Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Salmon and the subsurface

David Dralle, Gabe Rossi, Phil Georgakakos, Jesse Hahm, Daniella Rempe, Monica Blanchard, Mary Power, Bill Dietrich, and Stephanie Carlson, CALIFORNIA WATERBLOG

Our central hypothesis is that we will not recover salmon abundance without recovering a diversity of paths through the watershed and through the life cycle and, moreover, that the strategies that are missing or only weakly contributing today are ones that relied on the mainstem and other non-natal habitats for rearing / as stop over sites…

You’ve probably noticed that some streams flow year-round while others are seasonally dry, despite receiving similar amounts of rainfall. Through a recent NSF-funded effort (“Eel River Critical Zone Observatory”), we learned several things about how landscapes filter climate to produce such diverse flow behavior–and the implications for how salmon live their lives.

Our 25-year field study revealed that belts of California’s Eel River watershed underlain by different geologies have different Critical Zones (CZs) – Earth’s permeable surface layers from the top of the vegetation canopy down to fresh bedrock, where water can be stored and exchanged.


Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , ,

PG&E plan to use wildfire funds on ads sparks critics’ fire

Jaxon Van Derbeken, NBC BAYAREA

“It’s outrageous to charge customers for promotional advertising that only promotes the utility,” said Katy Morsony, an attorney with the ratepayer advocacy group TURN.

PG&E recently acknowledged that it intends to have customers pay for an ongoing $6 million ad campaign, calling it “safety communications.” But critics say the utility shouldn’t be allowed to tap funds earmarked to help prevent wildfires on what they consider blatantly promotional commercials.

In the ad campaign that began last year, PG&E’s CEO Patti Poppe says that “to make our power system safer and more reliable…we’re transforming your local utility from the underground up.”

She goes on to talk about an ambitious plan to underground 10,000 miles of power lines across 21 counties that she says will make “us safer and it’s less expensive in the long run.”

PG&E recently told state legislators that it wants customers to pay for the three-year campaign out of a pool of funds known as the “fire risk mitigation memorandum account.”


Posted on Categories Local Organizations, Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Marty Griffin dies at 103, leaving legacy of land conservation, environmental leadership


Marty Griffin was among a generation of pioneering conservationists who fought off development pressure and paved the way for protection of large swaths of the Marin-Sonoma Coast.

He didn’t do it alone. But the vast, open landscape of rolling hills and coastal waterways that draws nature lovers to the Marin-Sonoma coast might have looked a whole lot different had Marty Griffin not been around.

Imagine a freeway, whole communities, housing for tens of thousands, a mall, coastal villas, even a nuclear plant on the huge swath of coastline now dominated by nature preserves, public parks and agriculture.

Griffin and other early conservationists mobilized during the 1960s and ‘70s―as intense development pressures threatened to alter the North Bay landscape profoundly―and fought to thwart that outcome, shifting the region’s culture in ways that are evident in the lands now protected.

Since his death at home in Belvedere on May 22 at the impressive age of 103, Griffin has been remembered not just for his commitment to the cause but for his passion and leadership, the “clever,” “wily” manner in which he approached each challenge and his refusal to back down.


Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , ,

Op-Ed: CalBike commends California legislature for rejecting Active Transportation Program (ATP) cuts

Laura McCamy, CALBIKES

The legislature’s budget proposal, released today, rescinds the deep cuts to the Active Transportation Program (ATP) proposed in the Governor’s Budget and plans to backfill those cuts with state highway funding. CalBike thanks the legislature for recognizing the value of the ATP and maintaining funding commitments to critical walking and bicycling projects.

CalBike policy director Jared Sanchez: “I’m glad the legislature recognized the value of the Active Transportation Program. The legislature heard from its constituents and saved a popular program many local communities rely on to fund infrastructure projects.”

CalBike consultant Jeanie Ward-Waller: “The ATP is critical to meeting California’s climate goals and addressing the crisis of rising pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on our roadways, especially in disadvantaged communities across the state. We commend the Legislature for their strong support of shifting funding from car-centric infrastructure to improve walking and biking.”


Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Are your internet habits killing the planet?

Arielle Samuelson, HEATED

The internet is quickly becoming a major contributor to climate change. Here’s how to understand the problem—and what can be done to fix it.

This weekend I binged Bridgerton, Netflix’s raunchy, Regency-ish romcom. Along with 45 million other people, I tuned in to find out if incisive, socially-awkward gossip columnist Penelope Featherington could win the heart of her lovable, pirate cosplaying neighbor.

But as I was watching, I had a nagging feeling. Because lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how the internet contributes to the climate crisis. And I’ve learned that the web pollutes more than I ever would have guessed.

Everything we do online has an environmental impact, just like the clothes we buy, the food we eat, and the way we travel. But unlike fashion, burgers, and cars, you can’t touch the internet: it seems to exist in an abstract, disembodied place beyond the physical world.

But the internet is physical. It exists in fiber optic cables, cell towers, transformers, and especially data centers: huge concrete buildings housing tens of thousands of computer servers cooled by trillions of liters of water. And data centers require a constant supply of electricity.


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

How a Petaluma Safeway controversy kicked off the spread of gas station bans across the Bay Area


A movement that began with specific concerns about a station near a school campus in Petaluma is spreading beyond the North Bay.

When Pinole made news last month for being the first East Bay city to ban new gas stations, the small community of 18,000 was tapping into a trend that has been spreading through the Bay Area for the last three years.

It all started when Petaluma became the first city in the country to ban new gas stations in 2021. But the activists who originally launched that first effort had no idea it would turn into a movement — in fact, JoAnn McEachin, a Petaluma resident who helped start the group NoGasHere a decade ago, says she had no intention of becoming an activist at the time, and she wasn’t even opposed to new gas stations in general.

Her issue was with a 16-pump gas station that had been proposed by the supermarket chain Safeway in 2013. Petaluma, a North Bay city of 60,000 residents, already had 16 gas stations, but her specific issue was with its location — the grocer was looking to build on the corner of McDowell Boulevard and Maria Drive, just across the street from a campus that housed an elementary school, a child development center and a preschool.

McEachin believed being upwind from the roughly 2,000 vehicles it was estimated would drive in and out of the station per day would put the children at risk of poor air quality. She connected with a group of other concerned residents — many of them local moms — who rallied together to form NoGasHere, bringing skills from their day jobs as lawyers, marketing professionals, teachers and administrative assistants to their cause.

“(Safeway) pissed off a lot of women,” said McEachin. “It makes my blood boil when I think about it.”


Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

US overhauls electric grid to make way for more renewables

Valerie Volcovivi, REUTERS

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday approved the first major electric transmission policy update in over a decade that aims to speed up new interregional lines to move more clean energy to meet growing demand amid the explosion of electric vehicles, data centers and artificial intelligence.

Approved in a 2-1 vote, the new rule is also the first time the FERC has ever squarely addressed the need for long-term transmission planning, playing a key role in helping meet the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the economy by 2050 and making the grid more resilient to more frequent climate-fueled extreme weather events.

“This rule cannot come fast enough,” FERC Chairman Willie Phillips, who voted for the final rule. “There is an urgent need to act to ensure the reliability and the affordability of our grid.”

“We are at a transformational moment for the electric grid with phenomenal load growth,” he added, citing the surge in domestic manufacturing, proliferation of data centers, and the surge in extreme weather events that have pushed the country’s ageing infrastructure to its limits.

FERC has been working for nearly two years on the rule to reform how new electric transmission gets approved and paid for, with new requirements for moving electricity across states and covering the costs of new projects.


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

Number of Sonoma County farms affected by proposed ‘factory farming’ ordinance is in dispute


Sometime this year, an initiative aiming to curtail factory farming will appear on local ballots. Its authors frame it as a ban on cruel and unsanitary industrial farms. The local agricultural industry calls it a backdoor attack on the consumption of meat.

The ballot measure, which would be the first of its kind in any American county, raises huge questions relating to financial cost, regulation and Sonoma County’s appetite for animal flesh. The Board of Supervisors will listen to presentations from department heads on the potential economic fallout Tuesday.

For now, the two sides are at odds over a seemingly simple question: How many Sonoma County farms would be directly affected if the measure passes?

Six months ago, Sonoma County Farm Bureau Executive Director Dayna Ghirardelli said on KRSH Radio’s “From Farm to Table” show that it would affect “most of our local dairy and poultry operations.”


Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , ,

Dozens of sheep take to Petaluma streets on Saturday during annual Transhumance Festival


As livestock drives go, this one was … different.

Pushed by ranchers on a quad, and kept in line by a pair of highly concerned dogs, a flock of about 65 sheep mobbed down urban East D Street in Petaluma on Saturday morning. They scooted in front of houses, parked cars and spectators — some delighted, some perplexed — and past an out-of-session day care center, the offices of the Burdell Building and Willibee’s Wine & Spirits.

The woolly animals started inside a small pen at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds and wound up at Steamer Landing, where they joined about 600 of their brethren that were already feasting on grasses at the park.

This was the sixth annual Transhumance Festival in Petaluma — “transhumance” refers to seasonal movement of livestock between mountain and lowland pastures — but the first since Petaluma launched a citywide grazing program in partnership with Two Rock Land Management last year.

“We hope to see this implemented in the rest of our county cities,” said Sarah Keiser, who helps the city with coordination, planning and management of the grazing program. “Regional Parks and some county sites do grazing, but Petaluma is the only city. Community members love it. It’s a really great experience for everyone to see this happening, and watch how it transitions our landscape.”


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

Federal judge: Russian River dam releases are violating Endangered Species Act


A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has violated the Endangered Species Act by disturbing salmon populations through flood-control releases from Coyote Valley Dam into the Russian River.

Those releases, which relieve pressure upstream from the 66-year-old dam during rainy months, kick up sediment from the bottom of Lake Mendocino, a reservoir that serves as critical water storage for Sonoma County.

The sediment increases turbidity in the river that harms and harasses coho and chinook salmon and steelhead trout in violation of the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to protect the imperiled species, U.S. District Court of Northern California Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled.

Corley ruled on a lawsuit brought by Sean White, who has spent much of his career involved in the Russian River in one way or another, serving as general manager of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District before moving in 2015 to direct sewage and water services for the city of Ukiah.

White brought the lawsuit as a private citizen. The Endangered Species Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, allows for citizens to sue governments, businesses or individuals they believe to be violating the act.