Eventually, upon the trail’s completion, the 8-foot-wide paved trail, with 2-foot gravel shoulders, is designed to provide two-way bike traffic with room for pedestrians along a trans-Valley route parallel to Highway 12.
The 13-mile, $24 million Sonoma Valley Trail moved a half-million dollars and a half mile closer to reality recently, as the Board of Supervisors approved a construction contract for a portion of the proposed bicycle path in the Agua Caliente area.
The funding was approved for the Central Sonoma Valley Trail, a portion of the more comprehensive Sonoma Valley Trail, roughly from Agua Caliente Road to Maxwell Farms. It is designed to connect the Sonoma Valley Trail with the City of Sonoma’s Bike Path.
The board voted to award G.D. Nielson Construction a total of $468,832 to build .42 miles of trail, in two segments. The first is just over a tenth of a mile, from the Larson Park trail north through Flowery Elementary, to connect at Depot Road with the existing trial. As of Monday, July 24, crews were at work on this section of the path.
The second .31 mile section starts at Main Street – that little spur off Sonoma Highway at the McDonald’s restaurant – and continues west on the north side of Verano Avenue to Sonoma Creek, on the edge of Maxwell Farms Regional Park. This section of trail is primarily designed to provide access to Sonoma Creek, as it does not advance the overall direction of the Sonoma Valley Trail toward the city’s bike path.
Read more at: 13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA
Tony Landucci, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS
Almost 100 people took part in the Splash Mob event over the weekend, the conclusion of a nine day trip down the Russian River, starting at Lake Mendocino. Conservation nonprofit LandPaths and Russian Riverkeeper hosted the Headwaters to Ocean Descent with Supervisor James Gore.
In the cool morning air at the beach in Monte Rio the first half of the two-day Splash Mob launched kayaks and several canoes into the chilly water as vacationers and beach goes watched. On Sunday, many faces were familiar but new people replaced the ones who could not ride for the whole paddle.
The stream of about 40 boats cruised the water down to Casini Ranch Family Campground in Jenner where many camped before the final day of paddling to mouth of the river. While the trip was almost entirely manageable for beginners, strong winds pushed back on paddlers as they powered their way under the Coast Highway bridge near where Highways 1 and 116 meet. The day went without incident and everyone made it to the shore safely.
Along the way, conversations were held as long as boaters could stick together. As skill levels and stamina were tested, the groups mingled, drifted apart and came back together. Backgrounds varied but many on the trip were in someway connected to the river through their jobs and education or were just interested in what the event had to offer. Biologists answered questions about ecology while water district workers explained regulations and policies, among other conversations.
Read more at: River float brings ideas to surface – Sonoma West Times and News: News
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Interested parties appear likely to get the extra time many have requested to review and comment on some 3,600 pages of study for a plan to permanently reduce summertime flows in the Russian River and Dry Creek to benefit imperiled fish species.
Sonoma County officials announced Friday they would discuss an extension at the Oct. 4 Board of Supervisors meeting and may schedule additional public hearings on the flow rate in lower and upper river communities.
The plan has raised concerns among some business representatives and river residents about the reduced flows’ effects on recreation and water quality.
Board Chairman Efren Carrillo said Friday he’s “highly confident” fellow supervisors will agree to additional time for public feedback.
“We still need formal action,” Carrillo cautioned. “I don’t want to be presumptuous.”
The notice came three days after a standing-room-only crowd appeared before the Board of Supervisors to address a six-volume draft environmental impact report that envisions significant changes for how Russian River flows are managed by the Sonoma County Water Agency.
Read more at: Sonoma County signals possible extension for comment on Russian River flow plan | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Critics of a permanent plan to curtail summertime flows in the Russian River blasted Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday, with many saying the long-anticipated shift in water management would devastate lower river communities and economies dependent on recreation and tourism.
A string of speakers implored county officials to rethink their strategy or risk increased nuisance and toxic algae that could severely impact quality of life throughout the county. About 80 people attended the public hearing at the supervisors’ chambers, the only one planned as part of an environmental impact report scheduled for release later this year.
Others Tuesday night challenged the science behind the move, questioning the rationale of a 2008 federal opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service that instructed the Sonoma County Water Agency to reduce artificially elevated summertime flows in the river and in Dry Creek as a way to improve habitat for threatened and endangered salmonid fish. At issue is a proposed overhaul of the agency’s management under which releases have been made from Lake Mendocino into the Russian River and from Lake Sonoma into Dry Creek, which joins the river near Healdsburg. County supervisors serve as the agency’s board of directors.
“Nothing good will come out of a low-flow proposal,” said Linda Burke, whose family has operated Burke’s Canoes in Forestville for two generations. “This is draconian. It’s unheard of. It’s sad, and it’s disgusting.”
The plan is informed by the 8-year-old federal decision that deemed existing operations a potential threat to the habitat and survival of struggling coho salmon, chinook salmon and steelhead trout, all of which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Federal fishery experts say juvenile fish need low-velocity streams in order to thrive while feeding, resting and building up strength to go out to the ocean. It’s also believed reducing flows would encourage maintenance of a freshwater lagoon at the river mouth near Jenner, enhancing the survival of young steelhead trout.
Reserving a cold water pool in Lake Mendocino for release each fall also would benefit migrating chinook salmon adults as they come in from the ocean and head upstream to spawn, agency personnel said.
Read more at: Critics of proposed low-flows for Russian River blast supervisors | The Press Democrat
Frank Robertson, SONOMA WEST TIMES
A long-awaited report on what might happen when the Russian River has less water flowing down it in the summertime will be released Aug. 19, Sonoma County Water Agency officials announced last week.
Many lower River residents remain unconvinced that a permanent lower flow will help habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead trout, Russian River Watershed Protection Committee founder Brenda Adelman cautioned County Supervisors last week. A federal “Biological Opinion” issued eight years ago that called for a reduced flow “totally ignored the lower River,” said Adelman.
The Russian River Instream Flow and Restoration (RRIFR) project will permanently cut summertime flows by about 40 percent between Healdsburg and the River’s mouth at Jenner.
Anglers, swimmers and boaters are expected to be looking closely at what conditions they’ll have to live with when summer flows are cut every summer from 125 cubic feet per second (CFS) to about 75 CFS in a normal rainfall year.
The National Marine Fisheries Services Biological Opinion “never had public review, public comment or agency review that I’m aware of,” said Adelman. “It totally ignored the lower River from about the confluence of Dry Creek down to Duncans Mills. I really feel like the lower River has been neglected, especially in terms of water quality impacts,” said Adelman. “I hope that that will be corrected through this process.”
Underscoring the far-reaching challenges of the new low-flow regime the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last week took the unusual step of announcing the Environmental Impact Report’s release four weeks in advance of the actual day when the public gets to see the report.
Copies of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be available digitally and on flash drive or to download from the Water Agency’s website. Paper copies will also be available at the Sonoma County Public Libraries in Guerneville, Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale, and from the Water Agency for a fee.
Read more at: Report pending on lower Russian River flows – Sonoma West Times and News: News
The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday opted not to rule on the state’s controversial plan to expand day-use fees at several iconic Sonoma County beaches, instead continuing the debate to give warring local and state agencies more time to reach consensus on the highly-charged issue.
The decision, which followed a marathon meeting in Santa Rosa packed with hundreds of fee opponents, does little in the near-term to resolve the four-year battle over the fee proposal. California State Parks is seeking to impose day-use fees of up to $8 at eight beach locations, including Bodega Head and Goat Rock.The ultimate outcome could have profound implications on California’s bedrock policies protecting coastal access and the ability of Sacramento to impose new charges for public sites that have long been free to visit.
Several commissioners expressed reservations about many aspects of the state’s plan, in particular that it could restrict coastal access to low-income people. A few commissioners also criticized State Parks officials for pushing the fee plan without enough data to support the proposal and without enough public input.
But commissioners, who wield powerful statewide influence over coastal matters, declined to jettison the fee proposal. Steve Kinsey, a Marin County supervisor and chair of the 12-member commission, promoted the idea of continuing the debate, saying “a denial today doesn’t move the dial.”
Commissioner Dayna Bochco made the motion, which calls on commission staff, State Parks and county officials to meet on the fee issue. The motion directs commission staff to report at the agency’s June meeting whether there is a willingness among the parties to work together.
The future of Maxwell Park got another hearing Wednesday night in a well-attended and lively meeting of locals, interested parties and personnel from Sonoma County Regional Parks. Though billed as “Workshop #2” it followed by over a year the first such meeting, held Jan. 15 2015, and by 10 months a second workshop held at El Verano Elementary last April.
Those meetings were primarily about getting community input on the sorts of features resident would like to see in the 80-acre park, located between the City of Sonoma and Verano.
“It took us longer than expected to marshal the resources to move this plan forward, and allowed more time for researching background information and talking with the different interest groups,” said project planner Scott Wilkinson. He also cited the county’s work toward a Moorland Park on the site of Andy Lopez’ death in 2013 as shifting resources.
This time Wilkinson and Steve Ehret, also of Regional Parks, came with three developed maps for the property that each included the major features the community requested – and a large open-space area taking up almost half the park, in deference to the so-called “conservation easement” that accompanied the parcel when it was deeded to the county.
Though the fact that the county now owns the land essentially voids the easement – the county apparently cannot legally have an easement on land it owns itself, according to Ehret – that didn’t alter the commitment to the “spirit of the easement,” he said.
Read more at: Master plan for Sonoma’s Maxwell Field Park gets | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA
Rob Jordan, STANFORD REPORT
The risk of acquiring Lyme disease from ticks, such as this western black-legged tick, is higher than had been assumed, according to a new Stanford study.
The San Francisco Bay Area’s broad swaths of trail-lined open space hold higher risks of tick-borne disease than previously thought, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.
The scientists collected 622 ticks (typically western black-legged ticks) from 20 sites in recreational areas from Sonoma County in the north to Santa Cruz County in the south by dragging white flannel blankets along the vegetation and leaf clutter. After bringing the ticks to a lab, the researchers extracted and analyzed their DNA.
Among other surprising discoveries, they found that a higher percentage of nymphal (young) ticks were infected with the bacteria Borrelia miyamotoi, a recently discovered human pathogen, than on the East Coast. The corkscrew-shaped bacteria produce Lyme disease-like symptoms.
Nymphal ticks are much smaller than adult ticks and thus are less likely to be discovered when they hitch themselves onto humans walking outdoors.
“Users of recreation areas in the Bay Area need to know the risk of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme is real, and not limited to other parts of the country,” said co-author Eric Lambin, the George and Setsuko Ishiyama Provostial Professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
The research, published in PLOS ONE, found the density of non-infected ticks, infected ticks and disease risk varies widely and unpredictably among different habitats (e.g., coast live oak, redwood, grassland) and geographic areas. However, tick-borne disease risk appears to be higher in redwood forests than previously believed.
Although ticks are found in lower densities among redwoods than some other habitats, they are consistently present and harbor B. miyamotoi and Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. Also, tick-borne disease exposure appears highest in coast live oak-dominated woodlands. The authors caution, however, that the statistical association is too weak to serve as a basis for targeted preventive public health policies and awareness campaigns.
Read more at: Stanford researchers find surprising level of tick-borne disease risk on local trails