Low-flows this summer may not be quite so low

GUERNEVILLE — This summer won’t be as bad as last when a combination of drought, low flow and elevated bacteria levels had boaters and bathers wondering why the Russian River seemed a little less inviting.

“This year is nothing like last year,” National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Dr. William Hearn said last week at a Sonoma County Water Agency low-flow workshop in Guerneville.

“Last year was like nothing we’ve ever seen,” said Hearn, owing to unprecedented low water storage levels in Lake Mendocino behind Coyote Dam.

Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are in much better shape this year after a wet winter, but the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) still has to reduce releases from Warm Springs Dam and Coyote Dam to comply with a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biological opinion that says high summertime flows in the River may be one reason why native salmon and steelhead are in danger of becoming extinct.

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