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April 4-10, 2007

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

Say it ain't so

A coalition is challenging the Sonoma County Water Agency's assertion that there's enough water for substantial urban growth, as listed in its Urban Water Management Plan. "It's essential that county planners have the facts right and that they come clean with the public about the surface and groundwater limits," argues Stephan C. Volker, the coalition's attorney. The lawsuit filed by 14 groups representing conservationists, farmers, ranchers, fishermen and outdoor recreation enthusiasts charges that the county must admit that unsustainable urban growth could lead to severe water shortages. Volker says he hasn't seen this many people in a coalition since the 1980s water wars, and he knows of only one other lawsuit against an Urban Water Management Plan. According to Stephen Fuller-Rowell of the Sonoma County Water Coalition, "It's time for a change of direction on water policy."

Ready for anything

Marin County is the proud owner of a shiny, $430,000, 34-foot emergency van. "It's extremely high-tech," says Marin County Sgt. Mike Crane. "It's a state-of-the-art mobile communications center. It's able to roll throughout the state. . . . If there was another Oakland Hills fire, it would roll there. If we had another Loma Prieta earthquake, it would roll there. If it was needed in Southern California, it would go there." Known as COMM-1 and paid for with state and federal Homeland Security grants, the self-contained vehicle has five dispatch stations, sophisticated computers, radios, telephones, a 50-foot extension camera and exterior lights that can make midnight seem like noon. It was put through its paces in February in a mock terrorist attack held at Ross School.

Bocce passions

To soothe ongoing squabbles between the St. Helena Bocce Ball Club and the Napa Valley Bocce Ball Federation, the St. Helena City Council recently created a five-member Bocce Ball Committee to oversee the use of Crane Park's bocce courts. Kathleen Carrick, the city's recreation director, says that out of Calistoga's 9,000 residents, about 800 to 900 people play bocce ball. "It's the number one passion in this small town," Carrick explains. "People's passions are quite strong when it comes to bocce ball." No board members from either league were allowed to be on the new committee. "We wanted people who would be neutral," Carrick notes. The committee has no budget, so its only addition to the city's bottom line will be the cost of staff time for meetings and paperwork.

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