Mining Gravel in the Russian River?

(Note: The Sonoma County Supervisors voted on December 7 to approve Syar’s Permit to gravel mine in an Alexander Valley section of the Russian River for 15 years)

Once again, Sonoma County Water Agency staff and the SCWA Water Contractors remain completely silent on the impacts of gravel mining on our water supply and water quality. This notable absence from the information and approvals process is covered by the usual excuse that the SCWA Board of Directors, aka the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, has not asked them for any formal report or findings.

The gravel and sands of the Russian River are wholly responsible for the natural filtration of our drinking water supply. Removing this extremely effective filtration medium impairs the filtration capabilities, particularly as population, runoff and discharges to the river increase.

The aquifer’s gravels and sands are also 30-50% porous. These spaces are filled with water for free by rainfall runoff every year, becoming an immense natural reservoir. The water is released downstream slowly, becoming the summer’s base flow for dry season river flows, water supply, recreation and fish habitat.

Dr. Bob Curry, UC Santa Cruz, has calculated that over 400,000 acre feet of water storage per year has been lost due to gravel and sand mining of the Russian River’s aquifer since WWII alone. For over a century, water from the Eel River diversions at the Potter Valley Project has been used to mask the over-appropriation and abuse of the Russian River.

How much longer will the Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors, and directors of the water agency, continue the demolition of our water supply, recreation and fisheries wealth?

David Keller, Bay Area Director,
Friends of the Eel River
1327 I St., Petaluma, CA 94952