Saturday, September 23, 2023

Keeping an Eye on the Great Redwood Trail, A Proposed Subdivision on Tomki, The School Has a Potential Buyer—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

Redwood Valley MAC member Patricia Ris-Yarbrough photographed the railroad tracks on a recent walk which is the proposed site of the Great Redwood Trail

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on March 8, 2023, at 5:00 pm with a quorum of Members present, along with Felicia Smith, Sonoma Clean Power; Sheriff Matt Kendall; County Supervisors Mo Mulheren and John Haschak; Cathy Monroe, Mendocino County Climate Advisory Committee; Michael Katz, Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance; Gizmo Henderson, citizen volunteer. Sheriff Kendall reported on the emergency weather situation; Supervisors Mulheren and Haschak discussed Cannabis Policy and the Great Redwood Trail. Other topics covered were water and climate issues, Meals on Wheels, possible development of the school property, a subdivision application on Tomki Road, Emergency Sirens, and the commercial kitchen project at the Grange.

Public Comment

Felicia Smith, Technical Programs Manager, Sonoma Clean Power had been scheduled to give a presentation on SCP’s work on climate change in the energy business. Sonoma Clean Power provides power to Mendocino County PG&E customers. Because the large screen was not available for the slide show, her presentation will be rescheduled. The topics will be the sources of clean power, billing programs, rebates and incentives, workforce development, federal incentive programs to upgrade homes, expansion of geothermal in Geyserville, and how the Public Utility Commission ruling will affect new solar installation. Smith wants to better understand Mendocino County customer needs. Smith, who is interested and experienced in local government and water policies, stayed for the entire meeting. 

Cathy Monroe, Mendocino County Climate Advisory Committee, announced that the committee is ideally comprised of three residents from each supervisor’s district. She invited citizens to participate. Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly and Gizmo Henderson have applied. If you are interested in joining this board, or any county board, here is a link to the application. Citizens who have expertise and interest in a particular area are needed on various committees. Monroe said the meetings are held quarterly, and members from each of the MACs are encouraged to apply. The City of Ukiah has incorporated their climate committee comments into the general plan and Monroe would like to see the Board of Supervisors do the same at the county level.

Member Patricia Ris-Yarbrough sent an email to Howard Dashiell, Mendocino County Department of Transportation, following up on his presentation last month about safety enhancements to the intersection of Highway 20 and Road 144 and Calpella Russian River Bridge Replacement. Ris-Yarbrough requested that the engineers reconsider their decision not to put streetlights at this location. (The email, which she read at the meeting, quoted language directly from MendocinoFever.com’s article on the February 8 MAC meeting.)

Vice Chair Jini Reynolds commented that the pavement is supposed to incorporate reflective pieces that illuminate when approached by headlights.

Update from Glenn McGourty, County Supervisor Board Chair

McGourty was not able to attend this meeting but provided his notes, which are posted on the RV MAC website. Member Adam Gaska read the notes at the meeting. Highlights:

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  1. Mendocino Water Resource Team Technical Advisory Committee has been formed, grant funds will be sought from the SAFER Program.
  2. Progress is being made on the consolidation of the districts of the Upper Russian River Water Agency and the City of Ukiah, seeking grant funding from SAFER. McGourty is advocating for the project as it moves through the LAFCO process.
  3. Studies are being conducted to evaluate groundwater storage in Potter Valley.
  4.  We will be in a good water position for the coming year with Lake Mendocino at capacity and much of our groundwater recharged. Many trees have been damaged by the drought The BOS has passed an Emergency Resolution on Tree Mortality to apply for grant funding.
  5. The City of Ft. Bragg successfully obtained grant funding to increase reservoir capacity by almost 75%. Fort Bragg plans to build three reservoirs to store a potential total of 44 million gallons of water
  6. The Ukiah Valley Basin Sustainable Groundwater Agency has applied for grant funding to continue to update the Groundwater Management Plan as required by law. 
  7. Bree Klotter has been appointed by the BOS to fill the open seat on the Redwood Valley County Water District.
  8. McGourty and Supervisor Haschak helped procure grant funding of $1.5M for a passive ocean desalination pilot project with ONEKA in Ft. Bragg.
  9. Mendocino County is represented by WEST Company on the California Economic Resilience Fund Redwood Region and the Sonoma Mendocino Economic Development District
  10. The early warning sirens project with the RV-Calpella Fire Department is in process.

Member Chris Boyd added that the fire department is hoping that the sirens will be fully operational by this Summer. The diverse terrain and vegetation add difficulty to the projects. Sheriff Kendall added that the sirens are able to be operated remotely, and do not require a person at the fire station to initiate the warning. In the past, the fire whistle alerted the firefighters to come into the station and also gave the public a heads-up that something was happening. The new sirens will include voice alerts to direct the public during a fire and will work in conjunction with text notifications.

Member Kelly asked Supervisor Mulheren to follow up on the RV Grange’s request for the release of funds that were requested months ago in connection with the kitchen remodel. She had asked McGourty to look into this last month.

Update from Sheriff Matt Kendall. 

The county has experienced extreme winter weather for the past 14 days. Most of the problems are in the North County area, where Bell Springs is under 8 to 10 feet of snow. The next storm expected will have higher temperatures but the forecast calls for high winds. He advised all county residents to prepare for power outages and to check on neighbors. County transportation workers are working overtime, 7 days a week, 12-hour shifts. There is a massive amount of work on Spy Rock and Bell Springs Roads. The most recent storm wiped out all the snow plowing that was previously done, after only two hours of heavy snowfall. There were numerous issues with equipment failure while working in the snow. Melting snow and rain soaking into tree roots can loosen the soil and cause trees to fall. Also, snow and rain on the top branches can cause them to fall into the roadways. Please stay alert for falling trees.

The Sheriff’s Department has hired several new employees. 

An experienced deputy has applied for residence in the South Coast area. The average response times for the South Coast and Covelo areas are 45 minutes, which is too long. Having a resident deputy in the South Coast area should reduce response time. 

The new jail construction will be a big improvement for the employees and inmates and a much safer building.

Questions for the Sheriff:

  • Have there been a lot of bad traffic accidents in this storm?
    • Thankfully, no, not too bad during this last storm. Most of the bad accidents came at the beginning of our rainy period when the roads became slick after the long dry spell.
  • The county inmates that are coming from the state prisons, are they going to be supervised by Mendocino County probation, or the state probation department? 
    • The majority are released to the county probation department. AB 109 realignment has had unintended consequences. Probation must be completed in two years. It is not possible to complete certain programs in that time period. Probation release is based on the last criminal conviction, not on an individual’s prior conviction history. For instance, if an inmate with violent convictions in their prior history was last convicted of a non-violent crime, such as grand theft, their probation requirements will be based on the most recent conviction, with the prior history of violent convictions not taken into account. “When we don’t hold people accountable, they will continue to victimize,” said Kendall. This puts unnecessary strain on the resources of both the District Attorney and the Public Defender. The county is in a mental health and behavioral health crisis. Kendall expressed hope that lawmakers listen to the critics of the realignment process.
Another overgrown stretch of Redwood Valley’s train tracks

Formation of a Great Redwood Trail Ad Hoc Subcommittee

Gaska requested that the MAC Board form an ad hoc subcommittee to monitor the progress of the proposed Great Redwood Trail through Redwood Valley. He sought the Board’s permission to send a letter to the Ukiah City Council and staff requesting that the RV MAC be notified of any plans for expansion of the trail outside of the Ukiah city limits so that Redwood Valley residents would be able to have input on the process. The Board voted to approve the formation of the subcommittee and Gaska’s letter. Members of the public are welcome to submit comments to the Redwood Valley MAC.

There will be a public meeting on the Great Redwood Trail Plan in Willits on Thursday, March 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Click to reserve a spot at the meeting. So far concerns from Redwood Valley residents are about public safety, possible transient camping, health and sanitation, and emergency services response to remote sections of the trail. Ris-Yarbrough commented that she has walked portions of the trail and there are spots where the tracks are in very bad condition. She asked whether the trail planners could hold public walking events on portions of the trail. Boyd commented that she always looks at the bottom line, and roughly calculated that the expenses to build the trail are projected to be $1 billion. Gaska said it is closer to $5 billion, and he questioned whether public funds should be spent on this, given other pressing needs. Haschek commented that the public can let the trail planners know of their concerns at the Willits meeting. Monroe commented that it would be nice to have an alternate way to travel to Ukiah by bike along the rail trail. 

RV-Calpella Fire Department Update

Boyd, who is also on the Board of the Fire Department, announced that the March 9 fire department meeting is open to the public. Matt Keizer is the new Fire Marshall. There will be additional public meetings in the future about the early warning siren project, which is still being finalized. Stay informed by checking the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department web page

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Water Education Standing Subcommittee

Subcommittee Member Adam Gaska reported that he didn’t have much to add to Glenn McGourty’s notes on water matters. There was a discussion of Lake Mendocino water levels. Lake Mendocino was meant to be a short-duration reservoir, with the primary goal being flood control. If the water level goes over the earthen dam, the dam could fail. This is one reason why the Army Corps of Engineers releases water during the winter. If we lose the Potter Valley Project, the drought diversion in recent years will be the permanent normal. Water conservation needs to become part of our culture. 

Cannabis Policy Standing Subcommittee

Subcommittee member Ris-Yarbrough asked Supervisor Mulheren about the status of the cultivator’s license backlog. Mulheren said we should know more after the BOS discusses this at their meeting on Tuesday, March 14. Michael Katz commented that he is grateful to Supervisors Mulheren and Haschak for moving this forward and that he appreciates that the BOS is working together to support small operators.

Looks Like Meals on Wheels is Coming to Redwood Valley

Reynolds, a longtime volunteer, has been working with Makayah Tollow, Meals-on-Wheels/Volunteer Coordinator, to bring Meals on Wheels (run by Plowshares) to Redwood Valley. Volunteer drivers would need to pick up the food at Plowshares, but will not need to make a return trip to Ukiah. After each run, drivers must submit forms. For Redwood Valley, the forms can be submitted online or by phone. The forms consist of keeping track of the meal recipients. If someone doesn’t answer the door, Meals on Wheels has a list of relatives to call, or the sheriff, for a welfare check. Reynolds says it takes her about an hour and a half to deliver 19-24 meals in Ukiah. It would be a once-a-week commitment for the volunteer drivers, who go out in teams of two people.

Development Review Standing Subcommittee

Subcommittee Member Kelly received a notice from Building and Planning regarding a proposed subdivision on Tomki Road. This is a large property being subdivided for an easier sale. B&P waived the need for a CEQA review. It is zoned residential and rangeland. There is an application for a B&B on the property. Concerns were expressed regarding egress during emergencies and whether B&B guests would have proper awareness of the extreme fire danger in the Tomki area. This is also near the headwaters of the Russian River, so perhaps the CEQA waiver needs to be reconsidered. Gaska commented that when building plans are submitted, that may trigger a CEQA review, the subdivision process alone may not necessarily require it. The property also has legally deeded access to Bear Canyon Road, which could be an alternate community evacuation route. The Board voted to authorize Kelly to collect comments and submit them to Building and Planning.

Kelly commented that we are still waiting to hear from B&P regarding the finalization of the Redwood Valley Community Action Plan. The board voted to approve Chair Dolly Riley sending a letter to B&P on this.

Redwood Valley School Property

Kelly has learned from a contact at the Ukiah Unified School District that apparently there has been interest in the property by one or more government organizations. Public entities get the first crack at this property before it is offered to the general public. No details as of yet. She will monitor the situation. (After the meeting, the District issued this press release about a potential buyer).

Redwood Valley Grange Update

There will be a flea market and Easter bake sale on April 8.

Kelly announced that the quarterly solstice roadside cleanup will be held on Saturday, March 18, from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Meet at the Grange, grab a trash bag and long-handled picker, then walk along East Road collecting trash. Pick up some free books from the Grange library afterward.

Kelly announced that the kitchen remodeling project is waiting for funds to be released from the county, as promised months ago, but not yet in hand. The kitchen will be remodeled into a commercial kitchen.

Officers and Members Reports and Announcements. 

Reynolds announced that the hard-working road crews and utility workers that may be in your neighborhood are not supposed to accept gifts of homemade food and hot drinks because food gifts are supposed to be labeled with an ingredient list. (Note: if you want to show appreciation, maybe give them some gift cards for coffee or food?)

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Boyd announced that there is an open position at the MAC for a secretary to take notes during meetings. This is an hourly position. If you are interested, please see the RV MAC website.

Reynolds said that perhaps there would be more community participation at the MAC meetings if the time were changed to 6:00 pm, versus the current meeting time of 5:00 pm. Some people don’t get off work in time to attend the 5:00 pm meetings.

Next Meeting is April 12, 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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