Napa, Sonoma vineyards to have new watershed regulations

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

SF Bay Water Board Napa River and Sonoma Creek Vineyard Program

Vineyard owners in the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds are facing new regulations after a decision by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting July 12.

The decision is the result of a lengthy environmental-impact report years in the making that addresses protection of species and habitat in the area.

The requirements are aimed at “regulating discharges from vineyard properties to achieve discharge performance standards for sediment and storm runoff and control pesticide and nutrient discharges,” the regulations said.

The action also aims to protect “habitat for federally listed steelhead populations, locally rare Chinook salmon populations and exceptionally diverse native fish assemblages.”

There was no timeline given as to when the adoption would go into affect, and specifics on reporting to the regional board were not announced.

The watersheds contain an estimated 162,000 acres of vineyard properties, with 59,000 acres planted in grapes, from which there are or may be discharges of sediment and concentrated storm runoff that affect water quality.

Read more at: Napa, Sonoma vineyards face new watershed regulations | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Water, Wildlife

Santa Rosa suspends new BoDean asphalt contract to speed resolution of dispute

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa is holding up a nearly $800,000 contract with a local asphalt plant until its owners comply with laws the city says it has violated going back a decade.

The City Council approved a new contract with BoDean Co. Tuesday but suspended its execution until the company resolves several outstanding building code and permit violations on its Maxwell Drive property.

The council took the unusual step even though city staff warned that it would prevent the city from utilizing the most convenient local source of asphalt during the height of the summer road construction season.

Read more at: Santa Rosa suspends new BoDean asphalt contract to speed resolution of dispute | The Press Democrat

Filed under Air, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer

J.D. Morris, THE NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Sonoma County has approved a deal to sell an 82-acre former county hospital site where a developer plans to build 800 rental units, housing for veterans, a grocery store, an amphitheater and other amenities.

County leaders have touted the sale to Bill Gallaher, a politically connected Santa Rosa developer, as a clear-sighted move to meet an urgent regional need — expanding the housing supply, especially for renters, who’ve seen rates skyrocket in recent years.

The deal was approved 5-0 by Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday.

The health care complex is centered around the former Community Hospital, built in 1936 and vacated in 2014 after Sutter Health moved into its new hospital off Mark West Road. The aging building did not meet current seismic building standards and racked up costly maintenance bills, according to the county. Much of it is slated for demolition under Gallaher’s proposal.

Though a sale of the property was first raised as a possibility more than a decade ago, the deal approved Tuesday has faced strong criticism from neighbors, health care advocates and others since it was first unveiled as a proposal in February. Opponents raised concerns about the loss of health care services on the site and the future of open lands on the property.

But proponents, including Gallaher’s representative, have emphasized all along that the details of the project will ultimately be Santa Rosa’s permit and planning process is complete, and officials expect that period to last about 18 months.

Read more at: Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Cap and trade: Deal reached on California climate program

Katy Murphy, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers late Monday announced a proposal to extend through the next decade California’s landmark program to regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases — known as cap and trade — which is set to expire in 2020.

Also unveiled late Monday was a separate bill to clean up the air in chronically polluted areas — to reduce harmful emissions from factories and plants as well as from cars and trucks.

“The Legislature is taking action to curb climate change and protect vulnerable communities from industrial poisons,” Brown said in a statement released late Monday night.

The two bills were revealed after weeks of talks between Brown, Republican and Democratic lawmakers and environmental and industry groups.

Lawmakers won’t be able to vote on the proposals before Thursday because of a ballot measure Californians passed in November requiring a bill to be in print for 72 hours before the state Assembly or Senate can vote on it. The bills are:

Assembly Bill 398 — for which Brown and legislative leaders aim to secure a two-thirds vote — would extend the cap-and-trade program to 2031.

Assembly Bill 617, which needs only a simple majority vote to pass, responds to activists’ demands to clean up the pollution that for generations has plagued residents in parts of the state. It would require oil refineries and other plants in heavily polluted areas to replace their equipment with cleaner technology by the end of 2023.

Among the proposed changes to the complex cap-and-trade program — in which refineries, power plants and factories pay to pollute, buying permits at auction — is a hard limit, or “ceiling,” on the price of carbon. Proponents of the change argue that it would prevent spikes in energy prices.

Read more at: Cap and trade: Deal reached on California climate program

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Russian River beach still closed; officials search for cause of high bacteria levels 

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Inquiries and inspections have been made about septic tanks, porta-potty operations and homeless encampments as well, in an effort to narrow down the cause, ….

Updates on the status of the beach are available at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Environmental-Health/Water-Quality/Fresh-Water-Quality/.

Monte Rio Beach will remain closed to swimming for at least one more day as public officials continue to pursue the reason for elevated lab tests that indicate contamination of the water with harmful bacteria, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services reported Monday.

The decision to keep beach-goers out of that stretch of the Russian River through at least Tuesday extends the ongoing beach closure to a fifth day, though officials have yet to confirm or pinpoint any specific hazard or source of pollution.

But state guidelines governing water quality required the closure last week because of test results above the state-allowed threshold for two indicator bacteria considered markers for possible fecal contamination. The beach status is now considered day-to-day.

The latest round of testing put total coliform bacteria at 11,199 organisms per 100 milliliters of sampled water collected off the beach Sunday, Deputy County Health Officer Karen Holbrook said. The state standard is 10,000 organisms per 100 ml.E. coli was measured at 149 organisms per 100 milliliters in samples taken Sunday. The state standard is 235 per 100 ml.E. coli levels dropped below the safety threshold July 6 and appear to have stayed there, though they remain above the two-digit numbers typical of routine testing at 10 Russian River beaches conducted by the county.

The highest test result in the past week put the E. coli level at 833 organisms per 100 ml. or almost four times the state standard, possibly as a result of huge crowds at the beach over the July Fourth weekend.

Read more at: Russian River beach still closed; officials search for cause of high bacteria levels | The Press Democrat

Filed under Water

Field tests show how pesticides can wreak havoc on honeybees

Mira Abed, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Humans are big fans of bees. We rely on them to pollinate crops like almonds, watermelons and apples.

But bees probably aren’t big fans of humans — at least, not of our agricultural practices.In particular, they ought to be offended by our fondness for a widely used class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics, for short).

Studies in the lab have shown that some doses of neonics are outright lethal to many bees and that even sub-lethal doses can shorten a colony’s lifespan and harm its overall health. Results have been similar in small-scale field studies.

Still, exactly how these pesticides, which are applied to seeds before planting, would affect bees in the real world remains something of a mystery. Scientists have been locked in a fierce debate over how much — and for how long — bees encounter these pesticides in their daily lives. After all, the conditions in a field are far more complex than those in a lab.

Now, two studies published side by side in the journal Science attempt to answer this contentious question.

One of the studies was conducted in Canada. It combined large-scale field work and laboratory experiments to better understand real-world neonic exposure levels and their effects on honeybees.

The other was conducted in large fields in Hungary, Germany and the U.K. Its goal was to understand how the effects of neonics vary between countries and how exposure during the flowering season affects the long-term health of a bee colony.

Read more at: Field tests show how pesticides can wreak havoc on honeybees – LA Times

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Rooftop solar dims under pressure from utility lobbyists

Hiroko Tabuchi, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Some of the slowdown in smaller-scale rooftop solar has come in maturing markets in states like California, where rooftop solar companies are having trouble expanding their customer base beyond early adopters.

Over the past six years, rooftop solar panel installations have seen explosive growth — as much as 900 percent by one estimate.

That growth has come to a shuddering stop this year, with a projected decline in new installations of 2 percent, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

A number of factors are driving the reversal, from saturation in markets like California to financial woes at several top solar panel makers.

But the decline has also coincided with a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.

Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations.

Read more at: Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Apply to sit on a Groundwater Sustainability Advisory committee

SONOMA RESOURCE CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Apply to the Sonoma RCD for Appointment to the Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, or Sonoma Valley GSA Advisory Committees: Applications due August 4, 2017

As you may know, the Sonoma RCD is a Member Agency in all three of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies that have recently formed in Sonoma County (Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley). As a Member Agency, the RCD will appoint one member to the Advisory Committee for each GSA. The RCD is seeking applications from stakeholders within each groundwater basin who are interested in serving on the Committee. For more information, and to apply, please click on the link for your basin:

Petaluma Valley
Santa Rosa Plain
Sonoma Valley

Apply for GSA Advisory Committee Interest-Based Seats
Each basin also has a number of “interest-based” seats that will be appointed by the GSA Board. Stakeholders can learn more and apply directly to the GSA for
these seats by clicking here.

Filed under Water

Sonoma County zoning board rejects new Healdsburg winery sought by Oakville Grocery owner

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Westside Road has 29 approved wineries, making it one of the most concentrated winemaking zones in Sonoma County, alongside Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley. Some neighbors have grown increasingly frustrated with the spread of wineries and events in those areas, and county supervisors are expected to return to that discussion sometime this fall.

A proposed new winery in one of Sonoma County’s most popular grape-growing and wine-tasting regions was rejected Thursday by county planning officials over concerns about traffic safety and the high concentration of existing wineries.

The Board of Zoning Adjustments voted unanimously to deny a permit for a Westside Road winery southwest of Healdsburg envisioned by Leslie Rudd, the owner of the Oakville Grocery stores. Rudd’s team plans to appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, making for another high-profile case in the countywide debate about the spread of wineries and the special events they often host.

Read more at: Sonoma County zoning board rejects new Healdsburg winery sought by Oakville Grocery owner | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Is inequality bad for the environment?

Danny Dorling, THE GUARDIAN

That equality matters in terms of health and happiness has been clear for some years. But it is also better for the environment. The evidence (which is still emerging) suggests the most unequal affluent countries contribute more to climate change via pollution than their more equal counterparts.

They may suffer more, too. A new report predicts the United States will actually see its levels of economic inequality increase due to the uneven geographical effects of climate change – resulting in “the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history”, according the study’s lead author.

In a 2016 report, Oxfam found that the greatest polluters of all were the most affluent 10% of US households: each emitted, on average, 50 tonnes of CO2 per household member per year. Canada’s top 10% were the next most polluting, followed by the British, Russian and South African elites.

In more equitable affluent countries such as South Korea, Japan, France, Italy and Germany, the rich don’t just pollute less; the average pollution is lower too, because the bottom half of these populations pollute less than the bottom half in the US, Canada or Britain, despite being better off.

In short, people in more equal rich countries consume less, produce less waste and emit less carbon, on average. Indeed, almost everything associated with the environment improves when economic equality is greater.

Read more at: Is inequality bad for the environment? | Inequality | The Guardian

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living