Lake Sonoma

Lake Sonoma was formed in 1984 following completion of Warm Springs Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- a project that was decades in the making.

In 1937, the Russian River experienced extremely heavy flooding that prompted Congress to authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to study the feasability of constructing dams on the river to help control flooding and provide a water supply.  In 1941, the USACE issued its findings, recommending dams at Coyote Valley in Mendocino County and on Dry Creek in Sonoma County.  It took another 21 years before Congress authorized construction of the Warm Springs Dam, and five more years passed before ground was broken for construction in 1967.

In 1969, the Environmental Policy Act (EPA) became law.  This act created a challenge to any federal project deemed to be "growth-inducing."  Opponents to Warm Springs Dam stepped forward and construction was halted in 1974.  At this time, a group of community leaders formed the Citizens for Community Involvement (CCI) to actively support the dam's construction.  This organization would eventually become the Friends of Lake Sonoma.

Over the next several years, a series of lawsuits ensued, including one that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Construction of the dam did not resume until 1978.  Warm Springs Dam was finally completed in 1983 at cost of $330 million.

Today, Warm Springs Dam and Lake Sonoma are key assets to the livelihood of Sonoma County.  In addition to providing flood control and a supply of water for more than 600,000 people served by the Sonoma County Water Agency, Lake Sonoma is the largest freshwater recreational area in the North Bay and annually contributes nearly $12 million to the region's economic base.

The Friends of Lake Sonoma

  • In July of 1974, the Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) was organized to actively pursue the successful development of Warm Springs Dam and Lake Sonoma.  This organization was the precursor to the Friends of Lake Sonoma.  Milt Brandt, an insurance executive from Healdsburg, was the first president.
  • Following construction of the dam and formation of Lake Sonoma, CCI became a support organization focused largely on recreational development at the Lake.  It also supported educational programs and funded transportation for local school children to come to the Congressman Don Clausen Fish Hatchery for tours.
  • In June of 1991, CCI reorganized as the Friends of Lake Sonoma (FOLS) and changed its mission statement.  Going forward, the organization's purpose was to serve and support the interpretive and visitor service programs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Sonoma.  Milt Brandt was once again elected as its president.
  • Milt Brandt retired as chairman of FOLS in 1993.  He was succeeded by Bob Malone (1993-2003), Dave Harmeson (2003-2013), Harry Bosworth (2013-2015), Rich Thomas (2015-2016), Linda Clapp (2016-2018), Kasey Wade (2019-2020), Brad Sherwood (2020-2022)  The current chairman is Skip Brand, owner of Healdsburg Running Company and organizer of several running events, including the Lake Sonoma 50. 

Board of Directors

Skip Brand, chairman

Rick Herbert, vice chairman

Joe Brandt,  treasurer

 Vacant, secretary


Directors: Dora Azevedo, Nikki Baxes, Carl Bowers, Jayson Collard, Marci Cook, Dan Horn, Brent Swinth,  Marshall Turbeville, Jim Wilmes and Burrell Wyle.


Directors Emeritus:  Gordon Amrein, Harry Bosworth, Linda Clapp, Paul Finn, Dave Harmeson, Donna Meier, Tony Pettis, Phil Pinto, Arnold Santucci, Ken Screechfield, Richard Thomas, Kasey Wade

Tax Status

The Friends of Lake Sonoma is recognized as a non-profit cooperative association under section 501 (c) 3 of the United State Internal Revenue Service tax code.  Our tax identification number is 94-2260679.  We operate on a fiscal year from January 1 to December 31.  Monetary and in-kind donations to the Friends of Lake Sonoma are considered to be tax deductible, unless limited by law.


The Friends of Lake Sonoma relies on strong partnerships with key govenmental agencies and businesses, including:

United States Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District

Sonoma Water

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Sonoma County Tourism

Back Country Horsemen of California -- North Bay Chapter

Sonoma County Bowmen

United Flyers of Sonoma County

Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley




Contact Us