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Water agency, partners eye Russian River update, plan

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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.

“It’s exciting to see the pieces coming together and this meeting is a chance to highlight successes as well as understand challenges moving forward,” said Efren Carrillo, chairman of the Public Policy Facilitating Committee. Carrillo also serves as water agency director and is a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, representing the Fifth District that encompasses the county’s western region.

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Jan. 17, at the county Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive in Santa Rosa. Panel members will hear updates on the Dry Creek project and the state of the estuary. Committee members will also discuss the major focuses of 2014.

Members of the public are welcome and will have the opportunity to comment. For more information about the Russian River Biological Opinion, visit sonomacountywater.org/rrifr. For more meeting details, contact Pam Kuhn at 547-1930 or pamela.kuhn@scwa.ca.gov.