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Friday, September 23, 2011

Russian River Watershed Protection Sues Sonoma County

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee 
Sues Sonoma County Water Agency 
over Jenner Estuary Management Plan

By Brenda Adelman
On September 14th, RRWPC filed a lawsuit against the Sonoma County Water Agency over their certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) of the Estuary Management Project
. This came after RRWPC had submitted a 21 page letter appealing to the Board of Directors (Supervisors)  the day before their decision not to take this action. Also, about ten other supporters had also submitted significant comments on this issue at that time. (Please let me know if you would like a copy of that letter. See below for contact info.)

Our reasons are many for taking this action. A great deal of thought and study has gone into doing this. Lawsuits can be difficult and expensive and we will need to raise extra funds to go through this process. If you are not on our regular mailing list, and would like to be so you can be included in details of our actions, please send your mailing address to the contact info below.

For more information and background on what we are doing to protect the Russian River and Russian River watershed, please visit our web site at

Below is information to explain WHY we are suing 
the Water Agency:

Jenner Estuary Project 

PHOTO courtesy of the Press Democrat

Bulldozers used to manage river mouth each summer....

Construction will occur up to 36 days per summer; visitor access to be limited at those times!

Goodbye to natural river mouth:

Sonoma County Water Agency Directors authorize
Estuary Management Project

The Estuary Management Project focuses on providing fresh water habitat for Steelhead Trout and Coho Salmon by closing the mouth of the Russian River as many days as possible between May 15th and October 15th of each year.

This project is dependant on implementing greatly reduced minimum flows as measured at Hacienda so as to not cause flooding of the Jenner Visitors Center and a few minor structures in Jenner.

By separating studies of low flow impacts from the Estuary Project, the environmental review ignored or minimized the importance of water quality and recreational impacts between Duncans Mills and Forestville, and on other species including threatened Chinook salmon, other aquatic species, plants, animals, and humans.

In addition, directors voted for overriding considerations which state that in the process of constructing the project, they expect to cause harm to water quality in the Estuary, surfing conditions, public access, and the harbor seals use of the beach as a haul out area. Directors stated that impacts were unavoidable, but didn’t consider that water quality impacts may also violate the Clean Water Act.

The Project will cause the following to occur annually between May 15th and October 15th:

• River mouth will be closed for extensive periods by construction of an outlet channel that lets fresh water in but keeps most salt water out.

• Bulldozers will move vast amounts of sand at north end of Goat Rock State Beach for as many as 36 days per summer.

• Goat Rock State Beach and river mouth access will be constrained during these periods.

• Surfing activities will be negatively affected.

• Seals may cease to use haul out area, perhaps permanently, as they normally leave the beach when the river mouth is closed.
Algae &  Ludwegia thrives
in warm water & low flows

• Lower minimum flows have been granted by the State Water Board since 2009, causing water quality problems during hot weather, including algal blooms, high bacteria counts at beaches, and very high water temperatures.

• River water may back up as far as Vacation Beach, slowing flows and turning lower river into lake with possible negative impacts on human health and recreation.
• Significant river beachfront may be lost when water backs up, canoeing will be difficult during very low flows in the Healdsburg to Guerneville area and recreational values may deteriorate. Aesthetic values may also be negatively impacted and health concerns increased.

• Adaptive Management Plan to close the mouth can be changed at will to accommodate changing circumstances. This means problems above can become worse. Public will have no further say in process, once all permits are approved.

The Estuary Project alone is estimated to cost as much as $1 million per year, to be paid by Sonoma County Water Agency water contractors

What RRWPC advocates:

• Project needs objective criteria to measure success and, if failing to meet criteria, commitment to stop project.

• Maintain minimum flows of 125 cfs at Hacienda except during extreme draught.

• Conduct public meeting for meaningful public input on management plan during project period at least once per summer.

• Pay for extra Regional Board staff time to oversee water quality monitoring program.

Natural conditions allow the balance of nature to create an emvironment that nurtures fish, seals, birds and people.

Support Russian River Watershed Protection Committee’s lawsuit.

Please sign up as a supporter and donate any amount to help our cause.
Send to:
P.O. Box 501,
Guerneville, CA 95446

(RRWPC is a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit corporation)
We don’t sell or loan our supporter list to anyone.

• If you are a supporter already, please donate as much as you can either by sending check in response to mailers, or donating through PayPal at our website (address below)

• Visit RRWPC’s new website to get more information and see pictures of the river. Also view our 2009 Russian River Photo Report.

• Sign up to get email announcements about important meetings and/or actions coming up.

• Contact Brenda at with further questions.

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
RRWPC Chair, Brenda Adelman
P.O. Box 501, Guerneville, CA 95446-0501
E-mail us at

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