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Gratitude for our imperiled Sonoma Coast

Where do Sonoma County residents and a multitude of others go for beauty, peace, consolation and spiritual counsel? Our coast.

The grandeur of the Sonoma Coast puts personal troubles in greater perspective. It is a manifestation of magic, of the Divine.

The Sonoma Coast is also the home of our nation’s first successful grass-roots environmental defenders—those who stood up to PG&E, our Board of Supervisors, the Atomic Energy Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, Public Utilities Commission and Governor—to stop construction of a nuclear power plant at Bodega Head.

Between 1955 and 1964, beginning with a lone widow toting a baseball bat who chased PG&E scouts off her property, the effort paid off. A rag-tag crew of locals gradually grew its influence, pursuing the cause all the way up to Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Lyndon Johnson. They fought their way through lies, falsified maps, personal evictions and threats and cover-ups, finally breaking through public ignorance and disinterest, to protect our coastline

Similarly, the California Coastal Act, which preserves public access to the California coastline in perpetuity, is a result of citizen activism here in Sonoma County.

Dredging and commercial build-out of the Russian River estuary, Santa Rosa sewage outflow at Salmon Creek, high-intensity housing development of Willow Creek and offshore oil-drilling—all were likewise prevented by the intense and enduring efforts of local citizens who still walk among us.

Given our local history, it may surprise you to know that our coast is under threat again.

Taking advantage of the state requirements for supervisorial districts to be re-drawn every 10 years according to census data, interested parties are attempting to split the 5th District in pieces. This is not necessary, as all Districts in Sonoma County meet state criteria to stay as they are. If the unincorporated 5th District is split and combined with incorporated inland towns, the coast and activist-descendants will lose their united voice.

To complicate matters, our Local Coastal Plan is up for its 20-year revision, also required by the state. This year, the aptly-named “Permit Sonoma” staff has created a 400-page document with language impenetrable to the average citizen, that quietly gives our coast over to commercial development without possibility of appeal. We have approximately 6 months of public hearings before our Planning Commission recommends approval of the Draft to the Board of Supervisors. To those of us with memories and wits still about us, this scenario feels uncomfortably familiar.

If Fifth District residents passively let development interests lead the way, expanded viticulture and associated sales, planned communities, depletion of groundwater, traffic, gravel mining, etc, will overtake our landscape. We will lose the beauty of open space, natural habitat and the bit of solitude still left to very early risers.

The bridge now being built over Scotty Creek at Gleason Beach is a glaring example of things to come, as cement and pavement, rather than natural methods for shoreline stabilization, is apparently the County’s preferred solution—economically and politically—to sea level rise.

In Spanish, Thanksgiving is known as El Día de Acción de Gracias—literally performing the action of giving thanks. One action you can take

to show your gratitude for our coast is to speak up or write up, just like our gutsy predecessors, and send your message to the County.

The other opportunity to say thanks for our coast is to attend a Planning Commission Zoom, call in, email or write a letter to PRMD-LCP-Update@sonoma-county.org, also with pasted copy to the Board of Supervisors re: the Local Coastal Plan and its chapters (view at https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Long-Range-Plans/Local-Coastal-Program/Public-Review-Draft/). The next hearings are all scheduled at 1PM, on November 10, December 9, January 13, February 3, March 3 and April 7, accessible via the Sonoma County Planning Commission web page.

We have a website, Savethesonomacoast.org, in development. Meanwhile, feel free to copy written or emailed letters to squiglet0@gmail.com.

Thanks to YOU for joining us in caring for our coast.

Save the Sonoma Coast

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