January/February 2009 issue

The Secret Life of Mountain Lions

Chris Wilmers, Assistant Professor, UCSC

Tour of California Bike Race
Matt Twisselman, City of Santa Cruz

RBDA Board Election

RBDA General Meeting
Wednesday Jauary 14, 2009, 7:30 PM

Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road

The Secret Life of Mountain Lions

Have you ever wondered what mountain lions do in their spare time? Or where and how far they go? Their family patterns? How they hunt? Cougars may be our neighbors, but we don't see them often or have much information about these “cryptic felids.”

Chris Wilmers, Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Department at UCSC, is seeking answers to these and other questions in an interesting way: with assistance from an animal physiologist and electrical engineer, he has developed “telemetry collars for deployment on mountain lions that will collect continuous movement and location data from each animal.”

The first step is to locate, tranquilize, and collar the cougars. And in fact, some other neighbors—a ‘hunter’ and his enthusiastic team of hounds, now camped in Bonny Doon and employed jointly by Dr. Wilmers and the Dept. of Fish and Game—are daily searching for tracks, putting out bait and, when they are lucky, placing collars on their captives.

Once attached to a lion, the collar’s information about its whereabouts is transmitted directly to a screen for real-time viewing. In Chris Wilmers’s words, “This novel technology will allow us to answer important physiological and ecological questions that have so far evaded science regarding the success rate, effort and community-level consequences of predation. The study will enhance our understanding of cougar habitat requirements as well as provide guidance on important movement corridors for lions within and between mountain ranges on the central coast of California.”

At the Jan. 14 RBDA meeting, Professor Wilmers will present the results to date of his project, “Mountain lion physiology, ecology and conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains.” He has invited his research assistant and our neighbor, the lion hunter; the talk will be illustrated with slides, and questions are welcome. In the meantime, information and some terrific pictures of a successful mountain lion ‘hunt’ are available on his website:  http://people.ucsc.edu/%7Ecwilmers/projects.html   Be sure and visit the Felidae Fund website too.

Cemex: The Dust Is Slowly Settling

Analysis is now underway on data collected to understand more precisely how much and where the dangerously toxic chemical hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) is emitted by the Cemex Davenport cement plant. Meanwhile, Cemex is taking steps to reduce Cr(VI) emissions and convert the clinker and cement kiln dust (CKD) which contains the Cr(VI) into a less harmful substance.

The CKD results from the cement production process and has been piled and stored under tarps—the big hill to the north of the plant—and then reused.

Cr(VI) dust is carcinogenic, though experts are reconsidering what amounts of it in the air and on the ground are risky enough to consider keeping the cement plant closed. On Dec. 22 “60 Minutes” aired a piece about American soldiers apparently poisoned by Cr(VI) dust at an Iraq water plant operated by the KBR corporation. The health problems caused by Cr(VI) in drinking water were illustrated by the Hinkley, CA case which is the subject of the movie “Erin Brockovich.” She and her colleagues are currently collecting data about the Davenport contamination.

Since the November Highlander, much data has been collected, analyzed, and validated in the studies to understand the origin and amount of Cr(VI) emitted by the Cemex plant. Once studies are completed, monitoring around the plant by the local air district will continue indefinitely, and, in January, new regulations on Cemex's emissions will be formulated, discussed with all stakeholders, and put in place.

The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District [MBUAPCD], CA EPA's Air Resources Board and Santa Cruz County Environmental Health are independently measuring the outside air quality. The last also contracted a team of experts to measure the air and dust inside and outside Pacific Elementary School, and the soil in the school playground.

To establish a background baseline, the first phases of measurements were taken, both in Davenport and upwind in Swanton, while the plant was shut down in early November. All measurements, by now fully analyzed and validated, were well below the Prop. 65 warning level discussed in the last Highlander article (Nov.-Dec. 2008).

In the latter half of November there was a second phase of measurements, focused on the process of grinding the CKD. During the entire experiment, the amount of Cr(VI) in the air was slightly below the Prop. 65 warning level for the unimproved process, and by factors of 2.5-3 in the presence of the two additives that were being tested to reduce the Cr(VI).

Once that data was fully analyzed and validated, the plant was allowed to begin processing using the more effective additive with the existing clinker. Roughly three-quarters of the existing CKD was re-processed; it should be all done by now. Only some of the air data from the latter part of the second phase has been analyzed and initially found to contain Cr(VI) at roughly a third the Prop. 65 warning level. The second analysis, validating the first, is just beginning. The second phase air measurements also collected data on the whole spectrum of toxic metals one might find in the CKD. At this writing, even the initial analysis is not complete.

The third phase of the air measurements involves the full production process at Cemex. In early December, the kiln was brought up to working temperatures and run using low chromium content iron ore in place of the troublesome slag. After the five randomly chosen days of measurements have been taken the plant will be shut down again while the data is analyzed and validated before production will be allowed to continue, providing that Cr(VI) does not exceed the Prop. 65 warning level.

The County's contractor’s wipe tests inside Pacific Elementary, and, for background, at Bonny Doon Elementary and CalPoly Swanton-Pacific Ranch, were made in mid-November. The analysis for Cr(VI), but not other toxic metals, is complete and validated; all three sites were found to have similar low levels of Cr(VI) on dusty surfaces, within the range of noise in the sampling method. While there are no Federal or State health standards for Cr(VI) in deposited dust, there have been several recommendations made by a variety of Federal and State agencies. The measured Cr(VI) levels are below one-fifth of the most conservative recommendations. It also appears that each of the toxic metals are well below all State and Federal health recommendations. While collection of the soil data has been completed, the initial analysis is incomplete.

Sometime in January all the studies’ data should be analyzed and validated. Then regulations will be promulgated, discussed by scientists, regulators and community members, and implemented.

While painstaking science, industrial process re-engineering, and thoughtful regulations all take time, the hope and will to see them all to completion are here. Ongoing monitoring will give us a much clearer understanding of the overall impact of Cemex on our environment than we have ever had.

The remaining task, and it is a big one, is to urge our government to authorize and fund studies of the combined health impacts of the full chemical cocktail associated with the cement industry, and, indeed, of all America's other major industries.

The URL, which is continuously updated with the latest information, is now: http://tinyurl.com/6kacet

Cycling Tour of California Coming Through Bonny Doon

The news that a major bicycle race, the  Tour of California, which will mark a major step in the comeback of Lance Armstrong, will be passing through Bonny Doon Feb. 16, has cycling fans salivating, and Bonny Doon residents concerned.

The RBDA Board has been in touch with race officials to learn more about its impacts on Bonny Doon, such as road closures and litter, and will continue dialog with them to stay informed about how they plan to deal with negative impacts and  keep our residents informed. Matt Twisselman, Chair of the race organizing committee for the City of Santa Cruz, will be at the Jan. 14 RBDA meeting to answer questions.

Stage 2 of the will begin on the Monday of Presidents’ Day weekend, Feb. 16, in Sausalito and finish in downtown Santa Cruz after riders climb Bonny Doon/Pine Flat Roads and descend down Empire Grade onto Bay Street. The race should reach Bonny Doon between 12:30pm to 12:45pm, weather permitting. As we presently understand it the CHP will close Bonny Doon Road / Pine Flat and Empire Grade to traffic in both directions 2 to 3 hours prior to the race hitting the turn from Highway 1. However, people who wish to turn onto the road in front of the pace car and in the direction of the race will be allowed. Riders straggling more than 45 minutes will be removed from the course, by a trailing crew, which also will clean up signs and litter.

The race is self-contained. Aside from the 128 professional racers, approximately 65 vehicles will travel within the race. This includes CHP, team cars, medical and other support, race officials, TV crews, etc. The entire race moves as almost one entity at an average speed of approximately 26 mph. From the lead CHP car to the follow CHP car is approximately one or two miles. It takes the race about 90 seconds to pass any given spot on the road.

It is anticipated that there will be spectators along the route, particularly on the uphill portion of Bonny Doon Road and Pine Flat. We have been assured that any emergency situation that may occur will take priority over the race. There will be a command center in Santa Cruz that will monitor the race from the time they leave Sausalito, and will convey any pending emergencies to CHP and then to the race officials so they can determine the best course of action. Since parking on the Pine Flat portion of the race is so limited, the RBDA Board will be making some suggestions to the race committee to accommodate spectators.

RBDA Board Election at Jan. 14 Meeting

The following five candidates for the four expiring Board seats were nominated at the Nov. 12 RBDA meeting. No additional nominations are permitted under the RBDA Bylaws.

Miriam Beames
When my husband and I first visited Bonny Doon, we were enchanted—both with the wondrously beautiful place, and with its people.  As with any good relationship, over the years our love has broadened and deepened.

For me, the expression of these feelings has been participation on the RBDA board, off and on, for over 10 years.  Of course, no place ever stays the same; and, of course, there must be compromises between people’s needs and protecting the land they inhabit. I support this process, and the RBDA’s work to bring people with different views together, to reach conclusions through a public forum.
My RBDA experience has taught me, among other things, about postal service, quarrying and water sources—and I've found my way around government offices.  I also have a particular interest in the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve.

If elected, I will continue to use what I’ve learned: to do homework when issues arise; to bring this information, quite possibly with a strong opinion attached, to officials’ attention; and to encourage them to communicate and work with us, so that they can make good choices for Bonny Doon.

Ted Benhari
I’ve led the RBDA for most of the last 12 years, trying to steer it in the direction of maintaining and improving community services like roads and mail, while remaining true to the RBDA’s mission of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural. We need to reach out to our whole community and avoid the suffocating quicksand of exclusivity and self-righteousness to which environmental organizations are prone, winding up talking only to themselves. Most Bonny Dooners chose to live here because they love the trees, the clean air and water, the peacefulness and privacy, and the abundant wildlife. It’s important for us to limit our battles to those of significance, like UCSC’s planned urbanization of its Upper Campus, and Cemex’s pollution, and not waste goodwill and energy fighting minor skirmishes.

My goals, if you choose to reelect me, are to continue to push the RBDA to work in concert with our community, to maintain local services in spite of the tough economic times, and to try to reinvigorate our web site to make it a true community resource.

Tom Hearn
Serving on the board for the last two years, first as treasurer, now as Highlander editor, has provided me an opportunity to better understand the diverse community we live in and the elements of change that potentially threaten the Bonny Doon we know and love. I hope to continue on the board to provide service to the community and to foster an environment that is inclusive of the broader community interests while preserving the rural and natural setting that makes this place so special.

Marty Demare
Having served on the RBDA board in the past, the intervening years have given me perspective on how valuable an organization like the RBDA is to a community with localized common interests but no government structure of its own.

From reporting items of local news to scrutiny of development proposals to consideration of the bigger issues that affect all residents, the Highlander and general meetings inform the discussion of community concerns. Today, proposals such as the expansion at UCSC, Cemex operations, City water diversions and the transfer of the Coast Dairies property to the BLM will have implications for residents that need consideration. I want to help the RBDA board continue its longstanding service to the Bonny Doon area. I believe that my previous terms on the board demonstrate my commitment to representing the membership’s interest in keeping the area “rural and natural.”

Jodi Frediani
As a long-time Bonny Doon resident (over 40 years), I feel privileged to be able to help protect the values that make this area so special. I have served on the RBDA Board since 2003.

I find that staying abreast of the wide range of issues impacting our mountain community and helping to give Dooners a voice is both challenging and rewarding. This past year has brought us the UC upper campus expansion, Cemex quarry expansion and chromium six pollution, the efforts to get better fire protection for Bonny Doon, never mind the very real impacts of the Martin Fire and subsequent efforts to manage the future of the Ecological Reserve. Participating collaboratively with the rest of the board in problem solving while keeping our state and local representatives engaged is what I have worked to do.

We are fortunate to live in an area of great beauty alongside a host of majestic bird species, coyotes, bobcats and, yes, mountain lions. This rural, natural environment deserves our protection. I look forward to continuing to serve on the board on behalf of the environment and the Bonny Doon community.

Hard Financial Times for the RBDA Too

As we start the new year, we will be implementing the new membership dues ($20 per person per year, $15 for each additional member at the same address) that the board recommended and was approved by the membership last January. Unfortunately we find that even with the new rate structure, the funds will not be sufficient to see us through another year, based on the historical expenditures and our current membership.

The single largest expense that we have is the cost of printing and mailing the Highlander, which goes to  every mailbox in the entire community of Bonny Doon. Our belief is that the newsletter is informative, as are the community forums that we pull together five times a year in the public meetings. If you find that the Highlander has some value, or that the meetings have provided you information that you could use, we ask that you consider contributing to the cause; if you are not a member, please join, or make a donation of any smaller amount, as every little bit helps. We’re also considering other options and would be open to any fundraising suggestions you might have that would help us continue to serve the community.

LAFCO Extinguishes Fire District Again

Again citing the potential loss of tax revenue to the rest of the County Fire Dept. if Bonny Doon was allowed to secede from it and form its own district, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted 5 to 2 on Dec. 8 to reject the Bonny Doon Fire Team’s plea for reconsideration.

It seems almost certain that the failed district effort at least will result in Cal Fire moving its Felton-based engine and crew up to Bonny Doon’s McDermott Station on Empire Grade. Cal Fire’s regional chief, John Ferreira, promised at the LAFCO hearing that he would make every effort to keep an engine and crew there even when Cal Fire is fighting wildfires elsewhere.

We Lose Another Outstanding Citizen

For the second time this fall, the Bonny Doon community and the RBDA have lost a significant citizen. Following the death of Don Coyne in October, Carol Atwood passed away in November of a hemorrhage. Carol served on the RBDA board in the 1980s, and was also active in several other Bonny Doon organizations, including helping out at Fire Team events and volunteer teaching at Bonny Doon School. She wore many hats during her productive life, including attorney, science teacher, student advisor, and stringed instrument craftswoman. We are all saddened at her sudden demise.

RBDA Annual Meeting Agenda January 14, 2009
1. Approve minutes of Nov. 12, 2008 meeting.
2. RBDA Board elections
3. Q&A on the Tour of California
3. Featured Program: Mountain Lions of the Santa Cruz Mountains

RBDA Board Meeting December 1, 2008
1. Determined procedures for the Annual Board Officers Election.
2. Set rule that people wishing to distribute literature or address RBDA General Meetings may only do so if the topic is pertinent to the goals and mission of the RBDA.
3. Affirmed that only emails regarding emergencies will be sent to RBDA membership list unless special circumstances warrant it.

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
102 Sunlit Lane • Bonny Doon, CA 95060

Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, 
The Highlander, is mailed free to Bonny Doon residents prior to the 
RBDA General Meetings, which are usually held on second Wednesdays of 
January, March, May, July, September and November.
We encourage you to participate. 

 Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above address, 
or by email, below.

RBDA Executive Board 
Board Chair
Ted Benhari
Vice Chair
Miriam Beames
Joe Christy
Corresponding Secretary 
Jodi Frediani
Ben Harmon 
Recording Secretary
Jan Hilkert
Highlander Editor
Tom Hearn
Contact the RBDA Board in one email

The Bonny Doon Planning District
Bonny Doon Planning District map

If you live in or own property within this district, roughly from Empire Grade to the ocean and from San Vicente Creek to the City of Santa Cruz border, you are eligible to be an RBDA member.

Please support the RBDA!
Dues payments count for a full year from date received.
Dues mostly go for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.
Those who make additional contributions qualify as:

CONTRIBUTORS ($ 25+ dues)
SUSTAINERS ($50+ dues), or
PATRONS ($ 100+ dues)

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