Russian River watershed

Landowners, Grape Growers, Government and Others Partner to Protect Juvenile Coho

State representatives will recognize landowners, grape growers, agencies and environmental groups for their part in the development of voluntary programs to save water and protect local fish species in the Russian River watershed during the drought. The recognition will take place at a press conference on Friday, Oct. 2 at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Santa Rosa.

Voluntary agreements were developed in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service to provide water to protect coho salmon. Some agreements detail water conservation efforts and others outline flow releases during critical times for the migrating fish. There are currently 41 Voluntary Drought Initiative agreements signed with vineyard and rural landowners within the Russian River watershed.

“It’s a very tough year to be a fish,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This drought is unprecedented. But when responsible members of the community collaborate, the solutions can be remarkable. The partnerships we’re acknowledging today may help save coho.”

In mid-June the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an Enhanced Conservation Regulation requiring all users in critical stretches of Mark West, Green Valley, Dutch Bill and Mill creeks – which flow to the Russian River — to reduce water use wherever possible, especially on lawns and ornamental landscapes. The requirement also prohibited certain discretionary uses of potable and non-potable water in commercial agriculture.

Following that mandate, a group of grape growers worked with CDFW to develop the additional Voluntary Drought Initiative that, in conjunction with farmers in the critical stretches of the four creeks, aims to reduce water use by 25 percent. They also developed a reporting program that will track their progress toward that goal.

“This effort demonstrates what I think is the most important fundamental fact about the drought – we’re all in this together,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The commitment of grape growers to keep water in the streams when fish most need it demonstrates that agriculture understands this fact and is part of the solution.”

In one agreement, Jackson Family Wines will release 7.2 acre-feet of water from a vineyard reservoir into Green Valley Creek through December 2015. Water release agreements will improve conditions in that tributary, improving the odds of survival for juvenile coho spending the summer in the stream.

In addition to the water release, Jackson Family Wines contributed $20,000 in seed money to assist Trout Unlimited in establishing a program for the purchase of residential tanks for rainwater collection. This program will help minimize the need for people living near the stream to draw upon it for water.

“My family operates with a 500-year vision to do all we can to help enhance and restore habitat for endangered species,” said Katie Jackson, Vice President of External Affairs and Sustainability and daughter of company founder Jess Jackson. “We believe that collaboration with resource agencies, as well as other wine grape growers, is incredibly important for habitat conservation.”

This year juvenile coho salmon face the daunting challenge of surviving the fourth year of one of the most severe droughts in recorded California history. CDFW has asked landowners to participate in voluntary agreements to help ensure enough water remains in streams. Partnerships with landowners for habitat have been key to the state’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife resources.

For more information on Jackson Family Wines, please visit www.jacksonfamilywines.com.

For more information on CDFW efforts to protect and preserve fish and wildlife through this drought, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/drought.

To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit drought.ca.gov.

Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at saveourwater.com.

Conservation – the wise, sparing use of water – remains California’s most reliable drought management tool. Each individual act of conservation, such as letting the lawn go brown or replacing a washer in a faucet to stop a leak, makes a difference over time.

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Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
Galen McCorkle, Jackson Family Wines, (707) 529-5169