Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on April drought update from the Russian Riverkeeper

April drought update from the Russian Riverkeeper

Russian Riverkeeper
The rains from February and late March have made a big difference in the drought outlook for the Russian River. Since the end of January we were staring at a possibly empty Lake Mendocino… the rains will ensure the Lake does not run dry later this year (see graph). This is a big deal and will help wildlife, fish and people get through this summer. We still need to conserve water to help us get through this summer and prepare us in case we get a dry 2015 as well. The good news is that rather than having to consider going to 50% or greater conservation levels, communities upstream of Dry Creek will likely need only 25% to get through summer.
Lake Mendocino Storage7April14
Riverkeeper website

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , Leave a comment on Rohnert Park council clears way for up to 1,645 homes

Rohnert Park council clears way for up to 1,645 homes


The Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday approved changes to a long-stalled housing project just north of Sonoma State University that could add up to 1,645 homes starting as soon as next year.

The University District development, Rohnert Park’s first large housing project in 24 years, was approved in 2006, but ground to a halt during the recession. Last summer, developer Brookfield Homes revived the project with proposed changes to the plan to reflect the shifting housing market.

“I think the changes we have made are relative to 2014,” Councilwoman Pam Stafford said. “This is what we needed to do to make it feasible.”

The revised plan on 300 acres west of Petaluma Hill Road includes 130 more medium-density homes and about 400 fewer high-density, multifamily units.

via Rohnert Park council clears way for up to 1,645 homes | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Sonoma CoastTags , Leave a comment on Supervisors give Buddhist printer, retreat OK to expand

Supervisors give Buddhist printer, retreat OK to expand

EU: For more information on opposition to the Ratna Ling expansion, see Coastal Hills Rural Preservation.
A Buddhist retreat on the Sonoma Coast will be allowed to expand its bitterly contested printing operation after the Board of Supervisors, following a 6 1/2-hour hearing in a packed chamber, denied an appeal challenging its use permit.
The Ratna Ling Retreat Center has run a printing press — staffed by retreat attendees — to create Buddhist texts since 2005. The printing takes place in a plant half the size of a football field above Salt Point State Park, and is allowed only because it is considered a religious practice ancillary to the retreat.
via Supervisors give Buddhist printer, retreat OK to expand | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags Leave a comment on The water revolution California needs

The water revolution California needs

The state must follow Australia’s example and fundamentally change the way water and water rights are managed.


This year’s drought has thrown California into a sudden tizzy, a crisis of snowpack measurements, fish-versus-people arguments and controversial cuts in water deliveries. But in reality, crisis is the permanent state of water affairs in the Golden State — by design, because our institutions keep it that way.

California has 1,400 major dams, thousands of miles of aqueducts and pumps so powerful they lift water nearly 2,000 feet over the Tehachapis. The state uses enough water in an average year to support, in theory, 318 million Californians (and their lawns and dishwashers), more than eight times the actual population of 38 million.

Even with the gargantuan re-engineering of nature, there is never enough water. How could there be, when according to the calculations of fishing and environmental advocates, the state has granted more than five times as many water rights claims as there is water in our main rivers, even in a good year? When our Gold Rush-era laws all but compel water-rights holders to use as much water as they can, as fast as possible, lest they lose their entitlements?

via The water revolution California needs – Los Angeles Times.

Posted on Categories Forests, WildlifeTags Leave a comment on New effort to track Sudden Oak Death in Sonoma County

New effort to track Sudden Oak Death in Sonoma County


From SODMAP, click to enlarge.

Dozens of volunteers are expected to comb Sonoma County woodlands in two weeks looking for the telltale signs of a tree killer.
They will be hunting for discolored leaves on bay laurels, evidence that those trees harbor the sudden oak death pathogen, which has infected more than 105,000 acres in the county.
Sudden oak death, discovered in Marin County in 1995, has killed more than 3 million tanoak and oak trees in 15 counties from from Monterey to Humboldt, according to UC Berkeley’s Forest Pathology Laboratory.
Taking advantage of what is expected to be another dry spring, the lab is focusing its seventh annual Sudden Oak Death Blitz on pinpointing the bay trees that are “reservoirs” of the pathogen, a fungus-like microbe called Phytophthora ramorum.
via New effort to track Sudden Oak Death in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat.
Sudden Oak Death Blitzes will be conducted from now through the end of May in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, with the Sonoma County blitz on April 19 and 20.
Sonoma County volunteers are expected to attend one of four training sessions April 19. The classes will last about an hour, followed by surveying and sampling trees that day and the next.
The classes are at:
• Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 South High St., Sebastopol, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
• Spring Lake Park Environmental Discovery Center, 5585 Newanga Ave., Santa Rosa, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
• Cloverdale Historical Society, 215 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, 11 a.m. to noon.
• Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa St., Sonoma, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
For more information on the classses, contact Lisa Bell, Sonoma County’s sudden oak death program coordinator, at

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags Leave a comment on New angle for Sonoma County apples

New angle for Sonoma County apples


Stan Devoto wants to try something new in Apple Country: Plant an orchard, not with the tasty Gravenstein but with such bitter, hard cider varieties as Kingston black, Dabinett and Herefordshire redstreak.

In a west Sonoma County industry that has seen little but decline for half a century, Devoto is trying to build a new kind of apple business. He wants to grow fruit that doesn’t end up in juice or apple sauce but in an alcoholic beverage whose sales are growing faster than craft beer.

“I think there’s a future in that,” said Devoto, a longtime Sebastopol farmer and grape grower whose daughter and son-in-law have started a hard cider business. He even offered a startling prediction: If he can plant a new orchard, he can make almost as much money growing cider apples as growing winegrapes.

A few Sonoma County apple growers also have started producing hard cider, a fermented drink with an alcohol content similar to beer but more popular with women. While the efforts remain fledgling, they suggest a new avenue to keep alive an iconic west county crop for another generation.

via New angle for Sonoma County apples | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Wastewater recycling controversy

Wastewater recycling controversy


April is the month we celebrate the Earth, it’s bountiful resources, its diverse creatures and cultures and all its beauty.  It is also the time when we need to consider the interrelationship of all life forms.  Yet we tend to compartmentalize information and struggle to comprehend the vast web we all weave, seldom noting that every thing is connected to everything else, and every action reverberates through life’s web.

Small amounts can have huge consequences

Endocrinologists discovered awhile back that minute exposures to endocrine disrupting toxins (such as most pesticides, herbicides, etc.) can have cataclysmic effects on fetal development and adult organ systems; it can cause reproductive cancer; it can feminize male frogs;  it can masculinize female sea gulls; it is suspected of causing heart disease, autism, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and more.  The problems created by these chemicals may cause as much harm as global warming, since effects can be carried down through unborn generations.

We live in a chemical world that is significantly under regulated.  It is surmised that 80,000 or more chemicals exist with hundreds of new ones produced each year. We have little knowledge about how they interact with one another.  Many of these are found in our bodies, including fetal blood and mother’s milk. Earth’s species are apparently going through their sixth major extinction, and the first caused entirely by man, yet we go on about our business as though none of this is real.

Risk assessment needs an overhaul

We still rely on conventional risk assessment to determine harm; holding the common, antiquated assumption  that “…the dose makes the poison”.  BEFORE regulations are promulgated and enforced, suspected toxins are allowed full use.  In the case of tertiary wastewater reuse, many substances are assumed to be safe at low doses even while more and more scientific evidence indicates that is not always the case. (The Clean Water Act list of 125 priority pollutants has had no additions in over 25 years.)  On this basis, the State Water Board found that monitoring for endocrine disrupting chemicals was unnecessary before irrigating parks, playgrounds, and schools where children play.

Many scientists, especially those in the field of endocrinology, now call for application of the precautionary principle, defined as: “When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.”, but regulators have largely turned a deaf ear to real reform.

via Wastewater Recycling Controversy.

Posted on Categories Land UseTags Leave a comment on Large-scale development in Petaluma is at an end for now

Large-scale development in Petaluma is at an end for now


For years the joke in Petaluma was that there was no place in town to buy a 2-by-4.

But with Friedman’s Home Improvement set to open its third Sonoma County store in Petaluma this month, that has changed.

Couple that with the Target center’s opening last year, home goods, sporting goods and home improvement supplies — among the chief products Petalumans used to leave town to buy — are now a short drive away.

via Scale of Petaluma's future development shifts | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County risks fines over compost runoff at central landfill

Sonoma County risks fines over compost runoff at central landfill


Water quality regulators are threatening to fine Sonoma County $10,000 per day if it doesn’t figure out a way to eliminate runoff from the composting operations at the county’s central landfill site west of Cotati.

The 25-acre compost facility run by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency has been under orders since last year to prevent runoff from reaching nearby creeks.

In a March 18 letter, the North Coast Water Quality Control Board officials said they were “concerned by the lack of progress” in resolving the problem before next winter’s rainy season.

via Sonoma County risks fines over compost runoff at central landfill | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Storm runoff to aid salmon migration

Storm runoff to aid salmon migration


There’s at least one immediate benefit from the most recent storms that swept through California: Wildlife officials will temporarily stop transporting hatchery salmon by truck, and instead release those fish at the hatcheries following usual practice.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that Coleman National Hatchery near Red Bluff will pause its trucking operation to take advantage of storm runoff in Battle Creek, which flows through the hatchery, and the Sacramento River. They will release the next batch of about 4.5 million young fall-run Chinook salmon at the hatchery instead, starting Friday.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will also release about 1 million endangered spring-run Chinook salmon into the Feather River from its hatchery near Oroville. It had planned to haul these fish by truck.

Releasing salmon at their hatcheries is the preferred practice because it allows the fish to “imprint” on that location so they can find their way back from the ocean in three to four years to breed as adults.

via Storm runoff to aid salmon migration – Environment – The Sacramento Bee.