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January 25-31, 2006

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

Nondrivers Wanted

Here's a hot tip: If you're caught driving without a license, have someone else chauffeur you to your hearing date. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, officers from the Santa Rosa and Petaluma police departments watched the departures of more than a hundred people after they appeared before a judge for operating motor vehicles without a driver's license or while it was suspended. Nine individuals were arrested as they prepared to drive themselves home. As one of several programs funded under a multiyear grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, this special enforcement operation was not a one-shot deal. "It's already happened before, and we will be doing it again," says Sgt. Don Hasemeyer of the Santa Rosa Police Department. Of course, the exact date for a repeat performance will be a surprise.

Drying Out

While many individuals and businesses are back to normal after the New Year's floods, others are still struggling to repair the damage. Marin County's San Anselmo and Fairfax were hit particularly hard. Whyte's Booksmith in downtown San Anselmo was filled with two feet of floodwater and lost about 20 percent of its books, worth tens of thousands of dollars, according to clerk Stephen Heffner. "We were closed for eight days while we changed the carpet and cleaned everything," Heffner says. "Nearby businesses are slowly reopening. Lots [of businesses] aren't even open still. They've had to replace wallboard and more." Current damage estimates are $95 million in Marin County; $115.5 million in Napa County; and $104 million for Sonoma County. Officials are waiting to hear if the federal government will declare this an official disaster, opening the way for FEMA funding.

Napa Land Deal

The combined efforts of public and private interests coughed up $12.5 million recently to buy the 12,575-acre Napa Ranch, the largest wild land acquisition in Napa County's history. The property will be added to the California Department of Fish and Game's 8,000-acre Knoxville Wildlife Area in the coastal hills north of Lake Berryessa. "This is a really wonderful piece of property that many groups have been working to protect for many, many years," says Suzanne Easton of the Bay Area Open Space Council. The deal was made possible by a partnership of the Blue-Ridge Berryessa Natural Area Conservation Partnership (BRBNA), the Department of Fish and Game, the California Coastal Conservancy, the Land Trust of Napa County and the Nature Conservancy. The BRBNA, Easton says, has been working since 1997 to protect a relatively undeveloped 700,000 acres, which includes the newly acquired ranch.

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