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Fort Bragg Notes

ON WEDNESDAY at 2pm I attended an emergency meeting of the Fort Bragg city council called to declare a Phase 3 water emergency. On Tuesday morning things had looked cheerful at city hall but by noon Tom Vogle of the public works division was announcing that the city had been caught by surprise and people were scrambling. City council members were notified that the council was meeting, right now, Two of them and the city manager had to participate by phone. Everyone was uncharacteristically tense.

Modestly high tides just in excess of six feet, and the frightening and accelerating slowdown in the flow of the Noyo had combined to push salt water all the way upriver to the city pumping station and the city was about to lose half its daily water. Fort Bragg uses 640,000 gallons of water a day, about half comes from the Noyo. There is no meaningful reserve. The emergency choice before the city council was to allow the city to lose water pressure needed for fire emergencies or to pump salt water into the drinking water of the city. And not a little.

Declaring Phase 3 allowed it and they did it, and so we are told by the development director that people on the extensive city water system will be getting salty, murky possibly smelly water out of the tap sometime today. (Thursday). I just checked (with no small trepidation) and right now it seems OK.

After Oct. 3 the tides will moderate and we can expect an end to the salty tap water. If it actually occurs. We will not worry what it will have done to our pipes and water heaters, at least the end is predicted not to be far off. But the drought may be just starting. And we do depend on the Noyo River. Right now the flow of the Noyo is less than half of normal and headed for a forth of normal. What is ahead climatically is totally uncertain. So I guess it is understandable that the city is also uncertain and has no plan or policy for the future. Certainly the meeting was able to establish that.

After admitting that the bottom had dropped out and the water in the tap was now crap, the city council thought that something else somewhat more positive should be said and so they deliberated a bit and solemnly announced the end of irrigation as a city activity. Then they dithered a bit about the water savings from using paper plates, and sort of sat there waiting for good ideas. Nobody liked to say it, but none of them could guess how folks were going to take this. They were not without hope. Adversity observably brings people together, sometimes. Perhaps this was another opportunity for them to lead the people forward, or at least perhaps people would think that. Or perhaps they could just deal with it, sort of shrug in a professional sort of way. Dave Turner invoked mother nature.

I sat watching the Council and the management sitting there companionably together, a little subdued perhaps but you could tell not truly worried not even much engaged. I guess there is implicit courage in the fact that they know that they will all still get paid and in terms purely extravagant in our community. They are an elite entrusted by themselves with our welfare and no salty tap water was going to change that. This salt in the water thing was of course not what they would have wanted. Truly this could not be good. But was it real bad. That is, Will people blame them? They thought not. We do what we can. Foresight is an attribute we cannot fairly ask of our public officials; it is so rare.

This particular tide is not a very big bump in what could possibly be a very bumpy drought, but such as it was it was enough to make hash out of their water system. As we go one by one to purchase our water, let us all take a quiet moment to remember that our city government in all of its $30 million a year in expenditures has made no provision whatsoever for any emergency at all. In Fort Bragg technocrats do the work, but not well, not even with particular attention. They have tentative confidence that you will not mind.

--Rex Gressett, Fort Bragg

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THE DOOR HAS BEEN OPENED and there is no turning back now. The City of Fort Bragg played the discrimination card and opened the door for any special interest group to do what they want, where they want and when they want within the City limits. How many more properties are going to be purchased and handed over to Hospitality Center, Hospitality House and Transitional Housing? Your guess is as good as mine but as we sit and discuss it more grants are being written for this very purpose. How long will this go on? As long as the city keeps looking for more properties to hand over to the nonprofit. Of course the City will be keeping their share of the grant for doing the paper work. We all know this is a quick fix
for the City’s financial woes and it will continue until grants are no longer available. A lot of properties can be grabbed up by the time that happens. There is something horribly wrong when it takes over $600,000 to “remodel” a house after it has been purchased to use as transitional housing. This happened in the 300 block of North Harrison St. Even worse is the fact our City has become like so many of those who choose to live on the streets. They wonder around looking for freebies and handouts at taxpayers’ expense. There is no difference in these two groups.

So now Dave Turner apologizes for not having more meetings regarding the Old Coast Hotel deal of a lifetime. After the first meeting in January I spoke with Mr. Turner and his words to me were “I don’t blame the community for feeling like this was shoved down their throats because it was. We should have had more meetings.” So, there was still time, meetings were held but it was too late to change the mind of those who had all ready given their blessing to the project. Did anyone listen, except Lindy Peters? The decision had been made and it was a done deal before the first meeting and Turner knew it. He had given his approval, 100%.

Our Police Department can’t get the body cameras they had asked for because there is no money for them and no grants available. But the City can put a office in the Old Coast Hotel for the PD to work out of. Why is that? Is the PD babysitting or providing free security service? If it’s for ease of foot patrol Purity Market has a parking lot much closer to the center of the business district. How hard is it to park a patrol car and get out to walk around town? There is a reason for an office of Law Enforcement in the Old Coast Hotel. What is the reason? Gosh, I wonder.

Names such as uncaring, bigots, fearful and uninformed are a few of those being directed toward anyone who opposes the views of a select group within the City of Fort Bragg. I’m wondering if perhaps they were looking in the mirror when they came up with those expressions. It was funny at one meeting to hear them accusing the people opposing the Old Coast Hotel project as being fearful of the homeless. I had just heard on the scanner a
few days before a call from one of their group saying there was a homeless person looking through the back door window of her/his business. Why would a person call law enforcement because a homeless person was looking through their window unless they were fearful? Guess that doesn’t count.

Signing the petition for the initiative isn’t approving it at all. What it is saying is THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HEARD and they aren’t being heard at the council meetings. When you speak at a council meeting you get three minutes then you are told your time is up. At one meeting there was a man speaking in favor of the Old Coast Hotel and went on for nine minutes. On the video you can see Lindy Peters pointing that fact out to Turner but it continued for another few minutes.

Instead of a “quick fix” being made from grants I think it would make much more sense to work on a long term fix that would keep the tourists coming back and the money flowing into the City. If tourism is to be the future of Fort Bragg someone should come up with a plan other than another trail and grants. If we keep going in the direction we are going now it won’t be long before people are saying “I remember when we used to vacation in Fort Bragg” instead of saying “Let’s vacation in Fort Bragg.”

— Judy Valadao, Fort Bragg

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WHY THE HARE CREEK SHOPPING CENTER should not be built, a very long letter, which we've brilliantly edited to its 50-word essentials, from Fish and Wildlife to Marie Jones, Community Development Director, City of Fort Bragg. Those essentials are, Hare Creek is a fairly large project that would increase demand for Fort Bragg's severely depleted water by nearly 2,000,000 gallons, and this in an ongoing drought from a City water supply already in ration mode and already drawing so much water from it natural sources in the Noyo River, Waterfall Gulch and Newman Gulch that already imperiled fish are further imperiled.


  1. Alice Chouteau October 8, 2015

    City spokesman,Scott Schneider, admitted to a local restauranteur that a meeting was held TWO MONTHS AGO, where the upcoming stage three water emergency was discussed and the regulations for disposable plates were added. According to Schneider, this meeting was posted somewhere, but no one in town was informed about it until four days ago. If the city had included the public at that meeting and allowed public input, there would be a lot less turmoil this week. My suspicion is that this critical information was withheld so that the new brewery and possibly four new restaurants could be granted permits. UNacceptable!
    As for the new all night potty, i believe the city hall toilets would suffice nicely, with staff and our mayor taking responsibility for ‘minimal cleanliness’ and necessary security. The Hospitality center at the Old Coast Hotel also has appropriate facilities, and with their big budget, could handle their clients’ nocturnal needs., not the city taxpayers.

    Alice Chouteau

    • mr. wendal October 8, 2015

      Did Schneider mean the July 16 Public Works Committee meeting? The draft of the minutes is in the agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting (Qct 13).

      They discussed the water conservation ordinance at the committee meeting. No mention of paper plates in the minutes but the minutes are, as usual, vague. Everyone needs to know that the committee meetings are where the real action happens. They should be recorded like the CC meetings for open government.

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