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PD Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

  • PC: Cows graze in pastureland irrigated with reclaimed water in a pasture along Llano Rd. west of Santa Rosa on Saturday, August 25, 2001.

    8/26/2001: A6-B: Santa Rosa wastewater is already used to irrigate 6,400 acres in Sonoma County, such as this pasture along Llano Road, west of Santa Rosa.

An urgent need: To wait on government

Regular readers of these pages know we've long supported the idea of broadening Sonoma County's use of reclaimed water, particularly when it comes to cutting the amount of water grape growers and other farmers take from the Russian River. So it should come was no surprise that we're giving a hearty thumbs up to the Healdsburg City Council's decision to make millions of gallons of treated wastewater available to farmers to help with the drought. But nearly three weeks later, nothing has happened. Why? Because government — aside from Healdsburg lawmakers — does nothing quickly. It apparently will take some time to get all the permits necessary from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Fortunately, local farmers don't need a permit to use the rainwater that arrived late last week and this weekend. That should help keep state regulators from being regarded as the wet blanket on this story.

When dad says no, ask mom

Who hasn't seen — or, for that matter, been — a child looking for a different answer from another parent. The U.S. Supreme Court just endorsed that strategy for getting around the Fourth Amendment. Until now, police needed to obtain a search warrant if an occupant refused access to his or house. In a Los Angeles case decided last week, the court upheld a search conducted without a warrant when one occupant consented after another occupant refused. The court said it wasn't changing the rules, but it drew a distinction that gutted the old standard: because the suspect had been arrested and hauled away, his refusal was no longer relevant. If police had cause to arrest him, certainly there was grounds for a search warrant.

Every drop counts

Even with a good weekend soaking, North Coast rainfall totals for the year are only about half of what's typically recorded by the beginning of March. We'll keep hoping for a March Miracle. In the meantime, we'll applaud the Legislature for quick action on a $687 million drought relief package. Included is $15 million to assist with emergency wells and other measures in Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Willits and 14 other small communities around the state where public health officials say water supplies could go dry in the next two to four months. The drought bills also stiffen penalties for those who steal water, a problem highlighted by Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman's pledge to crack down on marijuana growers who divert streams, drill illegal wells or tap neighbors' water supplies.

Using less, paying more

In case you weren't already aware, it gets hot in the Central Valley. An air conditioner is a must. Of course, it takes energy to keep the AC running, and valley denizens complain about the cost of electricity. PG&E is responding with a plan to change its tiered price structure, reducing rates for the heaviest users. To make up the revenue, it wants to raise rates for those who use less. If it's approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, people living in coastal areas are among those expected to pay more for electricity. Maybe we'll at least get a hearty thank you from our friends in Fresno and Bakersfield.


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