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Valley Ford dairy demonstrates carbon farming solution to an international audience

September 2018

This September, Governor Jerry Brown held an international event in San Francisco to bring attention and renew commitment to solutions to the climate crisis. The Global Climate Action Summit touched on all sectors of society that send greenhouse gas emissions into the air. The California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted a two-day affiliate event in Sonoma County to highlight the role that working lands play in reversing the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

In the first day, agricultural producers, business leaders and policy makers from around the world gathered at La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard in Windsor. Attendees learned about the need to scale up climate smart agricultural practices that cut greenhouse gas emissions, capture carbon from the atmosphere, and store it in the soil. Scaling up means that farmers and ranchers need partnership, investment, research and technical assistance to achieve the climate goals that the global community has established. In the words of the Secretary of California Department of Agriculture, Karen Ross: “These collaborations are essential for progress, and they must cut across the food chain, all the way from farms to consumers.”

Partnerships were on display for day two of the event when attendees traveled to the coast to visit Ocean Breeze Dairy in Valley Ford and Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales, CA. Ocean Breeze Dairy and the Gary Bordessa Dairy make up the multi-generational Bordessa Family Dairy, whose business model focuses on grass-fed, certified organic milk production. Jarrid and Jackie Bordessa, owners of Ocean Breeze Dairy, have decided to take their commitment to the land another step further. They recently partnered with the Gold Ridge RCD and the Carbon Cycle Institute to write a Carbon Farm Plan, a guiding document to managing carbon resources.

Changes to the Bordessa’s operation—like applying compost, planting vegetation along the creeks, and alternative manure management practices—can remove carbon from the atmosphere where it can do harm warming the planet and build carbon stores in the soil and in vegetation. These practices also provide multiple benefits to the dairy operation as they advance soil health, improve riparian habitat, increase range production and boost soil water holding capacity.

Organic Valley, the dairy company that Ocean Breeze Dairy sells its milk to, also has their focus on climate. At the affiliate event, Organic Valley announced the company’s deepened commitment to climate smart agriculture. “As leaders in food and farming, it is our responsibility to pioneer change for good,” says Jonathan Reinbold, the company’s head of sustainability. Committed to being part of the climate solution, Organic Valley, in partnership with Annie’s Organics, has already financed the development of three Carbon Farm Plans in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, but in 2018, this initiative will be expanded to other California farmers. From there, Organic Valley can explore how to bring Carbon Farm Planning to their other farmers across the country.

Carbon Farm planning and implementation funding provided by USDA’s NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program and CDFA’s Healthy Soils Initiative.

Top right: Ocean Breeze Dairy is featured at the "Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture" affiliate event to the Global Climate Action Summit on September 12, 2018. Photo credit: Isabel French Photography

Below left: Compost produced at a neighboring ranch has been heated and is ready to be spread one half-inch thick onto select pastures at Ocean Breeze Dairy. Photo credit: Isabel French Photography

Below right: Holstein dairy cattle will trample the applied compost into the soil, feeding soil microbes and activating the carbon cycle. Photo credit: Isabel French Photography

 

Past News

 

Cider Apple Farm Revives Heirloom Orchard and Plans for a Changing Future

August 2018

On Wednesday, August 8, members of the apple farming community gathered in Sebastopol around a vanguard in the local movement for innovative orchard management: Apple Bottom Farm.
Ned Lawton, owner of Apple Bottom Farm and Founder of Ethic Ciders, was excited to greet the group of 45 or so attendees at the Farmer-to-Farmer Field Day event organized by the Farmers Guild. The attendees, many of whom were either apple farmers or cider industry professionals, were eager to hear from Apple Bottom Farm’s team about their explorations of climate-adapted cider apple varieties. The management team strives for “farming as stewardship.” This effort is supported by a carbon farm plan, recently completed in partnership with the Gold Ridge RCD.

Lawton explained that behind the efforts at Apple Bottom Farm is his mission to keep Sonoma County apple agriculture alive and thriving. He recognized that in order to do so, their farm would need to produce something truly significant. The result: local, sustainable, exquisite cider. Lawton and his wife are first-generation farmers with a desire to bring their family and friends closer to nature. In 2015, two years after the purchase of the two-and-a-half-acre organic heirloom apple farm, a cidery emerged.  Ethic Ciders, a cidery “rooted in relationship to the land,” was born. Ned and his wife Michele Lawton felt that delicious cider would be the avenue for revitalizing both the apple orchard itself and their community’s relationship to the land. Read more >>

 

Soil Health in North Coast Gets Big Boost from National Conservation Innovation Grant Award

August 2018

On July 26, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD), Gold Ridge RCD, Mendocino RCD, and Sonoma RCD, partners in the North Coast Soil Health Hub (SoilHub.org), were one of 22 groups in the nation to be awarded the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant. The highly competitive award will bring $389,432 to the North Coast of California. Funds will support the growth of the Soil Health Hub and associated outreach to grape growers about the fundamentals of soil health, practices that impact soil health, and the role of soil health in enhanced crop production and as a solution for the region’s resource concerns, such as drought and water quality. The Conservation Innovation Grant funds will be matched dollar for dollar by local funds secured by the RCDs.

The funding will allow the RCDs to continue offering their current soil health assessment service to growers and monitoring regional vineyard soil health demonstrations. Additionally, the funding will allow the RCDs to work with University of Oregon to develop a regionally specific tool to aid interpretation of soil health assessment results for California’s North Coast vineyards. At the end of the project, RCDs and growers will have a better understanding of which soil management practices have the greatest potential to improve soil health and vineyard productivity.

Across the nation, USDA awarded more than $10.6 million to 22 projects through the Conservation Innovation Grant program to address three priorities: grazing lands, organic agriculture systems, and soil health. “Through our Conservation Innovation Grants, we are able to bring together a wide array of groups to drive innovation and spur cutting-edge projects,” said Bill Northey, USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “This year’s competition resulted in an impressive array of proposals that will ultimately benefit the people who grow our food and fiber.”

See the full list of this year’s Conservation Innovation Grant projects.

 

Sonoma & Gold Ridge RCDs Add Forester to the Team

July 2018
The Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs recently jointly hired a forester to serve the entire county of Sonoma. The following article is from Sonoma RCD's June newsletter.

The RCD is excited to welcome Jason Wells, a Registered Professional Forester (RPF), to our staff team. Since the wildfires of October 2017, it has become increasingly apparent that the landowners and communities of Sonoma County need more resources to assist with forest and fuel load management. The Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs teamed up to garner funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, through the National Association of Conservation Districts, to launch a new position focused providing on forestry technical assistance.

Jason Wells, a California Registered Professional Forester (RPF), comes to us with six years of experience in private industry throughout Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. His experience includes writing CEQA equivalent Timber Harvest Plan documents, integrating knowledge of forest operations with environmental impact mitigations, silviculture (applied forest ecology), forest health and protection, economics of forest management, and road design and layout. Jason has also been certified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) to conduct archaeological surveys for plans in which CALFIRE is lead agency. Born and raised in Petaluma, he graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Forestry with an emphasis in Forest Conservation.

At the RCD, Jason will provide technical and planning assistance to landowners, help build a forestry program capable of addressing vegetation and fuels management concerns throughout the county, as well as address post-fire recovery efforts. If you are an owner of forestland in Sonoma County with questions about forest management, Jason would love to hear from you! He can provide as-needed technical advice, forest management planning, and will also be looking to identify potential forest management and fuel load reduction projects for future grant funding. Jason can be reached at 707-569-1448 x107, or jwells@sonomarcd.org.

 

 


Ombudsman Hired to Assist Septic Owners and Operators in Lower River Communities

May 2018

In partnership with the County of Sonoma, the Gold Ridge and Sonoma Resource Conservation Districts have hired an ombudsman to provide residents of the lower Russian River with assistance and support regarding changing septic system regulations.

Septic systems, also known as Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS), have been in the news quite a bit lately. In order to combat pathogen pollution concerns, State policies have been updated and County standards for OWTS are being revised. These revisions will change the way OWTS are regulated in Sonoma County, and you may be wondering how the changes will affect you. While the regulations are still evolving, neighborhoods and communities in the lower Russian River area will be affected in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, making sense of all the laws, manuals and acronyms is no easy task – and for the many residents who depend on OWTS, it can be hard to know where to start. To that end, there is now a resource that is dedicated to providing communities with resources and support regarding the OWTS issue.

David Wood was recently hired as the Lower Russian River Ombudsman. Ombudsmen are hired to work in a variety of institutions – from governmental to educational to private organizations – but their essential function is to provide unbiased assistance to individuals with concerns about a specific issue. As a non-regulatory, informational resource, David’s job is to assist residents of the lower Russian River area with OTWS related issues. Specifically, David can help with questions about regulations, provide confidential information to residents about their septic systems and identify grants and other financial assistance opportunities to help them with upgrades or improvements. David will also be tracking other issues related to water quality in the lower Russian River, so that he can help interested residents learn more about how OWTS fit into the larger picture. If you live in the lower Russian River area, David can help. Russian River Ombudsman >>

David can be reached by phone at 707-806-4723 or by email at david@goldridgercd.org. He has drop-in office hours on Wednesdays between 3:00pm and 7:00pm, and on Thursdays between 9:00am and 12:00pm. He is available on other business days and Saturdays by appointment and will be attending local meetings and community events related to this issue. His office is located at 9925 Main Street, Monte Rio, CA 95462, next to the Monte Rio Amphitheater. If you have an upcoming community event or neighborhood meeting that you would like David to attend, please contact him.

 

Plant Oaks on Your Property

January 2018

The California Native Plant Society has collected hundreds of acorns from across the county this past fall. They are partnering with local organizations like the Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs to get area-specific acorns and oak seedlings planted by local landowners.

Why Plant Oaks? This effort to promote oaks was inspired by the loss of oak trees during the October fires. However, the consortium of organizations working together to promote oak planting sees a value beyond simply replacing lost oaks: newly planted oaks can also be part of an effort to enhance existing and historic oak woodland, to help return landscapes to the native ecology, and to plant “legacy” trees that will be here for our families and community far into the future.

Direct-Seed Acorns: Acorns are being kept in cold storage, and many species are ready to be planted this winter. Receive acorn species that match your area.

Plant Seedlings: Several local nurseries are propagating oaks into seedlings. These seedlings will be available to landowners by Fall 2018.

Instructions: Advice for planting and protecting oaks can be found from our partner, Napa County RCD online here. And here from the CA Dept of Forestry.

Contact Us: If you would like to plant acorns or oak seedlings on your property, please contact Adriana at Adriana@GoldRidgeRCD.org or call (707) 823-5244.

 

Headlines in Healthy Soils News

August 2017

Healthy Soils Program Seeks Farmers to Apply for Funding

California’s much-anticipated Healthy Soils Program officially launched August 8 with the release of the first Request for Grant Applications (RGA) by the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA). The deadline for applications is 5pm on September 19th. The first of its kind in the country, the program will provide grants to farmers and ranchers for implementing on-farm practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or store carbon in soil, trees and shrubs. Types of practices that will be eligible include the addition of mulch and compost, cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the planting of herbaceous and woody plants such as windbreaks, hedgerows, riparian plantings, filter strips, silvopasture and more.

Read more about Healthy Soils Funding >>

New Soil Health Hub Supports Climate Beneficial Practices in North Bay

This year, RCDs from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino County, NRCS, UC Research and Extension Centers and other partners collaborated as the North Coast Soil Health Hub with funding from the CDFA Specialty Crop Block Grant to create an information-sharing network that would support farmers in improving their soil health. The network is currently laying the groundwork for soil health demonstrations, workshops with industry specialists, farmer-to-farmer forum discussions, an online resource library and more. The RCDs invite farmers to access and contribute to resources and discussions online at the North Coast Soil Health Hub.

Read more about the North Coast Soil Health Hub >>

Attention Grapegrowers: RCD Needs Your Input on Soil Health

Vineyard Soil Health Survey
For vineyards in the North Coast region of CA, what does soil health mean? Gold Ridge RCD, along with the regional RCDs, NRCS, and others, are in the early stages of a grant-funded project to generate discussion, demos, and science on soil health and soil carbon as it relates to vineyards in our region.

The survey is the first step in understanding what climate beneficial practices can be expanded on our region's vineyards. Please take this survey to tell us what types of soil health practices are being used (e.g. cover crop, compost application), what types of soil health practices are difficult to implement, and what types of soil health practices grapegrowers are curious to learn more about. In the next year, the regional RCDs will be setting up 3 soil health demo sites in Napa Valley, hosting workshops, and offering free soil health assessments to growers. Stay posted on these efforts via the new North Coast Soil Health Hub website.

Access the survey >>

Gold Ridge RCD and the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency

May 2017

In 2014, the state of California adopted The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 ("the Act" or "SGMA"). While the Act is a complex piece of legislation, its primary goals are:

• To ensure that the significant groundwater basins in California (those designated as high and medium priority by the Department of Water Resources) are "sustainably managed,"
• To provide local groundwater agencies with the authority and the technical and financial assistance necessary to sustainably manage groundwater.

To achieve its stated goal of sustainability, the Act requires that Groundwater Sustainability Agencies ("GSAs") be in place in each significant basin by June 30, 2017. The GSAs are then required to adopt Groundwater Sustainability Plans ("GSPs") by January 31, 2022.

There are three medium priority basins in Sonoma County: the Petaluma Basin, the Santa Rosa Plain Basin and the Sonoma Valley Basin.

Why is Gold Ridge RCD involved?
At our April 20, 2017 board meeting our Board of Directors approved our involvement as a voting member for the Santa Rosa Plain Basin GSA, the only medium priority basin within our district. The RCD is not required to be involved in the local GSAs. We have been hearing from our community that they want the RCD to help represent the ideas and needs of well owners in the Santa Rosa Plain. We have taken very seriously our decision to participate and the investment in time and money that is required to do so.

We chose to be involved for two key reasons:

1. We believe that our work over the last 75 years working closely with hundreds of groundwater users gives us an understanding of their issues and concerns. We can be a voice for those concerns on the governing board of the GSA.

2. We believe that we are part of the solution to effective groundwater management. We are focused on working with local landowners, using a science-based approach, and advocating for voluntary approaches to key aspects of the implementation of future Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Our experience in implementing on the ground conservation projects, monitoring groundwater levels, and working with local communities aligns us to help implement future solutions to potential groundwater issues. The RCD can effectively bridge environmental concerns with the pragmatic needs of groundwater users.

Have your voice be heard:
We know there is concern in the community about the formation of the GSAs and many of the unknowns, including future potential regulations and fees. We encourage you to get involved in future groundwater sustainability agencies by attending a future board meeting. We will continue to listen to community concerns at the RCD, and work to represent your vital interests.

Listening Sessions
May 18, 2017 | 5:40pm | Gold Ridge RCD Office
You can share your comments, ideas and concerns at our first listening session, scheduled for May 18, 2017 at 5:40pm at the Gold Ridge RCD office, directly after our monthly Board of Directors meeting. We will continue to listen to community concerns at the RCD, and work to represent your vital interests. You can also email your thoughts to groundwater@goldridgercd.org.

Apply to the Gold Ridge RCD Appointee to the Santa Rosa Plain GSA Advisory Committee
Applications due June 23, 2017
The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) has the ability to appoint one member to the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SRPGSA) Advisory Committee. The Gold Ridge RCD would like to appoint a groundwater user within our District who is reliant on and knowledgeable of groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain Basin. If no applicants are suitable, the Board may appoint one of the RCD staff to serve in this role; however, it is the preference of the RCD that a community member to take this seat. Click to apply.

Apply to the SRPGSA's Seven Interest-Based Seats
There will also be an opportunity to apply directly to the SRPGSA for the seven interest-based seats to be announced after the first SRPGSA Board Meeting on June 1, 2017.

For more information on upcoming GSA meetings and additional information go to: www.sonomacountygroundwater.org

Are You In An Affected Groundwater Basin? There is a tool on the California Department of Water Resources website that can help you determine the basin where your property is located. Go to https://gis.water.ca.gov/app/gicima/.

For resources on conditions of groundwater in your basins go to:
Santa Rosa Plain: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/srgroundwater/
Sonoma Valley: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/svgroundwater/
Petaluma: https://ca.water.usgs.gov/projects/2012-02.html

Groundwater Basin Maps
The three basins immediately affected by SGMA are below. Clicking each link will provide a detailed map of the groundwater basin:
Santa Rosa Plain/Santa Rosa Valley
Petaluma Valley
Sonoma Valley


Fallen Wood in the Creek

March 2017

Why Leave Fallen Wood? Any strong storm can bring down trees, but after four years of drought, this winter we are seeing an especially large number of trees come down. It’s important to know that when trees fall into creeks, they become part of the creek channel in the eyes of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fallen trees, as they sit, tumble and turn within the creek, are nature’s creek-architects: they shape the creek’s bed and banks, the way the creek meanders, and how sediment and floating wood debris within the creek move or accumulate; fallen wood also becomes home and shelter to a variety of aquatic wildlife, and in particular, salmon and steelhead.

What About Removal? Large wood is critical to the health of a creek for these reasons, but in some cases, it can conflict with the needs of the creekside landowner. Large fallen wood can sometimes divert the stream’s energy toward a bank, posing a threat of bank failure or other damage, or may have caused serious damage at the time it fell. These might be reasons why a landowner would feel the need to remove fallen wood that lies within a creek channel.

Permitting: If you do need to remove wood from a stream, you first need to notify the Department of Fish and Wildlife by filing for a Lake or Streambed Alteration (1600 LSA) permit. As mentioned above, wood changes the creek’s bed and banks when it falls in; by removing it, a landowner is also causing change. The Gold Ridge RCD can assist landowners in filling out a 1600 LSA permit.

For landowners who encounter an emergency need to remove fallen wood, they have 14 days after the removal to file an Emergency 1600 LSA permit notification. Please read the instructions for this permit closely to be sure your situation qualifies as an emergency.

Before You Remove Wood...Take notice of any large wood situated in your creek. Some pieces of wood are part of structures that have been installed and secured to improve fish habitat by the RCD. If you are removing fallen wood, please do not remove these structures or other pieces of wood that pose no threat to property. Above is a photo of one of the RCD’s many large wood debris installation projects.

Learn more about the habitat and watershed benefits of fallen wood in our creeks.

Got Runoff? RCD Hosts Stormwater Workshop for Local Residents

Wednesday, March 15th, 6-8pm
Apple Blossom School, 700 Watertrough Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Free to the public

See the Event Flyer!

The copious rain delivered by recent storms is a drastic change after five consecutive years of drought, and the soil is beyond saturated! We understand that it is hard to manage lots of water and so in response have put together a workshop to offer ideas on how to manage winter runoff.

How can we make the most of rain, protect soil from erosion and landslides, prevent potholes, increase infiltration to water tables and prepare for future drought? Join Gold Ridge and Sonoma RCDs and partners for a tradeshow-style workshop that explains good water stewardship practices.

You will have access to experts and information on where to get the tools or help you need. We'll cover a suite of projects that store, slow, spread and sink stormwater, including rainwater catchment, permeable paving, rain gardens, earth works, and more. Bring your questions, ideas, and concerns about managing water on your property. We hope to see you there!

Presenters: Gold Ridge RCD, Harmony Farm Supply, Permaculture Artisans, Sonoma Master Gardeners, Daily Acts

BONUS! Attend a tour of Permaculture Artisans’ stormwater-wise demonstration projects, Saturday, March 18th, 10am-12pm. RSVP: Call Sebastian Bertsch at (707) 824-0836. Permaculture Skills Center is located at 2185 Gravenstein Hwy S, Sebastopol, CA 95472

Want to learn more? Read the Slow It, Spread It, Sink It, Store It! guide to stormwater management and others online. Go to http://goldridgercd.org/htm/water-stewardship-guides.htm

Emergency Meeting Addresses Green Valley Road Flooding

February 2017

Gold Ridge RCD has been working with the community to identify a solution to the chronic flooding of Green Valley Creek across Green Valley Road just outside Graton, CA. Local organizations have conducted and presented studies of the causes of flooding and potential short- and long-term solutions. Due to the severity of this year’s wet weather, the rate of sedimentation has increased to the point where most of the water in Green Valley Creek is going across the road, and the creek is abandoning is existing channel and establishing a new channel through the vineyard. The Sonoma County Water Agency, which is responsible for flood control, has determined that immediate action is required. An emergency meeting on February 10th, hosted by Gold Ridge RCD, updated residents on the situation and heard their concerns. Read more about the issue here.

New Video: The Making of the Salmon Creek Dairy Water Conservation Project

January 2017

NEW VIDEO - We are pleased to share a new video that shows the teamwork and mission around the 2015-2016 Salmon Creek Dairy Water Conservation Project -- a 1.4 million gallon rainwater harvesting system that conserves water for agricultural use and the wildlife of Bodega, CA.
Big thanks to our project partners: North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Coast Resources Partnership through the California Department of Water Resources, Prunuske Chatham, Inc., Schaefer Engineering, Inc., Salmon Creek Watershed Council, Richard and Marilyn Hughes and Straus Family Creamery.

North Bay RCDs and Partners Plan for Climate Change on Vineyards

November 2016

Hosted at the beautiful SRJC Shone Farm, the Gold Ridge, Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa RCDs, the USDA's NRCS Ukiah Office, UCCE Mendocino and the Santa Rosa Junior College came together this November to discuss current research on vineyard climate-beneficial practices for our region.

These might include timed irrigation/fertigation to increase nitrogen uptake by vines, compost application, hedgerow planting, cover cropping and grazing, reduced an non-tillage, and more. These practices are being examined for their ability to sequester carbon dioxide, retain water, reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, amendments and pesticides, and maintain grape quality and quantity. This meeting will help inform the RCDs as they start assisting vineyards to create LandSmart Carbon Farm Plans.

See the presentations from this workshop. Learn more about the RCD's role in Carbon Farm Planning here.

RCD Hosts Public Meeting Regarding Flooding on Green Valley Road

November 2016

Gold Ridge RCD has been working with the community to identify a solution to the chronic flooding of Green Valley Creek across Green Valley Road just outside Graton, CA. Local organizations have conducted and presented studies of the causes of flooding and potential short- and long-term solutions. Gold Ridge RCD will not be funding or managing flood mitigation projects; instead, it has played a role in facilitating the research and development of mitigation solutions.

A public meeting was held November 17th, 5:30-6:45pm at the Oak Grove Elementary School Gymnasium. This meeting was a follow up to our last public meeting on October 14, 2015, and an opportunity to hear about the progress made since we last met.

More information about flooding on Green Valley Road can be found here.

Duckworth Ranch Outing Brings Families in Touch with the Wild

November 2016

On November 5th, Gold Ridge RCD hosted an Agricultural Heritage outing to Duckworth Ranch, a property protected from development by a conservation easement of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

Hiking the relic black oak woods, sneaking a peak in Blucher Creek, taking in incredible watershed views, practicing spinning wool into yarn and dining on the Duckworth's bursting blueberry cobbler, attendees got a close look at the Duckworth's cherished ranch.

Like in all Agricultural Heritage outings, attendees heard directly from their local farmer why keeping ag in our human culture is so valuable: it supports working families, yields fresh and flavorful produce, keeps our lands green, and keeps our community connected to the earth. On this outing though, the value of responsible farming to wildlife in particular was obvious. We saw hawks, Canada geese, songbirds, the hole of a gopher snake, snags fit for turkey vultures and owls, cold and clear water hospitable to otters and fish, narrow deer trails, and the healthy pasture that feeds the Duckworth's large sheep herd.

Willow Creek Tributary Tour

in collaboration with the Russian River Confluence

September 2016

The Russian River Confluence, being held in Spring of 2017, is a landmark event to celebrate the Russian River watershed and deepen partnerships to ensure the watershed's future as a clean, thriving, and long-lasting foundation to our communities' well being. Leading up to the event are a series of tributary events structured to explore the many tributaries to the Russian River. Willow Creek is the westernmost tributary, feeding into the river before it empties into the Pacific Ocean at Jenner, CA.

Photo courtesy of LandPaths

Willow Creek Fog River

September 24th, 11am-3pm, Gold Ridge RCD, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and California State Parks will host a public tour of the Willow Creek watershed. Our tour of one of Sonoma County's most beautiful natural landscapes will focus on native Pomo life, improvements to salmon habitat in Willow Creek and the dramatic connection between upland forest and sea. Watershed health, local ecology and the checkered history of the watershed will be discussed as we drive to the site and hike the canyons.

Register here>>

Gold Ridge and Marin RCDs Seek Rangeland Specialist

August 2016

The Gold Ridge and Marin Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), are hiring a Rangeland Specialist. The Rangeland Specialist will assist the RCDs in engaging agricultural producers as ecosystem stewards to provide on-farm ecological benefits, improve agricultural productivity, enhance agroecosystem resilience, and mitigate global climate change through a planning and implementation process known as “Carbon Farming.” The goal is to develop two countywide agricultural carbon sequestration programs with producer outreach, and technical and economic support, and to serve as a model for other regions. Applications for the position are due August 15th, 2016. The position begins October 1, 2016.

RCD Rangeland Specialist Application PDF

For more information contact Brittany Jensen at Brittany@GoldRidgeRCD.org

Bodega Land Trust Hosts Water-Minded Event for Salmon Creek Community

August 2016

On July 10, the Bodega Land Trust with Gold Ridge RCD hosted a worskshop called "Water Conservation and Groundwater Recharge" for the Salmon Creek Watershed. Recent UC Berkeley Ph.D. recipient and author Cleo Woelfle-Erskine shared his research on groundwater/surface water interactions and effects on salmon in the Salmon Creek watershed. He spoke to the history of use: residents of Salmon Creek Watershed today use 5 times the amount of water they did in 1980, due to an increase in the number of households in the watershed. Cleo’s research has highlighted the importance of groundwater in providing drinking water, but groundwater is also what keeps streams flowing through the summer dry season. Currently, salmonids are fighting for survival in scarce water. These fish are born and seek sanctuary in even the smallest of coastal streams, and can only survive if there is plentiful cold, oxygenated water. Local knowledge is critical to protecting and enhancing salmon populations. The curiosity and participation of locals in "citizen science" -- such as collecting and recording data such as summer mapping of wet and dry stream reaches, monitoring wells, and counting juvenile fish -- can significantly aid our understanding of what it takes to keep salmon and the multispecies community that flourishes with them. See Cleo’s presentation here.

Gold Ridge RCD Lead Scientist John Green offered water-saving solutions for watershed residents using the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra. REDUCE: Too often water is lost through inefficient use, and ample rainwater that could be stored for use later is converted to runoff by pipes, channels, roads, and gutters. The water that we need so badly in the summer is swiftly drained from the landscape in the winter rainy season, shooting down impervious surfaces, carrying pollutants like soil, fertilizers and car oil, undermining roads and eroding stream banks as it heads to the ocean. REUSE: Catching and storing clean rainwater before it hits the ground is a practical solution for meeting non-potable water demand year-round. Rainwater capture and storage comes in many forms—from a simple barrel at the end of your home’s downspout, to an impressive 50,000 gallons stocked in a steel tank, to a discreet pillow tank laid below your deck. RECYCLE: In a place that experiences annual drought, using water multiple times and recycling water back into the watershed by recharge makes a good deal of sense. Greywater systems enable residents to send their laundry water out to garden planters, and permeable landscaping and well-planned drainage settles and absorbs water instead of removing it. “Slow it, store it, spread it, sink it” is a motto all Salmon Creek residents could adopt. See John’s presentation here.

Karl Andersen, a Bodega landowner who partnered with the RCD on a rainwater system at his home in 2010, shared his experience. Karl demystified the construction and use of a rainwater system for the average resident and explained how having an alternative source of water impacts both water use and awareness of water on the landscape.

Thank you to all who attended!


NRCS Chief Celebrates Sonoma County Venture Conservation Partnership

June 2016

On May 6, Pepperwood Preserve hosted the kick-off meeting for Sonoma County's Venture Conservation, which was recently awarded 8 million dollars through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The kickoff included a special field tour attended by NRCS Chief Jason Weller, visiting from Washington, DC, and the NRCS State Conservationist for California, Carlos Suarez.


Core partners of Sonoma County Venture Conservation include Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs, NRCS, Pepperwood Dwight Center for Conservation Science, Sonoma County Water Agency and a Technical Advisory Committee of thirty organizations.


"This project is about fulfilling your vision," said Weller. He continued by telling the group that they had brought together an impressive constellation of partners representing research, science and agriculture to sustain both agriculture and open space. "I do a lot of travelling and I am very impressed by what you have assembled here-you guys in Sonoma are innovators."


The goal of the Sonoma County Venture Conservation partnership is to create a platform for large-scale, coordinated conservation action in our county including identifying high priority conservation easements and projects to improve water supply and quality and enhance wildlife habitat on local agricultural lands. The partnership will leverage local knowledge, funding, and resources with RCPP funding to match federal funds 2:1.


Stay tuned for more details on the roll out of this dynamic partnership for Sonoma County!

Hughes Dairy Receives Conservation Award

June 2016

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau awarded Richard and Marilyn Hughes of Westview Jersey Dairy in Bodega, CA, the Luther Burbank Conservation Award for their conservation efforts. The Hughes have converted their Jersey herd to organic, practiced non-tillage pasture management, and recently installed a 1.4 million gallon rainwater catchment pond to conserve water for Salmon Creek's wildlife and human communities. Richard also serves on the Gold Ridge RCD Board of Directors. We are lucky to have his guidance. Congratulations to Richard and Marilyn for their much deserved distinction.
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Sonoma County Partners Publish "Farming for the Future"

May 2016
In April 2016, the Sonoma RCD in partnership with Gold Ridge RCD, USDA-NRCS, Sonoma County Farm Bureau, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, and UCCE released a collaborative standalone insert in the North Bay Business Journal and Press Democrat, illustrating the stories from the land. Highlighting the agricultural heritage of Sonoma County and the phenomenal stewardship efforts of our local landowners to conserve, restore and protect our natural resources while driving our local economy, supporting our local food system, and providing for the next generation. "We are honored to work in partnership with many innovative stewards of the land who help to protect the beauty and bounty of Sonoma County." Read the full insert online >>


Salmon Creek Dairy Water Conservation and Storage Project

January 2016

Aerial photo of the Hughes Dairy pond One of the year’s largest construction projects is the Salmon Creek Dairy Water Conservation Project on the Westview Jerseys Organic Dairy operated by Richard and Marilyn Hughes in the Salmon Creek Watershed. Dairies are currently both significant water users, forced to draw from sources influencing riparian flows, and integral contributors to the agriculture-based economy of their surrounding communities. This project further advances the RCD’s expanding water conservation program: our goal is to provide immediate benefits to riparian systems while advancing technologies to prepare our communities for a future that has less predictable rainfall patterns.

This water conservation project will transition the dairy’s summertime water source from a shallow creekside well to a rainwater roof-catchment pond. When all is done, the project will harvest winter rainwater caught from the roofs of five structures with sufficient capacity to store the entire summer demand for the organic dairy operation. Implementation of this project addresses the impacts of one of the largest individual water diversions on the mainstem of Salmon Creek. It prevents the extraction of approximately 1,408,000 gallons of water from the stream during the critical summer/fall dry season.

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Rooftop rain collection helps rural Sonoma County residents and salmon

By Guy Kovner for Press Democrat, December 28, 2015

Rain on the roof at Karl Andersen’s home in Bodega is more than a sweet sound of the season after four dry years.

It means he has enough water to irrigate his garden and greenhouse through the next fall, and that, in turn, means more water for the coho salmon in Salmon Creek, which meanders through the near-coast hamlet where Alfred Hitchcock famously filmed “The Birds” in 1963.

Rain runs off Andersen’s roof and through pipes into three green plastic storage tanks that hold a total of 15,000 gallons of water, a valuable amenity in a water-scarce corner of Sonoma County with California now officially in a fifth year of drought.

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Water added to Camp Meeker's Dutch Bill Creek a 'lifesaver' for young fish

By Guy Kovner for Press Democrat, Sept 7, 2015

Thanks to a novel injection of cold, clear water from Camp Meeker’s water system, about 3,400 imperiled coho salmon and steelhead trout have a better chance of surviving in Dutch Bill Creek until rain sweeps them to safety in the Russian River.

Gurgling as it splashed down a narrow, rock-lined channel under towering redwoods, the gift of water to a shrinking creek was hailed last week by a group of officials from state and local agencies committed to saving the fish from the grip of California’s historic drought.

“This is incredibly exciting for me,” said David Hines of the National Marine Fisheries Service, calling the flow “literally a lifesaver” for the juvenile coho and steelhead trapped in pools along the creek that winds along Bohemian Highway to a confluence with the river at Monte Rio.

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Wine, Water, Fish and People--In California, They Go Well Together

By Dave Stalling for Trout Unlimited, Summer 2013

John Mazzera's grandfather started farming along the banks of Grape Creek, high above California's Russian River, in 1948. John first took over in 1960 at the age of 16. At first they grew apples, prunes and kiwis, but grapes eventually became more profitable. John continues to grow zinfandel and merlot.

"In the 1950s and 1960s I used to sit beside the creek and watch steelhead jumping over the waterfall," John recalls.

Like many farmers in the area, the Mazzeras used a flashboard dam in the creek to store and divert water for irrigation and frost protection. For most of the farm's existence, it wasn't an issue. That was before Central California Coast coho salmon were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Central California Coast steelhead trout were listed as threatened. It was before state and federal agencies were required by law to figure out ways to keep more water in the creeks for salmon and steelhead and the needs of fish often became pitted against the needs of farmers. Test.

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