Repairing the Roads of Bonny Doon
Tom Bolich, County DPW Director
Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
|The Fix May Be In for Bonny Doon Roads
If you recall the story of the little Dutch boy trying to prevent the flood by sticking his finger in the dike, then you begin to understand the problem of road maintenance in Bonny Doon.
Next year will be the first in some time that there will be general fund money available for road maintenance. The Department of Public Works hopes for about $7 million, countywide, which will allow for some serious road maintenance. They’ll be able to do some ‘overlay,’ which means a two-inch thick coat of new road. Without special funding, much road work consists of patches and sealing with a thin coat of rock and oil.
On Wednesday, Sept. 13, new Department of Public Works Director Tom Bolich will be at the RBDA meeting to talk about the county’s upcoming road repair plan, and answer any questions you may have.
Our area, called the Third District by the county, accounts for about 11% of the county’s roads, somewhat over 66 miles. To take care of these roads there is a crew of one road supervisor and currently eight workers. This crew also handles about half of the roads in the First District as well. That brings the total up to 23% of all the county’s 158 miles of roads. Their task includes mowing, ditch and culvert clearing, pothole patching and other road repairs and maintenance. As one can see, they patch a lot.
The biggest problems are caused by storms. Last winter, they created over 50 new problem sites in the county, a fair measure of them in Bonny Doon. Summer means dry weather and patches that last. Winter patching must be done quickly for safety’s sake and is often done on wet roads. These patches don’t last as long.
When the crew is concentrating on patching they cannot address the problems of road maintenance as they should.
When asked how the department feels about complaints, the DPW’s Senior
Civil Engineer John Swenson said, "We welcome them. The people who
live there travel the roads more than our small crew. The residents
often see the problems first. When they call or write in, it helps
Wow! In a dizzying turnabout, the Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. goat pharm on Back Ranch Road above Highway 1 is suddenly no more! Within days of the Coastal Commission’s July 12 order to remove all 1,700 goats and their manure from the site, the animals were gone, reportedly whisked away to a large ranch in eastern San Luis Obispo County owned by SCBI’s owners, John and Brenda Stephenson. The manure was spread on fields on the ranch.
Citing the "grossly elevated coliform levels" in the runoff from the ranch, which threatened the health of downstream neighbors and eventually ran into the ocean, Deputy Coastal Commission Director Tami Grove threatened SCBI with fines up to $6,000 a day if the unpermitted operation wasn’t closed down by July 21.
It’s still unknown whether SCBI will choose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an Environmental Impact Report needed before the county will consider the company’s Master Plan and grant permits for the operation.
While neighbors and others who fought the ranch on environmental and public health grounds keep their fingers crossed that they have seen the last of the goats, SCBI continues to ignore authorities. In early August the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, which had been pushing SCBI to implement measures to contain its contaminated runoff, demanded that the company inform it about the whereabouts of the goats, and inform the health and planning authorities in the new location. It also required SCBI to file a closure plan for the Back Ranch Road site. Visit the website of Friends of the North Coast for links to current information on this issue.
We offer our deepest appreciation to the Coastal Commission and its
staff (and to supervisors Mardi Wormhoudt and Jan Beautz) for their strong
stand on this issue. The commission’s timely action, before the next rainy
season brought new flows of pollution, stands in direct contrast to the
majority of the Board of Supervisors, who for years declined to do much
about this dangerous
operation developed in defiance of county regulations. And kudos to all
those who put so much time and energy into protesting this issue and keeping
it in front of the public’s and the regulatory agencies’ eyes. Once again,
it demonstrates how determined people with a just cause can stand up to
corporate arrogance and win.
SCBI’s goats will no longer be devastating riparian corridors in the
coastal benchlands above Highway One, as in this Frans Lanting photo.
Planning Commission Puts Hitch in Winery’s Wedding Plans
After several hearings and hours of testimony from vintners, friends of Bill and Robin Cunningham, and Bonny Doon and Redwood Meadows Ranch residents opposed to the idea of a venue for large weddings and other social events, the Planning Commission on August 23 voted unanimously to severely limit the number of guests who can be at the winery at any one time.
The commissioners okayed the creation of a 100,000 gallon capacity winery at Brisa del Mar, west of Bonny Doon Road near where Smith Grade ends, even though the great majority of the grapes will have to be trucked in. The commissioners also approved a tasting room, permitted to operate up to 6 p.m., and 60 small events per year, with no more than 50 guests at a time, and with no more than two per month at night, up to 10 p.m. The applicants had asked for permission to have 12 events a year with up to 195 people, 24 events per year with up to 150 people, and 24 events of up to 100 people.
In their discussion, several of the commissioners agreed with the argument put forward by the RBDA executive board, which cited the county’s General Plan, which doesn’t allow commercial development in Bonny Doon, and the fact that the winery is in an Open Space Easement for agriculture.
While we are gratified that for the moment we have again thwarted a commercial development in Bonny Doon, it is not completely over yet. The Cunninghams and their winery partners may appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, or seek to have the Open Space Easement contract rescinded. The commissioners also gave them the option of applying for a permit for larger events in the future.
Keeley Bill Calls for Clearcutting Hiatus
As the Highlander goes to press, the state legislature is considering Assemblyman Fred Keeley’s (D., Santa Cruz) logging reform bill (AB717), which would halt clearcutting of California forests for at least two years pending a study by scientists of its environmental effects. Hopefully, our local state senator Bruce McPherson’s vote, will add his support to this bill as it goes through his Appropriations Committee and onto the Senate Floor!
This bill has been knocked around in the legislature since the spring of 1999, and was recently amended at the behest of forest activists. Sierra Pacific owns nearly 20% of the more than 7.6 million acres of commercial forest land in private hands in California. Under pressure from Keeley and environmental activists, it recently scaled back its plans to clearcut much of its holdings.
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The Fungus Among Us
Pity the poor trees. They’re attacked on all sides, and they have nowhere to run. Redwoods are victimized by clearcutters, Monterey pines by blight, and now there’s a new, mushrooming threat to our gorgeous oak trees. They’re being devastated by a two-tailed fungus, a newly identified species of Phytophthora that has already killed thousands of California oaks from Big Sur to Sonoma County. It’s been worst in Marin County. Phytophthora’s cousins are blamed for the deaths of oak forests in Spain and Mexico and eucalyptus in Australia.
The fungus has been found in California coast live oak, black oak and tan oak, but the valley oak, blue oak, Shreve oak and interior live oak have so far been spared, perhaps because the fungus prefers the cool wet conditions prevalent on the coast.
Phytophthora has a ravenous appetite for oak bark. It produces enzymes that dissolve the dead outer and living inner layers of bark, resulting in oozing sores as the cell walls break down. This makes the tree vulnerable to bark beetles, which burrow into the tree and destroy its circulatory system. The fungus can produce thousands of zoospores in a day, which can be picked up by anything that moves through the forest, including off-road vehicles, bicycles, hikers, loggers and animals. David Rizzo, UC-Davis expert, suggests that firewood and soil not be removed from the coast lest they spread the disease across the nation.
There will be a discussion on "Sudden Deaths of Oaks" at the Bioregional Council’s meeting at UCSC Arboretum at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 28. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about this serious environmental threat to our precious forests. Also check out http://camfer.cnr.berkeley.edu/oaks/. It has good information and links to other sites with practical advice on how to protect your oaks.
Phone Towers Will Be a Hard Sell
Sprint PCS wireless service wants to place antennas at three locations on the North Coast as part of a network to provide coverage to travelers and others along Highway 1.
To allegedly lessen the visual impact, these stealth antennas will be disguised, one as a pine tree, one as a windmill, while one merely replaces a windsock. The pine tree (the species Pinus cellularis?) would be located west of the highway near its intersection with Back Ranch Road. It would be 65-feet high and located in a eucalyptus grove. (It’s too hard to replicate a blue gum? Go figure.)
Some of the nearby Coast Road residents are concerned that the signals
from the directional antennas firing up and down the highway will toast
someone. The second antenna is proposed for Dimeo Lane (the road
to the dump). It would be built into an authentic 59-foot windmill structure.
(To fit in with all the other windmills in the area?) The equipment would
be housed in a simulated redwood water tank and would be widely visible
from Wilder Ranch State Park and the coast highway. Coverage up to
the county line will be provided by a third new antenna replacing the windsock
in front of Big Creek Lumber. These towers would be the tallest structures
on the coast, except for the cement plant stack, which already has a Sprint
PCS antenna attached to it. County planner Joan Van Der Hoeven suggested
the project was so "small" it didn’t need environmental review. However,
just before the public hearing scheduled for August 18, the zoning administrator
decided it does. Another hearing is scheduled for October 20.
The Foul Smell of Excess
A year later, Granite Construction’s request to double the number of nights it can run its asphalt operation at the Felton Quarry is back on the Planning Commission agenda. The hearing is set for Wed., Sept. 13 at 9 a.m., in the Supervisors’ Chamber in the County Building. Granite wants to add 20 more nights to the 20 it is now allowed to operate, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Since the county requires dump trucks to enter and leave the quarry via Empire Grade at night to protect Felton residents (Hey, what about us?), this means a lot more noise, pollution, odors and traffic in Bonny Doon. In addition, quarry neighbors contend that nighttime weather conditions trap the fumes from the quarry smelter, intensifying the smell and air pollution.
Supplying asphalt for a paving project on Highway 17, the trucks have recently been rumbling through Bonny Doon from night ‘til morning, leaving a stink in their wake up and down Empire Grade. If Granite gets its way, this will happen twice as often each year.
To get more information, contact quarry neighbor Melissa Thompson at 426-5274. To express your opposition, write to the Planning Commission at 701 Ocean Street, SC 95060, or call the Planning Department’s Rachel Lather at 454-3210.
What You Want
From time to time some people complain that the RBDA is always opposing something. That’s partially correct. Among other things, we spent years fighting the highly polluting goat pharm on Back Ranch Road and an RV park proposed for the middle of Wilder Ranch.
But we also spend a lot of time supporting things, like the public acquisition of Gray Whale Ranch and the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve. First and foremost, we are dedicated to keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural, so that Bonny Doon remains the wonderful place where we all love to live. Sometimes that means fighting against commercial development, and sometimes it means fighting for the preservation of open land or the strengthening of laws to protect the environment.
Please work with us to keep Bonny Doon as beautiful as it is. Maintain your membership, and volunteer to serve on our board or committees. We want to make our bimonthly public meetings as useful to you as possible. Help us do this by telling us what subjects are most important to you, and we’ll try to develop an interesting program in response. See below, and you’ll find our e-mail addresses, or call us at the phone numbers on this page, or write to us at 102 Sunlit Lane, Bonny Doon, CA 95060.
Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, The Highlander,
Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above
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