Salmonid Restoration Federation

Marshall Ranch FAQ

How can I submit a public comment for the CEQA period?

If you would like to write a letter of support for this project, please click here to see the logistics of the public comment period

The public comment period will be open from November 4 to December 4, 2020.

What is the timeline for this project?

2013: SRF initiated the Redwood Creek, South Fork Eel low-flow monitoring, and education and outreach campaign.

2014: SRF continued low-flow monitoring during the dry season, as well as water conservation education.

2015 - 2017: Added data loggers and produced the Preliminary Hydrology Report (Hydrologist Randy Klein) and Redwood Creek Feasibility Study (Stillwater Sciences).

2017: Project team identified Marshall Ranch Flow Enhancement project as most viable means to measurably improve flows in Redwood Creek.

2018: Received WCB Streamflow Enhancement planning funding to design an off-stream pond dedicated to improving instream flows.

2019: Continued monitoring, including pre-project monitoring. Moved from conceptual designs to the 65% design phase. Made numerous design revisions to address downstream neighbors' slope stability concerns. Submitted Appropriate Water Right to State Water Board. Submitted preliminary CEQA documents to County.

2020: Revised designs to 90% level. Hosted tours of the proposed site for both the Technical Advisory Committee and the public. Resubmitted CEQA documents and Revised Mitigated Negative Declaration to Humboldt County.

In September the State Water Board publicly noticed the Appropriative Water Right application. The Humboldt County public 30-day comment period will likely be this fall and all documents will be available on the State Clearinghouse website.

The public hearing will likely be via Zoom in November, 2020.

2021: Project team will move from 90-100% design phase. If funded, this project would probably be under construction in 2022 with the preliminary road improvements beginning in 2021.

How will the project ensure that the water released from the reservoir is cool enough to benefit aquatic species?

The water will be drawn out of the bottom of the reservoir, and the depth will keep that water cool.

There is also a nearby downstream reach where approximately 30 gallons per minute flow below gravel, which will cool the water further.

Recent flow enhancement initiatives in lower Russian River tributaries are analogous to this Project and have displayed that directly augment is one of the most successful approaches to date for enhancing dry-season streamflow.  Data show that flow augmentations from agricultural ponds in all years from 2015-2018 were able to appreciably increase wetted channel habitat, increase dissolved oxygen in the stream water, and decrease water temperature downstream from the flow augmentation release points. 

The project team is considering additional backup measures, such as a water chiller. When the pond gets low and outflow water temperatures begin to warm, water will be directed into an industrial water chiller which will cool the water prior to release to the creek. 

Will the project affect the property value of neighbors?

The WCB project will likely protect or contribute to an increase in property values due to a stream flow enhancement that keeps Redwood Creek wet when it otherwise might be dry. Property values will benefit from the aesthetic or amenity of a flowing creek. The proposed project is a highly-engineered reservoir with modern safety considerations that will enhance streamflow and improve the ecological function of the creek. Many ranches and riverside properties across the western U.S. typically have an appreciable increase in fair market value most directly attributable to their frontage and instream flow. Specific examples include ranching properties that historically diverted from and dewatered the entirety of a creek for hay or other livestock feed production that switched diversion practices to accommodate an enhanced stream flow and continued ranching diversion and use of water.

Additionally, the reservoir water would be available for fire suppression, extending an added measure of safety for the community and these same downstream homes and properties.

Can this project just be a large pond? Why does it need to be such an engineered reservoir with such a large capacity?

The project goal is to provide measurable improvements to Redwood Creek habitat conditions by increasing instream flows.

This reservoir is designed to release 50 GPM (gallons per minute) during the dry season. This would allow for fish migration and sufficient instream flows to support juvenile salmonids. Reducing the target GPM releases would not decrease project costs but it would diminish the results.

15.3 million gallons (the total reservoir volume) is much lower than consumptive use on Redwood Creek (approximately ½ to ⅔ of human consumptive use). SRF and our project team are trying to indirectly mitigate for water use in Redwood Creek while also providing community benefits of fire suppression and improved water quality.

How can this project benefit the local fire department and help reduce community fire risk?

The proposed project includes a fire hydrant that’s gravity fed from the bottom of the pond, so the whole pond can be used for fire suppression in case of wildfire.

Additionally, helicopters could dip a bucket into to the pond, and fire trucks will be able to access it.

What are the liabilities to downstream neighbors and how can they be mitigated?

Over the last 9 months, the project team has done major revisions to address safety concerns. The project is located on a flat terrace, and 90% of the water storage will be in a hole excavated into the terrace. The design revisions have lowered the pond elevation and the pond footprint. The bottom of the pond will be covered with a plastic and gravel liner that has a French drain that will lower the groundwater table. The designs and all of the technical studies will all be part of the public record and be made available on the SRF website as they are finalized.

Once it is sent to the state clearinghouse, there will be 30-day public review period. The designs will be available there for anyone to access.

What types of reservoir safety modeling has been conducted?

Stillwater Sciences has conducted two main types of safety analysis.

1. Slope stability analysis

The first consists of a 2-dimensional analysis that models soil properties and shows where slope instability could happen. The key to the stability design features is small berms that will retain the top portion of the water, which are set back at considerable distance from slopes. There are no plausible failure mechanisms since the berms are far from steep slopes. Groundwater levels are the drivers of slope instability. Maintaining low groundwater levels are key to maintaining slope stability. 

2. Hydrological analysis

Stillwater engineers conducted a seismic stability analysis to determine spillway size, so it has the capacity for 100 year storm flows. In the worst case scenario, which they do not think is possible, the simulation showed that all the water would go into Redwood Creek.

Unlike most large ponds, which are onstream and have a higher degree of instability (because they have creek water running into them during storm events), this engineered reservoir is fed by rainfall and is located entirely off-stream.

Additionally, the design includes multiple sensors associated with this project to monitor groundwater levels. There will be sensors on the pond berm to alert the project team to any changes.

What is the solar array component of the project?

This project includes a 7.5 KW solar array grid intertie system and associated infrastructure to offset annual power use and ensure that the project itself including valves, sensors, internet connection, etc. will be operational in a power outage.

How will the pond be filled?

The pond is designed to be filled with rainwater during the wet season (winter). The Marshall Ranch LLC has filed for an appropriative water right for winter diversions of 30 acre-feet to supplement the rainwater catchment and sheet runoff component of the project. During winters with little rainfall, pumping would augment rainfall. The pumping rate would never exceed 5% of Redwood Creek flow and the schedule for pumping would be coordinated with CDFW to ensure that pumping only happened during peak winter flows and would not affect other water rights holders.

What is the bullfrog management plan for this project?
In order to avoid bullfrogs from infesting the project sites the following strategies will be implemented: 
  • Landowner and resident education is one of the most important strategies, as people have been known to intentionally introduce bullfrogs to local bodies of water as a source of food. 
  • Monitoring of project sites will also be very important as early detection, before populations can get established, is a key component of control. Monitoring will be conducted as per Appendix K of the BOD Report: Bullfrog Monitoring and Management Plan prepared by CDFW. 
  • If needed, the off-channel pond may be drained. David Manthorne, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist, recommends draining ponds if invasive bullfrogs are present to interrupt their life cycle (CDFW Compliance Guidance). According to research by Doubledee et al, 2007, “Bullfrogs, Disturbance Regimes, and the Persistence of California Red-Legged Frogs ", draining of ponds can be effective for bullfrog management if draining occurs at least every 2 years.
  • If annual monitoring shows that bullfrogs are present, active measures will be taken in consultation with CDFW and will follow the methods described in Exhibit A: Bullfrog Monitoring and Management Plan (pg 330 of the 90% Basis of Design plans).