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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Monterey County Steve Zmack

Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. Your Ventana Chapter founded over 50 years ago by Ansel Adams is committed to protecting our 127 miles of coastline, hundreds of thousands of acres of wild lands and our dwindling water supplies.

Bull Oak


December 27, 2015 - February 28, 2016 Hikes and Outings

Chapter members admiring the huge "Bull" oak tree in Harper Canyon at Toro County Park. We have over 30 hikes scheduled for January and February so come out and join us! (Photo by Steve Jackson).

California Coastal Commission at Risk of Developer Takeover

January 2016

We urgently need your help!

Elkhorn Slough Big Sur on the California coast. A developers' coup aimed at Coastal Commission staff now threatens all coastal property as they seek to weaken protections for wildlife, plants and public access. (Photo-Steve Zmak).

Sierra Club and over 50 other groups are protesting the announcement that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) has scheduled a hearing on whether to fire its long-term Executive Director, Charles Lester, at the February 10 meeting in Morro Bay. Newspapers throughout the state are reporting this as a power grab by the four Governor Brown appointees to the CCC who favor wealthy development interests and seek to undermine the very heart of the Coastal Act: public access and enjoyment of the California Coast.

We have sent a letter demanding that the Coastal Commission reject the proposal to oust Lester, warning that his removal will weaken the state’s efforts to protect the coast for future generations.

In 1972, by passing the strongly worded California Coastal Initiative, voters made it clear that they wanted California's beaches to remain open to everyone. Governor Brown signed the California Coastal Act in 1976, providing the law that governs the decisions of the CCC.

The CCC exercises regulatory and planning authority over 1,100 miles of California coastline called the coastal zone, which also extends three miles out to sea. Their mission, as stated on the commission’s website, is to: "Protect, conserve, restore, and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations."

Throughout its 40-plus year history, pro-development interests and their lobbyists have sought to weaken the CCC. Now, they have powerful allies on the Commission to enable them to achieve their goal. And the stakes are high. As home prices remain astronomical in coastal enclaves, proposed housing projects, including one pending near Newport Beach and slated for 1,400 homes worth more than a million dollars each, can make billions for well-funded developers with political connections in Sacramento.

We need you to take action today! Governor Brown’s four appointees to the CCC serve at his pleasure, and can be replaced at will by him. So, Governor Brown has the power to call off the drive to dump the executive director. But he needs to hear from you before he’ll consider exercising that power.

So, please take action before it’s too late. Click on this link right now to learn more, and stop the CCC from being hijacked for profit:

Thank you!


Paintings and photographs by
Paola Berthoin, Christine Watten and Tim Dale Hill

Dates: Feb 1 – April 30, 2016

Free Reception and poetry reading with Patrice Vecchione and the Artists: February 13, 3-5 pm at Sweet Elena's Bakery in Sand City

Fort Ord Art ShowClick image for full sized flyer.

This show highlights the land, plants, and animals at Western Fort Ord that depend on its preservation. This land is currently slated for the Monterey Downs development. If approved, hundreds of acres of 41,000 coast live oaks and associated habitats supporting a myriad of wildlife, seen and unseen, would be destroyed. In addition, this land is a sanctuary for people of all ages who ride their horses and bikes, hike and jog, walk their dogs, and are inspired to create artworks about the beauty of the place on the edge of Seaside. As some have commented when they walk the land: “This is as California once was, an historic landscape fast disappearing.”

Land and Water Conservation Funds Given 3-year Extension in Congress

January 2016

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), first authorized by Congress and signed into law on September 3, 1964 assures an annual stream of funding of up to $900 million annually from offshore drilling revenues (not from taxpayers) for acquiring private lands for priority public uses. The LWCF has been the principal funding for federal land acquisition for outdoor recreation by the four federal agencies—the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Forest Service (FS).

Sierra Club has been following the reauthorization of these funds (bill HR 1814) as they were scheduled to expire last September. (Initially authorized for 25 years, the Fund was reauthorized in 1989 for another 25 years.) Instead of the permanent reauthorization we were promoting, this 114th Congress let the venerable 50-year-plus Fund expire for the first time in its history.

At the end of the first session of this Congress in December, in the negotiations for passage of the Omnibus Appropriations bill -- considered a "must-pass" measure to let the federal government operate for another year -- our champions in Congress managed to get a three-year extension of LWCF included in that measure.

This gives us and our champions time to keep fighting for our goal of Permanent Reauthorization. Without the steadfast support of 40 members of the California delegation -- the largest block of cosponsors for HR 1814 -- it might have been much harder, if not impossible to get the extension.

We ended the year with 200 cosponsors of HR 1814 nationally (plus its champions) and 44 Senators who are in support. 200 is a good number, but it is not enough. For the first part of 2016, the Sierra Club National task force will seek to get to the decisive goal of 218 cosponsors.
(Source: Vicky Hoover, National Task Force Chair).

Elkhorn Slough The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, a 1700-acre Reserve of tidal creeks, freshwater marshes and verdant oak woodlands at Sunset. (Photo: Paul Zaretsky, courtesy of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation).

Crude Oil Train Rail Spur Extension Project Final EIR to be Released Soon

December 2015

Sierra Club and other environmental groups locally and statewide oppose this proposal which could bring mile-long oil trains carrying 2.5 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude nearly every day from San Francisco through Monterey County near Elkhorn Slough to San Luis Obispo County. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) is expected to be released by the end of the year and hearings on the proposal will begin next year. The FEIR describes the project as "a 6,915-foot eastward extension of an existing rail spur off of the Union Pacific rail mainline, a crude oil railcar unloading facility, pipeline, emergency access road, and other support infrastructure at the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery."

While the Monterey County Board of Supervisors led by Supervisor John Phillips whose district includes Elkhorn Slough voted to write a letter to the county officials in San Luis Obispo opposing the Phillips 66 project, the proposal is going forward.

With a 40-fold increase in crude-by-rail since 2008, derailments and spills have also been on a steep rise. In 2013 more crude oil was spilled from trains than in the previous four decades combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.

In voting to oppose the Santa Maria Phillips 66 rail spur, Monterey County joined cities and counties all along the rail route that have passed resolutions and sent letters against the project, including San Jose, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, Moorpark, Oxnard, Camarillo, Alameda County, Santa Cruz County and Ventura County. To follow the proposal for the oil train, here is the link to the San Luis Obispo County website:

Sierra Club and Other Groups File Lawsuit against California Oil Regulators

December 2015

Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and the Association of Irritated Residents sued the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) last month for issuing an enormous number of new drilling permits in Kern County without analyzing risk to air quality, water supplies and public health as required under California law. The suit filed by Earthjustice, states in its opening brief: "The California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources ("DOGGR") has consistently failed to live up to its obligations pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"), by permitting oil drilling projects in the South Belridge Oil Field without any kind of environmental review. This permitting is occurring as if CEQA never became law in 1970."

DOGGR has issued at least 214 permits since July 2014 to Aera Energy to drill new oil and gas wells in the South Belridge Oil Field in Kern County. Fracking techniques will be used on a majority of these wells. DOGGR regularly fails to conduct legally required reviews for oil and gas drilling projects in Kern County, the lawsuit explains.

Aera Energy intends to frack at least 144 of the newly permitted wells, which requires tapping already strained water resources. Steam injection and water flooding techniques may also be used on other newly permitted wells. With water supplies already depleted by the ongoing drought, the lawsuit notes that DOGGR erred by not studying whether the local water supply could sustainably provide water for well drilling and water-intensive extraction practices like fracking and steam injection. (Source: Earthjustice).

Sam Farr Congressman Sam Farr, one of our ocean's staunchest defenders is leaving the House of Representatives after 22 years-we will miss him.

Congressman Sam Farr Announces His Retirement

November 12, 2015

Today at the Steinbeck Center is Salinas, Congressman Sam Farr (CD-20 Carmel) announced his retirement from the House of Representatives after 22 years. Previously, Farr was a Monterey County Supervisor and California Assembly member. Throughout his long political career, Farr has earned endorsements by Sierra Club including all of his previous 11 bids for the House of Representatives. A winner of the prestigious Sierra Club’s Ed Wayburn Award in 2003 for his strong leadership in environmental legislation, he remained one of the Club’s and the environment’s most stalwart friends during his long tenure in the House. Most recently, Farr served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee which oversees the distribution of the federal budget and sat on several subcommittees including: Agriculture and FDA, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Congressman Farr also represented the largest National Marine Sanctuary along the continental United States and has long been an advocate for our oceans. He has taken a proactive role to protect our ocean resources and is is co-chair of the powerful House Oceans Caucus. This Committee is working to reduce plastic debris that makes it into our waterways and oceans and to address the serious issues of ocean acidification and growing marine debris. He has encouraged reverse degradation by introducing bills which improved the stewardship and management of our ocean and coastal resources.

Sam Farr has consistently been a staunch defender of the Central Coast’s natural resources and unique ecosystems. In January 2012, Farr persuaded President Obama to declare nearly 15,000 verdant acres of a former military base at Fort Ord as a National Monument. Also that year, he introduced H.R. 3641 to elevate Pinnacles National Monument to a National Park which was signed by the President in January, 2013.

His most recent bill is H. R. 2717 introduced on June 10, 2015: the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FOARAM) Act of 2015 to expand NOAA’s ocean acidification efforts to provide the tools necessary to develop solutions to this growing problem. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, leading to the water becoming more acidic. Rising ocean acidity has drastic consequences for marine organisms. Marine organisms with a hard shell are particularly heavily impacted. Under increasingly acidic conditions, the shells become thinner and even begin to dissolve, threatening many species such as crabs, lobsters, oysters, clams and mussels.

Some of the 950 brush-eating goats offloaded onto Fort Ord National Monument on October 23. Thanks to Sierra Club Service Trip participants, CSUMB students Jesse Reyes, Kyle Iturraran and Monterey High School student Ryan Breen for protecting the oak trees with fencing before the hungry goats arrived. (Photograph: Bruce Delgado).
Goats in Fort Ord


New Headquarters for the National Sierra Club

October 2015

Sierra Club is pleased to announce that we have secured a new headquarters building in the Bay Area that we will move into next May when our lease expires at 85 Second Street. This new location will house both the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation.

Our new office will be at 2101 Webster Street in Oakland. This Class A complex called Center Twenty One is in the heart of the Lake Merritt and Uptown neighborhoods. It is 2 blocks from the 19th St BART station and 2 blocks from Lake Merritt with its jogging and bike paths and wildlife refuge. A large public rooftop landscaped park/garden is right across the street over a public parking garage. The neighborhood has numerous restaurants, pharmacies, banks, cafes and coffee shops, bars, fitness centers, copy centers, a post office and grocery stores.

The building is LEED certified. The 38,800 feet that we have leased is on one full floor and half of the adjacent floor. There are large windows for lots of natural light with views of Oakland, San Francisco, and the Berkeley Hills in all directions. Our floors are gutted and empty and we will be building them out to our specifications and green building standards. This provides an excellent opportunity to design our new office in accord with our values.

This is a major change for the Sierra Club after founder John Muir located our headquarters in San Francisco 124 years ago. We made this move mostly because San Francisco rents and purchases have become prohibitively expensive for non-profits such as the Sierra Club. The move to Oakland coupled with downsizing the footprint of the office and designing a new workspace that is more efficient will allow us to have an affordable rent without substantially impacting Club programs and personnel.

We're grateful to the city of San Francisco for 124 years as our home, and look forward to our new residence in dynamic Oakland.

Erica Parker, Field Representative for Assemblymember Mark Stone talks to participants about wildlife with Marina's friendly gopher snake, Roscoe at the Labor Day Parade. (Photograph by Rita Dalessio).
Erica Parker Labor Day Parade

Ventana Chapter Submits 2 Sets of Expert Comments on Biological Resources and Snowy Plover Habitat for Monterey Bay Shores Resort Dunes Restoration Plan

Snowy Plover Threatened Western snowy plover in breeding plumage at proposed Project site in Sand City. (Photograph: Steve Zmak)

August 2015

The Dunes Restoration Plan for the Monterey Shores Resort proposed for 39 acres of rare beachfront dune habitat in Sand City has been released and Ventana Chapter has retained experts to submit comments. The developer, Security National Guaranty (SNG) is proposing construction of a 1.3 million square foot mixed-use residential and visitor-serving development in undeveloped dunes seaward of Highway One adjacent to Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Sand City.

These undisturbed beachfront dunes contain several threatened and endangered species and have been monitored for nesting coastal populations of western snowy plover since 1999. Ventana Chapter attorney Larry Silver has retained senior biologist Scott Cashen to provide comments on the western snowy plover. Dr. Cashen (Dr. Cashen letter here) focuses on inadequacies in the Plan which proposes measures that will not offset the Project's contribution to habitat loss. Coastal ecologist Peter Baye's (Dr. Baye letter here) report highlights coastal dune ecology and management with an emphasis on Smith's blue butterfly, Monterey spineflower and western snowy plover.

Ventana Chapter Submits Expert Comments on Biological Resources for Seaside Monterey Downs DEIR

June 2015

Ventana Chapter retained expert coastal ecologist Peter Baye, Ph.D. to submit comments on the biological resources in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed horse racing track and housing development on the former Fort Ord military base. The Applicant seeks a project which proposes to construct Monterey Downs, a racetrack and other equestrian use facility, 1280 dwelling units (detached single-family and multi-family), a mix of commercial, office and hotel uses and more.

Dr. Baye comments address 5 deficiencies in the DEIR including: 1. The project description's failure to correctly identify the environmental setting of the project site and vicinity as a stabilized ancient dune system or paleodune. This is a significant omission because of the environmental importance and very limited geographic distribution of this ancient geomorphic feature in California, and its association with relict endemic species. Paleodunes include distinctive variations of the following vegetation types: coastal prairie (grassland), maritime chaparral, seasonal and perennial freshwater marshes, and oak woodlands.

2. The DEIR fails to assess impacts to wetlands habitats and fails to provide minimal survey information regarding the presence, extent, or distribution of wetland habitats. No information is provided regarding the areas surveyed, the dates of surveys, the rainfall year(s), or the qualifications (wetlands expertise) of the observers. 3. Special-status plant species impact criteria are invalid and unsound in terms of biological or regulatory meaning and the DEIR provides inadequate biological analysis of the number, size, viability, and distribution of special-status plant species populations.

Deficiencies 4. and 5. relate to the fact that the project would have significant and unmitigated impacts on California tiger salamander and two important vegetation types, oak woodlands and riparian woodlands. For more information and a full description of these biological concerns see Dr. Baye's letter. (Attached PDF here).


Poison Oak conserving energy Poison oak conserving energy (Photograph: Mary Pendlay)

Indian Soap Plant in bloom Soap plant in bloom. (Photograph Mary Pendlay)

What to Look For Now in Jacks Peak Park

June 2015

By Mary Pendlay

This time of year at Jacks Peak Park reflects the contrast between the north and south-facing slopes. At its peak, the gradual slope of 1,096 feet is easy to traverse, to walk and enjoy the natural plants and wildlife. This year, after many dry seasons, the differences between north and south slopes are dramatic. The poison oak, safely removed from the trail, is very apparent on the northern slope where it's cooler. The red leaves are already appearing because the roots lack moisture and know that it's time to conserve, like a deciduous tree that turns color. To see red leaves so early in the year is lovely, but a sign that the plant is distressed. Not to worry, poison oak is tough, but not tough enough to grow on the southern slopes where it's really warm from the wind currents coming up from Carmel Valley. Far from this heat, the Indian soap plant is ready to bloom, and it is a survivor, with a beautiful flower. This time of year, there are numerous flower stalks blooming in the warm afternoon sun even as the leaves begin to wither. Appearing mostly in shade areas, the pine and oak trees provide enough shade for the soap plant's bulb to reproduce every year. The Rumsien/Ohlone Indians used this plant like the ceanothus flower, as a cleanser. Jacks Peak Park reveals contrasted environments because its Monterey Pine forest is central to our area, which can be dramatic.

San Jose Creek loop hike Stunning views along the trail on the San Jose Creek Loop hike in Carmel in May.




a hike!

Wild Rose Lovely wild rose near San Jose Creek.

The flowers are still blooming and Chapter hike leaders want you to join in the fun!

These are photos taken by leader Burkhard Seidhofff from a new area in the San Jose Creek Loop in Carmel we did in May. Check out the outings schedule with more hikes through June 30.

Monterey Bay Shores Resort Hearing at the California Coastal Commission

May 2015

Snowy Plover Western snowy plover nesting at the SNG site in Sand City. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).

Attorney Larry Silver represented Sierra Club Ventana Chapter at the California Coastal Commission (CCC) hearing in Santa Barbara on May 15 regarding the status of ongoing discussions between the developer Security National Guarantee (SNG) and CCC staff. SNG is proposing construction of a 1.3 million square foot mixed-use residential and visitor-serving development in undeveloped dunes seaward of Highway One between Fort Ord Dunes State Park and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District's Eolian Dune Preserve in Sand City. These undisturbed beachfront dunes contain several threatened and endangered species and have been monitored for nesting coastal populations of western snowy plover since 1999. Attached (here) is a photo showing the locations of 5 nests on the site on May 1 showing no measures in place to protect the nests from trampling and at least three have now been lost.

Still unresolved are about six areas of "Special Conditions" for the Project including lighting, signage, height limits, a resort pathway layout that interferes with snowy plover habitat, perimeter fencing, manipulated dune heights and dune restoration plans, public access and other issues. After nearly an hour of testimony from CCC staff, our attorney, the developer and Commissioners, the Board voted to have staff continue discussions with SNG and bring the matter back to the CCC later this year.

The Chapter also submitted a letter describing legally required conditions for protection of species such as Smith’s blue butterfly and snowy plover. The letter included an addendum with expert findings from environmental biologist Scott Cashen describing a monitoring and maintenance plan, a reporting and contingency program and other federal requirements for protection of western snowy plover. (PDF of the letter is attached).

Sierra Club, Other Groups File Federal Lawsuit to Curb Unsafe Oil Trains

May 2015

Seven environmental groups including Sierra Club filed a lawsuit on May 14 in Washington DC challenging safety rules issued this month for trains carrying oil, arguing that the regulations are too weak to protect the public.

The groups said the new rules would allow the industry to continue to use "unsafe tank cars" for up to 10 years. They also said the rules failed to set adequate speed limits for oil trains.

The United States and Canada issued the safety standards in response to a string of explosive accidents that have accompanied a surge in crude-by-rail shipments. Because of a 40-fold increase in crude-by-rail transport since 2008, derailments and spills have been on a steep rise. In 2013 more crude oil was spilled from trains than in the previous four decades combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.

In their filing, the groups asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to force the Transportation Department to reconsider the "unduly long phaseout period" for these tank cars, as well as the speed limit and public notification requirements in the rule.

Oil trains are a hot issue locally as there has been a state-wide firestorm of protest over Phillips 66’s proposal to transport Canadian crude oil from Richmond through several counties including Monterey County to an oil refinery in San Luis Obispo.

Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Center of Biological Diversity
File Lawsuit to Halt California Oil Injection Practices

May 2015

On May 7, Earthjustice, on behalf of Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court to halt the oil industry from injecting fracking waste water into protected aquifers.

California Department of Conservation has allowed construction of at least 2,500 wells that inject fluids which include oil well waste directly into protected aquifers. Half of these permits were issued in the last four years. These permits have been issued despite growing warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) since 2011 that state regulators were out of compliance with federal laws meant to protect underground drinking-water stores from oilfield contamination.

The response from the Brown Administration's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has been to establish "emergency" regulations that allow the injection wells to continue until at least 2017.

Oil wastewater in California typically contains high levels of cancer-causing benzene, according to testing done by DOGGR and oil companies. Wastewater can also include fracking fluid, which often contains chemicals that are linked to serious human health problems, including cancer and birth defects.

"Existing state and federal laws rightly recognize that groundwater is a precious commodity, and for decades, the law has protected both the aquifers already in use as well as those that might come into future use," said Nathan Matthews of Sierra Club. "DOGGR's emergency rule turns legal tradition on its head and gives the oil and gas industry free rein to contaminate California's aquifers prior to determining whether the ground water will be needed in the future."

Sierra Club California is the sponsoring chapter for the Club's role in the suit. (Source: Sierra Club California)

Monterey Downs This aerial photo shows the vast oak woodlands that would be wiped out to accommodate this enormous development. Why destroy the natural gateway to the National Monument when so much of the urban area of Fort Ord remains dilapidated and condemned? (Photo and graphics by Steve Zmak) Click for full sized image.

Seaside Releases Monterey Downs Horse Track and Housing Project DEIR

April 2015

The City of Seaside in Monterey County has released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for a proposed horse racing track and housing development on the former Fort Ord military base. Ventana Chapter has retained coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye to review biological resources in the document and to prepare comments prior to the deadline of June 19. Sierra Club has been following development at Fort Ord since the 1990's when we sued on deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Report and reached a settlement agreement. Since then, we have several times had to retain attorneys to defend our agreement in order to keep environmental controls in place.

The Applicant seeks a project which proposes to construct Monterey Downs, a racetrack and other equestrian use facility, 1280 dwelling units (detached single-family and multi-family), a mix of commercial, office and hotel uses and more. The City of Seaside has circulated a document describing the project as likely to have significant impacts to aesthetics, air quality, loss of coast live oak and landmark coast live oak (some estimate a loss of over 40,000 trees), greenhouse gas emissions, increased traffic and dwindling water supplies. The documents can be viewed on the City website at:

Mark Stone and Mayor Bruce Delgado
Assembly member Mark Stone and Mayor Bruce Delgado of Marina enjoying the festivities at Earth Day on April 11. (Photo: Steve Zmak).
Volunteers work to clean up vegetation in Marina. (Photo: Steve Zmak).
Sierra Club Bags
Ventana Chapter members give away reusable canvas bags at Earth Day in Marina (Photo: Steve Zmak).
Natalie Zayas-Delgado and friendly snake
Natalie Zayas-Delgado, Marina Earth Day coordinator with friendly snake Roscoe and friend. (Photo: Steve Zmak).

Marina Earth Day Held April 11 at Locke-Paddon Park

By Natalie Zayas Delgado & Steve Zmak
April 2015

This annual event, the largest Earth Day event in Monterey County, always draws a great crowd of families wanting to learn more about conservation, and an outpouring of community service.

This event is unique in that volunteers sign up for service projects to clean and beautify the park. For their service they receive a free lunch—an amazing vegetarian stir-fry provided and cooked by the Marina Rotary. The Earth Day Committee provided fresh, locally grown, organic fruits, such as mandarin oranges and strawberries. Everyone's Harvest Farmer's Markets works with local farmers and the sponsorships for the event help pay for the fruit.

There were eight service projects that included invasive weed removal, watering the oak woodland, repairing wind fences around the new oaks, adding new native plants, colorfully painting garbage cans and park benches, litter removal, placing mulch, and gardening at the Dunes Project.

More than 200 volunteers registered in advance, with an additional 50+ volunteers showing up that morning. Live bands jam throughout the work party surrounded by 30 booths from educational, conservation and civic groups. Ventana Chapter Executive Committee members Rita Dalessio and Mary Gale staffed the Sierra Club table that included games and coloring for the kids, hiking guides for the adults, and they handed out 150 reusable bags with the Sierra Club logo. Event organizers estimate that more than 300 reusable bags were handed out at this event by various groups. This is important as Marina's Bag Ordinance went into effect on March 19th.

The Chuck Haugen Conservation Fund provided reusable dishes and wash stations so the event was zero waste. The Monterey Regional Waste Management District provided trash, recycle and compost containers.

Organizers of this event were: Citizens for Sustainable Marina, Return of the Natives, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Central Coast Cert., Marina Rotary, and Monterey Regional Waste Management District.

Sponsors of the event were: Sierra Club Ventana Chapter, The City of Marina, Green Waste Recovery, Marina Grange, Chuck Haugen Conservation Fund, Friends of the Marina Library, Marina Rotary, Aplus Water, Coffee Mia, Monterey Regional Waste Management District, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Return of the Natives, Everyone’s Harvest Farmer’s Markets, Calvary Baptist Church, T. A. Ledesma Builders, and Central Coast Cert.

Public Officials Vote to Oppose Local Crude Oil Train

April 2015

Monterey County Board of supervisors voted April 7 to oppose the Santa Maria Phillips 66 rail spur project, which could bring mile-long oil trains carrying 2.5 million gallons of Canadian tar sands crude nearly every day from San Francisco through Monterey County to San Luis Obispo County. The Board directed County staff to write a letter to the county officials in San Luis Obispo opposing the Phillips 66 project.

With a 40-fold increase in crude-by-rail since 2008, derailments and spills have also been on a steep rise. In 2013 more crude oil was spilled from trains than in the previous four decades combined, and in 2014 there were more oil train accidents than in any other year on record.

In voting to oppose the Santa Maria Phillips 66 rail spur, Monterey County joins cities and counties all along the rail route that have passed resolutions and sent letters against the project, including San Jose, Davis, Berkeley, Oakland, Moorpark, Oxnard, Camarillo, Alameda County, Santa Cruz County and Ventura County.

Sierra Club at the National, State and Ventana Chapter level oppose this project and have submitted oral and written comments including the attached PDF regarding the deficiencies in the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (RDEIR). Overall, we believe that RDEIR hides serious pollution, climate pollution and chemical safety hazards from the public and its own workers and the Project should not be approved at this time. (PDF letter to San Luis Obispo County here).

Coho Salmon Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon Return to Santa Cruz County

March 2015

Roughly one hundred coho salmon returned to spawn in Santa Cruz County's Scott Creek this past December. This was the best return of coho in years. The hatchery on this creek maintains a Coho Captive Brood Stock Program, one of two in California. The other is on the Russian River. Captive adult salmon rearing is a last ditch effort to stave off extinction. The program is, in concept, similar to the Condor Recovery Project.

Heavy rains in December of 2014 opened the sand bar blocking the entrance to Scott Creek and allowed returning adult salmon to leave the ocean and enter the stream to spawn. Coho must spawn by January (or February, in their southern range of the Santa Cruz Mountains) or they pass beyond the widow of time in their life cycle and die before being able to spawn.

Apparently a combination of factors led to this December's encouraging spawning numbers. These numbers are still quite low historically, but nevertheless very encouraging for a stream and a region that have seen repeated spawning failures over the past near decade. Good ocean conditions were available to these young fish as they went to sea from the hatchery and creek in the spring of 2013. Stronger genetics were apparently produced in the captive Scott Creek fish by the introduction of DNA from a fish native to the Russian River. In other words, it seems that stronger genetics, good ocean conditions and good weather led to a revival of hope for coho salmon.

The hatchery and captive brood stock process is very complex and dangerous. Adult salmon survive poorly in captivity and their genetics are damaged by repeated inbreeding in a hatchery process that does not allow natural selection to take place. But coho are in a dire condition and their survival as a species across much of California now depends upon human intervention.

Wild spawning coho salmon are spectacular animals that turn bright red and can look like gleaming copper in the stream. We have severely damaged their chances for survival, primarily because of water diversion and intensive land use. But this winter has provided us with a glint of hope for their continued existence in California. Coho and "silver salmon" are the same animal. They once existed in huge numbers and were a major food source for both Native Americans and later for post 1860 California.

Kevin Collins
Ventana Chapter, Sierra Club

Financial Settlement Reached in Lawsuit between Monterey Bay Shores Resort and Lender

February 2015

This month, Ed Ghandour, owner of the 39-acre Sand City parcel proposed for a massive resort/condo and his creditors, New York-based Fourth Third LLC reached agreement in court in Monterey ending the threat of potential foreclosure. This agreement concludes the limited receivership of the property put into action last year and returns control to Ghandour who says he will focus on completing the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) process provisionally granted by the California Coastal Commission last April.

This project has been contested by the Sierra Club since it was first proposed in 1998. The development would put a 1.3 million square foot, 368 unit hotel and condominium complex with underground parking spaces for nearly 1,000 cars into the fragile dune landscape of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.... [more]

Mark Stone Appointed to Assembly Committees

February 2015

Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins has reappointed Central Coast Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) to serve as the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection, and has appointed him to serve as the Chair of the newly-convened Assembly Select Committee Expanding Access to California's Natural Resources.

The Select Committee on Coastal Protection will carry forward the public conversation about ways to address a variety of potential threats to California's coast. The Select Committee on Expanding Access to California's Natural Resources will explore issues related to fulfilling the state's vision for clean air, clean water, and open spaces for all Californians.

State statute defines environmental justice as the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. The Committee will have the opportunity to discuss ways of guaranteeing access to coastal and natural resources for low-income communities, ensuring equitable access to outdoor and environmental education to low-income students, and developing meaningful environmental policy processes from within underserved communities.

Stone serves as a legislative appointee on the State Coastal Conservancy. Prior to his service in the Assembly, Stone represented the Central Coast on the California Coastal Commission.

Sierra Club Condemns State Injection Well Practices, Calls for Investigation

February 2015

Sierra Club at all levels, National, State and Ventana Chapter continue the fight against fracking in California. This week the Associated Press reported that more than 2,500 injection wells that put federally protected aquifers at risk in California have been permitted by the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), a California State agency under the Department of Conservation responsible for permitting oil and gas extraction. Nearly half of those—or 1,172—have been permitted in the last four years.

The oil industry uses injection wells to dispose of liquid waste created in the process of drilling for oil and to dispose of waste water produced during the long term production of oil from existing wells. The injections are convenient for oil companies because drilling and production can bring up as much as 13 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of petroleum. One of the easiest disposal methods is to deposit that wastewater back underground. Shallow well injection into ground water supplies is included in this unsafe process.

This waste includes a soup of chemicals used in fracking and other well stimulation techniques, as well as contaminated water pulled up from underground during drilling. State records show that this practice can introduce toxic levels of contaminants that can ruin water supplies for drinking or watering crops and livestock.

These permits have been issued despite growing warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) since 2011 that state regulators were out of compliance with federal laws meant to protect underground drinking-water stores from oilfield contamination. State and federal agencies are reviewing the permit process and DOGGR has until 2017 to actually stop injection into aquifers that USEPA has not designated for waste disposal.

Sierra Club CA Director of Sierra Club California issued this response to the news:
"It is extraordinarily distressing that for so many years the state has essentially put California's diminishing water supply in the pathway of serious pollution. If this were a one-time incident it would be bad enough. But to permit thousands of questionable wells defies common sense.

It's time for an outside investigation into DOGGR's practices. While USEPA's calling for a plan to stop injecting into sensitive aquifers is commendable, that's not enough. It's time for the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate how and why this permitting continued even after the federal agency warnings."

Plastic Bag Ban Threatened by the Plastic Industry Trade

February 2015

Senate Bill 270, calling for a ban on the use of handled plastic bags in grocery stores, food marts and convenience stores, was signed last September by California Governor Jerry Brown. This ban, long supported by Sierra Club required an eight year effort to get passed and goes into effect this summer for grocery stores and in the summer of 2016 for convenience stores. Its immediate effect will be that soon shoppers will be encouraged even more than before to use re-useable bags. To celebrate the implementation of the bag ban, Ventana Chapter has ordered hundreds of cotton canvas bags to distribute to members and the community to replace plastic bags.

The bill's long-term effect will be reduced trash along roadways and in cities, a drop in plastic pollution in waterways and oceans and one less everyday product that encourages ours to be a throwaway culture.

Sounds great, right? Yes, but unfortunately, there is opposition from the plastic bag industry which raised hundreds of thousands of signatures to seek to overturn the new law through referendum on the 2016 ballot. This petition was pushed by the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group that's part of the plastics industry trade association called SPI. Both groups are based in Washington, DC. Both groups represent plastic bag manufacturers based outside of California who are apparently offended by Californians' desire to live in a place that is not polluted with plastic bags.

Remember, this bill establishing the plastic bag ban was not created on a whim. It was the result of many years of work and had been preceded by other ban bills that failed. The bill had also been preceded by adoption of local plastic bag bans in more than 100 California cities.

So now we have a situation that we have seen before in California. State lawmakers create policies that protect the environment and have broad support. Then out-of-state special interests move in and try to stop the policies from taking hold.

The plastics makers who want to kill the ban bill have turned in more than the 500,000 signatures required for qualifying on the ballot. The results of the validity of the signatures will be announced in a few weeks. (Source: Sierra Club CA)

Hike to Snively's30 hikers joined Chapter Outings leader, Anneliese Suter in this photo from a trek up to Snively's Ridge in Garland Ranch on New Year's Day. Rewards included coffee and cake (Kaffee und Kuchen) with whipped cream at Anneliese's home.
( Photographer: Clay Ramsay from Washington D.C.)

Garland Artwork An exhibit of Carmel area artists' artwork depicting the Carmel River Watershed now on display at the Garland Ranch Visitor Center. (Photograph: Rita Dalessio).

Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District Park Art Exhibit Opens at Garland Ranch Visitor Center

January 2015

An opening reception for local artists' renderings of the Carmel River watershed opened on January 10 showcasing 2-dimentional media depicting plants and animal life in and on the water. This juried show is a must see for anyone interested in the riparian corridor of the River which connects several MPRPD parks from the inland upper reaches of Cachagua Community Park heading down stream connecting Kahn Ranch running westward through Dampierre Park. The River continues, reaching Garland Ranch Regional Park and Palo Corona Regional Park overlooking the Carmel Lagoon where the River spills into the Pacific Ocean.

The Garland Ranch Regional Visitor Center in Carmel Valley is a destination that provides an opportunity to experience the Carmel River Watershed and serves as a gateway to exploring your parks and open spaces. The art exhibit will run through June 25, 2015. For more information and hours please call MPRPD at 831-372-3196 or visit: (Source: MPRPD staff).

Senator Bill Monning to serve as the California State Senate Majority Leader

December 2014

Central Coast Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) was appointed to serve as the California State Senate Majority Leader by Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León. This position will allow Monning to work in the leadership of the California State Senate in political matters and strategy.

California Coastal Commission Votes to Schedule Collections Resort Appeal Hearing in 2015

December 2014

Sand City beachfront Sand City beachfront site of proposed Collections resort/condo project showing undeveloped dune habitat. (Photograph: California Coastal Records Project).

Ventana Chapter won a victory at the California Coastal Commission (CCC) meeting on December 12 when the Commissioners voted unanimously to schedule a hearing on the Appeal filed by the Chapter and 2 Commissioners, Mary Shallenberger and Chair Steve Kinsey on the Sand City approval of the Collections resort/condo project. The Commissioners agreed with staff that the City’s action raises a substantial issue regarding the City-approved project’s compliance with the policies and standards of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP) and the Coastal Act.

Sierra Club attorney, Larry Silver filed an appeal last December with the CCC over approval by the City of the Collections project planned for 26 acres in the highly erodible dunes west of Highway 1 between Tioga Avenue and the north end of the Edgewater Shopping Center. Currently, about 8 acres are used for construction materials handling and storage and owned by the Applicant, King Ventures. The remaining 18 acres is undeveloped dune habitat and is owned by the City of Sand City as 2 lots, the McDonald site (16.25 acres) and Granite site (2.31 acres)... [more]

Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District to Purchase 860 Acres
of Monterey Pine Forest from Pebble Beach Company

December 2014

Monterey County Monterey harbor from Pine Trail in Jacks Peak Park. (Photograph: Mary Pendlay)

After nearly a year of discussion and negotiation, the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District Board of Directors (the Board) voted to purchase from the Pebble Beach Company (PBC) an 860-acre tract of Monterey Pine forest contiguous to Jacks Peak Park known as the Aguajito property. The tract will be transferred to the MPRPD immediately upon closing of the sale. To facilitate the purchase, the Board authorized MPRPD General Manager Rafael Payan to execute and sign all documents necessary to complete the transaction.

The total price for the property is $7.45 million, payable in installments of 1.5M annually, to and including December 31, 2019. Money for the purchase will be drawn from Proposition 117 funds (The Habitat Conservation Fund). No interest will be charged on the loan by PBC. Other than minor staff/administrative costs, no local tax dollars have been used for the purchase, and no Park District programs will suffer.

Chapter members were ecstatic when the Board also agreed to designate all or part of the new parkland in honor of long time Sierra Club member Joyce Stevens. Joyce, an architect by profession, has been a stalwart defender of parkland and wildlife through her work, activism and community involvement.

In addition to the conservation value of this purchase, the Aguajito property also has a historical context. The original 3,323 acre Rancho Aguajito was acquired by David Jacks, whose heirs sold it for development in 1909. In 1960, what is now PBC acquired about 1500 Aguajito undeveloped acres, and later sold a 475-acre section to Monterey County. In 1977, this section, combined with a 55-acre gift from the Dr. Talcott Bates family became Jacks Peak Park. Subsequent additions have raised the park's acreage to approximately 950 acres. Combining the Jacks Peak Park acreage and the Park District's Aguajito purchase, the County and the MPRPD have created, at more than 1800 acres, the largest contiguous tract of Monterey Pine Forest in the world.

Senior MPRPD Board member, John Dalessio had previously revealed that he and County representatives have held discussions concerning MPRPD acquiring Jacks Peak Park from the County. The intent would be to create a passive recreation park in the heart of the Monterey Peninsula, and to permanently protect the home of the Monterey Pine Forest, one of the world's most commercially important trees. Dalessio believes that the County is amiable to this plan, and he anticipates that these discussions will accelerate, now that the Aguajito purchase has been completed.

New Financial and Compliance Woes for Monterey Bay Shores Resort

November 2014

Monterey County Mega resort/condo project planned for these coastal dunes faces new challenges. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).

The controversial mega resort and condominium project proposed for 39 beachfront acres in Sand City has hit another snag. New York lenders Fourth Third LLC and Medley Capital are contesting in court that the developer Ed Ghandour of SNG defaulted on the balance of a $29.5 million loan on June 15 and are requesting control of the property. The Court will be deciding in the near future whether to appoint a receiver to oversee the stalled project. Another update includes a November 14 letter written to the Mr. Ghandour by the California Coastal Commission (attached here) citing deficiencies in the submitted compliance documents and a list of missing "critical plan elements" for the Coastal Development Permit issued at the April CCC meeting which remains on hold.

Sierra Club and other environmental groups oppose the project on several grounds including the presence of Smith's blue butterfly, Monterey spineflower and potential risks to the rare coastal population of Western snowy plover which has been nesting on the site for years.
(See condition compliance letter from the CCC to Ghandour here).

Sierra Club Submits Comment Letter to DOGGR Re Fracking

November 2014

Sierra Club California has submitted a letter drafted by National legal staff to the Department of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) with comments regarding the second revision of its proposed regulations for well stimulation and fracking. The letter is very clear and easy to follow and may be helpful for understanding the impacts of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) on DOGGR regulations. In summary, this letter says that the second revision did not cure the deficiencies that were cited by the Club in the earlier draft on July 28, 2014. Highlights include these deficiencies:

Monterey County Sierra Club wants a moratorium in Monterey County to protect wildlife and landscapes like this in South County. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).

1. DOGGR should provide additional clarity regarding the scope of waters that are protected, or the process for determining which waters are protected.

2. Information disclosure and public notice: The public is directed to use the website FracFocus for information. The legislature explicitly instructed DOGGR to use this site as an interim measure as it suffers numerous limitations that make it an inappropriate substitute for mandatory public disclosures.

3. DOGGR should extend the period between neighbor notification and well stimulation treatment to 45 calendar days and tenants, in addition to property owners, must be afforded the right to request water quality testing at the operator’s expense.

4. The second revision inexplicably relaxes the seismic monitoring and reporting requirements. Whereas the first revision set a threshold of 2.0 on the Richter for both monitoring and cautionary action, the second revision raises this to 2.7. DOGGR has not provided any basis for concluding that this threshold is adequately protective. The Club believes it should be 1.0.

Because DOGGR has still not adequately regulated fracking, water quality impacts and human health impacts now go unmeasured in California, but fracking in other states shows that fracking is a human health hazard for both oil and gas field workers and people living near oil and gas fields. Sierra Club’s position is in favor of a moratorium on fracking and other enhanced drilling techniques, to remain in place at least until adequate State regulations are in place. (Full SCC letter PDF here).

Attention: In order to give a sense of the current chaos in the regulation of oil drilling and oil drilling water-water disposal in CA, we recount a story from the Bakersfield area reported this past summer: ... [more]

Ventana Chapter Opposes Ferrini Ranch project in Monterey County

November 2014

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide on the future of Ferrini Ranch at the December 2 Board meeting. This project includes new construction of a subdivision of about 870 acres into 185 lots of record for market rate single family homes on Highway 68 near Toro Park in Salinas. Also proposed is future development of winery related uses that would result in the removal of up to 921 protected Oak Trees and a Use Permit for development on slopes exceeding 30 percent.

The Chapter has submitted a letter opposing the project on the grounds that it is too large, would create urban sprawl and thus contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from excess single vehicle use. Traffic studies have shown that the project will exacerbate the current F rating for the highly congested Highway 68 corridor. Furthermore, we believe this project is not needed as there are already 10,000 residential units approved but not yet constructed in the County, it would cause negative impacts to biological resources including species of special concern on site that cannot be mitigated and it would require water from the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin that has been over drafted for years. (Attached is our letter to the BOS as a PDF).

Carmel River Over drafting by Cal Am harms our water supply and threatens steelhead populations as shown in this photo of the Carmel River taken near Garland Ranch in Carmel Valley. (Photograph: John Dalessio).

Carmel River Mitigation Program Update

October 2014

As a result of the Cease and Desist Order (CDO) issued by the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) against Cal Am, triggered by Sierra Club litigation, a moratorium on all new connections went into effect in April 2010. A mitigation program financed by Cal Am to ensure that endangered local steelhead populations (Oncorhychus mykiss) would thrive during a search for an improved water supply was part of this settlement agreement. This year, the settlement agreement was modified to make the State Coastal Conservancy the recipient and manager of these funds. This month, a list of projects planned through 2016 and totaling approximately $7,000,000 was released. They include: funding for removal of the Old Carmel River Dam, removal of the Sleepy Hollow Ford, improvements to the Sleepy Hollow Steelhead Rearing Facility Intake structure, implementation of the Carmel River Lagoon protective barrier project and implementation of a recycled water project to augment water in the lagoon.

Carmel Valley artist, Paola Berthoin gives a painting demonstration for Chapter members at her studio and garden which has been certified as National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat. Ms. Berthoin has spent years creating stunning artwork and a book entitled
"A Passion for Place" celebrating the Carmel River and promoting its importance as endangered habitat for dozens of species.

Kahn Ranch

Monterey County Board of Supervisors Review Fracking Regulations

September 2014

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors began reviewing state hydraulic fracturing regulations at their September 23 Board Workshop. The Supervisors, County Staff, and about 100 members of the public heard a presentation by the California Department of Conservation's sub-agency the Department of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources or DOGGR.

The agency's presentation described, in brief, the structure of a deep hydraulic fracturing well and horizontal bores. They showed maps estimating the extent of the Monterey Shale formation in California, and described the tortured logic of the regulatory process set off by the adoption of CA Senate Bill 4 (SB4, from the 2013 state legislative session). With one slide DOGGR attempted to address how Monterey County's landscape could be changed by a new oil "play" or boom. The photo came from North Dakota where the massive Bakken Shale oil and gas play is taking place in an agricultural landscape. The Bakken Shale play can be seen from space. At night North Dakota looks like it has a massive new city. This is because so much natural gas is being flared off. Flaring is a cheap disposal method for getting rid of gas when there is no infrastructure to capture and ship it. Oil is the primary driver of the Bakken Shale play. This shocking waste of fossil fuels is one of the common side effects of petroleum and gas booms... [more]

Snowy Plover Sand City The plans for a mega resort in the dunes threatening this tiny snowy plover's home have been deemed deficient. (Photograph: Steve Zmak)

Plans for Monterey Bay Resort Deemed Deficient

September 2014

On August 29, California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff sent a letter alerting developer Ed Ghandour that materials submitted by his corporation to address requirements for the conditional Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for the Monterey Bay Shores Resort are deficient and need to be revised. Specifically, the letter lists deficiencies in several areas including an outdated topo map (1995) of the project site, an incoherent set of working plans, a lack of visual simulations for public view shed, lighting and signage as well as other necessary details and illustrations for the prior to issuance (PTI) notice.

Additionally and of primary importance to Sierra Club, the plans submitted do not adequately address specific provisions that enhance sensitive species habitats including Smith’s blue butterfly and Western snowy plover habitats. Snowy plovers, a federally-threatened species have been nesting on the project site for many years and could be wiped out by the development. Ventana Chapter has been following this development proposal since 1998 and we have submitted extensive testimony intended to protect endangered species at this location.

Salinas Vineyards (Photograph: Steve Zmak)

A Renewable Energy Economy?

By Kevin Collins
August 2014

The USA is now the planet's largest producer of both crude oil and natural gas having surpassed both Saudi Arabia and Russia. This fact has been reported in both Bloomberg News and by the International Energy Agency. You may not have noticed any changes. Gasoline prices haven't fallen. There were no shouts of joy except perhaps in corporate boardrooms and maybe in bars where drilling rig workers relax after a day on the well pad. There was barely a peep out of the oil industry. These increases are accounted for by expanded Fracking in many states, especially North Dakota and Texas but also in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, California, Florida, about 20 states in all.

At the same time, global warming has become an indisputable fact, except on Fox News, and among politicians who prefer to invent their own alternative reality, funded by the fossil fuel industries. There is a strange splitting of issues taking place. Two very conflicting pieces of information run along, magically separated from each other in public discourse.

Retail gasoline prices didn't fall in part because oil is an internationally traded commodity and the big players are multi-national corporations that sell oil across international borders. There is now pressure to export this newly produced natural gas and oil from the USA to international markets. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminals are the most controversial because of the huge safety risks presented for anyone living or working near those ports and facilities that would receive, pressurize and load that gas into LNG tanker ships.

The Keystone XL pipeline is still looming. It would transport the most polluting (tar sands) oil on earth from Alberta Canada to New Orleans to be exported as refined products to international markets by sea.

Most of you will remember all the theatrical handwringing over the past forty years about the oil imports the USA needed to purchase from the Middle East and how this was supposed to imperil our national security. Of course we still buy oil from Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Persian Gulf. The USA still uses more oil than it produces! Oil continues to be imported because the American appetite for crude is so immense. The USA now consumes 18,886,000 barrels of crude per day. That's nearly 800,000,000 gallons per day. That crude, once refined into gasoline and other products is being converted into an awful lot of carbon dioxide. The numbers for natural gas and coal are equally alarming.

How do we unite these two separate stories, on the one hand, expanded oil and gas production and consumption, and on the other, the world hurling itself into the coming catastrophe of flooded coastal cites, climate refugees, disrupted agriculture, famine and ecosystem collapse?

Well magically, in Western Europe, they have been building a renewable energy economy. We simply don't hear about that here in the United States... [more]

Forest Before
Forest After

Redwood Forest Logging Plan Causes Uproar in Boulder Creek

By Kevin Collins
June 2014

Roughly a year ago the Santa Cruz County staff responsibility for Timber Harvest Plan Review was moved from the County Department of Environmental Health to the Planning Department.

Unfortunately all of the institutional memory and knowledge about this crucial County responsibility has been lost from the Planning Department through retirements and staff resignations. It has been many years since the Planning Department was involved in logging permit review.

Fully 25% of the entire land area of Santa Cruz County is zoned for Timber Production. This includes an area from the ocean to the Santa Clara County line totaling 111 square miles of mountain terrain. The most valuable and sought after lumber is of course from redwood trees. But Douglas fir are also cut here and it is common for timber logging to be followed on the same parcel by the cutting and sale of hardwood trees, primarily for firewood sales.

During the peak of logging activity in Santa Cruz County in the 1990s, roughly 3000 acres a year were being logged annually. Logging here is, by state law, limited to "selection." The rules allow for 60% of all conifer trees 18 inches in diameter and larger to be felled every 14 years. There is also a 10 year "re-entry" rule. A 50% limit applies to the cutting of conifer trees from 12 to 18 inches in diameter. Other rules apply to streamside areas. There is no clear limit on the felling of hardwood trees such as oak and madrone... [more]

Coastal Commission Approval of Sand City Resort and Condominium Project Undermines Rare Species Recovery Plan

April 2014

On April 10, on the second day of a 9 hour hearing, the California Coastal Commission gave conditional approval to the proposed Monterey Bay Shores Resort in Sand City. This project has been contested by the Sierra Club since it was first proposed in 1998 (Sierra Club litigation timeline PDF here). The development would put a 1.3 million square foot, 368 unit hotel and condominium complex with underground parking spaces for nearly 1,000 cars into the fragile dune landscape of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Nearly 700,000 cubic yards of dune sand or 73% of the habitat would be disturbed by bulldozers and trucks. The site is wedged in between a State Park and a Regional Park as well as nearby to another proposed hotel site. The Commission has twice before denied this project a Coastal Development Permit. However after a complex series of lawsuits, the Commission, under pressure from the Attorney General's office, decided to grant the permit with conditions.

The proposed building site is within the highly unstable Monterey dune ecosystem and it harbors three federally listed endangered species, the Pacific coast population of the Western Snowy Plover, the Smith's Blue Butterfly and the Monterey Spineflower. An April 7th letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF letter here) states that about one third of the site is within designated critical habitat for the Western Snowy Plover. The Service calculates that the project will result in 88% of the habitat being disturbed above the high tide line and 38% being permanently destroyed by construction. This habitat degradation may constitute harm to the species if there is loss to coastal plover populations and may result in a "Take" as defined under Section 3 (19) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The plover currently nests in the sand, both on the beach and in the dune areas of the proposed site. A tiny beach bird, it weighs less than 2 ounces. Once the eggs hatch, the chicks, unable to fly for a month, soon begin to wander the beach feeding off insects under the watchful eyes of their parents. Plover chicks often feed at the high water debris line, called the "wrack line" near the edge of the extent of high tide waves. As Snowy Plovers are so small, they cannot protect their chicks from this massive increase in the presence of humans, pets, vehicles and human-activity attracted predators that will access the beach from this new development. A hotel/condo project with hundreds of guests and year-round residents sited directly within plover critical habitat is a major problem for this rare species. There are only about 2,200 of these birds left in all of coastal California.

The torturous lengthy hearing was taken up by back and forth arguments between the developer, his attorney, and the Commission. These discussions centered on the conditions the Commission staff had recommended be placed upon the permit. These "conditions" ranged between limits upon night lighting and windows (that lead to bird strike kills) to a contentions argument about how to build foundations that are expected to be undermined by shoreline erosion and sea level rise.

In other words this hotel/condo proposal is expected to be eventually washed away by the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Commission staff did not want to recommend approval of a permit that would leave behind concrete foundations buried in the beach. One condition requires that parts of the hotel/condo project be removed once breaking waves come within a short distance of the hotel. (See Coastal Engineer Dr. Thornton's erosion analysis PDF here).

The developer has proposed his own plan to protect habitat for wildlife and rare plants; however experts engaged by the Sierra Club disputed the practicality and effectiveness of the developer's plan. We regard this plan as a smoke screen meant primarily to confuse the issues. It is clear to us that this hotel/condo project will be very destructive to wildlife and rare plants. Structures that are expected to be washed away should not be built in the first place. Sierra Club will continue our efforts to protect wildlife and stop this project from being built.

Blog: View from the Dune by Steve Zmak, April 14, 2014

April 2014

Snowy Plover
Rare Western snowy plover nesting now in the beachfront dunes in Sand City. (Photograph: Steve Zmak)

Western snowy plovers are challenging to photograph. First, they're federally listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act with dwindling rare habitat so just finding them is the first hurdle. Second, they are easily confused with the more plentiful sanderlings that do not have the black head markings. Third, they're small, well camouflaged, and very fast. Once I spot one or a group, I have to get down on my stomach and crawl very slowly towards them. I do this when they aren't looking at me. When they do turn and look at me, that’s when I click. Then move and little closer; click. Move a little closer; click click click, but careful not to disturb them. They're very sensitive to intruders such as humans and dogs when they're nesting March through September. I found 3 on the beach less than 2 weeks ago where the proposed Ghandour 39-acre Monterey Shores Resort would remove more of the western snowy plover's habitat, so don’t wait too long to view them there. You can also ignore the "No Trespassing" signs posted on the gate at the base of Sand City's biggest dune. The Coastal Commission ruled them to be illegally posted some years ago.

Ventana Chapter member Steve Zmak is a commercial advertising and fine art photographer based in Marina, California available for assignments, projects and workshops: .

Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to California Coastal Commission

April 2014

Plover and erosion overlaysCLICK TO ENLARGE
This graphic shows the negative impacts of the Project in the dunes on western snowy plover nests. It also gives the areas of predicted coastal erosion from sea-level rise. Data provided by conservation biologists. (Graphic design by Steve Zmak).

Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon have drafted comments for the upcoming hearing at the California Coastal Commission scheduled for April 9, 10 and 11. Chapter members will be attending the hearing and speaking on our behalf.

This massive development will occur on beachfront land currently undeveloped and used by the western snowy plover, a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Due to significant concerns with the Project detailed in our attached comments (PDF here | See also comments from Peter R. Baye Ph.D.), these groups urge the Commission to deny Project approval because the Commission has failed to meet its obligations under CEQA by not analyzing all Project impacts on the plover, including increased public access to western snowy plover habitat, beach erosion, sea level rise and cumulative impacts from neighboring property. The Commission has also failed to adopt all feasible mitigation measures for the Project and the Project, as currently proposed, will result in the likely "take" of the threatened western snowy plover, an important coastal resource... [more]

FORA Vote Leaves Sierra Club Environmental Protections in Reuse Plan

March 2014

On Friday March 14, the FORA (Fort Ord Reuse Authority) Board vote on Consistency with the Monterey County 2010 General Plan which the Sierra Club opposed was DENIED, a victory for environmental protections. The FORA Board voted 6-6 to adopt the FORA staff Resolution Attachment A, Consistency Determination between the General Plan and the Fort Ord Reuse Plan. When a vote results in a tie, the vote fails so the Consistency Determination failed.

We opposed this "determination of consistency" and believe that the FORA Board should require that the County amend the 2010 General Plan to be consistent with the 1997 Reuse Plan for several reasons we outlined in our letter by attorney Thomas N. Lippe (PDF attached). County staff must now create redline draft revisions, verify CEQA requirements are met, hold a Board of Supervisors hearing and then back to FORA for a vote of consistency. The Chapter will be monitoring this closely.

Sierra Club wishes to thank FORA Board members Supervisor Lou Calcagno, Supervisor Jane Parker, Marina City Council member Frank O'Connell, Marina City Council member Gail Morton, Carmel City Council member Victoria Beach and Monterey City Council member Nancy Selfridge for their votes on behalf of environmental protection at Fort Ord.

Kahn Ranch

Stunning Carmel Valley and Wilderness views from a recent Chapter hike on the Manzanita Trail at Kahn Ranch. Hikers can reserve a free access permit on line at the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District website:

Jacks Peak signNew interpretive board at Jacks Peak Park created by the FJPP Outreach Committee showing native plants and wildlife found in the Forest. (Photograph: Steve Pendlay).

Spring in Jacks Peak Park

March 2014

Everyone is asking, "Where’s our beautiful yellow pollen that announces the spring courtship of the Monterey pines?" Yes, the candles are showing, but the sap flow is weak right now. Yet, new cones will be growing soon, and many plants, animals and birds are arriving for the warmth and sun. Indian soap plants are sending their wavy, thin leaves out into the pathways, and the Fremont star lilies are also re-appearing. The fuchsia-flowered gooseberries are greening up, and white-tailed deer, not often seen in the Park over the last several years, are rummaging through the new, green shoots, ignoring the dried grasses from last year. The small seed-eaters, like the nuthatches and chickadees, flit through the oak and pine undergrowth. Poison oak is still sporting its deceptive winter sticks, but a few early leaves are a stunning, innocent, bright green.

Friends of Jacks Peak Park's new Outreach CommitteeFriends of Jacks Peak Park's new Outreach Committee. From left: Katie Hart, Ventana Chapter leader and FJPP sponsor Mary Pendlay, Michael Layne and Elizabeth Lambert. (Photograph: Steve Pendlay).

At the western kiosk, a beautiful array of pictures cover the bulletin board next to the map, welcoming visitors with images of the most popular Monterey pine forest inhabitants. The rear of the kiosk now presents specific information and pictures of the Monterey pine forest. Chapter leader Mary Pendlay and three student volunteers from the CSUMB Service Learning Institute have created new public outreach media, which include the bulletin boards for the kiosk; a 12 page color booklet about the Park, Monterey pine forest and history, soon to be published; and an educational power point presentation for middle and high school science students about the pine forest and its habitat. Many thanks to CSUMB students Elizabeth Lambert, Michael Layne and Katie Hart for their hard work and excellent projects, and to Laura Lee Lienk for her support through her "Environmental Interpretation" course. The Friends of Jacks Peak Park (FJPP) and the local community continually look for ways to celebrate the unique nature of Jacks Peak Park and the means to share it. Please join the docents every second Saturday of the month at 11 a.m. for a leisurely one hour tour through the largest, native, contiguous stand of Monterey pines in the world.
(See Monterey County Parks for more information)

BLM HabitatInner Coast Range habitat with a mosaic of vegetation including Chaparral, Oak and Foothill Pine Woodland on BLM land near the Fort Hunter-Liggett military base in Monterey County. (Photograph: Nikki Nedeff).

Chapter Submits Comments to BLM Regarding the Dangers of Fracking

February 2014

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently soliciting comments to conduct studies of the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other oil drilling activities in central California for the 284,000 acres of public land under the jurisdiction of the Hollister Field Office. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will evaluate the effects and risks of fracking in the Monterey Shale, an area stretching from Santa Cruz to Ventura Counties. BLM is also seeking statewide science review of potential oil and gas drilling impacts on the environment and geology of California, including the potential seismic impacts of drilling in a state that is constantly subjected to earthquakes.

The decision to conduct EIS review comes after a federal judge gave a victory to a Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) lawsuit which challenged BLM's decision to auction off about 2,500 acres to oil companies. The Court found that BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA; that they were using out of date environmental assessment and that the new drilling techniques warranted updated studies. The EIS process is likely to take about two years.

Attached are the Chapter's comments emphasizing the potential negative effects fracking will have on the environment and our dwindling water supplies. (PDF here)

Fort OrdAerial view of the lush forests and natural visual resources at Fort Ord. (Photograph: Steve Zmak).

Chapter Retains Legal Counsel to Object to
Weakening Environmental Protections at Fort Ord

January 2014

Ventana Chapter has retained San Francisco attorney Thomas N. Lippe to represent the Chapter in its challenge to recent events at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) Board that could weaken the environmental protections we included in the Fort Ord Reuse Plan by way of our 1998 Settlement Agreement, known as Chapter 8 of the Master Resolution.

The Chapter has been working to protect the environment at Fort Ord since the Fort Ord Reuse Authority was established in 1994. In 1997, the Club filed a lawsuit challenging FORA's adoption of the Fort Ord Reuse Plan and the Environmental Impact Report for the Reuse Plan. The Club and FORA settled that case by FORA agreeing to adopt a "Master Resolution" governing FORA's certification of the local general plans adopted by the City of Marina, the City of Seaside, and Monterey County. The Master Resolution includes a mandatory requirement (in Master Resolution section 8.02.010), that FORA disapprove the "consistency" of any local general plan that meets any of six specified criteria.

The Sierra Club is concerned because, in drafting its new General Plan, Monterey County altered or omitted many important, mandatory policies and programs of the Base Reuse Plan that are essential for protecting the environment. These alterations and omissions fundamentally change the County's legal obligations when it reviews future development entitlements, because the changes transform mandatory requirements of the Reuse Plan into discretionary decisions by the County.

Currently, the FORA Board, based upon legal advice from its outside counsel, is poised to adopt an interpretation of Master Resolution section 8.02.010 that will severely weaken environmental protection at Fort Ord. This interpretation is designed to allow the Board to approve the consistency of the Monterey County General Plan with the Fort Ord Reuse Plan when it is anything but "consistent." The attached letter from the Chapter's legal counsel, Thomas N. Lippe explains these complex issues in more detail. (PDF here)

Chapter Appeals Sand City Approval of The Collection Resort to
the California Coastal Commission

January 2014

Snowy PloverSierra Club has concerns about the future of this federally-listed Threatened Western snowy plover with planned developments in coastal dunes at Sand City. (Photographer Brian L. Sullivan).

Ventana Chapter's attorney, Larry Silver has filed an appeal with the California Coastal Commission over the approval by the Sand City City Council of the The Collection at Monterey Bay resort planned for 26 acres in the dunes west of Highway 1. As proposed, the 340 unit resort is to be constructed in two phases: the first phase will include 105 time share units and the second phase will include a 235-unit hotel with a restaurant, conference center and wellness spa. There will be over 600 parking spaces.

The appeal says that the project as approved is inconsistent with the City's certified Local Coastal Program (LCP) policies including those related to hazard avoidance, protection of public views and natural resources, public access and adequacy of public services (traffic). The FEIR is inadequate and does not address protection of Seacliff buckwheat or Western snowy plover at the site. The project does not avoid and minimize significant impacts to important public views of the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Peninsula. And the FEIR does not adequately address traffic access and shoreline hazards at the site.

Furthermore, the development is not sited to ensure safety and dune stability over its economic lifetime as required by the City's LCP. Portions of the project would be threatened by coastal erosion over time and the FEIR does not address this high risk scenario. Also, the FEIR does not discuss the effects on public access of re-routing the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail to accommodate this project.

California Coastal Commission Chair Steven Kinsey and Commissioner Mary Shallenberger have also filed an appeal of the Collection proposed development to the CCC. They argue that "the approved project is inconsistent with provisions of Sand City's certified Local Coastal Program with respect to hazards, natural visual resources, development and public access, and is also inconsistent with the public access and recreation policies of the Coastal Act."

Sobranes Hike


Chapter hikes are a great way to learn about the world around us. Members here are looking at a Painted Lady butterfly held by lepidopterist/ornithologist Chris Tenney on a hike in Soberanes Canyon led Lynn Bomberger shown right.
(Photographer: Mary Conway).

Chapter Urges Sand City City Council to Deny Collection at Monterey Bay Project

November 2013

Sand City City Council will hold a public hearing on the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for a proposed development, Collection at Monterey Bay on 26 acres in the dunes west of Highway 1 on December 17. King Ventures of San Luis Obispo has plans for a 340 unit resort to be constructed in two phases: the first phase will include 105 time share units and the second phase will include a 235-unit hotel with a restaurant, conference center and wellness spa. There will be over 600 parking spaces.

Ventana Chapter retained attorney Larry Silver of the California Environmental Law Project and coastal ecologist Dr. Peter Baye to provide comments. Our position is to request the City to deny the Project a Coastal Development permit (CDP) and not to certify the FEIR... [more]

Snowy PloverFederally listed threatened Pacific Coast Western snowy plover which nests locally on Marina and Sand City beaches (courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service).

Chapter Seeks Protection for Western Snowy Plover

By Rita Dalessio

Ventana Chapter will be working to protect the federally listed threatened Pacific Coast western snowy plover as plans are developed for a sustainable Monterey Peninsula desalination plant.

Proposals for a new Regional Water Project for Monterey Peninsula are currently undergoing review by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and other agencies. Next steps could be a search for a suitable location for desalination test wells along the coast. Under consideration is a portion of the Cemex sand mining property in Marina... [more]

A History of Sierra Club Efforts to Protect the Carmel River

Carmel River Carmel River from the Boronda Bridge in Carmel Valley (Ventana Chapter file photo).

For over 22 years the Ventana Chapter has been litigating on behalf of the public trust resources of the Carmel River. We have been represented by attorney Larry Silver, and consulted with hydrologist and fishery biologist Dr. John Williams.

Following years of futile negotiations, in March 1991, Sierra Club filed a complaint with the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) protesting California American Water's (CAW) continued over drafting of the Carmel River. Our complaint alleged that CAW's pumping from the Carmel River's subsurface flow was without lawful right and that its water diversions threatened the survivability of the local steelhead population (Oncorhychus mykiss). During twelve days of hearings by SWRCB, Sierra Club presented scientific evidence that CAW's diversions were unlawful and that CAW was producing water from the Carmel River alluvium without a permit from SWRCB. Sierra Club also showed that these practices were damaging the public trust resources of the Carmel River... [more]

Sam Farr and Conservation Committee Chapter Executive Committee members met this month with Congressman Sam Farr to discuss our conservation work.
From left to right: Dale Agron, Rich Fox, Rita Dalessio, Congressman Farr, Scott Waltz and Neil Agron.

Make a contribution to the Sierra Club today - stop fracking in Monterey County!

Your local Sierra Club Chapter and Group needs financial support to carry on our fight to protect the spectacular coast, valleys, and mountains.

We cannot fight for endangered and at risk wildlife without money. We cannot save precious forests, mountains, watersheds, and open spaces without money.

We know that you care about the environment from your membership in the Club. Now we need your help.

Much of the work of the Club consists of non-glamorous, roll-up-your-sleeves labor. Volunteers study EIRs and make comments; activists get government staff reports and keep tabs on proposed developments and policy changes; sometimes the Club files suit.

Please help us continue to protect and preserve the Central Coast. To make a donation please send a check made out to ‘Sierra Club' to

Sierra Club Ventana Chapter, P O Box 5667, Carmel, CA 93921-5667

Contributions to the Sierra Club are not tax deductible. To send tax deductible contributions, which mainly support legal actions when they become necessary, make your check out to ‘Sierra Club Foundation' instead.


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