Russian River: Inflating a rubber dam is critical to providing water to North Bay

Sonoma County Water Agency crews will begin inflating its rubber dam along the Russian River on Monday, which they say is a "critical component" of the water supply system that provides drinking water to more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties.

The rubber dam, located in Forestville, is typically inflated in spring or early summer when demand for potable water increases, the agency said. 

The dam can take four to 14 days to fully inflate, depending on river flows, the agency said, which then creates a pool of water that the agency draws water for use in four off-stream infiltration ponds. 

Sonoma Water said the infiltration ponds help recharge groundwater, which is naturally filtered through sand and gravel and delivered to the residents. 

The rubber dam is located downstream of the Wohler Bridge on the Russian River. When the rubber dam is raised, a permanent fish ladder provides fish passage and allows Sonoma Water to count the migration of adult salmon and steelhead with its underwater video system located in the fish ladder, the agency saidr.

Boaters must portage around the rubber dam. California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations prohibit fishing within 250 feet of the upstream and downstream sides of the rubber dam.