Many readers responded to last week’s column, “If Don Quixote paid a visit to Sonoma County,” with a similar message: “Right on,” said one. “Keep it up,” said another.

And, so, OK, here it is: Killing a Wal-Mart or a Lowe’s like Don Quixote slaying windmills he mistook for enemies is child’s play compared with the battles ahead for the region’s economy.

Consider that just in the last several weeks, federal wildlife regulators proposed setting aside a huge swath of central Sonoma County as critical tiger salamander habitat. If this does not stop development along the Highway 101 corridor from Santa Rosa to Petaluma, it will at the very least make it difficult.

Then just last week, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a water agency determination that 20 years of study devoted to increasing water releases from Lake Sonoma be scrapped.


That may come as surprising news to voters who approved Warm Springs Dam decades ago for the very purpose of ensuring the region’s future water supply. In fact, there is enough water behind the dam to meet demand. But sorry. The cost (read environmental studies) of a pipeline and federal bureaucracies protecting endangered salmon come first. (For the record, the water agency said it is committed to exploring new water supply alternatives.)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes federal, state and county bureaucracies are at this moment crafting new regulatory schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Translation: Every car, every building and every house is likely to face some kind of new regulation and its undetermined economic cost. Note that already there are projects being challenged on their GHG output.

Now, some people may look forward to the day when they have to collect their excess shower water to wash the dishes and then use what’s left to water the parched clematis.

These are small things.

Compare that to the San Joaquin Valley where environmental regulations protecting the delta smelt have diverted billions of gallons of water away from agriculture to run into the ocean. Hundreds of thousands of acres of crop land have been left fallow. Thousands of people have been put out of work, with unemployment in the inland area at 14.3 percent and near 40 percent in the hardest-hit community of Mendota.

Think it couldn’t get that bad here? Maybe not. But even half as bad would be bad enough.

Brad Bollinger is the Business Journal editor in chief. He can be reached at 707-521-4251, or online at