Sterling Natural Resource Center Receives Favorable Ruling From San Diego Superior Court

marketwired – excerpt

Ruling certifies wastewater treatment project in compliance with California Environmental Quality Act

HIGHLAND, CA–(Marketwired – May 22, 2017) – The Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC) today announced a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in its favor in a lawsuit filed by the City of San Bernardino against coordinating agencies San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District) and East Valley Water District. The lawsuit, which challenged the recycled water project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the toughest environmental law in the United States, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), was overthrown by the judge in SNRC’s favor on all accounts. The positive ruling affirms the SNRC is in compliance with CEQA, and allows the project to advance with its plans of creating a state-of-the-art recycled water facility.

“This ruling brings the San Bernardino Valley one step closer to building a project that will reduce the amount of water used only once locally and then sent down the Santa Ana River for Orange County to treat and reuse,” said Valley District Board President Susan Longville. “The Sterling Natural Resource Center will treat up to 10 million gallons of wastewater every day that will be used to recharge our own local groundwater basin year after year.”

Recently, the State Water Resources Control Board authorized a 1211 permit to the SNRC, a crucial permit that will allow the project to move forward with its plans of recharging the Bunker Hill Basin with up to 10 million gallons of recycled water daily. It also received a Section 7 authorization, a positive affirmation of the project’s EIR by federal agencies U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corp of Engineers, among others.

The Sterling Natural Resource Center will bring hundreds of temporary construction jobs, directly and indirectly initiate nearly 1,400 jobs, offer job training and educational opportunities to local students and provide a community gathering space. Many local business owners and community members have spoken out in support of the project and all that it brings to our community.

The City of San Bernardino cited public health, cost and environmental concerns in the lawsuit against the project’s EIR, but the court found no evidence to prove any of its claims against the Sterling Natural Resource Center.

“This is a major win for the residents of Highland and San Bernardino,” said East Valley Water District Board Chairman Ron Coats. “This victory means that the Sterling Natural Resource Center will move forward with development and taxpayer dollars will no longer be spent on legal fees.”… (more)

 

Oregon Organic Farm Threatened With Forced Herbicide Use Reaches Settlement With County

vineyards1

by Darren Smith : jonthanturley – excerpt

Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.

The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.

I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider…(more)

How much damage can the government do before the public reacts? It appears we had two good outcomes in two states this week that prove when the public protests buildings casting shadows on parks and forced use of poisons on organic farms the government sometimes still listens.

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SF apartment project faces delay for casting shadow on park

By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt

It was a showdown between badly needed housing and precious open space on South of Market’s hardscrabble Sixth Street.

And on Thursday, open space won out — at least for now.

In a rare decision, the Planning and Recreation and Park commissions forced the developer of a proposed 84-unit apartment complex at 301 Sixth St. to redesign the project after residents and community advocates complained that the 82-foot-high building would cast a shadow on the Gene Friend Recreation Center(more)

This is a rare moment indeed, and shows a new respect for preservation of natural light on open space that has been losing a lot of ground lately. The hows and whys of this decision including the likelihood of it being repeated on other outdoor areas is hard to gauge, but we remain hopeful that the commissions charged with preserving our quality of life will continue to do that.

 

This Refugee Camp Is The First In The World To Be Powered By Solar Energy

By Willa Frej : huffingtonpost – excerpt (includes video)

A group of about 20,000 Syrian refugees living outdoors have access to electricity as of Wednesday thanks to a newly constructed solar plant in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. It’s the first and only solar-powered refugee camp in the world.

“Each family can now connect a fridge, a TV, a fan, have light inside the shelter and charge their phones, which is critical for refugees to keep in contact with their relatives abroad,” the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement.

UNHCR built the 2-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant farm in collaboration with the IKEA Foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, which provided the funding, according to the statement… (more)

Plan Bay Area 2040 Open House This Week in San Francisco

satprnews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) invite the public to an open house in San Francisco (Bay Area Metro Center, Yerba Buena Conference Room, 375 Beale Street) on Wednesday, May 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to learn about an update to the region’s long-range transportation and housing roadmap known as Plan Bay Area 2040. This meeting in San Francisco is one in a series to be held in all nine Bay Area counties between May 4 and May 22. For more information about upcoming meeting times, dates and locations in all nine counties, please visit the Plan Bay Area website: www.PlanBayArea.org(more)

Calif. court rules against appeal filed by Sierra Club, others over vineyard permit

by John Sammon : legalnewsline


Sonoma County Vineyard photo by Zrants

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – Two Sonoma County vintners received a judgment in favor of their proposed wine making operation when an appeal by the Sierra Club was turned back by the state’s 1st Appellate District Court of Appeals.

The court found in favor of the defendants Ronald and Ernest Ohlson, operators of the Ohlson Ranch, who applied for a permit to turn grazing land on their property into a grape vineyard. The Agricultural Commissioner of Sonoma County (commissioner) issued the permit after making a determination the issuance was a “ministerial” act, and therefore exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards…

However, the court determined the permit was ministerial in nature because unless a public agency could shape the proposed project in some way that would respond to concerns raised in an EIR (Environmental Impact Report), the environmental review would be a “meaningless exercise.” CEQA customarily does not apply to non-discretionary (ministerial) projects. A ministerial approval simply involves a comparison of a project with specific standards or checklists(more)

 

Oregon County Mandates 2,000 Acre Organic Farm Sprayed With Chemical Herbicides

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor : jonathanturley – excerpt (includes video)

An Organic Farm Under Threat from Azure Standard on Vimeo.

Action Request!!
Azure Farm, a Certified Organic farm in Central Oregon, is under threat from the local county government who wants to spray Azure’s Certified Organic farm with herbicides like Roundup (Glyphosate). Here’s what you can do to help. Contact Sherman County court via email at lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us or call Lauren at 541-565-3416 and express your concern. See azurestandard.com/healthy-living/info/azure-farm-moro/ for more details.

A 2,000 acre organic farm in central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides, such as Roundup, to eradicate weed growth.

The mandate would bring to an end nearly 18 years of organic farming, placing a significant loss of organic food to the public.

Azure Farms is a certified organic farm located in Moro, Sherman County, Oregon. The farm produces almost all the organic wheat, field peas, barley, Einkorn, and beef for Azure Standard.

Sherman County could issue a court order on May 22, 2017 to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the entire farm with poisonous herbicides contaminating them with Milestone, Escort, and Roundup.

Such a unilateral action on the behalf of the few individuals representing county government could set a precedent in damaging perhaps one of the few remaining healthy alternatives to mass-market agribusinesses… (more)

RELATED FOLLOW-UP

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor:

Yesterday I fielded an article concerning a rather distressing mandate by an Oregon county weed control agency seeking to force the application of hazardous herbicides onto a 2,000 acre organic farm owned by Azure Farms. Sherman County Oregon maintains this scorched earth policy is necessary to abate, or more specifically “eradicate”, weeds listed by state statute as noxious.

Now, the scientific community is responding to this overreaching government action by acting in the interests of health and responsible environmental stewardship through advocacy in the hopes that officials in Sherman County will reconsider their mandate.

Dr. Charles Benbrook is a highly credentialed research professor and expert serving on several boards of directors for agribusiness and natural resources organizations. Having read news of Sherman County’s actions, he penned an authoritative response I believe will make informative reading for those concerned by present and future implications in the forced use of herbicides under the rubric of noxious weed eradication, and the damage to organic farming generally arising from such mandates… (more)

CEQA Changes Proposed

By : landuse – excerpt

Over the past four months, Sacramento lawmakers have introduced a number of bills to tinker with the state’s premier environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While it is too early to know whether any of the proposed changes to CEQA will be enacted, each could impact the building industry.  Below are a few to watch as they wind their way through the legislature:… (more)

We are tracking some California state bills here.

 

 

Court of Appeal Upholds Issuance of Erosion-Control Permit as Ministerial and Exempt from CEQA

By Holland and Knight LLP : lexology – excerpt

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • California’s First District Court of Appeal has held that the issuance of an erosion-control permit by the Agricultural Commissioner of Sonoma County was a ministerial act not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  • The opinion in Sierra Club et al. v. County of Sonoma et al. provides helpful guidance on the distinction between ministerial acts exempt from CEQA and discretionary acts subject to CEQA.
  • The court used the “functional test” to determine whether ordinance provisions applicable to the permit were ministerial or discretionary. Under the “functional test,” CEQA compliance is required where discretion provides a local agency with the ability and authority to mitigate environmental damage… (more)

Dakota Access pipeline has first leak before it’s fully operational

: theguardian – excerpt (includes video)

Leak raises fresh concerns about hazards to waterways and outrages indigenous groups, who have long warned of threat to environment

The Dakota Access pipeline has suffered its first leak, outraging indigenous groups who have long warned that the project poses a threat to the environment.

The $3.8bn oil pipeline, which sparked international protests last year and is not yet fully operational, spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, according to government regulators.

Although state officials said the 6 April leak was contained and quickly cleaned, critics of the project said the spill, which occurred as the pipeline is in the final stages of preparing to transport oil, raises fresh concerns about the potential hazards to waterways and Native American sites.

“They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been fighting the project for years. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

The pipeline, scheduled to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, inspired massive demonstrations in 2016 and was dealt a major blow when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the project toward the end of his presidency. But shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the new administration ordered the revival of the pipeline and worked to expedite the final stage of construction

The April spill, which was first uncovered this week by a local South Dakota reporter, illustrates the need for the more robust environmental assessment that the tribe has long demanded, said Hasselman… (more)