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NOAA Focuses on Russian River Habitat

As part of NOAA’s agency-wide Habitat Blueprint effort, we have chosen the Russian River Valley watershed in California as our first Habitat Focus Area. Habitat Focus Areas are places where we can pool our resources and expertise to maximize the conservation of important habitat.

Why the Russian River?

The river was once a premiere recreational fishing destination. In many places, however, fish like endangered coho and threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout have been blocked from spawning habitat. The portions of the river that are available to them are badly degraded, and coho salmon are virtually extinct from the river.

Another challenge facing the Russian River is the heavy demand for and competing uses of water. Agriculture, including vineyards, needs the water for farming. But, when farmers pull water from streams to water their crops, the streams dry up, stranding and killing fish. Balancing the needs of both farmers and fish is possible, but requires good science and innovative management.

The river also floods the Valley frequently, which affects communities and businesses along the river. This is difficult to address because steep hills and numerous canyons make it difficult to accurately predict of rainfall.

What Will NOAA Do?

To address the issues the Russian River watershed is facing, we plan to:

  • Rebuild endangered coho and threatened steelhead stocks to sustainable levels
  • Improve frost, rainfall, and river forecasts in the Russian River watershed
  • Increase community resiliency to flooding damage

We are developing an implementation plan for the Russian River and have already begun several projects that are expected to yield results in three to five years. Two restoration projects already underway are opening coho salmon breeding grounds and turning gravel pits into habitat for salmon.

Check back with our Habitat Blueprint page as other Habitat Focus Areas are chosen and these initiatives develop.


Posted January 7, 2013