ALERT: Board of Supervisors determined to destroy our watersheds

Hopkins has snuck this in after the Sonoma Clean Power debacle and postponement. Least transparent government determined to do what they want. It’s a double punch to our resources in this county by deforestation and dewatering our county with biomass and 65,000 acres of water thirsty cannabis. 

Biomass?!: Board of Supervisors, Feb. 23, Agenda item # 19

Written by friend of healthy Watersheds

I wrote to you recently in connection to the sign-on letter destined for the Board of Sonoma Clean Power at their next meeting on April 1.

I’m sorry to say that something else has come up in the meantime, and we only just heard about it.  Tomorrow morning, Feb. 23, the County Board of Supervisors will be considering a Vegetation Management and Planning document which would seem to set us on a disastrous course in the wrong direction.

For example, here is a paragraph which raises major red flags: “While the majority of Sonoma’s hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and woodlands can produce valuable wood products or biomass feedstock, the county currently lacks an active market to exchange or even price these resources.59 In particular, full-scale mechanical thinning produces significant quantities of smaller woody material unsuitable for use in wood products but potentially appropriate for use in low-carbon biomass energy production, but there is limited infrastructure to collect and transport this material and no local facility to use it.60 As a result, much of this material is either not thinned or is thinned and left on-site, and increasingly burned on-site, since dry downed slash is itself a fire hazard. While direct development of a biomass energy facility is likely beyond the scale of the settlement funds, the other governance and long-term funding structures initiated with settlement funds could provide the consistent flow of biomass from vegetation management projects needed to support a facility and/or market.”

Here below are my email comments just submitted.

If you have time to participate and comment at tomorrow’s Board meeting please do!  It begins at 8:30 am but this issue is #19.  I don’t know how long it will take to get to it.

2. JOIN THE ZOOM MEETING: Participate by computer, tablet, or smartphone application:
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Participate by phone: Dial +1 (669) 900 9128
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PUBLIC COMMENT: Public Comment may be made via email or during the live zoom meeting. To submit an emailed public comment to the Board email Please provide your name, the agenda number(s) on which you wish to speak, and your comment. These comments will be emailed to all Board members. Public comment during the meeting can be made live by joining the Zoom meeting using the above provided information. Available time for comments is determined by the Board Chair based on agenda scheduling demands and total number of speakers.

Dear Board of Supervisors

I am deeply alarmed by and concerned about the emphasis in this CLEE report on clearing of vegetation and creating a viable market for “wood products or biomass feedstock” for biomass energy production in Sonoma County.

Over 500 scientists around the world wrote to world leaders in February 2021,  urging them “not to undermine both climate goals and the world’s biodiversity by shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees to generate energy.”  Burning wood for energy has been shown to release more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than burning coal, also emitting dangerous toxins including carcinogens such as benzene and dioxins.  It is not clean, not carbon neutral and not renewable.

This CLEE report barely mentions home hardening, yet home hardening has been shown to be the most significant way to protect homes from the flying embers which have caused most of the disastrous home fires of the past few years.  Home hardening and creating defensible space immediately around homes and communities would do more to protect homes than vegetation management further from homes, and could create more and better jobs. Every cent spent on vegetation measures is money lost to home hardening projects and to projects that promote truly sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind plus storage.

Please see the attached letter which was sent by 10 organizations and 90 individuals to the Board of Sonoma Clean Power for their February 4 meeting.  The references in this letter substantiate my comments above and link directly to scientific reports which explain them in depth and in detail.

If we go down the route laid out in this paper, there is a real danger that we will do disastrous and long-lasting, even permanent, damage to Sonoma County’s forest ecosystems and wildlife by logging and extraction that is already taking place on a massive scale, do little to protect homes from fire, and only exacerbate the climate crisis.

Please read the attached letter.  And please take some time to watch this film, which although set in the eastern USA is equally applicable here:

J. B. (Name withheld for privacy)