Water released into Russian River for fish

March 24, 2009 5:54:29 PM PDT
The Sonoma County Water Agency is releasing additional water from Lake Mendocino into the Russian River through Wednesday for thousands of steelhead yearlings that were released into the river last week.

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The water agency is releasing an additional 20 cubic feet per second at the request of the California Department of Fish and Game, which released the yearling steelhead from its Coyote Valley Dam Hatchery on Friday, water agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said today.

The Department of Fish and Game said without adequate water in the river, predators can prey on the newly released steelhead before they reach downstream, Sherwood said.

Last month the Department of Fish and Game released 84,000 steelhead yearlings and the water agency increased the release of water from Lake Mendocino at their request, Sherwood said.

The Department of Fish and Game initially asked the water agency to release 40 cubic feet per second, said Brett Wilson, senior hatchery supervisor for the Bay Delta Region.

Wilson said the yearling releases will be expedited because of the water agency's concerns about the low level of the lake, which is a source of water for the agency's 750,000 customers.

Sherwood said the Sonoma County Water Agency has made more water-release modifications than ever before in an effort to release only enough water that is necessary to meet state in-stream flow requirements.

"Drying tributaries, water demand from municipalities and agriculture are also sending upper Russian River flows plummeting to near state-mandated levels - 150 cubic feet per second in the upper Russian River and 125 cubic feet per second in the lower river, Sherwood said.

As of today, Lake Mendocino's water storage level remains low - 60 percent of capacity compared to 94 percent last year. This is the third consecutive winter with below-average rainfall in the North Bay.

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