Russian River Integrated Coastal Watershed Management Plan

The Russian River Integrated Coastal Watershed Management Plan (RRICWMP) is a watershed-specific, high-resolution planning document specific to the Russian River and contextualized within the North Coast Integrated Regional Water Management Plan framework.  The plan was developed by conducting research and analyzing current and historic scientific, socioeconomic, and policy data, and enlisting stakeholders and watershed experts to identify key management issues.  A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) provided input into development of the RRICWMP and its goals, objectives and priorities.  This RRICWMP is the culmination of years of effort by public and private groups including the Russian River Watershed Council and US Army Corps of Engineers; it builds on previous efforts including the Russian River Plan of Action, and Russian River Watershed Baseline Assessment and Data Synthesis

Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives were developed by the RRICWMP TAC to address issues identified by experts and stakeholders.  Seven goals associated with a total of 60 objectives were identified; these integrate DWR standards as outlined in the Integrated Regional Water Management Program (IRWMP) guidelines.  The goals are listed below.

  • Goal I: Enhance Watershed Processes and Improve Land Use
  • Goal II: Protect and Enhance Hydrologic Function and Water Supply
  • Goal III: Protect and Improve Water Quality
  • Goal IV: Protect and Enhance Native Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes
  • Goal V: Develop and Maintain Public Stewardship
  • Goal VI: Engage in Scientific and Technical Assessment and Planning

The Russian River watershed drains an area of approximately 1,485 square miles with the 100-mile main stem channel flowing southerly from the Laughlin Range about 15 miles north of Ukiah, and flowing south-southeast until Forestville, where it abruptly bends southwest, crosses the coast range, and drains into the Pacific Ocean near the town of Jenner.  Elevation ranges from zero at the Pacific Ocean to 4,343 feet at Mount St. Helena in the Mayacamas Mountains (NCRWQCB 2005).  Nine sub-basins containing fifty-seven valleys comprise the watershed.  The watershed spans Mendocino and Sonoma Counties; it is bounded to the north by Humboldt county, the east by Lake and Napa Counties, the south by Marin County, and the west by the Pacific Ocean to three nautical miles.  It is contained within the Central California Coast ESU for coho and steelhead, and the California Coast ESU for Chinook.  The watershed is within the North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council and within the boundaries of three Resource Conservation Districts: Mendocino, Gold Ridge, and Sotoyome RCDs.  These agencies work with local stakeholders to facilitate environmental and economic improvements throughout the watershed.

The Russian River watershed has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and wet winters.  Average precipitation varies across the watershed with generally wetter conditions in the north and west.  Summer temperatures can reach over 100° F in inland valleys for weeks at a time, with coastal conditions cool and moist.  Drought and severe storms occur periodically but mostly unpredictably; El Niño/ La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climatic conditions can exacerbate climatic extremes.

The watershed is hydrologically and geomorphologically diverse, containing 238 streams, 23 named springs, 14 natural lakes, 15 named reservoirs, all or portions of 13 groundwater basins, steep ridges, ephemeral streams, rolling hills, and wide alluvial valleys.  Plant communities in the Russian River watershed include redwood forest, mixed evergreen forest, oak woodlands, interior chaparral, riparian forest, coastal scrub, mixed grasslands, streams, lakes, wetlands, estuary/lagoon, and near shore coast.  Several habitats have been identified for protection by the state of California, these include riparian, coastal prairie, serpentive soils, and instream habitat.  In addition to loss of native species, a number of nonnative invasive species now occur in the watersheds.  These include the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum that causes Sudden Oak Death (SOD), giant reed, yellow starthistle, French broom, and water primrose.  Invasive animals, such as American bullfrogs, zebra mussel, and Quagga mussel further threaten the integrity of native ecosystems.