Posted on Categories Forests, WaterTags , , , , , , ,

Sonoma County Superior Court rules in favor of Friends of Gualala River’s second lawsuit over the “Dogwood” floodplain timber harvest plan

Friends of the Gualala River

Sonoma County Superior Court once again has ruled in favor of Friends of Gualala River (FoGR) in its lawsuit against CAL FIRE’s approval of logging of coastal floodplain redwood forest in hundreds of acres of the Wild and Scenic Gualala River. The controversial “Dogwood” timber harvest plan (THP) proposed by Gualala Redwoods Timber LLC has been opposed by public protests, petitions, and litigation since 2015.

On October 16, 2018, Judge René Chouteau concluded that the second Dogwood THP failed to meet California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements for evaluating project alternatives with less environmental impact, and for assessing cumulative environmental impacts to the river, forest and floodplain, in addition to those from the Dogwood THP itself.

FoGR, Forest Unlimited, and California Native Plant Society previously sued CAL FIRE over similar environmental review flaws in the first Dogwood THP (1-15-042), and prevailed in case SCV 259216, requiring CAL FIRE to revoke the permit to log “Dogwood” in March, 2017. The applicant, Gualala Redwoods Timber (GRT), resubmitted the logging plan with minimal corrections, and CAL FIRE again approved it over major public opposition on March 30, 2018. FoGR again sued over the same basic flaws in CAL FIRE’s environmental review process for “Dogwood II” in case SCV 262241.

In agreement with legal precedents, the Court stated in “Dogwood II” that it is “absolutely clear” that THPs must be functionally equivalent to Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). THPs must meet the same fundamental standards of CEQA with regard to evaluation of alternatives that reduce impacts to the environment, which the Court reaffirmed is “one of the most important functions of an EIR.” The Court ruled that CAL FIRE’s position on THP requirements for alternatives analysis was incorrect, and its discussion of alternatives for Dogwood simply presented no information, analysis, or explanation of how it reached its conclusions in rejecting all alternatives as infeasible. FoGR argued that CAL FIRE uncritically accepted the prejudicial arguments of the applicant, Gualala Redwoods Timber, in rejecting alternatives without analysis.

Read more at http://gualalariver.org/forestry/floodplain-logging/sonoma-county-superior-court-rules-in-favor-of-friends-of-gualala-rivers-second-lawsuit-over-the-dogwood-floodplain-timber-harvest-plan/

Posted on Categories ForestsTags , , ,

Sudden oak death diminishes after dry winter

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A dry winter curtailed the presence of a deadly forest pathogen this year in Sonoma County and 13 other Northern and Central California counties, but experts still expect the oak-killing disease to spread and warned landowners to be vigilant.

Since the mid-1990s, sudden oak death has killed up to 50 million trees from Big Sur to southwest Oregon and is entrenched in the woodlands, spreading rapidly after wet winters and slower during dry years.

“It’s constant, it’s emerging,” said Richard Cobb, an assistant professor of forest health at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “It’s probably going to get a lot worse.”

Cobb said Monday he’s about to publish his estimate of tree mortality, 90 percent of which are tanoaks and most of the rest coast live oaks. Another 100 million trees may be infected by the insidious pathogen that typically takes one or two years to produce symptoms in the infected trees, he said.

The pathogen can be spread by human footprints and nursery plants, but in nature it rides on water droplets blown from the leaves of bay laurel trees, a host species that abounds among the oak and tanoak trees susceptible to the disease.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8835811-181/dry-winter-curtails-fatal-disease

Posted on Categories WaterTags ,

Santa Rosa lifts 11-month water quality advisory in Fountaingrove neighborhood

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Water in Santa Rosa’s fire-ravaged Fountaingrove neighborhood is safe for drinking and bathing, city officials said Thursday.

The city lifted the water quality advisory in place since the historic Tubbs wildfire in October 2017 melted water pipes in the hilly neighborhood and contaminated sections of the water system with benzene, which can cause cancer.

Residents living in the advisory area of Fountaingrove, where about 1,600 homes burned in the most destructive fire in California history, will get individual notices from the city about the water safety.

Recent water tests in the neighborhood showed traces of benzene, but at levels lower than state-mandated safety limits. The city said in a statement “the water continues to meet all state and federal standards for safe drinking water.”

Water testing will continue for at least a year to ensure safe water conditions, city officials said. Jennifer Burke, the city’s deputy director of water resources, said the city will continue sharing with residents the results from subsequent tests.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8831902-181/santa-rosa-lifts-11-month-water?utm_source=boomtrain&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pd_breaking&bt_ee=ssS4Wcl06w1x64k%2BtZMmX%2BzEwBUjXHTsSHurR5xa67tWNhTRKSRsfi7NO1zRPptg&bt_ts=1539291227551

Posted on Categories Forests, Land UseTags , , ,

Wildfires: Managing the risk

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET

How can we limit the spread of wildfires and save people and property?

Wildfires are already a serious problem, and climate change will only make the problem worse, as I’ve discussed in my two prior posts. Reducing carbon emissions can help keep the problem from growing, but we need to deal with the risks we’re already facing. That is going to require a portfolio of risk management strategies. We need to ramp up all of them.
Land Use Controls.

There are increasing numbers of people moving into the wild-land urban interface (WUI).The USDA’s report on the WUI says that 3.8 million people live in that zone in California alone. Nationally, a million homes were added to the WUI just in the decade from 1990-2000. That simply isn’t sustainable.

Human activities increase the risk of fire from sparks or burns, and homes are typically highly flammable and help fires spread more quickly. Better land use controls could limit development in high risk areas. Easier said than done, however, given development pressures. According to a 2013 study, ” land use planning for wildfire has yet to gain traction in practice, particularly in the United States. However, fire history has been used to help define land zoning for fire planning in Italy, and bushfire hazard maps are integrated into planning policy in Victoria, Australia.” By 2016, however, Headwaters Economics was reporting on five Western US cities that were taking advantage of at least some land use tools to reduce fire risks, though none seem to have imposed outright bans on development in high-risk areas.

Buyouts may be a fallback in extreme situations. Building codes can also help — for instance, by requiring fire-resistant roofs on new houses. Liability rules for fires have to be carefully considered. Making utilities liable for fires can cause them to take greater precautions, but the prospect of compensation could also encourage people to live in unsafe areas. On the other hand, fire insurance costs can send an important price signal about the risks of WUI property ownership, as some Californians are already beginning to experience.
Land Management.

Read more at http://legal-planet.org/2018/10/08/wildfires-managing-the-risks/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Sustainable Living, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning

Seth Borenstein, SACRAMENTO BEE

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.

In the 728-page document, the U.N. organization detailed how Earth’s weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if the world’s leaders could somehow limit future human-caused warming to just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (a half degree Celsius) from now, instead of the globally agreed-upon goal of 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C). Among other things:

— Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.

— There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.

— Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article219656035.html#storylink=cpy

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

As storms keep coming, FEMA spends billions in ‘cycle’ of damage and repair

Kevin Sack and John Schwartz, THE NEW YORK TIMES

In the exact spot where Hurricane Katrina demolished the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center, a new $105 million jail now hovers 19 feet above the marsh, perched atop towering concrete pillars. Described by a state official as the “Taj Mahal” of Louisiana corrections, it has so much space that one of every 27 parish residents could bunk there.

But on an average day in the first half of this year, more than 40 percent of its 872 beds went unoccupied, making it one of the emptiest jails in the state, records show. And because of its isolated, flood-prone location, the jail still must be evacuated before any major storm or risk becoming an accidental Alcatraz.

There is but one reason the Plaquemines jail was rebuilt on endangered land, with needless capacity, at immense cost: The sheriff wanted it that way. But unlike most new jail construction, his project did not have to be financed through bond sales or other local revenues, with voters able to hold him accountable. Rather, because the old jail was destroyed by a natural disaster, the cost was covered by federal taxpayers, through a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that is required by law to distribute billions in aid but exerts little control over how the money is spent.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/us/fema-disaster-recovery-climate-change.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , ,

Animal-rights protesters rattle Petaluma poultry farmers

Hannah Beausang, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Tensions between animal rights activists and Sonoma County officials remained high Monday after 58 protesters were arrested this weekend attempting to take chickens from a Petaluma poultry farm.

The Saturday protest at McCoy’s Poultry Services marked the third large animal-rights demonstration organized by the Bay Area chapter of Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, in Petaluma this year.

The group said late Monday it plans to stage a protest at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office this afternoon after those arrested this weekend appeared in court to demand charges against protesters be dropped, claiming their actions were lawful rescue of animals, said Matt Johnson, a spokesman for the group.

Law enforcement officials condemned the latest protest in Petaluma as illegal and disruptive, while animal-rights activists called the action necessary to send a message and save the lives of chickens they described as lethargic, malnourished and injured.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8799484-181/animal-rights-protesters-rattle-petaluma-poultry

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California counters Trump on car emissions standards, expands other climate rules

Tony Barboza, LOS ANGELES TIMES

In an escalation in the fight against climate change and the Trump administration, California regulators approved new measures to defend the state’s vehicle emissions standards and bolster rules to cut carbon pollution from transportation.

The state Air Resources Board voted Friday to require automakers to comply with California’s strict rules on car and truck pollution if they want to sell vehicles in the state. It’s California’s latest move against the Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel economy targets and revoke California’s power to set its own standards. State officials said the counterstrike was necessary to close a potential loophole automakers could use to evade compliance with California’s more stringent rules.

“The health of our state, our nation and the globe are at stake, and that is a fight worth having,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who sits on the board.

The measure seeks to strengthen California’s footing as it fights to preserve its emissions rules, both in court and in negotiations with the White House. At the same time, the move brings the nation one step closer to having two different standards: One for California and the dozen other aligned states that account for one-third of the U.S. auto market, and another for the rest of the country.

During the board’s meeting in Sacramento, the 16-member panel also expanded a climate rule that reduces carbon pollution with tradeable credits that gasoline and diesel producers must purchase from producers of lower-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and biodiesel. By further incentivizing those cleaner technologies, the low-carbon fuel standard is expected to cut the cost of a new electric vehicle by up to $2,000 while raising gas prices by up to 36 cents over the next 12 years.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-carbon-fuels-20180928-story.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags , , , ,

Huffman bill assuring 20-year leases for Point Reyes ranchers clears House

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cattle ranchers would be assured a lengthy future in Point Reyes National Seashore under a bill written by Rep. Jared Huffman that was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives, with environmental groups divided over the issue.

The bill by Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat known for his environmental politics, would require the Secretary of Interior to issue 20-year permits to the long-standing family-operated beef and dairy ranches in the scenic Marin County seashore managed by the National Park Service.

The four-page bill also orders the government agency to manage the seashore’s famed tule elk herd to keep the grazing animals separate from the ranches and dairies.

“We’re thrilled,” said Jackie Grossi, whose family runs a 1,200-acre Point Reyes cattle ranch. “We just want to ensure that there is long-term stability for the ranches.”

Jackie and Rich Grossi, their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter manage the ranch, which is, like all of the affected cattle operations, on federally owned land purchased by the government decades ago.

Ranchers say they need long-term permits to justify investment in their operations.

In an unusual exercise of bipartisanship, the bill, HR 6687, was co- authored by Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee and last year advocated for repeal of the Endangered Species Act, a move Huffman has vocally opposed.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8782302-181/huffman-bill-assuring-20-year-leases?ref=mostsection

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Santa Rosa City Council slashes development fees for downtown housing projects

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The council authorized reducing development fees over a five-year period as part of its downtown housing strategy, which envisions 3,400 apartment and condo units in the city center, mirroring a benchmark from a 2007 city plan. To date, only 100 of those downtown units have been built.

Santa Rosa is set to slash fees charged to builders in a bid to spur a new wave of high-rise housing development, part of a long-term overhaul of the city’s core envisioned more than a decade ago.

The City Council voted 6-0 on separate resolutions Tuesday night that together will result in immediate, sharp reductions in development fees tied to new housing for parks and infrastructure. The measures will also delay payment of fees charged for city utility hookups until the back end of a project, a sweetener that developers say makes it easier for new housing to pencil out.

It was the latest step in a series of City Council actions this year that are intended to speed the production of multi-family housing in the downtown area, now with a renovated transit center and a reunited Old Courthouse Square.

Council members were united in their praise for the measures, which come amid a housing crisis exacerbated by wildfires that last year wiped out more than 3,000 homes in Santa Rosa and 5,300 countywide.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8775929-181/santa-rosa-city-council-slashes