Geysers Pipeline Threatens Sanctuary
Geysers Pipeline Threatens Sanctuary
MADRONE AND THE NATIONAL Audubon Society have joined forces to oppose a pipeline route that could threaten the Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary.
The project, which was reported here by Joan Dranginis last month, would convey treated Santa Rosa wastewater up to the Geysers, where it would be used to revitalize the flagging steam energy fields. It would run a pipeline, with pumping stations and huge storage tanks, directly through the heart of the National Audubon Society sanctuary on Pine Flat Road. This property was one of the first "forever wild" conservation easements to be negotiated by the County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, at a cost of $750,000
A September 7 guest column in Santa Rosa's The Press Democrat, which was endorsed by the Madrone Audubon Board of Directors and signed by Jesse Grantham of NAS and Bill Payne of Madrone Audubon, asserted that a "forever wild" conservation easement is intended to mean the area concerned is indeed protected "forever," and that to be designated a "sanctuary" means to be free from development and also from political pressures which may otherwise threaten a natural preserve.
Madrone Audubon recognizes that the pipeline project would provide for reuse of the waste water, which we favor. It would also provide irrigation water for agriculture, and it would offer some financial relief to the public through funding by the power industry. However, it is no "magic bullet" for Santa Rosa's water woes.
The Audubon column pointed out the drastic impact the project would have on the Sanctuary. "The Geysers option requires trenching, drilling and dynamiting to build 11 miles of permanent, underground transmission pipelines, two pump stations and 500,000 gallon storage tanks. Construction of the pump station/storage tank complexes, including one located next to a natural year-round spring, would scare off wildlife, destroy wildlife habitat and degrade the scenic value of the preserve."
"In Sonoma County, does 'forever wild' mean 'until we change our minds'?" the statement inquired. Evidently the City of Santa Rosa's answer would be, "Yes." Recognizing that the pipeline project is inconsistent with the Sanctuary's protected status, Grantham and Payne point out, the City could ultimately be in the position of attempting to take the land by condemnation.
Two days after the Audubon column appeared, The Press Democrat ran a lead editorial downplaying the adverse impacts of the pipeline on the Sanctuary and ignoring the issue of the "forever wild" conservation easement. "Until the Audubon society came along," it said, "the Geysers plan was viewed as a win-win-win situation." In other words, we're spoiling this great plan by pointing out its adverse consequences.
"...In the last analysis," The Press Democrat concluded, "society must decide whether to lapse into paralysis, waiting for perfection that doesn't exist, or weigh the pluses and minuses of each option--and make a decision."
Madrone spokesman Payne counters: "We are not advocating paralysis, nor have we discounted the pipeline concept out of hand. Both National Audubon and the Madrone chapter recognize that waste water disposal is an extremely political, environmentally sensitive, and costly issue, and that there is great pressure for Santa Rosa to come up with a solution soon. However, we don't want to see a 'damn the consequences' decision.
"We hope that exploration of alternative pipeline routes and other reuse proposals will result in a viable, environmentally sound answer to Santa Rosa's waste water dilemma."
Meanwhile, Madrone's position on the proposed route was made clear in our Press Democrat column: "...When a plan such as the current Geysers pipeline would desecrate an established publicly protected nature preserve and undermine the open space preservation process itself, logic and public policy mandate that the route be changed or the project be abandoned."
For more about the Mayacamas Sanctuary, see Volunteer article.