Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Monday, August 11, 2014

* * *

AS OF AUGUST 10 at 7pm the Lodge Wilderness fire was up to about 8700 acres with 35% containment, another improvement over prior reports, although the fire seems to be expanding pretty fast. There have been 11 injuries reported (mostly burns suffered by firefighters) and 58 structures threatened. The firefighting effort is now at 178 engines (down from the 190 engines reported yesterday), 35 bulldozers, 13 helicopters, 22 water tenders (down from 30 yesterday), and 2178 personnel. On Sunday evening “The fire continues to burn in heavy timber. Firefighters are challenged by steep, rugged terrain with difficult access. Unsettled weather (including very windy conditions) continues in the area, making fire behavior predictions uncertain. The southern and eastern boundaries of the fire continue to be most threatened by extreme fire behavior. Drift smoke from the fire has been settling in the Ukiah Valley and could affect those sensitive to smoke. An Evacuation Order is still in effect for the area around the eastern boundary of the Lodge Fire in the following areas: Camp Seabow, Elder Place, Tan Oak Park, Bald Mountain Ranch, Mad Creek, Elk Creek east of Brush Mountain. We will continue to evaluate the need for the evacuation order as the incident progresses.An evacuation shelter has been set up by the American Red Cross at the Leggett School, 1 School Way. Please visit for information on how to prepare for an evacuation.”

MONDAY MORNING'S UPDATE [7am, Aug 11]: 9500 acres, 40% contained, "The National Weather Service has issued a 'Hazardous Weather Outlook' over the area for possible thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight. If weather conditions persist, fire activity is projected to increase each afternoon. The fire continues to grow to the East and South and may reach dangerous rates of spread dependent upon weather conditions and fuels."

* * *

SEIU AND MENDOCINO COUNTY have reached a tentative agreement, according to a notice sent out to SEIU members by the union bargaining team. The deal calls for a one year contract from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015; a one time payment of $1,200 per employee (which will certainly benefit lower paid employees); one additional day of paid personal leave; status quo on healthcare premiums for 2015; an increase in bilingual pay; increased reimbursement for safety gear for Transportation Department workers; and a promise to do a salary survey before the end of the contract.

NEGOTIATIONS MOVED SWIFTLY once SEIU sent a formal letter saying they were ready to negotiate. SEIU had spent the previous six months in pointless posturing during public expression, pleading with the Board of Supervisors to “come back to the table” when SEIU knew all along that all they had to do was send a letter and the County would have to meet with them. After years of botched negotiations, SEIU seems to have finally understood who they're representing and who they're dealing with.

SEIU BUNGLED THEIR WAY TO A 12.5% pay cut four years ago when the County only wanted a 10% cut. They have spent the last four years vilifying the Supes and CEO Angelo, the only people who are in a position to give County workers a raise. SEIU also failed in their efforts to build community support, most notably with the phony “Mend Mendocino” coalition that was organized out of Oakland. The first effort to roll out Mend Mendo last year attracted 130 signers, 90% of them SEIU members and half of those from the Bay Area.

SEIU brags they are 700 strong, and while 700 County employees are represented by SEIU, only a handful were willing to sign an on-line petition for Mend Mendo. Since SEIU rolled out the “new and improved” Mend Mendo coalition earlier this year, only two people have signed, one of whom is Anna Bakalis, the SEIU organizer from Oakland.

WE HEAR THAT SEIU has been losing members at a steady clip, although the secretive organization never releases demographic or financial data. A couple of years ago, 100% of the employees in Air Quality and Child Support Services petitioned the County to drop out of SEIU and form their own bargaining unit but were turned down by the County.

WITH NEGOTIATIONS going nowhere for so long increasing numbers of Mendo's SEIU members have made the decision to give themselves a de facto pay raise by dropping their SEIU membership. Ever since SEIU engineered a corporate style merger of local bargaining units several years ago, the union honchos in Oakland have siphoned off several hundred thousand dollars annually for headquarters with little or no return for local employees, who are not even allowed to hire their own business agent.

SEIU ALSO RECENTLY FIRED Sandy Crawford Madrigal, a local organizer, who was popular with the local members. All SEIU hiring and firing decisions (including who the local reps are) are made at SEIU's corporate headquarters in Oakland. The Oakland poobahs were irate when Willits Mayor Holly Madrigal, the SEIU-endorsed candidate for Third District Supervisor, showed up at the anti-union pension reform conference hosted by pension gadfly John Dickerson in San Rafael in May. SEIU insiders say that Crawford Madrigal (no relation to Jolly Holly) had pushed hard for endorsement of the Willits Mayor and was scapegoated when Holly Madrigal showed up for Dickerson's dog and pony show.

SEIU TURNED DOWN A SETTLEMENT DEAL last November when the County offered to stop the increase in health insurance premiums (that took effect last January) and pay every SEIU member at least $500 (which probably could have been increased to $1,000 had SEIU shown any interest in negotiating). SEIU rejected that deal and refused to let their members vote on it. They then sent an email to their members saying the County refused to budge off their position of “no.”

SEIU HAS CONSISTENTLY ACCUSED cash-strapped Mendocino County of hiding huge sums of money, variously reported to be $12 million, $20 million, or whatever number SEIU chooses to wave around at the moment. SEIU used the “hidden money” fiction as justification for restoration of the 10% pay cut that was imposed to pull the County back from the brink of bankruptcy. (The County has several million dollars in various “reserves,” the levels of which could certainly be debated, but it’s certainly not “hidden” and SEIU hasn’t shown much interest in engaging that debate. Supervisor Pinches has several times offered to sit down with SEIU reps to go over the County budget with them but SEIU has shown no interest.)

THE SEIU'S OAKLAND SHOT CALLERS have also failed miserably in their efforts to promote a strike, for which there is zero enthusiasm among local workers. Locals know that a strike would only cost them more money. To answer that problem, the Oakland honchos set up a strike fund for Mendocino County and invited the local employees to make regular contributions, another effort that fell flat.

THE PROB WITH CALLING ALL THE SHOTS from Oakland is that the people making the decisions don't know anything about the local community, don't really care and are clueless when it comes to local community organizing. Faced with declining local membership due to their own incompetence, almost no community support, and no interest in a strike by the people they allegedly represent, SEIU was finally forced to take a version of the deal they could have had last November. Except now the County gets a second year for very little more money than they were willing to pay last year. The incompetents running SEIU have been telling their members they were going to force the County to restore their wages. The challenge now is to convince their members to vote for the one-time payment that will leave wages at the current level instead of locking in an increase that they could build on.

THE SEIU FLYER announcing the deal says the members will vote on August 14 and 15 and emphasizes that “only full dues paying members are able to cast a ballot, however non-members are strongly encouraged to sign up and vote.” Which seems to be a clear signal that SEIU is concerned with the large number of former members and hopes to reverse the trend that their own bungling set in motion.

* * *


by Mark Scaramella

BACK IN 2009 the Grape People realized they needed to do something to counter the relatively small amount of negative publicity they were getting, particularly around water use and fish strandings caused by overpumping during cold weather. Local writer Thom Elkjer put it this way: “Winegrowers have taken plenty of grief around here for planting vineyards where there used to be sheep and orchards, even though the best of them patiently explain to anyone who will listen that they are good stewards of the watershed.”

“PLENTY OF GRIEF” is Mr. Elkjer’s description of the occasional critical article in the AVA. No other news outlets or government agencies have mentioned the wine industry in anything but the most glowing terms.

ELKJER CONTINUED, “They use drip irrigation. They don’t take water directly from the creeks or the river, even though they own the rights.”

OF COURSE THEY TAKE WATER directly from local streams. We have pictures of some of them doing it.

“THEY USE WATER for frost protection only as a last resort, and many of the new vineyards are planted at altitudes that go decades between hard frosts anyway.”

ACTUALLY, according to the wine people last spring, they use wind machines as a last resort because their first resort, water, was in short supply.

“YET THE PERCEPTION PERSISTS that with thousands of acres of vineyards, local growers must be sucking up a lot of water.”

IN OTHER WORDS, don’t believe your lyin’ eyes.

UC AG EXTENSION GRAPE ADVISOR and inland County grape grower Glenn McGourty, “combined information drawn from a survey of grape growers with water usage data volunteered by vineyard owners representing about 40% of the 3111 acres under vine in the Navarro watershed.”

IN OTHER WORDS, the self-interested interviewed the self-interested and called it a study.

“IT WAS A VOLUNTARY SURVEY,” Elkjer dutifully reported, “so it could represent the 40% of good guys who are careful with their water and exclude the 60% who are real water wasters. To balance for that, McGourty and his colleagues kept their assumptions and other variables conservative and were subjecting their calculations to rigorous scientific evaluation by other researchers.”

ELKJER NEVER NAMED those “other researchers,” and as you’ll see below, the calculations fall a little short of “rigorous scientific.” “[McGourty’s] punchline, however,” Elkjer concluded, “was unmistakable: ‘When we analyze the data we can gather to a fairly high level of confidence, the result is clear. The vineyards are not guzzling water here. They’re sipping’.”

THAT WAS FOUR YEARS before McGourty’s report for The Nature Conservancy was finally issued in 2013. We only recently realized it was out since it was released without fanfare. It was called “Meeting Agricultural Water Needs In The Navarro River Watershed, Mendocino County, California.”

LOCAL GRAPE GROWERS weren't about to pay for their own self-promotion, they got the Nature Conservancy to fund the 2009 “study” — headed up by a taxpayer funded friend of the wine industry, McGourty. He organized volunteers from the UC Davis wine program to do the alleged research which ended up costing more than the value of the Nature Conservancy grant, so the actual report wasn’t released until 2013 — four years after the initial hype.


McGOURTY’S “THEY’RE SIPPING” CONCLUSION, however, looks more like ordinary wine industry propaganda if one reads his belated report and analyzes his “rigorous scientific” method instead of listening to wine-lover summaries of it. We doubt that many non-wine industry people have read the thing, although a few may have glanced at McGourty’s “executive summary,” which concluded that in the opinion of the local wine industry the wine industry is doing a great job conserving the acres of water they help themselves to from Mendocino County's public streams.

BASED ON a survey of themselves, the grape growers are using water sparingly. All they need to do is make sure there are no leaks. We'd like to think that the 14 growers who chose to report, reported honestly, although there was no attempt to verify anything they claimed. But self-reported claims of water use are inherently suspicious because very few growers have flow or usage gauges; in fact the words “gage” or “gauge” do not appear in the report except for passing mention of the government-run one near the mouth of the Navarro. But according to McGourty & Co., grapes are now growing on a whopping 2800 acres of Anderson Valley’s prime ag land, and they all need water for irrigation and frost protection — not to mention the huge amounts of water used to convert grapes to wine.

FROM THE OPENING ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: “We want to thank the cooperating growers who participated in focus groups and surveys, as well as granted farm access to make field evaluations of irrigation systems.”

AND LATER, “Based on grower surveys in 2009, we estimated that 1,825 acre-feet (af) were used, including approximately 678 af for frost protection. A total of 558 af were used for grapevine irrigation (consumptive use), 457 af for orchards, and 132 af for irrigated pasture. These results suggest growers are using effective water conservation techniques.”

THERE’S MCGOURTY'S “SCIENTIFIC” METHOD in action again: “estimated … approximately … suggest … effective…”

ACTUALLY, the results suggest that the growers SAY they are using effective water conservation techniques.

“OF THE 1,339 ACRES assessed in our survey of 14 growers, 44 acres (3%) were irrigated from wells (ground water); 202 acres (13%) were irrigated from direct diversion of surface water; and the remaining 1093 acres (84%) were irrigated from off stream ponds.”

FIRST, THIS CONTRADICTS MR. ELKJER’S CLAIM that “they don’t take water directly from the creeks or the river, even though they own the rights.”

THEY “SURVEYED” ONLY THE 14 GROWERS who chose to participate, making it less like a survey and more like a wine tasting event with everybody clapping each other on their backs and toasting each other. We know there are at least 90 vineyards in the Valley. At no point does McGourty say how many surveys he actually mailed out. But that doesn't stop him from concluding with no basis at all, “Fourteen growers participated representing a broad range of operational size in vineyard and orchard crops.” And, “Respondents’ irrigation practices encompassed those employed by other growers within the same area, hence their input may be assumed to represent the irrigation practices in the Anderson Valley and the Navarro River Watershed, and provides for a robust sample rate.”


“It is important to realize that wine grape growers differed greatly in the amount of water that they applied to their vineyards due to many factors, including variety and trellis system; soil type and depth; irrigation thresholds if they are using Regulated Deficit Irrigation (RDI), and the total amount of available soil moisture. Our grower survey results show the range of water use in vineyards in the Navarro River watershed ranged from 0 (no applied water) to 0.7 acre feet (af) during the 2009 growing season. Based on our surveys growers irrigated on average 60 hours per year, mainly between late July and October. Orchards received more water per acre due to larger canopy sizes (higher ET). We took a conservative approach in calculating total water demand by retaining the breadth of water use patterns reported in grower surveys.”

ONLY ONE SEASON was “surveyed” for a mere 14 growers; McGourty admits that the growers “differed greatly in the amount of water that they applied to their vineyards.”

FROST PROTECTION: “It is important to note that most (81%) of the vineyards in our study had an active frost protection system in place due to the high risk of frost in the Navarro River Watershed.”

TRANSLATION: We planted our grapes in areas we knew had a high risk of frost which typically requires a lot of water over a short period. Then we tell everyone else that they have to part with their water and/or their sleep so that our grapes won't freeze in the frigid areas where we planted them.

McGOURTY ALSO SAYS there are only 165 ponds in AV and that many of those 165 are not related to grapes. There goes a big chunk of credibility, right there. The last time the State Water Board notified pond owners to remind them that they should make sure their permit paperwork was in order, they sent out over 600 notices. And that was well before 2009.

THE CASUALNESS with which McGourty draws unsupported conclusions like “According to our survey results, 91% of frost protected vineyard acreage is covered by water from off-stream storage. The remaining 9% of acreage is frost protected from direct diversion sources. In 2009, growers averaged about 40 hours of frost protection during 5 events which is considered somewhat average. In the past decade, there have been some years with no frost events, and in some sites in 2008, there were over 20 frost events…” borders on astonishing.


“GROWERS have recognized the problems with direct diversions from surface waters of the Navarro watershed associated with endangered species and dewatering fish habitat. Many have developed ponds and other water storage to eliminate direct diversions. It is also noteworthy that many of the survey respondents reported employing multiple types of water capture and storage systems to meet their irrigation needs. This approach diversifies the growers’ dependence on any one particular system and suggests a willingness to try different solutions.”

“MANY … MANY … multiple types of water capture … suggests a willingness…” These are not the words and phrases of scientific rigor.

ACTUALLY, it “suggests a willingness” on the part of McGourty & Co. to believe whatever their grower chums tell them.

McGOURTY: “There are 264 licensed and permitted water rights in the Navarro River Watershed as of 2012 with a cumulative annual face value of 9635 acre feet (af) of water (SWRCB 2012). Face value of a water right represents the maximum possible diversion amount for a given right (SWRCB 2013). This is considerably more than is presently being used to irrigate agricultural crops. Many [sic] of these rights are probably [sic] for springs and other diversions including livestock, domestic, some industrial [sic] and public uses. In 2009 there were 88 licensed, permitted, or pending water rights for irrigation use in the Navarro River watershed. These water rights had a combined face value of 3645.6 af, with 1789 af to direct diversion mostly between March 1 and November 1 of each year and 1856.6 af going to storage ponds mostly between November 1 and June 1. It was not in the scope of this study to evaluate and categorize all of the uses, but certainly there has been a fairly large volume of water licensed and permitted by the SWRCB in the Navarro River Watershed.”

TRANSLATION: Water use is going up exponentially (or was in 2013 before the drought kicked in). And it can go further up and still be under the state water board’s “licensed and permitted” limit. And that only counts the so-called “licensed and permitted” rights, which, as we know, apply only to a fraction of the actual water users and which are not monitored or enforced.

“CLOSE MONITORING AND MANAGEMENT of water levels in the watershed, including mainstem and tributaries, is necessary to ensure optimal allocation of resources.”

REALLY? Then why isn't close monitoring and management recommended?

“UNTIL RECENTLY, riparian water users did not have to report their water use. This is now changing, and self-reporting is required (SWRCB 2013). Although not in the purview of this effort, further studies are needed to assess the impact of riparian rights and water use on the Navarro River Watershed.”

“SELF-REPORTING is required” is an oxymoron.

FOR $40 you can download a copy of this $20 “study” and evaluate it for yourself and still have $20 left over for a pricy bottle of pinot.

* * *

MEANWHILE, in the Navarro; a reader writes: “Went swimming at Van Zandt’s this weekend and came out with swimmer’s itch from the little micro bites you get when the flow goes too low. The mouth of the river is nearly carpeted with algae. I pray there will be enough O2 for the salmonids to make it through the summer.” (Mayo Clinic: “Swimmer's itch is an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites that burrow into your skin. The parasites associated with swimmer's itch normally live in waterfowl and some animals that live near the water. Humans aren't suitable hosts, so the parasites soon die while still in your skin creating an itch.”)

* * *

DEER HUNTING SEASON began at dawn Saturday morning, and by Sunday morning there were news reports of hunters shooting each other and fires starting from carelessly maintained campfires. Mendocino County's forests are doubly hazardous during hunting season, what with armed dope growers guarding their plants and a bunch of tenderfeet wandering around with high-powered rifles trying to get a clear shot at Bambi's dad.

* * *


To The Editor:

With the active Lodge Lightning Complex Fire in the Laytonville area and the ensuing massive firefighter response, the Willits Police Department responded to two reports over the weekend of water being taken from fire hydrants within city limits by water haulers.

In both cases, the water operators falsely claimed to be authorized to haul water for the Lightning Complex Fire. However, there is no standing right for any water truck to ever fill from any hydrant system unless there is an agreement with the water supplier.

One of the water operators reported by a witness was not located; the second operator was given a verbal warning and required to return the water to our plant. Fire officials were promptly notified and have removed the operators from the response team.

Further, fire officials have reported that some rather unscrupulous operators of water trucks are dummying up paperwork and painting numbers on their cabs to look like a hired resource in order to fill their trucks up without gathering much attention.

As well, water trucks that are “off the incident” (i.e., rest period) have been seen pulling water from the established water sources for incidents and are then selling the water for cash.

The City of Willits would again like to thank our community for being diligently watchful for water theft. Any suspicious activity should promptly be reported to the Willis Police Department by calling 459-6122.

Adrienne Moore, City manager, Willits

* * *


June arrived just yesterday, or so it

seemed to be. All that's left is one

more day, then June is history. July

can hardly wait to get here, it's almost

at our door. The days will get much

hotter, then it was the month before.

Just as we're getting used to July, it

too, will be on it's way. Around the

corner lies August, which can make

you rue, the day. If you think July was

hot, August is the worst by far. It's hard

to escape it's sweltering heat, no matter

who you are. You can take a dip in the

ocean, if you enjoy having a steam bath.

The water will never be cold, as August,

unleashes it wrath. Here it is, the

wonderful days of summer. Even though

we look forward to it, it can also be quite

a bummer!

— Audrey Heller

* * *

OF COURSE WE ARE SHAPED by our mutual dependency, and to a degree that is almost embarrassing. I have no argument with that. Other than certain insects, humans are the most social of animals. Infants who are not cuddled or held die of a syndrome called 'failure to thrive.' Seemingly successful adults can be driven to depression or suicide by a lover's rejection or an accumulation of professional slights. Which is to say that we are 'hive' animals or — to invoke a more extravagant biological metaphor — we are the individual nuclei studded throughout a syncytium of shared protoplasm, utterly dependent on each other for structure and nutrients. To be pinched off from the main body of the community is to risk real damage, and one form the damage can take, I'm willing to concede, in an inability to enter wholeheartedly into what is defined as real.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Living With A Wild God

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, August 10, 2014

Adams (front/side), Clark, Dewolf, Everheart, Farrell, Hearn
Adams (front/side), Clark, Dewolf, Everheart, Farrell, Hearn

MIRANDA ADAMS, Ukiah. Misdemeanor battery.

BRANDON CLARK, Ogden, Utah. Possession of meth, possession of drug paraphernalia.

HEATHER DEWOLF, Fort Bragg. Public intoxication of alcohol, probation revoked. (Frequent flyer)

DANIEL EVERHART, Willits. Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana.

ASHLEY FARRELL, Willits. Public intoxication of alcohol, felony resisting an officer.

SILAS HEARN, Camano Island, Washington/Willits. Drunk in public.

Hernandez, Howie, Jones, Kenyon, Martin, D.McOsker, R.McOsker
Hernandez, Howie, Jones, Kenyon, Martin, D.McOsker, R.McOsker

OMAR HERNANDEZ, Ukiah. Drivunder under the influence of alcohol.

MITCHELL HOWIE, Redwood Valley. Public intoxication of alcohol, probation revoked.

CALEM JONES, Fort Bragg. Misdemeanor battery.

JEREMY KENYON, Fort Bragg. Resisting an officer, probation revoked (three counts).

INGRID MARTIN, Ukiah. Driving under the influence of alcohol, probation revoked.

TYLER MARTINEZ, Willits. Drunk in public. (Picture not available.)

DEBORAH MCCOSKER, Ukiah. Possession of methamphetamine.

REMO MCCOSKER, Ukiah. Possession of methamphetamine, possession of a device for smoking or injecting. (Frequent flyer.)

Monahan, Rosas, Schley, Stough, Vankirk, Wirth
Monahan, Rosas, Schley, Stough, Vankirk, Wirth

MARC MONAHAN, Fort Bragg. Possession of drug paraphernalia, two violations of a court order.

JOSE ROSAS, Boonville. Public intoxication of alcohol, probation revoked.

JASON SCHLEY, California 95490. Felony possession of a controlled substance, possession of a device for smoking or injecting.

WALTER STOUGH, Fort Bragg. Felony possession of a controlled substance, resisting an officer, refusing to leave property, probation revoked.

CHRISTOPHER VANKIRK, Ukiah. Driving under the influence of drugs, under the influence of a controlled substance, probation revoked.

JOAN WIRTH, Ukiah. Driving under the influence.

* * *


Dear Editor,

I am totally puzzled by the Health Center debacle. I have used its services since it was a hole in the wall next to Pearl’s to the present awesome center it is today. Dr. Mark has always been the common denominator throughout all these years. There is so much that I don’t understand. So, I’ll stick to what I know. Through the years, Dr Apfel has been my family’s doctor. He has saved us countless trips over the hill. He’s done home visits, met us at the center on weekends to treat my wife, and saw my child late at night at his house to ease our worries. Dr. Mark is one fine country doctor, going far beyond the call of duty. Cutting back his hours doesn’t seem like a prudent idea. It doesn’t seem hardly right. Unless that is what he wants.


Mike Brock, Boonville

* * *


Dear Editor,

I've asked my friend, who is a lawyer, about the problems we're facing at Yokayo Veterinary Clinic in Ukiah, and he said that the legal definition of the problem is "out of classification." Basically I told him that the manager, Bliss Fisher, is never around and that because so many people call in late all the time that we end up working what my lawyer friend calls "Out of classification" responsibilities and also hours that aren't being logged by Bliss.

I work up front as just a basic receptionist and then always do extra time in "back." I have repeatedly asked her to recognize hours that I worked through lunch or after hours because so many people have called in sick all the time. Her response is always "Okay sure, I'll take care of it." Yet, I never see those hours reflected on my paycheck even though I have asked her over and over to log these hours. I think the root problem is that she is NEVER around to address these issues of employee absences. So …? I don't know. How can a problem be solved if the manager is never around?

Anyways, thank you for listening. I hope something is done about this. I plan on looking up some unions and reporting this to them. I wouldn't mind joining one and rallying my fellow colleagues to do the same.

Name Withheld (employee at Yokayo Veterinary Center)

* * *


by Peter Fimrite

MacKerricher State Park, Mendocino County -- The deep-blue Ten Mile River snakes down from the mountains through redwood forests and coastal wetlands near Fort Bragg before it flows past rolling sand dunes into the sea.

The little-known waterway along the rugged Mendocino County coast looks, from the air, like an untamed remnant of the nearby Lost Coast, but it is far from pristine.

The river and fishery are reeling from decades of logging, farming, myriad diversions, pollution and other indignities inflicted by humankind. It is why conservationists led by the Nature Conservancy are working with a half dozen local ranchers on a model program to restore the river's wetland habitat and bring endangered coho salmon back from the precipice.

It is the first time anyone in California has ever tried to rebuild historic floodplains and habitat from the mouth of a river all the way to the headwaters.

"What we are doing is undoing a 100-year legacy of forestry damage," said Jason Pelletier, director of the Nature Conservancy's North and Central Coast regions, as he stood next to the river where it winds over flatlands before emptying out at the fog-shrouded beach at MacKerricher State Park. "This is a reef-to-ridgetop conservation opportunity. We have this entire watershed to restore. That just doesn't happen anywhere."

The group, through a series of conservation easements, plans to restore 8 miles of river and streamside habitat. The work, which is expected to begin this fall, will involve the reconstruction of the historic river plain where fish once thrived.

A significant watershed

The project is important because a third of all the coho along the Mendocino coast breed in the Ten Mile River, which got its name because it was 10 miles north of the mill on the Noyo River in Fort Bragg, where the ancient redwood forests of the Coast Range were turned into lumber.

Scientists calculate that the Ten Mile, under ideal conditions, could carry 1,100 more fish than the Lagunitas Creek watershed in Marin County, which in recent decades has been home to the state's largest population of wild Central California coho.

Coho, also known as silver salmon, once swam in huge numbers up North Coast rivers, providing ample food for American Indians and grizzly bears. Dams, logging and development wiped out 98 percent of California's coho. Central California coho in 2005 were on the list under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but remnant populations still exist in a few streams, including the Ten Mile.

The fish breed in cold freshwater and their babies live for 1 1/2 years in the stream before swimming to the ocean. They typically return at age 3 to the exact spot where they were hatched to lay and fertilize their own eggs. Studies have shown that floodplains, where the fish can rest, hide from predators and fatten up before swimming upriver, are crucial to their survival.

Dirt and sediment

The biggest issue along the Ten Mile is that huge amounts of dirt and sediment have piled up along the banks as a result of logging and development. As the floodplains vanished, so did the salmon. With the fish went many of the jobs that were crucial to the region ever since the Georgia Pacific lumber mill in Fort Bragg closed in 2002.

Destruction of wetlands and fish habitat has been a problem in waterways up and down the coast. Pelletier said the Ten Mile project is a scientific test case to see if the trend can be reversed.

"We are really trying to mimic what nature would do if left to its own devices," Pelletier said. "In 50 to 70 years nature might do it on its own, but, with the trajectory of coho, we don't have 50 to 70 years. If we don't do something now, a lot of these rivers might not have any fish."

Detecting ancient wetlands

Dan Porter, the North Coast ecologist for the conservancy, said sophisticated airborne laser and light sensing technology called Lidar was used to detect ancient imprints along the river and develop a high-resolution topographic map of the former wetlands.

The plan is to select places along the south fork where workers can excavate to create side ponds and channels. Engineered logjams would be used to slow down flows and the historic riparian ecology would be replanted. The newly engineered floodplains would serve as pull-out rest stops for salmon during high flows in the winter. Cattle would rotate into areas where the fish aren't, he said, marking the first harmonious cow-fish living arrangement.

"This estuary here is literally the gauntlet the salmon have to run twice in their lives," said Porter, who flew to the area a few days ago in a small plane and used a topo map to tromp through the wild tangle of rush, cattails, willows, wild strawberry and cottonwood that makes up the last swampy remnants of the Ten Mile floodplain. "What we're trying to do is improve how it floods - to make it so that the water doesn't rush out and flush the fish out to sea."

The problem is that both sides of the river are private property. That required Porter and Pelletier to forge an unprecedented collaboration among numerous agencies and individual property owners before work could begin.

Conservation easement

In June, the Nature Conservancy, with help from the Conservation Fund, the State Coastal Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Board, paid $3.8 million for a conservation easement on the 872-acre Smith Ranch. The easement will allow the owners to continue ranching and logging in an environmentally friendly manner, but will forever prohibit subdivisions and development on the property. The conservancy, in turn, will be able to do wetlands and fish habitat restoration work on 2 miles of the river's south fork.

The ranch owners, Margaret Perry and Susan Smith, are using the proceeds to buy back a portion of the original ranch that was split off in a 2009 partition of the property. That transaction is expected to be completed within a month. The Nature Conservancy would then be granted a conservation easement over an additional 419 acres. A public trail would be built along the river, and parking and picnic areas would be set up along the coast.

"We get to keep our ranch, buy back property we gave up and work with some incredibly intelligent people who know how to restore things," said Perry, whose grandparents bought the Smith Ranch in 1936, and who, along with her sibling, has been searching for a way to preserve both the picturesque landscape and the family's ranching heritage. "It is something that we never would have been able to do on our own. It's definitely a win-win all the way around."

Additions in the future

As many as 2,500 additional acres and 6 miles of riverfront property upstream could be added in the future, conservancy directors said. The Hawthorne Timber Co. has been working with Trout Unlimited over the past decade on fisheries restoration at the headwaters, Pelletier said, meaning the entire river from the ocean to the forested mountaintop soon could be returned to a more natural condition that supports a vibrant salmon population.

The entire project is being monitored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which are trying to develop technical standards and protocol for salmon recovery efforts across 300 miles of coastal watershed lands from San Francisco Bay to the Oregon border.

"We're putting as much thought into this project as we can so that others can learn from it," Porter said. "The intent is to create a model project across the state."

(Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle)

* * *

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS WILL HOLD TWO PUBLIC MEETINGS THIS COMING WEEK. On Monday, the board will head to Covelo where the meeting will be at the Round Valley Public Library commencing at 10:30am. Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman will be making a presentation along with the Forest Service regarding marijuana grows in the county national forest areas. Also on the agenda, the Drought Ad Hoc Committee will provide an update on county drought related issues from their meeting on July 31. The committee regularly provides updates during board meetings. The Board of Supervisors will also meet on Tuesday back in their chambers at the County Administration Building at 9am. An adoption of a resolution to extend the existence of a local emergency due to drought conditions is being sought. Because of the continuing low water levels, the supervisors review every 30 days the need to continue at a local emergency status, according to the meeting agenda. The supervisors originally adopted the resolution on Jan. 7, and it has been extended every month since. Finally, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is seeking an agreement with the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians. The agreement would allow the Coyote Valley Reservation Police Department to utilize the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office dispatch services for three years at the cost of $30,000, according to the meeting agenda. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Tribal Council requires the approval of this agreement by the supervisors.

* * *


I heard an interesting interview, about a month or so ago -- on NPR, of all places -- concerning this dispute between Amazon and Hachette. I think it was an author or reporter who had just written a piece about this battle, and he was not complimentary about Amazon's position. He painted Amazon as the monopolistic bully in this fight and Hachette as the last publisher holding out against them. Anyway, I thought this piece of emailed agitprop was interesting to read, and I also find it interesting that Amazon has begun soliciting the little guy's help in this fight. Could it be a sign that they are somehow losing this legal battle?

* * *

From: Kindle Direct Publishing <>
Date: August 8, 2014 10:43:23 PM PDT
Subject: Important Kindle request

Dear KDP Author,

Kindle Direct Publishing

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive. - Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did. - Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle. - Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

PS. You can also find this letter at

* * *

A Letter to Our Readers:

Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette , which owns Little, Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.

But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette's authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.

For the past several months, Amazon has been:

--Boycotting Hachette authors, by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors' books and eBooks, claiming they are "unavailable."

--Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors' books.

--Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors' books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.

--Suggesting on some Hachette authors' pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.

As writers--most of us not published by Hachette--we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be "Earth's most customer-centric company."

Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up. Our books launched Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world's largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We're not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Timesand the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon's corporate behavior.)

We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.

We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails at that account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.


[Author/members of Authors United.]


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *