Saturday, July 20, 2024

Traffic Jams at Eagle Peak, Marijuana Enforcement Conducting Overflights, Air Conditioning at the Grange—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Photo by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on May 10, 2023, at 5:30 pm with a quorum of Members present, along with guest speaker Felicia Smith, Program Manager, Sonoma Clean Power; Sheriff Matt Kendall; Kali Perkins, Emerald Law Group. Topics:  traffic jams in Redwood Valley, explanation of rates for peak electricity use; possible cannabis prohibition zone.

Public Comment

Shannon Johnson spoke about the traffic around Eagle Peak School. There are daily traffic jams during the morning commute hour, stretching from the West Road freeway interchange to Ellen Lynn Road, located near the school. The traffic is also jammed up when school lets out. Some Eagle Peak students come from Willits and Ukiah, driven by parents. Alternate Member Marybeth Kelly, a former teacher at Eagle Peak, suggested that Shannon contact the school principal, who could talk to the parents. Shannon said that probably wouldn’t do any good. Chair Dolly Riley suggested that Shannon contact the principal and report on the results at the next MAC meeting. Shannon said she would contact the County Transportation Department. Gizmo Henderson commented that the Mendocino Council of Governments can help with transportation issues.

Update from Sheriff Matt Kendall

Kendall has been busy with two back-to-back homicides in Covelo recently. There are interviews with family members of the victims and several issues involved. The Sheriff’s Department is in the process of finishing the investigations to turn them over to the District Attorney. 

Kendall addressed news of wildfires recently, even though we’ve had rain. Kendall’s brother, a CalFire Chief, told him that some people leave their burn piles unattended during the afternoon when the winds pick up. Kendall reminded us that burns are supposed to occur in the morning and must be attended at all times. 

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Kendall expects to have an online portal for public records search requests operating online by July, that will enable refined, specific search parameters, for faster, more accurate searches of Sheriff’s Department records.

The Marijuana Team will be conducting overflights looking for illegal grows. The Sheriff is prioritizing grows that involve: 1) trespassing; 2) environmental damage; and 3) violent behavior and trafficking. There are roughly 40% fewer illegal grows, but the 60% of grows that remain are 30% bigger in size.

Regarding the comment on traffic jams at Eagle Peak, Kendall said he has the same problem at his office which is across from Ukiah High on Low Gap Road. It seems there are fewer school buses and more cars driving kids to school. 

Randy England will be taking over as head of the Ukiah CHP office. The CHP is responsible for traffic enforcement on county roads outside of city limits. (It was suggested later in the meeting that Sergeant England would be a good choice for a guest speaker at an upcoming MAC meeting).

Question for Sheriff Kendall from Gizmo Henderson: I understand that on a grade scale of A-F, the recent tsunami siren test on the coast was a Grade B. Kendall replied that constant exposure to salt air on the coast means that some faulty equipment is inevitable.

Guest Speaker Felicia Smith, Programs Manager, Sonoma Clean Power 

Sonoma Clean Power, a not-for-profit agency, generates all electricity for Mendocino County PG&E customers since 2017. This is funded through revenue, not taxes. SCP’s mission is to turn the tide on the climate crisis. They provide low-carbon electricity, 50% is renewable and 90% is carbon-free. Hydroelectric power is not considered carbon-free because of the environmental issues with the rivers. SCP uses geothermal and wind power, with a small amount of power generated through biomass.

Smith explained some terms on the electric bills:

  • In general electricity from SCP is 5% less expensive than from PG&E. 13% of Mendocino County customers still choose PG&E. 
  • Electricity is the most expensive from 4 to 9 pm. Avoid using electricity during these hours if you can. Run your dishwasher during off hours. Charge your electric vehicles during off hours. Electricity charges for peak hours are .39 cents per KW and off-peak is .28 cents per KW. 
  • An electric vehicle adds about $100 per month to the average bill. It is still cheaper than buying gas.
  • Money-saving incentives and rebates can be found on the SCP website.  

A question from Gizmo Henderson: Is nuclear power considered renewable? Smith’s Answer: it is carbon-free. SCP has a small nuclear facility.

Redwood Valley Grange Update

Alternate Member Kelly announced that the Grange members were grateful that the County has approved the first contract for payment for air conditioners and heaters in the main hall. The second contract for the kitchen update has been approved, and the County is waiting for the submittal of approved construction plans. 

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There is a flea market coming up on June 3, and there will be an event at the Grange to help celebrate this year’s Taste of Redwood Valley on June 17.

Grange members are planning the float for this year’s Black Bart Parade. The theme of the parade this year is Americana. 

There is a free library on shelves outside the Grange building, available 24 hours a day. The public is welcome to stop by and take books at any time.

Water Education Standing Subcommittee

Member Adam Gaska, who is also the Board President of the Redwood Valley County Water District, reported as follows:

There was a workshop held at Barra Winery on April 17. The Groundwater Sustainability Agency will have new requirements for commercial and agricultural wells. A pump test will be required, and the GSA is discussing whether wells need to be monitored. (For more information, see our article on the workshop.)

PG&E hosted a town hall webinar geared toward the Lake Pillsbury community. PG&E announced plans to surrender their hydroelectric license and abandon Scott Dam and the Potter Valley power station. PG&E is willing to negotiate with an organized entity that is willing to take over the project, but the entity needs to be formed by the end of 2024. If nobody steps up to acquire the project, the communities that rely on Upper Russian River water could lose 60,000 acre-feet of water per year. That’s half of Lake Mendocino. The Russian River Water Forum is working to find a way to take over the project. The first Planning Group meeting will be held at the Ukiah Conference Center on May 17 from 10 am to 3 pm. (The PG&E webinar was covered here at MendoFever.com.) 

The Redwood Valley County Water District is working on the consolidation of Calpella, Millview, Willow, and RV with the City of Ukiah, per the State’s SAFER program for small water districts.

Redwood Valley is working with Russian River Flood Control and the Conservation Improvement District to obtain a supply of ag water. 870 acre-feet has been requested from Flood Control’s surplus. 100 acre-feet have been guaranteed so far.

A question from William Self: Will new water hookups be possible in Redwood Valley after the consolidation? Answer: The moratorium on hookups was court-ordered. It’s unknown if consolidation with the City of Ukiah will change that.

Cannabis Policy Standing Subcommittee. 

Subcommittee member Marybeth Kelly announced that the Planning Commission hearing on the Cannabis Prohibition Zone has been set for May 18, 2023. Citizens still have time to submit comments online. If you want to attend the hearing in person or via internet, here is a link to the Planning Commission meetings web page.

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William Self commented on the proposed Cannabis Prohibition Zone. He felt most complaints were quality of life issues. He is hoping to start a Neighborhood Issues Resolution Support group. He would like to video record some storytellers who have successful examples of resolving problems with neighbors, without resulting in name-calling on social media. William’s contact information is williamaself@yahoo.com or (707) 485-0867

Kali Perkins, an attorney with the Emerald Law Group, attended the meeting with her client Anarbol Lopez, who owns a vineyard on Road E and is one of three applicants she represents within the proposed CP Zone. Perkins commented that her clients have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with legal cannabis regulations. The sites on Road D are in the process of adding lattice to the top of the fence to shield the view of the hoop houses. They will add speed limit signs to the roads. Perkins said a lot of the comments in favor of the CP Zone are based on fear, bias, and racism. 

Katrina Frey asked if the permits were transferrable if the CP Zone was approved. Answer: They are not transferrable. It is a lengthy and costly process to reapply.

Development Review Standing Subcommittee. 

Subcommittee Member Kelly reported that there were no new permits to review.

Kelly said that the County is in the process of having the Mariposa Swimming Hole on Tomki Road deemed excess property. Frey noted that she has discussed this with two of her Tomki neighbors. 

Gizmo Henderson asked about the Caltrans Bridge progress on Highway 20. Answer: Caltrans is not going to install a center divider, they say the road is wide enough. There has been no answer from CalTrans about putting in streetlights. Henderson also commented that in response to his request for cisterns beneath the elevated roadway to contain toxic waste from accidents, Caltrans stated that the bank of rocks and grasses is sufficient as a filter. Henderson wanted to state his opposition on the record, as the Russian River supplies water to over half a million people.

Community Action Plan Ad Hoc Subcommittee

Riley commented that on April 21 the Planning and Building Department informed the MAC that the plan needs to be rewritten to include corrections. She has been in contact with Sheilah Rogers, who helped write the original Community Action Plan in 2017. Rogers and Reynolds will work on the revisions to the Plan, a laborious process of going through it line-by-line. After the CAP is revised, Planning and Building will send it to local tribes, and three other agencies for review. After the comments are gathered, the MAC will make further changes to the CAP and resubmit to Building and Planning.

Great Redwood Trail Ad Hoc Subcommittee

Subcommittee Member Gaska, who is also a member of the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, reported on the presentation by Great Redwood Trail planner Louisa Morris to the Farm Bureau. Morris was the guest speaker at last month’s MAC meeting. In addition to Farm Bureau members, the meeting was attended by Sheriff Matt Kendall and two local fire chiefs. Morris was questioned about potential crimes, fires, and emergencies on the proposed trail.  

Redwood Valley School Property. 

Kelly announced that the agenda for the Ukiah Unified School District’s May 11 Board of Trustees meeting lists a closed session with real estate negotiators on the Redwood Valley School property.  Negotiator for the District: Steve Barekman, Chief Business Official; Nancy Taylor, Orbach Huff & Henderson Negotiating Parties: Public Bidders Under Negotiation: Price and terms of Payment relating to Disposition of Surplus Property. The District has not made any public announcements.

Officers and Members Reports and Announcements. 

Riley announced that United Disaster Relief of Northern California, run by Danilla Sands, will be holding a benefit dinner and show on Saturday, May 20 at the Ukiah Conference Center. Tickets are available on UDRNC’s Events web page.

The MAC proposed Bylaws were submitted to County Counsel in October 2022. There has been no response so far.

Frey will be stepping down from the MAC. She has been a Board Member since the beginning. She will continue to act as Treasurer for the time being. She reviewed the MAC budget, which is tied to the County’s fiscal year that ends on June 30. The MAC receives $2,500 per year from the County, which is barely sufficient to cover expenses for the 10 meetings per year. The budget is very tight and the MAC is not allowed to apply for grants. The MAC is currently paying for a subscription to the MapPortal service, which allows for real estate parcel ownership searches. A discussion of whether to continue paying for this service was tabled until next month.

There are two vacancies on the MAC Board. Members expressed the desire to see a younger, more diverse MAC Board. There is also a vacancy for a secretary, at the rate of $22 per hour, for three hours work per month. A raise in pay to $25 per hour was discussed, but not decided. Interested parties are asked to attend a MAC meeting and then apply on the website for the MAC.

Zach Carson is scheduled as a guest speaker for next month, to discuss events he would like to hold at Revival Ranch (Flow Kana’s site).

Gizmo Henderson announced that he met with Jacob King of the Mendocino Transit Authority. King is working with CalTrans to find a site for a Transit Mall in Mendocino County. The area of the West Road freeway exit is being considered. 

The next Meeting is June 14, 2023, 5:30 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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