Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Russian River guardian Chris Brokate marks end of watch in Sonoma County


It’s hard to fathom what 1.5 million pounds of trash might look like — and more troubling still to see that much litter wash downstream in the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean.

Standing in the way to make sure that doesn’t happen has been Chris Brokate, who in 2015 decided one day he no longer could watch as the watershed was transformed into a dumping ground, with litter and debris swept out to sea amid winter rains.

Since that pivotal day, Brokate, founder of the Clean River Alliance, has spearheaded the removal of about 750 tons of garbage and abandoned wreckage from the Russian River watershed through trash collection events and special projects.

It’s a worthy legacy to consider — one acknowledged by numerous awards and accolades — as Brokate, 56, outgoing Clean Team program director for the Russian Riverkeeper, prepares to leave Sonoma County and build a new semiretired life in Ecuador.


Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , ,

A secondary disaster

Letter to the Editor, PRESS DEMOCRAT
EDITOR: An article in last Wednesday’s paper quoted officials regarding the urgency for fire clean-up before winter rains commence (“With upcoming rain, fear of contamination”). Property owners are reluctant thus far to allow government to clean up their toxic ash and may be setting the stage for a secondary tragedy: massive polluting of our waterways.
Remaining ash, containing an eviscerated combination of toxic products, may be washed into the water or settle on gardens and farms to do irreparable damage. This stuff is so toxic that men in white suits with masks, gloves and boots have to remove it to a special place where they allow toxic wastes.
It is time-consuming, dirty, expensive and hazardous. And it needs to be done immediately before the heavy rains begin.
Those holding off may find it hard to find qualified people to do the job properly and affordably so they can obtain permits to rebuild. Time is of the essence to get it done. Please sign your right-of-entry form, and let others arrange to do the work free of charge.
It’s a hard choice. We feel sympathy for people having to make it, but the effects could be so dire, it might greatly compound the suffering and loss.
BRENDA ADELMAN, Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
Source: Wednesday’s Letters to the Editor

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , ,

Next challenge in Wine Country fires: colossal cleanup before winter rains 

While the worst of the wildfires is over for Wine Country, the region faces another daunting test: the cleanup of heaps of ash, twisted metal and blackened debris scattered across some 250 square miles of burned hills and valleys — an area five times the size of San Francisco.Never before has California seen such wildfire destruction. The blazes that roared through Napa and Sonoma counties this month obliterated at least 7,200 houses, barns and businesses, including entire neighborhoods, each with untold amounts of hazardous items now littered about, from pesticides to propane to melted plastics.
Residents are eager to get their properties cleared of the often toxic wreckage so that they can rebuild, though it will be months before any construction starts. Plans for the huge cleanup are still being worked out, with a goal of finishing early next year. The state will lead the effort, in partnership with the federal government, but only after the fires are extinguished and logistics are addressed.
Officials need to find landfills with enough space to take the rubble and get consent from landowners to clear their properties, matters that could take weeks. Once that’s done, the state is likely to hire hundreds if not thousands of contractors to truck out the debris from private residences and public property. Businesses and their insurers, though, will probably be responsible for cleanup at their sites.
Read more at: Next challenge in Wine Country fires: colossal cleanup before winter rains – San Francisco Chronicle

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

In Sonoma County toxic debris removal, officials in a race against rains


Don McEnhill, Russian Riverkeeper: “I am very concerned, but there’s only so much you can do. You cannot prevent 100 percent of the toxins and things from going in (the watershed), but I feel like with the meetings that have been held this week, people have been very proactive about threats to the watershed, and that does give me hope that we’re going to do everything we possibly can before we have the rains come in.”

With ash now blanketing much of Sonoma County, environmentalists are turning their efforts to debris removal in a race against the oncoming rainy season. Their primary concern: protecting the watershed from toxic runoff.
As the fire roared through Santa Rosa, car batteries, insulation, couches, industrial facilities, carpets, plastics — all things that shouldn’t burn — did.
In response, Cal Fire officials created the Watershed Emergency Response Team. A coalition of state and federal agencies, as well as local environmental nonprofits, it’s dedicated to keeping as much debris as possible out of the county’s waterways.
Their next step will be to evaluate the fire areas and identify which of those are at the most risk for watershed emergencies, prioritizing debris removal and runoff mitigation that way, said Johnny Miller, a public information officer for Cal Fire.
Once identified, sandbags, barriers and straw wattles will be placed to protect against any erosion that could result from winter rains. While Sonoma County is expected to get rain tonight and Friday morning, the .25 inches that could fall is not enough to cause officials much concern.
This winter could be another story. With the North Bay facing a La Niña, it’s hard to tell just how much rain might fall, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
“Typically that means wetter than normal in the Pacific Northwest and dry in the desert Southwest,” he said.
But in the North Bay, “There are equal chances of above and below normal. … We’ll just have to see what kind of weather patterns set up.”
Read more at: In Sonoma County toxic debris removal, officials in a race against rains | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , ,

State money available for cleaning former pot grow sites in Sonoma County

Toxic chemicals. Dammed creeks. Forest clear-cuts. Abandoned trash.
These kinds of environmental degradation are the scourge of California’s North Coast, the detritus left behind from decades of highly profitable but unregulated marijuana cultivation.
But in a move state officials hope will make a dent in the thousands of remote sites in need of remediation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is preparing to distribute $1.5 million for an initial round of watershed restoration projects made necessary by widespread and historically unchecked pot production.
“Existing damage to our watersheds due to unregulated cannabis cultivation is at crisis levels in terms of threats to habitat for aquatic and wildlife species,” agency Director Chuck Bonham said in a written news release.
“While many grow sites have been abandoned or shuttered, the infrastructure and ongoing damage remains.”
The newly launched Cannabis Restoration Grant Program reflects growing recognition of the devastating environmental impact of marijuana cultivation on private and public lands, even as public officials and the public itself moved to legalize its use in California, in part so it could be regulated.
Read more at: State money available for cleaning former pot grow sites in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , Leave a comment on Sonoma County gearing up for 30th annual Coastal Cleanup Day

Sonoma County gearing up for 30th annual Coastal Cleanup Day

Information about Bodega Dunes Cleanup
If this year is anything like last, more than 11,000 pounds of trash await volunteers heading out to Sonoma County beaches and streams on Saturday for the 30th annual Coastal Cleanup Day.
Hundreds of people commonly take part in the local pollution patrol — part of a statewide force 58,000 strong — though sign-ups for the Sonoma County event appear to be slightly behind where they usually are at this point, one organizer said.
More than 600 people participated in Sonoma County last year, collecting 11,162 pounds of refuse, 672 pounds of it recyclable, said Una Glass, executive director of Coastwalk California, which leads the local effort. Statewide, the 2013 cleanup netted 749,323 pounds of debris, including more than 75,000 pounds of recyclable materials, Glass said.
Coastal beaches and inland streams are rife with stuff left behind by humans or washed down from points upstream, all of it bound eventually for the Pacific if not intercepted. The yearly cleanup prevents its migration into the ocean, where garbage poses an extreme threat to marine wildlife.
Glass said she hoped a ban on plastic bags that recently went into effect in Sonoma County has an impact on what’s collected over the next few years.
via Sonoma County gearing up for 30th annual Coastal | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Sonoma CoastTags Leave a comment on Clean Up Volunteers Needed in Bodega Bay

Clean Up Volunteers Needed in Bodega Bay

Sonoma Coast Surfrider

Volunteers needed to help with the Pinnacle Gulch shipwreck clean-up.

Friday, August 31st from 3:30-6:30pm

This was a pristine location now tragically littered with debris from last Friday’s shipwreck. Unfortunately, it is in a location that is difficult to access and we must work with the low tide window. We are looking for volunteers to help with the effort and any amount of time and hard work is appreciated. The sooner we can remove the debris from the beach, the better it is for the marine and seabird life and fish that abundantly inhabit the area.
Volunteers should bring good grip shoes or higher wading boots, protective gloves, protective eyewear, sunscreen, and a water bottle-expect to get dirty and possibly wet. Surfrider will have extra protective gloves and contractor bags. The goal is to bag and carry as much of the debris as possible and bring it around the point to a location where a truck can load it. Volunteers are asked to exercise extreme caution in the tide zone and around the debris.
Here is a map to the parking area:
The best parking for shortest access is to enter South Bodega Harbour (neighborhood with the golf course) Heron Drive is a loop. Best to turn left on Heron, travel about a mile and then turn left again on Swan Drive. Swan Drive ends at Pelican Loop-turn left onto Pelican Loop and about 100 yards on your left there is a short cut to the Pinnacle Gulch trail (which cuts about 2/3 of the walk). Volunteers have permission to park and access the trail from this point. The trail is well maintained with some steps towards the end. Once you reach the beach turn right and walk towards Doran Beach. The wreck is at the end of the beach about 300 yds.
Low tide is at 5:45PM and this will be the best and safest time to carry debris around the rocks: however, having help bagging and bringing the debris closer is a critical portion of the clean-up process. Volunteers are encouraged to arrive by 4 and stay until 6:30 or 7 but any and all help is appreciated.
The other access point is from Doran Beach – you will see the caution yellow tape at the end of the beach. You will have to carefully climb over the rocks or walk through the sea cave to access the wreck area.
I will be at the site most of the afternoon and work until the tide no longer allows safe passage.
Please email or call with your availability. My number is 707-217-9741
Cea Higgins
Sonoma Coast Surfrider
Press Democrat article: