Columns
August 16, 2017
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Jud Snyder
Inexorably, water’s The King in California
August 10, 2017

THE NEWEST GOLD RUSH IN Sonoma  and Marin counties is water. You know, the stuff you get when you turn on the faucet in your kitchen or bathroom. This stuff is valuable. 

We get the headlines from reports from big dailies and TV commentators but mostly pretty shallow, like newly hatched salmon and steelhead struggling for stream space on their first trip to the ocean. There are those who say, “Let them die peacefully,” and those who say “These fish are symbols of our native heritage and deserve protection.” Huge agricultural layouts say, “Our wells are sinking every week and we need the water from the ample water supply up north in the delta.

Governor Jerry Brown wants to build two giant tunnels under the delta to send water to the Sacramento Valley where there was once a huge freshwater lake that’s now practically a muddy valley. Brown’s not very interested in fish. He’s got high speed railroad on his mind, from L.A. to San Francisco. But the tracks will have to cross many reservoirs, rivers and streams.

California’s water supply is tied into politics these days. There’s a huge and symbolic national seashore off the Marin-Sonoma coasts from the Farallon Islands all the way north to Point Arena and the  Gualala River on the Mendocino Coast. The Republicans would like to eliminate this federally approved underwater national park but there’s a Democratic Congressman in the House of Representatives named Jared Huffman standing in the way.

There’s a watery political connection in the case of Synanon, a rather suspicious organization once located at the southern end of Tomales Bay. Synanon was investigated by a federal team and a weekly newspaper located in Port Reyes Station which earned a Pulitzer Prize when he published a series of articles about his versions of Synanon.

The investigated group than bought a private club in Oakland even though they were under investigation. I knew about them for I was editor of a monthly magazine they put out for the Athens Club, a veritable tabloid relic in a seedier part of Oakland. They had a huge Olympic-size swimming pool where I got my Red Cross medal in the backstroke. But no Pulitzer Prize.

 

IT’S TOUGH TO GET WINERIES to talk about water. They know vineyards need a lot of water to survive almost every year  of their lives and you’ve seen many vines with gnarled limbs to know they’re really old. Sonoma and Napa Counties are in a tough vineyard competition to attract tourists and their dollars. There are so many separate regions like Russian River and Alexander Valley and the posh wineries of Napa County plus their wine train. 

Plus wineries in both counties are always pressing zoning authorities to relax  restrictions on traffic rules for groups they can manage on twisting back country roads. Wineries also like to have ponds and little reservoirs on their property. They call these special receptions and often wedding “events” for it kind of softens the image of too many parties at wineries.

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF POLITICS AND wineries is right here in Rohnert Park. The controversy started when Penngrove claimed the excess of homes in RP was lowering Penngrove’s private water wells.

After public hearings and judicial reports, RP gave in and turned their property south of the former Hewlett-Packard acreage into a strictly zoned agricultural parcel. The land started north of Bodway Parkway and went south to East Railroad Ave.

It stayed like this for about 30 or 40 years, I think. But in the last two years, the ag restriction label was dropped and the property was annexed by RP to include most of Canon Manor at the north edge down to East Railroad Avenue. So far there have been no complaints from Penngrove water well owners.