Saturday, September 23, 2023
Home Blog

Water Talks: Waiting on PG&E to Figure Out Life After the Potter Valley Project


At the first meeting following a proposal for life after the Potter Valley Project, participants talked about money, conservation, water rights, and what to do next, in the absence of key information from the current owner of the project.

At the end of July, Sonoma Water, the Mendocino County Inland Water and Power Commission, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes made a proposal to PG&E about how to continue diverting water from the Eel River into the Russian River without Scott Dam and with a new kind of infrastructure where Cape Horn Dam is now. They hope that PG&E will include their proposal in its draft plan for decommissioning the project, which it will submit to regulators in November.

The three groups agreed to form a regional entity that could legally take on the water right and manage the diversion. But the other members of the Russian River Water Forum, a large group of representatives from interests in the Eel and Russian River watersheds, were not involved in negotiations with PG&E. Some, though not all, feel blindsided. 

At a meeting on August 17, Janet Pauli, of the Inland Water and Power Commission, responded to the concerns, saying, “We were not under the impression that there was an alternative to what we did. We believe the discussion with PG&E needed to be on their terms and their timeline. We also believe there is nothing in our proposal that’s at odds with the goal of attaining the two-basin solution as we understood it. Those goals continue to be water supply certainty and fish passage. I really believe that moving forward, we have to find a way to engage with stakeholders and agencies on this. We’ve been attempting to do that, particularly with the agencies at this point. But if we get support from stakeholders and the agencies, the faster the process will move forward — assuming PG&E accepts the proposal they currently have in front of them.”

Matt Clifford, a staff attorney with the environmental advocacy group Trout Unlimited, said he wasn’t sure it’s even worthwhile to continue with the forum. And he questioned the sense of urgency that’s arisen with a proposal that has to hew so closely to the timeline imposed upon PG&E by FERC, the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. “It’s not a given that this has to take place, even as part of the FERC process,” he argued. “We’ve got a decommissioning schedule now. PG&E can come in now. They’ve expressed a desire to remove everything from the river, but there are alternatives here that allow for a continued diversion after that. There’s no reason we can’t proceed in a way that allows PG&E to carry out its announced intentions. And the question is, how do we build a diversion after that. The idea that this is the one shot, to create the urgency around that, I just don’t think is correct.”

Erica Costa, a lawyer with Berkey Williams, which represents the Round Valley Indian Tribes, laid out her clients’ priorities, declaring that, “Another important piece here is that the fish migration and the diversions will be on conditions mutually agreed upon by the proponents of the proposal that protect the fishing rights and water rights of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.”

Vivian Helliwell, the watershed conservation director for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, is also concerned about fishing. “I see some allowance or recognition for the need for a harvestable surplus for the Round Valley Tribe,” she noted. “I don’t know if that includes a conversation about the huge economic sport fishery and commercial fishery that relied on the fish from this river, and the great economic losses that occurred from those fisheries going down. I don’t know if this is going to be enough,” she concluded. “I don’t know if this forum is going to help us get where we need to go.”
Helliwell, too, was aggrieved about the fact that she didn’t know the negotiation was taking place with PG&E. But Nikcole Whipple, a Yuki member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and an intern with the conservation group Save California Salmon, said the proposal was foreseeable, even to a newcomer like her. “To me, in the short time I’ve been working on these projects, it’s always been clear to me that the idea to form the two-basin solution moving forward was always about a diversion, and I’ve always known that I’ve been on the opposition…I don’t feel like we’re being blindsided in any way.” She noted that she supports her tribal council.

Matt Myers, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, wanted to make sure it’s clear that his agency has not taken a position at this time.  “Our staff is participating in the technical meetings for the diversion,” he specified; “but that’s from a technical input level. It shouldn’t be extrapolated that there is either support or not support for a particular proposal or diversion.”

Bree Klotter, of Redwood Valley, asked the lawyers for the Inland Water and Power Commission and Sonoma Water the questions that everyone wants answered. “I was just wondering if there’s been any response at all from PG&E regarding the proposal,” she ventured; “and if not, is there any idea what sort of timeframe we can expect? Will we hear something from them before they submit the initial draft?”

Scott Shapiro, the Inland Water and Power Commission attorney, acknowledged that, “PG&E has not told us whether they will include this in their proposal. We have not had an official communication to that. PG&E has indicated that it will start negotiating with the regional entity when the regional entity is formed. Until that time, we hope to have further informal discussions with PG&E to learn more.”

Klotter persisted, asking, “Does that mean they will engage in discussions with an entity if we form one?”

Adam Brand, representing Sonoma Water, informed her that, “They haven’t indicated a timeframe for making a decision on the proposal that we have submitted. And they haven’t given us an answer yet.” 

Detectives Investigating ‘Suspicious Death’ at Ukiah Apartment Complex This Evening

[Stock image by Matt LaFever]

What initially was reported as a medical aid call to Ukiah’s Willow Terrace Apartments on East Gobbi Street has proven to be a “suspicious death”, as per Ukiah Police Department’s Lieutenant Andrew Phillips. 

Lieutenant Phillips could not provide any information regarding the decedent, suspects, or the nature of the incident due to the ongoing nature of the investigation. He did tell us UPD became involved in the situation around 1:30 this afternoon after officers were called to the scene of a medical call that paramedics thought “suspicious.”

A review of scanner traffic from the time referenced by Lieutenant Phillips confirms around 1:10 p.m., scanner traffic medical personnel were called on an echo response to the apartment complex, code for imminent death. CPR was reportedly in progress.

Detectives are actively investigating and have cordoned off a small section of the apartment complex on 237 East Gobbi Street while they process the scene. 

Lieutenant Phillips told us that detectives will secure the area overnight as they wait for Department of Justice investigators to assist in the processing of the scene tomorrow.

More information regarding the incident will be released tomorrow, Lieutenant Phillips said.  

Early Morning Major Injury Traffic Accident in Hopland

[Stock photo by Matt LaFever]

Two passenger vehicles struck a semi-truck early this morning in close proximity to the Green Bridge just south of Hopland temporarily closing Highway 101 and causing major injury.

The California Highway Patrol Traffic Incident Information page indicates the collision was first reported around 1:37 a.m. when two vehicles reportedly struck the trailer of a semi-truck blocking the lanes of the Green Bridge.

The incident left two patients with major injuries and two other patients with moderate injuries.

Officials closed Highway 101 between 1:55 a.m. and 4:18 a.m. as they worked to extricate the involved and clear the roadway. At one point, one of the involved vehicles had to be pulled away from the Green Bridge by a tow truck to free the driver.

Police Looking for Redwood Valley Man Charged with Attempted Murder for Shooting a Hopland Resident

Jesse James Connolly [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office]

In late July we reported on a Hopland man who had been shot in the chest requiring a medevac to an out-of-town hospital. 

We recently learned that Mendocino County law enforcement is actively searching for 37-year-old Redwood Valley man Jesse James Connolly who has been charged with attempted murder for his suspected role in the Hopland shooting. 

A criminal complaint filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office reveals Connolly is suspected of using a firearm in an attempt to murder Joel Jesus Ramos on July 30, 2023. He has been formally charged with felony attempted murder.

There are multiple warrants out for Connolly associated with two previous felonies and one misdemeanor. As per the Mendocino County Superior Court Case Information Portal, a “declaration in support of a warrant” has been filed for separate attempted murder charges.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Quincy Cromer told us Connolly is suspected of shooting Ramos outside a residence located on the 13000 block of Nokomis Road within the Hopland Rancheria.

Lieutenant Cromer told us law enforcement responded to “a possible shooting in Hopland” around 9:53 a.m. on the 30th and learned that a “possible shooting victim was reportedly being transported by private vehicle to Hopland CalFire.” The patient was “transported to an out-of-county hospital for an apparent gunshot wound.” 

Scanner traffic from that morning indicated the victim was shot in the chest.

Previous Coverage

MEDIUM Art Gallery Invites Community to First Friday Art Walk, Open Mic Night, Skulls & Bones Exhibit

The following is a press release issued by the Deep Valley Arts Collective:

Performers at one of MEDIUM Art Gallery’s Open Mic Nights [Picture provided by Chris Pugh]

The Deep Valley Arts Collective invites you to an Open Mic Night at MEDIUM Art Gallery in Ukiah, on First Friday, October 6, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Come read a story, sing a song, recite a favorite poem or any other short performance. All ages are welcome. Drinks and snacks are available—wine donated by Saracina Vineyards. 

Our current exhibition, Skulls & Bones, is on display through October, 22, 2023. 

The autumn season has traditionally been associated with skull and bone imagery, representing mortality, death, transformation, regeneration, and decay themes. Artists were prompted to submit various works interpreting this theme, with encouragement to think outside the box. 

Community Altar: 

Join us to build our community altar. Bring something or create something to add to the altar in remembrance of those who have passed away, but are not forgotten. 

Medium Art Gallery is located inside the Pear Tree Center in Ukiah at 522 E. Perkins Street, next to Rod’s Shoes. Gallery hours are Friday 12-8 p.m., Saturday 12-6 p.m., and Sunday 12-4 p.m. Come support the arts in our community! 

The Deep Valley Arts Collective is a Mendocino County-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that believes in the transformative power of making and experiencing art. Formed in 2020, our mission is to create a culture that nurtures artists’ development and success while contributing to the well-being of our community. For more information visit our website at http://www.deepvalleyarts.org. 

[Poster from the Deep Valley Arts Collective]

Plaskett-Keller Hazard Tree Removal Project Underway in the Mendocino National Forest


The following is a press release from the Mendocino National Forest:

Forest Service contractors hauling heavy equipment for hazard tree removal in Plaskett-Keller Project area on FH7, September 21, 2023. USDA Forest Service photo by Laura Leidner.

Forest Service contractors have begun work on the Plasket-Keller August Complex project. Forest officials urge visitors to drive with caution on Forest Hwy 7 since project activity coincides with the popular hunting season.

Contractors have begun cutting and piling dead trees along FH7 just west of the FH7/21N17/22N21 intersection. They will continue to work west along FH7 as weather permits. In the coming weeks, project activity will be ramping up and will include log hauling down FH7 east to the valley. Forest personnel advise visitors to be prepared for traffic delays, to be alert for crews near or on roads and to follow traffic signs along the haul route.

“Timber falling ahead” road sign on FH7 in Plaskett-Keller Project area, September 16, 2023. USDA Forest Service photo by Laura Leidner.

Under the Plaskett-Keller project, the Forest Service is removing hazard trees for public safety in an area of about 1,500 acres along approximately 23 miles of roads and in the Plaskett Meadows Campground.

Contractors are working Monday through Friday during the field season. Information about the project is available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=59444.

Ukiah Downtown Streetscape Project Construction Updates for Week of September 25


The following is a press release issued by the City of Ukiah:

Pulling out an ancient pipe in the intersection of Gobbi and State.  This intersection is so crowded with utility infrastructure—some of it abandoned—that we have to remove things to make room for the new [All photos from the City of Ukiah]

On the south side (Mill to Gobbi), crews will continue installing the new water infrastructure. Most of the main line is in; next week, the “services” or “laterals” will be going in. These are the perpendicular lines that bring water from the main line to each of the buildings. Again, work will proceed northbound from Gobbi to Mill. For the safety of the crews and for traffic control, the traffic signals at Gobbi and Mill will remain in “flash” mode, which means the intersection should be treated like a four-way stop. No interruptions to utility service are planned, and access to all properties will be maintained.

On the north side (Norton to Henry), construction crews will continue work on the “joint trench,” which will hold the new underground electric lines, as well as phone and cable lines. In contract to the water and sewer work, this part of the project will start on the south side (near Henry) and move north to Norton. Next week, trenching will occur primarily in front of 456 and 476 N State, which will require the temporary closure of some driveways. Property/business owners will be notified in advance regarding specific days/times. Immediately upon the completion of work, steel plates will be placed across the trench to allow vehicular access.

Preparing the new water main to go into the ground

Looking ahead (North): Weather permitting, sidewalk demolition is scheduled to begin around the first week of October. As with Phase One, temporary, ADA-compliant sidewalks will be installed with base rock immediately following demolition. Also, we are committed to not demolishing any sections that can’t be replaced with new in a reasonable period of time.

Where will the work occur? Trenching for water on the south side, working northbound from Gobbi/State; joint trench work will continue on the north side, primarily in the area of 456/476 North State Street.

What are the construction days/hours? Construction hours will be Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Will there be dust and noise? Yes. There will be some dust and fairly significant noise associated with both sections of work.

Will there be any disruptions to parking access or streets? Yes. On-street parking in the construction zone will be closed. Pedestrian access to businesses will be maintained at all times. Through traffic on State Street will be allowed in both directions. Traffic signals at Gobbi/State and Mill/State will be on flash. Any impacts to driveways on the north side will be coordinated in advance with business/property owners.

Air Ambulance Inbound After Motorcycle and Vehicle Collide in Covelo

A community member provided this photo of the traffic collision.

A motorcycle collided with a vehicle in front of Covelo’s Keith’s Market this afternoon resulting in moderate injuries to one party and minor to another.

An air ambulance has deployed to Round Valley Airport to transport one patient for treatment.

Scanner traffic and the California Highway Patrol Traffic Incident Information page indicate the collision occurred on State Route 162 around 2:02 p.m. involving a motorcycle and a Jaguar. The roadway is reportedly completely blocked as a result of the accident.

Please remember that this story is unfolding. Information is being reported as we gather it. However, some of the information coming from witnesses and initial official reports could be wrong. We will do our best to get the facts but, in the case that something is inaccurate, we will update with correct information as soon as we can.

Two Carnival Workers Overdose, One Is Dead On the Opening Day of the Mendocino County Fair 

The rides at the Apple Fair in years past [Photo by Matt LaFever]

As thousands of Mendocino County residents prepare for the fun and spectacle of this weekend’s annual Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show in Boonville, two people employed by the carnival company that runs the fair rides and games overdosed in a matter of hours this morning. Despite attempts by medics on the scene, one of them tragically died.

Within a few hours, medics and fire responded to two separate subjects losing consciousness from possible overdoses at the Boonville Fairgrounds.

Upon inquiry with Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall, he confirmed the first subject was found in medical distress and after being revived using Narcan and CPR transported to a local hospital. Roughly two hours later, a second person sadly died despite first responders’ attempts to revive them using Narcan and CPR.

Sheriff Kendall made note that at this point the incidents appear to be overdoses but until toxicology results this is simply “a best guess”. He did tell us that the subject who passed away was found in possession of paraphernalia and possible narcotics.

Sheriff Matt Kendall told us he met with Jim Brown, manager of the Mendocino County Fair, and the head of the carnival company, and confirmed the subjects who overdosed were employed by the carnival company but did not operate any rides.

Out of concern for public safety, Sheriff Kendall ordered all rides at the fair to be re-inspected this afternoon before anyone is allowed to ride. He also to us the situation has been reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

​A spokeswoman for the Mendocino County Fairgrounds gave a limited statement telling us the incident is “under investigation” and clarified the incident did not occur on the carnival grounds. 

Sheriff Kendall clarified that the overdoses occurred on the section of the fairground property where carnival workers set up temporary residences while working the event.

CHP: Mendocino County Man Arrested for Richardson Grove Fatal Hit-and-Run


The following is a press release issued by the California Highway Patrol Garberville Office. This has not been proven in a court of law and any individuals described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty:

[Stock image from Matt LaFever]

On 09/20/2023 at approximately 1330 hours, a pedestrian was walking from a trail on the west roadway edge of US-101, south of the Richardson Grove State Park entrance. Based on witness statements, the pedestrian stopped just west of the west roadway edge on the dirt shoulder awaiting a family member. At that time, a vehicle which was later identified as a 2010 Black Toyota Tundra, driven by Earl Castillo of Leggett, was traveling southbound on US-101.  Castillo allowed the Toyota to travel off the west roadway edge and crashed with the pedestrian standing on the dirt shoulder. Castillo failed to stop at the crash scene, fleeing southbound on US-101.  Shortly after the crash, CHP personnel arrived on scene. CHP located vehicle parts identifying the involved vehicle as black Toyota pickup. This information was broadcast via CHP Dispatch and a be on the lookout for the involved vehicle was requested.  Multiple Cal-Trans employees who heard the broadcast observed the Toyota matching the description and called it in to CHP dispatch.  While traveling on US-101, two officers observed the Toyota and attempted to make an enforcement stop. The Toyota failed to yield to the patrol vehicle’s lights and sirens and traveled northbound at a high rate of speed.  The Toyota attempted to flee up a private driveway but due to a locked gate, was unable to continue.  Officers conducted a high risk stop and detained Castillo. Evidence from the scene and damage Castillo’s Toyota were consistent with the vehicle’s involvement in the crash. Upon evaluation, Castillo was determined to be DUI and was placed under arrest for 23153(G)VC, 20001 VC, 192(C)(1) PC, 1203.2 PC, 2800.1 VC.  Castillo was transported to the Humboldt County Jail and booked on the above charges. Due to the nature of the crash and charges, a bail enhancement was requested and granted.

The California Highway Patrol Garberville Area is conducting follow-up and ask if anyone observed the actual crash or the Toyota fleeing the scene to please call the office at 707-932-6100.

The Garberville Area CHP would like to thank citizens who stopped at the scene and rendered aid. The following agencies assisted with this investigation: Cal-trans, Garberville Fire, Cal-Fire, City Ambulance, and State Parks.

DUIs, Reckless Driving, and Pursuits Coincide With Mexican Independence Day Celebrations in Covelo

[Video provided by a reader]

Police presence was heavy in Round Valley this last weekend after Mexican Independence Day Celebrations started off with a bang the night of Friday, September 16, 2023 when revelers took to downtown Covelo where an estimated thirty vehicles participated in a sideshow burning rubber and doing donuts in the town center.

Personnel from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol converged on the area for the rest of the weekend making over a dozen arrests, engaging in at least one vehicle pursuit, and receiving air support from a CHP helicopter out of Redding. 

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told us the night of Friday, September 15 marked the beginning of Mexican Independence Day celebrations. That night, Round Valley High School’s football team squared off with Potter Valley bringing an influx of vehicles to the valley. 

When the game got out, the exodus of attendees intersected with approximately 30 vehicles driven by revelers, some lifted trucks with Mexican flags flying out the back, bringing gridlock to a town of just over 1,000 people. 

Attempts to keep traffic flowing were disrupted by what CHP Garberville’s Public Information Officer Jonathan Clevenger described as “a crowd of approximately 250 people which gathered in downtown Covelo as 30 plus vehicles were engaged in reckless driving as well as sideshow activity (illegal and dangerous display or automotive stunts).” 

This information from Officer Clevenger provides clarity to our initial reporting on Friday night’s sideshow informed by real-time scanner traffic that put the number of vehicles between 200-300. 

MCSO’s Lieutenant Quincy Cromer told us the occasion brought “numerous reports of subjects throwing items at patrol vehicles.” That night, deputies assisted CHP in a vehicle pursuit. 

These behaviors prompted a significant law enforcement response that night. MCSO’s Lieutenant Quincy Cromer told us a lieutenant, a sergeant, six deputies, and Sheriff Kendall himself deployed to Covelo to quell the scene. 

Officer Clevenger added that CHP personnel also deployed to Round Valley to assist in “dispersing the crowd” after which officers “conducted numerous traffic stops resulting in the four DUI arrests and the recovery of two stolen firearms as the result of a traffic stop.  Five vehicles were impounded and/or stored.”

Part of MCSO’s convoy was a literal paddy wagon to transport anyone arrested to the Mendocino County Jail. By the night’s end, the van was full of offenders. One person was arrested for carrying a loaded/stolen firearm, four people were arrested for public intoxication, and one was arrested for possession of controlled substances.

As the sun rose on Saturday, September 16, intel suggested “the reckless driving behavior and sideshow activity would continue,” Officer Clevenger told us.  In response, “CHP, MCSO and Round Valley Tribal Police worked together to provide an increased law enforcement presence in the area.”

Officer Clevenger said, “A CHP helicopter from Northern Division in Redding did respond to the Covelo area on Saturday night. The helicopter landed and remained in the area for a couple of hours before returning to Redding.”

He added that the CHP’s enforcement efforts netted six people for DUI even though a second sideshow never came to fruition.

Lieutenant Cromer said a team of one sergeant, six deputies, and one jail van staffed by a number of corrections deputies remained in Round Valley between Saturday night and Sunday morning. One person was arrested for public intoxication, one was arrested for drug paraphernalia, and one was arrested for driving with a suspended license and an out-of-town warrant.


Ultimately, Officer Clevengers said CHP’s motivation for these enforcement efforts “was to prevent sideshow activity, reckless driving, drunk driving, and any potential injury or death resulting from this behavior.”

Sheriff Kendall described the weekend as a “perfect storm” that brought a lot of people into Round Valley requiring a “measured response” that essentially “depleted the entire county of resources.”

Previous Coverage

Mendocino County Library Bridges the Digital Divide: Chromebooks Now Available for Checkout

The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County Library:

[Photo from the Mendocino County Library]

The Mendocino County Library has implemented a new program offering Chromebook laptops for check-out to help bridge the digital divide and give Mendocino County residents access to technology where they need it.

The 63 Chromebooks were obtained through funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) with oversight from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The purpose of this program is to address the high rate of unmet need for technology services throughout the country. Each of the six library branches and the Bookmobile have devices that are available to be loaned out for a 28-day checkout period on a first-come, first-served, walk-in basis. Each Chromebook kit contains a Chromebook laptop, charger with cable, case, and instructions. Library staff are also available to help with troubleshooting and to answer any questions.

Chromebooks are the latest in a growing list of non-traditional items that library users can borrow from public libraries. Mendocino County Library also lends out Wi-Fi hotspots, cooking kits, memory kits, DIY Energy and Water Saving Toolkits, seed packets, California State Parks passes, early education literacy kits, and at some locations, Playaway Launchpads, and ukuleles.

For more information, please view http://www.mendolibrary.org or contact the Mendocino County Library at 707-234-2872.