An interview with Dennis Slota – The Willits News
With a BS in Biology and Geology and a Masters in Hydrology, Dennis Slota, a former and now retired Mendocino County Water Agency hydrologist, was heavily involved from the start with the ordinance County on cannabis, the original iteration, the one in existence today.
“The big difference between yesterday and today: there was then a public process to develop the prescription; the public was invited to participate with the supervisory board through numerous meetings, tracing the language as it went, for weeks and months and in stark contrast to the current ordinance, as was the case with the AF measure – a massive expansion of cannabis created by outside forces that have been firmly defeated – these prescriptions are prepared by unknown sources in a back room somewhere and presented without any public involvement.
“There is no process; our letters are not recognized;
I don’t understand how the council can ignore the voters when what the voters want is so clear, ”he said.
Slota is part of the Save Our Water, Wildlife, and Way of Life (SOWWW) group, which is working to secure the necessary signatures for a referendum for the November ballot calling for the repeal of the entire new ordinance. on the expansion of cannabis, to stop county planners. and supervisors to let cannabis proliferate in the county without a county-wide Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Humboldt County was able to do an RIA for less than $ 300,000; Trinity County did an RIA (a much poorer county than Mendocino); Sonoma County does an RIA.
“We want to stop this ordinance at the ballot box so that the board of directors is required to do an EIR to proceed before the start of the project. The rejection of this order is the only way to guarantee the execution of an EIR.
To illustrate exactly how outdated the county bylaws are currently and how necessary it is for the county to perform an EIR, he pulls out a copy of the Mendocino County Land Division Requirements dated January 1, 1982.
“These are the land use standards currently used by the county. When people come for advice, it is this 1982 document that they refer to. The only water revision in 1994 noted on the front page is a very minor change of little substance.
“An entity with this level of standard – standards that they use to indicate that they know what they’re doing – says we don’t need an EIR because we know what we’re doing. They use standards from the 1980s to the 21st century.
As an example of insufficient requirements, he explains the current county standards for water proof.
If an individual buys land and wants to build a house, they must prove to the county that they have an adequate water supply. For the interior zone, the minimum is 1 gallon per minute or ½ gallon per minute with additional storage.
“No one knows if this element of the additional storage is applied. “
As a County Water Agency hydrologist during the drought of the early 2000s, he investigated surrounding counties and found that the minimum standard required for Sonoma and Humboldt counties was 1 gallon per minute. Period.
According to the requirements of the Mendocino County Land Division, under the standards for water testing, a person must prove their ability to pump 1200 gallons in 4 hours.
The Mendocino County Coastal Groundwater Development Guidelines prepared by Questa Engineering in 1989, currently in use, are more extensive and specific taking into account hydrological studies, neighboring wells, and evidence of the well’s ability to pump during 17 hours, the minimum for aquifer, and up to 72 hours for wells in alluvium and bedrock.
As a county hydrologist, he has worked to align the guidelines on the coast and inland and says that “the requirements for the interior should be much more stringent and come closer to coastal standards.”
During the drought of the early 2000s, he brought maps and documents to the planning commission in an attempt to update the standards.
“At the 11th hour, development interests came to the planning committee saying that they should not take action on this information, that further study was needed. No more studies have ever taken place and we still have the same standards since 1982. “
About a month ago, he wrote a letter to Council members suggesting they review these outdated regulations. He never got a response from any of them.
“When you invite people into the county on these marginal resources, maybe they’re fine for a few years with the minimum half gallon required; however, the county puts people at risk. They follow the guidelines by relying on the county to protect their interests, then they find they have no water.
In his recent letter to council opposing the new cannabis ordinance, one of Slota’s bullets states that “Mendocino County has a four-year record of incompetence and failure in the cannabis program. cannabis.
“Before Carmel Angelo became CEO in 2010, when I worked for the county, there was stability. The county lawyer had been there for decades; the director of planning, the agricultural commission had been there for decades; there had been overall stability within the county.
“In view of the 2008 financial crisis, there is still a high level of instability.
“There was sheer incompetence in the cannabis program. Before the program arrived at the Ministry of Agriculture, there had been a long dossier of a commissioner; thereafter, there were several commissioners in just a few years. Illegal permits were issued without site review, without review for susceptible species.
When the cannabis program was then transferred to the planning department, there was constant turnover at managerial and staff levels.
Kristin Nevedal was recently hired as the new County Cannabis Program Manager.
“It took more than 4 years of turbulence to finally move in this direction. With this record of failure and incompetence, no one is held responsible.
“In my mind, money stops at the top. I must say that Carmel Angelo is responsible for this debacle.
“By definition and by the work grid, she is responsible. If outside business interests wanted to change county policy, I guess they would talk to her. At the end of the day, it’s about getting more money for the county.
“I think there should be a county employee survey to ask how many county employees trust CEO Carmel Angelo as a leader, how many like working for her.”
The most recent letter written to Council by the Round Valley County Water District, signed by Jessica Stoll-Otto, a former Mendocino County planner, is also of concern, stating that they are detecting nitrates (a public health issue ignored by the Tip) and more in their closed groundwater basin from growing cannabis.
The letter says the new ordinance would open up a potential of an additional 1,066 acres of cannabis cultivation, a water-intensive crop, on farmland alone, nearly 22 times what is already allowed; that the water table drops below the level of the wells; that the Covelo CalFire well is showing signs that it will soon dry up with fears that the aquifer will collapse and water storage will be lost forever; that tankers carry water at all times; that cannabis is a very water-hungry crop, all amid climate change and ongoing drought.
With an unprecedented coalition of agencies and individuals working against the council’s proposed cannabis ordinance, those working on the referendum are confident it will succeed.
“It’s so unpopular with residents and the county’s incompetence is so obvious that we think this referendum will pass easily. Citizens are unhappy with the county’s mismanagement of the program to date and we believe they lack the capacity to pursue a major expansion, especially since they have not been able to manage what we already have.
“How does adding an extra workload improve performance?” Right now, the board is on a blind race to grow before an EIR is required. However, when this referendum passes, they will automatically have to do one.
SOWWW still hopes that the supervisors will change their mind on the 22nd but, if not, they have a fully formed team of signature collectors ready to go on the 23rd and several databases to work with.
“Maybe the next step will be a reminder of supervisors who decide to vote with outside business interests rather than their constituents. It is now an ongoing conversation.