Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , ,

Climate change to heighten flood, fire threat in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County residents who live in rural places prone to flooding and those in urban areas who are unable to afford protection against rising heat will be among those who suffer the most if the extreme conditions predicted to come with climate change materialize as expected, county officials said Wednesday.

The stark message headlined a day-long conference at Sonoma State University about adapting to the world’s changing climate and the increasingly unpredictable weather it generates.

The impact of more wildfires, rising sea levels, heavier periods of rainfall and longer dry spells will be widespread, scientists and public officials said Wednesday, affecting everything from the cost and availability of food to water supply, wildlife habitat and public safety.

The most vulnerable residents in Sonoma County are expected to be those living along the lower Russian River, where flooding would be more frequent; those who live in coastal communities or low-lying areas subject to rising ocean tides; and disadvantaged urban neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma Valley and elsewhere, where air conditioning is rare and older, under-insulated homes would offer little defense against extreme heat, said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin.

“We need in the future to find out how we can help these communities adapt and survive,” she said.

Gorin’s comments kicked off a forum focused on climate adaptation at the local level, a first-of-its kind gathering in the county of scientists, conservationists, government planners, policymakers and others, organizers said.

Read more via Forum: Climate change to heighten flood, fire threat | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , ,

North Coast timber-cutting rules eased to allow more logging

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that includes Sonoma and three other North Coast counties in a pilot project allowing trees up to 24 inches in diameter to be felled without a formal timber harvest plan for fire prevention purposes.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, the bill extends to Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties an exemption from certain forest protection laws previously authorized for 24 Sierra Nevada and other inland counties in the aftermath of last year’s devastating Rim fire in Yosemite National Park.

The Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Project Exemption is designed to permit property owners to more readily harvest smaller trees if the aim is to reduce forest fuel loads and avert the kind of calamitous blaze that scarred 250,000 acres in the Yosemite area last year.

“Because coastal forests are also vulnerable to catastrophic wild fires, it made sense to extend the pilot project to parts of the coast,” Chesbro, chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “When it expires, we can conduct a more thorough analysis on how to move forward with forest fuel treatment policy. The legislation does not allow clear-cutting and imposes specific requirements to ensure over-cutting does not occur.”

The exemption is to be operable for a three-year period expected to start later this year, when the state Board of Forestry implements the final regulation, legislative staffers said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@press democrat.com.

via Gov. Jerry Brown eases timber-cutting rules to prevent | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sonoma CoastTags ,

Cazadero group sues county over Ratna Ling expansion

Joshuone Barnes & Nicolas Grizzle, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Coastal Hills Rural Preservation

Sonoma County violated county and state laws when it approved a 60,000-square-foot expansion of a printing press at a Buddhist retreat in rural Cazadero, say a group of residents who filed suit against the county July 24.

“They need to have an [environmental impact report] to determine whether or not this printing plant should even be there,” says Coastal Hills Rural Preservation member Ward Anderson.

The county? “We’re confident in the legality of the board’s decision,” says Sonoma County deputy counsel Verne Ball.

The lawsuit cites a Timber Cover Fire District concern that firefighters aren’t equipped to handle a large emergency at an expanded Dharma Publishing facility at Ratna Ling Retreat.

The county gave final approval to an industrial-use permit in late June; it allows for up to 122 people to live and work at Ratna Ling. The mission: print sacred Buddhist texts for distribution to Tibetan monasteries.

Opponents point to a dangerous combo: rural facility, many employees, small FD. “If you’ve got a fire, you’ve got 120 people heading in the other direction,” says Anderson. Access to the site is limited to one-way lanes in each direction.

Expect a fight in county court within six months. “Cases settle quite frequently, but there hasn’t been any discussion in this case,” says Ball. “The applicant and neighbors are very adversarial.” —Nicolas Grizzle

via Debriefer: August 6, 2014 | News | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WaterTags , ,

Amid drought, state breaks another record for temperature

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

This summer is not yet halfway over, but already the record book has been reset.

California has posted a record high average temperature during the first six months of this year, exacerbating a prolonged drought and sending North Coast residents flocking to swimming pools and ice cream shops.

Wildland firefighters, unable to find relief while battling more than 3,600 blazes, have suffered life-threatening heat-related illnesses that sometimes required helicopter evacuation.

“It’s serious business,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean said, noting that dehydration takes a toll on personnel in almost every major fire.

The hot weather also has further depleted the state’s reservoirs, boosting public water consumption as well as natural evaporation, which equals the annual draw from Lake Sonoma — the main Russian River reservoir — by a city of 53,000.

via Amid drought, state breaks another record for temperature | The Press Democrat.