Sep 28, 2019
by Tom Austin
October is here! This is the month where we get pumpkin spice everything! Well, yes, but it’s also the month where we anxiously scan the horizon for rain clouds – and smoke plumes. One brings relief, the other dread. If you’re like me, you are proud of the defensible space work you’ve done, and humbled by the amount yet to do. Don’t lose momentum! Use the fall and winter months to plot and plan your strategy for next year, as an individual and as a team member in whatever organizations you have joined or are thinking of joining.
Okay, that’s enough about fire for now. Let’s talk about another elemental force – water. Last month at the regular monthly CMRPD Board meeting, fish biologist Elizabeth Ruiz of the Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Program, California Sea Grant Extension (RRSSMPCSGE – oh, forget it!) gave a presentation showing the positive effects of this year’s stream augmentation efforts. I’m sure there is a long name and sixteen-letter acronym for that too – biologists sure have long attention spans! – But I’m going to leave it at “augmentation”.
What is being augmented, and by whom? I’ll take the second answer first. A full list of those involved would probably take the rest of the column space herein, but I will take a shot at it: The Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership (RRCWRP) is an umbrella group consisting of, please use a No. 2 pencil, the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (SRCD), the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (GRRCD), Trout Unlimited (TU), California Sea Grant (CSG), and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Water Institute (OAECWI). So all together that is…oh, all right. I’ll stop. I’ll be here all month, try the buffet.
Now, to the first question: what is being augmented? You have probably already deduced “the stream”. More specifically, the stream flow. Third question: Why? This is the most important question. We know that Dutch Bill Creek is seasonal, meaning it dries up in summer, leaving isolated pools up and down its length. It is in these isolated pools that the seasons, Coho and steelhead try to survive the long, hot summer until the rains get Dutch Bill hooked up again and clear their way to the ocean. Because of various human diversions of the creek flow, the “drying up” is more extreme than it would be without us, so the various members of the alphabet soup paragraph above have a common interest to mitigate that human impact. They do that by communicating with the various Dutch Bill water use shareholders (most of whom are already in the alphabet soup) and identify when and where some of the water previously diverted by humans can be returned to the creek.
I’ve covered who, what, and why. When did this take place? This spring and summer, for the fourth time in the last five years, water was released from storage tanks in Westminster Woods (WW) (tanks built to increase storage and allow WW to better manage their water supply and minimize the diversion from the creek in the first place), thereby significantly increasing the flow in Dutch Bill Creek during the dry summer months. Biologist Ruiz’ presentation was detailed and informative, with graphs, charts, and maps showing the results of comprehensive data collection, and also showing a direct benefit to the salmon and trout fry summering in Dutch Bill’s isolated pools. Thanks to this water release, isolated pools were less isolated, deeper, and cooler, all of which had a direct and quantifiable positive effect on the survival odds of those fish – all of which was clearly communicated by Ms. Ruiz (I’m sure we will be calling her Dr. Ruiz in the very near future). Despite my comedy stylings at the expense of the alphabet soup profusion of acronyms, charts, maps, graphs, and data, her presentation was crystal clear to the layman as well as the scientist. Much clearer than this column, I’ll warrant.
Why is Dutch Bill so fascinating to fish biologists? That is a subject for a future column or columns! In my research for this month’s missive, I have barely scratched the surface of the amount of study directed at our humble waterway. You can be certain I will return to this subject, as column inches allow.
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