Many folks have contacted me regarding the situation involving the noise generated the past week by frost-protection fans operated by Henry’s Original at their 101 Ranch site. The complaints were about a turbine frost fan that ran from early evening on Oct. 6 through early morning hours on Oct. 7. Folks from as far away as Branscomb (12 miles from Laytonville) claimed they heard what sounded like a helicopter all night long.
As most people know I’m the former International President of an airline union, so I’m somewhat familiar with the principles of propeller equipment, whether it be airplanes or in this case turbine frost fans. The working dynamics are very similar.
I’ve also discussed this issue with Mark Scaramella, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser. Mark is a retired U.S. Air Force officer, so he’s also quite knowledgeable about aerodynamics and propeller/blade mechanics. He also sued to order Mendocino County to enforce its noise ordinance as it applies to vineyard fans in the Anderson Valley. Unfortunately, he did not prevail in the litigation but he does possess all kinds of background information on agricultural frost fan practices here in Mendocino County.
Several people sent me Mr. Josh Keats’ letter to the Laytonville community concerning the operation of his company’s turbine frost fan at the 101 Ranch location. Mr. Keats describes the machines their company is using as a “Inversion turbines.” I’m assuming these are the same machines known as “inverted sink fans” or “Selective Inverted Sink” (SIS) fans or turbines.
The frost fan model used by Henry’s is a 2-bladed fan, which is old technology. According to court filings in Scaramella’s litigation, such model generate 70 to 80 dBA (dBA is a weighted scale for judging loudness that corresponds to the hearing threshold of the human ear) with some very old versions running as high at 92 dBA at 126 feet, or nearly double the county limit.
The County’s noise ordinance sets a 10 p.m. — 7 a.m. standard of no more than 40 dBA, adjusting to 50 dBA after 7 a.m. until the evening hour.
A 2-blade propeller machine produces two pressure pulses per revolution, whereas a 3-blade propeller machine will produce three smaller pulses per revolution for the same amount of total thrust. As a result, the 3-blade prop machine will be inherently smoother and therefore quieter.
The 2-bladed machine’s noise is similar to the “rotor wash” of helicopters that so many people described from last week’s event.
A number of people have told me they called Planning and Building’s Code Enforcement office but have yet to hear back from anyone.
California, like other states, has a Right to Farm Act that is intended to protect agricultural activity, and many counties have their own local right to farm ordinances as well. California’s Right to Farm Act provides:
“No agricultural activity, operation, or facility, or appurtenances thereof, conducted or maintained for commercial purposes, and in a manner consistent with proper and accepted customs and standards, as established and followed by similar agricultural operations in the same locality, shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, due to any changed condition in or about the locality, after it has been in operation for more than three years if it was not a nuisance at the time it began.”
The intent of these types of laws is to protect farmers who use accepted and standard farming practices from nuisance lawsuits in certain circumstances. In California, at the state level, cannabis cultivation is not considered “agricultural” such that it would be eligible for protection under the Right to Farm Act. But in some counties, local ordinances do define cannabis cultivation as agricultural activity, giving cannabis cultivators protection under local right to farm ordinances.
I discussed this situation with 3rd District Supe John Haschak on my Saturday radio program, and he’s also looking into it, and will get back to me.
It should be noted that last night (Oct. 11 and through this morning on Oct. 12), Henry’s once again fired up the frost fan, which led to more complaints from lots of people.
Just as a practical matter, long-time pot farmers have informed me that they are not familiar with anyone who has ever employed frost fans to protect cannabis. By the way, Henry’s turbine fan is utilized on weed grown in the ground.
Here’s a letter that was sent out by Henry’s Original executive Josh Keats a few days ago where he explains why they are using the frost fan.
Dear Laytonville Community Members,
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some of you today regarding the inconvenience caused by our frost protection fan that ran last night. I understand the issue that it has caused and I apologize for the disturbance in your daily (or nightly) routines. It is always my hope that our farming operations are not a detraction to your quality of life here in the Laytonville Valley.
We are experiencing a relatively cold early October, and as we, like many in the valley, suffered severe crop loss due to early freezes in 2019, we have implemented the standard Ag practice of running turbines as a frost protection measure. Inversion turbines are used throughout the county on other agricultural commodities such as grapes, apples and pears during the fall, prior to harvest, to prevent crop loss. As cooler air settles in the valley at ground level, the warmer air rises, and the turbine works by creating a draw that pulls the cooler air up and mixes it with the warmer air that has risen. This can offset ambient temperatures by as much as 10 degrees and is quite effective in preventing crop loss.
We intend to only use the fan at the absolute bare minimum, when nighttime frosts are imminent over the next 10-14 days, as provided by the Farm Bureau’s daily report. It appears that this event may again occur Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights.
I truly appreciate any allowance the community would provide me so that my business can remain solvent in these trying times and continue to provide local well paying employment with benefits and bring economy to the local businesses we work with here.
If anyone would like to speak one on one about these issues, or any others, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your patience.
The following email is an example of one of the many I have received from local folks:
“Spoke with the sheriff, said they would pass it along to the pot people. Talk about bull**** Jim. 5 a.m. those things went off. If I can hear it out here it must be a war zone where you are. Here is the real question. What can be done about it? If Hashack had a set maybe he could do something but when it comes to Laytonville,,,,him and everyone else in county falls a bit short. We are a third world nation no one gives a s*** about and we can’t even sleep. Oh happy day.”
I’ll update you as soon as there are any developments.