News Worth Noting: NOAA & Sonoma County Water Agency sign agreement for stewardship of salmon and steelhead; Delta Stewardship Council adopts refined Delta Plan performance measures; Reclamation prepares to manage Folsom inflows; Weekly water and climate update

NOAA Fisheries and Sonoma County Water Agency Sign First-Ever Agreement for Collaborative Stewardship of Salmon and Steelhead

Landmark agreement offers private landowners incentives to conserve federally protected salmon and steelhead

From the Sonoma County Water Agency:   

noaa logoSonoma County Water Agency SCWA logoHEALDSBURG, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the Sonoma County Water Agency (Water Agency) today signed a first-ever agreement offering private landowners in the Russian River watershed incentives to restore, enhance, or maintain habitat for listed species their property for the sake of federally protected salmon and steelhead.

The agreement, known as a “Safe Harbor Agreement,” is a mechanism implemented under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The agreement assures landowners that additional restrictions will not be placed upon their property should more of the listed species be attracted to their land as a result of the habitat improvements.

Enrollment in the agreement is completely voluntary. Under the agreement, landowners who participate will not be penalized should there be incidental harm or mortality of fish due to the habitat improvements and will not be restricted in their routine viticulture activities, as long as the agreed upon baseline conditions (i.e., habitat conditions) for the property are maintained.

“This is the first time the Safe Harbor Agreement will be employed for listed salmon and steelhead anywhere in the United States,” said Sam Rauch, NOAA Fisheries Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs. “We’d like to thank the Sonoma County Water Agency for entering into this agreement and hope it will serve as an example for others as well as benefit future generations to come.”

This Agreement is intended to enhance habitat owned almost exclusively by private landowners along six miles of Dry Creek below Warm Springs dam. The habitat improvements are part of the federal requirements for operating the facility.

Constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1983 for flood control in the winter, the dam also provides water deliveries for Sonoma and Marin Counties throughout the year. The flow rate of these deliveries has significantly increased compared to historical levels creating challenges for young salmon and steelhead. Voluntary participation by private landowners is key to accessing Dry Creek, as well as constructing the habitat projects that slow the flow rate and provide hiding places for young fish.

Under the Safe Harbor Agreement, the Water Agency will administer the program and enroll qualifying landowners in subsequent site-specific “Cooperative Agreements.”

“This historic agreement recognizes the important role that farmers can play in restoring salmon and steelhead to the Russian River watershed,” said Efren Carrillo, chair of the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors. “So much of the land surrounding the river and creeks is privately owned, that cooperative landowners are key to successful restoration efforts.”

“Farmers who both sustainably manage their land and who participate in the Dry Creek habitat enhancement project will now be recognized for their good work. This agreement will provide a powerful incentive for other landowners to participate in the restoration efforts while responsibly farming,” said Sonoma County Water Agency Director James Gore.

The species covered in the Agreement are threatened California Coastal Chinook salmon, Central California Coast (CCC) steelhead, and endangered CCC coho salmon.  This year NOAA Fisheries is also highlighting CCC coho salmon in its “Species in the Spotlight” initiative as one of eight species in the nation at most risk of extinction.

“My goal, at the beginning of my tenure at Dry Creek Vineyard was, and continues to be, to leave our land in better condition than which I found it. The salmon in Dry Creek Valley are a crucial measure to the health and vitality of our ecosystem. The Dry Creek Safe Harbor Agreement recognizes the stewardship role played by farmers in helping salmon recovery,” said Don Wallace, Proprietor of Dry Creek Vineyard.

Dry Creek has been identified in the NOAA Fisheries CCC Coho Recovery Plan as one of the primary tributaries to the Russian River for bringing the species back to the watershed and increasing their overall population numbers.

The Safe Harbor Policy was finalized in 1999. It provides regulatory incentives for property owners who are willing to voluntarily manage their land to benefit listed fish and wildlife, in ensuring these beneficial actions do not result in new restrictions being placed on the future use of their property.  This is especially important because most of the nation’s current and potential fish and wildlife habitat is on privately owned land.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our other social media channels.

For more information on Species in the Spotlight:

For more information on Central California Coast coho salmon:

Please see our 4-part video series on the impact the drought is having on California’s fish, habitat, and landowners:

Delta Stewardship Council Adopts Refined Delta Plan Performance Measures

From the Delta Stewardship Council:

Delta Stewardship Council new logoAt the February 25, 2016 Council meeting, the members adopted refinements to the Delta Plan Performance Measures and corresponding sections of the Delta Plan. It was the first amendment to the Delta Plan since it was adopted in May, 2013.

The Delta Plan contains performance measures that allow the Council to adaptively manage the Delta Plan, as called for in the Delta Reform Act. When adopted the Delta Plan noted that the Council would refine the initial performance measures through a multi-year, stakeholder-inclusive effort with special emphasis on “output” and “outcome” measures. That process was completed in January.

The “output” performance measures will be used to track the results of administrative actions, and the “outcome” performance measures are included for tracking the impacts of those actions.

The refinement effort was based on best available science and informed by input from stakeholders and the Delta Independent Science Board’s (Delta ISB’s) review of the performance measure refinement process.

Reclamation Prepares to Manage Folsom Inflows from Series of Forecasted Storms

From the Bureau of Reclamation:Reclamation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing for flood operations to manage increased runoff into Folsom Reservoir as a series of storms are scheduled to move through the area over the next several days.

Reclamation will continue to monitor weather conditions and will increase releases from Nimbus Dam into the lower American River as needed to maintain flood space requirements in Folsom Reservoir. Current storage in the reservoir is 117 percent of the 15-year average (62 percent of capacity).

Located 26 miles northeast of Sacramento, Folsom Reservoir provides water for people, fish and wildlife, hydropower, the environment, and salinity-control requirements in the Bay-Delta.

People recreating in or along the American River downstream of Folsom and Nimbus dams to the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers can expect river levels to increase and should take appropriate safety precautions.

Midnight Reservoir Elevation and Flows for Folsom may be found at Reclamation’s Central Valley Operations Office website at Current American River conditions may be found at the Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center website at

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier Persistent, warm temperatures across Alaska, especially in Anchorage, have shortened the ceremonial start of the Iditarod sled dog race, and required trainloads of snow to be imported for the event. and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at

Weekly Water and Climate Update: Persistent, warm temperatures and lack of snow in Alaska impact Iditarod race

From the USDA:

SNOTEL MapThe Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.

Persistent, warm temperatures across Alaska, especially in Anchorage, have shortened the ceremonial start of the Iditarod sled dog race, and required trainloads of snow to be imported for the event.

The current snow water equivalent percent of median map shows most of the West is near average, but overall shows little change this week. Warm weather has snow water equivalent at stations in the Southwest at well below average. Some stations in the central West report values still above normal.

Click here to read the report.


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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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