Quail Hill, Freestone (from left to right)

Casino may break the Water Bank
Well... No matter where the Casino has surfaced, water has been at the crux of the arguments.
The OWL people from Penngrove just filed to initiate recall petitions on the Board of Supervisors, aka The Sonoma County Water Agency Board.
John King has made innumerable presentations detailing the drastic change in water levels and recharge in Penngrove. Land subsidence and well failures abound. All this while Rohnert Park kept drilling deeper and deeper to satisfy development.
The Indian Casino has said they will drill deep wells near The Laguna to serve their needs.
When will there be a water budget for the county within specific watersheds? You can't take more than is recharged!
The huge amounts of impervious surfaces in such a development will only decrease groundwater rechage, increase the flood flows and diminish stream habitat.
What a problem for those who honestly wish to honor the agreement in the proposition allowing Indian Gaming.
But what happens when the good intentions cross with environmental and sound land use practices...

The Board of Supes votes the deal clinching money for The Van Alstyne Old Trees!
31. Acquisition of a conservation easement over the Van Alstyne Property is consistent with the 1989 Sonoma County General Plan and authorizing and directing the President to execute an agreement with LandPaths for the acquisition of a conservation easement over the Van Alystyne property for a total price of ($1,250,000); to execute a certificate of acceptance and to direct the preparation of escrow instructions.
Background Notes:
This property consists of 28 acres on a ridge west of Occidental on Fitzpatrick Lane. Land uses in the area include the District's Myers Ranch Conservation Easement, the Finley Creek and Enchanted Wood Conservation Easements held by Sonoma Land Trust, and resource and rural residential properties. There are gentle moderate slopes, 1080 to 1160 feet. There are great views of Tomales Bay and the Pacific.There are old growth redwood stands some of them over a thousand years old. A timber harvest plan is pending.

{Ed. note:Thanks to many individuals and organizations, but especially, The Friends of The Old Tress-- The Old Trees are now safe!}

Russian River
Community Forum

(head here for the web-site)
Local concerns need local voices heard
Rural Heritage Initiative
Support the 1989 General Plan
policy of Community-Centered Growth
Head here for more
Salmon Creek Watershed Council

Meetings at Ocean Song, 19999 Coleman Valley Rd.
3rd Sunday of the month, at 10:00 am
Head here to visit their web-site

Good News! Coming November 14th, 2003! All is well with the World again...

The Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance Dinner/Fundraising Auction is close at hand. Bid high and help get money to good neighborhood groups facing land use concerns, support opur new intern program and continue The Bob Sharp Scholarships at Sonoma State U. and The Santa Rosa J.C. Featured friends will be Brock Dolman of the Occidental Art & Ecology Center, our M.C., David Katz, auctioneer-supremo!
November 14th! Union Hotel, Occidental, $25

You too can bid on amazing auction items from antique chainsaws, fine art, fifty feet of hose, wonderful services, a bucket of worms, bric-a-brac, or whatever the spirit moves you..
This year we will again offer the Instant Library! The Rural Alliance Dinner/Auction has always been known for the wonderful fine art avaiable, now we can showcase our author friends. Bid on this package and you can immediately aquire a wonderful, personal library from our outstanding writers.
Unfetter your imagination, loosen up your suspenders and bid high to help The Rural Alliance funnel money to good groups.
But most importantly, join your friends and community for this absolutely original west county event.

November 14th, The Rural Alliance Annual Dinner/Fundraising Auction!....
6:00 pm social time, 7:00, Dinner and festivities!
Call (707) 829-3818 for reservations, or mail checks to :
The Rural Alliance, P.O. Box 983, Sebastopol. Ca. 95472
All somehow within the ancestor be-strewn Union Hotel's Bocce-Ballroom.
The Rural Alliance's Annual Dinner/Auction means another glamorous evening out for the West County's own, former Bodega Potato Queen, Salli Rasberry.
She's seen here with examples of the amazing bidding opportunities in the auction. Shown with art by Tony King, noted Plein Air painter and bon vivant, and the so very famous, Bucket of Worms, not to be confused by the "Diet of Worms".
The auction obviously will offer everything your heart may desire.
Ms. Rasberry will be available for autographs, Queenly waves, book signings and annointings.

Read our Fall 2001 Rural Alliance Newsletter on-line!
2002 is getting there.
Head here!

This way to the latest Rural Alliance Newsletter...

The photo way above is the north side of The Quail Hill property in Freestone...
It was split into estates. Many have filed Vineyard applicatons. A horse facility is being built on the lower north side near Bohemian Hwy.
The Rural Alliance began here. To preserve and protect the ecological heritage of this sweet niche. It's not the Condos, ferris wheels and bowling alleys that loomed over Freestone twenty years ago, but it will never be the peaceful, farmland we banded together to preserve. Save your photos, paintings and memories.

The Sonoma County Groundwater study is off the ground!
Well, it's about time!
The question now before the Board is how many of the five water scarce areas will they move forward to study. Another critical point is that the Santa Rosa Plain, the alluvial plain, needs hydrologic reveiw as well, so to speak.
Turns out only three, for this continuation of The Kleinfelder study. Joy Road area has been included because of the extraordinary data collected by the Occidental Water and Forestry Protection Group.
Supervisor Paul Kelley continues to keep his head firmly planted in the sand. He doesn't see that there really is a problem. And if there is, he stands four-square strqaddling the line on the property rights issue. Is it the property rights of the exisitng well being degraded by a new use, often a much deeper well, with a larger, at times, industrial pump, or does side wiht a newer, perhpas commercial well, and the water won't tip-toe back and forth across a surveyors' line in the sand. How he can maintain this demanding trick of seemingly un-bounded stupidity is a work of art.
Contact your Supervisor and let them know they need to at least get a grip on the underground hydrology before they continue the County's head-long development race. Planning is not considering the impact on adjacent parcels. the permitting process must be a discretionary measure, it must review the impacts of wells on the entire neighboring water system. The Supervisor's are scared to death of the CEQA implications of the discretionary permit. they must face the facts, just a certain as water flowing downhill, whether or not a developer or agricultural interest may find there just isn;t enough water to continue the current pace.

On Tuesday, the 29th, Petaluma voted to form sub-committee to meet with supes and arrange Agency-wide Water Contractor Forum over conservation, development and expansion issues... see below for more background.
Petaluma faces off with The Sonoma County Water Agerncy over expansion contracts. (From thge 8/28 Press-Democrat. Head here for the full story on their site- www.pressdemo.com )
Council members maintain that Randy Poole, the Sonoma County Water Agency general manager, is relentlessly pursuing a growth-oriented plan, expanding the water system that serves 500,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin counties rather than pursuing conservation efforts or reallocating existing resources.
Council members say the Water Agency's eight contractors should discuss environmental issues, including gravel mining and continued diversion of Eel River water to the Russian River, before accepting the agreement crafted by Poole.
"It is not his agency," Councilman David Keller said, describing Poole as "a bureaucrat apparently running amok."

California State Fish & Game Ordered to Facilitate Logging Staff Cite "Micro-management" by Governor's Office

Sacramento...The Gray Davis administration has deliberately obstructed the California Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) efforts to protect fish and wildlife from the impacts of timber harvests and has failed to promote needed reforms, according to a report released today by California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (California PEER). The report states that Davis' staff has ordered Fish and Game biologists to "back off" from their attempts to get industry to mitigate wildlife concerns. Biologists further contend that the state's forestry policies fail dismally at protecting California's wildlife resources.
Head here for the full report

On July 18th, the Russian River Redevelopment Plan was authorized by the Board of Supervisors.
The Russian River Community Forum engaged in a research and educational campaign to alert their neighbors of the dramatic potential of inappropriate growth throughout the 45 year lifetime the plan.
Legal action appears to be the next step for this hardworking group.
Head here to learn more from their web-site: www.freestone.com/riverforum

Well it's still summer, but the elections are pending... Work on The Rural Heritage Initiative November campaign!
Head here to their web-site to learn more

Or call for information:
AnnaLis Dalrymple 575-4218

Franci Gallegos

Franci Gallegos, a cornerstone in the Western Sonoma County Social and Environmental Activist community, passed away from lung cancer, Friday March 24th. She was a persistent and heartfelt investigative journalist and poet.
In 1991 her work of poetry, "Border Lines" was published. Here is her poem, "Passages".

I saw a wild iris unfold
once from a fetal bud
the petals stretched
as if rising from sleep
out of the sun;

white striped,
purple awakenings,
the only birth
time and again.

Franci's archieves of so many important issues for so many years has been donated to The Rural Alliance.
We hope this will be the initial step, the catalyst for others to donate documents, action plans and perhaps strategies to form an Environmental Activist Library. Why re-invent the activist wheel!.
Thanks for everything, Franci...

Illegal logging on Scout Camp Rd. in Occidental
Head here to learn more... the CYO hired Berry's Mill in Cazadero to cut under an "Emergency Logging" operation... One of the regulations violated was not to cut too close to Salmon Creek.
The CYO has a THP (Timber Harvest Plan) pending on another section of the property. There needs to be a vigilent reveiw of any plan after they trounced and over-ran regulations on steep slopes above Salmon Creek.

Occidental poised to leap into Wastewater future...
A Sonoma County Water Agency promoted pipeline to Guerneville and the River with its inhernet growth inducing ramifications, or a local leach field supplemented with Redwood Tree Evapo-Transpiration that will keep the human treated water out of the creeks and river..
The Occidental Community Services Board has the opportunity to make a good decision for the future. Local control and keeping water within it's own watershed is the proper direction.
Head here for a look at the situation...

AnnaLis Dalrymple 575-4218
Joan Vilms - 545-7572
Margaret Pennington - 829-2294

Are you concerned about the sprawl you see overtaking Sonoma County's rural environment? Given today's pressure to grow, are you afraid that Sonoma County may turn into "San Jose North"? If you answered "Yes" to either of these questions, now you have an opportunity to do something about it. Join our campaign to "push the pause button on sprawl" and preserve the rural beauty of 80% of the land in Sonoma County.

Greenbelt Alliance, the Sierra Club, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and a network of concerned citizens are working now to place the RURAL HERITAGE INITIATIVE on the November ballot. We welcome you to join our action-oriented and fun-loving group of people, who are working to preserve the quality of life in Sonoma County.
Head here for the full scoop!

Are You Concerned About Vineyard Development?
The Town Hall Coalition Meetings in September came out of The Rural Alliance Pow-Wow of many, many Western Sonoma County environmental groups. This is one way The Rural Alliance nurtures neighborhood groups that gather to address threatening land use issues.

The Town Hall topics have included: Water Rights on shared water tables, Soil Erosion/Sedimentation, Forest Conversions, Pesticides, Loss of Habitat, Quality of life issues...

The second meeting, on Sept. 30th, opened the microphone for shared experiences, concerns and ideas about what people can do to protect family, property and community from threats to public health, safety and the environment.

One role both The Rural Alliance and The Town Hall Coalition can play is helping landowners find an appropriate financial return, if needed, from their property. It can range from tax breaks from Conservation Easements to a more diverse agricultural planting with reasonable return, to organic vineyards... The intensity of the agriculture must be no more than the land and greater community can sustain.
Head here for The Town Hall Coalition web-site...

Click here to read from the "Californian's for Alternatives to Toxics" report on Sustainable Viticulture...

And in Freestone Valley...
Quail Hill... Our old friend, the little sweet valley branching off to the north-west from the larger Freestone Valley, will be changed forever quite soon. The Rural Alliance did it's best to preserve this land but economic forces became overwhelming. This too appears to be heading toward grapes, horse estates and more grapes...

The old Sequoia Dairy property on Freestone Flat Road was sold. The scion of Jos. Phelps Winery is moving quickly to plant his grapes along the golden hills north of Freestone... You can see the scars and white substances spread across the hillsides as they prepare the ground. Planting along Salmon Creek is already moving very close to completion.
Some very disturbing water pipelines have been found...
This land is not historical agricultural land for row crops... Timber conversion attempts in the near future are quite possible. Nine new parcels have been created at the end of the road for homes... There's concern about making an access through Fiori Lane.
Is this Freestone's future... Estate Homes, loaded to the gills with grapes, on Quail Hill overlooking the Napa-attack of the ever encroaching Vineyards? The estates have already been bought, at nearly $ 2 million (more or less per lot), with the intention of using much of the property for grape production.
Smitty, who worked there, came into Freestone every afternoon from the Dairy on Freestone Flat Road and was a strong quiet presense. He's gone now, but I'd hope we can maintain some of his respect for that land, that sweet road.

The Rural Response! Head here to ask questions of The Rural Alliance, post concerns about your neighborhood, raise issues that need to be addressed! Here's another tool to use.

Help The Western Watershed Alliance help Willow Creek!
The Willow Creek watershed has been abused for too long. 13 THP's have been used in recent years. The Rural Alliance is proud to have helped in this important legal stuggle. Stop this destruction of habitat! Head here to learn how you can play an important role!

The Hillside Ordinance passes... Remarks were heard, but the measure went through the consent calendar with only minimal comments by Mike Reilly on how other areas need to be addressed.
Calls were made to shelf the Ordinance until they get it right.
This was a tough loss. It was disappointing that environmentalists reached such different opinions on how to address a mutual concern. The compromise was too much. The ordinance gave the stamp of approval to unacceptable projects.

The Mother of all Vineyards-- The 10k Acre Bug
Amid all the hollering, The Anderson Valley Advertiser's Jennifer Poole has done a great job looking under the covers (
Here's her April 7th article!) . Listen to her Friday, June 4th on KSRO (1350) at 2pm with host Pat Thurston. (Here's Jennifer's take on the interview, and some transcript of what former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter said about the Vineyard conversion on a seperate show.) Behind this threat to Habitat and Watershed lies a string of paper leading to New Hampshire and the Federal Securities & Exchange Commission, revealing Corporate shenanigans we last saw with Maxxam's paper-debt takeover of Pacific Lumber.
This is the Timber to Grape conversion The Rural Alliance feared when The Draft EIR of The Kendall-Jackson/Bones La, conversion came out so skewed, so full of deceptive analysis often based on rudely false data.
Be Aware!... We need more wares.

Bohemia Ranch/Waterfall Park
is as confused as ever
Latest... Word has it, escrow is closing soon. Perhaps an estate home with Park?
The Concert/Benefit was great!
Go to Landpath's to get the show and donate needed funds.
Butler didn't make the second deadline at 5 pm before the Show!
The County had offered $2.4 million. The parties negotiated but it's took so long you knew something was up. It sold to a private party, through the former lawyer for a land preservation group for 2.8 million. The Supes are tighter than ever about the current negotiations for Open Space to come out of this with something. Stay tuned...
Congratulations to Caryl Hart, Mickey Hart, Ernie Carpenter, Mike Reilly
and all for doing the best they could working under a public microscope
The Rural Alliance has donated to the restoration costs of Bohemia Ranch.
Thank you all...

Regarding the Hwy. 12 Golf Center/Driving Range... It's open for a 30 day testing (started 8/6/99). The advertising never mentions it is only open on a test basis. The main point of contention in the General Plan is whether it's height is related to a tower, pole or steeple, or an illegal fence. Planning calls it a tower. The lights on the Driving Range cause the mesh strung between the Poles to glow at night. It brings out the obvious issue that the poles are conected with a contiguous material that screams to be defined as a fence-type structure. The 120 foot tall glowing presense has got to be addresses at the end of the test, defined as what it is, an illegal fence, and taken down. the City Council never dealt with two major problems. What criteria will be used to judge "The Test"? How do they know if it passes... Is it like Pornography? They'll know it succeeds when they see it? The second, why didn't they demand the Developer put up a bond to cover the costs of demolition if the use permit is pulled? He may leave the monstrousity standing there for the City to spend tax monies to demolish... It's amazing they are bending over backwards so far to kiss up to someone who has thumbed his nose at process. You try that with your shed.
It looks like legal action is the only way possible to defend the General Plan, Scenic Corridor and safety concerns... As constituents of the Hwy, we all need to help thwart this abomination. You guessed it... fundraisers will follow.

The Sonoma County Hillside Planting Ordinance is a washed-out mess.
Shockingly, or not, the Board passed the thing on a straw vote without having a clue what they passed. Call them up and give them hell about this lack of responsiblility!
As a straw vote, they'll return to a final vote on June 15th... Let them know how you feel about this resolution by frustration!
There is nothing in the ordinance to allow concerned citizens or watershed scientists to appeal rulings at all!... much less even to the obviously grower aligned Ag. Commissioner. There is so much of nothing in this compromise that it will slow real progress for many years. Habitat, real riparian safeguards, anything at all concerning pesticides... this is all left to slip away, the growers will say environmentalists are just pissing and moaning... didn't we give them an Ordinance?
Read and consider Kimberly Burr's strong arguement that at present, No Ordinance is better than this sham.
Head here to read The Rural Alliance letter.

(News! Kendall-Jackson decides to plant only on the exisitng land that didn't require the EIR... It's still a large apple to grape conversion, with many problems, but the actions in Occidental effected that change. Read on to watch community action...)
There was a CDF EIR Hearing 4/5 to take testimony concerning Kendall-Jackson's plans for a new vineyard on Bones Road, east of Occidental, past Harrison Grade Road.
The Rural Alliance has taken a vigorous stand against this Timber to Vineyard conversion.
Please head here to read our response to the Draft EIR!
There are serious problems with clear-cutting, watershed degradation, hillside planting and road cutting.
This was the First EIR ever in California for a Timber to Vineyard conversion. This is a precedent setting event and has wide-ranging implications for Western Sonoma County.
Over 130 people attended. Many of the presentations were rock-solid science. The figures K-J's EIR Consultants used for rainfall were blown out of the water, so to speak. One astonishing conclusion the consultants found was that contrary to common sense, land ripped apart and planted with grapes would re-charge the groundwater to a greater degree than the exisitng Redwood Forest. In response to hoots and chuckles, the consultant, who braved the crowd fairly well, said somewhat sheepishly, "It does sound counter-intuitive..."
The effects on watershed sedimentation and diversion, fragile plant life, and gross inadequacy of any monitoring of mitigation are serious and cannot be allowed to become a base-line for future development.

( News... The Vineyard appealed and was upheld by the County... The Investigators notes are being reviewed by Counsel for Environmentalists... )
Rochioli Vineyard in Healdsburg was cited for grading without a permit and apparently encroached on The Russian River riparian set-back. California River Watch Attorney Kimberly Burr says the tree cutting was about seven acres of Black Walnut. The debris pile curtrently rests in a seasonal flow-way into the river.

April 9th was the last day for comments about a Timber Harvest Plan south of Occidental off Bohemian Highway. Horizon tree cutting, watershed degradation and traffic problems need further review! We will keep you up to date on this project.

Bob Sharp, one of the founders of The Wesstern Sonoma County Rural Alliance passes on...
Bob Sharp, the Soul of West County Environmental Compassion
Bob Sharp passed through our area leaving a wide swath for the better... From the wide range of issues tackled by The Rural Alliance, to saving The Laguna, explaining explosives to a young daughter, and helping his women neighbors purchase and learn the tools and how to use them to disuade unwanted social encounters... (The Eulogies and memories of some Bob trained in firearm safety were priceless...), Bob helped those arouund him live in a better place and appreciate where they were. Here's what The Press-Democrat had to say about Bob Sharp, this wonderful Gentleman who can't be wrapped in any number of paragraphs...
Thanks, Bob.

The Rural Alliance was proud to host many representatives of other West County environmental groups to meet with Supervisor Mike Reilly. The bonus was the presense of the other 5th District Supervisors covering the last 24 years, Eric Koenigshofer and Ernie Carpenter.
The issues were as varied as the strength of feelings about the environmental threats.

  • Roads & Infrastructure
  • Vineyards & Watersheds
  • Forestry
  • Jenner Watershed & Development Threats
  • Freestone Valley
  • Wastewater and County-wide Development (Now there's one to chew on...)

    Head here for some notes on The Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance's history...

    Send a note to The Rural Alliance.

    Words about Bob Sharp!... And The Bob Sharp Environmental Studies Scholarships!
    News from the 1997 Dinner AND The Newsletter!

    Visit the Rural Attic... A hap-hazard, cluttered place to store news, events and general musings from the recent past.