Will Parrish

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%.

Will Parrish: Mendo’s Timber Tentacles

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

[There is still time to support Will Parrish’s investigative reporting on his Indiegogo site here. ~ds)

It’s been well over a decade since the grape-based alcohol sector first outpaced tree cutting as Mendocino County’s dominant state-sanctioned economic sector. This watershed moment — a product of many decades of changes in both global and regional economic structures, which saw the appetite for California premium wines spread across the globe — occurred in 2001. Mendo wine grapes netted revenue of $87.6 million that year; timber, $80.1 million.

The wine industry, along with the big lending institutions that underwrite a considerable share of its activities, such as Wells Fargo (the United States’ leading agricultural lender among commercial banks) and Bank of America (the fourth leading agricultural lender), have only continued to steer their vast financial resources into corduroy-like grape rows, such as those that increasingly suckle at the banks of the waterways in the Upper Russian and Navarro Rivers.

Help Fund a Local Mendocino Treasure: Investigative Reporter Will Parrish…

From WILL PARRISH

I’ve “put myself out there,” as the young folk like to say nowadays, by launching a public fundraising campaign via the site Indiegogo. Being that I am not in a position to make a full living as a journalist otherwise, I’ve turned to The People to support me financially. Overall, I’ve been really happy about the results! As of this writing, I’ve received $3,297 in donations.

I’ve just learned that someone will give me $1,000 within the next day or two! That will bring me to just $1,200 shy of my goal of $5,500. My deadline is this Saturday. If I receive an average of $300 in donations in the next four days, I’ll be all the way there.

Will Parrish: Support Hard-Hitting Independent Journalism…

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 From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah

Journalists who challenge power structures and investigate deeply into the causes of social ills scarcely get funded in the contemporary media marketplace. Please support me in bringing these stories of optimism and determination in the face of destruction to broader audiences…

No other place of equivalent size in the world has altered its watersheds as dramatically as California.  The Golden State is home to a staggering infrastructure of dams, reservoirs, power plants, pumping plants, canals, aqueducts, gates, tunnels, and other installations that are all about controlling where water goes and who receives it.

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

Politicians and business leaders are seizing on this crisis by pushing for the largest dam- and canal-building binge since the State Water Project of the 1960s and ’70s. The best known of these, the Delta Twin Tunnels, is just the tip of the spear for all manner of new schemes that would further constipate California’s waterways and destroy much of what remains of its aquatic life…

See Will’s Indiegogo Project here
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Will Parrish: The Imaginary World Of Phil Frisbie, Jr.

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Since the advent of the modern propaganda industry during the era of World War I, paid propaganda shills have become a fixture of large capital projects and national endeavors of virtually every sort. The shills’ methods may vary, but their function is invariably the same. Redefine facts and sow confusion. Try to pass off the downsides of a given project — destruction of ecosystems, killing of innocent civilians, thinly-veiled class war, public health hazards, squandering of public funds, or what-have-you — as a necessary evil or as uncontroversial common sense.

To that end, no shill in the North Coast region has been more active in recent years, nor had a tougher assignment on his desk, than CalTrans’ public relations man for both Mendocino and Lake County, the ineffable Phil Frisbie, Jr.

I’ll always fondly remember meeting Phil in person. The date was February 25, 2013. The occasion: opening day of Willits Bypass construction. Years of laborious negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and various other regulatory agencies to secure the necessary environmental permits, coupled with a large degree of political arm-twisting, had led up to this moment.

The day Big Orange had been waiting for had finally arrived!

Will Parrish: Willits Bypass Timeline

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“Each solitary story belongs to a larger story.” — Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

In Willits, many people have not taken kindly to the California Department of Transportation’s asphalt imperialism, which entails spreading more than 140,000 dump truck loads of fill in Little Lake Valley, building bridges, disturbing creeks, killing fish, covering up wetlands, cutting down riparian forests, removing roughly 2,000 oak trees, taking away farm land. It is likely that even more overall harm will be done by a politically stilted mitigation plan that centers on excavating wetlands soils in the name of creating wetlands.

Opposition continues to the present. Some of the more persistent protectors of Little Lake Valley continue to attempt to downsize the project’s northern interchange — arguably its most destructive feature. Now that the US Army Corps of Engineers has lifted its suspension of the project, thanks to pressure from Willits Bypass supporters such as Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, though, it appears highly unlikely that any aspect of the project’s design will be changed.

Many people have criticized Bypass opponents for failing to speak up prior to construction. But the opposition to the Willits Bypass has persisted for more than 20 years. What follows is a timeline that emphasizes opposition to the project prior to January 2013, when direct action against the project kicked off.

Will Parrish: Jared Huffman — CalTrans Errand Boy

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

“I think this is the district in the state that can and should serve up a real environmental leader in a time of great need and urgency — and that’s why I’m running.” — US. RepJared Huffman (D-San Rafael), 2006

Last week, the US Congressional representative for California’s North Coast, a former Natural Resources Defense Council attorney named Jared Huffman, threw the full weight of his legislative power behind the most environmentally destructive project in the recent history of Mendocino County, the California Department of Transportation’s Willits Bypass. This more than $300 million project, as presently designed, requires the largest filling in of wetlands in northern California in more than 50 years.

Update: Hearing Postponed… Support Willits Bypass Activist Will Parrish in Court Thursday Morning 7/17/14…

wWill Parrish and his attorney, Omar Figueroa. [Photo courtesy of Michael Hardy, Posterity Productions]

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

[Hearing Postponed]

New details have come to light regarding the US Army Corps of Engineers’ June 20th decision to suspend the Willits Bypass’ US Clean Water Act permit (404 permit): the first time the Corps has ever suspended a northern California project on Clean Water Act grounds.

The timing of the suspension was linked to CalTrans’ efforts to resume importing soil from the Mendocino Forest Products (ie, Mendocino Redwood Company) mill site north of Willits, which is Big Orange’s preferred source of fill to create the massive berm on which the freeway would be perched north of its roughly one-mile viaduct past Hearst-Willits Road.

Will Parrish: Bypass Stopped — For Now

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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

When it comes to large, earth-destroying projects of the sort rapidly unraveling this planet’s life support systems, efforts by corporations and nation-states to “remediate,” “mitigate,” or “compensate” (the specific jargon depends on the specific project, agency, and part of the world) for their ecocide has become a macabre custom under modern environmental law.

For example, arguably the world’s most destructive industrial project, the Athabascan Tar Sands of Northern Alberta, features an extensive mitigation plan. The various tar sand oil producers, in conjunction with Canadian resource agencies, are required to invest in forest restoration and “carbon dioxide offset” projects to make up for polluting the earth’s atmosphere perhaps beyond redemption, and for desolating a stretch of northern Alberta’s forest and wetlands as large as Florida.

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