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Our County by Efren Carrillo

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Our County by Efren Carrillo - August 2016

by Efren Carrillo

The Russian River is not only beautiful, it’s the source of water for more than 600,000 people, home to humans, fish and other creatures, and it is the economic lifeline for communities that live along its 110-miles. It’s no surprise that many people are passionate about the Sonoma County Water Agency’s recently released Fish Habitat Flows and Water Rights Project Draft Environmental Impact Report,”

The engineering feats involved in improving the fish passage and inflatable ruThe document is the culmination of nearly two decades of studies of steelhead, coho salmon and Chinook in the Russian River watershed, and it’s the Water Agency’s response to a 2008 federal requirement to reduce minimum flows in the river and Dry Creek to provide better habitat for young Steelhead and Coho. Ultimately, the Fish Flow Project attempts to balance an incredibly complicated system to meet multiple needs.

In addition to changing minimum flows to meet federal requirements, the project would improve conditions for threatened Chinook salmon, by better preserving cold water in Lake Mendocino, which can be released for the fall Chinook migration. It would also replace a measuring requirement in the Water Agency’s water right permits, called the “hydrologic index,” to better reflect conditions in the Russian River watershed.

Like many of you, I will be reviewing the Fish Flow Project, and am looking forward to hearing your comments at the Tuesday, September 13 hearing at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive. The hearing will start no earlier than 3 p.m. It will be streamed live and also can be watched at a later date, by going to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Board-of-Supervisors/Calendar/. 

If you can’t attend the meeting, written comments may also be submitted – and are treated with the same importance as verbal comments. All comments are due by 5 p.m., October 17, 2016, and can be emailed to fishflow-eir@scwa.ca.gov

On August 19th, Regional Parks held a celebration of the naming of the new Liz Burko Bridge, which sits on the newest segment of the Bodega Bay Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail on State Parks land. This newest section of the California Coastal Trail was made possible by a strong partnerships between Regional Parks and State Parks, with funding from the Coastal Conservancy and many other partners. Regional Parks designed and constructed the trail and bridge and will be responsible for ongoing care of the spectacular trail which lies mostly within the State Park. This new 1.1 mile section connects the Bodega Bay Community Center with the community of Salmon Creek, and provides a safe and incredibly scenic path of travel which avoids Highway One. When completed, the 3.4 mile trail will run from Salmon Creek, through Bodega Bay along the waterfront, and connect with Birdwalk trail and Doran Beach. Needless to say, the project’s expense and environmental challenges mean that it will be constructed in phases. 

It was fitting to name the bridge for Liz Burko, who gave 30 years of service to the people of California and State Parks. Liz was beloved by all who knew and worked with her, and I still think of her as one of the kindest, friendliest people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Her untimely death last year left many with a deep sense of loss. Her family came from far and wide for the dedication which included Congressmen Huffman and Thompson, representatives from Senator McGuire and Assemblyman Wood, the Coastal Conservancy, Coastal Commission, State Parks Director Lisa Mangat – who spoke from the heart about her admiration for Liz. Everyone agreed that the bridge was a place that they can return to again and again to connect with Liz’ spirit and the beauty of our coastal parks. 

To visit the trail, park at the Bodega Bay Community Center – visit the new ADA accessible path to the Nicholas Green Bell Tower, and head down the hill for a beautiful walk across the bridge and through riparian habitat, wildlife, and coastal habitat. I’m betting this segment will be well used and well-loved by generations to come.

The County and State Parks have had several productive meetings this summer on the beach fee issue for our coast. Coastal Commission staff has been instrumental in bringing the parties together to craft a proposal, and will be making a report to the Commission at their September meeting. As we go forward together, goals will include addressing access rights and cooperative agreements to assist State Parks in meeting their operational goals. Stay tuned.