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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
July 2009

1. AB 1066
2. Threatened or Impaired Watershed Proposed Rules Weakened
3. Regional Water Board Guts Timber Program
4. Julia Dyer exists Timber Program
5. End Run Attempt to De-list San Vicente Creek Foiled
6. State Water Board suggests Timber Waiver End Run of its own
7. Trout Gulch THP angers neighbors
8. 12th Annual Coho Confab August 28-30, Mendocino Coast

1. AB 1066

AB 1066, sponsored by Assemblymember Mendoza from Los Angeles, started as a bill to increase all THPs from 3 year permits (with 2-one year extensions possible) to 10 year permits (with 2-one year extensions). Mendoza's interest seems to stem from family connections of his wife to the timber industry.

On July 6, the bill passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on a vote of 7-2. Joe Simitian abstained. Thanks to lobbying efforts on the part of Sierra Club and a host of other environmental organizations, the bill has gone through a number of iterations and the Senate NRC recommended version would return the initial THP permit to a 3-year time frame.  Good for 2010 and 2011 only, THPs could be extended twice for 2 more years if they meet typically lax and/or unenforceable conditions: 1) if no newly discovered listed species are found (there no provisions to look for them) and 2) if "significant physical changes to the harvest area or adjacent areas have not occurred since the THP's cumulative impacts were originally assessed." Anyone want to take bets on what might constitute such a 'significant physical change'?

Existing approved THPs would be able to be extended for 4 one-year extensions, rather than the current two. No additional conditions would be imposed on these already approved THPs.

Environmental lobbyists in Sacramento have been taking t he opportunity provided by review of this bill to education legislators on the problems with clearcutting and inadequate protections for Threatened and Impaired Watersheds (those that provide habitat for coho, steelhead and chinook). Sierra Club continues to oppose the bill.

2. Threatened or Impaired Watershed Proposed Rules Weakened

On July 8, the Board of Forestry voted to notice the amended Threatened or Impaired Watershed Rule Plead for a 45-day public review period. The latest version of the proposal (the joint DFG/CAL FIRE plead with Options proposed by Board members) is not yet posted on the Board's website, but should be found there sooner or later:

A number of Options were added by Tom Walz, industry Board Member who works for Sierra Pacific Industries. They weaken the package that was jointly prepared by CAL FIRE and DFG. The joint agency plead already makes some things worse for the southern sub-district (SSD) (San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties). While these proposed rules would require a 30' no-harvest buffer adjacent to Class I streams, they decrease the WLPZ from 150' to 100' where only unevenage management is allowed. That's us; all of the SSD. The unintended (?) consequence of this is that roads will be allowed to be constructed as close as 100' from fish-bearing streams. Currently, this is only allowed as a justified, in-lieu practice.

The other special rules for the SSD, thanks to last minute lobbying by Big Creek Lumber, would delete the proposed 30' no-harvest buffer adjacent to Class II streams as well as requirements of 85% canopy retention for the next 75', with 65% canopy retention for the next 50'.

In there place would be a complicated set of rules requiring 85% canopy retention over the stream channel only. (I guess RPFs will need to step out into the middle of each stream to get their measurements.) "Channel zone" trees will not be allowed to be cut, but 1/3 of all trees which have roots "permeating the bank or providing channel grade control" will be available for harvest.  In the rest of the WLPZ, redwoods 12" or greater will need to be no more 25' from one another.  No more than 1/3 of the conifers 18" dbh or larger may be harvested.

Will this protect our endangered coho? No one knows for sure as these changes were not vetted through the Scientific Literature Review or the Technical Advisory Committee.  Studies done by the North Coast Regional Water Board indicate that this rule will no t be sufficient. They were only proposed at the eleventh hour, after an extensive 2 year rule development process.

The NC Water Board found that 85% canopy was needed adjacent to Class I and Class II streams to keep stream temperatures from rising as much as .5-1.5". While no streams have been listed yet for temperature in Santa Cruz County, I have had the opportunity to review data showing temperatures significantly warmer than those needed by coho for optimal growth and survival in multiple area streams.

Please stay tuned for the next BoF hearing on these rules and plan to attend, or at a minimum, plan to submit written comments.


3. Regional Water Board Guts Timber Program

In a great give-away to the timber industry, on Friday, July 10, the Central Coast Regional Water Board voted to adopt staff recommendations as submitted on proposed modifications to the Board’s timber waiver program.  

A half dozen dedicated forest and watershed advocates, including several informed Sierra Club members, spoke passionately at the hearing in Watsonville about the absurdity of allowing the dischargers to enroll themselves under the timber waiver, without review of their applications by staff. Additionally, concern was expressed about essentially eliminating most of the monitoring requirements, including temperature, turbidity and photo-point monitoring. Staff will now plan on only reviewing 3-4 timber harvest plans per year as part of Cal Fire’s Review Team. Currently there are ten THPs under review in Santa Cruz County. Nine are in watersheds that are listed under the federal Clean Water Act as impaired for sediment and siltation. The tenth THP is in a watershed with a TMDL that seeks to reduce sediment by 90%. 

Staff claimed insufficient funding and staff time to properly conduct the program, justifying the reduced oversight on the largely unsubstantiated grounds that logging creates minimal risk.

Board Member, Monica Hunter, did urge staff to look into charging fees for waivers. Staff had originally stated that only the State Water Board could impose fees, until we quoted chapter and verse to staff at which point they acknowledged their error.


4. Julia Dyer exists Timber Program

Julia Dyer, Cal Poly graduate and Central Coast Water Board staff person, has been in charge of THP review plus processing and enforcing timber waivers for the past four years or so.  Now that the program is on its last legs, she will be shifting to overseeing the Water Board's stormwater program. We wish her luck in her new position.

It remains to be seen, with the current state budget crisis, if the less-than-half-time timber program position will be filled at all.


5. End Run Attempt to De-list San Vicente Creek Foiled

The good news is that San Vicente Creek remains 303(d) listed.

In a stealth move, Redwood Empire Sawmills (Michael Duffy, RPF) submitted an eleventh-hour request to the Water Board to remove Davenport’s San Vicente Creek from the impaired list. San Vicente Creek was added to the 303(d) list for sediment impairment in 2006 after Sierra Club members submitted data and testified showing excessive sediment levels during winter months, most likely caused by upstream logging activities. Davenport residents who get their drinking water from the creek have been forced to boil water during the winter, when rainfall runoff carries sediment from logging roads and creates turbid conditions too extreme for the county's treatment system. Sediment may also get deposited over gravels used by salmon for spawning. In fact, a DFG report showed heavy embeddedness of such gravels in San Vicente Creek.

The period for submission of new 303(d) listing and delisting requests to the Water Board for this round closed in February 2007. Yet Redwood Empire submitted their request just ten days before the July 10 hearing in Watsonville. Apparently staff felt obliged to process the request and recommended delisting based on 1400 data points which included many months of no rainfall, giving a false impression that all is well in the watershed.

Several members of the public, including Sierra Clubbers, objected to the total breach of public process. We were only informed of the recommendation the morning of the hearing. No data was available for our review and the staff report was also unavailable. In addition, the Water Board website was down so we had no access to any information other than what we were told by staff. Fortunately, three of the five board members present voted against the delisting recommendation recognizing that the public 45-day required review period had been violated. (Yes, that means that two of the five saw no problem with the total lack of public process!)

6. State Water Board suggests Timber Waiver End Run of its own

Recently, the North Coast Water Board took several major steps toward increased protection for beneficial uses in their revised Timber Waiver. They went above and beyond the Forest Practice Rules requiring 85% canopy retention along Class II streams in Threatened or Impaired Watersheds. They also now require an Erosion Control Plan and a Sediment Reduction Plan.  Winter Operations are not allowed from Nov 15- April 1, staff must fully participate in the THP review, and there is a minimal fee of $250 per application.

However, the timber industry and CAL FIRE were apparently incensed at the audacity of the Water Board to take matters to protect streams and fish from logging into their own hands. As a result, the State Water Board Chair has now come out with a statement that management of the timber waiver program should be handled by the State Board and not the Regional Boards. He is proposing that the State Water Board write State Wide Conditional Waivers and WDRs to be administered by the State Water Board and/or the Department of Forestry (under State Water Board authority). The Chair, appointed by the Governor in March 2009, is the immediate past Chairman of the California Rice Industry Association.

Wow, industry is on a roll.  First AB 1066, then efforts to weaken the Threatened or Impaired Watershed Rules. Now the Central Coast waiver program has become a self-regulatory process and the North Coast program as well as all Regional Water Board timber waivers and WDRs are in jeopardy. Must be nice to have influence in Sacramento.

7. Trout Gulch THP angers neighbors

Residents of Westwood Lane and Larsen Road in Aptos continue to seek protection of their private roads, which are slated to be used for hauling logs from the Trout Gulch THP (1-09-021 SCR) of Hen Truong. Negotiations grew contentious over road use for the last THP on the same parcel with both sides ultimately suing each other. The neighbors were successful in getting Truong to install a retaining wall to keep one of their roads from failing. Truong's suits of the neighbors were ultimately thrown out of court as 'slap suits' and he was required to pay their attorney fees.

The Forest Practice Rules are deficient when it comes to protecting private roads used for hauling. A special rule for Santa Cruz County would allow posting of a bond up to $5000 per mile for road damage caused by logging activities. Of course, this figure was set in the mid-90s and is too low to cover any kind of extensive damage in today's economy.

8. Trout Gulch THP angers neighbors

SRF, Trees Foundation, the Mendocino Land Trust and Jughandle Farm will host the 12th Annual Coho Confab featuring tours of Caspar Creek fish ladders and road work, underwater fish identification, macro-invertebrate sampling and other habitat restoration tours along the Coast including post-fire erosion control, fish passage projects, and large woody debris recruitment. Tours will visit the Garcia River, Usal Forest, Caspar Creek, Jackson State Demonstration Forest, and the Sinkyone. Saturday night will include a BBQ dinner and concert with singer Dana Lyons. Please visit the SRF website for more information or call (707) 923-7501.

Jodi Frediani
Central Coast Forest Watch
tel/fax 831-426-1697

Jodi Frediani
Chair, Forestry Task Force
Ventana Chapter, Sierra Club
tel/fax 831-426-1697

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