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Sonoma County Gazette
Gazette readers respond to articles in our print edition as well as on the Gazette website and social media.
Gazette readers respond to articles in our print edition as well as on the Gazette website and social media.

Letters from Sonoma County Gazette Readers
In Print and Online - August 2019

Aug 14, 2019
by Vesta Copestakes



Vesta, I want to thank you for making such an effort as regards my little “op-ed’ ..It has been shared all over the nation and, indeed , even in France and England now. 

My great joy was the reaction at our Congressmans’ office in D.C where the office aids included it in J. Huffmans’ daily brief.

If even one person were to be inspired to learn more, that would be success! Thank you again for putting this in print, and for making such a special effort to elevate it on-line… It looks so cool with the actual Document displayed there with it!!!! 

So appreciative my fellow citizeness!!! 

Sincerely, Terrie. P. Kully


I am impressed with how far this has reached. In one day there were 48 shares on Facebook - some with comments - what you wrote moved me and MANY others. People WANT to know. Our country was established by immigrants who wanted a better place to live, Some place where they felt safe. They wrote these documents as an insurance poicy for the future. We need to heed their intent! ~ Vesta



The Age of Reason

By Thomas Paine

To My Fellow Citizens of 

The United States

 I put the following work under your protection. (The Age of Reason) It contains my opinions on Religion. You will do me the justice to remember that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

Your’ affectionate friend and fellow-citizen, Thomas Paine

January 27, 1794


Dear Vesta,

Thanks for your support of the Learn to Swim Program. We got over one hundred volunteers, in addition to the good info in your articles disperesed in the community.  

Greg Jacobs, Sebastopol



TMDL: How this rule impacts us

July cover article on water reveals that composting toilets are LEGAL IN THE STATE BUT NOT THE COUNTY.  WTF? Too inexpensive, environmentally friendly and commonsensical???

Please follow up on this. 

Thanks, best,  Judith


The follow-up is coming and not simple, but as to composting toilets, the issue is still both maintenance and disposal of the waste product. 

Also, at every meeting when this comes up people complain that composting toilets will open up development on lots that can’t support a wastewater treatment system, in the same way that sewer hook-ups have opened every previously unbuildable lot to development.

What I don’t understand about disposal is that every person who walks his/her dog and picks up the poop in little plastic bags, simply tosses the bag into ihe trash. 

Every cat owner who has a litter box disposes to the poop in the trash, or if they use compostable and septic-safe organic litter, they flush it down the toilet. 

People are disposing uncomposted waste every day. 

Bottom line is there has to be a solution to our depleted water quality and the regulations to accomplish that are coming one way or another. They’ve been coming for about ten years, but now our rivers are more studied, measured, and analyzed than they have ever been before. 

We KNOW the PROBLEM. We still don’t know what the SOLUTION is! Sewers systems are too costly, so the state is looking into small community systems. Stay tuned! ~ Vesta



Topsoils and Fire Protection

If you were a land owner in Roman times and allowed your topsoil to erode you would be going to a Roman jail, but in today’s economics short-term profit over the environment is now the norm. 

Ranching associations keep telling us they are taking wonderful care of this nation’s topsoil, but are they really? 

Use Google Earth and zoom in on most any cattle ranch; those lines you see are soil compaction, lines made from cattle turning rich topsoil into concrete consistency during the summer and accelerating erosion of topsoil into our streams in the winter time. 

You may be asking yourself “So what, I like my milk, why should we care?”  

Let me use the words of The National Science and Technology Council, Dec. 2016. 

“Under natural conditions, one inch of topsoil can take 500 years or more to form. Soil is essential to human life. Not only is it vital for providing most of the world’s food, it plays a critical role in ensuring water quality and availability; supports a vast array of non-food products and benefits, including mitigation of climate change; and affects biodiversity important for ecological resilience. 

These roles make soil essential to modern life. Thus, it is imperative that everyone—city dwellers, farmers and ranchers, land owners and rural citizens alike—take responsibility for caring for and investing in our soils.” ~ James Brian MacDonald


Thank you Barbara St. Louis for your letter: Fire Safety Tree Removal by PGE. 

PGE is removing thousands of trees throughout numerous states and heavily throughout California.  Numerous environmental groups are working tirelessly to try and put a stop to this insanity. While PGE’s shareholders and CEO’s are making billions of dollars the electrical wiring system remains antiquated. They need to insulate their wires and have computerized shut off systems, “fault interrupters”, in place or put everything underground. But they choose to cut down tens of thousands of trees instead, destroying habitat and further warming the planet. 370,000 more trees are slated for removal.

Some serious logging is about to take place in Cazadero. PGE has marked for removal every Fir tree within 200 feet on BOTH sides of their junk wires. Along the Creek, on the county roads, but also along private roads and on private properties. They are by Code only legally entitled to cut branches in a 4 foot radius from around their wires and NOT remove entire trees. Yet they have in past years removed most of the branches from our trees as well as from all the Redwoods and Fir along the road. A number of my Fir trees have died due to this severe cutting.  Last year they cut down our oldest most beautiful Fir by mistake!!! Far up from the wires. Then left all the logs and limbs lying across the top of our hill in a precarious manner. All throughout the region trees were removed and left lying on the ground. 

Dead and dying trees and dry underbrush should be removed. Clearing a defensible space is wise. But removing entire species?

This year they are telling property owners that if they do not permit them to remove all their marked Firs that they, the property owner, will be held liable for any damages from a falling limb or tree, including any fire started in this manner. This is NOT TRUE!  They are lying to and bullying people. Property owners are starting to sign contracts to remove hundreds of Fir! If you have already signed the contract you can still rescind it. Some properties have 30 or more healthy, large Firs with the dreaded yellow X’s. I stand to lose every tree on my land but a small handful of redwoods and numerous small bay trees because we live between two roads and two sets of wires.  Lake and Watercourse Protection, (Fish and Wildlife), has hung ribbons near trees that are too close to streams to cut down. But there is no EPA involvement, no oversight from the PUC ( Public Utilities Commission). No permit from CDF as I understand. The PUC is writing up some new rules for the future but it will come too late for West County. 

Cutting down entire species of trees is not the answer. Poisoning the native plant life is not the answer.  PGE has deferred maintenance of their systems for decades and the horrifying wildfires were mostly started due to this neglect. So if they come to your land wanting to remove your trees say NO as Barbara recommends! Put signs out so that your trees are not stripped of all their limbs or chopped in half.

They have no legal right to do this. Code 95 allows for a 4 foot radius from around the wires of limbs only. The 10 foot or more radius is their recommendation but has no legal standing. These are YOUR trees. Threaten litigation. If you have the money FIGHT THEM! Some people are getting compensation for their losses. 

Good Luck. It is a huge battle. 

Judith Heinemann, Cazadero



Dear Vesta,

Forest Unlimited has been trying to cope with dozens of inquiries from as far away as the Sierra about PG&E’s attempted removal of trees to “protect” their electric power lines.  They are doing more that trimming.  In some cases they want to remove large trees, including fire resistant redwoods.  Some of these have been in resident’s front yards!

Meanwhile two or three PG&E contract crews have been at work on Ft Ross Road butchering the trees.  Anyone who knows Ft Ross Road knows that this is a fool’s errand.  To make matters worse, some of these crews have been smoking among the dry grasses!

In many cases PG&E is violating the terms of their easements, cutting without permission or cutting beyond limits set in the easements.  

Their contract crews are often misinformed about their legal rights and have actively tried to scare homeowners into signing away their rights.  

We recommend that homeowners check their deeds for the parcel descriptions.  Easements are listed as a separate “parcel”.

Furthermore, many are complaining about “precautionary” shut offs of their power during hot windy periods.  It is not just an annoyance due to the absence of lights and refrigeration.  This disables medical devices as well.  The elderly may need air conditioning.

The obvious answer is to underground the power lines out of harms way.  PG&E has inflated the costs to make it look infeasible but research has shown that the real costs is much less.  They have also diverted money earmarked for under grounding to other purposes.  

And of course, PG&E’s calculations do not include the cost to the community in lives, lost homes, lost property tax revenue, lost carbon sequestration, increased fire fighting costs, lost business income, damage to tourisms, etc.  

PG&E would rather shift the costs to their ratepayers and the general public rather than have their shareholders foot the bill.

It is time for Sonoma County to require undergrounding in all fire prone areas!

Rick Coates

Executive Director

Forest Unlimited

707-632-6070 or 


We have a LENGTHY discussion on this subject on the Gazette Facebook page (

At this time I am also waiting for information from PG&E to fill voids in my knowledge on this topic.

At a recent Lower River MAC meeting with Public Works, the concept of underground powerlines was brougt up. It’s part of the county discussion but still far from even planning and permitting.

County Public Works would take on this topic since the power lines would be established under roads in the same way that water, sewer and gas lines are installed under roads. 

Water has to be on the opposite side of sewer to reduce potential contamination in case of cracks (earthquakes can cause cracks, etc.

Gas lines are under roads - do we put electric on the opposite side of the street from gas? Logical!

Nothingis simple, but other countries have established underground power, so can can we.

READ this discussion on the Gazette Facebook page:

People are telling me about large swaths of trees being cut on PG&E Power Line easements (?) through forests. They are concerned about how many trees are being removed and what is happening with the wood from these trees, especially the redwoods. 

In turn, I am asking PG&E for information. PG&E wants addresses/locations, photos, whatever you have in order to answer the questions readers are sending me. Specifics. Can you help with this? I want answers as well.

This is on the PG&E website so helps a bit - but we need specifics to get questions answered:…/ 



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