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Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino get runoff boost from recent storms

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Drought-weary North Bay residents are getting an early holiday present from Mother Nature as sporadic December storms have boosted the water level in the region’s largest reservoir and set the stage for bigger gains if rain continues to fall.
Lake Sonoma, the key source of water for 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties, hit 66.9 percent of water storage capacity Thursday, up two-tenths of a point since Dec. 1 — a small but significant increase that marked the reservoir’s first uptick since June 30, when it was 81.7 percent full.
Water managers call that an “inflection point,” and Jay Jasperse, the Sonoma County Water Agency’s chief engineer, said it is “good news,” with better news possibly on the way.
The storms that have dropped just over 5 inches of rain in the Santa Rosa basin since Oct. 1 have essentially saturated the near-surface soil, allowing water to run off into reservoirs, a trend that appears to be happening to California’s largest reservoirs, as well.
“Runoff hasn’t been huge,” Jasperse said, declaring he is “cautiously optimistic” that soggy soil will keep most of the upcoming rain on the surface and draining into reservoirs.
More rain is expected Friday, over the weekend and continuing next week, consulting meteorologist Jan Null said. “A wet pattern is setting up,” he said, with no downpours but “consistent rain through the end of the year.”
Read more at: Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino get runoff boost from | The Press Democrat

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El Niño forecast boosts hopes for wet season

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Battered by a historic drought that has fed raging wildfires, shrunk reservoirs and prompted water curtailments and conservation mandates, Californians are yearning for relief.
It can only come from the skies, and now, with winter on its way, the question on the minds of more than 38 million Golden State residents is: Can El Niño, the weather phenomenon named for the Christ child, deliver meteorological salvation across the land, from the arid south to the normally damp north?
For the North Bay, where that answer is still highly anticipated, a shortfall on the wet forecast may not portend an immediately deepening disaster, as it could for much of the rest of the state.
The region draws its water from the Russian River and local wells, independent from the Sierra Nevada snowpack — the lowest in recorded history last winter — and the state’s major reservoirs, now 70 percent to 90 percent empty.
The North Bay’s major reservoir, Lake Sonoma, with a two-to-three-year supply when full, remains at more than 70 percent of its capacity.
Just an average amount of rainfall over the next six months in Santa Rosa — about 36 inches — would go a long way toward topping off that supply and other local reservoirs, significantly easing drought in the region, if not ending it, said managers of the Sonoma County Water Agency, the primary source of water for 600,000 North Bay customers.
Read more at: El Niño forecast boosts hopes for wet season | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Thousands celebrate steelhead at Lake Sonoma festival: Spawning season runs from December to April

Thousands celebrate steelhead at Lake Sonoma festival: Spawning season runs from December to April

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
More than 5,000 people turned out Saturday for the Lake Sonoma Steelhead Festival, where many attendees got an up-close look at the mating habits of the threatened trout during its spawning season.
The annual event, put on by the Friends of Lake Sonoma, gives the public a chance to learn more about the fish and the efforts of various government agencies to bulk up its population at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery at Warm Springs Dam. The nonprofit group has played a vital role since federal budget cuts affected operations at the visitor center, which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Friends of Lake Sonoma assumed staffing for the tours last year.
Typically, most visitors to the hatchery are elementary school students, with about 4,000 children visiting the facility on annual basis.
The event, complete with food trucks, a wine tent and a karaoke singer, helps educate a broader swath of the public, said Jane Young, executive director for the group.
via Thousands celebrate steelhead at Lake Sonoma | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Dry Creek tribe plans 5 MW solar power project near Lake Sonoma

Dry Creek tribe plans 5 MW solar power project near Lake Sonoma

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A huge solar array could be in place by next spring in the hills overlooking Lake Sonoma under a cooperative venture announced Monday between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians.
The solar panels would generate electricity for the fish hatchery, visitors center and other buildings at the base of Warm Springs Dam northwest of Healdsburg, as well as the tribe’s River Rock Casino and its other facilities near Geyserville, according to details released by the tribe and the Army Corps.

Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins called it “great for the tribe, great for Sonoma County and great for the environment.”

The initial 5-megawatt system would be the largest single solar installation in Sonoma County, eclipsing a 3-megawatt facility near Cloverdale.

Army Corps Lt. Col. John Morrow said the solar development is consistent with President Barack Obama’s order for federal agencies to reduce their carbon footprint, along with the corps’ goal of having 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Read more via Dry Creek tribe plans large solar power project | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on First phase of Dry Creek habitat makeover nears completion

First phase of Dry Creek habitat makeover nears completion

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Construction crews that have spent more than two years reconfiguring a mile-long stretch of Dry Creek outside Healdsburg are about to mark completion of the critical first leg of what, by 2020, is to be a six-mile project designed to create new habitat for threatened and endangered fish.
So far, workers have strategically placed thousands of tons of locally sourced rock and more than a thousand giant root balls and saw logs in the creek, and they’ve removed some 30,000 cubic yards of soil and gravel to create restful backwaters, some of which already are being used by fish species whose very survival is at risk, officials said.
The overall goal is to offer supportive habitat for coho and chinook salmon, as well as steelhead trout, that includes areas of slow-water refuge, plenty of places to hide from predators, adequate food supply and cool, shallow current — partly offsetting the loss of 130 square-miles of upstream habitat cut off by the construction of Warm Springs Dam to create Lake Sonoma in 1983.
The reservoir has offered the project one advantage: From the dam at its southern end comes a reliable supply of cold, clear water that’s so rare in the Russian River watershed these days, said Eric Larson, environmental program manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Basically, it comes down to the recognition that due to the characteristics of Dry Creek following the construction of the Warm Springs Dam, Dry Creek offers a huge opportunity to create salmonid habitat in the Russian River watershed where it once did not exist,” at least not year-round, Larson said.
Read more via First phase of Dry Creek makeover nears completion | The Press Democrat.