper reaches of the Russian River last year.
via Mendocino County declares drought emergency | The Press Democrat.
Jamie Hansen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
For years, ranchers listed 1976 and 1977 as the worst drought conditions in memory. Now, with no rainfall in nearly a month and forecasts calling for dry conditions to continue, many are worried that 2014 could be even worse.
“It’s pretty dire out there,” said Tim Tesconi, interim manager of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. Some livestock ranchers’ ponds and reservoirs are drying up, especially in the Two Rock and Chileno Valley areas outside Petaluma, forcing them to truck in water at great cost. Ranchers around the county are having to buy hay much earlier than usual because grass is not growing. The added expenses are causing some to start culling the weaker animals from their herds.
“There are farmers who can’t pay their bills,” said Larry Peter, who works with many dairies as owner of Petaluma Creamery and Spring Hill Jersey Cheese.
via Ranchers running out of feed, water options | The Press Democrat.
Sean Scully, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Water Agency has cut flows in the Russian River by about 30 percent since Tuesday in an effort to preserve dwindling supplies in Lake Mendocino.
State regulators granted the agency permission to cut flows late Tuesday and the agency promptly dropped from releasing about 100 cubic feet per second at the dam, or about 748 gallons, to 90. On Thursday, the agency dropped that number down to 70 cfs, and could go lower this week or next.
“We don’t like to take it down really quickly,” agency Assistant General Manager Pam Jeane said.
That means flows in the river downstream could fall to below 55 cfs at its lowest point by early next week. During a normal rain year, the agency would need to keep that flow at around 150 cfs at the lowest point; even on a moderately dry year, it can’t cut the flow lower than 75 cfs.
But as of Thursday morning, the reservoir had just 26,280 acre feet of water in reserve, about 8.6 billion gallons, or just 38.7 percent of its capacity.
The region is coming out of a record dry year, with just 7.67 inches of rain falling in the upper reaches of the Russian River, as measured at Ukiah; the area usually sees at least 34 inches of rain.
via Water officials cut Russian River releases from Lake Mendocino | The Press Democrat.