May/June 1998 issue
Could Bonny Doon Run Out of Water? 

As much as we might hate El Niño at the moment, we may soon be finding ourselves praying for its return. Because, ironically, despite the drenching winter rains, Bonny Doon and county well levels continue to drop. 

For the past 2 years the county has been monitoring surface and underground water, and the conclusions will bring tears to our eyes (catch them, we might need them). The study didn’t include this year’s El Niño drenching, but the wet years it covered didn’t do a lot to raise aquifers and stream volume. Many parts of the county are pumping more than they are recharging (called overdrafts), and the county is starting to seriously look at ways to deal with it. 

The study concludes that comprehensive water management is a necessity. What would that mean for Bonny Doon? Meters on our wells? Charging us for our water use to fund future source development? Limits on pumping? And when would all this begin? 

Some of the answers will be available at the May 13 RBDA meeting, when Bruce Laclergue, a Santa Cruz County Planning Department hydrologist who co-authored the study’s report, will review the data and discuss the possible courses the county might take. Whatever they come up, it is sure to make some people unhappy, create conflicts, and be argued over for years. Water is a finite resource, and battles over it have shaped the history of the West. (And the world, for that matter) 

What a stunning turn of events if, rather than the disaster it seems, El Niño turns out to be our only hope. 

Logging Rules!  

Jockeying over the details of new logging rules continues furiously behind the scenes. 

As predicted in the Highlander, it seems that the logging industry is once again trying to leverage its influence behind-the-scenes on the local and state level to reduce restrictions recommended by the county’s Timber Technical Advisory Committee (TTAC). 

This despite the fact the industry held half of TTAC’s seats and agreed to various compromises during the TTAC process.  The biggest current battle is over Special Use (SU) zoned properties. Already, SLV Supervisor Jeff Almquist has backtracked and is trying to make it easier for SU parcels without a timber overlay to get one without much fuss or expense. 

Eased by the Almquist-Belgard-Symons trio are slope limits and buffer zones near housing, among other items. 

Of even bigger concern is whether Almquist will also vote with the environmentally impaired south county duo to once again allow logging on Rural Residential and Rural Agricultural (RR and RA) parcels. 

This is a complicated business. The county’s public strategy is to recommend stricter logging rules to the state, and, if they’re not approved, go ahead with even stronger local restrictions through zoning. 

The recommendations will likely go to the state by June 2, so the Planning Dept. staff’s deadline for public input is May 2. Call them if you want to protect your interests. 

Biomed Ranch Ordinance Only Defines the Battle 

The terms of the ongoing saga over whether biomedical research facilities will be allowed on prime farm land have changed now that the Coastal Commission has narrowly approved the county’s ordinance. 

The final form of the ordinance will be considered by county supervisors, probably at their May 11 meeting. But few changes are expected at this point.  Any changes will probably be decided in the courts: Save Our Agricultural Land (SOAL) has already filed suit. SOAL maintains that the ordinance opens the doors for all ag land in the county to be converted to biomed use, which would have a major environmental impact. Therefore, the county should have conducted a study to determine that impact before passing the ordinance. 

The ordinance does demand that biomed facilities must be soil-based, which means a substantial amount of the animals’ nutrition must be grown on the ranch. For reasons owing more to politics than reason, the supes fixed that amount at an arbitrary 40%. How this is interpreted leaves a lot of room for disagreement, which will most likely be settled in Planning Dept. hearings and in court. 

One area reportedly left out of the ordinance are animal rights protections negotiated by the SPCA in return for its support. If this is true, what happened? 

The county’s first biomed facility, Santa Cruz Biotechnology on Back Ranch Road, must now submit a master plan for approval, and its goal of having 5,000 goats, more than triple its current total, may be in jeopardy. Already, according to Steve Peters of county Environmental Health, high levels of bacteria—up to 10 times the amount considered dangerous—have been measured in streams that pass through the property. 

Cement Plant May Burn Tires While It Fiddles Over Expansion  

Increased release of pollutants and carcinogens into the air may result if a bill (AB2181) succeeds in winding its way through the state legislature.  The bill encourages cement plants to burn used tires, which apparently is a lot cheaper than coal. The RMC/Lone Star cement plant in Davenport experimented with tire burning a few years ago. Residents were not happy with the resulting ash and other deposits the burning spread around the area. 

There is little long-term study on the effects of burning tires, so essentially this turns out to be another experiment with public health. It also seems wasteful to burn a valuable resource that could be reused. 

To keep this new initiative from rolling over us, contact Assemblyman Fred Keeley and Senator Bruce McPherson. At this writing, the bill is wending its way through various Assembly committees. 

To paraphrase Michelin, our community is riding on these tires. 

Meanwhile, RMC/Lone Star’s application to greatly expand its quarry off Bonny Doon Road continues in limbo, as the county awaits further information from the company about how it will deal with issues the Planning Department has identified. 

Rough Receptions for Bed ‘n’ Breakfast, Wedding Hall? 

Neighbors are concerned about two applications for commercial developments under review at the Planning Department: a bed ’n‘ breakfast at 9458 Empire Grade, and a winery/events facility off Bonny Doon Road, in the gated Redwood Meadows compound on Brisa del Mar. 

The 5-suite B and B, dubbed The Lost Empire Inn in brochures already in circulation, trumpets its swimming pool, tennis court, billiard room and access to Fall Creek Park. Neighbors concerned about water and septic issues, traffic, noise and compliance with the General Plan have retained an attorney.  For information, call Cathy Graves at the Planning Department, 454-3141, or neighbor (and RBDA board member) Fred Bryck at 425-5476. 

Meanwhile, concern about the proposed winery facility is mounting as plans are revealed. To go ahead it needs Commercial Development and Coastal Zone permits, and is subject to review by the Board of Supervisors. The application calls for a winery with a 100,000 gallon capacity, 1,800 square foot wine tasting building, 886 square foot office, and plans for occasional weddings, winemaker dinners and fundraisers for up to 250 guests. To get more information on this one, talk to Mike Ferry of the Planning Department at 454-3226. 

You Support the RBDA's Goals and Read the Highlander 

We can't say that we got even a statistically meaningful number of replies to our survey in the last Highlander.  Guess we should have offered a prize. 

But we were pleased that the responses were overwhelmingly positive about the RBDA and this publication, and emphatically endorsed the goal of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural (even those from the few people who don’t like the RBDA). 

Maintaining the rural ambience of our mountain retreat was overwhelmingly the main issue on our respondents’ minds: they see development as a threat. They also are concerned about road maintenance, logging, and fire danger. 

Not many people have logged on to our Web site yet, but those who have say they find it pretty useful. Most people only attend meetings on subjects they find interesting, and find it hard to make the time to come. 

Most respondents have lived in BD a long time, more than 10 years, and like it as much or more than ever. 

Thanks to those who took time to fill out the surveys, and thanks for the support. For our part, we will continue defending BD against encroaching suburbanization and commercial development, and informing you about what’s going on through the Highlander and our Web site. 

Bonny Doon's 2040 Task Force Begins Meeting 

The RBDA’s Bonny Doon 2040 Task Force is up and running toward its goal of creating a proactive plan to ensure that Bonny Doon remains rural and natural well into the next century. It is studying the issues which will pressure Bonny Doon to change, define goals and make recommendations for a strategy to reach them. 

There is a lot of work to be done. The task force will be studying projected population growth, water use and availability, road capacities and traffic projections, zoning, building codes and enforcement, possible effects of the sudden expansion in state parks and other open land, county land use policies, demographic, political and economic forces, and more. To help, it will call on experts in various areas, especially those in the county Planning Department, some of whom have already given been of great help. 

By the time its task is complete, Bonny Doon 2040 should discover more about Bonny Doon than has ever been known before. 

Several talented people have volunteered for the task force, but more are welcome, as are contributions for the expenses it will incur. If you would like to be a part of this effort, please contact Ted Benhari, RBDA chairperson, via mail, e-mail or phone (see back page). The task force meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Bonny Doon School Library. 

We don’t have a specific timetable for completing the task force’s work, but we estimate that it will take about a year or two. Just in time for the new millennium. 

Highlander Highlights 

In Memoriam 

Bonny Doon lost two early leaders of the RBDA recently, with the deaths of Dean McHenry and Jane McConnell. 

Dean, founding chancellor of UCSC, was universally regarded for his wisdom, foresight and scholarship. An excellent administrator,  teacher, vintner, philanthropist and conversationalist, he will be much missed.  Jane and her late husband, Grant, another UCSC pioneer, had a big role in warding off developments threatening our bucolic community. 

Web Site Under Repair 

Our RBDA web site,, is between webmasters, and hasn’t been updated for a couple of months. The site was maintained by Tim Nelson, who has gotten too busy with his professional work to continue.  Thanks, Tim for your fine work. 

We hope to resume updating the web site in the near future. In the meantime, 
it is still up and running, with lots of active links to web sites with 
relevance to Bonny Doon issues. 

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

There’s a sound echoing through the hills of BD, and it isn’t the sound of music. But what is it? Dooners living along parts of Pine Flat and Smith Grade say its coming from RMC/Lone Star but disagree whether it’s coming from the quarry or the cement plant. 

The low-pitched hum is heard all the time, especially at night, but some people are a lot more sensitive to it —it drives them crazy. Do you hear it or know where it comes from? The RBDA wants to hear from you. 

A Clean Sweep 

It may be a little late to pull up French broom, but the spring rains have kept the soil soft, so it shouldn’t be too hard. The broom is bursting with yellow flowers now and should be easy to spot, so get together with your neighbors and have a sweeping party. Your native plants will love you for it. 

What do you think? Send us an email.
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