Really excellent. It seems that most climatologists are predicting severe drought in the West in the coming future; while our Board of Supes encourages development (property taxes, income) and the use of water as though it were an infinite resource. At the last hearing re the Best Family winery, I spoke of the fact that grapes are not even a food crop: it is essentially a drug crop, producing a federally regulated substance. I could see on the faces of Board members that they considered me some crackpot. My main point was/is that without assessment of our aquifers, it is foolish to keep allowing more and more withdrawals (especially for an industrial bottling plant, which is the main part of that project). Greed rules.
Very well said. I hope that the outcome of the Pelton House suite by the Maacama Waterrshed Alliance will result in many more EIRs for wineries.
Green Valley Creek Salmon Recovery Effort
Below is Green Valley Creek (GVC) at the confluence with the Russian River. GVC has been the recipient of many years of restoration dollars, volunteer hours, and attention. GVC, as loyal readers know, is an important creek for Coho recovery efforts. The log depicted in the p hotos has been notched (Department of Fish an Game, Green Valley Creek Restoration Team, and John Roberts of Atascadero Green Valley Watershed Council) in order to facilitate salmon out migration. In the past, the log has presented an obstacle and as flows receded, the new generation of salmon perished trapped just behind the log in water too hot and shallow to survive. One of the reasons fish get trapped is due to the use of creek or near creek water to drench grapes that were planted in colder areas. This is still occurring in Sonoma County despite the determination of such use as wasteful and unreasonable. In the summer, the issue is also flows. The watershed is over appropriated when it cannot support historical fish runs. Returning flows is the first order of business.
Connecting the Dots
This winter’s rains may have provided a window for salmon recovery. If the stream flows can be augmented this summer by conservation on every one’s part, some fry may survive the summer to out migrate in the fall. Getting the parts of salmon restoration to fit together at least in Green Valley Creek is becoming a possibility. Connecting the dots is important on both a small and large scale.
The large agricultural organizations and the growers themselves have known of the impending conflict between frost protection (sucking of creek and ground water next to creeks) and the protection of the last remnants of wild salmon stock but have minimized and ignored the problems for decades. Napa County confronted this issue in the 1970s. As Sonoma County’s forests are converted to vineyards and wineries, one might ask themself, is it inevitable that as goes Napa County so goes Sonoma County? Sonoma County is unique, but it is rapidly changing – note recent projects – Hobbs Winery, Best Winery, Dutton Winery, and the Hobbs forest conversion to more grapes, Cornell Winery, Kendal Jackson Winery, and Delectus. These are just a small fraction of all the vineyard related projects in the pipeline as we speak.
Wineries are often preceded by vineyards, so wherever you see a winery going in, there are usually new vineyards associated with the new commercial facility. Drive (bicycle) along Eastside Road and look across the Russian River Valley and notice the diminishing forest so critical to clean drinking water, flows for salmon, carbon sequestration, and for creating the the weather and rain upon which we all depend. Turn around and drive (bicycle) back down Westside Road and notice all the new “driveways”. Many penetrate the hills taking redwoods and dug firs out, making way for bull dozers and loggers, and “wah-lah”, another block of grapes appears. Others, Kendall Jackson, Peay, Putnam, Artesa, Premiere Pacific Vineyards of Napa a.k.a. Preservation Ranch are, or trying to, cut down forests on the coastal ridge tops that intercept the clouds and make rain in our area.
Big Brains, Modern Tools with a Twist
Modern people have learned that civilizations have come and gone by failing to notice or acknowledge the desertification happening around them while they were milling around town cloaked in their ignorance. Modern people, however also have the tools to set higher requirements for the benefit of the many and to shape a future worthy of our big brains. Humans are great at solving problems. At times, however modern people suffer from denial -commonly understood as a form of psychological disorder or a means to protect fragile psychies. It allows us to ignore reality. Denial is a big problem, but what’s going on with respect to watersheds has a twist. The approach of the large agricultural associations has been not only to fail to acknowledge reality, they tend to distort it thereby doing a disservice to their member organizations exposing them to uncertainty, regulation, wasted investments, and liability.
The fish counts don’t lie. Unified commitment to watershed protection at every level – town, city, county, and state, can easily and dramatically change the future for the better. Prudent requirements can minimize denial and unleash the problem solvers among us. Consistent efforts that embrace this historical moment will set the stage for a hopeful future for fish and humans.