Tuesday March 5, 2024

Knee Deep Times via Maven’s Notebook

Wooden fence posts poking just above the surface and tall oaks with their trunks submerged are sure signs that the land is flooded. That word, “flooded,” has a negative connotation, an association with destruction. But here it is positive – even protective. And if the San Francisco Estuary Institute, Sonoma County Water Agency, and Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation get what they want, more water, not less, is destined for this place.

The Laguna de Santa Rosa drains much of urban Sonoma County, a watershed of 250 square miles, and is the largest tributary of the mighty Russian River. The more water that this creek and its floodplain can slow and absorb, the less water will rush downstream to threaten truly catastrophic flooding in Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Rio Nido.

But echoing a familiar Bay Area story, more than a century of development and channelization of the 22-mile Laguna de Santa Rosa and its tributaries – including Mark West, Santa Rosa, and Copeland creeks – significantly impaired the historical carrying capacity and ecological function of the system. The city of Sebastopol discharged its sewage directly into the Laguna until 1978.

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