California’s spawning salmon and steelhead heading back from the Pacific are simply hoping for the best given so many rivers are being affected by the drought. In Sonoma County, the Camp Meeker Recreation and Parks District is trying to increase the odds for fish.
A western Sonoma County water district is releasing water from its facility to help save fish in an important Sonoma County watershed during the critical drought period.
The Camp Meeker Recreation and Parks District (CMRPD) has begun releasing untreated water from its water treatment facility into Upper Dutch Bill Creek, a tributary to Russian River, for the benefit of summer-rearing coho salmon and steelhead. This is the first voluntary flow augmentation project to be implemented in Dutch Bill Creek and the third to be implemented within the four tributaries subject to the Emergency Regulations for the Protection of Specific Fisheries.
The Voluntary Drought Initiative (VDI) program was initiated jointly by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to address stream flow concerns associated with the California drought. In March of this year, CDFW began asking rural land owners again to sign agreements to voluntarily reduce water demand in four critical watersheds that include Dutch Bill, Green Valley, Mark West and Mill creeks. So far 40 land owners have partnered with CDFW.
In response to increased awareness of the drought crisis, and the imminent threat to coho salmon from low stream flow conditions, several groups have stepped forward to actually contribute water back into streams from their stored sources. The CMRPD effort is unique in that it is diverting water from its supply pipeline in an amount that is immediately benefiting coho salmon.
Since the releases began last month, Dutch Bill Creek is flowing better than it has for the last two months and dissolved oxygen and temperature conditions are expected to keep juvenile coho salmon alive until the winter rains arrive.
CDFW, NMFS and the Goldridge RCD will continue to monitor conditions in the creek to keep enough water following until eventual rains.