NOAA Selects California’s Russian River as Its First Habitat Focus Area

A stream in the Russian River basin. Credit: NOAA

A stream in the Russian River basin.
Credit: NOAA

SANTA ROSA – Fish habitats, flood control and weather forecasting along California’s Russian River will be getting special attention, as NOAA has selected the Sonoma-Mendocino watershed as its first Habitat Focus Area within its Habitat Blueprint.

Habitat Blueprint spotlights the value of habitats to people and wildlife and showcases restoration and science success stories.

In partnership with Habitat Blueprint, California Sea Grant Aquaculture Specialist Paul Olin in Santa Rosa oversees a Coho salmon monitoring program that will contribute to NOAA’s efforts to restore endangered salmon, reduce flooding and improve water management.

Under Olin’s direction, Sea Grant fisheries biologist Mariska Obedzinski and team regularly survey streams and tributaries of the Russian River to estimate numbers of outmigrating “smolts,” young salmon and adults returning to spawn. Major funding for the project is provided by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, in partnership with Sonoma County Water Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and more than 500 cooperating landowners.

Among 17 candidate areas in California, the Russian River was selected as the first Focus Area because it is a place where NOAA science and expertise can meet many habitat conservation objectives on a watershed scale.

“The work that Sea Grant is doing is really important,” said Helen Chabot McMillan of NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation in Silver Spring, Md. “It is the monitoring that will tell us whether we are moving the needle.”

How will the needle be moved?

Better frost advisories are one example, as they could reduce unnecessary spraying of fruits to prevent freezing. This could save water that is dearly needed for young salmon.

Read more about California Sea Grant’s involvement in Russian River Coho Salmon Monitoring and visit NOAA Habitat Blueprint.

Written by Christina Johnson,

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