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Water agency, partners eye Russian River update, plan

The Sonoma County Water Agency and partners are meeting this Friday to discuss protecting fish while maintaining water supply in the Russian River watershed – all part of an annual update on the Russian River Biological Opinion.

The biological opinion, originally released by the National Marine Fisheries Services in September 2008, is a part of the 15-year plan requiring the water agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change flood control and water supply operations in order to better protect endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout.

The biological opinion mandates minimum summertime flows in the Russian River and Dry Creek, changing the way the ocean sandbar is breached at the mouth of the estuary from mid-May to mid-October, enhancing Dry Creek habitat and monitoring fish.

The group meeting this Friday – known as the Public Policy Facilitating Committee – includes elected and appointed officials from public agencies throughout the region. They meet each year to review the progress in advancing the Russian River watershed, not only as a viable primary water supply for surrounding areas, but also as a thriving habitat for fish.

Through the Dry Creek Enhancement Project, the water agency and Corps of Engineers are working to restore a six-mile portion of Dry Creek outside Healdsburg, Geyserville and in the surrounding area. Last November, 2,000 young coho were released in two Dry Creek locations as part of the restoration efforts.

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