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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 20 hours 31 min ago

We appreciate your comments!

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 13:57
Normally we don’t post comments from our readers on our front page however, this commenter expresses how most feel eloquently. Thank you commenter Steph! Your post would be a great letter to the editor. There is something wrong when we elect a leader who wants to take our country back to the ‘good ole’ days of air and water pollution. To a time where we soak our crops in dangerous chemicals before we eat our food, enjoy driving down the road in smog with the windows down and believe healthy living is just a suggestion, not a right. This generation and all further generations should NEVER have to endure the ignorance and greed of our current administration. How they can even show their faces for the decisions they’re making. It’s just a show of their mind blowing ignorance and all out greed. Our future should not be polluted lakes and streams, dirty air and water, the killing of our wildlife habitats, nor any other evil method of making money the Trump administration can come up with. People will die from the rollback of these regulations. He needs to sit down with his family for dinner and drink a big glass of tainted water from Flint, eat from grapes or other foods coated with pesticides and be in the room when a hard working man dies after years of breathing in asbestos or coal ash. This isn’t a joke. It’s real life. It affects all Americans. Even you Mr. Trump. We have only one world to live on. If we continue this idea that our health, wealth and well being will always be there despite the changes happening around us, we may find out too soon just how wrong we are. Steph

Opinion: wine industry permits

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 10:14
Dear Editor:

County residents increasingly recognize that a moratorium on new wine industry permits is needed until long-promised tourism event regulations are in place and enforced.  (“Moratorium on wineries sought,” August 7)  Tennis Wick, the head of Permit Sonoma, states that “What we have to deal with now is taxing us at maximum capacity.”  This is exactly why now is the time to put new wine industry use permit projects on hold until the event ordinance is developed.  A moratorium would free up resources so that the much needed ordinance could be developed and still allow permits for residential areas impacted by the fires to proceed.

Town of Sonoma has put a moratorium on tasting rooms due to excessive tourism impacts.

Supervisor James Gore laments that county residents continue to believe wine events are out-of-control.  He claims that “they are afraid their activism is losing ground to wildfire recovery.”  His ploy that the housing recovery from the fire can deflect sensible regulation of spiraling wine events is a stance that goes against public opinion.

The wine industry opposes the moratorium and wants business as usual.  This means lax regulations and no overall assessment of wine industry impacts on increasing tourism traffic.  This is the same stance of the business elites who are guiding the Trump administration to gut regulations when they get in the way of corporate profit.

Chris Stover
Sebastopol, CA

Petition calls on Sonoma County to stop new winery permits until events ordinance is passed

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 10:07
If you want to comment here is the link: It would be helpful for some of you to write letters to the editor of the PD ( letters@pressdemocrat.com) not to exceed 200 words, supporting our position. Petition calls on Sonoma County to stop new winery permits until events ordinance is passed J.D. MORRIS

Petition calls on Sonoma County to stop new More than 1,000 people are calling on Sonoma County to stop permitting new or expanded wineries until a long-awaited ordinance helping regulate events within the region’s signature industry is finally approved. The ordinance has been on the horizon for years. It was proposed amid a groundswell of criticism from rural residents who say winery events have grown out of control, clogging rural roads and creating nuisances for neighbors as the number of wineries continues ticking upward, perhaps to points of overconcentration in some areas.

But the Board of Supervisors doesn’t plan to take up the issue again until early next year. The delay is largely due to the October wildfires, which have forced the county to focus mostly on disaster recovery and housing policy.

Critics say it’s inappropriate for the county to approve new winery permits in the meantime. A petition started by the group Preserve Rural Sonoma County has garnered 1,145 signatures and will be presented to supervisors today, said Padi Selwyn, the group’s co-chairwoman.

“There was a sense that the can keeps getting kicked down the road,” Selwyn said of the petition’s creation. “No one’s saying stop forever — we’re saying let’s hold off until there’s some standards.”

Supervisors in 2016 decided to start creating definitions of winery events and putting guidelines in place for some parts of the county where wineries and tasting rooms are most concentrated, namely Dry Creek Valley, Westside Road and Sonoma Valley. The board is now scheduled to resume the policy debate sometime in the first three months of 2019.

The county currently has 467 wineries approved in the unincorporated areas. Since the start of 2017, another 19 winery land-use permits have started working their way through the county’s permitting process and three of them have been approved, according to a spokeswoman for the county permit department.

Selwyn doesn’t want supervisors to freeze winery permit applications that are already being processed, but rather bar any new ones from starting, she said.

“Some people have been working on things for years, and they’re already in the hopper,” she said. “We’re saying anything new that comes up, let’s just put it on hold until we’ve got these standards and guidelines.”

It’s not clear how much, if any, traction the petition will get among the five elected supervisors.

Supervisor James Gore, the current board chairman, said he doesn’t support the effort.

“I feel like, in a certain way, they are afraid their activism is losing ground to wildfire recovery and other issues, and so they’re trying  to find a way to reignite,” he said of the petition advocates. “The priorities right now for our planning staff is to get people rebuilt and get people in housing.”Permit Sonoma director Tennis Wick said his department has its hands full dealing with the fire recovery and cannabis issues. And some staff vacancies haven’t made the workload any easier, he said.

“We’re tapped,” Wick said. “What we have to deal with now is taxing us at maximum capacity.”

Gore, whose district includes popular winemaking areas such as the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, doesn’t dispute the need for new winery-related policies.

“For me, the most important thing is to get clarity so that we’re all speaking the same language,” he said. “The second thing is to focus on local guidelines for areas with a lot of wineries.”

Gore said he also wants to help grape-growing areas remain agriculture-focused so they aren’t overwhelmed by too many events.

Michael Haney, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners, said he’s “absolutely” opposed to the moratorium suggested by the petition, which he called “not very forward-thinking.” He said a ban on new winery permits could stifle employment opportunities, and he thinks every winery application deserves a fair vetting from the county.

But the industry is also interested in getting an ordinance in place, he said.

“Obviously, if you’re running a winery, you want to make sure you’re doing things right, and having no definition of what an event is or what business activity is, is a little confusing and difficult for our wineries,” Haney said. “We would like to see a set of definitions put in place that identifies that.”

The idea of barring new winery permits until the ordinance is passed has garnered support from neighborhood activists and some environmental groups, including Sonoma County Conservation Action.

Daisy Pistey-Lyhne, executive director of Conservation Action, said her group wants to hold supervisors accountable to policy assurances they made years ago.

“It’s time the supervisors take action and follow through on the promise they made before approving more developments that will bring traffic onto narrow roads with low maintenance and disturb the rural quality of life for neighbors,” she said.

We need you there! West County Winery Event Ordinance Discussion

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 14:19
West County Winery Event Ordinance Discussion We know the wine industry will  be out in force. Don’t let West County neighborhoods be the next collateral damage in the “Wine Wars”. The wine industry has been in an “arms” race to build more tasting rooms, more events, more tourism, more food and wine pairings and in your back yard. Where is the balance? Roads are crumbling, traffic getting impossible, income inequality rising, groundwater so severely over pumped that the state has now declared our county basins to have high priority. Childhood cancer rates soaring to 3rd highest in state for “Sustainable Sonoma”. We’ve paid the cost for their success.    There is NO BALANCE of interests, everything is weighted to the industrialization of our ag lands. 4% of our food is grown here, 96% is imported so are we an agriculture community or just alcohol growers? This is NOT ag promotion. Please come and give the supervisors some input that we have had enough before West County looks like traffic jammed Sonoma or Healdsburg.   The wine industry thinks they deserve more and more, when does it end? Central California wine regions are localizing tasting rooms and event centers to downtown areas but not in Sonoma County. If your want your neighborhood to stay a community, time to get to this meeting.     You’re invited! Please join west county constituents and Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins for a public meeting and discussion on the county’s winery event ordinance. The ordinance is still being amended by county staff. The Board of Supervisors expects to hold a public hearing on this initiative during the first quarter of 2019. In the mean time, Supervisor Hopkins would like to hear west county opinions, thoughts, concerns and more about the proposed ordinance. Learn more about the county’s winery event permitting process here: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/Winery-Events/. [707.565.2241]  [ lynda.hopkins@sonoma-county.org]  [ sonomacounty.ca.gov] County

Sierra Club and EDF Take Trump’s FOIA Failure on Coal, Nuclear Bailout Documents to Court

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 12:47
“The environmental organizations’ lawsuit comes amid intense criticism of the Trump Administration’s bailout proposal from a diverse array of concerned stakeholders – including energy companies, current and former federal energy officials, utilities and energy suppliers, and consumer advocates. The reported plan outlines how the Administration would use emergency laws, which have historically been reserved for wartime necessity or natural disasters, to prop up failing coal and nuclear plants that are ready to be replaced with newer, cheaper competitors like solar, wind, and energy efficiency resources.” Sierra Club and EDF Take Trump’s FOIA Failure on Coal, Nuclear Bailout Documents to Court

For Immediate Release Monday, August 6, 2018 Organization Profile: Sierra Club Contact:

Brian Willis, 202.675.2386, Brian.Willis@sierraclub.org

WASHINGTON – The Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sued the Department of Energy today for its failure to hand over documents as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests pertaining to the Trump Administration’s reported plan to force taxpayers and electricity customers to pay billions of dollars to bail out uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

“What does the Trump Administration have to hide about its abhorrent plan that would make working families pay billions to bail out fossil fuel executives? We are taking them to court to demand answers about what’s really behind this bailout that only benefits millionaire energy executives who backed Trump’s campaign.” said Mary Anne Hitt, Senior Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “The public has the right to know why the Trump Administration is trying to increase their electricity bills to keep dangerous, polluting plants needlessly online longer — and, come hell or high water, we will fight for the transparency required by law.”

The environmental organizations’ lawsuit comes amid intense criticism of the Trump Administration’s bailout proposal from a diverse array of concerned stakeholders – including energy companies, current and former federal energy officials, utilities and energy suppliers, and consumer advocates. The reported plan outlines how the Administration would use emergency laws, which have historically been reserved for wartime necessity or natural disasters, to prop up failing coal and nuclear plants that are ready to be replaced with newer, cheaper competitors like solar, wind, and energy efficiency resources.

“The American public should know about the Trump Administration’s efforts to create a policy that would increase electricity costs for families and businesses, stifle innovation, and increase pollution,” said EDF Attorney Ben Levitan. “The Trump Administration must fulfill its legal obligations to disclose these records.”

Numerous media reports, academic studies, and expert analyses have shown that, not only is there no emergency that would necessitate the bailout, but also that the Administration’s reported plan would cost tens of billions of dollars, upend America’s electricity markets, and spike electricity prices. A prominent recent analysis from The Brattle Group estimated that the bailout could have a $34 billion price tag for taxpayers and electricity customers. With no public evidence to justify DOE’s apparent plans to invoke its emergency authority for such bailouts,, the Sierra Club and EDF have repeatedly requested documents through FOIA to inform the public and elected officials on the Administration’s intentions, but their requests have been continually ignored and delayed.

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It’s a swamp thing: Toxic Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency moves to allow asbestos back into manufacturing

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 12:35
Toxic Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency moves to allow asbestos back into manufacturing Make no mistake about it, hardworking people will die as a result of this decision.

If you want to put cancer-causing asbestos back into some manufacturing, Donald Trump is your man. The Environmental Protection Agency, which is doing less people and environment protecting every day under the Trump administration, is considering bringing back some asbestos manufacturing. From The Architects Newspaper:

One of the most dangerous construction-related carcinogens is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) which allows new products containing asbestos to be created on a case-by-case basis. According to environmental advocates, this new rule gives chemical companies the upper hand in creating new uses for such harmful products in the United States. In May, the EPA released a report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances. The report states that the agency will no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.

Emphasis added. Let’s repeat that: “… the agency will no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.” It’s a dead giveaway to the chemical swamp. A deadly giveaway that will end up costing the lives of the hardworking men and women exposed to the deadly toxin.

Asbestos, once seen as a magical mineral, was widely used in building insulation up until it was banned in most countries in the 1970s. The U.S. is one of the only developed nations in the world that has placed significant restrictions on the substance without banning it completely. New data revealed that asbestos-related deaths now total nearly 40,000 annually, with lung cancer and mesothelioma being the most common illnesses in association with the toxin. That number could rise if new asbestos-containing products make their way into brand new buildings.

This is a deadly mistake and it should be stopped before it goes one step further.

Top Comments: 

karmic blue aardvark

August 07 · 11:31:14 AM

Russian mining firm puts Trump’s face on its asb Russian mining firm puts Trump’s face on its asbestos products

“By allowing asbestos to remain legal, the Trump administration would be responsible for a flood of asbestos imports from Russia and other countries into the US, as well as the wave of illnesses and deaths that will continue for years to come,” said Linda Reinstein, co-founder and president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

From www.asbestos.com:

Russia, which is the largest country in the world in terms of land mass, also leads the planet in asbestos production. In 2000, production reached approximately 700,000 metric tons, much more than Canada and China. In 2008, mining in Russia produced more than 1 million metric tons of asbestos. In 2013, the country produced 1,050,000 metric tons.

Russia’s high production numbers stem from the city Asbest, located about 900 miles northeast of Moscow. Once known as “the dying city” because of its high rates of mesothelioma and related diseases, Asbest is home to a mine that measures seven miles long, one-and-a-half-miles wide and more than 1,000 feet deep. The company operating the mine is Uralasbest, the world’s largest producer of chrysotile asbestos.

About 500,000 metric tons of asbestos is gathered from the mine each year — roughly 20 percent of the world’s supply.

Uralasbest and Orenburg Minerals, the two largest asbestos producers in Russia, maintain that controlled use of chrysotile asbestos is not harmful to human health.

Unlike Canada, Russia has remained a large user of asbestos. It is the world’s second-largest consumer, trailing only China. Russia has widely used the mineral in roofing materials, automobile brakes and insulation. About 3,000 asbestos-containing products have been labeled as safe by the Chief Sanitary Officer of Russia.

Close to Home: Building boldly toward the future

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 14:15
If we stay on track with city-centered growth and greenbelt protection, Sonoma County can usher in new era of thriving, affordable neighborhoods in cities and towns near jobs, schools and transit. If they stray, we could face a generation of scattered development on the urban edge and across the countryside that will cost us far more in public health, climate costs, congestion and loss of water and environmental quality, to say nothing of the natural beauty and the high quality of life that we love and enjoy in Sonoma County.” Close to Home: Building boldly toward the future

    

JAKE MACKENZIE AND TERI SHORE JAKE MACKENZIE IS ON THE ROHNERT PARK CITY COUNCIL. TERI SHORE IS REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR GREENBELT ALLIANCE. | August 5, 2018, 12:07AM     The tragic loss of homes in the October fires and the critical need for more affordable homes countywide is prompting a bold new look at how we revitalize our communities in Sonoma County. Greenbelt Alliance and our allies are looking forward, not backward, to meet the challenge of providing affordable homes to people who are vital to our communities and economy: teachers, doctors, restaurant cooks, winery and vineyard employees, young professionals and families and others. And we are convinced we can do this while ensuring the protection of our health and environment.   That is why we support investment in housing in our downtowns and existing neighborhoods to provide housing across the income spectrum while upholding environmental protections and longstanding growth policies. We reject recently published claims that we need to weaken environmental standards in order to recover and rebuild after last year’s fires.   To the contrary, our county has the chance to be on the cutting edge of creating a new generation of climate-friendly neighborhoods as we rebuild and invigorate new development.   Sonoma County residents have supported preserving farmlands and greenbelts for decades. Urban growth boundaries, community separators and environmental protections haven’t caused the housing crunch. Eighty percent of voters supported renewal of community separators for another 20 years in 2016. They’re one of the policies that have kept Sonoma County the gem of the Bay Area.   The challenge of providing homes that people can afford extends far beyond the borders of Sonoma County and the Bay Area to places where sprawl rules and freeways dominate the landscape. The housing squeeze is a result of multiple factors starting with job growth outpacing the construction of new homes at a rate of 12-to-1. This is further complicated by the significant loss of state and federal housing dollars, loss of redevelopment, income inequality, banking policies and market forces.   When it comes to the California Environmental Quality Act, we need to uphold this bedrock of state environmental law. CEQA provides ample provisions for speeding good infill and projects without cutting out essential neighborhood input and environmental health. Sacrificing endangered tiger salamanders or leveraging public open space lands to ease the way for developers, as some have suggested, is a tired and flawed approach that fails to meet the realities of climate change, fire risk and sustainable communities.   That said, in downtowns and specific areas where cities and unincorporated communities have finalized and adopted environmental review documents, projects that meet all the requirements shouldn’t need additional CEQA review.     At that point, we will need to step up for good projects. Greenbelt Alliance will use its development endorsement program to help make sure that the best projects move forward.   To address the housing challenge more holistically, Greenbelt Alliance is engaged on the Committee to House the Bay Area, which brings together 46 leaders from across the Bay Area to come up with regional housing solutions. CASA was convened by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to stay and thrive in the Bay Area.   If we stay on track with city-centered growth and greenbelt protection, Sonoma County can usher in new era of thriving, affordable neighborhoods in cities and towns near jobs, schools and transit. If they stray, we could face a generation of scattered development on the urban edge and across the countryside that will cost us far more in public health, climate costs, congestion and loss of water and environmental quality, to say nothing of the natural beauty and the high quality of life that we love and enjoy in Sonoma County. Jake Mackenzie is on the Rohnert Park City Council and Greenbelt Alliance’s board of directors. Teri Shore is Greenbelt Alliance regional director for the North Bay.   You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com Regional Director, North Bay   Greenbelt Alliance 555 Fifth Street, Suite 300 A | Santa Rosa, CA 95401
1 (707)  575-3661 office | 1 (707) 934-7081 cell  |  tshore@greenbelt.org greenbelt.org | Facebook | Twitter   Bay Area greenbelt lands are at risk of being lost to sprawl development.  Get the facts here. ;p class=”noscript”>This app uses JavaScript. Your browser either doesn’t support JavaScript or you have it turned off. To use this app please use a JavaScript enabled browser.</p>

Don Williams for Calistoga City Council launch party

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 14:06

Dear Supporters of Calistoga,

Thank you for your encouragement in recent years.  Besides addressing important topics like water and the fairgrounds, I’m interested in maintaining Calistoga values—a small town, uncrowded hospitality, sustainability, an unpretentious quality of life.  Many of us have already advocated for them over the years by letters to editors or public comments.  But those efforts are frustrated and the values vulnerable if the city council decides otherwise.  The votes on the council make the difference.  That’s why I’m a candidate for this office—to secure a vote and uphold the values we share.

I hope you will join me at a party to launch this campaign, on Saturday August 11, at 59 View Road, at 6:00 p.m.  We’ll talk about some of these issues, and ways you can help get me elected as your representative on November 6.  The attachment to this email has more information about how you can assist.  The Calistoga we appreciate will disappear without your participation.

(On Saturday, I’ll provide some seating and refreshments.  If you want to bring a folding chair or additional food or beverages, please feel free to do so.)

If you’d like to contribute funds to this effort, send your donation ($200 max) to:  Friends of Donald Williams, P.O. Box 273, Calistoga, CA 94515.  Your donations will go towards publicity for getting me and our point of view a place on the council.

Meanwhile, in the coming months I’ll go door to door to visit every voter in town, listening to their concerns and learning how to be a good representative for us Calistogans.

Thank you for your ideas, support, and encouragement.  I look forward to seeing you on August 11.  If you know others who share our interests, please let me know and I’ll invite them too.

Sincerely,

Donald

 

Responsive, Balanced, Experienced: Vote for the One you want.

Donald Williams for City Council

I very much appreciate your support in my campaign to represent you on the council. On the council I’ll hear and respect your ideas. I’ll be responsive to Calistogans’ wishes and participate in their goals. If you value our small town, and a balanced and experienced perspective, and want to preserve what’s special about Calistoga, here’s

       How You Can Help
  • Post a “Donald Williams for City Council” sign in your front yard.
  • Host a Meet-&-Greet. Invite friends and neighbors to your house where I can meet them and learn their interests and concerns.
  • Add your name to my list of endorsers. Just let me know.
  • Write letters to the Weekly Calistogan and the Calistoga Tribune (editor@weeklycalistogan.com), (editor@calistogatribune.com).
  • Canvass a neighborhood or street. Go door-to-door explaining why you as a local think my election would benefit Calistoga. I have some campaign handouts for you to leave at homes.
  • Contribute money for our campaign. The maximum amount I’m accepting is $200. Send it to: Friends of Donald Williams, P.O. Box 273, Calistoga, CA 94515.
  • Phone, email, Facebook people you know. Forward them any emails or literature that comes from my campaign. Let them know why you think my election would benefit Calistoga.
  • Set up a table with campaign handouts in a public place (e.g. grocery store, post office, farmers’ market).
  • Help with tasks, e.g. typing, phone calls, mailers, research, etc.
  • Please—contact me with your own ideas regarding the campaign or local Calistoga affairs. I want to hear them.

www.donaldcalistoga.com Phone: 479-8660 Email: dwcc@sonic.net

Donald Williams 59 View Road Calistoga, CA 94515 www.donaldcalistoga.com

Public Opinion on cannabis rules

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 10:32
Suddenly, their quality of life is being compromised by the hazards of commercial cannabis cultivation: significant loss of property value, crime, noise, glare, traffic, noxious odors, massive water use.” CANNABIS: How Close is Too Close? AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SONOMA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Not many of us in this life have the power and opportunity to safeguard the well-being of thousands of our neighbors.

But, at this moment, you do.

I attended the Planning Commission meeting on June 28th during which changes were recommended to the Cannabis Ordinances Setback Regulations to improve Neighborhood Compatibility.

You now have a complex job on your hands. With respect, let me try to simplify it for you by asking you to keep one thing very clearly in mind:

The vast MAJORITY of residents in Sonoma County DO NOT WANT to live near a commercial cannabis operation.

Many of these residents have lived in the County their whole lives, some families for generations. Suddenly, their quality of life is being compromised by the hazards of commercial cannabis cultivation: significant loss of property value, crime, noise, glare, traffic, noxious odors, massive water use.

Many of these residents have resigned themselves to having a cannabis operation near their homes because of fear of confrontation and reprisal or because they feel powerless in the face of the massive amount of money and influence the cannabis industry brings to its lobbying efforts.

You can protect these residents – and honor the wishes of the majority of your constituents – by making two changes to the Cannabis Ordinances:

10 Acre Minimum Lot Size

1000 feet Setbacks

This would be simple. This would be fair. This would be Neighborhood Compatibility.

Many thanks for your attention,
Patrick Ball, Sebastopol

Groundwater worth less than cannabis??

To the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

As you consider the limitations on area where growing cannabis will be allowed, please remember the foremost you must fulfill your roles on the groundwater panels, established to meet State regulations established to ensure groundwater sustainability.

Your responsibility for preserving sustainable groundwater supplies throughout the County for all the foreseeable future is your most critical role, and the one which you will be judged on by the State of California and by the public that relies on groundwater supplies. In fact, we all do rely on having enough groundwater to support the flow of water in our streams, the riparian habitat for salmon and for the ecosystems that support the fish, and the Laguna’s vernal pools.

Jane E. Nielson, Ph.D., PG
Howard G. Wilshire, Ph.D.

A bad neighbor

EDITOR: The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is considering allowing cannabis grows closer to regional parks. It is unnecessary to cultivate cannabis near the parks. California grows more than five times the cannabis needed for legal demand and, according to news accounts, 80 percent of cannabis grown in California (11 million pounds) exits the state and enters illegal markets.

The current setback regulation is 1,000 feet from property line to property line. The proposed change would lessen the distance. Cannabis has a strong odor, is oily and highly flammable. Cultivation closer to parks creates safety risks for people and animals accidentally crossing out of the park and onto sites protected by dogs or guns (to prevent robberies). Some growers use strong pesticides and rodenticides, which could leach into the parks, threatening wildlife.

Growers have lobbyists and business supporters to tell their story. The public isn’t aware of how permit decisions will influence their quality of life. We, the general public, have no large support organization to actively look out for our safety and interests. Locating cannabis grows closer to regional parks is an ill-advised, short-sighted decision. Park users should speak out to their local supervisor and Bert Whitaker, the county’s director of regional parks.

M. BOETTCHER

Santa Rosa

Sonoma County to weigh new pot rules. Growers, communities expected to clash at Tuesday meeting

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 10:23
He said pot farms are inappropriate on any unincorporated property smaller than 20 acres and that it’s premature for the county to delay the expiration dates on cannabis permits. Harrison said supervisors signaled at the April hearing they would take neighbors’ concerns more seriously. However, he said, “What they said the county was going to do and what the county has done so far … were on two different universes. “This is doing nothing but feeding cynicism on the ability of the county to even run this program, let alone do it responsibly.” County to weigh new pot rules, communities expected to clash at Tuesday meeting Sonoma County supervisors will consider Tuesday revising the rules governing cannabis businesses, hoping to balance the competing interests of pot farmers and neighborhood activists who don’t want commercial growing operations near their rural homes. The Board of Supervisors also is set to discuss opening the door to recreational cannabis sales in the county’s unincorporated areas, where dispensaries currently can only sell medical marijuana. But the policy debate about outdoor growing operations will likely prove most contentious, as critics lobby for tighter restrictions and farmers push for more flexibility. Under a plan proposed by county staff, smaller pot farms would be subject to a more thorough permitting process than larger ones, while residents could seek special zoning designations to ban cultivation in their neighborhoods.

“I think the neighbors will walk away probably not as happy as they’d like to be, and that’s probably true of the industry itself,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board’s vice chairman.

Rabbitt said he’s looking forward to a “robust discussion,” though he’s still unsure whether land-use policy is the best way to steer pot farms toward sites where they’ll avoid strong neighborhood opposition.

Tuesday’s meeting comes four months after a marathon hearing where pro-pot advocates and residents opposed to cannabis cultivation in their neighborhoods lobbied supervisors to change the rules in their favor. Supervisors at the time indicated support for policy amendments that would address concerns on both sides.

After further analysis from staff and two supervisors, the ordinance amendments have since been vetted by the county Planning Commission in advance of Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The proposed policy changes would allow the five medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Sonoma County to begin recreational sales in line with California voters’ 2016 approval of Proposition 64.

Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager, said staff will make it “user friendly and fairly simple” for medical dispensaries to start selling recreational pot as soon as next month, should supervisors sign off on the proposal. But the ordinance amendments won’t change the maximum of nine dispensaries allowed in the unincorporated county, Ricard said.

Under the proposal, cultivators would need to get a land-use permit to grow on properties smaller than 10 acres in unincorporated zones where pot farms are currently allowed. Use permits typically require a lengthy and expensive process with extensive public outreach before they’re approved by county officials.

Operations on sites larger than 10 acres — considered less likely to be located near homes due to their size — would need a zoning permit, which entails a less arduous process.

Residents who don’t want pot near them would be able to lobby for a new zoning designation to exclude cultivation where it would otherwise be allowed. Conversely, some limited areas where marijuana growing is now banned could seek a special zoning designation to permit it.

Supervisors also are set to consider extending the life of cannabis land-use permits from one year to five and zoning permits from one year to two, preventing cultivators from having to reapply as soon as they receive their first permit.

Alexa Wall, chairwoman of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, agreed with parts of the proposed changes, including extending permit lengths. She’s currently trying to get county approval for her own grow north of Penngrove, seeking a permit for more than year.

But Wall raised concerns over other aspects of the county proposal, such as the exclusion zones, which she called “bad policy.”

“It’s a permanent solution for kind of temporary issues, because what happens if neighbors change?” she said. “People move. They come and go. The fear that surrounds an operation now may not be there (later).”

Wall would prefer the county allow its “extremely rigorous” use permit process to dictate where cannabis farms are allowed, since county officials could use their discretion to veto an application amid stiff opposition from neighbors.

But to Bennett Valley resident Craig Harrison, a member of the group Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods, the current proposal doesn’t go far enough.

He said pot farms are inappropriate on any unincorporated property smaller than 20 acres and that it’s premature for the county to delay the expiration dates on cannabis permits.

Harrison said supervisors signaled at the April hearing they would take neighbors’ concerns more seriously. However, he said, “What they said the county was going to do and what the county has done so far … were on two different universes.

“This is doing nothing but feeding cynicism on the ability of the county to even run this program, let alone do it responsibly.”

The proposal also would allow cannabis farms to be closer to public parks in some instances. Current rules require the property line of a cultivation site to be 1,000 feet removed from the property line of the nearest park, but the staff’s proposal would make room for a smaller setback provided through a use permit.

“You think of public parks and you think of neighborhood parks with swings and playgrounds, but this counts Sugarloaf, Annadel, Armstrong Woods — all of those very large parks,” Ricard said. “It’s for those areas of parks in which there are no trails, it’s very remote, the public doesn’t go there, but a property line happens to be adjacent.”

After clearing the first round of cannabis ordinance amendments, county staff plan to launch a more thorough analysis of neighborhood compatibility rules and other issues. That effort is expect to start in September and last up to a year and a half.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or jd.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.

 

Geoff Ellsworth announces campaign for St Helena mayor, WWW endorses

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 11:11
Dear friend,

I am excited to announce that I will be a candidate for St. Helena Mayor this November.

St. Helena deserves proactive, visionary and reliable leadership from its Mayor to compliment the recent progress the rest of the Council and staff have made for local residents.

The City Council, along with our new City Manager, has made great strides to address deferred maintenance needs, the failure to address needed capital improvements, poor fiscal oversight, and the lack of sound planning.  We also established an Ad Hoc Water Rate Committee and with meaningful rate-payer engagement, we revised water rates to more reasonable levels.  We have enacted stronger accounting and fraud control processes and are moving forward with solutions to housing affordability and reliable water supplies.

We also formed the St. Helena Asset Planning Engagement (SHAPE) Committee, which is a first step toward better long term asset management and understanding of the City’s current and prospective financial condition.

Unfortunately, our current Mayor has either resisted many of these efforts or demonstrated inadequate understanding of the laws and policies we are dealing with, especially when it comes to equitable water rates.

A change of leadership at the Mayoral level will give St. Helena the opportunity to thrive for the long term with a more transparent, competent and collaborative approach to governance.

I grew up in St. Helena and have spent much of my life here.  I want our community to be well-served by those we elect and for all of us to know there is a better alternative for the future of our town and for Napa County.

We need an injection of new ideas, respect for tradition and consistent oversight.  And we need a strong voice on quality of life issues.  I intend to help guide St. Helena in that direction, drawing on my Council experience and by continuing to work constructively with my fellow Council members to get results.

In the coming weeks, I will be offering more details about the policies and reforms I propose to offer as Mayor.

In the meantime, I urge you to join me.  Please visit www.Ellsworth4Mayor.com today to register your support or to make a financial contribution to my campaign.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Sincerely,

Geoff Copyright © 2018 Geoff Ellsworth For Mayor, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:

Geoff Ellsworth For Mayor

PO Box 854

Saint Helena, CA 94574-0854

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Lawsuit Challenges Zinke’s Thrill-kill Council

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 14:48
“Zinke’s thrill-kill council is unethical and illegal, and apparently that’s just fine with him,” said Tanya Sanerib with the Center — which has now sued Trump more than 80 times. “These people kill imperiled animals for fun. They have no business making policy decisions about wildlife imports and we’re hopeful that the courts will agree.” Center for Biological Diversity: Lawsuit Challenges Zinke’s Thrill-kill Council

Lawsuit Challenges Zinke’s Thrill-kill Council

The Center and allies this week sued the Trump administration for illegally stacking its so-called International Wildlife Conservation Council with people who have personal or financial interests in killing or importing lions, elephants and other rare animals.

The council is designed to promote the “removal of barriers” to trophy imports — and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has refused to include any conservation experts on the council.

“Zinke’s thrill-kill council is unethical and illegal, and apparently that’s just fine with him,” said Tanya Sanerib with the Center — which has now sued Trump more than 80 times. “These people kill imperiled animals for fun. They have no business making policy decisions about wildlife imports and we’re hopeful that the courts will agree.”

ABC News: Conservationists sue Interior over trophy hunting council A team of conservation groups on Wednesday sued the Interior Department, claiming that the International Wildlife Conservation Council, which advises Secretary Ryan Zinke on trophy hunting, violates federal law. Wednesday, August 1st 2018, 3:12 pm EDT (CNN) — A team of conservation groups on Wednesday sued the Interior Department, claiming that the International Wildlife Conservation Council, which advises Secretary Ryan Zinke on trophy hunting, violates federal law.

The lawsuit alleges the council violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act in several ways, including by granting a large role on the committee to individuals who advocate for, or will profit from, international hunting of species such as lions, elephants and rhinos. The lawsuit also accuses the council of holding “secret” meetings that were not properly disclosed or open to the public.

Since the panel’s creation last fall, the conservation groups have criticized it as lacking balanced viewpoints. The council met for the first time in March.

Alledgedly designed to promote conservation, the Council actually exists to promote the antithesis of sound conservation policy: the hunting of imperiled species as a means to import their heads, hides, tusks, feet, and other body parts,” the lawsuit claims.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said the council “looks at several big issues related to wildlife conservation including stopping illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching.” She referred questions regarding the lawsuit to the Department of Justice, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Democracy Forward, a left-leaning advocacy and watchdog group that represents the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States. The lawsuit claims the council is composed “almost exclusively with individuals who retain personal and financial interest in reducing the cost of killing or importing exotic animals and their parts” and excludes scientists, economists and experts in wildlife conservation.

It notes that the group’s membership includes proponents of trophy hunting, including representatives of Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association.

Near the time the council was created, Zinke’s Interior Department announced plans to overturn a ban on elephant trophy importation instituted by the Obama administration. That decision was put on hold and a new permitting process instituted after President Donald Trump called trophy hunting a “horror show.”

The council has met publicly twice, and has a third meeting scheduled for the fall. The groups filing suit write that they are concerned the council is developing policy recommendations and they “can only conclude that they will be permanently shut out of Council business.”

TM & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

New Dicamba Drift Damage Estimated on More Than 1 Million Acres

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 14:31

 

“The only reason farmers are turning to dicamba is to kill the glyphosate-resistant superweeds sprouting across millions of acres. Dumping more and more pesticides on crops just keeps farmers on the pesticide treadmill. Meanwhile neighboring farms and wildlife pay the cost. ”New Dicamba Drift Damage Estimated on More Than 1 Million Acres.” New Dicamba Drift Damage Estimated on More Than 1 Million Acres

Widespread Pesticide Damage Reported, Despite So-called ‘Protective Steps’

PORTLAND, Ore.— A University of Missouri report released today estimates that drift damage from the pesticide dicamba has occurred across 1.1 million acres of agricultural crops, trees and other plants so far this year.

This comes less than a year after the Environmental Protection Agency and many states introduced additional restrictions meant to prevent off-target damage from the pesticide. Last year dicamba drift wreaked havoc on a reported 3.6 million acres of soybean crops not genetically engineered to resist the notoriously drift-prone pesticide.

“The widespread damage to crops and even hearty trees like the catalpa and Bradford pear confirms this drift-prone poison can’t be safely used and shouldn’t get approved by the EPA again,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “You’d have better luck herding kittens than getting dicamba to stay put. The EPA’s new leadership needs to end the use of this dangerous pesticide.”

Highly toxic dicamba products are designed for use primarily on next-generation soybeans genetically engineered to resist what would normally be a fatal dose of the pesticide.

A previous report released last month noted that reported damage to specialty crops, vegetables, ornamental species and trees has increased dramatically, indicating that many types of plants can be damaged by dicamba.

Earlier this year a Center report found that more than 60 million acres of monarch butterfly habitat are projected to be sprayed with dicamba by next year. Dicamba can degrade monarch habitat in two ways: by harming flowering plants that provide nectar for adults as they travel south for the winter and by harming milkweed, which, as the only food of monarch caterpillars, is essential for the butterfly’s reproduction.

“In addition to the farming community again getting slammed by dicamba drift, this uncontrollable pesticide is harming wild plants just outside of agricultural fields that provide important animal habitat,” said Donley. “The only reason farmers are turning to dicamba is to kill the glyphosate-resistant superweeds sprouting across millions of acres. Dumping more and more pesticides on crops just keeps farmers on the pesticide treadmill. Meanwhile neighboring farms and wildlife pay the cost.”

Dicamba has a time-limited regulatory federal approval that is subject to expiration by Nov. 9, 2018 unless it is renewed by the EPA. The agency will decide in mid-August whether to renew the new dicamba registration or let it expire.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Trump Administration Lifts Ban On GMOs, Bee-Killing Chemicals In Wildlife Refuges

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 14:17
“Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies,” she said. Trump Administration Lifts Ban On GMOs, Bee-Killing Chemicals In Wildlife Refuges The Defenders of Wildlife CEO called the decision to scrap the Obama-era policy “an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them.” By Chris D’Angelo The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era policy that banned the use of genetically modified crops and controversial insecticides on national wildlife refuges across the country.  

The move comes a little more than four years after Jim Kurth, then the chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, issued a memorandum to phase out GMO seeds and neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals thought to be linked to declining bee populations. The 2014 decision, Kurth wrote, was “based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices.”

Instead of a blanket ban, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now consider approving their use on a case-by-case basis, according to an internal memo posted Friday by the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife.

Greg Sheehan, the agency’s principal deputy director, wrote in the memo dated Thursday that “in some cases the phasing out of those practices was appropriate and expedient,” but that there might be certain situations “where use of GMO crop seeds is essential to best fulfill the purposes of the refuge and the needs of birds and other wildlife.”

“Normal human expansion in our nation will continue to eliminate wildlife habitats that have previously been relied upon for successful wildlife restoration,” the memo states. “Therefore, our professional wildlife managers will need to work more diligently than ever to ensure that those remaining important places have the best available food resources and other important conditions to ensure [wildlife] can persist.”

The suggestion is that genetically engineered crops could prove key to sustaining waterfowl, migratory birds and other species. As for neonicotinoids, Sheehan noted that they are often used in conjunction with GMO seeds and “may, or may not, be needed to fulfill needed farming practices.”

Neonicotinoids, a common insecticide used to fight off a variety of pests, are suspected of playing a role in the collapse of bees and other pollinators. A 2015 study last year found that chronic exposure to the chemicals, which are believed to attack the central nervous system in bees, can impair bumblebees’ learning and memory. A second study, published in 2016, found neonics can impact a bumblebee’s ability to forage.

A spokesman for FWS told HuffPost via email that the agency’s managers periodically review wildlife management practices, including cooperative farming, in an effort to meet conservation objectives for waterfowl and other species. The 2014 ban, the spokesman said “limited the on-the-ground latitude of refuge managers to deploy the appropriate agricultural practices necessary to meet their conservation objectives and their refuge’s specific purpose.”

In a statement Friday, Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders, called the administration’s decision “an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them.”

“Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies,” she said.

This story has been updated with additional information about the policy change and a statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

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Donald Williams runs for Calistoga City Council

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 11:04
Donald Williams runs for Calistoga City Council (WWW endorses)

Dear Fellow Calistogan,

I’m pleased to announce my candidacy for city council in the November election. After years of involvement in Calistoga, I look forward to serving our community in this different way.

Biography for a council seat, 2018 campaign We have many issues before us to consider—among them water, the fairgrounds, traffic, tourism, and our environment.  On the council I’ll make it a point to hear your concerns and be responsive to what you want for our small town.  As a Calistogan since 1974—a businessman, teacher, parent, and volunteer—I’ll bring to the council a deep familiarity with local affairs and the qualities crucial for addressing those issues:  balance, pragmatism, optimism, responsiveness, curiosity, and experience.

Attached is a little biographical sketch to help us get better acquainted.  You are welcome to share it with others.  For more information on my work experience, more information about my candidacy, and ways to help my campaign, please visit my website www.donaldcalistoga.com.

Between now and November, I’ll send out occasional emails regarding the election.  If you prefer not to receive anything else from me on this topic, please let me know.

However, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions about my candidacy or local affairs, please contact me.  If you would like to help with this effort—and I hope you will—please let me know at dwcc@sonic.net.

I appreciate your interest and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Donald Williams

Calistoga, CA 94515

www.donaldcalistoga.com

BIO

Responsive                                     Balanced                                         Experienced

Donald Williams for City Council           

                                     

Biography for a Council Seat

How does a candidate’s story prepare him for a place on the city council?

Background: Until I moved to Calistoga in 1974, I lived in Noe Valley, in the center of San Francisco where I grew up. I still visit my mother there often. I’m quite familiar with the City and have a native’s strong sense of how a small, semi-rural town like Calistoga must contrast with the urban life to maintain its special identity.

Education: After graduating from St. Ignatius High School and then USF (majors in math and English), I studied at Sonoma State University in the evenings while working full-time, to earn a minor in business/accounting, and subsequently a master’s degree in English literature. My education continues still—not with more degrees declaring what I know, but with an attitude of honest, open inquiry about what I don’t know. So in any given situation, including civic affairs, I like to ask, “What is really going on here?” “Does this proposal enlarge or diminish us?” “What alternative approaches might serve us better?”

Work: That critical curiosity served me well in my working career in two different fields, construction and education. In 1984 I started my wood floor business in Calistoga, and built it for 30 successful years. I grew familiar with county-wide concerns from my experience with a diverse cross section of Napa Valley residents. I and my eleven employees served 6,000 customers on almost every street in this county. (If you’re not walking on one of the floors we worked on, you’re certainly near one.) I organized all facets of the business—developing a business plan, hiring and training employees, conceiving marketing strategies, maintaining quality control procedures, generating profit—experience invaluable for public service. My work involved management but also craftsmanship and aesthetics. I spent years in hands-on manual labor practicing my trade. (Kneeling on floors, by the way, provides a view of the world different from most politicians’—an uncommon perspective important in a diverse community.) Blue-collar craftsmanship is second nature for me. It is about production, not promises. Most of the intricate floors we installed I designed personally (see the photos on my website). In short, from my business career of management, craftsmanship, and aesthetics I bring to civic service the complementary qualities of pragmatism, sensitivity, and imagination.

At the same time I was running the floor business, for 19 years I also taught math classes at Napa Valley College. I challenged students energetically, with a rigorous, business-like, no-nonsense style. They responded positively. Some of their comments are posted on my website.

Teaching and contracting over many decades, I engaged with hundreds of Calistogans and thousands of Napa County residents to understand and appreciate their needs, and was able to help them achieve their goals effectively, with courtesy and genuine interest.

Community: My two children were raised in Calistoga. When not working, the decades saw me coach Little League baseball; volunteer as a Cub Scout Den leader; and participate on three different elementary and secondary school boards (three years as president). I also served on Calistoga’s Water Advisory board. Now I help with the Men’s Club at OLPH Church, and volunteer on land-use issues in Napa County.

Beyond Work: I like working but I like playing too—cards, racquetball, tennis, piano, the baseball batting cages. I read a lot (mostly classics), and I garden (most of our vegetables are home-grown in our front yard). I like wood-working and walking (I sometimes ride the bus down-valley to stroll beyond Calistoga).

Summary: The theme of my life’s activities is a well-rounded balance of unusual contrasts. Urban life, rural life—to appreciate their very different qualities. Mathematics, literature—to be fluent both numerically and verbally. Blue-collar, white-collar—to be very grounded, while also managing an organization. Business, teaching—to be pragmatic as well as idealistic. The breadth and balance of this background, as well as my interest in community affairs, and an open and inquisitive disposition, will be of particular service in the town of Calistoga where I’ve lived for 44 years with a strong work ethic, and where I’m now unencumbered by business or financial liaisons or obligations.

The Future: Why be a candidate for office? By being responsive to Calistogans’ concerns, I’ll establish a stronger connection between us and our council. I’ve been well served by this community for decades. It’s an honor to offer my services in return. Candidacy is a way for me to contribute to Calistoga and make a difference. I bring a perspective that’s educated, balanced, and grounded in deep experience in Napa Valley. I respect pragmatism, optimism, and soulful consciousness. I’ll try to harmonize Calistogans’ desires and goals. I wonder, “What do you think? How do you feel?” With interesting conversations with interesting people—like you—I’ll be responsive to the citizens of Calistoga. In me you’ll have a voice on this council. I look forward to hearing your ideas and questions.

Website: www.donaldcalistoga.com         Phone: 479-8660         Email: dwcc@sonic.net

PAST EDITORIAL:

Water & Wine with Rue, Sierra Club Redwood Needles

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 10:46
“All of us must be protective of all our water sources in order to ensure sustainability for all uses, including what regulators term “beneficial uses,” which is pretty much everything and everyone, since water is essential to life.” Water and Wine with Rue

Summer is upon us, and as the hills in our region turn from the lush green of spring to tawny brown dotted with the dark green of oaks, pines and redwoods, we are confronted with the arid nature of our climate. We might collectively feel like water is more precious at this time of year, and our instinctive nature as Californians would incline us to take shorter showers, wash the car less and make sure we water only as much as needed.

While water availability and allocation has been an issue for decades across the state, the recent drought (of which much of the state suffers) it is more important than ever to know where our water comes from, the pressures our water system faces and what we can do to help ensure this natural resource remains in abundance for all our communities. After all, water is life.

Rue Furch, one of Redwood Chapter’s stalwart volunteers, is a member of the Groundwater Sustainability Agency for the Santa Rosa groundwater basin. The GSA was formed in 2017 to advise management of the local basin. It is one of many GSAs around California tasked with developing, implementing, and enforcing a basin’s groundwater sustainability program.

Here, Furch answers some pertinent questions about water in our region and state, conservation and how we can be more cognizant and proactive with our water resources.

REDWOOD CHAPTER: In this present time, as we are moving into summer and fall and we start thinking more about water conservation, how does groundwater play into the conversation and why is thinking about it important?

RUE FURCH: The State of California is the last state in the nation to regulate groundwater and has now recognized the interaction of surface and groundwater more formally. While the seasonal rains have provided more water than had been expected this year, we still require sustainable water supply for increasing uses. Our region historically had fewer draws on groundwater. But as agriculture has shifted from dry-land farming to more reliance on irrigation, our population has increased, and our private wells have proliferated—our reliance on groundwater has increased.

While some groundwater is in aquifers that should be considered in geologic time as some hold sea water, most of our wells draw from aquifers that are fed by surface water, which percolates slowly into the soils recharging the natural underground storage areas. The greatest demand for water in our region is in the hotter late summer/early autumn season, long after the rains have supplied rivers and streams with flow or provided recharge to our groundwater basins.

In order to ensure adequate supply to maintain our streamflows to prevent stream drawdown (for human uses, fish and other habitat), and preserve our groundwater for autumn uses, year-round conservation is necessary EVERY year, not just in years when we perceive shortages. Using more than is replaced is not sustainable, and we are too often lulled by the appearance of our region’s abundance.

RC: Why do people who live in urban areas and are not on wells need to be aware of the groundwater situation?

RF: Interaction between surface water and groundwater is established science. If an urban area is supplied by surface water (the Russian, Eel and Klamath Rivers, etc.), the water used affects and is affected by stored groundwater. Rivers and streams can be “de-watered” by too much pumping from connective aquifers (i.e. groundwater). Urban areas also rely on wells, some as back-up sources, or, in the case of Sebastopol, entirely on wells.

Urban areas also rely on our local farms for food, which primarily depend on wells for irrigation of their crops. Retaining surface water for fish and habitat can only be assured by conscious efforts to maintain flows by limiting extraction rates of both rivers and groundwater.

All of us must be protective of all our water sources in order to ensure sustainability for all uses, including what regulators term “beneficial uses,” which is pretty much everything and everyone, since water is essential to life.

RC: What is the connection between groundwater and watersheds?

RF: Geologic formations under the ground are immensely varied. Some strata allow storage of water from sources as old as when the seas filled the basins, and some are fed by rains, melting snow, streams or lakes that recharge the aquifers. A watershed is basically a basin where water flows from the hills into the bottom of the “bowl.” The ridges being the sides and lip of the bowl. Those waters are sometimes delivered by rivers or streams and sometimes by percolation through the rocks and soils into the aquifer. Gravity pulls the water downhill into the ground/aquifers in various ways and is supplied by the entire watershed.

RC: As marijuana cultivation becomes more open and prevalent, water use issues, plus contamination issues and groundwater will become even more timely a topic. How do you see the pot industry affecting our local water issues?

RF: Concern about the cumulative effects of cannabis and other water users is growing, both from the standpoints of water supply and degradation. Cannabis operations are very tightly regulated at this time. Unfortunately, not all cannabis operations are requesting permits – and that is a separate issue that will require greater funding for enforcement efforts.

The number of acres of cannabis is relatively small at this time, so its impact will be felt—if at all —in adjacent localized areas.

Local jurisdictions, the Water Quality Control Board, California Fish and Wildlife and others are all involved in regulations and enforcements of cannabis operations in order to limit impacts of cultivation, processing, transportation and other functions of the cannabis industry.

As with most things, the majority of operators are trying to do the right thing, but we’ll learn from the few “bad apples” what requirements need to be strengthened and how to limit impacts. Attention to the use and abuse of water may inform other water uses and provide guidance on necessary conditions. Much will depend on how many operations are approved, and where. Not unlike other groundwater uses, we’ll need to protect against over concentration and use of toxic chemicals.

RC: Post-fire, the loosening of regulations on building could be presenting a problem for water conservation and watershed health. What do you have to say about this?

RF: Streamlining and “loosening” of conditions for development has been a result of the horrific fires and the increased need for housing statewide. Regulations may still require conservation measures on each new or replacement development. Impacts on watersheds may not fare as well since cumulative impacts are often not considered. Increases in development can affect not only watersheds, but traffic-sheds, light pollution, hazard areas and increase potential for future natural hazards.

Sonoma County (and other jurisdictions) have approved urban growth boundaries, designated open space areas, provided stream side protections and much more in order to concentrate and condition development to protect our shared resources, including agriculture, water, timber, and all the rest.

Housing is essential. We’ve seen too many years of too many people living without housing or with inadequate housing. Now we have another wave of people who have lost everything, not just their homes, who are in need of housing. Some businesses also lost everything. A wise and thoughtful development process does not mean we have to move at a snail’s pace, but it does mean we urgently need considered progress.

RC: How can we Sierra Clubbers work to build water awareness and move to curtail development that will tax our water system more than we understand it will?

RF: Know your watershed (manmade or natural) and be involved. As the State is mandating sustainable water planning, we should know everything we can to affect our shared future. Be conscious of water use in your home, in your life, both by implementing conservation and by avoiding use of anything you wouldn’t want in your water supply.

If you have the time and inclination, be involved in the policies made in your jurisdiction, and/or be part of a local group that maintains a nearby stream or adopt a stream that is not so nearby, but you love it. If you are able to attend meetings about proposed development, do so. If not, write letters to the decision makers to educate them on the impact you see from something they are considering. Be informed, be vocal, be effective. Knowledge is power. Use your power for good; in your home, your neighborhood, your region—at any scope that fits your passion.

Mark West Creek Study, Sonoma County released

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 10:32

 

Mark West Creek is one of five priority stream systems selected as part of the 2014 California Water Action Plan effort. The 59 square mile Mark West Creek HUC12 subwatershed, located within Sonoma County, is the second largest subwatershed in the Russian River basin. The creek supports several listed anadromous salmonid species including California Coastal Chinook Salmon, and Central California Coast Coho Salmon and steelhead trout. Salmonid populations within Mark West Creek and other Russian River tributaries have declined significantly. Coho Salmon, in particular, neared extirpation within the Russian River basin in the late 1990s, and their recovery is now supplemented by captive broodstock efforts that include juvenile releases into Mark West Creek. Prior assessments have indicated that the low summer and fall stream flows encountered by rearing Coho Salmon and steelhead juveniles is a contributing factor to the species’ decline within the Russian River basin and associated subwatersheds.

The goal of this study is to develop relationships between streamflow and salmonid habitat within upper Mark West Creek. To accomplish this, a combination of empirical and hydraulic habitat modeling approaches will serve as a basis to identify important streamflow thresholds that provide suitable habitat for juvenile Coho Salmon and steelhead. Study questions include:

  • What instream habitat is available during periods of low streamflow within upper Mark West Creek?
  • What streamflows are required to maintain suitable rearing habitat and hydrologic connectivity for juvenile Coho Salmon and steelhead?
  • What streamflows are required to support productive riffle habitat for benthic invertebrates (an important food source for salmonids)?

To help answer these questions, the Instream Flow Program anticipates evaluating existing data, surveying current instream habitat conditions, performing topographical surveys of the stream channel, constructing hydraulic habitat models, measuring streamflows, and conducting data analyses.

 

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Center for Food Safety: Don’t Let a Pesticide Executive Distribute USDA’s Research Budget

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 10:02
Don’t Let a Pesticide Executive Distribute USDA’s Research Budget SHARE THIS ALERT    facebook     twitter

Dear Janus,

The Trump administration is trying to sneak a Dow Chemical executive in as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the world was focusing on Trump’s press conference with Putin, the administration quietly nominated Scott Hutchins—who has spent over 30 years working for Dow Chemical— as USDA’s chief scientist the very same day. USDA’s chief scientist sets the agenda for the agency’s 2.9 billion research budget. If Hutchins is confirmed by the Senate Agricultural Committee, it would epitomize a fox guarding the henhouse.

Tell your senators: a pesticide company executive cannot be put in charge of USDA’s budget!

The Dow Chemical Company has seen a troublingly high return on its investment after the pesticide company donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Hutchins would be the third heavy hitter from Dow’s seed and pesticide division that Trump has positioned in leadership roles at USDA after putting longtime Dow veteran Ken Isley in charge of USDA’s foreign agricultural service and Isley’s colleague, Ted McKinney, as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

Dow’s too-close-for-comfort relationship with government agencies has already begun impacting policy. Shortly after a secret meeting with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris in 2017, former EPA chief Scott Pruitt scrapped plans to institute a nationwide ban of chlorpyrifos, a Dow AgroSciences insecticide that’s been found to cause brain damage in children.

In June of the same year, the Department of Justice approved a megamerger of Dow with its former rival DuPont. Hutchins works for DowDuPont’s seed and pesticide division, Corteva Agriscience, developing chemical pesticides. Scott Hutchins is so enthusiastic about pesticides, he was quoted as saying, “We don’t want to replace glyphosate, we make glyphosate!” gleefully during a Dow AgroSciences tour.

Scott Hutchins’ long career developing pesticides for Dow should disqualify him to be USDA’s chief scientist!

It’s time to put our children, our health, and our planet ahead of pesticide company profits. We can’t let Trump put this pesticide pusher in charge of how USDA spends its $2.9 billion research budget.

Tell Congress to oppose Scott Hutchins’ nomination now!

Thanks for all you do,

Center for Food Safety team

P.S. Show the Trump administration they can’t sneak this nomination in without anyone noticing. Share this alert on Facebook and Twitter!

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THE FUTURE OF COMPOST IN SONOMA COUNTY, August 7th, Grange Hall 7pm

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 09:56
 

TUESDAY AUGUST 7 THE FUTURE OF COMPOST IN SONOMA COUNTY Sonoma County is getting closer to a much-needed return of large-scale commercial composting after years of out-hauling its municipal green waste, a burden to taxpayers, overall sustainability and our local farmers.

Join us at the monthly Farmers Guild to learn more and to provide input about the qualities YOU want to see in this new facility, its relationship to the community and its products. As the voice of sustainable agriculture, we want to bring your perspective to the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, which is responsible for recycling and will very soon select its partner in this new composting operation. Sebastopol Grange Hall: 6000 Sebastopol Rd (Hwy 12)
All welcome.
Networking potluck at 6pm, program at 7pm

 

Food & Water Watch Alert: Protect our oceans from factory fish farms.

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 09:51
Congress is trying to slip giveaways to industrial fish farms into their schedule before winding down for the summer.

Tell the Senate: Don’t promote dirty open ocean aquaculture.

Congress is due to reauthorize a law that regulates fishing. The House version of the bill weakens protections against overfishing,1, but a Republican scheme in the Senate is trying ease the way for “industrial aquaculture” in federal waters.

That’s another name for factory farming, and it’s as wrong in our oceans as it is on land.

Congress could open federal waters to industrial fish farms.

Industrial fish farms can wreak havoc on everything around them:

  • They pollute. Waste, excess food, antibiotics, and other chemicals used in factory fish farms spread to the ocean around them. This promotes algae growth and causes environmental damage.
  • They spread disease. Outbreaks of diseases and parasites at factory fish farms can be catastrophic. Earlier this year, a “sea lice epidemic” hit a fish farm in Canada, potentially impacting wild salmon in addition to farmed fish.2
  • The fish escape. Three million fish every year escape from aquaculture, pushing non-native species into the ecosystem.3
Protect our oceans from factory fish farms

Despite lots of hype from agribusiness and fish farming companies, it’s clear that factory fish farms solve zero problems but create many new ones. Allowing open ocean aquaculture in U.S. waters would make our food less safe and damage our oceans.

We can’t let this threat to our food system get off the ground.

The Senate have a busy schedule for the rest of the summer. A wonky policy issue like this is the kind of thing they’d like to check off their list without a fight. They won’t be expecting their constituents to raise a fuss about this issue — and that’s why it’s important that we speak out.

Stand with Food & Water Action and tell the Senate: no floating factory farms.

Onward together,

Sarah Spooner
National Online Organizer
Food & Water Watch

1. House Republicans Vote to Gut Lauded Law that Saved America’s Fisheries, Huffington Post, July 11, 2018.
2. Sea Lice Epidemic Overwhelms Fish Farms on Clayoquot Sound, The Tyee, May 17, 2018.
3. Fact Sheet: Open Ocean Aquaculture is Factory Farming in the Sea, Food & Water Watch, February 28, 2018.

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