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Our County by Efren Carrillo - April 2015

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Our County by Efren Carrillo - April 2015

by Efren Carrillo

Beach Fees/Iron Ranger ALERT!

The California Coastal Commission is set to hear an appeal by California State Parks at their Marin County meeting (Marin County Board of Supervisors) April 15-17th. At this time, neither the staff report nor the agenda for the meeting are available. Both Coastwalk (Coastwalk.org) and Sonoma Surfrider (Sonomacoast.surfrider.org) have been following this issue very closely and working on a response to the appeal of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimous denial of State Park’s application to install 15 pay to park Iron Rangers at iconic Sonoma Coast Beaches.

Sonoma County has a strong, certified local coastal plan, and the Board has jurisdiction over projects in our County. There is strong public sentiment against charging access fees for publicly owned beaches which lack services or amenities – thereby restricting public access at our rural coast. Contrary to Southern California, public transportation is not a feasible method of accessing our beaches. Additionally, these pay stations would encourage illegal parking, increased residential neighborhood parking, accessing dangerous beaches, and likely increase the demand on public safety due to increased accidents.

Our Board strongly objects to this attempt to circumvent our certified local coastal plan and the public’s right to access beaches that are held in the public trust. The distinction between beaches which offer services, such as camping, lifeguards, staffed by rangers, etc. is acknowledged. Please be on the alert for a call to action when the hearing has been set. There is talk of a busload of county residents attending the hearing together. Both Surfrider and Coastwalk will post information on their web sites in the coming weeks. 

In the meantime, please go to Surfrider’s website and sign their petition opposing additional beach fees on our coast.

Upcoming 5th District Road workshops 

On March 17, the Board of Supervisors passed a 2 year Pavement Preservation Program with a plan to use the increased allocations for repair of our distressed road system. 

We all know that that a majority of count roads are in unacceptably poor condition. According to a recent survey, nearly 1000 miles of our road network are in either Poor or Very Poor condition due to decades of deferred maintenance. Add to that the fact that many of our rural roads – our district contains nearly 50% of these – were never properly engineered with a road base and proper drainage.

Over the past 2 years, the County has rehabilitated almost 100 miles of our 1383 road miles, and has secured funding for an additional 89 miles over the next two summers.  Additionally, there were major special road projects and Bridge repairs. The 3 year investment of nearly $100 million in Federal, State, and local funds is more than Sonoma County has designated for road projects in the past three decades! 

Funding for roads comes primarily from two places, the gas tax and the general fund. Gas tax revenue is distributed to counties using a formula that is based 75% on population and 25% on road miles. For this reason, Sonoma County does not receive its fair share for its very large road network in comparison to even our neighboring counties. Therefore, much of the funding for roads is supplemented with local funding. In past years, general fund spending averaged around $7 million dollars. During the depths of the recession, this amount was reduced to between $3.5 to 5 million per year. 

In 2012 and 2013, the Board of Supervisors increased spending levels to $14.6 million each year, and that commitment remains. Some of the funding sources have depleted, but the Board has committed $10.2 million dollars and an additional $1 million dedicated to “worst first” roads for the two year road plan – with the intent to continue this funding.

There is a significant gap between this funding and the estimated $48 million per year needed to fully address our structural deficit, and that will be the topic we will be discussing at the upcoming forums.

Meetings:

April 8th 6-8pm Bodega Bay Fire Protection District Meeting Room

April 11th 2-4pm Sebastopol Veteran’s Building –
        Center for the Arts main auditorium

April 18th 2-4pm The Sea Ranch – Del Mar Center

May 6th 6-8pm Monte Rio Community Center

Please try to attend one of the community forums on this important issue!