Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
by Jodi Frediani
1. Illegal Smith Grade Cistern
An apparently well-meaning San Jose church group recently bought an 11-acre property on Smith Grade in Bonny Doon. They began house renovation as well as construction of a round, in-stream cistern in a perennial tributary to Laguna Creek, a coho stream, without any permits. They purchased the property to do drug interventions and rehabilitation for their church members. Some sessions took place this past, very dry summer in the woods down by Laguna Creek, complete with outdoor barbeques. Neighbors expressed their concern about all activities on this property to the County and were initially informed by Code Compliance that there were no violations of code.
After seeing the cistern myself, I followed up with phone calls to a raft of folks, including DFG and the County. It wasn't until I finally circulated a series of photographs 2 months later of the cistern, the jerry-rigged pipe which has a traffic cone tied to the outlet of the county culvert under Smith Grade duct-taped to a piece of pipe which directs water into the cistern, that I finally got a response. In addition to the cistern, there is also a check dam just downstream that consists of fill topped with cement chunks and broken cinder blocks. This acts as a walkway across the creek to the other side. Three small pipes are situated near the top of this check dam to ostensibly keep water from overtopping the dam. At low flows, water seeps underneath the structure. There is some sort of 2x4 scaffolding on the downstream face to keep the dam in place.
Some of the communication from county staff has been bizarre referring to the perennial tributary as a 'drainage ditch', and from DFG claiming that the cistern is an old, existing structure when neighbors watched it get built three months ago. I have also heard claims that the water is not flowing through the culvert into the cistern, even though I have seen it with my own eyes.
After much dissembling, it appears that the whole mess (including constructed pathways, retaining walls and steps in the riparian corridor, has been red-tagged by the county. DFG has been unable to establish contact with the owners.
And the County has now advised the owners that the property is not large enough to accommodate their proposed use. The owners have stated that they will sell the property. Let's hope the riparian violations are cleaned up sooner rather than later. Neighbor concerns include a failure of Smith Grade as the outlet of the culvert has been constricted and vegetation has been removed from the steep road shoulder. A window screen had been placed at the culvert inlet to keep out debris. This was removed by a neighbor, concerned that the first rains would block the screen with debris, forcing the creek to flow over the road washing away the downslope bank and undermining the roadway.
2. New/Current THPs C2 under review
1-08-079 SCR, Scott Creek, 222 acres, Jim Hildreth, RPF, Land Bountiful
1-08-091 SCR, Boulder Creek, 135 acres, Jim Hildreth, RPF, Holmes Lumber Company
1-08-131 SCR, Soquel Creek, 235 acres, Erik Jensen, RPF, Chy Company
1-08-159 SCR, Buzzard Lagoon, 196 acres, Michael Duffy, RP F Redwood Empire
1-08-164 SCL, Mt. Madonna, 150 acres, Cassidy Vaughn, RPF, George Bowles Trust, pending first review
Just a quick note, I was told recently that CAL FIRE is still finding hot spots in the Summit Fire area, even after the first rains.
The State Emergency Assessment Team (SEAT) report on the 2008 Summit and Martin fires was prepared by the State Office of Emergency Assessment (OES) at the request of Santa Cruz County. The multi-agency team conducted an intensive two-week field review using the federal government's Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC), provided by the US Forest Service Remote Sensing Application (aerial flyovers) as a starting point for gathering information.
In true governmental fashion, the report makes a number of recommendations to both private landowners and the county, yet no funding is provided to implement any of these recommendations.
Here is an excerpt from DFG's input:
1. Control sediment delivery into watercourses, erosion control measures on disturbed and burned slopes draining into watercourses should be conducted where feasible.
The Campbell illegal snag harvest saga continues. (See October Forest Update for background)
At last writing on this issue, I had spoken to DFG who followed up with CAL FIRE. It appeared that CAL FIRE would tell Campbell he cannot harvest snags on his property. Not under his NTMP, nor under an Exemption. However, I was told that he will still be allowed to continue harvesting under Exemptions, rather than utilizing his NTMP. If you are as confused as I am, raise your hand. Clearly this is a way for Campbell to avoid having an RPF oversee his logging activities, avoid having CAL FIRE conduct regular inspections, avoid having to post Log Truck signs along his haul route, etc. And it is not clear if his activities are in conformance with the objectives of his non-industrial timber management plan.
On October 27, Campbell received approval of an amendment to his latest Dead, dying and diseased exemption (1-08EX-327SCR) to include a map adding something like 200 acres into the Exemption. It states, "Removal of standing dead trees under this exemption will comply with the provisions of the NTMP and20CCR 919.1." Campbell also 'clarifies' this amendment with this statement, "The map covers large areas which will not have any operations on, but may depending on the conditions in the timber market and spread of Sudden Oak Death. In addition, the removal of standing dead trees under this exemption will comply with the provisions of the NTMP and CCR 919.1."
Since his NTMP prohibits the harvest of snags, CAL FIRE seems to think it is not necessary for Campbell to comply with the Forest Practice Rules and his own NTMP.
This 235-acre THP was rejected by CAL FIRE when first submitted, then accepted for filing on October 9, in spite of the fact that it neglected to include and review coho salmon, an endangered species, which have been found to occur in Soquel Creek downstream of the proposed harvest. Since then, at the urging of NMFS and DFG, the RPF has agreed to abandon the idea of crossing the creek with temporary culverts, agreeing instead to use temporary bridges.
However, the PHI is to be held tomorrow, November 14, even though the RPF has not yet responded to the First Review Questions, which included a request for new maps since the submitted maps are unintelligible. What a waste of agency time, going into the field without having been able to review the project area in advance. The RPF has had more than a month in which to prepare and submit his responses and new maps. CAL FIRE needs to insist that the RPF's response to First Review Questions be submitted in advance of PHIs or they will be rescheduled.
The Conference program has been finalized and is available at the website www.sccreeks.org/new.htm
If you haven't registered online as yet you can do so at www.sccreeks.org/cwc2008.htm
Just like last year we have a great agenda lined up for you and a free lunch too. This year's Creek Advocate of the Year is Keith Anderson of Streams for Tomorrow.
We expect to have 26 tables with loads of information to share with you so come on out, meet you creek friends, and make new ones too.
If you don't register we may be short of lunches so please do register by the end of the day Thursday the 13th.
Hope to see you all there.
Here is an excerpt from Stametz' excellent book, Mycelium Running:
"As a mushroom grower, I have seen habitats whose decomposition cycles influence subsequent successions of organisms. Nowhere is this more apparent than in clear-cut forestlands. Once the trees are killed, mycorrhizal fungal communities die back. After loggers haul trees away, vast debris fields remain behind: stumps, brush, and downed small-diameter or otherwise unmarketable trees. Until this wood debris decomposes, its biomass is locked away from the food web and is therefore unavailable to bacteria, protozoa, insects, plants, animals, and fungi, some of which would dismantle the cellular structure of the wood, freeing nutrients. In order to stimulate decomposition and trigger habitat recovery, we can selectively introduce keystone mushroom species such as saprophytic fungi, the first species to feed on dead wood.
Making wood debris fields more fungus friendly speeds up decomposition and helps the decomposition cycles become more balanced. To help nature recalibrate after logging, fungi must be brought into close contact with the dead wood so that the forest floor can act as a springboard for saprophytic and other fungi, which are instruments of the forest's immune system, ready to heal its wounds. For several years after a forest has been cut, the mycosphere survives underground, with an increasing loss of diversity over time unless plant communities and debris fields are renewed."
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