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Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - May 2016


Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - May 2016

Tsunami Alert in Santa Rosa!

A Tsunami of public opinion washed over the CA Coastal Commission (CCC) at the recent CCC hearings held at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa. The packed house overwhelmingly urged the CCC to follow the CCC Staff recommendations and REJECT the appeal by State Parks in their proposal for ‘Pay to Play’ along our Sonoma Coast. 

At a hearing that began at 9 am, covering CCC business from Southern and Central California before getting to the Sonoma County agenda item, the public finally had an opportunity to speak before the CCC at around 4:45 pm. Although speaking time was limited to just 2 minutes in most cases, and even though the CCC reportedly had received ‘speaker cards’ which would take at least 7 hours if everyone who signed up were allowed to speak, so many compelling presentations were delivered by the announced 8 pm cut-off point, the CCC ultimately decided to postpone their vote until a later date. 

Probably a smart move on their part as this Tsunami of public sentiment would have surely resulted in a small Earthquake of public emotion had they voted in favor of State Parks that night.

Speakers Michelle Luna of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods ( and Cea Higgins of Sonoma Coast Surfrider ( were exquisite in their impassioned and informed presentations. Citizens of all ages and backgrounds pled to the CCC to find a more equitable solution to funding the maintenance our prized public coastal lands. Supervisor Carrillo offered a local management option while Senator Noreen Evans spoke to the true intent of the Coastal Act and how this ‘Pay to Play’ proposal by State Parks is in direct conflict. 

However, this reprieve of sorts should not cause the Sonoma County citizens to relax in their efforts to find a better solution to funding our local coastal parks and public lands. And even though the CCC now seems open to allowing local control over at least one of our coastal parks, this issue is far from being resolved. Please remain involved and vocal. It is making a difference!! 

Personally, I feel that if offered the opportunity, the proud dedicated local citizenry (clearly up for the task of conscientious environmental stewardship) could and would find ways of managing and maintaining these world-class coastal lands. It will likely be a combination of ‘solutions’…Partial partnering with organizations like Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and partial ‘bake sales’ and ‘tourism taxes’ that ultimately saves the day.

If you are looking for an example of how ‘life can turn on a dime’, the revelation that in a period of just 2-3 years, our near-shore ocean fisheries have completely collapsed, tops the list. There is a domino effect taking place beneath the sea, the effects of which will be with us for years to come. The recent loss of a couple key species has upset the balance of the entire kelp eco-system. 

The kelp forests that stretch from San Francisco to Oregon have vanished over the past two years. So many species depend on this lush undersea forest for their very survival; Abalone, Urchins, Rockfish, Sea Stars, Seal and Sea Lions among others. It is the key to one of our planets most productive and healthy ocean environments, hugging the coastline only in select areas. 

Scientists are saying that beginning in 2011 with an extremely harmful algal bloom that released toxins that killed large numbers of Abalone and decimated other invertebrate stocks, and continuing into 2013 with the Sea Star Wasting Disease episode where huge numbers of starfish withered and disappeared completely from North Coast waters, factors were set in place that lead directly to the devastated conditions we are now observing first hand. 

With no Sea Stars to keep their populations in check, Tiny Purple Urchins are out of control, eating entire tracts of kelp leaving competing abalone to starve. With a dismal Crab season due to an increase in toxins, a Salmon population that may not recover from extended drought conditions, the ocean Ph becoming more acidic, along with warmer than usual waters, and now the disappearance of our coastal kelp forests, our oceans are in dire straits. 

The chain of events we are witnessing in our local coastal zones reinforce the concept that everything is indeed connected and remind us of what a delicate ‘environmental balancing act’ we perform in our day-to-day lives.

Locally, the Jenner Community Center mourns the passing of JCC board member Sonja Flores and held a gathering to honor her life on April 24. The JCC has ongoing improvements scheduled for their Jenner Creekside location, including an ADA approved restroom and a deck overlooking the creek. Upcoming JCC events include a Thank You Bar-B-Que for Coastal Emergency Responders on May 22 and weekend music performed by the Jennerators from time to time. JCC survives on donations.

By the time this goes to press, the annual community Estuary Update will have taken place in Monte Rio. Jenner residents are hopeful that sea level rise will finally be among the topics discussed.

Sorry to leave you on a down note, but what about the environmental ‘elephant in the room’ Fukushima? 5 years have passed since the disaster with little progress being made on even basic clean up and containment. And now more earthquakes this week. But not a word in the press about what is probably the worst single environmental disaster in history.