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The Sonoma County Gazette Newspaper is distributed FREE to Forestville, Graton, Occidental & Sebastopol addresses and on NEWSSTANDS from Santa Rosa to Bodega Bay, including Healdsburg, Windsor, the Russian River towns of Guerneville, Monte Rio, Duncans Mills, Cazadero & Jenner, to Freestone & Valley Ford - more than 200 locations across Sonoma County.

Volume 5, Number 4   April 17, 2008 - May 15, 2008

Defending Our Water

Defending Our Water... Again
By Vesta Copestakes

On April 3rd our stalwart defenders of the river and water had a long day of meetings and hearings. First we gathered at the Permit Resource Management Department (PRMD) for a Planning Commission hearing on whether Syar Mining would get an extension of five years to continue mining gravel in the terrace mines next to the Russian River in Healdsburg. Next we went to the Santa Rosa City Council hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report DEIR) on discharging treated wastewater into the Russian River and tributaries as a means of disposal. And yes, in many cases it was the same group of individuals standing up to defend our water resources at both meetings.

Gravel Mining the River

Just a little background - more than ten years ago Sonoma County drafted the Aggregate Resource Management (ARM) plan that limited the number of years that gravel can be mined from the Russian River (among other things). This practice not only silts the river bottom making is difficult for fish to lay eggs, it also disrupts ground water resources for numerous reasons. The ARM plan basically set standards for how long the practice could be continued (until April, 2006), and how the county would look to less disruptive resources for gravel into the future.

Syar was asking to extend their time limit by another five years because they hadn't finished mining Phase 6 terrace pit. In fact they have a long way to go, more than a million tons of gravel are still there. After they finish, they are supposed to do a complete reclamation project.

Syar basically said a law suite that took three months to settle and some mechanical difficulties delayed them. The question that came up several times is that if the delay was 3 months, and throw in a few more for fixing machinery, why did they need another five years? PRMD staff brought in the fact that the reclamation can't start until the pit is mined. Tricky. There was not one person testifying who supported this extension, with the exception of Syar of course. PRMD staff, however, recommended that they continue because of Sonoma County's need for this particular type of gravel, high quality used in concrete, and in order to get the reclamation process done.

After much discussion, the commission voted 3 to 2 to recommend to the Board of Supervisors (the final decision makers) that the extension be denied. Rue Furch, who was on the Planning Commission and was part of the group who wrote the ARM plan, expressed concern that offering this extension was not consistent with the intention of the ARM plan for environmental reasons, and that the plan was now old enough, and things had changed enough, that it would be a good idea to go back and review and update the plan to include what has been learned since it was established twelve years ago. Importing high quality gravel has now become part of how the county serves its needs at this point. Taking it from the river is no longer environmentally appropriate. So now the request for an extension goes to the board of Supervisors, who will probably have another pubic hearing on the subject. If this is close to your heart, you can keep track of hearings by going to the SoCo website and signing up for e-mail updates.

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CalTrans Seeks Input

CSAC HLT Committee Members & Public Works Officials - Please review the attached Draft Public Participation Plan released by Caltrans. Your input is essential to ensure your voice is heard - so please complete the survey provided at the link below. To all interested parties:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has released a Draft Public Participation Plan (PPP) for its statewide transportation plan and funding program. You are invited to visit the Caltrans Website to download the PPP and provide comments by filling out a survey. Caltrans wants to involve stakeholders and the general public in transportation planning and programming in the most effective ways possible, so your feedback is important and will make a difference.

The PPP and survey will be available to fill out online through May 1, 2008. If you have any questions, please contact Laurie Waters, Caltrans Office of State Planning, 916-654-4466, or

If you are interested in future public involvement opportunities with Caltrans plans and programs, link here to give us your preferences on mail or e-mail, as well as your contact information. Thank you in advance for helping us create meaningful opportunities for public involvement in improving our transportation system!

Who's Next
Mike Reilly Endorses Rue Furch
By Vesta Copestakes

I've stayed away from reporting on endorsements because it just takes up too much room on these pages. The reason I invited the supervisor candidates to write for us is because of my personal conviction that voters need to get to know who these people are who want this job. It's beyond my understanding why they want that much responsibility - and it's HUGE - then get the pleasure of people giving them a hard time about their decisions. But it's their choice. Our choice is who gets to fill that seat and cast the votes that influence the direction our home takes in the years to come.

When Mike Reilly announced that he is endorsing Rue Furch, I decided that this stands out above other endorsements and qualifies as news, because it's his job for which the candidates are competing against each other. Mike has had this job for 12 years. He fought hard to get it and it matters a lot to him who is going to follow in his footsteps. 12 years is a large investment of a person's life. It's long enough to set a direction and feel a powerful commitment to wanting the heritage he passes along to go to someone who will respect the path he has trodden.

For us voters out here, we look at the candidates and see very intelligent, committed individuals who all have a good environmental record, respect for our home, skills that apply to the job and passion for being the person who leads us into the future. It's not an easy decision to choose one over another. Does it matter who Mike endorses? Is his choice more important or influential than other endorsements? Not necessarily more important, but definitely significant.

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