Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Reduction in Cannabis Gardens, Potter Valley Project and Water Security, PG&E Tree Trimming—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Stock photo by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on August 10, 2022 at 5:00 pm in a hybrid live/Zoom meeting at the Redwood Valley Grange. Discussion included water security, Mendocino County’s financial situation, the county’s cannabis program, and the future of the Redwood Valley School property.

Sheriff’s Update

Sheriff Matt Kendall reported that there have been two recent armed robberies involving cannabis. (Note: these robberies were reported by MendoFever.com in these links Manhunt South of Ukiah and Willits Shooting.) Overflights show a reduction in illegal gardens by approximately 40%. However, the illegal gardens are approximately 25% larger in size than previously. Sheriff Kendall also spoke about Search and Rescue and County job openings. He encouraged county residents to join the Mendocino County Search and Rescue Volunteers, as many of the experienced volunteers are aging out. He also encouraged anyone interested to apply for a job at the Sheriff’s Department, or any County department as there are multiple job openings with the County.

Water Education Standing Subcommittee

Guest speaker Sean White, Director of Water Resources for the City of Ukiah, reported on efforts to consolidate the small water districts in the Ukiah Valley. Consolidation efforts are picking up momentum. It should cost approximate $40-$50 million to replumb the water pipes serving all the districts, in a process that will take at least five years. In addition to working with State representatives, White has been working with Jared Walker, General Manager of multiple water districts, including the Redwood Valley County Water District. The State of California wants the smaller districts consolidated to ensure water security and to achieve economies of scale. Currently the City of Ukiah and the Willow Water District have available water. The Redwood Valley District is $7 million in debt, which needs to be refinanced or forgiven before other districts will consolidate with Redwood Valley. Consolidation affects only residential water. If Redwood Valley receives groundwater from the consolidated group, perhaps Ag water can be supplied by contract water from Lake Mendocino. White said perhaps the consolidated group would be governed by an elected board comprised of members from each district. Public workshops regarding consolidation should be held by the City of Ukiah, the individual water districts and the Upper Russian River Water Agency (URRWA).

Board Member Adam Gaska drafted a letter to the Redwood Valley County Water District from the RV MAC requesting that the District host a public meeting on consolidation, with participation from the following water districts and managers: Redwood Valley, Millview, Calpella, Rogina, River Estates, Potter Valley Irrigation District, Russian River Flood Control, City of Ukiah (with City Council Members participating), Sean White, Jared Walker, and two representatives from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. The purpose is to “bring everyone’s ideas and concerns to the table, including those of the general public.” The RV MAC Members voted unanimously to send the letter. 

There was public comment from multiple audience members regarding the proposed removal of Scott Dam and the Two Basin Solution for Eel River water flowing through the tunnel in Potter Valley into the East Fork of the Russian River and into Lake Mendocino. Congressman Jared Huffman is in favor of the Two Basin Solution, but many water users are highly skeptical that this will provide water security for Mendocino, Sonoma and Lake Counties. An audience member reported that Congressman Mike Thompson, who represents Lake County, stated at a recent meeting in Potter Valley that he was not in favor of removing Scott Dam. Efforts are underway to put together a group to manage the Potter Valley diversion tunnel after PG&E pulls out of the project. White said the Two Basin Solution and possible removal of Scott Dam will not affect consolidation efforts, as Ukiah Valley mainly relies on ground water.

Update from District 1 Supervisor Glenn McGourty

The County’s finances have been rated A+ by Fitch Ratings, which is the second highest rating category. The offices of County Auditor Controller and Treasurer Tax Collector are going to be combined. The Board of Supervisors will authorize the structure of this new entity. McGourty favors an independent financial services office, for transparency. Regarding water issues, the County cannot afford to staff a new water agency. McGourty favors aligning with the UC Extension office, which would give the county access to University of California water experts, who may be able to assist with grant funding. Others on the BOS disagree with this approach. Regarding the plan to consolidate small water districts in the County, McGourty supports the idea of a secure water supply.

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Update from Office of Emergency Services

Travis Killmer reported on the Disaster Recovery Survey that residents, especially survivors of the 2017 fire, are invited to take. Garrett James is working with Killmer in setting up a new office for the County OES. The Sheriff’s Department will have the primary responsibility for sending Nixle alerts and the OES will assist with Nixle alerts during large events. The siren alert system was discussed, it is not currently operational.

Cannabis Policy Subcommittee

The RV MAC members discussed a draft letter to the County Board of Supervisors urging the Board to “form a standing committee to deal with the issues surrounding the cannabis department and the development of a local cannabis industry.” The letter is in response to the fact that the “County’s cannabis permit program has been fraught with hiccups and missteps since the inception.” The committee should include “stakeholders from the cannabis industry, the Mendocino Cannabis Department, the community at large and defenders of the environment.” The RV MAC members voted to send the letter, with Chair Riley abstaining as she has a family member in the Cannabis Department. 

Redwood Valley School Property

Alternate Board Member MaryBeth Kelly reviewed School District board minutes from 2010 when the elementary school was closed. The campus was supposed to be maintained in a park-like setting with twice-monthly maintenance. This is obviously not being done. Kelly is going to ask the School District to at least maintain one of the two parcels for community use. The building was in a nine-month escrow (extended for two additional months) with developer Gary Breen, who reportedly planned to put apartments in. There are only three water hookups on the property, so apartments are not likely to be built. Chair Riley spoke to Mike McGuire’s office regarding possibly having the State acquire the property, as it adjoins the railroad tracks and the not-yet-built Great Redwood Trail, but she has not received a response. This coming Saturday, August 13, the RV School alumni are having a reunion and walk-through, followed by a barbecue. All school alumni are invited to join. 

Fire Safety

Member Chris Boyd, who is also on the board of the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department announced that the August 11 Fire Department Board meeting is canceled due to Covid exposure. The Board was considering putting an initiative for a parcel tax on the 2022 ballot. However, there is another proposal to continue the expiring Measure B sales tax for fire needs. Projections show that this would generate about the same amount of money as the parcel tax, and if the sales tax is approved, there will be no need for the parcel tax.

The Firesafe Council has funding for low-income seniors and disabled individuals to get free help clearing defensible space around their homes. Information is available here.

PG&E Tree Trimming

Chair Riley reported that there is a proposed California Senate Bill 396 that will allow PG&E to cut trees around electrical lines without notice to the property owner. Contact State Senator Mike McGuire for more information or to object to the bill.  

Community Action Plan

The Community Action Plan was drafted so that County planners will be aware of the wishes of Redwood Valley residents with regard to land use and building permits when preparing the County General Plan. The CAP was originally submitted to the County Planning Department in August 2020. Revisions suggested by the County have been made and the CAP is ready to be resubmitted. The revised CAP will be posted on the RV MAC website.

How to Join the Board of the RV MAC

There is currently an opening for an RV MAC Board Member. There were two applicants in attendance, Fran Laughton and Sonya Campbell. The vetting process was discussed, which may involve Q&A from current board members upon receipt of the application. Interested parties are encouraged to attend the MAC meetings and to give the current Board Members a statement of reasons for interest in joining the board, including a brief bio. Openings come up fairly frequently. Here is a link explaining the process to join the MAC. The RV MAC is also in need of secretarial assistance for notetaking and minute preparation and an IT person for technical assistance with Zoom equipment. Please see the RV MAC website for more information. 

Grange Update

There will be a flea market, food and puzzle exchange at the Grange on Saturday, August 13. The Grange hosted a children’s program called Giggles. For more information on Grange events, please check out their Facebook Page.

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Next Meeting is September 14, 2022, 5:00 p.m. at the Redwood Valley Grange, or via Zoom, and is open to all.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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