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Sonoma County gets grant to improve Petaluma River, Sonoma Creek watersheds

Sonoma County officials are bolstering their efforts to reduce pollutants and sediment that flow into the county’s rivers and streams during rain and storm surges with a $991,000 federal grant awarded this week.

Initiatives supported by the Environmental Protection Agency grant are aimed at improving water quality in streams and rivers in southern Sonoma County, critical habitat for imperiled fish species and other wildlife. Local efforts over the next four years will focus on combating urban and agricultural runoff. The runoff includes sediment and disease-causing pathogens that enter the creeks and tributaries of the Sonoma Creek and Petaluma River watersheds.

“This is a substantial problem,” said Tennis Wick, director of the county’s Permit and Resource Management District, which is administering the grant. “These are two environmentally important watersheds, and they don’t get as much attention (as the Russian River watershed).”

Under the grant, county planning, transportation and parks officials will work with state and federal environmental officials to more aggressively monitor and curtail pollution and sediment intrusion that can degrade sensitive habitat. Other plans include reinforcing river banks with plants to control erosion; building runoff-trapping features, such as planter strips, in new developments; and working with nonprofit environmental groups to educate the public about the environmental harms of pollution and sediment intrusion.

“It is critical for the county to protect our water resources,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin said in a statement.

You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or angela.hart@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ahartreports.

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