Will Parrish

WILL PARRISH: Too Many Straws In the Russian

 
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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

On April 21st, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board sent joint letters to property owners in four of the Russian River’s largest tributaries imploring them to conserve water on behalf of a federally-listed endangered species: Coho salmon. Its subject header was “Urgent Voluntary Drought Initiative Request to Maintain Stream Flow for Coho Salmon in Reaches of Green Valley, Dutch Bill, Mark West, and Mill Creeks, Tributaries to the Russian River, Sonoma County.”

When forester and hydrologist Jim Doerksen returned from vacation last week and read the letter, he was – as he terms it – “insulted.” Doerksen’s property features nearly a mile of Mark West Creek frontage. As Doerksen is intimately aware, having owned his property since 1967, the creek was once known for its thrashing, silvery surges of salmon and trout. But the first of the four horsemen of fisheries collapse – habitat degradation, dams, weakening of the genetic pool through the use of hatcheries, and over-fishing – have taken an enormous toll.

The cause of the habitat loss in Mark West Creek is summed up on a sign strung to a tree on the northwestern edge of Doerksen’s property, located along St. Helena Rd.: “Vineyards SUCK! Water.” “In the meetings I have had with you and [fellow Water Board staff member] Tom Howard, I have consistently emphasized that the State Water Board has always shirked its responsibility when it comes to protecting salmonids in Mark West Creek as required by the ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ and AB 2121,” Doerksen wrote in response, in a letter addressed to State Water Board Deputy Director of Water Rights Barbara Evoy. “In the Water Rights Complaint [RPL:262 (49-15-07)] filed by Grif Okie and myself, backed up by 5,000 pages of documentation, we emphasize that Mark West Creek was being dewatered directly due to actions taken by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, and because of the total inaction of the Calif. Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

WILL PARRISH: Mendocino Redwood Company — Profiting in the Name of ‘Restoration’

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

On Tuesday, April 21st the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors was set to consider regulations, for the first time, on Mendocino Redwood Company’s long-standing practice of injecting herbicides into tan oak trees. The focus of the Supervisors’ session is on the fire danger created by these standing dead trees — an estimated one million of them sprayed annually. It’s unlikely that the Supervisors will actually adopt a policy restricting MRC in any way, though the groundswell of opposition to the practice in recent months may have some staying power.

Concerns about fire danger spraying arise in an intertwined context of climate change and an historic drought. Records show that this region — the California North Coast, as with California as a whole — is hotter and drier than at any time since Euroamerican conquest in the mid-19th century. MRC’s spraying of herbicides has an even greater context, however, than the possibility of these trees being torched like so many matchsticks during the next wildfire.

MRC owns about 10% of Mendocino County’s private land. Its so-called “sister” company, Humboldt Redwood Company, owns roughly an equivalent percentage of Mendo’s neighboring Humboldt County to the north. Altogether, then, the absentee parents of this precocious brood of timber corporations — the multi-billionaire Fisher family of San Francisco — own more coastal redwood forest than any private entity ever has. As the environmental effects of carbon dioxide emissions have become devastatingly clear, ecologists have started to measure the ability of forests to absorb CO2 — a process known as sequestration. They have found, unsurprisingly, that the world’s largest trees — coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) — store the most carbon of any living thing on Earth.

Given that the Fisher Family’s North Coast properties probably have as much carbon sequestration potential as any forest of equivalent size on the planet, the company’s practices have enormous consequences even beyond Mendocino and Humboldt Counties — and not only in regard to global climate change.

WILL PARRISH: California’s Thirsty Wine-Grapes

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

In the San Joaquin Valley heartland town of Livingston, located along Highway 99 between Turlock and Merced, the United States’ most lucrative wine corporation, E&J Gallo, operates the world’s largest winery: a place where serried ranks of massive, 200,000-gallon tanks tower over the surrounding countryside, in a compound ringed by security fences.

Were California its own nation, its wine industry would be the world’s fourth largest in terms of revenue. Roughly 570,000 acres in the state are under the vine, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (which chairman, incidentally, was president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers for 13 years). And about half of that acreage is located in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, which operate in conjunction with the area’s enormous industrial wineries.

Much of this grape-based alcohol production is enabled by California’s unparalleled water infrastructure, which transmits water from north to south, thereby turning the arid lands that supply Gallo’s oil refinery-like facility into a bountiful — and profitable — farming region. On the other side of the Coast Ranges, and further north, resides another thirsty portion where the wine industry places inordinate demand on its watersheds.

WILL PARRISH: MRC’s Private Meetings with the Supervisors

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Large, politically-active corporations tend to employ influence peddlers who can talk when even money can’t. A perfect example is playing out here in Mendocino County. The county’s largest land baron has summoned each individual member of the Board of Supervisors into a series of closed-door meetings.

Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) officials begin these private, friendly dialogues with Mendocino County supervisors John McCowen, Carre Brown, Dan Hamburg, Dan Gjerde, and Tom Woodhouse this week.

The topic at hand, according to a group e-mail to the supervisors from MRC, is “significant capital investments” MRC is making in its Ukiah mill site on North State St., a manufacturing center that converts redwoods and Doug firs extracted from local forests into decking, fencing, and other lumber products on behalf of Home Depot stores from the Bay Area to Guam. Several Mendocino County loggers I interviewed for a story about MRC in January had mentioned the company’s plans to expand the mill.

Will Parrish: Water Transfers Threaten Fish and Tribes

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

Salmon and the Native Americans in Northern California who depend on them are facing grave threats from the continued shipment of water to agribusinesses in the dry San Joaquin Valley

In Northern California, the Trinity River rises in the rugged Trinity Alps northwest of Redding, meanders through tight canyons and mountain meadows along State Route 299, and joins the mighty Klamath River at the Yurok Indian Reservation near Weitchpec. To the indigenous nations who reside in the Klamath-Trinity basin, the rivers’ storied fisheries form the basis of their survival as distinct cultures.

To the US Bureau of Reclamation, however, the Klamath and Trinity rivers are distinct for an altogether different reason. The main stem of the Klamath provides irrigation water to about 200,000 acres of farmland in a highlands desert region of south-central Oregon. And the Trinity is one of the two so-called “headwaters” of the Central Valley Project, the upper Sacramento River being the other. From the bureau’s perspective, the watersheds’ main function is to provide irrigation water for California’s enormous agribusiness sector.

Will Parrish: California’s ‘Water Donor Counties’

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The Humboldt and Trinity County boards of supervisors have issued a new trickle of outrage concerning their status as water vassals of Central Valley agribusiness. In letters this past January to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, CC’d to local US Rep. Jared Huffman, each set of officials requested full participation in deliberations regarding Congressional drought legislation to address, as the TrinCo version put it, “the impacts caused by massive export of Trinity Basin water supplies.”

Both groups of supes described their jurisdictions as “a water donor county.” In other words, a completely different area of the state is reaping enormous financial gain from the expropriation of their watersheds. “[S]ince 1964 Trinity County has contributed more than 46 million acre-feet from the Trinity Basin to the Central Valley [emphasis in original],” reads the Trinity County version. “Simply put, to the Central Valley Project and other water recipients like the San Luis Unit (SLU), we are a water donor county.”

The San Luis Unit refers to Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the United States. Owing to the miracle of modern hydrologic engineering, the US Bureau of Reclamation has exported as much as 90% of the Trinity River’s annual flow to the Central Valley since the completion of Trinity Dam — at the time of its construction, the world’s highest earthen dam — in 1962. The arrangement has turned the arid western San Joaquin Valley, located roughly 500 miles away, into a bountiful — and profitable — farming region.

The water exports have had dire consequences, however, for the Klamath and Trinity fish populations and the people who depend on them. Largely owing to the long struggle by Yurok, Hoopa, and other Klamath basin indigenous people to maintain federally acknowledged fishing rights, the Klamath-Trinity is still home to the largest population of wild salmon of any river system in California. It is also home to one of the healthiest populations of steelhead trout in the Lower 48 and the world’s most abundant green sturgeon population, among various other superlatives.

With California entering the fourth year of drought, long-time observers are warning of even more dire consequences if the federal government continues to pump its customary quantity of the rivers’ water “over the hill.”

“What the Trinity and Klamath are facing is a catastrophe of epic proportions,” said Tom Stokely, a resident of Mt. Shasta and a former Trinity County natural resources planner who is now a policy analyst for the conservation group California Water Impact Network.

The problem is straightforward: not enough cold water for fish. In 2002, the lower Klamath River was the site of the largest recorded fish die-off since Europeans first stepped foot on the continent. At least 65,000 adult Chinook salmon died due to low summer flows caused by bureau water diversions and warm temperatures.

Klamath Fish Kill, 2002

Last August, as temperatures in the lower Klamath soared into the 70s, tribal biologists began to discover fish carcasses washed up on shore near the river’s confluence with the Trinity. More than two hundred tribal members responded by rallying at the Bureau of Reclamation office in Sacramento to demand that the agency release cold water stored either in Oregon’s Upper Klamath Lake or at Trinity Reservoir.

The HumCo counterparts use the more pointed language of the two. “The regulatory and programmatic ‘taking’ of [Trinity River] water in the form of diversions has significantly impacted the North Coast economy, commercial and sport fishing industry, harmed the economic, social and cultural values for three local Native American Tribes, and shuttered local small coastal towns,” reads the letter signed by County Supervisor Mark Lovelace. “The people of the North Coast experience the pain of those diversions every day — and have since 1964.”

The TrinCo and HumCo supes are rightfully concerned that drought legislation being shepherded by perennially big business-friendly US Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other Congressional reps to benefit San Joaquin Valley farmers could deal a huge blow to the river’s wildlife and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) has announced that a bi-partisan bill that would increase “operational flexibility” for federal water projects in California, thereby further increasing water deliveries to agribusiness, will soon be unveiled.

The situation for North Coast people, fish, and other critters would quickly go from disastrous to even more disastrous. Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled drought legislation last week that does virtually nothing to address the water demands of agribusiness, which uses 80% of California’s developed water supply.

As part of the 1955 legislation that mandated Trinity Reservoir’s construction, Humboldt County was promised 50,000 acre feet annually from the Trinity Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation has never provided HumCo with this comparatively modest allocation, which represents a mere eight percent of what the feds shipped to the Central Valley last year (595,000 acre feet). And that’s a big part of the county supes’ beef with the federal government’s water management.

When it comes to “water donor” counties in California, few have proved more munificent than the county immediately to Humboldt’s south. The Humboldt County Supervisors have protested for years regarding the federal government’s failure to abide by the 50,000 acre foot water agreement. Meanwhile, Mendo’s official representatives have permitted Sonoma County to help themselves to most of the upper Russian River’s water at no cost ever since Lake Mendocino was constructed in the late-’50s. (The late Joe Scaramella, uncle of this publication’s managing editor, was the only supervisor to vote against this short-sighted arrangement). Sonoma County also gets free rein to the waters of upper Dry Creek, which rises in southern Mendo and is trapped by Warm Springs Dam west of Healdsburg.

Lake Sonoma

Sonoma County sells the water to Marin County, particularly the dry towns of Northern Marin, for pure profit, the “product” costing nothing more than the pipes and valves to shunt it across the Petaluma Gap to Novato. The Sonoma County water business (agency), overseen by Sonoma County supervisors, is that rare public bureaucracy that turns hefty annual profits.

When Supervisor John Pinches attempted to simply bring up the subject of the water diversion for discussion, his wine-fueled Mendo colleagues — there’s no significant wine industry in Humboldt or Trinity counties — nixed it 4-1.

As with the dams in the Klamath River system, the existence of the dams in Mendocino County that enable this arrangement have wrought a huge toll both on the fish and the humans who depend on them. Whereas the spring-run chinook of the Klamath-Trinity used to travel exclusively to the cold-water tributaries above the dams, now they must make do as they can with the warmer waters of the mainstem and the tributaries in the lower parts of the river. On the Eel River, the existence of Scott Dam, behind which forms Lake Pillsbury, blocks the migration of salmon and trout to their best spawning grounds.

In 2017, a federal commission will begin reviewing an application by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to re-license its Potter Valley Project, which includes the mile-long tunnel that diverts Eel water to the Russian River’s east branch. It’s a safe bet Mendo’s supervisors will not use the relicensing process to try to leverage a new arrangement.

Of course, the Russian River’s abundant water supply is supplemented by the Eel River diversion, and the mainstem Eel’s “county of origin” is actually Mendo’s even-more-impoverished eastern neighbor, the County of Lake. The Eel region has never been compensated for its diverted water.

The HumCo and TrinCo supervisors invoked restitution in their recent missives to California’s congressional delegation. When it comes to restorative justice, though, the greatest claim lies with the original people of the area: the indigenous groups who still depend on these river’s fish for their cultural survival.

Hoopa Valley tribal member Dania Colegrove, also a member of a grassroots organization called the Klamath Justice Coalition, explained to me the central role that the Klamath’s fisheries continue to play in her culture.

“On Sunday, I went to the mouth of the Klamath River at the ocean and got eel,” she said. “The week before that, we fished for steelhead. Two days ago, my neighbor brought my mom sturgeon. The river is our grocery store, basically, and without it, we cease to exist as people.”

A federal court ruled in 1979 that the tribes are “entitled to as much water on the Reservation lands as they need to protect their hunting and fishing rights,” with a priority date of “time immemorial.” According to Colegrove, though, it’s inevitable that the Klamath basin indigenous people will have to continue protesting if their fish are to survive. “It’s going to be a fight from now on,” she said.

(The Humboldt and Trinity County Letters referred to above can be found on the AVA website. Contact Will Parrish at wparrish@riseup.net.)
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Will Parrish: Greenfield’s Pomo Relics…

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From: WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

Systemic and widespread murder, land expropriation, forced sterilization, kidnapping and forced indoctrination of children via a residential school system that persisted for nearly a century, destruction of languages and outlawing of spiritual traditions, and commercialization and exploitation of ceremonies and healing practices, including by some of the people who labeled themselves “hippies” and appointed themselves as the vanguard of a “new age” — the genocide of indigenous people in what is now called “Redwood Valley,” as with first peoples everywhere, has taken myriad forms.

The name “Pomo” is an arbitrary classification for various regional indigenous people assigned by famed UC Berkeley anthropologist Alfred Kroeber. At the time of Euroamerican contact, one Pomo group inhabited and maintained the land now called “Greenfield Ranch”: 5,400 acres of breathtaking oak savannahs, oak woodlands, and riparian redwood groves centered roughly 10 miles west and north of Ukiah. In the early-1970s, the ranch emerged as a haven for Back to the Landers, refugees from urban life who declared their reverence for the earth, nature, and indigenous cultures.

Will Parrish: Greenpeace’s Mendocino Redwood Company Greenwash

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“Clean up your act, not your image.” Thus is the slogan of the http://www.stopgreenwash.org campaign recently launched by none other than Greenpeace International, which seeks to expose the hype behind the shiny, green marketing claims of corporate plunderers in the oil, electricity, automobile, coal, nuclear, and forestry sectors.

Greenpeace should be applauded for challenging the process of “greenwashing,” which has become a major means by which the the world’s most powerful and destructive institutions, be they Chevron or the US military, legitimize their most destructive activities. A few small steps this way and that can go very far to gloss over a corporation’s or government’s image and hide ongoing environmental crimes. Greenwashing obscures the inherently destructive aspects of industrial capitalism by emphasizing small reforms and innovations while ignoring core processes.

Will Parrish: The Lumber Man In Charge of Climate Policy 

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Bay Area billionaire Robert Fisher profits by logging California’s North Coast forests, even as Governor Jerry Brown has tapped him to help implement the state’s anti-global warming agenda.

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

The world’s largest remaining contiguous stand of old-growth redwood forest resides in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California. On the park’s northwestern flank, six people gathered last May to oppose a logging venture on adjacent private property. For four days, the activists shadowed the loggers and their supervising forester, as well as three Humboldt County sheriff’s deputies who were keeping a watchful eye on the forest defenders in case they edged over the park boundary.

The activists sought to obstruct the logging operation. But initially, the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) loggers ignored them, toppling Douglas firs and madrone within thirty feet of where the protesters stood. The supervising forester dispassionately informed them that if any of them died, it would be ruled a suicide. Soon after, a tree crashed against the dead top of a smaller one, sending an errant wood chunk sailing perilously close to an activist’s head.

“There was a lot of bravado early on, but after a while, the loggers questioned what they were doing and stopped,” recalled the forest activist who goes by the name “Farmer,” and whose head was nearly hit by the airborne tree chunk. “They basically said they weren’t going to keep working under these conditions [with the protesters present].”

Will Parrish: California’s “Carbon Sequestration” Failure…

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From WILL PARRISH
TheAVA
Ukiah

Until the latter part of the second millennium, giant redwood stands stretched from southwestern Oregon to Monterey Bay. Primordial Douglas fir groves were also commonplace. All were a product of the region’s moderate temperatures and plentiful rainfall, and also helped produce our climate.

Before the advent of logging, Northern California and the Pacific Northwest housed an “unprecedented carbon budget,” according to Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington professor of ecosystem analysis who is known as “the father of old-growth research.” As Franklin explained at a conference sponsored by the Pacific Forest Trust in Arcata this past August, the conifer-dominated “Pacific temperate rainforest,” which runs from Prince William Sound in Alaska through the British Columbia Coast to California’s Central Coast, contains the largest mass of living and decaying material of any ecosystem in the world. 

Will Parrish: Flying Rivers & Mega-Droughts

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

When it comes to areas of the world being racked by drought, one of the few that has had at least as hard a time as California is central and southern Brazil. Whereas the US’s biggest state has gotten a handful of solid drenchings in the past three years, this particular portion of South America has seen almost no rain at all. The most populous city in the Americas, Sao Paolo, is marked by endless, chaotic sprawl that has grown, unchecked, for decades. The main reservoir that supplies the 19 million people who live there has recently gone as low as five percent of capacity.

One of the main factors that has caused the California drought is climate change. The warming of the atmosphere has increased the size and persistence of the high-pressure ridge that historically prevents rain from reaching California’s Mediterranean climes for much of the year.

What about in Brazil? Researchers there have pinpointed the absence of “flying rivers” — vapor clouds from the Amazon rainforest that normally bring rain to the center and south of Brazil — as a main reason for the recent lack of precipitation. These massive volumes of vapor rise from the forest, travel west, and then, blocked by the Andes Mountains, turn south. The Amazon is akin to a gigantic hydrological pump that brings the humidity of the Atlantic Ocean into the continent.

Will Parrish: $9,460.45

Life-In-A-Wick-Drain-Stitcher

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Just before Christmas, on December 22, 2014, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke announced the amount that I am mandated to pay the California Department of Transportation for occupying a wick drain stitcher in Little Lake Valley in mid-2013: $9,460.45.

I carried out the 11-day-plus occupation as a protest against the monument to waste and folly known as the Willits Bypass. By the time Behnke finally issued his ruling, I had already gained far more insight into the budget inflation techniques employed by California’s highway- and bridge-builders than I ever cared to know.

In September 2013, CalTrans submitted their first restitution claim against me. They claimed I had delayed the project to the tune of $490,002 in added expense to the California taxpayer. A few weeks later, they revised the figure to $481,155 — much more affordable. 

Will Parrish: Tainted Desert

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

When the modern infrastructure of the American West was being constructed in the mid-20th century, it was based on a vision consistent with the contemporary zeitgeist of American exceptionalism and lingering Manifest Destiny (the idea that a Protestant God had ordained white, mostly male Americans to expand westward to conquer and subdue the indigenous people and the “wilderness” they inhabited).

The historical bet implied by planting sprawling cities, vast agricultural areas, and enormous military and industrial installations in Southern California, the intermontane desert highlands and Sonoran desert of Arizona, and the Great Basin of Nevada was that humanity’s dominion over nature in these arid regions would expand indefinitely, and that artificial importation of water would sustain the expansion.

Will Parrish: California’s Dammed Fish

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrinity Dam

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

A few weeks ago, I assessed the possibility of a massive 2015 fish kill in the Trinity and Klamath Rivers (“Impending Fish Catastrophe On the Klamath-Trinity”) owing to drought-induced lack of cold water storage in the Trinity River’s enormous Trinity Lake reservoir. The indigenous people of the Klamath River basin, anglers, environmentalists, and the Klamath River itself (not necessarily in that exact order) are already greatly traumatized by the chinook salmon die-off of 2002: the largest such die-off in the history of the western US.

The possibility of repeating this grisly scenario has loomed ever since. It’s an especially high-profile story for people from outside the region since the Klamath-Trinity is the largest discrete habitat area for wild salmon left in California (the Smith River, which is the only large river in California that has not been dammed, is also home to great and storied salmon runs, but it’s a far smaller river).

Will Parrish: Impending Fish Disaster in the Klamath-Trinity

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Wild salmon have splashed their way up the Klamath River and its tributaries — including the largest of those tributaries, the Trinity River — for at least 12,000 years. Owing to a geological peculiarity, the Klamath Basin was a refuge for countless forms of wildlife at the time. Located just south of the glacial formations that covered much of the western hemisphere’s lands, but just west of the volcanoes that rendered much of Northern California uninhabitable, the Klamath hosted an enormous diversity of wildlife that eventually spread across much of the American West.

Nowadays, the Klamath-Trinity have an altogether bleaker distinction: They are California’s greatest remain refuge for wild salmon. During the Arcadian time that endured prior to Euro-American arrival, the salmon lashed rivers into whiteness throughout Northern and Central California. People could walk across rivers on the back of the migrating fish. Now, the Klamath-Trinity — which courses through the wildest corners of California and Southern Oregon — stands as the only river system in the Golden State where runs of non-hatchery salmon still return most years by the tens of thousands.

Will Parrish: Who Is Destroying Clear Lake?

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

There is no escaping the inexorable judgment of weather and time. Every year, the rain renders its verdict on the decisions industrial humans have made on the land.

During the last 150 years, those decisions in the Clear Lake basin have included the destruction of roughly 85% of the wetlands that once edged the lakeshore. It has also included clear-cut and post-fire logging in the Mendocino National Forest, one of the largest mercury mines in California, sewers and roads, wine-grape farms, cannabis farms, rice farms, cattle farms, and wildfires. And it includes dudes on dirt bikes who flock to South Cow Mountain every year by the tens of thousands, disturbing the sediment by carving out an endless maze of new roads.

I have on my laptop maps of sediment in Lake County generated by outer-space satellites. Ohio-based Blue Water Satellite Imaging acquired raw data from the United States Geological Service’s Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites from a day shortly after a solid early-winter storm — December 24, 2012 — and used it to track the presence of one nutrient that has been particularly troubling for the lake: phosphorus.

Will Parrish: California’s North Coast Water Relics

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

In roughly three weeks, the relatively slim percentage of Californians who vote in the Nov. 2014 election will decide on a politically contentious (is there any other kind of water politics in California?) $7.5 billion state general obligation bond, Proposition 1, entitled “THE State Water Bond” [emphasis added]. A creature of the dominant political response to California’s panic-strickening drought, the bond issue would provide a greater level of financing for new water projects than any in the state’s recent history.

Although the bond includes funding for everything from bike trails to water recycling to wetlands restoration, its most pivotal line item is $2.7 billion that would be allocated to expanded water storageThat likely means dams, and it especially likely means help with construction of the Sites Reservoir, a vast new facility just east of the Mendocino National Forest, about 10 miles west of the town of Maxwell. The bond singles it out for special mention.

Sites Reservoir would involve two large dams on the mainstem Sacramento River, each around 310 feet high. The water would be ferried through the Tehama-Colusa and Glen-Colusa canals, as well as a third canal that would be built specifically for the project and originate north of Colusa. All of this liquid gold would thereby be plumbed into the Antelope Valley, drowning an estimated 14,000 acres of grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, riparian habitat, vernal pools, and wetlands (including 19 acres of rare alkali wetlands). The water bond, it should be noted, would only cover part of the cost of constructing these enormous new installations. Sites would be California’s first massive water infrastructure project since the 1982 completion of Lake Sonoma, a huge reservoir that is nevertheless less than one-fifth as large, which dams the headwaters of Dry Creek: a tributary of the Russian River that runs off the opposite slope of the Navarro River’s headwaters southeast of Anderson Valley. As of this writing, the state water bond enjoys strong support, especially from the state’s political leaders: Only one state legislator voted against placing the bond on the ballot.

Will Parrish: Clear Lake’s (and the World’s) Algae Problem

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The problem began in earnest in the late-1920s, when heavy earth-moving equipment set about filling and re-sculpting Clear Lake’s shoreline wetlands to “reclaim” them for agriculture, Bradley Mining Company inaugurated an era of intensive open-pit mercury mining outside of Clearlake Oaks, and road construction (and accompanying instream gravel mining) increasingly converted the surrounding landscape into prime habitat for the automobile.

The soil particles disturbed by these activities invariably entered the numerous creek channels that feed the lake. Within a remarkably short period, roughly 85% of the lake’s marshes and other wetlands — natural filtration systems, which had existed for thousands of years — had disappeared. According to a 2007 core-sample study by members of UC Davis’ ecology professoriate, the volumes of phosphorus and nitrogen that washed into the lake post-1927 increased by a factor greater than ten.

Thus did Blue-green algae blooms start to emerge on a large scale in Clear Lake: widely considered the oldest lake in the United States. Also referred to as Cyanobacteria, the algae thrives in calm, warm, and nutrient-rich waters, which the lake that characterizes Mendocino County’s neighboring county provides in abundance.

Will Parrish: Drum Demo At Shasta Dam

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

For the Winnemem Wintu people of the McCloud River watershed (a mighty tributary of the Upper Sacramento River, formed by the southeastern drainage of Mt. Shasta and its stately foothills), the weapon of mass destruction that has wrought greatest harm on their culture is California’s largest dam: the Shasta Dam. This 602-foot-tall concrete plug on the Upper Sacramento River inundated 90% of the Winnemem’s ancestral territory upon its completion in 1945. Salmon, which have always been at the center of the Winnemem’s material and spiritual existence, were thereupon blocked from reaching their historic spawning grounds in the constipated waters upstream, contributing to a massive overall fish die-off in the Sacramento River and the San Francisco Bay Delta.

In the face of these hardships, the Winnemem continue to preserve their culture in every way they can: their language, religion, and traditional healing methods. In the meantime, they struggle to protect their remaining sacred sites and burial grounds from a seemingly interminable stream of threats and encroachments. With California in the throes of the worst drought since official recordkeeping began in the late-1870s, the greatest threat to the Winnemem’s remaining cultural strongholds now has renewed traction in the US Congress: proposed legislation to expand Shasta Reservoir, and thereby flood many of the Winnemem’s remaining ancestral lands.

Will Parrish: Business as Usual For California Water Hogs

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

The year 2013 was California’s driest on record. The first six months of 2014 were the hottest half-year on record. Reservoirs are drying up. Groundwater basins are diminishing at an alarming rate. Yet, the water demands of the state’s gargantuan agribusiness empire, its sprawling metropolises, and its extractive industries (such as, increasingly, fracking) have largely continued to grow this year.

We’ll start with California’s most lucrative legally-sanctioned crop: almonds. California produces roughly 82% of the world’s almonds. Demand for the nut is fast-growing in China and India. San Joaquin Valley growers are rushing to convert from cotton and other annual row crops to the increasingly profitable tree crop.

Unfortunately, almonds generally use much more water than the crops they replace. In Westlands Water District, the state’s biggest irrigation district (centered near Fresno), an average acre of almonds commands 1.3 million gallons of water per year, on average, as compared to roughly half that in the case of cotton. Agriculture in California, with its lack of summer rain, already uses about 80% of the state’s developed water supply. Almonds alone use 10%.

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