Email Vesta
Blog Home Page

Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, February 17, 2011

White House Report Embraces Land Trusts

Voluntary conservation of private land received a boost yesterday when President Obama mentioned the work of land trusts in his remarks introducing the landmark America’s Great Outdoors Report at a reception in the East Room of the White House. The collective voices of land trusts, including Solano Land Trust, was reflected in the report, which proposes to extend the enhanced tax incentive for conservation easement donations beyond 2011, fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and focus a portion of LWCF on innovative projects that support urban parks, community green spaces, and large-scale land conservation.

“At a time when America’s open spaces are controlled by a patchwork of groups, from government to land trusts to private citizens, it’s clear that conservation in the 21st century is going to take more than what we can do here in Washington,” said Obama. “Meeting the new test of environmental stewardship means finding the best ideas at the grassroots level; it means helping states, communities and nonprofits protect their own resources; and it means figuring out how the federal government can be a better partner in those efforts.”

This is great news for land trusts across the country, including Solano Land Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. “The timing of this report is exceptional for Solano Land Trust,” says Executive Director Nicole Byrd. “As we celebrate our successes of the last 25 years and look forward to the future, I am thrilled that the president took our ideas into consideration, praised locally-driven conservation partnerships like ours, and endorsed the voluntary conservation incentives we need to continue our work.”

“This initiative will significantly reorient federal conservation efforts to emphasize working lands and embrace local governments and land trusts as effective partners in conserving the places that give meaning to our lives,” said Rand Wentworth, president of the Land Trust Alliance, which represents 1,700 community-based land trusts nationwide.

The report’s vision statement describes a future in which Americans participate in the shared responsibility to protect and care for our unique natural and cultural heritage for the use and enjoyment of future generations, and our working farms and ranches are conserved and restored through local partnerships.

“This vision ties directly into our goals at Solano Land Trust,” says Byrd, “and we are pleased that the president has stepped up to pledge his help in meeting them.”

The president’s 2012 budget request makes a down payment on these proposals by providing $200 million for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and $900 million for the LWCF, some of which “will be competitively awarded to address priorities and leverage resources for urban parks and public-private conservation projects.” In 2009, FRPP contributed $1.33 million to the purchase of the 489-acre Miles/Kidwell Easement between Dixon and Davis and Solano Land Trust is expecting $1.27 million from FRPP to help fund the 600-acre St. Anthony’s conservation easement near Putah Creek, which is scheduled to close this spring.

With the help of more than 100,000 volunteers and two million members, land trusts have conserved more than 37 million acres, including more than 12 million acres protected by voluntary conservation agreements with private landowners. Locally, Solano Land Trust has preserved over 20,000 acres since its inception in 1986.

Solano Land Trust is celebrating 25 years of protecting working farms and natural areas in Solano County. In that time, they have negotiated nineteen agricultural conservation easements, two habitat easements, and eight open space land purchases. Working in close partnership with landowners, farmers, state and federal agencies, cattle and sheep grazers, nonprofits, and many dedicated volunteers, Solano Land Trust will continue to protect and preserve Solano County’s farmland, ranchland, and open space well into the future. For more information go to


Read article »

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Santa Rosa Graywater Worksho[

The City of Santa Rosa is encouraging people to take advantage of Sonoma County's Graywater use laws by providing a FREE workshop. Learn the dos and don'ts of graywater use, as well as how to install your own system. March 4th & 5th.

Day One: Participants will gain an understanding of the dos and dont's of graywater use, and will have designed a system for their own yards.

Day Two: Participants will install their own systems and experienced professionals will be available for trouble-shooting advice.

INCENTIVES: Attendees receive a $75 voucher for the necessary plumbing and irrigation parts - or - be eligible for a $75 rebate upon installation of the graywater system.

Participants - come prepared with a bag lunch...leave the rest to us!

CONTACT: Water-Use Efficiency Hotline to sign up at 707-543-3985 or e-mail

March 4 & 5
8am to 7pm
Transit Operations Building
45 Stony Point Rd., Santa Rosa

Labels: , , ,

Read article »

Leaf Blower Rules for Sonoma County

New Leaf Blower Rules
Help Make Sonoma and Sebastopol Quieter and Healthier

By Shepherd Bliss
The March 1, Tuesday, regular Sebastopol City Council now has various options for a leaf blower ban on its agenda. The meeting is open to the public and comments are invited.

One of the Sonoma City Council’s first New Year’s decisions was to preserve the quietness and enhance the health of its residents by prohibiting leaf blowers to operate above 70 decibels. The average new blowers officially operate at 69 decibels. This means that Sonoma citizens can report most leaf blower activity as violating the new ordinance.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the county in Sebastopol, by September sounds above 55 decibels were prohibited, with some exceptions. These two Sonoma County towns have now joined the more than two-dozen California municipalities that have restricted blowers, including Carmel in l975, Los Angeles in l998, and various Marin County cities.

Sonoma Mayor Laurie Gallian reports that she is “actively looking at further reducing decibel levels in the noise ordinance.”

Sonoma has banned blowers on Sundays and on all city-wide holidays, plus Christmas Eve, and the days after New Years and Thanksgiving. Blowers can only be operated during certain hours on other days and cannot be used to blow debris into the streets or onto neighboring properties.

Sebastopol residents requested in 2009 that then Vice-Mayor Guy Wilson ban blowers, which he brought before the City Council. Leaf blowers have been discussed at various council meeting since then and in the media, with most people opposing them because of their documented threats to human and animal health, their rampant contamination of the air, and their noise pollution.

The multiple dangers of the blowers are obvious when one reads their manufacturers’ warnings and recommendations for the protection needed to eyes, ears, the head, feet, and with appropriate clothing. Yet even with all that protection, the blowers’ primary victims are their users. Unprotected by-standers are also at risk.

Former Sonoma Councilmember Larry Barnett, now a columnist for the “Sonoma Valley Sun,” writes the following: “It is long past overdue that these devices of a gas-wasting era were retired.” He points to alternatives—“the humble rake” and “the venerable broom.” Barnett describes leaves as being in “the nature of living with trees.” Some treat leaves as mere nuisances to be blown away. I gather hundreds of bags of leaves every year to serve as life-giving mulch on my small farm.

“A landscape not allowed to nourish itself through natural decomposition,” a landscaper observed, “will grow ever dependent on chemical fertilizers and increasing amounts of water. A leaf blower is not a substitute for a rake … a broom is appropriate for ‘noise sensitive’ areas like hospitals.” He contends that the issue is the improper misuse of the blowers, which do “not always need to be operated at ‘full throttle’ to be effective.”

“I hate leaf blowers,” former Sonoma resident Daedalus Howell commented. “No object exemplifies the worst of civilization (more) than blowers. They seem harmless until one considers all the noise and air pollution and the use of fossil fuels. The blower proves useful only as an instrument of amplifying our ability to waste and ruin. The leaf blower began its repugnant life as an agricultural chemical sprayer.”

The No Blow Movement is growing in the North Bay, Northern California, and beyond. An Internet search for leaf blower bans reveals that a growing number of cities have banned them or are considering banning them. Sonoma County towns would be wise to join this growing movement sooner rather than later.

Among the websites with information are Zero Air Pollution at and the Quiet Orinda group at

Sebastopol resident Jonathan Greenberg has also created a video blog at Videos there contain health facts, and/or show how these machines are over-used and mis-used.

People do not have the right to blow cigarette smoke in our faces nor loud noises into our ears, nor toxic particles into our lungs, all of which damage our health.

Shepherd Bliss teaches at Sonoma State University, has operated a small farm outside Sebastopol since l992, and can be reached at

Labels: , ,

Read article »

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Many Ways to Love

Our annual LOVE issue is one of my favorites of the year. I’m in love with love and all its ramifications. I have a fervent belief that if we all treated each other the way we wish to be treated, our world would be just fine. Yes, I know it’s totally unrealistic in its simplicity. It seems so simple, and yet, so very complicated when anger rises in our chest, indignation…any number of emotions that take us away from a centered place.

Love is not just romantic love of course. And kindness goes hand-in-hand with consideration, and even that is not simple. Consideration involves thinking ahead to the consequences of our actions. If we do this…then that will happen. And another one…if we don’t do this, than that won’t happen.

A simple example of the last one is part of why I have articles on financial planning in this love issue. I know of two young families who lost a parent recently. One to illness, the other to an accident. These parents did not have life insurance. This left the other parent financially alone to continue raising their children.

People claim they don’t have enough money to cover this expense, but literally, less than $20 a month would have saved the surviving parent the stress of carrying on solo. We can throw away $20 in an afternoon, or on treats we don’t need. How different these peoples lives would be if that one expense had been met.

On the same financial planning subject, we have parents planning for their demise - again for their children. No one gets out of this alive! Last month we had an article written by Robert Feuer on how he realized that he needed to take care of his aging parents. You have no idea how many people this happens to - suddenly - without warning. Aging, parents are fine then all of a sudden they are not. The task of loving care falls on the next generation. Pre-planning makes that so much easier on everyone.

So along with the joys of romantic love, we have family love, friendship...and pet love. It’s what makes our hearts swell with warmth...even a sunrise or sunset - whatever!

The up-side of life wraps itself around our hearts in the most wonderful way. Wouldn’t it be perfect if life was all happiness and joy? Well - maybe. If you believe in the yin/yang balance of everything in the Universe, you know that love balances hate, joy balances anger, peace balances war, good balances bad. So in the’s ALL good. Life is designed to balance.

OK....enough of all that - happy love Day/Month/Year & Life! ~ Vesta

How to Make
Love Last

‘Til Death Do Us Part

By Vesta Copestakes
I’m going to get real personal here because I think I’ve discovered something truly remarkable...lasting love. See that picture?

That’s my sweetheart Alan and me, taken without a moment of preparation so it’s as real as it gets. Dani-Sheehan-Meyer captured the very essence of our happiness with each other. Total comfort. We’re home.

I was talking with my sister-in-law, Sharon, about how happy I am with Alan - how very home I feel. She lamented that she had felt exactly the same way until my brother was killed almost four years ago. She was home. Wherever she was with Dave, was home. It’s one of the ways to define love - do you feel safe? Relaxed? Totally at-ease and accepted for who you are? Then you are with the right person. That’s home.

Many years ago I interviewed a couple who had been together for more than 70 years. They looked genuinely happy with each other. Not just happy - but happy to be sharing life together. They told me what defined why it worked so well for them.

- it’s the spark that starts many love affairs, and also the one that holds love together when stress, tension, anger, etc. get in the way. The desire to be close melts barriers when they rise between lovers.

Similar Values - you both look at life through the same colored lenses - value the same people, things, ways of being and interacting with the world. When you assess a situation you tend to come to the same conclusion whether you have discussed it with your mate or not.

- whether it’s religion or a philosophy of life, you both approach faith in a similar fashion. It doesn’t mean you have to go to the same church, or both be Christian, or Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. It does mean that whatever faith is the language you speak, you share belief or dis-belief in a similar way.

- no one is perfect in every way, so couples who share life successfully tend to be very patient and tolerant of their sweetheart. No differences of opinion, different ways of doing things, etc., are so important that they get in the way of loving. You thrive on your differences as much as you do on your similarities.

What was remarkable about the elderly couple I interviewed, is that they had met and married within two weeks when they were very young. For most of us, romance is more a series of relationships until we define who we are as an individual, and what works and doesn’t work for us as a couple. For Alan and I, we didn’t find this lovely balance until we were 52. Lucky us that we found each other at all.

Last February, I wrote about The Rule of Two & a Half Years that defined how long it takes for most people to come to the conclusion that they either do - or do not - belong together. Once you cross that line and feel confident you can relax into love, the rewards are spectacular. That’s happiness you can wrap your arms around.

The most rewarding aspect of what I call “mature love,” is that when we get older, we aren’t in such a rush. Our expectations have been tempered by time, and yes, disappointment. How fortunate are the few who find this kind of love when they are young. If it survives raising a family with all the stress that entails, then they are the blessed few.

Any person who knows the profound joy of sharing life with someone they love, knows exactly what I’m writing about. And as Sharon knows - the cliche “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” is very real and true.

The Hidden Power of Friendships
by Melissa Smith Baker

I’ve often wondered why we choose the friends we do. We pick friends for the joy and comfort they bring us; but if we’re willing to get close, they might also help us with the unresolved emotional issues that we’re still carrying from the families in which we were raised.

I had never thought of this possibility until I was caring for a friend who was dying of cancer. Every time I visited her, unexpected revelations arose. As I witnessed my friend Betty’s process, I realized how much she and her husband, Pete, reminded me of my own parents. There were striking parallels between the two relationships. Each couple shared similar marital issues, yet they handled the death of their spouse completely differently. Betty and Pete, unbeknownst to them, became a catalyst in helping me heal part of my past.

When my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, my father couldn’t accept her illness and the likelihood of her death. He banned family and friends from visiting her. After a few months he was emotionally incapable of caring for his wife whom he’d been married to for over 40 years. To get better care and find peace, my mother decided to leave her home and go die at the home of a best friend.

As with my parents, Betty and Pete didn’t share many interests as the years went by, and their marriage had become constrained and unsatisfying. What was contrary to my parents’ scenario was the fact that as soon as Pete heard that Betty had ovarian cancer, he rallied to serve her. He helped her set up a community of caregivers, took her for drives out to the coast, and redecorated their home so that everything would be peaceful for her healing. Was Pete making amends and acting out of guilt? Perhaps in part, but if he hadn’t tapped into his love for Betty, he wouldn’t have been able to be steadfast and resolute for so many months on end. The situation in the lives of both of these couples cried out for action, bringing out the best in Pete and the worst in my father.

Poignantly I watched as Pete did what my father hadn’t been able to do; namely, care for my mother and show his love during the final year of her life. Betty expressed and asked for what she needed and wanted, and in turn got to witness and receive her husband’s heroism. They hadn’t always been there for each other during their long-term marriage; yet, during this crisis while Betty became empowered, Pete gathered his strength to redeem himself.

Witnessing the transformation of a husband and a wife in a real-life situation—not in a novel, play or film—I felt as though the ending of my parents’ story was being rewritten, too. Even though the marital dynamic of these two couples was almost identical, replete with infidelity and addiction, Pete and Betty succeeded where my parents had failed.

The final days of my parents' relationship could have been a heroic moment. One of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is a model of their growing, thriving marriage. That was not my parents’ legacy to me. Betty and Pete's exemplary behavior helped me see that my parents weren't a tragic and pathetic couple since they were struggling with marital trials and tribulations that take place in many long-term relationships. I no longer was ashamed of their inability to resolve their problems. I could “rewrite” their final chapter and integrate the best of who my parents were instead of the worst.

Whether or not a loved one is dead or alive, it’s never too late to untie the knots that bind us to our past, even though it’s often not possible to untangle them within our own birth families. When I had gotten to know and love Betty and Pete, sometimes I had judged them for their all-too-visible problems, not conscious that those very issues were ones that I had been familiar with as a child. I am grateful to Betty and Pete for inviting me into their lives and exemplifying what my parents might have become.

If Betty’s dying had been a play, it couldn’t have been more perfectly scripted for me. It moved me to discover compassion for my parents’ humanness and to step more fully into my adulthood. I honor friends as much as family these days and am being more careful about criticizing them, knowing that their painful issues might very well be the keys to the unraveling and healing of my own past.

A Lesson in Loving

By Joy Lovinger
My father died in 1994. My mother had been his caregiver and it was a very prolonged, painful death. Mom was on her own after that, after 52 years of marriage. I wasn’t worried about her – she had lots of friends and was a very social person. I talked to her daily, even though she lived in Florida and I lived in California. Just a “hey, how are you, I’m thinking of you and I love you” kind of call.

Then one day in 2000 I called her and she sounded different. When I asked what was wrong, she said “potato” and kept repeating the word. I called a neighbor and he went over and was told by my mom that her best friend tried to poison her by sticking something sharp in a baked potato. Turned out the bridge in her mouth had broken and the wire was loose and exposed. I flew to Florida and saw that her apartment was in disarray. There was food in the freezer dated 1991; drawers were filled with receipts from Publishers Clearing House, money and jewelry was stuffed in pockets of bathrobes. I had no clue what was wrong – I only knew something wasn’t right. I quickly made plans to move her to California and found her what I thought was the perfect living situation. After about 6 months, it was clear she wasn’t functioning well – she couldn’t dress herself, take her medications or even shower. Cold cereal ended up in the fridge and milk in the pantry. I took her to the doctor who diagnosed Alzheimers disease.

At this point, Mom had run out of money and I was at my wit’s end. I brought her home to live with me and spent the next couple of years going through my savings taking care of her. I know now that much of what I did early on, even though it was done with the best of intentions, was not right. In frustration I argued with her about small details that, in the big scheme of things, really didn’t matter. When asked where my father or some relative was, I told her they had died. I acted like a disciplinarian instead of loving caretaker. I was taking away her dignity and independence. It often felt like a duty rather than a labor of love and I am still fighting with the guilt.

When Mom finally broke her hip, the hospital discharged her to an excellent skilled nursing facility where she remained for the rest of her life. She lost her speech and still did inappropriate things but she was almost always smiling and safe.
You hear all these stories about Alzheimers and it is a horrible, horrible disease. But there are lots of moments of joy that people don’t talk about. Like the almost childish delight I gave my mother when I gave her a dish of ice cream; or the giggling fit she had when I gave her a talking donkey stuffed animal; like the way she held and kissed my foot when I leaned back and rested it on her wheelchair; like the way she laughed when Brian, my partner, hid from her and made strange sounds and the determined way she set about trying to find him.

At the time it was hard for me to see what a gift I had been given. I was so caught up in her physical demands and so tired all the time that I often forgot to enjoy my time with her. I realize now that I had given her a couple of great years while she was still cognizant enough to enjoy them. And I learned patience, understanding and what unconditional love is all about. It may have been the toughest experience in my life but it was an invaluable experience and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Protect the Ones You Love
By Ute Scott-Smith, CHFC
Last month we focused on general steps to shape up your finances. This month we will address one of the most important ways you can protect your loved ones.
Building a strong financial future is very much like building a pyramid. The most critical part of a pyramid is the foundation and the foundation of your financial pyramid is an emergency fund that can cover 3-6 months of living expenses and insurance protection in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

As an individual you need Health, Auto and Homeowner’s insurance. More difficult to determine is the need for Disability, Renter’s, Umbrella and Long-Term Care insurance.

If anyone else’s financial security is dependent upon your income, such as a spouse, partner, child or dependent parents, you will also need to consider obtaining life insurance.

You need to buy insurance wisely: the right kind…the right amount…at the right time…at the best price.

Not sure if you need insurance?
Let me tell you the story of friends of mine. He was a well compensated bank manager and she gave up her job as a producer for a T.V. network when the first of their two sons was born. They did not own life insurance and his sudden death dramatically changed her life. She could no longer afford the mortgage, had to sell the house and move to a different town near her parents so they could watch her two young sons after school while she worked all day at a low-paying office job. Those kids not only lost their father, but their home, school and friends in one fell swoop. Now imagine if she had received a life insurance benefit that was sufficient for her to keep the house, enable her to get job training and thereby obtain a well paying part-time job while also taking care of her sons?

What kind of Life Insurance is right for you?
When you seek to protect your loved ones from the loss of your income during your working years, the best option is inexpensive term life insurance with a guaranteed level cost for a specific number of years. This is pure insurance without any savings component and by far the least expensive option.

If you will need cash at your death to pay high estate taxes or provide liquidity because funds are tied up in a business or real estate, then buy permanent insurance such as whole or universal life. Permanent insurance also has a savings component in addition to the insurance.

What is the right amount of term life insurance?
A very simple general rule is to buy 15 times your income when you are the main breadwinner; 10 times if you have two income earners. You also need to account for a mortgage, business ownership, desire to fund a child’s college education and more. Each situation deserves a special calculation and a good advisor will sit down with her clients and discuss your assets, liabilities and goals to determine the appropriate amount.

Once you have sufficient assets or children are grown, insurance may no longer be necessary and coverage can be adjusted or discontinued.

What is the right time to buy insurance?
If you think you should have insurance, the right time is now!
As part of the application process for insurance coverage, the insurance carrier will review your medical records, test cholesterol, blood pressure and weight to determine if you qualify for the best rates. It is always best to apply while you are healthy.

Dear Readers: Do you have a financial question in mind? Ute Scott-Smith, ChFC, of The Social Equity Group, is an independent, fee-based investment advisor specializing in socially responsible investment management and financial planning. Ute lives in Graton and maintains her office in Sebastopol. Please contact her at (707) 495-7084, email or through her website

Love your Family, Start Planning Now

By Carolyn Kelly
How many times have you thought, “What will happen to my family and my property when I die, or become incapacitated?”

If you’re like most people, you don’t think about it often because the subject is so unpleasant and you suspect that “putting your affairs in order” will involve time and money you don’t have right now. You also might have heard that estate planning is only for millionaires. You are inclined to put the whole subject on the back burner until something happens that makes you think about it, such as a trip to a foreign country, your son marries a girl you’re not crazy about, or, you have a serious illness.

The problem is, none of us know when one of the big D’s - death or disability - will strike. Either could happen before we are prodded into action, and then it will be too late.

But do you really need to plan for your estate?

Yes. Everyone has an “estate” and should have an estate plan. An estate is everything you own and have the right to dispose of at your death.

If you don’t set up a plan, your family will be forced into court upon your death or disability. The court will offer up a default plan (per statute) which may be quite different from the plan you have in mind.

Plus, the court process allows many of your relatives (and occasionally other interested parties) to have a say in what they think is best. Is that what you want?

I’ve participated in a number of contested conservatorship cases (where the court appoints a person to manage the affairs of another person unable to care for themselves or their finances). One case involved brothers fighting over the care and custody of their aging father. The trial costs for just one of the brothers was $85,000, payable from the father’s estate. Then the appeals began.

Similarly, dying without a Will in place (or other testamentary disposition, such as a Revocable Trust) can cause trouble. The “intestate” distribution of your estate through the court will be fairly straightforward, but ancient tensions may cause family members to fight over other matters to be decided during the proceeding.

You can avoid this whole mess
A properly executed Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive would have avoided the conservatorship case mentioned above. A properly executed Will (or Revocable Trust with a “pour-over” Will) can avoid unneeded court intervention altogether.

What you need to do

(1) Prepare a Power of Attorney ( a statutory form is found at Probate Code §4401). This document authorizes another person to manage your finances for you if you become incapacitated.
(2) Prepare an Advance Health Care Directive (a statutory form is found at Probate Code §4701). This document authorizes another person to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated, including who will “pull the plug” for you and when.
(3) Prepare a Will. A Will directs who gets your assets at your death except for those assets which pass outside your Will, by law, by some other means, such as life insurance, retirement accounts, or joint ownership of some kind.
(4) Or, consider creating a Revocable Trust (with a pour-over Will, designed to “pour” assets into the Trust at your death, if necessary). A Trust is an entity which holds your assets for life (except certain assets, referred to above), sets out how to manage them if you are incapacitated, and directs how to distribute them at your death. The key is to get, and keep, all possible assets transferred into the Trust so there is no need for a probate of the Will at your death.

A Will requires a public probate which can be costly and slow, but is safe because the court is involved. A Trust is private and provides for faster distribution of assets, but is less safe and may be more costly in the long run if the Trust is mismanaged.

So let’s get started
The hardest part is collecting all your asset information. Contact me at or 829-1471 and I will send you a simple questionnaire to complete and take to your attorney, or, if you don’t have an attorney, you can always contact me.
You love your family and want to leave them happy memories of you, not headaches. Give them a Valentine’s Day present they’ll never forget; a properly prepared estate plan. Happy planning!

Labels: , ,

Read article »

Jenner Estuary Management Project EIR

Is this the RIGHT Plan?

With all the best of intentions, Sonoma County is setting a plan in place to save fish and water. Our January issue educated readers on the Russian River Estuary Management Project, encouraging Sonoma County residents to learn why this plan was developed, and asking readers to submit comments on the Environmental Impact Report that has now been published.

With the deadline for comments upon us, the following series of articles have been submitted by readers who want to keep this conversation going. If you missed last issue, please read the two articles on our web site - - (Jenner Estuary Project and article above) January edition, and the articles that follow.

Like all projects intended to save our environment, there are pluses and minuses to each attempt we make to correct past mistakes that have altered nature’s intent at the will of humans.

There is always much to learn and details far beyond common understanding. Yet paying attention to our impact on creatures that have no say in what we do, is how we respect all life - for them as well as for us.

The most important aspect of your participation in this process, is that your opinions are valued by the people who make the decision and do the necessary work. It’s not just a gesture that these scientists are asking for feedback. They can’t be all places at all times, and like all human beings, they need other eyes and perspectives to weigh in on the decisions they make.

Your educated opinion is important - please take the time to learn - form your own thoughts, and submit comments before February 14th.

Naturalize the River Mouth

By Larry Hanson
There are four main factors that make the process unnatural and unmanageable for the Russian River mouth and estuary. One is the partially buried structure that creates a barrier preventing fully dynamic action from a natural river mouth. The second is the low-lying property structures that restrict the depth of the estuary due to their possible flooding. The third is the amount of river flow that is mechanically controlled from Coyote and Warm Springs dams. But the fourth one is the most damaging, and that is the mechanical channeling of the river to the ocean whenever the structures might be flooded.

Putting machinery at the mouth and artificially channelizing that harasses and disrupts wildlife has to be stopped completely and forever. That is the highest priority. To naturalize the processes of the river mouth, the artificial barrier that prevents a wide, malleable beach needs to be removed. Also, the structures that impede the depth of the estuary need to be raised or removed.

Once the Russian River mouth is naturalized, there is still the factor of flow manipulation from the dams’ releases. Instead of the proposed low flows for the lower river area that could impact water quality and river recreation and economy, the flows could more appropriately be higher. In the upper river, flows could still be maintained low enough to protect fish.

If the above were done, here are the benefits: The wildlife will not be harassed several times a year. The mouth will behave as many of our other coastal river mouths, providing the age-old natural estuary development for all wildlife, including salmonids. Flooding of properties near the waterline will not be a constant issue, although the amount of flow will still be somewhat controlled by dam operators. The lower river will have adequate flows to maintain the river health, economic and recreational viability of the community.

If developing salmonids is the focus, the water agency will want to naturalize the process at the river mouth as well as protecting salmonid habitats in the upper main stem reaches and tributaries.

Larry Hanson has been active in numerous environmental organizations in Sonoma County.

Closing the River Mouth is not Healthy 
for Seals & Other Living Things

By Norma Jellison
From the overlook on Route 1 just north of Jenner, Goat Rock State Beach stretches away south, between the river estuary to the east and the broad expanse of ocean to the west. From here you might see hundreds of harbor seals and resting birds at the north end of the beach where the river and the ocean touch. The river-ocean interface of the Russian River Estuary is an incredibly rich and complex environment.

For 34 years, harbor seals have hauled out on the spits of Goat Rock State Beach, finding a satisfactory place for pupping in the Spring. Goat Rock State Beach is also important for local and migratory birds, including gulls, terns, cormorants and pelicans.

Data collected over the years shows that when the river mouth is artificially closed by the sandbar, the harbor seal numbers decrease substantially. When the mouth is mechanically breached, once the disruption is over, the seals return.

The low-profile spit habitat along the river near the mouth provides the seals with easy access to the river and also to the ocean for surfing or swimming and feeding. Mother seals take their newborn pups immediately into the river, and later for pup swimming lessons, and in general for occasional swims when the seals are active during their daytime haulout period. Harbor seals are nocturnal, feeding at night in the deep, cold ocean waters.

Lowered flows are integral to the success of the proposed lagoon, with no breaching of the sandbar and creation of the outlet channel. Not only will recontouring and building up of the profile of the barrier beach make river and ocean access more difficult for the harbor seals, but the prolonged closures will allow more people to walk down the beach and disrupt the colony.

The Estuary also provides important habitat for a number of fish in addition to salmonids, such as flounder and sculpin, as well as for juvenile Dungeness crab and other invertebrates supporting the many birds that feed in the estuary and the ocean off the mouth: ospreys, diving ducks, and pelagic birds, including the terns, pelicans, cormorants and gulls. Among other unpredictable effects is the enhanced condition for predation on juvenile salmonids collecting in the lagoon by osprey, river otters and other predators.

There are serious concerns about concentrated pollutants in a lowered closed lagoon, with unknown long-term effects on the salmonids the project is intended to protect, as well as the myriad other species living in and feeding at the estuary, including human families playing and swimming there.

Experimenting with a closed Estuary at the mouth of the Russian River to see if it helps salmonids may have significant collateral damage to water quality and ecosystem integrity of an irrevocable and irreversible nature. Too much is at stake for all of the species that call the Estuary home, pass through, visit it and use it as their gateway to the ocean. And yet here we are poised to begin the experiment.

Surfers Wade into 
Jenner Estuary Controversy

By Spencer Nilson and Caroline Higgins
The Sonoma Coast Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has determined that the mouth of the Russian River is a high quality surfing location and is legally protected under the California Coastal Act.

Protection for Surfing Conditions
The quality and availability of waves at the river’s mouth, and Goat Rock to the south, largely depends on the influx of new sand and gravel.

Surfrider strongly believes that the Sonoma County Water Agency’s (SCWA) Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for their Russian River Estuary Management Plan fails to adequately address negative effects on surfing activities. The DEIR admits that implementing the proposed outlet channel (to control estuary water releases to maintain a closed lagoon for steelhead habitat) will cause surfing activities to occur less frequently. No feasible mitigation measures are identified.

“The proposed project would likely reduce the occurrence of open channel tidal conditions conducive to surfing activities …. This potential impact may be inconsistent with the California Coastal Act.” (Impact 4.7.2: Eliminate or Modify an Existing Recreational Resource).

Low Cost Visitor and Recreational Activities

Surfing locations are a prime example of low cost visitor and recreational opportunities.

“Lower cost visitor and recreational facilities shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided. Developments providing public recreational opportunities are preferred.” (Section 30213).

And in Section 30220 we find: “Coastal areas suited for water-oriented recreational activities that cannot readily be provided it inland water areas shall be protected for such uses.”

Surfing in Sonoma County can obviously only be practiced in the ocean. The Surfrider organization and supporters are strongly protective of the few high quality surfing locations on the Sonoma Coast, including at Goat Rock State Beach

Estuary Project Comments Due 
February 14 @ 5pm!

The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) has published a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the proposed project to manage the mouth of the Russian River by artificially closing the mouth from May to October to protect young steelhead, and maintaining a low flow to prevent local flooding by breaching the barrier “as necessary” for the rest of the year.

The DEIR is available online at Hard copies or electronic copies of the Draft EIR are available for purchase at or at the Water Agency’s administrative office, 404 Aviation Blvd in Santa Rosa. Copies can be reviewed at the Sonoma County Water Agency Administrative Office, the Sonoma County Central Library at 3rd and E streets in Santa Rosa, Guerneville Regional Library, and Occidental Library.

Estuary Project Meeting
We have reserved the Russian River Senior Center for Thursday, Feb. 10th  at 6 pm. Please come if you have questions, and we will be glad to review your letters for accuracy at that time. Russian River Senior Center, Armstrong Woods Road, 15010 Armstrong Woods Rd, Guerneville RSVP:

Please send your comments to: Sonoma County Water Agency, Attention Jessica Martini-Lamb, 404 Aviation Boulevard, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 or

For the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee’s comments, and a sample letter, see their website at

Labels: ,

Read article »

Dutra Asphalt Plant Challenged in Lawsuit

Just Plain WRONG
By Friends of Shollenberger

Frustrated and Disappointed by Supervisors’ Approval
The City of Petaluma and a large coalition of citizen groups and individuals have filed a lawsuit challenging the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors' flawed approval on December 14, 2010, of the Dutra Haystack Landing Asphalt and Recycling Plant. The Plaintiffs maintain that the Dutra Asphalt Plant would blight the gateway to Sonoma County and Petaluma, harm the health of residents, businesses and visitors, and negatively impact the development of our local and regional economy. The factory would injure and discourage birds, fish and wildlife which use the Petaluma River and Marsh. Plaintiffs also assert that the Dutra factory operations would also destroy the peace, beauty and appeal of the very popular and adjacent Shollenberger Park.

After actively participating in the County's review and approvals process over the past three years, the City of Petaluma, community organizations including the Petaluma River Council, Friends of Shollenberger Park, Madrone Audubon Society and Petaluma Tomorrow, along with thousands of individual citizens, are frustrated and disappointed that this project has been approved. The Plaintiffs have exhausted all other remedies with the County, and are now seeking judicial review of the approvals process and the impacts of the project itself.

The County failed to properly apply the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the county's General Plan, and land use law to identify the impacts caused by the project, to find alternatives that were less harmful, and to mitigate damages that were not otherwise avoidable, as required by the law. The County failed to properly produce the CEQA-required single, clear, comprehensive and comprehensible Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the entirety of the project.

Multiple Errors and Omissions
• a patchwork of disorganized addenda and conclusions inadequately describing an ever-changing project without supporting analysis;

• erroneous and misleading mapping of the River's navigable waterway and high-pressure PG&E gas transmission pipelines located under Dutra's riverfront parcel;

• unmitigated traffic congestion and diesel exhaust air pollution from over 145,000 truck trips per year;

• failure to accurately and adequately address significant loud noise, odors, toxic and noxious emissions of gases and dusts from the asphalt manufacturing operations;

• the assertion that the project is "river-dependent," when in fact it does not include any barge and tug transport and unloading of rock, gravel and sand at Dutra's properties. The project thus does not qualify for zoning and land use changes, and could be located on a less environmentally-sensitive site.

• the County ignored the fact that sufficient, unused asphalt manufacturing capacity to serve the North Bay region's needs already exists without Dutra's factory, as stated in the Draft EIR.

• the County failed to find any agreement by Shamrock Materials to make their adjacent property and barge landing facilities available to Dutra for receiving, unloading and transporting some 500,000 tons of sand and gravel components for asphalt production. Shamrock, as an integral component of the approved Dutra project, underwent no environmental review, even though the county has required destruction of .48 acre of wetlands on Shamrock's property to construct a conveyor belt to Dutra's site.

• the County failed to honor and abide by the November 1998 Sonoma County voters' decision to protect the Dairy Belt Scenic Corridor against intensification and industrialization of agricultural and commercial lands. This voter-protected Scenic Corridor, in an area paralleling Highway 101 from the Marin County line to the southern edge of Petaluma, includes the Dutra parcels. Instead, the County dismissed the voters' mandate and changed the land use and zoning to give Dutra the industrial designations that they wanted, without seeking the voter approvals required for that change.

100 Years of Abuse, 40 Years of Restoration
After some 100 years of abuse, filling, diking, development and destruction, the tidal wetlands of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, along with their important tributaries such as the Petaluma River and Marsh, have been undergoing revitalization, renewal, restoration and preservation during the past 40 years.

These tidal wetlands and rivers are essential to our region for fish and wildlife, water quality, recreation, commerce and flood management, and are the foundation of our regions' attractiveness and wealth. Millions of public and private dollars have been invested in the restoration and preservation of the upper Petaluma River and Marsh, including the city-owned Shollenberger Park, Alman Marsh, and the Ellis Creek Water Recycling facility with their popular trails, vistas and wildlife. Building and operating the Dutra asphalt manufacturing factory in the midst of these publicly-owned natural resources would destroy the work done by thousands of people and businesses, striving to return the river gateway for Petaluma and Sonoma County to its vibrant and productive identity.

Brown Act Violations
The County further compounded the erroneous and inadequate project review under CEQA by committing serious Brown Act and procedural violations. The Board of Supervisors denied the public its right to comment on over 100 pages of critical new information released just hours prior to the final meeting. These documents were released without proper notice and distribution to public and agencies which had requested notification. No one from the public, including Petaluma's elected officials, were allowed to comment on the new information prior to the Supervisors vote to approve the project.

The Supervisors also did not properly introduce and approve the two resolutions and ordinance approving the project and the environmental report and changing the land use designations for the site. "We are proud of the important work done by residents, businesses and organizations in Petaluma to protect our community's values, well-being and economy. The City of Petaluma unanimously joins with them to defend and protect our city and the gifts that surround us," said Petaluma Mayor David Glass.

To keep in touch with the progress of this campaign - please visit:

Labels: , ,

Read article »

Plastic is Drastic: Part Two

By “Bug” Deakin
From the diary of the children of the Law Firm: 
Spinner, Bottlenose and Dolphin . . .
Hi humans, this is Spinnerita. I am the great, great, great grand daughter of the master spinner who told us the story of the waters of the Great Currents that were before your time. Currently in the middle of this concurrent current is a cacophony of plastic! We use sonar to find things, and the echoes in the Gyre are deafening! You should listen to us, we have been here over 10 million years, and you have been here only 3.5 million years. We are your elders! There are 11 million species on this planet and one species has made more garbage than all the rest of us combined.

When we are very little we learn to swim in the plastic swimming pool that is much bigger than the one you had in your back yard. Our swimming pool takes us about a month to swim around, of course that is, if we do not stop to play. If you have ever watched dolphins you know that not playing is not something we do well.

Let’s talk Gyre.
Your contributions to it are amazingly diverse. Have you ever kept track of how much plastic you use every day? My parents have been hired to get your parents, apparently, to take your Drastic Plastic Back. That is to say, we want you to take back all your plastic that is floating in the Big Eddy. We all like to play with Eddy. You call him a Gyre. We swim a lot. We can even swim up to 2500 miles in a month. That means we could swim around the world in less than a year, except for the big fat continent islands where you guys make all your plastic swimming pools. Newspaper stories have deadlines, our deadlines are the ones starting to form when we eat too much plastic fish, and when our friends the birds feed plastic to their young ones . . . which is the point of this article. (Why do they call it an article when it is mostly words? These are wordicles aren’t they? The articles should be the ones where you have all the pretty pictures! )

A good place to start

Why don’t you guys save all your plastic in big hills on your continent island places? You seem to like climbing mountains and the clouds like hanging around them, and if you make them high enough it will snow on them, and then you could surf on the snow! We really want you to take your PLASTIC back, cause it is DRASTIC! I think you might have a hard time taking it back, because there is so much of it and it is mostly little tiny bits. Maybe a good place to start would be to not dump any more in the ocean to start with! Starting at the start is a good place to start! So listen to the people with the good ideas of how to avoid plastic. Drink the good water out of your tap. Put it in a shiny stainless steel water bottle. Here are the words to our anthem, written by Sebastian Nau. We call him Sea Bass. Maybe he’s related! We like this song a lot. We are calling for you!

Far off the ocean’s shore
There's an island that's no man’s home
It's not a city but we all should know
Where it is ‘cuz it's bound to grow
Unless we make something happen.
It's time to make things right,
Save this world in which we live
One step at a time.

We all can make a difference,
Retire the gyres in our lives
We're not the victims,
We're the perpetrators of this crime
Unless we make something happen.
It's time to make things right,
Save the world in which we live
One step at a time.

I know and you should too
We're calling,, calling for you
We still have every piece man made.
Plastic is drastic ,make no mistake
We can't bring back the lives it takes.

It don't go away
I know and you should too
We're calling, calling for you.

Update on Plastic is Drastic Campaign
As we have written before, we are shepherding a campaign with KRSH Radio 95.9, Heritage Salvage and our good pal Vesta at the Gazette here. We will be choosing 3 families to participate in a 3-week test; we still have families signing up to be chosen . Please see the previous article for details, or go to . So far, Montgomery High School’s Green Team and Sonoma Day School will make art from the plastic collected by the participating families. We are looking for one more school to get involved. Heritage Salvage will come by and pick up the plastic from the families each week, then deliver it to each school. They will have 3 weeks to make an art piece. We will showcase them at the CD release party with Hillside Fire, Heritage Salvage, the Gazette and KRSH 95.9 Radio! We will publish the families next month, stay tuned! The most comprehensive read on this whole series is on the Gazette Website at

Love your Planet!
Heritage Salvage, 1473 Petaluma Blvd So., Petaluma, Ca 94952, (707) 762-6277 "Practicing sustainable enthusiasm"

Labels: ,

Read article »

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wine & Valentine’s in Sonoma County

How about making the whole weekend a Valentine’s Day weekend and celebrate in Sonoma Wine Country?

Here is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some time with that someone special. I want to highlight just a few of the many special restaurants and lodging we have available to us in Sonoma to enjoy a Valentine’s dinner paired with some exceptional wines. Many of our great Russian River restaurants are attached to lodging allowing you to extend the evening and not worry about having a designated driver, spending the night at one of our romantic Bed and Breakfast’s. As of printing, many of these restaurants and lodging are filling up, so I do strongly recommend making a reservation as soon as you and that special person know what time you would prefer to dine.

The Applewood Inn
The restaurant just garnered a Michelin Star. The hotel is providing a Valentines’ Dinner menu – four courses for $85. While wine is not included, their cellar offerings are quite spectacular and well chosen.

Bistro des Copains, Occidental
In the quaint town of Occidental, the Bistro is one of my favorite French restaurants. They are serving a prix fixe Valentine’s Day Dinner for $60, including a sparkling wine and amuse to start, followed by three courses. Though not attached to lodging, the very romantic Inn at Occidental is just one block away.,

Boon Eat + Drink
Guerneville’s upscale café has a small but perfectly appointed menu. The wine list, also small, is picked from the best of Sonoma at all price points and they are offering a special Valentine’s Day Dinner. There is also the Boon Hotel, a great location in Guerneville where a special can be combined with Dinner – the hotel is only a mile drive from the restaurant.

Cape Fear Restaurant
Cape Fear, in the charming town of Duncans Mills is offering a prix fixe menu and is open all day until 8pm . Their small wine menu of thirteen wines is all available by the glass.

Chef Patrick’s
Chef Patrick is offering a special Valentine’s menu which will be posted online. While many restaurants prefer you to buy wine from their wine menu selections on holidays, Chef Patrick will honor Sophie’s Cellars free corkage.

The Farmhouse
Another of Sonoma’ Michelin Star rated restaurants with another of my favorite wine menus – a lovely selection of wines both local and international: the Farmhouse is offering a prix fixe four course Valentine’s Day Menu for $139 including wine, and a 25% discount is also available if you stay the night at their luxurious inn.

River’s End Restaurant, Jenner, California
Definitely one of the most romantic locations, where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean and very worthwhile arriving early to see the sunset, River’s End is offering its Winter Menu as well as a special five course Dungeness Crab Tasting Menu for $69 or $99 including wine. Bert Rangel (who often stops by my store), definitely knows how to pick wine to pair with his crab menu – this will most definitely be a treat. The rustic River’s End Lodging is also attached to the restaurant – no TV, no need to bring a book; romantic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The Village Inn, Monte Rio, California

For a cozy hotel who’s restaurant has a great wine list (Double Gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair for the wine menu in multiple years), and a lovely little bar and fireplace by the River, I love the Village Inn. They are offering a Valentine’s dinner special and you can spend the whole weekend for just $75 per night.

Planning a dinner at home for that special person in your life and you’re not certain which wine would pair best?

Feel free to bring your recipe by my store (Sophie’s Cellars) and I will gladly help you pair the perfect, memorable Valentine’s Day dinner!
Wishing you a happy Valentine’s, hopefully celebrated in style in our beautiful Sonoma Country!

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine &  Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.


Read article »

Sonoma County Update by Efren Carrillo

2011 brought the winds of change to the County of Sonoma. Our first Board meeting of the year saw the swearing in of two new representatives on our Board, Supervisors Mike McGuire and David Rabbitt. Also sworn in with great excitement were our new District Attorney, Jill Ravitch (a Fifth District resident from Sebastopol), Sheriff Steve Freitas, County Counsel, Bruce Goldstein along with re-elected veterans Treasurer/Tax Collector Rod Dole, and Clerk/Recorder/Assessor Janice Atkinson. The newly elected officials replaced seasoned officials who have given many years of their lives to public service.

Change can be invigorating, and in this case, it couldn’t come at a better time. We face unprecedented deficits in the coming months. Incoming Board members bring new energy to our office and we will need all of their ideas and enthusiasm to deal with our upcoming budget challenges. Their honeymoon period has already ended with our budget workshop on the 25th. We received a grim view of the hard work that lies ahead.

Crisis creates opportunity. While we look to the realities of our current situation, from a fresh vantage point, opportunities will be explored and undertaken. We’ve spent the past two years doing more with less, making painful cuts and we are not done. It will be necessary to reevaluate what is essential and explore how technology can be harnessed for increased efficiencies. The County will be embarking on a major redesign, and a major down-sizing. The result will be a new “normal”, because “the way things were” simply is not sustainable in our current economy.

We’ve already begun evaluating budget year 2011-12, and how to deliver service needs with funding shortages. Still to be revealed is the bite that the state may take out of our revenues. Redevelopment projects…for our District in both Roseland and the Russian River…are under threat. Some projects have been fast tracked and money committed at our Board meeting on January 18th. This should allow us to still undertake projects that we’ve invested years in planning and community effort to realize. There is some hope that Redevelopment agencies will continue, but that is incredibly uncertain for the moment.

On January 18th, the Directors of the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), which is another hat that the Board of Supervisors wears, held a well attended evening workshop on the Estuary Management Project EIR at the Jenner Community Club. There was a full house, and many people participated in the hearing and commented for the record on the Estuary project, which will change the way that the Water Agency manages the mouth of the Russian River at Jenner. The EIR is available at the SCWA website or the Guerneville Public Library. Public comment in written form will be accepted at the Agency until 5pm on February 14th.

Sonoma County is hosting its first ever Food Forum on February 24th at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This effort is co-hosted by the Department of Health, Board of Supervisors, UC Davis Cooperative Extension, and the Sonoma County Food System Alliance. Exploring ways to improve access and aid production of local affordable sustainable foods has been identified as a top priority to improving health in underserved communities. Initiatives being explored are wider uses of public lands for crop production, and creative methods of providing access. Two great, local examples of this are the Bayer Farm in Roseland with its large community gardens and the acceptance of electronic CalFresh cards (formerly food stamps) at local Farmer’s Markets.

The Sonoma County Humane Society is winding down its wildly successful feline spay neuter program. For $30, you can have your cat vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and microchipped! This is an incredible deal, and the Humane Society’s goal is to treat 4,000 cats during the event period. Sponsored by VIP Petcare Services (a local Windsor success story), along with the Humane Society, County of Sonoma, and Forgotten Felines-the event will run through February. Please call 800-427-7973 to arrange an appointment for your kitty or neighborhood stray.

Finally, the County of Sonoma has produced its first Annual Report. This new effort is part of our ongoing commitment to make County government more accessible and transparent, and we hope that you find it useful. Obtain a copy by calling our office at 565-2241 or view it online at:

Labels: ,

Read article »