Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Mendocino County judge tosses out states frost-protection rules

Mendocino County judge tosses out states frost-protection rules

Glenda Anderson & Cathy Bussewitz, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Mendocino County judge on Wednesday overturned controversial state water rules designed to regulate how grape growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties divert water from the Russian River. Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman declared the law to be “constitutionally void” and “invalid.”“There is not substantial evidence in the record to show the regulation, as enacted, is necessary,” she said.
The regulations were aimed at preventing endangered and threatened fish from becoming stranded and dying when farmers take water from the river to protect their crops from frost. Grape growers spray water on the vines to form a protective shield of ice when temperatures fall below freezing
via Mendocino County judge tosses out states frost-protection rules | PressDemocrat.com.

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County judge strikes down Roblar Road quarry approval

Sonoma County judge strikes down Roblar Road quarry approval

by Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Sonoma County judge has struck down the approval for a controversial rock quarry west of Cotati, saying key parts of the environmental impact report were inadequate. The final ruling, issued Thursday by Judge Elliot Daum, could derail the project by requiring the county and quarry developer John Barella to conduct a new environmental report, or overhaul large parts of the existing one.
via Sonoma County judge strikes down Roblar Road quarry OK | PressDemocrat.com.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Delta blues: Can salmon survive California's 'Peripheral Canal'?

Delta blues: Can salmon survive California's 'Peripheral Canal'?

by Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
Chinook salmon are abundant this year in one of the best seasons in local fishing memory, with sport and commercial fishermen reeling in easy boatloads of the most prized food and game fish on the Pacific Coast.
Still, a local conservation group warns that all this could change if state officials in Sacramento, now plotting the near future of California’s water-development infrastructure, approve and build a large canal intended to deliver Sacramento River water to Southern California.
via Delta Blues | News | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Wild salmon are not holding up, study finds

Wild salmon are not holding up, study finds

by Rachel Nuwer, NYTIMES.COM
Since 1964, the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in California has supplied the watershed with four to 10 million juvenile Chinook salmon each year. The hatchery began the practice as a way of countering the effects of dams that block migration and making sure that the salmon population remained viable. But recent research shows that the massive influx of hatchery-raised fish is masking the fact that wild fish populations are not holding up.
“Without distinguishing hatchery from wild fish, the perception is that we have healthy salmon surviving in a healthy river,” said Rachel Johnson, a fish ecologist affiliated with the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the lead author of a new paper published in the journal PLoS One.
via Wild Salmon Are Not Holding Up, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.

Posted on Categories Forests, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Fall of the redwood empire

Fall of the redwood empire

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Clearcutting for vineyards is nothing new in wine country. Can it be stopped?

This past Oct. 11, in a rare instance of a local politician speaking out publicly against a member of the North Bay’s influential winemaking community, Sonoma County supervisor Efren Carrillo lambasted winemaker Paul Hobbs for uprooting hundreds of trees in Sebastopol and adding one more open wound to a Russian River watershed already impacted by erosion and sediment.

Carrillo called Hobbs "one bad apple," and noted that the globally renowned maker of high-end wines hadn’t bothered to acquire a permit to remove the trees, part of the old Davis Christmas Tree farm, which Hobbs is planning to buy and convert to vines. It was one of three instances this year in which Hobbs has cut down trees to the dismay of onlookers; he leveled 10 acres in Pocket Canyon just east of Guerneville, and eight acres of redwood trees along Highway 116 on land acquired in a court settlement from his neighbor John Jenkel.

"Paul Hobbs has shown a blatant disregard for Sonoma County, its resources, his fellow vintners and community sentiment," Carrillo declared in his editorial, printed in the Sonoma County Gazette.

But local environmentalists feel Carrillo’s outburst needs to be echoed a hundred times over. To Jim Doerksen, who has lived in the Mayacamas Mountains for 44 years and has watched local streams sucked dry as wineries near his property have been built, Carrillo’s words on Hobbs only amplify the silence that nearly all officials have kept toward the local wine industry through years of alleged environmental abuse.

"Efren said Hobbs is ‘one bad apple,’" Doerksen says, "but all we have are bad apples."

Doerksen points straight to his neighbors, whom he charges with illegally cutting down about 60 acres of conifers to plant vineyards. This activity, along with overuse of the area’s groundwater, has virtually destroyed Mark West Creek, a story covered in January in the Bohemian.

via Fall of the Redwood Empire | Features | North Bay Bohemian.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , Leave a comment on The wrath of grapes

The wrath of grapes

Alastair Bland, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

How a Goldman Sachs executive is helping to kill Mark West Creek— and what the county isn’t doing about it

For decades, Sonoma County’s wine industry has been thriving. The county’s salmon and steelhead, meanwhile, are vanishing, and some fisheries biologists, attorneys and conservationists assure that the wine industry’s gain is the Russian River’s loss.

To Patrick Higgins, the story boils down to a one-line synopsis: "The county is trading fish for wine." Higgins is a private-practice fisheries biologist in Arcata. Among his ongoing battles to save the North Coast’s struggling fish species, including federally endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout, is the fight for Mark West Creek.

Though many streams naturally dry up during the arid summers of Sonoma County, this small tributary of the Russian River historically has not. Mark West Creek was once the main spawning stream for the steelhead and coho salmon that made the Russian River famous.

But lately, Mark West and its feeder streams have been running dry, according to residents who live nearby. Jim Doerksen, who has lived within sight of Mark West Creek for 43 years, has been measuring its flow levels since 2005 after visibly dwindling water levels spurred concern. Between 2006 and 2009, he says, its flows almost entirely vanished each summer. In 2008, Doerksen measured what might have been the lowest flow ever recorded in Mark West Creek, a volume of six one-hundredths of a cubic foot per second.

via The Wrath of Grapes | Culture | North Bay Bohemian.