Studies Begin of Historic Russian River Estuary Jetty


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    March 3, 2013 - For Immediate Release 

    CONTACT: Ann DuBay, 707.524.8378, 707.322.8185 (cell,)

    Jenner, CA – On March 6, the Sonoma County Water Agency will begin field studies of the historic Goat Rock Beach State Park jetty. Goat Rock Beach State Park will remain open during the studies. Weather permitting, the majority of the studies will take place Monday through Thursday until March 14. One of the studies will include several four-hour visits over eight months.

    “People shouldn’t hesitate to visit beautiful Goat Rock Beach State Park during the study,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director Efren Carrillo. “Our crews will be assessing some areas of the beach Monday through Thursday for a couple of weeks learning more about the jetty.  Impacts on visitors should be relatively minor.”

    Beginning in the early 1930s, a series of private companies built a jetty at the mouth of the Russian River with the goal of keeping the river mouth open to allow shipping. Over the next two decades, material was added to the jetty but the effort was abandoned when the jetty failed to keep the river mouth open. Today, most of the jetty is buried under sand.  The Russian River Biological Opinion requires the Water Agency to study the jetty to learn if and how it impacts the formation of the sand bar (known as a “barrier beach”) at the mouth of the Russian River estuary and the impact of the jetty on water levels in the estuary.

    The field studies include three components:

    • Monitoring wells to determine how and where water seeps through the barrier beach and jetty, both from the Russian River and from the ocean.
    • Seismic refraction, electrical resistivity profiling and ground penetrating radar will be used to map materials that have been buried by sand.
    • Electromagnetic profiles will be collected once the initial mapping surveys have been completed to explore how the jetty impacts water seeping through the beach. 

    Seals and other pinnipeds will be monitored during the studies.

    About the Russian River Biological Opinion and the Russian River Estuary

    The Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service in September 2008 required the Water Agency to change the way the estuary is managed in the summer. The purpose of the estuary adaptive management plan is to enhance summer habitat for young steelhead while minimizing flood risk in the estuary.

    Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Water Agency took on the continuing role of artificially breaching the sandbar when it closes and increasing water levels in the estuary that threaten low-lying properties.  The Biological Opinion called for managing the estuary as a summer lagoon to enhance conditions for steelhead to grow and thrive, giving them a better chance to survive ocean conditions.

    The Biological Opinion also requires the Water Agency to study the historic jetty. The field studies will be used to describe the extent and composition of the jetty; understand the jetty’s effects on beach permeability, sand storage and sand transport; and evaluate the jetty’s role in flood risk to property adjacent to the estuary.  This information will be used to evaluate what role the jetty plays in barrier beach formation, its influence on water surface elevations within the estuary, and if feasible alternatives exist for modifying or removing the jetty to enhance management of the estuary.

    More information about the estuary can be found at


    The Sonoma County Water Agency is working to secure our future by investing in our water resources, community and environment.  The Water Agency provides water supply, flood protection and sanitation services for portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. Visit us on the Web at


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