Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

How is California’s landmark groundwater law impacting Sonoma County?

Glen Martin, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The drought is intensifying efforts to conserve all of Sonoma County’s water resources, including a supply that has eluded oversight until recently: groundwater. But even as plans for groundwater monitoring and sustainable use proceed, tensions are building over its management.

The authority to evaluate and regulate groundwater comes from a 2014 law crafted in the middle of the state’s last drought. It authorized government regulation for certain groundwater basins through the establishment of local agencies, with the goal of “sustainable” management – that is, no significant drop in groundwater tables year-to-year – by 2042.

Three of Sonoma County’s 14 groundwater basins are subject to such oversight: Sonoma Valley, the Santa Rosa Plain and Petaluma Valley. The location of these basins corresponds to both high population density and major groundwater demands.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/specialsections/how-is-californias-landmark-groundwater-law-impacting-sonoma-county/?artslide=1

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

The Empire State Building energy retrofit

Bill McKibben, THE NEW YORKER

A 1999 graduate in sustainable design from the University of Virginia, Dana Robbins Schneider led sustainability efforts for many years at the commercial-real-estate giant J.L.L. As the director of sustainability at the Empire State Realty Trust, she oversaw an energy-efficiency retrofit of the iconic Manhattan skyscraper on Thirty-fourth Street, which demonstrated how landlords could save both carbon and money, and which helped pave the way for Local Law 97, the city’s effort to force large buildings to improve their energy performance. (Our interview has been edited.)

How did the Empire State Building retrofit come about? What are the bottom-line before-and-after numbers?
The Empire State Building’s ten-year energy-efficiency retrofit started as an exercise to prove—or disprove—that there could be an investment-and-return business case for deep energy retrofits. Once it was proven, it was implemented to save energy and reduce costs for both the tenants and Empire State Realty Trust. We partnered with the Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls, and J.L.L. to manage the project. Through the rebuild, we were able to cut emissions from the building by fifty-four per cent and counting, which has saved us upward of four million dollars each year, with a 3.1-year payback. We have attempted to inform policy with local, state, and federal governments to share what we’ve learned to reduce emissions—and to meet E.S.R.T.’s target for the building to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

As a result of the retrofit, the building is in the top twenty per cent in energy efficiency among all measured buildings in the United States. E.S.R.T. is the nation’s largest user of a hundred-per-cent green power in real estate and was named Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2021.
Continue reading “The Empire State Building energy retrofit”

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

What the clean energy future looks like from a 262-foot wind turbine

Sammy Roth, Boiling Point Newsletter, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Hundreds of feet above the ground, suspended by ropes and battered by powerful winds, Matthew Kelly is living his best life.

Kelly is a wind turbine technician, and my colleague Brian van der Brug recently took pictures of him repairing a fiberglass blade at a wind farm in California’s Montezuma Hills, at the northeastern end of the Bay Area. Brian’s pictures are worth a thousand words and then some. Here’s a shot of Kelly perched on the damaged blade, putting his rock climbing background to good use:

Read more at https://www.latimes.com/environment/newsletter/2021-06-24/what-clean-energy-looks-like-from-a-262-foot-wind-turbine-boiling-point

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Petaluma River cleanup plan approved

Will Carruthers, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

On May 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly signed off on a plan meant to reduce pollution in the 146-square-mile Petaluma River Watershed.

That’s right. Although the problem is rarely discussed, the Petaluma River has been listed as “impaired” by excessive levels of bacteria since 1975.

The bureaucratic document approved by the EPA is known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). It sets levels of acceptable waste discharge from various sources in an attempt to lower the levels of fecal bacteria found in the watershed until the water is deemed clean.

While preparing the TMDL, scientists from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board tested water from throughout the watershed for Fecal Indicator Bacteria to determine the amount of waste from warm-blooded mammals that has seeped into the water. Although indicator bacteria themselves are not dangerous, scientists use the strains to detect potentially dangerous levels of contamination in the water.

In a report accompanying the TMDL, water board staff identified 12 sources of pollution, which they then lumped into three general categories: human waste, animal waste and municipal stormwater runoff. In tests conducted between 2015 and 2016, water board scientists found bacteria tied to humans, horses, cows and dogs throughout the Petaluma River and its tributaries.

When asked in late 2019 about the levels of E. coli discovered in the Petaluma River, Farhad Ghodrati, an environmental scientist with the San Francisco Bay board, said the test results showed “some of the highest concentrations we have seen in the region.”

At the same time, Dr. Celeste Philips, who then served as Sonoma County’s Health Officer, warned Petaluma River users against drinking the river water or using the water for cooking due to the levels of E. coli. “Adults and children should wash hands/shower and towel dry after swimming; rinse off pets after they come into contact with the water,” Philips added.

Read more at https://bohemian.com/petaluma-river-cleanup-plan-approved/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , ,

Sonoma County apple growers find their crop holds up well despite drought

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As he walks the rows of his apple orchard in the hills west of Sebastopol, Stan Devoto can’t help picking fruit off the branch. The thinning will allow the remaining fruit to better thrive in a year that has now been classified locally as exceptional drought.

The apples need to be spaced between 4 to 8 inches on the branch so they can grow into flavorful varieties such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and more bitter ones that are used in hard cider. More than 100 different types of apples are harvested within Devoto’s 25-acre orchard. Because of the drought, the apples will be smaller when harvest kicks off in late July, which means the overall tonnage for the crop will be down in the county this year.

“We are thinning further apart this year and keeping our fingers crossed,” said Devoto, who has been farming on the land since 1976. That was right before the last time when there was such an extreme drought in the area.

“We got through it (the 1970s drought). But it is so dry here that weeds won’t even grow. It’s really crazy,” Devoto said.

Even with the difficult circumstances, apples are one of the best drought-resistant crops within the county along with olive trees whose fruit is used for making olive oil, said Agriculture Commissioner Andrew Smith.

“The standard apple trees have a much larger root system, and they go much larger into the soil profile. They are able to find that available soil moisture to use for growth,” Smith said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/north-bay/sonoma-county-apple-growers-find-their-crop-holds-up-well-despite-drought/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Why I was wrong about methane

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET

I didn’t think cutting methane was a high priority. Now I do. Here’s why.

I didn’t use to think that eliminating methane emissions should be a priority. True, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. But it’s also a short-lived one, which only stays in the atmosphere for twenty years or so. In contrast, CO2 emissions cause warming for 2-3 centuries or more. So methane emissions seemed to be something that could be addressed at any point we got around to them. I’ve rethought that conclusion, however for a combination of policy and political economy reasons.

On the policy side, cutting methane would have immediate benefits that aren’t limited to reducing warming. Because methane contributes to ozone pollution, emissions cause immediate health effects as well as warming effects. According to the U.N., “a 45 per cent reduction would prevent 260 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.”.

In addition, one reason to worry about methane is that it accelerates warming, even if the world would have eventually gotten to the same temperature due to CO2 emissions. The pace of warming matters, not just the extent of warming. A pulse of methane today may not matter in a century, but it does mean that warming over the next few decades will happen faster. Slower warming gives the world less time to adopt adaptation measures like strengthening flood defenses, making crops more drought resistance, taking precautions against heat waves. . Before we can take those steps, institutions and public attitudes will themselves have to adapt to the realities of climate change. If we can slow warming a bit, even if we end up in the same place ultimately due to carbon emissions, that gives us more time to prepare for what’s coming down the road.

Read more at https://legal-planet.org/2021/06/17/why-i-was-wrong-about-methane/

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , , ,

Lower Russian River flows to be halved under state order to preserve stored supplies

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma County water agency received permission Monday to immediately cut stream flows in the lower Russian River by more than half in an effort to conserve water stored in Lake Sonoma.

Instream flows in the upper river, above Dry Creek, which is fed by releases from Lake Sonoma, already are being maintained at a very low threshold to keep as much water as possible in Lake Mendocino, the smaller of the two reservoirs.

The state decision means Sonoma Water, the county agency, and its contractors — the cities of Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Petaluma and Cotati, and the Valley of the Moon, Marin Municipal and North Marin water districts — will have to use 20% less water from the Russian River, as well.

Both lakes Sonoma and Mendocino reservoirs are their lowest levels ever for this early in the year, with the warmest, driest months still ahead.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/lower-russian-river-flows-to-be-halved-under-state-order-to-preserve-stored/

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, TransportationTags , , ,

Board of Forestry set to weaken Wildfire Safety Regulations

Daniel Barad, Sierra Club California CAPITOL VOICE

Sierra Club California’s fight for common-sense wildfire safety continues. Later this month, the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection will consider revised regulations that would drastically weaken road safety standards that have been in place for 30 years.

If adopted, these regulations would make it more difficult for communities to evacuate during wildfires and more dangerous for firefighters to access existing, substandard roads.

Sierra Club California has been a steadfast advocate for fire-safe communities at the Capitol and in state agencies. We have called for more funding for defensible space and home hardening. We have supported legislation that would require wildfire safety planning to be incorporated into cities’ general plans.

So naturally, we’ll be urging board members not to adopt these harmful regulations.

In addition to making it more dangerous to evacuate during emergencies, these harmful regulations could also make it easier to build new homes and buildings in fire-prone wildland areas — putting more families in harm’s way and increasing economic risk from future fire. To make matters worse, the board is unlikely to examine the major environmental impacts that these regulations could have under the Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Without a CEQA analysis, it is much more difficult for the state of California to plan for and avoid these environmental consequences.

California wildfires have destroyed countless homes and taken far too many lives, and the climate crisis will only make wildfires more severe in coming years. The state must take steps that make wildfire-prone communities safer. The proposed regulations would do the opposite.

Join us to fight against these dangerous regulations. Send a message to the Board of Forestry at PublicComments@BOF.ca.gov and tell members to reject the proposed road safety regulations and to complete a CEQA analysis. Click here for a sample email.

Thank you for taking action!

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

State water regulators to consider emergency limits on as many as 2,400 Russian River users

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

State regulators are considering sweeping drought emergency rules that would let them suspend the diversion of water from the Russian River by as many as 2,400 homes, businesses, municipal agencies and other users. The proposal, which would cover both the upper and lower parts of the watershed, could greatly extend the list of more than 900 water suppliers, agricultural producers and property owners already notified there has been too little rainfall for them to exercise their water rights this year.

The draft regulation goes before the state water board next Tuesday and could account for substantial monthly savings, depending when diversions are limited, Erik Ekdahl, deputy director of the state water board’s Division of Water Rights, said during a virtual Sonoma County Town Hall on the drought last week.

Those affected would include residents of both Sonoma and Mendocino counties, a region singled out by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April for being at particular risk of water shortage after two dry years because of its dependence on a reservoir system subject to rapid depletion in the absence of regular rainfall.

With storage in Lake Mendocino, the smaller of the reservoirs, diminishing by the day, state regulators are hoping they can slow its consumption by reserving withdrawals for those with the oldest, most senior water claims and, potentially, curtailing even them.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/state-water-regulators-to-consider-emergency-limits-on-at-least-1600-russi/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

After 27 years in western Marin County, Straus moves to cutting-edge creamery in Rohnert Park

Austin Murphy, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In his dungarees and rubber boots, Albert Straus looked every bit the dairy farmer that he is. On this particular morning, however, the 66-year-old founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery was some 25 miles from his family farm.

Straus stood on the floor of a processing plant, amid gleaming silver tanks and conveyor belts that would soon begin moving hundreds of the company’s iconic glass bottles of milk with cream on top.

While those bottles were familiar, the building was not. After 27 years making its highly regarded organic dairy products at a facility in Marshall, the company recently moved its production plant from Marin to Sonoma County, to this brand new, $20 million, 50,000-square foot facility in Rohnert Park. Where the old creamery was surrounded by ranchland, its new neighbors include the Graton Resort and Casino, and a Costco.

“After 27 years in Marshall,” said Straus, gesturing to the machinery around him, “this will give us a road map for the next 30 years.”

While the old plant could process up to 20,000 gallons of milk a day, the new one will be capable of doubling that output — “and do it much more efficiently,” noted Straus. The upgraded plant also features new technologies that allow it to capture and reuse large amounts of water and heat.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/after-27-years-in-western-marin-county-straus-moves-to-cutting-edge-creame/?