Posted on Categories WaterTags , ,

Trump administration moves to slash federal protection for waterways

Steven Mufson, THE WASHINGTON POST

The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed to sharply limit the federal government’s authority to regulate the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers, a major win for builders, farmers and frackers.

The administration said it would introduce a “new construct” limiting regulation to streams that hold water in a “typical year,” as determined by precipitation over the past 30 years.

“This will be a significant retreat from how jurisdiction has been defined for decades,” said Ann Navaro, a natural resources lawyer in Washington who previously worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This will significantly reduce the regulatory burden on landowners, developers and industry.”

The scaling back of the regulation was one of President Trump’s top priorities when he took office, and he issued an executive order in February 2017 directing the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out “the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”

The Obama administration, under the Waters of the United States rule issued in 2015, had asserted federal oversight of a variety of ditches, storm-water controls, lakes, streams and wetlands that feed into larger waterways that are clearly protected under the Clean Water Act of 1972. Many experts believed that the 1972 law already gave the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers control over smaller U.S. waterways and tributaries, but a series of court rulings had left the extent of that regulatory power ambiguous.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-administration-moves-to-slash-federal-protection-for-waterways/2018/12/11/eee0056a-fc98-11e8-862a-b6a6f3ce8199_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.01268fd7849c

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors have voted to extend the beleaguered Sonoma County Waste Management Agency until officials can hammer out a deal to return composting to a local facility and settle a high-profile lawsuit challenging the planned future compost site at the Central Landfill.
The agency, which oversees the county’s multimillion dollar composting operation, will dissolve next February unless representatives from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park approve a one-year extension until February 2018. The county and the remaining six cities already have voted in favor of extending the agency operations, which include education programs and collection of yard waste, food scraps and hazardous materials.
Santa Rosa and Healdsburg will take up the matter this month. Rohnert Park voted in January against an extension, but city officials could take up the issue again. Meanwhile, officials said they hope to resolve some points of contention.
“We think we can get the fundamental issues resolved before the sunset date,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, who represents the city on the agency’s board.
The agency has been under fire in recent years for what some county and city officials contend is an inefficient organization plagued with prolonged legal troubles. At issue is construction and operation of a new $55 million compost facility at the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati. Sonoma Compost Co., a private company and the county’s former dominant compost provider, was forced to close in October by a settlement of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by a group of neighbors who live near the landfill. The settlement cost ratepayers more than $1.1 million.
Since the closure, ratepayers have seen increases of about $4 on their monthly garbage bills to pay for the costs of hauling organic matter out of the county, said Patrick Carter, the agency’s interim director.
“We are desperate to bring compost back to Sonoma County — our farmers need it, and outhauling all that waste is not a good economic or environmental solution,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the county’s representative on the 10-member board of directors for the agency. “The question is how do we build a state-of-the-art facility without being subject to lawsuit after lawsuit.”
Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags ,

River otters coming back to Sonoma County 

Melanie Parker, PETALUMA ARGUS COURIER
Winter rains have swollen streams and rivers, recharging groundwater, filling ponds and lakes, and making more visible the network of waterways that traverse Sonoma County. One species that makes good use of this aquatic web is the river otter. Have you seen a river otter recently? If so, you’re one of a growing number because river otters are on the comeback.
River otters are large, fish-eating members of the weasel family. They are energetic animals about three feet long that depend upon fish and crayfish for over 90 percent of their food. Otters are aquatic, which means that they live almost exclusively in or near water. You may see them swimming in places like Spring Lake, traveling along Sonoma Creek, feeding along the Petaluma or Russian rivers or even working the mouths of coastal streams in places like Pinnacle Gulch or Gualala Point.
The Bay Area is seeing a rebound in river otter populations. Experts speculate that this is a testimony to many overlapping efforts to improve water quality and restore habitat. Megan Isadore of the River Otter Ecology Project says, “The most amazing thing about the otters’ return is they have done it completely on their own. There have been no efforts to reintroduce otters. What we are seeing is the response of the species to improved conditions.”
Read more at: River otters coming back to Sonoma County | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com