Dry Creek

    Background | Estuary | Flows | Dry Creek | Fisheries | Mirabel | Public Outreach


    Dry Creek

    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:

    Safe Harbor Agreement

    The Dry Creek Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) is a voluntary agreement with landowners who are participating in the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project. The SHA provides these landowners with additional protections under the Endangered Species Act. Dry Creek Vineyard was the first landowner to sign-up for the SHA.


    Annual Dry Creek Community Meeting Held

    The annual Dry Creek Community Meeting was held January 14, 2016 at the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center. Representatives from the Water Agency, NOAA and the US Army Corps of Engineers provided the community with an update on the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project. The meeting was well attended and Fourth District Supervisor James Gore facilitated a lively discussion.

    The presentation can be viewed here: Dry Creek Community Meeting Presentation


    Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Bulletin

    In an effort to keep local residents and potential project partners informed about the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project, the Water Agency has published Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Bulletin. The eight-page newsletter provides background information on the need for the habitat project, progress on habitat enhancements, details about how the Water Agency is measuring the success of the project, and a profile of some of the first property owners to participate in the project.

    You can read the bulletin here: Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Bulletin


    Salmon Stewards of Dry Creek Program Launched

    In recognition of their extraordinary stewardship and commitment to the health of the creek, the Water Agency is recognizing landowners (listed below) participating in the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project as "Salmon Stewards of Dry Creek." Thanks to their participation, young coho salmon and steelhead now have multiple areas of refuge from the high flows in the creek.



    Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Demonstration Project

    Starting in 2010, the Water Agency worked with a willing group of landowners – including Amista Vineyards, Dry Creek Vineyard, the Seghesio Family, 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, and was completed in November 2014.

    dry creek pre-construction


    dry creek during construction

    During Construction

    dry creek post-construction


    Dry creek high water event

    Post-Construction High Water Event


    View more construction photos on the Water Agency's Facebook Page...

    Watch a video of December 2012's high flows in Dry Creek. Principal Program Specialist Dave Manning tells us why fish like the new backwater channel located at Quivira Winery.



    Dry Creek Project (Miles 2-6) is Under Way

    The Water Agency and its contractors, ESA PWA and Interfluve, conducted site surveys and talked to landowners to determine feasible project sites for Miles 2 & 3 of habitat enhancements. The map below indicates possible locations. Preliminary concepts have been developed and discussed with landowners. Based on feedback, ESA PWA and Interfluve are working on more detailed designs.

    Environmental Impact Report Prepared for Miles 2-6

    The Water Agency has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) to disclose the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project, Miles 2-6. The Draft EIR is available electronically at http://www.sonomacountywater.org/environmental-documents/ Hard copies of the Draft EIR are available for purchase at (707) 547-1900 or at the Water Agency’s administrative office. Hard copies are also available for review at the following locations:

    • Sonoma County Water Agency Administrative Office: 404 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA, 95403
    • Healdsburg Regional Library: 139 Piper St., Healdsburg, CA 95448
    • Sonoma County Central Library: 211 E St., Santa Rosa, CA 95404

    The 45-day review period begins on July 10, 2015, and closes at 5 p.m. on August 24, 2015. A public hearing on the Draft EIR will be held before the Water Agency Board of Directors on August 11, 2015, at 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive, Room 102A, Santa Rosa, CA.

    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.

    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.


    Fisheries 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:

    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.