Petaluma River Watershed
Located in southern Sonoma County, and a portion of northeastern Marin County, the Petaluma River Watershed encompasses a 146 square mile, pear-shaped basin. The watershed is approximately 19 miles long and 13 miles wide with the City of Petaluma near its center.
The headwaters and ephemeral tributaries of Petaluma River begin on the steep southwest slopes of Sonoma Mountain, the southern slopes of Mecham Hill, and the eastern slopes of Weigand’s Hill and Mt. Burdell. The confluence of Willow Brook, Liberty Creek, and Weigand’s Creek form the headwaters of the Petaluma Watershed just upstream of Rainsville Road and Stony Point Road. The Petaluma River itself flows across the Denman Flat area and through the City of Petaluma. Tidal influence extends upstream of the confluence with Lynch Creek (beyond the railroad crossing).
Mountainous or hilly upland areas comprise 56% of the watershed. Thirty-three percent of the watershed is valley, and the lower 11% are salt marshes. Sonoma Mountain at 2,295 feet is the highest point in the watershed. The Petaluma River empties into the northwest portion of San Pablo Bay.
The lower 12 miles of the Petaluma River flow through the Petaluma Marsh, the largest remaining salt marsh in San Pablo Bay. The marsh covers 5,000 acres and is surrounded by approximately 7,000 acres of reclaimed wetlands. Prior to reclamation, marshland elevations ranged from mean sea level to 3 feet above mean sea level.
Watershed Goals and Objectives
The following goals are taken from the Petaluma Watershed Enhancement Plan (July 1999):
- Establish a local watershed council for residents and organizations to fund and coordinate watershed enhancement activities and keep one another informed;
- Improve water quality and ground water recharge in the watershed with the ultiamte purpose of removing the Petaluma River from the RWQCB Impaired Waterbody List 303d;
- Support the viability of agriculture in the community; and
- Conserve and enhance existing wildlife habitat.
Current Projects and Funding
- The RCD was awarded a Watershed Coordinator Grant from the Department of Conservation in May 2011. This three year grant will support the RCD's ongoing work in the watershed but specifically targets improving both quality and accessibility of steelhead habitat, improving water quality via the reduction of non-point source pollution, identifying sediment reduction projects, optimizing water usage and conservation, and updating our Petaluma Watershed Enhancement Plan.
- Upcoming flood control, channel maintenance, and revegetation projects for the Sonoma County Water Agency include sections of Lichau Creek and Ellis Creek. Additional funding has also been secured to support our annual Petaluma Fall Trash Cleanup event.
- The RCD recently completed designs on a large bank repair project on private property in the San Antonio Creek subwatershed.