Environment / Natural Resources

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Humboldt Company Fined $2M for Clean Water Act Violations

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2021 at 11:20 AM

A U.S. District Court judge this week ordered a Humboldt County company to pay just more than $2 million in civil penalties for discharging pollutants into Hall Creek, a tributary to the Mad River, in violation of the Clean Water Act and for noncompliance with state and federal pollution control measures.

According to the May 2 order signed by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, Kernen Construction Co. admitted to “the key allegations in the complaint" filed by the Arcata-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

The fines, according to the order, were for 9,461 violations in connection with the company’s facility at 2350 Glendale Drive in McKinleyville, with 11 related to polluted storm water discharge and the remainder for failure to comply with “plans, technologies, monitoring and other preventative procedures and mechanisms” required by the state and the Clean Water Act.

“The Court finds these violations to be serious, as CAT has shown that (1) the water sampling data shows discharges of at least four toxic pollutants (lead, copper, pentachlorophenol, and zinc) that are harmful to animal and human life; and (2) the degree to which the discharges exceed EPA standards is significant,” Rogers wrote in reference to the discharges.

The fines were applied to violations dating back to November of 2017.

“That a small and endangered population of salmon still hangs on in Hall Creek is something to treasure and protect from toxic pollutants,” said CATs Executive Director Patty Clary said in a release. “This $2 million penalty should send the message that whether a stream supports fish or provides drinking water or other benefit, it is a public resource, not a dumping ground for industries looking to enhance their bottom line.”


Read the full CATs release below:

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Sunday ordered a Humboldt County construction company to pay $2,087,750 in civil penalties to the federal government for discharge of stormwater laden with toxic chemicals to a salmon-bearing stream without undertaking pollution control measures required by the Clean Water Act.

Arcata-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) brought the litigation against Kernen Construction Co. in McKinleyville for on-going discharge of pollutants at levels exceeding those set by regulators into a small stream that flows into Hall Creek, a tributary to the Mad River.

Of toxic pollutants found in samples Kernen must submit to regional water regulators are aluminum, which inhibits the ability of fish to breathe through their gills, at average concentrations 3,742 % above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmark, and iron averaging 5,449 % above the benchmark. Among other pollutants found in water samples is pentachlorophenol, a highly toxic legacy chemical of former mill operations that killed more than 30,000 fish in Hall Creek and the lower Mad River in 1967. Hall Creek has since been listed as critical habitat for endangered salmon.

“That a small and endangered population of salmon still hangs on in Hall Creek is something to treasure and protect from toxic pollutants,” said Patty Clary, Executive Director of CATs. “This $2 million penalty should send the message that whether a stream supports fish or provides drinking water or other benefit, it is a public resource, not a dumping ground for industries looking to enhance their bottom line.”

Kernen Construction, located a few hundred yards north of the Mad River between McKinleyville and Blue Lake on Glendale Drive, admitted in court to on-going violations of the Clean Water Act from November 14, 2017 to the present. Judge Gonzalez Rogers determined that 9,461 violations by Kernen are on record for this period.

“The court roundly rejected Defendants’ arguments that the violations were minor, sending a clear message to the regulated community that they will be punished for violating our nation’s water quality laws,” said attorney Andrew Packard, who represents Plaintiff CATs in the Clean Water Act litigation against Kernen.

Referring also to a settlement of a lawsuit brought by CATs in 2016 against Kernen Construction for violations similar to those claimed in the current litigation, Bill Verick, attorney for Plaintiff CATs, said “This is the second go-round with this company and the second time they ignored their duty to come up with better pollution control when they exceeded EPA benchmarks. Hopefully, a $2 million fine will get their attention. If not, we’ll be back for a third go-round.”

Attorney William N. Carlon of The Law Offices of Andrew L. Packard also represents Plaintiff CATs.

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Monday, May 3, 2021

Ornament Call: Thousands of Handmade Decorations Needed for Local Trees Heading to D.C.

Posted By on Mon, May 3, 2021 at 11:24 AM

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A tree from the Six Rivers National Forest will serve as this year's U.S. Capitol Christmas tree and it's going to need a lot of ornaments  — some 4,000 large ones, in fact.

So, the call is on for California residents to help with the effort for the main tree, which will sit on the West Lawn, as well as 130 others being sent to light up the offices of Washington, D.C., officials, which will need an additional 11,000 ornaments along with tree skirts.

“The Six Rivers has the great responsibility of identifying and providing the Peoples Tree for the upcoming holiday season,” Ted McArthur, forest supervisor, said in a news release. “What better way to showcase the uniqueness and beauty of our great state than by decorating it with ornaments and tree skirts handmade by Californians.”

The theme for the decorations is "Six Rivers, Many Peoples, One Tree”  and those interested are encouraged "to help showcase the diverse peoples and ecology of California and its North Coast" and to use recycled, recyclable or naturals materials.

For details and how to participate, read the full release below:
EUREKA, Calif., May 3, 2021 — How do you decorate one 60- to 80-foot-tall Christmas tree plus 130 smaller companion trees? With lots and lots of ornaments and tree skirts! As part of the 51-year USDA Forest Service tradition, the Six Rivers National Forest is providing the 2021 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which will grace the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the holiday season.

“The Six Rivers has the great responsibility of identifying and providing the Peoples Tree for the upcoming holiday season,” said Ted McArthur, forest supervisor. “What better way to showcase the uniqueness and beauty of our great state than by decorating it with ornaments and tree skirts handmade by Californians.”

The West Lawn tree will require nearly 4,000 large ornaments. Separately, the forest and nearby communities will provide an additional 130 smaller companion trees to light up offices of the California congressional delegation, as well as leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the USDA Forest Service throughout Washington, D.C., for the 2021 holiday season.

These trees require approximately 11,000 smaller ornaments and 130 tree skirts.

With a newly selected theme of “Six Rivers, Many Peoples, One Tree,” all California residents are invited to help showcase the diverse peoples and ecology of California and its North Coast, as well as their creativity, by making ornaments and tree skirts for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the smaller companion trees.

In addition to capturing California’s diversity, we encourage the use of recycled, recyclable, and natural materials as part of Woodsy Owl’s 50th birthday celebration highlighting its “Give a Hoot – Don’t Pollute” catchphrase. Ornament and tree skirt examples are available to view as a reference at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com.

Following are requirements for ornaments and tree skirts: Ornaments – U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree: 9 to 12 inches, colorful, reflective, and weatherproof to withstand the elements (wind, rain, and snow). 4,000 needed. Ornaments – 130 smaller companion trees: 4 to 6 inches, lightweight and colorful; however, durability is not a concern as they will be indoors. 11,000 needed.

Tree skirts: 5 feet in diameter. It may be possible for tree skirts to be returned; however, no guarantees can be made. 130 needed. U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree ornaments and tree skirts may not include logos, political, or religious affiliation or symbols, drug or alcohol references, be divisive or offensive. Ornaments cannot be returned.

Ornaments and tree skirts are due by September 1, 2021, and may be mailed to: U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501; or taken to drop-off sites listed at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com. For additional information about ornaments or tree skirts for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and how your group or community can get involved, contact Maritza Guzman at maritza.guzman@usda.gov or (707) 672-3184. ###
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Monday, April 26, 2021

Cold and Swift: Another Round of Trinity River Releases This Week

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2021 at 10:34 AM

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Another round of Trinity River restoration flows being released from the Lewiston Dam takes place this week to help improve conditions after another critically dry water year.

That means rising and swifter water at a time when the rivers are already running high and cold. Earlier this month, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and area residents rescued three swimmers who became stranded on a rock in the Trinity River at a day use area in Willow Creek.

"This year marks the third critically dry year in the last five years for the Trinity watershed," the Bureau of Reclamation release on the releases stated. "The planned release schedule attempts to maximize benefits to the physical and biological character of the Trinity River, given the constraints of the limited amount of water available.

A peak release to increase flows to 3,550 cfs is slated for April 28. Two others are scheduled in May.

A flow schedule based on the expected amount of water available to support salmon restoration efforts on the Trinity River is brought forward by the Trinity Management Council each year.

"Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions," the release states. "Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases."

A daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website www.trrp.net/restore/flows/current/.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Humboldt County Fair Announces Dates, Fundraiser for the Ponies

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2021 at 12:29 PM

The Humboldt County Fair announces dates and a fundraiser for race horse owners. - SUBMITTED
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  • The Humboldt County Fair announces dates and a fundraiser for race horse owners.
The Humboldt County Fair announced today plans (if all goes well) to hold the event from Aug. 18 to Aug. 29 with the theme "A Country Fair with a Western Flair."

According to a news release, the fair has set up a "Horses to Humboldt" GoFundMe page to help owners make their way to Ferndale this summer for a return of the races.

"It’s been a tough year for horses too as they have not been able to run races. Over the years, the cost for horse owners to travel, stall, feed, and insure their horses has continually gone up," the fair's release states. "The campaign is an effort to keep the local tradition alive of making heart-warming memories in Ferndale during the sunny days at the fair enjoying the horse races with friends and family by offering incentives to horse owners to attend."

The campaign has so far raised $5,000 of the $50,000 goal.

The fair was, of course, put on hold last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full release and find more information on how to become a vendor below:
The Humboldt County Fair has announced their planned fair dates for the 2021 Humboldt County Fair. If all goes well with reopening plans, the Fair will be held starting Wednesday, August 18th and running through Sunday, August 29, 2021.

The Theme of the fair was chosen at the last Board meeting, “A County Fair with a Western Flair.” All phases of the fair are in the planning stages including Horseracing, Carnival, Vendors, Exhibits and Livestock. In an effort to secure more horses to run during the fair, there is currently a “Horses to Humboldt” GoFundMe page set up to help horses make the trip to Ferndale.

It’s been a tough year for horses too as they have not been able to run races. Over the years, the cost for horse owners to travel, stall, feed, and insure their horses has continually gone up. The campaign is an effort to keep the local tradition alive of making heart-warming memories in Ferndale during the sunny days at the fair enjoying the horse races with friends and family by offering incentives to horse owners to attend.

The “Horses to Humboldt” GoFundMe page can be found on the Humboldt County Fair’s Facebook page, or you can contact the fairgrounds office directly if you want to donate. The Fair is also looking for Vendors who would like to sell and promote their products and services in our Commercial Building during the fair.

Applications for commercial Vendors can be found on the HCF website https://www.humboldtcountyfair.org, by emailing humcofairentries@frontiernet.net, or by calling the Fair office at (707) 786-9511.

For more information about the fair, check for progress updates on their website, https://humboldtcountyfair.org/ or follow Humboldt County Fair on Facebook! We are looking forward to an exciting 2021 “County Fair with a Western Flair.”

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Yurok, Karuk Tribes Join Coalition to Ask for Federal Aid Due to Extreme Drought Predictions

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2021 at 11:21 AM

The Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec. - SUBMITTED
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  • The Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec.
The Yurok and Karuk Tribes, along with the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, have united with Klamath Basin conservationists and commercial fishermen to jointly sign a letter asking the Biden administration for significant financial relief to all Klamath Basin communities in response to extreme drought predictions.

The Karuk Tribe, the Yurok Tribe, the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, American Rivers, California Waterfowl, California Trout, Fly Fishers International Northern California Council, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Sustainable Northwest, and Trout Unlimited sent the letter calling for $250 million in federal funding to invest in both short-term and long-term measures to assist native species like birds and fish and for infrastructure improvements designed to prevent similar disasters in future low-water years. The funding would also address immediate economic losses, help to restore water balance and improve ecological conditions in the drought-prone Klamath Basin.

The letter comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared a drought disaster for 50 counties in California, making growers and farmers throughout the state who have been struggling with parched conditions eligible to seek federal loans.

“The Klamath Basin is in crisis,” said Chair of the Karuk Tribe Russell Attebery. “This drought has the potential to irrevocably damage the already anguished ecosystems and economic viability of the area. Salmon are the lifeblood of the Karuk people and play an integral role in our culture, ceremonies, and nourishment. We have watched our fisheries decline for decades and have done everything in our power to save them, but we have arrived at an impasse; there is nothing we can do to make the rain come.”

The release states that historically the Klamath Basin was home to the third-largest salmon runs in the continental United States, and is still a major stop on the “Pacific Flyway,” supporting millions of migratory birds. The upper basin also includes about 220,000 acres of croplands served by the federal Klamath Irrigation Project, supporting hundreds of small farms whose families have lived and grown food there for generations.

“This year’s worst-case water crisis has the potential to cause enduring damage to the ecology of the Klamath River, the lifeline of the Yurok people. The severe drought also poses a serious threat our lifeway and livelihoods. In a few months, the Tribe will be cancelling our commercial salmon fishery for the fifth time to protect another record-low fish run, which will make it difficult to impossible for many of our families to pay basic bills and put food on the table,” said Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s vice chair. “Fish are the foundation of our traditional culture and the glue that holds our community together.”

Read the letter sent to the Biden administration and the press release below.

Klamath Basin Tribes, Conservationists and Commercial Fishermen Call on Biden Administration for Extreme Drought Economic Disaster Relief

Klamath Basin, Oregon/California border – On Friday, April 16, a coalition of three Klamath Basin Tribes joined with groups that represent conservationists and commercial fishermen to urge the Biden administration to grant significant financial relief to all Klamath Basin communities in response to what is predicted to be the driest year on record for the region.

In this joint letter to President Biden, the groups urgently called for federal help to blunt the immediate disastrous economic consequences from impacts of the drought for farmers and ranchers as well as commercial and subsistence fishermen and Tribes. The letter requested investment in short-term measures to assist native species, including fish and birds, as well as longer-term infrastructure improvements designed to prevent similar disasters in future low-water years. In all, the groups have requested more than $250 million in funding to address immediate economic losses and for helping to restore water balance to, and improve ecological conditions in, the drought-prone Klamath Basin.

The Klamath Basin straddles the Oregon-California border, encompassing an area roughly the size of Maryland. Historically it was home to the third largest salmon runs in the continental US, and still is a major stop on the “Pacific Flyway” supporting millions of migratory birds. The upper basin also includes about 220,000 acres of croplands served by the federal Klamath Irrigation Project, supporting hundreds of small farms whose families have lived and grown food there for several generations.

The Karuk Tribe, the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, American Rivers, California Waterfowl, California Trout, Fly Fishers International Northern California Council, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Sustainable Northwest, and Trout Unlimited sent the letter jointly. See below for quotes from representatives of these organizations. For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson who can speak to the details of the specific requests in the letter, contact Nina Erlich-Williams at nina@publicgoodpr.com.

“The Klamath Basin is in crisis,” said Russell "Buster" Attebery, Chairman of the Karuk Tribe. “This drought has the potential to irrevocably damage the already anguished ecosystems and economic viability of the area. Salmon are the lifeblood of the Karuk people and play an integral role in our culture, ceremonies, and nourishment. We have watched our fisheries decline for decades and have done everything in our power to save them, but we have arrived at an impasse; there is nothing we can do to make the rain come. The Karuk Tribe is committed to working collaboratively to find solutions to this crisis and stands with fellow tribes, commercial fishermen, and conservationists in the call for disaster relief for all affected parties in the Klamath Basin.”

“All Klamath Basin communities will be hard hit this year by extreme drought, and need help to survive. Farmers are out of water, fisheries are closed, even Tribal basic subsistence fisheries are being curtailed,” said Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of PCFFA, which represents commercial family-owned salmon fishing operations on the west coast.  “These communities are working together for their common cause. The Federal government could – and should – help them survive.”

“As the Klamath and much of the West faces unprecedented drought conditions, it’s critical to join together to adopt both temporary and permanent measures to ensure our communities can thrive without sacrificing a healthy environment,” said Greg Block, President of Sustainable Northwest.

“This year’s worst-case water crisis has the potential to cause enduring damage to the ecology of the Klamath River, the lifeline of the Yurok people. The severe drought also poses a serious threat our lifeway and livelihoods. In a few months, the Tribe will be cancelling our commercial salmon fishery for the fifth time to protect another record-low fish run, which will make it difficult to impossible for many of our families to pay basic bills and put food on the table,” Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chairman. “Fish are the foundation of our traditional culture and the glue that holds our community together. We need to solve the Klamath’s water challenges before it is too late for the salmon. We are prepared to work with our neighboring tribes, ocean fishers and conservation partners on building a more resilient ecology and economy in the Klamath Basin.”
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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

'People and Planet Before Profit:' Post-Capitalism Conference Set to Kick Off

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 2:00 PM

Can you imagine a world after capitalism? David Cobb can, and he wants you to join him.

“We need a system that puts people and planet before profit,” Cobb says in a recent phone interview with the Journal.

The good news, Cobb says, is that the core elements of the solidarity economy he and others believe will bring about a more equitable and just world don’t need to be imagined — they can be looked at, felt, experienced and replicated. And that’s one of the core messages of the Post-Capitalism Conference, a four-day virtual forum that begins Thursday and is hosted by Cooperation Humboldt, the nonprofit Cobb cofounded, and sponsored by Humboldt State University’s Native American Studies, Politics, Sociology and Environmental Studies departments, HSU’s California Faculty Association and the Environmental Justice/Climate Justice hub at University of California at Santa Barbara.

Cobb said the four-day event will focus on tangible solutions to pervasive problems, with discussions on universal basic income, worker-owned cooperative companies, community land trusts, public banking and food sovereignty designed to showcase work that’s currently being done to bring about a more equitable world.

“This is actually happening,” he said. “There’s a new economic system that’s being created right now but we don’t actually see it because it’s not being talked about.”

The conference is designed to meet people where they are, Cobb said, offering more detailed panel discussions — like Thursday’s “Regenerative Economic Development to Re-Indigenize” — for those already steeped in the concepts of decolonization and land trusts, alongside ones offering more broad-strokes introductions to larger concepts — like Thursday’s “From Where We Are to Where We Want to Be: How Do We Get There.” The idea, Cobb said, is to bring together a group of knowledgeable academics, theorists and practitioners to provide insight and information that will help guide people on their own paths to understanding the underlying ideas and putting them into practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on the conference are also profound, Cobb said. First, he said the virtual nature of the conference will allow people across the nation and world to participate free of charge, but it’s also allowed organizers to tap leaders at the forefront of various movements to participate from around the country. That means the conference will feature names like famed Marxian economist and author Rick Wolff, public banking pioneer Trinity Tran and Emily Kawano, the co-director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation in Massachusetts and coordinator of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network.

“We have some really famous players — and also some people who frankly should be more famous,” Cobb said, pointing to Ramon Torres, who led the formation of Familias Unidas por Justicia, an indigenous farmworker labor union in Washington, and later founded a worker-owned cooperative berry farm.

But Cobb said the pandemic has also laid the nation’s gross economic disparities bare, leaving families struggling for food and housing, while the billionaire class has grown markedly richer. This, Cobb said, has increased the critical eye on the nation’s economic systems and how to change them.

“A decade ago, things like universal basic income and public banking weren’t — or didn’t seem — possible,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to dream big and think about systemic, transformational change.”

The conference will also put a spotlight on some issues of keen local interest — the food sovereignty movement, cannabis equity programs and the interconnectedness between white supremacy and capitalism. Cobb said he’s proud of the lineup that organizers have put together, noting it is “intentionally and deliberately multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural,” with more female than male speakers.

Get the full schedule of events, presenter biographies and all the details on how to participate here. And check out the press release from HSU below

Continue reading »

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5 Things to Know About Federal Drought Aid in California

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 6:44 AM

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Stop if you’ve heard this before: California is in the grip of a severe drought. Again. 

Now the federal government is stepping in to help. 

To assist California, which is the nation’s largest food supplier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared a drought disaster for 50 counties. That makes growers throughout the state who have been struggling with parched conditions eligible to seek federal loans.

“This declaration emphasizes the devastating and far-reaching impact of climate change on the agricultural producers that feed and power America,” Under Secretary of Agriculture Gloria Montaño Greene said in an emailed statement. 

Here’s what you need to know about the disaster declaration and its effect on California: 

There’s a big difference between a drought emergency and a USDA disaster

In March, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom designating 50 California counties as “primary natural disaster areas” due to drought.

A drought disaster sounds alarming, but officials say the reality is more mundane: It simply opens up emergency federal loans to California farmers who are struggling with back-to-back dry years. Growers in the 50 counties but also in all the counties next door (including 16 in Oregon, Arizona and Nevada) are eligible for loans. 

“The bar is set very low to qualify, because the purpose of the disaster designation is to quickly make financial assistance available to (agricultural) producers,” said Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager with the California Department of Water Resources. 

This federal designation is very different from declaring a drought emergency under California’s Emergency Services Act, which would allow the governor to take more sweeping actions affecting all Californians, such as mandating conservation, waiving some state regulations and reallocating funds. Under state law, declaring a drought emergency would require “conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the state” that local governments can’t cope with on their own. 

Comparing Vilsack’s designation of drought disaster areas to a state drought emergency is “like (comparing) apples to pineapples, because it’s a really large difference,” Jones said.

The decision was ‘as close to automatic as it can get’

So what is the federal decision based on? The USDA looks at how dehydrated California has been. 

Rain and snow in much of the state are roughly half of average. The state deemed the snowpack on California’s mountains “well below normal.” The two major reservoirs are at about half of their capacity. And streamflow rivals levels during the peak of the last drought, which started in 2012 and continued through 2016. 

“Much of the state has had two pretty darn dry years,” Jones said, adding that the most recent wet season — last October through March — ranks as the fourth driest on record in California.

A nationwide wetness watchdog, called the US Drought Monitor, has colored California in shades of yellow, orange, red and brown, which denote conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. 

The USDA’s designations hinge on that map. Counties can be considered drought disaster areas if any part enters the driest red and brown “extreme” and “exceptional” categories during the growing season, or if they move into the orange “severe drought” category and stay there for eight consecutive weeks. 

These categories are based on various measurements, not just precipitation and snowpack. They include vegetation health, soil moisture, surface water and other criteria. The map authors also work with local experts to gauge on-the-ground conditions. 

“The disaster declaration process is almost as close to automatic as it can get” because it’s based on the drought map, said Jacque Johnson, acting state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s state office. “What happened in California on March 5 was 50 of our 58 counties were disasters.” 

Farms in all counties are eligible for loans

Vilsack’s letter designated 50 California counties as primary disaster areas. The other eight are listed as “contiguous” counties. What gives?

Contiguous counties are exactly what they sound like: the counties that didn’t quite hit the drought threshold at the time but are adjacent to primary disaster areas. The eight counties are Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito. None of them, at the time of the declaration in March, had entered the more severe dry conditions of the other 50.

Growers throughout the state are eligible to apply for emergency federal loans until early November. Some also may qualify for other federal assistance programs. 

“The assumption is that collateral damage falls into the next door neighbor county,” Johnson said. “The county line is not a barrier.”

Legislators are pressuring Newsom to declare emergency

Newsom has so far resisted calls to declare a drought emergency. He said on Tuesday that his staff had been “talking for months internally” and drought plans were in place, but he was opaque when it came to providing specifics.

“We are prepared to move very quickly when we are prepared to move,” Newsom said.

Officials have said that they believe the state has enough administrative tools to respond to the drought without declaring an emergency.

The governor, under the threat of a recall, may be in triage mode, taking his pick of emergencies to respond to: drought, predictions of another monster wildfire season and the ever-present global pandemic.

Lawmakers have been quick to pounce on what they see as Newsom’s inattention or indifference to a pressing problem that hits rural communities hard. A bipartisan group of legislators, led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Andreas Borgeas, a Republican from Fresno, and Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Robert Rivas, a Democrat from Hollister,  requested a statewide drought emergency declaration.

“From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, California farmers will see sharp cuts in water supplies this year.”

Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau

The legislators noted that allocations from the State Water Project, which draws water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta and sends it to cities and farms, have been reduced to 5 percent of normal. They urged the governor to forestall a catastrophic loss in farm revenue.

In a reference sure to get under Newsom’s skin, the letter referred to actions taken by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 when similar drought conditions prevailed. That emergency declaration, the letter said, provided “flexibility and commonsense streamlining to utilize our limited water in the most efficient way.”

At that time, Brown issued conservation mandates for all state agencies and told local water agencies to immediately implement their water shortage contingency plans, which restricted residential water use. The declaration also modified reservoir releases, accelerated funding for water projects ready to break ground and lifted requirements that water projects comply with California’s environmental quality law.

The loans can make or break farms and ranches

The State Water Resources Control Board in March put California’s 69,000 farms on notice that they should start planning now for severe impacts this summer.

This comes after climate change and inadequate water supply are already battering California’s growers, who produce more than 400 commodities, worth nearly $50 billion a year, including about half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables and nearly a fifth of its milk.

Legislators estimate that about 1 million acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland will be fallowed over the next two to three decades because of reduced groundwater and surface water supplies. They project the loss of 85,000 jobs as a direct result of reduced water access.  

Against that backdrop of dire news, the federal disaster declaration opens up aid for the state’s beleaguered growers and ranchers. The loans assist them for loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. 

Each farm operation could receive a loan of up to $500,000, based on its loss. The USDA’s emergency loans were budgeted at $1.21 billion nationwide for this year.

The federal agency “considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator,” Vilsack told Newsom in his letter.

Cows graze dry grass outside of Bieber, a small town in Lassen County, in July 2019. In response to increased drought risk, farmers and ranchers in all 58 California counties will become eligible for loans to assist with loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Cattle graze outside of Bieber, a small town in Lassen County, in July 2019. In response to the drought, farmers and ranchers in all 58 California counties are eligible for loans to assist with loss of crops, trees, land and livestock. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

For farmers, the loans can make or break their operations, which are already on tight water allocation budgets.

“From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, California farmers will see sharp cuts in water supplies this year,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau. “That means hundreds of thousands of acres of land will lie idle. It means thousands of people will lose jobs, in both rural and urban areas. It means Californians will have less locally grown food available.”

The expenses can pile up. Because of the drought, ranchers may have to lease additional pasture, buy extra feed and pay to haul and store water to replace the natural water sources that have dried up, Johnson said.

The USDA has already received inquiries from California cattle ranchers interested in applying for the loans. 

The state has about 13,000 cattle operations, with more than 5 million cattle and calves. The San Joaquin Valley, particularly Tulare, Merced and Kings counties, has the most.

Katie Roberti, a spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen’s Association, said ranchers are facing the most severe conditions in decades, worse than the last drought. 

“While the federal designation is welcomed assistance, without precipitation many California cattle producers are going to be forced to make the difficult decision to reduce the size of their herds, some more drastically than others,” she said. “Feed on rangelands will be limited and we are hearing hay prices will be high. These herd reductions will have a lasting impact on the number of cattle in the West for years to come.”

This article first appeared on CalMatters Network and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Releases on the Trinity River to Significant Increase Flow This Week

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2021 at 12:50 PM

The Trinity River. - BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • The Trinity River.

Restoration flows will begin tomorrow, April 16, on the Trinity River to help improve conditions after another critically dry water year.

A flow schedule based on the expected amount of water available to support salmon restoration efforts on the Trinity River is brought forward by the Trinity Management Council each year.

This week's two-day schedule is slated to increase daily average flows from 300 cubic feet per second to 1,300 cubic feet per second.

That means rising and swifter water at a time when the rivers are already running high and cold. Earlier this month, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and area residents rescued three swimmers who became stranded on a rock in the Trinity River at a day use area in Willow Creek.

"This year marks the third critically dry year in the last five years for the Trinity watershed," the Bureau of Reclamation release states. "The planned release schedule attempts to maximize benefits to the physical and biological character of the Trinity River, given the constraints of the limited amount of water available.

This week's release with be followed by other on April 21 and April 23 and a peak release to increase flows to 3,550 cfs on April 28. Two others are scheduled in May.

"Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions," the release states. "Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases."

A daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website www.trrp.net/restore/flows/current/.

Read the full release below:
WEAVERVILLE, Calif. – The Bureau of Reclamation announced today that this year’s restoration flow schedule for the Trinity River will begin on April 16. Each year, the Trinity Management Council advances a flow schedule based on the expected amount of water available to support salmon restoration efforts on the Trinity River.

Due to lack of precipitation and snowpack in the Trinity Mountains this winter, the flow schedule for 2021 is scaled to a critically dry water year. Critically dry is one of five water year types used by the Trinity River Restoration Program to decide how much reservoir water will be released in support of the program’s goals to improve habitat for anadromous fish—fish that migrate to fresh water from salt water to spawn—like salmon and steelhead. This year marks the third critically dry year in the last five years for the Trinity watershed. The planned release schedule attempts to maximize benefits to the physical and biological character of the Trinity River, given the constraints of the limited amount of water available.

Key components of the flow release schedule are:
  • April 16-17: Increase daily average flows from 300 cubic feet per second to 1,300 cfs
  • April 21: Decrease flows to 500 cfs
  • April 23: Increase flows to 1,500 cfs
  • April 28: Increase flows to peak release of 3,550 cfs
Thereafter, two additional flow increases to 1,950 cfs on May 6 and 1,600 cfs on May 28 are scheduled before flow decreases to summer baseflow (450 cfs) on June 18, which continues until September 30. Visitors near or on the river can expect river levels to increase during the flow releases and should take appropriate safety precautions. Landowners are advised to clear personal items from the floodplain prior to the releases.

A daily schedule of flow releases is available at the program’s website www.trrp.net/restore/flows/current/. The public may subscribe to automated notifications of Trinity River release changes (via phone or email) at https://www.trrp.net/restoration/flows/flow-release-notifications/. The Trinity Management Council is the governing body of the Trinity River Restoration Program. The council’s membership includes Hoopa Valley Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Trinity County, State of California, USDA-Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

For additional information, visit https://www.trrp.net/ or contact the office at 530-623-1800 (TTY 800-877-8339) info@trrp.net.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Two-Hour Delays at Last Chance Grade

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2021 at 1:33 PM

CALTRANS FACEBOOK
  • Caltrans Facebook
Caltrans is reporting that drivers should expect two-hour delays on U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade south of Crescent City on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning today.

Motorists can expect shorter delays of 30 minutes outside of the 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. window.

According to the Facebook post, Caltrans anticipates "these 2-hour delays on weekdays to continue until further notice. These plans are subject to change."

Check out the Facebook announcement below.

Beginning Tuesday, March 30, motorists should anticipate 2-hour delays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays on U.S. 101 at...

Posted by Caltrans District 1 on Monday, March 29, 2021
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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Prey-go-neesh One Step Closer to Soaring in Humboldt Skies

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 12:12 PM

A wild-hatched condor. - COURTESY OF REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
  • Courtesy of Redwood National Park
  • A wild-hatched condor.
After nearly a century, California condors will soon once again soar over Yurok ancestral lands, the culmination of years of work by the tribe on behalf of the bird Yurok people know as prey-go-neesh.

Nearly lost to extinction in the 1980s, condors are integrally connected to the Yurok Tribe and others in the region, where the last reported sighting was near Drain, Oregon, in 1940.

“For the last 20 years, the Yurok Tribe has been actively engaged in the restoration of the rivers, forests and prairies in our ancestral territory,” said Yurok Tribe Chair Joseph L. James in a news release “The reintroduction of the condor is one component of this effort to reconstruct the diverse environmental conditions that once existed in our region. We are extremely proud of the fact that our future generations will not know a world without prey-go-neesh. We are excited to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Redwood National Park on the final stages of the project and beyond.”

(Read more about the Yurok Tribe's efforts in the Journal's May of 2019 story, "Bringing Prey-go-neesh Home" by clicking here.)

Ventana Wildlife intern Kristy Markowitz (front), Yurok Tribe wildlife technician Tiana Williams (center) and Ventana field technician Sayre Flannigan release a California condor in Big Sur. Photo by Chris West
  • Ventana Wildlife intern Kristy Markowitz (front), Yurok Tribe wildlife technician Tiana Williams (center) and Ventana field technician Sayre Flannigan release a California condor in Big Sur. Photo by Chris West

By this fall or next spring, after a release facility in Redwood National Park is completed, the first birds are expected to take flight, bringing California condors back to the northern reaches of its historic range, which once stretched to the Canadian border and east to Utah, Montana and Colorado.

Tomorrow, a final rule will be published in the Federal Register to designated condors involved in this reintroduction “as a nonessential, experimental population,”  which is needed to propel the collaborative effort by the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, Redwood National and State Parks and the Yurok Tribe forward.

Not long ago, a mere 22 sole survivors were sequestered in a small, remote mountainous area of Southern California and, by 1987, the last ones were taken into captivity for breeding, with hundreds of North America’s largest bird now returned to the wild.

Still condors remain vulnerable, mostly due to human interference partnered with a slow reproduction cycle that sees a female produce one solitary egg every other year.

“The return of condors to the skies above Redwood National and State Parks is a critical step toward recovery of this majestic landscape,” said Steve Mietz, superintendent of the Parks. “Working with our friends and partners, the Yurok Tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we will continue the unparalleled success story of condor recovery allowing all Americans to visit the tallest trees in the world while watching one of the largest birds in the world soar overhead.”

But with another chance for the birds to spread their 10-foot wingspans, the hope is the Redwood National Park site will act as a gateway for the California condor to make new inroads into its former territory.

“The California condor is a shining example of how a species can be brought back from the brink of extinction through the power of partnerships,” said Paul Souza, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s California-Great Basin Region. “I would like to thank the Yurok Tribe, National Park Service, our state partners, and others, who were instrumental in this project. Together, we can help recover and conserve this magnificent species for future generations.”

Read the full release below:

For the first time in 100 years, the endangered California condor will return to the Pacific Northwest. Once on the brink of extinction, this iconic species has made significant steps towards recovery. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Yurok Tribe announced a final rule that will help facilitate the creation of a new California condor release facility for the reintroduction of condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park, which is in the northern portion of the species’ historic range. This facility will be operated by the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, a partnership between Redwood National Park and Yurok Tribe.

The rule will designate the condors affiliated with this program as a nonessential, experimental population under the Endangered Species Act. This status will provide needed flexibility in managing the reintroduced population, reduce the regulatory impact of reintroducing a federally listed species, and facilitate cooperative conservation. 

“The California condor is a shining example of how a species can be brought back from the brink of extinction through the power of partnerships,” said Paul Souza, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s California-Great Basin Region. “I would like to thank the Yurok Tribe, National Park Service, our state partners, and others, who were instrumental in this project. Together, we can help recover and conserve this magnificent species for future generations.”

With a wingspan of almost 10 feet, the California condor is the largest soaring land bird in North America. These massive vultures are essential members of their ecosystems and play a significant role in the spiritual and cultural beliefs of the Yurok Tribe, as well as many other Tribes, throughout northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Over the past twelve years, the Yurok Tribe has led this reintroduction effort and completed a tremendous amount of legwork to prepare for the return of condors to the Pacific Northwest. Extensive environmental assessments, contaminant analyses, and community outreach were just a few of the requisite tasks. The Tribe completed this endeavor because the condor is an irreplaceable part of a sacred cultural landscape. Pending completion of the condor release facility, the anticipated release of condors would be fall of 2021 or spring of 2022.

“For the last 20 years, the Yurok Tribe has been actively engaged in the restoration of the rivers, forests and prairies in our ancestral territory. The reintroduction of the condor is one component of this effort to reconstruct the diverse environmental conditions that once existed in our region. We are extremely proud of the fact that our future generations will not know a world without prey-go-neesh. We are excited to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Redwood National Park on the final stages of the project and beyond,” said Joseph L. James, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. 

California condors prehistorically ranged from California to Florida and, in contemporary times, from Western Canada to Northern Mexico. By the mid-20th century, condor populations drastically declined due to poaching and poisoning. In 1967, the California condor was listed as endangered. In 1982, only 23 condors survived worldwide. By 1987, all remaining wild condors were placed into a captive breeding program. Thus, began an intensive recovery program to save the species from extinction.

As a result of exemplary conservation partnerships, and intensive captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, there are now over 300 California condors in the wild in California, Arizona, Utah and Baja California. However, the bird is still listed as endangered and lead poisoning (largely caused by ingesting lead shot or fragments of lead bullets when feeding on carcasses) is listed as one of the species’ primary threats.

“The return of condors to the skies above Redwood National and State Parks is a critical step toward recovery of this majestic landscape,” said Steve Mietz, superintendent of Redwood National and State Parks. “Working with our friends and partners, the Yurok Tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we will continue the unparalleled success story of condor recovery allowing all Americans to visit the tallest trees in the world while watching one of the largest birds in the world soar overhead.”

“We are excited for this opportunity to bring these iconic birds back to California habitat that has not been occupied for decades,” said Stafford Lehr, Deputy Director of Wildlife and Fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “These birds are important to the biodiversity of the landscape and we are pleased with the collaboration amongst state and federal agencies, the Yurok Tribe, and private companies to conserve this species.”

The final rule exempts most incidental take of condors within the nonessential experimental population, provided the take is unintentional and not due to negligent conduct. Although the rule exempts most incidental take, certain activities are prohibited within 656 feet (200 meters) of an occupied nest.

These include habitat alteration (e.g., removing trees, erecting structures, altering the nest structure or perches near the nest) and significant visual or noise disturbance (e.g., tree felling, chainsaws, helicopter overflights, concrete cutters, fireworks or explosives). There are two exemptions: emergency fuel treatment activities by federal, state, tribal, or local government agencies to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and responses to wildfire or other emergencies.

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on March 24, 2021. The document can be found on www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number FWS–R1–ES–2018–0033. More information is available here: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=66364

The Yurok Tribe, California’s largest federally recognized tribe, exercises its inherent sovereignty in order to conserve, protect and restore Yurok natural resources and culture and the health and social well-being of existing and future Tribal members through its exercise of sovereign rights, culturally integrated methods and high quality scientific practices in coordination with the community, public agencies and private organizations. For more information about our work, visit http://www.yuroktribe.org/ or connect with us via Facebook.

The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 established a single system of federally managed parks, monuments and reserved lands to promote and regulate their use and "....to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." For more information about the National Park Service, please visit Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. For more information regarding Redwood National Park visit https://www.nps.gov/redw/index.htm.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/cno/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

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