The Rural Alliance 2001 Fall Newsletter

Environmental issues seem irrelevant in light of the events of Sept. 11th. The smoldering ruins remind us of how close we are to oblivion. The thought of the thousands of innocents who lost their lives leaves us paralyzed and beyond the ability to comprehend why. Yet we hear a voice in the distance, faint but growing stronger, saying "Carry on."

This year marks the twenty-second anniversary of the Rural Alliance. We would like to reaffirm our mission of being environmental watchdogs for Sonoma County, to make sure the qualities of life clean water,air, and the peace of our rural life are preserved. As before, we are participating in the 2001 General Plan update. Mike Reilly has appointed excellent Fifth District representatives to the Citizens Advisory Committee. Concerns and suggestions from The Rural Alliance are in the well articulated summery of public comments received. We will continue with this important process. Please join us for our Annual Dinner and Fundraising Auction on Nov. 9th. At The Union Hotel , in Occidental. Supervisor Mike Reilly, will be our M.C.. David Katz, Executive Director of The Sonoma Land Trust will be our Auctioneer. Come ready to be with old friends again, let cares recede and bid high to support the good work of The Rural Alliance. It's always a great evening!

The upcoming race for The 4th District County Supervisorial seat (north-eastern Sonoma County) between Paul Kelley and Fred Euprat has been called a classic political confrontation between business interests and environmentalists by the Press-Democrat. We see Fred as eminently qualified for the job. He will bring expertise to the Board in water and forestry with his Ph.D. in watershed management. Plus he has experience in science, education and social issues. Fred¼s recently published book, Sonoma Mandala, is recommended reading by the Rural Alliance for like-minded environmental values.
He believes economics and environmentalism working together make good business. Visit his web-site, for more information. This election will be tremendously expensive. Join The Rural Alliance in our support of Fred Euphrat.

Another reason to support Fred is that he will bring an intelligent approach to water issues in the county. Kelley, in the name of property rights, was the only member of the Board to vote against a federally funded study of ground water resources, saying that it might lead to new regulation! Kelley evidently believes in the " Dig the deeper well" philosophy. As we watch water trucks labor up the hill on Coleman Valley Road on the way to serve homes out of water in this dry year, we shudder to think what it will be like when the drought really hits! Unless there is careful planning for such a contingency, we all will come up short.
This has been one of the worst years in memory. Ranchers say their creeks are lower than the late seventies drought. Are we entering another dry cycle?

Clearly, County land use review needs to be able to adjust for changing circumstances. The 1974 Joy Road Study stated that the carrying capacity for that area may already have been exceeded. That was nearly thirty years ago. How many wells have gone dry since then by deeper wells in the same water table competing for the same finite amount of water? How many wells in other parts of the county have gone dry because of the mega-wells put in by new vineyards? The Board of Supervisors must come to grip with this incredibly important issue. At least new guidelines need to be established, such as testing wells for twelve hours instead of the current four. This was recently determined for only three water scarce areas under study, not the entire county. The Cumulative effects of water development must be taken into account for whole watersheds, not just individual wells.
The Rural Alliance supports the determination of the true measure of a land¼s carrying capacity and any new development

The Latest on Quail Hill
In order to avoid County scrutiny, ten or eleven (another one has just been put in) wells have been sunk on the near Salmon Creek. According to the geologist, because the wells are sunk below the level of the creek, and there is an impermeable barrier between the two levels, Salmon Creek will not be affected. Many disagree. These wells are capable of pumping up to a third of a millions gallons of water a day. Each one of these wells serve a separate lot in the development, therefore no county review was required. Will Freestone Valley be another Owens Valley? Owens Valley got sucked dry for Los Angeles water. Will there be enough water for the salmon to return?

In the midst of this, the foreman of the drilling crew putting the water pipes under the creek was killed in an industrial accident, leaving a widow and six children. In the same time frame, a major equestrian facility was being constructed on the west side of Bohemian Highway, with all kind of problems such as direct horse effluent draining directly into the creek and major visual contamination of the scenic corridor by horse shelters and pens coming almost down to the highway. The owner of the facility has recently agreed to move the project further from the highway. We are thankful for that.

The Torres property has suffered vandalism, which the RA adamantly condemns. This vandalism is the reason for new, higher fencing on the lower perimeter of the property. We hope the vandalism stops.

Mirimar Torres, and Bill Phelps, owners of the new Freestone vineyards have hosted luncheons at her winery in Graton, and the Phelps vineyard on the old Sequoia Dairy property. They both invited representatives of the business and environmental communities and neighbors. The RA thanks Mirimar Torres and Bill Phelps for their graciousness and desire to improve communication within our community.

Last year, calls were made to the Road Department about the clearing of roadside ditches during the rainy months. Done in the winter, the soft exposed soil runs down the newly created flumes directly into salmonid streams, dramatically increasing sedimentation. This is against Federal Law. The rationale given was that County Crews were so busy in the warm summer months; they had to do ditch work in the winter when it's too late to re-vegetate and stabilize the easily erodible ditch banks. A possible alternative is to have a dual labor schedule so they can complete the work that needs to be done at the appropriate time.

Russian River Community Forum
Is the lower River area „blighted¾ and „urban¾, needing tax funds to make economic headway? That¼s the problem as stated by the local business owners and The Board of Supervisors.There may well be millions available to build commercial properties to attract tourist dollars and resulting tax monies for more visitor services. Minimal funding would go to affordable housing, community buildings and programs or environmental protection for the river community. These arguments were taken to court for resolution. The Judge recently ruled in favor of the Re-development project
We support the goals of The Russian River Community Forum to maintain the diverse River community, protect the eco-system and still move forward in broad based economic uplift.

Vineyard Lakes
The Rural Alliance has been following this aberration for a number of years, wondering how it happened and what to do about it. Outside of Graton and right in the middle of the Atascadero watershed, the headwaters of the Laguna, the owners of the property have created a waterski and jetski lake, two hundred feet wide and a bit less than half a mile long. Built with a grading permit, but no environmental review, the owners have bypassed any public hearings by selling "shares" in their "club," thereby saying that use of the lake was private.

It seems to us that there is plenty of local room for motor water sports on Lake Sonoma. To have a postage stamp-sized facility in the middle of a residential area, with its concurrent noise and water pollution is completely inappropriate. The RA urges the public agencies that regulate water and land use matters to close it down. There should be no compromise on this one.

Occidental Forestry and Water Protection Group/Joy Road Neighbors
The Harmony Forest and Land Co. has purchased the old Togneri property of thirteen acres on the corner of Bittner and Joy Roads, and has plans to heavily log the site and then subdivide it into three homesites. The Rural Alliance vigorously opposes both the logging and the and the subdvision of this parcel. Politically and financially we will support the neighborhood group which has been fighting the plans. Contact Carl Wahl at 874-2698 for more information.

Citizens For a Sustainable Cotati
Cotati faces a major development at the corner of Hwy 116 and Hwy 101. The land encompasses the fragile wetlands at the head of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. This is critcal habitat for the threatend tiger salamander.
Monahan-Pacific is a large developer from Marin County plans to build an office „campus¾ for the high-tech telecom industry.
This project will divide a community by freeway, add jobs but no housing, and bring traffic but no transit
Aided by Center for Biological Diversity, their community and The Rural Alliance, The Citizens for Sustainable Cotati led the fight through the planning commission, City Council and then finally in court. Grading has begun and the land has been leveled. The Citizens for a Sustainable Cotati made a valiant attempt to protect and preserve their home. We salute them.

Parks, Open Space and Hiking Trails
Good News! Thanks to a long-term effort by many Sonoma County environmentalists spearheaded by Bill Kortum of Petaluma, a full network of hiking trails, both existing and envisioned, will be included in the newly revised General Plan. This effort has also been supported by editorials and Chris Coursey¼s column in the Press Democrat. There still is considerable opposition to the trails, mostly the far eastern part of the County. Property owners there still do not understand that the trails will be acquired from willing sellers only and that there never will be condemnation of land. The acknowledgement of the role of trails remains a critical element for public recreation in the county. Called "passive parks," the trials will not require big budgets for maintenance. They are also important for renewal of the Open Space District quarter cent sales tax, which has been hugely successful in preserving vast tracts of land, and which will be coming up for vote in the next five years. In order to get it passed, there must be some public access.

Another success story is the Grove of the Old Trees, formerly the Van Alstyn Grove, which in recent memory was slated to be cut down. It is now owned by LandPaths, and is being used for education purposes, and has public access. For those of us who fought toe save the Grove, this is the realization of our fondest dream.

Also congratulations to Caryl Hart for negotiating with Mendocino Redwood Company (the Fisher family of The Gap) for public access to their lands, formerly the Louisiana Pacific Company These are some 5000 acres stretching from Coleman Valley Road almost all the way down to the Russian River. We expect to hear more good news in this regard.

Our Sonoma State scholarship recipient ($500.00) for 2001-2002 is D.J. Gerard, majoring in environmental science. The SRJC recipient, Serena Coltrane-Briscoe environmental studies major and plans to become an environmental advocate and policy maker. Both students are from Sonoma County. Congratulations and our best wishes for the future!

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