One of the most challenging limiting factors to recovery of the endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout is low summer streamflow. As water is diverted from streams from instream pumps or alluvial wells, stream levels drop, leading to warmer water temperatures, disconnected pools, low dissolved oxygen levels, and even completely dry streambeds. This threatens rearing juveniles that must survive in stream pools throughout the summer. Other wildlife species also depend on summer streamflow for drinking water and food sources. The Gold Ridge RCD, in partnership with the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership and many funding agencies, has launched multiple streamflow enhancement projects to augment late summer flows in the most critical coho rearing reaches of the Green Valley and Dutch Bill Creek watersheds.
Projects include large-scale winter water storage to offset summer stream withdrawals, late summer streamflow augmentation from large agricultural ponds, and water conservation on irrigated agricultural lands. Research has shown that late summer streamflow increases of as little as 0.1 cfs (cubic feet per second) can significantly improve juvenile coho survival rates by extending the timeframe that pools remain connected (Mill Creek Streamflow Improvement Plan, 2015). The following projects contribute 0.1 cfs or more to their streams.
Westview Jersey Dairy Water Conservation Project: A 1.4-million gallon rainwater catchment pond was constructed on the Westview Jersey Dairy in the Salmon Creek watershed, eliminating summer diversions from the mainstem. Providing an alternative source of water for the dairy's use conserves approximately 7,000 gallons of water in Salmon Creek per summer day for wildlife. Read more.
Water Reliability Program: Currently, funds are available for full design and construction of alternative water storage and rainwater capture projects through the Coho Partnership for landowners whose current water source impacts coho salmon habitats most directly. Landowners on the upper reaches of Green Valley Creek and its tributaries and Dutch Bill Creek and its tributaries may be eligible for funding. Read more.
Dutch Bill Creek Water Release Project: In collaboration with the Coho Partnership, the Gold Ridge RCD also participated in the release of water from the Camp Meeker system, which pumps from the Russian River mainstem, into upper Dutch Bill Creek to support summer stream flows. The Partnership has also negotiated with several area agricultural operators to release late season water from large ponds. Read more.
Westminster Woods Water Conservation Project: Westminster Woods Camp and Conference Center has partnered with Gold Ridge RCD and the Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership to make a positive change in the way its grounds are irrigated. The camp, located in the coastal redwood forest of Occidental, CA, will soon irrigate its playing fields with stored spring water, alleviating the need to take water from the salmon-bearing Dutch Bill Creek during the summer/fall dry season. Dutch Bill Creek is prime habitat for Coho salmon and steelhead trout. Now, the Westminster Woods water storage project promises to source 175,000 gallons of water per year, not from Dutch Bill Creek, but from nearby springs. Water will be collected at a very low rate throughout the winter wet season, stored in large steel tanks, and then used to irrigate the playing fields in the dry season.
Save Our Salmon Phase II Projects: The RCD’s rural residential water conservation program has assisted the community members in the town of Bodega to install roof rainwater catchment systems, alleviating dry season reliance on the Bodega Water Company system, which extracts water from alluvial wells adjacent to Salmon Creek. Read more.
For more information, contact Noelle Johnson at Noelle@goldridgercd.org or (707) 823-5244