Russian River

California’s Russian River. Image courtesy of The Freshwater Trust

The Freshwater Trust will expand a methodology based on geographic information systems (GIS). Known as StreamBank® BasinScout™, the trust will use this methodology to assess and prioritize potential restoration opportunities in California’s Russian River basin.

Snaking southward and draining Sonoma and Mendocino counties, the Russian River provides drinking water for several hundred thousand Californians and serves as critical wildlife habitat for fish migration and spawning. The watershed also has been used to support vineyards and orchards. However, loss of streamside vegetation and excess sediment from runoff have affected the region’s waters.

Restoration actions, such as planting trees along river banks, and agricultural practices, such as conservation tillage and cover cropping, can reduce nonpoint-source pollution. Historically, though, it has been difficult to assign value to restoration actions or prioritize them in a meaningful way.

However, the BasinScout methodology will help prioritize and direct funds to sites and projects with the greatest positive impact on the overall watershed. The Freshwater Trust will use $124,875 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to help communities, conservation funders, and restoration partners to restore water resources at the basin scale. .

“Current restoration efforts on private land are largely opportunistic; with funding directed to projects where conservation-minded landowners show interest – as opposed to being guided by prioritized lists of projects that can generate significant benefits for water quality,” said Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust. “We’re hoping to change that. Cooperative environmental solutions have the potential to dramatically expand the pace and scale of restoration across the landscape.”