Commentary on the RR Sediment Plume at Jenner

I remember them too. But, now these plumes last soooo much longer.  Any river will discharge sediment after a big rain event.  It is how fast they clean up.


This massive sedimentation is not a new problem.  I remember seeing huge, well defined plumes out at Jenner (looking down on Goat Rock from the road) over 20 years ago.

I also want to mention that many years ago I was responding to one of Santa Rosa’s many EIRs on discharge and I was looking into bank erosion as a result of large discharges into a small stream.  I consulted with experts who acknowledged the problem.  Couldn’t get any officials to acknowledge my concern however.  (about 10 years ago)

Great dialogue on this issue via email.  Is there a way to combine all this knowledge and bring it to another level?  TMDL would be the perfect venue. It seems like it would be worth while to have a few meetings on this and combine efforts.  (All of you know a lot more than I do, so I wouldn’t necessarily include myself. I just think it’s a good idea.)  Maybe Cat could initiate such a group through RB1.


The draft stormwater permit, which will be out for a second round of reviews will attempt to address some of these vital issues. Please be sure you are on our mailing list and comment/support/reject as you see fit.  We are trying to deal with hydromodification.  Help please.


I agree with all of the above from Caitlin and Brock.  The streams need to be reconnected with their flood plains rather than downcutting.  The flood plain should be riparian forest which has tremendous filtration capabilities.  That is the riparian forest’s evolutionary role. It can help make up for the over-grazing but the over-grazing should not be occurring in the first place.  The upland sediment sources to the ridge line also need to be identified and addressed.  See Willow Creek.

So we are all correct.  The question is, when do we get to work addressing these multiple impacts?

Shovel ready watershed restoration = Jobs, jobs, jobs. A restored sustainable commercial fishery = Jobs, jobs, jobs. A restored sustainable wild sport fishery = Jobs, jobs, jobs. Sustainable fish friendly agriculture = Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Watershed degradation = economic and ecological collapse.  See the headlines. The Dust Bowl characterized the Great Depression 1.0 will watershed and fishery destruction characterize Great Depression 2.0.

— Brian

The google map is informative.  I see a minor problem with the missing tree line along the water way and a HUGE problem in the surrounding lands of the watershed, which is comprised of dead, largely impervious soil, which will shed water almost as fast as an asphalt surface.  By the time the large volumes of fast moving water reaches the creeks etc. it will be doing major damage that a few trees roots cannot do much about.  I concur with every thing Brock has said in his separate e- mail about watersheds.  The problem is with the unsustainable farming methods that have been practiced for the past 100 years compounded by improperly applied and ill conceived modern drainage management.  That’s why the northern marin-southern sonoma soil conservation, carbon fixing, advanced grazing – or what ever you want to call it projects currently being undertaken by Marin Organics, Marin Ag Commissioner, the Permaculture Institute, UC Extension and a couple of RCDs are so important.  What is happening is truly ground breaking (in so many ways) and deserves all our support.


Here is a link to a Google Map/Earth satellite image that shows a particularly embarrassing site at the intersection of Bodega Highway and Freestone Valley-Ford Road.,-122.91966&z=16&t=h&hl=en <,-122.91966&z=16&t=h&hl=en> Riparian Forest Removal = Sediment Impaired Stream.  In this case, critical habitat for endangered Coho Salmon. The State of California is spending millions trying to keep the Coho from extinction while sites like this are causing the extinction. Sites like this need to be addressed the way the Stornetta’s fixed their banks in the lower Garcia River. We can’t put this off.  The fishery is on the brink.

— Brian

Data collected in the Sonoma Creek watershed, with similar land uses (though less rainfall) to the Russian River watershed, over the course of 10 years by the Sonoma Ecology Center and summarized in a Sediment Source Analysis ( that the San Francisco RWQCB used, in part, to write Sonoma Creek’s sediment TMDL indicates that more than half the stream’s sediment load comes from the bed and banks of the stream itself. In other words, over-fast runoff is eroding the banks and incising the bed. This finding should lead to actions that engage all types of land uses, as well as planners who permit drainage designs on new projects.


Our people have been railing about TMDLs for years and nothing has happened.  I suspect that it is politically and administratively easier to engage the TMDL process where there is timber harvesting/timber conversions involved than in AG and multiple use environments.  Frankly, I have been somewhat taken aback as to how my hillside vineyard discharges can be clear to slightly milky while the Russian River and tributaries would be so heavily laden with thick brown clay and silt from the same rain event.  I’m sure there are plenty of other hillside vineyards which are similarly low in sediment discharge.  Hillside Vineyardists have made a real effort to get cover crops going and to improve soil so as to improve the soil’s ability to absorb water.  Frankly, I don’t think we really know where all of this sediment is coming from. Yet, it is quite evident that there is way too much sediment reaching the Russian River.  I rather suspect that a lot of it is originating from vineyards on lesser slopes which are not required to be cover cropped by the Vineyard Ordinance and are presumed to be a “non problem”, at least that is what the Universal Soil Loss “Equation” would lead us to believe, and which is the common assumption .  Improperly drained roads and otherwise denuded hillsides no doubt provide significant sources.  What we need is some real data, not more frustration, assumptions,  finger pointing and calls for universal regulation, so that effective responses might be formulated.

Measurements taken from individual tributaries, tracking sediment sources the way an epidemiologist would track a waterborne disease might be more effective than a more formal TMDL process and yield some usable information with which to engage stakeholders.


In response to Brian’s message – below:
I have been noticing the same plume for many years now.  The Navarro rivers responds to rain events in similar fashion. It is large amounts of soil being discharged, to a large extent, by Ag (mostly vineyards) near river bare soil conditions.

It is interesting that on the Russian River the same folks that call themselves the “Salmon Coalition” (coalition of large grape growers and wineries) that are dumping large amounts of soil into streams during significant rain events are also the same folks that are stealing (via unlicensed/illegal diversion) large amounts of water for frost protection and vineyard irrigation greatly adversely affecting low flow conditions and salmonid survival.

The Russian River is next up on the TMDL schedule, just behind the Klamath – and – should be happening in a year or so. Let’s up we can get these issues addressed in the Russian River TMDL for Sediment – with enforceable actions and language that would support sediment control and recovery. Also at issue is the Countywide Stormwater Permit /MS4 NPDES Pernit.  Progress in this permit is essential to dealing with Russian River sediment conditions.

The Garcia model works. Enforceable language enrages Ag and scares certain regulators.

Showing up and being part of those processes would help.


The sediment plume coming out of the Russian River into the ocean on President’s Day (2/16/09) was truly obscene.  It’s hard to imagine the volume of soil it would take to turn that much ocean light brown.  The southern edge of the plume was extraordinarily sharp and well defined and advancing south off Shell Beach.  Has the NCRWQCB done anything yet to identify the sources of this sediment in the Russian and where is that data and action if they have?  Here is an economic stimulus idea, fast track the Russian River TMDL(pollution budget) for the extraordinary multiple benefits it will bring.  Let’s fund shovel ready watershed restoration while there is still some soil to shovel.  The TMDL process was a demonstrated big success on the Garcia River.  Are we too dense or too corrupt to capitalize on that success model?

It is also hard to imagine a society dull witted enough to hit itself in the head with two shovels at the same time.  We have both the tremendous loss of productive soil plus the degradation of the commercial and sport fishery.  Is it any wonder we now face simultaneous economic and ecological ruin with this kind of intentionally incompetent riparian management?  Thank you “Land Rights Coalition”.

— Brian

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