Background | Estuary | Flows | Dry Creek | Fisheries
About Dry Creek:
From its outlet in Warm Springs Dam, Dry Creek meanders 14 miles to the Russian River. The creek is home to endangered coho salmon and threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead (including steelhead raised at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery). The creek also serves as a conduit for water that is released from Lake Sonoma by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the winter for flood control purposes and by the Water Agency in the summer for water supply.
The biological opinion proposes enhancing six miles of habitat along Dry Creek over a 12- year period to create low velocity areas for juvenile coho and steelhead.
What's Happening Now:
New Feature Article: Read about salmon restoration in the Russian River watershed and Dry Creek in a June 13, 2014 article published on climate.gov
“Pairing wine with salmon: climate lessons from California.”
Elements of the Dry Creek habitat enhancement projects include bank stabilization to reduce erosion, anchored boulders to create riffles (small rapids that increase the amount of oxygen in the water), anchored log jams to provide refuge and to slow the water, constructed backwaters and side channels to give the young fish places to escape high flows and native plants to reduce erosion and create shade.
Dry Creek Demonstration Project
The Water Agency is working with a willing group of landowners–including Amista Vineyards, Dry Creek Vineyard, Seghesio Family Vineyards, Rued Winery, Quivira Vineyards and Winery, Yellow Dog Vineyard, Doug Lipton, Carole & Geno Mascherini, Peter & Marian Van Alyea and Ron Wolmer–to construct about one mile of habitat enhancements above and below Lambert Bridge.
The purpose of the project is to demonstrate to regulators, landowners, and local decision makers the feasibility of Dry Creek habitat enhancements on a smaller scale and, in particular, to determine how they could be constructed, what they may ultimately look like, and how effective they are before implementing the full six miles of habitat enhancements on Dry Creek. Construction began in summer 2012, continued in summer 2013 and will be completed in summer 2014.
The Quivira portion of the project was completed in the fall of 2012. Over heavy periods of rain, antennas in the new backwater channel registered steelhead fish taking advantage of the calm waters. Fisheries staff have also recorded many fish in the backwater.
Before, during and after construction of a backwater pond at Amista Vineyards.
On June 16, 2014 contractors began summer 2014 construction. Expect to see trucks with logs, tree roots and boulders in the area (West Dry Crek Road, Dry Creek Road and Lambert Bridge Road). Construction will take place on weekdays, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m., and traffic interruptions will be minimal.
In 2013, the Corps enhanced 1,400-feet of property it owns immediately below the bridge at Warm Springs Dam.
Dry Creek Project (Miles 2-6)
Notice of Preparation: The Sonoma County Water Agency (Water Agency) is preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project, Miles 2-6 (Dry Creek Project), in accordance with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The public comment period for the Notice of Preparation closed on June 12th.
The Water Agency and their contractors, ESA PWA and Interfluve, have been conducting site surveys since March 2014 to determine feasible project sites for the remaining five miles of habitat enhancements on Dry Creek. Preliminary concepts are currently in development.
Fish Studies & Monitoring
To determine whether and how habitat enhancements are helping coho and steelhead, the Water Agency measures and monitors fish at several locations in Dry Creek during different times of the year. Techniques include large rotary screw traps (which safely capture fish and are checked daily), snorkeling surveys, and electrofishing.
Dry Creek Studies:
The Russian River Biological Opinion found that summer flows in the upper Russian River and Dry Creek are too high for optimal juvenile coho salmon and steelhead habitat. Current summer flows in the creek range from 110 to 175 cubic feet per second (cfs), which makes it difficult for the young fish to thrive. The Biological Opinion recognizes that large reductions in the summertime flows in Dry Creek would limit the Water Agency’s ability to deliver water to its customers. Therefore, the Biological Opinion requires habitat enhancement of six miles of Dry Creek to improve summer rearing conditions for coho salmon and steelhead while allowing the Water Agency to maintain the existing flow range in Dry Creek of 110 to 175 cfs.
The Fish Habitat Enhancement Feasibility study found that there are 45 opportunities for habitat enhancement in Dry Creek.
A second study was released in April 2011. The Biological Opinion requires that the Water Agency study the feasibility of building a pipeline to bypass Dry Creek in the unlikely event that habitat enhancement is unsuccessful. The “Plan B” study, "Feasibility Study for Dry Creek Bypass Pipeline Project" analyzed options for getting water from Lake Sonoma into a pipeline (the inlet); potential routes (the alignment); and putting water from the pipeline into the Russia River or Dry Creek (the outlet).
An overview of the two studies and the studies themselves can be viewed at:
- Overview of Draft Habitat Enhancement & Draft Pipeline Feasibility Studies (PDF)
- Habitat Enhancement Study, April 2011 (PDF)
- Habitat Enhancement Presentation, May 2011 (PDF)
- Habitat Enhancement Conceptual Design Report, July 2012 (PDF)
- Pipeline Feasibility Study - Final (PDF)
- Pipeline Feasibility Presentation, May 2011 (PDF)
In 2010, a Dry Creek Current Conditions Inventory (PDF) was released.
Dry Creek Advisory Group:
The Dry Creek Advisory Group, representing a range of interests, is meeting periodically to inform efforts to implement the Biological Opinion in the Dry Creek watershed. Members are available to local residents and community organizations to answer questions and share information about the Advisory Group's work.