Background | Estuary | Flows | Dry Creek | Fisheries | Mirabel | Public Outreach
About the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project
The Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project provides a unique opportunity for the Water Agency and landowners to enhance habitat for endangered fish species in the Russian River watershed while continuing to deliver water to approximately 600,000 customers. The National Marine Fisheries Service and California Department of Fish & Wildlife biologists have determined
that excessive water velocities and lack of suitable rearing habitat in Dry Creek threaten the recovery of endangered Coho and Steelhead.
The Habitat Enhancement Project is creating habitat features that provide low-velocity areas for juvenile Coho and Steelhead along six miles of the 14-mile length of Dry Creek, while still allowing the Water Agency to use Dry Creek as a means of moving water downstream for water supply purposes. The first mile of the project, known as the Demonstration Project, was completed in 2014 near Lambert Bridge.
Working with willing landowners, five additional miles of habitat enhancements will be constructed by 2020. The Water Agency and its contractors are currently designing and constructing miles 2 & 3 of the project, and conducting preliminary design for miles 4-6 of habitat enhancements. The continued cooperation of property owners and the support of the community are key to the success of this program.
For more information about project, contact Barry Dugan, Programs Specialist, at 547-1930 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Work Completed in Summer of 2016
Work on the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Project made significant progress last summer with more than a half mile of habitat enhancement features being completed. Construction crews in 2017 will take up where they left off last year as the Sonoma County Water Agency (Water Agency) continues to work toward the goal of enhancing a total of six miles of Dry Creek habitat to improve conditions for endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead.
Two large habitat features on the Truett Hurst Winery, Meyer family, and Williamson Winery properties were completed during last summer’s construction season. In 2017, construction is planned on two additional habitat features just downstream from Truett Hurst, spanning the property of the Meyer family, Carlson Family, and Lone Star Vineyards. Habitat construction will also continue just downstream of the Westside Road Bridge on property owned by the City of Healdsburg and the DaVero Farms & Winery.
|The downstream end of a side channel on the Meyer property (on the right) re-connects with the main channel of Dry Creek.|
|Construction of a side channel (above) was completed last summer on the Orsi property downstream of the Westside Road Bridge.|
The habitat enhancement features planned for these sites include side channels, riffles, backwaters and alcoves to slow the speed of the water and create refuge for young fish. The features will be constructed using natural materials such as logs and rocks. Bank stabilization measures will prevent or reduce erosion and provide vegetation cover.
What's Been Built and What Is Planned
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.
What's Happening Now:
Annual Dry Creek Community Meeting Held
The annual Dry Creek Community Meeting was held February 15, 2017 at the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center. Representatives from the Water Agency 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: 2017 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 publishes the Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Bulletin. The six-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 profiles of some of the property owners participating in the project.
You can read the bulletin here:
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.
- Read the Press Release
- A Landowner’s guide to Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement “Safe Harbor” Agreement
- Watch the video explaining the Safe Harbor Agreement
Salmon Stewards of Dry Creek Program Acknowledges Landowner Cooperation
In recognition of their extraordinary stewardship and commitment to the health of the creek, the Water Agency is recognizing landowners 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. Landowners who participate in the habitat enhancement project can display the Salmon Steward of Dry Creek sign on their property to indicate to their customers and neighbors that they support the project. Michael and Vicky Farrow (at right) display their Salmont Steward of Dry Creek sign outside their tasting room at Amista Vineyards. The Farrows participated in the Demonstration Project that was started in 2010.
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.
- Download a flyer on Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Demonstration Project
- Download Conceptual Design Report (July 2012)
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.
Environmental Impact Report Prepared for Miles 2-6
The Water Agency 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/
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:
- 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.