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Mendocino County Today: January 18, 2014


(01-17) 10:01 PST San Francisco — Governor Jerry Brown on Friday officially declared a drought emergency in California, asking residents to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent and committing to bolster the state's dwindling water supplies with better management and federal assistance.

The order, announced at a news conference at the governor's San Francisco office, comes as the state is gripped by a third consecutive year of dry weather.

Rivers are running low. Snowpack is meager. And communities across California are worried about having sufficient water for homes, businesses and farmland. The dry weather also has increased the threat of wildfire, with record acreage burning this month, including a 1,700-acre fire that continues to char the hills above Los Angeles.

With the emergency declaration, Brown said he would make it easier for communities to transfer water from wetter parts of the state to dryer areas. He also said he would seek federal assistance, though he didn't detail that effort.

"We are in an unprecedented and very serious situation," Brown said. "It's important to awaken all Californians to the serious matter of drought and the lack of rain."

While Brown said he wanted residents to join the conservation push and reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, the reductions remain voluntary. He said he would continue to monitor the weather and would consider mandatory restrictions if things don't improve.

Friday's declaration is the third statewide drought declaration statewide since 1987, the previous coming between 2007 and 2009.

An earlier declaration came during the 1976-77 drought, amid Brown's first stint as governor.

This January, most of California has seen little or no rainfall. The dry spell follows a record-dry 2013 in much of the state, and climate models suggest rain will remain scant during the next few months, setting up California for its third dry winter in a row.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, vital to filling the state's sprawling system of reservoirs, measured just 17 percent of normal this week.

Already, a handful of water agencies have imposed restrictions on consumers while others - including some in the Bay Area - are asking for voluntary water reductions. Sacramento is the biggest community to enact requirements so far, ordering consumers Tuesday to scale back water use by 20 to 30 percent.

Few areas are threatened as much as the Central Valley, where farmers dependent on state and federal water allocations face among their lowest allotments in years. The State Water Project estimated in November that it would fill only 5 percent of the water requests it has received from contracting agencies.

Federal officials offered some support Thursday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 27 of California's 58 counties - alongside portions of 10 other states - as natural disaster areas because of the drought, which means farmers can get emergency low-interest loans.

While projections released his week from the National Weather Service don't offer much hope of improving conditions, forecasters note that two months remain of the wet season - plenty of time to make up for lost ground. (Kurtis Alexander, courtesy SF Chronicle)


WELCOME TO DISASTER, in this case a perfectly democratic disaster affecting us all — drought. We never quite believe it can happen to us, although the mini-drought of 1976 ought to have prompted us — Mendocino County — to prepare for the three consecutive dry years we've suffered with 2013-14 being the driest of all.

IT HASN'T RAINED, really rained, since December of 2012. Now that it's likely that the summer months will begin with no water reserves anywhere in the County, the full array of drought-caused catastrophes will be unleashed, from large-scale wildfires to much higher food prices to the death of this year's fish runs. The crisis is much more ominous along the inland Mendo corridor, much of which is dependent on the Russian River. Fort Bragg has developed its own water supply, albeit one that requires constant upgrades and the development of new sources, the latest being a proposed well off Highway 20 a little east of town. The South Coast has grown in population but it, like much of rural Mendocino County, is primarily dependent on wells and springs. Point Arena, however, has a privately-owned water system that serves that town's small population of less than 600 people. Elk has a little water system to match its size as does the village of Mendocino, but the Town of Mendocino’s water supply is already stretched thin.

MUCH OF MENDOCINO COUNTY'S population, which occupies the inland 101 corridor, depends on an extremely precarious water delivery system known as the upper Russian River, which, before Lake Mendocino was built in the middle 1950s, was mostly dry from its trickle of a headwaters at Potter Valley south to Healdsburg.

Eel-Russian River Water system (Courtesy, Friends of the Eel River)
Eel-Russian River Water system (Courtesy, Friends of the Eel River)

THE UPPER Russian itself depends on Lake Pillsbury for its year-round flow. Pillsbury is a man made lake that depends on the Eel River. And everything everywhere from the Eel to Sausalito depends on more than thirty inches of rainfall every year, but even in wet years over the recent past, and especially considering how many downstream people are dependent on it, the system that begins in the north at Lake Pillsbury, is diverted at Potter Valley through an old mile-long tunnel, then stored at Lake Mendocino, and sold all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, is a very precarious system.

SAUSALITO, and other Marin water districts, buy Lake Mendocino water from Sonoma County, which also sells Lake Mendo water to its thousands of customers in SoCo. Sonoma County has made literal millions selling water that mostly originates on the Eel River border between Humboldt and Mendocino counties. It uses very little of its own water stored at Lake Sonoma near Cloverdale, much of whose water also originates in Mendocino County.

WATER STORED at silted-up Lake Pillsbury is presided over by PG&E, which is regulated by FERC, a federal agency. Releases require a whole lot of bureaucratic sign-offs, none of which occur in Mendocino County, at least occur by Mendo authorities. When it comes to water, Mendocino County is like an orphan child peering in a bakery window.

PG&E and the comparably anonymous FERC people decide how much water to send a few miles downstream from Lake Pillsbury to the Potter Valley Diversion. The Diversion, in decrepit reality, is a mile-long tunnel held up mine-style by old redwood timbers. The tunnel is about the height of a six-foot man. The water flowing through the tunnel flows on down to Lake Mendocino whose water is mostly owned by Sonoma County because Sonoma County put up most of the money to build the Lake.

LAKE PILLSBURY, piled up behind Scott Dam, is an early 20th century creation designed to provide electricity to Ukiah. The Diversion powered a couple of big turbines and presto! magico! the lights came on in Ukiah circa 1920.

PILLSBURY AND THE DIVERSION were not intended to supply a million downstream people with water in 2014. The water that generated electricity for Ukiah wasn't supplied to anyone but a few lucky Potter Valley sons of the soil, but it did make the upper Russian River a year-round stream and it did eventually keep Lake Mendocino full for Sonoma County to sell to its multitudes of customers. And there was enough every year — at relatively cheap prices — for the ever more grape farmers along the Russian River from Redwood Valley to Ukiah to Hopland.

YEARS AFTER THE DIVERSION tunnel was built, it became clear that fish were being chewed up by the turbines. PG&E, who'd bought the area including the Diversion and the little power plant at the Potter Valley end of the tunnel, installed a contraption they called a “fish ladder.” The first time I saw it I burst out laughing.

Archimedes Screw similar to the one at the Potter Valley Diversion point
Archimedes Screw similar to the one at the Potter Valley Diversion point

It's basically an Archimedes Screw that's supposed to lift the fish safely past the tunnel and the masticating machinery at the other end. A guy was standing there counting the fish entering the “ladder.” No fish entered in the hour I looked on.

JUSTINE FREDERICKSON, reporting for the Ukiah Daily Journal, wrote Thursday, “At Monday's meeting of the Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District, General Manager Sean White discussed how low Lake Pillsbury had gotten and that some were concerned that releases may be stopped from Scott Dam for the first time in nearly 100 years.”

THERE ARE NO immediate plans to do that, but without rain this tiny straw of a water delivery system will mean a lot of thirsty people from Redwood Valley to Southern Marin, and spell disaster for hundreds of acres of vineyard.

FROM WIKIPEDIA: In 1906, W.W. Van Arsdale formed the Eel River Power and Irrigation Company and contracted with the city of Ukiah for a hydroelectric generating station to increase electricity supply for the city. A diversion dam was built on the Eel River and a mile-long tunnel was constructed to divert water into the Russian River. A powerhouse was constructed in Potter Valley. It was called the Potter Valley Project or Eel River Project.

Later that year, the Snow Mountain Water and Power Company incorporated and took over the project from Van Arsdale's company. By 1908 water was being diverted to the power plant and then to the Russian River. Part two of the project was building the dam which created Lake Pillsbury, located 12 miles (19 km) upstream.

Scott Dam was completed in 1921 as a concrete gravity structure, 138 feet high, 805 feet long at its crest, and impounding a maximum capacity of 86,400 acre-feet. It maintains water flow to the hydroelectric plant during times of low water runoff. Pacific Gas and Electric Company acquired the project in 1933, and maintains the facilities today. The lake is named for one of the founders of Snow Mountain Water and Power Company. The Pillsbury hydroelectric plant is the only one in the north coast region of California.

The Eel River Project is now known as the Potter Valley Project.

There are two hydroelectric dams on the Eel – 130-foot (40 m) Scott Dam, which forms Lake Pillsbury, and 50-foot (15 m) Cape Horn Dam, which forms Van Arsdale Reservoir just north of Potter Valley. At Cape Horn Dam, the majority of the water is diverted through a tunnel and hydroelectric plant, and then to the headwaters of the Russian River in Potter Valley and is known as the Potter Valley Project. Originally conceived in the late 1800s and built between 1906 and 1922, the project provides about 159,000 acre feet (0.196 km3) of additional waters for the Russian River system, for about 500,000 people in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.

The Potter Valley Project has been argued by environmental groups to have significant impacts on the salmonid (Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead) populations of the basin. Although dam operators are required to maintain certain flows below the diversion during the dry season, these flows can be cut during exceptionally dry years, preventing salmonids from reaching certain spawning streams in the Eel River basin. Project water is disproportionately important to salmonids in the Eel River system as a whole because the water released from the bottom of Scott Dam is the only cold water available in the basin during the dry season. During July, August and September, temperatures in the lower Eel River occasionally hit 85 °F (29 °C) or higher, creating fatal conditions for these fish.

In 1983, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensed the project under the condition that more water be provided to the Eel River during the dry season and less be diverted to the Russian River basin. Dam releases are now timed to mimic natural flows in the Eel River system. Occasional large "blocks" of water are also released from Scott Dam to help juvenile salmonids migrate to the sea before temperatures in the lower river become unsuitable for their passage. These conditions were revised in 2004, when stricter minimum release standards were established. …

REDWOOD VALLEY, north of Ukiah, draws its water directly from Lake Mendocino. The lake has shrunk to where RV's intake valve is poised just about at water level, and that level is dropping every day as a mere trickle of water dribbles into the lake via Potter Valley and the Potter Valley Diversion. Some 4,000 households and 200 ag users, many of them vineyards, are served by Redwood Valley's water system. Redwood Valley may be given permission to keep its straw in the water, but strict rationing is likely soon. Willits is already limiting its citizens to 150 gallons a day, a figure that will probably have to be lower if it doesn't rain soon.

ACCORDING to the Army Corps of Engineers who run Coyote Dam behind which rest, or used to rest, the water of Lake Mendocino, if there's no rain the lake will be completely dry “in 230-670 days.” If there's no flow out of the lake, Ukiah is in serious trouble because its water is drawn from aquifers fed by the Russian River which, as repeated above, draws its water from Lake Mendocino.

MENDO AG AND VINEYARDS have been synonymous in the County for the past 25 years. The drought poses serious problems for the County's grape growers not only because very few of them dry farm. Dry as last year was, the arrival of some late rain in March after 2013's mostly dry year, was hailed as the "March Miracle" by Northcoast grape growers.

THIS geographically confused paragraph appeared in a January 13 posting on a wine website called “”: “One of the fine-wine areas most affected is Anderson Valley, which — though it's in Mendocino County — is served by the Sonoma County Water Agency. America's new thirst for Pinot Noir has driven Anderson Valley vineyard acreage to more than five times what it was 20 years ago, and the overwhelming majority are irrigated. But the main reservoir for the area, Lake Mendocino, is at 37% capacity and dropping.”

ANDERSON VALLEY gets no water from Lake Mendocino, which is roughly 25-30 miles east, as the crow flies, from any area of Anderson Valley. Many AV wineries and vineyards have built ponds which they fill from local streams during the rainy season.

IN FACT, as Kristy Charles, president of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association explained in the same errant posting, “The majority of the wineries and vineyards collect rainwater. People are talking about putting off pruning. People are upping their crop insurance,” Ms. Charles said.


REMEMBER PHIL TYMON, the litigious former station manager at KZYX Philo in the mid-1990s? Tymon was in federal district court, San Francisco on Thursday (Janurary 16th) to answer to charges that he failed to reveal his radio background in his capacity as a hearing officer for that famous KPFA takeover case. Tymon was appointed as a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitrator, although his experience and obvious biases should have excluded him from acting as an impartial referee.


TO SIMPLIFY: People by the name of Georges, allied with the infamous Pat Scott, tried to take over the Pacifica Network to commercial ends. They spent a lot of money to do that but were unsuccessful. They appealed their loss, and who should pop up as hearing officer but Phil Tymon, the Zelig of public radio. Tymon doesn't mention his his rocky tenure at KZYX.


"IN ORDER to capitalize on dramatically rising radio station values in the mid 1990s. During her tenure from approximately 1994 to 1998, Ms. Scott [Pat] rolled out a strategic plan called Vision for Pacifica Radio Creating a Network for the 21st Century – A Strategic 5-year Plan. The strategic plan and Ms. Scott’s leadership were extremely contentious and controversial and has since become known variously as a “coup”; “an anti-labor campaign”; “union-busting”; noted for the “Contract from Hell”; and “purges”. The tumult Ms. Scott started with her efforts to restructure Pacifica’s radio assets, assisted by Mr. George, is marked as the beginning of what has later been variously described as “the 7-year struggle for the soul of Pacifica”, “botched” management, and “feather ruffling.” Scott’s tenure became so controversial that demonstrations were held at the KPFA-FM studios, and were marked by gunfire and death threats. Ms. Scott has since been described as “probably the most hated manager KPFA has had”. (Exhibit 14, p. 7) Following Ms. Scott’s departure, Pacifica and its supporters began a long organizational and legal struggle to “restore democracy at Pacifica,” including the attempted termination of Scott’s hand-picked successor. To this end, an open letter advertisement was purchased in the New York Times with signatures that included Angela Davis, Daniel Ellsberg, Danny Glover, Helen Caldicott, Jerry Brown, Joan Baez, Juan Gonzales, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Pete Seeger, and Tymon’s CDC co-founder and fellow former Pacifica National Board member, Peter Franck.

"IN A 2005 public letter from Peter Franck, Tymon’s business partner, fellow CDC founder and allied non-commercial radio advocate, Mr. Franck, pointed to the Pat Scott era, stated, “I was involved with the lawsuits that got us Pacific back. I was not one of the attorneys of record because if any of the cases had gone to trial, I would have been a witness…

"TYMON'S WORK as a FINRA arbitrator and his failures to disclose/efforts to hide his background as: 1. Co-vice-chair of the national board of directors of the Pacifica Foundation (“Pacifica”), headquartered in Berkeley, California. 2. Member of the local board of directors of KPFA, Berkeley, CA, a Pacifica owned radio station. 3. One of three founding members of the National Lawyers Guild Center for Democratic Communications and Low Power Radio 4. General Manager for KOWS-LPFM in Guernville, California. 5. Full-time staff counsel of the National Citizen’s Committee on Broadcasting, a Ralph Nader organization. 6. Managing Editor of Access magazine 7. Chair of the Russian River Community Trust Advisory Committee. 8. In addition to the foregoing undisclosed employment and background information, Tymon filed under penalty of perjury with the FCC the following background information: a. Director and owner of Dragon Fly Communications. 8 Oath of Arbitrator publicly available at: b. Announcer, WTUR (FM), Tufts University, Medford, MA. c. Announcer, KLME radio, Laramie, WY d. Announcer, and news department, KFJC radio, Foothill Junior College, Los Altos Hills, CA e. Announcer, and news department, KPOO (FM), San Francisco, CA f. account executive, KVRE/KRVE (AM), Santa Rosa, CA. g. Consultant to KRCB (TV), Rohnert Park, CA. h. Coordinator, East Bay Media Center.

"WHEN IT CAME to disclosing his background to those for whom he would stand in judgment, making life altering decisions, Tymon missed the mark of full disclosure by a very wide margin. Had Tymon’s true background been made known to the Georges when the Georges were ranking prospective arbitrators from the list of available arbitrators provided by FINRA, they would have struck Tymon from the list, a right prescribed in FINRA Rules. If Tymon had made even a late full disclosure, the Georges would have moved FINRA to have Tymon removed as an arbitrator.

"MR GEORGE advised and worked with Patricia Scott, Executive Director of The Pacifica Foundation, to sell-off and restructure Pacifica’s radio stations during a period that has come to be known as the Pat Scott Era or Pat Scott Reign,. Ms. Scott organized dissidents at Pacifica and formed alliances with outside consultants, like Mr. George, in her efforts to dramatically change the way Pacifica was run, change its by-laws and to sell off or restructure Pacifica’s radio stations.

"OUTSIDE the hearing room, Tymon made clear his disdain for those who had worked with Pat Scott while she was the executive director at The Pacifica Foundation, referring to her supporters as “usurpers” and their actions “illegal”. Tymon also made clear his anger toward commercial broadcasters and their lobby, the NAB, who opposed his agenda to legalize Low Power FM radio stations, something he fought to overcome for nearly twenty years. Inside the hearing room, Tymon remained deceptively quiet about his undisclosed background as Mr. George unwittingly connected the dots for Tymon with his testimony. Tymon quietly let his biases against the Georges play out through his prejudicial rulings."



Due to unseasonably dry weather conditions and significantly sustained temperature inversions impacting air quality with higher than normal particulate matter, open outdoor burning is prohibited in Mendocino County as of Saturday, January 18, 2014. Open burning will remain prohibited until further notice. The District will reevaluate the open burning prohibition upon return of favorable weather conditions and once fire safety concerns have been addressed.

The continued lack of precipitation has placed over 60% of the state in a recognized severe drought condition. Vegetation fires have occurred in various parts of the state and fire agencies have expressed concerns about adequate water supply and resources to address these fires. In addition to the County-wide drought emergency declared last week by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the City of Willits has implemented water rationing from its reservoirs. Remaining resources throughout the county continue to decline.

While particulate counts are still below levels of concern, some hourly excursions approaching “Moderate” Air Quality Index range have been recorded in the late evening and early morning hours. Weather forecasts indicate continued dry conditions with associated high pressure for the foreseeable future. Further impacts from vegetation fires could also impact local air quality. It therefore becomes necessary to impose outdoor burning restrictions to limit air quality degradation as well as help address concerns for fire safety.

The Air Quality Management District also requests that Mendocino County residents limit fireplace and wood stove use whenever possible and burn wood only when necessary for comfort. Your cooperation will be appreciated.

R.A. Scaglione, Air Pollution Control Officer, Mendocino County


AT THE BOONVILLE WINTER MARKET this Saturday, 11-1, rain or shine, in front of the Boonville General Store, you will find: Yorkville Olive Ranch - both the 375ml and 750ml bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Diane - Chevre from Misha's goats, my Back Yard Rabbits and Jam, Marginal Acres Garlic, Jade's cards, Crocheted Wool Hats and other handmade textile crafts Bill Harper - onion starts (walla-walla, copra, red river, sterling white) and leeks WildeAcre Farm - sauerkraut, kefir, chia seed muffins, chocolate hearts, winter tea mix, crocheted wool scarves and cotton dish cloths AV Community Farm - Hybird and heritage chicken, lamb and goat cuts, including roasts, loin chops, rib chops, leg and shoulder chops, and shanks, specialty pork: sausage, bacon, pork chops, ribs, and larger shoulder and leg roasts, turnips, carrots, rutabaga, cabbage, arugula. On Sunday, don't miss our "Dinner and a Movie" at the Philo Grange. We will begin at 5:30 with a local food potluck dinner, followed at 6:30 by the movie American Meat (, followed by a discussion with some of our local meat growers. I'm attaching the flyer again since some people didn't get it last time.


  1. Bill Pilgrim January 18, 2014

    Oh, but we mustn’t talk about climate change resulting from global warming. It’s all about cycles and sun activity, right? EVERY climatological projection that factors in increasing warming predicts less and less snowpack per year, with earlier melting and runoff. That means less water capture and storage for summer months. The central valley and much of So.Cal. might be toast.
    Meanwhile, the Repubs. in congress are pushing hard to roll back EPA regulation of CO2 emissions from all power plants, including coal-fired.
    We are frogs in the kettle…

  2. Harvey Reading January 18, 2014

    I hope the state charges those self-entitled welfare “farmers” the full cost of their water. Those bastards were s’posed to pay for the State Water Project, but we commoners ended up footing the entire bill. Cut them off first. The country wouldn’t even know they were gone, for all their lies about their “production”, ginned up by their paid liars … er, consultants.

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