March/April 1999 issue
What We've Learned Since the 1989 Earthquake
Seismologist Karen McNally, PhD
Professor of Earth Sciences, UCSC
RBDA Meeting
• Wednesday, March 10, 7:30 p.m. •
New Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School

Whole Lotta Shakin' to Go On?

    When will the next "Big One" hit? And where? And how big? 
It's been nearly 10 years since the "Loma Prieta" earthquake, which Bonny Doon largely escaped without damage. Will we be as fortunate the next time? 

   These and other questions will be addressed by Professor Karen McNally of UCSC at the next RBDA meeting, March 10 at 7:30 at Bonny Doon school. Dr. McNally is an adviser to the governor of California, and a founder of the Institute of Tectonics and the Charles Richter Seismology Lab at UCSC. A leading authority on large earthquakes who has done research in both northern and southern 
California and Mexico, Professor McNally was famed for predicting a 7.8 magnitude quake in Mexico. Most recently, her work has focused on our own San Gregorio Fault. The L..A. Times has dubbed her "the Earthquake Stalker." 

    The disastrous 1989 earthquake was a bonanza for scientists, yielding valuable information about the many faults and cracks in our area. It also greatly increased public and private willingness to fund studies that could help predict the probabilities, locations and magnitude of future quakes. 
These studies have yielded interesting and valuable results that could provide answers (or at least good guesses) to the questions above, answers which could shake your beliefs in Bonny Doon's invulnerability. 

    Professor McNally will focus on the faults most likely to affect Bonny Doon, but she will also talk about the general Santa Cruz and Monterey-San Francisco bay area's faults. She will also offer tips on earthquake safety and preparedness. Even though Bonny Doon is largely underlain by a granite cap that minimizes the shaking, big objects can move around, and she will talk about how to keep them where you want them. This is a unique chance to learn about one of nature's most powerful phenomena (one we are all too familiar with) directly from one of the world's leading earthquake experts. Don't miss it. 

All Quiet at the RMC Quarry?

        Well, its not exactly quiet at the RMC Pacific Materials (née RMC Lonestar) cement plant and limestone quarry. But some neighbors say they have softened somewhat the annoying sound of the quarry tractors’ backup warning, and it should soon install new fan mufflers at the plant that may mute the "mystery sound" (see below). 

    Quiet also applies to RMC's plans for cement plant and quarry expansion. The plant application is on hold until RMC's meets the county's request for additional information, while the quarry expansion application (this is the one to stripmine new areas within the allowed mineral extraction zone, not an application to quarry on their residentially zoned property on Smith Grade) has been officially closed by the county. This doesn't mean that RMC cant reapply. But the company's long delay in completing studies the county wants to determine the expansions affect on groundwater (especially the City of Santa Cruz's Liddell Spring water source) exceeded the time allowed for the application to remain legally active. 

    Meanwhile, the RBDA has formed a task force to keep tabs on RMC's expansion plans, chaired by new RBDA board member Bill Hornaday. The task force is currently researching legal issues regarding the company's various expansion plans and operating permits. If you are interested in participating on this task force, contact Bill at 421-0167. 

    We have now close to 400 signatures on the petition opposing rezoning of residential areas of Bonny Doon to allow quarrying. This is about a third of all Bonny Doon adults. If you want petitions to circulate, contact the RBDA at the address on the back, or e-mail us via our website. 

    One of the harder things in our struggle to keep RMC from stripmining more of Bonny Doon is estimating when it will try to get the county General Plan and zoning changed. This depends on how long RMC can obtain useable limestone from their existing quarry (plus the expansion, if its approved). Speculation runs from three to 20 years. We don't know if RMC itself knows. 

    We've also learned how hard it is to figure where the limestone is, and its suitability for cement. According to geologist Roberta Smith, new U.S. Geological Survey maps show only three significant deposits of limestone in the county, much less than we thought. One, on the Pogonip side of UCSC’s property, has long been depleted. The second is the now abandoned RMC quarry straddling San Vicente Creek. (And when does RMC plan to fix the mess they've created up there?) 

    The third is the present quarry below Smith Grade. 

    Smith says limestone here doesn't occur in clearly defined "lenses." A lot of it is mixed with other minerals and makes poor cement. RMC must mix some of that with the purest limestone to get a high grade product. RMC could run out of sufficient quantities of the good stuff in only a few years, which would speed up its expected request to rezone its residential property for mining. 

    This happened at their San Vicente quarry, which still has plenty of limestone, but RMC officials say it is such poor quality that it isn't worth mining. 

    If RMC cant get a good usable supply of local limestone, it must either alter the use of its Davenport plant, or close it. This would be good and bad. Good, because it would eliminate the town's dust and noise, and property values would soar. Bad, because people would lose jobs, and the county would lose its biggest taxpayer. Also, bad because no law requires the cleanup and removal of abandoned cement plants. Eventually, Davenport could be left with a huge hulk in its midst, with who knows what contaminants leached deep in its soil. 

    But that is a long way down the road. In the meantime, RMC wants to pour about $10 million into the plant. Their verbalized reason is to boost the plant's efficiency and to better keep down the dust. We worry that with the economy booming and big projects on the horizon, RMC may ask the county to boost the amount of cement the plant is allowed to produce by its use permit. Of course, that would deplete their limestone all the sooner. 

    The planned plant expansion is huge. It includes a 35,000 square foot, 56 foot high storage structure for materials, and an 80 foot high, 47,000 square foot dome where materials are mixed. Since this dome sits on a hill it will loom 315 feet above the town (only 50 feet lower than the top of the plant's tower), even after RMC digs a hole for it, and uses some of the dirt removed as a screening berm. 

    Many Davenport residents are upset about the visual impact of these huge structures, and have asked the county to create better photographic simulations of how things would look from various vantage points. They also wonder why RMC intends to keep using the same dust producing process it has been using to mix its materials, even though it is going to also use the new process inside the dome that is supposed to reduce the dust by two-thirds (from 1445 pounds a day to under 500). 

At loggerheads on logging

    In the January Highlander we took Big Creek Lumber to task for its opposition to attempts to improve logging laws to better protect streams, forests, wildlife and neighborhoods. Big Creek, the only sizable locally based timbering company, and one which has a reputation for environmentally responsible logging practices, was upset at some of our charges. 

    To further dialog on this complicated issue, we recently spoke to Bob Berlage, Big Creek's Forestry and Resource manager, and to Supervisor Jeff Almquist and Mark Morganthaler of Citizens for Responsible Forest Management (CRFM). We learned we were mistaken when we wrote that Big Creek Chief Forester Mike Jani went back on rules changes he had agreed to in negotiations with Almquist and Morganthaler. Also, the suit Big Creek has filed seeks to overturn the county's authority to regulate where logging can be done through zoning laws, which Big Creek has always maintained is illegal, not the special rules the supervisors have asked the state board to put into effect for Santa Cruz County. We apologize to Big Creek for these errors. 

    But let's get to the real issues: are there problems with logging in Santa Cruz County, are streams and fishlife being harmed, are there areas that are overlogged, are private roads being damaged by logging trucks, is the quality of life of neighborhoods being harmed in a meaningful way, and does the county have the legal power to make beneficial changes? CRFM, and the RBDA, argue that there is evidence that the answer is yes. 

    Big Creek's Berlage says that by and large the existing rules for timber harvests (which by law only the state, not the county, can impose), with changes approved last fall by the forestry board, are adequate to address any problems. The CRFM and majority of county supervisors think more rules are needed, including a 300-foot no cut zone around homes and better stream protection, and they have submitted these additional rules to the state board. 

    Berlage dismisses CRFM data that show logging in the county has doubled in the past 12 years because the base year was during a recession. He also claims that although no one has definitive evidence of whether the amount of private forest land in the county is growing, Big Creek thinks it is and therefore can sustain more logging, (although he concedes that development has taken a lot of land out of timber production). 

    According to Berlage, Big Creek "goes and above and beyond" to ensure that reasonable neighborhood concerns are addressed when it logs, but he concedes he has no knowledge of what the huge out-of-county timber companies, who are increasingly focusing on Santa Cruz, do in their operations. We believe that stronger rules are needed so we don't have to rely on the good will of loggers. 

    CRFM had hoped Big Creek would lead the way in addressing perceived problems, as it did in the past. Instead, it seems now to be carrying the torch for the timber industry in opposing them. Berlage counters that Big Creek has suggested adequate rules changes, and that, combined with stiff enforcement (which has been woefully lacking by the state Dept. of Forestry) they can solve any problems. 

    Big Creek is suing the county to overturn what now seems established state law giving counties the right to control where logging is permitted through zoning laws. Despite the state Supreme Court's refusal to review an appeals court decision that counties have that power, Big Creek is trying to fight that battle again, at potentially great cost to itself and taxpayers. 

    Berlage also rejects out of hand the scientific evidence behind CRFM’s suggestions for responsible forest management, saying "it was just pulled out of a hat." 

    With the current hostile atmosphere, it seems this will only be settled by political power and legal struggles, rather than compromise, and everyone will lose more than they need to. 

    But there is a little hope that more compromise is possible. Berlage still insists that Big Creek is always willing to discuss these issues (except for the county's right to control where logging is done through zoning laws). But until there is some agreement on just what the problems are, trying to come up with mutual solutions seems fruitless. 

Support Our Sponsors

    You can help us continue to send the Highlander to all Bonny Dooners, not just RBDA members. For $11 an issue your message goes to 1100 Bonny Doon households, for only a penny each. Only 6-issue, 1-year contracts are accepted. The RBDA reserves the right to reject sponsorships which may conflict with our goal of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural. 

To be a sponsor, send your check for $66 to RBDA, 102 Sunlit Lane,  Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Include your business's name, description (one line maximum, about 10-15 words), address and phone. 

David Hooks Construction Services 
Residential and commercial construction. 
High quality, courteous  professional service. 
426-9656. Lic.#649217 
Hutton Sherer Marketing Advertising Design 
Full-service, award-winning marketing and advertising services. 
2851-C Research Park Dr., Soquel, CA 95073. Ph. 479-0123 
Santa Cruz Waldorf School 
K-8 independent school providing arts-integrated academic curriculum.  Celebrating 22 years. 
2190 Empire Grade, Ph. 425-0519

Water well survey will serve us well

    To help in future planning as our population grows, some of the most useful data regards water resources and usage. The data for Bonny Doon is currently pretty sketchy. For example, the county has only tracked water well permits since 1991, and has no database on the hundreds of wells drilled before then. 

    The importance of good information was made clear a couple of years ago when the City of Santa Cruz was trying to get county permits to drill test wells along the coast near the mouth of Laguna Creek. The city wanted to determine whether it was worthwhile to go ahead with a plan to augment its water supply with huge wells in the area. Basing its arguments that the project wouldn't affect Bonny Doon wells on this very sketchy information allowed the city water honchos to downplay our concerns. 

    Good information will also be important in trying to accurately assess how much new growth could affect existing Bonny Doon wells. It could help us persuade authorities that growth should be scaled back, helping us to preserve Bonny Doon's character further into the future. The information will be compared with other surveys and research going back to 1959. It will be analyzed and presented in a form useful to both planners and concerned residents. 

Well Survey 

1. Well location by address or parcel number 
2. Total depth of well 
3. Initial standing water level 
4. Have you noted changes in the quantity or quality of your well or spring water? 
5. Have you measured a drop in your well's water level? 
6. Have you had to abandon and redrill a well, or deepen your well? 
7. Can you correlate these changes to drought, earthquake or neighboring development? 

Please send this information to: 
102 Sunlit Lane 
Bonny Doon, CA 95060 

...and write "Well Survey" on the envelope. 

3 New RBDA Board Members 

    Three new members were elected to two-year terms on the RBDA Executive Board at the January annual general meeting: Marilyn Hummell, a longtime Sierra Club activist and 30-year Bonny Doon resident (she previously served on the RBDA board in the 1980s); David Deamer, a UCSC professor of molecular biology, and Bill Hornaday, a lawyer and sculptor. Elected to a third two-year term was Ted Benhari, a semi-retired public relations professional. Val Haley, a botanist who is docent coordinator at the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, was reelected to fill out the remaining 1-year term created by a board resignation last year. Staying on the board are Mark Bedford, executive director of the Bahá'í School, and Fred Bryck, a retired computer systems analyst. Their terms expire in January 2000. 

    We are very grateful for the contributions to preserving our community made by outgoing board members Paul Hostetter, Marty Demare and Miriam Beames, and are pleased that they will continue to serve the organization in various ways. 

Mystery Sound Gone? 

    By March 15 or so, RMC will install new parts on a cement plant muffler that may eliminate the "mystery sound." RMC believes the noise comes from a fan on its kiln, which will be shut for maintenance on Feb. 22 for two or three weeks. 

    Let us know if the sound is truly gone. Also, if you notice increased noise or dust from the quarry, especially at times when it is supposed to be shut (weekends and weekdays after 5:30 p.m.), write it down. If we are going to be able to do anything about it, we need to document everything so we have solid evidence. Note the time and date of loud noises, explosions, dust, etc. We will ask you for it at some point. 

Gray Whale Committee Meets

    We waited for several months for Dave Vincent, State Parks Department's district supervisor, to schedule a meeting of the committee to advise him on uses for the 2,300 acre Gray Whale Ranch, now part of Wilder Ranch State Park. 

    Vincent finally scheduled a meeting, but it coincided with the RBDA annual meeting on January 13, so we missed it. Some trails in Gray Whale have been open for nearly a year. Supervision seems minimal: we've observed numerous intrusions by bikers and horseback riders on areas marked closed (including the area north of Smith Grade), and even trucks driving out loaded with firewood. 


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