Russian River Compact

    DRAFT Russian River Compact

    The health of the Russian River and its tributaries is vital to all that live within the watershed’s boundaries, and untold others who benefit from its waters.

    The Russian River system is a living ecosystem that binds the natural and human communities of the North Bay providing fresh water for 600,000 people; irrigation for agriculture (including our world class wine industry and growing organic sector); recreation and inspiration for residents and visitors; and habitat for a multitude of species.

    The Russian River is a microcosm of California’s rivers: Its natural flows have been harnessed; its waters diverted, impounded and drained, its tributaries obstructed, its riverbed and banks altered. Over the years, innumerable human projects have sometimes provided benefits, but taken together have resulted in extensive degradation of the river system. Today three salmon species – prime indicators of the River’s health – are threatened or endangered.

    In these difficult economic times, one of the few certainties is that major accomplishments can only be reached through partnerships. Our goal is the restoration and enhancement of the entire Russian River Watershed so that it can support thriving bio- diverse populations, be resilient in the face of changing climate conditions, withstand damaging floods, provide clean water and support a sustainable economy. The Russian River Compact is our pledge to move forward together with science-based restoration and enhancement projects to reach that goal.

    In doing so we will be guided by seven major principles:

    • Cooperation and Coordination. We will share our knowledge and resources to develop projects that have the best lasting long-term impacts, add value to major recovery goals, reduce duplication, and cut costs.
    • Good Science. We will use the best available science to develop, implement and monitor policies and projects to ensure long term success.
    • Gap Analysis and Prioritization. We will endeavor to determine both what needs to be done to maximize natural and public benefits, and when it should be done.
    • Stakeholder Involvement. We will work to involve local residents and landowners in the support, design and implementation of projects.
    • Public Review and Transparency. We will provide the public with information and avenues for input on proposed projects.
    • Adaptation. Our projects will serve the present but always look to the future. Projects will be monitored and be revisited in response to unanticipated consequences or dramatic shifts in the watershed’s environment.
    • Multi-Agency Cooperation. We will strive to bridge cultural differences between public agencies and coordinate permitting and oversight to in order to ensure that projects fit within agency goals, recovery plans, legal mandates and regulations - and to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.

    We recognize that our goals are ambitious and challenging, and require the sustained efforts of many individuals and organizations over many years. We join together as stakeholders and advocates, experts and professionals, and simply as people who share a love of our place on Earth.

    Russian River Compact Benefits

    The Russian River Compact is a pledge to work cooperatively to restore and enhance the 1500 square mile Russian River watershed. Working together, signatories of the Compact will benefit the watershed, themselves, partners and the public as they:

    1. Arrive at a more comprehensive approach to watershed restoration and management by setting science-based restoration and enhancement priorities and ensuring that projects do not have conflicting goals
    2. Ensure that more urgent restoration projects get priority status.
    3. Exchange data, expertise, cost-saving strategies, resources and local lore to ensure better projects are delivered quickly.
    4. Build trust between landowners, regulators and funding agencies so that differences can be expeditiously resolved without expensive litigation.
    5. Take advantage of federal, state and private grant programs that encourage or require cooperative partnerships.
    6. Combine individual strengths of Compact partners to achieve restoration goals, i.e. RCD landowner communication and restoration experience; public agency familiarity with political and bureaucratic processes; land trusts’ conservation easement and funding expertise.
    7. Increase communication between diverse Russian River stakeholders so that all share a basic understanding of others intentions, policies and issues.
    8. Provide a common front to approach elected representatives to champion legislation and policies that support restoration goals.
    9. Provide ongoing communication with regulators to achieve better projects, reduce chances for surprises and result in quicker permit approvals.
    10. Increase the chances, through good organization, effective outreach and a strong track record, that Russian River watershed projects will be able to attract funders on state-wide and national levels.


    For More Information

    For more information or questions about the Russian River Compact, please contact:

    Brad Sherwood
    Sonoma County Water Agency