Alicia Chang and Jason Dearen, USA TODAY
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.
In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach — some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions — oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
via Calif. finds more instances of offshore fracking.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Scientists looking for clues to the origins of life on Earth have discovered new life forms right here in Sonoma County that may shed light on how life evolved — and how it might be detected elsewhere in the universe.
A three-year study of alkaline ponds at The Cedars, a vast but remote serpentine area north of Cazadero, has uncovered microorganisms never before detected, existing in the kinds of harsh conditions believed to reflect those that first gave rise to life, scientists say.
Researchers hope studying these unique microbes and how they function may impart information about the biochemical reactions that imbued inorganic substances on early Earth with the spark of life.
via Remote Sonoma County landscape offers microscopic peek at life's beginnings | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A move to add controversial limits on development and grapevine planting near streams into Sonoma County’s zoning code has been delayed and may not be decided until sometime next year.
Cancellation of a public workshop set for Wednesday on the proposed zoning amendment and indefinite postponement of a Nov. 7 Planning Commission hearing on the matter were announced last week by the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department.
“There’s no real hurry,” said Jennifer Barrett, deputy director of the department, noting that the stream bank development limits are included in the county’s General Plan.
“We are applying them already,” she said. Putting the limits in zoning law “would streamline the process.”
via Sonoma County’s zoning rules for streamside development delayed | The Press Democrat.
Alastair Bland, NPR, THE SALT
In the California wine mecca of Sonoma County, climate change is pitting redwood lovers against red wine lovers.This Friday morning, a coalition of environmental groups are in a Santa Rosa, Calif., courtroom fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from leveling 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines.
Redwoods only grow in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers.
Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called Friends of the Gualala River, says the wine industry is creeping toward the coast as Californias interior valleys heat up and consumers show preferences for cooler-weather grapes like pinot noir.”Inexorably, the wine industry is looking for new places to plant vineyards,” says Poehlmann, whose group is among the plaintiffs.
via A Fight Over Vineyards Pits Redwoods Against Red Wine : The Salt : NPR.
Alastair Bland, THE NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
There is no forest among the trees. That’s what state officials have said regarding a large stand of second-growth redwood and Douglas fir near Annapolis that a Spanish-owned winery has proposed to level and replace with grapevines and a winery.
The project, proposed by Artesa Vineyards & Winery, has been lumbering through the legal process for several years now, and to the dismay of Sonoma County environmentalists, it has progressed almost to the finish line. Now, the only roadblock still in the way is the lawsuit filed against the state by three conservation groups in June of 2012, and which will be heard in the Sonoma County Superior Court this Friday.
via Chainsaw Wine | News | North Bay Bohemian.
Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Lafferty Ranch advocates say an easement over 905 square feet of private land standing between the public and the proposed nature preserve near Petaluma could finally be secured by newly discovered property records dating back to the Civil War era.
A surveyor’s map cited in 1866 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meetings as well as an 1869 deed from an adjacent property owner both create a bridge to the landlocked 270-acre preserve, said Petaluma City Councilman Mike Healy, a lawyer who is providing free legal work for the cause.
via New evidence in fight for public access to Lafferty Ranch | Watch Sonoma County.
Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today is set to consider a financial policy that seeks to break the fiscal logjams that have delayed public access to thousands of acres of taxpayer-protected open space.
For park agencies looking to open up those lands, the policy would allow for broader use of an estimated $41 million in county open space funds over the next 18 years.
The central change would explicitly make available that money — drawn from a share of the budget for the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District — to build key improvements, including parking lots, restrooms, trails, fencing, signs and other capital projects geared toward enabling initial public access.
via Sonoma County grapples with providing public access to open space | The Press Democrat.
Sean Scully,THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday approved an offer by winemaker Paul Hobbs to permanently protect 117 wooded acres near Forestville from development, but they insisted the preservation-oriented gift will not sway them if Hobbs attempts to move ahead with a controversial adjacent vineyard project.
Accepting the easement “in no way mandates, requires or ties the board’s hands” in any other matter related to Hobbs, said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who represents the area.
via Supervisors accept Sebastopol winemaker's preservation offer | The Press Democrat.
Jared Huffman, SFGATE
In "Dirty Harry," Clint Eastwood memorably asked, do you "feel lucky?" It made for great theater, but it’s no way to manage North Coast salmon. Unfortunately, that’s been the policy of the U.S. Department of Interior toward the near-record run of chinook salmon that is migrating up the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Instead of a comprehensive strategy to fulfill its duty to protect this iconic fishery, the department is rolling the dice. So far, the salmon have been lucky.
A decade ago, they were not so lucky. In 2002, the same conditions we are experiencing this year – large salmon returns, a dry year, and over-allocated Klamath River water unable to satisfy all competing needs – produced a massive fish kill. Insufficient river flows brought death to thousands of salmon and economic disaster for tribes, fishermen, and communities up and down the West Coast.
via For Northern California rivers, luck is not a plan – SFGate.
Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday approved zoning rules that they said would ensure a “conservative” and “cautious” approach to renewable energy development on the county’s farms, ranches and remote forested lands and hillsides.
The regulations for commercial projects on agricultural property cover more than three-quarters of the county, or more than 700,000 acres.
They will allow projects on about 140,000 agricultural acres where they were previously prohibited. Applicants would have to go through a rezoning process, including hearings before planning commissioners and the Board of Supervisors. They will also ban ground-mounted commercial projects on about 70,000 acres of the highest-value cropland, including mostly vineyards.
via Supervisors OK zoning rules for renewable energy development | The Press Democrat.