Posted on Categories Land Use, Local OrganizationsTags , , ,

Veteran official selected as new head of Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Misti Arias, a 25-year veteran of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, has been selected to lead the tax-funded agency as its fourth-ever general manager.

Arias is expected to be appointed formally May 11 to succeed Bill Keene, who resigned last fall after 11 years as head of the 30-year-old open space district.

“It is an honor to be considered for the position of Ag + Open Space general manager,” Arias said in a news release. “I am inspired to further the community’s vision to protect natural and agricultural lands throughout our county.”

Arias has spent her entire career with the agency, starting in 1995 when she took a job as planning technician after graduating from Sonoma State University with a degree in environmental studies and urban planning.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/veteran-official-selected-as-new-head-of-sonoma-county-agricultural-preserv/

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Biden administration to propose first rule requiring cut in climate pollutants

Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, THE WASHINGTON POST

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule targets hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule Monday to slash the use and production of a class of powerful greenhouse gases used widely in refrigeration and air conditioning in the next decade and a half. The proposal marks the first time President Biden’s administration has used the power of the federal government to mandate a cut in climate pollution.

Unlike many of the administration’s other climate initiatives, there’s broad bipartisan support for curbing hydrofluorocarbons, pollutants thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. Congress agreed at the end of last year to slash the super-pollutants by 85 percent by 2036 as part of a broader omnibus bill.

A global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, is projected to avert up to 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century.

Widely used in refrigeration, as well as residential and commercial air conditioning and heat pumps, HFCs were developed as a substitute for chemicals that depleted the Earth’s protective ozone layer. But their heat-trapping properties have helped increase temperatures.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/03/epa-climate-hfcs/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags ,

Amid resident-led lawsuit, Safeway abandons gas station plans in Petaluma

Kathryn Palmer, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Safeway is walking away from its embattled Petaluma gas station project after years of resident-led pushback, city officials and a Safeway representative confirmed Friday.

The decision marks a victory for opposition group NoGasHere, which has been locked in a nearly two-year legal battle with the grocery giant and the city of Petaluma over the project. And it comes on the heels of the city’s first-in-the-nation ban on new gas stations, which drew national attention after it was passed March 1.

Safeway spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall confirmed the company is abandoning the project in an emailed statement to the Argus-Courier Friday, explaining that the company is choosing not to pursue renewed project approvals from the city after they lapsed earlier this month.

“We appreciate those who supported a new Safeway gas station at the Washington Square Shopping Center in Petaluma,” she said in the message. “The city’s approval of the project on April 1, 2019, was valid for two years, and the project approvals recently expired. The project has come to an end.”

The project has drawn heated opposition from Petaluma residents and some local business owners since the national chain unveiled its plans for the Washington Square addition in 2013, with NoGasHere leaders objecting over potential environmental impacts and increased traffic hazards.

Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/article/news/amid-resident-led-lawsuit-safeway-abandons-gas-station-plans-in-petaluma/?ref=mostsection&sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , ,

California just hit 95% renewable energy. Will other states come along for the ride?

Sammy Roth, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Something remarkable happened over the weekend: California hit nearly 95% renewable energy.

I’ll say it again: 95% renewables. For all the time we spend talking about how to reach 100% clean power, it sometimes seems like a faraway proposition, whether the timeframe is California’s 2045 target or President Biden’s more aggressive 2035 goal. But on Saturday just before 2:30 p.m., one of the world’s largest economies came within a stone’s throw of getting there.

There are several caveats. For one thing, Saturday’s 94.5% figure — a record, as confirmed to me by the California Independent System Operator — was fleeting, lasting just four seconds. It was specific to the state’s main power grid, which covers four-fifths of California but doesn’t include Los Angeles, Sacramento and several other regions. It came at a time of year defined by abundant sunshine and relatively cool weather, meaning it’s easier for renewable power to do the job traditionally done by fossil fuels.

And fossil fuels actually were doing part of the job — more than the 94.5% figure might suggest. California was producing enough clean power to supply nearly 95% of its in-state needs, but it was also burning a bunch of natural gas and exporting electricity to its Western neighbors. It’s impossible to say exactly how much of the Golden State’s own supply was coming from renewables.

That said, what happened on Saturday is definitely a big deal.

“It sends chills down my spine. It’s amazing,” said Elliot Mainzer, president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s main power grid. “These types of transitions aren’t always pretty. But we’re getting a lot of renewable generation online, making a real dent in the state’s carbon emissions.”

Read more at https://www.latimes.com/environment/newsletter/2021-04-29/solar-power-water-canals-california-climate-change-boiling-point?utm_id=28229&sfmc_id=3422102

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

Clover Sonoma remade the milk carton to help reduce greenhouse gases

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Trying to combat climate change, Clover Sonoma is casting a wide net throughout its operations to curb greenhouse gases. That includes the dumpster.

The Petaluma-based dairy processor has for years worked to improve its environmental stewardship. The effort took on even greater importance since 2016 when it became a B Corporation. Such companies are graded on their earth friendly measures, treatment of workers, overall relationship with the local community and business governance.

For Clover, the range of actions include working with the 30 dairies that send their milk to the processor to generate products from organic milk to cream cheese to butter. In addition, a new carbon farming test project is set to begin later this year.

The collaboration with the dairy farmers makes sense because the family-owned company found that about two-thirds of its overall greenhouse gas emissions are tied to farming practices, said Kristal Corson, chief revenue officer of the regional dairy powerhouse with about 260 employees and $235 million in annual revenue the past year.

“In addition to sort of helping farms figure out ways they can be more sustainable and doing those different efforts, we’ve also been trying to attack it on the packaging,” Corson said.

Clover Sonoma’s cartons, containers and wrappings are the second-largest source of its greenhouse gases at about 12%. That even outpaces transportation of milk with delivery trucks, which contribute an estimated 7% of emissions.

The spotlight on packaging led Clover to a notable achievement last summer, when it unveiled the first milk carton in the United States made from renewable sources. While it may not go back to the old days of the milkman picking up the used glass bottles in exchange for new ones, Clover intends to make a big environmental contribution by incorporating the new product design into all of its milk cartons by 2025.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/clover-sonoma-remade-the-milk-carton-to-help-reduce-greenhouse-gases/

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , ,

West County Trail extension opens near downtown Forestville

Elissa Chudwin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An extension of the West County Trail that connects to downtown Forestville now is open, according to a news release from Sonoma County Regional Parks.

The .2-mile extension connects the trail’s northern end at Parajo Lane to Front Street in Forestville for the first time in the trail’s history. An 8-foot-wide raised boardwalk also was constructed on a section of the extension so cyclists and pedestrians can access the trail despite seasonal flooding.

The West County Trail is part of a 13-mile network that links Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Graton and Forestville.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/west-county-trail-extension-opens-near-downtown-forestville/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Video: Recovery and resiliency in California salmonids

Friends of the Gualala River

Video: Friends of Gualala River (FoGR) celebrated Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2021, with a free webinar on salmonids presented by Dr. Jacob Katz, senior scientist with California Trout. Click on the image below to go to the FoGR website and watch the video.

California Trout is a non-profit dedicated to protecting and restoring the state’s 32 species of salmonid fish. Dr. Katz directs the organization’s Central California region where his work focuses on redesigning California’s antiquated water infrastructure to help restore habitat for declining salmonid populations.

Once, before the waters of the great Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers were dammed, impounded, pumped, and channeled into hundreds of miles of concrete canals in the state and federal water projects, millions of Chinook salmon swam upstream in spring and fall runs from the Pacific Ocean through the San Francisco Bay Delta to natal streams where they could spawn.

There, juvenile fish could hide from predators and feed off the rich supply of invertebrates found in the marshes and floodplains. Fattened and strengthened for the rigors of life in the ocean, they migrated back down the rivers and out to the Pacific for a period before returning to complete the cycle of life.

But today salmon teeter on the brink of extinction with their populations plummeting to a few thousand, their habitat severely reduced and degraded. Demands on water in the state are sky high, and water wars are protracted and unproductive.

Is the extinction of these iconic California natives inevitable? Or, could there be a possible solution in the notion of sharing water and habitat rather than fighting? Would flooded rice fields prove as rich a nursery as the marshes and floodplains of old? Would ranchers, farmers, and water districts be amenable to engineering a cooperative solution? California Trout and Dr. Katz seem to have found a way.

Here along the North Coast, the salmon and steelhead runs are also threatened and endangered. While our terrain and ecosystems differ from the Central Valley, the root problems are the same: extraction and degradation of water and natural resources are destroying the fish.

In the Gualala River watershed, there is the prospect of beginning salmonid restoration through the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy’s acquisition and management of the Mill Bend property in the estuary. State and federal regulators are interested. Intelligent stewardship means that much more will need to be done along the main stem of the river and upper portions of the watershed where the needs of fish will have to be integrated with working lands to reconnect and restore habitat.

Dr. Katz’s presentation is part of FoGR’s outreach program to educate the community about the extraordinary natural resources found within the Gualala River watershed and to increase awareness and commitment to its stewardship.

This presentation was hosted by Friends of Gualala River’s (FoGR) Education and Outreach Committee on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , ,

Sonoma County’s largest freshwater lake, sacred site was drained by a farmer with dynamite

Susan Minichiello, PRESS DEMOCRAT

One thing you won’t see at Tolay Lake Regional Park: a giant lake.

It was once Sonoma County’s largest freshwater lake, according to Sonoma County Regional Parks. But Tolay Lake was drained by a 19th-century German immigrant farmer using dynamite, and with his action a sacred gathering place for Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo tribes for thousands of years washed away.

Thousands of charmstones were found at Tolay Lake after it drained, and many are more than 4,000 years old, according to a 2017 Bay Nature magazine article by Greg Sarris, chair of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Charmstones were usually flat, rectangle or oval-shaped stones a few inches long and used for a variety of reasons, including for luck in hunting or healing. At Tolay the charmstones came from places as far away as Mexico, Sarris wrote.

“What we’ve always known is that Tolay Lake was a great place of healing and renewal, that Indian doctors came from near and far to confer with one another and to heal the sick,” Sarris wrote.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-countys-largest-freshwater-lake-sacred-site-was-drained-by-a-farm/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Eel River to some, Wiya’t to the tribe that fishes it

Arthur Dawson, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Eel River runs through Lake, Mendocino, and Trinity counties before reaching the Pacific Ocean in southern Humboldt County. Its name was given by Josiah Gregg in 1850 as he was exploring and looking for land to settle. Coming upon a group of Indigenous Wiyot fishermen, he traded a frying pan for some Pacific lampreys, which he mistook for eels.

Those Wiyot fishermen had probably been up most of the night — a good time for catching lamprey. Some of the best fishing spots were in the breaking waves at the river’s mouth. Waving redwood-splinter torches over the water, they attracted the lamprey with the flames. With quick reflexes and a carved stick, they snatched them from the water. And because lampreys are so slippery, the Wiyot twirl them over their heads before setting them on dry ground — otherwise they can slide off back into the river.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/eel-river-to-some-wiyat-to-the-tribe-that-fishes-it/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags ,

County’s cannabis update may be headed for a detour

Rollie Atkinson, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

Narrow planning commissioners vote calls for a more comprehensive environmental impact study

Plans of the Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors to streamline the permitting process for commercial cannabis cultivation may be headed for a detour following a close Sonoma County Planning Commission vote held last week that is recommending a “more comprehensive update” in conjunction with a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR.) If approved by the supervisors, the EIR process could take more than a year to complete, several attendees of the April 15 commission session predicted.

New cannabis permits can still be filed under current rules included in the older 2018 ordinance while the supervisors consider their next steps, but there is already a large backlog of pending applications.

Last week’s planning commission action follows two years of county staff work and monitoring by a supervisor’s cannabis ad hoc committee (led by Supervisors James Gore and Lynda Hopkins) seeking to replace lengthy public review and planning commission hearings with a “ministerial” process led by the county’s agricultural commissioner’s office.

That goal was also stymied when the planning commission voted 3-2 to not classify cannabis operations as “agriculture” and “agricultural use” and to vacate earlier recommendations to include a broader General Plan update. Defining cannabis as a crop would better support the streamlined permitting process sought by the ad hoc committee and others.

A public hearing in front of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on the updated ordinance is tentatively scheduled for May 18. The April 15 commission resolution was introduced by commissioner Cam Mauritson and supported by Lawrence Reed and Gina Belforte. It was opposed by chair Greg Carr and member Pam Davis. Reed said he favored the motion to “try to get relief to small growers” while a new EIR process proceeds. Davis said she was “not totally comfortable” with the proposals and favored designating cannabis as an “ag activity.”

Read more at https://www.sonomawest.com/sonoma_west_times_and_news/news/county-s-cannabis-update-may-be-headed-for-a-detour/