Fred Seamon, Water Expert
Report from Coast Dairies Community Advisory Group
Wednesday, March 12, 2003, 7:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
|Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink?
Perhaps you remember that refrain (without the question mark) from an early encounter in school with S. T. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Of course it’s a reference to the dilemma of a sailor dying of thirst out on an endless and useless ocean. For coastal cities like Santa Cruz and others, it’s a reference to the frustration that comes from not being able to get drinking/agricultural water, always a scarce resource, from the bountiful ocean by any means both economical and non-polluting. Bonny Dooners, blessed by adequate water sources on and within our Mountain, share this frustration indirectly because of the pressures on our streams and aquifers coming from ever-increasing use by the city, University and surrounding agricultural endeavors.
Early in February an op-ed article appeared in the Sentinel in which a water expert protested that this frustration should be a thing of the past-that modern techniques now allow desalting of ocean water in a manner both economic, competitive and non-polluting. We of the RBDA want to hear more about this, and invited said engineer Fred Seamon to come and fill us in on the details at our next RBDA General Meeting on March 12. Fred, from the aptly-named corporation OASES, will give an overview and tell us how the city of Marina has taken positive action on desalination, and why Santa Cruz may be interested in doing so since the City’s exhaustive "Integrated Water Planning" process is concluding with a recommendation to pursue desalination.
Meanwhile, the Water Department is studying a multimillion-dollar project to rehabilitate the diversion facilities and pipelines that collect and convey water from Liddell Spring, Reggiardo Creek, Laguna Creek and Majors Creek to the City’s treatment plant. These stream diversions have been in place for a long time and are now recognized as extremely detrimental to fish habitat since there are no bypass flow requirements. Isn’t it time for the City to stop taking water from Bonny Doon streams and get it from the ocean?
The desalination scheme may not be the panacea that it seems to promise. Historically, it has been too expensive, has used processes which consume vast amounts of energy, and either has a salt disposal problem or directly pollutes coastal waters when the brine is dumped. Why should we now believe that mitigations of these problems have now been achieved?
Mr. Seamon will take questions from those who may view this desalination "breakthrough" with some suspicion and worry about the environmental factors, or from those who just want to know more about it. The president of OASES may also honor us with his presence, having heard we have a lot of technically skilled folks in Bonny Doon (if I can convince them, I can convince anyone?). We’ll try to get someone from the Santa Cruz Water Dept. to attend our meeting, too. So come and pepper these folks with your salty questions!
Supes Blur the Urban/Rural Line, Raise Land Use Questions
A vote by the Board of Supervisors Feb. 11 sets a bad precedent for development in Bonny Doon, particularly in connection with the pending application to expand Waldorf School. The vote was the outcome of the Supes’ consideration of an appeal that required them to interpret the language of County code and determine if it was appropriate to site a 13,000 sq. ft. commercial building on RA (Residential Agricultural) land. The project drew much sympathy because it is a support facility for staff of the Hospice Caring Project. In other words, offices, a kitchen, childcare area and meeting rooms. But these are facilities that could utilize existing vacant office space. There was no direct hospice care proposed at the site. The Supes did not actually approve the facility itself. What they did do was make a determination that the facility is an allowed use on RA land. In doing so, they diminished the effectiveness of Measure J, the anti-sprawl initiative adopted by voters in 1978. The initiative inserted language in the County Code meant to implement the people’s wishes.
For example: "it shall be the policy of the Santa Cruz County to preserve a distinction between areas of the county which are ‘urban’ and areas which are ‘rural’" because" [I]n many parts of the County the public is unable to pay for, provide, or maintain adequately the following services required by new development:…adequate roads, sewers, and water.…These problems are greatly aggravated when new development takes place in rural areas rather than in areas where urban services can be provided at less cost to the taxpayers."
As a way to implement the policy, voters approved the creation of a boundary to define areas which are or have the potential to be urban and areas which are and should remain rural." These boundaries were intended "to encourage the location of new development in urban areas, and to protect agricultural land and natural resources in rural areas." In support of that policy, and particularly relevant to Dooners, voters identified concerns about water supplies, saying "[t]he ‘safe yield’ capacity of natural surface and groundwater sources is being exceeded in many areas of the County, causing water supply and water quality problems which will be irreversible or extremely expensive to correct."
The County Planning Director’s report to the Supes supported the right of the Planning Commission and the Supes to make a "discretionary" determination about the uses appropriate to RA land. However, citizens have taken such determinations to the Appellate courts and the State Supreme Court and the Courts have been very strong in defending voter adopted initiatives and referendums against interpretations or implementations that evade the voters’ intent. Many people feel that this decision by the Supes erodes the rural/urban boundary and hope it will not be used as a precedent to justify expansion of Waldorf School or other future projects proposed in Bonny Doon that, to them, represent the creep of urbanization into our area. The RBDA Board will be discussing this issue after consulting with those on both sides of the question; please feel free to share your opinion on this matter with your favorite Board member!
Uncle Sam Rides Into Bonny Doon
This fall, U.S. Govt. land management, in its first foray into Santa Cruz County, is coming to Bonny Doon. More than half of the 7000 acre Coast Dairies property lies in the Bonny Doon Planning Area, The rest is just west across the boundary at San Vicente Creek. It was 1999 when State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were announced as the "take out agencies," a time when then President Clinton had designated some BLM land a national monument. BLM was starting to brush up on new methods and priorities that placed conservation ahead of utilization. But in the intervening years dramatic events and global political maneuvers have altered the federal government’s priorities.
In the recently submitted federal budget, the BLM asks for a $42.8 million increase in funding for various uses such as promoting energy development on public lands to continue implementation of the National Energy Policy. A BLM press release continues:
"The 2004 budget request will build capability in the BLM’s forestry management programs with a $2.5 million increase. The Bureau will use the funds to conduct commercial thinning and other forest management treatments to improve the condition and productivity of forests and woodlands and provide economic opportunities for local communities."
But a condition was attached when the property was transferred to the Trust for Public Land specifying that there would be no commercial logging on the property. If this condition is included in the transfer documents, how will it be reconciled with BLM goals stated above?
"For 2004, the BLM is proposing a net increase of $5.2 million to provide expanded and improved, yet environmentally sustainable, recreational opportunities."
Does this mean we can expect hiking trails or the distant whine of dirt bikes and off-highway vehicles (OHVs)? This would be welcome news to Community Advisory Group (CAG) participants from the "Sheriff’s Posse" who long for new OHV recreational areas to supplement the heavily used Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area.
The BLM in this area operates out of an understaffed office in Hollister where they administer the Hollister Resource Management Plan. The Plan governs the various activities on the BLM’s 315,000 acre holdings in Central California. These are primarily grazing leases, but include mining, hunting, wilderness study areas, and land designated for OHV access. This document is currently undergoing a scheduled review and revision. Part of that process is the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement offering local citizens an opportunity to provide input on land use. But conservation minded CAG members point out that alarming deficiencies in process and substance of recent Environmental Impact Statements have caused the BLM to be rebuked by a Federal judge While the country is being made ready for a war in Iraq, we cannot eliminate any land utilization possibilities.
Every time we pass Laguna Creek and turn up Bonny Doon Road on our way home from town, we will be crossing BLM land. Land that can be turned to uses that serve the administration’s policies and priorities, regardless of Bonny Doon residents’ interests. If that seems like a long reach, remember the federally led raid that bypassed the local sheriff’s office and massed officers at the Catholic Church in Davenport before proceeding to destroy WAMM’S medical marijuana farm in Swanton. On the other hand, a new wartime contract awarded to Lockheed Martin might create jobs for Dooners laid off in the dot.bust over the hill. BLM, RMC Pacific Materials and Lockheed could work out land swap deals to expand the Lockheed test facility or provide new quarrying opportunities for RMC. Increased cement production may be needed to support the war effort. Will we hear the rumble of a new conveyor serving a quarry opened on BLM land? Even those who favor the utilization of Bonny Doon’s natural resources should mourn the loss of local control over land use decisions in the area.
Crayons to Ink
The Community Advisory Group began with facilitators and visioning exercises,
maps and coloring crayons, but when ink is put to paper, TPL will be signing
documents transferring ownership of the Coast Dairies property to the "take
out agencies". This transaction will be executed between public/private
entities over which we have no direct influence. The Trust for Public Land
has scheduled a meeting of the CAG for March 8 and it is open to the public.
As we go to press it is not known when TPL’s management plan for the property
will be released and this plan will have no legal standing. The environmental
studies required by State and Federal law will be initiated by the take
out agencies some time in the future after the transfer of the property
is completed and approved by State and Federal officials. A report on the
CAG meeting will be presented at the March 12 RBDA meeting.
Ag Pond Becomes Fish Nursery
State and Federal regulatory scrutiny has focused on a pond filled by water diverted from San Vicente Creek, home to threatened steelhead and coho salmon. Agricultural diversion structures were poorly designed and maintained, allowing thousands of fish to populate the pond. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has threatened Coast Dairies & Land Co. with massive fines if the fish are harmed and CDLC is found negligent.
CDLC is going to monitor the fish population and take steps to ensure that they have sufficient oxygen in the pond to survive.
General Meeting March 12, 2003
1. Approval of Minutes of January 8, 2003 General Meeting
Summary of Actions of RBDA Executive Board
Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve Update
On Feb. 22, a dozen Dooners met with Reserve manager Jeannine DeWald from the State Department of Fish and Game. Thanks to the care and attention of these local residents, the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve Management Plan continues to be improved. The Plan’s implementation, funding and staffing are uncertain, but there is no doubt about the urgent need for fire hazard reduction before the land around the Moon Rocks is burned to a moonscape. The California Department of Forestry office in Felton is supposed to generate a plan that is likely to specify brush removal and controlled burns but it’s approval may stall because DeWald wants to withdraw the Management Plan and return it to Sacramento so that Fish & Game officials can incorporate input from local residents. Meanwhile, garbage, beer cans, condoms, charcoal, cut fences and graffiti show that debauchery and vandalism continue to degrade the Reserve and increased law enforcement will be requested. Ms. DeWald did offer that informational signs for the reserve had been created and now await installation.
Reaching Higher for Better Mail Service
Our postal service may not have much to do with keeping Bonny Doon rural
and natural but we depend on the mail to get this publication to you and
we know you depend on it for news, information, and starting your woodstove.
In an ongoing effort to secure more reliable mail delivery, RBDA board
member Miriam Beames has had numerous conversations with postal officials.
(See the story in the July 2001 Highlander for more details. If the issue
went in the fire, you can still read it online.)
State Holds Up Cement Plant’s Water Rights Application
The State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Water Rights wants more information before acting on RMC Pacific Materials’ application to store San Vicente Creek water in a pond at the Davenport cement plant. The pond already exists, and is now home to endangered red-legged frogs, who probably abandoned their earlier habitat higher in the creek canyon because of disturbance of the upper San Vicente watershed by quarrying activities.
The issue is complicated by charges by San Vicente watershed watchdogs that RMC is misusing more than 30% of the San Vicente water, which is also the source of Davenport’s water. RMC wants to use the pond to help protect the frogs, but Davenport citizens want the upper watershed restored to protect their water supply before RMC is granted any permits or water rights. Go to waterrights.ca.gov for more information on this complex situation. And here is a more direct link to a PDF file of the actual application.
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