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Whiskey for Drinking / Water for Fighting: Coastal District Fights California Over Water

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, CA & OR, State gov, Water, Resources & Quality

California Political Review

In the old West the saying was, “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting”. We still live in the Old West by that standard. Guv Brown tried to steal water from the North during his first terms in office by creating a “peripheral canal”. Many counties in Northern California gave voted 90% NO vote to that measure. Now he is doing the same, but changed the name to the “Delta Tunnel”—still moving water from north to south, without creating an new water.

For decades California has been fighting over water from the Colorado River—it has been settled, part of the reason California has no water. The settlement gave other States the water we stole. Now the Central Coast has a war over water going on.

Environmentalists are in the courts stopping the permitting of desalinization plants on the Central Coast.

“The desalination plant is being built by Cal-Am, which has been on a deadline to find a new water source for the Monterey Peninsula since 1995, when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to reduce illegal pumping of the Carmel River.
In 2009, a cease-and-desist order imposed a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017, when pumping from the river is to be cut by more than 50 percent, a terrifying prospect for a regional economy that relies on tourism and boasts some of the best golf courses in the world.”

By stopping the creation of new water, these folks are assuring that the Central Coast becomes a Third World State—poverty due to lack of water. Why do radical, Al Gore wannabees, hate people?

RB Drought

Coastal District Fights California Over Water

By JON CHOWN, courthouse News, 1/23/15

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (CN) – Marina Coast Water District sued the California State Lands Commission to try to stop drilling on a test well for a desalination plant for the Monterey Bay Peninsula.
The California American Water Co. is named as a real party in interest in the Jan. 15 lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Court. The water district’s lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission over the same issue is before the same court.

The Ag Land Trust is also a party in that lawsuit against California American Water (Cal-Am) and the Coastal Commission. Cal-Am spokeswoman Catherine Stedman said Cal-Am would likely move to combine this latest suit with the first.

The desalination plant is being built by Cal-Am, which has been on a deadline to find a new water source for the Monterey Peninsula since 1995, when the State Water Resources Control Board ordered Cal-Am to reduce illegal pumping of the Carmel River.

In 2009, a cease-and-desist order imposed a deadline of Jan. 1, 2017, when pumping from the river is to be cut by more than 50 percent, a terrifying prospect for a regional economy that relies on tourism and boasts some of the best golf courses in the world.

“The desal plant is the solution to the peninsula’s water shortage, which is extremely serious,” Stedman said. “If the order were imposed it would be absolutely devastating to our community.”
According to the lawsuit, Marina Coast Water District, which serves about 30,000 customers just a few miles north of the Monterey Peninsula, is concerned that Cal-Am’s desalination project could harm the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin, where Marina’s water comes from.
Cal-Am’s desal project is in north Marina and is projected to produce about 5.4 million gallons of water per day. It calls for slant wells to be drilled near the coastline that would take ocean water from the tip of the Salinas Valley basin. A small amount of fresh water would be drawn in as well, but would be replaced.
Cal-Am will use the test slant well to calculate how much water being drawn is groundwater and how much is seawater.
It hopes to show that the desalination plant would not draw more from the Salinas Valley aquifer, from which it has no water rights, than it would pump back in. The test slant well is to be drilled 1,000 feet into the bay and 290 feet below the ocean floor.
“The test will allow us to answer a series of questions: How much water can we really draw from one well? And that gets to the feasibility of the project. … It also tests water quality and will help with finalizing treatment protocols,” Stedman said. “But perhaps most importantly it will answer the question of how much water will be ocean water versus groundwater, which has been the issue for many groups. There is a concern that it will impact the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin.”

That concern led the City of Marina to deny Cal-Am a permit to launch the project, but Cal-Am appealed to the Coastal Commission, won approval and began building in November 2014.

Cal-Am hopes to be done by March, when the Western snowy plover nesting season will stop construction.

On Jan. 21, Marina Coast’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the drilling was denied in Santa Cruz County Court. Judge Paul Marigonda scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing for April 21.

Marina Coast’s complaint against the State Lands Commission claims that the state’s approval for the test well did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because the commission relied on a “substitute” environmental document prepared by the Coastal Commission that was “piecemealed” together and failed to properly analyze the project. In particular, the document failed to recognize that the test well would remain as part of the larger permanent project.

Stedman acknowledged that the test well might remain, but only if the project were approved, and that Cal-Am is monitoring the test well to make sure there is no significant impact to the basin. The tests could take two years.

“We are drilling vertical monitoring wells to measure the level in the basin and if we see it drop by a foot, then we would stop production of the test well,” she said.

Stedman said that if everything continues as planned, the desalination plant would be operational in 2019, two years beyond the state deadline. Salinas Valley’s agricultural industry, which produces more than $1 billion of produce each year, also threatened to sue, but Stedman said companies want to see the results of the test well first.
Cal-Am serves about 630,000 people in 50 communities throughout California. Its parent company American Water, headquartered in Voorhees, N.J., is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company in the United States, according to its website. It serves an estimated 14 million people in more than 40 states and parts of Canada, operating as regulated utilities in 16 of those states.

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/whiskey-for-drinkingwater-for-fighting-coastal-district-fights-california-over-water/

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Comment on Kamala Harris as our next U.S. Senator

Agriculture - California, Elections, Federal gov & land grabs

By Liz Bowen

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris is not a friend to the rural agricultural areas or small business. She has specifically agreed to lawsuits that affect water and the environment in Siskiyou County. Personally, I believe she will make a worse Senator that Barbara Boxer did!  This is bad, sad news for the North State.

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Forecasters now predict wet winter in California

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather

The federal Climate Prediction Center now foresees a wet winter throughout California, particularly in areas south of Sacramento, as a result of a weak El Nino combining with the state’s normal wet season. The updated prognosis comes as the U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions are slowly improving as a result of recent rains.

Tim Hearden
Capital Press
Published: December 19, 2014 4:42PM

SACRAMENTO — Federal forecasters are going bullish on California’s winter prospects, predicting higher-than-average precipitation for the drought-parched state through March.
The anticipated southern storms from a weak El Nino are combining with the storm activity that California normally gets this time of year to produce the rosy outlook, observes Michelle Mead, the National Weather Service’s warning coordinator here.
The federal Climate Prediction Center’s updated three-month outlook map shows a wet pattern extending throughout the Southwest and into Texas, while northern areas of the Pacific Northwest appear to be headed for drier-than-normal weather.
“The probabilities are increasing that we’ll stay in a progressive pattern,” Mead said. “Seasonally California is entering its wet season. It started out well, and the long-range models indicate that pattern will continue.”
The prognosis comes as some areas of Northern California have been receiving nearly daily rainfall since Thanksgiving weekend and are approaching precipitation records for December.
The Sacramento airport — which sits amid prime rice ground just north of the city — had recorded 7.63 inches of rain for the month as of Dec. 18, making it likely that area will surpass its December record of 8.22 inches before the end of the month.
Redding — which measured rainfall in 17 of the first 18 days of December — was at 8.68 inches for the month, well above its normal 5.44 inches, according to the weather service. However, the city still has a ways to go to achieve the 14.72 inches it sopped up in December 2002.
All the rain is beginning to have an impact on the state’s three-year drought, albeit slowly. The U.S. Drought Monitor’s updated map shows a majority of Northern California has seen a one-category improvement, mostly from “exceptional” to “extreme.”
State and federal officials have said California will need 150 percent of its normal precipitation to completely recover from the drought, as major reservoir levels have been near historic lows.
The state would need 150 percent of normal snowpack, too, since snowmelt in the spring continues to replenish reservoirs after the winter rains are over, Mead explained. So far, the state is still at only 47 percent of its average snowpack for this time of year, as most of the storms have been warn with higher-elevation snow levels.
That trend is expected to continue into the winter, as the Climate Prediction Center envisions above-average temperatures throughout the West through March.

http://www.capitalpress.com/California/20141219/forecasters-now-predict-wet-winter-in-california?utm_source=Capital+Press+Newsletters&utm_campaign=84b8c12978-California_Weekly_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4b7e61b049-84b8c12978-69631317

 

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Rep. LaMalfa Votes to Provide California Short-Term, Immediate Drought Relief

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, Doug LaMalfa Congressman CA, Federal gov & land grabs, State gov, Water, Resources & Quality

Washington, DC – Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today voted in favor of legislation aimed at providing immediate, emergency relief from California’s historic water crisis. H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act, which would sunset in eighteen months, includes two critical components: flexibility to store additional water when winter storms cause high river flows and protections for the North State’s senior and area of origin water rights.

“The state of California is going through the worst drought in over a century, creating devastating conditions for our farms, families and ranches. The measure we passed today represents a bipartisan, noncontroversial fix that simply gives federal water managers the flexibility they need to conserve excess water during the wettest months,” said LaMalfa. “It’s simply reckless that we continue to watch ill-conceived federal policies allow billions of gallons of water to be diverted away from our communities to just flow out to sea. It’s time to bring an end to the delays and inaction coming from Washington and start moving forward towards a long-term solution that adequately addresses our state’s water needs. I urge the Senate to act quickly to advance this critical measure and help prevent yet another year of damaging drought conditions for California.”

The California Emergency Drought Relief Act would:
• Increase water supplies to Northern Californians who have seen their water allocations reduced to 50%, or even 0%. Under this bill, Northern Californians would receive a minimum of 75% of their water right in drought years.
• Ensure more flood flows are held at North State reservoirs rather than being diverted to the sea, resulting in more water stored during winter months.
• Enhances North State water rights and creates additional area of origin protections.
• Promotes federal water storage projects in the state by expediting the completion of needed reviews to approve water transfer requests associated with voluntary fallowing of non-permanent crops.
• Holds federal agencies accountable by utilizing a streamlined process to ensure regulatory decisions related to projects that provide additional water resources are made it a timely process.

H.R. 5781 passed out of the House of Representatives on a 230-182 vote and will be sent to the Senate.

Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District including, Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.
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Brown Administration Opposes Federal Drought Legislation

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather, California water, State gov

California Natural Resources Agency  ( FISH AND WILDLIFE )

Media Contact:
Richard Stapler, (916) 653-9402
richard.stapler@resources.ca.gov

Brown Administration Opposes Federal Drought Legislation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Writing on behalf of the State of California, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird today issued a formal opposition letter to HR5781. The text of the letter is pasted below:
“In the last twelve months, the Brown Administration has dealt with the most extreme three-year drought of modern times, while trying to implement a long-term, broad-based strategy to better protect California from future water shortages. We have done both with a recognition that the public interest is best-served by developing strategies that enjoy broad support across California and to fairly balance the needs of a diverse state with many different stakeholders and regional concerns.
As a result of the drought state of emergency declared by the Governor on January 17, 2014, California state agencies have worked very closely with their federal counterparts and impacted stakeholders to provide critically needed water supplies while protecting our water quality, imperiled species, and fragile ecosystems — all are suffering from these unprecedented drought conditions. With a possible fourth year of drought, these same state and federal agencies are working to prepare a 2015 Drought Operations Plan, and expect to complete it early next month. Building on the experience of last year, these agencies are actively exploring alternative approaches to water project operations that hopefully will better optimize both water supplies and species protections under extreme conditions. Work in developing this plan continues. But, one thing is certain: managing an extreme drought is best done in real-time here in California, by agencies with on the ground experience and expertise, in close collaboration with affected stakeholders. This is the only way to rapidly and equitably balance all of the competing needs such as regulated and unregulated stream flow, locations of critical fish populations, upstream storage needs for temperature control and conservation purposes, salinity conditions as influenced by tidal cycles and barometric conditions, and others. In January, the Administration also adopted the California Water Action Plan, a comprehensive plan for future water management, including storage, conservation, recycling, water transfers and other actions that will better enable the state to provide for the next generation of Californians. Many elements in the Water Action Plan were included in Proposition 1 – the water bond – that was approved by over two-thirds of California voters just weeks ago.
Coming off a year where more progress has been made on water policy in California than any time in recent years – with broad support evident in the electorate for this strategy – this is no time to reignite water wars, move water policy back into the courts, and try to pit one part of the state against another. For this reason, the administration opposes HR5781. Our collective energies should be devoted to a long-term solution for California’s water needs in a way that rewards working together as opposed to dividing interests, just as the successful campaign for the water bond recently did. We stand ready to work with the supporters and opponents of HR5781 to that end.”

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NOTICE OF TEMPORARY LIFTING OF CURTAILMENTS FOR DIVERSIONS SPECIFIED IN THE SCOTT RIVER ADJUDICATION IN THE SCOTT RIVER WATERSHED

Agriculture - California, Scott River & Valley, State gov, Water rights, Water, Resources & Quality, Watermaster Service

This is a message from the State Water Resources Control Board.

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) is temporarily lifting the water right curtailment for junior priority class rights in the Scott River watershed beginning on December 3 at 10:00 am continuing until further notice. The temporary authorization for diversion is based on this week’s rain event and associated projected runoff in excess of the flows required to satisfy senior priority class rights.

The junior priority class rights are identified as either: (1) a Priority 2 Class Right in Schedule D-4 of the Decree, (2) a Post-1914 Appropriative Right in Schedule E of the Decree, or (3) a “Surplus Class” right in the Decree.

During this diversion opportunity, you must comply with all terms and conditions of your water right, especially season of diversion and bypass conditions. You should keep a record of your diversions since such diversions are still subject to prior rights. Any diversion in violation of terms and conditions or of these notices is subject to enforcement.

The State Water Board will be monitoring weather forecasts and stream gages to determine if the temporary diversion opportunity should continue. Please monitor your email and our website for further updates on when diversions are authorized, and when curtailments are in place. If an email list notice is issued on the weekend, the website will not be updated until the following Monday due to service limitations.

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Why are U.S. lawmakers making California water deals in secret? From: Staff, Los Angeles Times

Agriculture - California, Water, Resources & Quality

From California Farm Water Coalition news

EDITORIAL: Why are U.S. lawmakers making California water deals in secret?
From: Staff, Los Angeles Times

California made extraordinary progress on water policy in this severe drought year, largely under the guiding hand of Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor’s master stroke was to initiate the conversation and then back away, allowing various interests – agribusiness, urban areas, environmentalists, people who favored building tunnels to move water from north to south, people who vigorously opposed them – to fight it out.

Go to:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-water-policy-congress-california-20141120-story.html

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Recognizing the Role of California Farmland in Economic and Environmental Goals

Agriculture - California, Air, Climate & Weather

California Political Review

Agriculture is the number one industry in California and one of the major industries in the nation. To succeed, the farmers must be environmentally conscious, use the best techniques for land preservation and water use. The way the Left talks about the farmers is that the radical city folks have more concern about farmland than the farmers.

“Earlier this year, the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) released a draft of the Grant Guidelines & Applications for the new California Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program (SALC). The public was asked to comment and the Working Landscapes Action Team went into action.

SALC was established to support California’s climate adaptation and greenhouse gas emission goals, directed by AB32 and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The program will make strategic investments that protect agricultural lands by working to prevent development in critical agricultural lands. The grants through SALC will fund plans, conservation acquisitions and incentives to work toward a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions connected with agricultural lands.”

This, along with the Sacramento control of water projects and ground water, farmer s will now be forced to ask permission to plant, what to plant, how much to plant, or if they are even allowed to plant. Sounds like the old Soviet Union.

Corn Field

Recognizing the Role of California Farmland in Economic and Environmental Goals

By Nadine Ono, California Economic Summit,   11/14/14 

In an effort to meet the challenges posed by climate change, California is working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions while trying to maintain its open spaces and a healthy agricultural economy. And members of the Summit’s Working Landscapes Action Team are making sure that their voice is heard through this process.

“What we’re after is to look at the whole urban-rural landscape in a more comprehensive way and find better ways to make the best use of our available resources, including our farmland” said Glenda Humiston, a Working Landscapes Action Team co-lead and Director of the USDA California Rural Development office.

Earlier this year, the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) released a draft of the Grant Guidelines & Applications for the new California Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program (SALC). The public was asked to comment and the Working Landscapes Action Team went into action.

SALC was established to support California’s climate adaptation and greenhouse gas emission goals, directed by AB32 and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The program will make strategic investments that protect agricultural lands by working to prevent development in critical agricultural lands. The grants through SALC will fund plans, conservation acquisitions and incentives to work toward a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions connected with agricultural lands.

The Working Landscapes Action Team wants to make sure that SALC’s investments are in line with its own goals, including the creation of a roadmap for triple-bottom-line prosperity (social, economic and environmental progress), the theme of the 2014 Economic Summit. From the letter:

Land use decisions are economic decisions, so a better understanding of the economics of agriculture and food, land, management and stewardship, and ecosystem services is key to informing better decisions about conservation strategies and markets for products and services provided by open land. USDA Rural Development recommends that the SGC grants for agricultural preservation be broadened to explicitly include supporting an economically robust rural and agricultural economy, which by definition includes recognition of the role of prime farmland.

Humiston, who is one of the letter’s signatories, explained one of the main concerns with the draft: “The initial proposed draft is largely just focused on preserving farmland, using a lot of traditional tools like easements and the Williamson Act.” The Williamson Act enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use in return for lower property tax assessments.

What is problematic with that method of measuring the value of farmland is that it’s not comprehensive enough, explained Humiston, not in an era of big data and sophisiticated land modeling and planning software.

“And I think many of us on the state Economic Summit, particularly the Working Landscapes Action Team have realized over the past several years, the importance of tying the eco-system services, i.e. producing food and fiber–that’s very important–but also the economic viability and the social and cultural aspects of it all and really tying it together in that people, planet and prosperity – the triple-bottom-line.”

The next steps with the draft Grant Guidelines & Application will most likely be hearings and meetings between the SGC and interested parties such as the Working Landscapes Action Team.

MORE:

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/recognizing-the-role-of-california-farmland-in-economic-and-environmental-goals/

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Our View: Sites will see competition and opposition

Agriculture - California, State gov, Water, Resources & Quality

Appeal Democrat.com

Opinion

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2014 12:49 am

Good for the Sites Joint Powers Authority.

The group of Sacramento Valley leaders and water district personnel is working on further planning and financing for the off-stream reservoir proposed to be built at the border of Glenn and Colusa counties. And it was reported they’re even looking for possibilities to bring the total price down and make the project more saleable.

The sense is they realize their project will have plenty of competition. It’s hard to imagine otherwise and we’re glad that they’re meeting that reality head-on.

Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond issue, passed resoundingly, supported across the state, and we think the storage component was a big part of what brought many voters to the polls in favor of it. With Prop. 1′s passage, the California Water Commission will be in charge of doling out $2.7 billion dedicated to creating additional water storage and will be writing up the regulations for how that’s done. That funding, then, will be available in December 2016.

According to a story by Andrew Creasey in the Wednesday edition, the Sites Joint Powers Authority is hoping for a share of the bond money to seed funding for the construction project estimated at present to total some $4 billion.

Sites, for a few reasons, makes good sense as a leading contender for that funding. As Creasey wrote, the main goal of the project is “the notion of increased flexibility.” Sites could store water when it’s abundant during winter and spring rains, when high flows in streams and tributaries below Shasta Dam often mean fresh water escaping into the ocean.

The stored water could then meet whatever need crops up — supplementing Shasta deliveries, for instance, so that reservoir could keep cold water in storage for use later in the summer to help fish.

Regardless of how much sense it makes, there will be opposition and competition. It’s encouraging the supporters are ready.

http://www.appeal-democrat.com/opinion/our-view-sites-will-see-competition-and-opposition/article_a426686a-6adf-11e4-b287-53276ffe71fe.html

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11-06-14 PRL: THE END OF AGRICULTURE ON POINT REYES

Agriculture - California, Federal gov & land grabs

http://www.ptreyeslight.com/article/end-agriculture-point-reyes

The park, the E.A.C., the N.P.C.A. and others have claimed they are not trying to get rid of the ranches. We are skeptical. If they mean what they say, then we ask Jon Jarvis, Neal Desai, Gordon Bennett, Amy Trainer and Jerry Meral to make the following pledge to the community: I promise that neither I nor any organization I am a part of will ever participate in legal action to eliminate or restrict the ranches on Point Reyes; and if such legal action is ever taken, I will do everything in my power to vigorously defend the ranches.
If they don’t take the pledge, watch out. Our ranches are about to disappear.
The end of agriculture on Point Reyes
By Corey Goodman and Peter Prows
11/06/2014
In 1962, a historic collaboration between environmentalists and agriculturalists led to the formation of the Point Reyes National Seashore. This, along with a new county plan and help from the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, preserved West Marin as a working landscape of beautiful ranches and rolling hills, and as a beacon for how to produce sustainable food while protecting the environment.
But today a new generation of activists and National Park Service officials view agriculture with antipathy. If that view prevails, the ranches on Point Reyes will go the way of the oyster company. We challenge those activists and officials to embrace what their predecessors supported: that agriculture and the environment can successfully collaborate. We call on them to pledge to oppose efforts already underway to run the ranchers out of the seashore.
It wasn’t always this way. In 1961, a representative of what is now the National Parks Conservation Association testified to the United States Senate in support of preserving ranching in Point Reyes: “the combination of dairy country and wild natural shoreland is part of the charm of Point Reyes, and we think the combination ought to be preserved.” The park lauded the “exceptional” public values provided by the oyster farm. In the 1970s, the founder of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Jerry Friedman, wrote to Congress supporting the continuation of the ranches and oyster farm—even in designated wilderness. The Sierra Club is on record saying much the same thing.
But in recent years these groups have flip-flopped as their leadership and priorities have changed. The park, under the direction of Jon Jarvis, led the charge to remove the oyster farm. The N.P.C.A. and its representative, Neal Desai, launched campaign-style national attacks on the oyster farm that were premised on falsehoods. The Sierra Club, initially under the direction of Gordon Bennett, did much the same.
Amy Trainer’s E.A.C. has seen its membership dwindle but its money and political influence grow as it ramped up attacks on agriculture, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Sacramento-based fund created by former Republican Governor Wilson’s undersecretary for resources. The E.A.C.’s only agricultural representative recently resigned in frustration, and rather than replace her with someone from the agricultural community to its board, the group brought in activist and political insider Jerry Meral.
Sadly, the closure of the oyster farm is not the end, but rather the beginning of the battle to protect agriculture on Point Reyes. We fear that in the next five years we will witness the end of agriculture, and with it the weakening of the ecosystem that supports farming and ranching throughout West Marin.
In coming to this conclusion, we have been good students of history, examining what happened at Cowboy Island, also known as Santa Rosa Island, in the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. There we found a blueprint.
Tim Setnicka, the former superintendent of Channel Islands National Park, warned our community two weeks ago that what happened at Cowboy Island was going to happen here. Nita Vail, the daughter of the ranching family that was kicked off the island, will speak next week, on Nov. 11, at West Marin School.
The Vails owned Cowboy Island and ranched on it for nearly 100 years. Congress recognized them as excellent stewards of the land. In creating the national park, the park service made a deal with the Vails in which the latter would be allowed to continue ranching for several decades. But then the park and its supporters started claiming cattle were polluting streams and harming endangered species in a national park area, using what Setnicka called dishonest science.
Ultimately, the N.P.C.A., with the help of the Center for Biological Diversity and a Santa Barbara environmental group, sued the park service, alleging the Vails were violating the federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. The park settled the case out of court, and as a result, evicted the Vails from the island.
What does this story teach us about Point Reyes? The parallels are unnerving. Both parks were set up as partnerships between agriculturalists and environmentalists. In both there has been a change in mindset away from agriculture. On Point Reyes, the park demonized the oyster farm with dishonest science. On Cowboy Island, the park used dishonest science to restrict ranching, while lawsuits by national environmental groups ultimately sealed the Vails’ fate.
Will our ranches go the way of the oyster farm and the Vails’ ranch? The warning signs are distressing. The park’s environmental impact statement on the oyster farm put a bulls-eye on the ranchers by identifying them as “the primary source of nonpoint-source pollution in Drakes Estero.” But the oysters clean the water by filtering the coliform bacteria, a benefit the National Academy of Sciences thought was significant. Once the oysters are gone, the estero will lose the beneficial filtering functions, and winter rains will lead to increasing coliform levels. Higher levels may invite opportunistic groups to file a Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act suit against the park, which will then be pressured to settle by evicting the ranchers.
And while the suit is pending, the ranchers will continue to compete with the out-of-control tule elk for scarce forage and water.
There is good reason to believe this is the plan. As Phyllis Faber has written in these pages, a few years ago, when Don Neubacher was superintendent, he told her the C.B.D. had just such a lawsuit ready to go as soon as the oysters were removed from Drakes Estero. Last year, Gordon Bennett invited River Watch and its leader Jack Silver into this community; Silver is notorious for filing frivolous Clean Water Act lawsuits, and has already filed such a suit against the oyster farm. The C.B.D. is taking the opportunity presented by the park’s new ranch-planning process to organize its national membership in opposition to ranching.
Just last month, a blog called Protect Our Shoreline News, which is supported by local activists, wrote that now we will get to find out if “… what matters is controlling what flows into the estuary.” Given the history of Cowboy Island, there is little doubt what that statement means.
The park, the E.A.C., the N.P.C.A. and others have claimed they are not trying to get rid of the ranches. We are skeptical. If they mean what they say, then we ask Jon Jarvis, Neal Desai, Gordon Bennett, Amy Trainer and Jerry Meral to make the following pledge to the community: I promise that neither I nor any organization I am a part of will ever participate in legal action to eliminate or restrict the ranches on Point Reyes; and if such legal action is ever taken, I will do everything in my power to vigorously defend the ranches.
If they don’t take the pledge, watch out. Our ranches are about to disappear.

Peter Prows is an attorney and partner with Briscoe Ivester & Bazel L.L.P. of San Francisco. Although he has represented Drakes Bay Oyster Company, he wrote this column in his personal capacity. Dr. Corey Goodman, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, is the scientist and West Marin rancher who discovered the misleading science used by the park and its supporters against the oyster farm.

Peter Prows
155 Sansome Street, Seventh Floor
San Francisco, California 94104
Direct: (415) 402-2708 Cell: (415) 994-8991

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