Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Rural residents within the watersheds of four Russian River tributaries that provide habitat for imperiled fish species have only partially complied with controversial drought regulations handed down last summer to preserve dwindling stream flows.
That’s the word from state water managers, who have resorted to aerial photography in remote areas to detect lawns that are being watered when they should not be, officials said.
In a progress report on the conservation regime presented this week, a representative for the State Water Resources Control Board said “quite a few” properties appeared to be benefiting from turf irrigation in violation of the regulations, though so far only 23 inspection cases have been opened and 14 warnings issued, officials said.
In addition, only half of more than 10,000 landowners in the four affected watersheds had met October deadlines for mandatory reports detailing their use of surface and groundwater — despite the threat of hefty fines for those who fail to submit the information, state water regulators said.
Residents in the areas of Mill Creek west of Healdsburg, Mark West Creek north of Santa Rosa, and Green Valley and Dutch Bill creeks in west Sonoma County are subject to fines up to $500 for each day they miss the deadline for producing information the state water board considers crucial to stream and habitat management.
“Moving forward, that is essential information,” said Erin Ragazzi, assistant deputy director of the water board.