Eric Feuss, Biologist
Santa Cruz Bird Club
RBDA General Meeting
March 14, 2007, 7:30 PM
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
ICE CREAM GRADE & PINE FLAT ROAD
|County Weighs in With Concerns on Fire District
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) process of analyzing the Proposal for Formation of the Bonny Doon Fire Protection District is underway. The proposal has brought strong reaction from County officials, already facing limited resources, who feel that existing County-wide fire protection issues could be exacerbated by the creation of the new district. Although the controversy is potentially a serious roadblock to the creation of the new fire district, it may serve to help improve our fire protection services in other ways. “We have galvanized others to have a much needed conversation about County-wide fire protection services,” says Tom Scully, Chair of the Bonny Doon Fire Team (BDFT) board.
One of the early steps in LAFCO staff analysis of the proposal is to solicit financial, operational, environmental, or other information from potentially affected public agencies. At the Feb. 13 County Board of Supervisors meeting, two key County agencies asked the Board to send to LAFCO their initial comments, which contained numerous, strongly worded concerns about the Bonny Doon Fire Protection District proposal. The letters were from Gerald Dunbar, Director of County General Services Department, and Susan Mauriello, the County Administrative Officer, on behalf of the General Services Department, which provides administrative support to the County Fire Department and is responsible for the administration of the Office of Emergency Services. A second letter was submitted by Mike Coryell, chair of the Fire Department Advisory Commission.
The proposal is causing the County agencies to ask, “What is the best overall structure to provide fire services in Santa Cruz County?” The Bonny Doon proposal is the first time in 50 years that a new fire district has been proposed in Santa Cruz County. The agencies requested that LAFCO consider a review of the entire County fire protection system and how a reorganization within Bonny Doon would affect everyone inside and outside of the proposed new fire district.
One of their main concerns is how the Bonny Doon fire district would impact the County’s financial resources for other fire districts. One assessment is that the formation of our district would result in a $425,000+ revenue reduction to County Fire, though the County would save only $65,000 by not serving Bonny Doon. As a result, County Fire has indicated that they may consider a reduction of existing services and/or the closing of one of the existing County Fire stations.
General Services Director Dunbar’s comment letter also expresses concern about proposed revenues and expenditures for the new fire district. For example, he questions whether our district is prepared to absorb the increase in fees, which could be 118%, and notes that the County has not yet agreed to the asset transfers of the two fire stations and four fire vehicles for $1 each on which part of the proposal is based. He doesn’t debate that Bonny Doon residents have contributed significantly for these through tax, donation, and volunteer labor, but states in his letter, “[our] analysis thus far indicates that the entire County has also contributed significantly to the assets in Bonny Doon.”
Another area of concern is that the creation of the Bonny Doon fire district would create non-contiguous areas of service for County Fire, in particular isolating the Davenport area. The system is already a “patchwork design,” according to Dunbar. “In Santa Cruz, there are 14 separate agencies providing fire services including two Cities, the University, independent fire districts and County fire districts. These agencies vary considerably in terms of land mass served, populations, staff, equipment and facility resources, and budgets.” In requesting LAFCO to perform a County-wide assessment, the hope is to address the entire problem.
Several concerned Bonny Doon residents, including members of the Volunteer Fire Team Board of Directors, successfully petitioned the Board of Supervisors to take approval of the initial comment letters off the Feb. 13 agenda so that Fire Team board members could respond, meet with County agencies submitting the comments, and provide additional information to ensure that the comment letters contained factually correct information. Fire Team Chair Scully reports that he and other Bonny Doon representatives had a successful two-hour meeting on Feb. 15 with Dunbar and County Administrator Mauriello, who agreed to consider rewriting and resubmitting a new comment letter at the Feb. 27 Board of Supervisors meeting. Fire Team board members in attendance believed that the new letter would better reflect the realities of the situation in Bonny Doon. “We are as satisfied as we could be with the second letter,” said Scully, who felt positive about the meeting.
“Although County staff still express concerns about the impact the Bonny Doon proposal will have on overall County fire services, the overall tone is less stringent, there are fewer concerns remaining, and factual misunderstandings have been cleared up.” The County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved sending the revised letter to LAFCO at their Feb. 27 meeting. For audio on proceedings and full text of letter, including visible corrections made to the final letter, click here and see Item 64.
Upon completion of the LAFCO staff analysis, LAFCO will set this matter for a public hearing, after which LAFCO may approve, conditionally approve, or deny the proposed district formation. If LAFCO approves the formation, the formation process then involves landowner and registered voter protest opportunities, and an election in the affected area.
“There is no losing here,” says Scully. “We’ve begun a positive discussion. We feel confident we will increase fire and life safety protection in Bonny Doon, which was our original goal, through these conversations with the County and LAFCO, even if the fire district proposal is modified.” For questions, concerns, clarification on any related issue, contact Tom Scully at 425-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Evening of Birds
Come join Eric Feuss from the Santa Cruz Bird Club for a presentation at our next General Meeting March 14 on birds of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a special focus on Bonny Doon. Eric is the fieldtrip coordinator for the Santa Cruz Bird Club. He has been leading fieldtrips since 1987 and birding since his teens. Between 1994 and 2000, he was a staff and field biologist for the Institute for Bird Population, founded by Dr. David DeSante.
Eric will treat us to beautiful slides while talking about bird behavior, including when and where to find each species. Resident species in this area include Cooper’s Hawk, Pileated, Hairy and Acorn woodpeckers, Red-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Oak Titmouse, California Thrasher, Wrentit, Hutton’s Vireo, Common Raven, Dark-eyed Junco, Purple Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Band-tailed Pigeon, and California Quail. Breeding season (spring/summer) species include Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Tanager, and possibly Yellow-rumped Warbler. [Webmaster's note: the above bird is my favorite annual visitor: the black-headed grosbeak.] These are just some of the birds we’ll see and discuss on Wednesday evening, March 14. Be sure to bring your own stories, too!
UCSC Lawsuits: One Ends, Another Begins
The ongoing legal battles against UCSC growth and environmental degradations continued over the last two months, with one suit settled and another initiated.
The suit over violations of the Federal Clean Water Act related state statues brought by CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, and joined by the City of Santa Cruz, was settled in late February when UCSC agreed to establish a model Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan for larger construction sites. CLUE and the City had charged that UCSC and its building contractors were creating erosion and pollution problems from several of its construction projects, where storm water runoff from the sites was fouling creeks and groundwater both on and off campus. Some of the runoff was going into the Pogonip watershed and then into the San Lorenzo River. UCSC and Devcon Construction agreed to repair several erosion sites and prevent future problems, and to pick up some of the legal costs for the City and CLUE.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 14, CLUE attorney Stephan Volker filed a new suit challenging the first major project under the new UCSC Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), the 95,000 sq. ft. Biomedical Sciences Facility. UCSC claims the LRDP Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is sufficient, so it doesn’t have to do one specifically for the new Wal-Mart sized building. CLUE, the City and the County Board of Supervisors are challenging the LRDP EIR in court and further claim the California State Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires an additional EIR for a project of this size.
The lawsuit filed last October challenging the LRDP EIR will likely be heard in local Superior Court sometime in June or July. It is probable that whichever side loses will appeal and that the case may go all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Significantly, CLUE attorney Volker won a ruling on Feb. 1 in that court in a CEQA case involving a 22,000 home project near Sacramento, primarily on the grounds of inadequate water analysis by the developer and failure to identify specifically the source of the water. The argument in that case regarding water is very similar to the one brought in the LRDP EIR suit and should greatly strengthen CLUE’s legal position in the UCSC suit.
RBDA Board Election Results
Board elections were held at the January Annual Meeting, with 52 active members voting. Elected were new board member Tom Hearn with 47 votes and returning board members Ted Benhari with 50 votes, Yana Jacobs with 46 votes, and Jodi Frediani with 40 votes. Also running was Buel Proffitt, who received 12 votes.
In recent history, board elections have had just enough candidates to fill open positions and elections have been a relatively straightforward process with members present at the Annual Meeting. This was the first contested election since the passage of our new bylaws and board members have noted several improvements they can make for next year’s elections.
Notice of how to obtain an absentee ballot will be put in the November/December Highlander so that members have sufficient time to request and return their ballots. This issue will also remind members that votes cannot be placed by proxy and encourage anyone who won’t be present at the January meeting to obtain an absentee ballot instead.
Only members in good standing (dues paid within 30 days of the meeting, or people whose membership lapsed within 30 days of the meeting and who pay their dues by the meeting date) are eligible to vote in the election. The board is considering ways to simplify tracking, notifying, and renewing membership dues to avoid any last-minute confusion and ensure maximum possible participation in future elections.
Finally, to support well-informed voting, ballots will only be accepted after candidates have had a chance to answer all questions from members.
Cemex Blows Off Air Pollution Risk Assessment Deadline
In 2004, an emissions inventory screening process required by the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District (Air District) indicated that a potential for health risk may exist from the Cemex Davenport cement plant. Excessive CO missions from the stack, indicating incomplete combustion, prompted the Air District to ask for a “first cut” risk assessment calculation. The Air District monitors, regulates and enforces Federal and State Clean Air Act requirements.
The “first cut” prioritization scores from the stack only were a Cancer Risk score of 58, Acute Health Effects score of 21, and Chronic Health Effects score of 34. In response to the findings (any score above 10 automatically triggers a further assessment), the Air District required that Cemex conduct a risk assessment that would identify carcinogens and chronically and acutely toxic substances. That analysis is a complicated process. Cemex obtained several extensions from the Air District but missed their submission deadline on Feb. 15.
As of press time, we don’t know what the risk assessment will reveal, and it is unexplained why Cemex missed the deadline or whether they will be penalized by the Air District. It isn’t the first time the plant has failed to comply with monitoring and reporting requirements.
Little is known about how far pollutants are carried on the prevailing winds. Once the risk assessment is completed, it will identify whether there are significant risks from carcinogens and chronically and acutely toxic substances. The methodology will be checked by the State’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment which examines exposure levels for carcinogens under the Air Toxic Hot Spots program. If the risk assessment indicates significant risks then a plan will be required to reduce risks to the level set by the District Board (10 parts per million cancer risk, and no acute and chronic adverse health effects).
The Davenport plant is not the only Cemex operation with pollution problems. On Dec. 22, 2006, as a result of major ongoing air quality violations, Cemex’s cement manufacturing operation in Lyons, Colorado, agreed to pay $1.5 million in penalties which included funding for environmentally beneficial mitigation projects. Regulators also required the installation of monitoring equipment.
If comparable action were to be taken by our Air District, benefits to local residents might include upgrades to emission reduction equipment, which could include a system to alert them to pollutant discharges in a more timely fashion. Environmental mitigation measures might include improvements to fish habitat on Cemex property along San Vicente Creek, curtailing timber harvests or financing upgrades to Davenport’s water treatment plant. These benefits are speculation at this stage. Ultimately, decisions will be made in a public process if a reduction plan is required. When it is finished it should lead to more than the current offer of coupons for a free car wash for Davenport residents‹hopefully to some reduction in the discharge of tons of carbon dioxide that the plant contributes to our global warming problem. Nationwide, coalitions are forming to fight pollution problems at Cemex mining and cement manufacturing operations in various states across the country. With the pending release of the plant’s risk assessment and the Bonny Doon limestone quarry expansion EIR, perhaps it is time for Cemex to include Bonny Dooners in its local Citizen’s Liaison Committee.
After years of fighting the County over permits and losing a legal battle in the Appeals Court, Cemex is anxious to advance the quarry expansion application because of dwindling limestone supplies. Except when startled by a distant explosion or annoyed by equipment backup alert beeps, few residents outside the vicinity of the quarry are impacted by its operation. Opened in 1969, the quarry extracts 1.3 million tons a year of Bonny Doon rock that is formed into structures ranging from the Bay Bridge to your home’s foundation. The process of manufacturing cement from our shale and limestone is the origin of a $7 million dollar payroll for 125 jobs, and donations to local schools. Extractive industries of this scale have inevitable environmental impacts and so does the manufacturing process. Davenport is no longer the gray and gritty town it was in the decades before the ‘70s but dust from material handling operations and discharges from the cement plant smokestacks still blow far and wide on the prevailing coastal winds.
Membership Approves Dues Increase
A proposal to increase membership dues from $20 from $15 was proposed and passed at the Annual Meeting in January. The board proposed the dues increase to prevent budget problems projected for later this year. The proposal passed nearly unanimously, with only one vote against. The new dues rate goes into effect immediately.
The one dissenting member explained that the nay vote was cast out of need for additional information on RBDA income and expenses. As a result of this request, the board will provide a summary of income and expenses annually. New RBDA Treasurer Tom Hearn made it his first duty to summarize the RBDA treasury for the calendar year 2006. A quick look at the cash flow for the year shows the trends that had board members concerned. The treasury started out with a balance of $1648 and ended the year down over $300, with a final balance of $1304. The expenses for the year totaled $2775, with income from dues falling short of expenses by over $300 at $2431.
Expenses are in the following categories and amounts: Highlander printing $1450, postal expenses $400, annual rental of the school $240 and liability insurance $685.
In addition to raising the dues, the board is considering new ways to manage membership renewals and increase new membership.
RBDA Gets Ready to Celebrate 50th Anniversary
The RBDA Board has begun planning for summer festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the RBDA. Founded in 1957, this community organization has been working to preserve the beauty and rural quality of Bonny Doon and providing an essential voice to County, State, and Federal government about our unique needs.
We are planning a summer afternoon or evening of food, drink, entertainment by local musicians and story telling from new and old Bonny Dooners. We are currently looking for a location to host the community event and volunteers to help plan. Board member Yana Jacobs has volunteered to lead event planning.
If you are interested in creating a fun community social event, contact her at 423-9193, email@example.com.
RBDA General Meeting Agenda - March 14, 2007
1. Featured Program: Birds of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Eric Feuss,
Biologist Santa Cruz Bird Club
RBDA Board Actions
January 24, 2007
1. Board Officers for 2007 selected
2. Change officers on bank account.
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