State issues temporary suspension on upper Russian River watershed curtailment

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, October 26, 2021

russian river

The Russian River is pictured in Healdsburg. (Photo Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine)

On Friday evening, Oct. 22, the California Division of Water Rights issued a temporary curtailment suspension for the upper Russian River watershed. The suspension notice came just a day after the division announced a temporary curtailment suspension for the lower Russian River watershed.

The division of water rights cited the strong hydrological forecasts and data as reasons for both temporary curtailment suspensions.

Local jurisdictions, such as the City of Cloverdale and the City of Healdsburg, have been monitoring water rights notices in regard to conservation measures and while Sonoma County has received several inches of rain, city officials say conservation will still be important.

“The City of Cloverdale is closely monitoring the state water board’s response to the recent precipitation events. We are cautiously optimistic that the recent rains will alleviate drought conditions in the Upper Russian River Watershed,” said Cloverdale City Manager David Kelley. “However the drought was particularly impactful on reservoir levels in Lake Mendocino, which may require a significant amount of rainfall to restore reservoir levels to a normal stage.The storms are certainly welcome after the prolonged drought but we will likely need additional rain events preferably spread throughout the fall and winter before we can consider moving out of the current water shortage emergency.”

The suspension notices came two days prior to a powerful atmospheric river that walloped the Bay Area, causing countless power outages, downed trees, road closures and flooding in some areas of Sonoma County.

Up in north county, the Northern Sonoma County Fire District was busy and had to remove a large downed tree from Geyserville Avenue that was blocking the road on Sunday night.

In Windsor, town officials announced several road closures around Old Redwood Highway at Dawn and at Windsor Road at Mitchell Lane and at Shiloh Road just before noon on Sunday. The town also opened a self-serve sandbag station that same day at 8400 Windsor Road.

All day Sunday and into the early morning hours, much of Sebastopol and west county was without power.

According to Sonoma Water, the mouth of the Russian River began to self-breach at approximately 8 a.m. on Oct. 24.

Per Sonoma Water, the Russian River was projected to crest just shy of 27 feet in Guerneville, which is 2 feet below “monitor” stage and 5 feet below “flood stage.”

According to the U.S. National Weather Service, an areal flood warning continues until 2 p.m. today for “urban areas and small streams affecting southwest Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Forestville and Graton.”

In Healdsburg, city crews worked on Sunday to address impacts from the storm and set up a sandbag station at the community center parking lot.

“The recent rains have improved the instream flows within both the upper and lower Russian River. So much so that the state board’s models show that water supplies exceed expected demand and curtailments for the next couple of weeks are not needed,” said Terry Crowley, utility director for the city of Healdsburg.

Crowley said for Healdsburg water customers this is good news, however, he stressed the temporary nature of the curtailment suspensions.

“Lake Mendocino levels are still extremely low and will likely remain there through the end of the calendar year. As these storms pass through we are not certain what storms, if any, will follow. Therefore conservation is still a wise choice until we are further into a hopefully wet, winter season,” Crowley said.

The state division of water rights also stressed that the curtailment suspensions are only temporary.

“Temporary curtailment suspensions are likely to last until at least Nov. 1,” according to the division of water rights notice.

Division staff will continue to monitor conditions and reevaluate the suspensions as conditions and forecasts change. Should dry conditions return, the suspensions may end and water right holders would again be subject to curtailment.

Per the division’s notice, right holders should continue to monitor the Russian River Drought Response webpage for announcements on the latest status.


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