Santa Rosa Democratic Club Dinner and Meeting – October 28th

The Santa Rosa Democrat Club meeting, at the Veterans’ Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa (across from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds), will be from 6:00 p.m. until approximately 9:00 p.m. The featured speaker is Shirlee Zane, Sonoma County’s 3rd District Supervisor
6:00 pm—Mix & mingle, no-host bar
6:30 pm—Club Business Meeting:
By-Laws Additions to vote on
Legislative Updates
7:00 pm—Dinner (optional; $15 cash or check; RSVP no later than 11:00 a.m. on the 28th)

For more details, see the club’s October newsletter.

Report on the Russian Riverkeeper presentation on October 22

At the October 22nd meeting, Bob Legge, the Policy and Outreach Coordinator for the Russian Riverkeeper organization, gave a presentation on what his organization is doing to protect the Russian River. Mr. Legge outlined some of the major threats to the river, the source of drinking water for 600,000 Marin and Sonoma County residents. With current drought conditions, the community’s focus has been on essential water conservation. Mr. Legge explained how the degradation of riparian corridors has compromised the ability of the river to recharge and retain a critical water supply.

Most people think of the river as the area between the banks, but this neglects one of the river’s essential components- the floodplains next to the rivers. These riparian areas are critical to water quality, as well as providing habitats and food sources for birds and fish. On the Russian River, 90% of riparian areas have been lost because of urban development, clearing of land for agriculture, and the channelization of tributary creeks and the river.

Gravel has been extracted from the river since 1900, including highly damaging practices such as digging deep pits in the middle of the channel. This practice led to severe erosion of the river banks, cutting the river off from historic floodplains and damaging wildlife habitats. The recognition of these negative outcomes led to the founding of the Friends of the Russian River in 1993, as a voice against gravel mining, and to protect the river for wildlife and the community. Friends of the River later became the Russian Riverkeeper, a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which has more than 200 chapters worldwide.

The organization is working on several fronts to reverse the damages to the Russian River. The Hanson Gravel Pit Restoration Project near Windsor is converting a 357-acre gravel quarry site into a self-sustaining off-channel wetland complex, which will eliminate bank erosion, create fish habitats, increase groundwater recharging, and provide filters for fine sediment. The project is supported by both the building and agricultural sectors.

In addition to this large project, the organization is working with school students to create bioswales onsite to collect residues from parked cars, to filter out pollutants in an environmentally friendly way before the runoff finds its way back into the river system. In another project, volunteers work to remove non-native plants along the river, replacing them with native plants for riparian corridors.

Those at the meeting came away with a fuller understanding of how the Russian River has been damaged by growth and how the work of the Russian Riverkeeper organization is helping bring the river back to a healthier and more natural state.

— Barry Hirsch

Russian Riverkeeper presentation on October 22nd

What’s happening with the Russian River? And with creek restoration in Windsor? Some of the answers will be presented on Thursday, October 22, at 7 p.m. at the Windsor Round Table Pizza, 8499 Old Redwood Hwy, when the Windsor Democratic Club hears from Bob Legge, the Policy and Outreach Coordinator for the Russian Riverkeeper organization.

The organization says of itself, “Inspiring the community to protect the Russian River since 1993!” As an advocacy organization, it has taken legal action against polluters to protect the River. It has called for mandatory water conservation to respond to our current drought, has pursued enforcement of sediment controls at construction sites, and has sought increased agency enforcement region-wide.

In November 2014, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors authorized a five-year agreement with Russian Riverkeeper, for creek bank restoration and riparian habitat mitigation in Windsor Creek, immediately downstream of Brooks Road South. The primary work for this project is in October of 2015, with additional maintenance and monitoring for four more years.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Pizza will be served.

Report on the September 24th meeting

The Windsor Democratic Club took a break from politics at the September 24 meeting. Instead the club heard from Ryan Pedrotti, the Water Education Programs Specialist of the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA). Pedrotti filled the group in on the state of the water supplied by SCWA to more than 600,000 customers in Sonoma and Marin Counties during the present severe drought.

The water agency was created in 1949 by the California legislature as a legal entity separate from Sonoma County, with an independent budget and revenue source. The agency sells water to cities and towns in Sonoma and Marin and maintains pipelines, built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, to convey the water from its six wells to its customers. In addition to water supply, the agency purifies the wastewater from several communities. Flood control is the third function of the agency.

The Russian River is the agency’s primary water source, feeding the shallow aquifer where the agency has its wells. The river system features two reservoirs, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, which have the dual function of water storage and flood control, depending on supply conditions. Currently, Lake Mendocino’s water capacity is at only 34%, while the much larger Lake Sonoma stands at 74% of capacity. Pedrotti mentioned that SCWA is trying to get the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the two reservoirs, to use Forecast Informed Reservoir Operation (FIRO), which bases reservoir release on weather forecasting, rather than just use abstract formulas.

According to Pedrotti, agency customers have done a great job of reducing consumption in response to the drought, now using 128 gallons per day per household, while statewide usage is between 160 and 170 gallons per day. Australian households average 55 gallons per day, so more progress can be made with increased care and awareness of how our water is used. He stressed that the further reduction of outdoor usage, as well as the conversion to water saving appliances, is needed to meet the challenges of continued drought conditions.

In closing, Pedrotti touched on this season’s much anticipated El Nino. He noted that the effects of an El Nino are mixed in Northern California: in some years there are rainfalls well above average, while below-averages amounts are just as statistically likely.

— Barry Hirsch

WDC business meeting on November 21st

The Windsor Democratic Club will have a business meeting on Saturday, November 21st, from noon to 2 p.m., to discuss possible programs and speakers for our regular fourth-Thursday meetings in 2016. The meeting is at our regular place – Windsor Round Table Pizza.

Everyone is welcome – bring your ideas! And if you can’t make the meeting, and have suggestions, please send them to Barry Hirsch: bdh1288 (at)

Santa Rosa Democratic Club Dinner and Meeting – September 23rd

The Santa Rosa Democrat Club meeting, at the Veterans’ Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa (across from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds), will be from 6:00 p.m. until approximately 9:00 p.m. The featured speaker is Carole van Aelstyn, BSN, of Compassion & Choices
6:00 pm—Mix & mingle, no-host bar
6:30 pm—Club Business Meeting:
Election of At-Large seat
Linda Hemenway, OFA
7:00 pm—Dinner (optional; $15 cash or check; RSVP no later than 11:00 a.m. on the 23rd)
7:30 pm—Program

For more details, see the club’s September newsletter.

September meeting – Is drought the new normal?

On September 24, 2015, at 7 p.m. at the Windsor Round Table Pizza, 8499 Old Redwood Hwy, the Windsor Democratic Club will hear from two speakers who are engaged in conserving our water resources.

Paul Piazza, the Town of Windsor Water Conservation Analyst, will give some helpful information on water saving strategies, as well as rebate incentives for water saving appliances. Mr. Piazza will also explain how Windsor is using recycled water and how this may be expanded. The impact of the proposed Lytton Tribal trust land on Windsor water and sewer will be discussed.

Update (September 24): Paul Piazza will not be speaking at tonight’s meeting.

Ryan Pedrotti, Sonoma County Water Agency Water Education Programs Specialist, will present information on the agency that diverts, pumps, and treats the water delivered to more than 600,000 residents in portions of Sonoma and Marin counties. The Water Agency is expanding its energy and sustainability projects, including solar panels and ground source and pond loop geoexchange heating and cooling systems. The agency is committed to getting 100% of its electricity from renewable and carbon free resources. Right now 55% of this electricity is coming from Sonoma County landfill gas.

There will be plenty of time for questions. The meeting is free and open to the public. Pizza will be served.

Senator Mike McGuire’s Sonoma County Chili Feed – October 1

Senator Mike McGuire invites everyone to attend his 2015 Sonoma County Chili Feed on Thursday, October 1, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Jackson Family Vineyards, 3575 Slusser Road in Windsor.

This year’s chili feed will be bigger than ever – more farm animals in the petting zoo, more games for the little buckaroos and the first-ever Sonoma County celebrity pie-eating contest. Music will be by Chris Rovetti and the Meatballs.

Tickets are $25 per person in advance or $30 at the door. There is free admissions for kids under the age of 10.

More information, including on-line purchase of tickets, can be found here.

Report on the August 27th meeting – Gore calls for greater public dialogue

By Barry Hirsch

During his candid presentation to the Windsor Democratic Club on August 27, Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore called for greater dialogue with the community as future policies are considered by county supervisors. Gore stressed the need for exhaustive public input and greater community outreach when issues like the Lytton Tribe of Pomo Indian trust land are considered.

Supervisor Gore gave a brief history of the Lytton tribe’s efforts to purchase 500 acres of private land west of Windsor, and to put the land into federal trust so the tribe could operate as a sovereign nation not subject to local and state laws and regulations. The process began long before Gore’s election last November, but during his seven months in office he has been actively engaged in negotiations with the Lyttons to mitigate some potential negative consequences of the tribal development. Negotiations have resulted in an agreement to ban casino development anywhere in the County, and a commitment by the tribe to pay $6 million in mitigation fees. Negotiations still ongoing; Gore hopes to limit the scope of winery and resort development on this land. He said that he and the other supervisors believe that land going into federal trust is inevitable, and an agreement with the tribe is the best course for the county.

Supervisor Gore described the ongoing study of new regulations for wineries and vacation rentals. Expansion in these areas is moving very rapidly, and the board is working address these situations in a smart way. Gore openly shared the difficulties that have arisen in the present process. As a new supervisor with previous experience in government at the federal level, he wants to change some aspects of the ways in which the board is supported by County staff.

Gore mentioned, for example, that publishing an agenda on a Thursday for a Board of Supervisor’s meeting taking place the following Tuesday is problematical. The timing limits the work that can be done by supervisors to prepare to address the complexities of items on the agenda. Although he was quick to defend the ability and commitment of the staff, as well that of his fellow supervisors, Gore feels there should be some long-range improvements. He described the process to create a county budget every two years: the $1.5 billion budget is presented to the board by staff only a couple of weeks prior to a vote, allowing for minimal consideration. Less than $7 million dollars of the budget, as presented, is completely discretionary, making it difficult to choose which of many deserving programs will get additional funding.

Supervisor Gore promised to continue to work to make county government transparent. His candor was refreshing and somewhat unexpected. He promised to return to the club on a regular basis.

Jim Wood’s Second Annual Salmon Barbecue – September 13

On Sunday, September 13, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Assemblyman Jim Wood is hosting his second annual salmon barbecue, featuring fresh local salmon paired with wine and beer from some fantastic Sonoma County vintners and brewers. The barbeque will be held on the grounds of the Villa Chanticleer in Healdsburg. Tickets start at $30 per person. More details: