Russian River Watershed Safe Harbor Agreement

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NOAA Fisheries and the Sonoma County California Water Agency (Water Agency) recently signed a first-ever agreement offering private landowners in the Russian River watershed incentives to restore, enhance, or maintain habitat for listed species on their property for the sake of federally protected salmon and steelhead.

The agreement, known as a “Safe Harbor Agreement,” is a mechanism implemented under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The agreement assures landowners that additional restrictions will not be placed upon their property should more of the listed species be attracted to their land as a result of the habitat improvements.

Enrollment in the agreement is completely voluntary. Under the agreement, landowners who participate will not be penalized should there be incidental harm or mortality of fish due to the habitat improvements and will not be restricted in their routine viticulture activities, as long as the agreed upon baseline conditions (i.e., habitat conditions) for the property are maintained.

The Agreement is intended to enhance habitat owned almost exclusively by private landowners along six miles of Dry Creek below Warm Springs dam. The habitat improvements are part of the federal requirements for operating the facility.

Under the Safe Harbor Agreement, the Water Agency will administer the program and enroll qualifying landowners in subsequent site-specific “Cooperative Agreements.”

“This historic agreement recognizes the important role that farmers can play in restoring salmon and steelhead to the Russian River watershed,” said Efren Carrillo, chair of the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors.

The species covered in the Agreement are threatened California Coastal Chinook salmon, Central California Coast (CCC) steelhead, and endangered CCC coho salmon.

source: NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region