Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , ,

Sonoma, Mendocino county water managers propose pathway for continued Eel River diversions

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Water managers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties seek to preserve water transfer infrastructure as part of PG&E license surrender for Potter Valley power plant.

Water managers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties have submitted a conceptual proposal to PG&E to buy and maintain portions of the utility’s defunct Potter Valley power plant to enable future water transfers.

The move would be a critical step toward preserving seasonal diversions of Eel River water to supplement supplies in Lake Mendocino and the Russian River.

Working with the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission and the Round Valley Indian Tribes, the Sonoma County Water Agency is seeking to preserve elements of the power plant through which water is channeled from the Eel River to the East Fork Russian River. No electricity would be generated as a part of the plan.

Pacific Gas & Electric has planned to surrender its license for the 1908 plant with the intent of decommissioning it. Without a proposal to save it, the diversion infrastructure would eventually be removed, leaving upper Russian River communities and agriculture users without sufficient water.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-mendocino-county-water-managers-propose-pathway-for-continued-eel-r/?ref=mosthome

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

After tree trimming declared ineffective, PG&E adopts new wildfire mitigation strategy

Grace Scullion, SACRAMENTO BEE

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

PG&E Corp. is axing its enhanced tree-trimming program aimed at reducing wildfire risk after deeming it largely ineffective, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The $2.5 billion program thinned and cleared more than one million trees near power lines across Central and Northern California since it went into effect in 2019, the newspaper said after interviews with executives.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides electricity and gas to 16 million across the state, credited the program with reducing total fire ignitions by 7% and ignitions during the fall fire season by 13%.

The embattled utility, which has been blamed for several of California’s worst and deadly wildfires, said it would still trim its backlog of about 385,000 potentially hazardous trees that have yet to be cleared — an effort expected to take nine years.

The Oakland-based company also said it would continue its regular tree-trimming maintenance. Twice per year, the company inspects trees around power lines for hazards. It is also piloting a targeted tree-trim program focused on heavily forested areas of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/after-tree-trimming-declared-ineffective-pge-adopts-new-wildfire-mitigati/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , ,

Sonoma, Mendocino County grape growers battling new rules designed to reduce sediment, pesticides in local waterways

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

A new program targeting 1,500 commercial grape growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and designed to improve water quality in local creeks and rivers is drawing criticism from members of the agricultural community.

The draft rules include reporting requirements, annual fees, well and groundwater monitoring, ground cover requirements and restrictions on wintertime operations that growers deem excessive.

Vineyard operators and agricultural representatives say the costs and mandates are overkill for an industry that is already working to reduce sediment runoff into waterways and protect fish habitats.

Small growers are especially likely to suffer because “their margins are really small, and the proposed permit is going to create costs that are significant to them,” said Robin Bartholow, deputy executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

But staff of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board say the soil disturbance and chemical use in many vineyards, as well as potential disruption of riparian plants needed to shade fish habitat, can degrade water quality in creeks and rivers.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-mendocino-county-grape-growers-battling-new-rules-designed-to-reduc/

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

Op-Ed: Eel River dam debate echoes nationally

Cameron Nielson & Sarah Bardeen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On paper, California’s Eel River is a prime candidate for restoration.

It’s a remote river that runs through rugged, lightly populated terrain in Northern California. As with many rivers in the region, a combination of logging, overfishing and dams decimated its once-plentiful salmon and steelhead runs. The introduction of a native predator, the pikeminnow, only made things worse.

But some of that could be put to rights: two aging dams in the Eel’s upper reaches are reaching the end of their life span — and one has been declared seismically unsafe. PG&E, which owns the dams, has chosen not to renew their licenses, setting the stage for removal if no new owner steps forward.

Eel River residents overwhelmingly support dam removal, the tribes are adamantly in favor, and a constellation of NGOs is pushing hard for it. If those dams come down, 150 square miles of cold-water habitat will open up to struggling populations of steelhead and salmon, offering needed refuge from the warming climate.

So why is it so hard to get done?

Part of the answer lies in the dam’s history. Part lies in the challenges of coping with a surfeit of aging infrastructure. And part lies in the complexities of who exactly constitutes the river’s community. Finding a solution has implications not just for the state but for the nation.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/nielsen-and-bardeen-eel-river-dam-debate-echoes-nationally/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

California’s unnatural river flows threaten aquatic life—here’s a (partial) fix

Robin Meadows, MAVEN’S NOTEBOOK

Calfifornia Fish & Wildlife Instream Flow Program

“We always act surprised when drought shows up, with ad hoc actions to try to protect species and ecosystems,” Mount says. “One place to start is to give the environment a water budget and someone to manage it, especially during drought—we should plan for it, rather than react to it.”

As a New York Times columnist once quipped, “California’s water system might have been invented by a Soviet bureaucrat on an LSD trip.” The system was engineered in the 1900s to capture winter rain and spring snowmelt in vast reservoirs and then send this water to cities and farms via thousands of miles of canals, pipelines and tunnels.

While this system suits many people, it doesn’t suit fish, frogs and other river life. Many California waterways are regulated by reservoirs that release water for supply, flood control, and hydropower, resulting in river flows that are far from natural. Now there’s a movement to reinstate the seasonal flows that native species depend on.

“The idea of mimicking a natural flow regime is not rocket science and it’s not new,” says Sarah Yarnell, a river ecosystems expert at UC Davis. Like many innovations, it’s just taken a while to start percolating into the mainstream.

Read more at https://mavensnotebook.com/2023/07/13/notebook-feature-californias-unnatural-river-flows-threaten-aquatic-life-heres-a-partial-fix/

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

Board hands down harsher penalty for Felta Creek timber owner’s water quality violations

Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Regional regulators raised the total fines for Ken Bareilles in light of the important role of Felta Creek watershed, a last refuge for spawning coho salmon and steelhead trout.

A timber owner whose logging operations fouled the sensitive Felta Creek watershed, allowing sediment to enter the salmon-bearing waterway near Healdsburg over two successive winters, was ordered Friday to pay $276,000 in penalties.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s unanimous decision came as a severe blow to landowner Ken Bareilles, 81, who fought to deflect a proposed $251,000 fine during a 3 1/2-hour hearing only to have the board return with a harsher penalty given the importance of Felta Creek to coho salmon populations and the potential harm resulting from inadequate erosion control.

‘’The whole thing is speculative,” Bareilles argued, challenging what he considered to be weak evidence and chastising water quality personnel for failing to use sensors or gauges to measure the sediment in streams.

Staffers for the water quality board said measurements weren’t required after inspections over a year and a half continued to turn up on-the-ground evidence of absent or failed erosion-control measures that allowed silty water and mud to flow into Felta Creek and nearby tributaries to the Russian River.

“This was the sloppiest operation that I’ve seen on any active timber operation in my career,” veteran board staffer James Burke, a senior engineering geologist, said in presenting evidence against Bareilles.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/board-hands-down-harsher-penalty-for-felta-creek-timber-owners-water-quali/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags ,

US residential heat pump sales pass gas furnaces for first time as interest in efficiency tech surges

Robert Walton, UTILITY DIVE

  • Global energy demand rose 1% in 2022 but the rate of energy efficiency improvements was double the average of the past five years boosted by “surging” sales in more efficient technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicles, the International Energy Agency said in a report Wednesday.
  • In the United States last year, residential heat pump sales exceeded gas furnaces for the first time, making up 53% of heating system sales.
  • Sales of electric vehicles grew 55% last year in the United States, and in the first quarter of this year made up more than 7% of new car sales. Globally, EVs made up 14% of new car sales in 2022 and could reach 18% this year, IEA said.

Read more at https://www.utilitydive.com/news/heat-pump-sales-topped-gas-furnaces-United-States/652277/

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sonoma CoastTags , ,

Op-Ed: Coastal protection threatened where it started

Richard Retecki, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Those of us who spent much of our lives working to protect the coast are dismayed and shocked that the Board of Supervisors would even consider overturning the well-thought-out recommendations of their own Planning Commission to benefit one particular East Coast developer whose bulldozers are aimed at sensitive natural habitat right above the oceanside bluffs near Timber Cove.

Can you imagine a four-lane freeway running from Petaluma to Jenner, built to service high-density subdivisions blanketing the scenic blufftops between Bodega Bay and the Russian River, and permanent closure of a swath of shoreline to block off access by the public?

These were just a few of the environmental threats the Sonoma Coast faced in the 1970s. Outspent financially and confronted by an aggressive billboard campaign underwritten by corporate oil and development interests, California’s voters and state Legislature simply said “enough” and set in motion an orderly process to ensure that the California coast would survive in perpetuity.

California’s voters had just adopted Proposition 20 — the statewide coastal initiative — in 1972, largely in response to a series of disastrous schemes targeting the Sonoma Coast. By 1976, state legislators had made coastal protection permanent.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-coastal-protection-threatened-where-it-started/

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

PG&E plans to remove both Potter Valley Project Dams—Mendo, Humboldt, Lake and Sonoma Fight

Sarah Reith, REDHEADED BLACKBELT

A planning group for the Russian River Water Forum, which is preparing for life after PG&E decommissions the Potter Valley Project, met for the first time yesterday in Ukiah. PG&E said in a town hall last month that its version of decommissioning means removing both dams. That’s unless an entity that is capable of running them steps forward before it submits a draft of the decommissioning plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

Tony Gigliotti, PG&E’s senior licensing project manager, laid out the timeline at a town hall about Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury on April 27th.

“When we say decommissioning in this case, both dams will be removed as part of that, unless somebody comes forward with a proposal that PG&E looks at and accepts,” he said. “We need to ensure they can operate the dams after we give up ownership. In terms of timelines for the surrender application, there will be an initial draft November, 2023. A second draft, also available for public review, May 2024, and then the final application will be filed with FERC in January, 2025.”

Janet Walther, PG&E’s senior manager of hydro licensing, qualified that timeline a little.

“When PG&E submits our final surrender application to FERC, that would be the point of no return,” in terms of decommissioning, she said. “And really, the draft. We are looking to know, sooner than later, if there’s an entity interested in taking over the dam because that will change our surrender application and what we put in that surrender application. So I think we are looking and would like to see some initial proposals later this year, if there is interest. And we are talking with folks, as we have been since 2016, about potential interest in future ownership of Scott, and/or Cape Horn Dam.”

Read more at https://kymkemp.com/2023/05/18/pge-plans-to-remove-both-potter-valley-project-dams-mendo-humboldt-lake-and-sonoma-fight/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags ,

Rural counties wood pellet export scheme raises concerns

Gary Graham Hughes, THE NORTHCOAST ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Over the first months of 2023 Humboldt County has taken on a leadership role in a massive scheme that aims to export wood pellets from California to global bioenergy markets.

In January, Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn, who is the official delegate of Humboldt County to the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), an organization of some 40 rural counties from around the state, was appointed to the Board of Directors of Golden State Natural Resources. The five-person board also includes supervisors from Inyo, Modoc, Siskiyou and Butte Counties.

Golden State Natural Resources (GSNR), an “affiliated entity” of RCRC, is a wood pellet manufacturing and export scheme that proposes to construct two new facilities, one each in Tuolumne and Lassen Counties, to manufacture 1,000,000 tons a year of wood pellets. GSNR would then move those wood pellets by rail to ports in Stockton and Richmond for export by ship to markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Increasingly, because of political convenience and carbon accounting loopholes, coal powered electricity generating facilities are converting to burning biomass. This global trend has continued despite the growing body of evidence that shows that wood pellets are a highly carbon-intensive, polluting, expensive, and inefficient energy source.

Even as the imperative to stop burning coal is becoming clearer by the day, the switch to biomass is climate suicide. Per unit of electricity produced, burning wood coughs up more carbon emissions at the smokestack than burning coal.

In fact, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution would be emitted at every step of the GSNR project, exposing this wood pellet export scheme as a losing proposition for the climate.

Cutting forests, trucking trees long distances, chipping the wood, manufacturing pellets, transporting the pellets by rail hundreds of miles to ports, and shipping the pellets to be burned overseas — every single one of these steps would be a significant source of climate pollution.

Read more at https://www.yournec.org/rural-counties-wood-pellet-export-scheme-raises-concerns/