Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Disputed Potter Valley Project, the Skunk Train vs. the Great Redwood Trail—Highlights from the Redwood Valley MAC Meeting

[Photo by Monica Huettl]

The Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council met on August 9 at the Grange Hall to discuss code enforcement sweeping through Redwood Valley, water issues and the fate of the Potter Valley Project, the county cannabis ordinance, community disaster preparation, and the Great Redwood Trail.

Supervisor Glenn McGourty was not present to give his usual report, but he sent some notes.

The Great Redwood Trail right of way is being challenged by the Skunk Train. McGourty is working with Supervisor Ted Williams to develop a plan for the County Finance Department, which would be headed by a hired, rather than elected, manager. If you were caught up in the Code Enforcement sweep through Redwood Valley, (enforcers are looking for cannabis, but finding other violations), McGourty advises that unpermitted structures of less than 2,000 square feet may be eligible for a Class K Permit, defined on the County Planning and Building Department website as:

Class K is a relaxed construction standard available to owner-built rural dwellings and appurtenant structures intended “… to allow and facilitate the use of alternatives to the specifications prescribed by the Uniform technical code to the extent that a reasonable degree of health and safety is provided…” To qualify, the property must be zoned for a one-acre or larger minimum lot size and the structure cannot exceed 2 1/2 stories. The fee to process the permit is the same for a Class K or Uniform Building Code structure. (Note: Class K does not apply to commercial, industrial or rented structures.)

McGourty suggested that a representative from Code Enforcement, as well as Sheriff Matt Kendall, speak at the next RV MAC meeting.

Matt Keizer, Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Marshall, reported that the fund-raising BBQ on July 15 was a success, but had a lower turnout than expected due to the extreme heat that day. The department is waiting on delivery of two new fire engines.

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Member Adam Gaska, who is also the Board President of the Redwood Valley County Water District and Agricultural Representative for the Ukiah Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency, gave a water update:

The Redwood Valley County Water District lifted the 55-gallon per day domestic limit for the first time in almost four years. The District also got all the ag water it requested from Flood Control. A group consisting of Sonoma Water, Round Valley Indian Tribes, and the Mendocino County Inland Power and Water Commission has put together a proposal to take over PG&E’s operation of the Potter Valley diversion. The initial draft submittal envisions the decommissioning of Scott Dam on Lake Pillsbury, and a modification, or possible removal, of Cape Horn Dam, still allowing the diversion of Eel River water into the Russian River, and also to provide for fish passage. Gaska said if the dams are removed, and the diversion is modified to send a lower amount of Eel River water into Russian River, Potter Valley will have less irrigation water, and Lake Mendocino may possibly go dry in some years. Experts say that even the large pool of underground water in Ukiah is being replenished by percolation from the Russian River. If the Russian River contains less water in the future, the groundwater pool under Ukiah may get smaller. The state is requiring new wells to be monitored. Local water agencies don’t have enough resources to implement the monitoring program.

The proposed Cannabis Prohibition Zone in Redwood Valley was denied by the Board of Supervisors on July 25. Instead, the Supes directed Code Enforcement to go through the proposed zone to look for unlicensed grows, which they did. This caused great consternation on the Redwood Valley Community Facebook page, as many felt that Code Enforcement approached this in a heavy-handed manner, finding other building code violations unrelated to cannabis. Citations for unpermitted hoop houses require payment of a $1,500 demolition fee. Any structure larger than 10×12 feet requires a building permit, including carports and sheds. Some feel that the county is nickel and diming residents in order to fill up the county bank account. There was extended discussion about the confusing cannabis ordinance, which can be interpreted in different ways.

Guest speaker Meredith DeLucia of the Community Foundation spoke about disaster preparation groups. This past winter there were some multi-day road closures that left certain remote areas of the county stranded for several days. The idea behind a COAD (Community Organization Active in Disaster) is that each community would have a group of volunteers to monitor neighborhood conditions during a disaster. The fastest response during an emergency is neighbors helping neighbors. It is hoped that a leader could be found among the volunteers, a person with the skills and personality to keep the community safe and informed during a disaster. The COAD leader would report to the larger groups in the county VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) to coordinate emergency responses. VOADs would be comprised of local government and NGOs. For more info, please see The Community Foundation website, or contact Meredith DeLucia at meredith@comunityfound.org.

The Great Redwood Trail Planners held a meeting in Hopland on July 27. Public comment still focuses on questions regarding crime prevention and funding of long-term maintenance and safety patrols. The planners are looking for community partners to fund the operations and management of the trail once it is completed. An audience member said that Sonoma State University has successful programs for students who want to work on trail patrol and maintenance of trail ecology. Sentiment remains divided among GRT neighbors.

Chair Dolly Reilly welcomed new MAC member Kahli Johnson to the Board. There is still one more opening on the Board. Applicants are encouraged to attend a MAC meeting and introduce themselves.

Two old business items were wrapped up, finally. The Redwood Valley Community Action Plan has worked its way through Planning and Building and is on the agenda for approval by the Supervisors at the September 26 meeting. The Supervisors had no comments to the proposed Bylaws submitted in October 2022, and said the MAC is free to adopt the Bylaws.

The next Meeting is September 13, 2023, 5:30 p.m. at the Redwood Valley Grange, or via Zoom, and is open to all.

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  1. Seems unfair to go after Redwood Valley for code violation
    So many people out here are still rebuilding from the fire and we all have random sheds structures and carports we threw up just to store materials or tools during the great Redwood Valley rebuild of the last 5 years. The county was NOT easy to work with after the fire and furthermore, there is still no itemized list of how the money our 2017 fire got for our county was spent.

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

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