IImpressions of the Guerneville Low Flow Meeting

Impressions of the Guerneville Low Flow Meeting

My impressions of the meeting? I wonder sometimes what the purpose is of some bureaucratic meetings. I suspect most of the time it is simply fulfilling the mandates of public obligation in the law–really a dog and pony show. In this case, did they really want the community’s input on severely lowering the flow of the Russian River ? I don’t know. It seems a little late to come here to get input after the supposed decision has already come down. Maybe they really want to find out how much resistance there might be. Some of the community tended to be resolved in accepting the worst case scenario (35 CFS). I tend to think of it as a political football–let’s see where there is least resistance or power and we’ll do it there. Instead, I think we need to exert maximum resistance to this: The river has to have a minimum flow to support the important fish and riparian life, recreation which has the biggest draw in the county, and the various businesses that are dependent upon the recreational draw. Having a flow too low could have both short term and a long term devastating effects on the environment, which includes health effects on tens of thousands of locals and tourists in even one summer. Instead, the river should be given a high priority because of these reasons. Mandatory conservation measures should be primarily set with the agriculture community and and the various contracted users.

It was clear that some of the panelist have not embraced the notion that drought tolerant landscaping is very positive and will have positive aesthetic and environmental benefits.  It should be spoken of as a positive sign that folks are doing their part and sacrificing for the benefit of the community.  Their slow up-take on this simple and long over-due concept, which hurts no one, including landscapers, was very striking.  Other panelists, Jake McKenzie, in particular as an urban user, did not call for equal sacrifices from vineyards. Why the silence on these issues?

Putting mandatory conservation measures on city users will mean their landscaping showpieces as well as their habits will have to change. This is a good thing because it has to happen anyway and now is better than later. This could all be incentivized and subsidized in various ways. In the case of agriculture, the over-planting of vineyards combined with inappropriately growing the wrong kind of rootstock in this Mediterranean climate is beyond any justification. The Sonoma County Supervisors and the Permit and Resource and Planning Department (PRMD) have utterly failed this county in planning for long term sustainability. They need to accept responsibility, not infer that our state water board is solely culpable in handing down draconian measures like was indicated at that meeting.

I believe we have justification for maximum resistance to not accepting the bulk of a problem made by the county’s lack of responsibility for decent planning for the future. The west county has had a history of being forward-thinking and if there had been enough votes in the past number of years could have steered a much better course than this drug-related mono-crop economy we now have. We need to protect the river area and its economy and force the bulk of the measures for change where they will do the least damage in the short run and be a positive sustainable outcome in the long run.