Symposium: Contaminants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta

Please join us for an upcoming symposium at UC Davis, convened by the Delta Science Program and CMSI with additional support from the State Water Resources Control Board.

“Contaminants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta: Novel Tools and Approaches to Evaluate Effects of Multiple Stressors”

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017

8:30 am – 5:00 pm

UC Davis Student Community Center – Multipurpose Room

Corner of Shields and California Avenues

Davis, CA 95616

To access the full roster of speakers, the event schedule and to RSVP, please click HERE. The symposium is free and open to the public but we request that you RSVP by 1/26.

For more information, please click HERE

Best,

Nir Oksenberg, Ph.D

Science Communication

Delta Science Program

Delta Stewardship Council

916-445-0715

Nir.Oksenberg@deltacouncil.ca.gov

Posted in Coastal and Bay Impacts, Environmental Impacts | Leave a comment

Clean River Alliance’s New Year’s Message

January 1, 2017

Dear friends,

Now that we are in a new year and we ready ourselves for the work of 2017 it only makes sense to peek back into the past twelve months and add up our totally grass-roots, all-volunteer accomplishments.

This year, over 550 volunteers have removed 155,510 pounds of garbage from the Russian River watershed between Hopland and Jenner.  Of that total, about 45,000 pounds was collected, bagged and staged for us by a subset of dedicated volunteers who are currently living without houses. None of that trash will land on our beaches this winter, nor will it end up in the Pacific Ocean – ever.

Clean River Alliance has spent the year expanding our efforts and adding more events to our calendar.  These include:

  • A weekly town cleanup in Guerneville every Monday afternoon;
  • An outreach effort to our house-less neighbors through the Vets Connect program every Thursday at the Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall, followed by the pick-up of trash that has been bagged up and staged for us by those same neighbors in the lower Russian River;
  • The 29th annual Russian River Watershed Clean-up in September in collaboration with many other agencies and entities;
  • Other watershed projects to remove detritus left by beach-goers, tourists and campers;
  • And, continued outreach and education efforts to residents and visitors alike on the importance of clean waterways.

None of this would have been possible without the ongoing support of many agencies and entities that have provided us with access, encouragement, in-kind contributions and fiscal sponsorship.

Thanks to Don McEnhill and Russian Riverkeeper for their faith in us and undying support.  Thanks to the County of Sonoma, our Board of Supervisors and their staff-people, and the Sonoma County Water Agency for assistance when we ask, and for picking up the phone when we call.  Thanks to West County Health Center’s Homeless Outreach Team for its collaborative spirit and ongoing encouragement, and to West County Community Services for all it does and is trying to do.

Along with these collaborations, we have also been honored to partner with other local community groups and non-profit organizations.  Amongst these are the B-Rad Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, North County Community Services, our local schools and businesses and many more.

Mostly, thanks to our utterly dedicated volunteers, aka: The Garbage Patch Kids, who continue to show up even when it’s cold and wet and muddy.  Faced with the direst circumstances, they remain cheerful, understanding, passionate and compassionate.  They are our most valuable assets and with them we are a growing, thriving organization.

Please consider a contribution now so we can continue to grow and expand our efforts in the coming year.  To make a donation online, go to http://russianriverkeeper.org/what-you-can-do/donate/ Make sure to include a comment noting that your donation is for Clean River Alliance.

You can also mail us a check to P.O. Box 536, Guerneville CA 95446.

And, if you would like to volunteer, or simply talk trash, call me at 707-322-8304. Visit our website and like us on Facebook!

With sincere appreciation and best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Chris Brokate
And the crew of Clean River Alliance

Posted in Watershed Related Concerns | Leave a comment

Bay Delta Conservation Plan Comment

From Restore the Delta:

Today, the Delta Tunnels Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was released online.

As we mentioned yesterday, this document is not a green light for the Delta Tunnels but rather should be understood as the submission of homework by sponsoring agencies (California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) to be evaluated by state and federal regulators who will determine if proposal can meet environmental and water quality standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A feat no previous version of the proposal has achieved.

Whenever Governor Brown wants to make a bold pronouncement on the Delta Tunnels proposal, he turns to his loyal stenographer Dan Morain, editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee. As he does again today in this story, “Jerry Brown plunges ahead on twin tunnels.”

Here is the reaction to this story by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta:

“Governor Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee that Delta Tunnels proposal is based on the best scientific thinking. That is simply not true. He left out that fish do worse with the tunnels, and that millions of Delta residents will be left with degraded water that will not meet Clean Water Act standards.

“The Governor failed to remember the dangers for Delta residents associated with the project, from toxic algal blooms, to increased boron and selenium in drinking water, to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 600,000 new cars on the road each year from construction.

“This forgetting on Governor Brown’s part is reckless and dangerous as he makes his appeal to President-elect Trump to support the project. Governor Brown is supporting a project that will leave Stockton, California, a majority-minority city, and other Delta environmental justice communities with degraded water — all for the benefit of rich water exporters in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, and Silicon Valley. Shame on Governor Brown. What dishonest pandering!”

Posted in Environmental Impacts, Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Water Conservation Issue | Comments Off on Bay Delta Conservation Plan Comment

Stormwater Improvement Project to Consider

To All,

Stormwater pollution is a serious problem in many of your watersheds, and many of you are using green stormwater infrastructure projects to address it.  I wanted to share information about a project one of your fellow members, the Charles River Watershed Association, has implemented in Chelsea, Massachusetts so that you can learn from their experiences too.

Best,
Kimberly

Blue Cities: Stormwater Improvement Project for Mace Apartments, Chelsea

Project Overview

The Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) installed bio-filters within the Mill Hill neighborhood in Chelsea, which sits on a small neck of land bounded by Chelsea Creek and Mill Creek. Like other Chelsea neighborhoods, the site consists mostly of residential buildings interspersed with industrial and commercial development. Given the high amounts of impervious pavement in the area, stormwater runoff is a major contributor to pollution levels in both creeks. After analyzing the impact of this site on the water quality in Mill Creek, CRWA selected this site as a pilot project for implementing green infrastructure retrofits and monitoring the results on both water quality improvement and run off reduction from the site.

Benefits to installing bio-filters
Installed three bio-filters in a parking lot at the Mace Apartment Complex at the intersection of Crescent Avenue and Clinton Street

  • Improved quality of water by filtering stormwater runoff prior to it discharging into Mill Creek
  • Provided comprehensive training on maintenance to Chelsea Department for Public Work and Chelsea Housing Authority maintenance staff
  • Provided opportunity for residents to be involved in project design and implementation

Challenges faced during construction and post construction monitoring

  • Bid process and construction contract award was challenging and very time consuming
  • The lowest bid contractors were inexperienced and required extra supervision
  • Post construction monitoring involved the use of automated sampling equipment that required a steep learning curve
  • Ongoing maintenance has been a challenge

Blue Cities

CRWA’s Blue Cities Initiative works to reengineer urban landscapes to incorporate the design of natural green corridors and infrastructure. By restoring urban greenscapes Blue Cities Initiative also reestablishes natural hydrology that replenishes groundwater, reduces the pollution of stormwater to the Charles River and reduces flood risk. For more information on Blue Cities visit www.charlesriver.org/blue-cities

Bio filter in center vegetated island
Bio filter along Mill Creek and Clinton Street

Posted in Stormwater Impacts | Comments Off on Stormwater Improvement Project to Consider

River Watch’s 20th Year Celebration

On October 22, California River Watch celebrated its 20th year in being a citizen activist environmental organization to protect the waters of U.S. in Northern California and now all of California. At the celebration, an award was given to Alan Levine who has been actively protecting forests and watersheds locally, regionally and statewide.

Alan Levine responded with an appreciate letter:

ltr-of-appreciation-from-alan

Larry

 

Posted in Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on River Watch’s 20th Year Celebration

Symposium: Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams, Dec. 3, 9-1 pm

You are invited to the 12th Annual Berkeley River Restoration Symposium Saturday 03 December 9a-1p, Rm 112 Wurster Hall.

This year’s symposium features a keynote talk by Scott McBain on ‘Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams: lessons over two decades’, along with presentations of original graduate student research on a variety of topics, and a panel discussion on issues raised by the presentations and new developments in the field.  The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required. We will publish and announce the registration link at a later date.

Keynote talk:
Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams:  lessons over two decades Most of our major rivers are dammed, and ecosystem restoration must be undertaken in this context.  How can we manage flow, sediment, and channel morphology on such highly regulated rivers to restore downstream fluvial processes, form, and biota?  Based on over two decades of experience, Scott McBain describes the application and progress on this approach, drawing from examples on the Trinity River, San Joaquin River, Tuolumne River and others. He concludes with a discussion on upcoming scientific and management challenges to future application of this approach.

Speaker:
Scott McBain is a fluvial geomorphologist with 25 years’ experience working on rivers in the western US. His specialty is developing flow and sediment management regimes downstream of dams that improve the physical processes and form necessary to rehabilitate and improve river ecosystems. Scott has participated in numerous large-scale river rehabilitation efforts, including the Trinity River in northern California, and the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the Central Valley of California, and the central Platte River in Nebraska.  Scott serves as President of McBain Associates, a consulting firm in Arcata CA that specializes in regulated river rehabilitation.

Posted in Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on Symposium: Restoring fluvial process and ecology below dams, Dec. 3, 9-1 pm

Re: Russian River Biological Opinion and RR Low Flow DEIR

All—

The Biological Opinion was based on NMFS views (ratified by Cal Fish & Wildlife) of how to substitute fish-rearing habitat to compensate for all the human-imposed changes to the Russian River, (apparently, in my view) without having to face off with any landowners in the tributaries OR along the main stem (except for the very few places in Jenner that might get swamped). The agencies focused on the SCWA operations that could be detrimental for salmonids, because that is the only target with the funding and the authority to support a system project involving more than one segment of the system.

At the Introductory workshop in Monte Rio, Bob Coey told me that it’s mostly aimed at steelhead, because they rear throughout the system, and are not as dependent on tribs as the Coho. Of course, the DEIR states that it’s about ALL the salmonids, but nobody ever accused this project of having a consistent focus.

So why the timing on creating the ISRP?

We don’t know exactly whose idea it was. If it was Grant’s (or Jay’s) I have to wonder if the aim was to create a framework for testing the effects of lowering flows.  (They did not expect that ISRP would take this long.)

SCWA has already been lowering flows according to the Biological Opinion’s prescriptions, getting separate permission to do so under 1610 each year, as they described at the hearing.

So now is the time to implement a study of the initial effects, which could be based on the science that have been collected and reported piecemeal for several years.

SCWA took steps to improve the scientific studies, and programs for reporting them, after about 2010 or 2011, when the agency held the first major gathering of the various entities and Counties involved.  Efren was very newly in his Supes position, and I affronted him at that first program by reaming out SCWA staff for claiming that “the statistics” showed no changes in water quality.

I had read the initial reports that detailed all the water quality data they had gathered in prior years, which were so few and scattered that neither seasonal nor annual variations could be analyzed for any of the collection sites.   I demanded that SCWA explain what statistical tests they had found to use, since they had so few and inconsistent data, and of course they could not. I followed up with email and calls, and eventually they had to admit that they had no statistics.

Everything got put onto a more scientific basis after that, via funding for the RCDs. They started doing more consistent water quality sampling and studies of food chain species, etc.  Those data may be worth looking at to determine if they can form the basis for a preliminary evaluation.

Jane

Posted in Environmental Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on Re: Russian River Biological Opinion and RR Low Flow DEIR

Re: More on Russian River Fish Flow Project and Biologic Opinion

To be added to my previous musings on this subject

Another aspect of this issue – that I had been recently pondering –
related to the ISRP findings.

They ISRP noted that,in part due to incision (the hungry water thing) in
the mainstem RR – that many of the tribs are disconected from the
mainstem flows. I am sure this condition was not present historically.

So – this issue of trib disconnection makes fish migration to any refugia
in the tribs inpossible. Thus, it is probable that this condition traps
fish in the mainstem – and – limiting flows in the mainstem would be, in
fact, limiting habitat.

Just because the river, historically (way back then), did present such low
flow conditions – it does not mean that the low flow proposal is
appropriate for current conditions. This is especially true when the
tribs are not providing historic habitat and there is this confluence
disconnection problem.

Finally and However – just stating these issues, when challenging the low
flow EIR, need to be supported by science (The ISRP helps) and
professional opinion – in the file – if you are looking for a successful
challenge.

Alan

Posted in Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on Re: More on Russian River Fish Flow Project and Biologic Opinion

Re: Russian River Fish Flow Project and Biologic Opinion

Given this issues raised in the short discussion (below) there are policy implications that may (or should ) be applied to Russian River proposed low flow management (and the Biologic Opinion)

First:  The Biologic Opinion and proposed low flow scenario were not privy to the findings of the ISRP.  They findings should be amended into the Biologic Opinion and any proposed management policy consideration (for consideration of conditions and related effects of proposed management policy). The ISPR provides a the latest and best information as to current and historic conditions – and – must be considered as same in any environment review of proposed management policy.

Next:  If habitat conditions in the tribs are, in fact, as described in the IRSP ( essentially devoid of historic habitat necessary to support salmonids in all life stages – see below) – then, in fact, that it may be the case that the mainstem Russian River (and higher than historic natural flows) may be a necessary habitat component to maintain – until such time as the tribs have be rehabilitiated..   That is:  Essential flows, shading and near stream habitat, and instream habatat conditions in the trims need to show improvement before any low flow policy should be implemented.

This would require limitation of near stream and instream water diversion in the tribs (especially during the non-rain seasons) and development of near stream canopy for shade and temperature control conditions – and – possibly some restoration work to provide instream habitat conditions (to encourage deeper pools, overwintering habitat, and other refugia, and remval of fish migration blocking obsticles).  This work would have to be accomplished and show demonstrable success – prior to the implementation of any low flow policy.

All of these issues must be addressed in the informed decision making process – attendant to CEQA, NEPA, and federal responsible agency mandatory consultation.

Discussion of some IRSP findings – below and arguments to be made:

As the IRSP noted the historic Russian River flows were lower.
However, during that by-gone history things were different – in how the system
functioned.

Prior to current hydromodification – there was more refugia for fish – both – in the tribs and in the mainstem.
Both – tribs and mainstem – had deeper holes and cooler water. There was more shading on the mainstem and tribs to help keep things cooler in the refugia areas.  The tribs had more water (not being pumped dry for Ag irrigation – plus – the rain cycle has changed)- thus providing cooler water and deeper pools for refugia and fish survival in all life stages.

And – finally – the near stream environment had more gravel terraces storing more water and cooler subsurface flows (plus deeper and cooler pools).

All these conditions aiding the life cycle needs of salmonids have been altered (mostly gone).

Alan

Posted in Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on Re: Russian River Fish Flow Project and Biologic Opinion

Background on Russian River Fish Flow Project Proposed

To All,

Here is some background on the Russian River Fish Flow Project that includes the Biological Opinion on the lower Russian River that focused on the estuary near the mouth for salmonid development.

Need for the Proposed Project

Coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead were once abundant in the Russian
River watershed. Today, coho are on the brink of extinction (and are
listed as endangered on state and federal endangered species lists and
Chinook and steelhead are listed as threatened in the Russian River
watershed.

In 2008, a federal agency (National Marine Fisheries Service) determined
in its Russian River Biological Opinion that by lowering the minimum
amount and reducing the velocity of stream flows, the Water Agency can
create better habitat for coho and steelhead. When these fish are young,
the velocity of the water in Dry Creek and the Russian River makes it
difficult for them to thrive. A state agency (California Department of
Fish and Wildlife) agreed with the federal government (it issued a
Consistency Determination on the Russian River Biological Opinion) as
coho salmon are also listed as endangered under the California
Endangered Species Act.

In order to avoid jeopardizing these species, comply with the Endangered
Species Act, and continue to operate its system of supplying water to
600,000 people, the Water Agency is asking the state (the State Water
Resources Control Board (State Water Board)) to modify its existing
water right permits to comply with this federal determination.

Starting in 2010, the Water Agency was required by the Biological
Opinion to request temporary changes to minimum instream flow
requirements on the Russian River during the summer months to improve
conditions for young salmon. Once the State Water Board approves the
proposed changes, the Water Agency will no longer have to ask for
changes on an annual basis.

Primary Components of the Proposed Project

The Fish Flow Project includes proposed changes to State Water Board
Decision 1610 in 1986, plus other technical and clarifying amendments to
the Water Agency’s water rights.

The Fish Flow Project has five purposes:
Comply with National Marine Fisheries Service’s Russian River
Biological Opinion, which requires the Water Agency to ask the State
Water Board to lower minimum instream flow requirements in the Russian
River and Dry Creek in order to improve conditions for coho and
steelhead. Improve conditions for threatened Chinook salmon, by better
preserving cold water in Lake Mendocino, which can be released for the
fall Chinook migration. Replace a measuring requirement in the Water
Agency’s water right permits, called the hydrologic index, to
better reflect conditions in the Russian River watershed. Extend to 2040
the Water Agency’s right to divert and re-divert 75,000 acre feet of
water annually, in order to ensure a reliable water supply for more than
600,000 people. Add existing points of diversion for Occidental
Community Service District and the Town of Windsor as authorized points
of diversion in the Water Agency’s water right permits.

Proposed Flows

After extensive modeling by Water Agency staff and consultants, and
consultation with National Marine Fisheries Service and California
Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Fish Flow Project proposes a
five-step flow schedule, based on hydrologic conditions (explained
below). The five-step schedule, with Schedule 1 being the wettest years
and Schedule 5, the driest, results in five different schedules of
flows.

• In the upper river (above the confluence of Dry Creek and the river):
For the wettest years (Schedule 1), minimum proposed flows would be 105
cubic feet per second (cfs) year round. In the driest years (Schedule
5), minimum instream flows are proposed to be 25 cfs.

• In the lower river (below the confluence of Dry Creek and the river):
For the wettest years (Schedule 1), minimum proposed flows would be 135
cfs October 16 through April and 70 cfs from May through October 15. In
the driest years (Schedule 5), minimum instream flows are proposed to be
35 cfs year round.

• In Dry Creek: For the wettest years (Schedule 1), minimum proposed
flows would be 75 cfs January through April, 50 cfs May through October
15 and between October 16 and December 31, 105 cfs. In the driest years
(Schedule 5), minimum instream flows are proposed to be 75 cfs October
16 through March and between April and October 15, 50 cfs.

Modeling finds that 68 percent of the time, Schedule 1 would likely be
used. In only 1 percent of the time — during drought — would Schedule
5 likely be used. Of the remaining years, Schedule 2 would likely be
used 20 percent of the time; Schedule 3, 6 percent; and Schedule 4, 4
percent. While the Water Agency is requesting that the State Water Board
lower minimum instream flow requirements, flows will rarely reach the
minimums because Water Agency operators manage flows with a buffer of
about 15 cfs to account for water loss along the river and in Dry Creek.

Determining Hydrologic Conditions

Currently, minimum instream flows are set depending on hydrologic
conditions as measured at Lake Pillsbury, which is part of PG&E’s
Potter Valley Project. Lake Pillsbury is located in Lake County, outside
the Russian River watershed. Since 2006, there has been a 60 percent
reduction in the amount of water annually diverted from the Eel River to
the East Branch Russian River (and eventually Lake Mendocino) via the
Potter Valley Project. The Fish Flow Project proposes changing the
hydrologic index to the Russian River watershed to more accurately
reflect conditions in Lake Mendocino and the Russian River.

Currently, minimum instream flows are set depending on whether
hydrologic conditions as measured at Lake Pillsbury are normal,
dry or critical. While this three-step schedule is easy to
understand, it may not accurately depict watershed conditions, nor does
it allow the Water Agency to quickly adjust to changing conditions. For
example, the hydrologic condition may be normal for several
rainless winter months, until it finally drops to the dry schedule
using the current hydrologic index.

The Fish Flow Project includes a one through five index naming system a
practice commonly used in other watersheds). Schedule 1 refers to the
wettest conditions; Schedule 5 is the driest. The proposed naming system
is a one through five index (a practice commonly used in other
watersheds). Schedule 1 refers to the wettest conditions; Schedule 5 is
the driest.

Adding two more steps in the schedule will allow for more responsive
management of water storage. This is particularly true for Lake
Mendocino during the summer and fall months when it’s important to
preserve cold water for later releases to benefit rearing steelhead and
the fall-run Chinook salmon migration. The proposed five schedules will
allow for additional, smaller reductions in minimum instream flows,
particularly in the Upper Russian River – benefiting fish and habitat
and water supply reliability.

Posted in Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Comments Off on Background on Russian River Fish Flow Project Proposed