Where did my well water go?
Our supervisors are rapidly marching towards approving a cannabis ordinance that will significantly impact our wells and ground water at the same time that officials are asking for voluntary reductions in water use.
According to the Napa County 9111 report, published in 2020, cannabis uses at least six times the amount of water compared to grapes per crop. The draft cannabis ordinance has targeted 65,000 acres for commercial cannabis development without analyzing the cumulative impact all that cannabis will have on our precious groundwater.
If you rely on well water, it is imperative that you start logging your well water availability now. Your well log will be your only defense against a commercial cannabis grow in your neighborhood that sucks everyone’s well dry.
Look to other counties’ cannabis regulation
Sonoma County wants to be a mecca for outdoor cannabis cultivation, boasting that people prefer Sonoma County weed because of soil and climate. Yet they bring in external soil, discard spent soil and shield plants from our natural climate in hoop houses or greenhouses. The proposed new ordinance will attract big players from out of state. Do we want 20+ acre mega grows like in Santa Barbara and Humboldt Counties, outcompeting our local growers?
No other Bay Area county allows outdoor cannabis cultivation for good reasons. Odor can drift thousands of feet, impacting wineries and requiring neighbors to remain indoors with windows closed. 24/7 commercial activity with many workers further destroys neighborhoods, and fields of white plastic hoop houses mar our hillsides. This is in addition to huge negative environmental impacts of extensive water and electrical usage, and increased traffic and people in high fire prone areas.
Our county can do much better in revising its cannabis ordinance to streamline for local growers, protect residents, environment and visual impacts, by conducting a proper EIR to determine suitable areas and conditions for responsibly growing cannabis. Yet our planning commissioners want to accept this new ordinance acknowledging that environmental review is lacking.
Looking at the cannabis ordinance
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in their original 2016 cannabis ordinance promised that cannabis growing “would not be detrimental to health, safety, welfare or materially injurious to properties or improvements in the vicinity.” This is being sidelined in the new draft ordinance proposals. Gone will be any ability for neighbors to have input into permits.
The cannabis industry successfully lobbied for a much easier permitting process. In the draft ordinance cannabis, permitting will now be directed by the Ag Commissioner instead of a more rigorous process with Permit Sonoma. 65,000 acres will be open to cannabis growing, eclipsing wine grapes at 60,000 acres.
Little is being done to check environmental impacts. Water usage, estimated to be at least seven times that of the wine industry, is not being addressed. Nothing is being done to ensure that smells caused by growing the plants will be monitored and mitigated. Grows are allowed a mere 300 feet from neighboring structures.
If this new ordinance is allowed to go into effect in its current reiteration, the rural character that we love in Sonoma County will vanish.
Let the Board of Supervisors know that this is not the correct direction for Sonoma County.
Bodega Bay Fire needs help
Bodega Bay is a unique and special place and always will be. And it needs your help. Bodega Bay Fire Protection District is in dire straits and needs a permanent solution. It is on the verge of failure. For years the district has done so much with so little; fiscally that cannot continue.
Bodega Bay’s firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are the best, well trained, courageous and courteous yet poorly paid and leaving. The department has lost two highly qualified and valued paramedics in the last 30 days and likely to lose another, so personnel go from 12 to nine. Staffing on duty was four; soon it will be reduced to three. Recruiting calls go unanswered for opportunities elsewhere have better benefits, job stability and prospects. This does not bode well for residents and visitors to the Bodega Bay and the Sonoma Coast as their safety and security are placed in jeopardy.
The Board of Directors have declared a fiscal emergency and are studying staff and service area reductions. Astonishingly 80% of emergency calls are for visitors. Also the nearest hospital is 35 minutes away so qualified paramedic personnel is essential to keep the transport alive to arrival at the hospital. Firefighters, EMTs and paramedics don’t work from home, never have, never will. They are the ones who show up after you call 911. Or one hopes. I fear the day when with crew and services stretched so thin that people’s lives are impacted. It is not a matter of if.
I have lived in Bodega Bay 23 years and look forward to another 23 years. I beseech the Board of Supervisors to put on their agenda Bodega Bay’s precarious funding position to allow consolidation with Sonoma County Fire. This will keep visitors and residents safe when that 911 call is made.
Bodega Bay Fire Protection District Board