Sonoma County's Russian River - More Restoration Needed
On September 8th, I made my second canoe trip down the river this summer, paddling from Burke’s Canoes in Forestville to a takeout spot just east of Guerneville. The purpose of the two trips – hosted and organized by Linda Burke, Russian RiverKeeper Don McEnhill and Sonoma County Water Agency staff – was to experience the river from the viewpoint of a typical Russian River visitor.
I’m happy to say that even with a flow of only 71 cubic feet per second, the river was beautiful. Yes, there were a few areas where the canoes scraped bottom but we never had to portage and there was plenty of water in most stretches. The wildlife was abundant, too. We spotted turtles, blue herons, ducks and several other bird species.
One of the most exciting moments during the trip was when we paddled by a bank stabilization and restoration project being undertaken by the Odd Fellows Park community. Crews were planting willow stumps, moving rocks and sculpting the stream bank to withstand high wintertime flows. This project, which was funded by Odd Fellows residents when State funding was lost at the final hour, was desperately needed to stop erosion that was threatening the community’s new, environmentally sound sewage treatment system. It speaks to the strength of that community that Jack Davies, Association President, was able to rally the funding from residents in just a few weeks.
Of course, all is not perfect with the river. Along with good projects like the Odd Fellows’ we also saw some questionable docks, areas where banks had been scraped clear of vegetation and several small ludwigia patches.
Fortunately, the Sonoma County Water Agency, has recently reiterated its commitment to the health of the river. On August 25, SCWA staff recommended that the Agency Board of Directors (I am a member) focus future water planning efforts on increased conservation, greater use of recycled water and enhanced local supplies.
A resolution that would set aside an environmental impact report for the Water Supply, Transmission and Reliability Project (Water Project) noted that current and future financial constraints could limit construction of large public works. The Water Project contemplated the construction of new pipes, collector wells, and other facilities, including possibly a new water pipeline from Lake Sonoma to bypass Dry Creek, to meet the peak demands of the Agency's customers. The estimated cost of the Water Project was more than $600 million.
The resolution also called for the agency to pursue 12 water supply strategies and to reconsider an application with the State Water Resources Control Board for 101,000 acre feet of water per year.
After hearing public testimony, the SCWA Board decided to consider the recommendation on September 15.
The Friends of Villa Grande won their long effort to procure Patterson Point as a community site. Through a joint effort between the Friends and the Open Space District, funds were raised to purchase the property for public access and habitat restoration. For many years, the group worked hard and long, community members came forward with money, and their effort was rewarded when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the acquisition and matching grant on August 11th.
The Consulate of Mexico sponsored my visit to an informative conference in Mexico City with other US elected officials at the end of August. The focus of the 2 day conference was on best practices for coordinating services to underserved populations. Our future efforts, working with the United Farm Workers, Consulate of Mexico, and our Community Based Organizations will be enhanced by information shared at the event.
Our local UFW chapter in Santa Rosa was honored by a visit from Congressman Patrick Kennedy on August 25th. Congressman Kennedy was introduced by UFW national president, Arturo Rodriguez. He addressed the crowd in Spanish, speaking of his long struggle on behalf of immigrant rights. A group of 50 or so UFW and community members attended and some testified to their daily experiences. Our sympathies go out to Congressman Kennedy, whose father Senator Edward Kennedy, lost his struggle with brain cancer later that evening.
Be on the lookout for news related to our local State Parks. A closure list is expected in the next weeks, and when that happens we will all need to work together to assure the future of these valuable assets. We are fortunate to have a strong community group partnering with State Parks to preserve and promote our Russian River area State Parks. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods offers an informative website updating the budget impacts on Parks…this is a great way to get involved and be informed. The advocacy page is at www.stewardsofthecoastandredwoods.org/advocacy.htm
Their annual fundraiser, the Old Grove Festival, is the last weekend of this month. Please support their important work at this critical time by attending this fabulous event.
Please join us on October 7th for a Coastal Disaster Response Forum at Horicon School in Annapolis from 6-8pm. In partnership with Coast Life Support District, Fire Chiefs from North Coast Fire Departments, the Mendocino and Sonoma Sheriff’s Departments, and Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services will conduct a panel discussion about disaster readiness and capacity which I will moderate.