Restoration and Fish Passage Projects
The Agency sponsors and conducts riparian and aquatic habitat restoration projects within the Russian River watershed and adjacent watersheds. Through restoration projects, the Agency strives to improve habitat for fish and other aquatic species and restore runs of salmonid species that have been negatively impacted by current and historic watershed uses. Several of these reports may be downloaded and viewed from the links provided below.
Mirabel Fish Screen and Fish Ladder Replacement Project
Coho salmon and steelhead will soon find it easier to live in Grape Creek, a major tributary to Dry Creek.
The Water Agency, in partnership with Sotoyome Resource Conservation District and landowner Karl Kowalski, is completing a 1,250-foot habitat restoration project on the creek (also known as Wine Creek). The project will enhance pools, shade, and shelter for young salmon and steelhead as they spend a critical first year or two in freshwater before migrating to the ocean.
This is the first phase of a project mandated by the Russian River Biological Opinion to be completed - and it couldn't have been done without the help of landowner Kowalski.
"Because so much of the land bordering Dry Creek, its tributaries and the Russian River is in private hands, partnerships with property owners are key to completing Biological Opinion mandates," said David Manning, Water Agency principal environmental specialist. "Sotoyome RCD has great relationships with landowners and worked closely with Karl Kowalski throughout this project."
"California Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries Service were also key partners," said Manning. "With the cooperation of these agencies, we were able to expedite permitting for the project."
The cold water released from Lake Sonoma into Dry Creek is ideal for coho salmon and steelhead, but the velocity of the water released from the dam is too high for young fish. The Biological Opinion addresses this problem by mandating the creation of pools, backwaters and side channels on six miles of the 14-mile creek. The Biological Opinion also requires the Water Agency to construct five projects on Dry Creek tributaries which serve as the first homes for many of the yearling coho raised by the coho broodstock program at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery.
"By installing log structures and planting native species that will soon provide shade, we're creating something very similar to what naturally occurs in Grape Creek," Manning said. "In essence, we're giving Nature a boost in an effort to give endangered coho the best possible chance at survival."
Coho numbers have declined precipitously during the last decade, with the fish disappearing completely from several Russian River tributaries.
Fish monitoring studies in Dry Creek help quantify the magnitude of the problem. This spring and summer a fish trap near the mouth the creek captured young fish as they migrated downstream to the river and eventually the ocean. Approximately 20,000 Chinook salmon and 3,400 steelhead were trapped, but only three coho were captured.
The second phase of the Grape Creek project, which involves the stabilization of eroding streambanks, additional log structures, and riparian planting along 750 feet of stream, is slated to begin this fall. In coming years, additional Dry Creek tributary enhancement projects will improve the ability of adult salmon and steelhead to migrate upstream by modifying bridges, culverts, and difficult to ascend areas in Grape, Wallace, Crane, and Mill Creeks.
MUMFORD DAM FISH PASSAGE AND RIPARIAN RESTORATION PROJECT
In partnership the Sonoma County Water Agency, California Department of Fish and Game, Coastal Conservancy, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and American Rivers provided fish passage over a major barrier to anadromous fish migration on the West Fork of the Russian River.
CROCKER CREEK DAM REMOVAL PROJECT
Historically, the Crocker Creek Dam was a concrete buttress dam approximately 30 feet high and 100 feet wide and was originally constructed in the early 1900s. In 1995, dam partially collapsed and the creek upstream of the dam experienced major erosion. The dilapidated dam continued to obstruct fish passage. The restoration project consisted of demolishing the remaining dam, biotechnical channel adjustments, and bank recontouring and revegetation. Adult steelhead were observed spawning above the restored dam area beginning in 2005 and several native amphibians now live and breed in the restored creek.
COPELAND CREEK RESTORATION PROJECT
This project restored approximately 6,000 feet of Copeland Creek, which was intensively grazed by cattle for over a century. Starting in 1999, the project was implemented in several phases. The final phase of construction was completed during fall 2007. The project aimed to stabilize banks, decrease creek sediment load, fence and exclude cattle from the creek, and improve habitat for steelhead and other native fish and wildlife.
UPPER AUSTIN CREEK (TYRELL PROPERTY) RESTORATION PROJECT
This stream restoration project is located on Austin Creek north of Cazadero. The creek had been degraded from landslides and much of the riparian vegetation had been lost, Restoration began in 1998 and included the installation of willow baffles to stabilize loose sediment and maintain a single stream channel, and installation of willow walls to stabilize eroding banks. Fish and wildlife monitoring in 2008 found an abundance of aquatic native species including spawning adult steelhead, juvenile steelhead, foothill yellow-legged frog and their egg masses, western toad, rough-skinned newt, red-bellied newt, and western pond turtle.