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Public hearing set on Russian River watershed fish plan

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A 15-year blueprint to help restore endangered and threatened fish to the Russian River watershed, while maintaining the region’s primary water supply, is the subject of an upcoming meeting.

On Friday, Jan. 17, the Public Policy Facilitating Committee (PPFC) will meet from 10 a.m. to noon Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa, for an annual update on the Russian River Biological Opinion.

The Biological Opinion was released by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in September 2008. This 15-year plan requires the Sonoma County Water Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to modify Russian River water supply and flood control operations to prevent harm to endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout. The PPFC – comprised of elected and appointed officials from public agencies throughout the region – meets annually to review progress.

“The water agency and its partners have made a lot of progress. Studies have revealed new information about how fish live in the Russian River estuary, the first mile of the six-mile Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project is well underway and in November, we released young coho into newly created habitat,” said PPFC Chairman Efren Carrillo, a water agency director and a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “It’s exciting to see the pieces coming together and this meeting is a chance to highlight the successes as well as understand the challenges moving forward.”

The Biological Opinion requirements include reducing minimum summertime flows in the Russian River and Dry Creek; changing the way the sandbar is breached at the estuary between May 15 and Oct. 15; enhancing habitat in Dry Creek; and fish monitoring. Topics to be covered on Jan. 17 include a review of a study on invertebrates that live in the estuary (a primary source of food for steelhead before they enter the ocean), the results of extensive fish surveys and the construction of large habitat enhancement projects in Dry Creek. The public will have an opportunity to comment.

For additional information, contact Pam Kuhn at 547-1930 or Pamela.kuhn@scwa.ca.gov. Learn more about the Russian River Biological Opinion at scwa.ca.gov/rrifr.