WatchSonoma Watch

Group challenges plan to breach Russian River sandbar


A river protection group is challenging the Sonoma County Water Agency’s environmental report on breaching the sandbar at the mouth of the Russian River.

The opening of the river at Jenner is intended to improve fish habitat and prevent flooding to low-lying homes by allowing the river to flow into the ocean instead of backing up in a lagoon behind the sandbar.

A lawsuit by the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee claims the report doesn’t adequately address harmful impacts and offer alternatives for recreation and water quality.

“There were too many things that were simply unacceptable that needed to be challenged,” said Brenda Adelman of Guerneville, chairwoman of the group. “There is too much that is undefined in the whole thing, which is one of the big issues. It is next to impossible to figure out what the impacts are.”

The suit also says the agency should expand the report to include its actions to decrease flows in the Russian River as required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect threatened and endangered fish.

“They have to do things to protect the fish, which my clients support, but they need to mitigate the impacts,” said attorney Michael Lozeau of Oakland. “They need to find the vigorous balance the statute requires, they just can’t write off swimmers or surfers or water quality.”

Lozeau filed the suit on Sept. 14. It asks the Sonoma County Superior Court to overturn the Aug. 17 action by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that approved the report.

The report, which cost $850,000 found that water quality could decrease with stagnant estuary water backing up behind the sandbar.

“The agency believes a thorough EIR was conducted and the impacts analyzed,” said Ann DuBay, a spokeswoman for the county agency.

Russian River residents in the lawsuit, however, claim the water quality will be much worse than the impact report expects, the heavy equipment used in digging the channel will chase away seals and sea lions that congregate on the sandbar and conditions for surfers at some beaches may be affected.

DuBay said the agency is required to follow an order set down in 2008 by the National Marine Fisheries Service to create a freshwater lagoon at Jenner for juvenile steelhead, a threatened species, between May 15 and Oct. 15.

It has developed a method of digging a wide, shallow trench across the sandbar when the sandbar closes and rising water levels threaten several low-lying homes in Jenner.

It is meant to let the Russian River water flow out, but limit the amount of salt water that comes in from the ocean.

The water agency is spending $950,000 in the estuary program, most of it to monitor water quality and fish along the river from Jenner to Monte Rio.

“Our staff has been working hard in the estuary to save steelhead and we are disappointed that we have to redirect our resources to address issues raised in the lawsuit,” DuBay said.

The fisheries order also requires that the water agency lower the flows on the Russian River for chinook salmon, a threatened species. The agency does so by regulating the water flow from Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino. It also is creating a new fish habitat in Dry Creek for coho salmon, which are on the endangered list.

The suit also contends that the agency should have conducted a single impact report that addresses the cumulative impacts of all of the projects.

“They have not looked at the whole picture,” Lozeau said.

5 Responses to “Group challenges plan to breach Russian River sandbar”

  1. Steve Humphrey says:


    You are spot on. There are those “conservationists” out there who have a real grasp of what is needed to preserve our wildlife and habitat.
    Then there are the enviromentalty ill who file law suits and create turmoil and cost to any worthwhile project. It’s high time our judicial system develops some fortitude and throws these frivolous cases out of their courtrooms.

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  2. Social Dis-Ease says:

    @ John: you just defined Agenda 21.
    Did you know that A21 bureaucrats have destroyed hundreds of dams?

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  3. Steveguy says:

    Back in the 60′s when I would do the 50 mile Russian River canoe trip in Boy Scouts, the ‘lagoon’ was a foul-smelling orange colored mess.

    We have come a long ways from those days, maybe a 95% improvement.

    The ‘environmentallyists’ are now going after the last 5%, and that brings us back to the dark ages. Mankind will have an impact, but how far do we go ?

    Why do lawsuits like this deserve merit, when a lawsuit against a $600 MILLION fiasco like SMART is immune ? I dunno.

    As an aside, I think that my thoughts of conservation and protection are far more realistic and far more productive than the left-wing ecosystem crazies at any cost extremists.

    People like Doug Lipton in the Healdsburg area do far more than any person that just ‘spouts’ environmentalism. ( He is doing great things to ‘fix’ the creeks in the area for better spawning beds in the creeks for our anadromous fish ). Hat’s off to him.

    There has been a fairly new discovery that when you dump dead salmon carcasses in the spawning areas it actually makes the basis for the food chain for the freshly hatched fish. I would hope than someone in the know can get the carcasses from the hatchery, and carry them to the headwaters of our creeks, to nourish the ecosystem. The dead salmon ‘fertilize’ the creek, for food for the juveniles.

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  4. John says:

    You eco-terrorists are the reason California is screwed up. Take your head out of the deep dark hole you have it stuffed in and come back down to earth.

    Gravel Bars cause flooding and divert water where it wasn’t intended to flow in the first place. Gravel bars are made from erosion and runoff that must be removed. If you look at Washington State, they sell the gravel from the bars and generate revenues that cost nothing to maintain to the waterways and the little critters have flourished with the removals of the gravel bars.

    When you nutcases start living in straw huts, quite driving cars, and loose all modern conveniences and start living like people did in the 1800’s then maybe people will believe what you stand for, until then, you are all about sucking money from somebody to further your greedy hypocrite lifestyles.

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  5. Frank says:

    What do you people want?
    Lower the flows or increase the flows

    Brenda Adelman of Guerneville
    “There were too many things that were simply unacceptable that needed to be challenged,”
    What for instance? Probable flooding of homes, warm water, bacteria build up. Are those signs out on the river letting swimmers and surfers know the water is unhealthy?

    “There is too much that is undefined in the whole thing, which is one of the big issues. It is next to impossible to figure out what the impacts are.”
    This is why i will not vote for Huffman he talks the same way.
    The move of a little sand let the water do the rest of the work, Hard Concept.

    Salmon were introduced to California in the late 1800s, meaning their not native.
    the hatchery at Lake Sonoma built some 60 years ago have been trying to save the salmon, lets save the tax payers some money, get rid of all accept maintenance workers and the volunteers.

    The water agency is spending $950,000
    The report, which cost $850,000
    Hehehe, LMAO
    I could have done this for $150,000. i don’t require heavy equipment. a portable six inch dredge would have made short work of this backup and the seals would not even notice., Fits on the back of a pickup truck Park at the bridge, place in water, float to area wooooo hoooo problem solved
    lets try to do a better job next time

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