Biologists with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have concluded that current flow levels in the Russian River and Dry Creek during the summer are too high for young coho salmon and steelhead. NMFS biologists believe that reducing summertime flows in the Russian River and Dry Creek would provide better fishery habitat by reducing velocity, minimizing the need to artificially breach the sandbar at the river mouth, and potentially improving estuary conditions for steelhead by allowing the formation of a freshwater lagoon.
Sonoma Water is preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project (Fish Flow Project). The EIR will be prepared by Sonoma Water in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the State CEQA Guidelines, and Sonoma Water’s “Procedures for the Implementation of CEQA.” Sonoma Water will be the lead agency and will consider all comments from responsible and trustee agencies, property owners, and interested persons and parties regarding the scope and content of the information to be included in the EIR. The Fish Flow Project is required by the 2008 National Marine Fisheries Service’s Russian River Biological Opinion. Comments on the Notice of Preparation closed on Monday, November 12, 2010.
The Russian River Biological Opinion, issued in September 2008 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, requires the Sonoma Water to file for permanent changes in the minimum instream flow requirements, which are established in Sonoma Water’s water rights permits and State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) Decision 1610, within a year of issuance of the Biological Opinion. On September 23, 2009, Sonoma Water filed the required petitions to amend Sonoma Water’s water rights permits.
On August 16, 2016, Sonoma Water requested that the State Water Board cancel the petitions filed on September 23, 2009, as well as the outstanding time extension petitions for Permits 12949, 12950 and 16596 that were filed on October 11, 1999, and filed new petitions for revised permanent changes to the Decision 1610 minimum instream flow requirements, revised time extensions, and modifications to the hydrologic index that assesses hydrologic water supply conditions in the watershed.
The Temporary Urgency Change Petition was submitted as required by the Russian River Biological Opinion issued by NOAA National Marine Fisheries Services. The Petition requests that the Division of Water Rights act expeditiously to approve the requested changes to minimum in-stream flows as identified in the Biological Opinion.