LAND MANAGEMENT ECOLOGIST
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATES
Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2003, 7:30 p.m.
|Coast Dairies Visionary To Speak At November RBDA Meeting
Back around 1905, Coast Dairies & Land Company's (CDLC) founding father William Moretti and cement manufacturing magnate William Dingee struck the deal that located the cement plant in Davenport and spawned the need for a rail line. That deal had massive environmental impacts.
The plant construction, operation, quarry activities, and construction of the rail line to transport the plant's products caused the disruption of riparian ecosystems on multiple North Coast streams.
So when developer Brian Sweeney sat down to talk with CDLC corporate president Bob Bosso in 1996, it wasn't the first time one's man's economic reach had manipulated the North Coast. This time, the dealmaking raised the threat of development that led to an effort for the Coast Dairies property to become public land. To that end, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has invested years in research and development of management goals. The creation of a Citizen's Advisory Group (CAG) offered locals many opportunities to provide input as plans were developed.
Today the negotiations to place the Coast Dairies property into public hands teeter near the brink of completion. Yet the final configuration of land ownership is still uncertain as talks continue between TPL, State Parks, the Bureau of Land Management and Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt. Difficult property transfer conditions are not resolved and the future of farming is uncertain, though the county has committed to the continuation of commercial agriculture, and is seeking funding for the long and expensive process of obtaining water rights. This became necessary after regulatory agencies curtailed the unpermitted stream water diversions and neither Parks, BLM or TPL intended to seek water rights. TPL is eager to complete the deal and had identified Sept. 1 as the day when the transfer to the new owners would take place. That day passed and now they are aiming for the end of the year. But as negotiations continue, observers doubt that date will be met either.
The planning for that day was primarily the responsibility of Environmental Science Associates (ESA). In July 2001 we invited Tom Roberts of ESA to speak to the RBDA. Tom showed up and, unexpectedly, so did Darcy Rosenblatt, the Project Manager for TPL who provided most of the talk. We thought it would be good to invite Tom back again, and this time we're not likely to hear from Darcey since she left TPL and now works for ESA.
This is a chance to get a unique overview of this entire process from an experienced insider who was the most interesting and informed speaker at the CAG meetings. Repeating the bio we provided for his July 2001 talk: Tom is a Senior Wildlife Biologist and Land Management Ecologist with more than 20 years of experience. He served for 10 years as a Biologist and Planner for the U.S. Forest Service, where he concentrated on habitat restoration and endangered wildlife issues. Other accomplishments include a long list of major environmental studies and analyses throughout the West, including the Bombay property on Santa Cruz's Westside and Yosemite National Park. He has also written three novels and published numerous articles and studies. Be sure to come and hear his insights into the momentous change coming to our area.
BLM Collects Comments
The Bureau of Land Management held a public workshop Oct.8 in Davenport to solicit help and input about what public access should be allowed to the interior part of Coast Dairies. The notice for the workshop asked the following questions:
RBDA Road Committee Sends Storm Runoff Report to County
RBDA Road Committee members Tom Scully and Dennis Mason have compiled an extensive and comprehensive report detailing the condition of the culverts and ditches that direct rainwater runoff on Empire Grade and Smith Grade. The proper and efficient functioning of these features is crucial in maintaining the already fragile condition of large sections of these roads. The report has been sent to Tom Bolich, Director of Santa Cruz County's Department of Public Works, and requests that the county correct current and potential deficiencies in a practical and timely manner.
Much of the poor condition of Bonny Doon's roads results from insufficient rainwater removal through County culverts that cross under the road. and/or roadside ditches. While the culverts and ditches generally seem to be adequate, many are damaged or impaired. Culverts are partially crushed at the end, or blocked with debris from road work, live and fallen vegetation, and previous winters’ rock and soil accumulation. Ditches have similar vegetative and soil issues. A few culverts appear to have inadequate slope or drainage area for the volume of water they are required to transport.
Water that is allowed to penetrate into or under the roadway, combined with the ‘pumping’ action of passing vehicles, is the cause of many of the potholes and crumbling asphalt sections that are so prevalent on our roads. In extreme cases, erosion of RBDA Road Committee Sends Storm Runoff Report to County the road edge, and/or undermining of the road can occur, resulting in road failure and loss of use.
Closed roads are more than an inconvenience, they are a safety issue. Delays in emergency response by Sheriff, Fire and Rescue, and PG&E are, simply stated, not acceptable if preventable.
Standing water on roadways, also preventable except in the heaviest rains, makes driving more hazardous because of unseen obstacles, hydroplaning, and poor braking. Drivers should reduce their speed, and keep in mind that they may be confronted with unsafe conditions at any moment.
The Road Committee's report is very straightforward and concise, and clearly took much thought and hard work. They are volunteer members of our community who are pointing out deficiencies in our county tax-funded road system. County maintenance of these water removal features is critical and mandatory to preserving Bonny Doon's roads, a very necessary and fundamental piece of our rural infrastructure. If you have specific knowledge or concerns about the condition of our roads, comment on the RBDA website, or call county Public Works, as well as Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt's office.
The Road Committee's report encompassed approximately 100 county culverts
and ditches. However, it did not address the numerous culverts that pass
underneath many homeowners’ driveways. These are used for private access
and are the responsibility of the homeowner. In a recent press release,
DPW Director Tom Bolich reminded residents countywide of their duty to
maintain their own driveway culverts. So, Adopt A Culvert, at least the
one that passes under your driveway, and help the community maintain our
Lockheed: Do Good Defenses Make Good Neighbors?
Check this map (or get out that black and white map we gave you two Highlanders ago) and you will see that the Lockheed facility is not exactly an across-the-fence neighbor of the Bonny Doon Planning Area, but they certainly qualify as a close neighbor. Accordingly, it's natural that we would like to know what they are up to.
We all know it's a defense establishment (or offense - the pun on Frost's poem still works), and that National Defense must keep its secrets. Many think that having this company in the neighborhood is a patriotic honor, and just as many think it is an abomination. This story isn't going to get into the issue of whether or not weapon production in/near Bonny Doon is appropriate. What we do wonder about is whether or not they are being good neighbors with respect to our air, soil, water and roads.
At the September RBDA General Meeting, we heard from Lynda Marin and Lisa Bunin of the group CCALM, Citizens Concerned about Lockheed Martin (more information at their website http://www.ccalm.org/). They circulated a petition requesting the opening of the files Lockheed has established with the county Environmental Health Dept. Such files would presumably list the hazardous materials used at the Lockheed site, if any, and their method of transportation on Bonny Doon roads and methods of disposal after use. This might reveal whether or not there should be concern over possible pollution of Bonny Doon air/water resources, and could yield useful information about how our emergency workers in Bonny Doon could prepare for accidents in transit. Surely, information on all of these matters should be a neighborly thing for Lockheed to offer to us.
Apparently a goodly number of you signed the petition, and this helped start the process by which Environmental Health received it and forwarded the request to the authorities at Lockheed Martin, both in Bonny Doon and Sunnyvale. Lockheed has until Nov. 10 or so to notify Environmental Health if they would permit the files to be opened to CCALM experts (who may include some RBDA specialists in these areas). If Lockheed refuses, we understand that the refusal will be automatically reviewed by some area judge who determines if it is sufficiently grounded.
The RBDA Executive Board has determined that this CCALM initiative is sensible and in the best interests of Bonny Doon, and has independently written a letter to all of the involved parties supporting the request to open the files, at least to qualified persons who can evaluate the impact on Bonny Doon. The letter will be on our website and on display at the November General Meeting. The Board welcomes your comments and reactions concerning this issue.
RMC in a Scrape in Ecological Reserve
On September 23, 2003, Santa Cruz County Code Compliance issued four Notices of Violation to RMC Pacific Materials and to its forester, Gary Paul, related to the grading/land clearing violations observed on four State of California properties within the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve and on the adjacent RMC property. During the county's site visit it was determined that approximately 1.5 miles of roadway, much of it long overgrown, had been disturbed by clearing activity.
A week earlier, the RBDA had received numerous phone calls and e-mails from concerned neighbors regarding the unauthorized road grading through the Reserve. Rare manzanitas (federal species of concern) and Ben Lomond spineflowers (federally and state listed as endangered) had been damaged or destroyed. Waterbars, which had been carefully constructed by volunteers and the staff of the Reserve's owner, the California Department of Fish and Game Fish and Game (DFG), to keep the fragile and highly erosive sandy Zayante soils in place, were ripped out, and the historic log bridge spanning Laguna Creek on the RMC property had been demolished. All without the necessary state and county permits or permission from. DFG.
Val Haley, a native plant expert, RBDA member, and the Reserve's Docent Coordinator, contacted Jeannine DeWald, DFG Reserve manager, and a site visit was conducted to assess the damage. DFG Warden Dennis Baldwin, county Assistant District Attorney Morgan Taylor, a representative of the RBDA Board and RMC officials were among those present.
DFG is conducting a thorough investigation of the illegal activities. Besides damage to sensitive plant species, RMC's claim to a right-of-way through the Reserve is also being reviewed by the DFG legal department. The investigation report will be turned over to the District Attorney's office for appropriate action and information regarding the county code violation posted was forwarded to attorney Taylor for coordination. Coastal Commission enforcement staff has also opened a file on this matter and is monitoring the proceedings. The Notices of Violation require appropriate erosion control measures to be implemented by October 15, 2003 under the review and approval of the County's Environmental Planning.
RMC has hired an engineering geologist to prepare an erosion control plan now being reviewed by DFG’s geologist. While the October 15 deadline has passed, all acknowledge the urgency of getting appropriate mitigations in place before winter rains arrive and carry loads of loose sand into Laguna Creek. DFG is working in conjunction with the county to assure that correction of the erosion and grading violations is complete.
Agenda for the RBDA General Meeting - November 12, 2003
1. Approval of Minutes of Sept. 10, 2003 General Meeting
1. Voted unanimously to authorize Membership Coordinator Ben Harmon to notify the membership by e-mail of the BLM Coast Dairies Oct. 8 workshop and urge attendance to insist that TPL recommendations be accepted and acted upon.
NOMINATIONS DUE AT NOVEMBER 12 MEETING!
The new Bylaws we instituted last year; they require that all nominations for the RBDA Executive Board elections in January be cast in stone by the previous November General Meeting. No last-minute nominations can then be accepted on election night. Part of the reason for this new rule was to allow absentee balloting, with the candidates determined ahead of time and stating their positions in the January Highlander.
Our Nominations Committee has been hard at work, headed up by Alec Webster (426-1960) (one Board member is allowed by the Bylaws), and aided by Ted Benhari (426-5053). If you are interested in running contact one of them. Nominations from the floor are also permitted at the November meeting. Both the nominator and the nominee must be members of the RBDA in good standing (i.e., dues paid up!) by November 1. The nominees must have Bonny Doon as their principal residence. To vote absentee, you have to send a request to the Membership Coordinator by Dec. 15, and have your ballot back to him before the Annual Meeting in January. See the Bylaws section VI.B.5 on the web for mailing details.
Members, your nominations and votes in the Annual Meeting are your way of telling the Board what you want the RBDA to be! Be sure to be represented in these two important meetings.
A HUNTER'S SHOT SHOCKS RESIDENT
A recent incident in the Moore Ranch Road neighborhood off Smith Grade raises questions about shooting rules in our area. In mid-September, according to a Moore Ranch resident, a hunter on an adjoining property shot a deer. The wounded animal crossed Majors Creek and collapsed and died not far from her house.
Present law bans shooting within 150 yards of an occupied residence or outbuildings, except your own, and make it illegal for your bullet or other projectile to land on your neighbor's property. There are some exceptions, including the right to shoot "pests or crop-destroying animals" on your land, which probably includes deer and wild pigs.
The homeowner says the shot sounded much closer to her home than 150 yards. The deer carcass vanished during the night, apparently removed by the hunter, who had been denied permission to enter her property.
Property owners or neighborhoods can petition to have a no-shoot zone designated around them. Such a petition goes to Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt's office. She, in turn, brings it to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Three no-shoot zones already exist in our area: the Felton Quarry, RMC Pacific Materials property along Bonny Doon Road, and a ¾-mile stretch 400 ft. on either side of Empire Grade starting about 3/10ths of a mile north of Smith Grade.
There are many parts of Bonny Doon in the vicinity of dense residential development where shooting is dangerously inappropriate, even if strictly legal. Topography and trees can make it difficult or impossible to tell if there is a house, person or pet within 150 yards. Many bullets are lethal for a much longer distance than that. What are your thoughts? Have you experienced incidents where guns were fired dangerously close to your house or property?
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