Russian River Valley News
Protecting the Russian River Redwoods & Our Coast + Eel River Hydroelectric Power, 5th District LRRMAC Elections
By Vesta Copestakes
This column has been reprinted with the permission of Neighbors of the Russian River Valley.*
SAVED from Saws!
Save the Redwoods League came to the rescue after three years of the Guerneville Forest Coalition fighting to keep 394 acres of redwood and Douglas-fir forest along the Russian River from being logged. The Silver Estates Timber Harvest Plan shocked locals who not only care about this vital watershed, but who also care about protecting the 2,000 year-old Clar Tree. This land, renamed Russian River Redwoods, includes a full mile of riverfront which will now be protected into the future with the potential for public access over time. A great sigh of relief could be heard throughout our river forest communities.
Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District is working with Save the Redwoods to fund the purchase in order for the county to own and protect this land into the future. Nearly all of the redwood forests along the Russian River were logged more than a century ago leaving very few patches of old growth redwoods to replenish what was lost. For unknown reasons, the Clar Tree was spared so it rises 278 feet towering above its much younger surrounding forest. This purchase not only protects maturing trees, it also insures wildlife habitat and connects to 4,000 acres of migration corridor. Within a year this land will be transferred from the League to Sonoma County for long-term protection. LEARN more at savetheredwoods.org/project/russian-river-redwoods
Protecting Our Coast
Our Russian River leads straight to the Pacific Ocean so we are intimately connected in every way. When Sonoma County started working on revising the Local Coastal Plan back in 2013, locals paid attention. Over the last 10 years there have been many workshops, public meetings, and opportunities to comment on every aspect of how we will manage this rare and delicate land that rises from the sea and spans the full length of Sonoma County from Mendocino County to the north to Marin County to the south.
Safeguarding public access, protecting water resources, conserving coastal ecosystems, preserving agriculture and adapting to climate change, including rising sea levels, has kept people engaged in every detail of proposed changes. Fighting the potential for winery/vineyard and housing development continues to be one of the most debated issues addressed. Last July the Board of Supervisors approved changes to the plan and sent it off to the Coastal Commission for review. It’s not a done deal yet!
Eel River Water Solutions
When PG&E decided they could no longer sustain the aging Cape Horn Dam in Potter Valley that provides hydroelectric power and also diverts Eel River water to the Russian River, local advocates became alarmed at the impact this would have on our vital resource for people, fish, and business. The dam has to be removed in order to provide up-river access for fish, but we were facing a huge loss of water that would take the river back to how it flowed more than 100 years ago. That meant a potentially dry river during the summer.
Stakeholders from both Sonoma and Mendocino County met with native tribes, environmentalists, water and power brokers, and local citizens to devise a plan that would preserve fish habitat as well as river flow. Preserving the Eel River is as important as preserving flows in the Russian River so finding solutions that work for everyone has been essential. Right now this is still in the proposal stage so stay-tuned for updates.
5th District LRRMAC Elections
The Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council is having elections to fill volunteer positions for representing Forestville, Hacienda, and Guerneville communities for two-year terms from January 2024 – December 2025. Since the LRRMAC was established five years ago, we have learned how to successfully influence decisions made by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that impact our home. This is an important function when our one supervisor has to fight for our share of budget funding and convince the other four board members to vote on policies that support our community priorities. As current representatives leave to open the door for new volunteers, our votes will support the efforts of citizen involvement in countywide decision-making that impacts the vitality of our river communities. THANK YOU for participating in local government so that we move into the future knowing we are being heard.
STAY CONNECTED: Sign up for SoCo Correspondent and District 5 News at sonomacounty.ca.gov so you can stay informed on news that impacts our home communities.
* River Valley News column will be published in the October, 2023 Neighbors of the Russian River Valley (Best Version Media), a monthly magazine distributed to neighbors in the Russian River Valley. Reprinted with permission. For more info, go to their Facebook page, here.