NO RBDA Meeting in July - See you in September!
In this issue, all on this page,
Pages one and two
RMC Lonestar Quarry Expansion
An Explosive Issue for Bonny Doon
The RMC Lonestar limestone quarry is a huge crater
hidden in the hills east of Bonny Doon Road and south of Smith Grade.
Jarring explosions boom off its deep, terraced walls, raising dust clouds like Sahara sandstorms. Huge trucks crawl toylike up its edges to a rock crusher that grinds limestone boulders into chunks and drops them onto a belt that conveys them to the big cement plant at Davenport.
For decades the quarry's impact has mainly been on its immediate Smith Grade neighbors. Now, they are gone, bought out by the giant European-based conglomerate that owns this lucrative complex, their properties added to RMC's vast Bonny Doon holdings (see next page).
Why? First, as RMC seeks permission to expand the quarry (see map next page) they won't be around to complain, and second, because some time in the next 20 or so years RMC will run out of limestone again, and might like to expand up to Smith Grade and even across it.
Unlikely? Consider the many millions of dollars the cement plant generates, and RMC's huge investment in it. They would happily buy out the remaining Smith Grade property owners, and relocate the road. After all, they moved a long stretch of Bonny Doon Road westward about 30 years ago. A revision of the county General Plan would be required before this could happen.
As part of their expansion application RMC has asked the county for permission to drill test holes on its new Smith Grade lands, as well as on parcels it already owned spanning Smith Grade along Reggiardo Creek. RMC says it wants to drill to determine the way water moves underground in that area and supplies the city of Santa Cruz's water source at Liddell Spring. The city is justifiably concerned that the new quarry area will impact its supply, which is already having problems, possibly because of the present quarry operations, although RMC disputes this.
As it drills the test holes RMC will learn a lot about where more limestone deposits may lie for future mining. A risk is that the drilling could poke holes in the aquifer depended on by RMC's neighbors along Mill Creek (the winery/Martin Road/Quail Drive area) and Smith Grade, and their wells could dry up.
If RMC receives permission from the county to expand the quarry, it will begin to have a much more pronounced impact on Bonny Doon, especially on lower Pine Flat, upper Bonny Doon Road, Martin Road, Quail Drive, and western Smith Grade.
Only an arc of four hills (see map), redwoods, madrones and oaks protect that area of Bonny Doon now. With the expansion, RMC wants to carve out part of one of the hills, as over the next 20 or so years it strips up to 200 feet of overlying soil and rock away to expose the limestone. Some protection is provided in a required 1,000 foot buffer zone from its property line, but without the trees and hills, that is meaningless.
The Planning Department has asked RMC to address several concerns before it will process the expansion application. Nothing is likely to happen before the fall. Your RBDA board is closely following developments. This is one of the most serious long-term threats to the ambiance of Bonny Doon, and we plan to hold a public forum on it, in September or November, depending on events. There are many other complex issues involved here, including expansion of hours of operation, the county's ability to effectively hold RMC to its permit requirements, possible affects on the city's water supply, and protection of the endangered red-legged frog.
RMC can be a formidable opponent if it wants to throw its money around. In future Highlanders we will be focusing strongly on this issue as it unfolds.
The RMC Lonestar Quarry and adjoining properties
Tough Logging Rules Go to State
In a flutter of political manipulations, county
Supervisors sent on to the state Board of Forestry a pallet of recommendations
for tough new county logging rules. If the state board doesn't approve
the rules, the county will fall back on even tougher regulations it passed
in the early '80s but never enforced because state law superseded them.
A recent court decision reinstated the county's jurisdiction in deciding
where logging can take place.
The recommendations are largely the result of a compromise between Big Creek Lumber and the Citizens for Responsible Forest Management, brokered by Supervisor Jeff Almquist, who was the swing vote on the tougher rules. Other loggers, mostly representing out-of-county operators, are livid and threatening to sue if the new rules are adopted. Also upset are landowners in Rural Residential and Rural Agricultural (RR and RA) zones who are accustomed (or planned) to harvest trees.
The majority of the RBDA Executive Board believes the RR/RA ban is for the greater good and protects the rights and property values of the great majority of home/landowners, while one board member claims the ban is unconstitutional. The courts will probably decide the issue. The temporary ban on helicopter logging outside TPZ zones ends August 1, opening a window for loggers until the county's new rules go into effect. Supervisors Belgard and Symons blocked the ban's extension.
The July/August issue of the Highlander Page 3
Horse Mansion or Goat Ghetto?
Are the Stephensons, John and Brenda, owners of
Santa Cruz Biotechnology, planning to build two 4,000 square-foot barns
for 6 to 10 horses, or more crowded goat sheds for hundreds of additional
Documents submitted to the state Water Quality Control Board say the new barns could some day house goats, while plans filed with the county show one will be used for hay and tack and the other as a stable - the largest per horse he's ever seen or heard of, says Kim Tschantz of the Planning Department.
On July 10 at 1:30 p.m.. (after The Highlander goes to press) a Zoning Administrator hearing on the application was scheduled.
We'd sure like to see what Santa Cruz Bio's master plan looks like (it's now some two years since the huge antibody facility went in on Back Ranch Road). The plan is required by the county's new ordinance regulating such "pharms." But we'll have to wait a little longer: inexplicably, on June 2, the Board of Supervisors extended by 30 days (from 60 to 90) the time SCB has to file it.
Meanwhile, the battle over the facility, where nearly 1,800 goats are kept in feedlot-like conditions, has claimed a casualty: Jody Cramer, SPCA director, has lost her job. Was part of the reason her involvement with SCB? Jody helped blunt criticism of the goats' treatment at the facility during the negotiations over the new ordinance, supposedly by arranging Santa Cruz Bio's agreement to include goat welfare rules into the law. But somehow that language got cut out. And now, so has Jody.
This wasn't in the Highlander, but here's a bit of an update:
"At the hearing on July 10, the County Zoning
Administrator continued the application for SCB's new barns and will recommend
that the matter go directly to the Planning Commission. His decision was
partly based on new information received after the public comment period,
which shows that their State permit to divert water from Laguna Creek restricts
them from using the water for facilities and irrigation on the upper terrace.
Additionally, State Fish and Game may challenge the diversion right in
the interest of preserving stream flow for fish habitat."
2040 Task Force
Are You Interested in Bonny Doon's Future?
As we've talked about in The Highlander, the RBDA
Executive Board has set up the Bonny Doon 2040 Task Force to identify the
forces in the coming century that will harm Bonny Doon's rural and natural
character, and to create a proactive plan to forestall them.
This will be a lot of work, and we need more people to help, with their time, skills and donations to cover such expenses as maps and reports from Santa Cruz County government databases.
The RBDA considers the 2040 task force to be one of the most important ways we can ensure the continued ambiance of our mountain community. If you can help, 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 (unless vacation schedules require postponement, as happened in June). The task force is 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.
The July/August issue of the Highlander Page 4
Tire Burning Bills Go Flat
Opposition by environmental groups seems to have
detoured bills aimed at making it a lot easier for California cement plants
to burn waste tires, which could have saved them as much as 40% of their
fuel costs. The bills were rolling through the legislature until organized
resistance let the air out. California law specifies recycling as the preferred
disposal method for tires.
The bills would have changed the language of earlier laws to regard burning for fuel as "recycling" by calling it "energy recovery." George Orwell would have loved it!
Although the bills have been shelved for now, they could be revived. Drop a line to Assemblyman Fred Keeley or State Sen. Bruce McPherson to let them know that you expect them to register their opposition if they roll around again.
Mystery Sound Source Revealed
The hum that pervades the hills of Pine Flat Road,
and parts of Smith Grade, originates from the giant rock crushers at RMC
Lonestar's Davenport cement plant, according to several knowledgeable sources.
The hum is heard all the time, especially at night. Some people have gotten
used to it, but it drives others crazy, like chalk screeching on a blackboard.
If it bothers you call and complain to cement plant manager Satish Sheth
Executive Board Change
Recording Secretary Clarence Dunnrowicz has resigned from the RBDA Executive Board, We will miss Clarence's imaginative analysis of Bonny Doon issues, and are happy that he is remaining on the Board's 2040 Task Force. The board has designated Val Haley, botanist and docent coordinator of Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, to replace Clarence as Recording Secretary. Under RBDA Bylaws, an election for the open seat will take place at the next general meeting, in September.
Dear Bonny Doon Residents:
On behalf of RMC LONESTAR we would like to clarify some issues raised in the July-August 1998 RBDA Highlander.
"...RMC seeks permission to expand its limestone quarry ..."
In 1968, the County approved operation of the Bonny Doon limestone quarry. The quarry limits were surveyed, and the survey recorded, so that everyone would he aware of the extent of the approved operation. Approximately 80-85 percent of that area has been cleared and is being mined. We are now proposing to begin mining the remaining 15-20 percent. Before that can be done, RMC intends to amend its mining and reclamation plans. We are also conducting comprehensive studies to assure that mining this additional area will not have any adverse impact on Liddell Spring, which provides water to the City of Santa Cruz.
There are no plans for expansion of the quarry beyond the approved limits. Should we seek such an expansion, it would require a new permit and would be subject to careful scrutiny by the County after substantial input by all concerned citizens.
"In thc next 20 or so years, RMC will run out of limestone again, and might like to expand up to Smith Grade and even across it."
Clearly, at some point, the Bonny Doon limestone quarry will be mined out. "Twenty years or so" is probably a reasonable estimate, although the unknown variable of the quality of the limestone yet to be mined makes this just an estimate.
Before we run out of limestone, it is likely that we will seek a permit
for additional limestone quarrying. The company is investigating the mineral
deposits on its property to establish where there might be commercially
viable sources of limestone. Again, any such expansion would require a
new permit and would be subject to careful scrutiny by the County after
substantial input by all concerned citizens.
"As part of their expansion application, RMC has asked the county for permission to drill test holes on its new Smith Grade lands, as well as on parcels it already owned spanning Smith Grade along Reggiardo Creek."
This is not the case; the bore holes are simply to inventory limestone deposits. We did however, ask the County to confirm that no coastal zone permit was necessary for the bore holes it did. The Executive Director of the Coastal Commission confirmed the County’s determination. The bore hole drilling will be done by a licensed driller under the supervision of a California Registered Geologist. Each hole will be drilled and then closed after a small sample has been taken.
"A risk is that the drilling could poke holes in the aquifer depended on by RMC’s neighbors, and their wells could dry up."
There is no such risk. The holes are designed to avoid that risk. Further, we expect that most of the holes will not encounter water. Each hole will only be open generally for a day or two. Any bore hole encountering water will be grout sealed to avoid aquifer leakage in accordance with the State regulations. According to the consulting hydrologist, at most, the "hole in the aquifer" would he comparable to a pin-size hole in a big swimming pool filled with wet sand that is sealed after a day. The water in the sand strata is moving very slowly. No appreciable amount of water will leave the aquifer, and no wells arc at risk of drying up.
"RMC says it wants to drill to determine the way water moves underground in that area and supplies the city of Santa Cruz’s water source at Liddell Spring."
The investigative bore holes are not intended to be water monitoring
wells. In fact, the bore holes will be immediately refilled and sealed
We are; however, proposing that six (6) new groundwater monitoring wells be drilled on our property south of the quarry and above Liddell Spring. There are already five (5) such groundwater monitoring wells. We have been gathering groundwater data for 25 years. The County has required that at least one more be installed. A Technical Advisory Committee composed of City, County and RMC LONESTAR scientists, which has been meeting for 18 months, agrees that the monitoring wells will be useful in determining whether our quarrying activities can have any adverse impact on Liddell Spring.
We understand your concerns about your community. We invite you to submit any further questions that you may have.
Very truly yours,
Satish H. Sheth
Vice President – Cement Operations