More RWQCB Stealth Septic Plans
The RWQCB is still pushing through their state-wide, region by region Seatlth Septic Basin Update Plans and when they got to Sonoma County, they got an earful. This from the Press Democrat paper. As one local wag commented, No wonder the RWQCB doesn’t regularly broadcast their public meetings. 1,700 people? Woa! If those good folks had paid attention to our own Los Osos 45 and the Mad Hatter Tea Party & Torquemada’s Inquisition “Trial,” there would have been 10 times that number turning out. Well, can’t say they haven’t been warned.
By BLEYS W. ROSETHE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 7:06 p.m. Last Modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 7:16 p.m.
There’s a rural revolt unfolding among land owners in Sonoma County opposed to government having its way with their water wells, their septic tanks and their stream banks.
THE THREE BIG ISSUES
STREAMSThe issue: Creating protection zones around more streams traversing Sonoma County.The debate: Environmentalists see expanded rules as saving waterways. Landowners fear loss of property rights.Timing: County General Plan hearings in August 2007.
WELLSThe issue: Monitoring usage of well water.The debate: Environmentalists worry that groundwater is being depleted. Landowners oppose government intrusion into well use on their property.Timing: General Plan hearings in October 2007.
SEPTIC SYSTEMSThe issue: Testing and replacing septic tanks.The debate: State water regulators implement state law requiring stricter oversight. Landowners say replacement cost would be onerous.Timing: State water board hearings, 2009.
Septic rules blasted
Nearly 1,700 people turn out in Santa Rosa to blast septic tank requirements
Sonoma County grading rules draw lawsuit
PD Editorial: Septic debate
Text of AB 885 (PDF - 9kb)
This pastoral uprising has been fomented by land owners frustrated by a wave of environmental rules they consider out of touch with lifestyles close to the earth, and ready to turn out by the hundreds to public hearings at a moment’s e-mail notice.
“It’s our Fourth Amendment freedom to be left alone on our property,” said Gloria Ball, a Knights Valley resident and an organizer of the Sonoma County Land Rights Coalition. “When governments try to impose rules on our water and our land, it amounts to a taking of our property.”
While most of Sonoma County’s half-million residents live in one of nine cities, 130,000 live in rural, unincorporated areas. About 45,000 households, almost all of them in the country, rely on septic systems to flush their waste and wells to supply their water.
When the State Water Resources Board tried to hold a hearing on new septic tank regulations in Santa Rosa last month, the board had to close down the meeting when the 400-seat auditorium couldn’t hold everyone who showed up.
Much the same thing happened in fall 2007, when the Sonoma County planning commission held separate hearings on General Plan proposals on water well monitoring, biotic habitat and riparian setbacks.
The Land Rights Coalition that Ball heads is just one of several groups that spreads the word about perceived property threats through e-mail, postal mail and phone trees. The coalition often joins forces with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the North Coast Builders Exchange and the North Bay Realtors Association.
“Of all the issues I deal with, I get more outraged phone calls from people who are infuriated with more big government trickling down with rules that don’t make sense,” said Lex McCorvey, the Farm Bureau’s executive director. “People understand the need for maintaining water quality, but they don’t trust government when those rules mean they bear the hidden costs.”
Packed public hearings
The property advocates have geared up members, activists and sympathizers for the state water board’s redo Monday of the canceled septic tank hearing. This time, the board has reserved the 1,600-seat main theater at the center and the session will be from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., with a break between
5 and 7 p.m.
These organizations have ripped pages out of the playbooks of environmental and community groups that, for decades, have churned political action with clarion calls to pack public hearings.
Environmentalists and neighborhood activists were largely responsible for the crowd of about 300 people who turned out for last Tuesday’s supervisors hearing on a controversial asphalt plant near Petaluma and for the 100 people, mostly in opposition, at a hearing on a disputed winery development in Knights Valley.
Environmental concerns about the quality of ground water and river water were at the heart of the Legislature’s passage in 2000 of AB 885, which puts the onus on septic systems users to monitor their systems. Sampling of about 1,000 residential wells in five counties found that about a quarter of them experienced water quality problems, a result cited by regulators as evidence that preventive maintenance is in the public health interest.
Denny Rosatti, executive director of Conservation Action, the county’s most influential environmental group, views the competition as usually well-intentioned but often misinformed.
“It is the postcard and the fear that gets them to turn out when people hear there are threats to their property,” Rosatti said. “They don’t give people the whole story.”
He credits the opponents of water well monitoring and septic tank regulation with “having plenty of passion with their opinions.” However, he feels Conservation Action’s person-to-person contact results in better informed residents appearing at public hearings.
“You want to go with the facts and point out the other side, that the waterways of the state need to be kept clean, that species need protection and that public health in rural areas can be compromised by leaking septic systems and polluted wells,” Rosatti said.
But Eric Koenigshofer, former county supervisor and now an attorney on land use issues, said the rural revolt “is not as simple as old-fashioned property-rights conservatism.”
Koenigshofer sees an increasingly broad philosophical divide between rural residents and suburban dwellers who rely on sewers and wells, yet have no idea how a septic tank and leach field work.
“There is broad public support for preventing stream pollution and insuring water quality, but you also find there are residents who don’t want these suburban attitudes or gentrification and they are pushing back on regulations from the outside the envelope,” he said. “People in rural areas have lived there for a long time so the idea that they need to be closely watched, that they need somebody traipsing around their property and that they need to pay for that regulation is abhorrent.”
It comes as a rude awakening to rural residents and to opposition groups that state government’s water quality rulemakers have been working on the septic system regulations since legislative approval in 2000.
Proposal will be revised
Monday’s hearing comes just weeks before the Feb. 23 deadline for public comment.
Already, the water board has announced it intends to revise its proposals.
“One thing that is certain is that the draft proposals that will be discussed on Monday will not be the final proposals,” said William Rukeyser, the board’s communications director. “They will go out for public comment again. When the board will act in 2009 is anybody’s guess; there is no timetable.”
Whether it’s proposed state regulation or the county General Plan, Koenigshofer said “the process is so loaded up with environmental review analysis” that rural residents often feel public hearings are nothing more than an afterthought.
‘A great tragedy’
With government bureaucracies focused on details of environmental review studies, Koenigshofer said advocacy groups like the Land Rights Coalition have an opening to galvanize residents waving hand-made signs.
“It is a great tragedy that there is so much emotional charge to these hearings because protecting water supply and having clean rivers sounds so good,” he said. “Who could be against that?”
Ball said she and others are opposed in large part because they feel nobody’s listening to their side of the story.
Ball, who was raised in Guerneville, came to the issue 18 months ago when she attended a General Plan hearing and felt property owners should be better informed about government actions. She and her husband, Everett, retired to his family property in Knights Valley after his career as a managing accountant for Silicon Valley start-ups.
“Years ago, people in rural areas went about their lives with little interference, and now the legislation is coming through so quickly that people need to be informed,” Gloria Ball said. “That’s a job that government is not doing.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bleys W. Rose at 521-5431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Sewerish Stuff
Sigh. Been nice to ignore all this crap for a while. Let the raging fence fighters of the Comment section take a break, maybe get treatment for their rabies? Anyway, in a previous comment section, a Commenter calling himself Shark Inlet posted the letter from the US Fish & Wildlife (commending on the DEIR Los Osos Sewer Project & etc) at http://sharkinlet.fileave.com/09.01.29%20FWS.comment.PDF (hope that’s right? )
And reading it I found an interesting point in paragraph 6, where it says, “. . . the 72 acres of Broderson property not proposed for use as leach fields ere never granted to an appropriate agency or conservation organization in perpetuity with deed guarantees of non-development or transfer and the $10,000 per year that was to be allocated for the long-term management and monitoring of Broderson has yet to be set aside.”
Which prompted a question: If the Broderson mitigation & etc. wasn’t properly finished, signed, sealed and delivered BEFORE the recalled CSD started digging holes in the ground at the ESHA Tri-W site, why didn’t Coast Keeper Hensley sue CSD Boardmember Hensley for jumping the gun and digging up ESHA land without all the t’s crossed? Just wondering.
Also, Paragraph #7, regarding some of the same 72 acres now being claimed as useful for mitigation for the latest project? Apparently that can’t be used since it’s already been “used up” for the Tri-W site?? Will the countyhave to find more mitigation acres? Well stay tuned. And also stay tuned for the “community survey” that’s to be arriving shortly.
That’ll be interesting. Shall we lay bets? If history is any template, then 40% of the surveys won’t be returned at all, and IF there’s some kind of “choice” being offered, 30% will go for choice A and 30% will go for choice B and so the county will feel free to go for whatever they had in mind in the first place. Now taking bets.
Commenter Mark Low has been ragged (and asked) if his company has submitted the proper paperwork to have his component considered in the mix and if I understand correctly, his company won’t be submitting any Statement of Qualifications & etc. because that’s only done by licensed contractors. Mark’s product is a “product” that can then be selected and installed as part of the overall project IF it’s picked as a component. The question, as I understand it, was this: Was Mark’s component given a fair hearing at the time it was supposed to be evaluated? If so, is it still in the mix? And if not, why not?
Mind Your Manners
For all this blog’s commentors, some of whom sometimes completely lose their marbles, I would suggest you track down the story in the Feb 5th New Times by editor Patrick Howe (can email him at email@example.com to ask how to access that story?).
Story was about one commentor on a blog who is being SUED by another blog commentor for libelous comments made in the blog’s “comment section,” thinking he/she was “saf” since he/she was using an anonymous made up name. That blog, like many others, requires commentors sign on with an email address, so they aren’t as “anonymous” as they think.
Please remember than when some of you more immature and rabid commentors get yourself ramped up into complete idiocy. I will use my little garbage can to dump you when I wade through the garbage and decide it’s simply too stupid to keep up. But be aware that the person whose leg you’re chewing on can track you down and sue you personally and you might be able to get away with claiming “opinion,” or “temporary insanity,” or something, but you really gotta ask, Is my momentary juvenile raging rant worth the possible hassle of being dragged into a real court? Naw.
Anyway, great piece. I urge you to check it out. One of the strongest points made is by Dan Blackburn (CalCoastNews) is that when people completely lose their marbles and force a website to completely cut off all comment, then everybody loses in the vital give and take of free speech. So, to some of the sillier of the people who regularly log on here to froth at the mouth and chew on one another’s legs, keep that in mind. Abuse that privilege and you’ll lose your voice altogether. So, play tough, but play fair.