Press Room

The City of Santa Rosa:
Grant funds settle environmental lawsuit
Dawn Pillsbury / Sonoma West Times and News / March 7, 2002

SANTA ROSA--The city of Santa Rosa has agreed to contribute $120,000 for environmental and educational grants to settle a lawsuit alleging permit violations at the city's Laguna Subregional Treatment Plant.

City officials agreed to fund the grants rather than change some of their sewer plant operations as requested in the lawsuit filed by Northern California River Watch and the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee.

"In the long range, these grant projects will do more to educate people and raise awareness," about the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Russian River, said Russian River Watershed Protection Committee Executive Director Brenda Adelman. "It won't do a whole lot" to mitigate the alleged sewage dumping damage.

Adelman said a six-person grant committee made up of three Santa Rosa city staffers and three environmentalist advocates: herself, Brock Dolman of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and Villa Grande resident Ken Wikle, a retired attorney and writer for the Russian River Times, had a surprisingly easy times coming to a consensus.

Out of 26 applications, Adelman said the group picked what they considered the 10 best.

The Atascadero Creek and Green Valley Creek Watershed Council got $10,000 for educational programs at Oak Grove School. The council will organize a series of classroom activities, outdoor work and field trips to show students how storm water runoff fits into the water cycle and how potential hazards to Atascadero Creek may be helped by improvements to the school campus.

David Berman and Susan McGovern got $15,000 to produce 16" x 20" maps of the Laguna watershed for all public school classrooms in the watershed.

The Blucher Creek Watershed Council got two grants around $30,000 to address outreach and education and upland sediment and erosion. The money will fund four watershed workshops, a newsletter and a sediment and erosion study.

The sediment and erosion study will review and identify points of sediment entry into Blucher Creek. Sediment is the primary source of non-point source pollution in this watershed.

Watershed activist Kurt Erickson said the study will enable the council to get grants from other groups like the Sonoma County Water Agency, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to begin restoration projects to help bring steelhead and coho salmon back to Blucher Creek.

Richard Anstruther, chair of the Blucher council's board of directors said, "This is a fantastic shot in the arm for us to be able to reach out to all our neighbors, and also learn why the Creek and its tributaries have so much silt--which prohibits fish from returning."

The Blucher council meets the second Tuesday of the month at the Hessel Church, on Hessel Avenue, south of Sebastopol. Contact richard@highgrain.com or visit www.bluchercreek.org. Their next meeting will be at 6 pm on March 12 where Sebastopol author Kathy Biggs will speak on installing ponds and appropriate landscape planting to attract dragonflies.

LandPaths got a $4,500 grant to restore about 500 feet of the Laguna at Morrison Brothers Dairy near Stony Point Road and control invasive species and replant some five acres of wetlands. The project also got money from the National Fish and Wildlife Service and will be maintained by student volunteers. LandPaths also got $7,900 to place interpretive panels along the Laguna in Santa Rosa.

The Sotoyome Resource Conservation District got $20,000 to present and publish "The Home and Garden Audit: Protecting Your Family's Health and Improving the Environment." The district will give 10 workshops on evaluating property management, gardening practices, water conservation and how to reduce runoff of contaminants. Contact the district at 569-1448, sotorcd@sonic.net or www.sonomamarinrcds.org/district-ssr.

The Stewards of Slavianka got $10,000 for the Willow Creek Watershed Education Program, designed to provide students with hands-on experience in sedimentation and other watershed problems to reinforce their science curriculum.

River activist and photographer Peeter Vilms got $13,000 to produce a video on the Laguna, its functions in watershed hydrology and water quality, its biodiversity and cultural history and the competing socio-economic pressures on land-use around it.

The West County Watershed Network, which includes the Atascadero Green Valley, Blucher Creek, Dutch Bill Creek, Laguna, Salmon Creek, Estero Americano and Ebabias Creek watershed councils and the Stewards of Slavianka, got $8,800 to help fund West County Watershed Day, which will be on May 18th at Salmon Creek Middle School. The event is aimed at increasing awareness and to encourage West County residents to participate in the watershed groups.