Sonoma County communities awarded millions in state drought relief funds

Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Dry Creek Rancheria tribe among the recipients of millions in state dollars.|

Sonoma County communities scored big in the release of a new tranche of state drought relief money Monday, receiving more than $31 million for projects aimed at shoring up water supplies as the region endures a third year of drought.

The cities of Healdsburg and Cloverdale were among the recipients. Both are heavily dependent on withdrawals from the critically low upper Russian River and Lake Mendocino, whose supplies have been clamped down to maintain minimum flows.

Last year, both cities were ordered by the state to reduce usage to 55 gallons of water per person per day or less.

The city of Cloverdale was awarded a little over $3 million to upgrade its water system.

The city of Healdsburg received $7 million toward extension of its distribution system for reclaimed wastewater into the center of town.

The city still needs matching funds to construct a 4 1/2 mile pipeline that it hopes will help offset withdrawals from the Russian River and Lake Mendocino — a project estimated between $13 million and $15 million, Utilities Director Terry Crowley said.

But word of the state grant itself, among so much need around California, “is still very good news,” Crowley said Monday.

“That’s a big win for the city because it’s a very big, expensive project for a really small community,” he said.

In another big win, a partnership between the Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians, neighboring vineyard owners, fisheries agencies and Sonoma County were awarded $7 million to pursue an innovative effort to recharge the Alexander Valley groundwater aquifer through diversion of high winter Russian River flows onto agricultural fields when the vines are dormant.

The idea is to capture flows that would otherwise head out to the ocean and use them to flood the land, allowing the water to seep in and filter into aquifers below, said North County Supervisor James Gore, board chairman.

Healdsburg produces between 80 million and 120 million gallons of treated wastewater usable for irrigation between May 14 and the end of September each year — less if people are taking fewer and shorter showers and generally using less water, as they have been, Crowley said.

Much of it is provided to vineyards along the west side of town through distribution lines direct from the wastewater treatment plant off Foreman Lane, as well as the Syar gravel quarry, under permit requirements that mandate its disposal on dry land, Crowley said.

But even last year, when residents were trucking reclaimed water to their homes to use on landscaping, there were still 15 million to 20 million gallons left over that could have been used on parks left to go dry and other areas like community athletic fields, golf courses and the city cemetery, Crowley said.

The city is still waiting to hear later this year or early next on federal grants for which it has applied to help with the reclaimed water pipeline, Crowley said.

The city of Petaluma also received significant funding, including nearly $3 million for a recycled water pipeline, $450,000 for aquifer storage and recovery planning and $7.5 million for advanced metering infrastructure.

More than $3 million in grant funding was awarded to the Valley of the Moon Water District projects related to aquifer storage and recovery projects.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include funding awarded to Petaluma and the Valley of the Moon Water District.

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