November/December 2008 issue
Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve:
Beyond Fire Recovery

Laurie Briden, Senior Wildlife Management Supervisor
California Department of Fish and Game
Steve Schindler, Warden
California Department of Fish and Game

RBDA General Meeting
Wednesday 12 November 2007, 7:30 PM

Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School

Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve:  It's More than Fire Recovery

Everyone knows that the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve—well, about 60% of it—burned on June 11. People who care to look also know that it’s already recovering: brackens came first, followed by acorn woodpeckers; manzanitas are sprouting from their bases, oaks and cypresses have shoots sticking out at odd angles from upper branches; and, as every homeowner laments, you can't exterminate poison oak.

Less apparent is a substantial behind-the-scenes mobilization, not only to help the Reserve in its post-fire condition, but also to make up for the 20 years of neglect since its acquisition in 1989. Since we reported on State Assemblyman John Laird’s August 12 meeting in the Sept.-Oct. 2008 Highlander, a number of experts from various agencies, as well as community members, have been gathering, sharing information, and making plans to monitor listed species, eradicate invasive non-natives, deter human trespassers, restore areas damaged by fire fighting and protect the Reserve from future fires, mend fences, find funds—and more. Mr. Laird’s sustaining interest and sharp focus, with the help of his able staff, keep this collection of strong individuals on track: work will be coordinated, not piecemeal.

Laurie Briden, Senior Wildlife Management Supervisor with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), is the leader and coordinator of this complex endeavor. She has past experience with bears, mountain lions, listed species—both animal and vegetable, and an array of water projects in the Suisun Marsh. Currently, she manages DFG lands in 13 counties. Her background demonstrates she's ready for any challenge, and Ms. Briden has confirmed this in her response to the Reserve's needs. In addition to driving back and forth from Stockton for meetings and to bring resource personnel to the Reserve, she has managed to place developing and approving the Reserve’s Management Plan at the head of the priorities list for our region.

At our Nov. 12 RBDA meeting, Ms. Briden will tell us what’s happening and what's planned in the Reserve, and what outside specialists she can enlist. Her presentation will show some specific areas of interest, and a contact list of the DFG organization for future reference. Copies of her presentation will be available. Despite what she’s already achieved and her enthusiasm going forward, Ms. Briden stresses that DFG simply doesn’t have the resources to accomplish everything that's needed:  she hopes that community members, in addition to the ones who already volunteer in the Reserve, will offer their expertise. Ms. Briden prefers an informal atmosphere and encourages questions at any time.

Steve Schindler, Warden with DFG, will join Ms. Briden to talk about trespassing—the Reserve is closed except by permission through May 2009—what the problems are, what we as residents can do to help, and whom we can contact.

Toxic Dust from Cemex? The Answer Is Blowin' In the Wind

As so often in life, the answer is complex and difficult to discover. On Oct. 3, Ed Kendig of the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District [MBUAPCD] wrote to the Board of Supervisors and County to notify them, in accordance with Prop. 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, that MBUAPCD had discovered hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] in the airborne dust coming from the Cemex plant in Davenport. At Davenport’s Pacific Elementary School the risk appeared to be eight times the Prop. 65 standard.

Cr(VI) is a very scary substance, made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.” Due to its highly chemically reactive nature, minute amounts cause lung cancer. This extreme reactivity, however, causes Cr(VI) to decay in a day or two to the vastly more common Cr(III), which is actually an essential human nutrient, present in ordinary multivitamins. Prop. 65 requires a warning when there is a cancer risk of 10 cases per million people from constant exposure at the observed concentration for an entire lifetime. This risk is roughly equivalent to the chance of being hit by lightning. It was only last April, in Riverside County, that Cr(VI) was discovered to be associated with cement manufacture, when Cr(III) is converted to Cr(VI) in the heat of cement kilns.

Once certain of its facts, the South Coast Air Quality Management District [SCAQMD], which made the Riverside discovery as part of its oversight of air quality in the entire LA Basin, notified MBUAPCD, which in turn began a series of nine weekly air samples for Cr(VI) at two locations in Davenport, and one, for background levels, in Swanton. Not wanting to cause unjustified panic, or any modification of Cemex's process, MBUAPCD conducted the sampling without notification. With a budget one-seventh the size of SCAQMD, MBUAPCD was challenged to obtain data at the necessary resolution from the less sensitive filters they had available, and to find a private lab that could analyze the data quickly and accurately.

In the days after Ed Kendig's Prop. 65 notification circulated, the Davenport/North Coast Association (DNCA) contacted the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and State Sen. Joe Simitian’s office, who then contacted CA EPA’s Air Resources Board (ARB). Supervisor Neal Coonerty instigated the County Board of Supervisors to direct County Health to report to the Board in two weeks. The DNCA Pacific Elementary trustees held a meeting for parents with Cemex officials, local regulators and legislators at the Davenport school.

MBUAPCD began daily sampling, with a promise of the use of SCAQMD's lab for analysis. Unfortunately, the Riverside Cr(VI) hot spot simultaneously spiked, swamping the Southern California lab’s more involved and accurate analysis. Cemex, which due to the economic downturn had already suspended manufacture, covered its kiln clinker dust pile and began a thorough cleaning of and stepped up dust control in its shipping and loading operations, the two most likely sources of the Cr(VI).

During the following week, DNCA, in lieu of a long planned meeting to discuss MBUAPCD’s update of its November 2007/April 2008 hazard assessment of mercury risk from Cemex operations, held a community meeting with Cemex officials and union representatives, State and local regulators and legislators, and government and NRDC health scientists in Davenport. Cemex reported that it will change the input source for its manufacture to more expensive iron ore instead of slag and scrap iron, which is thought to be the source of Cr(III) in its kilns, and that it will re-engineer its loading system. The ARB sent MBUAPCD an array of its much more sensitive air filters and offered the use of the State’s labs for analysis. By the end of the week, the ARB filters were in place and that weekend, Cemex voluntarily shut down all operations so that accurate base levels could be measured.

In the week prior to this article going to press, County Health recommended in its report to the Supervisors, and the Board approved, hiring a team of consultants. They will complement MBUAPCD's efforts outside the school by investigating a variety of metals, including mercury and Cr(VI), in the air and on surfaces within Pacific School, and independently sample the outside air and soil and report to the board including a proposal for appropriate actions. At the Board hearing several individuals and community organizations, including the RBDA, asked that Cemex consider voluntarily suspending its loading operations until the latest data could be analyzed to provide a better basis for action. While the Board did not adopt Supervisor Coonerty’s suggestion to that effect in its resolution, the next day, Satish Sheth, Cemex Vice President and Davenport resident, announced that Cemex was voluntarily suspending loading, pending the results of the more accurate analysis of the finer resolution data.

As we  go to press the first preliminary analyses of the interim, low resolution, data show that during the reduced and more controlled loading-only Cemex operations in the week prior to the large Davenport public meeting, Cr(VI) levels were quite close to and mostly below the Prop. 65 warning level. County Health is considering the consultant’s proposed scope of work. The first data using ARB’s high resolution filters are being analyzed at ARB’s labs in Sacramento. By the time you read this, the Davenport school interior study by Teri Copeland and Associates will have begun and the ARB’s analyses will be public. MBUAPCD, which is the lead agency, has a website, to publish the results of the analyses, and County Environmental Health has another (see end of next column for web addresses), to serve as the central clearing house for information. Please visit these sites for updates.

So, what is the answer, Mr. Science?

Based on correspondence and conversations with State, local and NRDC scientists, it is fair to conclude that: Prop. 65 is a good law, aimed at alerting Californians to health risks in their environment at a very low level, before they become serious problems. Humans are very poor at evaluating risk at an intuitive level, grossly overestimating the risks from rare events, and grossly underestimating the risks from common events. Just think of the restrictions on air travel stemming from the shoe and shampoo bomb threats, and try to remember the last time you read the Prop. 65 warnings at your local gas station or the fish section of your local grocery.

Cr(VI) is highly carcinogenic and children are more sensitive to it than adults. Airborne Cr(VI) is thousand times more toxic than the waterborne Cr(VI) in “Erin Brockovich.” Lung cancer takes decades to develop and is frequently fatal.
Cr(VI) has probably been present in the emissions from the Davenport cement factory for decades, yet the Davenport / Bonny Doon census tract has a lung cancer rate several orders of magnitude lower than the rates, between 1,100 cases/million (for African-American males) to 255 cases/million (for Latina women), from all causes, for the general population. Smoking still accounts for 3/4 of those cases.

The amounts of Cr(VI) involved are almost inconceivably small. At the Prop. 65 warning level, it is necessary to detect 1/200 of a trillionth of an ounce per breath. Your lungs have surface area roughly equal to that of a good-sized kitchen, walls and ceiling included; each breath draws in roughly a quart of air. Prop. 65 is warning you when there is an amount roughly 1/10,000 the weight of a pollen grain per breath, coming from the volume of a large soda container, to land somewhere on a space the size of your kitchen.

With independent scientists and the ARB joining the case, there is reason to believe that we will soon finally understand the overall risk that all of Cemex’s emissions present. With Cemex’s good faith and commitment, there is reason to hope that the risk will be managed at a level below that of being hit by lightning. Still, as Ed Kendig of MBUAPCD told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “We have to remember it will take a long period of stable operations and monitoring before we can draw conclusions about how satisfactory the plant's emissions are.”

County Environmental Health:

Remembering Don Coyne: Astrophysicist, RBDA Board Member, Environmentalist, Adventurer

The community and the RBDA lost one of its outstanding members on October 1, Don Coyne. Don, a UCSC astrophysics professor and 22-year Bonny Doon resident, served on the RBDA Executive Board for 10 years, four of them as chairman, finally stepping down in 2005 as he battled prostate cancer. Many Bonny Dooners will remember him for the astronomy wisdom he imparted when he set up his telescope at the BD airport on clear nights.

Don helped the RBDA win many important struggles over the years, including the ousting of the biotech goat pharm on Back Ranch Road and fighting off the events center at Redwood Meadows Ranch.

Don leaves behind his wife, fellow professor and Bonny Dooner Melanie Mayer, and daughters Heather and Gwen.

RBDA Chairman Ted Benhari says of Don: “He was chairman of the RBDA when I joined the board in 1996. Don was my mentor, educating me about the community and its political issues and encouraging me as we worked closely together to try to preserve the nature of our unique community.

“Don wasn’t an imposing figure, grizzled and balding, modest and kind of impish, with an infectious laugh, which belied his adventurous and fearless spirit and brilliant mind. Don had an outstanding career in astrophysics, including designing instruments to capture fundamental particles raining on earth from space that could yield information about the origins of the universe. He climbed mountains and, in his last years while fighting for his life, built a contraption that is essentially a propellered lawn mower attached to a kite, which he delighted in flying over Bonny Doon and the North Coast.

“Despite his admiration and respect for UCSC, Don recognized that its growth was becoming damaging to the community and threatening the rural nature of Bonny Doon, and he became one of the original members of CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, whose name he coined.

“We were good friends and shared many conversations, about politics, human behavior, and the wondrous nature of the universe, and his passing leaves a black hole in my heart  and those of his many friends, former students and colleagues.”

District Fails, But Fire Service May Improve

The Bonny Doon Fire Team and many Dooners were disappointed by the failure of the effort to improve fire and emergency services through the creation of a Bonny Doon Fire District. On a 4 to 3 vote on Sept. 22, by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), denied the district application, However, the Fire Team has filed an appeal, citing procedural and legal errors.

Meanwhile, County Fire is proposing to bring an engine and a two- person crew up from its Felton station to Bonny Doon. Details of the move remain to be worked out among CalFire, the Fire Team volunteers and the Board of Supervisors, which contracts with Cal Fire to serve as the Santa Cruz County Fire Department in areas without their own districts.

It seems that the enormous 3-year effort to create the Bonny Doon district, while falling short of its goal (pending the decision on the appeal), will still result in improved services here, although much remains to be worked out, including what the coverage will be when the CalFire crew is needed to fight wildfires in other parts of the state.

UCSC-City Cooperation Begins

A new era of collegiality has dawned as UCSC and City of Santa Cruz officials began working together to minimize the impacts of the university’s growth on the community. The settling of various lawsuits among the City, UC and the community has created a framework for cooperation in the areas of traffic, public transit and resource management, and created an enforceable contract with stated benchmarks for performance.

Nevertheless, the City Council also took the first step in mid-October of putting the language of Measures I & J into law. If you recall, these two ballot measures which were passed by about 80% of the City electorate, were cancelled on a legal technicality – inadequate public notice before the ballot. The measures required UCSC to fully mitigate the impacts of its past growth before expanding further, and required it to get the approval of LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, before the City could extend water and sewer services to the North Campus.

The City and UCSC are faced with the enormous and perhaps impossible task of trying to cope with the impact of 4,500 additional students and over 1,300 new staff on housing, traffic and water supply in the next 11 years. Besides that, the City must try to keep traffic flowing on the Westside as several other big projects come on line, including the expanded Safeway and New Leaf markets, UCSC’s Marine Sciences campus and the Redtree work/live development, the latter two of which are on Delaware Avenue.

RBDA Board Nominations

Four RBDA board member positions are up for election this January, those of Ted Benhari, Jodi Frediani, Tom Hearn and Miriam Beames.

Following the bylaws, the board appointed board member Tom Hearn to the 3-person Nominating Committee, and Tom selected Jane Cavanaugh and Yana Jacobs from the RBDA membership to serve on the committee. Per the bylaws, the committee will present its nominations at the Nov. 12 General Meeting.

Additional nominations will be accepted from the floor at that time, after which nominations will be closed. Nominees to the board must be RBDA members in good standing as of Nov. 1, 2008. If you are interested in running, call Tom at 423-2483.

RBDA General Meeting Agenda - November 12, 2008
1. Approve minutes of Sept. 10, 2008 meeting.
2. RBDA Board nominations
3. Featured Program: Bonny Doon Eco Reserve: Beyond Fire Recovery

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
102 Sunlit Lane • Bonny Doon, CA 95060

Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, 
The Highlander, is mailed free to Bonny Doon residents prior to the 
RBDA General Meetings, which are usually held on second Wednesdays of 
January, March, May, July, September and November.
We encourage you to participate. 

 Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above address, 
or by email, below.

RBDA Executive Board 
Board Chair
Ted Benhari
Vice Chair
Miriam Beames
Joe Christy
Corresponding Secretary 
Jodi Frediani
Ben Harmon 
Recording Secretary
Jan Hilkert
Highlander Editor
Tom Hearn
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If you live in or own property within this district, roughly from Empire Grade to the ocean and from San Vicente Creek to the City of Santa Cruz border, you are eligible to be an RBDA member.

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