Can We Trust What the Government Tells Us?
Environmental Programs Manager, UCSC
I DONíT WANT my MTBE!
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
Can We Trust What the Government Tells Us?
How many times have you heard about the government allowing or encouraging a new technology, only to have it later prove to be deadly, or have other unintended consequences?
From agricultural chemicals to gasoline additives, genetically altered crops to river dams, weíve seen countless cases of progress gone awry. To the point that weíve become cynical and skeptical, untrusting of the officials we elect and the bureaucrats who serve us.
At the next RBDA meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 8, Dan Blunk, Environmental Programs Manager at UCSC, will talk about whether government agencies can accurately assess environmental and public health risks of programs and projects they approve, and whether they provide meaningful information about those risks to the public. He will cite several instances of recent controversial actions that affect us locally and regionally to illustrate his points.
We will also hear a report from the RBDAís representative on the North Coast Beaches Advisory Committee, Ben Harmon, about a number of important new initiatives that are under way to improve the beaches. And of course, we expect Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt to be there as usual to report on issues important to Bonny Doon and answer your questions. We havenít said much in the Highlander about Mardiís regular attendance at our meetings, but we really appreciate these opportunities to hear her frank comments about what is going on at the County Building, and to be able to directly voice our concerns to her in an informal, convenient setting.
Ever since the Save the Redwoods League bought Coast Dairies & Land last year, thereís been a lot of anticipation about what will be done with it. Now, the process to decide that is beginning. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) took over interim ownership of the gorgeous 7000+ acre property and plans to turn it over to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the state Dept. of Parks (CDP).
Before that happens, a management plan for the property will be created that BLM and CDP will be legally obligated to follow.
The property, which stretches from Laguna to Scott creeks and from the ocean to the highlands of Bonny Doon, includes beaches, timber lands, grazing land, farms, and acreage leased to RMC Corp. to use in quarry operations. Issues to be resolved by the plan include public access and recreational opportunities, preservation of farms and ranches, the RMC quarrying leases, forest management, environmental protection (the property is home to some endangered plants and animals) and habitat restoration. TPL plans to form a Community Advisory Task Force to provide input in the development of the management plan. Its first meeting will be Sept. 15. The RBDA has been invited to name a representative to this task force. We are looking for someone with a broad focus and open mind on the various issues. If you are interested in being that person, please contact RBDA board member Marilyn Hummell at 426-3352.
Other groups participating on the task force are environmental organizations ranging from the California Native Plant Society to the Surfrider Foundation, Friends of the North Coast, farmers, businesses like Big Creek Lumber and RMC, and federal, state and local government agencies and schools.
The plan will actually be developed, with the task forceís input, by TPL and a Steering Committee consisting of Save the Redwoods League, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the State Coastal Conservancy, Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudtís office, BLM and CDP.
The first stage in creating the management plan will consist of collecting environmental data and identifying and refining issues. Then alternative management options will be developed and analyzed and the final plan selected. How long all this will take is unknown. A year or two seems likely. This is an undertaking that will play a major role in the future of the North Coast, and we welcome the opportunity to participate. We will keep you informed, and hope that RBDA members will communicate with us any thoughts you might have about the future uses of Coast Dairies.
Even after PG&E spokesman Alec Arago discussed its controversial plan to cut up to 1,800 trees around its high-voltage line through Bonny Doon at the July RBDA meeting, there are still many questions to be answered. The electric utility originally planned to remove trees within 50 feet of each side of its line to deter fires and prevent outages. But many property owners were loudly unhappy about the plan, which Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt blasted, and pointed out that PG&E needed permits before cutting anything. PG&E is now applying for them.
Opposition to the cutting is headed by resident David Gelphman of 356 Robles Drive. If you have questions or information to share with him, call him at 426-3114 or e-mail him at email@example.com. State law requires clearances of only 4 feet on each side of such lines, David says, except for branches and trees that are dead or diseased and might fall on the line. Property owners must grant permission for PG&E to trim or remove trees. If you see someone out there doing unauthorized cutting, call PG&Eís Santa Cruz vegetation manager at 479-3176. If you want to be able to use the wood, you need to have PG&E get a permit from the state Dept. of Forestry, as Arago says it is doing for 35 property owners. To reach him, call his pager, 707-441-6274.
To get a booklet explaining PG&Eís line protection program, call 479-5844.
With at times as few as 6 deputies spread over 441 square miles, itís easy to understand why you donít see a lot of county sheriffs as you drive around Santa Cruz. No problem, as long as thereís no problem. But when you need one, you want him or her there, fast.
As told by Sgt. Tony Jack at the July RBDA meeting, the deputy who covers the Bonny Doon area is based in Felton and is also responsible for the lower San Lorenzo Valley and parts of Scotts Valley down to the Santa Cruz City limits. Sgt. Jack wants to know if there is community support for a deputy who would be based in Davenport and just be responsible for the North Coast and Bonny Doon. If you want to weigh in with your opinion, call him at 464-6230, write him at 870 17th Avenue #4, Santa Cruz 95062, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Sgt. Jack wouldnít specifically comment on the hotly debated Chirco case, he did lay out some guidelines for how to keep yourself out of trouble when you try to make a citizenís arrest of someone stealing or destroying your property.
According to the deputy, you are permitted by the law to only use as much force as is necessary to detain the person and protect yourself from physical harm. Vague, yes, and therein lies the problem. If you damage a trespasser, burglar or vandal, you may be sued, or even charged with a crime. Your chances of avoiding arrest or winning a lawsuit all depend on the circumstances. The weaker you are and the more powerful and well armed the criminal is, the more you are justified in using force. A disabled elderly woman should easily get away with shooting a big male intruder who has a gun. Reverse the equation and you would be in deep trouble. As Mr. Chirco learned, the law punishes a large armed man if he smacks a kid he has already handcuffed to a fence, no matter how sassy the kid is and how much he may deserve it.
The best bet, Sgt. Jack says, is to call 911 as soon as possible. But with only 6 or 10 officers spread around the county, you could be in for a long wait.
It looks like Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Inc. (SCBI) is finally having to follow the same rules as everyone else.
On Aug. 24 the Board of Supervisors rejected SCBIís "emergency" request to build concrete bunkers and extend barn roofs to contain the flow of goat manure from its Back Ranch Road property. Instead, by a vote of 3-2 (Mardi Wormhoudt, Jeff Almquist and Jan Beautz for, Tony Campos and Walt Symons against) the supes told SCBI to literally get its sót together and stop coming up with piecemeal attempts to build permanent structures before its master plan is approved.
The rainy season runoff from SCBIís 1600 goat biotech facility has been scarily high in fecal coliform, exponentially higher than state standards. Since the runoff flows into at least two seasonal streams, and sheets through the small coastal neighborhood across Highway One from SCBI, the Regional Water Quality Control Board has been alarmed (as have the residents and others concerned about public safety).
The RQWCB told SCBI to deal with the manure before next rainy season or face consequences. The supervisors ordered SCBI to use non-permanent measures, or else collect it and transport it off site. The supes also warned SCBI to keep the goats out of riparian areas until the master plan (which has been amended several times now by SCBI) has been approved.
We congratulate Mardi Wormhoudt for leading this firm stand against SCBIís attempts to do whatever they want with this beautiful coastal property, whether permitted or not. We also applaud the coalition of individuals and groups who have kept up the pressure to rein in the massive uncontrolled growth of this feedlot-like operation and force it to follow the sound practices written into our building and environmental codes.
Granite Constructionís request to double the number of nights it can operate the Felton Quarry is back on the Planning Commission agenda for Wed., 9/8 at 9 a.m., in the Supervisorsí Chamber in the County Building. Granite wants to add 20 more nights to the 20 it is allowed to operate from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Since the county requires dump trucks to exit and enter the quarry via Empire Grade at night (to protect Felton residents), this means a lot more noise and traffic in Bonny Doon. In addition, quarry neighbors complain that nighttime weather conditions trap the emissions that fume from the quarry, making for some smelly nights.
To help organize opposition, contact Melissa Thompson at 426-5274. The
Have you noticed the new road striping on Empire Grade at Twin Gates, at the entrance to the new parking lot for Gray Whale Ranch? The safest place to pass going to and from town has been eliminated because of the increased use of Twin Gates by bicyclists and others.
Meanwhile, the parking lot is still not (as of this writing), and may
never be, open. The California Dep't of Fish and Game has pointed out that
the area might be considered a wetlands, and with State Parks, is checking
it out. Seems like a case of putting the cars before the horse trailers.
Eager for an eyewitness closeup of why the Board of Supervisors wants new rules to regulate logging in the county (or just happy at the chance to take a relaxing walk in the redwoods), a state Board of Forestry committee came down to Santa Cruz in late August.
The full Board of Forestry, recently fleshed out with new appointees from Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, will again consider the countyís proposals on Sept. 14 in Sacramento.
The supes are trying to get the state board, which regulates logging rules, to go along with no-logging buffer zones around homes, restrictions on helicopter logging, and limitations on road building. If the Board of Forestry doesnít satisfy the supervisorsí requests for changes (which would only apply in Santa Cruz County), the supervisors are prepared to institute stiff new zoning regulations on timber harvests.
Bonny Doonís voice in preserving our special quality of life, The Highlander,
is mailed free prior to the RBDA General Meetings, which are usually held
the second Wednesdays of January, March, May, July, September and November.
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