County proclaims local drought emergency, requests state and federal aid

By Katherine Minkiewicz, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, April 28, 2021

russian river

Less water — Exposed banks along the Russian River in Healdsburg show the low water levels of the river. On April 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for the Russian River watershed, which spans Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Photo Luci Hagen

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution on April 27 proclaiming a local drought emergency and requested Gov. Gavin Newsom to seek a presidential disaster declaration for the parched region.

Newsom visited a dry section of Lake Mendocino on April 21 and proclaimed a state of emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties due to severe drought conditions along the Russian River watershed.

After two consecutive dry years, Lake Mendocino is currently at 43% of target capacity and Lake Sonoma is at 62% of capacity, both the lowest they have been in this week of April.

“The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took action today to proclaim a local emergency due to severe drought conditions,” Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. “In collaboration with Governor Newsom’s proclamation last week, the county proclamation will provide more tools to support the region’s local agriculture and economy, such as funding requests for drought related response activities. The drought in Sonoma County may result in broad impacts and considerations that extend beyond drinking water and conservation efforts. In some instances, such as local agriculture, the drought has created a critical emergency with significant crop loss and costs to local producers. Now is the time to save every drop of water. There is no water to waste.”

The county proclamation covers the entire Sonoma County operational area, including all nine cities and special districts.

Under California’s Standardized Emergency Management System, the county will serve as the lead agency for mutual aid and coordination with jurisdictions and the state through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, according to a county press release.

Also under the proclamation, additional coordination within the operational area will take place in order to help identify what actions and resources are needed to address broad community impacts, especially to local agriculture.

“Immediate water savings are needed from all members of our community, including urban, commercial, industrial and agriculture. We can only beat this drought if we act together. Today’s proclamation and earlier action by Governor Newsom will help provide tools to beat this drought,” Sonoma County District 2 Supervisor David Rabbitt and board liaison to Sonoma Water said in a statement.

According to the county press release, the proclamation creates a suite of opportunities to support the region’s local agriculture and economy.

“For example, additional funding requests for drought-related response activities and public outreach may become available that can assist the agricultural community, mitigate the increased fire risk, and streamline mitigation projects to protect and preserve drinking and agricultural water supplies,” the press release states.

While not currently available through the governor’s drought proclamation, future reimbursement for emergency response and coordination activities may later become available through the California Disaster Assistance Act (CDAA).

The CDAA would allow for reimbursement up to 75% of costs incurred under a locally proclaimed emergency.

The resolution issued by the board of supervisors on Tuesday requests the governor immediately authorize the CDAA reimbursement and also requests the governor seek all available federal disaster assistance, including the Presidential Declaration of Emergency.

County staff will return to the board of supervisors on May 11 to provide a situational update on drought related efforts to date and additional actions for consideration.You can read the full proclamation here.

For more information about current water supply conditions, visit For more information about how to save water, visit

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