November/December 2010 issue

Bringing Back the Salmon
Kristin Kittleson, Santa Cruz County
Fishery Resource Planner

Public Forum on County Fire

Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road

Fish & Fire at Nov. 10 RBDA Meeting

The efforts to revive the coho and steelhead populations of the North Coast, and an educational forum on fire and emergency medical response in Bonny Doon will be the double header at the November RBDA meeting.


Bringing Back the Salmon

Santa Cruz County has the most southern distribution of the coho salmon population on the West Coast. All coastal streams south of the Golden Gate except Scott and Waddell have lost their natural coho runs. Estimates are that these populations have declined 95% to 98% from the historical runs of the 1800s.

The Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in Santa Cruz, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), began a long-term research project into central coast salmon biology on Scott Creek in 2002. The watershed is inhabited by endangered southern coho salmon (O. kisutch), providing an excellent natural laboratory to study life history characteristics. This includes questions relating to adult return rates, juvenile production, growth and habitat use, population genetics, adult reproductive strategies, and instream movements (monitored with Passive-Integrated-Transponder tags), marine survival of fish, avian predation and interactions between naturally spawned and hatchery produced salmonids. The SWFSC collaborates with the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP), which operates a hatchery on Scott Creek and produces coho to supplement natural spawning.

The Waddell and Scott Creek populations would be in even greater jeopardy without artificial propagation provided by the MBSTP. Today, coho are kept in captivity throughout their life cycle at the SWFSC to ensure there are coho to be spawned at the hatchery in the event that fish fail to return to spawn, as can happen in drought years and extremely wet years. In recent years brood stock has been collected in fish traps in Scott Creek.

Join us Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. when Kristen Kittleson, Santa Cruz County Fishery Resource Planner, will discuss local efforts to restore and study steelhead and coho populations and habitat. Kristen will provide an overview of steelhead and coho salmon life history and share a map produced with other local fishery biologists that shows the current distribution of steelhead and coho salmon in Santa Cruz County.

She will discuss countywide efforts for steelhead and coho salmon conservation, especially in the watershed areas of Bonny Doon. She will detail projects, some working with private landowners, which have successfully restored and enhanced stream function for steelhead and coho. She also will provide an overview of some North Coast activities, including research on NOAA research on Scott Creek, and how the MBSTP scrambled to shuttle 1,800 coho from the hatchery in Swanton to Santa Cruz, in order to save them from potential mudslides following the Lockheed Fire.

November’s RBDA meeting provides yet another great educational experience for Bonny Doon youth—a career exploration opportunity. It’s a chance for our children to meet, speak and possibly connect with someone who is doing something she is passionate about, and something that benefits us all.

Public Forum On County Fire

Do you understand the difference between County Fire and Cal Fire? Between Local Responsibility Areas and State Responsibility Areas? Between responsibility for structure fires and for wildland fires?

Do you know what CSA 48 is? What the WUI is?

Do you know how County Fire is funded, directed, and managed? How emergency medical service is provided in Bonny Doon?  How volunteer fire departments fit into County Fire?

At our Nov. 10 meeting, the RBDA will host a public discussion of all these issues. We will be joined by 3rd District County Supervisor Neal Coonerty, Cal Fire Chief John Ferreira and Deputy Chief Kathleen Lineberry, 3rd District Representative to the Fire Department Advisory Commission Tom Scully, and Captain Guy Denues of the Loma Prieta Volunteer Fire District.

Though our community has gathered to discuss fire service immediately following the Martin and Lockheed Fires, this will be the first opportunity to have a dialog on this vital service with our public servants. Our aim is to have all voices heard, and more importantly, listened to.


Boarding Houses in Bonny Doon?

Most of us live in Bonny Doon because it is rural. Helping those in need and self-help are primary rural values. How many of us have taken family and friends into our homes during this Great Recession? How many have responded to economic conditions by renting out a room to a student? The agricultural lands of the North Coast includes provisions for farmworker housing.

Is 15 students renting 8 bedrooms of a 6,900 square foot house with a single kitchen, and the owner living over the garage, rural? According to current County zoning regulations, this is a perfectly legitimate owner-occupied single family home. Actually, the term "single-family" is a bit of red herring. While most of Bonny Doon is zoned for single-family dwellings, according to the County Planning Dept., State and Federal Fair Housing laws preempt the local definition of single family.

This 6,900 building is not even a “monster home,” which under County rules would require an opportunity for public comment from neighbors before a permit is issued. Nowadays, a “monster home” is one over 7,000 square feet, up from 4,500 when the County began regulating them in 1993.

While we all have stories about our struggles with County Planning, one can get a simple, over-the-counter “ministerial” permit to build, occupy, and rent out such a not-quite-boarding-house, with minimal review and without input from affected neighbors, then throw up the structure in less than a year. There are just a handful of homes larger than even 5,000 square feet in Bonny Doon, and virtually all of those  have, for one reason or another, gone through extensive review and public comment.

The Comprehensive Settlement Agreement between UCSC and the County, City, and community groups, including the RBDA, which ended the suit over the Environmental Impact Report on UCSC's Long Range Development Plan, requires the City of Santa Cruz to begin rigorously enforcing its own regulations on rental housing. The implementation has set off a storm of protest from City landlords. Squeezing the pumpkin seed of student housing in the City will just push the students out into the unincorporated County.

Do we want this sort of development? Would you want to live next door to a student tenement? While the State sets 16 unrelated adults as the occupancy limit of a “single-family” dwelling, and farmworker housing takes advantage of that definition, it is a County regulation that allows the construction of homes less than 7,000 square feet with only a ministerial permit and no public comment. It is lack of County regulation that fails to distinguish between a rental unit built for profit and a multi-generation family home.

Where do you think the line should be drawn? Would you want the RBDA to work with the County to change the regulation of not-quite-boarding houses for students here? Please contact the board (see masthead on page 4) with your thoughts.

Cemex Misses Quarry Closure Plan Deadline

Cemex, having ended mining, apparently will not achieve the final contours anticipated for the abandoned Bonny Doon limestone Quarry. Revisions are therefore needed in the Closure Plan, but Cemex has missed its deadline to submit an application to amend the Plan.

Cemex had done extensive planning for its proposed quarry expansion, but that effort does not seem to have expedited the needed revisions as the 90-day deadline to submit an application passed on Sept. 23. Another month of grace period granted by County staff has still not produced the application for the Closure Plan modification.

County staff told us that they planned to send Cemex an official notice of non-compliance on Nov. 1. The lack of compliance with County Mining Code is just one part of a bigger picture overseen by County Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello. Also at issue is Cemex’s unpaid bill for County costs for pollution monitoring at the cement plant, long delayed mitigation projects, water rights for Davenport, and the future disposition of the plant and Bonny Doon timberland properties.

It’s time for the County to start exercising its code enforcement options. The lenient treatment that Cemex has enjoyed from County staff is not bringing results. And with no operating personnel on site and the wet season setting in, Cemex and County staff will need to establish monitoring of quarry conditions and settlement ponds during storm events to avoid environmental damage from catastrophic failures.


Judge Favors LAFCO in Fire District Suit

In the latest setback of the long effort to establish a Bonny Doon Fire Protection District, on Oct. 4 Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann tentatively denied Bonny Doon Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Inc. (BDVF/R)'s petition to have the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)'s 2008 denial voided.

Initial efforts to establish the Bonny Doon District began 10 years ago, and picked up steam in 2006. BDVF/R will have to decide whether to appeal after the written decision is issued and they and their attorneys have a chance to examine it. Once submitted an appeal could take another year to come to trial.

A more complete report and description of the legal issues appears in this month's Battle Mountain News.


Feds Help Laguna Creek Regain Wetland

Arising near Empire Grade, the watershed of Laguna Creek is home to many Bonny Doon residents. Its habitat value for native species is well known too, and improvements were given a high priority in the County’s Integrated Watershed Restoration Program. When funding became available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a successful and effective partnership effort was launched that included State Parks, the Resource Conservation District, and the California Coastal Conservancy. Timely cooperation from regulatory agencies expedited project planning so that the implementation could be completed and readied for winter rains. 

Under the direction of State Parks Resource Ecologist Portia Halbert, thousands of yards of soil just inland of Hwy. 1 were removed to create a flood plain below the level of the old Laguna Inn property and the adjacent organic strawberry field. Further excavation created ponds connected to the creek at the summer low flow level. The beautifully contoured landforms that remain hide much careful design and engineering. Strategically buried are logs and willow bundles salvaged and saved during clearing. These are placed to hold the soil during events that send water into the new floodplain areas. Much effort was made to remove invasive cape ivy, and non-reproducing rye grass is sprouting to stabilize the disturbed soil while the native plants that were placed throughout the site are maturing. Willows and tules planted at the pond edges preserve the features especially susceptible during this first winter. The newly created off-channel ponds contain well anchored root wads that give young fish refuge to escape being carried out to sea before they are ready.

Like the recent improvements on San Vicente Creek and Archibald Creek, this project recreates both ephemeral and permanent wetland features and processes that were lost when the railroad line was built, Hwy. 1 straightened and land given over to agricultural use.

As the recent high fish count in the San Lorenzo River demonstrates, populations can recover when we restore and protect the habitats that were neglected or destroyed. A blue heron was already spotted checking out new feeding opportunities at Laguna. A year from now fast growing riparian plants will be providing cover for his prey and frogs and phoebes and wood rats will be taking advantage of their expanded habitat.



Legal Battle Over UCSC Expansion Water Supply Continues

UCSC and the City’s applications to supply City water to the Upper Campus is now tied up by 2 lawsuits.

The newest is a suit by a new citizens’ group, Habitat and Watershed Caretakers (HAWC), over the inadequacies of the final version of the Environmental Impact Report related to the applications to LAFCO. The EIR was certified by the City Council on Aug. 3. We believe that the highly unusual August meeting was motivated by a desire to limit input on the EIR by UCSC professors, students and concerned citizens, many of whom vacation in August. In fact, 2 of the 7 council members were absent.

HAWC’s suit was filed by Attorney Stephen Volker, who represented CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, in the suit against the EIR for UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan. That suit led to the signing of the landmark Comprehensive Settlement Agreement that now controls matters regarding campus housing, traffic and water use.

In the meantime, the Community Water Coalition’s suit claiming that State law requires the City, not the University, to apply for the expansion of sewer and water services beyond City limits (that is, to the Upper Campus, located in Bonny Doon) was scheduled at press time to be heard on Nov. 3 in front of Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann. He ruled against the CWC on Aug. 20, but he gave CWC attorney Jonathan Wittwer a month to amend and resubmit his case. Wittwer, a noted environmental attorney and a Bonny Dooner, has filed a brief stating that not only was State law regarding LAFCO applications disregarded, but that the water/sewer service expansion EIR is legally invalid because it violates CEQA, the State Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuits could delay a public LAFCO hearing on the applications. Time doesn’t appear to be an issue, however, since UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal has publicly acknowledged that the grim State financial situation makes it unlikely that UCSC will have funds for new buildings any time soon. The hearing delay may also give the LAFCO commissioners time to complete their own policy on water district expansions, which has been under study for the past year.


Sharing the Road

“Each year, there are about 800 bicycle-related deaths in the U.S. and another half a million bicycle-related injuries treated in the nation’s hospital emergency rooms.” -US Consumer Product Safety Commission

When I first moved to Bonny Doon it became quickly clear that our roads are beautiful but potentially pretty dangerous.  Blind curves, coupled with suicidal deer and rain-slicked surfaces, made for frequent opportunities for me and my family to become accident statistics. Recently there has been a notable increase in the number of bicyclists using our roads, adding another challenge to BD road safety.

We have narrow to non-existent road shoulders, steep hills and sharp blind curves. Under the best conditions, these are not really very safe roads.  The mix of motor vehicles and bicycles just adds to the mix.

Most cyclists and motorists are respectful of one another, but in those cases where there is impatience on the part of motorists, or inattention on the part of cyclists, both parties are in peril of serious injury. A vehicle avoiding an unexpected or erratic cyclist can swerve off the road and get into real trouble.  Alternatively, 2 ½ tons of F150 will make short work of 22 lbs of bicycle and 160 lbs of rider.

Cyclists and motorists are here to stay, and we all need to be aware of our collective vulnerabilities and make efforts to limit chances of tragedy.

Firstly, cyclists have to follow some rules of self-preservation, regardless of what the law or the desire for speed may suggest.  Ascending cyclists should never ride in anything but single file. This is the single most common complaint of local motorists regarding cyclist behaviors. Riders two or three abreast can cause vehicles obeying the speed limit to slam on the breaks or swerve into the oncoming lane with obvious possible outcomes. Cyclists should stay as close to the shoulder as possible on curves and keep in mind that there are likely vehicles that are going to want to pass at the most inconvenient time. When descending pay as close attention as possible to what is behind you. If possible use helmet or handlebar attached mirrors so that there are fewer surprises. Never wear earbuds. Not only is their use frowned on by the police, they effectively shut out the outside world, and, on our roads all senses need to be focused on safety.

Secondly, motorists have to be aware of the conditions cyclists face going up and down our hills. Ascending cyclists have difficulty following absolutely straight paths given the grade of some of our roads. Even the most conscientious cyclist will weave a bit going uphill.  Motorists should give them room and pass only when passing will not force cyclists off the road.  When descending, cyclists often cannot hear vehicles behind them. Honking can startle cyclists possibly leading to crashes that could be pretty bad. Motorists should wait for clear stretches of road to pass, just as they would passing other vehicles. On curves cyclists often need to be in the middle of the lane for safety and speed maintenance reasons, and motorists should wait until straightaways before attempting to pass.

Both motorists and cyclists can at best get a little complacent, and at worst exhibit holier-than-thou behavior in their use of the road. Ultimately in the case of serious accidents, the matter of who was in the right becomes sadly irrelevant. “Share the road” applies not just to motorists, but to anyone on our streets.

—Lad Wallace


RBDA Board Nominations at the Nov. 10 Meeting

Nominations for the RBDA Executive Board will take place at the November RBDA meeting. The terms of four board officers expire in January, those of board members Miriam Beames, Ted Benhari, Marty Demare and Tom Hearn.

The election is held at the January Annual Meeting.

The Executive Board appointed Ted Benhari to chair a committee of three or more persons to nominate candidates for the Board. Nominations of additional candidates can also be made at the Nov. 10 meeting. To serve on the Executive Board you must have been an RBDA member in good standing as of Nov. 1. Since the Bylaws state that membership becomes effective 30 days after an application is submitted and dues are paid, anyone wishing to run for the board must be a member or have submitted an application by Oct. 1.

If you are committed to our community, the general welfare of Bonny Doon and the RBDA mission of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural, please contact Ted at 426-5053, or email the board via our web site,


Housesit a Frozen Deer

How would you like to have a buck or some doe in your freezer, for free? We’re not lyin’. But actually, the freezer will be supplied by UCSC Prof. Chris Wilmers’s mountain lion project. Chris has been putting telemetry collars on local lions to track their activities. He lures them with road kill deer and he needs more people to volunteer to keep the carcasses frozen until he and his assistants can place them in likely lion paths in the Santa Cruz hills and mountains.

To volunteer as a freezer host, contact Paul Houghtaling, Chris’s research assistant (, or go to Chris’s website: for more info.

Hey!          Join the RBDA!

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
Box 551 • Felton, CA 95018

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.

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The Bonny Doon Planning District
Bonny Doon Planning District map

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.

Please support the RBDA!
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Dues mostly go for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.
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