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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
June 2009

1. AB 1066 moves to Senate
2. Threatened or Impaired Watershed Rule Hearing June 24-25
3. Timber Waiver Hearing July 10
4. Larsen Road THP
5. St. Francis THP
6. New THPs
7. California prepares for the next burn

1. AB 1066 moves to Senate

AB 1066 the 5 year THP bill, which also allows for two one-year extensions making THPs good for up to 7 years, passed the Assembly late last month on a vote of 53-12 (17 abstaining).

Originally proposed as a 10 year (+2) THP bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Mendoza of Los Angeles, the bill was amended in a compromise in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. Mendoza's wife is from Santa Cruz and rumor has it that she has a family member who works for the local mill.

Local Assemblymembers Monning, Beall and Ruskin opposed AB1066, thanks in part to calls and letters from their constituents.

Environmentalists still oppose the bill that would increase the time a timber harvest permit is valid from 3 to 5 years. While this helps timberland owners by allowing for 'market-timing' and submission of larger THPs, it only increases the risk of cumulative impacts to watersheds, fish, wildlife and neighborhoods. And it can't be good for loggers, log haulers or mill workers.

The Bill will next be heard in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, where our local Senator sits. Please give Joe Simitian a call and ask him to OPPOSE AB 1066.

Joe Simitian
Palo Alto (11th Dist)
Santa Cruz Phone: 831-425-0401
D.O. Phone: 650-688-6384
Sac Phone: 916-651-4011

2. Threatened or Impaired Watershed Rule Hearing June 24-25

Plan to attend! The Board will hold a public hearing starting at 8:00 a.m., on June 24, 2009, at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1st Floor, 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento. We need a ground swell of watershed and fish advocates to let the Board know we want strong new protections, before our coho expire! Comment letters must be received by 5:00pm, June 22.

Board of Forestry and Fire Protection 
Attn: Christopher Zimny 
Regulations Coordinator 
P.O. Box 944246 
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460
fax: (916) 653-0989

The Scoop:
For two years, the Board of Forestry has had an active process to review the existing Threatened and Impaired Watershed Rules. A consultant was hired and a Scientific Literature Review was conducted. A Technical Advisory Committee assisted with the literature review. A 'strawman' set of rules was prepared and massaged in committee over a period of months. Finally, CAL FIRE prepared a draft proposal known as the 'plead'.  33 Options were inserted, most coming from the timber industry. According to Board staff, Chris Zimny, "almost all the options related to WLPZ standards and site specific plans were proposed and directed by the industry Forest Practice Committee members to be included in the plead. Other options related to "road" T/I sections were proposed by the Board's Road Rule Committee. CAL FIRE staff proposed the Option 8 related to Basal Area.  Staff also included Options 17 and 19."

Here is a brief overview of the proposal as it will affect the Southern Sub-District (SSD):

Class I Watercourses in the Coho ESU (as far south as the San Lorenzo River)
Currently we have a 150' WLPZ with 85% canopy retention for the first 75' and 65% canopy for the remaining 75'. Must leave 10 largest trees per 330'.
Proposed: 30' no harvest Core Zone (closest to the stream). 70' Inner zone with 80% canopy retention. Also must leave 13 largest trees per acre (equivalent to the current 10 tree requirement). 

We will lose 50' of WLPZ protection, both in increased canopy retention and limiting of roads.

Class I Watercourses outside the Coho ESU (from SL River to Pajaro River)
Currently the same as above.
Proposed: 30' no harvest Core Zone. 70' Inner Zone with 70% canopy retention.
Must leave 7 largest trees per acre.

From the Initial Statement of Reasons: "The primary positive economic impact results from increasing the land available for timber management in Class I WLPZs. This is due to the reduction in width of the WLPZ in Class I watercourses where there is no evenage harvesting adjacent to the WLPZ or reduction of WLPZ width to 100 feet for all Class I WLPZs in the non coho watersheds. In some situations, this increases the land in the riparian area available for harvest by 33% to 50% compared to the exiting T/I rules."

We lose big time. DFG and NMFS want to extend the ESU rules to the Pajaro, however, they somehow missed this problem until two weeks ago. Now it will be a fight to get a change and probably will be part of some negotiation to reduce protections elsewhere.

Class II Watercourses in ESU
Current: 50% canopy retention, same as elsewhere.
Proposed: 30' no harvest Core Zone. 80' canopy for an additional 70'; increase QMD and retain 13 largest trees per acre.

This is an increase in protection, though it only applies to Large Class IIs and the distinction process is currently muddled and somewhat arbitrary.

Class II Watercourses outside the ESU
20' wide no harvest Core Zone. 80' wide Inner Zone with 70% overstory canopy retention. 7 largest trees/acre.

Standard Class IIs 
15' Core Zone inside coho ESU. 10' Core Zone outside ESU

Class III Watercourses
Proposed: 30' ELZ. 50' EL:Z slopes > 50%NO tractor yarding on slopes > 50%
Retain all large wood stabilizing soil. Retain all debris in channel zone. Retain hardwoods in 30' ELZ. Retain snags in ALL ELZs. Retain trees stabilizing bed and bank.

Big Creek 'special consideration':
Big Creek is asking that the Class II protections not be required for the SSD, because they argue they are not needed here. They are arguing that we have no temperature issues, therefore, should not have=2 0to retain extra trees along Class IIs.  Or at least I think that is what they are arguing.  The discussion is off-line. There is no public process on this, yet Big Creek asked that the Board notice their proposal and move ahead with it.

So far DFG seems to be willing to make an exception for the SSD. Bye-bye coho! Even though DFG said in a Conference Call last week that the reduced protection in the outer zone for Class Is will be made up for by increased protections along Class IIs and IIIs. I guess the Southern Sub-District doesn't count.


3. Timber Waiver Hearing July 10

Plan to attend:  The hearing will be heard in Watsonville at the City Council Chambers.  Mark your calendar now and save the date.  More details on location and time, closer to the date.

This is a complex subject.  Sierra Club comments objected to the lack of an Initial Study and appropriate CEQA document (i.e. mitigated neg dec). The North Coast Water Board just revised their timber waiver under a Mitigated Negative Declaration after preparation of an Initial Study. Not sure why our Staff who are planning on essentially gutting the program think they do not need to acknowledge CEQA, never mind follow the rules of engagement. (They didn't even pretend they qualified for an Exemption.)

We found the staff report to be unclear, disorganized, more focused on efficiency for staff, rather than on protection of the natural resource. We found no quantitative summary of the Current Waiver program results. We saw no discussion of violations which we know occurred. We saw very little data provided and disagreed with most of the conclusions drawn.

It appears that the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. What is being proposed is largely self-regulation.

From our perusal of the Staff Report the following is being proposed:

• Staff will no longer review Notice of Intent Enrollment Applications for accuracy or completeness

• Discharger will determine Tier Level required

• Discharger will decide if an Individual Waiver is required

• Enrollment in General Waiver will be automatic

• MRP will be automatically terminated, without any site inspection

• Repeat "visual" monitoring (i.e. site visits by the Discharger), as well as temperature and turbidity monitoring may be required by the Executive Officer "as appropriate". There are no criteria set to define "appropriate".

The North Coast Water Board staff proposed that NTMP Erosion Control Plans apply to the entire area, not just that currently being operated on. In addition, they want to see roads on THPs and NTMPs be hydrologically disconnected from streams. In order to meet temperature objectives they have found it necessary to require 85% overstory canopy within the first 50' of watercourses that have cold-water beneficial uses or are within 1000 linear feet of a fish bearing stream, and 65% retention within the remainder of the WLPZ. 

Essentially, the Central Coast Timber Waiver Program is being gutted in the interests of Staff efficiency.  We are advised that there is insufficient funding to adequately manage the program. When the Waiver Program was originally developed, we recommended that fees be established to cover costs of administering the program, or at least to partially offset the cost. The North Coast Water Board currently issues primarily Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs) for timber harvest plans in their region and assesses fees for the review.  North Coast Staff are now recommending implementation of a fee for Waiver processing. We continue to urge our Board to require a fee for Waiver processing.

DFG and NMFS have submitted a joint comment letter indicating that the temperature standards being use d by the Board were inappropriate and that in fact, we do have temperature problems in our local streams.

Did we mention that Staff noted that the Road Management Plans (RMPs) that were submitted by landowners were "consistently inadequate". They were to have been approved by the Executive Director, so we are not sure why they weren't required to be made adequate. The solution to consistently inadequate RMPs?  Abolish the RMPs and instead require one self-inspection per year.  Possibly two.


4. Trout Gulch (Larsen Road) THP 1-09-021 SCR

This 53-acre THP prepared by RPF Jim Hildreth for timberland landowner Hen Truong has already caused a stir and Second Review hasn't even been scheduled yet. The plan area contains Class II and III tribs to Trout Gulch Creek and will haul over two private roads, sole access for about 40 neighbors. The previous plan for this property was prepared by Staub, but operated by Webster.  Truong, who does not pay into the road association funds, had agreed to post $15.000 into an account towards roadwork for the previous plan.  However, he then withdrew the funds prior to timber operations.

A series of lawsuits ensued with Truong ultimately footing the bill to do some major improvements to Larsen Road and paying attorneys fees after he sued a number of the neighbors in apparent retaliation.

Again, the neighbors simply want their road protected. (Well, the neighbor who had his spring filled with mud would also like his water supply protected.) The FPRs are inadequate and even though CDF can require a bond be posted under a special Santa Cruz County rule, the dollar amount is insufficient and CDF is reluctant to do so.

CDF and Hildreth have refused to conduct a PHI walking review of the two private haul roads, allowing the road association representative to attend. And the LTO, Tim Peet, graded roads on the property a couple of weeks ago, while the plan was still under review. He essentially conducted timber operations prior to an approved THP. A 'focused PHI' will be conducted tomorrow to see the results. CDF has opened an investigation, but we remain highly skeptical that anything will come of it. (See St. Francis below.) The road association designee has20also been refused permission to attend this focused PHI, even though special Santa Cruz rules allow for such participation.

Webster attended the public hearing for this THP, which was also attended by a couple dozen neighbors.

The neighbors have hired attorney Bill Parkin to help ensure their road, their sole access route, is not damaged.


5. St. Francis THP 1-01-081 SCR/SCL

Remember the Roy Webster THP on Mt. Madonna, where he forgot to notice the neighbors about helicopter operations and Columbia Helicopters dropped trees into the creek and over cut? The THP CAL FIRE brought to the District Attorney's office. The one where CAL FIRE agreed not to pursue action against Webster because he agreed that he would not submit THPs anymore. 

We followed the case for a couple of years, asking for more info whenever we had the chance. We were told repeatedly that they were 'negotiating' with the landowner. Well, CAL FIRE finally let the statute of limitations expire and their case evaporated. Webster?  He has continued to submit THPs and when we brought that to CAL FIRE's attention, we were told that they would have to get it in writing the next time.

The Water Board also brought an action against the landowner after a Second Notice of Violation of the Waiver was issued: Photo-point monitoring was not conducted as required, inspections were incomplete and improperly timed, turbidity monitoring was not conducted in December 2006 following the completion of operations as required, and the revised monitoring map was inadequate. The first Notice of Violation cited 11 violations. While the Water Board was going to be filing its own case, we have not heard the outcome, if any.  We do know that there was no mention of these violations (or any others) in the Staff Report on the Waiver Modification proposal to be heard on July 10.

Your tax dollars hard at work.......

6. New THPs

1-09-027 SCR, Salvation Army, Culver-RPF, Bean Creek, 45 acres

1-09-032 SCL, Cortez, Bishop-RPF, Little Arthur Creek, 57 acres

1-09-035 SCR, Redtree Properties, Bissell-RPF, SL River, 75 acres

1-09-038 SCR,  UCSC, Staub-RPF, SL River, 4 acres

1-09-043 SCR, Wicht, Culver-RPF, Jones/Amaya Creek, 23 acres

1-09-045 SCR RMC/Cemex, Hamey-RPF, Deadman Gulch/Big Creek, 230 acres

1-09-047 SCR Patton, Hildreth-RPF, Branciforte Creek, 30 acres

1-09-064 SCR Redwood Empire, Duffy-RPF, Soquel Creek, 396 acres (Highland Way/Aptos Fire Trail)

1-09-068 SCR, Mosko, et al, Paul-RPF, Whalebone Gulch, 59 acres

7. California prepares for the next burn

NEWS - From the June 01, 2009 issue of High Country News
California prepares for the next burn
Officials -- and homeowners -- start to accept the inevitability of wildfire
By Peter Friederici
"Fires don't spread the same way in urbanized areas," says David Sapsis, Cal Fire's chief fire modeler. "This model does a significantly better job of highlighting hazards to areas with structures." In particular, it addresses a well-known fact about wildland-urban interface fires: Most houses don't burn down because they're engulfed by a wall of flames. Rather, they burn because windborne embers cause spot fires that, in the absence of firefighting, spread rapidly.

"Embers get into attics through unscreened vents or into the crawl space, or they get into a woodpile stacked against the house or into a pile of leaves under the deck," says Max Moritz, a fire ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley who helped Sapsis develop the new model.
More on fire: The Chaparralian
California's raging fires fuel one man's fight for the much-maligned "elfin forest'


Burning Questions, Why the National Fire Plan is a Trojan Horse for Logging, George Wuerthner

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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