The Russian River watershed was selected as California’s Habitat Focus Area within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Habitat Blueprint.
NOAA’s habitat conservation experts felt that the Russian River offered the greatest opportunities for NOAA-wide collaboration on habitat conservation among the 17 candidate areas identified by the staff this fall.
“I have been impressed with the work being conducted in the Russian River watershed to protect, conserve, and maintain our salmon and steelhead populations," said who made the announcement last week.
"For years, I have promoted, supported, and advocated for this incredible collaborative effort to restore our native fisheries populations and I am pleased that NOAA has recognized the work of this community," Thompson said. "I am proud that over the next several years, the Russian River Watershed will be a focal point in salmon restoration, habitat science, and conservation within the United States” said Thompson.
“This designation recognizes the Russian River watershed as one of the most promising regions in the nation for real improvements in fish habitat. Stakeholders should be proud of the efforts they’ve made, whether it’s volunteering at river clean-up days, adopting fish-friendly farming practices or creating habitat on their property,” said Sonoma County Water Agency and Sonoma County Chairwoman Shirlee Zane. “The community-wide focus on the watershed is one of the aspects that made this region attractive to the National Marine Fisheries Service.”
The Russian River drains 1,485 square miles, including much of Sonoma and Mendocino counties and is home to three fish on the endangered and threatened species lists: coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout.
For years, the Sonoma County Water Agency and other stakeholders have worked tirelessly to enhance the fish and wildlife resources of the Russian River, and have developed sound science technology to protect, preserve and restore the threatened and endangered fish species.
Because of the community’s strong effort to protect the salmon population, NOAA selected the Russian River as California’s Habitat Focus Area within NOAA Habitat blue print.
The Habitat Blueprint strives to “improve the way NOAA does business”, improving fish habitat protection though increased efficiency and creative partnerships. The Russian River watershed is an excellent example of these partnerships.
The habitat enhancement work that is taking place and will continue as part of the Habitat Blueprint include supplementing cold water releases by providing the shady, complex habitat critical for young coho and steelhead, along with other habitat restoration and enhancement projects are being done throughout the Russian River watershed. These efforts are accompanied by extensive monitoring in order to measure success and to continually improve projects and programs.
The local community also recognizes the value of a watershed approach to improving the health of the river and its species. Private landowners throughout the watershed are working to create off-stream water storage to use for frost protection and irrigation.