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Green Valley Road Emergency Repair Delayed - Graton

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Green Valley Road Emergency Repair Delayed - Graton

Temporary Delay on Emergency Green Valley Road Project

Road will remain closed due to dangerous road conditions

An emergency repair project to divert Green Valley Creek from flowing over Green Valley Road has been temporarily delayed. The project, which was slated to begin today, will begin as soon as the Sonoma County Water Agency obtains an Incidental Take Permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The staff at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and State Senator Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Marc Levine have been incredibly responsive. Normally, it takes a couple of months to issue these permits, which are designed to protect endangered species. DFW understands that this is an emergency, and is working to issue the permit in one to two weeks,” said Sonoma County Water Agency Director Lynda Hopkins, who also is the 5th District Supervisor. “We are committed to doing whatever we can on our end to expedite the process, and our staff is in constant communication with Green Valley residents and DFW staff. Reducing the flooding and reopening the road is our priority.”

Heavy rain from the latest series of storms resulted in Green Valley Creek, a major tributary to the Russian River, jumping its banks and charting a new course over Green Valley Road. The creek’s passage has covered this highly traveled road in west Sonoma County with swiftly flowing water and damaged the pavement, creating a safety hazard. The new course over Green Valley Road also puts sensitive aquatic species, such as coho salmon, at risk as the creek flows out of its natural channel.

“To protect public safety, the county Department of Transportation and Public Works has closed Green Valley Road, where the road has failed and the creek is overflowing its banks,” said Hopkins. “We recognize that this is an inconvenience as well as a safety concern for residents and businesses. The project team is working as quickly as possible to respond. In the meantime, we ask people to be patient and, for their own safety, please don’t attempt to go around or move the barriers.”

Hopkins, the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD), the Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Works (TPW), and the Water Agency held a community meeting on Friday, February 10, to explain the emergency creek repair project to residents.

At the time, it was anticipated that the repair project would begin on Tuesday, February 14. It is now anticipated that the project will start in late February. Notes from the community meeting and project updates can be found at http://www.goldridgercd.org/htm/GVRdFlooding.htm.

Road Closure

The flooding damaged the road surface, creating a serious public safety hazard.  In response, TPW closed the road to traffic on Thursday, February 9.

Once the creek is no longer flowing over the road and weather permits, temporary emergency repairs will begin. If deemed safe, one lane will be opened as soon as water recedes.

TPW is working to ensure that alternate routes are safe and accessible, and have installed detour signs to help travelers and businesses in the area.

Emergency responders are aware of the road closure.  Graton Fire Department is the area hub for all incoming emergency dispatches from 911 calls. If a call is deemed an emergency, Graton, Forestville and Occidental emergency responders are all dispatched. If the emergency response from one of those three fire departments is expected to not be fast enough, helicopters from Sheriff’s Office and/or Highway Patrol can be mobilized.

 

Emergency Project Information

The emergency repair will allow Green Valley Creek to remain in its natural channel by removing sediment that is clogging the creek channel in the area near Green Valley Road. Over the past decade the capacity of Green Valley Creek’s channel has been reduced by sedimentation, to the point where the majority of flows are now forced outside the natural channel and over Green Valley Road.

Past high flow events have stranded endangered coho salmon, steelhead trout and California freshwater shrimp. These species are now at more of a risk of stranding as the majority of flows are now flowing outside of the natural Green Valley Creek channel. Due to the severity of this year’s wet weather, the rate of sedimentation has increased to the point where most of the water in Green Valley Creek is going across the road, and the creek is abandoning is existing channel and establishing a new channel through the vineyard.

Due to the threat to both public safety and sensitive species, Water Agency crews will remove non-native vegetation and sediment to deepen and widen the channel parallel to the road to keep the water and fish in its natural channel. This effort will take approximately one week. Once the creek is no longer flowing over the roadway, TPW crews will begin repairing the pavement as soon as possible.

 

Long-Term Restoration Plan

The RCD has been working for several years on a long-term restoration project to address the flooding issues. This long timeframe is due to the complexity of finding a solution in a manner which meets the most benefits for people and wildlife within current permitting and funding constraints.

The concept project will restore the capacity of nearly 3,000 feet of stream channel through the area which currently experiences the most frequent and severe flooding. The project entails enlarging the channel both upstream and downstream of the existing bridge. The upstream section will include a sediment management area, where sediment will be removed periodically so that the increased channel capacity is maintained throughout the reach.

The project will also include elements that will improve the habitat for threatened and endangered fish, as well as an extensive riparian revegetation effort. Once the project is completed, the RCD expects that the enlarged channel will contain all but the largest floods, dramatically reducing the frequency and magnitude of flooding of the adjacent portion of Green Valley Road.

The RCD is working with other agencies to seek funding for an engineering design and permitting. While the RCD has received grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and matching funds from the Water Agency, the largest impediment to fixing the problem is funding.

 


Comments:

Dear Green Valley Resident,

You are receiving this message as you have indicated that you are interested in updates on Green Valley Road. For those of you who attended the meeting on Friday we appreciate your time and feedback.

There have been some recent hurdles in starting the work at Green Valley Road.  On late Friday afternoon the Sonoma County Water Agency received notice from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) that in order to lawfully perform the emergency project, an Incidental Take Permit will be required under the California Endangered Species Act.  CDFW indicated the proposed dredging in Green Valley Creek will cause a take of the state endangered coho salmon and the state endangered California freshwater shrimp.  Lynda Hopkins responded with an urgent plea late Friday night to the CDFW to quickly issue the permit.  Mr. Dave Cuneo of the Sonoma County Water Agency has worked through the weekend to prepare the permit application required and CDFW have indicated they will make this permit their highest priority but their approval process will likely take a week or two.  For your information, emails from Lynda Hopkins, the CDFW, and the Water Agency are shown below.

Be assured all of us are doing all we can to expedite this process and we will be begin the work as soon as we can legally do so.

Thank you all for your support on this project.  Your continued support will be critical to efforts to secure both permits and grant funding for the long-term project.

Supervisor Hopkins Office, Sonoma County Water Agency and the Gold Ridge RCD

Brittany Jensen Executive Director, Gold Ridge RCD

2776 Sullivan Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Office: (707) 823-5244

www.GoldRidgeRCD.org

  

 


 

On Feb 10, 2017, at 4:30 PM, Weightman, Craig@Wildlife <Craig.Weightman@wildlife.ca.gov> wrote:

Dear Mr. Cuneo:

CDFW received the attached notice from you via email on February 9, 2017 which outlines planned dredging in Green Valley Creek near Green Valley Road. Based on information you provided to CDFW it is our understanding that the Sonoma County Water Agency intends to conducted sediment and vegetation removal out of Green Valley Creek, Sonoma County, beginning Tuesday February 14, 2017 under an emergency declaration.

This proposed emergency work is related to stream flows that have shifted out of the channel and now predominately flow over Green Valley Road. CDFW has been involved with this site since at least 2004 when a Streambed Alteration Agreement (now expired) was issued to a land owner for seasonal sediment removal out of the channel. More recently, CDFW staff has attended meetings with stakeholders at the County Board of Supervisors Office (August 2015), community meetings at the Graton Community Club (October 2015), and technical advisory meetings at the Sonoma Agricultural and Open Space District office (May 2016). During 2017, CDFW staff have visited the site and met with property owners.

During these meetings, CDFW staff have provided guidance that a Lake or Streambed Alteration (LSA) Agreement would be required for targeted sediment and vegetation removal along approximately 1,100 feet of channel and if done during the summer months when the creek was dry CDFW would not request that an Incidental Take Permit be obtained.  To date, notification for a LSA Agreement has not been submitted to CDFW.  CDFW’s involvement has been to ensure that a multi-beneficial project is implemented that benefits the community while protection and enhancing the sensitive species that occur in Green Valley Creek.

Green Valley Creek supports runs of Oncorhynchus kisutch (Coho Salmon), Oncorhynchus mykiss (steelhead) and Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (chinook salmon) juveniles have been captured in the lower reaches of Green Valley Creek. The project reach proposed for dredging supports spawning habitat for coho salmon and steelhead. In previous years redds have been observed in the project reach. The stream channel has also been shown  to support Syncaris pacifica, (California freshwater shrimp). These species are listed as either threatened or endangered by the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and the Federal Endangered Species Act.

The work proposed would utilize an excavator to remove sediment and vegetation from the active flowing channel. Migration, spawning, egg incubating, alevin development, and fry emergency are likely all occurring at this time. Mechanical work in the channel can affect all these critical life stages by destroying redds, removing spawning gravels, or by removal of vegetation used as habitat and refuge.   CDFW believes the proposed dredging in Green Valley Creek will cause take of the state endangered coho salmon Central California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit and the state endangered California freshwater shrimp.  In order to lawfully conduct these activities an Incidental Take Permit per Fish and Game Code section 2081(b) is required to be obtained prior to conducting any dredging activities in Green Valley Creek that will take listed species.  While there are emergency exemptions for a Streambed Alteration Agreement (Fish and Game Code section 1610), there are no emergency exemptions for CESA. 

CDFW understand that there is an immediate concern associated with the flooding that is currently occurring and will expedite the issuance of an Incidental Take Permit.

Instructions for applying for an Incidental Take Permit can be found here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/CESA.  Please contact me if you have any questions regarding the application process.  Our commitment and involvement in this project and process will continue and we are committed to working expeditiously with you to issue an ITP before the work begins so that you are in compliance with the law.

Thank You, Craig

Craig J. Weightman, Environmental Program Manager
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

 

From: Lynda Hopkins <Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org>
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2017 10:34 PM
To: Weightman, Craig@Wildlife
Subject: Re: Green Valley Creek

Dear Mr. Weightman:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed response to our proposal. I know you and I haven't met, so a brief introduction: I'm the newly-elected representative for Sonoma County's District 5, and also a huge fan of CDFW's work. I've had the opportunity to interact with your department both as a journalist and an organic farmer over the past decade. My academic background includes coastal and riparian ecosystem research, and I'm a lifelong environmentalist. I believe that what you do is even more essential in light of a Trump administration and potentially weakened EPA, so I appreciate you taking your responsibility to uphold the ESA seriously. I also appreciate the consistent engagement you've had with the Green Valley project over the past few years.

While I'm new to the role of Supervisor, I'm not new to the Green Valley situation or West County. The current situation, unfortunately, is markedly different from what you witnessed in 2016. Since that time, as a result of a series of severe winter storms, the creek has changed course. Approximately 10% of the water flow remains within the banks of the creek; the other 90% is currently running across Green Valley Road and into the Sanchietti vineyard. Green Valley Road, due to the increased flow, has experienced a major structural failure. Two 6' by 8' segments of asphalt have ruptured and begun to move. 

I am very concerned that a "do nothing" approach threatens our Coho Salmon. Intense water flow across a failing road and into a neighboring vineyard is an alevin, fry, and fingerling nightmare. Debris piles have formed, which may cause localized sedimentation and scouring, which could in turn pockmark the floodplain with miniature pools that could trap juvenile fish, killing them when the pools warm and the water ultimately drains and evaporates. Finally, the failing road may itself create fish hazards and entrapment areas. 

The current situation is life-threatening for Onchorynchus and humans alike. The road is currently closed with K-rail, which means that the residents living beyond the K-rail have a much longer route to hospitals in case of emergency. Elderly residents and those with disabilities have expressed concern that longer response times for emergency services could lead to life-or-death situations. One resident expressed fear regarding the safety of her daughter, who is currently six months pregnant with a high risk category pregnancy. She lives beyond the K-rail.

If we do not encourage the water flow back into the creek, water will likely continue to flow across the road through June. If the water continues to flow across the road, we cannot repair and reopen the road and ensure the safety of our residents. 

We will have a biologist on site during the dredging. The proposed dredging is limited to a fairly short segment of the creek. Based on the intense sedimentation that has occurred within the banks of the creek, I am skeptical as to whether there are any redds at all. It's impossible to know that at this point, of course, but I do know for a fact that the new creek path offers no shading, vegetation, habitat, or gravel for spawning. Yet fish will swim into it -- and become trapped and die.

It's important to note that if we are able to proceed with this project, we will be returning to your office for permitting for a longer-term plan that will enable us to restore and rehabilitate the creek for the benefit of our salmonids. This project will involve sediment catchments so that we can create a more stable ecosystem to reduce the need for dredging and streambed disturbance in the future.

If you'd told me ten years ago that I'd be advocating for dredging as an environmentally-friendly measure to save fish, protect infrastructure, and keep our community safe, I would have called you crazy. But at this point, I really believe that dredging is our best -- and only -- response to this emergency.

We are trying to make the best of a very bad situation. And unfortunately, if we do not at least begin the dredging process by Tuesday, the next series of storms will delay our efforts and present new challenges and damages. 

I would be tremendously grateful if you could help us begin work by Tuesday. SCWA, Gold Ridge RCD, and the County are all committed to work through the weekend to do what needs to be done to obtain the permit. Can you commit to processing an application on the day it's submitted, so that we may begin addressing this emergency? If so, we will try to have the application to you by Monday so that we may begin work on Tuesday as planned.

Thank you for your time,

Lynda Hopkins, Supervisor, Fifth District
County of Sonoma, Board of Supervisors
575 Administration Dr. 100A
Santa Rosa, CA. 95403

707-565-2241

District Director:  Susan Upchurch. Susan.Upchurch@sonoma-county.org

From CA DFW:

From: "Weightman, Craig@Wildlife" <Craig.Weightman@wildlife.ca.gov>
Date: February 11, 2017 at 5:22:34 PM PST
To: Lynda Hopkins <Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org>
Subject: Re: Green Valley Creek

Dear Ms. Hopkins,

I understand the severity of this emergency situation and the potential for conditions to further deteriorate for both the residents on Green Valley Road and the fish and shrimp inhabiting the creek.   Obviously this is the worst possible time to conduct this work but years of neglect have forced everyone's hand and now is the time to act.  Under the California Endangered Species Act CDFW is able to permit this project. I cannot commit to providing an Incidental Take Permit in one day.  What I can commit to is making this project our highest priority.  My expectation is that within two weeks of receiving an application we could have a permit issued.   To help make this possible I also commit to making myself available to answer any questions and provide guidance on the application process.  Email is best to contact me as but you can also call me at 707 339-1332.

Thank You

Craig