Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Forests, Habitats, Land Use, WaterTags , , , , , ,

Measure C sparks debate over future of Napa County vineyards

Measure C sparks debate over future of Napa County vineyards

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Randy Dunn was worried about the future as he walked around his vineyards Thursday morning in the Howell Mountain wine region of Napa County.

Dunn has been farming the land since 1978, when he and his wife, Lori, bought a 5-acre parcel of cabernet sauvignon vines tucked around Douglas firs more than 1,400 feet above sea level. It was a time well before “cult cab” became part of the vernacular of Napa Valley and some prized wines sold for more than $1,000 a bottle.

Things have changed in Napa, Dunn contends. There is very little room left on the valley floor, he says, pushing rich investors and wine companies into the hills to carve out the remaining land left to plant vineyards in the country’s most prized wine region.

“They don’t know a thing about wines. They hire a project manager. They hire a vineyard consultant,” Dunn grumbled about some of his neighbors. “There is still a lot left to preserve. There is an incredible amount of hillside planting. Most people don’t see it because it’s tucked away somewhere. … Enough is enough.”

Napa County residents will determine if “enough is enough” on June 5 when they vote on Measure C. The initiative would limit vineyard development on hills and mountains to provide greater protection to watersheds and oak woodlands, the latter of which covered more than 167,000 acres, or about 33 percent of the county’s overall area before last year’s wildfires.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/8282347-181/measure-c-sparks-debate-over

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , ,

Straw Wars! Bay Area push to ban plastic straws picks up steam

Amel Ahmed, KQED

Oakland is now the latest Bay Area city to consider a proposal to bar food vendors from serving plastic straws unless requested.

Councilmember Abel Guillen, who introduced the proposal in March, says the legislation is part of broader effort in the city to reduce environmental waste. In 2006, Oakland adopted a policy called the Zero Waste Strategic Plan, which aims for a 75 percent reduction by 2010.

“To make further progress on our waste-reduction goals and shift our culture away from single-use products, my ordinance will focus on ‘by request only’ use and better enforcement of existing legislation,” said Guillen in a statement.

Berkeley is considering similar legislation that would go one step further by banning single-use plastic straws altogether. Meanwhile straw-upon-request ordinances are already in place in Alameda, Davis, Manhattan Beach and Santa Cruz.

Local environmental advocates say that anti-plastic straw ordinances would eliminate a key source of pollution in San Francisco Bay.

“Plastic straws and stirrers are big culprits in trashing San Francisco Bay and our oceans,” David Lewis, the executive director of Save the Bay, told the San Francisco Chronicle last year.

Read more at https://www.kqed.org/science/1923141/straw-wars-bay-area-push-to-ban-plastic-straws-picks-up-steam

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In Sonoma County toxic debris removal, officials in a race against rains

Christi Warren, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Don McEnhill, Russian Riverkeeper: “I am very concerned, but there’s only so much you can do. You cannot prevent 100 percent of the toxins and things from going in (the watershed), but I feel like with the meetings that have been held this week, people have been very proactive about threats to the watershed, and that does give me hope that we’re going to do everything we possibly can before we have the rains come in.”

With ash now blanketing much of Sonoma County, environmentalists are turning their efforts to debris removal in a race against the oncoming rainy season. Their primary concern: protecting the watershed from toxic runoff.

As the fire roared through Santa Rosa, car batteries, insulation, couches, industrial facilities, carpets, plastics — all things that shouldn’t burn — did.

In response, Cal Fire officials created the Watershed Emergency Response Team. A coalition of state and federal agencies, as well as local environmental nonprofits, it’s dedicated to keeping as much debris as possible out of the county’s waterways.

Their next step will be to evaluate the fire areas and identify which of those are at the most risk for watershed emergencies, prioritizing debris removal and runoff mitigation that way, said Johnny Miller, a public information officer for Cal Fire.

Once identified, sandbags, barriers and straw wattles will be placed to protect against any erosion that could result from winter rains. While Sonoma County is expected to get rain tonight and Friday morning, the .25 inches that could fall is not enough to cause officials much concern.

This winter could be another story. With the North Bay facing a La Niña, it’s hard to tell just how much rain might fall, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

“Typically that means wetter than normal in the Pacific Northwest and dry in the desert Southwest,” he said.

But in the North Bay, “There are equal chances of above and below normal. … We’ll just have to see what kind of weather patterns set up.”

Read more at: In Sonoma County toxic debris removal, officials in a race against rains | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , , , ,

California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Coast Cleanup 2017: sonomabeachcleanup.org

Laguna de Santa Rosa and Sebastopol Laguna Wetlands Preserve 2017: lagunadesantarosa.org/volunteer_lagunastewards.html

Petaluma River Cleanup 2017: friendsofthepetalumariver.org/project/conserve

Russian River Watershed Cleanup 2017: russianrivercleanup.org

Santa Rosa Creek-to-Coast Cleanup: srcity.org/2290/Creek-to-Coast-Cleanup

Mendocino County Coastal Cleanup Day: mendocinolandtrust.org/connect/coastal-cleanup-day

Sonoma Ecology Center Cleanup 2017: brownpapertickets.com/event/3042967

Do you find yourself dismayed or even tormented by images of seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other sealife with their guts full of plastic and other trash?

Here’s your chance to help, and it only takes a few hours.

Saturday marks the 33rd annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, an opportunity to rise to the defense of the ocean and its inhabitants by removing litter from local beaches and watersheds before winter rains and storm surges can sweep it out to sea.

Dozens of sites around the North Coast, both inland and at the ocean’s edge, are among more than 870 locations chosen statewide for volunteer cleanup crews to go to work on Saturday.

Locally, they include state and county beaches along the Sonoma Coast, from Jenner to Bodega Bay, as well as public beaches up and down the Mendocino Coast.But in growing recognition of the volume of discarded litter that washes coastward from rivers and streams, dozens of inland cleanups are planned, as well. Targeted waterways include the Russian River from Ukiah to Monte Rio, the Petaluma River, Santa Rosa Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and several Sonoma-area parks and preserves.

“Ideally, this is the day everybody gives back to clean waterways,” Russian Riverkeeper Executive Director Don McEnhill said.

Read more at: California Coastal Cleanup Day coming Saturday, needs volunteers in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Fate of Russian and Eel River flows rests in big fight over small hydroelectric project

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Even the record rainfall that dowsed the North Coast this winter, filling reservoirs and streams, will not be enough to head off a looming clash over the water that courses down two of the region’s largest rivers, the Russian and the Eel.

Together, they drain a swath of territory, including cities, forests and vineyards, that stretches from central Sonoma County to Fortuna, in Humboldt County — an area larger than Connecticut.

A key link between the two rivers, a small powerhouse more than 100 years old, is now the focal point in a fight over the water that flows down these rivers. It’s a standoff with many of the main players in western water wars — farmers, environmentalists, water districts serving urban customers and fishermen. And it raises many of the same questions: Who benefits and who loses from water taken for decades from one river — at over 20 billion gallons a year — and funneled into another river?

In this case, it is the Eel River that has been tapped, its water sent down a milelong tunnel through a mountain in Mendocino County, into a PG&E powerhouse and ultimately into a fork of Russian River, which flows down through Sonoma County.

Water drawn from the Eel River sustains Lake Mendocino, the main source of drinking water for residents along the Russian River from Redwood Valley down to Healdsburg.

Turning off that supply could devastate agriculture and diminish that primary water source for thousands of people, according to interests on one side of the tug-of-war.

The vast majority of the more 600,000 North Bay residents who depend on the Russian River for drinking water are unaware of the plumbing arrangement and the controversy that has long swirled around it and two related dams on the Eel River, where once-prolific runs of salmon and steelhead trout have dwindled amid various human impacts, water diversion among them.

But for the partisans — the water managers, environmentalists, public officials, ranchers and scientists — the dilemma of parsing out this water between competing interests, between people and fish, between town and country, is revving up again over the relicensing of the PG&E powerhouse, called the Pottery Valley Project.

“It’s a critical moment,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, the San Rafael Democrat whose North Coast district spans the adjacent watersheds.

Read more at: Fate of Russian and Eel River flows rests in big fight over small hydroelectric project | The Press Democrat

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Russian River’s future draws diverse crowd to conference

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The supervisor’s goal in drawing together diverse interests from the public, private and nonprofit sectors is to “drive toward creating a one-watershed plan,” he said.

Environmentalists, bureaucrats, public officials, Native Americans and a patron of the arts gathered Friday to plot a future for the Russian River, the waterway they all consider a foundation for communities throughout the North Bay.

The river, which snakes 110 miles from the Mendocino County highlands near Willits to the Pacific Ocean at Jenner in Sonoma County, is a magnet for boaters, bird-watchers, swimmers and anglers, a water supply for 600,000 North Bay residents and the main artery of a 1,500-square-mile watershed.

It also faces a host of challenges over poor water quality and competing demands to support endangered fish, tourism, water storage, flood control and human needs ranging from raw thirst to pure inspiration.

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore convened the Russian River Confluence, which drew about 220 people Friday to Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm, located about 2 miles east of the river in the Forestville area.

Read more at: Russian River’s future draws diverse crowd to conference | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, WaterTags , ,

Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute

Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER

An appeals court has upheld Napa County’s rejection of a proposed Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Measure that backers had wanted to appear on last November’s ballot.

California’s First District Court of Appeal has issued a decision making it harder for backers of a controversial watershed and oak protection initiative to place their measure before voters. The three-judge panel in a Tuesday decision agreed with the county that the initiative petition had a fatal, if technical, flaw. Backers might have to once again go to shopping centers and gather a few thousand signatures if they want to move forward.

“I believe our group is stronger than ever,” Angwin resident and initiative backer Mike Hackett said on Thursday. “I think we’re determined to put a measure on the ballot about the protection of our water resources and trees.”

Backers are considering options, Hackett said. Possibilities include appealing the Court of Appeal decision to the California Supreme Court and circulating an amended initiative petition.

Whatever route they take, Hackett said the goal is to have a measure on the June 2018 ballot. Napa County has no elections before then.

“We will not be deterred,” he said.

The Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Measure wades into an ongoing community debate about allowing hillside vineyards and other large developments amid forests in the county’s mountains. It would strengthen stream setback laws, limit the cutting of oaks and, in some cases, require county-issued permits to cut oaks.

Napa Valley Vintners, Napa County Farm Bureau, Winegrowers of Napa County and Napa Valley Grapegrowers oppose it. The groups said that the county already has strong watershed protection laws.

Volunteers gathered 6,298 signatures last year, more than the 3,791 needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. But Napa County voided the petition on a technicality.

The 18-page initiative petition circulated by proponents referenced an appendix in the 2010 Napa County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan. But it didn’t include a copy of the appendix.

Whether it should have or not is the crux of the legal dispute. State law requires initiative petitions to include a full text of the proposed law, so people thinking of signing can make an informed decision.

Read more at: Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute | Local News | napavalleyregister.com

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, WaterTags , ,

Backers of oak woodlands initiative sue Napa County

Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER

There are local and state efforts afoot to protect oak woodlands. This oak vista can be found along the trails in Moore Creek Park, which has blue oak, valley oak, black oak and more.

Supporters of a proposed initiative to further protect oak woodlands and watersheds have filed a lawsuit that argues Napa County wrongly rejected it for the November ballot.

They are asking the Napa County Superior Court to require Registrar of Voters John Tuteur to present the initiative to the Board of Supervisors. Supervisors would then have to either adopt the initiative as law or place it on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Napa County has yet to file a reply to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday on behalf of initiative proponents Michael Hackett and James Wilson.

Tuteur on June 5 certified the initiative petition as having enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. But in a June 9 memorandum, he rejected the petition on technical grounds.

“We are disappointed, surprised, dismayed – you can pick the adjective,” Angwin resident Hackett said on Thursday.

But he had no bitter words for either Tuteur or County Counsel Minh Tran. “These are all good people,” Hackett said. “There is nothing personal here.”

At issue is the amount of information that initiative proponents made available as they gathered signatures at local shopping centers and other locations.

Read more at: Backers of oak woodlands initiative sue Napa County | Local News | napavalleyregister.com