March/April 2009 issue

The Bats of Bonny Doon

Monique Lee,
California Bat Conservation Fund

Cal Fire Station in Bonny Doon
Senior CalFire District Staff

RBDA General Meeting
Wednesday March 11, 2009, 7:30 PM

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

Meet the Bats of Bonny Doon

Monique Lee, an educator with the California Bat Conservation Fund (CBCF) a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of bats will be our guest speaker at the March 11 meeting of the RBDA. The CBCF is dedicated to dispelling widespread misconceptions about bats through informative presentations and live-bat displays at schools, libraries, museums, and community centers.  CBCF also rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned bats with a focus on returning bats to the wild.

Her educational program consists of a lecture accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.  After the lecture, there will be an opportunity to meet some live native bats and learn about their species natural history and what can be done to help them.

More information can be seen at:

Amador Station Coming to Bonny Doon and CalFire Coming to RBDA  Meeting

While fire in the chaparral that surrounds us is as natural as can be, it is a devastating threat to the rural character of Bonny Doon. Now self-reliance is a core rural value, and for 30 years, Bonny Doon has relied on the all-volunteer Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue (the Fire Team). No single agency alone could meet a challenge like the Martin Fire, which is why fire departments across the State have banded together to create the mutual-aid and automatic-aid programs which saved us as well as the residents of the Summit and Trabing fire areas.

The Fire Team has tried for the past three years to establish a Bonny Doon Fire District in order to improve the level of fire and emergency service here, under local control. The Fire Team’s proposal was rejected on Sept. 22 by the Local Agency Formation Commission [LAFCO], which has the authority to oversee the establishment, expansion, and merging of all local service districts. LAFCO concluded that allowing Bonny Doon to withdraw from County Fire (technically CSA 48; County Fire is the system that organizes all fire departments which don’t have their own districts) to form an independent fire district would cause reductions in fire service elsewhere in the county, and hence denied the Bonny Doon District application.

To improve local service, Supervisor Neal Coonerty in early January sought support for a proposal to move a CalFire engine company from Felton to Bonny Doon and establish an "Amador" station here. An Amador station is a CalFire station which ordinarily would be fully staffed only during fire season to protect watersheds from wildland fires, but, under contract with local government, is staffed year round to protect structures. Santa Cruz County previously had four such stations; Bonny Doon will be a fifth.

The Fire Team, Friends of Bonny Doon Fire, and the RBDA Board supported the idea, which was accepted by the Board of Supervisors in January, and asked that CalFire consider alternatives to locating the Amador station at the McDermott Station at Empire Grade and Felton Empire Rd. On Feb. 10 the Board of Supervisors decided that, in time for the beginning of fire season, the Amador station would be temporarily sited at the McDermott Station, with staff housed in the adjacent house, and equipment and office space in a temporary structure distinct from the McDermott Station itself. In the long term, CalFire seeks to acquire property elsewhere in Bonny Doon, and replace their Felton fire station with a new permanent structure here. The Fire Team and Friends of Bonny Doon Fire continue to pursue the goal of an independent local district.

At our March 11 RBDA meeting senior CalFire staff will give a short presentation of their plans and discuss the prospects of the upcoming fire season. Afterwards they will be available to answer questions.

Cemex Chromium(VI) Chapter Closes

On Jan. 26 Teri Copeland, Kurt Fehling, and Eric Winegar submitted to the Santa Cruz County Health agency their final report on the dimensions of the hexavalent Chromium [Cr(VI)] emission problem at Cemex's Davenport plant. The following day the report was taken up and approved by the County Board of Supervisors. The report is available in various forms at

With respect to the extremely carcinogenic Cr(VI), the report found that, after changes to the plant's processes to 1) change to iron ore inputs which have lower concentrations of chrome; 2) add reducing agents to the clinker cooking process; and 3) reduce dust in the loading area, that the levels of airborne Cr(VI) from the plant were at the very lower limits of detection, at most one-half the Proposition 65 warning levels that we have discussed in prior articles. Wipe tests in a variety of settings within Pacific Elementary School, some dusty, some clean, revealed that the Cr(VI) levels were consistent with the background wipe samples collected at Bonny Doon Elementary, and upwind at CalPoly Swanton Pacific Ranch, all of which were well below levels of acceptable health risk formulated by all Federal and State regulatory agencies. Cr(VI) levels in the soils were found to be consistent with the background levels for local soil types.

 Since the report was issued, the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District got a permanent new director in late February, and once the transition is complete, the agency, with input from outside scientists and from the community, will take up the task of formulating new regulations for emissions from cement plants. In the meantime, air monitoring continues into the indefinite future, and a new site has been added to the array, in Newtown, on the opposite side of the plant from the established sites. Most significantly, Cemex has closed the plant for at least six months due to the desperate economics of the construction industry.

While the Cemex plant was a significant point source, Cr(VI) is also present in the exhaust from diesel and other fossil fuel engines. In fact, the exposure from those sources are much greater along Mission Street in downtown Santa Cruz than anywhere in Davenport, and the exposure is about greater still in the San Francisco Bay region and vastly greater in the LA Basin.

The greatest environmental impact from cement manufacture is not in environmental toxins, though, but in carbon dioxide. The nature of the central chemical reaction in a cement kiln is splitting the limestone, calcium carbonate, into equal amounts of lime and carbon dioxide. In other words, making a ton of cement releases a ton of carbon dioxide. When in operation, the Cemex plant produces 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide, an amount on par with the amount saved by all the hybrid vehicles in Northern California!

City Council Undermines UCSC Settlement

Some disturbing facts have emerged regarding the extension of Santa Cruz City water and sewer services to UCSC’s Upper Campus.

A settlement of several lawsuits last August created a framework where the City agreed to maintain neutrality in the service extension, and to live up to the City voters’ overwhelming approval of a measure that required UCSC, not the City, to file a request with LAFCO to extend the services, which UCSC needs in order to expand to the pristine Upper Campus.

In what appears to be a violation of that, the City has become a co-applicant with UCSC. City Attorney John Barisone claims the City legally had to be a co-applicant, while LAFCO Executive Director Pat McCormick contradicts that. As a co-applicant, the City will fund half of the anticipated multi-hundred thousand dollar cost of the EIR for the service expansion, and will in effect be an advocate for the service expansion. Community groups involved in trying to limit UCSC’s growth, including the RBDA, have protested and are now considering what to do about the City Council’s perfidy.

Mountain Lion Update

At the  Jan. 14 RBDA meeting, Prof. Chris Wilmers of UCSC told approximately 95 rapt Dooners more than we'd ever imagined could be known about the mountain lions among us.  Dr. Wilmers's  project, "to collect continuous movement and location data from each animal," started last fall, and we were fascinated to hear about the routes and habits—and many other kinds of information—of the four lions who have so far been outfitted with telemetry collars.

At last report, Prof. Wilmers was waiting for a shipment of collars.  Now that these expensive pieces of equipment have arrived, the team is again looking for 'new' lions.  Chris's research assistant, Paul Houghtaling <phoughta at> (right) asks Bonny Doon residents who are interested in helping to report sightings of uncollared mountain lions.  Please, if you see a lion, email Paul with the location where you saw the magnificent creature.  Important details include: description of the animal, date and time and detailed location of the sighting.

One privileged Bonny Doon family is supporting the project by providing space for a chest freezer. When the Department of Public Works finds a road-killed deer, they can haul it (in a body bag) to this freezer; it will be retrieved when needed as lion bait.

At present there is "no big news", says Chris.  But you can check his website, for updates and to look at the pictures.  We'll keep you posted.

State Septic Regulatory Constipation Continues

In 1999, Heal the Bay, a southern California environmental organization, outraged by what the City of Malibu was allowing to leach into surface and groundwater, began lobbying the state legislature for uniform state regulations of On-site Waste-water Treatment Systems (OWTS), aka septic tanks. They were able to gain the support of legislators concerned about the inequities among counties in the Central Valley, and AB885 was passed in 2000, which mandated the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to formulate regulations to be put into effect on January 1, 2004.

SWRCB staff, with little or no direction from the Board itself, but nearly unanimous negative feedback from homeowners, realtors, local environmental health directors, and regional water boards, finally completed draft regulations last November. When the next to last scheduled public workshop, in Santa Rosa, drew so many people wishing to comment that Highway 101 was gridlocked for over an hour, the workshop was cancelled and the comment period was extended from Feb. 9 to Feb. 23.

At that point, SWRCB chair Tam Doduc rescheduled the workshop and postponed the final workshop until after Board Staff, under Board direction this time, re-drafts the proposed regulations, taking into account the public feedback which had been ignored for the past nine years. In the meantime, Sierra foothills legislators are beginning the process of repealing AB885.

If everyone wants to protect our water from sewage, why is there such strong opposition? The consensus is that the proposed regulations are a one-size-fits-all set of requirements that pay no attention to geographical factors, successful existing regimes, and actual measurement of impacts. To summarize some of the comments from the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH) report: The proposed regulations impose considerable additional requirements on all OWTS irrespective of past performance or favorable site conditions. There is little accounting for the natural treatment that takes place in soil under a properly designed OWTS and a lack of flexibility for the local agencies and the Regional Boards to respond to geographic and site-specific conditions that would permit alternate methods of providing equally protective measures. The proposed regulations would require that all property owners  have their systems tested every five years for a variety of parameters, many unrelated to OWTS performance. The actual cost of implementation of this program and its impact on rural counties is significantly underestimated, with the property owners bearing the actual cost of implementation.

Santa Cruz County currently has one of the strictest regimes of septic regulation in the state, yet the proposed draft would impose additional restrictions. Most onerous among these are the requirements that: all wells and septic systems would have to be inspected every five years, at an estimated cost of $325 per component (tank and leach field), meaning $650 per home; all new and replacement systems would have to be provided with telemetry over phone lines to allow continuous remote monitoring; all new and replacement systems would have to be designed by a certified professional engineer rather than a contractor at an additional cost of roughly $4,000 per system; all new and replacement systems would have to include an effluent filter which would require annual professional cleaning; and winter groundwater levels would have to be determined by continuous monitoring for the entire period from Nov. 1 to Mar. 1. Providentially, since the County already has an approved wastewater management plan in place, it could petition for a county-wide waiver of the new regulations.

Particularly in our area, wells and septic systems are a critical part of the water cycle, as the County learned in the 80s while studying a proposal to extend sewers to the San Lorenzo Valley and discovered that sewers would drastically reduce groundwater recharge and hence the flow of the San Lorenzo River. Much of what the current AB885 draft seeks to address is covered by commonsense care and maintenance:

Some recommendations for safe rural living:

• Your septic system is a living eco-system, so don't put volatile chemicals, paint, grease, expired medicine, disposable diapers or other difficult to decompose materials into it. Avoid using anti-bacterial soap that will kill the micro-decomposers in your tank; you will also avoid breeding harmful anti-biotic resistant bacteria.

• Have your system checked every three to five years and pumped when either the combined thickness of the floating solid cap and the settled sludge exceeds 1/3 of the total depth. This will preserve the leach field, the most important component for water treatment, and the most expensive to replace

• Have your well tested periodically, particularly if it is close to your neighbors' leach fields, stables, chicken coops, etc. With proper attention, your septic system can function problem-free for decades, and we can easily surpass the water quality targets that AB885 aims to achieve.

The beginning of the end of the RBDA?

The RBDA is in serious trouble.  We are rapidly becoming flat broke.  At the current rate, we will not be able to pay for insurance or mail the Highlander in the fall of this year. A year ago the board suggested we modify the membership period to have all memberships expire at the end of January. The hope was that we could announce in The Highlander that if your membership had expired, it was time to ante up again, thus saving the extra expense of mailing out a separate request to each individual. At the end of January 123 memberships expired, and to date very few have committed to renew. Even if they all do renew their membership, we will not be in a financially stable condition.

For over 50 years the RBDA has fought to keep Bonny Doon rural and natural.  We have fought to restrain RV parks and toxic goat farms on the coast, strip malls at the airport, to limit quarry and cement plant expansion, to support logging regulations, and to restrain event centers and other commercial ventures that were not in keeping with the rural nature of our community.  We have worked hard to ensure that you get your mail, that our roads are repaired, and to support fire safety for our community, and we fostered the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve and many other community enhancing opportunities.

For 50 years groups of hard-working volunteers have kept our neighborhoods beautiful and our environment clean.  But we can't continue to do it without your support.

The RBDA board took note at the January Annual Meeting that approximately half of the folks who attended were not dues-paying members. If you like our meetings, if you like this newsletter, and most of all, if you like what the RBDA has done to maintain the environment and the community of Bonny Doon, then please help out in any way possible.  If you are a member, please send a donation or talk a neighbor into joining.  If you aren't a member, please consider joining.  Twenty dollars isn't a lot to pay to keep your corner of the world rural and natural.

Included in the print edition was a self-addressed envelope for your use to help underwrite the objectives of the RBDA. Please help us continue to serve our and your community.

Thank you,

The RBDA Board

RBDA General Meeting Agenda - March 11, 2009
1. Approve minutes of Jan. 14, 2009 meeting.
2. CalFire Station Coming to Bonny Doon, Q & A
3. Featured Program: The Bats of Bonny Doon; Monique Lee, California Bats Conservation Fund

RBDA Annual Meeting - January 14, 2009
Results of RBDA Board Election: Ted Benhari, Tom Hearn, Miriam Beames and Marty Demare were elected to the 4 open seats.

RBDA Board Meeting - January 28,  2009
1. Selected new officers for 2009.
2. Voted unanimously to send letter to Board of Supervisors supporting their effort to change Agricultural Easements on Coast Dairies farm parcels.

Many Memberships Expired Jan.  31,  2009; Renew Today!

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
Box 551 • Felton, CA 95018

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
Joe Christy
Vice Chair
Jan Hilkert 
Ted Benhari 
Corresponding Secretary 
Miriam Beames
Ben Harmon 
Recording Secretary
Marty Demare 
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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