Russian River TMDLs
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 to 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.
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).
Water quality studies conducted in the Russian River and its tributary creeks, indicate a widespread problem with bacteria and other evidence of fecal waste discharge, which represent a potential threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it. Fecal indicator 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 2019 Regional Water Board Hearing on the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load
The 2019 Draft Staff Report and 2019 Draft Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL were made available for public download and review on May 9, 2019. Written public comments were submitted by June 24, 2019 and carefully reviewed by staff. The public review drafts were further revised, based on public comments, and are now to be presented to the Regional Water Board in a hearing on August 14, 2019. The agenda for this meeting can be found here:
An addendum to the Staff Report and a strikeout/underline version of the TMDL Action Plan are below. A Response to Comments document is also below. It includes responses to all substantive comments received in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Staff’s response to the 2015 public comments was to significantly revise the Draft Staff Report and TMDL Action Plan. As such, the 2017 Draft Staff Report and TMDL Action Plan, in combination, represent staff’s responses to 2015 comments. Nonetheless, individual responses to 2015 comments are included.
- Public Notice of Comment Period and Hearing
- 2019 Draft Staff Report for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL
- August 2019 Addendum to the Staff Report
- 2019 Proposed Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL
- Response to Comments Documents
The Draft TMDL Action Plan includes special provisions that apply to Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) within the Advanced Protection Management Program (APMP) boundary. A map outlining the APMP boundary can be found below. The map includes all parcels within the APMP boundary, whether they are developed, undeveloped, sewered, or unsewered. However, the special provisions only apply to OWTS within the APMP boundary.
The APMP Boundary Parcel List is an Excel spreadsheet that is presented in portable document format (pdf). It is generated using tax assessor data for Mendocino County and Sonoma County and results in a list of Assessor Parcel Numbers (APN) and the associated addresses. You can search the pdf using the Adobe Acrobat search (or find—Ctrl F) tool. You will need either the APN for the property of interest or the site address. If you use the APN, please note that Mendocino County APNs are represented in the spreadsheet as 7 or 8 digits and include no dashes. Sonoma County APNs are represented as 9 digit numbers with 2 dashes. Site addresses do NOT include a period following abbreviations for road, street, boulevard, or avenue. Keep your search as simple as possible; for example, if searching for the street address 5550 Skylane Boulevard, Santa Rosa, try typing in “5550 Skylane”. Parcels found on the APMP Boundary Parcel List are within the APMP Boundary. Only those parcels with OWTS that are within the APMP Boundary will be subject to special provisions.
The Interactive APMP Boundary Parcel Map can be used to identify if a specific parcel or property is within the APMP. There is a search bar at the top, right hand corner of the map where you can type your address. The map should zoom you to the identified address. Parcels within the APMP are shaded by a thin transparent layer and highlighted with a yellow boundary.
- APMP Boundary Parcel Map - Watershed Overview (August 2019)
- APMP Boundary Parcel Map - Individual Subwatersheds (August 2019)
- APMP Boundary Parcel List (August 2019)
In addition to amending the Basin Plan to incorporate an Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL, the Basin Plan must also be amended to remove the special Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) provisions that have applied to the Russian River pending the TMDL. These proposed revisions to Chapter 4 of the Basin Plan were released for public review in 2017 and the public comment is now closed. The links below direct the reader to the 2017 TMDL project folder, within which these documents can be found.
- Public Notice
- Draft Basin Plan Amendment Section 4 (clean version)
- Draft Basin Plan Amendment Section 4 (strikeout/underline version)
To summarize the revisions made to the 2015 and 2017 Draft Staff Reports to result in the 2019 Draft Staff Report and Draft TMDL Action Plan (Basin Plan Amendment), a Guide to Staff Report Revisions has been created that provides a broad overview of those changes. This Guide to Staff Report Revisions may not capture the nuances and details of all revisions, which can only be determined by reading the Staff Report. This document does not replace a response to comments document. It is meant as a guide to readers, comparing each version of the staff report to the content of the previous version.
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).
- TMDL Implementation MOU with Sonoma County
- TMDL Implementation Agreement with Mendocino County [Still in process]
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.
- Public Notice
- Draft Basin Plan Amendment Section 4 (clean version)
- Draft Basin Plan Amendment Section 4 (strikeout/underline version)
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 13, 2017 Board meeting to be held in Santa Rosa. Notice of the agenda for the December 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:
- 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
- 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.
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.
Monte Rio Middle School
20700 Foothill Dr, Monte Rio, CA
Tuesday September 22, 2015 - 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.
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.
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
- Comments from Interested Agencies (zip file)
- Comments from Local Associations & Groups (zip file)
- Comments from Individuals (zip file)
2015 Staff Report and Draft Action Plan
- Editorial Updates to Aide in Review
- Draft Basin Plan Amendment
- Draft revisions to the On-Site Wastewater Treatment System Requirements as contained in Chapter 4 of the Basin Plan
- Draft Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, August 21, 2015 (entire report)
- Chapter 1. Introduction
- Chapter 2. Standards, Indicators & Targets
- Chapter3. Evidence of Impairment
- Chapter 4. Numeric Targets
- Chapter 5. Source Analysis
- Chapter 6. Seasonal Variation and Critical Conditions
- Chapter 7. Linkage Analysis
- Chapter 8. TMDL Calculations and Allocations
- Chapter 9. Implementation
- Chapter 10. Monitoring
- Chapter 11. CEQA Substitute Environmental Analysis
- Chapter 12. Economic Considerations
- Chapter 13. Antidegradation Analysis
- Chapter 14. Public Participation Summary
- Chapter 15. Nine Key Elements
- Chapter 16. References Cited in Staff Report
- Appendix A. Types of Pathogens & Types of Fecal Indicator Bacteria
- Appendix B. Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Impact Study Report
- Appendix C. Effect of Russian River Dry Season Stream Flow Management on E. coli Bacteria Concentrations
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
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
University of California, Santa Barbara
Nicholas J. Ashbolt
School of Public Health
University of Alberta, Edmonton
The Peer Review Draft Staff Report was the primary scientific document submitted for peer review.
- Peer Review Draft Staff Report for the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Indicator Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load, January 16, 2015
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
- Russian River Pathogen TMDL Monitoring Pilot Project: A Summary Report to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (September 2009)
- Russian River Pathogen TMDL Monitoring Design: A Technical Report to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (September 2009)
- Fact Sheet summarizing the Russian River Pathogen Pilot Study (January 2011)
- Russian River Pathogen TMDL 2011-2012 Monitoring Report (May 2012)
- Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Impact Study Report (July 2013)
- Russian River Beach Recreation Impact Study Report (Nov 2013)
- Upper Russian River Fecal Indicator Bacteria Monitoring Report (Nov 2013)
- Russian River Human Impact Study - Phylochip Microbial Community Analysis (May 2014)
Quality Assurance Project Plans
- Russian River Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL QAPP (May 2011)
- Russian River Pathogen Indicator Bacteria TMDL Supplemental Sampling Plan QAPP (November 2011)
- Russian River Human Impact Study QAPP (November 2012)
- Russian River Pathogen TMDL Sampling Plan (July 2013)
- GIS Model Development for Assessing Risk from Septic Systems (Forestcue,F., August 2012)
- Selection of Sample Sites for Septic System Impact Study (Butkus, S., October 2012)
- Evaluation of FIB Sampling Variability (Butkus, S., January 2013)
- Assessment of FIB Concentrations and Land Cover (Butkus, S., January 2013)
- Trend Analysis of Fecal Indicator Bacteria Concentrations Measured in the Russian River Watershed (Butkus, S., July 2013)
- Evaluation of Fecal Coliform Bacteria Concentrations Measured in the Russian River Watershed (Butkus, S., July 2013))
- Evaluation of the Averaging Period for Application of Fecal Indicator Bacteria Water Quality Criteria (Butkus, S., July 2013)
- Seasonality of Fecal Indicator Bacteria Loads (Butkus, S., September 2013)
- Evaluation of Fecal Indicator Bacteria Types (Butkus S., October 2013)
- Fecal Indicator Bacteria Concentration Reductions Needed to Meet Water Quality Criteria (Butkus, S., November 2013)
- Evidence of Water Contact Recreation Impairment in the Russian River Watershed (Butkus, S., June 2014)
- E. Coli Bacteria Concentration Reductions Needed to Meet Water Quality Criteria for Different Land Cover Areas (Butkus, S., June 2014)
- Summary and review of report titled "Russian River Human Impact Study - Phylochip Microbial Community Analysis" (Butkus, S., June 2014)
- Survivability of Fecal Indicator Bacteria in Ambient Surface Waters (Butkus, S., August 2014)
- Effect of Russian River Dry Season Stream Flow Management on E. coli Bacteria Concentrations (Butkus, S., November 2014)
- Assessment of SHELL beneficial use in the Russian River Watershed (Butkus, S., January 2015)
- 2009 PhyloChip Presentation to Regional Water Board staff by E. Dubinsky et al.
- November 3, 2011 Board Presentation.
- January 27, 2011 Board Presentation.
- August 23, 2012 Board Presentation.
- August 22, 2013 Board Presentation
- March 13, 2014 Board Presentation
- August 28, 2014 Public Presentation on Implementation Plan Development
- August 28, 2014 Public Presentations on Implementation Plan Development Poster
- January 30, 2015 CEQA Scoping Meeting
- September 22, 2015 Public Workshop (Monte Rio)
- September 23, 2015 Public Workshop (Ukiah)
- September 24, 2015 Public Workshop (Santa Rosa)
- November 19, 2015 Board Presentation
- November 17, 2016 Presentation to the Fitch Mountain Association
- August 17, 2017 Board Presentation
- USEPA Webpage: Impaired Waters and TMDLs
- USEPA: 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria
- State Water Resources Control Board: Water Quality Control Policy for Siting, Design, Operation and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS Policy)
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.
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.
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.
- Albion River
- Big River
- Coastal Pathogens
- Eel River, North Fork
- Eel River, Upper Main
- Eel River, Middle Main
- Eel River, Middle Fork
- Eel River, Lower Main
- Eel River, South Fork
- Elk River
- Freshwater Creek
- Garcia River
- Gualala River
- Klamath River
- Laguna De Santa Rosa
- Lost River, Upper
- Lost River, Lower
- Mad River
- Mattole River
- Navarro River
- Noyo River
- Redwood Creek
- Russian River
- Salmon River
- Scott River
- Shasta River
- Stemple Creek
- Ten Mile River
- Trinity River
- Trinity River, South Fork
- Van Duzen River
(Page last updated 1/15/20->)
Water is a precious resource in California, and maintaining its quality is of utmost importance to safeguard the health of the public and the environment.