Resilient Infrastructure​

Enhance services to the community by investing in County facilities and infrastructure; including roads, buildings, communications, and flood protection.

Goal 5, Objective 3

Evaluate the feasibility, creation, and/or update of Flood Protection Plans and seek out financing mechanisms to establish protection zones countywide by 2026.
On Track 25%

Updated: January 2023

Summary of Objective Implementation Status

Property-owner support is critical to securing a vote for a benefit assessment. The residents in the Upper Russian River watershed/Alexander Valley (4A) are the only property owners who have indicated interest in pursuing self-taxation to fund flood protection projects. A group of local landowners in Alexander Valley and other Sonoma County agriculture representatives has been formed to evaluate governance options for improving water resource management, including flood control for the Alexander Valley. The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) is also working with this group to explore ways to improve water resource management and achieve ecological uplift in the Alexander Valley. Sonoma Water and District 4 are working together to develop a vision for water resource management in collaboration with County of Sonoma Departments, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (Sonoma RCD). This vision should help guide and coordinate the activities of several organizations governed by members of the County Board of Supervisors and other public boards. The County of Sonoma and local landowners are jointly funding a study to assess governance options.

This vision will help inform Sonoma Water’s efforts to develop an updated Operations and Maintenance Manual (O&M Manual) for maintaining works of improvement constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in the Alexander Valley to reduce river channel instability caused by the construction and operation of the Coyote Valley Dam in the 1950s. New models for river management, such as those adopted for the Napa River, could meet Sonoma Water’s obligations to the Corps in a manner that provides significant ecological uplift to the Russian River in the Alexander Valley.

Key Milestone Update

The goal is to complete the governance study and develop a draft vision for the Alexander Valley in 2023. An updated O&M Manual will take several years to complete. The goal is to identify maintenance scenarios for Board consideration in 2023. Additionally, the County has reserved funding for efforts to advance water resource management improvements in the Alexander Valley.  The United States Natural Resource Management Service has also indicated an openness to participating in water resource management efforts in the Alexander Valley.  In 2023 the goal will be to both identify maintenance scenarios for the O&M manual and to initiate a feasibility study for potential water resource management improvements for the Alexander Valley.  Flood protection will be a key topic for the feasibility study.  These studies are expected to take 2 years to complete. Additional time will be needed to formally develop the manual and to obtain Corps approval for the updates, and to further advance water resource management improvements found to be feasible.

Coordination and Partnership Update

Efforts to improve water resource and ecological conditions will be implemented using an adaptive and collaborative approach. Given the complexity of the water resource conditions, such an approach will be necessary to ensure robust stakeholder and natural resource agency involvement, and eventually to gain acceptance of plans to improve water resource and ecological conditions in the Alexander Valley.

Community, Equity, and Climate Update

Based on recommendations from Alexander Valley property owners, Sonoma Water has reached out to the Sonoma Resource Conservation District regarding their involvement in engaging landowners in Alexander Valley. The Sonoma RCD has a long history of working with property owners in this area. Property owner participation will be a critical component in the success of the O&M Manual update and to the feasibility study. The engagement process developed for this effort can be designed to address equity issues, and to help ensure that implementation of the O&M Manual and other water resource improvements will not create adverse equity issues in the valley. The effectiveness of the engage process will be evident by the number of landowners that participate in this process and the eventual implementation of water resource management efforts.

Water resource management efforts in the Alexander Valley could include removal of invasive species and improving the health of the riparian corridors on the main stem of the Russian River and its tributaries, and developing managed aquifer recharge projects for improved drought and flood resiliency. There is the potential to leverage existing funding, private and public landowner funding, and federal natural hazard resiliency funding for these projects. Additional drought resiliency funding that will likely become available in future years could also be leveraged for climate resiliency projects.

Funding Narrative

Support for ongoing efforts to organize landowners in the Alexander Valley and create an entity to advance water resource management would be funded using private and public sources. Sonoma Water’s efforts associated with updating the O&M Manual could be funded through a reestablishment of the Coyote Valley Tax Override. As indicated previously, the County of Sonoma has budgeted funds for advancement of water resource management in the Alexander Valley.  Other collaboration and planning efforts undertaken by public organizations would be funded within existing departmental funding sources.

This effort is also being coordinated with the Russian River Confluence, which is funded through County financial contributions, and public and private in-kind services.

Funding for ongoing water resource management, including flood protection, would be generated with the property-owner leveed benefit assessment.