Cemex Quarry Expansion Panel Discussion
Speakers From Cemex, City Water Dept., County Planning
Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009, 7:30 PM
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road
Cemex Quarry Expansion: It’s the Water
It is just two years since The Highlander’s last story about Cemex’s proposal to expand by 17 acres their 80-acre limestone quarry directly above the City of Santa Cruz’s vital Liddell Spring water source, and adjacent to Bonny Doon Road and Smith Grade. Cemex views the expansion as crucial to adding three years to the projected life of the present quarry, and to the attendant preservation of jobs at the Davenport plant and tax revenue for the County. Numerous local agencies and community groups, including the RBDA, submitted comments on the 2007 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) expressing their concern over its inadequacies with respect to geological and hydrological considerations and mitigation measures for the probable impacts.
Last year, the Planning Dept. decided not to prepare a second draft EIR for public comment, and then, at the very end of this July, released three bound copies of the Final EIR (FEIR) for public review. In the first week of August, the FEIR was finally made generally available on the web by clicking here. http://sccoplanning.com/html/env/bonnyeir_final.htm
The FEIR, which runs nearly a thousand pages, takes the form of responses to specific comments from 2007, and errata in the DEIR, especially the geology and hydrology chapters, and six revised appendices. While the FEIR also has an introduction and summary of the 2007 DEIR, it can only sensibly be read in conjunction with the multi-thousand page DEIR close at hand. It is available on the web by clicking here. http://sccoplanning.com/html/env/bonnyeir_index.htm
At its Aug. 26 meeting the Planning Commission discussed the FEIR at length in a “study session,” during which it took testimony from key players but allowed no public comment. It then voted to continue the study session at its Sept. 9 meeting, at 1:30 p.m. This will delay the public hearing on approval of Cemex’s expansion application permit to Sept. 23, which gives Dooners additional time for study and comments, to compensate for the profoundly distracting recent events immediately to our west this August (the Lockheed Fire). On Sept. 2, the expansion will be the subject of a hearing by the Water Advisory Commission.
The Planning Commission’s decision may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. In order to help Dooners make sense of these vast documents, we are hosting a panel discussion of the FEIRs and Quarry Expansion at our Sept. 9 General Meeting. As of press time, the confirmed participants include: Planning Commissioner Rachel Dann, who is an Analyst for Supervisor Neal Coonerty; Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz City Water Dept. Director; Todd Sexauer and Dave Carlson, Planning Dept. staffers who prepared the FEIR; and Rob Walker, Cemex Bonny Doon quarry manager. Please join us.
Dooners Pack Meeting to Hear the Lockheed Fire Story, Thank the Firefighters (Again!)
About 250 Dooners were treated to an extraordinary report on the Lockheed Fire on Thursday, Aug. 20, while the fire, at 8,000 acres the largest in the County in 60 years, was still not completely contained. The RBDA Board was delighted, when approached by Cal Fire, to arrange this unusual meeting. Although functioning with very little sleep, Capt. Julie Hutchinson, Cal Fire’s Public Information Officer, and her expert team organized the presentation. Speakers included representatives from different areas of Cal Fire, the County Sheriff’s office, the County Emergency Coordinator, Santa Cruz 911 Center, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue Volunteers. Huge maps showing the fire’s extent and daily progression were placed around the room, and afterward Cal Fire personnel joined Dooners for questions and discussion.
Click directly on the map to get a pdf version with a great deal more detail.
Since everyone has been exposed to coverage of the fire in many media, we try here to offer information from our presenters which may not have been aired before and which seems pertinent to Bonny Doon. On Wednesday evening, Aug. 12, reports of a fire in the area began to come into the Emergency Command Center at 7:16 pm, although the exact location was not yet determined; the first Cal Fire engine and the first Bonny Doon Volunteer engine arrived within four seconds of each other at 7:45 pm.
Under Cal Fire Chief Ian Larkin, Initial Attack Incident Commander, the initial response included the five closest Cal Fire engines, two fire crews from Camp Ben Lomond, two bulldozers, a fire prevention officer, a helicopter from Los Gatos, and Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue Volunteers, who supplied personnel, engines and a water tender.
The fire covered about 60 acres in 30 minutes, and was moving south to Bonny Doon, so Chief Larkin decided immediately that more help was needed fast—without aircraft, there was no way to stop the fire—and Incident Command Team #9 from Southern California was promptly called in. Ian Larkin was not present at the Aug. 20 meeting to speak for himself—he was on the fire line and arrived only at the end, smelling very smoky—but Chief Rick Hutchinson, Incident Commander (whose staff of 60 includes specialists in liaison, safety, logistics, planning and finance), told us how he hit the road at 2 a.m., to take over operations at a transitional briefing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 13. He described Friday as “the scariest day.” Although “a lot of resources” came in, with Cal Fire teams from the Oregon to Mexico borders, the situation was “still very fluid.” Aircraft couldn’t fly, so they had to use hand crews; there were high winds; and he was concerned that if they couldn’t hold a line on Warnella Road, which runs north from the coast above San Vicente canyon to Empire Grade, they might not have been able to save Bonny Doon.
People who chose to stay on their property know that Cal Fire stationed fire engines every few houses, some their own and many from other fire departments who came to help, with firefighters ready to defend each home. Sheriff’s deputies not only went door-to door to alert residents about the evacuation order, they also cruised the area throughout the evacuation period, protecting our homes.
Many individuals’ knowledge of the area’s terrain, vegetation, and logging trails made possible a defense plan. Among those who helped with information were Cal Fire Chief Rich Sampson; Bonny Doon Volunteers; staff from Lockheed, Cal Poly Ranch in Swanton, and Big Creek Lumber; and Davenport, Swanton Road and Bonny Doon residents.
We are fortunate that the fire burned “to toothpicks” only about 20% of the trees, Chief Hutchinson commented, and that it was not so hot that the seed bank was destroyed. In short, it mimicked the fires nature would bring, and this is a gift for natural regrowth and native plant renewal.
Firefighters, with their controlled backfires, have duplicated this process: the fires were kept small and relatively cool to avoid harming the soil and causing erosion. This process eliminates much of the undergrowth but does not climb into the crowns of the trees. While they will not repair damage caused by the fire, Chief Sampson stated that Cal Fire crews will winterize dozer lines they put in and try to protect creeks from erosion caused by firefighting.
At the Aug. 20 meeting Dooners received information to plan for the future. For advice about creating defensible space on properties, questions can be addressed to Cal Fire staff at Fall Creek Station or Bonny Doon Fire & Rescue volunteers.
Rich Casale of the Natural Resources Conservation Service has lists of fire-resistant plants and will consult about erosion concerns. And to help the larger community, we can sign up for training as members of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or join with neighbors to create a Fire Safe Council.
Important Fire Related Information
Wonder Where the Lions Are?
Many residents have been interested in Bonny Doon’s mountain lions since January’s RBDA meeting, when Chris Wilmers of UCSC’s Environmental Studies Dept. told us about his project to collar them and track their lives. And so, The Highlander asked Paul Houghtaling, Prof. Wilmers’s research assistant, to tell us how our lions fared in the Lockheed Fire. Here is his report:
“Regarding the lions and the fire, we have six collared lions that utilize the burned area: two adult males, two adult females, and two kittens. All lions survived the fire. We are interested in how they will adapt to the potential loss of a large piece of quality habitat. The acres that burned were only a portion of each individual lion’s territory. We cannot say how each individual will respond, but we expect that they will change which areas of their territories they use and how often they use them. Some lions may need to move their territory into new places, too, which may cause altercations with neighboring lions whose territory they may be intruding on. This is all speculation at this point. While large, the fire wasn’t on the scale where lions will be completely displaced. And, I saw deer tracks in the burn area when I went in there last week, so it’s possible that nothing will really change. We’ll know more with time.”
Residents can still help by reporting sightings of uncollared mountain lions to Paul Houghtaling at email@example.com. Please remember to include a description of the animal, date and time, and detailed location of the sighting.
CCC to Vote on Accessory and Second Unit Building Rules
The California Coastal Commission is set to vote on the sweeping changes to the Santa Cruz County Building Codes voted into law by the Board of Supervisors in 2008. For the new rules to take effect in the Coastal Zone, which in Bonny Doon runs roughly from Empire Grade to the sea, the commission must approve changes to the Local Coastal Program.
CCC staff has recommended approval of the changes, which ease the rules for renting second units, make it easier to get permits for accessory structures and things such as fences, and allow sheetrock and insulation in non-habitable structures such as studios and workshops. While many of the changes are sensible, correct archaic regulations and eliminate some of the onerous hassles property owners have chafed under for years, there is also the risk that they may promote greater density of development and make it easier for people to illegally turn studios and garages into living quarters.
The CCC is scheduled to vote on the measure at its Sept. 9 meeting in Eureka. To get a pdf document of the code changes and the CCC staff’s explanation for its recommendation, go to: http://coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html and scroll down to item 17a.
Selling Mobile Phone Service to Your Phone Company
At the RBDA’s hastily arranged Aug. 20 Lockheed Fire recap meeting, enthusiasm was voiced for expanding cell phone coverage in Bonny Doon.
Some Dooners already have towers that could be suitable for cell phone service providers, and have offered them, but have not received any takers. The big reason seems to be that no single provider has enough customers in Bonny Doon to make service profitable.
During this Lockheed Fire, according to Cal Fire officials, Verizon was able to boost the power of its signal sufficiently to allow use by Verizon customers here, which proved very useful to the firefighters. While phone companies are notoriously hard to influence, if you feel that it is important to have increased coverage in Bonny Doon you should call your service provider and tell them so. Of course, not on your cell phone if you’re in Bonny Doon.
We were told by an RBDA member that after wending his way through the tedious Verizon voice system, he was informed that the best way to request improved service is to log on to: www22.verizon.com/Residential/Support/ ContactUs/ and write that it’s a matter of public safety.
Love Bonny Doon? Consider Running For The RBDA Board
Leaves begin to change colors, the poison oak anyway, the weather turns warmer, and occasionally rain gives us a welcome drenching. Autumn in Bonny Doon can only mean one thing: it’s time to think about RBDA Executive Board elections.
We have four positions expiring this January, those of board members Joe Christy, Miriam Beames, Ben Harmon and Jan Hilkert.
As per our Bylaws, the Executive Board will appoint a committee of three or more persons to nominate candidates for the Board; the committee will present its nominations at the November General Meeting. Nominees to the Executive Board must have been members 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. Additional nominations will be accepted from the floor at the November meeting, after which nominations shall be closed.
The RBDA has worked hard to protect the quality of life in Bonny Doon for more than 50 years. In recent years we have also expanded our efforts—in reality, it’s a return to our roots—to include areas of community interest, like road maintenance and postal service. We depend on people willing to serve on the Executive Board. If you are committed to our community and the RBDA mission of keeping Bonny Doon rural, please contact any of our Board members (see phone numbers below, or email us via our web site).
No Joke: LAFCo Fights To Defend Its Territory
The Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission, LAFCo, is the agency which has the power to allow or deny other government entities’ request to expand their territory. Now, LAFCo is trying to protect its own turf by fighting against SB211, the bill working its way through the State Legislature that would foster the creation of a Santa Cruz Open Space District without LAFCo involvement. The Santa Cruz County Land Trust lobbied for the bill and it is sponsored by our local reps, Sen. Joe Simitian and Assy. Bill Monning. The bill allows our Board of Supervisors to place a measure on the ballot asking voters to create an Open Space District here, and another measure to fund it. SB211 has won the support of the Supervisors and some other local government entities, as well as your RBDA Board and those of other local environmental organizations. LAFCo contends that SB211 duplicates its own bureaucracy and process and is unnecessary.
RBDA 9/9/09 General Meeting Agenda
1. Featured Program: Cemex Limestone Quarry Expansion
Panel Discussion of Final Environmental Impact Report: Speakers from Cemex, County Planning Dept. and Planning Commission, City of Santa Cruz Water Dept.
RBDA Board 8/5/09 Actions
1. Approved amended minutes of 6/10/09 board meeting. Unanimous.
2. Approved letter to State Parks Dept., copies to Supervisor Coonerty, Sen. Simitian and Assy. Monning, deploring current dangerous and deplorable conditions at Laguna Beach and requesting correctional action. Unanimous.
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