Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Transportation, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Hwy. 37 could be under water by 2050. Here’s how Caltrans plans to keep traffic flowing

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/

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

Student-run United Anglers of Casa Grande gets permit to help dwindling trout population in Petaluma

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/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Salamander protection tied to permit streamlining in Sonoma County vineyards

Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The origins of a new public-private solution for the longstanding environmental quandary facing Sonoma County grape growers operating in critical habitat for the endangered California tiger salamander can be traced to recent reforms of county permits for erosion control on vineyard projects.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the North Bay Water District will oversee a program in which owners of participating vineyards that have adopted and implemented best practices to preserve or add salamander habitat can avoid being sued by third parties for “incidental take” of the rare amphibian under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The deal also offers participating growers assurance that vineyard operations can continue without additional permits.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Sonoma County population of the salamander as endangered in March 2003. Shortly after, the agency designated a wide swath of the Santa Rosa Plain as critical habitat. That put in place a regulatory system requiring costly studies and special permits for farming and many other activities in the area.

The most affected properties were near the species’ breeding grounds in seasonal wetlands and existing ponds or reservoirs, along with surrounding areas at higher elevations.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/industrynews/deal-for-salamander-protection-in-sonoma-county-vineyards-builds-on-permit/

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

Landowner under fire for post-Walbridge salvage logging violations

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To hear Ken Bareilles tell it, the worst thing to happen on his land west of Healdsburg since the 2020 Walbridge Fire was the felling of charred Douglas fir trees that now lie on the ground, dried and cracking, because there’s so little demand at the mills.

To hear his neighbors tell it, the worst thing to happen since the Walbridge Fire has been Ken Bareilles.

It’s not just the neighbors. He’s seen as a bad actor by environmental watchdogs, regulators and others who have watched his emergency timber operation unfold on 106 acres in the sensitive Felta Creek watershed. Set among lush redwoods and ferns, the creek is a last refuge for endangered coho salmon.

Bareilles, for his part, has a different take on the unauthorized creek crossing, the hillside erosion, the flowing sediment, the tractor driven into the bed of Felta Creek and the host of violations documented by three state regulatory agencies over the past year.

According to him, they are the result of bad luck, poor advice, miscommunication and the relentless griping from residents who object to him logging fire-damaged trees up the hill from their homes along a narrow, private road.

He says Cal Fire and other agencies are only trying to pacify the critics by cracking down on him, and anyway, it’s only words and paper. So far there have been no fines or interference in his logging — though he remains under investigation by at least two state agencies. His one-year emergency logging permit, initially set to expire in October 2021, was even extended a year, like everyone else’s.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/landowner-under-fire-for-post-walbridge-fire-salvage-logging-violations/?ref=moststory

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Focus on the SDC: Open space and the public trust

Tracy Salcedo, THE KENWOOD PRESS

The SDC’s wildlands are public now. Do they have to be privatized to become public again?

From day one, my community activism has focused on preservation of the open space at the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Of all the worthy transformations contemplated for the storied property, ensuring the wildlands remain forever wild has been my highest priority.

From day one, I’ve heard promises from elected officials at the county and state levels, along with planners, consultants, and bureaucrats, that preserving the open space was a done deal.

From day one, I’ve asked: If that’s the case, why do we have to wait? Why don’t we set it aside now?

Don’t worry, the officials have responded. There’s a process. Have faith.

I’m worried. In its recently released request for proposals (RFP), the California Department of General Services (DGS) has reiterated its intent to sell the entire 945-acre SDC property, including the open space, to a private party. That’s not preservation in the public trust. That’s creation of private property.

I’m worried.

The process trumps the promise

The timelines for Sonoma County’s specific planning process and the state’s disposition process have always overlapped, but the original idea was that by the time the property was put up for sale, the specific plan would be done, the open space boundaries would be delineated, and a means of transfer to state parks, regional parks, or a land trust would be in place.

Enter wildfire, pandemic, inflexibility, and bureaucracy. Now, if the state sticks to its timeline, it will sell the property before the Board of Supervisors adopts the beleaguered specific plan. If a sale goes forward, the buyer will own not only the campus, but also the surrounding wetlands, woodlands, grasslands, trails, and much of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor.

Read more at https://www.kenwoodpress.com/2022/06/01/focus-on-the-sdc-open-space-and-the-public-trust/

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

The hatchery crutch: How we got here

Jude Isabella, HAKAI MAGAZINE

From their beginnings in the late 19th century, salmon hatcheries have gone from cure to band-aid to crutch. Now, we can’t live without manufactured fish.

To restore salmon populations requires a thoughtful, long-term vision. Habitat restoration is key, and in some instances a conservation hatchery that keeps distinct salmon populations alive during the long process of undoing extensive damage to watersheds.

Writer and fly fisher Roderick Haig-Brown dreamed of a time when the North Pacific Ocean would grow a lot more salmon.

Haig-Brown was probably the most famous and influential fly fisher in North America during his lifetime. The author wrote from his home on the banks of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He sat at a desk with a view of the river, far from where the arbiters of great writing resided at the time. The New Yorker regularly reviewed his books (always favorably) and in 1976, the New York Times reported on his death.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, Haig-Brown led readers into the realm of Pacific salmon: chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink. In his 1941 book, Return to the River, a lyrical story about one fish that moved a critic to call the author an immortal in the field of nature writing, Haig-Brown dug into the soul of a fish. He created a world from a wild chinook salmon’s point of view, allowing the reader to tag along on the cyclical path of a fish named Spring, from birth to death in an Oregon stream. Her life story is both wondrous and harrowing. Spring’s journey reflected all that Haig-Brown fretted about over 80 years ago: logging that decimated streams, dams that blocked rivers, and development that buried creeks. He fretted about hatchery fish, too.

Read more at https://hakaimagazine.com/features/the-hatchery-crutch-how-we-got-here/

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Sonoma County vintner, business face $3.75 million fine for alleged environmental damage

Emily Wilder, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State regulators are seeking to impose a $3.75 million fine on a Sonoma County wine executive and his business for allegedly causing significant damage to streams and wetlands while constructing a vineyard in 2018 near Cloverdale.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has accused Hugh Reimers, an Australian vintner, and his company Krasilsa Pacific Farms LLC of improperly clearing trees, grading land and disposing of construction and earthen waste materials in a way that was detrimental to wetland waters and wildlife, according to a May 9 complaint by the North Coast Water Board’s enforcement staff.

A 2019 investigation by the water board of the 2,278-acre property, which Krasilsa Pacific purchased in September 2017, found the company violated the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act by removing oak woodlands and discharging sediment into Russian River tributaries.

The actions harmed streams that fed into the Little Sulphur, Big Sulphur and Crocker creeks, according to the complaint.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-vintner-business-face-3-75-million-fine-for-alleged-environ/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

‘Damtastic!’ Newsom calls for Beaver Restoration Program

Jason Walsh, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma wildlife conservationists had one word to describe Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed new Beaver Restoration program: “Damtastic!”

Newsom floated the program as part of a May 13 presentation of his revised 2022-2023 fiscal budget. Pledging $1.67 million this year and $1.44 million in years thereafter, Newsom said the funds would go toward the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s efforts in developing “a comprehensive beaver management plan.”

The North American Beaver is considered a “keystone species” by Fish and Wildlife, which estimates its current population in the state to be between 10 million to 15 million. “Historically, beavers used to live in nearly every stream in North America with an estimated population of 100-200 million,” DFW officials state at wildlife.ca.gov.

In the budget proposal, Newsom described beaver as “an untapped, creative climate solving hero” that helps prevent the loss of biodiversity.

“Beavers are remarkable at creating more resilient ecosystems,” said Newsom. “And therefore thinking through approaches to maximize their unique skills throughout California will benefit our landscapes and help drive more cost-efficient restoration.”

Sonoma County beaver advocates have been “working hard in Sacramento” the past year to lobby for investment into just such a program, said Brock Dolman, of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, in an email. Dolman said the next step is to continue to advocate for its inclusion in the final budget, which goes into effect July 1.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/damtastic-newsom-calls-for-beaver-restoration-program/

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

Endangered coho salmon battered by 3rd year of drought. Here’s why it matters

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Russian River’s once celebrated salmon populations have long been imperiled by logging, development, gravel mining and other human activities that have eliminated flood plains, channelized river and stream flows, and limited the woody debris and shade that keeps the water cool enough for young fish to survive.

More intense and frequent droughts have further eroded conditions, not just for the coho, but for steelhead and chinook salmon, both listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

They were once abundant in the cold, clear water of North Bay creeks and streams. Now, the survival of coho salmon is being challenged like never before.

The coho has a three-year life cycle that takes it from stream to ocean and back to stream to spawn the next generation.

But the changing climate now threatens the species at every life stage, raising new questions about their recovery.

It’s not just a species at stake. At risk is the very resilience of the forest and watershed that evolved around them, fed by marine nutrients brought upstream and deposited inland by adult spawners that, after reproducing, die and decompose.

“Salmon are a keystone species, which means they perform a really important ecosystem service,” said Sarah Nossaman Pierce, a California Sea Grant fisheries biologist with the Russian River Monitoring Program. “Salmon and steelhead (trout) bring marine-based nutrients into the system and essentially feed the forest, plants, birds and wildlife.”

The challenge, she said, is “ecosystem resilience”

“People say, ‘Why do you care about the salmon?’ Unfortunately, if they can’t survive, human beings aren’t far behind,” she said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/endangered-coho-salmon-battered-by-3rd-year-of-drought-heres-why-it-matte/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: Expand and restore Bay wetlands to fight climate change

Carin High and Arthur Feinstein, THE MERCURY NEWS

Report must spur us to look at actions we can take to reduce emissions and prepare our communities to adapt

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from the world’s scientific community leaves no doubt that we must take urgent action on climate change while we still have a chance to prevent the most destructive impacts to the globe’s communities and ecosystems. This report must spur every one of us to look at actions we can take in our region to rapidly reduce emissions and prepare our communities to adapt.

More than issuing a wake-up call, this report offers concrete actions that we can take and emphasizes the valuable role of nature-based solutions that reduce climate change risks, while providing numerous benefits to both our communities and the planet.

One of the most effective nature-based solutions is the expansion and restoration of coastal wetlands. Wetlands not only provide valuable habitat for fish and birds, acting as the base of the marine ecosystem, but wetlands have also been shown to be one of nature’s most efficient plant communities for capturing carbon from the atmosphere, trapping organic carbon quicker and better than forests, thus reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

Coastal wetlands also help to buffer our communities from sea level rise, acting as a sponge to capture flood waters before they reach our homes and businesses. In short, wetlands, if protected, expanded and restored, are one of the most valuable ecosystem tools for reducing the impact of climate change.

Read more at https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/04/30/opinion-expand-and-restore-bay-wetlands-to-fight-climate-change/