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Russian River Tour with NOAA Administrator

April 17, 2015

Robert Webb and Kathryn Sullivan join California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel for a fish squeeze at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery during a tour of the Russian River watershed.
In yellow, Robert Webb and Kathryn Sullivan join California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel for a "fish squeeze" at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery during a tour of the Russian River watershed. (Photo credit: Rob Cifelli, NOAA)

In March, ESRL Physical Sciences Division (PSD) director Robert Webb, and researcher Rob Cifelli were invited to join NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan on a tour of the Russian River watershed in northern California. The Russian River is the subject of a number of federal, state, and local studies to address water management challenges related to flooding, water supply, fisheries, and agriculture. The Russian is the first demonstration of NOAA's Habitat Blueprint, a framework to improve habitat for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities.

Sullivan visited with representatives of NOAA (OAR, NWS, NOS, and NMFS), Army Corps of Engineers, Sonoma County Water Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others to observe first hand some of water management challenges and projects to improve fisheries habitat in the watershed. PSD and the Hydrometeorology Testbed are actively involved with the NOAA Habitat Blueprint effort in the Russian, leading projects to:

  • Improve precipitation and river flow forecasts;
  • Characterize tributary hydrology including the contribution of natural and managed flows;
  • Improving frost prediction and protection methods and prediction

These efforts support a vision for communities that are more resilient to the impacts of precipitation extremes on lives, property, water supply and ecosystems.

The tour started at the mouth of the Russian near the town of Jenner to observe the estuary ecosystem. The team then stopped at the Don Clausen Fish Hatchery to learn more details about water management issues within the basin. Webb gave a presentation describing the challenges of managing water in the Lake Mendocino reservoir to meet flood protection, water supply, and fisheries requirements and highlighted PSD and HMT's role to provide better precipitation and streamflow forecasts that could be used by reservoir operators to inform water management decisions. Webb and Sullivan participated in a "fish squeeze" at the hatchery to release eggs from female salmon and steelhead as part of the hatchery’s captive breeding program.

The tour visited restoration efforts along the Dry Creek tributary aimed at enhancing spawning habitat for threatened salmon species. Sullivan also met with wine growers and learned about HMT's frost prediction project, which is co-led by Cifelli, and expressed enthusiasm for this research-to-operations demonstration, especially the public-private partnership.

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