Residents face fines over Russian River flood debris

The three-week old debris removal program along the Russian river is removal process is quickly moving from free collection to enforcement with fines. 

All along the lower Russian River, main roads and side roads, remains dozens upon dozens of piles of debris from Guerneville, to Monte Rio to remote Cazadero. The piles can attract vermin, health problems and be poured through by scavengers looking for anything of value. There have been recent reports that some people have been illegally piling junk at night on or near flood debris piles to take advantage of the free pickup, for which the county has spent millions of dollars to help flood victims. 

"It is not uncommon, following a major disaster, for illegal dumping. But we have protocols in place for that and are stepping up patrol in coordination with the Sonoma County Sheriff," said Dan Virkstis of the Sonoma County Public Works Department.

While it's probably true that some of the debris has been dumped illegally, it's just as likely that most of this debris was a result of county officials and contractors misjudging just how much stuff there was to clean up. 

"I think everybody was surprised at how high the river went and how much damage there really was, you know, and it destroyed so many businesses," said Guerneville property owner Lauren Doeleman. 
Ms. Doeheman just finished cleaning out her home that flooded all the way to the second floor and will just make Friday's final deadline. 

"I believe that it was somewhat unrealistic and also to get the manpower out here to do it. There's so much debris, you know, and it takes a lot of crews to clean up stuff like this," said Doeleman.

Come Saturday morning, residents could face fines. 

"Residents who place debris curbside following completion of the program are subject to Sonoma County's code against illegal dumping," said Sonoma County's Dan Virkstis. 

Residents will be given a 24-hour notice before being cited. Folks with special needs can ask Sonoma County Public Works for a short extension to get the work done.