Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , , ,

Op-Ed: Saving rainwater for sunny days to come

Grant Davis, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The current water year, which began Oct. 1, has been wetter than usual, with the Russian River watershed accumulating 119% of the yearly average rainfall, totaling 49.38 inches since October.

In the past, we might have celebrated our good fortune and watched lake levels rise only to watch much of it sent downriver to the Pacific Ocean as reservoirs reached an inflexible upper threshold. Today, we get to continue enjoying that ample rainfall long after summer sunshine arrives.
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Grant Davis

With almost a decade of data under its belt, the Russian River Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations program has been making great strides by demonstrating the viability of this strategy to operate reservoirs more effectively using modern technology and forecasting.

This year, we expect the new method to ensure an additional 19,000 acre-feet of water in the Lake Sonoma reservoir heading into the summer, just as it did last year, thanks to our ability to leverage weather forecasting techniques and adapt how we manage our reservoirs. Add to that another 9,000 acre-feet stored in Lake Mendocino. An acre-foot equates to 325,851 gallons.

That 28,000 acre-feet represents a substantial savings, or almost 65% of Sonoma Water’s annual demand, given that the agency is projecting its three-year average annual water sales to be just under 43,000 acre-feet.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/sonoma-drought-water-dam-storage/

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

California’s ocean salmon fishing season closed for second year in a row

Susan Wood, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing season is set to be closed for the second consecutive year, another blow to the state’s beleaguered industry suffering from the combined fallout of drought, climate disruption and deteriorating ocean conditions.

Already, a new request is underway for yet another federal disaster declaration to help alleviate some of the wide economic damage from the closure, affecting not just the fleet but many associated businesses that depend on the fishery, one of the state’s most lucrative.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which manages and monitors West Coast salmon stocks in the ocean, endorsed the option on Wednesday of a full closure through the end of the year, mirroring recommendations made to close the fisheries in 2023.

Many fishermen, already resigned to a severely limited season if any at all due to depleted stocks, had backed the full closure.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/north-bay/californias-salmon-fishing-season-closed-for-second-year-in-a-row/

Posted on Categories Habitats, WaterTags , , , , , , ,

New restoration plan for Laguna de Santa Rosa

Laura Hagar Rush, SEBASTOPOL TIMES

The Laguna de Santa Rosa held an open house on Wednesday, February 21, to celebrate the release of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Restoration Plan. Funded by a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife with matching funds from Sonoma Water, this document examines six potential restoration projects in the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed.

Presented by Neil Lassettre of Sonoma Water and Scott Dusterhoff of the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), this plan was several years in the making.

“So six years ago, we were here with folks from the public, many of you here in this hall, saying ‘Well, we were going to do this restoration planning effort.’ And here we are six years later, unveiling this restoration plan to you all. So this is really an exciting time for us,” Dusterhoff said.

Dusterhoff explained the two major phases of the project this way: “The first component was developing an understanding of how the Laguna used to look and how it used to function and the habitats that it was supporting. So that’s developing an understanding of the historical ecology,” he said. “And then after we understand how the Laguna used to look and how it used to function, we can understand the landscape change—so the magnitude of change from what was to what is. So that was part number one. Part number two then was using that information to develop this long term restoration vision—this long term idea of all of the habitats we want to bring back in the Laguna. So then, we took that vision and we dove deep on a few areas, and we came up with this master restoration plan,” he said.

Read more at https://www.sebastopoltimes.com/p/new-restoration-plan-for-laguna-de?

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , ,

New Highway 37 planning structure elevates focus on environment, San Pablo Baylands

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The people who are planning the long-needed improvements on heavily congested Highway 37 are faced with more than just the amount of time commuters spend in gridlock each day en route to and from jobs in Marin and Sonoma counties.

There also are climate and environmental concerns along the sensitive shoreline of San Pablo Bay — the focus of tidelands restoration investments topping $600 million already. The diminished marshes and wetlands that once lined the greater San Francisco Bay are productive habitats that foster wildlife, filter water, sequester carbon and can help buffer the land from sea level rise.

But the varying needs don’t always line up easily. What solves one problem could exacerbate another.

And there is distrust among some who believe a short-term plan to widen the eastern stretch of 37 between Sears Point and Mare Island on slightly raised berms does more harm than good, despite the cost and time involved in a long-term plan to raise the whole highway.

They include Congressman Jared Huffman, who has, as he attests, “been lobbying nonstop” to change the approach to the highway redesign, moving directly to a full causeway instead of a freeway widening project “straight out of the 1980s.”

But in an effort to assure environmental stakeholders that their interests are on equal footing as work on the 21-mile highway corridor goes forward, the multicounty State Route 37 Partnership, currently dominated by transportation agencies, will now include key leaders from “environmentally oriented” state groups.

And it will have a new name: The Baylands Restoration and Transportation Expanded Partnership.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/new-highway-37-planning-structure-elevates-focus-on-environment-san-pablo/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags ,

Sonoma County releases business plan for climate hub at Sonoma Developmental Center

Phil Barber, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The county released a business plan describing “a place where key stakeholders, leaders and private enterprise can work together to find new responses to the ongoing climate crisis.”

Sonoma County is throwing its weight behind a proposal for a climate action center as part of the redevelopment strategy for the historic Sonoma Developmental Center property in Glen Ellen.

The county released a business plan for the Center for Climate Action on Wednesday, describing the concept as “a place where key stakeholders, leaders and private enterprise can work together to find new responses to the ongoing climate crisis.”

The initiative is being funded by a $250,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.

“This business plan marks our latest progress in SDC’s future,” Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma, said in a news release. “As we implement the state’s mandate to protect open space, construct housing and provide economic development, the Center for Climate Action and Innovation concept is already attracting interest that could result in employers returning to campus.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-releases-business-plan-for-climate-hub-at-sonoma-developmenta/

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

Press Release: Governor Newsom launches California’s ‘Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future’

Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: To restore populations of salmon amidst hotter and drier weather exacerbated by climate change, Governor Newsom announced California’s first strategy to protect the iconic fish species for generations to come.

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced new actions and efforts already underway that California is taking to help restore California’s salmon populations.

Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future

After 10 years of rapidly intensifying drought and more extreme weather, salmon are not doing well. Last year, with projections showing Chinook salmon population at historic lows, the salmon season was closed and the Newsom Administration requested a Federal Fishery Disaster to support impacted communities. Additionally, due to crashing salmon populations in 2023, some tribes canceled their religious and cultural harvests for the first time ever.

The strategy’s six priorities call for:

    1. Removing barriers and modernizing infrastructure for salmon migration
    2. Restoring habitat
    3. Protecting water flows in key rivers at the right times
    4. Modernizing hatcheries
    5. Transforming technology and management systems
    6. Strengthening partnerships

Read more at https://www.gov.ca.gov/2024/01/30/governor-newsom-launches-californias-salmon-strategy-for-a-hotter-drier-future/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Sonoma County may have a new commercial composting site at the county airport

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

About 100,000 tons of green waste have been hauled out of county since Sonoma County’s last centralized compost facility closed in 2015.

A yearslong search for a new site to process much of Sonoma County’s yard and food waste may finally be over, potentially ending the need to haul almost 100,000 tons of organic materials to neighboring counties for composting each year.

Officials are now exploring the possibility of using a small piece of county-owned land in Windsor adjacent to the Sonoma County-Charles M. Schulz Airport to collect and compost green bin materials and commercial food waste to produce organic soil amendments in high demand by the local agricultural community.

The roughly 15-acre site at 5200 Slusser Rd. is part of a one-time county landfill decommissioned in 1971 and covered over with 9 feet of compacted soil.

Though its conversion to a commercial composting facility is still years off, an initial feasibility study of the site determined in 2022 there were no disqualifying physical or environmental hurdles.

If successful, selection of the site would put an end to a string of bad luck that has plagued local officials and their partners in providing a destination for organic waste just as an aggressive push is underway to keep as much as possible out of landfills, where they contribute to planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-may-have-a-new-commercial-composting-site-at-the-county-airpo/

Posted on Categories Local OrganizationsTags

Gilroy receives lifetime environmental achievement award

SONOMA VALLEY SUN

Sonoma County Conservation Council has announced that Sonoma Valley resident Norman Gilroy will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and action in in support of environmental, planning and conservation work in the Valley and Sonoma County.

Gilroy, trained as an architect in England, formed his first architectural office after moving a Willis Polk house from Franklin Street in San Francisco to Belvedere, where it still stands proudly on the waterfront.

“After decades of experience as an architect and planner, leading projects from design to completion, Norman has a brilliant capacity for synthesis of concepts and finding breakthrough solutions to complex issues,” reads the award letter. “He is a team player who can gracefully bring people together by focusing on common goals and long-term impacts.”

In private practice in the 70’s, Gilroy worked in his Land-use Planning capacity to reclaim the worked-out quarry where Larkspur Landing now stands on the bay in Larkspur. As a part of the Master Plan, he negotiated the location for the Golden Gate Ferry terminal that connects Marin County with San Francisco and planned for the rail connection that is now a part of the SMART network in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Read more at https://sonomasun.com/2023/11/30/gilroy-receives-lifetime-environmental-achievement-award/

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

PG&E formalizes plan to take down dams on Eel River

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a landmark moment, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. formalized its plans to tear down two more-than-century-old dams on the Eel River — removing the barrier that forms Lake Pillsbury, freeing the waters of the river and restoring the lake footprint to a more natural state.

The moves are part of a 94-page draft surrender application submitted to federal regulators and made public Friday as part of the utility’s plan to decommission its Potter Valley powerhouse and all the infrastructure that comes with it — including Scott and Cape Horn dams, sited slightly downstream.

PG&E has said work deconstructing the dams could begin as early 2028, depending on regulatory approval and environmental review of the plan.

Scott Dam, built in 1921, would come down first, either in phases or all in one season.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. initial draft plan

The plan fulfills long-held dreams of conservationists and fishery groups to see the cold, clear headwaters of the Eel River, part of the Mendocino National Forest, reopened to migrating fish and to restore natural river flows in hopes of reversing the decline of native fish stocks.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/pge-formalizes-plan-to-eliminate-lake-pillsbury-in-mendocino-county-forest/?ref=mostsection

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

California reduces payments for rooftop solar power — for second time in a year

Ben Christopher and Julie Cart, CALMATTERS

The utilities commission reduced payments to apartments, schools and businesses selling solar power to the grid despite a barrage of criticism. Commissioners say it reverses unfair subsidies.

After months of debate and two postponed votes, California’s utility regulator unanimously voted today to overhaul incentives for owners of apartment buildings, schools and businesses that install solar panels.

The new regulations are the second major step that the California Public Utilities Commission has taken in the past year to reduce power companies’ financial support for rooftop solar. In December, the commission reduced payments to homeowners who sell excess power from newly installed solar panels on single-family homes.

Still, for solar advocates, it could have been worse.

Thanks to a last-minute regulatory tweak, the new rules today stop short of a previous proposal that solar industry groups and housing-related interests warned would result in the “evisceration” of the multifamily solar market.

Read more at https://calmatters.org/environment/2023/11/california-solar-payment/