Balancing an integrated program to maintain environmental quality along Coastal California, Iva May Warner faced nearly insurmountable
odds for over a decade. Joining two former Feinstone Award (the Sol Feinstone Environmental Award, given by State University
of New York) recipients, the late Dorothy Erskine of San Francisco and Sylvia McLaughlin of Berkeley, she opposed a dam on
the Russian River, mustering expert testimony on engineering, geology, earthquake analysis, biology and stream degradation
from some 200 citizen volunteers. Even though the Warm Springs Dam has been built, a number of modifications were effected
that provide safety features and ameliorate environmental degradation. Warner was prominent in the effort to form the state
Coastal Commission to protect the coastline from over-development, and the succeeding Coastal Act of 1976, both of which had
significant results. Her other projects included opposition to aqueducts which could have opened all of Sonoma County to development,
protecting the fishery in the Eel and Russian rivers, proposing land disposal waste water reclamation, implementation and
monitoring the Sonoma County and Santa Rosa General Plans, farmland preservation, and opposition to stream channelization.
Another focus was to pass the State Water Conservation Initiative, an attempt to revise water law established in 1928. Iva
Warner was an active member and president of the environmental group Sonoma County Tomorrow, and participated in battles over
coastal development and protection of North Bay waterways.
Iva May Warner was born in Otay, California on October 21, 1912. She had an older brother and sister from her father’s previous
marriage. She never married or had children and died in 2005 at the age of 93 in Petaluma, Sonoma County, California. Iva
had an interesting and full life as an activist, environmentalist, school teacher and as president of Sonoma County Tomorrow
- an organization interested in the “quality of life in Sonoma County”.
She was a leading player in the fight to keep Warm Springs Dam, which created Lake Sonoma, from being built. She lost the
fight to not have the Dam built, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers redesigned the Dam so it would be more sensitive to
the environment and future potential earthquakes.
Iva’s roots in Sonoma County went back two generations as her grandfather led a wagon train west from Illinois to the Dry
Creek Valley which was downstream from the site of the Warm Springs Dam.