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Report pending on lower Russian River flows: project will permanently cut summertime flows by about 40 percent

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES
A long-awaited report on what might happen when the Russian River has less water flowing down it in the summertime will be released Aug. 19, Sonoma County Water Agency officials announced last week.
Many lower River residents remain unconvinced that a permanent lower flow will help habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead trout, Russian River Watershed Protection Committee founder Brenda Adelman cautioned County Supervisors last week. A federal “Biological Opinion” issued eight years ago that called for a reduced flow “totally ignored the lower River,” said Adelman.
The Russian River Instream Flow and Restoration (RRIFR) project will permanently cut summertime flows by about 40 percent between Healdsburg and the River’s mouth at Jenner.
Anglers, swimmers and boaters are expected to be looking closely at what conditions they’ll have to live with when summer flows are cut every summer from 125 cubic feet per second (CFS) to about 75 CFS in a normal rainfall year.
The National Marine Fisheries Services Biological Opinion “never had public review, public comment or agency review that I’m aware of,” said Adelman. “It totally ignored the lower River from about the confluence of Dry Creek down to Duncans Mills. I really feel like the lower River has been neglected, especially in terms of water quality impacts,” said Adelman. “I hope that that will be corrected through this process.”
Underscoring the far-reaching challenges of the new low-flow regime the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last week took the unusual step of announcing the Environmental Impact Report’s release four weeks in advance of the actual day when the public gets to see the report.
Copies of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be available digitally and on flash drive or to download from the Water Agency’s website. Paper copies will also be available at the Sonoma County Public Libraries in Guerneville, Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale, and from the Water Agency for a fee.
Read more at: Report pending on lower Russian River flows – Sonoma West Times and News: News

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Devoted senior dedicated to observing seals at Jenner Headlands

Baby harbor seals at rest alongside their mothers on the banks of the Russian River estuary mark the arrival of another pupping season and the passage of another year that Elinor Twohy, 94, has kept watch.
Stationed in and around her riverfront cottage on the northernmost reaches of the estuary, Twohy has maintained a record of daily observations on the seal colony for more than a quarter century, taking on the mantle of citizen science long before the phrase was in common use.
Hers is a commitment built on curiosity and scrupulous attention that evolved after she and her late-husband, John, first bought what was then a cozy weekend home at the river’s end 52 years ago, acquiring close-up views of the ever-changing world right outside their doors.
But Twohy’s work also has served to inform a number of scientific studies over time, supplying long-term, standardized data on the seals’ haul-out habits, as well as river conditions and other observations at a level of detail and quality seldom available.
“These sorts of 30- or 40-year data sets don’t exist,” said Bay Area hydrologist Dane Behrens, who used Twohy’s observations and photos as a UC Davis doctoral student in his research on dynamics that shape the river’s tidal lagoon. “For someone to have done this for so long, so diligently… I mean, it was at the point where if she went on vacation, she found someone to do it for her.”
Twohy’s preoccupation with the Jenner seals arose decades ago through her growing interest in coastal wildlife and a burgeoning awareness of the importance of conservation, born in part through her participation in a late 1960s campaign to fend off plans to dredge gravel from the Russian River estuary. Twohy said her initial encounter and friendship with a local environmentalist, the late Virginia Hechtman, helped crystallize her appreciation for the coast and her understanding that “we could lose all the natural wonders here.”
Twohy later helped battle a planned housing division and, with her husband, called for permanent protection of the Jenner Headlands more than three decades before a conservation purchase in 2009 made it so, Jenner Headlands Preserve Manager Brook Edwards said.
In the early 1970s, around the time she and her husband moved full time to Jenner, Twohy began noticing increasing numbers of harbor seals hauling out at the river mouth. They have since become a year-round colony.
Read more at: Devoted senior dedicated to observing seals at Jenner Headlands | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WaterTags , ,

Floodwaters subside in Jenner after Russian River punches through sandbar

The mouth of the Russian River is open once again, allowing water that had backed up in the estuary last week, flooding the Jenner Visitor Center and nearby parking lots, to drain to the ocean.
The force of the dammed up water on Saturday broke through the natural sandbar that had sealed the river shut last month after the recent series of storms.
At one point last week the water came so high it spread partway onto Highway 1, closing the road to a single lane, local business owner Suki Waters said.
“It was like a lake,” said Waters, owner of WaterTreks, a kayak and raft rental company on Highway 1 in Jenner. “I was raised here in Jenner. Outside of extreme flood conditions throughout the Russian River, this is probably the highest I’ve seen it since I was 10 years old.”
The Sonoma County Water Agency, which manages the river estuary, had hoped to breach the sandbar early last week, as it does from time to time. But exceptionally high surf made it too dangerous to do so, and the river kept on rising until it flooded the Jenner Visitor Center perched at the river’s edge as well as surrounding parking lots for the post office and businesses on the south end of town.
Read more at: Floodwaters subside in Jenner after Russian River punches | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma Coast guardians celebrate 30 years of conservation 

Sonoma Coast guardians celebrate 30 years of conservation 


A spit of sand at the mouth of the Russian River where hundreds of harbor seals have entered life will soon be dotted with mothers and their newborn pups as birthing season gets under way.

Watching over them will be human volunteers who, for three decades, have devoted their time to protecting harbor seals on the beach from throngs of weekend visitors whose enthusiasm for the coast, its ocean vistas and its wildlife can put at risk the pups and the larger seal population of up to 300.

Cobbled together by a few stalwart folks in 1985 to reinforce the efforts of state park rangers stretched thin along 14 miles of Sonoma Coast State Park, the Seal Watch program helped usher in an era of volunteerism that has sustained and enhanced state parks in Sonoma County ever since.

It started as a focused campaign to educate the public about the need to give the seals their space and has blossomed into a large, multi-faceted nonprofit organization whose contributions can be found throughout the beaches, neighboring watersheds and forests that make up the park system’s Russian River Sector.

From trail repair to tide pool tours, stream bed restoration to bird surveys, the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods provides it, relying on its base of about 350 volunteers and partnering with myriad public and nonprofit agencies aligned with preserving park lands and increasing human engagement with them.

“It’s a great program, and it has really expanded its reach,” said Andrea Pecharich, an environmental specialist with the Sonoma County Water Agency, one such collaborator.

Read more via: Sonoma Coast guardians celebrate 30 years of conservation | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Sonoma CoastTags , , , , Leave a comment on Support shown for marine sanctuaries

Support shown for marine sanctuaries


A series of public hearings on the North Coast last week unsurprisingly revealed overwhelming support for extending national marine sanctuary protections to the Sonoma and southern Mendocino coasts, federal officials said.

But with long-sought, permanent bans that would forbid oil drilling and other potentially harmful human activity in coastal waters within reach, many conservationists are looking to the details. They are seeking refinements in federal plans that would optimize conditions for wildlife in newly protected waters.

Reservations expressed during public hearings in Point Arena, Gualala and Bodega Bay are not enough to dampen enthusiasm for a proposal to more than double the combined size of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones marine sanctuaries. The plan would extend sanctuary designation to 2,771 square miles of ocean, creating a band of protected waters along about 350 miles of California coastline. Protections would extend from Cambria to Manchester Beach, when combined with the Monterey Bay sanctuary.

But several concerns have come to light in recent weeks that advocates hope can be ironed out to the advantage of marine wildlife.

via West Sonoma County forums show support for marine protections | The Press Democrat.