Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WaterTags , , , , ,

Water Agency will present river estuary plan May 31

Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

The May 31 meeting at the Jenner Community Center on Highway 1 will include a Water Agency presentation on the Russian River Estuary Management Project and will provide information recapping the 2017 lagoon management season.

The Sonoma County Water Agency will host a meeting in Jenner next week to update the public on Russian River estuary management efforts to maintain a closed estuary during the summer months.

“Communities along the lower river have long been interested in the estuary management project,” said Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director Lynda Hopkins in a media announcement of the meeting. “Each May to October, the Water Agency manages the estuary to improve steelhead and coho salmon habitat and minimize flood risk for riverside communities. Estuary management is a key part of the Russian River Biological Opinion. Our annual community meeting is a great opportunity to receive current information and ask questions.”

The biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in September 2008 required the Water Agency to change the way the Russian River estuary is managed in the summer. The purpose of the Estuary Management Project is to enhance summer habitat for young steelhead while minimizing flood risk to Jenner properties near the estuary. NMFS biologists believe that maintaining a summertime freshwater lagoon can create a healthier nursery for young steelhead. In other California rivers, the formation of similar “perched” lagoons has improved steelhead habitat during the summer months.

Since the mid-1990s the Water Agency has artificially breached the sandbar at the Russian River mouth when it closes and increases water levels in the estuary, threatening low-lying properties. The biological opinion calls for managing the estuary as a summer lagoon with an outlet channel in place to enhance conditions for steelhead to grow and thrive, giving them a better chance to survive ocean conditions, while continuing to minimize flood risk.

Read more at: http://www.sonomawest.com/sonoma_west_times_and_news/news/water-agency-will-present-river-estuary-plan-may/article_54f6f7ea-5e11-11e8-9913-bbc538cabe8c.html

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, TransportationTags , ,

Op-Ed: The Sonoma Coast’s ‘bridge to nowhere’

Richard Charter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Peaceful little Gleason Beach is nestled midway between Bodega Bay and Jenner, hidden in a pastoral valley just north of the small communities of Carmet and Sereno del Mar, where Highway 1 crosses tiny Scotty Creek.

Its fate will come before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, shortly after 9 a.m. in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers.

Decades of unfortunate policy decisions and a few poorly sited crumbling homes once built atop unstable cliffs have led Caltrans to propose a 3,700-foot highway bypass with an 850-foot-long concrete bridge, all just to cross over seasonal Scotty Creek, a rivulet only a few feet wide most of the year.

The early history of the Sonoma Coast was one of small tribal villages until the Spanish and Russians sought riches here. Thus the sheltered coves along the coast gradually became transportation hubs for coastal sailing vessels. As early agricultural families decided to improve ancient game trails along the shoreline by building the first gravel wagon roads, they pursued a level path hugging the seaside along the clifftops. World War II brought the tangible fear of an enemy invasion of our county by sea, so urgent highway improvements enabled rapid access for a coastal defense that, fortunately, was never needed.

As the coast became a desirable second-home destination, large landowners near Gleason Beach apparently decided to subdivide cliffside lots into a skinny development between Highway 1 and the ocean.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8294059-181/close-to-home-the-sonoma

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Bodega lab scientist Susan Williams was key voice for conservation, mentor to students worldwide

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Susan Williams was a Bodega Bay marine biologist and professor whose scientific expertise was instrumental in a decadeslong effort to expand federal protections for North Coast marine ecosystems.

She directed the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and served as a key advisor to California lawmakers working to protect coastal waters from oil and gas development. Her research showed how ocean health is connected to the wellbeing of coastal communities and humanity at large, and her ability to communicate simply about complicated science made her an essential adviser, said former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat who relied on Williams’ counsel in her battles for environmental protections.

“What a loss for our country and our oceans and everybody that has ever met her,” said Woolsey, who served in Congress until 2013. “She was able to put words to science and make it real.”

Willams, 66, was the lone fatality Tuesday in a six-vehicle crash on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma, where her Toyota Prius was struck head-on by Chevrolet Silverado pickup that authorities said crossed over into her lane.

Williams studied seagrass and coral reefs at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, and her research documented the impacts of warming ocean waters and human activity. Her studies covered the impact of invasive species brought into ports and the prevalence of plastic in the sea.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8257601-181/bodega-lab-scientist-susan-williams?utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pd_daily&utm_source=Boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pd_daily

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is ballooning

Livia Albeck-Ripka, THE NEW YORK TIMES

In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain.

A study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports quantified the full extent of the so-called garbage patch: It is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. While the patch was once thought to be more akin to a soup of nearly invisible microplastics, scientists now think most of the trash consists of larger pieces. And, they say, it is growing “exponentially.”

“It’s just quite alarming, because you are so far from the mainland,” said Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study and an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a nonprofit that is developing systems to remove ocean trash and which funded the study. “There’s no one around and you still see those common objects, like crates and bottles.”

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/climate/great-pacific-garbage-patch.html

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Warning about sport-caught bivalves extended to Sonoma Coast

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State health officials have extended to the Sonoma Coast recent warnings about the risks of consuming sport-caught mussels, clams, oysters, whole scallops and other bivalves in the wake of testing that has turned up evidence of naturally occurring paralytic shellfish poisoning in recent weeks.

The expanded notice comes as Marin County Public Health announced its first confirmed case of human illness, which occurred in a patient who ate mussels harvested Sunday at Dillon Beach, officials said Wednesday.

The unidentified patient had been hospitalized for neurological symptoms and is “getting better,” Marin County Public Health Director Matthew Willis said in a news release. “Fortunately, the clinician was aware of the elevated PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels in locally sport-harvested shellfish and made a timely diagnosis,” he said.

State health officials last week issued notices about the dangers of eating recreationally caught shellfish off the coast of San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties because of unhealthy levels of harmful toxins produced in phytoplankton blooms that tend to thrive in springtime conditions off the Northern California coast.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8114493-181/warning-about-sport-caught-bivalves-extended

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

Of creeks and geeks: Fisheries experts gather to contemplate the collapse of California’s ocean economy

Tom Gogola, PACIFIC SUN

State Senator Mike McGuire convened the 45th annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum last week in Sacramento, bringing together a dozen-odd anglers and experts for an afternoon of testimony about the state of California’s aquatic life. Grader was a legendary commercial fisherman in the state, who died a few years ago.

As McGuire noted, the fisheries meeting this year had special significance, occurring as it did against the backdrop of a reinvigorated offshore gas- and oil-drilling push from Washington, which pretty much nobody in California is supporting.

The meetings occurred against an additional backdrop which has seen sardine populations collapsing across the state and where, in Marin County, state health officials moved to shut down the coastal shell-fishery there two weeks ago because of high levels of a potentially fatal poison found in mussels and oysters at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures are the suspected culprit, an increasingly common theme in state waters that have only recently come through a devastating and demoralizing outbreak of domoic acid poisoning in Dungeness crabs. In short, the poisoning occurs via algae blooms that occur in warm water.

Read more at https://pacificsun.com/feature-of-creeks-and-geeks/

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sonoma CoastTags ,

Coastal Commission’s preposterous antics go to court, and taxpayers foot the bill

Steve Lopez, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

It was almost like old times.

Everywhere I looked Tuesday in a downtown San Diego courthouse, I saw a former California Coastal commissioner whose conduct is under scrutiny.

Former Commissioners Wendy Mitchell, Martha McClure and Steve Kinsey were all there, with current Commissioners Erik Howell and Mark Vargas expected to join the party soon.

The reason for the reunion is that they’re all being sued. A group called Spotlight on Coastal Corruption accuses the five commissioners of hundreds of violations of rules involving private communications with parties engaged in project applications before the commission.

So it felt as if it were 2015 all over again — the year when crowds of protesters turned out to monthly Coastal Commission showdowns that played like a traveling circus.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-coastal-20180228-story.html

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , ,

Amid a flood of plastic, big companies try to clean up image

Danica Kirka, ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the last few months, Amcor, Ecover, Evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Walmart and Werner & Mertz – which together use more than 6 million metric tons of plastic packaging per year — have committed to using only reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an innovation think-tank.

LONDON (AP) — Once a month, accountant Michael Byrne pulls on his rubber boots and makes his way to a spot on the banks of the River Thames.

He carefully marks out a one-square meter (11-square foot) patch and, with gloved hands, catalogues each bit of plastic he finds, meticulously reporting the data to the environmental group Thames21. On Aug. 20, for example, he and other volunteers found an average of 31 food wrappers, the sticks from 29 cotton swabs, 12 bottle tops and about 100 pieces of small chewed up plastic in each patch.

“We are the data gatherers” who provide evidence of the plastic that’s clogging the world’s rivers and oceans, he said. “We are building up a picture all along the river of what is washing up.”

Public awareness of the problem of plastic waste is swelling after alarming forecasts that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Plus the shocking images are rolling in: Britain’s Sky News’ campaign against ocean plastic featuring whales bloated by plastic bags; National Geographic’s chilling picture of a seahorse curled around a pink cotton swab, and filmmaker David Attenborough’s documentary “Blue Planet II” footage of sea turtles shrouded in plastic.

Read more at https://www.apnews.com/21beacb71e40446a979b6b2edad1f5c1/Amid-a-flood-of-plastic,-big-companies-try-to-clean-up-image

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , ,

Oil drilling protest in Sacramento to precede hearing on Trump offshore plan

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To attend the protest, take the bus!

A throng of protesters, including state lawmakers and North Coast activists, is expected to rally in Sacramento preceding the Trump administration’s only California public meeting on a controversial offshore oil drilling plan covering most of the nation’s coastal waters.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the anti-drilling rally at 1:30 p.m. Thursday on the north steps of the Capitol Building. The demonstration is sponsored by a coalition called Protect the Pacific.

Senate Democrats Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Henry Stern of Canoga Park and Assembly Democrats Jim Wood of Healdsburg and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara and Republican Brian Maienschein of San Diego plan to attend.

Following the rally, participants will march three blocks to the location of a Bureau of Ocean Management public meeting on the offshore oil drilling plan released last month by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It ignited complaints from federal, state and local officials on both coasts and across the nation.

The meeting runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.

Zinke’s plan calls for 47 potential sales of oil drilling rights from 2019 to 2024, with six along the California coast, where energy development has faced bipartisan opposition since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7941235-181/oil-drilling-protest-in-sacramento

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs, softened by rain and pounded by ocean waves, are receding by as much as a foot a year and will surrender an area the size of Sebastopol by the end of the century, experts say, as climate change prompts sea levels to continue rising.

The scenic cliffs, made of soft rock formed millions of years ago on the ocean floor, are no match for nature’s ceaseless forces. Related property loss in the county over that period could total as much as $700 million.

Statewide, eroding coastal cliffs threaten billions of dollars worth of homes, highways, railways, businesses, military bases, universities, power plants and parks, and the North Bay has already seen the destructive and deadly consequences of the diminishing coastline.

At Gleason Beach, 4 miles north of Bodega Bay on Highway 1, the rapidly eroding cliff irreparably damaged 10 blufftop homes that were demolished by the owners, the last one in November.

One other home was relocated, and two of the 10 remaining homes are uninhabitable or unstable.

“Gleason Beach is a bellwether of things to come,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district covers the county’s entire coast. “It’s one of the fastest eroding places in California.”

Caltrans is currently planning a $26 million realignment of the coastal highway at Gleason Beach, moving nearly a mile of the roadway, and building a new 850-foot bridge, about 400 feet farther away from the restive ocean. Construction is expected to start in 2019.

Read more at: Sonoma County’s coastal cliffs no match for rising seas