Our County by Lynda Hopkins - March 2017
What a winter we’ve had! I don’t have to tell anyone in the Sonoma County how much damage the persistent flood events and constant rain have done to our road network. It is painfully evident every time we get into our cars and try to reach our destination. What you may not know is that the crews that take care of our roads have been working long days, nights, and weekends for the past two months just responding to emergencies. I could make a very long list of roads with serious slip outs or lane closures – but I’ll focus on a couple of shocking failures.
In our first storm, Cazadero Highway experienced the loss of most of a lane that went into Austin Creek. In the most recent storm, Bohemian Highway lost a lane and will be one lane for the foreseeable future. Both of these roads are important community connectors that impact public safety and daily commutes.
And then there is Green Valley Road, also known by local residents this year as Green Valley Rapids. From the time of the first storms in December, the Atascadero Creek began shifting its course and running over Green Valley Road. Residents are used to the road flooding in winter, but this year it became a daily, and increasingly extreme, occurrence. Unfortunately, in the first week of February, the pavement failed and portions of the road slid off onto adjacent property making the unstable road completely unsafe. A decision was made to close the road, which impacted residents west of the closure – requiring an additional 30-40 minute detour on the two alternate routes from their homes.
Within a day of the closure, Gold Ridge RCD, Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), local landowners, and Public Works convened to discuss emergency repairs. The Sonoma County Water Agency agreed to lead an emergency project to remove sediment from the creek and reroute the flow to its normal channel. Set to go the following week, SCWA received a stop work order from California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) due to the presence of endangered species in the Atascadero Creek. The work requires a “take” permit, which normally requires 2-4 months to issue. To their credit, CDFW made this permit their top priority and is expected to issue the permit soon. I’ve been in communication with staff and residents daily, and we are all doing everything we can to expedite the project.
Fortunately, rains subsided and Public Works was able to assess the road and reopen one lane to traffic. While a long term project to alleviate the flooding is several years out due to permitting and funding, the short term emergency repair should begin by early March. We hope that this will resolve the flooding situation and road closure in the meantime.
Know your rights –
Immigration has been a hot topic over the past few months, and a series of federal executive orders has sent shivers down the spine of many of our 5th District residents. I have received a tremendous outpouring of concern about the effect that increased deportation will have on our community. The fact is that deportation of long-standing, hardworking residents breaks up families – some of whom are American citizens – and disrupts businesses, schools, and other services that our community relies on. If you know someone who is undocumented or has family members who are, make sure that they know their rights.
• Everyone has the right to remain silent – and you do not have to answer questions about your immigration status.
• If you have valid immigration papers, you should show them to requesting officials.
• If Immigration agents come to your home, ask them to show you a warrant. An arrest warrant allows police to enter your home if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is there – a deportation warrant DOES NOT allow officers to enter your home.
• If arrested, you have both the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
• If taken into ICE custody, you have the right to a lawyer, but the government will not provide one for you. Ask for a list of free or low cost legal services, and ask to contact your consulate.
• You may remain silent. Do not sign any papers without speaking to your lawyer.
• Know your immigration case number (“A” number), this will help your family locate you.
First and foremost, remember that you have rights no matter who you are. And remember that you are a valued member of our community, no matter where you come from, what color your skin is, what language you speak, what gender you are, or who you love. I’m proud to represent a beautifully diverse community, and I will fight to preserve that diversity.