March/April 2010 issue

The Redwood Transect
Mike Fay, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

$10 donation requested to benefit RBDA & Sempervirens 

RBDA General Meeting
Tuesday March 2, 2010, 7:30 pm
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road
NOTE: This is a Tuesday, not a Wednesday as is usual for our meetings, because of our speaker’s schedule.

Famed Explorer Mike Fay Talks Redwoods


Redwoods inspire awe, no matter how many we have seen and how used we are to living among them. Their durability, beauty, height and resilience place them among the most majestic living things on our planet.


To call them trees is almost trivializing: particularly the older redwoods are an eco-system of their own, inhabited by unique creatures, some of which never deign to touch the ground. One of the most unique and impressive things about redwoods is that when a branch gets cut or breaks off, or the top is snapped in a storm or the trunk is severed by a lumberjack, a new branch or branches can grow rapidly from the wound. This is triggered by the exposure to light of the living tissue just under the bark, called the cambium. We are probably all familiar with the so-called “fairy rings,” the circle of second-generation trees that sprout from the base of a huge stump. All are genetically identical to the parent, with DNA that goes back thousands of years. In stark contrast to the giant size of the redwood tree, its cones are only the size of an olive, and seeds are seldom produced. This stump sprouting was the main means of the redwoods’ survival during the long decades when they were massively harvested for construction; locally, perhaps most notably to rebuild after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires. Here in Bonny Doon and in Santa Cruz and Big Sur they were also frequently burned to process limestone for cement.


The value of redwood forests today is enhanced by the fact that they are the best of all forests at capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and locking it away in their wood. Recent studies have also shown that the older a redwood gets, the more wood it produces each year, even when it is well over a thousand years old. The unique nature and importance of redwood forests will be the focus of the March 2 RBDA meeting, when famed National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist Mike Fay will present a slide show and talk about his nearly yearlong, 1,800-mile trek through the redwood forests of California and Oregon in 2007-2008. Called the Redwood Transect, his journey and findings were presented in the October 2009 National Geographic cover story.


Mr. Fay is a world renowned explorer who is perhaps best known for his precedent-setting Megatransect, a 2,000-mile conservation trek across Africa, which led directly to influencing the country of Gabon to set aside large tracts of land in a national park system to preserve the unique fauna and flora of that western Africa nation. In 2004 Mr. Fay performed an eight month aerial survey of Africa, taking more than 100,000 images (many are available on Google Earth) of human impact on the ecosystems, as part of his decades-long commitment to preserving the continent’s jungles and forests.


Seeking to assess the state of the 700- mile range of the redwoods, he and Lindsey Holm, a self-taught naturalist who grew up in Northern California redwood country, recorded in photos and notes the redwood forests’ fauna and flora, and studied the condition of the forest and streams. They also engaged loggers, foresters, timber company executives, biologists, environmentalists, and local residents and business people whose livelihood depends on the forest.


This is a unique opportunity to hear and see a world renowned conservationist and scientist talk about the health and future of the redwood forests that are such a vital and important part of our Santa Cruz County environment and history.


Frans Lanting, outdoor photographer nonpareil and a National Geographic colleague of Mr. Fay’s, will introduce him.


A $10 donation will be requested for the benefit of the RBDA and the Sempervirens Fund, which has purchased so much of the redwood forest that is now preserved within the borders of Big Basin, Castle, Portola and Butano state parks. 

(NOTE: This is a Tuesday, not a Wednesday as is usual for our meetings, because of our speaker’s schedule.)


Cemex Plant Closure Opens Questions


In 1903, wealthy “cement king” William Dingee and his partner Irving Bachman recognized the potential of limestone and shale deposits near Ben Lomond Mountain. Cement plant construction began, and production boomed in response to the 1906 earthquake; but Dingee and Bachman, financially overextended, lost their plant to the Crocker Bank.


For decades Bonny Doon limestone has been an ingredient of projects from the Panama Canal to Bay Area landmarks and countless residential foundations. Now the blasts at the quarries and the rumbling Davenport plant are silent, train horns no longer startle railside residents and commuters notice Mission St. traffic flows more easily without the congestion caused by the daily stream of truck traffic to and from the plant.


On Feb. 2, Supervisor Neal Coonerty asked the Board of Supervisors to direct the County Administrator’s Office to analyze and report on numerous questions and issues related to the plant closure. His letter identified issues affecting Davenport, as well as the future uses of Cemex properties, water rights and the closure of the quarries in Bonny Doon. In accordance with the State’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, the County is the Lead Agency overseeing the quarry operations. The County Mining Code requires Cemex to declare the quarry either “idle” or “abandoned” after the year of inactivity, which commenced last March. While idle, an Interim Management Plan is required which would have to be approved by Kathleen Previsich, the County’s new Planning Director.

If abandoned, Cemex would begin implementation of the 1996 Quarry Reclamation Plan. The County holds a $3.5 million bond from Cemex to guarantee completion of the Plan, which includes demolition of the conveyor beltline. An increase in the size of the bond is likely because additional work in the quarry will be necessary to remedy new concerns about slope stability and pond configuration that emerged during the processing of the quarry expansion proposal. County staff has been lenient in the past but was requiring modifications to the failed revegetation plan and commencement of stalled mitigation projects as conditions of approval for the quarry expansion. These measures should still be required of Cemex to remedy existing problems created by their past operations.


Today, Cemex too, is financially overextended, but we hope refinancing, not a natural disaster, will save this multinational corporation from bankruptcy and the company will fulfill its legal obligations to clean up and restore the quarries. 


Process Begun to Increase Rural Fire Service Funding


On January 26, 2010, Cal Fire Chief John Ferreira, Deputy Chief Kathleen Lineberry, and County General Services Director Nancy Gordon, presented a report,, to the County Board of Supervisors suggesting that County Fire funding be increased from the $2.85 million allocated in fiscal 2009- 2010 to as much as $4.64 million in 2011- 2012. The report set in motion a chain of events that may bring the issue of funding residential fire service in rural Santa Cruz County to the voters some time in the next year. Though that may seem a long way off, the issue has many complexities, so the time is now for Dooners to start educating themselves. We need to understand what is County Fire, how it is funded, how it spends its money, and to understand what fire protection we need.


What is County Fire?


County Fire is synonymous with CSA48 (County Service Area #48). CSA48 covers almost all of rural Santa Cruz County that is not served by a fire district. Nearly all of CSA48 is within State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) where Cal Fire is mandated and funded by the State to prevent and fight wildland fires, such as our Martin and Lockheed fires, all year.


County Fire was established to provide local fire, emergency, and medical response in CSA48. It has both Cal Fire employees under contract to the County and volunteer professionals. County Fire is governed by the Board of Supervisors and managed by the full-time Cal Fire chiefs of the Santa Cruz/San Mateo unit.


Locally, Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue, who continue to pursue the formation of a Fire District, houses 6 vehicles at two stations. County Fire’s new Fall Creek Station in Bonny Doon is an “Amador” station which provides an engine, under the County Fire contract with Cal Fire.


How Is County Fire Currently Funded?


County Fire can be funded from property taxes, from a ½% sales tax, and from service area parcel fees.


The parcel fees that help support County Fire are based on Fire Flow Units (FFUs). Undeveloped residential parcels are apportioned one unit and a residence is apportioned a second. Large commercial landowners are apportioned more units.


For a hypothetical home in Bonny Doon assessed at $400,000, County Fire receives $248 in property taxes, and $124.58 in current CSA48 fees.


County Fire expects to spend $3.80 million in fiscal 2009-2010, and take in $2.85 million in revenue; it has been running deficits for some years. In 2007, a proposal to increase the CSA48 fees by 84% in order to produce another $800,000 in revenues was rejected by voters.


The deficit has been covered from the County Fire Fund, whose surplus is projected to be exhausted by the end of 2010- 2011. 


How County Fire Spends Its Money


The Supervisors chose to cope with the failed 2007 ballot by 1) reducing paid staffing at County Fire stations, and 2) vitiating the vehicle replacement program. After LAFCO’s 2008 rejection of the Bonny Doon Fire District Proposal, County Fire shifted staffing and added the station in Bonny Doon.


Slightly less than 2/3 of the current $3.8 million budget (and of the highest cost option among projected scenarios) is for professional services – the cost of the Cal Fire contract for County Fire. To raise the $4.6 million projected for the highest cost option in 2011-2012 would require raising an additional $1.8 million in revenue annually.


Where The Process Stands


What the Supervisors ended up approving was a $30,000 survey to ascertain what County Fire residents would be willing to pay for and to guide the choice between a ballot requiring approval by 2/3 of all CSA48 voters, or one requiring a simple majority of landowners, weighted by FFUs.


The earliest a vote would be possible is summer, and the latest, very early in 2011. Director Gordon hopes that County Fire will soon hold public education sessions.


Gaining Perspective


All the options for County Fire are couched in terms of how it spends its money, omitting what “adequate rural fire protection” would look like to rural residents. Not only do Dooners need to zoom into the complexities suggested above, we must zoom out to the fundamental issue of what we would like fire protection to look like in Bonny Doon, and how best to achieve it. 


Bonny Doon Loses a Great Asset
We were very saddened in late November to learn of the death from pneumonia of Therese Baisinger, an extremely accomplished glass artist, friend of the environment, supporter of the RBDA and the Bonny Doon community, mother and wife. We extend our sympathies to her family.

Deficiencies Noted in UCSC Expansion EIR


Reams of comments pointing out the problems with the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the expansion of City of Santa Cruz water and sewer services to UCSC’s Upper Campus were submitted by public and private entities prior to the Jan. 19 deadline.
Among others, the RBDA board, the local Sierra Club chapter, the Community Water Coalition, the County Board of Supervisors and LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Committee and many private individuals were among those pointing out lack of sufficient data, inconsistencies and conflicts with LAFCO’s own policies and the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA.
This document will play a major role in whether the LAFCO commissioners approve UCSC’s and the City’s application to extend these services to the portion of the campus outside the City limits, in Bonny Doon. Without LAFCO approval, UCSC will have to either sue or give up the effort to build on the undeveloped upper campus behind Bonny Doon’s Cave Gulch neighborhood.
The law firm of Wittwer/Parkin further made a legal argument that the application by UCSC for the service expansion is in conflict with state law, which, they said, requires the actual supplier of the services to be the applicant. In this case it would be the City of Santa Cruz. The City filed a co-application to LAFCO to expand its “Sphere of Influence” for its water and sewer districts, but not for the actual supply of those services.
The City and the firm it has hired to prepare the EIR will have to decide whether to proceed to a Final EIR, or reissue the DEIR for recirculation and comment. There is also the possibility of a new lawsuit if LAFCO proceeds to action on the UCSC application in alleged violation of LAFCO regulations.
Most of the public’s comments took aim at the Water Supply Assessment done by the City Water Dept., and included in the DEIR, which acknowledged that supplies are inadequate when rainfall is less than normal. That has occurred many times in the City’s history, and could strangle future growth by entrepreneurs and builders, as well as increase the amount and frequency of rationing.

New RBDA Officers
Two new members of the RBDA Board were elected at the Jan. 12 Annual Meeting, Lad Wallace and Pat Morrison, and our chairman, Joe Christy, was elected to a second 2-year term.
Lad and Pat replace Jan Hilkert and Ben Harmon. We appreciate their service and will miss them. Ben, in particular, brought the RBDA membership bookkeeping and email into the modern computer era during his 10 years on the board, serving most of that time as Membership Coordinator. His keen dedication to conservation issues and offbeat sense of humor were particularly appreciated by his fellow board members. Ben dedicated his efforts to the board despite the many long workweeks required by his job.
After the election the board selected its officers for 2010. Joe continues as chair, and Pat was elected vice chair, a job whose main duty is facilitating our feature presentations at the public RBDA meetings. Lad Wallace takes up the duties of Membership Coordinator from Ben, and Tom Hearn remains as Treasurer, Ted Benhari as Highlander Editor, Miriam Beames as Recording Secretary and Marty Demare as Corresponding Secretary.
We are delighted that we have found two very dedicated and enthusiastic Bonny Dooners for our board, and very much look forward to working with them.

UCSC Study Now Tracking 10 Lions
A year ago Prof. Chris Wilmers, of UCSC’s Environmental Studies Department, told the RBDA about his project to outfit mountain lions with telemetry collars “to collect continuous movement and location data from each animal.”
Since then, we’ve tried to keep Dooners up to date with information about the study. In response to our query, Paul Houghtaling, Chris Wilmers’s assistant, reports, “We have collared 10 adult lions, 4 males and 6 females, over an area stretching from Davenport to Los Gatos. At least 3 of the females currently have cubs, including 1 litter of 3 cubs that we collared in the Swanton area last summer. Our current priorities are recapturing lions that we caught last year to replace batteries on the collars, and to collar cubs before they reach the age where they will leave their mother in search of their own territory. We are also collecting data on what the lions are feeding on (mostly deer, as one would expect). We are particularly interested in sightings of lions or lion cubs in the Wilder Ranch State Park area.”
Please report sightings of uncollared lions to Chris’s research assistant, Paul Houghtaling, Information requested is: description of the animal and date, time and detailed location of the sighting. Chris’s website, with more information and pictures, is

“Fire Safe” Update
The nasty storms in the third week of January, which brought road closures and power outages, forced the postponement of the organizational meeting of the Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council until Feb. 17, about the date we go to press. Weather permitting we will report on what happened in the March Battle Mountain News and/or the May Highlander.
Second, the Santa Cruz/San Mateo Counties Community Wildfire Protection Plan was scheduled to be released to the Stakeholders’ Advisory Committee, also just as we go to press. The month-long public review period for the 94-page document began Feb. 15. For more information, and to submit comments, go to the CWPP website:

Membership Update
Two years ago the board proposed, and the membership approved, the plan to have all memberships expire at the end of January. The plan was designed to save the expense and trouble of having to send out renewal notices. We hoped that a notice in the Highlander would be a call to action by all members.
As reported in the last edition of the Highlander, 195 memberships were due to expire at the end of January. That number is nearly equal to the entire membership, that is, all who haven’t renewed for multiple years. We also reported that if all expiring memberships were renewed, our projected income would be roughly equal to our expected expenses in the coming year. To date, 54 members have renewed, only 28% of the outstanding number. If you have not sent in your renewal, now is the time to do it. If you have enjoyed reading the Highlander and followed with some interest the presentations the Board has facilitated for the general meetings, but have not become a member, now is the time to take the initiative. And many thanks to all of you who have renewed and/or donated to the RBDA.


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