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Jenner Jottings - Tim McKusick - January 2015

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Jenner Jottings - Tim McKusick - January 2015

Holiday Greetings from the Sonoma Coast!

The biggest storm to hit our area in recent years has the Russian River flowing freely, with its brown-tinged plume reaching well out into the grey-blue Pacific.

Tributaries are flowing at their limits as the soils have reached saturation. Trees topple and hillsides slip with each subsequent rain event. Falling trees rip power and telephone lines from their poles (my Timber Cove neighborhood was without phone and DSL service after almost a week!) 

At the height of the initial wave of storms, road culverts and roadside ditches clogged and overflowed in spite of the days of preparation and preventative maintenance performed by our roads maintenance and tree trimming crews.

Mother Nature always has a way of humbling us with her amazing forces. It is easy to see why silt from old logging roads continues to be one of the largest causes of the degradation of native fish habitat. No engineer’s calculations for culvert sizing can match the sheer volume of rain water being unleashed in these increasingly severe weather events. Kudos to the valiant workers that brave the extreme elements to keep our roads open and our lights (and computers) on!

A good example of what we can do to curb the further silting and degradation of spawning stream habitat is being performed by the crews in our Jenner Headlands Preserve. The old logging roads have been eliminated or decommissioned and undersized and improperly installed culverts have been upgraded and replaced. This greatly reduced the amount of erosion and soils run-off that is causing the silting of the streams.

In the Preserve, the headwaters to the vital Coho and Steelhead spawning streams are being restored and healed as well. Obstacles to fish migration are being removed; streamside shade trees are being replanted and Coho Broodstock are being planted in hopes of re-establishing a Native Coho Stock. Under the direction of Head Ranger Brooke Edwards, the Jenner Headlands Preserve is a poster child for proper watershed management.

Navigating our rural West County roads can be difficult especially on those dark rainy (or worse yet) foggy nights. Meyers Grade Road that leads from Seaview Road to Highway 1 offers spectacular views South into Tomales Bay and to Point Reyes and beyond on a clear day.

But on a rainy or foggy moonless night it can be a nightmare to drive. The road can seemingly disappear in these zero visibility conditions. The lack of a center-of-road-median painted line along with the absence of center reflectors in some areas can bring you to a complete stop while you try to get your bearings in the near-white-out conditions. Even local residents who have driven these roads for decades and know every twist and turn creep along at a snails’ pace during these hazardous conditions.

This Meyers Grade/Seaview Road “ridge route” has a long history. Originally it was a major trail and trade route for the Coastal Pomo Indians. Later it became the stage coach trail taking travelers to the towns of Seaview and Plantation. Currently, with more and more vineyards being planted and tasting rooms such as the one at Fort Ross Vineyards being sought out by tourists, drivers who may not be familiar with driving in inclement coastal conditions are frequenting the area. In more recent times it has served as the official Highway One Bypass when a landslide or accident closes the narrow Hwy 1 cliff route.

It was during one of these extended (1+ year) closures that the residents on the ridge demanded that Cal-Trans upgrade the ridge route to handle the increased commercial and automobile traffic. The route was resurfaced and new center-of-the-road reflectors and markings were installed. The benefit to drivers was immediate; even during the most blustery and darkest of storms, you could safely follow the road markings, assured that you could keep your vehicle “between the ditches”.

But over time, these life-saving road reflectors have become dislodged and knocked loose. Heavy truck traffic has taken its toll on them. First, it was the trucks carrying the thousands of yards of dirt being dumped from the Hwy 1 improvements. Next it was the logging trucks that seem to use these roads 24 hours a day during the dry season, and finally it is the delivery trucks serving the commercial printing operation located on rural Hauser Bridge Road.

Cumulatively these over-sized commercial loads on the narrow country roads take their toll. The end result is a road system that our cash-strapped County cannot afford to maintain. Lately the pothole filling has been done by volunteer bicycle groups who like to ride these scenic roads. Perhaps we should plead to the businesses that benefit from the heavy truck traffic to help keep the roads safe and passable for all.

Perhaps the company harvesting and selling the millions of board-feet of timber, using the roads to haul their logs to the mills could see it in their hearts to offer to help offset some of their obvious impact.

Perhaps the commercial printing operation that uses their religious status as a loophole to run their business in a rural area could send a couple of their interns out with a box of road reflectors and some epoxy to help make these roads safe once again. Hopefully they would realize the far-reaching PR benefits of such a simple task.

Or perhaps Cal-Trans will own up to the fact that this rural country road is in fact being used as a quasi-State Highway on occasion and realize that they should maintain it accordingly. 

No matter who steps up to the plate to help, those of us who have to drive these roads in all types of weather and visibility will be deeply appreciative.

Peace and harmony to you and your families during the Winter Holiday Season.