Saturday, December 2, 2023

PG&E’s Aggressive Tree Removal, Update from the Little River Band of Pomos, School Property Could Be Senior Housing—Highlights of the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Stockphoto by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on January 11, 2023 at 5:00 pm in a hybrid live/Zoom meeting at the Redwood Valley Grange. Chair Dolly Riley, Vice-Chair Jini Reyolds, Members Patricia Ris-Yarbrough, Chris Boyd, Adam Gaska, Treasurer Katrina Frey and Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly were present at the meeting. Alternate Member Fran Laughton was absent. Sattie Clark resigned from the MAC in November 2022. There is currently one opening for a Board Member. Interested applicants can apply at this link.

New Brown Act Meeting Rules starting in January 2023

Chair Riley reviewed the new Brown Act meeting rules for meetings using teleconferencing (Zoom) and confirmed that the MAC will abide by these rules. Member Gaska announced that the County will be holding a Brown Act Training Session on January 25.

Public Comment

Oryan Meeker, coordinator of LISTOS, spoke about LISTOS’ mission to work with the Latinx community in the areas of civic engagement, economic development, and disaster and emergency preparedness. Listos is interested in meeting with community groups and he asked that anyone interested please contact him. 

Cathy Monroe, Member of the County Climate Action Advisory Committee and Sheilah Rogers both commented on PG&E’s aggressive tree removal, resulting in steep, denuded slopes, and they would like to know whether anyone had reported issues with excessive mud or landslides on the cleared areas. Vice Chair Reynolds reported that she is keeping an eye on the runoff from the cleared area near the intersection of Road A and Highway 20.

Guest Speaker Debra Ramirez, Chair of the Redwood Valley Little River Band of Pomo Indians

Ramirez was a founding member of the Redwood Valley MAC and is well known in Redwood Valley. The tribe is named “Redwood Valley Little River” because the geographic area that this band of Pomo Indians historically lived on ranged from the Russian River in Redwood Valley/Calpella to Little River on the coast. A main concern of the tribe has been ensuring secure water sources. Tribal representatives are working with state and local water officials on this. They have reactivated an old well to be used for fire suppression, and projects for water storage and wastewater systems. They recently sealed and striped the roads on the reservation. Tribal representatives continue to work with the courts in connection with the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are some political factions that want to reducing funding for the ICWA. The tribe offers an educational program to prevent tobacco smoking and vaping use. Members may attend the Tribal College at Cache Creek, where classes are held on tribal law, tribal government, tribal history, tribal health and Public Law 280 regarding judicial matters. The tribe has offered space for to PG&E hold a community resource center on the reservation if needed, during power outages. In the past power outages, the Ukiah site was sufficient and it was not necessary to open one in Redwood Valley, but the option is there if needed in the future. Like everyone else, they have been battling COVID and sadly they lost Carla Guttierez, who was well known in the community. Even though they are a small tribe, they want to offer support to the community. Tribal council meetings are held the third Sunday of every month. The public is welcome to come and listen. Mary Campbell is the tribal administrator.

Update from Glenn McGourty, County Supervisor

The County is experiencing two emergencies: the ongoing drought and the winter storms. “It’s a funny juxtaposition we find ourselves in,” said McGourty. The winter storms will not necessarily cancel out the drought. Unfortunately, two people have died in the storm so far, but despite this, Mendocino County is in better shape than much of the state. Our landscape is designed to handle a lot of rain. Regarding water use in the county, our irrigated crops use only 25% of what farmers in the Central Valley use. The Board of Supervisors authorized the hiring of a water resource specialist. This is a temporary position that will consist mainly of grant writing. Regarding the county budget situation, McGourty is in favor of hiring professional CPAs to run the County’s finances, rather than elected officials. There is no guarantee that the elected officials have the necessary expertise to perform adequately. When a county cannot close the books at year-end, it interferes with funding from the state. The County’s employees need a cost of living adjustment. We are a poor county, with a small population, yet large geographic area. This makes it difficult to fund infrastructure such as road maintenance. To support economic development, McGourty is in favor of developing green hydrogen from agricultural waste. This could power internal combustion engines and reduce the need for battery-powered electric vehicles. He is working with a national group on this, and would like to see Mendocino County become a leader in this new technology.

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Water Matters

Member Gaska reported on the November 15 presentation held at Barra Winery to discuss the new ordinance for commercial well drilling. There will be a follow up meeting sometime in the near future. Gaska is a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Basin Sustainability Agency. The UVGBSA will oversee the new well drilling rules (in addition to the permits necessary from County Environmental Health Department). Gaska is also on the board of the Redwood Valley County Water District Board. The water district will hold a special meeting on January 18 at 2:00 pm to interview the two candidates who applied for a vacant board seat. Gaska also reported that the Russian River Flood Control District is planning to survey on a monthly basis their customers who have water rights, on their intended water use. This will hopefully free up more water for Redwood Valley, which has very limited water rights, and would be able to purchase from Flood Control customers who do not need their allotted water. Redwood Valley currently gets water from a Millview Water District well on the Masonite property in Ukiah. Ag water connections are currently turned on and will be left on. A community member inquired whether the district was actively monitoring leakage. All water pipes are serviced by Willow County Water District, which does check for leaks. LACO engineering consultants are in the process of computer mapping all the water lines and this should enable faster detection of any leaks. The District is waiting to see if the State will approve funding for upgrades to the treatment plant. 

Update on the Redwood Valley School Campus

The MAC was copied on a letter that Steve Barekman, Chief Business Official of the Ukiah Unified School District, sent to various government agencies notifying them that the campus was for sale. Prior to offering the campus for sale to the public, the District must offer it to government agencies. If none of the agencies is interested in the property, it will be offered to the general public after 60 days. Janae Stevens and Cherilyn Evans, of GreenLeaf Cohousing attended the meeting to discuss their vision of acquiring the campus property to provide communal housing for seniors, with solar panels to provide clean energy. Chair Riley and Alternate Member Kelly had earlier walked the campus with them. Stevens stated that because the property has two parcels, the athletic field, tennis court and river front could potentially be used for a community park. Evans mentioned that the school property was originally donated with the intention of keeping it as a community resource. Supervisor McGourty suggested contacting the Community Development Commission to see if they could assist with GreenLeaf’s vision. The major stumbling blocks with repurposing the school campus are: 1) the cost of tearing down the existing buildings in compliance with current environmental construction standards is going to be exorbitant; 2) there are at most three water hookups available for the 12.4 acre property. The Redwood Valley County Water District is not able to provide new hookups, and there is currently a 55 gallon per person limit on residential water use, and the groundwater supply is not likely to support a new well; and 3) the County Parks Department is stretched beyond its limit and is not able to take on any new park development or maintenance.

RV-Calpella Fire Department Update

Travis Killmer, of the County Disaster Recovery and Office of Emergency Services announced that on Saturday, January 14, from 10 to noon, there will be a public meeting at the fire station regarding the Early Warning Siren Project. Most of the presentation will take place between 10:00 am and noon, but representatives will be available until 4:00 pm. A mobile siren will be tested at various locations around Redwood Valley on Saturday. Community member Gizmo Henderson questioned whether the sirens would be coordinated with the emergency alerts that the Sheriff sends out. That is not confirmed at this time. There was another question regarding the fire safety upgrades to Black Bart Trail. At this time only the CEQA portion of the project has been funded. Funding for the actual improvements is still to come. Member Boyd, who is also on the Board of the Fire Department, announced that the fire department holds their meetings on the second Thursday of each month. The public is welcome to attend. The department recently purchased new apparatus using PG&E settlement funds. The department expects to receive an approximately $250,000 from the passage of Measure N in the November 2022 election. 

Cannabis Policy Standing Subcommittee Update

Chiah Rodriques of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance submitted a question as to whether the Exclusion Zones have been defined by the county. Subcommittee Member Ris-Yarbrough responded that the Exclusion Zones are still being reviewed by the County Counsel’s office. Supervisor McGourty reported that the County Cannabis Department is undergoing revisions. 

Development Review Standing Subcommittee

Alternate Member Kelly reported that there are no new proposed development applications in Redwood Valley. 

Grange Update

Jeff Box, Grange President announced two upcoming events: 1) the Music Gear Swap on January 28 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm; and 2) the Flea Market/Seed Exchange/Puzzle Exchange on February 11. Alternate Member Kelly said the proposed upgrade to the commercial kitchen has been submitted to the planning department, and the Grange is still waiting for the County to release the Grange’s portion of the PG&E settlement funds from the October 2017 fire. The Grange is offering a scholarship program that will be funded by raffles.

Officers and Members Reports and Announcements

The Board discussed the current officer assignments and election of officers for the current year. After discussion and motion the Board voted to reelect all current officers as currently listed in the first paragraph of this article. 

Next Meeting is February 8, 2023, 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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