Rubber dam being used along Russian River to provide drinking water

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A rubber dam is being used to hold water back along the Russian River to flood basins where the water will seep into the ground and charge an aquifer to provide us with drinking water. (KGO-TV)

Countless times over the years, we've reported on flooding along the Russian River.

So, here's something new: How about an intentional flooding project? It's happening on the Russian River near Forestville.

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We've seen this before where the Russian River approached back up stage becoming more like a lake. It was a regional nightmare last winter.

So, why would anyone intentionally back up the Russian River now? "This is a very normal operation for us in summertime," Sonoma County Water Agency spokesperson Pam Jeane said.

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A rubber dam is being used to hold back water along the Russian River near Forestville.

The Sonoma County Water Agency intends to back up the river, then use that water to flood basins where the water will seep into the ground and charge the aquifer. Ultimately, we will drink it. "And that ground that exists out here is what filters and cleans our water," Jeane said.

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As Jeane of the Sonoma County Water Agency explained, using massive wells tap ground water is fairly standard stuff in the water business, but the byproduct of the dam is far more interesting.

The agency has spent $12.5 million on a state of the art fish ladder that looks more like an aquarium in places. The glass is 3.6 inches thick.

Joe George has spent a couple of years as the superintendent of this construction project.
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Last week, when they inflated that rubber dam, water began rising in a ladder for the first time, with immediate results. "About 12 inches so far is the biggest one I've seen," construction superintendent Joe George said.

The point of having the ladder was to comply with the Endangered Species Act, protecting coho, chinook, and steelhead. "So in order for us to raise the dam, to raise it up every summer, we need to have the ability for fish to pass by it," Jeane said.

Even in summer, if you build it, the fish will come.

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weatherdroughtcalifornia watercaliforniafishwaterwater conservationdrinking waterForestville
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