March/April 2006 issue
The State of the County 2006

Mardi Wormhoudt
Third District Supervisor

RBDA General Meeting
March  8, 2006, 7:30 PM
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
Insurers Reviewing Home Policies in Potential Fire Areas

At least two homeowners in the Pine Ridge area have recently been notified that their insurance policies will not be renewed, a sign that some insurers are beginning to enforce the State law (California Public Resources Code, Section 4291) that increases the clearance from 30 feet to 100 feet of flammable vegetation around homes and other structures, as discussed in detail in the November-December Highlander. This 100 foot clearance is called "defensible space", and may well make the difference between your home being a survivor or a casualty in a wild land fire. Insurance companies are strong supporters of the increased clearance because it reduces their potential liability. The insurers are enforcing the clearance law by not issuing new policies, by requiring property owners to comply with the 100 foot clearance for policy continuation, or by not renewing policies at their anniversary date.

Wild land areas like Bonny Doon can now be viewed through satellite images that give an insurer some idea of how much horizontal vegetation clearance a particular structure has on any given parcel. These images are less useful in determining the vertical composition of the vegetation, that is, how much "ladder fuel" is present. Whether or not these satellite images are used, an insurance company may send an inspector to view properties first-hand. These inspectors are not usually trained fire personnel, and their interpretation of CPR 4291 guidelines can be far from its intent.

The State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF), on January 24, 2006, tentatively revised and clarified CPR 4291. The BOF paper is titled "General Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space." Reference is made throughout this paper to guidelines, not absolute requirements, for creating defensible space, stating for example, "within the intent of the regulations, the fire inspection official of the authority having jurisdiction may approve alternative practices which provide for the same practical effects as the stated guidelines." In Bonny Doon, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) is the jurisdictional authority.

CDF conducts compliance inspections of some properties in Bonny Doon every year, but does not have the budget or personnel to inspect all properties.  However, they are quite willing to view a property when requested by a homeowner, and will readily give advice on how to improve all aspects of fire safety. This free inspection, and your prompt implementation of their suggestions, may be your best bet to keep your insurance company happy, and more importantly, to make your home a survivor. They can supply you with the pamphlet, Living with Fire in Santa Cruz County, which is a good guide to creating defensible space. Should you come to an impasse with your insurer, a CDF fire prevention officer may be able to help resolve it.

For further information, contact Rodney Maddocks, Fire Prevention Bureau Chief, Felton CDF, 335-6720, or Big Creek Fire Station, 426-1664.  Burn season ends April 30; take advantage of controlled winter burning, and reduce uncontrolled summer burning. Call 1-800-CAL-BURN for legal burn days and regulations.

UCSC Sued Over Clean Water Act Violations

It wasn’t exactly a Valentine’s Card that CLUE sent to UCSC and UC Regents on February 14. Rather, it was a 60-day Notice of Intent to file suit in federal court over violations of the federal Clean Water Act and other state and federal statutes. 

Volunteers for CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, took a number of samples in December of storm water runoff from construction sites and other UCSC campus locations. Analysis revealed alarming levels of sediments and pollutants flowing into surface and ground waters on the campus and surrounding areas.

Named in the suit are UCSC Chancellor Denise Denton, the UC Regents, UC President Robert Dynes, and Devcon Construction, Inc., a contractor working on several of the sites. After expiration of the required 60-day notice period, CLUE will file suit for public enforcement in Federal District Court in San Jose.

According to CLUE, the test results demonstrate a pattern of failure by UCSC, which it claims has a long history of ignoring environmental degradation caused by inadequate storm water management. UCSC identified storm water and erosion problems and proposed mitigations in its 1988 Long Range Development Plan. Most of these mitigations were never implemented, says CLUE, leading to conditions that are now at a critical state. CLUE cites a statement from UCSC’s 2004 Storm Water and Drainage Master Plan:
"The UCSC campus is currently at a turning point. Accelerated drainage and erosion problems need to be addressed now to ensure continued protection of the campus’ natural landscape. . . The ecological integrity of campus watersheds will be irrevocably altered if such rates continue."

CLUE is very much in need of funds to fight this important lawsuit. To find out how you can help, go to the CLUE web site:

Meanwhile, hundreds of pages of criticism of the 2005 UCSC Long Range Development draft Environmental Impact Report have been submitted by various Santa Cruz City and County agencies, private groups and concerned individuals, including the RBDA. Over the next 15 years, UCSC wants to nearly double the square footage of campus buildings and increase the number of students by 60%.

In a separate matter, the California Dept. of Forestry recently issued a Notice of Violation to UCSC over improper tree removal and conversion of forest into a parking lot at Kerr Hall.

It is extremely disappointing to see the continuing slide of a once respected institution into disregard for the environment and community.

Watershed Association Formed, Laguna Creek Walk Scheduled
Forming a Watershed Community

What is a Watershed Association and why would you want to be on one? Several neighbors along the Laguna Creek watershed have begun meeting informally to get to know each other and educate themselves on the watershed to which they all share access. 

With watersheds providing such a precious local resource, watershed associations are a way that property owners can educate themselves and make decisions about how to best manage their part of the system. Watershed associations in other parts of California have chosen to help each other repair or create dams, install fish ladders, and other activities that the association found would help the quality of their watershed. Other possibilities include enlisting local biologists to lend their knowledge and expertise, then publishing educational material to help property owners along the watershed understand how to best steward the portions of the creek running through their land; for example, providing tips on erosion control based on type of soil for their location.

An RBDA Watershed Association Committee has been formed to bring together interested property owners from all Bonny Doon watersheds so that residents can learn how all the watersheds feed together and decide how to best organize an association for their own watershed. Karl Bareis has volunteered to help kick-off this larger effort. If you are a property owner along one of Bonny Doon’s creeks and are interested in joining or creating a watershed association, contact Karl for more information at 427-1034.

An Educational Walk on Laguna Beach

As mentioned at the January RBDA General Meeting, a walk focused on watershed education and awareness has been organized at the mouth of Laguna Creek for Saturday, March 18th from 10:00 am to noon. The walk is intended as a kick-off of the new RBDA Watershed Association Committee.  Grey Hayes will be leading the walk. Grey, a naturalist and biologist at Elkhorn Slough with a PhD on the preservation of coastal prairies, will interpret various features and history of the area. The property manager of Coast Dairies will also accompany the group.

The proposed route will take people on the beach surrounding the lagoon at the base of Laguna Creek, which is the area of most biological interest on the creek. Tide, rainfall, and receipt of final permissions from TPL (Trust for Public Land) for permission to access the Coast Dairies land will dictate the exact route.

To sign up for the March 18th walk and learn more about the Laguna Creek watershed and the new Watershed Association Committee, contact Karl by phone 427-1034 or email the RBDA. TPL needs to have a head count prior to finalizing arrangements so it’s important that you call ahead.  Plan to meet other walkers in the Laguna Road parking lot, on the inland side of Hwy. 1, at 9:45 am. Note that Laguna Road has a bridge out so you’ll want to take the second or north entrance onto the road. Signs will be posted at the parking area from both directions on Saturday morning to clearly mark the meeting place. Important: You will need to cross Hwy. 1 to begin the walk. Please use caution!

Hot News About Eco Reserve Fire Fuel Reduction

Good news! The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is planning to issue a biological opinion approving the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Prevention’s (CDF) Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) at the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve within the next two weeks. This was the last hurdle to implementing the plan for fuel reduction in the Reserve. At stake has been an $80,000 federal grant secured by CDF from USFWS to help with the fuel reduction project, which would be lost if not spent by July 31.  Speaking at the Jan. 11 RBDA General Meeting, Lt. Ray Stewart, the departing head of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) camp on Empire Grade, added an extra sense of urgency to the timetable. His crews who would do the work would likely be called away at the beginning of the summer to help with wildfire control in other parts of the state. The promised USFWS approval now clears the way for CDF to complete final processing of the project request and give crews the green light to begin work on fuel reduction starting in early April. They’re hoping to double up CDC crews to do as much work as possible before June.

The Eco Reserve, a truly unique Bonny Doon treasure, was created in 1989 thanks in part to long-time Bonny Doon resident Marilyn Hummel, who worked with a few others for almost eight years to save it from development and transfer it to public ownership. Since then the Eco Reserve has been blessed by many other heroes and angels. In the local community, botanist and re-vegetation specialist Val Haley has, since the inception of the Reserve, led a group of volunteers. They remove invasive plants, clear trails, monitor and protect endangered native plants, repair fences, put up signs, and collect garbage. Val also organizes nature walks through the Reserve and writes a monthly piece for the Battle Mountain News. To protect the Reserve from marauders, Sheriff’s deputies regularly drive through the area; they collaborate with Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens and respond to neighbors’ calls.

Only trail clearing has been done in the Eco Reserve since 1989. All assessments are that the fuel load is at a critical level, a safety hazard not only for the Eco Reserve, but for the surrounding homes and Bonny Doon community. The recent victory in securing the $80,000 grant for fuel reduction is another tribute to the power of the community working together.  The DFG, which owns and manages the Eco Reserve,  has had a relatively minor presence during its 17 years of management. In the absence of a plan from DFG for fuel management, Val and Angela Peterson, the CDF VMP  Coordinator, and 25 Bonny Doon residents had a kick-off meeting in July 2003 with DFG’s Eco Reserve manager Jeannine DeWald. This Bonny Doon group has been working ever since to get a fuel reduction plan created and approved.  Much credit and thanks go to Angela, who created the original VMP and secured the federal grant. When Eco Reserve docents and volunteers learned at their annual meeting in January that a County grading permit and Coastal permit were needed for the VMP and that DFG was reluctant to pay the $3,000 to submit the VMP to the County, it seemed this relatively small dollar amount might cost Bonny Doon the $80,000 support. Angela researched the permit issues and rewrote the VMP, scaling down the fuel reduction plan to eliminate the need for road grading, which meant a  County grading permit and Coastal permit would not be needed. With these roadblocks cleared, approval by USFWS was the last hurdle.

It was a final letter writing campaign by Bonny Doon residents that took the project the last mile. The magnitude of the fire hazard and the critical grant deadline was a call to action that generated widespread support from many Bonny Doon residents and organizations. We received reports of many phone calls and letters to the offices of Assemblyman John Laird, Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt, and Jeannine DeWald of DFG. Miriam Beames and Jessica Vaughan spearheaded the letter-writing campaign for Eco Reserve docents and volunteers. Miriam and Marilyn Hummel then walked these letters down to Laird and Wormhoudt’s offices. Staff from both offices were extremely responsive and escalated the issue to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s office, the only ones who could put pressure on USFWS to deliver their opinion on the VMP and get the funds released.

Before work begins in April, Val and Angela plan to strategize with DFG and CDC crews to make sure there is an environmentally sound work plan and proper community notification. Crews will start reducing fire hazard first along the shaded fuel break along Ice Cream Grade and Martin Road, then move into the cypress grove along the "sand trap." Work will involve, among other things, chipping, clearing, and controlled burns. Val plans to have supervision of crews to prevent damage to endangered species and environmentally sensitive areas. Val will try to post notices in local Bonny Doon papers as well as the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Eco Reserve kiosk area across from the Martin Road Fire Station. If you have any questions, contact Val Haley at 425-0687.

Credit Where It’s Due

In her January column in the Battle Mountain News, Bonny Doon School Superintendent Gail Levine very kindly thanked the RBDA for its help in solving a potentially dangerous problem with a blocked culvert in front of the school’s main entrance.

While we did play a small role in facilitating the work, much of the credit should actually go to Daryl Jessen of Battle Mountain Excavation, who contributed his time, expertise and equipment to clear out the filled ditch, and to Steph Marr of the Bonny Doon Fire Team for cleaning the blocked culvert.

It was Fire Team Captain Dennis Mason, head of the RBDA’s Road Committee, who called attention to the dangerous situation, which would have allowed sheets of water to flow over Pine Flat Road in heavy storms, and it was Dennis who organized the repair work. Bonny Dooners owe a debt of gratitude to Dennis for his continued vigilance in identifying potential problems on our roads, and to Daryl and Steph for their generous community spirit.

NEW RBDA Officers

At the Jan. 11 RBDA meeting Ben Harmon and Jane Cavanaugh were re-elected to 2-year terms on the Executive Board, as was new member Andre LaFleur.  Board member Yana Jacobs was re-elected to fill out the remaining 1-year term of a resigned board member.

Long-time board member Don Coyne declined to run for re-election. Don served for many years as chairman and in other board positions, and his experience and counsel will be greatly missed. We wish him the best, and we will certainly be calling on him  as needed for special assignments.

March 8, 2006 RBDA Meeting Agenda
1)    RBDA Business
2)    Featured Program: Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt, State of the County 2006

RBDA Exec.Board Actions Jan. 11, 2006
1)    Officers for 2006: Ben Harmon becomes Recording Secretary, Andre LaFleur Membership Coordinator, others remain the same.

RBDA Exec.Board Actions Feb.9, 2006
1)    Minutes of Dec. 14, 2005 Executive Board Meeting approved.
2)    Minutes of Jan. 11, 2006 Executive Board meeting approved.
3)    Board role changes approved: Jodi Frediani becomes Recording Secretary, 
       Andre LaFleur Vice-Chair, Ben Harmon Membership Coordinator.
4)    Reversed decision to reduce general meetings to 4 per year instead of 5.


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
Andre LaFleur
Alec Webster
Corresponding Secretary 
Yana Jacobs
Ben Harmon 
Recording Secretary
Jodi Frediani
Highlander Editor
Jane Cavanaugh 
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.

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