Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Water Agency is again seeking reductions in mandated Russian River water flows to try to conserve declining supplies in Lake Mendocino and better manage the precious resource during the persistent drought.
The agency on Tuesday filed a temporary change petition with the state Water Resources Control Board that would reduce the minimum flow between Lake Mendocino and Dry Creek, near Healdsburg, from 185 cubic feet per second to 75 cfs, agency officials said Wednesday. It also would reduce mandated flows between Dry Creek and the ocean from 125 cfs to 85 cfs. The change would go into effect May 1 and last 180 days.
Mendocino County water officials welcomed the request, which is expected to preserve about 6,500 acre-feet of water in Lake Mendocino, or about one-tenth of its current water supply. An acre-foot is roughly enough to fill a football field with one foot of water or supply one household with 893 gallons of water a day for a year.
The reservoir provides water to residents and farmers between the Redwood Valley and the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.
Read more via New petition filed to conserve Lake Mendocino water | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Eleven North Bay cities and water agencies are at least halfway to meeting the water conservation standards proposed by regulators to achieve Gov. Jerry Brown’s demand for a statewide 25 percent cut in water use this year. Two of those cities — Santa Rosa and Ukiah — have nearly hit their marks.
Ukiah, credited with achieving 19 percent savings compared to 2013 water use, is 1 percent away from the 20 percent conservation standard it must meet under the proposed framework announced by the State Water Board late Tuesday evening.
Santa Rosa, credited with 18 percent conservation to date, also needs to hit the 20 percent mark this year.
Read more via State calls on North Bay cities to save | The Press Democrat.
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To pump, treat and transport the drinking water for 660,000 North Bay residents, the Sonoma County Water Agency uses enough electricity every day to power the equivalent of about 6,500 local homes.
Going forward, all that electricity will be from renewable and carbon-free sources, meaning it will come from the expanding network of solar installations popping up around the county, as well as from The Geysers geothermal fields on the Sonoma-Lake county line and other established green energy projects.
The Water Agency has been moving steadily toward the clean energy goal since 2006 and this year expects to hit its target, a benchmark that officials celebrated on Monday.
“This is a big deal,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who gathered with local and state lawmakers at the headquarters of Santa Rosa Water, the city’s utilities department. “If we’re going to tackle this huge problem of climate change, we’re going to have to address that embedded footprint in how we manage water.”
The two largest local renewable energy sources for the Water Agency include hydroelectric power generated by Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma, which supplies more than a quarter of the agency’s needs, and a power plant that generates electricity from methane gas at the Central Landfill, accounting for about 55 percent of the agency’s needs.
The remainder of the Water Agency’s supply comes from a combination of local solar installations — the water wholesaler has installed three systems totaling more than 3,000 solar panels on county-owned property — and from sources linked to Sonoma Clean Power, the public provider, or other hydroelectric projects.
Read more via Sonoma County Water Agency hits clean energy goal | The Press Democrat.
Glenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
On the surface, Lake Mendocino appears to have plenty of water, especially when compared with the near-record low levels that turned most of the lake into a mudflat last year. But the lake’s water level already has begun a steady decline that has farmers and water officials concerned it could again shrink to near empty by the end of this fourth year of drought.
“Everybody’s watching it,” Mendocino County Farm Bureau Executive Director Devon Jones said.
Unless significant rain falls this spring, state regulators are likely to repeat last year’s unprecedented curtailment of hundreds of water rights held by farmers and others along the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and Healdsburg.
The state already has curtailed water rights to some Sacramento River tributaries and notified Russian River water users they could be next. State officials also have extended mandated water restrictions for all domestic uses in California.
“I expect they’ll be seeking curtailments again” on the upper Russian River, said Alfred White, a viticulturist and member of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District, which holds Mendocino County’s right to 8,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mendocino.
Lake Mendocino appeared headed for normal water levels following early winter storms, but then the rain tapered off, followed by the end of a regulatory effort to conserve that water.
The water level began dropping in mid-February, just after the expiration of a state-issued variance that temporarily reduced the minimum in-stream flows in the Russian River between Lake Mendocino and Healdsburg. The flows, aimed largely at preserving fish, are managed by the Sonoma County Water Agency, except when there’s a risk of flooding.
Read more via Lake Mendocino shrinking again | The Press Democrat.
Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma came out publicly on Monday night in opposition to adding fluoride to drinking water supplied by the Sonoma County Water Agency.
It was the second time in the past two weeks that council members heard from anti-fluoridation activists, dentists and residents about water fluoridation. However, they emerged this time around with a 3-2 decision to send a letter of opposition to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
“I’m a farmer,” Mayor David Cook said. “We worry about our land. We worry about the water underneath us.”
“When we’re talking about putting fluoride in the water . . .,” he added, “I would vote against that.”
Cook and council members Rachel Hundley and Gary Edwards voted in favor of sending the letter, while Laurie Gallian and Madolyn Agrimonti opposed the move.
“There’s still information out there that has yet to be released to us,” Gallian said, adding the county still is doing research on the fluoridation issue.
“This is, I feel, too soon to be sending this letter,” she said.
Read more via Sonoma opposes county plan to fluoridate water | The Press Democrat.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s new public electricity supplier is turning to the sun and water — the airspace over treated sewage ponds, specifically — to generate power for local homes and businesses.
Under a deal signed Thursday with a San Francisco-based renewable energy developer, officials with Sonoma Clean Power, now the default electricity provider in Sonoma County, unveiled a plan to install a 12.5-megawatt solar farm on floating docks atop holding ponds operated by the county Water Agency.
When completed in 2016, the project, which will provide enough electricity to power 3,000 homes, will be the largest solar installation in the county.
It also will help fulfill one of Sonoma Clean Power’s central goals — to develop local sources of renewable energy for its expanding customer base, now taking in more than 160,000 residential and commercial accounts across five cities in the county.
Before its launch last May, and through its first nine months of operation, the public venture faced pointed questions as to how quickly it would be able to spearhead local energy projects given constraints on rural land use and the comparatively higher price of power from smaller systems versus large, far-flung industrial sources.
Sonoma Clean Power officials said the planned solar installation served as a key early benchmark of progress in the agency’s rollout.
Read more via Sonoma Clean Power inks deal for floating solar | The Press Democrat.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Occidental’s embattled wastewater treatment system needs a multimillion-dollar upgrade completed within three years, and nearby grape growers are likely part of the solution.
If that plan — expected to cost $5 million to $6 million and bump up rates for the sewer district’s roughly 100 customers — doesn’t work out, the small west county community’s wastewater might be trucked out of the area for treatment, officials said.
The proposed solution, including improvements to the existing treatment plant on Occidental Road and a pipeline carrying wastewater to a vineyard on Morelli Lane, will be reviewed at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Union Hotel in Occidental.
Residents will have a chance to comment on the potential impacts of the project as part of the determination of whether it will require a full environmental impact report.
Because the proposed project would be on property already used by the system and on county roads, the county hopes to issue a “negative declaration” and avoid the time and expense of a full report, said Cordel Stillman, Sonoma County Water Agency chief deputy engineer.
Occidental’s system, one of eight operated by the Water Agency, faces a Jan. 31, 2018 state deadline to stop holding treated wastewater in a pond next to the treatment plant, used as a storage reservoir since 1977.
Read more via Grape growers could alleviate Occidental’s wastewater issues | The Press Democrat.