Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The commercial harvest of Dungeness crab off the North Coast and Central California has once again been delayed due to large groups of federally protected humpback whales still foraging in the fishing grounds.
They’re fewer in number than in late October, when state Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham first hit pause on the season’s start. But the whales still remain at concentrations high enough to raise the risk of ensnaring them in fishing gear if the fleet were to deploy the thousands of traps used each season.
The whales also exceed thresholds established three years ago to more closely manage the commercial fishery in a way that reduces entanglement of marine mammals protected under the Endangered Species Act — notably blue and humpback whales and leatherback sea turtles.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/california-commercial-dungeness-crab-harvest-again-delayed-to-safeguard-wha/
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cal Fire has approved plans for selective logging of redwood and Douglas fir trees on 224 acres above the lower Russian River between Guerneville and Monte Rio, raising the prospect of legal action by opponents who hope they still might prevent the Silver Estates harvest from going forward.
The state agency granted approval late last week after months of public scrutiny, plan revisions and state delays that critics say reflect the proposal’s fundamentally flawed nature.
But in a Nov. 17 letter, Eric Huff, staff chief of Cal Fire’s Forest Practice Program, said the final version — some 500 pages of reports, descriptions, maps and other information — conforms with state Forest Practice Rules. The decision authorizes landowner Roger Burch and his family to carry out its provisions any time over the next five years.
What happens next appears to depend in large part on whether Burch and his representatives decide to begin operations this winter, within the restrictions permitted for the traditional wet weather season.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/opponents-likely-headed-to-court-to-block-newly-approved-timber-operation-b/
Sean Bothwell & Don McEnhill, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Facing another drought year and the reality that inadequate groundwater management is leading to a race to the bottom, on Oct. 4, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took a critical step toward sustainable water management by placing a temporary pause on issuance of new well permits.
The supervisors deserve credit for recognizing that groundwater is not limitless, and that the health of communities, rivers and local economies depend on sustainable and equitable management. Over the next six months, while the pause is in place, the county will develop science-based rules to govern groundwater well permits to ensure impacts of pumping on neighboring streams and downstream users are accounted for and addressed.
All Sonoma County residents have a stake in improving groundwater management. This is the county’s chance to change course and ensure we are better prepared for a warmer future.
During the current drought, California is facing the long-term limits of our water resources. States, including California, are discussing how to reduce Colorado River water use to a sustainable level, and vast regions of Central and Northern California face severely overtapped groundwater supplies.
California law has long maintained a fictional distinction between regulated diversions from rivers and lakes, and unregulated groundwater pumping. The problem is that nature does not make this distinction. In much of California, groundwater pumping simply sucks water out of rivers from below, through their gravel beds. In some places, excessive groundwater pumping literally causes rivers to run dry.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-busting-the-myth-of-limitless-groundwater/
Adrian Covert & Alexa Forrester, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
What if we told you there was a cheap and easy way to reduce traffic in Santa Rosa by as much as 25%?
It’s called Class IV protected bike lanes.
Every day, about a quarter of all car trips in Santa Rosa are less than 2 miles. That’s about a 10-minute bike ride for the average adult, comparable to the amount of time it would take to drive that same distance and park. For these small trips, biking is a time-competitive and virtually free alternative to cars that also strengthens physical fitness and generally creates good community vibes (join the Taco Tuesday Ride from Humboldt Park to Mitote Food Park if you don’t believe us). Bikes are also quiet, clean and require little public space.
Yet just 1.6% of all trips in Santa Rosa are made by bike. Bikes are used about six times less often in Santa Rosa than in San Luis Obispo, and 16 times less often than in Davis. Despite its comparatively miserable weather, Amsterdam residents are 24 times more likely to bike to their destination than Santa Rosa residents.
This is an infrastructure problem. Santa Rosa’s bike lanes are almost entirely made up of Class II bikeways — painted lines along the shoulder of a road. Riding mere feet away from increasingly distracted drivers behind the wheels of increasingly large vehicles is neither safe nor pleasant. Since 2012, nearly 500 cyclists have been injured by cars in Santa Rosa, including two who were killed. Small wonder cycling in the city is limited to the most fearless riders.
Santa Rosa could have as many as 24,000 new homes by 2050. To avoid the city becoming choked with car traffic, we must provide safe biking and scooting infrastructure for those who want that option, especially for short trips.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-santa-rosa-needs-protected-bike-lanes/
Emma Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Supervisor James Gore, whose north county district includes some of the county’s most prolific wine grape growing areas, voted against the moratorium.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has imposed a six-month halt in all new wells countywide, a far-reaching move likely to impact residential and commercial property owners seeking to tap groundwater amid a historic drought.
The immediate drilling moratorium, which offers only a narrow exemption for emergency water needs, is meant to give the county more time to draw up a new set of well regulations aimed to safeguard surface and subsurface flows in the county’s major watersheds.
A 2021 lawsuit by the environmental group California Coastkeeper Alliance spurred the work toward new regulations, and the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on the new rules Tuesday.
Instead, after hours of deliberation over a proposed well ordinance that would have established new requirements reflecting updated state policy for well permit applicants, the board voted 4-1 to impose a moratorium, seeking to buy time for additional work.
Supervisors cited concerns including the potential impact the ordinance would have on agricultural users, and potential legal ramifications connected to California’s environmental quality laws. The new regulations could affect any wells countywide that come under a new application or are up for renewal.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-board-of-supervises-approves-temporary-halt-in-new-wells/
Rachel Ramirez, CNN
Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. He has lived in southwest Florida for nearly 19 years, had experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017 and saw what stronger storms could do to the coast.
Grande told CNN he wanted to find a new home where developers prioritized climate resiliency in a state that is increasingly vulnerable to record-breaking storm surge, catastrophic wind and historic rainfall.
What he found was Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away.
Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.
The streets in this meticulously planned neighborhood were designed to flood so houses don’t. Native landscaping along roads helps control storm water. Power and internet lines are buried to avoid wind damage. This is all in addition to being built to Florida’s robust building codes.
Read more at https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/02/us/solar-babcock-ranch-florida-hurricane-ian-climate/index.html
Alana Minkler & Colin Atagi, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two electric buses arrived in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning and two more are on the way as the city is poised to put them into service later this year — the start of a bigger shift to eliminate carbon emissions tied to the CityBus fleet.
The switch to electrical buses is part of the city’s initiative to make public transportation fully zero-emission by 2030 and drastically lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for 60% of climate warming gases in the county.
The city’s all-electric buses, which cost $1.2 million each, join three currently in the county fleet, and are part of the broader plan by transit and fleet managers eyeing a transition away from fossil fuel vehicles over the coming years.
Sonoma County Transit introduced its first electric bus in 2018 and plans to add three more by the end of this year, with up to 19 in service by mid-2024, said Sonoma County Transit Systems Manager Bryan Albee said.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/santa-rosa-acquires-new-electric-transit-buses-readying-first-two-for-serv/
Colin Atagi, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
The favored plan also proposes the route have a 60 mph speed limit, as well as two lanes in each direction with bicycle and pedestrian paths. The plan is in its early stages and officials haven’t identified a cost or funding source.
Caltrans, in order to keep traffic flowing decades from now, intends to build an elevated road along Highway 37 to combat rising water levels, which are expected to eventually inundate the North Bay arterial.
The proposed project essentially stretches across the existing route along San Pablo Bay and through Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.
It preserves travel patterns, allows landward marsh migration and is resilient to sea level rises, officials said in explaining its benefits.
Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/news/hwy-37-could-be-under-water-by-2050-heres-how-caltrans-plans-to-keep-tra/
Zoe Woodcroft, EARTHJUSTICE
The California Public Utilities Commission voted today to end gas line allowances for new homes in a shift to climate-friendly construction
California made waves today as the first state in the country to end gas line extension allowances, a program that spends millions every year subsidizing fossil gas lines for new homes and buildings, as the state shifts to all-electric new construction. California is likely at the forefront of a trend, with states like Washington, Oregon, and New York all revisiting their gas line subsidies. The unanimous vote today by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is estimated to save California ratepayers over $160 million every year that was being funneled into incentivizing expansion of the fossil gas distribution system in California.
“The vote today in California is yet another palpable sign that the future is electric for homes and buildings,” said Matt Vespa, senior attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “All-electric homes are not only cheaper to build, but they also save California ratepayers money by avoiding the harmful expansion of the gas distribution system — and their clean air and climate benefits are simply priceless. California’s vote today to end gas line subsidies should spur a trend in other states looking into the obvious benefits of all-electric housing.”
Read more at https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2022/california-ends-gas-line-subsidies-as-it-eyes-an-electric-future
Amelia Parreira, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A long-sought permit recently obtained by United Anglers of Casa Grande will allow the organization to rescue fish directly from Petaluma’s watershed, which will help save the dwindling local steelhead trout population and allow its student-run hatchery to operate year-round.
The organization, which this year celebrates 40 years of local environmental conservation and fish population restoration, was granted the federal permit this summer following a yearlong review process.
Fish rescued by United Anglers from the local watershed will be transferred to the organization’s state-of-the-art hatchery — California’s only high school-run fish rehabilitation program — before being released back to their natural habitat.
“Our focus has always been nearby Adobe Creek and the steelhead trout in this watershed,” said Dan Hubacher, who has run the organization since the retiring of its founder, Tom Furrer, in 2011. “And I remember as a student, as an alumni of the program, I remember sitting here and Mr. Furrer saying, ‘We can’t touch these fish. The permit won’t allow us.’”
Hubacher said it’s surreal to think about how far the group has come in its efforts over the years.
“If we can get multiple locations where we can find fish, we can bring them in (and) can hopefully jump start this population,” he said. “Through the last couple of years, not only are we not seeing adults, which is alarming, but we’re not seeing juveniles.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/student-run-organization-gets-permit-to-help-dwindling-trout-population/