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Valley People (Mar 19, 2014)

AS A RESIDENT of South Boonville, or SoBo, I'm placed between two vineyards, each with giant frost fans. Early Tuesday morning as the temperature approached freezing, both fans were activated. As always deep in the sleep of the just and the good, it was suddenly as if a helicopter was hovering directly over my head, a giant helicopter, maybe one of those troop transporting Chinooks. Was Seal Team Six poised to rappel down my chimney? I take it all back, Mr. President, sir. Then I realized it was these gd vineyard fans on either side of my place. And it didn't stop, even drowning out the 5am roosters, my organic alarm clocks. It was like trying to sleep on the runway at SF International.

A COUPLE of years ago, Sarah Bennett, the pleasant young woman who owns the vineyard and goat complex on the west side of 128 at SoBo, stopped in with the gift of a bottle of wine. The gift was in anticipation of neighborhood unhappiness on those mornings she would be frost-protecting. But I had no idea these things were so loud. Sooooooo Sarah, you owe me two bottles for Tuesday morning, probably another two for Wednesday. And since The Major lives next door on the same property, you'll have to kick down four bottles to him. Hell, Sarah, make it a case and you're good for the rest of the year.

GOT TO WONDER, though, if nighttime noise at this unendurable, hugely disruptive level is legal. State law says no racket after 10pm. The County of Mendocino's "Right to Farm" ordinance says farming trumps all. But industrial, chemically-dependent, water-hogging wine grape production is farming?

COQ AU VIN at Floodgate has always gotten rave reviews for its food, in whatever guise and venue it has appeared. And there's the rub, it seems. The owners have moved around a lot, leaving a trail of angry creditors behind. There's an abundance, perhaps an overabundance, of Coq au Vin history, particularly its recent history, and you can make up your own minds after you've done your own due diligence by reading the information in these on-line articles:

WE'VE READ these Coq au Vin stories and concluded: We hope it doesn't happen here. It did happen here years ago with Vernon and Charlene Rollins and the New Boonville Hotel. They fled in the middle of the night owing lots of people lots of money, soon re-settling just north of Ashland, Oregon where, for years, they operated Sammy's Bistro, and made a big success. They never did pay a dime to their California creditors, including several right here in Boonville.

THE ST. PATRICK'S DAY celebration at the Buckhorn last night (Monday) was quite festive, with Gaelic green and white balloons festooning the exterior of the building, a live band and Tom Towey, the very picture of an Irish publican, presiding.

A YEAR BOOK for AV Elementary? What's next a junior prom for kindergartners? Sober Grad Night for 6th graders? Here comes the solicitation: "Advertise Your Business!!! in our Anderson Valley Elementary School 2014 Year Book..." How do we spell NO, kids? That's the answer from this business, and tell the silly adults who put you up to this particular shakedown it's an idea as silly as they are.

ANATOMY OF A WATER INQUIRY. Noting the presence of a pump and 3-inch pipe helping itself to the flow near the confluence of the Indian, Anderson and the Rancheria all-year streams where they join to form the Navarro River, our guy also noted that the apparatus was the property and responsibility of the Goldeneye Winery, Philo. This was after a big rain had brought the water up and migrating fish were, he'd hoped, now able to get upstream to their feeder stream spawning beds. Our rivers and streams rise fast in the rains, fall just as fast after the rains.


1. OUR GUY called us to make sure we knew about it. He said he knew that property owners with riparian access to public streams could pump out of The Valley's streams and rivers, but was unhappy that Goldeneye was pumping in a time of drought when the water was generally low.

2. OUR GUY called the State Water agency in Sacramento where “a nice lady” promised to call him back with the name of the correct person to talk to about riparian rules. She never called back, but a nice man, a water enforcer, has since begun an e-mail correspondence.

3. OUR GUY then called the Mendocino County Water Agency, now part of the County's Building and Planning Department. Aware that Sheriff Allman has promised to crack down on illegal diverters, our guy was referred to the Sheriff's hotline where he left a message asking that a deputy check out this particular diversion to make sure it was legal. No call back from the Sheriff's Office.

4. OUR GUY called Supervisor Hamburg who got right back to our guy to say it's a state issue and the state has not yet announced drought guidelines.

5. OUR GUY then called Chuck Morse at Supervisor Hamburg's suggestion. Morse said there was nothing in the regs at the moment to prevent low-water draws on the County's streams. Morse also said it was good that Goldeneye had waited for a big rain to pump and that grape growers in Mendocino County were conscientious. Our guy pointed out that he didn't know how long the Goldeneye apparatus had been at work. “It could have been in there before the big rain,” Our Guy pointed out.

6. OUR GUY and the editor walked in to take a look Monday morning. Goldeneye had pulled its pipe out of the water. The Navarro at that spot — some people insist the Navarro doesn't start until Indian Creek joins the flow a little farther down stream — is already running summer-time low, and there are people pumping out of all three of its feeder streams. It's not as if Goldeneye is the only villain here and, according to the law, they probably aren't officially villainous at all. Riparian attorneys inevitably get favorable rulings from the wine collectors sitting as judges these days.

WE WERE ON THE RIVER for an unbroken hour, and in all that time we didn't see a single fish. As a fishery, Anderson Valley's streams are just about dead, and all these straws in the streams aren't helping them to survive.

OUR GUY, Dave Severn, direct action all the way, took his protest right on in to Goldeneye's tasting room Sunday afternoon. He said he got a pretty good reception from the winery's customers and that Goldeneye's management had behaved civilly before they ran out of patience and called the cops. By that time, Dave had left of his own accord, which isn't to say he won't be back with reinforcements if...

A YOUNG FELLOW calling himself Lately Jones sends along the following poem about riding the river from behind the high school to the Hendy Woods Bridge:

Before we were meant to be men,

we washed down the high rain

in little rafts and branches overhanging

to the end when we could say

that wasn't so hard

let's do it again

TONIGHT (Wednesday, March 19) Trustee Neil Darling will propose Valley residents be surveyed as to whether Anderson Valley should incorporate. Darling thinks it might cost up to $2,000 for the mailing (including pre-paid postage return mail). He will also describe the less expensive option of a statistical sampling. So far, interest in The Valley becoming its own city has been undetectable, so it will be interesting to hear Darling’s fellow Board members respond to his request for exploratory seed money.

DARLING'S draft proposal emphasizes that there would be no additional layers of government, merely transfers of certain functions now performed at the County level to us. Locals are encouraged to submit their opinions on the subject to the General Manager at, or by letter at PO Box 398, Boonville CA 95415.

THE FINAL COMMUNITY WORKSHOP for the State Route 128 Corridor Valley Trail Feasibility Study will be held Thursday, March 27, 5-7pm at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds Dining Hall in Boonville. The corridor extends from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line to the State Route 128/1 junction in Mendocino County, a distance of approximately 51 miles. Building on previous community efforts, the local non-profit Valley Trail Coalition worked with the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) to secure grant funding for the feasibility study to advance the planning, design, and ultimately construction of a non-motorized valley trail. For more information visit: or

BOONVILLE was globally warmed Saturday all the way to a toasty 80°, in the 70's along the Mendocino Coast. I didn't envy the hundred or so bicyclists who stopped in at Boonville's always welcoming Anderson Valley Market to re-hydrate. They were doing a 200 kilometer circle from Healdsburg to Boonville, over the hill to Ukiah, and back to Healdsburg. In the heat and, of course, amongst the steady streams of the oversized, often under-piloted vehicles share the pavement with. One of the cyclists told me she expected to complete the grueling event “in about nine hours,” adding, “the top riders will do it in around seven, though.” I walked to Ukiah from Boonville once; it took me almost six hours to get to the County Courthouse. Bike to Healdsburg and back seemed daunting, to say the least.

APOLOGIES for forcing you to listen to personal adventures but, like many of you, I used to cycle a bit, but in regular clothes, not in dweeb-garb. And I pedaled a one-speed Schwinn, not some thousand-gear, titanium Swiss job. I express these disclaimers because, and I know I'm not alone here, I find the sight of the lycra-packs cyclists deeply irritating. Anyway, I pedaled from Boonville to Point Arena once, and that took me, as I recall, about five hours. It's a nice ride over the hill to Manchester because the traffic is light, but it's pretty hard going until you get to the long downhill on the other side. I was planning to bike back that time but a combination of beer and the prospect of huffing back up that long uphill compelled me to call for a ride home. Another time I biked out to Navarro-by-the-Sea from Boonville. That trip was scary because there's often no roadside margin for a bike. You pedal along at the mercy of all the vehicles careening up from behind. On the return trip, on a curve near Dimmick, some yobbos came up from behind in a pick-up, a straight-arm shot out and knocked me clean off the road and face down over the side a few yards. I hadn't gotten a good look, or any kind of real look at the truck except to know it was big. When I got to the then-Floodgate Store, three yobs were at the little bar the Floodgate maintained back then. They looked at me and laughed, so I assumed they were my assailants. I waited outside for them to come out, and soon I was in hand-to-hand combat with one of them while the other two kicked at me and, for the second time that day, I was pounded into the dirt. Butch Paula came running out to break it up just as I was trying to get at least one good shot in. Funny thing is, I've always wondered if I had the right yobbos. They do tend to look alike.

THE LATE RAINS have much improved the outlook for a pretty good salmon run this season, which begins April 5th. According to the Chronicle’s Tom Stienstra, “Summer is expected to provide for a solid year of fishing. The Sacramento River Index forecasts an ocean abundance of 634,650 adult salmon. That is less than 2013 (834,000 adult salmon, which turned out to be right on), but it is four times higher than the forecast from 2008 to 2010.”

ADD TO THE ENDLESS LIST of things I didn't know, and also according to the invaluable Stienstra, "…few of the Klamath fish stray south of Fort Bragg, so Klamath numbers have little impact on Bay Area prospects.”

STIENSTRA also reports the good news that 12 million hatchery fish raised in Shasta County will get a ride downstream so they don't have to run the lethal gauntlet of water diversions, pumps, predators etc. that the Sacramento River has become. Most of the six-inchers will get out to sea and be back as adults in a few years.

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