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Three Nons & Water Wars

Sheriff Allman appeared before the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday to explain why it is expected to cost $150,000 to paint the inside of the jail.

First up was General Services Director Kristin McMenomey.

McMenomey: “The Jail has not been painted in over 28 years. The jail is not in the capital improvement plan budget because it is such a high cost at $150,000 to paint the inside of the facility.”

Supervisor John Pinches: “Why can't the inmates paint the inside of the jail? Maybe they'd care more about it if they painted it themselves.”

McMenomey: “There are a couple of reasons why the inmates cannot paint the jail. We've had discussions with County Counsel on this.”

Pinches: “I want to hear the reason why they can.”

McMenomey: “Why they can?”

Pinches: “I want to hear the Sheriff's response.”

Sheriff Tom Allman: “That was my very first question. How could we get the inmates to do this? First of all, of course, we have the contractors. We have an obligation. We can't do large projects when there are contractors who do it. We learned that through the Employers’ Council. In addition, this is not regular latex paint. The jail has not been painted since it was built in 1985. The graffiti inside, the racial graffiti, the very strong graffiti which is not conducive for what we are trying to achieve with AB-109 [prison realignment] has to be covered up. It's strictly epoxy paint. And epoxy paint has to be administered by a licensed contractor for epoxy paint. It's a huge process. There's going to be clearing out certain parts of the jail, wings of the jail. It's one week for each wing to paint with the epoxy paint and the rest of dealing with it. We are trying to work with it. I wish we could say, Let's get a sprayer there and spray it with a new coat of latex paint and walk away. But that's not what the state will allow us to do. It's not going to last. The paint that we have there now from 1985 for the most part has lasted much longer than it was intended. It's expensive, but at this point it's worth it and it's something that we have to do. If you want to tour the jail as you and I have done before, I welcome it. But to put inmates into a cell which has extremely racial graffiti that people — for 24 hours a day, they think about it: “how can we damage the jail? And they do a pretty good job of it. We are trying to improve what we have through this kind of attention inside the jail. But it's a good question and it's a question we all ask.”

Pinches: “So it can be paid for with AB-109 money?”

Allman: “(Pauses) That has not been brought up. AB-109 funds — you will hopefully be hearing about funding a deputy sheriff very soon. I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag but you asked.”

Superivsor John McCowen: “The graffiti that you speak of, is this generalized throughout the entire facility or is it primarily in cells, or the holding cells?”

Allman: “Well it's not throughout the jail; it's only the cells where the inmates are not monitored 24 hours a day with any kind of videocamera and so forth. It's somewhat derogatory, but it's also just for the overall maintenance. If you remember, our jail was built in 1985 and it was literally trucked in. These were portable units. We were told it would be a 20 year jail and that was a long time ago. Now we are in the process of trying to get some maintenance done that has been deferred. We have pipes that have rusted through. We have hinges that no longer work, roller bearings on doors that are way obsolete. The inventor and owner of the patent of some of this has died and his family has not released the equipment yet. These are some of the challenges we are up against. So we are working with GSA and repairing some of these things at the lowest cost. But getting the jail painted is a priority for the general well-being of the county, not just for the appearance, but for the maintenance. We have rust problems in the jail which you don't even want to know about.”

McCowen: “I've seen some of the graffiti in the holding cells and the booking area and I absolutely agree that it is a priority to paint that over. But in terms of painting the entire jail when we have another item we're looking at — the extensive remodel or replacement, I'm not sure. We need to balance the need to do the painting with, Are we then going to be ripping things out in two years?”

Allman: “No. The project you speak of is not for jail replacement. I would welcome a jail replacement. But in the world of other priorities I'm not going to advocate for a jail replacement right now. My guess is the paint that we put on this jail at the very minimum will last for 10-15 years or more.”

McCowen: “And the $20 million that we would potentially receive — it would actually be for a jail remodel?”

Allman: “Well, it's for a jail extension for maximum security and I'm hoping that the Sheriff's Office will work with mental health and we can work on some mental health beds that are non-criminal mental health beds. This is a big discussion and I welcome you, Supervisor McCowen, to be part of that because there is no discussion of replacing the 304-bed facility that we have right now. We need maximum security because of AB-109 and criminals who are coming in that are hardball criminals, these are not softballs. These are major crooks that the state is sending us.”

Hamburg: “Except they are all the three nons.”

Allman: “I guess that all depends on — non-sex, non-violent, non-serious — the state and counties cannot agree on what non-serious means because someone who manufactures methamphetamine in my opinion is a serious offender, but the state says he will never go to state prison for manufacturing methamphetamine. They will only go to county jails. So the definitions are —”

Hamburg: “I just remember when we were talking about AB-109. We kept coming up with and talking about the three nons.”

Allman: “The three nons.”

Hamburg: “But now we are finding out that the three nons are up for interpretation.”

Allman: “We agree on the two nons, but the third non, the non-serious, is not something we agree with the state on.”


Water Wars: Eel River Diversion-Potter Valley Project Theater

(From the Potter Valley Irrigation District website

Prior to the construction of the Potter Valley Project by Snow Mountain Water and Power (SMWP) in 1908, and even until after the construction of Scott Dam forming Lake Pillsbury on the Eel River, the farmers in Potter Valley had little water for irrigating crops during the late summer and fall. Potter Valley, seven miles long and two miles wide, has a very small watershed with a few tributaries to the East Branch of the Russian River which runs, from north to south, through the center of the valley. On normal years of rainfall the small creeks, such as Busch, Hawn and Mewhinney stop flowing by midsummer and on dry years the creeks no longer have surface flow as early as April. At first, after the Potter Valley Project was built in 1906, water was only diverted from the Eel River through the tunnel during high winter and spring flows because the natural late spring, summer and fall flows on the Eel River drop to levels so low that it was impossible to divert water through the Potter Valley Project. Scott Dam was completed in 1922 allowing winter runoff water to be stored in the, newly-formed, Lake Pillsbury and to be released in the summer for power production. It soon became clear to the farmers of Potter Valley that there was a new source of summer water and dry farming crops could be a thing of the past.

* * *

Supervisor John McCowen reported on the early stages of another upcoming legal battle over whether Eel River water should stay in the Eel or be partially diverted through the Potter Valley Tunnel into the Headwaters of the Russian River to water grapes in Potter Valley, add water to Lake Mendocino and so that Sonoma County can make millions of dollars by selling lots of it to Marin County.

McCowen: “I attended the all-boards meeting called by the Inland Water and Power Commission (IWPC). The initial portion was an informational presentation on the relicensing of the Potter Valley Project. That process will begin in April of 2017. It's expected to be a five-year process. Going right along with that, there was a presentation regarding the creation of yet another agency with the term Russian River in its name. It is currently proposed to be the Russian River Preservation Alliance although Supervisor Brown and I might think it should be the Russian River Water Alliance. It is intended to bring together all of the entities that currently do benefit from the Potter Valley Project to the downstream use of water that is conveyed via the Potter Valley Project. There are groups who would like to block the re-licensing of the Potter Valley Project and tear out the dams and cut off that flow of water. They are very intent. They have a ten-year plan that they have launched to raise funds and advocate for their cause. So the main purpose of this meeting and of this proposed new group is to create a counterbalance that can first of all educate people who currently benefit from the Potter Valley Project who may not really understand that that is a fact and who probably have no idea that the continued flow of that water is potentially at risk so this will be an effort to outreach to those communities to educate them, to see their their participation to support the relicensing of the Potter Valley Project. There was an initial ask of the modest amount of $5,000, $1000 from each member agency of the IWPC to help fund of this new organization. There were questions about governance and accountability and so I'm sure there will be more discussion of that going forward.”

Supervisor John Pinches: “Was there any discussion as to what would be Plan B if PG&E decides not to apply for a relicensing agreement-permit?”

McCowen: “There was some discussion of PG&E's intentions and at this time it is believed that PG&E does intend to go forward with the relicensing. The hydroelectric power does give them a plus in terms of renewable and green energy so there is value to them in maintaining that. Supervisor Brown may be able to expand on that if PG&E were not to go forward.”

Supervisor Carre Brown: “The process really starts in 2017. We just all felt that a communication plan was so badly needed so the facts are there. Most people don't even realize how important the Eel river water is to the livelihood of the entire Russian River watershed and beyond even. What's more important is the fact that you have a Lake Sonoma that could possibly serve northern Sonoma County. We do not have that. We do not have a lake as big. And other important points I do not need to go forward with. But Lake Mendocino and the Eel River water that is diverted is extremely important even though 46% since the last relicensing has been cut of what can go through the tunnel. But it is very important to our very livelihood and the environment within the Mendocino-Russian River watershed. So that's — we just feel there has to be an educational program. I don't want to call it educational, I think it's communications, so that everyone can go to a site and this is the initial setup and it will go to a nonprofit because local government or other entities just do not have the financial ability to continue the program so we will be looking— in fact we should hear soon that it will go under a nonprofit that already carries a website so the expenses and oversight and administration doesn't have to come from any one entity that sits on the IWPC board. But they are asking for $1000 from each member in order to start the tool.”

Hamburg: “Is this still the project that Paige is heading up?” [“Paige” was unexplained. Presumably Paige Poulos, former president of the Mendocino Wine & Grape Commission.]

Brown: “Yes, but this is how it's evolved. Yes.”

Hamburg: “Ok. So it's evolved from Paige doing it to —”

Brown: “Because we just don't see financially how the entities belonging to IWPC could carry forth on the project so once the original tool is set up we hope to place it with a nonprofit so they, part of that group, the advisory group, can go out and collect funds in order to support a website.”

Pinches: “The reason I bring up the question about PG&E's ability to apply for the relicensing, in the early 90s, you know, after they had the fish screen problem at Scott Dam and whatnot, PG&E basically said they were either going to abandon the project or sell it. That was before the reduction in the water coming through so they could generate a lot more power. I realize the argument is that people say, Oh they can't do it because it keeps their portfolio good as far as green energy goes, but they have other sources of green energy that they can use. What I'm fearful of is some PG&E executive — you know, they've had a lot of financial problems within PG&E here in the last couple years, and probably from what we see there's more to come — but, as they look for the bottom line some of these, they could you say, you know what, we were thinking about getting rid of it before this last relicensing and now that they lost 40% of their ability to generate power, it probably looks more like a financial plus for PG&E if they abandon the project. That's my biggest worry. You're in this issue basically with, if you look regionally, Humboldt, Marin, the Potter Valley Project support is probably lagging way behind what the opposition is putting out there as information. But my most concern at this point is that one executive on one given day could say, you know what, we're just not going to file for relicensing. So I think there should be at least a little bit of a plan or thought about what would be Plan B if that happened because that would just, that could happen with just one executive making a decision, no political pressure or power or nothing involved. Just one executive could make that decision.”

Brown: “That's how Inland Water & Power Commission actually got formed was when PG&E started going through their bankruptcy process and they looked at every hydro project in the entire state and put them together in blocks and were going to auction them off. This particular hydro plant and its assets were coupled with the Sierras which was a real weird thing to have happen. I will also say that IWPC did form because they also looked at the alternative of maybe the Sonoma County Water Agency buying it. Mendocino County just felt, the entities that make up the IWPC, really felt that Mendocino County and its entities had to be players this time, we couldn't just sit back. I think PG&E's commitment is very strong at this point because of the green energy component and elements that they must have. There is worry that if they get into the wind farms and solar farms that maybe the hydro projects would be something that they may well walk away from, but I just can't quite see that. The old valve that broke within the tunnel this last year that caused not even a trickle coming through for over a month of diversion water into Lake Mendocino during the winter, they went in there, they built a diversion from the tunnel so they could bring water around. It wasn't enough, I don't think, to power their hydro plant, but it was going through Potter Valley for instance and into Lake Mendocino or Lake Mendocino would even be shallower than we see it today.”


  1. May 22, 2013

    As usual, you mis-state the main uses of diverted Eel River water.
    Viticulture is still a small part of the 100 year old reliance of the whole of Potter Valley on the resource.
    Can you please provide a link or reference that outlines the Sonoma-Marin financial deal?
    ” so that Sonoma County can make millions of dollars by selling lots of it to Marin County.”

    Jim Armstrong

  2. Mark Scaramella Post author | May 22, 2013

    “As usual”? Puhleeze.

    I gather this is your casually insulting shorthand for, “Hey moron, why do you continue to intentionally lie about water you know Potter Valley can’t live without by saying things which you know perfectly well are not true (because I’ve told you so many times how wrong you are) and you don’t live in Potter Valley and only people who live in Potter Valley can say anything on the oh-so important uses of Eel River water, and I’m the only authority on the subject so anything but my opinion is ‘mis-stating’?”

    That’s what you mean, right?

    It has long been my opinion that grapes for wine are not essential commodities. Neither is marijuana. California water law requires that water taken from streams or groundwater (wells) be put to “beneficial use.” Neither wine grapes nor marijuana are “agriculture” in the normal sense of “food and fiber,” hence water diversions (other than for private consumption, not for sale) should be illegal. (But the commercial courts have ruled that “beneficial” means “profitable.”) Both winegrapes and marijuana are grown and sold as intoxicants. Neither are important enough to justify huge artificial diversions of water to make an entirely frivolous product. Grapes can and should be dry farmed as they were for centuries. Obvously grape growers (including the ones in Potter Valley) disagree. Fine. That opinion does not amount to “mis-stating” anything.

    As far as Sonoma County control and sale of Eel/Russian River water…
    You’re kidding, aren’t you? You can’t find anything on this obvious point on your own? You want me to waste time telling you where to look this up? Hmm, let’s see. This is really tough. Maybe the Sonoma County Water Agency has something? (
    Come on. You’re wasting my time on a question you can easily check yourself?

    If you want to enlighten us with the correct “statement” of where the diverted Eel River water goes and who makes money on it and how much, go right ahead. But try not to insult me in the process.

  3. May 23, 2013

    I am not sure if I intended to insult you by saying “as usual.”
    I did intend to point out that I have tried to expand your understanding of the Potter Valley Project on several occasions. Once, in person, your responses to my several of my points were “Really? I didn’t know that.”

    You reference the Potter Valley Irrigation District website in your article.
    It is comprehensive and, at the risk of wasting more of your time, I would suggest that you read it, paying particular attention to its many internal and external links. “Facts and Fiction” under The Potter Valley Project section is espcially gemane. It will enlighten you better than I can.

    I did ask for financial information in my comments. I had found the SCWA “quickfacts” website on my very own. Unfortunately, it does not mention money.
    Jim Armstrong

  4. Mark Scaramella Post author | May 23, 2013

    I probably said that because 1. it was either petty, obvious, and/or not relevant to whatever the subject was (as it doesn’t seem to be here) and 2. you’re obviously difficult to argue with on this subject, and, if I’m not mistaken it was while you were working at the County Library, not exactly a good place for such discussions.

    Again, please feel free remind us of all the wonderful things we should know about PV’s water.

    No, but the SCWA site lists several Marin water districts as “customers.”
    Surely, you’re not asking for their bills and receipts or the like. Who cares?

    I did read the PVIR website. I quoted from it.

    What’s your point? That I don’t agree with you, the Great PV authority?
    Fine. You got me.

  5. Diane Campbell May 23, 2013

    So that’s what happens when you mess with the Major!

  6. May 24, 2013

    You get a lesson in civility and responsiveness.

  7. wineguy May 26, 2013

    Water, wine and pot…mix it up and wattah you got? Money/cash filthy lucre that is what has happened to the North Coast over the past 25 turning back, the economy is dependant on the two ‘agricultural’ products and there is water at a cost (like oil) from the far north..somebody will figure this out the sooner the better

  8. Mike Jamieson May 26, 2013

    Phase out the grapes for wine agricultural business and restore recreational access to the Russian River in our county. Make this a place where people can enjoy the outdoors instead of the indoors of a wine tasting room.

  9. Martin Zemitis May 27, 2013

    What do people have against tasting rooms ? I think they are great. One thing I dislike are government franchised monopoly water boards like EBMUD down here.
    Now those should be phased out and quickly.

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