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Valley People (Mar 26, 2014)

MRS. RICHARD, of the excellent Coq au Vin restaurant at Floodgate, Navarro, visited us Monday morning. Gracious but unhappy, she explained the extended period of medical misfortune which has plunged her culinarily talented family into a morass of insurmountable debt. The Richards, prior to the onset of their medical emergencies, enjoyed a long run of celebrated success in the East Bay. Things went awry in Monterey County. Without re-hashing the entire sad saga, all of it exhaustively recorded by ghoulish Monterey County newspapers, I believe Mrs. Richard and I regret printing the links to the Monterey stories because none of those stories addresses the crucial point: Crooks tend not to work hard. The point of being a crook is to avoid sustained labor of any kind. The Richards have worked long and hard in a business that runs on long, hard hours. I hope Valley residents will see it my way and continue to enjoy the truly fine food at Coq au Vin. The Richards try hard and they deserve a break.

RUBY HOLLIFIELD has died at age 97. The widow of the late Buster Hollifield, founder of the Boonville airport and a legendary local mill owner in the 1950s, Mrs. Hollifield passed away at her Little Rock, Arkansas home on Sunday, March 23rd.

BORN to Brittney Kuny and Jesse Hulbert, a son, Owen Ray Hulbert, on Thursday, March 6th, in Ukiah. Owen Ray weighed in at 8 pounds 9 ounces and 20 inches tall. Grandad Dan Kuny said Monday he sees O.R. as either a linebacker or defensive end.

FORREST GASS, aka Uncle Smiley, once of Ray's Road, Philo, has passed away in his home state of Tennessee, where in Tennessee we don't know. A friendly man wounded and partially disabled during the Korean War, Forrest never strayed far from Philo when he lived here, but to those who knew him Forrest, a gifted storyteller, never failed to entertain.

A PHILO MAN WRITES: "Why do we have to put up with loud noisy frost wind machines to protect vineyards? Why is there a double standard when it comes to our county noise ordinance? Why is a corporation's profit more important then the function of residents and their families? Sleep deprived children and adults cannot function well. The wine industry is keenly aware that residents do not like wind machines that sound like perpetually landing helicopters, and yet, as they planned for the drought, they sought no other methods. Vineyards have protected their grapes with netting, why not frost protecting reemay fabric or small Christmas lights on the vines? Many winegrowers use no frost protection, relying on enough set to produce an adequate crop. Why must residents’ rights be suppressed to optimize corporate crop success? Is a B&B, or motel business not as important? There have been seven nights of noisy hell and it is time to stop this insanity and look for real solutions.

Sleep deprived in Philo"

THE QUESTION OF THE DAY: Does Mendocino County's Right To Farm ordinance trump the State of California's Noise Pollution standards? Many residents of the normally quiet and bucolic Anderson Valley are fuming at the early morning noise coming from giant propellers, fueled by propane, that the vineyards are using for frost protection. These things are loud, very loud, sleep-disrupting loud, and their din is inescapable, echoing off the hills after it jolts the Valley floor awake, keeping everyone up and cursing the day the industrial booze industry took over our 26 miles of shattered tranquility.

THE AURAL ASSAULTS began Tuesday morning the 18th a little after 1am. More than a week later they continue, every day, blasting off around midnight and roaring on until an hour or so after daylight.

WE CALLED Chuck Morse, Mendocino County's Ag Commissioner, asking for a clarification. Other people are calling the Sheriff's Office. Yesterday we were informed by an irate citizen that the Sheriff will dispatch the duty officer from Ukiah to measure decibel levels. We haven't heard of an officer actually appearing to take decibel levels, and even if they're found to exceed state guidelines of 60 and above, what can be done about it? The wine industry rules Mendocino County, as most of us know, and it would be a rare official, elected or appointed, who would dare take them on. Everyone seems hazy on the law as it applies to the wind machines.

WE CONTACTED 5th District supervisor Hamburg: "Can we get a clarification on the rules? Does the right to farm ordinance trump the noise pollution laws? Several thousand people are awakened every early morning over here for the last week when these fans go on from midnight to past daybreak."

HAMBURG passed us to Morse, who wrote: "Morning Dan,

It is a function, this year much more so than in 'normal' years, of the drought and I believe the practice is covered under the right to farm ordinance. A year or two ago I explored the possibility of quieter props on the wind machines, but that didn't go too far, as it tends to minimize the goal in the first place and they were not really available (as they are counter-productive to the goal of moving as much air as possible). I hope we get some cloud cover this week to warm the air mass and keep the wind machines off as much as possible."

WE'RE TRYING to find chapter and verse, but if I remember correctly, Right To Farm is aimed at heading off complaints from people who move in next door to an ag operation, knowing that the ag operation is there. Almost everyone in Anderson Valley was in place before the vineyards installed their noise machines, almost all of which have been installed this year. Therefore, the County's noise ordinance trumps the County's Right To Farm ordinance.

AS OF THIS MORNING, Tuesday, the Anderson Valley has endured 8 straight days of early morning aural assault.

FOR NOW, though, the bottom line is the bottom line of the wineries. We sacrifice our sleep for their vines.

I WONDER if local realtors, henceforth, will be forced to attach sale covenants: "The buyer must agree to forgo sleep from the middle of March until the middle of April of every year…"

THE FAUX APOLOGY from Roederer reprinted in this week's paper is especially galling. It's signed with an illegible scrawl to conceal the identity of the French national who wrote it. The wine people, esp. the furriners, don't like negative attention. They much prefer the fantasy sunstruck beautiful people holding golden goblets to blue skies to the reality: a chemically-dependent industrial process plunked down in a rural, non-industrial setting.

THE FRENCH have invested here because they know they can do whatever they want — from labor practices to water draws to chemical applications. American vintners, by contrast, assume their rights of destruction come with citizenship. But the French wine industry is heavily regulated. They couldn't do in France what they do here. The monarchical assumption that the industry provides jobs is, strictly speaking, true, but those jobs mostly go to non-citizens whose underpaid labor makes the wine industry possible.

ROEDERER VINEYARD workers struck at harvest time a decade ago because the wealthiest family-owned winery in the world tried to screw them out of a few cents on the dollar for bringing in the grapes. Roederer demonstrated for all time its commitment to worker welfare. The winery's first move was to bus-in replacement workers from somewhere over on I-5. When those workers arrived in Boonville they refused to cross the picket line established by Anderson Valley workers. A hurry-up election was held right in the Boonville vineyard, with sleek French execs and attorneys flown in from Paris for the occasion looking on in their five thousand dollar suits. The workers voted heavily for representation by the United Farm Workers. The French imperialists quickly hired the infamous union-busting law firm of Littler Mendelson, and in a week L&M convened seminars around the County on the theme How To Keep The Unions Out. Wine people all over the Northcoast worried that their unhoused, uninsured, underpaid labor was in revolt; they flocked to these shameful sessions, and here in The Valley, Roederer placed a snitch in their single worker's housing in Navarro whose task it was to identify those workers who were pro-union, and those workers never worked another day in the Anderson Valley.

RASTAFEST, and other local events dependent on amplified sound, are compelled to agree to strict hours. Vineyards are exempt from the noise rules that apply to the rest of us. Vineyards, of course, are most vulnerable to destructive frosts during the midnight-to-early-morning hours. We all get that, and some of us even sympathize, but the destruction of sleep for three thousand people off and on for two months for so-called agriculture is not a reasonable trade-off.

AS AN EARLY RISER — 4am to 5am — I always check the temperature posted outside the castle gate. Lately at 4:30, it reads right around 40 degrees, but at 6am, the crack of dawn, it's been at or about 35 degrees. Vines are harmed when it's cold enough to frost, and there indeed have been light frosts over the last week, although one would think the din from the propane blasters, by itself, would keep the vines on the awake side of death. One has to wonder, though, what did pre-industrial vineyards do?

WE UNDERSTAND that this is a drought year, and we understand that the grape growers are short on our water, the usual agent deployed for frost protection. We even agree that given the grim choice of our water vs. the oppressively intrusive noise from the big propellers, we'd rather endure a few hours of noise than see our streams sucked dry. But that's no choice.

AS MARK SCARAMELLA points out this week, there are modest things that could be done to reduce the nuisance, especially when the fans are near residences. Unfortunately, there's no organization underway to channel the outrage at the noise into political movement to even discuss those things. And even if there was, it would be an uphill battle with the politically dominant wine mob objecting to even holding a hearing on the subject. As a logger friend put it, “We're heavily regulated every which way. If we did any of the stuff these wineries do we'd be in jail.”

FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA has proposed that the CSD board authorize the hiring of a part-time training officer for the local fire department. According to Avila's summary of the proposed position, the training officer would assist in establishing, delivering and maintaining safer emergency operations practices for all the different skill levels among volunteers and prepare them for the range of likely emergencies. Avila says that training has been inconsistent; a training officer would make sure that all volunteers are fully qualified and familiar with proper and safe firefighting practices. He proposes that the estimated $15-$20,000 a year for such an officer would be covered by the funds made available from having paid off the loan for the new firehouse and Boonville fire engine. Avila emphasizes that the job would be authorized for one year on a trial basis to evaluate its effectiveness. Avila wants the Board to approve the position in time for the training officer to begin work on July 1, 2014.

THE ESTIMATED $900,000 airport runway widening project at Boonville International is slowly moving forward. The FAA has authorized several hundred thousand dollars toward the project, which isn't enough to cover the estimated $900,000 the airport consultant has estimated that the upgrades will cost. Funds allocated but not used at other airports may be shifted to Boonville International in the next few weeks, in time to do the runway widening over the summer. If the money is tardy, the airport people think the $900,000 will be allocated in time for next summer.

AMBULANCE VOLUNTEER David Severn is fund-raising to cover expenses for a number of Anderson Valley youngsters to attend "YES Camp." YES stands for Youth Emergency Services Camp, a one-week camp at the Boy Scout Lake east of Willits. It introduces young people to hands-on emergency training from firefighting to law enforcement, to search and rescue, to medical first aid. The cost is $350 per kid. This year the program is scheduled for August 10-16 which means it will not interfere with school. For more information or to sponsor a camper call Severn at 895-2011. For more information about the camp contact YES Camp director Rick Paige at PO Box 233, Ukiah CA 95482. (707/897-5092) or email Checks can be made payable to YES Camp.

ACCORDING to the California Office of Emergency Services website, rainfall in Mendocino County is approximately 64% of normal. The snowpack in the Sierras is estimated at 28% of normal. Fire Chief Avila told the CSD board last week that "Fire fuels are drying up quickly and fire season will be rapidly approaching unless we receive measurable amounts of rain in the next month. As an indication of the current fire conditions we have already had two escaped controlled burns since the last rainfall. In both cases the remaining leaf litter and dead grass that had not decomposed from last year and is the first to dry out was enough to support the spread of the controlled burn fire. Calfire mentioned that they intend to start hiring people early this year which will possibly provide an engine at the Boonville Station earlier than normal. If conditions do stay on a drying trend I will be moving our Anderson Valley Fire Department wildland refresher training up from May to April."

AMONG LOCAL COMPUTER GUY BOB COLLETTE’S many talents is construction art, a splendid example of which is currently on display at Lauren’s Restaurant. Collette writes, “Steam-punk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the mid-late 1800s. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American ‘Wild West,’ in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. With that in mind, my girlfriend Cherryl from Rocklin, suggested I get myself a hobby, something to occupy myself with when not working on computers. I thought about it for a while, and having a strong liking for all things mechanical, steam engines, and the Wild Wild West, I decided to sketch a lamp. A Steampunk lamp! Then I built the lamp and it is now on display at Lauren's Restaurant in Boonville.” And I'm trying to scrape together the $350 to buy it, but I know it will be gone by the time I find the dough. The thing is really beautiful, and functional.

TWO NAVARRO RIVER FLOW GRAPHS (which we have posted on line at Mendocino County Today for March 24) illustrate the tremendous draw on the Navarro River by the wine industry just in March, and they can (legally) continue to draw the river down through the 31st of March. After that it’s supposed to be illegal as the diversion season ends.

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