Low Flow Alternatives Comment Letter

Please copy and paste the comment letter below, then email comments to fishflow-eir@scwa.ca.gov as well as to your local county supervisor.

You can find your district here if you are unsure.


I am submitting these comments relating to the Draft EIR (DEIR) for the Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project written by the Sonoma County Water Agency. I have reviewed the Draft EIR and am very concerned about how the proposed flow reductions and schedule will worsen the baseline “significant and unavoidable” water quality impacts from Biostimulatory Substances with “no mitigation available” (DEIR, Impact 4.2-4.) This is not acceptable because this water quality impact negatively affects not just human recreational use but will potentially reduce concentrations of dissolved oxygen that could harm the very species the DEIR claims to “improve habitat” for. Increases in the concentrations of Biostimulatory Substances will certainly occur due to lower dilution so this project will produce secondary negative impacts to fish, especially when the Biostimulatory Substances end up in a closed estuary that already has high concentrations of phosphorous.

There are several alternatives to the proposed flow schedule reductions in summer minimum flows that would reduce impacts to Biostimulatory Substances and temperature and the DEIR must evaluate feasible alternatives to comply with CEQA law.

In order to reduce predicted significant and unavoidable water quality impacts, the Final EIR for the Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project should evaluate the following feasible alternatives to the flow reductions proposed in the DEIR. These alternatives will meet Project Objectives to preserve the cold-water pool in Lake Mendocino and reduce mechanical breaching of the sandbar at the Estuary.

  1. Require SCWA to fund a Russian River Watermaster and supporting staff and provide authority to monitor and investigate diversions on the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and Jenner, to enforce against any and all unauthorized diversions and develop improved water efficiency programs to meet the DEIR Project Objective to conserve storage in Lake Mendocino to preserve the cold-water pool and improve systems reliability.
  1. Evaluate the benefits of a requirement in the final water right order to include terms functionally equivalent to Term 15 and 18 of WRO 2009-0034-EXEC to review and update “identification of Russian River water users who are not subject to SCWA’s authority to impose mandatory Conservation measures” in all final SCWA water rights permits. This requirement should include identification of any Russian River Water users with junior or riparian rights that are not lawfully allowed to divert water that is not natural flow as defined in the California Water Code. Additionally include provisions to the Final Water Rights Order to require SCWA to post daily notices to the public of whether the Russian River mainstem flows are supplemented by project water from Lake Mendocino releases.
  1. In the Final EIR evaluate the amount of water that is “depleted” from the Russian River due to junior or riparian rights holders who are not allowed to divert water that is stored and released or, in other words, water that is not defined as “natural flow” in the California Water Code. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine the volume of water that is unlawfully diverted and what steps can be taken to curtail those diversions to meet the DEIR Project Objective to conserve storage in Lake Mendocino.
  1. Use Petition process with SWRCB Division of Water Rights to reserve 15,000 acre feet in Lake Mendocino with the highest priority right to ensure preservation of the cold-water pool and to provide flow increases in responses to declines in water quality or migration impairments.
  1. The Final EIR must study an alternative to eliminate the current flood control breeching of the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River through elevating flood prone structures rather than strictly rely on flow reductions in order to avoid or reduce Impact 4.2-4. This also addresses the cumulative impacts from increasing air temperatures and sea level rise predicted due to Climate Change. This is a feasible alternative that has been implemented on two other coastal estuaries in California.

Implementing these alternatives would provide the following benefits:

  1. Meet Project Objectives.
  2. Reduce significant and unavoidable impacts to water quality.
  3. Provide a means to address cumulative impacts of Sea Level Rise.
  4. Allow a lower reduction in stream flows to avoid concentration of biostimulatory conditions and significant increases in temperature.