Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Ambling through a forest on his rural Mark West area property, Ray Krauss bent over to pinch a fir tree sprout and pull it from the rain-damp ground. If the tiny green seedling grew much larger, Krauss would have to nip it with pruning shears, and were it to become a substantial tree he would fell it with a chainsaw.
But the 76-year-old retiree, who wears a bright red bicycle cap to keep his bald head warm, is considered a patron saint — not a plunderer — of the 63 acres of critical watershed land he has stewarded for nearly half a century.
“It’s been an utter privilege to live here all these years,” Krauss said. “It’s such a special location.”
Were the land and the wildlife on it able to speak, they might thank him for his dedication.
Sonoma Land Trust, which has protected more than 50,000 acres of land for future generations, embraced the early Christmas gift it got last week from Krauss and his wife, Barbara Shumsky. The couple donated a conservation easement, prohibiting development and guaranteeing the land will remain largely unchanged in perpetuity, foregoing the potential for substantial profit.
“We have a special affection for the Mark West watershed,” Ariel Patashnik, the Santa Rosa nonprofit’s land acquisition program manager, said while visiting the property on a foggy afternoon.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9088793-181/owners-give-up-developmental-rights
Henry Fountain, THE NEW YORK TIMES
For years, there has been a movement in California to restore floodplains, by moving levees back from rivers and planting trees, shrubs and grasses in the low-lying land between. The goal has been to go back in time, to bring back some of the habitat for birds, animals and fish that existed before the state was developed.
But in addition to recreating the past, floodplain restoration is increasingly seen as a way of coping with the future — one of human-induced climate change. The reclaimed lands will flood more readily, and that will help protect cities and towns from the more frequent and larger inundations that scientists say are likely as California continues to warm.
“We thought we were just going to plant some trees out here and get some birds to move in,” said Julie Rentner, executive vice president of River Partners, a conservation group that is restoring hundreds of acres of farmland on the outskirts of Modesto in the Central Valley, where agriculture has overwhelmed the natural environment. “Now we’ve got this whole much larger public benefit thing going on.”
Researchers say it is unclear whether climate change will make California drier or wetter on average. What is more certain is that the state will increasingly whipsaw between extremes, with drier dry years, wetter wet ones and a rising frequency of intense periods of precipitation.
Climate models agree that “this really big increase in wet events is quite likely,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles and an author of a recent paper on the expected changes. “There’s just so much more moisture in the atmosphere in a warming world.”
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/climate/california-is-preparing-for-extreme-weather-its-time-to-plant-some-trees.html
Yvonne Horn, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Website for Headwaters of the Laguna de Santa Rosa
Shortly after Jenny Blaker and her husband moved to Cotati in 1996 they were approached by the city with a request to acquire a creek- bordered strip of land behind their house so that an existing bike trail might be extended. The couple agreed.
Upon completion, Blaker was pleased with the trail, but not with how the project left the creek. “Bulldozed, bare of vegetation,” she described it.
Gathering together a few friends and neighbors, they approached the city and the Sonoma County Water Agency for permission to plant native species along the creek’s edges.
At the same time, Blaker began to be curious about the creek itself, which she describes as looking more like a ditch than a wandering waterway. Where did the seasonal water running through it originate, and where was it going?
Research and maps revealed that the creek’s flow began southeast of town, made its way through a 3-mile stretch of the city and continued northwest through a series of confluences to end up in the magnificent wetlands mosaic that embraces the eastern edge of Sebastopol — the Laguna de Santa Rosa. And then the heady news. Much to Blaker’s surprise, because of its location in the southeastern extremity of the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed, Cotati’s watershed is in fact the acknowledged headwaters of the Laguna.
Meanwhile, with permission granted, Blaker’s small gathering of friends and neighbors set about improving the stretch behind her house with the goal of turning it into a more natural looking creek area.
So began the Cotati Creek Critters, a loose-knit assembly of friends and neighbors guided by Blaker, Maria Alvarez and others, in association with Cotati’s Community and Environment Commission. In the years to come the Critters grew from a half-dozen or so people showing up for twice-a–month “stewardship” days to as many as 60 pruning, mulching, planting, weeding, removing invasive species and collecting trash along the path-bordered creek.
Read more at: Cotati neighbors discover surprising fact about Laguna de Santa Rosa
SALMONID RESTORATION FEDERATION
Registration is still open for the 20th Annual Coho Confab in the scenic Mattole River valley in Humboldt County this August 24-26. SRF is coordinating this event in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mattole Restoration Council, Mattole Salmon Group, and Sanctuary Forest. The Confab will feature workshops focused on coho recovery strategies and BMP land stewardship practices for landowners.
Field tours will include the Mattole estuary where participants will see off-channel slough, Heliwood placement, riparian restoration, forest and fuels reduction, water conservation, and stream bank stabilization projects.
Tours will also include a tour of the Salt River estuary restoration, beaver dam analogues, and groundwater recharge planning projects in the Mattole headwaters. One-day registration is now available.
Read more at: August 2017 eNewsletter Highlights | Salmonid Restoration Federation
Jerry Redfern, NewsDeeply
The plan calls for increased water conservation through groundwater management (including recharging the aquifer beneath Albuquerque), surface-water management (including protecting current water rights and buying more in the future), watershed restoration, water recycling and reuse programs and stormwater capture and storage.
In February of this year, the largest water district in a state with little water enacted a plan that attempts to manage that increasingly fickle resource for 100 years.
The plan, Water: 2120, is the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) in New Mexico’s blueprint to direct water procurement, protection and use for the next century.
“This really came out of eight to 10 of us sitting around in a room every Wednesday morning and talking this through,” said Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager at ABCWUA and one of the lead planners on the project.
It’s common for water agencies to develop plans looking 20 to 40 years ahead, or in some cases 50 to 60 years. And ABCWUA, of course, has had planning documents in the past, the last one looking 60 years out. But “this is the first one to take into account climate change,” Yuhas said, and “it’s the first one to look out 100 years.” Plus, it covers everything from watersheds to infrastructure to household use.
Other Western water groups are also working on long-range plans. Santa Fe is looking closely at Water: 2120. Next year, Austin Water plans to unveil Water Forward, which it calls, “a water plan for the next century.”
And in Arizona, the Office of Assured and Adequate Water Supply Program at the Department of Water Resources requires new developments in certain metropolitan areas to show they have physical and legal access to water for 100 years.
Read more at: Why Some Western Water Agencies Are Writing 100-Year Water Plans — Water Deeply
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The “Fish in Hot Water” report includes a road map for addressing the threats to California’s native fish, including restoration and protection of critical habitats, such as spring-fed rivers, flood plains and estuaries as well as river system headwaters.
Read the report here: http://www.caltrout.org/sos
On a tree-shaded bend in Dutch Bill Creek at Monte Rio, three technicians from the Sonoma County Water Agency huddled on a gravel bar to examine the day’s catch, all in the name of science and a sustained campaign to restore one of California’s most endangered fish.
Retrieving 163 coho salmon smolts, or young fish, from a wooden fish trap set in knee-deep, clear flowing water, the crew bathed the four- to six-inch salmon in a bucket of Alka-Seltzer solution, briefly numbing them for easier handling.
The technicians measured, weighed and counted the year-old, hatchery-bred fish before releasing them to continue a perilous journey to the nearby Russian River and out to the Pacific Ocean.
If the young coho, swimming mostly by night to evade predators, make it to the ocean and grow to adulthood, they may in about 18 months return to the Russian River and be counted once again before they spawn and die.
There’s a lot riding on the coho completing their short, human-assisted life cycle.Nearly half of California’s native salmon, steelhead and trout — 14 out of 31 species — are facing extinction in 50 years under current conditions, according to a scientific study released last week.
Another nine species are likely to vanish in 100 years unless steps are taken to address threats such as low water flows, pollution, urban growth, dams and degraded habitat, exacerbated by the recent drought and climate change, the 106-page report by the conservation nonprofit California Trout and the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences said.
Read more at: California’s ‘iconic’ native fish facing extinction, with climate change a major cause | The Press Democrat
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After living along the Laguna de Santa Rosa for decades, Joe Aggio and his family have grown accustomed to having their land swamped with water, as has been the case this year, the waterway swollen to its greatest extent in more than a decade.
But the floodplain around their dairy farm also has become much more of a nuisance over the years.
Aggio, 32, said the wetland around his farm between Occidental Road and Guerneville Road used to be manageable and clean, flooding in the winter before draining off so his family could grow crops to feed their cows. But the waterway has become increasingly plugged with sediment, invasive Ludwigia plants, garbage and other discarded items like shopping carts and couches, he said.
“It no longer flows. It no longer drains. It’s just a stagnant mess,” Aggio said. “We’ve lost crops because of it. We haven’t gotten crops in because of it … It’s become increasingly difficult to farm the land.”
So Aggio’s hopes were raised recently when Sonoma County Water Agency officials secured a grant to move forward with plans that could eventually help alleviate the challenges faced by his farm and other landowners along the 22-mile waterway.
With funds from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Water Agency and environmental groups are embarking on a massive planning effort to revitalize the watershed that stretches from Cotati north to Windsor and takes in rural areas east and west of Santa Rosa.
The watershed, which includes Mark West and Santa Rosa creeks and many other smaller streams and wetlands, has been altered significantly over generations by agricultural and urban development.
One result of its transformation is the Laguna now fills with more sediment than it once did, at times hampering its ability to drain floodwaters into the Russian River.
“If this happens over a very long period of time — we’re talking hundreds of years — that eventually will get to a point where it could back up drainage back into Santa Rosa, Cotati and Rohnert Park,” said Mike Thompson, assistant general manager of the county Water Agency. “This is well beyond our lifetimes, but if it keeps filling up like that, the storage and flood protection of the Laguna that naturally occurs is being taken away.”
Armed with $517,000 in state grant funds, the Water Agency and other groups expect to spend the next three years developing a comprehensive restoration plan for the watershed. Project partners include the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation.
Read more at: Sonoma County to spearhead plan to restore Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Several dozen volunteers, most of whom escaped flooding themselves, joined forces Sunday to help clear away litter in the aftermath of last week’s flooding on the Russian River, contributing to ongoing recovery efforts even as another series of storms lies in wait for the region.
Armed with heavy bags, trash pickers, shovels and brooms, more than 30 people spread out around downtown collecting everything from abandoned bicycle frames to mud-soaked clothing, cigarette butts to broken glass — some of it part of a layer of slippery muck deposited by the receding river. The rest of the trash was on dry land, and gathered before it could find its way to the water some other time.
Community leaders and regular folks joined the effort, organized largely by the Clean River Alliance, a volunteer group that works year round to keep trash from entering the river and making its way to the ocean.
Russian River firefighters were there too, using a fire hose to wash down an asphalt lane at the entrance to Riverkeeper Park and helping volunteers scrape away a thick coating of muddy silt the river left behind.
A few blocks away, Vira Fauss from Friends of Fife Creek, found young native plantings beneath the mud, while others busied themselves at the creek bank, retrieving a large plastic tub and a rolling suitcase among the items taken away by the flooding.
Read more at: Volunteers do the dirty work in Russian River flood cleanup | The Press Democrat –
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Tucked away among rolling green hills off the road leading up to the River Rock Casino near Geyserville, a once-beleaguered creek is springing back to life.
Situated at the bottom of a slope ravaged by a landslide in the 1980s, part of the creek bed and its immediate surroundings were for years covered with asphalt and used for parking. Now, with recently planted shrubs and trees taking root, the area is a testament of what could be in store for the entire mile-and-a-half-long waterway running through the Dry Creek Rancheria and into the Russian River.
The Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians has already begun restoring one segment of the creek and applied for about $3.5 million in state grant funding to extend its work to the rest of the unnamed tributary to the Russian River. The tribe hopes to make the creek more hospitable to steelhead trout, a threatened species, while improving the health of the Russian River watershed and fortifying the water supply.
“Of course it’s important for us to be good stewards of this land,” said David Delira, the tribe’s public works manager. “Our stumbling block has always been funding.”
The tribe’s creek restoration dovetails with another project, on Dry Creek, where the tribe has been involved with efforts led by the Sonoma County Water Agency to restore a six-mile stretch of fish habitat, a multimillion dollar bid to ease effects tied to dam development and other human-caused harm to Russian River salmon and steelhead.
Read more at: Dry Creek Rancheria seeks to restore Russian River tributary for fish, water supply | The Press Democrat
Melanie Parker, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Beaver Blitz: On Oct. 8, observers will join teams throughout the county in the first ever “Beaver Blitz.” Register at inaturalist.org/projects/sonoma-county-beaver-blitz. To learn more about beavers, visit oaec.org/publications/beaver-in-california.
In this, the driest part of the year in Sonoma County, you might take a minute to consider creatures that are increasingly appreciated as watershed heroes — the beavers.
Beavers (Castor canadensis) are aquatic mammals that live in streams and lakes and are well known for building dams and lodges, but they have long been misunderstood, ignored or maligned.
Today, however, scientists and land managers recognize them as a “keystone” species, protecting habitat for many other plants and animals, and providing water security for people.
Have you ever seen a beaver? Don’t mistake them for otters. Beavers are actually members of the rodent family.
Beavers live in family groups or colonies led by the breeding male and female, and are joined by the juveniles from previous litters who help watch over the kits of the year. At 3, juveniles leave home in search of new territory, sometimes as far away as 30 miles.
Beavers once numbered in the millions all across North America. Because they were prized for their fur, they were largely killed off in the 1700s and 1800s. In California, they were exploited first by the maritime Russian-American fur traders who navigated up and down the coast, and later by fur trapping Mountain Men who came overland from the East.
Read more at: Nature: Sonoma County beavers are watershed heroes