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Russian River TMDLs

Russian River Watershed

The Russian River drains a 1,485 square mile watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties, California. Major tributaries to the Russian River include Forsythe Creek, Big Sulphur Creek, Dry Creek, Laguna de Santa Rosa, and Austin Creek. There are two major dams in the watershed, creating Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma.

To receive notices and information on the Russian River via e-mail, please go here to subscribe to the listserve and click on “Russian River TMDL.”

Impairments

Water bodies in the Russian River watershed are listed under the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) (per the proposed 2012 List) due to impairments to water quality by several pollutants.

The entire Russian River watershed is impaired for sediment and temperature. Recent data show a pathogen indicator bacteria impairment throughout the watershed. Green Valley Creek is listed as impaired for dissolved oxygen. Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino, and the Laguna de Santa Rosa are impaired for mercury in fish tissue. The Laguna de Santa Rosa is also impaired for phosphorus and dissolved oxygen, in addition to the watershed-wide sediment, temperature, and pathogen indicator bacteria impairments (please see the Laguna TMDL webpage for additional information).

Several projects are underway to clean up 303(d) listed waterbodies via the establishment of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).

Pathogen / Indicator Bacteria TMDL

Water quality monitoring from the Russian River and its tributary creeks reflect widespread contamination with bacteria and other indicators of human waste, which pose a potential threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it. Bacteria can indicate the presence of pathogenic organisms that are found in warm-blooded animal waste. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is developing the Russian River Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL to address the pathogen indicator bacteria impairment in the Russian River Watershed.

Popular swimming beaches along the mainstem Russian River are monitored for bacteria every summer. When fecal indicator bacteria levels exceed recommended levels, warning signs are posted at the beach. Beach monitoring results are posted by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services here:

What can area residents do to help the problem?

  • If you have a septic system, have it checked and cleaned. If it needs repair, fix it!
  • When you’re enjoying the river, use a portable toilet or other restroom facilities.
  • Make sure dirty diapers are put in a garbage can and not left on the ground
  • Pick up pet waste.
  • If you keep large animals, clean up their waste - and make sure contaminated runoff does not reach your local creek or the river.

The Draft Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, August 21, 2015 (draft Staff Report) and draft Basin Plan Amendment language

The draft staff report and draft Basin Plan Amendment language are available for public download and review. Written comments are due to the Regional Water Board by 5:00pm October 8, 2015. Additional details can be found in the Public Notice.

Staff-led Public Workshops will be held the third week in September 2015 at the following locations. Additional details can be found in the Notice.

Workshop 1
Monte Rio Middle School
20700 Foothill Dr, Monte Rio, CA
Tuesday September 22, 2015 - 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Workshop 2
University of California Cooperative Extension - Mendocino County
890 N. Bush St. Ukiah, CA
Wednesday September 23, 2015 - 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.

Workshop 3
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd. Suite A, Santa Rosa, CA
Thursday September 24, 2015 - 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

A Public Hearing to consider adoption of the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL as an amendment to the Basin Plan will be held before the Regional Water Board on November 19, 2015. Additional details can be found in the Notice.

Documents for Download:

Peer Review Draft Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, January 16, 2015

A Peer Review Draft Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, January 16, 2015 (Peer Review Draft Staff Report) was prepared for external scientific peer review related to the assessment and control of pathogen indicator bacteria discharges in the Russian River Watershed. After a selection process for candidate peer reviewers, the State Water Resources Control Board identified two reviewers approved to conduct the scientific peer review:

Patricia A. Holden
Professor
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
University of California, Santa Barbara

Nicholas J. Ashbolt
Professor
School of Public Health
University of Alberta, Edmonton

The Peer Review Draft Staff Report was the primary scientific document submitted for peer review.

Additional monitoring reports and technical memoranda were secondary documents, which support the Peer Review Draft Staff Report, and were also made available for review (see Other Project Documents below). Reviewers were asked to determine whether each of the identified findings and conclusions that constitute the scientific portions of the Peer Review Draft Staff Report are “based upon sound scientific knowledge, methods, and practices”.

Comments received from each Scientific Peer Reviewer are presented below:

CEQA Scoping Meeting

The Regional Water Board held a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) public scoping meeting concerning the development of the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL on January 30, 2015. The purpose of the meeting was to gather input on possible environmental impacts of the Russian River TMDL. The comment period closed on Wednesday February 18, 2015 at 5 PM.

The presentation and handouts from the public scoping meeting are available below:

Other Project Documents

Reports

Quality Assurance Project Plans

Memoranda

Presentations

Useful Links

Sediment TMDL

As part of our efforts to control sediment waste discharges and restore sediment impaired water bodies like the Russian River, the Regional Water Board adopted the Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Policy Statement for Sediment Impaired Receiving Waters in the North Coast Region, which is also known as the Sediment TMDL Implementation Policy, on November 29, 2004. The Sediment TMDL Implementation Policy states that Regional Water Board staff shall control sediment pollution by using existing permitting and enforcement tools.
Specific sediment control measures that Regional Water Board staff are taking or plan to take in the Russian River watershed are described in the
Regional Water Board Staff Work Plan to Control Excess Sediment in Sediment-Impaired Watersheds.

Temperature TMDL

Regional Water Board is proposing to address the Russian River temperature impairment in part through the development of a region-wide temperature TMDL implementation policy.

Mercury TMDLs

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma in the Russian River have been listed under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act for mercury pollution measured in fish tissue. Mercury, also called quicksilver, is a heavy metal and potent neurotoxin that is harmful to humans and wildlife. Mercury builds up in the bodies of fish and also in people who eat contaminated fish. Possible mercury sources include mercury and gold mines, soil erosion due to human activities such as logging and road construction, and airborne sources from North America and Asia.

A statewide effort to develop mercury TMDLs for at least 75 lakes and reservoirs is under development. Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino are part of the statewide effort.

Laguna de Santa Rosa, the largest tributary to the Russian River, has also been placed on the Section 303(d) for mercury pollution measured in fish tissue. The development of the Laguna de Santa Rosa TMDL for mercury contamination is not yet scheduled.

Contact Information:

Charles Reed, Project Manager
707-576-2752
charles.reed@waterboards.ca.gov

Alydda Mangelsdorf, Planning Unit Supervisor
707-576-6735
alydda.mangelsdorf@waterboards.ca.gov


Updated August 27, 2015