A group of Sonoma County farmers on Monday filed a petition seeking California Supreme Court review of controversial frost protection regulations aimed at protecting fish in the Russian River. The request follows a similar petition filed Friday by the group’s Mendocino County allies.
Russian River Water Users for the Environment claims that the state Water Resources Control Board overstepped its authority in adopting rules that they contend are unnecessary and based on faulty science and inadequate environmental review.
The state rules are intended to prevent endangered fish from becoming stranded when farmers draw water from the river and its tributaries to spray on their crops when temperatures drop below freezing. The water forms a protective icing on the plants, but fish can be left high and dry during sharp drawdowns in stream flow, according to federal and state wildlife officials.
The rules were based on two episodes of juvenile fish becoming stranded in 2008. Fisheries officials found about four dozen dead fish but estimated they represented up to 25,000 fish in the Russian River system.
The state Supreme Court petition, filed by Sacramento attorney Nick Jacobs, calls the assumptions on which the estimates were based “ridiculous.”