Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Water added to Camp Meeker's Dutch Bill Creek a 'lifesaver' for young fish

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thanks to a novel injection of cold, clear water from Camp Meeker’s water system, about 3,400 imperiled coho salmon and steelhead trout have a better chance of surviving in Dutch Bill Creek until rain sweeps them to safety in the Russian River.
Gurgling as it splashed down a narrow, rock-lined channel under towering redwoods, the gift of water to a shrinking creek was hailed last week by a group of officials from state and local agencies committed to saving the fish from the grip of California’s historic drought.
“This is incredibly exciting for me,” said David Hines of the National Marine Fisheries Service, calling the flow “literally a lifesaver” for the juvenile coho and steelhead trapped in pools along the creek that winds along Bohemian Highway to a confluence with the river at Monte Rio.
The water, delivered nonstop from a nearby Camp Meeker Recreation and Park District storage tank at 44 gallons a minute, amounts to just one-tenth of a cubic foot per second — minuscule compared with the current release of 110 cfs from Lake Sonoma’s Warm Springs Dam into the river near Healdsburg.
But it has more than doubled the volume of water in the creek, one of four primary coho-rearing waterways in Sonoma County, affording the fish a “minimum subsistence” flow for the rest of the summer, Hines said.

Read more at: Water added to Camp Meeker’s Dutch Bill Creek | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Camp Meeker Water District releasing water to save salmon

California Dept of Fish & Wildlife, CDFW NEWS
The Camp Meeker Recreation and Parks District (CMRPD) has begun releasing untreated water from its water treatment facility into Upper Dutch Bill Creek, a tributary to Russian River, for the benefit of summer-rearing coho salmon and steelhead. This is the first voluntary flow augmentation project to be implemented in Dutch Bill Creek and the third to be implemented  within the four tributaries subject to the Emergency Regulations for the Protection of Specific Fisheries.
The Voluntary Drought Initiative (VDI) program was initiated jointly by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to address stream flow concerns associated with the California drought.  In March of this year, CDFW began asking rural land owners again to sign agreements to voluntarily reduce water demand in four critical watersheds that include Dutch Bill, Green Valley, Mark West and Mill creeks. So far 40 land owners have partnered with CDFW.
In response to increased awareness of the drought crisis, and the imminent threat to coho salmon from low stream flow conditions, several groups have stepped forward to actually contribute water back into streams from their stored sources.  The CMRPD effort is unique in that it is diverting water from its supply pipeline in an amount that is immediately benefiting coho salmon.
Since the releases began last month, Dutch Bill Creek is flowing better than it has for the last two months and dissolved oxygen and temperature conditions are expected to keep juvenile coho salmon alive until the winter rains arrive.
CDFW, NMFS and the Goldridge RCD will continue to monitor conditions in the creek to keep enough water following until eventual rains.
Source: Camp Meeker Water District Releasing Water to Save Salmon | CDFW News

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Op-Ed: Does Sonoma County really have water for new development?

Op-Ed: Does Sonoma County really have water for new development?

Brenda Adelman, RUSSIAN RIVER WATERSHED PROTECTION COMMITTEE

Anyone regularly reading the Press Democrat knows they have been running many articles on both water issues and the need for new housing lately while hardly ever putting the two together for a meaningful analysis of the issues.

Conservation and drought have been leading issues for the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) for several years now, and reading the Press Democrat on May 9, 2015 indicated that the general manager’s view of conditions appeared to depend on the audience to whom he was speaking.   The lead article that day (page 1 of A Section), was titled “Housing Squeeze: At summit, a call for new construction” written by Robert Digitale, and reported a conference for North Bay business leaders held Friday May 8th, where some presenters called for new development of as many as 7500 new units a year.
Press Democrat investor, Doug Bosco, also a former Congressman, told the 250 conference participants that, “The effort to build more housing must resemble the years long campaigns to build Warm Springs Dam…” he said, and “Until now….the housing issue often has suffered from a lack of community focus.”  There were about 15 speakers at the conference discussing housing deficits and what can be done about it. (Anyone regularly reading the Press Democrat knows they have been running many articles on both water issues and the need for new housing lately while hardly ever putting the two together for a meaningful analysis of the issues.)
Conference attendees were assured by Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma County Water Agency and one of the speakers, that in spite of four years of drought, “….we’ll have enough water, so that’s not an excuse to say we can’t build affordable housing.” (And what if there are way MORE than four years of drought to come?)  At one point, Doug Bosco called for establishment of a housing czar to be responsible for building 1000 units. Now, while these statements were a projection of future outcomes, which anyone is free to make, in terms of water supply, they appeared to be based on nothing.
Water Agency contractors (Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, North Marin Water District, Marin Municipal Water District) have been basing development projects of water availability on paper water for years that had been promised by SCWA long before the drought. And seldom do they consider environmental impacts on lower river water quality caused by their actions. The power behind the Temporary Urgency Change Orders is that, while they require river monitoring, CEQA can be suspended and public review of projects is avoided.
But the coup de grace was in another PD article that same day (page B1) entitled “Water supply worries over remote lake….As Lake Pillsbury drops to less than 55% of capacity, affected agencies strategize” by Guy Kovner.  Much of the water filling Lake Mendocino comes from Lake Pillsbury after having been released into the East Fork of the Russian River north of Ukiah.  (Lake Mendocino’s water supply pool is only about 58% now, which is very low for this time of year.)  Because of the need for repairs at the Potter Valley Project, PG&E will be requesting further decreases of flow to allow for this work that would cut normal releases of 75 cfs to 30 cfs, with half of that serving Potter Valley.
Grant Davis said that this is an “unprecedented situation” at a different meeting with agency heads the same day as the conference noted above.  While we agree that this may be an unprecedented situation, we feel that under the circumstances his comments at the housing conference should have been much more circumspect.
While it is true we have many citizens in need of affordable housing, it is also true that our water supply shortages probably won’t end any time soon, if climate change has any credibility. It would also be great if we could rely on the promise of affordability if we do get more new housing.  There was a third story in that same edition of the Press Democrat (p.A4) about San Francisco demonstrations going on now because low income people are being given five day notices to move from their homes so owners can greatly increase rents, and dwellers have no where affordable to go.  Can it be that the affordable factor is merely a ruse to justify more development? And how would the term be defined? Affordable for whom?
We also are concerned that up to now, agriculture has not adequately controlled their water use; required monitoring of ground water use is still fiercely opposed; cities have not yet instituted strict mandatory conservation requirements nor shrunk their general plan projections to address what appears to be repeated water shortages; and inadequate measures are in place to assure that irrigation with wastewater does not become regular discharge into streams. Rather, housing shortages have stimulated the call for a lot more growth at a time when water supplies are greatly diminished.
Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446
Email:  rrwpc@comcast.net
RRWPC Website:  www.rrwpc.org

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Despite flush reservoirs, Sonoma County water officials stress need for conservation

Despite flush reservoirs, Sonoma County water officials stress need for conservation

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
As California confronts its fourth year of drought and the window for any significant spring rainfall closes, the North Coast has more water in storage than a year ago and is in better position than much of the state to meet its supply needs during the traditionally warm, dry months ahead.
Having endured a near-rainless January and a fourth consecutive winter with below-normal rainfall, local residents can thank several drenching days in December and February for bringing season-to-date rainfall to nearly 24 inches — the most in four years and just 8 inches shy of average for this date.
The total was enough to officially downgrade the drought in most of Sonoma County and all of Mendocino County from “extreme” to “severe,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor federal index and map program. With the Sierra Nevada snowpack at a record low, two-thirds of the state remains in a state of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.
That’s not to say, however, that the crisis is over on the North Coast, experts said. The strain on groundwater — the other major local source aside from reservoirs — has managers especially concerned. Pumping, by farmers especially, has outpaced groundwater replenishment from rainfall across much of the state. Sonoma County’s aquifers, while not as heavily tapped as those in the Central Valley, for example, are still under significant pressure. Conservation will continue to be key, water managers said.
“We’re not out of this thing by any stretch of the imagination, that’s for sure,” said Jay Jasperse, chief engineer and director of groundwater management for the Sonoma County Water Agency, wholesale supplier to more than 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties.
Read more via Despite flush reservoirs, Sonoma County water officials stress | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?

Jay Famiglietti, OP-ED: LOS ANGELES TIMES

Several steps need to be taken right now. First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial.

Given the historic low temperatures and snowfalls that pummeled the eastern U.S. this winter, it might be easy to overlook how devastating California’s winter was as well.
As our “wet” season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows. We’re not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we’re losing the creek too.
Data from NASA satellites show that the total amount of water stored in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins — that is, all of the snow, river and reservoir water, water in soils and groundwater combined — was 34 million acre-feet below normal in 2014. That loss is nearly 1.5 times the capacity of Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.
Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.
As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.
Read more via California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now? – LA Times.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on California’s 'hot drought' ranks worst in at least 1,200 years

California’s 'hot drought' ranks worst in at least 1,200 years

Tom Randall, BLOOMBERG.COM
Record rains fell in California this week. They’re not enough to change the course of what scientists are now calling the region’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years.
Just how bad has California’s drought been? Modern measurements already showed it’s been drier than the 1930s dustbowl, worse than the historic droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. That’s not all. New research going back further than the Viking conquests in Europe still can’t find a drought as bad as this one.
To go back that far, scientists consulted one of the longest records available: tree rings. Tighter rings mean drier years, and by working with California’s exceptionally old trees, researchers from University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were able to reconstruct a chronology of drought in southern and central California. They identified 37 droughts that lasted three years or more, going back to the year 800.
None were as extreme as the conditions we’re seeing now.

California temperature over century.
National Climatic Data Center

One of the oddities of this drought is that conditions aren’t just driven by a lack of rainfall. There have been plenty of droughts in the past with less precipitation. (The drought of 1527 to 1529, for example, was killer.) What makes this drought exceptional is the heat. Extreme heat.
Higher temperatures increase evaporation and help deplete reservoirs and groundwater. The California heat this year is like nothing ever seen in modern temperature records. The chart above shows average year-to-date temperatures in the state from January through October for each year since 1895.
Read more via California’s ‘Hot Drought’ Ranks Worst in at Least 1,200 Years – Bloomberg.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , Leave a comment on Sonoma County approves more money for work on water fluoridation plan

Sonoma County approves more money for work on water fluoridation plan

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday approved a trio of actions aimed at improving dental health in Sonoma County, including a contract to complete a study on fluoridation of the county’s drinking water.
The draft engineering study, which includes a cost analysis for adding fluoride to the county’s water system, was commissioned by supervisors in February 2013 for $103,000 but it has yet to be publicly released.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors authorized paying an additional $10,000 to MWH Americas, a Colorado-based firm, to incorporate feedback from the county’s new public health officer and other officials into their analysis.
Before the vote, Supervisor Susan Gorin voiced some concern about allocating additional money to a study that she and her fellow supervisors have yet to see.
“This caught me a bit by surprise,” she said. “I have some serious concerns — this might be a bit premature because this board hasn’t made a final determination about where it’s going with fluoridation.”
Tuesday’s vote, originally slated for swift approval without public comment, was moved off the Board of Supervisors consent calendar to the regular calendar, offering the chance for a broader discussion.
Two people spoke in opposition, including Dawna Gallagher-Stroeh, an anti-fluoridation activist who is seeking to curtail the county’s push to fluoridate its drinking water, citing what she has characterized as faulty science and supposed health dangers.
via Sonoma County approves more money for work on | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , Leave a comment on Managing groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain

Managing groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain

Sonoma County Water Agency, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
On October 7th the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors adopted a Groundwater Management Plan (Plan) for the Santa Rosa Plain (Plain). The Plan sets a framework to locally and voluntarily manage groundwater resources.
groundwater-plan-thumb“This is a well thought out plan that was developed by a diverse group of stakeholders,” said Efren Carrillo, Water Agency Director. “The voluntary measures of the plan promote groundwater management to support all beneficial uses in an environmentally sound, economical, and equitable manner.”
The Plan was developed by the Basin Advisory Panel (Panel), a balanced stakeholder group. A comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey that found that the Plain is experiencing an average annual loss of stored groundwater, which, if not modified, could lead to issues such as declining or dry wells, reduced water flows in creeks and streams, and a loss of water supply flexibility. The Plan promotes activities and programs that aim to create sustainable groundwater levels in the Plain.
“The drought underscores the need to manage our groundwater sustainably, and right now we’re using more than we can sustain,” emphasized Water Agency Director Shirlee Zane. “We’ve been talking about the need for integrated water management for a long time, and this is a step in the right direction for collecting data and creating successful management practices.”
One of the first actions of the plan is to better characterize groundwater conditions by increasing streamflow measurements and voluntary groundwater level monitoring. This data will be used to prioritize groundwater sustainability projects and programs, such as rural water use efficiency programs and groundwater recharge projects.
“This data driven plan puts Sonoma County ahead of the curve when it comes to creating sustainable groundwater levels which will benefit generations of residents,” added Mike McGuire, Water Agency Director. “Climate change is real and we have to be prepared for longer, dryer times.”
Studies, projects, and programs conducted under the Plan may be implemented by one or more organizations, following input or guidance from the Panel. For example, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will use information from the Plan to support future prioritization of land acquisitions in the Santa Rosa plain – including actions to conserve groundwater recharge areas while providing multiple additional benefits, such as protecting agricultural and open space lands from development.
Read more via Managing Groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, WaterTags , , , Leave a comment on Update of tree ordinance, limits on winery events included in county planning priorities

Update of tree ordinance, limits on winery events included in county planning priorities

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday asked county planning officials to shift their priorities over the next two years to tackle divisive issues that could result in stronger environmental protections and tighter limits on development.
The direction, which the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department seeks from the Board of Supervisors every two years, was the first step in the county authorizing work on a number of new or revived initiatives. They include a tree ordinance to prevent removal of county woodlands, limits on medical marijuana cultivation, measures to create and retain affordable housing and regulation of events at wineries.
An overflow crowd sat in on what has in years past been a fairly subdued board discussion.
“I’ve never seen this much input,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane.
Two dozen people spoke or submitted letters in support of creating tighter countywide rules for special events at wineries. They lodged complaints about increased traffic and noise in their rural neighborhood and raised concerns about the strain on scarce water resources.
Judith Olney said traffic from winery events has become heavy in her neighborhood off Westside Road.
“Our neighbors are literally being driven off of our roads,” Olney said. “It’s a serious issue.”
Read more via Winery events top meeting about county planning priorities | The Press Democrat.