Posted on Categories WaterTags , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road undergoing energy upgrade

Santa Rosa wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road undergoing energy upgrade

By Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cleaning wastewater requires huge amounts of energy.
It has to be moved with pumps, blasted with pressurized air and zapped with ultraviolet lights. Even after it’s cleaned, it has to be pumped to local farms and soccer fields or piped 40 miles to be injected into the Geysers steam fields.
All that makes the Llano Road wastewater treatment plant, operated by the City of Santa Rosa, one of the largest energy users in Sonoma County, absorbing between 3 and 7 megawatts of electricity daily.
via Santa Rosa wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road undergoing energy upgrade | PressDemocrat.com.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country

by Sarah Yang, UC BERKELEY NEWS CENTER
The competition between farmers and fish for precious water in California is intensifying in wine country, suggests a new study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley. Juvenile steelhead trout are hit hard when water levels are low.
The findings, published in the May issue of the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, link higher death rates for threatened juvenile steelhead trout with low water levels in the summer and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.
via Steelhead trout lose out when water is low in wine country.

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Salmon win in 9th circuit court

Salmon win in 9th circuit court

San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, SFGATE.COM
California salmon and salmon fishermen won in federal court Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the federal water project is obliged to provide enough water to double the salmon population. You can read the decision here.
Under the ruling, only surplus water from the bay-delta water system can be delivered to water users in the San Joaquin Valley, not water from the 800,000 acre-foot allotment promised to fish under a 1992 federal law.
for more, see Salmon win in 9th circuit court | Opinion Shop | an SFGate.com blog.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Fall of the redwood empire

Fall of the redwood empire

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Clearcutting for vineyards is nothing new in wine country. Can it be stopped?

This past Oct. 11, in a rare instance of a local politician speaking out publicly against a member of the North Bay’s influential winemaking community, Sonoma County supervisor Efren Carrillo lambasted winemaker Paul Hobbs for uprooting hundreds of trees in Sebastopol and adding one more open wound to a Russian River watershed already impacted by erosion and sediment.

Carrillo called Hobbs "one bad apple," and noted that the globally renowned maker of high-end wines hadn’t bothered to acquire a permit to remove the trees, part of the old Davis Christmas Tree farm, which Hobbs is planning to buy and convert to vines. It was one of three instances this year in which Hobbs has cut down trees to the dismay of onlookers; he leveled 10 acres in Pocket Canyon just east of Guerneville, and eight acres of redwood trees along Highway 116 on land acquired in a court settlement from his neighbor John Jenkel.

"Paul Hobbs has shown a blatant disregard for Sonoma County, its resources, his fellow vintners and community sentiment," Carrillo declared in his editorial, printed in the Sonoma County Gazette.

But local environmentalists feel Carrillo’s outburst needs to be echoed a hundred times over. To Jim Doerksen, who has lived in the Mayacamas Mountains for 44 years and has watched local streams sucked dry as wineries near his property have been built, Carrillo’s words on Hobbs only amplify the silence that nearly all officials have kept toward the local wine industry through years of alleged environmental abuse.

"Efren said Hobbs is ‘one bad apple,’" Doerksen says, "but all we have are bad apples."

Doerksen points straight to his neighbors, whom he charges with illegally cutting down about 60 acres of conifers to plant vineyards. This activity, along with overuse of the area’s groundwater, has virtually destroyed Mark West Creek, a story covered in January in the Bohemian.

via Fall of the Redwood Empire | Features | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on How wine rules

How wine rules

Darwin Bond-Graham and Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

If you’ve followed the Anderson Valley Advertiser for any length of time, you’re no doubt aware that the wine industry wields inordinate political power, not only here on the North Coast, but at the state-wide level also. Whether they’re fighting to prevent regulation of their enormous appetite for water, or greasing the political gears for a big forest-to-vineyard conversion, the wine industry’s major players are deeply involved in politics. As case after case has shown, the wine industry tends to get its way with respect to water, zoning, labor laws, subsidies, and more. But what is it, specifically, that makes the grape-based booze industry so powerful?

For one thing, there’s the cultural stature of the beverage itself. To appreciate fine wine is to signify membership in a learned, privileged order. No other luxury item is as capable of serving as an expression of ruling class solidarity as premium wine. And, it should be noted — if only for the purposes of this particular article – that California’s ruling class certainly includes most of its elected officials and many of its would-be regulators.

Every bit as important is the fact that the wine business has become a juggernaut of free market capitalism (although underwritten partly by taxpayers, as per the socialism-for-the-rich structure of the larger economy). The California wine industry annually reaps about $20 billion in revenue, much of it through exports to Europe, Canada, and Asia. The industry has become so profitable that most of the North Coast’s officials, from county supervisors to members of Congress have internalized the notion that, perforce, their role is to do virtually everything they can to facilitate the industry’s continued growth.

That’s especially the case owing to the wine industry’s thorough integration with Northern California’s all-important real estate sector. More than any other artifact or image, it is the vineyard and wine glass that have come to epitomize the “good life” of Northern California for a global market of real estate investors, vacation-takers, and home buyers. Crushed grapes and autumnal vineyards became a symbol, and an important economic component, of the region’s land boom in the 1990s and 2000s. The grape-alcohol plantations, fetishized as “family estates,” or “small farm vineyards” served, through a peculiar symbiosis, to both “preserve” the pastoral countryside, while simultaneously increasing land values, thereby creating a market for both McMansions and tract housing, and all the attendant gentrification and sprawl that was the basis of economic growth between San Francisco and the Oregon border until 2008.

via How Wine Rules | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WaterTags , Leave a comment on When They Came For The Navarro

When They Came For The Navarro

Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

The North Coast wine industry has long acted out a pathological conviction that it is entitled to virtually every single drop of water in every watershed it touches. As in the case of Sonoma County’s recent frost protec­tion ordinance, which I detailed in the December 14 Anderson Valley Advertiser, the industry routinely rises up as one — along with their local government allies — to quash any restrictions on its ability to draw water with accustomed impunity, though that particular ordinance is now threatened by disagreements, it seems, about the degree of non-regulation the big corporate growers find acceptable. Yet, there are few industries more in need of restrictions on their water use.

In the past 20 years, the North Coast’s alcohol farm­ers have dried up countless creeks and streams, while choking off rivers and filling in their spawning pools with monumental amounts of sediment (entire hillsides worth). They have, moreover, poisoned what water remains with the full menu of chemical fertilizers, soil fumigants, growth hormones, herbicides, defoliants, fun­gicides, pesticides, and systemic poisons most growers use to ensure the bounty and sterility of their crops.

via When They Came For The Navarro | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on The wrath of grapes

The wrath of grapes

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

How a Goldman Sachs executive is helping to kill Mark West Creek— and what the county isn’t doing about it

For decades, Sonoma County’s wine industry has been thriving. The county’s salmon and steelhead, meanwhile, are vanishing, and some fisheries biologists, attorneys and conservationists assure that the wine industry’s gain is the Russian River’s loss.

To Patrick Higgins, the story boils down to a one-line synopsis: "The county is trading fish for wine." Higgins is a private-practice fisheries biologist in Arcata. Among his ongoing battles to save the North Coast’s struggling fish species, including federally endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout, is the fight for Mark West Creek.

Though many streams naturally dry up during the arid summers of Sonoma County, this small tributary of the Russian River historically has not. Mark West Creek was once the main spawning stream for the steelhead and coho salmon that made the Russian River famous.

But lately, Mark West and its feeder streams have been running dry, according to residents who live nearby. Jim Doerksen, who has lived within sight of Mark West Creek for 43 years, has been measuring its flow levels since 2005 after visibly dwindling water levels spurred concern. Between 2006 and 2009, he says, its flows almost entirely vanished each summer. In 2008, Doerksen measured what might have been the lowest flow ever recorded in Mark West Creek, a volume of six one-hundredths of a cubic foot per second.

via The Wrath of Grapes | Culture | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on The North Coast Wine Industry’s Latest Coup De Grace: Draining Our Rivers Dry

The North Coast Wine Industry’s Latest Coup De Grace: Draining Our Rivers Dry

Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

The latest in the North Coast wine oligarchy’s long series of legislative coups de grace occurs on December 14th, as this issue of the Anderson Valley Advertiser goes to press. In what will surely be a 5-0 vote, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will rubber-stamp new regulations on frost protection in the Russian River water basin, now in its death throes after having been continuously ravaged by several generations of extractive enterprise.

In recent decades, the once-simple act of protecting new bud growth on grape vines from frigid temperatures has become tantamount to a war on rivers. The predominantly corporate alcohol farmers who wield executive authority over the North Coast’s land and politics almost universally combat frost damage via systems of overhead sprinklers that sprawl out across each row of grapes, dowsing them with a continuous coat of water on spring nights when local temperatures drop into the 20s.

via The North Coast Wine Industry’s Latest Coup De Grace: Draining Our Rivers Dry | Anderson Valley Advertiser.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Booze, A Banker & A Bailout: The Murder Of Mark West Creek

Booze, A Banker & A Bailout: The Murder Of Mark West Creek

Will Parrish, ANDERSON VALLEY ADVERTISER

As the Director of Merchant Banking at America’s most politically well-connected investment firm, Goldman Sachs, Henry L. Cornell is accustomed to reaping the benefits of political oligarchy. (Webster definition: “a government in which a small group exercises control, especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.”) His company exerts a profound influence in the corridors of both national and global power, not only by shaping legislation to the benefit of the interlocking financial, real estate, and investment industries, but by helping set the rules under which policy battles are waged in the first place. The multi-trillion dollar 2008 bailout of the banking industry, authored by then-Treasury Secretary and former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson, is only the most famous example.

As with the US in general, the County of Sonoma is controlled by a disproportionately small group of people. On the whole, their purposes are selfish and corrupt. Whereas the political oligarchy that calls the shots nationally consists mainly of representatives of the financial, real estate, hydrocarbon, military-industrial, and agribusiness sectors, the oligarchs who set the overall agenda at 575 Administration Drive, Santa Rosa, are primarily representatives of a single business: wine.

via Booze, A Banker & A Bailout: The Murder Of Mark West Creek | Anderson Valley Advertiser.