Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Student-run United Anglers of Casa Grande gets permit to help dwindling trout population in Petaluma

Amelia Parreira, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A long-sought permit recently obtained by United Anglers of Casa Grande will allow the organization to rescue fish directly from Petaluma’s watershed, which will help save the dwindling local steelhead trout population and allow its student-run hatchery to operate year-round.

The organization, which this year celebrates 40 years of local environmental conservation and fish population restoration, was granted the federal permit this summer following a yearlong review process.

Fish rescued by United Anglers from the local watershed will be transferred to the organization’s state-of-the-art hatchery — California’s only high school-run fish rehabilitation program — before being released back to their natural habitat.

“Our focus has always been nearby Adobe Creek and the steelhead trout in this watershed,” said Dan Hubacher, who has run the organization since the retiring of its founder, Tom Furrer, in 2011. “And I remember as a student, as an alumni of the program, I remember sitting here and Mr. Furrer saying, ‘We can’t touch these fish. The permit won’t allow us.’”

Hubacher said it’s surreal to think about how far the group has come in its efforts over the years.

“If we can get multiple locations where we can find fish, we can bring them in (and) can hopefully jump start this population,” he said. “Through the last couple of years, not only are we not seeing adults, which is alarming, but we’re not seeing juveniles.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/student-run-organization-gets-permit-to-help-dwindling-trout-population/

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , , , , ,

Sonoma County vintner, his business and DA’s Office reach $925,000 environmental damage settlement

Alana Minkler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Sonoma County wine executive and his business have reached a $925,000 settlement with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office following an environmental complaint that accused them of causing significant damage to streams and wetlands while constructing a vineyard in 2018 near Cloverdale, county District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Friday.

Deeply ripping apart the terrain, tearing down trees and pushing them down streams without permits under the county’s Vineyard & Orchard Site Development Ordinance, and lacking permits for grading roads and installing culverts were among acts that Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms, LLC were accused of in August 2019.

Uprooting oak woodlands and discharging sediment into Russian River tributaries caused major environmental damage, which violated the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act, according to a 2019 investigation by the Regional Water Control Board.

The business also did not comply with the terms of a 2019 cleanup and abatement order, which required the full restoration of the 2,278-acre property to its previous condition.

A statement in May said the impact of these actions are still evident, as they threaten the migration, spawning, reproduction and early development of cold-water fish in the Little Sulphur, Big Sulphur and Crocker creeks.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-vintner-his-business-and-das-office-reach-925k-environment/

Posted on Categories Forests, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

Landowner under fire for post-Walbridge salvage logging violations

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To hear Ken Bareilles tell it, the worst thing to happen on his land west of Healdsburg since the 2020 Walbridge Fire was the felling of charred Douglas fir trees that now lie on the ground, dried and cracking, because there’s so little demand at the mills.

To hear his neighbors tell it, the worst thing to happen since the Walbridge Fire has been Ken Bareilles.

It’s not just the neighbors. He’s seen as a bad actor by environmental watchdogs, regulators and others who have watched his emergency timber operation unfold on 106 acres in the sensitive Felta Creek watershed. Set among lush redwoods and ferns, the creek is a last refuge for endangered coho salmon.

Bareilles, for his part, has a different take on the unauthorized creek crossing, the hillside erosion, the flowing sediment, the tractor driven into the bed of Felta Creek and the host of violations documented by three state regulatory agencies over the past year.

According to him, they are the result of bad luck, poor advice, miscommunication and the relentless griping from residents who object to him logging fire-damaged trees up the hill from their homes along a narrow, private road.

He says Cal Fire and other agencies are only trying to pacify the critics by cracking down on him, and anyway, it’s only words and paper. So far there have been no fines or interference in his logging — though he remains under investigation by at least two state agencies. His one-year emergency logging permit, initially set to expire in October 2021, was even extended a year, like everyone else’s.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/landowner-under-fire-for-post-walbridge-fire-salvage-logging-violations/?ref=moststory

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

Sonoma Water petitions State for critical water condition for Russian River as severe drought persists

SONOMA WATER

On May 25, 2022, Sonoma Water filed Temporary Urgency Change Petitions (TUCPs) with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) Division of Water Rights requesting changes to establish a Critical water supply condition in the Russian River. Under critical water supply conditions, the Russian River would have minimum instream flow requirements of 25 cfs and 35 cfs in the upper and lower river, respectively.

This change will allow Sonoma Water to continue the minimum instream flows that the river is currently operating under and preserve water supply in both Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. It will also help avoid violating the Incidental Take Statement for Dry Creek established in the Russian River Biological Opinion.

The current petitions also commit Sonoma Water and its retail customers to a (the cities of Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sonoma; the town of Windsor; and Valley of the Moon and North Marin water districts) 20-percent reduction in total diversions from the Russian River between July 1 and October 31 compared to the same time period in 2020.

“The Russian River watershed is facing severe drought conditions for the third year in a row and filing Temporary Urgency Change Petitions is essential to ensure the water supply for more than 600,000 people and the environment in Sonoma and Marin counties,” said Sonoma Water Director James Gore.

Read more at: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Sonoma-Water-E-News—June-2022.html?soid=1126949444770&aid=hNUkAxwA6hY

Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Endangered coho salmon battered by 3rd year of drought. Here’s why it matters

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Russian River’s once celebrated salmon populations have long been imperiled by logging, development, gravel mining and other human activities that have eliminated flood plains, channelized river and stream flows, and limited the woody debris and shade that keeps the water cool enough for young fish to survive.

More intense and frequent droughts have further eroded conditions, not just for the coho, but for steelhead and chinook salmon, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

They were once abundant in the cold, clear water of North Bay creeks and streams. Now, the survival of coho salmon is being challenged like never before.

The coho has a three-year life cycle that takes it from stream to ocean and back to stream to spawn the next generation.

But the changing climate now threatens the species at every life stage, raising new questions about their recovery.

It’s not just a species at stake. At risk is the very resilience of the forest and watershed that evolved around them, fed by marine nutrients brought upstream and deposited inland by adult spawners that, after reproducing, die and decompose.

“Salmon are a keystone species, which means they perform a really important ecosystem service,” said Sarah Nossaman Pierce, a California Sea Grant fisheries biologist with the Russian River Monitoring Program. “Salmon and steelhead (trout) bring marine-based nutrients into the system and essentially feed the forest, plants, birds and wildlife.”

The challenge, she said, is “ecosystem resilience”

“People say, ‘Why do you care about the salmon?’ Unfortunately, if they can’t survive, human beings aren’t far behind,” she said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/endangered-coho-salmon-battered-by-3rd-year-of-drought-heres-why-it-matte/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Fishery groups plan to sue PG&E over Potter Valley plant and related Scott, Cape Horn dams

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A coalition of fishery groups has formally notified PG&E that it plans to file suit under the Endangered Species Act, alleging the continued injury to once abundant federally protected salmon and steelhead trout as a result of operations at the utility’s aging Potter Valley powerhouse.

The legal maneuver is part of an effort to expedite removal of Scott and Cape Horn dams, which pose a threat to vulnerable fish species in the Eel River and block access to hundreds of miles of prime habitat upstream.

The plaintiffs contend that last Thursday’s expiration of PG&E’s license for the project means the utility is no longer protected from liability and must be found in violation of the Endangered Species Act — a point the utility disputes.

A formal notice filed Friday by the coalition gives PG&E 60 days to remedy the situation or face litigation. It also echoes comments about project inadequacies made in a March 16 letter from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in advance of the expiration of the utility’s license.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/fishery-groups-plan-to-sue-pge-over-potter-valley-plant-and-related-scott/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Critics rip ‘half-baked’ federal plan to save California salmon

Nick Cahill, COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Both conservationists and water suppliers are upset with a proposal that federal and state officials say is aimed at ensuring Chinook salmon survive the California drought.

Fishing groups and water suppliers fighting the Biden administration’s proposed drought rules for California’s water system told a federal judge Friday the emergency plans won’t stop the demise of endangered salmon.

With California trudging through another disappointingly dry winter, the federal government and state officials have agreed upon a set of temporary rules they claim are necessary to preserve enough cold water on the Sacramento River for Chinook salmon this spring and summer. The rules call for new water temperature targets and improved collaboration between federal and state officials on the management of California’s two main water conveyance systems.

But the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and other conservation groups cast the “interim operations plan” as a half-baked measure that will lead to a third consecutive year of salmon die-offs. They want the feds to hold off on upcoming water deliveries and subsequently store more cold water behind Shasta Dam in the event hydrological conditions remain dreadful.

In addition, a group of water agencies claim the interim plan was untested and, if implemented, would likely violate their contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The overarching issue are endangered species permits or biological opinions adopted by the Trump administration in 2019 that critics said severely weakened protections for salmon and water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Read more at https://www.courthousenews.com/critics-rip-feds-half-baked-plan-to-save-california-salmon/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Plan to acquire Mendocino County power plant unravels

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Plans to acquire an aging power plant in Mendocino County to ensure continued flows of Eel River water into Lake Mendocino and Sonoma County have unraveled.

A coalition of organizations from Sonoma, Humboldt and Mendocino counties abandoned their quest to acquire the century-old Potter Valley hydroelectric plant, saying it could not meet an April 14 deadline for submitting a federal license application.

The plant, about 80 miles north of Santa Rosa, is owned by Pacific Gas & Electric, which in 2019 announced plans to abandon it and surrender its license.

Water users downstream maintained the plant was critical because Eel River water is diverted through its turbines into Lake Mendocino and the Russian River. That, in turn, supplies users as far south as Sonoma and northern Marin counties.

Without the option of acquiring the plant, stakeholders predict years of uncertainty, quarreling and, ultimately, higher costs to water users.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/multicounty-partnership-yields-on-potter-valley-power-plant-license-scramb/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

‘Haven’t been seen for 25 years’: rains bring salmon back to California streams

Reuters, THE GUARDIAN

Endangered coho salmon spotted returning to spawning grounds after well-timed precipitation

The heavy rains that soaked California late last year were welcomed by farmers, urban planners – and endangered coho salmon.

“We’ve seen fish in places that they haven’t been for almost 25 years,” said Preston Brown, the director of watershed conservation for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (Spawn).

California received more precipitation from October to December than in the previous 12 months, according to the National Weather Service.

The abundance of rain and snow arrived in time for the November-to-January spawning season in the resource-rich Tomales Bay watershed north of San Francisco, enabling some fish to reach tributaries to the Lagunitas Creek, at least 13 miles inland in Marin County.

Some fish have been spotted a mile upstream from where the San Geronimo Creek had been dammed until little more than a year ago, experts say.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/19/coho-salmon-california-spawning-rain-drought

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , , ,

Russian River flows at risk: New studies show potential path forward for Potter Valley project

Mother of All Groups (MOAG), SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

PG&E’s license to operate the Potter Valley Project expires in April of 2022. For more information until then: http://pottervalleyproject.org/

A group of studies released last month paint a clearer picture of how Sonoma and Mendocino counties can meet future water needs while reducing environmental impacts in the face of a decision by PG&E to cease operation of an aging hydroelectric power project.

The Potter Valley Project (PVP) is located approximately 15 miles north of the City of Ukiah on the Eel River. The Project’s facilities include two dams, a diversion tunnel and a hydroelectric plant located in Potter Valley in the headwaters of the Russian River. The 100-year-old project produces little electricity by modern standards and is a net money loser, but Sonoma and Mendocino County water users have grown accustomed to the water diverted by the Project which flows from the Eel River into the Russian River watershed where it is stored in Lake Mendocino – ultimately flowing down the Russian River where it benefits agricultural interests and residents.

This arrangement was put in jeopardy when PG&E announced in 2019 that it would not seek to renew its federal license to operate the Project, which expires in April 2022. In recent weeks, PG&E also notified the public that the Project’s powerhouse had suffered a transformer failure, which eliminated its ability to generate electricity and reduced water diversions into the Russian River. Given PG&E’s goal to dispense with the Project, it is unlikely the powerhouse will be repaired or that the Project will ever function as it once did.

In response to PG&E’s decision to divest from the Project, a diverse group of stakeholders called the Two-Basin Partnership was formed to develop a plan to take over and modify the Project in a way that reflects regional needs and priorities in both basins. Among these priorities are fisheries recovery in the Eel River – one of the few major rivers left in California that has the potential to support abundant, self-sustaining wild populations of salmon and steelhead – and water supply reliability for Russian River water users. The Partnership’s proposed plan included the removal of Scott Dam, restoration of the drained Lake Pillsbury footprint and modifications or the replacement of Cape Horn Dam to maintain a diversion.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/russian-river-flows-at-risk-new-studies-show-potential-path-forward-for-po/