Treasure of the Santa Cruz Mountains: Water
The History and Beauty of Bonny Doon Watersheds
One of the great pleasures of living in Bonny Doon is being in a rich forested zone of tall conifers and myriad small plants and wildlife clustered along numerous creeks and brooks. These watersheds are a natural resource long treasured by both local and City of Santa Cruz residents. In 1890, it was the City that invested the money to build Smith Grade to access Laguna Creek, then a dam and pipeline to bring water into the City reservoir on Empire Grade near the UCSC Arboretum. Majors and Liddell Creeks also add their water to pipelines flowing into Santa Cruz.
The history of North Coast water is a backdrop to several current issues, including the future growth of UCSC, the proposed rerouting of the Cityís pipeline along the coast, and the Cemex limestone quarry expansiončall of which could potentially damage quality and/or quantity of this precious local resource. The complex geography of Bonny Doon makes visualizing our community as a single integrated water resource difficult. Come join us for an interactive evening of history, discussion, and beautiful visuals, led by RBDA member Karl Bareis and other neighbors. With the help of a software program that combines multiple digital satellite images into a "virtual world," Karl will navigate us on a sweeping aerial tour of Bonny Doon topography and its watersheds.
Karl has created a Laguna Creek Watershed Association for residents who depend on this watershed for their water supply. He will be making a proposal at the General Meeting that this Watershed Association become a member-led RBDA committee, so that he and fellow Association members can mentor other area residents on how to create their own watershed associations to monitor, protect, and steward their water resources.
UCSC's Growth: Draft EIR A Joke,But Expansion Is Not
The Draft of the Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the massive UCSC expansion plans, released on Oct. 19, is so vague, flawed, incomplete, and arbitrary that it should be almost totally redone.
The EIR purports to examine predicted impacts from the 15-year plan, which calls for the campus to grow by 2020 from 15,000 to 21,000 students and from 4,077 to 5,600 faculty and staff. The footprint of campus buildings will double, a new college will bring classrooms and hundreds of residences to the Bonny Doon Cave Gulch neighborhood, with the UCSC corporate yard (storage for construction materials, vehicles and machines) relocated there as well. This North Campus development outlines building on parts of the campus Natural Reserve, a pristine area set aside some 30 years ago for study by students in the Natural Sciences, which contains environmentally sensitive and significant areas.
This will be the first urban development in Bonny Doon and, as such, it is in direct conflict with the Countyís General Plan. It is outside both the Santa Cruz City limits and Countyís Urban Services boundary. UCSC is exempt from local land use planning regulations, so it can thumb its nose at the General Plan, but it must (UCSC may contest this) obtain the permission of the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) to get City water and sewer hookups for the Cave Gulch development. Although it is made up of local officials, LAFCO is a state agency, so UCSC is not exempt from its jurisdiction. Clearly, a LAFCO denial is the best tool for preventing the North Campus development, though the courts or the legislature could overturn any LAFCO ruling.
Both the City and County are planning to make voluminous objections to the DEIR, as are several environmental groups (including the RBDA). By law, each objection must be dealt with before the final EIR is accepted by the UC Regents. There is a decent chance either or both the City and County could bring a lawsuit.
Highlights of the problems with the DEIR:
Most galling are numerous acknowledgments in the DEIR that while there will be major impacts on traffic, housing and the environment, mitigations are either unavailable, unfeasible, too expensive, or up to the City, not UCSC, to deal with. In short, it says higher education for more Californians is too important a goal for UCSC to worry about how it affects our community.
While it identifies numerous impacts to wildlife and plans, some of which are threatened species, the DEIR cavalierly states that many mitigations will only be made "if feasible" or "if possible," and describes other mitigations, such as transferring various animal populations or habitats, that in reality have little chance of success.
The DEIR makes arbitrary, self-serving determinations about what impacts are "significant" and need mitigating. For example, under its formula up to 40% of the campusí threatened Silver Leaf manzanita could be removed, as could 56% of the manzanita in high-density stands, yet this isnít said to be "significant."
There are numerous contradictions, such as ignoring the Countyís Sensitive Habitat Ordinance but not its Erosion Control Ordinance. The DEIR is available online at lrdp.ucsc.edu, or at the Santa Cruz library at 225 Church St. and at McHenry Library on campus. The report is 900 pages, but there are summaries of each section. The period for receiving comments has been extended to Jan. 11, and may be sent via e-mail to email@example.com or mailed to 2005 LRDP EIR Comment, UCSC Physical Planning and Construction, 1156 High St. Barn G, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. Your RBDA board has been working with CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, to organize opposition to the expansion. To keep up with developments and participate in events, go to the CLUE website, http://www.santacruzclue.org.
Annual RBDA Board Election
The primary purpose of the RBDA annual meeting, held each January, is to elect members to the Executive Board. There are four expiring Board positions, those of Yana Jacobs, Ben Harmon, and Jane Cavanaugh, and long-time Board member Don Coyne, who is stepping down. The prior three were nominated at the November General Meeting, along with RBDA member Andre LaFleur. Per the bylaws, no further nominations are allowed at the January meeting. Here are the candidatesí statements:
Iíd like to continue offering my skills through a second term on the Board: I have a trained ear at "listening to both sides." I am committed to seeking the truth. I am outrageously honest and passionate, but I am able to be diplomatic while debating an issue-though I must admit I like to win. I am a hard worker and work best as part of a team.
North Coast Trail on Track
Itís been a long-term dream of hikers and bikers to have a trail that runs the length of Californiaís incredible coastline. A few pieces have been created, including here in Santa Cruz County, where a couple of significant additions are in the wings.
One big piece of the trail here will run along the Union Pacific (UP) railroad tracks, which the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Committee (RTC) has signed an agreement to purchase for $19 million. The only train using the tracks runs three times a week, bringing materials to and from the Cemex Davenport plant.
Ignoring the issue of why the government has to buy back land it once gave away, this is great news. To speed up the purchase, the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency, recently announced that it will grant the RTC $10 million, which will be repaid by already approved but not yet allocated funds from the state and federal governments. On the other hand, a dark cloud recently emerged when a study was released showing that millions of dollars of repairs and earthquake safety improvements are needed on the trackís trestles. The RTC and UP are funding a more detailed study. The County is now in the initial stages of an Environmental Impact study for extending the trail, which now runs from Shaffer Road to Wilder Ranch State Park, four miles farther to the north to Scaroni Road. The extension is expected to cost $4- to $5-million and will take several years before it is ready for public use. The planned route runs alongside the Union Pacific tracks.
While we are very excited by the potential for a safe, scenic bike path along the rail corridor along the North Coast, we are concerned that the project not overlook any potential hazards to public health that could result from placing a public access route in the middle of an area of intense commercial agriculture activity. One such potential hazard is any exposure to toxins used as part of commercial farming. The proposed bicycle route along the train tracks between Wilder Ranch and Scaroni Road runs through the center of five farms leased from State Parks. All but one of these farms are commercial, putting the majority of the proposed bike route through the middle of fields heavily treated with fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides, many highly toxic. Over 1,300 applications of over 60 unique chemicals were performed on these fields during the 2004 growing season¹.
Many chemicals, particularly pesticides, are applied in liquid form through tractor sprayers, causing chemicals to drift some distance if there is any wind. Unfortunately, the growing season coincides precisely with the windy season, so drift is a strong possibility. For this reason, farmers try to spray at night when the wind is lighter, but this isnít always possible and applications can occur at any time. In addition, it does not seem to be possible to determine in advance when and with what any particular field will be sprayed. This means that a morning bike ride could take riders within a few feet of a field where active spraying is taking place. Chemicals differ in how long they remain toxic (their "half-life"). Studies² indicate that "secondhand drift" from chemicals with a long half-life that continue to off-gas or dry into powder form and drift can cause continued levels of toxicity in the area for days or even weeks, much longer than previously thought.
With local winds blowing directly down the rail line in the summer, this is clearly a potential public health concern that needs to be addressed before any permanent public access along the rail corridor is developed. We believe that long-term site studies should be performed to evaluate any risk factors, both immediate and cumulative.
¹ Statistics determined from an in-depth analysis of 2004 data obtained from the Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissionerís office by Ben Harmon. For more information please contact Ben Harmon through the RBDA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday, Dec. 7, between 1 and 3 am, the CDC (California Department of Corrections) Camp on Empire Grade had an inmate escape. Per agreements made with the Bonny Doon community, first thing Thursday morning Lt. Ray Stewart made phone calls to community members who had requested notification, including the RBDA Chair, who immediately authorized an alert to the RBDA member e-mail list.
The inmate left the Bonny Doon area apparently without incident and was seen at noon the same day in downtown Santa Cruz. Lt. Stewart reports that despite dispatching 10 search teams, CDC has not been able to locate the inmate. They have unconfirmed reports that he left the Santa Cruz area on a bus, possibly headed for Salinas where he had family. The inmate was a first-time offender serving time for a relatively minor offense of "purchasing a controlled substance." He had only five weeks left to serve on his sentence, but was in the process of being deported back to Mexico.
Lt. Stewart will be at the Jan. 11 meeting to address any concerns or questions. Contact the RBDA Board if you would like to be on an e-mail or phone list to receive future escapee notifications.
Green Waste Going to Waste?
The RBDA Board received several inquiries from community members who spotted green waste at the City of Santa Cruzís Dimeo Lane facility being used as an alternate cover to top the landfill each day. Given the "zero waste" goals that the County is aggressively pursuing to lengthen landfill life expectancy, it was a curious sight to see the City facility apparently wasting precious landfill space on a reusable resource. We checked it out with both City and County Dept Public Works officials.
On a positive note, the Dimeo Lane facility actually does "due diligence" on their green waste. Their testing revealed some residual pesticides that donít break down during the composting process. The amount was fairly small, but the majority of their green waste was being used as mulch by an organic farmer, who chose to discontinue use for now. Until they find another outlet for their mulch (itís yours for the asking!), they plan to continue using the mulch as an alternate to covering the landfill with dirt. Green waste taken to a County facility (Buena Vista or Ben Lomond) will continue to be converted to mulch and diverted from their landfills.
BLM Proposes Dousing Wilderness Areas with Herbicides
To reduce the risk of fire and slow the spread of invasive weeds, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed applying massive amounts of herbicides to forests, rangelands, and aquatic areas in public land they manage in 17 Western states. The proposal covers 932,000 acres, and could potentially include the Coast Dairies land BLM is slated to be given. An integral part of the BLM proposal involves aerial spraying of toxic herbicides, which increases negative impacts on non-targeted vegetation, wildlife, and people. According to the Organic Consumers Association, the pesticides that would be used include persistent and mobile chemicals, including known developmental and reproductive toxins.
Public comments are being accepted until January 9, 2006. To show your support for managing vegetation on our public lands with traditional methods that do not require widespread application of toxic chemicals, take a minute to sign the petition at: www.organicconsumers.org/blm.htm
Jan. 11, 2006 RBDA Meeting Agenda
RBDA Exec.Board Actions DEC. 14, 2005
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