Russian River TMDLs

Russian River Watershed Overview

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.”  Below is a link to a map of the watershed, which shows the major towns, highways, and waterbodies within the Russian River Watershed boundaries.

Impairments

Water bodies in the Russian River watershed are listed under the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) (per the 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 impairment throughout the watershed, as well.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 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).

Pathogens / Fecal Indicator Bacteria TMDL

Water quality monitoring from the Russian River and its tributary creeks reflect widespread contamination with bacteria and other indicators of 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 has developed the Russian River Pathogen TMDL to address the pathogen impairment and sources of fecal waste pollution 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.

August 2017, Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load and draft TMDL Action Plan

The staff report and draft Action Plan for the Russian River Pathogen TMDL are available for public download and review.  This 2017 report and draft Action Plan have been revised based on public comment received on the 2015 report and draft Action Plan, with significant changes to the Program of Implementation.  Written comments on the 2017 public review materials are due to the Regional Water Board by 5:00 P.M. September 29, 2017. Additional details can be found in the Public Notice.

To align the Basin Plan with the establishment of the Program of Implementation, editorial changes to amend the Basin Plan’s Policy on the Control of Water Quality with Respect to On-Site Waste Treatment and Disposal Practices (Section 4) are also proposed. The proposed amendment is available for public download and review. Written comments on these materials are due to the Regional Water Board by 5:00 P.M. October 8, 2017. Additional details can be found in the Public Notice.

A workshop will be held at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Regional Water Board on August 17, 2017 at 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, Santa Rosa.  The meeting begins at 8:30 A.M.  The agenda for this meeting is posted on this website.

A workshop will be held on September 20, 2017, at the Guerneville Veterans Memorial Hall, 16225 1st Street, Guerneville. At the workshop, Regional Water Board staff will present the draft Staff Report and draft TMDL Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed. Written and verbal public comments will be received at the workshop. The workshop will be held from 5:30 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.

Following review of written public comments and the development of a Response to Comments document, staff will update the draft staff report and draft TMDL Action Plan with a proposed Action Plan for the Regional Water Board’s consideration at a hearing during the December 12-13, 2017 Board meeting to be held in Santa Rosa.  Notice of the agenda for the December 12-13, 2017 Board meeting can be received by signing up on the email subscription list and checking the box “Board Meeting Agenda”

Advance Protection Management Program for OWTS

The draft TMDL Action Plan provides information and requirements specific to owners of Onsite Waste Treatment Systems (OWTS) in the Russian River Watershed.  Of particular importance is the definition of the geographic boundary of the Advanced Protection Management Program (APMP).  The draft TMDL Action Plan defines the Russian River Watershed APMP boundary to include both:

  1. The area within 600 linear feet from the top of the bank in the horizontal (map) direction on either side of the entire Russian River mainstem and
  2. The area within 600 linear feet from the top of the bank in the horizontal (map) direction on either side of any mapped waterbody in sub-watersheds where parcel densities are greater than 50 parcels per square mile.  Sub-watersheds, defined as Hydrologic Units Code 12 basin names, with parcel densities greater than 50 parcels per square mile include the following: Brooks Creek, Dutch Bill Creek, East Fork Russian River, Green Valley Creek, Lower Laguna de Santa Rosa, Lower Santa Rosa Creek, Mark West Creek, Porter Creek, Salt Hollow Creek, Upper Laguna de Santa Rosa, Upper Santa Rosa Creek, Ward Creek-Austin Creek, and Windsor Creek.

The draft TMDL Action Plan describes the requirements that may be applicable to any parcel that is wholly or partially within the APMP boundary, pending a decision of the Regional Water Board. To evaluate whether a given property is wholly or partially within the APMP boundary, an interactive mapping tool has been developed.  The interactive mapping tool allows an interested party to search for a given parcel using an address or APN. Click the link below to access the interactive map.  A disclaimer indicates that the interactive map is for informational purposes, only.

[Interactive map with an address or assessor parcel number (APN) look-up menu]

 

Agreement between the Regional Water Board and Counties on TMDL Implementation

Implementation of a pathogen TMDL in the Russian River Watershed will require close coordination and collaboration of the Regional Water Board with local agencies.  To ensure such coordination and collaboration, staff of the Regional Water Board has entered into discussions with each of the counties within the Russian River Watershed, including Sonoma County and Mendocino County. The general purpose of these discussions has been to establish the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties with respect to TMDL implementation.  As appropriate, the agreements have been codified in memorandums of understanding (MOU). 


August 2015, The Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, and draft Action Plan

The draft staff report and draft Action Plan (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.

 

Public Comments on the 2015 Staff Report and Draft Action Plan

2015 Staff Report and Draft Action Plan

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

Technical Reports

Quality Assurance Project Plans

Technical 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


  (Page last updated 10/16/17)