Syar Industries, a former Russian River gravel miner and Superior Supplies, a gravel supplier, has entered the Fifth District Supervisorial contest. They gave candidate Lynda Hopkins $15,000 in March 2016 and that is how they entered the Fifth District campaign. Whatever one may conjecture, Syar Industries definitely knows that one vote counts.
The Sonoma County Aggregate Resources Management Plan long called for an end to instream and Terrace pit mining on the Russian River. Syar Industries tried well after County deadlines had passed to continue terrace mining. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors after intense lobbying allowed Syar to resume gravel mining on a 3-2 vote in 2009 in the Russian River terraces. That was “blocked by a Sonoma County Superior Court judge’s ruling that county supervisors exceeded their authority in granting a permit extension to the quarry company.”
Syar was challenged by Russian Riverkeeper, Westside Association to Save Agriculture and North Coast Rivers Alliance according to a November 19, 2009 Press Democrat story. Now, Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Lynda Hopkins has received $7,500 from Syar owners; one lump coming from a “Closed” Napa golf course owned by the Syar family. At the same time, Superior Building Supplies, gravel suppliers, bequeathed an equal donation of $7,500 to Hopkins; $15,000 at one table setting from river rock mining companies.
River residents must be scratching their heads over this one given Hopkins proclaimed love for the Russian River. Hopkins may be a “fresh face” but it is an old staid gravel, construction, Big Wine and real estate money faucet that is funding her campaign. A majority of her contributions flow from out of the District and that has given her the boost she needs. Syar has now apparently found a candidate that is to their liking. Must be the open seat. It has been rare for gravel miners to spread their wealth into the Fifth. Previously, no environmentally conscious Fifth District candidate would take instream gravel mining money.
Perhaps, not so odd. Hopkins’ majority contributions have come from out of the Fifth District and from development interest. She has more contributions from the Fourth District than the Fifth District. Development and real estate political committees have dug deep for Hopkins. Voters and residents should be asking “What’s up with that, Lynda?” It has been demonstrated that one vote on the Board of Supervisors’ counts. That is the knowledge and the reason Syar and development interest are willing to enter the Frey, get skin in the game, set the table in the Fifth. Lots of good, leafy green extraction money to try and capture the Fifth and the third vote. They chose Hopkins.
It is incongruent to see Ms. Hopkins out picking up trash from the lower Russian on Monday and then taking over $15,000 from gravel interest that want to operate in the Middle Reach on Tuesday. The environmental issues from Terrace and instream mining have been well documented. The Board of Supervisors correctly phased out Terrace mining due to these negative environmental impacts. Syar never agreed with the phase out and perhaps have waited for this moment. Whatever the reason for Syar and Superior to enter the Frey in the Fifth, it is probably not good for the environment or the Russian River.
Ernie Carpenter is a political consultant and former Sonoma County Supervisor.