20th Annual Coho Confab in the Mattole: August 24-26

SALMONID RESTORATION FEDERATION

Registration is still open for the 20th Annual Coho Confab in the scenic Mattole River valley in Humboldt County this August 24-26. SRF is coordinating this event in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mattole Restoration Council, Mattole Salmon Group, and Sanctuary Forest. The Confab will feature workshops focused on coho recovery strategies and BMP land stewardship practices for landowners.

Field tours will include the Mattole estuary where participants will see off-channel slough, Heliwood placement, riparian restoration, forest and fuels reduction, water conservation, and stream bank stabilization projects.

Tours will also include a tour of the Salt River estuary restoration, beaver dam analogues, and groundwater recharge planning projects in the Mattole headwaters. One-day registration is now available.

Read more at: August 2017 eNewsletter Highlights | Salmonid Restoration Federation

Filed under Water, Wildlife

After tons of drama with the California Coastal Commission, things are looking up

Steve Lopez, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Yes it’s true, sharks are everywhere along the California coast this summer. But by all appearances, a far bigger threat to your enjoyment of the state’s fabulous beaches has been contained for now.

It’s a new day at the California Coastal Commission.

You remember the drama last year, right?

I don’t get to take up an entire section of the newspaper, so I can only touch on the many ways in which the coast was imperiled by conflicts of interest, the clout of pro-development forces, the undermining of staff experts and a head-smacking lack of professionalism among certain members of the Coastal Commission.

In February 2016, commissioners — appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders — stunned and angered hundreds of spectators when they summarily dismissed the agency’s respected executive director. Charles Lester had staunchly defended his staff’s independence from outside influence while adhering to the letter of the law on coastal preservation, and he made a dramatic appeal to keep his job, to no avail.

But in an unintended way, the firing was a blessing.

“They got away with getting rid of Charles,” said former Commissioner Sara Wan, “but they didn’t get away with the public response.”

In fact, the fall of Lester has led to the toppling of a hyperactive commission that seemed at times to have forgotten its duty to the Coastal Act, and to the guiding principle that the unsurpassed 1,100-mile coast is not anybody’s — it’s everybody’s.

Read more at: After tons of drama with the California Coastal Commission, things are looking up – LA Times

Filed under Sonoma Coast

Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa residents who don’t want to own a car but might like to zip around in one sometimes are in luck — Zipcar, the nation’s largest car-sharing company, is coming to town.

The City Council today is expected to sign off on a deal allowing the company to operate two of its rental cars from city parking lots — one at the downtown SMART train and the other next to the Russian River Brewery.

The hope is that the service will give people yet another reason kick their fossil-fuel burning cars to the curb in favor of more environmentally friendly options like bicycling or public transportation.

“We’re looking for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the car-share concept is a way to allow people to eliminate car ownership, or at least reduce the number of miles they need to drive,” said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking manager.

The service, which began in the Boston area in 2000, is already available in 500 cities around the nation. After a period of rapid growth, the company was sold in 2013 for $500 million to Avis Budget Group. The company first rolled into Sonoma County in March 2016, when it began renting out two cars at Sonoma State University.

The expansion to Santa Rosa was made possible by a $170,130 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority providing subsidies to Zipcar and SCTA for administration of the program for two years.

Read more at: Zipcar coming to Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Op-Ed: Cap-and-trade funds to support creative rural solutions

Paul Dolan and Renata Brillinger, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Overview from the CALCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network) website:

Climate Smart Agriculture Programs – The state of California currently has four Climate Smart Agriculture programs that provide resources for California farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon in soils and trees, while providing multiple benefits to agriculture and the environment. The programs are funded with proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Healthy Soils Initiative – The Healthy Soils Initiative was proposed by Governor Brown in 2015 and received initial funding of $7.5 million in 2016. The Initiative provides funding for farmer and rancher incentives to increase carbon storage in soils and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions through practices that build healthy soil such as compost application, cover crop, reduced tillage, conservation plantings and more. The program will also fund on-farm demonstration projects to provide growers, researchers and other ag professionals strategies for mitigating climate change in agriculture.

State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP) – The program funds growers to improve their irrigation management practices to save water and energy and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible project activities include pump upgrades and solar pump installation; conversion to drip or micro irrigation; improved water storage and/or recycling, soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling.

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) – The program funds local government projects and permanent easements on agricultural lands at risk of development to prevent sprawl.

Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) – The program funds dairy digesters and related research to reduce methane emissions from the dairy sector. A portion of the funding will be allocated in 2017 to a new program called the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 398, which extends cap-and-trade, California’s cornerstone climate change program, through 2030. The program requires the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., the oil and gas industry, cement plants, large food processors) to cut their emissions. Without putting a price on carbon, we are unlikely to meet our climate change goals, the most ambitious in the country.

The state Legislature and governor will now debate how to budget billions of dollars in cap-and-trade revenue. In the past three years, California has invested more than $3 billion of cap-and-trade funds in our communities to accelerate the transition toward a clean energy economy. In January, Governor Brown proposed an additional $2.2 billion for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

To date, the money has been invested across California on projects that reduce emissions by weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, improving public transportation, building transit-oriented housing and more. In addition to these urban strategies, the state has also embraced sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change.

Since 2014, nearly $200 million has been granted to farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to store carbon on their land. The country’s first Climate Smart Agriculture programs are demonstrating to the world that farmers and ranchers can be leaders in climate innovation.

Read more at: Close to Home: Cap-and-trade funds need to support creative rural solutions, like those on the North Coast | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Water

The drought fighting farmer

Todd Oppenheimer, CRAFTSMANSHIP MAGAZINE

Updated August 2017

One Spring afternoon in 2014, on a small vegetable farm that Paul Kaiser runs in a particularly chilly valley in Sebastopol, California, a group of agriculture specialists gathered around a four-foot steel pole. The experts had come to test the depth and quality of Kaiser’s top-soil, and one of them, a veteran farmer from the Central Valley named Tom Willey, leaned on the pole to push it into the dirt as far as he could. On a typical farm, the pole comes to a stop against infertile hard-pan in less than a foot. But in Kaiser’s field, the pole’s entire length slid into the ground, and Willey almost fell over. “Wow, that’s incredible,” he said, wondering if he’d hit a gopher hole. The whole group burst out laughing. “Do it again! Do it again!” said Jeff Mitchell, a longtime professor of agriculture at the University of California at Davis.

The group successfully repeated the exercise, over and over—for fun, for photo ops, and to be sure that Kaiser really had accomplished the various feats he talks about, which he does almost incessantly these days. It’s not the easiest sell. Kaiser, an ebullient former woodworker who was only 40 when I first visited, farms a mere eight acres, and harvests fewer than three of them. Nonetheless, his methods are at the forefront of a farming movement that is so new (at least in the U.S.), and so built for a climate-changed world of diminishing rains, that it opens up gargantuan possibilities. One might call this methodology sustainability on steroids, because it can generate substantial profits. Last year, Kaiser’s Sonoma County farm grossed more than $100,000 an acre, which is 10 times the average per-acre income of comparable California farms. This includes Sonoma’s legendary vineyards, which have been overtaking farmland for decades, largely because wine grapes have become much more lucrative these days than food, at least the way most farmers grow it.

Kaiser and his wife, Elizabeth, manage all of this without plowing an inch of their ground, without doing any weeding, and without using any sprays—either chemical or organic. And while most farmers, even on model organic farms, constantly tinker with various fertilizer cocktails, Kaiser concentrates on just one: a pile of rotten food and plants, commonly known as compost, and lots of it. Kaiser then adds this compost to a rare blend of farming practices, both old and new, all aimed at returning dirt to the richest, most fertile seedbed possible. “It’s unique,” Mitchell told me after his visit. “I’ve never seen anything approaching that kind of thing.”

Read more at: The Drought Fighter – Craftsmanship Magazine

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Chile’s energy transformation is powered by wind, sun and volcanoes 

Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Cerro Pabellón, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

But now they are surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes, laboring to breathe up here at 14,760 feet above sea level as they draw steam from the earth at South America’s first geothermal energy plant.

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate change commitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations.

Read more at: Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

How about a shiny new electric car for less than $10,000?

Price has long been a concern for motorists interested in ending their relationship with petroleum, and Sonoma Clean Power, the not-for-profit public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino counties, is bringing the cost of electric vehicles down to clearance-sale levels.

The second year of the agency’s Drive EverGreen electric vehicle (EV) incentive program — on now through Oct. 31 — offers deals on nine models sold and leased by seven local dealers, ranging in base price from a $51,095 BMW i3 down to a Volkswagen e-Golf listed at $28,995.

The e-Golf, a hatchback with a 124-mile range, comes with a $7,000 dealer credit and a $2,000 Sonoma Clean Power incentive for the average utility customer, plus the possibility of a $2,500 state rebate and a $7,500 federal tax credit. The incentive package, which totals $19,000, slashes the price to $9,995.

“It’s a smokin’ deal,” said Cordel Stillman, director of programs for Sonoma Clean Power, which delivers electricity to 600,000 customers in the two North Bay counties.

But it can get even better for power customers who live in the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which offers an additional $3,000 incentive in a parallel program called 3-2-1 Go Green. The district covers about 60,000 residents in western and northern Sonoma County.

For Sonoma Clean Power customers who qualify for all the incentives, including a full federal tax credit as well as low-income bonuses, the cost of the e-Golf sinks to $4,495.

Read more at: New electric car for less than $10,000? Sonoma County makes it happen | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Blue-green algae-related toxin warnings remain at Russian River beaches 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Russian River tested clean this week for a toxin related to blue-green algae that prompted cautionary signs at 10 popular beaches last month and in each of the past two summers.

The river remains open to swimming and other recreation. But warning signs urging visitors to avoid ingesting river water will remain at 10 popular beaches between Cloverdale and the river mouth as a precaution against exposure to the neurotoxin involved, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services said.

The weekly sampling suggests the threat, already minimal, could be diminishing. But precautions can only be lifted after several weeks pass without detection of the neurotoxin called anatoxin-a, county health personnel said.

Read more at: Blue-green algae-related toxin warnings remain at Russian River beaches | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water

Trump rethinks America’s best idea

Tom Molanphy, SF WEEKLY

Nearly 98 percent of 2.4 million people surveyed told the government to leave our national monuments alone.

As soon as President Trump signed his executive order in April to review 27 national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had his summer travel plans booked. Zinke would fish, kayak, and hike through our nation’s most beautiful landscapes to determine if they were better off being felled, drilled, or fracked. Six of the monuments set for review are in California: Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and San Gabriel Mountains. But the Feds are not touching these Golden State treasures without a California-sized fight.

“This has been nothing short of a cynical assault on our country’s shared value of protecting our public lands,” Victoria Brandon, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Redwoods chapter, tells SF Weekly.

Any reduction — or in some cases, elimination — of these nearby monuments would affect the Bay Area.

Read more at: Trump Rethinks America’s Best Idea – By tom-molanphy – August 10, 2017 – SF Weekly

Filed under Habitats, Land Use

California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars

David R. Baker, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

California has far more electric cars and plug-in hybrids plying its roads than any other state — about 300,000 so far. But they’re still just a tiny fraction of auto sales.

Now, legislation in Sacramento is designed to juice the market, just as a new generation of long-range electric cars hits showroom floors.

A bill from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would revamp and expand California’s existing rebate program for people who buy electrics or plug-in hybrids. The bill, a version of which has already passed the Assembly, would devote $3 billion to clean car incentives. The money would come from the state’s cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

The new rebates would start big — how big has yet to be determined — and then shrink over time, as plug-in cars become more common and affordable. Eventually, the rebates would disappear altogether.

It’s the same approach California used 10 years ago to kick-start sales of rooftop solar arrays. That rebate program helped create the state’s solar industry.

Even in eco-conscious California, sales of battery-powered cars have not accelerated as quickly as state officials wanted, due to relatively low gasoline prices and the limited range of most electric vehicles.

Read more at: California eyes bigger rebates for electric cars – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation