|Update on Proposed Retreat Center in Bonny Doon
At the May RBDA General Meeting, John Black, Director of the Palo Alto based Transcendental Meditation Program (TMP), and two local associates, Dick Spencer and Tom Eklof, made public their group’s interest in building a meditation retreat center near the northern edge of Bonny Doon for their members.
The TMP has acquired an option to purchase a 172-acre parcel (zoned TPZ) on Empire Grade between the Lockheed Martin facility and the California Youth Authority Conservation Camp (at 13575 Empire Grade). Tom Eklof will be the local coordinator of the project as they proceed with detailed investigation into the feasibility of using this property. In building a permanent facility to accommodate meditation retreats, it is the intention of the TMP to minimize environmental impact, maintain the natural character of the area, and contribute to the community in a positive manner. Before exercising their option and actually buying the property, they want to be assured that it is a good fit with these goals. Toward this end, they presented their current plans at the public RBDA meeting and continue to be open to feedback and suggestions from the community.
Some of the key concerns raised by residents at the General Meeting were about the impact of traffic on Empire Grade, the potential for growth and use beyond TMP’s current proposal, and impact on area water supplies.
The TMP reported that they are evaluating a number of use strategies, based on the anticipated needs of their members and the local county codes. The most likely pattern of use would be 12 three-day weekend retreats per year of silent meditation for 20-60 participants, plus several two-week training sessions per year. During retreats there would be a support staff of about six people, and it might be desirable to have a resident caretaker there year-round (there are currently squatters, tent-campers, and dirt bikers damaging the proposed parcel; a resident caretaker and/or fencing may be required to discourage this). Participants would remain at the center throughout the retreats, minimizing the come and go of traffic. The expected building site would be over 100 feet from the road and would not be visible from the road. A well and septic system would be built on the property to accommodate all water supply and waste requirements. If it is determined that this might adversely affect the area, they are open to any number of water use alternatives, including off-site laundry and composting toilets.
They would like to avoid any logging of the property, and any landscaping would be done with native vegetation. The anticipated construction site is a previously cleared area with some scrub and immature madrone. All construction would be designed to fit in with the natural setting and they are very committed to using all non-toxic materials in the construction and operation of the center.
They have already initiated some work on the project and think the following might be done by "early fall:"
1. They are preparing to dig a 300-ft. well, using local contractors. They hope to find a good water source sufficient to supply the size of facility they have planned. They will determine the need for water storage tanks and where they should be placed.
Last year we reported on the City of Santa Cruz’s plans to replace the North Coast water supply pipelines that deliver roughly 30% of the city water supply from Bonny Doon springs and streams.
On June 24, the city Water Department presented the alternatives that will be considered in an Environmental Impact Report, with substantial comment (and objections) from Bonny Dooners. Next steps, planned for February 2005, are to present the alternatives to the City Council along with a recommendation from the Water Department on preferred alternatives. There is time before this for further input from citizens during the creation of the EIR and at the Council meeting; Water Department chief Bill Kocher says that the Department has not yet selected the alternatives they will recommend to the Council.
The Department wants to begin a program to replace aging and faulty diversions (dams) and pipelines over the next 10 to 20 years, beginning in 2005. They claim they will not try to take any more water than they now have rights to, but also say that present equipment "limits the capacity" in certain situations, as well as leaking substantial amounts. They want to replace pipes with more modern materials, which could be expected to last longer and be less susceptible to leaks. In many cases, they are also proposing changing the routes to something easier and perhaps cheaper to maintain. They also want to upgrade the diversions to make them remotely adjustable to proper flows and to let the natural sediments flow with the streams.
There are three major sources for the pipeline system - Liddell Spring, Laguna and Majors Creeks. Pipelines from these sources flow into a long coastal pipeline, which then crosses Santa Cruz to join with the flow from the San Lorenzo River at a city pumping station.
For the most part, there was little concern with the Liddell and Majors route or alternatives, except a worry that the City was going to increase the "take" from these sources, an action Kocher and his consultant from Carollo Engineering, Ken Wilkins, vehemently denied.
Marty Demare (of the RBDA) asked several penetrating questions about the details of these diversions and routes, and got Department reassurances in response. Additional concerns about Majors Creek lines might have been raised if those indirectly impacted by the pipeline realignment had received notification of the June 24 meeting. The proposed pipeline route crosses over state park land, (Gray Whale Ranch, part of Wilder) adjacent to a historic road utilized by neighbors and the public.
Several Bonny Dooners participated in an earlier meeting, raising concerns that it would make more sense to repair the existing Majors Creek line rather than rip up the coastal terrace meadows to put in a new pipeline (which will require pumping of water rather than the current gravity feed) through the state park.
The situation was quite different with respect to the Laguna pipeline. Bonny Dooners turned up to formally protest one of the proposed Laguna alternatives as very intrusive on their properties, and appealed to the Department and City to discard this alternative and simply replace the pipeline on the route it now occupies. Melanie Mayer (also an RBDA member) was the spokeswoman for the Refugio group, a collection of property owners whose lands would be traversed by this proposed alternative. Jim Bierman, RBDA member and Refugio group member whose property might arguably suffer the greatest impact, reiterated Mayer’s objections. They were:
1. These approximately 320 acres of unique forests and quality natural grasslands are fully as delicate as the riparian corridors currently used for the pipeline and legally require the same standards of protection; the owners vowed years ago to voluntarily preserve the environment by agreeing to zero encroachment on the open meadow. The proposed alternative would have heavy construction right through the heart of the meadow and redwood/oak forests, using (or destroying and rebuilding) the one-lane road the residents constructed themselves years ago.
2. There would be severe temporary construction inconveniences to the residents from blockage of their one access road and disruption of their own water and telephone lines. This would be followed by continual further intrusions on the sanctity of the meadow, the privacy of their homes, and the peace of grazing animals as maintenance and monitoring were performed over the years.
3. The path would run only 50 ft. from Bierman’s home and then pass to a geologically unstable slope with a presently active slide. To reconstruct the road sensibly and stabilize the slide to prevent future pipeline damage would be excessively expensive, compared to repairing and using the existing pipeline right-of-way.
4. The proposed alternative runs uphill for a substantial distance, requiring larger pumps at the Laguna Diversion with the resulting potential increase in noise. The Refugio group seriously questions the wisdom of this choice compared to the gravity feed of the present route.
5. The charts prepared by Entrix (the EIR consultants) showing comparison of the pluses and minuses of the various routes do not reflect the arguments presented above, and seem to bias the decision in favor of the alternative (meadow) route. (Jamie Tull of Entrix responded that these early charts were not intended as decision-making devices, but did not respond to the specific environmental arguments presented).
The meeting ended as it began, with Linette Almond, Deputy Water Director/Engineer, outlining the time schedule for comments (by July 14) on this Program EIR. She reminded all present that the City portion of the pipeline renovations has been approved and funded and will likely start construction in 2005. This will probably entail major construction along a good deal of High St.
We encourage all Bonny Dooners who want to preserve the sanctity of private lands to support the objections of the Refugio Group. To get involved, contact the Water Department at 420-5200, ask for current information on the North Coast Rehabilitation Project, and request to be notified about future meetings. We’ll continue to keep you informed in future Highlanders on the status of this EIR and City Council presentations.
Roundup Time in Bonny Doon?
Rumors of potential large-scale spraying of Monsanto Corporation’s trademarked herbicide Roundup (glyphosate plus surfactants) to control roadside vegetation, principally French Broom, have come to our notice. We checked with Terry Reynolds of County Public Works Department (PW), who says their current policy is "no spraying" in Bonny Doon, unless specifically requested by a resident. It turns out that there has only been one spraying this year-a one-mile stretch close to the bottom of Bonny Doon Road that was requested by a resident.
Mowing and hand pulling are the alternatives to Roundup. PW mows the vegetation along our roads for safety reasons, in order to maintain visibility and road width for motorized vehicles and bicycles. This is an expensive and time-consuming job, made more difficult by a lack of staff (four positions were recently cut by the County). Hand pulling is labor intensive, and must be done by voluntary work crews of local residents. According to some who have tried, the broom comes back in several years. There is a relatively new method of eradication that uses infrared radiation (different from conventional "weed burning"). This requires specialized equipment and presently is not used by the County.
Spraying Roundup, which may seem an easy solution, is not effective on large broom, which must be cut first, and then the emerging growth sprayed. Additionally, spraying the herbicide is not totally effective, as the seeds dropped over previous years have an estimated viability of up to 80 years. Continued treatment of some form is required even with spraying.
There are further negatives to spraying a chemical like Roundup, such as spray drift, killing non-target plants, and the possibility of the surviving plants developing resistance to the herbicide. Roundup may break down as quickly as three days, but some studies show it takes more than 100 days, increasing its chance of unwanted and unplanned migration. Roundup is clearly considered toxic by the manufacturer, with explicit handling, cleanup, and disposal instructions. Conflicting literature reports human health hazards from very low, to severe acute and chronic effects.
Countywide, the PW policy is to mow, then spray to control future growth. Given the small crew available to maintain the County’s 600 miles of rural roads, this is the most efficient approach for them. A few years ago, in response to concerns in Bonny Doon, Tom Bolich, Director of Public Works and Bill Dunlap, Road Superintendent, came to an RBDA General Meeting and discussed alternatives to automatic spraying in Bonny Doon. At that meeting, residents who were opposed to spraying volunteered to help the County control roadside growth by organizing crews to hand pull French Broom. In exchange for this assistance with vegetation management, PW agreed to spray in Bonny Doon only when requested. PW’s assumption is that our area will continue to assist with vegetation management.
Bonny Doon became in effect a "pilot" program for offering this no-spray alternative to the rest of the County. A couple of years ago, PW implemented the Voluntary Roadside Vegetation Control Program (see link under "What’s New" on the County website http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/), which allows residents to register for a permit to self-maintain vegetation adjacent to their property and takes them off the automatic spraying route. There is no fee for this permit; the permit process allows the County to register participants and provide information on how to maintain (keep vegetation cut to 6-inch height) and how to clearly stake off property for no spraying, Staking requirements are explained in detail on the County’s website.
See the "Exhibit A: Vegetation Control Marker Installation Detail" link at http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/operatio.htm).
For further information on the Voluntary Roadside Vegetation Control Program, call John Swenson in the Encroachment Division at 454-2160.
Contact the Roads Hotline at 477-3937 to find out about future spraying and spraying within the past week.
If your area needs mowing, call the Maintenance Division’s dispatch number at 477-3999.
Thank you to our Patrons, Bill and Jill Harmon
A much appreciated thank you to Bill and Jill Harmon, longtime Bonny Dooners and RBDA members, for a special contribution to help support the RBDA. The Harmons have done many things to make our community a better place over the years, and deserve all our gratitude.
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