Russian river from bridge

Lake Mendocino releases ramped down to attempt missing person recovery

The Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water) began ramping down releases of water from Lake Mendocino on the afternoon of Monday, July 8 at the request of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department in order to attempt the recovery of a missing person near the outlet structure in the lake at the base of Coyote Valley Dam.

Sheriff’s officials are looking for a 40-year-old man who has been missing since June 11 following a fishing trip on the lake. The body of the man’s father was discovered floating in the lake that evening, but the son has not been located.

 Releases from Lake Mendocino were at 136 cubic feet per second (cfs) Monday afternoon and were expected to be reduced to 100 cfs overnight. Releases will be ramped down gradually until they reach 25 cfs by Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. The sheriff’s department will perform its recovery attempt using an underwater robot from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department.

The use of the robot requires the current be no more than 4.5 knots near the outlet structure that is located at the bottom of the lake, thus the need for reduced water releases. The structure releases water into a hydroelectric plant within the dam, which then releases water into the Russian River.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s officials have previously conducted unsuccessful searches for the missing man using divers and sonar devices.

The recovery attempt is expected to take several hours on Wednesday morning. Immediately following the search near the outlet structure, releases will be ramped back up to 135-140 cfs by Wednesday evening.

Water users along the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and the confluence with Dry Creek can expect a substantial drop in water depths. Sonoma Water does not anticipate any interruptions in its water deliveries due to the reduced releases of water as it relies mainly on releases from Lake Sonoma to supply its customers.

Sonoma Water officials have notified the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board about the temporary reduction in releases. Sonoma Water staff will be monitoring the river for possible fish strandings along the Russian River in conjunction with NMFS.

Authorities are searching for Vincent Soto, 40, of Laytonville. Deputies learned he was missing after another boater found the body of his father, Carlos Soto, 62, also of Laytonville, floating in the water at the south end of the lake on the evening of June 11.

Relatives said the two had planned a day of fishing on the lake, and both could swim. Their wallets, along with the younger Soto’s cellphone, were in their boat, the Sheriff’s Office said. Authorities noted no sign of foul play after recovering the body of Carlos Soto.

 — Submitted by Barry Dugan, Sonoma County Water Agency

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